Sunday, August 28, 2011

Post 43

For the second time in my life, I'm super scared about the impending change (the third time if you count when my mom first made pierogis for dinner). I've got driving directions up to Boston to look for a place to live (to live! Without a deadline or a meal plan or parents) and a U-haul reserved to cart most of my room at home up to wherever it is that I end up.

I don't cook well. I'm not good at doing laundry so that my clothes don't wrinkle. I've never written a check. I'm expecting to get to work (to work! At a 9-5 job!) and they will realize I'm still a kid. Wearing a buttoned shirt won't fool anybody.

It was nice to see so many friends at Haverford and Bryn Mawr, but it put a hole in my stomach to watch them beginning another academic year (which is no longer how I will measure my calendar, unless I start teaching or have kids). Ain't no primal scream out here. Kids, savor every single day. There's always something good happening there. I gotta stay in touch with these dudes (at the risk of being one of those hangers-on, willing to sacrifice my image for another dinner with the gang). It took me four years to make these friends, I worked hard at this! I can't give em up that easily.

I can foresee this new life as one where I get in shape, get cultured, become fashionable and enviable and perform standup comedy for roaring audiences. I can also foresee watching a lot of Starcraft gamecasts and eating a couple of jars of peanut butter a week and forgetting to rip pages off a one-a-day calendar.

So I guess I gotta be a "man" now.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Post 42

Finding Oneself

Pt. 2

Back in the bathroom, Brian had gotten back to his feet, swaying. He had calmed himself down, tried to logic his way back down to earth. He splashed a little water on his face, saw that there were no paper towels, and used his sleeve. He pushed through the bathroom door and crept back to his seat, casting a wary eye toward the librarian, who merely sniffed. Brian sat down and looked back at the blog. There was the description of his flight to the bathroom. He reached down without looking and pulled the gum off the seat of his pants, rolling it between his fingers and pressing it to the underside of the desk. He noted that his action with the gum was recorded in the blog and glanced around at the rest of the library. A couple of kids were bent over an SAT prep book, an old man with calf socks pulled up squinting at a book title, and a young woman in her thirties asleep at another computer – no one looked like they were watching him and transcribing his movements. Brian turned back to the computer. It was crazy, and he knew it was crazy, but he was a writer and writers have to embrace a little craziness. He cleared his throat and closed his eyes.

“Hello?” He whispered. The sleeping woman grunted, making him jump. “Can you hear me?” Brian scrolled down to see his query. It was there, but there was no good answer, since I’m not sure what to tell him. I mean, I can read what he’s saying but I can’t technically hear him. Besides, what good is it if I can? “Ah HA!” Brian yelled. The librarian shot up. “Young man, if you cannot control yourself you will have to leave!” Brian sat back, cowed. “Sorry, ma’am,” he said meekly. Quietly, he murmured “ah-HA! You CAN hear me!” Well, not technically. “All right,” Brian said, “but the point remains.” And he was right, I suppose. The librarian’s interruptions were getting tiresome, so it only made sense to point out to all readers that we can “hear” Brian just as well if he thought his comments instead of speaking them. You know I’m reading this, too, right? Thought Brian. I did, obviously, which is why I wrote it. Hey, no need to get touchy. Brian frowned. Are you some kind of God? Which was another interesting question. Since the story is in a third person narration, it would suggest that as the author I retain some sort of authoritative control over the story. However, several prominent writers recently have advanced the theory that writers should simply start stories moving and then see where they go. In that regard, and in the sense that I am a little taken aback by the audacity of the questions, I cannot claim to foresee every detail. On the other hand, it is absurd to say I was taken aback, since I had planned for Brian to ask these questions. All right, all right, Brian thought. I don’t need to know everything about it. You’re clearly not omnipotent. But then, what does that mean about me? The title says this is a metafiction. Am I real? Brian tried to remember anything before the beginning of the blog entry and was surprised to realize that he could, with great clarity, recall a number of details from his past. He remembered eating Ice Pops with a bandaid on his knee in early summers, his mom sobbing at his high school graduation, and the toast he had eaten that morning. OK, he thought, this clearly isn’t a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead scenario. But that past does seem a little canned. Brian realized he didn’t have a very strong emotional reaction to his past. So, he thought, I’m fictional? Like in Stranger Than Fiction? Brian was annoyingly quick on the reference, despite the obvious differences in the plot setup. There were similarities, but Brian was relieved to read that I had no intention of killing him off. It would be an act of literary suicide, since Brian’s character had a lot of the author in him. Really? Thought Brian. What are you like in real life? But there was no reply. Apparently the author hoped to maintain a level of mystique.


In Part 3, hopefully we get less pedantic

Monday, August 8, 2011

Post 41

Finding Oneself
A metafiction
Part 1

The writer's name was Brian Business Cartwright, and he was smiling. The first of these two facts should be enough to convince the reader that this is, indeed, a work of fiction: the second -that a man who stakes his livelihood on the creative process was caught smiling - suggests we may already have traversed into fantasy. Let me qualify first that Brian's smile was reserved; in a public library, grinning too widely can be more disruptive than a loud fart. But Brian couldn't contain himself. After reading the email twice, it was a considerable act of restraint that he hadn't run laps around the stacks hooting. Up until today, Brian hadn't had any aspirations for the success of his blog; he wasn't sure anyone was reading it. At his most cynical, he had felt as though he were slinging his modest reviews into the landfill of the Internet, maybe someday to act as a compost heap for the truly talented. But The New Yorker? Contacting him out of the blue and offering him a position as a columnist? Brian thought it might have been a hoax. It wasn't: Brian found nothing fishy about the email, and at this point he didn't recognize it as a flimsy plot device.

For Brian Business Cartwright, this offer represented a victory on several fronts. It meant validation for the months in front of his computer, eating Cheetos and staining his keyboard orange. Brian was worried about the physical toll his chosen profession was taking - he often pinched his sides, unhappily pulling at the meat of his stomach and letting it slap back into place. When he reads that sentence, he'll blush in embarrassment, and he'll do it again. The job offer also gave Brian an answer to the question that had started in his parent's mouths and settled into their eyes: "what's your plan, then?"

Brain's parents had given him his middle name as an unsubtle suggestion for his future career plans, and both were quietly dismayed at his decision to pursue a "creative profession," a phrase Brian's father took as a euphemism for not moving out. When Brian had pointed out the new irony of his middle name, his parents tightened their lips and shared a glance that said this was your clever idea. Bound by their promise to respect their son's decisions, Kerry and Marsha turned to "what's your plan, then?" to attempt to reinstate some order into their son's chaotic career pursuits. Marsha, particularly, wielded the phrase like a whip when she caught Brian on Facebook, letting it fly across his flinching shoulders and curling the inflection downward for more sting. For all this, the job offer represented a chance for Brian to stand in defiance. But enough explanation; Brian knows all this anyway.

Brian stepped outside and called home, giving his mom the good news. Her genuine enthusiasm and pride irked him a little bit - he kind of wanted to rub it in. He returned to his monitor to read through the email one more time. Little aftertremors of energy pulsed through him as he took note of the salary, the benefits, the hours. At the bottom, he noted that the offer was contingent on passing a "brief background screening," which didn't concern Brian much. He had a clean record through college and didn't hold any political views, much less extremist ones. To be safe, he typed his name into the search bar, little knowing how much he was advancing the story. The predictable results popped up first: his Facebook profile, his blog (he smiled at it), a record of his time fencing for Wesleyan. Beneath these, Brian caught his name in a blog with an unfamiliar URL. He clicked, expecting a friend's prank. Instead, he found this entry, the one you're reading now. It takes him a little while to get caught up, so you and I will take a quick paragraph break before resuming the past tense.

A teen at a nearby table who had been watching Brian as he scrolled through this story cracked her friends up later, telling them about a constipated maniac in the library computer bay, since that is what Brian resembled. The teen might have taken a kinder tone had she known what kind of existential pressure Brian was under, but teenagers are cruel, so she might not have. Brian's hands were shaking. "What the fuck is this?" he muttered too loud, earning him a glare from the librarian working at the circulation desk. As he read the previous sentence, he leapt up and stifled a yelp, which earned himself a second glare and a shushing. It was too much - Brian got up and walked to the bathroom with as much aplomb as he could muster. He sank down to the floor of the stall, shaking and running his hands through his hair. He sat on a piece of gum, but didn't realize until returning to his desk and read about it. Slumped against the ceramic tiles, Brian Business Cartwright tried to wrap his head around what he had read. At first, it had seemed like a weird joke: maybe, he had thought as he read, it was a bizarre practical joke from The New Yorker's staff. Maybe they wrote them for all the new columnists. It was improbable, but it was Brian's best attempt at rationalizing a scarily accurate and up-to-date account of his actions. His resolve had begun to weaken at the phrase "landfill of the Internet," as he had written that verbatim in a private journal and was proud of how it sounded. He cracked at the mention of pinching his sides and had skimmed the next few paragraphs in a daze until hitting the mention of the librarian. While Brian was coming to grips in the bathroom, this same librarian marched over to Brian's computer and peered at the screen. As she knew nothing about him, however, the philosophical implications of the blog entry were lost on her. Her only revelation, as she returned to her seat, was that 20-somethings are crazy, which wasn't particularly profound.

In Part 2, Brian gets his legs under him a little bit and establishes contact with us.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Post 40

I spent a good four hours today sorting through old photos and mail in dusty boxes. As the oldest child, my youth coincided and caused the zenith of my parents' enthusiasm for photography and recording memories. Photo after photo shows me wide-eyed and staring into the camera; my parents, slightly fuzzier, loom in the background.

As a kid, I couldn't smile in photographs. I could laugh, and I was happy most of the time, but my mom would get behind the lens and I'd lose the feeling in my mouth. "Smile!" she'd say, and I'd stretch my lips, squint and clench my teeth. This would reignite the continual argument between my mom and I. "That's not a smile!" she'd say, and I'd get defensive. We'd get frustrated, me for my facial failings and my mom for wasting film. Thankfully, as my siblings filled out the ranks of my family, the pressure was more evenly distributed. Georgi is her own harshest critic in photographs, and Miles laughs in each shot, his face manic. For my mom, each additional child in the frame made the difficulty of capturing unanimous smiles exponentially more difficult.

I got better with age. Unlike many, I was proud of my braces and beamed in the school pictures. In middle and high school, my circle of friends didn't carry many cameras between them, so photos were sort of a special occasion for me. As my mouth shaped up in still life, my eyes got sloppy - I alternated between a bug-eyed, "crazed killer" grin and a half-lidded, "substance abuse" smirk.

For a while in college, I took a stand against silly faces. Maybe it was prematurely curmudgeonly of me, but I couldn't imagine looking back and being happier with crossed eyes than a real smile.

I'm finally getting comfortable with smiling naturally in photos. Now, if I could only do something about my hair...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Post 39

A List of Uncomfortable, Accurate Euphemisms for My Dancing
  • Bopping
  • Boppin'
  • Grooving
  • Grooving to the beat
  • Grooving to the Boogie
  • Boogeying to the beat
  • Letting my feet do the talking
  • Busting a move
  • Cutting a rug
  • Getting down
  • Getting down on the floor
  • Getting down with my bad self

Monday, July 25, 2011

Post 38

Date a Mathematician

(after reading Chris Warnke's "You Should Date an Illiterate Girl")

Date a mathematician because he is unfamiliar with how things like dating are done nowadays and so he will bind himself to archaic chivalry. He will open doors and pull out chairs and offer you his jacket if you look cold. He will not staunch your tears with platitudes but he will give you a shoulder and a tissue. He will call your father "sir" until he is asked to stop. He will write halting, sincere letters. He will apologize. He may cut his spaghetti.

Date a mathematician because you will never be his muse. He will take you off the pedestal and make popcorn.

Date a mathematician because he will drink in the curve of your smiles and frowns, the angles of your elbows, and the sinusoidal sway of your hips. He will not compare your freckles to stars in the sky, but he will think of scatterplots and smile to himself. He will lack the vocabulary to express the magnitude and direction of his sentiments, so he will make vectors from his eyes and tell you he is speechless. He will explore the topology of your skin, inquisitive fingertips tracing your contours.* He will recognize your patterns, your causality, and remember them. He will amuse himself by synchronizing his breathing with yours when you are folded against him.

Date a mathematician because he will show you unfinished work eagerly.

Date a mathematician because he equates simplicity with elegance and beauty. He will have late nights at work, red-rimmed and drooping, but he will always always smile to see you. He will know which note should come next, even if he cannot sing it. He will light up when he explains that two asymptotic lines grow infinitely close and never intersect. He will describe fractals by saying that every part contains the whole, and then draw a crude one to reinforce his words.

Date a mathematician because he look up a recipe online to surprise you with cookies, and when you come in and see him chiseling the lumps of dough from the baking sheet, he will raise eyebrows full of flour and laugh.

*Date a mathematician because contours were math's domain, before literature swept in like a magpie to feather its nest.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Post 37


Lights up on three male construction workers sitting on a wall or girder or something. They are eating their lunches.

See, the nice thing about working in this neighborhood is your lunch break turns into quite the little parade.

Yeah, the salary may not be great, but the “fringe benefits” [he makes the quote marks around while holding his sandwich] are a pretty sweet deal.

I gotcha; the trim is nice, then?

Oh my goodness, you should see the skirts that come through this way. Hubba hubba!

ROSCO and BARRY start a cartoonish series of wolf-whistles and expressions of desire. FRANK laughs along with them. ROSCO stops abruptly as a woman enters and crosses the stage.

Woah boys, look at what we have here!

Sweet Criminy, take a look at that neckline!

Baby, it’s a good thing my imagination ain’t hungry, because that skirt is leaving nothing to it!

I feel like I gotta pay whoever made that top, o wow!

Yeah, baby, shake those cans!

BARRY [horrified]
Woah, Frank, what’s the matter with you?!

Our apologies ma’am, this man does not speak for us.

The woman exits. BARRY and ROSCO turn on a confused FRANK.

Geez, you’re a pig!

What’d I do?

Frank, you were a real asshole to that lady.

I was just joining in!

Never mind that, here comes another one! You mind your manners this time, new guy.

Another woman enters and crosses the stage in the same manner.

Ooh sweetheart, those hiphugger jeans are giving me the sweats!

Lose the blouse, baby, and let’s take a look at the goods underneath!

Yeah baby, what kind of panties you got on? They got a lacy trim around them? You got hipsters on? Tangas? Control briefs? I’m dying here!

Yeah, let’s see that butt, sugar!

Wow, you chauvinist. Why don’t you just chop her up like so much meat?

Please lady, pay no attention to this chowderhead. He's got a head full of chowder.

The woman exits. Again, ROSCO and BARRY turn on FRANK.

You keep this up, Frank, and I’m gonna report you to the foreman.

I’m sorry guys, I don’t understand!

You're a real piece of work, insulting the fine women of our city.

I’m only doing what you guys are doing!

Don’t try to put us on your level; we’re not objectifying these beautiful ladies.

Speaking of beautiful, check out the wardrobe coming our way!

A third woman walks across the stage in the same manner as the first two. During the sequence of catcalls, FRANK catches on.

Ooh baby, pull that braided belt a little tighter and I might choke!

I know that’s Dolce’s spring line, but you’re making it feel like summer out here, pumpkin! [He fans himself with his sandwich.]

Ooh I can see that Victoria’s Secret bra strap! Oof, tell me it’s a shelf bra! Tell me it’s a shelf bra!

I wanna bury myself in those pleats, sweetie!

I see you working those cinched sleeves with the lacy fringe.

God musta invented a new type of neckline just for you!

Yeah baby, those heels are fierce! I see you struttin in those Jimmy Choos!

The woman exits. BARRY and ROSCO are uncomfortable. Beat.


Are you gay, Frank?

You can tell us.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Post 36

Party Time

Lights up on two girls standing at a party; they are holding solo cups and looking displeased.


Gosh, Amanda, I am so sick of these dumb parties! It's nothing but a bunch of boisterous, extroverted guys approaching us casually.


I know, they all insist on talking to us. I can see right through them, though; they're only talking to us because we're hot.


Yeah, those fun guys are pigs. If only there was a nice guy here who was into us but didn't show it like most of these jerkums.

They both sigh, then AMANDA notices someone.


Hey Rebecca, what about that guy sitting on the stool by the wall?


Oh, that's Mickey. We have a class together. He mentioned it to me while we were in line at the keg.


That's thoughtful of him! I hate when I can't remember where I've seen someone before.


Yeah, and when he said it, I was surprised I didn't recognize him. He's the guy that asks all those clarifying questions. I always have the same questions as him, so he's super helpful!


God, that takes guts. I wish I had someone like him in my class. Did you guys talk about anything else in the beer line?


No, actually! He just sort of said it and trailed off and turned back around. He didn't try to like, force the conversation forward.


That is so refreshing. Just give me the facts, you don't need to add in pleasantries! Look at him right now. He's lost in thought.


I bet he's thinking about something cool. I love that far-off look. So mysterious.


And earlier, I saw him mouthing the words to "I love college." Just mouthing it, not belting it out like the other guys.


Ooh, he does that at the gym, too


He goes to the gym?


Yeah, he does cardio like every day. That's so forward thinking. He's the kind of guy who knows bench-pressing will just give him big arms.


He's looking out for his heart. I like that he didn't change clothes to come to the party.


Mm. So practical. I bet he's an animal in bed.


Well, there's only one way to find out. Come on, let's see which one of us can make out with him first.


God, I hope he gives me one of those eyebrow-raise tight-lipped smiles. That is so hot.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Post 35

I've been writing more these past few days, and as I do not usually approach the writing with a plan, the material ends up scattershot. Yesterday, I wrote about some sensory details I had experienced. To wit:
  • The leather of my dog's ear as I passed him going down our back stairs
  • The puckered skin of the grapes that I rinsed in my hand and ate over the sink.
  • The gritty accumulations in my molars from eating peanuts.
  • The sour pit in my stomach, a combination of coffee and wondering what my mom thinks of me.
  • the twinge of my hamstrings as I walk, which reminds me of yesterday's exercise
  • my muscles scrunching toward my spine involuntarily when a bug brushes against my neck
  • crawling my toes into my sandals
  • two dots of sunlight on the hood of a car, which diverge as I approach and then slide away into the grill.
  • The muffled descent of the bedsheet when I flopped back under it after hitting the snooze button.
There were others, but I woke up this morning realizing that writing collections of sensory details is valuable only so far as one wishes to improve at writing collections of sensory details. If HarperCollins called, asking me to describe how my sink coughed when I jerked the handle this morning, I'd be set. Until then, it feels like procrastination, doing scales to avoid Fur Elise.

I have never kicked my own ass. It was a grim realization this morning, or simply an admission to myself. I had the fortune to have two parents who ran along with me much further than they need to, their hands in the small of my back. They let go at college, and I coasted for a long time. But I am catching on the gravel now, and the blur that used to be surrounding me is settling into an unfamiliar landscape.

That was a lengthy euphemism to explain that I have been lax since school let out - letting two job offers slip away and waiting anxiously to hear back from others. At pick-up soccer today, my mouth and response tightened with embarrassment every time an alumni asked what I'm doing in the fall. I came back fuming. My team lost. I'm not sure where I'll be after the summer, but I look back on my pursuits and see trail markers for the path of least resistance. Even my flirtations with armed service is a way of passing the buck: I would always have an order to carry out, even if it made me miserable.

Usually in these circumstances, I make myself a To-Do List to feel productive for the rest of the day. These are usually filled with trivial daily tasks - make my bed, take vitamins, shower. I seek the refuge of fulfilling household duties because it feels productive, because I can't be criticized for taking the dogs for a walk.

I am hoping to turn this trend around. I will not hide behind being a good son to avoid making tough choices and pursuing passions. I will not deny myself pleasures to appease a false sense of obedience. I've had enough of passive: let's see where aggression goes.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Post 34

A 500-Word* Response to James' Suggestion: "Mickey McCauley"

I am 22 years old, unemployed, living at home, and withering under the disappointment of my parents. When I am not writing in my comfort zone, my tone becomes an uncomfortable patois of misused academic language and crusty-dry humor. I rely on self-deprecation and meta-analysis.

I keep the curly hair I inherited from my mother close-cropped. I dislike shaving because it gives me ingrown hairs. I can run four miles in under half an hour and I have a half-hearted desire to run a half-marathon. I am 5' 8", but the good posture I inherited from my mother gives me additional inches in a world of slouchers. I am a late-comer or absentee to most fashion trends - wrapped in my blue hoodie, I missed out on the year of the peacoat. In my wardrobe, form follows function. I am still chasing a six-pack, but I have developed a pretty respectable V-cut.

I began drinking coffee black after giving it up for Lent. Once, after breaking up with a girl, I became a vegetarian. This is a continual habit: I decide that some aspect of my life needs changing and pursue the change stubbornly. I went back to eating meat when I started dating again. I didn't drink until I turned 21, but I find it hard to give the same explanation twice. I pick my nose and I have never eaten a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

I began to learn the guitar this summer. I played piano until eleventh grade and I regret giving it up. I can still play one or two songs from muscle memory. After a guest a cappella group performed at an assembly in 9th grade, I began beatboxing. I do it unconsciously now, and it looks like I'm muttering to myself. I know all the words to "All Star," "Lose Yourself," and "Jump Around." I like Guitar Hero more without the microphone.

When I walk on pavement, I like to take two steps in each square: first the right foot, then the left. I ascend stairs two at a time. I scrape the roof of my mouth with my tongue and scrape my tongue against the orthodontal bar set behind my bottom teeth. I learned the "bro-snap" late in life and I'm making up for lost time.

People say the Disney character I resemble most is Lefou, Gaston's long-suffering sidekick. When we are discussing spirit animals, no one knows what to say about me. When I was little, my hair drew comparisons to Kramer from Seinfeld. The nicest thing anyone has said about my writing is that it can sound like David Sedaris' (this is not one of those times). I still don't understand the comparisons with Max Stossel. I've never seen Twin Peaks, but two of my friends say I act like Agent Cooper.

I've never gotten in a fist fight or had a broken bone. Blood doesn't make me squeamish but needles and things going into eyes do. I fear spiders more than bears or sharks. I hate the sensation of clipping my nails and then gripping packing foam. I sleep on my stomach but nap on my back. I'm allergic to cats - they make my eyes itch.

I get sentimental really quickly.

* approximately

Post 33

A 500-Word Response* to Jonah's Suggestion: "deconstruct us"

I will admit first that I know too little about deconstruction as a literary... theme? process? phenomenom? to write 500 coherent words about the deconstruction of anything. Instead, I will twist your words, Jonah, and take them as a request for a description of our relationship and how I think it evolved. This works to our mutual benefit because this story is much more interesting than a dry literary tract.

It wasn't long into our freshmen year that I recognized you as a campus personality. We did not have much personal interaction, and yet my knowledge of you fostered a relationship of one-sided enmity. While I imagine you remained decidedly neutral toward us inhabiting the same college, I began to despise you. You became my nemesis, a fact I repeated to the annoyance of our mutual friends, who knew you as a pleasant dude.

The trouble lay in our overlapping interests. An easy example, one the bearded psychiatrist might try to unpack in greater detail, is a cappella. I tried out for the Humtones as well, and was forced to sit sullenly among a cheering audience as you clutched the microphone like a life preserver, hanging from it as though the power of your singing would sweep you away the way it had swept the girls in the audience. I was Salieri. I tried not to listen to their excited whispers. It was easy to resent you for your good looks and charm, especially when they were turned on girls I knew.

This is not to say that I spent freshman year coveting your role. My side was not without advantages. I took a secret pleasure stepping onto the Varsity practice fields, knowing that you played club soccer. I ignored the fact that you probably had no interest in sitting the bench with me: Varsity was varsity. I regret that I smirked at your stature: at 5' 8", I was in no position to laugh, and the short have enough problems without infighting. I forget which of us hooked up with Stephanie Young first, just that I felt it reflected better on me. You were a music buff, which I was quick to equate with pretension: I came to college listening exclusively to "The Sweet Escape." Probably most telling is that your relationship with Janna was fraying as mine with Thea was beginning. You made an easy target as I attempted to ingratiate myself with Thea and her friends (it should be part of the admissions info that one does not date a girl - one dates a suite).

As I grew into myself at Haverford, I dropped my Bizarro-Jonah identity. Occasionally, a pocket of jealousy would bubble up at a Mavericks show (I avoided them until my senior year, and I couldn't tell you why). I admire you for the company you keep, both its quality and quantity. My perceived rivalry is silly in retrospect: but for the housing office, we might have ended up good friends. We shared acquaintances, passions, and, if my guess is right, insecurities.

But it was not meant to be during our time at Haverford. Your dry comment on my equally dry Facebook post goes a long way toward encapsulating our relationship: we feel more comfortable out in a public, digital forum, where we can prepare our remarks and make a slightly disingenuous show of camaraderie. I'm happy where we are, Jonah, but only in comparison to where we started.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Post 32

I spent 3.5 hours writing today.

At this point last night, I was convinced that my best course of action lay in submitting my resume any place that would take it. This morning, over a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats, my mom confronted me. My prospective employers, she said, would not be swayed by a year bagging groceries. She told me that I hadn't devoted any time to writing, though I claimed it as a passion. I sat mostly silent and filled her brief pauses with "OKs". Determined to prove to her that I was not blowing hot air, I sat down with pen in hand and wrote about the first thing that came to mind: my previous relationships. I thought it would be a good introductory exercise, but after a long hour on the backdrop of my middle school social scene, I realized I was in for a longer haul. The time I totaled today only took me through high school, and I am no Casanova. I am going to finish my chronicles tomorrow and I may post some of the earlier romances here (the college ones, I feel, would be too fresh. Check back in a few years).

My primary impediment to writing as a career is, as my parents might agree, a fear of the unknown. The path of a math student is, if you'll excuse the pun, decidedly more linear. But for a math student who never took an English class in college? Where do I submit my writing once I am done with it? I have no professors to review it. How does one offer up one's work? If it's publish or perish, I'm know where I'm headed. Is there an inbox where I can dump a piece of short non-fiction and wait to hear back later? Until I find outlets, the writing I do will have all the practical value of an English class, minus the helpful feedback. Where do I start looking?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Post 31

When you are young and feel old, your decisions stretch out in front of you, distorted, like you're looking at them from the bottom of a swimming pool. I am trying to figure out what I will be doing in the fall, and the uncertainty is kicking around in my stomach, despite my logic's best efforts at assuring myself that the choice is not of monumental importance.

I made a choice today. I am not going to be teaching at a boarding school in Maine. It was my only concrete offer thus far, and turning it down meant disappointing my parents. I grew up without religion, but I was a practicing goody two-shoes. My biggest tremors came not from emailing the school, but breaking the news to my mom and dad. They see it as a choice made out of fear of the unknown, an unwillingness to grow up. They're nervous that I don't want to experience the world.

What I did was maybe dumb, maybe short-sighted. But I did it because what I want is one more year near the friends in my life. My parents retained precious few connections from their college years (and they went to Haverford and Bryn Mawr), and they insist that loss is part of growing up. You make new friends, you drift away from your college buddies. I still don't believe that has to be true, but if it is, then all the more reason to savor the time I have left. A year in Maine would mean missing the people I love most while they're all conveniently squished into a tiny geographic range.

So I'm still looking. I'm working my way back into my parents' good graces. And, just to prove it to myself, I'll write it here: it's not a big deal.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Post 30

I am in Bath, Maine. My mom and I drove up here today, for a teaching interview tomorrow. My mom did most of the driving: I took over around the half-way point, but at our next stop, mom asked me if she could drive again. "I think I'm averaging about 5 miles an hour faster than you," she reasoned.

We made some small talk, some larger talk. Neither of us thought to bring any CDs in the car, so we were stuck with whatever was in there previously. It was too late when we realized we had Buena Vista Social Club. My mom worked at the school where I'm interviewing just after she graduated, and many of her former coworkers are still there. She told me about her and my dad's post-graduate jobs. They spent a lot of time flitting between jobs and travel; it was reassuring knowing they didn't drop into teacher-and-lawyer roles immediately.

I'm not sure what questions I'm going to be asked tomorrow. I've already done a few interviews with the school. It's a pretty campus, fairly isolated from big cities. I'm staying in the Visitor's Center. It's a large building, but I'm alone in it. There's a thunderstorm outside, and with the lights off I can see why Stephen King stayed in Maine to write.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Post 29

I went to buy some shorts today. I am no great shakes at buying clothing, since I am both cheap and tender to wander into the ownership of clothing rather than acquiring it through direct pursuit. Today, however, I had a clear mission: I wanted shorts and I wanted them to be a color other than khaki. My search had started last week at Macy's, where I pored fruitlessly through racks of jeans and bathing suits. This week, I started at Banana Republic, attracted by the promise of a sale. Inside, I was tempted by a pair of khaki shorts, but as I was being led to the changing rooms I ascertained from the attendant that I had stumbled on an article of clothing born immune to sales and reductions. Inside the booth, I discarded the shorts and jotted down some notes in a notebook instead, savoring the privacy. I exited to find the clerk waiting. "Any luck?" she asked, a question I still don't understand. What was supposed to happen? Was there a dollar in there I could have found? "Uh, yeah, but I'm not gonna get the shorts" I muttered, looking down. "Ah," she replied. I scurried out.

Banana Republic was followed by The Gap, a store in a midlife crisis. My image of Gap is that of a no-frills store, or at least one in which frills are on backorder. On entering, I saw that it had abandoned its plain-jane flourescent lighting in favor of thumping music and large plasma screen TVs. Again, I tried on a pair of khaki shorts. The changing booths didn't lock, and a woman knocked on the door and started to open the door. I yelled "OCCUPIED" and forced it shut before she could see anything. Why was I the embarrassed one in that situation?

I ambled into Nordstrom; my greenhorn status as a shopper means I know very little about the relative prices of stores. I sat down to examine some shorts, saw the $80 price tag, and leapt up.

At this point, I swallowed my pride and ducked into Abercrombie and Fitch, America's oldest retail rave. The place reeked of cologne: it was a radical shift from the walkways of the mall, where Auntie Anne rules with a benevolent cinnamon fist. I walked along the walls of naked men strewn out in black-and-white, but again I was disappointed by the selection.

I helped myself to some more of my pride and stopped at Hollister, Abercrombie's beach-bum friend with benefits. Here, finally, was the pair of shorts I was looking for. I bought them (on sale, too!) and hustled back out to the safety of the mall. The bag the clerk gave me was decorated with a shirtless man on each side. I ran for the parking lot. When I got home, I showed my mom. "Hmm!" she said.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Post 28

How To Stay Young (List in Progress)

Eat soft-serve ice cream without a napkin.
Walk around barefoot.
Ask your mom to scratch your head.
Slurp the milk out of the cereal bowl.
Cut your own hair.
Run a stick along a metal fence.
Lie down on your dog.
Use too much peanut butter.
Ride your shopping cart.
Don't set an alarm.
Chew more than two pieces of gum at once.
Call people "ma'am" and "sir".
Cross your eyes.
Watch a slow-moving bug.
Don't mute the commercials.
Write with a pencil.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Post 27

How to Grow Up (List in Progress)

Stack the dishes in the dishwasher any way you want.
Wear a collared shirt without being asked.
Go for a late night walk.
Read the second and third pages of the newspaper.
Write thank-you notes.
Groan as you sit down; exhale as you get up.
Join LinkedIn.
Break up.
Drink coffee.
Complain about not getting enough coffee.
Put away the Magic Cards.
Use the word "debacle."
Put on your own band-aid.
Become part of the gridlock.
Listen to talk radio.
Get film developed.
Sleep with your arm on/under someone else.
Make eggs for breakfast.
Apologize without being asked.
Have an incompetent boss.
Watch a movie that won't make you laugh.
Eat dinner alone.
Comfort your parents.
Tend a garden.
Practice an instrument without being asked.
Smile at babies.