March 28, 2010

Nostalgia

I feel strangely nostalgic.

I hung out with CB & IO for a little, then we and GP went over to visit the boys + A at their apartment.  We didn't really do anything, sat around a little, watched Terminator 2 and had WS explain the intricate plot development of the Terminator series.

This afternoon, I went to the Science Center with new members & the exec from AED.  The new kids did a scavenger hunt while the exec sat around and had lunch at the overpriced cafe.  We chose prizes for the winners and a consolation prize for the not-winners.  The best prize was for the winners: a clear plastic egg with an innocuous-looking volcano, with these enticing instructions:

Fill egg with water.
When volcano eruption ceases, fill egg with fresh water.
Dinosaur will appear.
Fill egg with water again.
In 72 hours dinosaur will be full grown!

I imagined an apatosaurus popping out of the confines of the two-inch plastic shell to squish itself into my windowsill.  I bought an extra egg for me!

At the boys' apartment, we got out the egg and took it into the kitchen.  We were all there, crouched around the sink peering intently into the egg to see if the volcano was erupting, bent at the waist and making sound effects like "crshhh krkkkk bshhh!"  It was a little anticlimactic when we realized the volcano was made of baking soda, but the tiny dinosaur made up for it.

Our conversations centered on what everyone is talking about, these days: life after graduation.  We made the inevitable rounds of "where are you going next year?" and talk turned to apartments, and moving away, and freshman floor memories, and how to choose a grad school.  Everyone is afraid of the same things.

After I dropped the girls off at their apartment, I went to the store and wandered the aisles, looking for necessities: eggs, lentils, brown rice.  Half an hour later, I finally drudged across the Forty.  In my room, I sat (sit) at the computer, looking at Facebook.  Gammy has sent me a message (probably her first ever!) and I reply excitedly, then look through my photos to suggest a profile picture for her.  I meander into photos from my phone, and then photos from my freshman year at school.  We look so young! and I hate thinking about leaving them and going away next year.

Thinking about next year feels like an adventure, but also like I'll be cheating on my friends, sharing trials and tribulations with people who may never know them and whom they may never know.  Suddenly, five weeks doesn't feel like enough time.

March 26, 2010

Completion

Today felt longer than it really was.  I got up at a reasonable time (9:45), finished a paper, then worked on what I was going to say for my thesis defense.

I got dressed in snazzy clothes (med school interview attire), put on some makeup.  I went to look for my closed-toe shoes, the low slingback heels that give me blisters on the tops of my 3rd and 4th toes but look professional, and of course I couldn't find them to save my life.

A few minutes in, and I was on my knees at the foot of my closet door, hurling items from the closet floor out into the middle of my room.  No shoes.  I found flip-flops in several colors, yellow summery shoes, warm fuzzy boots, and brown prom heels, as well as odds and ends and a pillow and papers and other debris.  No sensible shoes.  I switched to under the bed, where I found fuzzy indoor-outdoor slippers, more flip-flops in different colors, one of those spa-type sleeping masks to block out the light, endless pages of music arrangements.  No sensible shoes.  I settled on the bargain, shiny sandals I got last August, black with shiny bits on the straps.  

Outside, it was fifty degrees and raining, plus the wind was blowing really hard in every direction.  Sandals were not a good choice.

In the printing lab, someone was printing out literally a book, probably a hundred pages of nonsense.  I was going to be late for my appointment with my fiction teacher.  I tapped my fingers on the counter, my toe on the carpet, my umbrella against the desk.  Finally: my document was queuing up, printing (a thesis is long in and of itself, 73 pages all said and done).

After my meeting, in my seminar class, I struggled to pay attention.  Nerves were making it hard to draw a breath, my chest felt close and I wanted to breathe in deeply but it was definitely too hard to do.

I left early to get to the Romance Languages office early.  The door was locked, all of Ridgley empty--there was a conference going on, everyone was there.  I paced up and down the third floor hallway, practicing my opening statement like a lawyer about to close a murder trial.  It felt like extemp in debate tournaments but way more important and like I was way less prepared for what awaited me.

Just looking at Prof. M was reassuring: he literally looks like a stuffed teddy bear, round and jocose with short whitish hair on top and cheerful eyes.  Mme S was more imposing than normal; I had forgotten how smartly she dresses all the time (in her class last year, I used to always feel particularly sloppy, dressed in jeans or god forbid, sweatpants).  

It was surprisingly nice.  For une soutenance I feel like I talked very little.  My three readers asked me questions, certainly, but often it seemed to be more a discussion among themselves than questions directed at me.  Mme W came to my rescue often, I was afraid, but she told me afterwards, "Tu as bien débrouillé, tu as bien soutenu ta thèse."  And then it was over, and we shook hands, and Mme W et moi, nous nous avons fait la bise.  

I felt a little lost in Whispers, grabbing a salad (orzo with black beans--kind of icky) and a cafe au lait and going back to Ridgley to set up for cine-club and "La Haine", which was a pleasant distraction and surprisingly well-attended.

Finished.  It is finished.  I can't believe it.  I sort of want to cry (from relief?) but also I'm just tired and I feel a little empty.  

March 9, 2010

One week and counting!

I have been writing my 750 words every night.  I have an alarm on my phone that plays the harp and sounds peaceful, the way I hope to feel after writing my entry for the day.  I discovered in my second day of writing that it makes more sense to keep it personal.  I think there are plenty of things that run through my head that I should probably not publish here.  So instead, I keep them in a folder.


However, yesterday's was shareable, so here it is.



We have a crisis, early in the morning.  MC had taken her car keys with her to the airport, but we were supposed to use the car keys to take her car to the auto repair shop.  The four of us convene and I drove us to the Continental check-in desk, where a woman named Colleen is holding onto the keys and waiting for people named “C, L, I, or G” to pick them up.  GP and I stayed in the car. 

We have to take the car to the shop because IO and CB had an accident.  IO has her permit and is learning to drive on the right side of the road instead of the left.  It was in the parking lot in Schnucks.  CB told me what had happened: that she wasn’t sure how, but suddenly IO had lost control of the car and had run into the side of an old minivan.  The owner was drinking coffee inside the Einstein Bros. bagel shop.  He hurried out of the store to inspect the damage, closely followed by the owner of a shiny, fancy, brand-new SUV that was literally an inch from being touched by the displaced minivan.  The minivan needs a new axle, supposedly, even though the estimated cost provided by its owner is greater than the blue book value of the car.  We know because PH checked.

GP is worried because IO did not tell her what had happened.  GP had even asked IO the other day—four or five days after the accident—about how her driving was going, if she thought she was going to take the test over spring break, if she was feeling more comfortable.  IO’s omission lies before GP like a puzzle.  She turns her face to me and implores me with her eyes to come up with a solution, a rationalization as to why IO would have hidden this scary and life-impacting event from her.  I have nothing to say. 

After the airport, we drive straight across the mighty Mississippi to Alton, IL.  We are there to visit a restaurant supply store and go to a roadhouse bar with cheap food.  It is only eleven in the morning, so we take our time, marveling at mass quantities of spices and huge stock pots and gallons of soy sauce before moving on to the items that we would actually use, cooling racks and sieves and baking sheets and whisks and wooden spoons.  We try on aprons in crazy colors.  We wind through the tight aisles, marveling at the sheer abundance of strange implements that we had forgotten must come from somewhere.  There is a whole brand named “Carly” that sells things like salad dressing ladles, already labeled with “thousand island” or “low-cal.”  We contemplate the usefulness of an ice mold in the shape of a dolphin or a punch bowl. 

It’s only noon, and Fast Eddie’s doesn’t open until one, so we go to Dollar General.  The bargains here are equally enticing, though strange.  There are Twilight-themed sweethearts (BITE ME, and I <3 EC, and LIVE 4EVR) that are scary and hilarious at the same time.  There are Ghiradelli chocolate bars for a dollar.  GP pounces on cans of Spam for a bargain price (Spam being one of those strange things that receive adoration on Hawai’I and disgust on the mainland, much like tilapia is adored by mainland restaurants and seen as an icky bottom-feeder on the islands). 

At Fast Eddies, we are perplexed by where to go.  We head for the light, a more open-air area that is lit by transparent siding for a roof.  We order drinks.  CB has water.  IO and I—ever the mind-twins—order Blue Moon.  GP asks for a gin and tonic.  I am impressed.  Gin and tonic was my first alcoholic drink, I’m pretty sure, that I enjoyed at RP’s house during freshman winter break.  They can be strong.  Something about the lime and the gin and the tonic together make these three things—which separately can taste awful—taste perfect: refreshing, bright, clean on the tongue.

The food is delicious.  There is not really a vegetarian option.  I am glad I have made the “I eat fish” excuse for myself, because they do have shrimp (cocktail-style, boiled and held on ice, then served with cocktail sauce).  The burgers look amazing, as do the steak kebabs.  I sort of wish I weren’t a vegetarian.  After we eat, we send four puzzle-texts to WS, because it is his birthday.  Mine is the last one, it says “YOU! Love, the girls.”  The others read “Happy…” and “birthday…” and “to….”  He does not respond to this outpouring of affection. 

I drop the girls off and we agree to meet up later to watch a movie.  I am supposed to work on my thesis but I am sleepy and have a bit of a headache and when I wake up it’s ten minutes before I am supposed to meet them.  We go watch “The Crazies” which is scary but more suspenseful and thrilling than horrifying.  The scariest part is the fact that the government is behind it all. 

Afterwards we go to Uncle Bill’s Pancakes.  None of us had eaten dinner.  We order breakfast food and I get hashbrowns and eggs and pancakes and coffee, which is exactly what I wanted.  We have a sleepover at GP & IO’s place.  We play the infinitely silly Castle Crashers game, then watch Up.  I sleep in the papa-san chair, which is my favorite.  It’s like a cocoon.

March 1, 2010

750 Word March challenge

There's a website that promotes daily journaling with all sorts of incentives like the challenge this month of writing 750 words every day.  It gives you badges, tracks the time it took you to write it, and lets you earn points etc for each day that you complete the 750 words.  March seems like a good self-development month to me, I think because it's the start of spring weather and everything gets a fresh start.  So, let's see where this goes.

(This is also a HIGHLY effective procrastination tool for things like senior theses.)

This weekend was so unbelievable.  Staam performed so well on Saturday! and I have never been prouder of our performance.  We seriously nailed it, and I was still feeling the music high the next afternoon.  Even without an after party, the get-together at one member's apartment was the perfect group ending to the night.  However, there was definitely a price to be paid.  Last week we had rehearsal or a performance every night, for seven days straight, and my voice was destroyed yesterday.  I had also been fighting off the infections of everyone around me all week as one after another our members fell victim to colds and fevers and aches and pains.  I took Rachel to the airport yesterday morning and when I came back, slept for two and a half hours.  Somehow, my body knew what it needed and took it forcefully.  Then, today I also slept in, waking up at 12:15 for my noon class--oops!  I may not have been very productive but I do feel a lot better--way more rested and definitely more awake and ready to go (I even feel less sick, which is great).

Okay, so it turns out that 750 words is a lot.  As in, at the end of that last paragraph I had 286 words.  The real thing, though, is that I think the entries are supposed to be somewhat stream of consciousness.  (Too bad stream of consciousness is a bit revealing to be publishing directly.  I think I'll be a bit more circumspect.)

I was reading two stories for my fiction class today--one that I expected to be good and one I expected to be mediocre--and I was surprised by both of them.  The allegedly mediocre one was a slap in the face for being judgmental: the story was raw and visceral even as it was very true to the author's voice.  The allegedly good story was good, but it it did not startle me the way the other one had.

When I read short stories, they all seem to strike me as having the same tone: a bit flat, monotone, melancholic; I don't know if that reflects the uniform struggle to find ordinary things beautiful, or the natural strange, or the unnatural warm and reassuring, or whether it's not a reflection of any of those things but instead the descriptive quality of them, the way the authors craft pithy, excellent descriptions and sentences and intense metaphors for a single moment of literary bliss.  I can't tell if I approve of this, or if I like it or not.  On the one hand, the well-written ones evoke a sadness in my heart, an ache that makes me want to read more of them; on the other hand, after too many short stories I feel like I need to watch something peppy and happy, or at the very least beautiful and not dingy and dark.  But some stories evoke the beautiful, the joyful, the sadness paired with the uplifting.  I don't know exactly what it is, but somehow all of these short stories: the disheartening ones, the uplifting ones, the strange ethereal ones, all leave me with the same sensation.

Maybe it's that I've forgotten how it used to feel when I would finish a book and want to immediately read it again, or that sense of loss because the rest of the story can only exist marginally in your mind, whereas before it existed truly before you, played out in the ether in front of your mind's eye.

I'm nervous to have my story read by my peers.  I was rereading some of it today and I had forgotten I had put some of the developments in--the ending still surprised me a little, I had forgotten the degree to which I had introduced madness into the plot.  I can't tell if what I wrote is crafted well--I think the essential story is interesting (if I dare say so myself), but I don't know that I worked hard enough to make the imagery pop and the rhythm fluid.