Saturday, June 21, 2008

conscious streaming

-I saw on the news that Israel was "practicing" air strikes for a potential attack on Iran and this makes me very, very nervous and very, very hopeful that if an international crisis does occur, it occurs after Jan. 2009 when we have someone in office who won't inadvertently start WWIII. But best of all would be if Israel calms it down and Iran you know, recognizes the validity of Israel's right to exist. We're not talking the two nations becoming BFFs for ever, but small steps maybe...?

-I've come to the conclusion that college degrees are great and all but they immediately bestow upon the graduate a ginormous sense of entitlement. That's the whole point right? A degree entitles you to better jobs, better pay, better opportunities, or at least it does in theory. But I'm still a little ashamed of the fact that I can no longer take crap from a superior at work over a menial task without a little thought bubble popping up in my head saying, "You went to school for four years to do this? You have a college degree woman. You don't have to take this!" And of course I have to ignore this little bubble or I'll you know, get fired. And maybe I'm the only entitled one, and this isn't what happens to everyone. But I sort of suspect that a deadly side effect of education is that we're all turned into ungrateful little ninnies who have zero tolerance for any kind of hard work, especially if we're not being praised and coddled at every opportunity. I mean, don't get me wrong. I'm all for a college education, but pre-graduate me probably would want to give graduate me a good, hard kick in the ass on occasion.

-Firefly vodka is the most amazing beverage in the world. I love sweet tea. But my love of sweet tea is nowhere near as powerful as my hatred of vodka. So I assumed that this new South Carolina made sweet tea flavored vodka would not win me over. But good God almighty. I could drink a gallon of this stuff in one sitting. Because it's wonderful and somehow it's vodka without the awful astringent vodka taste. And of course this all means that it's completely deadly and will undoubtedly cause me a great deal of pain at some point in the near future when I do foolishly attempt to drink a gallon of the stuff.

-And finally I could not be more excited for Wimbledon to start on Monday!! Tennis doesn't really have a big end of the season shebang like other sports. There is a Masters tournament but it's almost an afterthought. But without question, tennis' biggest event is the beautiful and elegant one that will be happening on grass over the next two weeks. And on a personal level Wimbledon is really how I got into tennis. Every summer when I was little my family would rent a beach house, usually during one or both of the weeks of Wimbledon. When I was resting or eating lunch or inside because of rain, the television would always be on tennis. It was probably just background noise at first, but as I got older I could actively get involved in the matches. We'd all sit around, the whole family and my grandparents, a few cousins maybe, a friend or two. These are some of my freshest memories from our beach trips. I can picture a stormy afternoon-almost pitch black clouds outside, wind moving the furniture on the deck, big chunky waves on the water. I'd probably be in my bathing suit still, wrapped in a towel on the couch. And these incredible matches would be on the TV as we all sat there, the very young Agassi or Samprass, Michael Chang, Jim Courier, Patrick Rafter all of these now legends. My grandparents would shake their heads at Agassi's neon clothes and earrings and long for the refined days of tennis. But all complaints aside, they still watched. We all did. Wimbledon in my mind will always be synonymous with summertime and family and moments like that. It's what introduced me to tennis. It's what made me fall in love.

Monday, June 16, 2008

so about that moon

So I have been absolutely fascinated by this new mini-series on the Discovery Channel called "When We Left Earth." It's basically a history of NASA and its space program, and it's a very straightforward, by the numbers documentary. It should be dry and maybe a little boring. But the truth is, it is compelling and moving and incredibly interesting. The thing that struck me the most is the sheer fact that not all that long ago space was this mysterious, untouched, and distant thing. It was Star Wars and Invasion of the Body Snatchers and War of the Worlds. I've never in my life looked at the moon and simply wondered. It's always been a place with pictures and facts to go along with it. But a handful of decades ago, people watched in awe as mission by mission we went closer and closer to the moon until finally we stepped foot there. There are these images in the documentary of the men in NASA mission control when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin step out onto the surface of the moon. These NASA guys are these full grown men with crazy smart degrees and plenty of real life experience-but their eyes as they watch images of their fellow men skipping and walking on this entirely new place-well it's easy for people in my generation to forget what that looks like. So it's nice to be reminded-as much as we now know about that sliver of white in the sky at night, as familiar as it has become-once not that long ago it was still a place of imagination. I think we overlook that these astronauts and engineers and people literally gave us the moon. George Bailey, step aside.

Annnd the award for The The Three Year Old I Babysit Could Do A Better Job Reporting Than You goes to that completely idiotic lady (she doesn't even deserve a name, she's that incompetent) on Fox News (is anyone surprised?) who characterized Barack and Michelle Obama's affectionate fist bump as a "terrorist fist jab". I really can't offer any other words. Such first rate stupidity really speaks for itself.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

goodbye college

I think it may have began today. The last month since graduation, I haven't been myself exactly. I've had a lot of good days and good times, but I've always felt somewhat on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I never really went over the edge, but I walked around a lot with that teetering feeling of oh-Lord I might just make a scene at any moment, even right here at the Clinique counter in Saks Fifth Avenue. I touched on it in my other blog, how graduation is just this huge, messy, sprawling thing that can't be compartmentalized or even really dealt with. And I haven't dealt with it. I've lived happily in the land of not dealing. But the funny thing is I got a job basically on campus. And a large factor in me wanting the job was to be close to campus. Maybe it makes me a masochist, but I wanted very much to be surrounded every day by college, by the buildings and streets and trees that have been my life these past years. I have kind of lived a paradox - not really thinking about or dealing with graduation but smothering myself in the CofC atmosphere. And maybe it's because the end of the school year was so fresh at first, or maybe the second I got my fake diploma on stage I kind of went numb. But it hasn't hurt until now, being so close to the campus I no longer belong to. I guess I was just really good at convincing myself that if I walked the same routes and still ate in the Stern Center occasionally then I hadn't really left. But today I took a different route home, right through the college. And without any warning, it kind of just hit me, a soft but unmistakable feeling of grief. As I walked down St. Phillip, I thought of the hundreds of times I had walked that exact same path, coming back from a snack break between classes, running to a professor's office to turn in a paper. I passed the doors to Maybank, those doors I had cursed on dozens of occasions when I was tired or hungover, when for those moments they represented the entry way to fifty or seventy five minutes of academic hell. The street was almost empty but in my mind I thought of all of those times it was so clogged with students and backpacks and bikes, the rainy days when umbrellas created a colorful but highly lethal maze of sharp objects. In the last month I've wanted to believe that nothing has changed. I think it was important for my sanity, for my emotional state, to trick myself into thinking I had a little bit more time, that it wasn't really goodbye yet. But today, in a second, I just knew. I could work on the campus forever, become a groundskeeper or a janitor. I could walk St. Phillip a thousand more times. But the part of my life called college, the part of my life I almost convinced myself I could hang onto at least until the end of the summer. It's been over for a while now. This wasn't a pleasant feeling, realizing my days as an undergrad are done, but in a way it was a relief. All of the pretending I've been doing is exhausting. But more than that I think only now can I start processing all of this, or at least kind of start wrapping my head around it. It's funny how our minds play tricks on us in order to protect ourselves. In my case it took me a month of holding onto thin air and dreading the moment where I would have to let go before I understood that I had already said goodbye to the real thing. College let go of me.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

thoughts on the sex and the city movie ( ps dont read if you dont want to know the ending to Sex and the City)

So last night I saw the Sex and the City movie for the second time (this is not a rare occurrence for me, I love repeat movie watching, partly because I just love going to the movies period and also because I think movies show their true selves upon second viewing), and something disturbing happened. Mind you, it had nothing to do with the movie. It actually happened before I even walked into the movie, as I stood waiting for one of my best friends Jessica. I stood near the bathrooms with a tub of popcorn in one hand and an obscenely large diet coke in the other (I also can't resist the concession stand at the theater-go ahead, mock me if you must-call me a mindless, consumer driven lemming, a moron who will spend ten dollars for what should only cost two at best- but a movie going experience just isn't a movie going experience without some movie theater popcorn and a soda). Anyway, as I was waiting I noticed a group of four twenty-something women standing near me. They had obviously just come from Sex and the City because they were discussing the ending (loudly I might add which is a little rude to do when you know people are walking past who haven't seen the movie). But I digress. One of these women says, "I feel so bad for Samantha, everyone else got a happy ending."
There I was happily eating my hydrogenated corn oil popcorn, and suddenly I was enraged. I almost said something right there in the lobby. I wanted to ask her why she thought Samantha's ending seemed unhappy. Because if you haven't seen the movie (and don't read if you don't want to know) Samantha is the only one of the four gals to end the movie single. Yet as the credits roll she is not alone, crying into her cosmo. She is not remorseful or regretful or any way sad. I personally think Samantha's ending makes the movie what it is, and that is an extremely satisfying new conclusion to the series I loved so much. The television show ended with all of the women paired off with men. Yes friendship was emphasized, blah blah blah. But to have Samantha, perpetually, ferociously single Samantha, end things with a man seemed completely wrong for the character and the show. SATC at its best emphasizes that women today should have the choice about whether to be single or married, that it's not pathetic to be single at 39 or to be married with kids at 39. And I loved Smith. But really? It seemed like something close to a cop out. And when the movie was advertised I was really scared. Because in the previews it seemed to be yet another marriage romantic comedy. I pictured a whole movie devoted to Carrie's marriage preparations with Big. What happened to the show I adored, one first and foremost about female friendship and coming to terms with what it means to be on your own?
So imagine my surprise when the movie turned out to be, gasp, primarily about female friendship. Yes the men are in it, but they're clearly secondary. Sex and the City the movie as a traditional romantic comedy would have been like Carrie outfitted in actually affordable clothes, i.e. all wrong. But instead it's a movie about these women, not a movie about women in terms of the men in their lives. I teared up when Big ruins Carrie's perfect wedding and then gains her forgiveness, but I teared up more when Carrie runs through the snow to spend New Year's Eve with Miranda. There are so many stories about male friendships, but it's fairly rare in most movies for female friendships to take center stage. And if female friendships are front and center, than almost always it's because one female is the spunky sidekick to another female who is chasing after/being chased by a man. And yes, three of the four women in this movie end up in relationships, but unlike in so many romantic movies, it doesn't feel like they end up with men just because audiences expect it. Carrie and Miranda fall in love again on their terms, not because they're desperately fighting against impending forties singledom. And then there's Samantha. One of my favorite parts of this movie is that Samantha realizes she would rather be alone, that she's happier being alone than being in a relationship. Because if you've watched the show you know it's right for her. So the fact that this woman in the movie theater lobby pitied Samantha's character makes me nervous that a lot of women out there had or will have that reaction. Because that means you don't get the movie or these characters. But more than that it means that the thought of an unhappy but married fifty year old woman is more welcome than the thought of a happy, decidedly single one. And that, well that means a whole heck of a lot more that I don't have the time or energy to get into right now. I'm sure some people hated the movie. And all of this is just my opinion. But in my opinion, the movie managed to do what I was sure it would not be able to. First of all it finished the stories of characters I love in what I thought was exactly the right way. And more than that, it did so in true Sex and the City fashion, as a story primarily, predominantly, definitively about women who are never defined by anyone but themselves.

Monday, June 9, 2008

what is it about summer?

It does this every year. One day it's fairly warm but seasonable and cool at night, and then a switch is flicked, and the next day it's here - summer. And every year there is something about this lazy, scorched season- no scratch that - there are a thousand things about this season that trigger a thousand different memories. Scent may be the strongest sense tied to memory, but every single summer sense - sight, smell, touch, sound, taste- seems tied in a little deeper, a little more definitively with places and people and moments from other summers in my life. Burning leaves, wintergreen, snow, flowers, the sight a breath makes in the air- all of those make an impression, but they don't even come close to sunscreen, bug spray and humidity. All of this dawned on me last night at the Spolete finale. I'll devote an individual blog to Spoleto itself later, but for now I'll just say that I went to the grand finale at Middleton Plantation. It had been an absolutely scalding day, but as the sun set the heat took on a new contour. It was less brutal and more peaceful; a softer, more resigned kind of heat. We sat on the warm grass in front of an absolutely gorgeous view - water in every direction, a maze of ponds and marsh and river. The sky was still somewhat lit, stubborn streaks of sunlight illuminating palmetto trees and impossibly huge, moss-strewn live oaks. An assortment of bugs made their presence loudly known - sounding out from the clusters of trees and overgrowth in front of us.It was the quintessential Charleston environment - dignified enough for us humans to enjoy but still stubbornly, irrepressibly wild. Everyone sat on blankets, periodically reapplying bug spray, and as the sky darkened an orchestra set atop the water played the festival's last concert of 2008. I listened to the orchestra, but as I felt the grass, smelled the bugspray, and watched the stars, I couldn't help thinking of other summer nights. Because all it takes is one summer night like that to bring everything else back.
When I smell fresh bugspray, old sunscreen and grass I'm at camp again. When on top of these three sounds, I hear crickets and cicadas, and look up to see an unbroken, star strewn sky, I'm there even more. I'm an overnight camp kid - that rare breed - and it's ruined me forever. I spent countless summer nights outside with hundreds of other kids in rural Virginia. Summer will never truly be summer for me until I at least experience an approximation of one of those camp nights. Memorial Day might come, school might let out, hotdogs served and white worn - but until I lie down on a patch of grass for a few hours in the dark, with the day's heat still radiating from the earth below me, until there are equal parts stars and crickets and insect repellent, until the day ahead of me stretches as endlessly as the day that has just occurred - well then calendars be damned, summer is just a word.

When I smell chlorine, feel hot, wet concrete, and alternate between sweaty and soaked, I'm usually at a pool. But be it a hotel pool, condo pool, or baby pool (hey on hot days you sometimes have to take desperate measures), I'm always back at Southampton pool in Richmond. Growing up when I wasn't at camp, I was at the pool. I lived there, and this is barely an exaggeration. When I was old enough, my best friend MK and I, sometimes with a sibling or cousin or two, would get dropped off almost every morning at the pool, usually only wearing bathing suits and a towel, with some change in a tote bag, and a Mom approved sunscreen. We would walk the short walk from the parking lot, past the tennis courts, past the ice skating rink (a weird anomaly-Southampton was by no means ritzy and still to this day I'm not sure why there was an ice rink there, but it was fun to have in the winter) and to the main attraction, the pool. There was the standard check in stand, and it was such a thrill for a nine or ten or eleven year old to be able to sign yourself in, no grown up signature needed. And then we were in, no longer in the normal world, but in pool world, where everyone knows each other, where clothes and shoes are optional at best, where there is no homework, no school, no piano lessons or basketball practices. All that mattered was the pool, the huge square of bright, almost neon blue water. Southampton had two full size pools, a lower and an upper, and two smaller baby pools. It was a tough decision between the two main pools. The lower pool had a diving board, with its own special, super deep diving area ( I was always a wee bit scared of diving, go figure, but when no one was diving we could use the diving area to play unbelievable, frenzied thirty plus kid games of Shark tag). So obviously that was a draw, but the upper pool was where the older kids hung out. The sides were smoothed down because it was the official swim team pool, and there were fewer pesky adults there to yell at us. So usually we did both, alternating between pools when we got bored. But did we ever really get bored? There were endless things to do in the water - Olympics ready hand-stands and flips, diving for change, breath holding competitions, games where we'd try to distinguish words under water. And that's just scratching the surface. Kids today (and yes I realize I sound ninety when I say that) have Wii's and satellite cable and the internet, but honestly the only thing a bunch of kids really needs in the summer to keep occupied is a concrete square filled with water. So if we ever did become bored, or usually whenever our hands became too pruned even for us, we jumped out of the water, pulled on a towel, grabbed our pocket change and headed to the glorious, seemingly divine provider of junk food - the Snack Bar. For a couple of bucks you could get a hot dog, nachos, chips, soda, and those little Disney character ice cream on a stick things. Or maybe a burger and some greasy, delectable fries smothered in the most beautifully bright orange artificial cheese you ever beheld. Or you could avoid the other food groups altogether and zero in on the candy - icy cold ice cream snickers bars that would melt as soon as they left the air conditioned sanctuary of the tiny snack bar, warheads and airheads and fireballs. There were no vegetables served at the snack bar, no tuna fish sandwiches or milk. It was exactly the kind of menu a nine year old would pick if he or she were in charge of a restaurant. It was almost nirvana. We'd take our loot, and sit, still dripping wet on picnic tables, shoving our faces with food, knowing full well that old wives tales be darned, we were going to swim as soon as we were done eating. Even years later I can still remember those moments so clearly, not just what they looked like or sounded like, but what they actually, truly felt like. I remember sitting there, the water slowly drying off me from the sun, a couple of friends beside me, a huge pile of junk food on the table near me. I remember listening to the sound of kids from the nearby playground or the more distant sounds coming from the pools or the tennis courts. But more than all of that I remember being so blissfully happy. All that lay before me for weeks was more days like that, broken up by the occasional swim meet or vacation maybe, but for the most part I knew I would be there, at the pool for hours on end. And even as children, when our lives were so simple and so easy, I think we still knew that those endless days at the pool were the absolute best it could get. We'd groan when the sun began to set and our parents showed up to pick us up, because the pool wasn't just a diversion. It was summer itself. And even now, as a sort of a adult, if I find myself even just walking by a chlorinated pool, catch a whiff of sunscreen, maybe hear some kids playing Marco Polo or Categories, I remember that for all of the diversions us sort of grown ups have during summer, nothing can ever really compare to the pool.

And that's only the beginning. I could go on for days about the smell of baseball games or cook outs, the sight of fireworks (they had the most unbelievable display of these at the Spoleto finale, practically on top of the crowd), the taste of a snow cone or italian ice. Some memories we have to strain for, look at old pictures in order to really enjoy. But for the most part, my memories of summer are never far from the surface. Maybe it all goes back to the heat. Maybe summers growing up are just these mythical things in our minds. For whatever reason, it doesn't take much for me to be right back there, at camp, at the pool. And even though it's a little bit sad to constantly be reminded of a past long gone, I wouldn't change it for the world.
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