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.