Saturday, December 27, 2014

Back on the Metaphorical Horse

Well. I haven’t written anything here in a little while. That’s not to say that nothing has happened in the past…two-ish months.

The routine settled in. Papers, scripts (for my playwriting course), and kanji had to be written, more urgently than blogposts. I had softball practice at both 6:30 and 18:30, depending on the day. I opened that stationary store at 8:45 twice a week and closed it on the weekends (there were plenty of mid-shifts, too). Then there’s the whole social-life thing (which I got much better) and keeping up with home and sleeping. Or maybe I let the blog slip because the new-car smell of college faded, replaced by the ever-present, pungent wafts of pot.

I don’t mean to sound whinny; I love 1,439 minutes out of the 1,440 I get at school every day. That’s just my lame excuse for why writing a blog got boxed out of the weekly plan: I got busy.

But my writing professor is insistent on “getting back on the horse” and “writing even if it’s been awhile.” In fact, in her rule book, I shouldn’t even be apologizing (to myself, or to whomever) for not writing [in this personal life-log]; I should just get back to it. To my great surprise, this little project still gets read a few times a day, despite its preoccupied writer’s absence.

So here’s to getting back on a horse.

I’m not even at school right now; the semester ended last week. I’m home for the holidays, planning on driving back to the Anthill in mid-January with two fellow Ohioans. Thanksgiving break has come and gone; basically I got off for five days in November, went back to class on December 1st, stressed about finals for 2.5 weeks, and then came back to the kitchen chair I’m sitting in now.
My question to Karen Lawrence, the president of SLC: what would happen if we moved the start of school to the beginning of August, or three weeks earlier, and have the semester end just before Thanksgiving, spanning the holiday break from Thanksgiving to just after New Year? In a more realistic proposal I would expand upon the beneficial outcomes of this adjustment, but something tells me that there are more interesting things I could discuss…

I suppose some interesting things happened in October, November, and December…

I joined the DIII softball team! I love the team for the sport, which is good for my quick-twitch sense of athleticism…so I’ve been told. The coaches are strict but fun, and my teammates are down to earth and outside of my typical circles of friends from class. This past fall the NCAA allowed us five weeks of practice and one game; we almost won against Yeshiva University. Apparently we’ve drastically improved from last year. Practice season starts up in February.

Maybe I’ll be an anthropologist when I grow up; I’ve really enjoyed a semester of sitting around talking about cultures. Then again, there are four areas (archeological, cultural [the focus of my current course], linguistic, and physical) of study for the field…all of which are, while interesting, potentially/maybe/likely/sort of/I-dunno-but-for-the-sake-of-the-argument unemployable. I recently got the “you’re gonna have to figure out what to do with your life in the near future” lecture. I’m not gonna let it get to my head too much at this very moment, as I do the type-and-delete-type-and-delete cycle for all my expansions on the subject. Time for a new paragraph.

My neighbor and friend Marinoff and I recently got $5 tickets to the Broadway play This is Our Youth, starring Tavi Gevinson, Kieran Culkin, and Michael Cera (thank you, after which we got selfies with all three actors. I stood three and a half feet from Ewan McGregor and Maggie Gyllenhaal on 43rd street after seeing a rehearsal of The Real Thing and passed “Big Boo” from Orange is the New Black in Chelsea, but now I have photos to prove the encounter happened; the one with Paulie Bleaker got some serious appreciation on Facebook.

NYC is still great. My impersonation of the accent is getting better. New Yorkers have asked me where I was from, saying that my accent is “weird.” My friends from Essex, England and Derry, Ireland get that more, of course, but it’s still true that I am a New Yorker in training.

Finals? They happened.

Midterms? They didn’t happen. Such is normal at Hipster College.

Retail is busy in December, but now I wrap gifts pretty well.

I have a new found appreciation for trains, subways, and buses. I think of them fondly as I drive around in suburb-city.

I’m gonna miss my former roommate, who has chosen to transfer out. But I don’t get a room to myself; I get to room with one of my best friends at Hipster College (which is even better). Boston isn’t far away though; maybe I’ll save up for a bus ticket and a weekend get-away, where I know I have both a couch on-which to sleep and/or a dorm room floor on-which to crash.

I don’t know if I’m really different; college hasn’t changed me so quickly, methinks.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Enthusiasm and Employment

Little known fact: I’m really, really friendly.

Actually, it’s a personality trait that’s present in just about everything I do. I talk to people fairly naturally regardless of if I’m comfortable and happy to see them or if I’m feeling completely awkward1. Even if I’m feeling socially-discomfited I let chatty discussion override the fact that I want to stop small-chatting to whomever I’m talking.

For example, last week in my acting class I was doing a quasi-improvisational scene with a classmate where she was getting evicted/thrown out of the country and I was her cousin who got tricked into helping her move out. There were other constituents, like I had a secret preoccupation and she had to talk obsessively about her preoccupation, but my awkward-based chattiness easily overran the scene, to the point that my professor told me that I couldn’t talk unless I was asked a question. I knew why I was talking so much;  I was nervous. It’s what I do. I talk. I’m proactive. I’m that annoying person that will finish your sentences for you. I have a terrible habit of never ending questions. And in that moment, even when I wasn’t allowed to use my vocal chords, everyone in the class told me I “talked with my face.”

I don’t mind the friendliness most of the time. Sometimes I worry that it comes off as fake when I genuinely care about what other people have to say about the weather or their cats2. This smooth, small-chatting talent talks me into getting things I want, like jobs. Twice now I’ve gotten jobs by walking up to managers and selling myself with an enthusiastic disposition. Last March I landed a retail job at the Columbus Zoo. More recently, I smiled my way into a job at a shop in Bronxville.

Re: I got a job!  

I’m a part-time seasonal employee who sells gift cards, stationary, humor books, journals, seasonal items, holiday cards, wedding invitations, wedding/baby announcements, wrapping paper/services, and other random (in my opinion) gifts. Today was my second day. Not only that, but there’s the business side that I’m familiar with thanks to the zoo. It’s not quite as in your face here, but the cooperate cloud invisibly hangs around the store.

Obvious differences between the two jobs: the zoo had 17 retail locations on several acres of land, while in this store I could be in one of three rooms. 55 retail employees at the zoo; less than 10 at the store. I have to be able to wrap gifts here. There’s more glitter involved. Lots of candles here; live/dead mice at the zoo. Disney music at the zoo: jazz and popular music here3. The “product” here is more interesting to look at and read; I already have a few Christmas/birthday gifts picked out.

There’s something that comes with this nicer merchandise and wider range of retail expertise: professionalism. I was corrected today for saying “See ya!” to a customer after I helped her pick out a gift for her 18 year old niece. In fact, I was told that in general I was being too chatty and too interested in the customers. Enthusiasm for the product is good and encouraged, but talking about the client’s daughter’s boyfriend’s father, to whom the birthday card will be sent, is not “professional.”

This is all to say that I’m too friendly. And I get it. I can tone it back, regrettably.

The truth is, despite the fact that I’m working on my second retail position, I was not made for retail. Merchandise does not interest me. Details are my downfall, though I’m adjusting. I’m visually inept. I make mistakes when giving people change4. I feel sleazy when I manipulate products so that people will buy them. The best part about retail for me is customer interaction. Small-talk is my favorite aspect. Greeting people and checking people out with their items remains to be my forte. At the zoo we were required to check the I.D for clients if their credit/debit card wasn’t signed; I loved seeing where people were from based on their driver’s license (see One Week ’Til SLC). I thought it was cool, like how some people think that barcodes are cool. I like people more than sales goals.  

But I get it. I don’t need to know their life story.

It’s probably time to grow up and let the chattiness subside. I like my job so far; I wanna keep it. So I’ll count my change correctly and watch what I say. Maybe I’ll buy some eyeliner while I’m at it; makeup’s professional, right?

Work is about a 10-15 minute walk from campus, one that I enjoy when sidewalk’s available (that’s about 75% of the path). Coming home this evening, I was about 50 feet from my dormitory building when a girl about my age and a woman, presumably her mother, stopped and asked me where the Campbell Sports center was. I told them it was on the other side of campus, just up the road. Then it hit me that she was probably a prospective student…

Having assumed correctly, we got to talking about the college…the college admissions process…the curriculum, dons, roommates, orientation, the dance program, before financial aid…before I knew it I was walking her back to their car, giving the truth about Hipster College. The sun had set by the time we stood around the parking lot exchanging email addresses. I walked myself back on Kimball to my nook, my feet and stomach warning me that if I met another prospective student or friend tonight we were sitting down and eating dinner.

What I’ve learned from being…me: copious amounts of friendliness have a time and place. For helping a customer checkout, “Will that be all today?” and “Thank you! Have a nice day.” would perfectly suffice as bookends to a 100 word maximum conversation. For helping a lost perspective student, an enthusiastic first-year might earn the admissions office another applicant. Maybe I’ll work for them one day.

Then again, if there’s one business that I dislike with more than retail, it’s the college admissions market. More on that later.

1.      I completely disagree with that word’s rise to popularity. Or maybe I disagree with the fact that teenagers can’t find a different word to use. “Awkward” is to my generation as “swell” was to the 50’s.
2.      I wouldn’t mind listening to your cat stories. The number of beers you had last night that resulted in today’s hangover? Less interesting small-talk. I think I’d rather talk about the weather.
3.      I’m looking forward to Christmas season…except that we already have a few three Christmas displays set up in the store. Christmas season has started in retail land.

4.      There were some horror stories from last summer at the zoo, like when I forgot to give a customer $13 in change. That wasn’t a good day…I’ve learned my lesson. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Haikus [from a New York Transplant]

I’m not a poet. [You’ll see why I write that.]
Not even a little bit. [I don’t use words economically.]
I try just for fun.  [And for an attempt at efficacy]

[Last April] The New York Times ran
A haiku contest about
Its lovely city.

So for tonight’s post
I’ll write some awkward haikus. [And count to five and seven repeatedly]
Take a break from prose.

Somewhere on 47th Street on the Upper East Side


The Whitney’s moving [according to Rachel and Chris]
From its modernist building.
So long, cave-stairwell. [The stairwell was my favorite part]

Haring. Basquiat. [Two artists I studied in high school]
One big, white gallery room
Curated for me. [So it seemed.]

Basquiat at the Whitney

Jeff Koons’ art would make
Great prompts for horror movies   
Not that I would watch. [Can’t do horror movies.]

Not the horror movie material I was thinking of, but an example of Jeff Koons

Lucy. Rachel. Gab. [We still live in close-ish proximity to each other]
Great visit to the city
To see you again. [Proof to myself that I’m able to keep up with my friends]


The Mets or Yankees? [I didn’t have a preference]
I’m just there for the baseball [an evening, after class game]
And my uncle Chris [who got the tickets through work]

We chat and cheer and [We both enjoy baseball]
I wonder if he knows how
Much he means to me. [He’s one of my role models; his siblings are my other heroes.]

Now that I've seen a Mets game, I suppose I have a preference. 


The Climate March was
Another grand adventure
Read about it here. [But only if you’d like]


Selma ’65 [As in Selma, Alabama, 1965]
A one-act, one woman play [at LaMaMa Theatre in the East Village]
Playwright connections [My playwriting professor knew the playwright]

Three New York Transplants [Myself and two of my friends]
Explored the Upper East Side [Central Park. The Met. The Guggenheim. All before the play]
Paying out the nose [Just for food. Admission to the Met: $2 for a cheap college student.]

The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Get lost in art!

The Guggenheim

 Spoiler: the Ceiling of the Guggenheim 

Twelve New York Transplants [Some students in my playwriting class]
Bonded on Subway Platforms [Waiting for trains. Giving up and getting on the wrong trains. Back tracking. Missing the train to Bronxville.]
“Late” on Saturday [After the play. Nobody was in the mood to go out, but we stayed out regardless due to the train gumption.]

Grimy. Busy. Hot. [I mean this lovingly. But hand sanitizer’s a good idea]
The New York Subway System. [The more I navigate it the savvier I feel. Best way to explore NYC.]
Please mind/watch the gap. [I'm told in London, they warn, "Mind the Gap", as opposed to "Watch the Gap"]  

I don’t know about you, but I’m rereading these and cringing. If you’ve made it this far, I commend you.


Time Square is best spent
With a new friend, after dark,
Among the tourists. [Neither of us wanted to go back straight away after seeing a rehearsal of The Real Thing with Ewan McGregor. So we walked around The Light-Pollution Capital of the America instead]
Somewhere on 42nd Street

My new method for [by “new” I mean “preferred,” but that word had too many syllables]
Getting to know my classmates [re: new friends]
Take a walk in town [one on one conversation while actively going someplace in an “anthill;” sounds like fun to me]

Run down city blocks! [You don’t notice the distance you’re running, strangely]
The play starts in five minutes! [Another assignment for Playwriting: go see When January Feels like Summer]
Evening, peacoat jog. [One of my favorite New York moments so far]

Back to normal, uneconomic prose next time.  

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The One-Month Mark

Yesterday, I started reading the book Ordinary People by Judith Guest, thinking that I could tie incorporate it into a project for my anthropology class; the more I read the more I realize it might suit a psych class better. I took the book on a whim from one of my high school English teacher who was giving books away to “good homes.” It had belonged to another legendary teacher, Dr. Allen, who had retired from teaching between my freshman and sophomore years of high school. I recognized the title because saw the movie, one that my dad really loves, in health class. Anyway, I read this line:
“But he [Conrad] cannot relax, because today is a Target Date. Tuesday, September 30. One month, to the day, that he has been home.”

A few things stuck out to me:
1)      Yesterday was Monday, September 29th, so today is Tuesday, September 30th. The book was published in 1976. It’s 2014. If only I’d started reading the book today…Tuesday, September 30.
2)      Of all the 365/366 days in a year, Guest chose September 30th, which I find personally amusing because it happens to be my birthday. I’ve never seen my birthday in a piece of fiction before.  
3)      Today, Tuesday September 30th, like for Conrad, marks one month to the day...that I have been in college.

So not only does today mark the nearly two decades (what.) of my existence, but also a complete month of living at SLC, within close proximity to NYC, 590 miles away from Columbus, and with 1,300ish other young adults. I’ve failed at laundry. I’ve failed at going to gym class. I’ve gotten homesick. I’ve made new friends. Today isn’t necessarily a target date, but, in honor of being nearly credibly adult-ish, here are 20 things in summary that I’ve learned in the past month:  

1)      There’s only one person who is allowed to arrive on time for class: that’s the professor. If you want a particular seat, even in a class of 15 people who meet at a large round table, arrive at least 10 minutes early.

2)      When you run out of money on your “One Card”  to run multiple dryer cycles when doing laundry and decide to “air dry” some clothes, make sure the clothing really is dry before you put it in your drawer. Not because they will remain wet, but because it won't smell particularly pleasant.

3)      Me one month ago: “I’ll never get into the city.” Reality: I’m going practically every week. I’ve been in four times and I’m going in again tomorrow. This is totally fun and awesome, but taking advantage of free means of getting into the city, like the college’s “Met Van” will be good.

4)      ShakeShack is not worth it. Sorry, Althof.

5)      The New York Subway System is surprisingly organized and logical. The Times Square Station is like an underground village. Grand Central Terminal is quite conveniently located. Generally, as long can read signs and know what you want, in terms of which train, which direction (uptown vs. downtown), and at which station you want to disembark, getting around isn’ daunting I you might expect.

6)      Bagelville on Palmer Avenue in Bronxville is a classic, great, New York bagelshop. My treat to myself: a toasted, sesame seed bagel with lox and cream cheese. Not a birthday cake. A birthday bagel. I almost wish I had thought of the candle and match that I have in my desk drawer a few hours earlier; that would have made for an odd culinary twist.

7)      Swing sets make for great social locations. So does the Teahaus. As does the Blacksquirrel Lounge. Each as its perks: the Teahaus sells [good] tea and coffee for a dollar. The Blacksquirrel [good] sells milkshakes. The swing set is good for…launching oneself.

8)      “They” and “their” are acceptable singular pronouns here. Getting asked what your preferred gender pronoun is a typical introductory question, and you will be looked down on if you give a snarky answer. For the record, I prefer she/her, but my favorite answer I’ve heard is “I’ll accept anything said out of respect.”

9)      The exposed, mossy rock that shows up around campus, in central park, and at the Botanical Gardens (among other places, I assume) is all thanks to glaciers. 2 million years later, they make for good lookout/people watching spots.

10)   I’m told that I remind people of Ellen Page. This is a big compliment, as far as I can tell.

11)  Pistachio nuts make great snack foods. So does pasta that you can take home in Tupperware from the cafeteria and eat at two in the morning. My point: it’s super easy to eat [unhealthily] here. Too easy.

12)  I’ve just now started consistently remembering to take a towel with me to the shower; I used to always have to turn around after I left to take a shower so that I’d grab a towel. It reminds me of Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: don’t forget your towel.

13)  It is acceptable to stay up late doing homework because I don’t have to drive 30 minutes to school anymore. No commute. It’s a wonderful thing.

14)  I just bought my airline tickets to come home for Thanksgiving!...and given how that went, I should probably figure out how I'm coming home for winter break…now.

15)  I’m fortunate to have the roommate that I do. Hearing other horror stories from my friends, I'm perfectly happy to room with the creative, smart Irish step-dancer.

16)  Take your keys everywhere, even if you’re just “stepping out for a second.” Getting locked out is meh.

17)  Procrastination is good for the soul and whiteboards are handy.

18)  You have to do your homework when your classes have 15 people in them and you’re expected to eloquently discuss what you read/wrote.

19)  There are new students like me who I met one month ago exactly whom I still talk to, but several whom I haven’t seen since. On the other hand, there are first year students who have come out of the woodwork. They seem too cool and confident to be younger than juniors, until suddenly they talk about the FYSs and how much they hate living in Hill House.

20)  Don’t doubt yourself…even if you’re asked to sing in front of your entire acting class, in which case, you sing “Do you want to build a snowman” from Frozen.                           

I’m getting used to the routines, the friends, the professors, and the bookishly-nerdy charm of SLC. The daily college life is becoming “ordinary.” I only vaguely remember details from my first day here; reading the post from that day jogs my memory a bit. I’m impressed by how much we can cram into a week of class; my first paper’s due on Friday. Woot.

Today’s not a target date, as Tuesday, September 30th was for Conrad, but I wonder how much I’ve changed (if I’ve changed at all) in the past month. I’ve drastically changed in the past 20-ish years, obviously, going from newborn to young woman, which is still kind of odd to consider myself a “woman” just because that seems much more mature than I feel. But that’s a common theme with aging. And really, I’m not more than a day older than I was yesterday. Yet it's still fun.   

On a final note, it’s really encouraging when I go to write a post and I see that the blog has gotten 1,181 page views ever, not just for the purposes of posting about my life, but for overall encouragement to for the daily go. So, really, thank you a million times over. I hope this is as entertaining for you as it is for me. 

I'm really about 10 years old on the inside. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Aspiring Hyperpolyglot attends an ASL Class

Yesterday my roommate and I were discussing the “eight different types of intelligences.” Going to an independent high school, I heard various educational/intellectual theories that surrounded this idea. Here’s the gist: there are eight different types, ranging from logical to natural, and everyone is a mixture. I like to think that I qualify for the “linguistic and verbal intelligence,” which means “I’m good with words.”  Just because I like writing? Sure, but also because I like foreign languages. My sister jokes that I pick them up overnight. Some people geek out about math; I geek out about syntax. I’m not a hyperpolyglot1, but I get kind of nerdy about cultures and foreign words. Au lycée j’étudiais français. Quiero aprender español.2  今は日本語をべんきょうします.3 It’s always been academically and intellectually rewarding. My next pursuit: American Sign Language. I want to learn ASL. Last night I put my money where my mouth(/hands) is: I went to an ASL club meeting.

It was a last minute decision to attend with my friend. Hipster College doesn’t offer ASL as a credit-earning course, so students formed a club that meets on Thursday evenings. My playwriting class ran twenty minutes over, so my friend and I showed up to the meeting about five minutes late. After garrulously chatting in the echoing hall I was startled to walk into practically silent but filled classroom. An instructor was signing as we failed to slip in unnoticed. Her hands moved swiftly and easily from one word, or letter, or number, or gesture to the next. I might as well have been in a Hungarian language class. I had no clue what she was saying.

I know various ASL phrases thanks to Vacation Bible School. “Bible” (and, therefore, “book”). “Jesus.” “Idea.” “I love you.” “Girl.” “Mother.” “Father.” “Fuck you” (that one wasn’t from VBS). I didn’t know the alphabet, which is hindering because the alternate to not knowing a sign is to spell out what you want to say. It was startling but refreshing, since it’s been awhile since I’ve been in a language course where I haven’t been able to dominate. I sat and watched kids around the room sign in response, those who had been coming to meetings for years, or even those who made it to the meeting last week.

Suddenly the instructor, a blond, zealously communicative woman turned to me and signed with a deeply quizzical look on her face. Before this she taught us the sign for “New York”4, but it wasn’t in the thing she just signed. I turned to my friend, then to one of the four student facilitators and shamefully asked for a translation. I didn’t feel bad that I didn’t know how to say it; I felt bad that I didn’t know how to sign “what did she say” so that the facilitator would know what I was saying as I asked someone else for help.

The question: “Where are you from?” From that I learned how to sign “I’m from Ohio.” I also now know the letters “O” “H” “I” and “O.” The facilitator was immediately excited by this; apparently there are three deaf retirement homes in America: one in Boston (or was it Baltimore?), one in Arizona, and one in Ohio. Columbus, actually. Westerville, Ohio, where I lived for about a month prior to moving to college. Ohio for the win.

That was just the warm-up question. The next question was far more articulate: Why do you want to learn ASL?

How do you sign “Because languages are cool?” Was that a legitimate reason? Was curiosity a reasonable enough excuse? Luckily for me, she started receiving answers on the other side of the semi-circle. Lots of students had deaf friends. I picked up on the sign for “to learn.” Finally it was my turn. My attempted sign: I [points to self] love [the sign everyone knows, ASL fluent or not] to learn [left palm flat like a plate, and the right hand traveling from the left hand to the forehead like…a jellyfish…for lack of a better explanation]. That felt like a  nerdy and pretentious answer, but I went with it.

The instructor laughed this joyful, cackling laugh. So did the student facilitators and other more knowledgeable students (not quite as idiosyncratically as the instructor).

I actually signed  “I I love you to learn.” Brilliant. It followed the best language-learning method I’d ever known; make mistakes and learn from them. I relaxed much more after that.

The rest of the hour was spent going over numbers and emotions. Apparently, the middle finger is essential when discussing feelings. Most kids were “feeling tired,” so much so that the instructor started refusing that answer. Facial expressions are also essential when communicating via ASL for context reasons. Smiling when signing “no” is unacceptable and confusing.

There were a few other surprises: clapping/applause is signed by doing jazz hands and smiling. “Yes” is shaking your fist as if it’s a head. The nuances and details are important; it can mean the difference between “fuck off” and “thank you.”

I walked out of the room thanking the instructor and worrying that I’d forget everything I had learned. ASL probably aligns better with “body movement/kinetic intelligence,” or maybe “interpersonal intelligence.” I think I intellectually identify with the latter well enough; the former’s one that I’m less certain about. But my delight, I was able to whip out the numbers, places, and a few phrases with my friend who’d invited me to the meeting as we sat on the north lawn enjoying the temperate, beautiful September day. It’s officially autumn, now that leaves fall and black and brown squirrels scavenge for nuts5. The forecast for this weekend is lovely, too, great for going into the city…for the second time this week.

A black squirrel searching for nuts

In reality, this is what squirrels do to "Buckeyes."
[the human proceeded to wash its hands]

Rodent Spy

I promise. I’ll write about New York City soon.    
1.      From the book Bable No More by Michael Erard, a “hyperpolyglot” is someone who speaks (or can use in reading, writing, or translating) at least six languages (p. 12).
2.      I took one year of Spanish II (for whatever that’s worth) in high school. I should’ve paid more attention; Spanish is spoken all over the place here, not just in New York, but also on campus.
3.      I translated this sentence myself, where I omitted the subject “I” because I assumed it was clear that we’re talking about me…this is my blog, after all! (Haha)
4.      Left hand: make a flat surface. Right hand: hang ten sign. Rub the right hand back and forth over the left hand. There! You’re signing New York…I think.
5.      You have not seen a cute squirrel until you’ve seen one with its mouth full of acorns. It was a cute, uncaptured experience at the Botanical Gardens.


-One of the three deaf retirement homes in the United States:

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Firsthand Account of The People's Climate March

The following would probably be worth of what my high school history teachers used to call a “primary source.” Essentially, this is a first-hand account of a marcher in the People’s March for Climate Change. I'm excited about it because: 

1)      I was one of 400,000 marchers/screamers.
2)      This was my first political march in college…as well as ever, unless visiting an occupied Zucotti Park counts. Does Pride Parade in Columbus count? Both had overlapping vibes with my experience today. Regardless, today’s political march was my first as a college student, and I haven’t even been one for a month.

Last night I did a quick google search of “The People’s March” to find that similar marches were happening in cities all over the world, including Sydney, Melbourne, Jakarta, Istanbul, Paris, London, etc. I suppose the internationalism made sense, since these marches are all leading up to a United Nations climate summit. And so I kept asking myself “Why am I getting involved? I’m not particularly passionate about the environment.” My own answers:
1)      This is part of the college experience! Or the New York experience! Go to a rally and get arrested1, right? I didn’t have to go to Oberlin to be an activist!
2)      How much control do I have over climate change? How much control do 400,000 people have over climate change? How much control does Obama have over climate change? Where might I find these answers? By talking to the thousands of activists lined up for blocks and blocks and blocks!
3)      My dear friends from high school, NYU and AU were gonna be there. So was my long-lost (as far as I’m concerned) second cousin2. Ditto for my uncle and his friends. Maybe I would get to catch up with some of these people.

So those are some of the reasons why I dragged myself out of bed [not really all that] early and met the other SLC kids by the science building so that we could all ride the Metro North line down to Grand Central Terminal together. There were maybe 60 of us. Between the station and the march on 69th street/West Central Park Avenue  we lost more and more student, dwindling down to maybe 20. They had a solid crowd. I ditched them from the subway station on 72nd to hang out with NYU on 69th. I fast-walked down some avenue, counting down the streets as I passed them. After a brief stroll around the upper west side I found the mob.

SLC'S Banner with our fearless leader.

No. Mob’s too gentle of a word. The sea of protesting, sign holding, screaming, elated college students waiting for the march to commence at 11:30. I found NYU among the crowd, thanks to mobile phones, around 10:50.

That's right, Kenyon College! Don't Frack with Ohio!!
There were lots of Fracking puns. 

My friend NYU's sign. 

This is the first time I’d seen NYU since we had moved to the city, and seeing as we were pretty close in high school, you can imagine how happy I was to have 45 minutes to stand around and talk to her. While the march officially started at 11:30, 400K people in one place don’t move very fast, even if they’re all going the same direction. We didn’t really get moving until about 12:20. NYU had a friend from Middlebury who hung out with us, too.

Note the girl dressed up as a planet. 

At one point a boy, maybe 10 years old, tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I wanted a baby-pumpkin. I write baby in the sense that it was little, like hand-grenade size, I imagine. I skeptically-jokingly asked him if the pumpkin was gonna blow up. He looked at me like I was crazy. When I brought up the idea of drawing a face he adamantly disapproved: “You can’t deface the pumpkin.” I didn’t. The pumpkin turned into my sign, since all I had otherwise was a black and red cardboard sign that someone made that read: “ONE PLANET ONE LOVE.”

Aside from talking we took part in all of the chants, cheers, and screaming. Normal-case indicates one person screaming while uppercase indicates hundreds of people screaming.  

            “What do we want?”
            “CLIMATE JUSTICE!”
            “When do we want it?”
            “NOW!” :||3

            “Show me what democracy looks like!”



From time to time we would sing “This land is Your Land” and “We’re not gonna take it.” Whistles blew. Banners and signs waved. I held up my pumpkin. Helicopters flew back and forth over the crowd. Around 12:30 I decided to see if I could find my other dear friend AU, who came with her school and stuck to her new friend. So I abandoned NYU and Middlebury, promising I’d see her again, and I ran up to 63rd to find AU and her friend standing on the corner. Yes, sweet reunion. So there was more catching up and hanging out. We hopped in the march at about 12:45.

12:58 was a particularly anticipated moment. This was the moment of silence, intended to last until 13:00. Right on time the silence dropped on the march and thousands of pairs of arms raised in the air. The silence started in the front and moved back. We heard chants in the back suddenly halt. The wind blew. The shocking-noise antithesis was stunning. Suddenly from the back we heard screams. At first I thought it was some sort of siren, like people were running from something in pain and suffering. The noise quickly traveled through to the front, and I thought, “Oh god. Something’s going wrong.” The media’s training us to imagine the worst. But suddenly it occurred to me that it was just people screaming to scream. So I screamed, because I was one of 400,000 people. Then we carried on towards Columbus circle.

A bleak view of Columbus Circle.

Getting around Columbus circle was the bottle-neck, and probably the cause of the start-and-go traffic. But as we waited and waded, giant TV monitors showed just how overwhelmingly large a mass we were. I didn’t feel like I was part of something big from within the crowd, but looking at it from a bird’s eye-view hit home for me that this wasn’t some little parade: this was activism on a level I've never seen it before.

Around 2:00 we had made it to 44th street on 6th avenue, and AU, her amiga, and I were ready for some food. We tracked down NYU; she wasn’t far behind us. We decided to head west towards AU’s bus stop. Yes, the marching was fun and cool, and it was certainly weird to just abandon it, but we parted, taking our signs, megaphones, and pumpkin with us.

Before AU and her friend had to go back to D.C, the four of us got some food, wandered past Broadway and Times Square, adventured the subway system, wandered about Union Square, made a stop in the incredible Strand Bookstore, and dropped NYU off in her unbelievably stellar, suit-style, more-like-a-pad-than-a-dorm room dorm. NYU walked us to the subway station before we split.

Spotted in the aforementioned incredible Strand Bookstore.

I happily walked back with AU and friend back to their bus stop on the corner of 34th St. and 11th Ave. The march ended around 11th. About two blocks away from their destination, I saw a vaguely familiar face headed in our direction on the same side of the sidewalk. I quickly discovered this was my second-cousin, who I knew would be at the march. But tell me, what’s the probability than in the biggest city in America, at the site of one of the largest political marches, that I would walk past my second-cousin, whom I haven’t seen since I was 13, on the same sidewalk? My plans to go straight to Grand Central for my train ride home quickly dissipated . I had a lot of catching up to do. It was delightful; I may be making a trip up to Boston soon.

So then I did have to come home at some point, since I had a short play to finish4, so I took the C (or the A?) up to the shuttle train to Grand Central just in time to get the 18:54 train back to Bronxville. From the window of the train in Harlem I saw my favorite view of New York City: at sunset. I would take a city sunset over a beach sunset any day.   

Students I talked to ahead of the march claimed that they were, “going to be part of history.” This march, according to them, “is something my kids’ll study in school, and I’ll say, ‘I was there!’” Given the number of news reporters, I thought this would be a fairly well covered ordeal. Yes, lots of new channels had a story about the march, but nothing all that significant. Nothing that I would notice if I were browsing the news in Columbus. It did not evoke the same monumental importance that I anticipated. That’s not to say it didn’t have its impact. It might have had a stronger unity effect than anything else. 7 year olds and 70 year olds walked side by side. College students with college professors. The common man and Al Gore.

We’ll see how much coverage it gets. We’ll see how the politicians react. We’ll see if New York submerges and the ice caps melt. We’ll see if historians point to today as an important moment in climate change history. If so, cool. If not,  I can say that I’ve was in a massive political rally in New York. And my brain is fried from walking all day. I should really stop typing now; it’s okay if blog posts end abruptly sometimes.

I hope it doesn’t go that way for the planet.  

1.      One of my friends made this point to me as we were walking to the train station. In reality, the NYPD was heavily invested in helping the marchers. I thanked them every time we passed a pair.
2.      She’s my dad’s cousin’s daughter, who’s about nine months older than me. The last time I saw her was at her cousin’s [another one of my second-cousin’s] graduation party.
3.      Repetition ( :|| ) was vital! So was volume!

4.      See The New Friday for context.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The New Friday

Thursday is the new Friday.

My only commitment on Fridays is a Japanese Language Tutorial at 9:30 in the morning (yay.), so the day is mine to…do homework, which is particularly critical when I have social plans on both Saturday and Sunday. One’s a trip to the Botanical Gardens (which, when Googled, look stunning). The other is a march for Climate Change in the city. That’s right; I haven’t even been in college for a month and I’m going to my first political march. Here’s to being young and “powerful.” We’re powerful in large numbers, maybe.

Dad, if you’re reading this, I promise I’m getting my homework done before I attend either event…Rest assured; my Don wouldn’t let it go any other way.

TANGENT ALERT because this is too important to me for an endnote:
A “Don” is SLC speak is really just an academic advisor; we stole the term from Oxford (or was it Cambridge?). I had an advisor in high school; he was my Sophomore English teacher, as served other roles in my high school experience1. He was my advisor for my entire four years in high school, even when I didn’t have classes with him. My entire grade bowed down to him because he was an honest, comparatively young, sarcastic, observant, amusing figure who knew how to talk to teenagers2. My point: he was greatly respected by the student body, myself included. In our “advisory sessions” in the middle of the morning on Wednesday, the 10 of us students in his advisory would sit around, eat Chex Mix, and complain about school. Sometimes we’d do the assignment set out for all of the advisory groups; often times not. He left with my graduating class.

My new advisor, er, Don, also teaches my playwriting course. In class she treats us like writers; to my astonishment, we don’t need to prove ourselves. She’s published and produced all over, and I remember reading about her before starting school and thinking, Ohmygod, I get to work with her? She’s probably about five feet tall with a very straight posture. She speaks deliberately, and watches you with deep, dark brown eyes that read your soul. When your talking, you know she’s listening. Her attitude is undeniably supportive and enthusiastic. As was the case in high school, she’ll be my main advisor for the next four years, “good lord willing and the creek don’t rise.”3

Back to Thursday night being the new Friday night.

For the first time since I’ve gotten here, I’m pretty sure, I went to two social events by my own will. One was a “Pick-Party” and the other was an Open-Mic.

To my great pleasure, I was not casted in a role for any of the Main Stage shows. SLC has a theater group called “Down Stage.” Instead of putting on shows on the “Main Stage” they find other venues to do productions, including in the basement below the main stage. Tomorrow night they’re performing “Star Wars Shakespeare.” Their next project is a 10 minute play festival. These 10 minute plays are written/directed/performed by students, and all of the prep time is in the span of a week and half. Writers got their prompts tonight: the scripts are due Monday at 9:00. Directors and actors start rehearsals Tuesday. The performances are 10/2, 10/3, and 10/4. The “Pick-Party,” the kickoff, sealed the fates of the participants. The prompts were selected, and the groups were formed  by picking names “out of a hat.” The theme of the “Pick-Party” was New Year’s Eve4 theme, which might seem bizarre for September until you remember that Rosh Hashanah is coming up.  

After class(es) I put on a red, black, and white dress, makeup, and large, square earrings, because I’m gonna write for this crazy-little festival5. WOOT.

I show up expecting to walk into a meeting room with chairs, tables, and maybe some pizza. Nope. When the theater department says they’re gonna throw a party, they’re going to throw a party. The room was a black wall/ceiling performance space with Christmas lights, a [student] photographer, loud music, red solo cups for sparking grape juice5, and popcorn. People were writing New Year’s Resolutions6 on the wall in chalk. Yeah. I showed up to what would qualify as a legit party with a legal-pad and pencil case. Cheers to Hipster College.  

A little while later we counted down to “midnight” and sang Auld Lang Syne. From there, the groups and prompts were “picked.” The names of all the actors who signed up were put in a hat. Prompts, which were cleverly pulled from the new year’s resolutions on the wall, were put in another hat. Directors and writers were already paired. When each pair was announced, the director would publically pick the actors, and each writer would pick the prompt.

The number of actors I have: 5
My prompt: “Call Mom more.”7

My project is pretty well cut out for me. I have basically a three-day weekend to write a 10 minute play for five actors. But never mind that now; on to the next social event of the evening.

Immediately after that I wandered over to a packed Open-Mic. I watched from a loft, right next to the spotlight. Best seat in the house; everyone in the lounge was sitting on top of each other. There were singers and poets. Then there was the guy who swallowed a strand of thread. And proceeded to pull it out of his eye. I left shortly after that.

People watched from windowsills, the doorway, the stairs outside the room, and up in the loft with me. We're supportive in masses here. 

So what crazy hour of the night did I get back? 22:00. If that. I was out later when I went and watched a screening of The Dead Poet’s Society. I still don’t feel pathetic about it. I like working at night. Well, I like writing and reading at night. It’s just now 0:00. The night is young.

But that language tutorial tomorrow is early. Laugh at me. I may not party hard, but I’m still a teenager.

Happy Thursday. I mean, Friday.    

1.      He was also the Journalism advisor, Conduct Review Board guy, and taught a Graphic Novel course I took at the end of my Senior year, but by that time I’d given up on caring about school work.
2.      I don’t know what it is, but some teachers don’t know how to connect with teenagers. That’s actually kind of critical when teaching high school.
3.      My grandma says that from time to time.
4.      One of my absolute favorite holidays, along with Thanksgiving and the 4th of July.
5.      This festival isn’t unlike one that I wrote/acted in/organized while I was in high school. Our version was called “The Playwright SLAM!”, where the entire process of writing, rehearsing, and performing was condensed to a week.
6.      Mine was “read one book each week.” That would realistically be my resolution. With this anthropology course, it seems like it may be a reality.
7.      I don’t know how I feel about this yet. I don’t know how I’m going to approach it, other than much more carefully than I’ve approached any other prompt I’ve been given.

1. New York Botanical Gardens:
2. The People's Climate March: