30 November, 2009

Caffeine Fix


Café, j'taime.

I discovered coffee late in life, and far too late in college. It's funny the things you don't fully appreciate at the time, like the free coffee in the dining halls. We weren't allowed to take food out of the dining halls (...though we had already paid for it), but we had unlimited access to cups of coffee-as many as you could carry out you could have. I did four cups one time in preparation for a long night in the library during the finals period. How clutch would that be now.

I first started seriously downing the C when I took my first law class, Maritime Policy. It was a 3-hour Friday morning class, so it was either that or turn to drugs. I chose the less illegal route. But even with a double espresso there were moments that tried my very academic soul. My friend Ale, a self-identified caffeine fiend, first introduced me during this time to the saving grace that was caffeine.

Before this class, it had never occurred to me before to drink it. I thought it tasted foul. It stunted my growth, I was told, and I harbored beliefs that I would hit a second growth spurt and one day hit 5'8". (I still hope for this, but have accepted coffee as a delicious substitute.) So for the trying classes I tried to bully on through the awkward head nod that happens when you're narcoleptically falling asleep in class and fighting with every muscle in your body to keep your eyes somewhat open. Ale would make me an espresso before class, and then together we'd feel more able to tackle 16th century ocean law. From that point on, I realized my love for the coffee bean.

If not for caffeine, I never would have gotten through the following courses: Psychology Experimentation and Statistics. (Makes me tired just thinking about it) Climate Change (I thought it was going to be a tree-hugging-let's-save-the-earth course! but it ended up involving things like chemistry and physics. At 8:30 in the morning.) Introduction to Fiction Writing Workshop which, even at 1pm in the afternoon, had an intoxicating soporific effect. My teacher even commented to me, in class evaluations, that there was a noticeable change when she saw me bring in my coffee mug. But as a writer herself, I'm sure she understood my need. Aspiring writers tend to talk a lot about ideas. And in the sometimes 4-hour workshop, one needed a little fix to wrap their heads around characters like talking snakes and the additional images of bleeding trees.

Looking back, it puzzles me exactly how I got through high school and college on as much sleep as I did. 6 hours a night, was I insane?! It was like a self-enforced sleep deprivation experiment. I can't even go out on weekends now if I feel a bit tired, how did I go out three days a week last year? Willpower, man. It is everything. Willpower and caffeine.

Last night I slept a record (even for me) 11 hours. And then I woke up this morning exhausted. Mind you, I slept this long after a vacation spent sleeping and lounging around the house on furniture in all sorts of reclined positions. But I still had to drink a large cup of coffee before I felt like a semi-functioning human being and for my two nephews to deem me fun enough to play with. To be fair, unless I'm swinging them around and constantly acting as official piggy-back giver, they feel I could be more energetic than I am. So this afternoon I am going to have two cups, and thus turn into: Super nanny. All thanks to my one true liquid love, coffee.

27 November, 2009

Mom Wisdom

(On cashing out my savings bonds)
Mom: So we had to put a dollar in your account to take the money out. But some of them are Payable on death, and I didn't want to kill you. POD. So we're going to the bank at 10 so you can sign for them.

25 November, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving, from PETA

PETA is a terrible organization. They are loud, they are obnoxious, and they overdramatize their cause in a way that often repels people instead of converting them. Here's their newest propaganda just in time for Thanksgiving, where a cute little girl asks to say grace before her family sits down to eat dinner at the Thanksgiving meal.



Ugh. The "...and thank you for rainbows" comment is such an afterthought to try to make her sound young and innocent and perhaps take away the "sting" of the harsh realities that turkeys endure in our country. Yes, the meat industry in America is admittedly very bad, even in however many decades after The Jungle was written. (side note: ew.) PETA added the whole part about "the mean people who stomp on the little turkey heads" line in to really tug at the carnivorous heart strings. But the real effect? After watching this commercial, I sort of want to eat meat just to spite them. And I've been a vegetarian for over two years. So, objective not accomplished, PETA.

But seriously y'all- tofurkey is delicious. You should try some. Happy Thanksgiving!

24 November, 2009

A Cat Call Needing A Response

Since I've moved to the city, I've dealt with the usual amount of attention from male strangers, at least as much as any other 20something female. But this situation was different because my internship starts at 8am- This guy was out cat-calling people under the bright light of the sun. I was also wearing what I previously had considered a cat-call-proof outfit: khaki pants which flatter no woman, and a comfy dirty sweatshirt over a man-size green aquarium polo with sneakers. Not exactly the definition of sexy. In the course of my internship I get sprayed with salt water, protein from filters, and dead animal parts. I'm not going to wear anything nice.

So while on my way to my internship at the Aquarium last week I was talking on my cell phone, as most everyone else in this city does on their commute to and from work. I had just passed the restaurant I used to work for which meant I was a 4 minutes walk away from the Aquarium. That's when I noticed a guy standing on the corner yelling at people. Loudly. This scenario is a normal part of any person's commute. My usual plan of attack is to avoid, avoid, avoid, and so I crossed the street.

Because this guy either noticed that I was clearly distancing myself (or he just is in a habit of yelling at every female that walks by) he followed me and crossed the street too, at which point he yelled after me, "Why you calling me baby? I'm right here!"

Yep, there you are.

I am not one to normally respond to cat calls, but I would love to be able to come up with something for this one. As it was, I turned around, smiled, and kept on my merry way. Not exactly the Hail Mary of Cat Call Responses, but you've got to acknowledge a cat call that seems to defy any clever response.

23 November, 2009

Keg-Tapping Capabilities

My thirteenth year was a good year for me. I firmly suspect that this was when I peaked, and that the time since then has been a slow and steady decline into... God Knows What. Everyone has their peculiar theories about life; this is mine.

A large part of the reason that seventh grade was just so wonderful was that, up to this point, I had somehow managed to escape middle school awkwardness. Sure, I may have worn blue eye shadow to my school photo and looked slightly circus clown-ish, but the only one this really angered was my mother who had to pay for the photo and clearly didn't understand anything about being fashion-forward.

There is other evidence that I cite when bringing up this theory.  I was dating a popular cute boy (don't judge me, it was middle school). I had great hair and the right clothes (which involved a long purple butterfly skirt for my first day of school outfit. But I swear- other people thought it was cool, too.)  I was invited to the good parties, where kids danced in basements while their parents pretended to be busy upstairs. I was able to walk around school without a hall pass. And this was my last year where I didn't really have to try at school, and therefore had a bunch of free time afforded by the complete lack of effort in all things related to homework and studying. My twin sister and I, along with a group of our friends, had charmed an English teacher into let us watch the television Dawson's Creek (rated PG-13!) during lunchtime on the old television in his room. Needless to say, I felt pret-tee darn cool.

Only adding to this was the fact that my sister was in college. College was hands-down the coolest thing I had ever heard of. Kate got to stay up late, go out with her friends, and live away from home. She got free tee-shirts from the student union, a big coup for me. She took me out for ice-cream when we visited her college. (Side note: my admiration can almost always be bought with desserts. Kate already had my love, but the ice cream really helped to seal the deal.)  On the days not spent watching Dawson's Creek, I held court at the lunch table, amusing my peers with tidbits of the "college" life. (It involved a lot of freedom and ice cream.) But there was one event that occurred during my 13th year that forever cemented the fate of my coolness, and that was the night I learned how to tap a keg.

Yes, perhaps a 7th grader should not possess any sort of knowledge pertaining to the consumption of alcohol. My mother, for one, was none-too-thrilled when she learned of my newly acquired skill. My english teacher, the same one who let us watch tv at lunch, was- for lack of a better word- bemused, when he learned of it. He found out because I wrote an free-write essay on the topic. And ok, *maybe* I shouldn't have been so upfront about blatantly disregarding societal norms and their laws, especially those revolving around alcohol. Especially someone (anyone) could have easily notified some types of authorities. Perhaps the cspca? But I was a proud child to say the least, and I thought I was awesome. I wanted to shout it from the rooftops for the world to know. I, Emily, could tap a keg.

Let's be honest for a moment, though. I couldn't really tap a keg, as evidenced by the numerous occassions at a time in my life when I could legally and responsibly drink alcohol yet repeatedly failed to tap a keg of PBR or Milwaukee's Best. It's not as though I actually drank from the keg itself, or any other vessel of alky. The incident itself is much less exciting than the end result suggests.

My older, quieter, more sophisticated, college-aged sister Kate had invited my twin sister and I up to spend the night at her college (because we were more or less obsessed with the idea of college itself, and she was a good sister). She and a friend took us out bowling, brought us out to dinner at a dining hall, and then we ended up back to her dorm room for a sleep over. It was the description of innocence. But, as these things tend to happen, one thing led to another, and we all ended up going to meet her longterm boyfriend at another college dorm. The boyfriend was also a director of an a capella group, and they happened to be having a celebration that night.

I remember everyone being terribly cool and attractive. For some inexplicable reason, I also remember everyone being pretty nice to me as well. I wasn't so astonished at their niceties at the time, but looking back? I'm not sure how I would have treated a random and clearly out-of-place 7th grader at a college party. There would have been much staring, and then much reaming out of the person responsible. Let's not kid ourselves here- college students are infidels. And a Friday night in a college dorm, surrounded by debauchery and drinkery, is probably is not the best sort of influence on an impressionable middleschooler. Or worse, two middleschoolers, as my fellow twin and adventurer Chel was also present. Debaucherous.

Kate's boyfriend introduced the twin and I to most everyone. And everyone seemed pretty cool with it. That's probably how we ended up in the back room, where another college boy was tapping a keg for the party. (It was probably not the first keg). The boy tapping the keg was pretty enthusiastic that the twin and I learn; he thought it was a riot. But I was also thirteen, so any attention bestowed upon me by a college boy was probably viewed as enthusiastic. It was attention, plain and simple. So the keg-tapping boy instructed us in the proper techniques, I pumped the handle thing maybe once, and that was it. Newfound knowledge does not always come announced with horns and whistles, and this knowledge was tucked away for future parties, ones where I could regale others with stories of the first keg I encountered as I failed to use that knowledge to open the one in front of me. It was a distraction method, and it has worked numerous times. But I always try, because I secretly feel that the knowledge, born in me so young at the ripe old age of 13, should somehow nestle itself into my muscle memory and enable me to finally, by myself, tap a keg. One day.

After some more sisterly bonding, the delightful college party, and a final lesson in keg-tapping, it was soon time to go home to solidify my popularity and write that essay about my youth impropriety and the weekend at college. When my mom took did find out about it (after I wrote the essay), she took it in stride. My sister really was a pillar of responsibility and the bastion of adult respect. It was just one of those things that happens. You get invited to the right parties, you learn to tap a keg, you peak. And then everything else kind of seems a bit lackluster.

17 November, 2009

Popstars: Songs About Technology are Always Lame.

Even if you are unimaginably famous, a crappy pop song is a crappy pop song. With that in mind, here's Beyoncés super crap new pop hit that will probably and nauseatingly hit number one on Billboard, "Video Phone." And this is my totally subjective and entirely accurate brief analysis.



The concept of the video is like it was directed by 3 separate people. The beginning appears to be derived from something out of Resevoir Dogs, but then we have her dancing as some sort of futuristic bored gum-chewing stripper that throws her ponytail braid around. And then we have men with cameras on their heads (but keeping with the theme, shouldn't they be videophones?) Beyoncé can do so much better than this.

Remember Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)? That was pop brilliance itself! But "Video Phone?" As our spanish friends say- chupa la gran. Does anyone actually call their cell phone a "videophone?" I'm pretty sure most cellular devices have video capabilities nowadays, so really only grandparents and the technologically illiterate refer to their cell as a videophone. Making Beyoncé... dare I say it, behind the times? Out of touch?

She does use with the line "What, you want me naked? If you like it you can tape it on your video phone." Perhaps she's actually making some insightful social commentary on all the sex tape scandals recently, a lá ex-Ms. California Carrie Prejean. As we all know (or should know by now) taping something on your "videophone" is a fast ticket to TMZ notoriety. But such a passive statement that can be summed up as "you want me naked? Okay, whatever" actually does fit her whole bored stripper dancing that occurs in the video. Above all else, she gets points for consistentency. And I am too disappointed in Lady Gaga to even comment on her appearance in the video.

This is when you know a pop song is crappy:
When the song repeats catch words and phrases. For example, Beyoncés "Video Phone" repeats the word "video phone" sixteen times in the lyrics and chorus (not including background vocals). In addition, she uses the word "video" by itself an additional seven times, and the words cell phone once, video screen once, tape once, and film once. If you didn't know what the word videophone meant- look! She gave you context clues! Someone had a thesaurus, huh B? Wink.

These lyrics really help to flush out the song:

"On your video phone, make a cameo
Tape me on your video phone, I can handle you
Watch me on your video phone, on your video, video
If you want me you can watch me on your video phone

I love how you approach me
Fresh white with your pants hangin' grown man low
Everything you sayin' soundin' good to me
No need to convince me anymore."


Pants hanging grown man low? Either she's being clever and talking about wearing pants normally, as most grown men should do or... well. Or the whole song is really just mindless dribble that details her narcissism in wanting to be taped by a guy with a flashy phone and pants falling off his butt.

No need to convince ME anymore, Beyoncé. This was an album filler, wasn't it?

16 November, 2009

Beaver Pond

Beaver Pond was a little muddy body of water tucked away into the southern part of the state forest in my hometown. It might not actually be called Beaver Pond, that was just what everyone called it. I guess I never really asked, just took it as one of those things that you never really questioned. It was high school, after all. But after hangouts there were established, I hoped to hear word nearly every weekend that there would be a gathering.

Thankfully, the boy I was dating was able to garner me an invite by being involved the right crowds. He was the captain of the lacrosse team. He lived in an unfathomably large house, and owned every video game console known to man. Besides me, there were other girls who had crushes on him (and maybe even a boy or two). He was effortlessly accepted, and being his girlfriend- I was accepted too. So that was nice.

Trust me, I don't know how we got to be dating either. It wasn't that I was a total dork in high school, but it is hard to be invited to all the cool parties when you're busy with singing in the school chorus, writing for the lit magazine, heading up far too community service events. I was the type of girl that actually kind of enjoyed studying, though I probably never would have admitted it out loud. I was in the musical every year, for goodness sake! Running for the track team and being on varsity soccer could never fully counteract singing show-tunes, at least in the popularity contests. But long story short, I was sometimes invited to weekend night gatherings at the super-hyped Beaver Pond. And I was thrilled.

The boys who organized the gathering were the type of boys that you would expect. They played sports, and were the first to experiment with drinking. They smoked pot, and taught themselves to play acoustic guitar. They considered themselves edgy. Every school has these type of boys, and mine was no exception. They were just cool, and others treated them that way. It was high school.

On Friday a word of mouth call would go around indicating that Beaver Pond was on that night. My twin wasn't so into the parties, as she sometimes felt the boys to be pretentious and contrived. Looking back, it's not hard to see why. But I was enamored by them and their friend group. I had been teaching myself guitar, mostly because my dad is a rock star and genius with the instrument, but I longed for the day when someone around the fire would ask if anyone wanted to play and I could bust out my version of Oasis' Wonderwall. It never happened, but I still sometimes practice it in case it ever comes up in the future. I will be prepared.

The twin was a good sport to come with me and play designated driver, though the maybe beer and a half I would drink would hardly qualify as drunk driving. But, like other sheltered teens, I was absolutely terrified of getting into trouble with the law, let alone my mother. The twin was also my backup in case I got shy (which I often did). She was carefree spirit with the gift of gab that knew she was above all the high school bullshit. And because of this, the twin was very much loved within that group. She was sassy, she was sarcastic, and she sang along with the boys as they played on their guitars.

To get to Beaver Pond, we parked along a quiet road and had to walk into the forest. At the time, I felt super stealth, but twenty-some odd random cars on a small residential street is a tad conspicuous. I'm sure we fooled very few people. The Pond's neighbors seemed cool enough with it. Or maybe they just didn't care what a bunch of teens were doing. Either way, we never got caught.

The walk in the woods took about fifteen minutes along the train tracks. We walked guided only by the light of our open cell phones, checking the ground. Cell phones, from experience, do not provide a great deal of light, so we mostly stumbled blindly forward until we hit the forked tree on the right. From there, you would stumble forward until you could see the light of the bonfire. And then you had have arrived: welcome to Beaver Pond. I never saw anyone with an actual flashlight, but everyone seemed to get there alright.

The parties brought together kids from all three different high schools in my town, and even some private schoolers. There were a lot of kids I recognized, and some I didn't. Like most small towns we had a lot of gossip, so some of the people were so notorious that I had heard of them well before I met them. The six boys from the catholic high school who called themselves the Untouchables. The Sexy Seven, seven self-entitled upperclass girls from my own school. (Even then, I thought it was a lame name. There are thesauruses, people.) Everything was just kind of chill. Sometimes people mingled, sometimes they didn't. One of the boys used to bring out his guitar and play requests throughout the night. To this day, I love when people play guitar by bonfires. The collective effect of music and staring at a fire is so comfortable that I could have sat there mesmerized for hours. It also could have been the effects of the smoke inhalation and the first intoxicating sips of teenage rebellion and beer. But I chose to think it was the former.

At the end of the night the biggest concerns did not always focus on getting caught. Getting hit by the train, though, did rank high up the list. The train usually trucked its way through at least once during the night, which was cool in the way that I had never been so close to a moving train before. I respected its power, and kept my distance. But I do remember one night when a (stupid) girl got it into her head that she "had" to touch the train because it was "so beautiful." I'm pretty sure her only drinks that night were O'Douls, a non-alcoholic beer selection bought by the boys to give to girls to see what they would do when they were "drunk." Mean, but also kind of funny. While I was secretly hoping that darwinian selection might prevail, someone eventually stopped her. Which, looking back, I guess was the right idea.

The beer at Beaver Pond was usually terrible. I can't remember since then when I've actually had Goldschlauger or Pabst Blue Ribbon and been excited about it. Even if it was free. But at the time, I reveled in the fact that I was being illicit. I was drinking in a forest, with other subversive peers, rejecting societal laws. No matter that I had perhaps one drink a night- I was clearly a rebel. I also never had to pay, which was a nice precedent to set for my future college years. I was a cheap rebel. Viva la resistance.

But if no one tried to touch the train and everyone got home safely, it was a good night. I remember lying in bed, smelling a bit like bonfire smoke and just absolutely adoring life.

We were never caught, which was definitely a good thing. But it's not like we were doing anything too revolutionary or life-altering: we were just a group of kids with nothing to do in a small town who got together and had a bonfire, more or less. Everyone was pretty responsible with drivers and carpooling, so nothing terrible ever happened. I think every kid should have a little bit of a defiant background. And I look back on these memories as a pretty good picture of modern youth, feeling very cool and chill and nonconformist by hanging out with some friends in the middle of a forest.

11 November, 2009

A Three Hour Tour

Sometimes putting things back into perspective is a much needed thing. One should appreciate being able to breathe in and out without difficulty, to be able to call on a friend or loved one, to be able to realize that hey- maybe life is pretty good after all. Today, unexpectedly, I gained a lot of perspective. I realized that it is okay that I am young and do not have a fulltime job. That for today, it's ok to not have one true calling in life. That I have a loving network of family and friends. And also, most importantly, that I did not drown trapped underneath a flimsy capsized boat in 9-foot swells and fifty-degree wate.

The latter part is mainly what gave me that perspective. Any day henceforth that also manages to avoid such a situation is going to be viewed as successful in my book.

When I woke up this morning and recognized that today was Wednesday, I was excited. I got to work at the aquarium! And play with sea creatures! And also, because my boss is super cool, I knew that I would be going on a collecting trip to some local islands off Boston Harbour, where we would grab some new animals for exhibits. Some starfish, sea urchins, seaweed, and hermit crabs were on the list, along with decorated rocks and various other wonders from the sea. I was both excited and nervous, as I hadn't been snorkeling since my Bahamas winter study last year, where the aquamarine water and lack of current came together for a leisurely snorkle-fest. While I knew that today, being November in the Northeast, would not hold quite the same balmy conditions for me, I was still very much looking forward to the trip. I was well equipped with a borrowed 7mm wetsuit, fins, snorkle, mask, and a healthy appetite for adventure. Me and a team of four, all skilled scuba divers (which I am most definitely not), would be driving the Aquarium's 20some-odd foot boat maybe a couple of miles out of the harbor to do some collecting. Have you ever heard the Gilligan's Island theme song, Three Hour Tour? It was kind of like that.

However, it appears that no weather reports were checked before our departure. As I am still just a lowly intern, I sincerely hope the blame does not fall on me. Pete, our fearless captain, had a burrito in one hand and a heavy lead foot. He also apparently has a complete aversion to conservative boating, as was made apparent when we charged the waves head on (though there was most definitely a small-craft advisory due to the ludicrously high wind speeds and ginormous waves. Adjectives mine).

According to proper boating technique, hitting waves head on with the bow of the boat is the most effective way to avoid capsizing. It is also an extremely effective way to give fellow crewmembers (especially new lowly interns) giant massive coronaries every time that you hit a swell. My position on the boat was rather ineffective, as I just kind of hung from the ceiling hand-holds and tried (unsuccessfully) to not get slammed into the side of the boat with every wave we hit. I also was shrieking inside my head every time our boat dropped down a swell, but as that was on the inside the other crew members probably had no idea. I'm hoping.

I discovered that my adrenal glands are wonderfully efficient. Each time we crashed down my system was flooded with fight or flight responses. Unfortunately for me, I was torn between both, and therefore unable to do anymore than hang from the ceiling. Maybe I'm not the person you should seek out in an emergency, but at least I know the system works. Also, as the four-by-four cabin was relatively safe, though it lacked a wall between the back of the boat and the foot and a half boat wall which separated us from the water, this was the only place I could really go. So I may be bruised and battered, and I may have done very little to help with the actual boating, but I am terribly alive. And that's ok by me.

In retrospect, we all acknowledged that we should not have gone out that day. I acknowledged this as we hit the first wave, but Captain Pete conceded this point well after we had docked safely and I had already thrown myself onto the ground. Better late than never, I suppose.

The entire trip was a battle, you could say, between our twenty-foot boat versus nature's nine-foot swells. And we lost that battle. If you think nine-feet is not that big, you have clearly never been sailing before. I cannot tell you how many different prayers I rattled through as we hit the crest of one wave and my stomach jumped into my throat as we sailed through the air to the bottom of the next. When we hit a wave "right" (and I use the term "right here," loosely) we rode that baby all the way up and then had the exhilarating and absolutely mind-boggling of dropping, boat and all, all the way down. For over an hour to get out there, and over an hour to get back. To think that there are adrenaline junkies who enjoy such a thing? No thank you, sir- I am tapping out.

There hit a point in the trip when I desperately searched for any religious mantra to distract me from falling off and maybe to give God a little heads-up that I might need some help, and soon. Actually, there hit many points when this came up, but sadly, the only song that I found was a song I learned in church school when I was ten. It was called "All God's Creatures Have a Place in the Choir." The running dialogue in my head went more or less, "All God's creatures have a place in the choir F?@&#*** **@!#*, some sing low, and some sing S*** higher, some sing out on a telephone wire and ******* **&&@#* **?@^#^ ,some just clap their hands... or paws... or anything at all, AHHH&#**@($@# noow." The asterisks are vividly interspersed swear words, and the new ones I made up on the spot. If I had been in a better frame of mind, I might have remembered them, but as it was I am just happy to walk on good ol' solid earth and not remember them (for the time being). It's all in the perspective. (But I do remember noting that some of the amalgamated swear words were pretty catchy. Before we dropped the next wave, anyway.)

At the end of the trip, we had a cooler full of mussels, hermit crabs, and the like, one broken plexiglass window from wave impact, and one dismantled ungodly expensive GPS/Depthfinder computer system that had loosened itself from four bolts in the ceiling in one of the most terrifying of waves we hit. I'm pretty sure I shed at least one tear. (Just one though- even if I was going to die, I was not going to be the intern that fussed about it. No, I was going to go down proudly, even stoicly. Like the captain of the Titanic, minus the title. And the beard.)

So after that trip, everything seems kinda cool now. I've re-discovered my love of walking on the stationary ground. My arms are sore from the death-grip I had on the ceiling hand-holds, and my left knee maybe hurts a little from repeatedly slamming into the wall of the boat, but I'll take gladly these any day. Because after it was over, it made a good story. And now a few more people at the Aquarium know my name. And because I dreamed of waves last night, and am very much looking forward to the promised future boat ride from my boss. A boat ride on a day without any waves. And in the very distant future. It's perspective.

10 November, 2009

The Ominous Truth of Nursery Rhymes

As a prominent part of nannying for my nephews I get to sing lullabies to them before such sleep activities like naptime and bedtime. They love nursery rhymes and often enjoy singing along. Their personal favorites include Toora Loora and the ABCD's song. But there are others, particularly the older nursery rhymes, that I am starting to get into again. And I am rediscovering the lyrics as I sing them. And I am horrified.

Take, for example, "You Are My Sunshine." It is hard to not have heard this song while growing up. I'm pretty sure it is in the mom's handbook of how to raise children, that clearly every mother has. (Or so I hope.)

But anyway, "You are My Sunshine" starts off innocuous enough.

"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are grey
You'll never know dear, how much I love you
Please don't take my sunshine away."

Pretty, poignant, a perfect lullaby for kids of all ages. But the second, lesser-known chorus takes on a different tone.

"The other night dear, as I lay sleeping
I dreamt I held you in my arms
When I awoke dear, I was mistaken
So I hung my head and I cried."

Because nothing says I love you at bedtime than dependency issues and isolation. And then, after this part, the song jumps back to the happier "you are my sunshine" verse. Is it just me, or do these sound like two entirely different songs?

I seriously try to push Toora Loorah when the nephews ask for "You Are My Sunshine". Because you don't achieve long and peaceful naps after you tell the kids you're trying to put to sleep that their nanny is going to wake up crying from unrealized dreams and loneliness. And just 'cause you're using a happy voice and a soothing melody doesn't take away the message of the song. The eerie, despondent message of the song.

The second song that really irks me is "Rock-A-Bye Baby." It, too, is overly violent, and involves themes of baby abandonment.

"Rock-a-bye baby, in the tree top
And when the wind blows the cradle will rock
And when the bough breaks the cradle will fall
And down will come baby, cradle and all."

This nursery rhyme revolves around two major themes: abandoning a baby on a precarious perch in a tree, and then the predictable baby violence that follows from the aforementioned precarious perch in the tree. Who's bright idea was it to put the cradle up in the tree? The same person that decided it was good idea that the baby should go in it, evidently. The line about the bough breaking and the baby falling is also a bit of a brush off. In my experience, falling out of trees has been unpleasant and rather bloody. But there's nothing like setting up toddlers for a lifetime of abandonment and a feeling of impending doom. Because if you start off with putting a baby in a tree, you know that things are not going to end well.

Even if the whole situation is hypothetical and the person never intended to follow through, why did they feel it was a good idea to write a song about it in the first place? Isn't that a bit more horrifying? And then they decided that it was a good idea to sing that song to a baby. And other people agreed! For how else would the song have stood the test of time and been passed down from generation to generation. If the song was written in the current day, you can bet the house that there would be more than a few serious investigations conducted. More than a few.

Sadly, there are more sinister nursery rhymes like this. There's "Hush Little Baby," which pushes the idea that material objects are valueless and can be easily replaced and then forgotten with new gifts.

"Hush, little baby, don't say a word.
Papa's gonna buy you a mockingbird
And if that mockingbird won't sing,
Papa's gonna buy you a diamond ring
And if that diamond ring turns brass,
Papa's gonna buy you a looking glass
And if that looking glass gets broke,
Papa's gonna buy you a billy goat
And if that billy goat won't pull,
Papa's gonna buy you a cart and bull
And if that cart and bull turn over,
Papa's gonna buy you a dog named Rover
And if that dog named Rover won't bark
Papa's gonna buy you a horse and cart
And if that horse and cart fall down,
You'll still be the sweetest little baby in town."

Guess who's not going to be the sweetest little baby in town? Oh right, the kid you keep buying stuff impulsively for. If the kid is going to grow up with any semblance of a value system, then the song should be about helping the mocking bird learn how to sing and teaching Rover to bark.


The whole I-will-replace anything-for-you- mentality seems selfless, but then there's the line about the kid being the "sweetest little baby in town." This juxtaposition rings rather false for me. If you keep buying a kid more and more gifts because the gifts either don't work or are cheap (how many diamond rings do you own that have turned to brass? I thought so) you need to question where you are purchasing these items from. Maybe it's not the gifts themselves; maybe it's you.

Aside from these three, I'm sure there are much, much more. Maybe these nursery rhymes were born out of the harsher times when it was fully possible that the baby would need to sleep in a tree or that your horse and carriage would fall over and break. Maybe the songs aim to raise the baby with the awareness that, sometimes, life sucks and you're going to get a billy goat instead of the flimsy looking glass that broke. (Lame gift. What does a baby do with a billy goat? What does anyone do with a Billy goat?) But I still choose the "Bob the Builder" song over these nursery rhymes anyday. And, luckily, the nephews do too.

09 November, 2009

The Age of the Swine

Swine flu has become so endemic in our modern society that it is now being used by drunken girls as a pox on their boyfriends. Which means that it is one skip and a hop away from being used in a top 40 pop song (I can only hope!)
Actual statement overheard on Saturday night with KG.
Girl (upset and loud about a guy): "I hope he gets them swine flu."

Also, my college brings up the swine (or H1N1 as we are supposed to call it as to not hurt the pig industry) on their brilliant homecoming teeshirts, which exclaim about their rivals, "Sicker than Amherst since 1821."

Oh, swine flu. So popular right now.

Entrepreneurship

I think money is kind of awesome. It is something that I like receiving, that I enjoy spending, and that I don't particularly have a lot of. God bless America.

Growing up, too, I always had a little predilection for more Benjamins. Not to say that I was a little capitalist, but I did get excited at the idea of earning money. Sort of. For me, it was the opportunity to craft a new business. I loved writing out business statements, designing logos and ad campaigns, working out the logistics of who my target audience was (ie- my family.) I liked charging people for services, and developing a long list of things that I would buy. But aside from a new puppy, which I have asked for every year since I was two, there wasn't much that I actually needed or even wanted. I was in it for the whole experience, the entrepreneurship, in the very essence of the word.

You name it, I tried to sell it. I guess not much has really changed. My older sister and I talk about selling our homemade cards online, and I still tell my twin sister that when she becomes famous I will assume the role of her manager. With a 20% cut. (Because good work costs good money.)

Over the course of my childhood, I started several businesses. I had a dog walking business and a dog washing business (for after the dog was walked). I had a business where, if you were lonely, you could rent my stuffed animals. I dubbed that business "Rent a Pet," as I preferred the simple, straightforward approach. Like every little girl who grew up on the Babysitter's Club Series, I had a whole slew of babysitting services, though I don't recollect actually babysitting any children. I'd like to believe that this was not due to my babysitting skills.  I have notebooks and notebooks full of business models and their affiliated logos, which my mom has been prompting me to throw away for years. But how can one throw away such tangible evidence of ambition? One cannot. (or so I tell myself.) So the notebooks stay.

I had some less run-of-the-mill businesses as well. I was a commissioned bracelet maker for my sisters' various boyfriends and older friends. (Bless their hearts.) I had a maze-designing enterprise for small rodents, the gerbil and hamster set, that I designed and sold to other students before science fairs and such. (As this was through school, I couldn't legally receive any payments- but oh, there was many an extra cafeteria cookie in my day.) I sold erasers and pencils at my elementary school's yearly fair, something I looked forward to with relish every September. Even now, when I come across a container of eraser caps for pencils at Staples, I still get a little excited about the profit possibilities. Think of it- each eraser cap costs 15 cents, but to make it only costs a penny or less! That's a huge profit margin! But then I have to remind myself that after one has hit their twenties, maybe they should become a little less focused on school supplies. At least in public.

My favorite business, though, was having a lemonade stand. From June to August my sisters and I could be found camped out in front of our house behind a proud sign that read "Hancock Road Lemonade Stand." Perhaps you've heard of us. We decorated the poster ourselves, and with some cups, a table with chairs, a super legit metal box for making transactions, and even a few bracelets and beaded safety pins (which everyone did in the mid 1990s!) we had a solid business.

The Lemonade Stand was ridiculously lucrative. Aside from nearly all of our neighbors who probably were guilted into buying a drink, there was a woman  that would drive by and leave huge amounts of money in exchange for her one cup of lemonade. We're talking ten and twenty dollar bills, huge cash for an elementary-schooler. No lemonade in the world is worth that much money, but especially not ours; I remember my dad coming out and trying some of the lemonade during one of our outings. He said it was so bitter he had to spit it out. I guess we had mixed up our ratios or something; we were only in elementary school. But that woman came every summer and always drank the whole cup.

I'm not even sure how she initially found out about us, or how anyone not a neighbor or related found us. We lived on an extension a road, a roadlet really. My road was an afterthought to the real Hancock Road. But somehow we made a huge amount of money in the summertime. It was kind of awesome. Whenever I see a lemonade stand today I try to leave a goodly amount of money for the kids to get excited over. But I don't really see beaded safety pins for sale anymore, or else I would totally buy those. I guess I just had that market cornered.

Years later my family moved across town to a bigger house on a busier street. Though I thought I may be a bit too old for the Lemonade Game, I clearly remember weighing the possibilities of hosting a lemonade stand at our new house versus not having one. I heavily weighed in on the pros side. Maybe I wasn't as cute as a six year old, but I had a better business sense after all my previous business ventures. The road had way more traffic, and an infinite more amount of thirsty foot traffic. That first summer was also packed with record highs and humidity. And, most importantly, I was very confident in my ability to make less bitter lemonade, as the passing of years brought math skills and a better sense of proportions. But my twin wouldn't do it with me, and I was too nervous to do it alone. This is probably for the best: I was thirteen. But I still might have done it. And I would have been laughing all the way to the bank.

I wish I could still just make a business like this nowadays. How many people would laugh at me if I were to sell lemonade at the end of my busy road in Boston? How many people would buy it? While swine flu precautions would make a lot of people hesitate, I think the odds are good that I would be able to find that one woman who would drink the whole cup and leave an absurd amount of money. Maybe people would take pity on me for being young and unemployed. I'm still kind of cute. And I make a pretty decent cup of lemonade.

05 November, 2009

Do You Need A Reason To Wear A Costume?

This Halloween, I wore two costumes. Well, three, if you count my daily costume of being awesome. (Which I do.)

On Thursday morning I attended a Preschool Halloween Parade with my sister/boss (and mother of my two nannying charges, the nephews). Quinn, the nephew that attends the preschool with the aforementioned parade, was dressed as Bob the Builder (or, as we kept singing it- Quuuinn the builder, can? he? fix? it?) The parade consisted of a lot of little kids walking down a street with their hands tied on a long rope. They were dressed in head-to-toe costumes like puppies and firefighters and in varying degrees of distress. The distress depended on how far away their parents were from them as well as how badly their costumes had been messed up. (One girl had her puppy face falling off and was, quite naturally, visibly upset.)

The parade walked ... v  e  r  y...   slowly from one end of the street to the other, where the local fire station #2 was, and back. We walked alongside them the whole time. It was kind of like we were on parade too, which was fun. But frankly I may just prefer the sit and observe kind . Couldn't the little kids have paraded around me? I was in costume. All in all, the walk was maybe two tenths of a mile, and took forty minutes. But it was cute, so well worth the mileage.

My sister and I, being the super fun people that we are, decided that we too would dress up for the Halloween Parade. And as luck would have it, Kate happened to have some bee costumes on hand. They had been bought years before and were designed for two-to-four year olds. They had black antenna, orange stripes and orange polka-dotted bow ties (as bees do.) So in the true spirit of Halloween, we went off to go watch (and walk with) the parade.

Kate and I were the only parent/authority figures that were decked out for the event. When we first stepped out of the car, quite a few heads turned. Maybe fifteen. It was hard to say, as I had a squirming tiger in my hand (the other nephew, Cole, too young for preschool and in his festive tiger costume.) One would not call their looks or laughter "judgement-free."



Kids on a rope!

Here's my attitude towards costumes: if you are going to wear a costume, and it is a legitimate occasion to wear one (rule of thumb: if you have to question whether it is legitimate: it isn't), then by all means- go forth in your festooned glory. So why the judging, folks? After all, it wasn't like Kate and I wore our tiny bee costumes to a cotillion. We weren't dressed as outrageous as Lady Gaga. We were wearing pants, for goodness sake! So Kate and I told ourselves that the other parent/authority figures were just jealous and rocked the little bee costumes like they were meant to be rocked. (Hard.)


Beee jealous

For my second costume I did dress as outrageously as Lady Gaga. Because I was Lady Gaga.

For it, I wore my twin sister's two-foot blonde wig which she somehow happened to have in the back of her closet, with a bunch of clothes that I (shamefully) didn't have to purchase because I already owned. (But since I do not wear them all together, I rarely achieve the Lady Gaga look in my day-to-day.) The piece de la resistance was wearing my father's baby blue satin butterfly top from the seventies.

My father's. Baby blue satin. Butterfly top.

We found the shirt in our attic one summer, and had brought it down to show my mom/ rib her about wearing it. She simply replied, "Oh, you found dad's shirt. I made that for him!" She said this proudly. Without even a hint of irony.

The discovery of dad's blue satin shirt didn't bring on as many levels of confusions as one might expect. You see, my dad was in a band in the seventies (but who wasn't, it seems?) They toured parts of the Northeast, especially the college scene. That was how he met my mother. (But that's a different story altogether.) My mother had made the shirt for my father to wear on stage. (Again, it was the seventies.) And so, decades later, I got to wear it on Halloween. I'm sure made him feel very masculine and manly. Baby blue satin butterflies do that to a man. The shirt itself was a hit at my party, as I shared the shirt's origin with just about everyone who asked where I could have got such a thing. Because that is what good children do.

 
P-p-p-poker face

 At the end of the night, when the blue satin shirt was carefully put away (saved for future outfits) and the blonde wig had come off, I knew it had been a good Halloween. All thanks to my father, and the numerous opportunities to wear costumes.

01 November, 2009

Generational Sayings

My generation is uniquely weird. I'm sure other generations are as well. I'm sure there's even a lot of cross-over between multiple generations. But for the purposes of this article, I'll be looking at popular turns of phrases for people born in the 1980s to the mid-1990s. Generation Y.

My generation says many weird things. These are things that we accept as normal and might even be used in polite conversation (whether accidentally or intentional.) We've adopted them so fully that they invade our entire world, infiltrating every microcosm of empty space in our brains so that one day we might slip up and say to our boss when his phone rings, "Omg Bob, you're blowing up and the ringtone LMFAO's 'Yes' made me lol."

Here are a few of my favorites.

You're blowing up, grandma

1. "You're blowing up": Oftentimes when ones cellular device rings, you can hear someone say the words "you're blowing up." As in, your cell phone is ringing, you should pick it up. It's done to bring attention to the phone call that the person may not be aware of. It can be accompanied by the word "man," "dude," or "kid" at the end, to address the person to whom they are speaking. I think the phrase is hilarious, and use it as often as I can. (Read: every phone call not made to a boss or manager.) Yes, you might not say this to, say, your grandmother, but tell me you haven't used it for a co-worker, friend, or maybe even a professor you're friendly with. Maybe.

Enough said.
2a. The extreme overuse of the word "Awkward." Awkward, to many people in my generation, can be used in all scenarios. I've gone through maybe just a handful of days when I haven't heard someone exclaim that one thing or another was awkward. You see, to Gen. Y, everything is awkward. Everything. He was awkward, she's a bit awkward, when that kid said that it was so awkward. When he smiled at me it was kind of awkward, her friend being there was so awkward, the music made it awkward. Etc. etc. etc.

My generation has forgotten other delightful, more apt words that can be used in lieu of awkward, so that now the word itself has surpassed its true meaning of "mildly uncomfortable embarrassment" to now be used in terms of clothing choices, describing ill-fated dates, and personal preferences. Also, relatedly, the word "un-comfortable" is almost as popular as awkward, and is meant to be said drawn out with an emphasis on the "uuuuun."


2.b. The Awkward Turtle: The word awkward is so ubiquitous that it even has its own sign. To inform others of an awkward event without words, one can just place one hand on top of the other and twirl the thumbs around to inform others how they feel. (Awkward.) See above. This hand movement actually means "Sea Turtle" in American Sign Language. I'm not sure who came up with the idea of using the symbol in conversation or decided that sea turtles were kinda awkward (which makes me feel a bit bad about sea turtles getting such a bad rap) but there you have it. Akwardness so universal that we can now communicate it through symbol.

This is very sketchy.
3. The overuse of the word "Sketchy: Sketchy is also a terribly overplayed adjective. Any boy (or girl, I suppose, though I've only heard it used in terms of boys) can be sketchy. Sketchy can range from being merely quiet to being overly enthusiastic, and other various forms of making others feel uncomfortable (or "sketching them out.") To be sketchy, one must also have an air of sexual menace about them.  It's like being creeped out, but one doesn't necessarily have to have something happen to them to justify the feeling. It is a much more lackadaiscal term to be applied whenever a person feels weirded out, even if in fact the person is only being weirded out because they themselves are socially awkward.


4. Internet Lingo: Any type of internet lingo used in non-internet-related settings is a popular choice for my generation when they are trying to be cute, clever, or quipy. How many times have you heard people say the following acronyms in conversation? Brb, omg, wtf, rofl. I had a friend Grant who would sound out the acronym instead of saying the letters individually, so instead of saying "r-oh-eff-elle" for rofl (ie, rolling on floor laughing) he would just say "roffle," which I think is way better. There's "omg," pronounced either "oh-em-gee" or the more whimsical "ahmg." Also a personal favorite "wtf" which stands for something highly improper, but by stating wtf the phrase becomes much innocuous and way funnier. I think.

Nearly every person I know has at one time or another said these things in normal conversation, whether with an ironic inflection in their tone or not. Don't deny it.



 Just a couple of bros, bro-ing it out
5. A "Bro-mance." Girls can cuddle with each other, give backrubs, play with each others hair, and tell each other how hot they look before they go out without an ounce of social repercussion. Guys, however, have not always been so lucky. Guys must join intramural leagues, play videogames, and punch each other in the shoulder to show that they love each other.

But with a "Bro-mance" (a play on the word "romance" and "bro". Oh- portmanteaus!) guys can now declare their love aloud and through stereotypically girl-related activities. I have some friends who actively enjoy going on dates to coffee shops with other bros and the television show Gossip Girl. And it's all cool, thanks to being able to simply state that they have a bro-mance. It's like a get out of jail free card for guy love.

This one is less popular than the other ones, admittedly, but still makes me giggle every time I hear it. There's also the variant of bromance, which is "bro-ing out." A context clue sentence: Zack and Jack? Oh yeah, those are just two bros in a bromance who love to bro it out.



6. "Sick." Ok, maybe we didn't invent this one, but boy did we embrace it. Contrary to Merriam Webster, sick doesn't mean under the weather or not feeling well. Oh no. Sick refers to things that are awesome. Really awesome. So awesome that they make you physically ill? Maybe. A really good movie, a sweet costume, or a performance can be sick.