Monday, December 29, 2008

In Which I Sarah Vowell My Way Through Reconciliation

Any post following or during a trip home, as some or all of you may know either from reading this blog or from blogs past, is likely to be full of condemnations of or reflections on my home life and the people who form the largest chunk of my West Haven experience. Certainly, with good reason. Its normal to not enjoy the idea of being home for an extended period. Generations of early Americans set forth westward, or outwards from their original settlements, traveling farther and farther west fueled perhaps not by religious difference or the arrogance of manifest destiny, but perhaps by a desire to get away from all that nagging.

Of course, I normalize this sentiment by talking about my general dislike for being back in West Haven, how my family is perhaps a tiny bit dysfunctional, and surrounding myself with people who also have a hard time staying back here, of all places. The tyranny of such a placement.

This trip is no different. Of course, I start with a grand premise: I'm going to give it the good old college try, and try to normalize relations as much as possible. You know, create those adult relationships I convince myself I am able to create with my brothers and father. After all, I am an otherwise functional adult with a job and life and relationship. Why should this be out of my grasp? Yet time and again, and this time before I get home from the bus terminal, I find that perhaps I do not have the patience or desire to do so. Oftentimes, this gets justified because I'm 'slipping back' into old habits of interaction, or because this is just how my family interacts. Certainly, this is not how I live my life outside of this house. I don't aim to answer these questions, or solve these problems now. In a few months, perhaps I'll be ready again, after the process of active amnesia that I seem to muddle through in the weeks and months following trips back.

These issues are made only more clear after a delightful visit to K.'s home in suburban Massachusetts. The time has passed for a comparative post on our Christmas experiences. Suffice it to say, there is no Christmas tree here. Those are the 6 words that would have summarized the whole post.

So there have been particular battles, particular issues, and other fine particulates that have more or less clogged up my dream of a trip home with adult relationships. Again, I came to the conclusion that I do not treasure my time here. Again I have resolved that it's going to be quite some time before I'm back. These are matter of course statements. My brother and I parted one year with the statement "Alright, see you when the next parent dies". As though that would be the only thing to bring us back. That is the sentiment that I feel when I drive away.

So today, I spent a lot of time in the bedroom my brother and I share when we're back. It started out going through the bookshelf, where I realized that we own a disturbing number of books. Then I traveled along the wall, and noticed more piles of books and comics. Then, my eyes wandered to the top of the bookshelf, where there were piles of books. Rounding the corner, I find this glass case, where there are spots for a TV, a DVD player, CDs along the side and maybe books in the parts on the side. Except the whole thing is stuffed with piles of books. PILES, so that more can fit inside. Ditto for those ugly Yaffa blocks my mother decided was going to organize life and NOT look like crap. Books under the bed. Everywhere.

In the closet were not books, but rather old family photos from the mid 80's and early 90s. Aside from the astonishing choices in clothing (ie my 4 year old self in a striped blue long sleeve and red running shorts), there was this other trend. Most of the pictures were either my brother and I or the two of us with my father. This is not a suprising trend, considering the make up of my family during the more formative years of my youth. However, something about the pairing, considering that was the occupancy of this house over the weekend, seemed striking.

These things are in some ways not relevant nor related. However, I came to this realization while reading The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell, that perhaps it is this shared love of reading and books that ties us together, at least in interest. It is astonishing the love of reading born of those within this household. There is a legitimate interest in literacy and love of printed material here.

To me, this is fascinating. I have yet, in 5 years of coming back, to find something about home about which I am excited. Something which we share as a family. Something that might actually inspire me back into the voracious reading I did during the summer of my senior year. I'm fascinated, and perhaps inspired, and maybe (somewhere deep in my two sizes too small heart) connected to this.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Home for the Holidays

Welcome to West Haven, where Christmas is an ornament to be smashed... or to slowly crumble to dust in an attic.

This holiday is, following a growing trend, disappointing.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Closing Up Shop and Fever Dreams

No... not the blog.

In the past week, I finished up the last of my academic work for the semester and closed up the residence hall. The master's degree is currently 1/3 in my hand, provided I did the following:

-passed the multiple choice Legal Aspects final, wherein one of the potential answers was "burn down a sex offender's house". This was not the answer I chose. I think that maybe I did alright on that one.

-did acceptably (read: D or better) on my Organization and Administration final. The final was a 20 page take home exam, worth 40% of the grade. I don't think that you really get grades lower than a B on anything in this program, and the paper was pretty solid for something written while having fever dreams. I'm wagering on a 93.

While all this was happening, I was pretty sure my body was planning on closing up shop. I started coming down with a cold while out Christmas shopping with K., and only deteriorated from there. That night, I had an intense fever: the kind that leaves you shivering and sweating, and then begins inserting images from your dark unconscious into your half away fever shaking mind. Actually, it was more of a narrative. A ridiculous narrative, detailed below.

Basically, around 3pm, I decided that there was a fever in my body because Dick Cheney was using me as a vessel to hold the Constitution, but it was really more like a dark constitution bomb of some sort. I'm not sure on the details, as this was likely a fever dream. So, the reason I was feeling so terrible is because I was a vessel for this god knows what bent on destroying the inauguration. That was his evil plan, after all. Along the way, I met with Janet Neapolitano and Mary McDonald (the President from Battlestar Gallactica), who told me that, in this position, I was the most important person in the Universe... and I believed her. I seriously believed her. Tammi Duckworth agreed with me, because she was in my dream. Yes, the 2006 Democratic candidate for Congress in the 6th district of Illinois. Any plan to get up and get water was of dire consequence. There was a desert in my mind and my mouth, and decisions about getting a cold compress involved the consult of my makeshift cabinet of sometimes fictional advisers. At some point, I decided that I had to soldier through it, and defeat the sickness myself as part of my civic duty.

Yes, these are my fever dreams. The National Security Counsel, Battlestar Gallactica, and CNN's former sweethearts. There's a lot going on in my noggin.

So that lasted for a week, but I'm doing much better now. I've only got a little bit of the death rattle of a cough left, and after one night of profuse sweating (and a dream about Mr. Consorte from highschool), the fever broke. So now I'm milking what little bit I can to get off from the worse duties at work (read: there's nothing to do there anyway. Hello Perez).

Basically, this post only exists because I wanted to write about my fever dream experience. Its right up there with the time that I drunkenly e-mailed Hillary Clinton.

(as an aside, I would like to offer this counterpoint to my personality: my fever dreams involve political deception and high rolling figures... sort of... but my current musical obsessions are Miley Cyrus and Paramore. Yep...)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Good Days

I've two thoughts here: one is a post about a great day I recently had, and the other is a thought about what a good day IS. I wonder about if its characteristic of the way that I write that I might try to dissect what makes a good day in my narrative of a good day-- its a thought that I leave here, because I have no interest in trying to answer that question.

I'm on duty right now with three other RAs. Seeing as this is one of the weekend days before finals, we're doing double duty to do as much damage control as possible in our building. Charitably, its been quiet, and we've just been able to do this fun march of a duty round through the building, chatting about films, what we've been up to, and other stuff that 20 somethings talk about.

It was this conversation among us that got me thinking about what makes a good day for me--or at least, why my good day might sound a little bizarre.

This has been a good night. I've hung out with residents, did some arts and crafts, and watched my favorite documentary, Blue Vinyl. I'm listening to Monserrat Caballe, about to re-read Spook: Science Tackles The Afterlife. Try mentioning to someone that you're about to watch your favorite documentary (try telling them that you had to watch it for your Gender and Environment class too), and the responses are going to be all over the board. The quiet night, spent on these kinds of pursuits, has become too few and far between for me, and perhaps especially so in general. Imagine the dialogue we might be having if we did this instead of American Idol!

If you only click on one link above, click on Caballe, listen, and thank me later.

Part two of this post is about Wednesday, which I'll keep brief: I was offered and accepted a job at Emerson College for my practicum course. I'm set for next semester with a paid internship! How exciting! Then, K. and I had decided to become official! So, I am currently and officially off the market (as opposed to before, when I was just off the market because I was seeing K.)

So, I have here a really good day and a really good night. How lucky have I been so far?! :-)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mid Month Update

To those of you who wished me a happy birthday-- thank you!

This year, I spent my birthday at a student conference that, as an undergraduate, I helped to run. Perhaps this was the best way I could have spent the day: bringing students to something that I loved as a student to help them ignite their interest in something that shaped my life. Cheering, attending programs, waking up very very early to do everything we wanted...the whole shabang was great, and certainly how I'd like to spend my birthday each year.

Although.... 23? What? Since when?

I haven't updated in a while because this past week has been so overwhelmingly busy. I had three presentations, a large paper, and the conference to prepare for. Also, there has been judicial work and other work responsibilities, as well as an interview for an internship at Emerson College. My feeling is that the interview went well, and my knowledge is that there aren't many applicants, so I'm feeling cautiously optimistic. So, things that happen when the laptop is closed.

I'll have more emotions and opinions soon. There are some limiting factors on what I can or will say right now, but they're there.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Men I'd Like To Be: Keith Olbermann

This video was absolutely moving.

Impassioned. Eloquent. Heartbreaking. Most importantly, born of the importance of justice and access for all. Not from personal interest, but from compassion for those around you.

This post didn't start out as a "men I'd like to be" post. It was going to be about using your position, your sphere of influence, to make a change. To stand and be counted, or to speak and be heard. To take your knowledge, take your passion, and spread it to those who might benefit and for those who might benefit both. To advocate on behalf of those outside of your own interests, as those are often the voices heard most clearly and with most credence. Perhaps a validation of my own interest in moving South or moving West, where my speaking out might reach a greater audience of people who need to hear what I have to say.

Then I realized that Keith was taking me to task. He was doing all these things in his sphere. He was showing that he had the microphone, he held the reins, and we are going where he's telling us we're going. Listen to what's in his voice-- the strain and the emotion. The sincerity. Therein lies a man agonized by a course of events that degrade the lives and experiences of other Americans.

Is this the most important cause? Is this the greatest task we can act upon? Daresay, I don't believe so. It is a cause, and it is important, and he's advocating for it. He feels about it. Damnit, thats more than most of us.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Political Microblog

I didn't see the acceptance speech that night, but watched it on youtube when I woke up in the morning, and cried.

Yes, we did... and more importantly, Yes, we still can.

Monday, November 3, 2008

I Go To Electoral College

My buddy, the Bookkook, posted his predictions for tomorrow's big race, and I realized I should probably do the same thing for a couple of reasons:

-I start every day by checking out the electoral map. Then play around with what happens when you lose Virginia or Iowa. Then realize that I haven't been doing work for an hour.

-There is rampant positivity on the left wing, and I'm not so optimistic.

-My political birth occurred during 2000, so there is something about electoral politics that is going to color my experience for quite some time.

-My goatee is riding on a bet with Kris-- if the democrats win, then it's got to go. If the Republicans win... I think I'm going to take him to Disney, the happiest place on Earth, because we're both going to be so damn sad. Drastic outcomes will require drastic measures.

I'm tempted to put money on McCain, just because that would net me a windfall if he DID win. Something about losing money just doesn't sit right with me, though. I'm calling the election for Obama. Who isn't?

I will say that I don't think North Carolina is going to go blue. I also think that Virginia is going to be much closer than we expect. Florida worries me, and I fear that we're going to see more voter disenfranchisement. Ohio is still anyone's game, and I think Missouri is going to go Republican too.

I am also predicting (for my friends in Massachusetts) the following:

Proposition 1: The repeal of the income tax-- will not occur. It will be very close though. If it did, I would be so incredibly disheartened with my otherwise so intelligent friends in the Commonwealth.
Proposition 2: The decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana-- will not happen. 60% voting against, although, its really anybody's game. I'd be interested to see where this goes-- I like to think that most people are interested in getting a more sensible marijuana policy. Then again, I don't know where I stand on this anymore.
Proposition 3: Outlawing dog racing-- Will not happen, although it should. Greyhounds are treated horribly in race tracks. I encourage anyone who is in a position to give a loving home to a dog to consider a greyhound adoption society for former racing dogs. They're beautiful and loving dogs, really.

We'll see how we did in less than 24 hours!!!!!!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Reslife Microblog

I currently have three phones: my personal cell phone, the RA duty phone, and the administrator on call phone. There have been several calls on each tonight.

This strikes me as ridiculous. Who wants to talk to me that badly?!

My Tickety Tack Trip Home (3 of 3)

Justine and her dad pick me up around 6 to catch the 6:35 train from New Haven to Boston. We plan on being there a little early, grab a coffee or something, and get into Boston in time to hit the bars and enjoy ourselves before my debut as RHA adviser at the first ever RHA event picking pumpkins.

When we get to the station, we purchase our train tickets-- and to our horror, realize that the train is an hour and fifteen minutes delayed. “That’s fine” I say, “We’ll still get in with time enough to hit the bars.” Justine is upset that Boston is not more like New York, where the bars are open until 4, but I am glad that Boston is not like New York because…uh… I fucking hate New York. However, I would appreciate the extra cushion of time that would afford us.
So we sit, we wait, we come up on the 1 hour 15 time, when our slot on the big board begins to change. Oh happy day! A track number!

Oh, by track number, I mean a delay of an additional hour and a half. So we’re looking at a 2 hour, 45 minute delay. I realize that we could have walked to Boston in that time, and Justine begins to realize that our seats seem to attract the crazies. Which is to say, there was the lady who was clearly talking to someone on the phone… if she had actually had a phone. Or the gentleman who, after muttering to himself in Arabic and English, holds up a pair of pants and yells “hey sweetie, I paid six dolllaaarr for these!” Justine’s eyes are trained on me, and I’m dying laughing.

Other highlights include….
-Hearing about “Twilight” and how the daughter’s name is Rennesme. FUCKING RENNESME. That’s an abomination upon names. That’s the name the moderately overweight goth girl in your high school took when she ran off to join the traveling renaissance faire to dance with dudes in Trogdor tee-shirts and green cargo shorts who think they are vikings.

-What sounded like a bus hitting the side of the train station. We decided it was the train
station settling, as old buildings do. Perhaps settling on a fault line.

-Watching three gentlemen who could have, under other circumstances, starred in a response video to “My New Haircut”. Fuckin’ skanks. One of whom may have been wearing a pattered fedora. I was horrified. HORRIFIED.

- Getting to our platform, only to be told that we should take the train at platform 8, which was supposed to arrive 3 hours after our train should have originally left.

- Telling a nice older couple that if they bought me the wood, I would build a boat and sail us to Boston. Then, having them get on the same subway as us after the train ride up. Maybe they wanted to make good on the promise of a boat?

Now we’re on the train, I’m typing this, and we’re both passing out. My head is starting to hurt, and I’m beginning to feel like maybe, just maybe, I shouldn’t leave Boston again for a while.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

My Tickety Tack Trip Home (2 of 3)

Melissa, affectionately called “WE”, and I met up for dinner after the NEACUHO conference. The plan was to surprise her in my dad’s car, since I had been driving it all day, and because we have history driving in that monstrosity of a machine… including a variety of brushes with death gassing up the car and defying the rules of the road and physics.

In an effort to truly embrace the fact that we were together in West Haven for the first time in about a year, we decided to have a West Haven date. This meant walking down the beach a little, as is the main form of entertainment in the place, as well as doing dinner at Jimmy’s, which is the restaurant that says “this is the best we got… we clean and fry our scallops”. The thing about Jimmy’s is that its what my father considers fine dining-- right up there with Outback and the Texas Roadhouse. Fine dining entails, it seems, nothing against wearing a “proud to be american” tee shirt or a "from the fryer" section of the menu. They also serve their Whiskey Sours with an orange wedge, which is my own personal pet peeve. It’s a cherry or it’s a disaster.

Our conversation was interesting and hilarious, as usual. Melissa confirmed my belief that if you come back and stay for too long, you’re going to get stuck. She then told me that, according to a state project on which she’s working, Connecticut has a hard time retaining its population. She blames this on a lack of real cities, a point on which I must oblige her. New Haven is built almost entirely on its relationship with Yale, and Hartford is a stinking pit of rotting flesh and insurance firms. Of course, it is also partially our proximity to Boston and New York that makes it tough to create our own distinct metropolitan experience, which is a shame considering the former history and vitality of New Haven county.

Post dinner, we went to the package store at the beach and bought a cheap bottle of wine. Upon returning to my house, we realized to my slowly creeping horror that my mother apparently got the corkscrew in the divorce as well. However, Melissa and I are bright, college educated people. So what do we do? Turn to Youtube.

Youtube tells me that you can open a bottle of whine with a screw, a screwdriver, and a hammer. You screw the screw into the cork, push it in until there is just a half inch of space left with the screwdriver, and use the hammer to pull the cork and screw up. The internet made it seem so simple. SO SIMPLE. So we head down to the basement, where my father keeps the tools. We get the screw in, get the screwdriver to work, and grab the hammer. Well… it doesn’t work.

…and there is photo documentation.

After half an hour of pulling, hammering, screwing, and whining, I eventually take the screwdriver and push and push on the cork. This is when the cork flies down into the bottle of wine, splashing up all over my shirt and into my eyes. Oh, and then we realize that cork is stuck in the bottom of the bottle’s neck, and the screwdriver is stuck in the cork. So more pushing and pulling, more wine in my hair. The damned thing, though, yielded wine and laughs and everything I needed to that point.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My Tickety Tack Trip Home (1 of 3)

It was supposed to be so simple.

I was going to wake up ready and rearing to go on Saturday, drive out to Danbury, attend my conference, get my network on, and then take the train up to Boston with Justine. This sounds simple. Oh, but the best laid plans of mice and men, as they say.

The problems started around 8:30 in the morning on Friday, when I woke up to a text that says “Oh, find me at NEACUHO today!” from a friend with whom I went to college. I roll off my phone, which is lodged between my abdomen and the couch, and realize that the conference is TODAY, not tomorrow. Which means that I should have been checking in about half an hour ago, instead of laying with my ass in the air on the couch. So my first logical move, after cursing a little, is fire up the laptop to get directions to Danbury. Of course, I can’t find the email with my registration information-- apparently it doesn’t contain the words “NEACUHO” or “WCSU” or ANYTHING ELSE that Thunderbird might pick up as relevant to the email. I get directions, then head up to grab some clothes.

Well, having come in from Boston the night before at about 11pm, my clothes were still rolled up in a ball in my book bag. Which is fine, I can just iron them out. So, I run to the linen closet to grab the iron.

Funny story about the iron-- my mother CLEARLY got it in the divorce, because the only thing we had in there was a small travel iron. Working with what I have, I run to plug it in and get started. No sooner do I take the thing out of its box than the handle falls off. FALLS OFF. So now I have a piece of iron that is going to get very hot and a handle that’s going to continue to be very useless. I give ironing without a handle a shot, but it turns out that maybe travel irons don’t get so hot. At all. Or maybe get colder.

So I throw my clothes in the dryer and head up to brush my teeth. Now, I consciously chose not to pack toothpaste when I left for home, since I knew that my father would have some. Hmm. I was correct in this assumption, but I was incorrect in assuming that it would be the kind of toothpaste that a normal , god fearing 60 year old man might use. No no… I find Spongebob Squarepants toothpaste.

Let that sink in for a moment. My assumption is that he has been brushing and singing the theme song.

After a fight with the dryer, my only recourse to unwrinkled my clothes, I run out to start my car, which hasn’t been driven in 3 months. No surprise, I turn the key and nothing happens. At all. Not even a glimmer of a vroom. So my father, in his way, offers me the boat (read: Buick), which has been running a little that morning. He offers to back it out of the driveway, since I haven’t driven in a while. Lets consider for a second that he will be having me drive an hour away in the car, but is distrustful about my ability to back out of the driveway. Logic, where you at?

Oh, did I mention that I had to stop to put gas in the car, and that the front tire might have been significantly under inflated? By 9:30, halfway through the keynote speaker, I’m finally on the road, hitting speeds close to 90 in a car demographically driven by ladies in their 70s, and which has a surprising amount of bass in its stereo system. I guess they can’t hear the radio otherwise, but can feel the vibrations. Its how Beethoven composed his symphonies towards the end, and I assume that the same holds here.

I eventually did get to the conference almost and hour late and had a blast, and had the best damn story in the place about the “tickety tack hot mess” my trip was.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Written on the Bus Home

I’m taking the bus to New Haven, heading home for the first time since July.

Its never just an easy transition when I head back, even for a day. My first emotion is usually guilt. Why am I leaving my residents? What if they need me? They’re so young and inexperienced-- what if something happens, and they have no one to which they feel safe to turn?

I want to stop here and mention that this feeling is absolutely fucking insane. Guilt because I’m leaving my live in job?! What is up with that? Its gotten to the point where I can’t stay just be spontaneous during the day, because they need to see me on the floor. I need to be a good RA. I need to be present. I need a mood stabilizer, it seems. Nowhere does it say that I should get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach because, god forbid, something should happen because/while I’m out enjoying myself a few T-stops away. Is this guilt because I should be around, or fear that they’ll fail to see me as anything other than the best RA. I can’t say what really happens there.

Of course, I also feel a lingering sadness going back to West Haven. After so many years of personal indoctrination, of telling myself that no one returns to success, there is a little bit of apprehension about going back. Going back means reestablishing ties. Reestablishing ties means reconnecting with the city. Reconnecting with the city will draw me back. Getting drawn back is the last thing I ever plan on doing. Does this mean that I’ll be 70 some day, living in a split level ranch that I’ve lived in for 40 years and talking about my friends from high school and how they’ve all died? Does this negate the experience that I have had in moving away and in finding an existence created on my own terms, rather than on the backs of those before me? Am I less interesting or less valid or less exciting because I am in a place where nothing special has ever happened and from where nothing exciting has ever developed?

Truly, other areas can seem more exciting, more cosmopolitan, or more fitting for my lifestyle. Some of the suburbs of Boston are FAR more attuned to the way I choose to live, aren't they? Surely, they're suburbs, and to some other 20 something, its got to be a place they don’t want to return. Maybe they see their own family ‘stuck’ there, stagnating, and saying “no, not me”. It’s their West Haven… but it’s not mine. Do I just see locales outside my hometown as inherently more exciting, simply because I have not lived there? Is this a fair assessment of my city, that it’s a social and intellectual sinkhole? By no means-- but its not wholly inaccurate. They don’t get out of that city, consigning themselves to familiarity and a community NOT based on academic prowess and success. It’s the suburban experience. It’s also a me vs. them mentality that does not let me see the brightness of individual experience, and the choices people have made for themselves. In some respect, it must be my own immaturity.

Or am I most scared that I might discover that I can’t truly escape, and that some part of me might even like being back where not a lot happens and the expectations are lower. Where the pressure lets up, and success is merely “satisfactory” and not “best in show”. Where they’re not going to care if I don’t get my doctorate, but golly they sure would be proud. Complacency and security are perhaps my fear here, because its safe and there’s a backup and I don’t have to take risks.

Something about not taking risks, it seems, is terrifying.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Two Thoughts on Reslife

A quick blog about the ups and downs of res life.

The UP:
I watched the debate with my co-RA on duty and a few residents tonight-- threw up a big poster in the front of the building an hour in advance, and there was an outcome. We laughed, we talked, we had a bunch of fun. It was spontaneous and it combined a few elements of the building and a few social groups that wouldn't have normally interacted. The major up, of course, is this is my job. :-)

Ben Folds is performing 2 BLOCKS FROM WHERE I LIVE, and I can't go because I'm on duty. The major down, of course, is that this is my home life. Somebody, though, has to take care of the kids.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Day Dreamin'

On the ride home from K's house today, when I wasn't staring at people's feet and listening to some BU girls ridiculous conversation, I started to daydream about what it would be like to leave class or work and just have to go home and have myself as my responsibility. Forget worrying about programs, the guilt of not being around for my residents all the time, having to be back most nights in my room just to be a presence. Not eating dinner in a cafeteria, but rather making my own food, with ingredients I like, according to my dietary needs. Visiting with people when I choose to visit. Maybe going out and getting drunk every once in a while without worrying that my building is going to burst into flames and I'll have to be a point person.

Maybe when I sauntered in from my responsibilities, as late as 7pm (to be charitable), I could take off my shoes, close my door, and breathe. Be as selfish as I want. Perhaps I'd be coming home to a pet, or sharing my home with a significant other. I could turn on the TV and have some time to unwind. Maybe if I were taking classes, I could sit down and do some reading and let myself get absorbed in it. Or just not have to talk to anyone for a while.

I don't think this is selfish-- but I also don't think this is going to be a realistic experience until May... and perhaps later.

I have to reiterate that I love my job-- my girls are incredible, I'm learning lots of things, and I kind of like the thrill of the unknown that comes each time I'm on duty. In fact, I even like our 3 weekly staff meetings, because my supervisors/peers are amazing and brighten my day. As much as I might complain about 3am lock outs, there is part of me that knows how grateful that person is that I woke up and am helping them out. Maybe I need to be needed? I prefer to think that I'm responding to doing something worthwhile.

That being said-- the way I live is not normal for someone going on 23. I would also be lying if I said that I didn't look for other live in jobs in Boston from time to time. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't ready for more of a challenge. I'd be lying if I said that sometimes, I just want to be an adult again. But I'd be lying if I thought I'd act on a job offer or trade what I'm doing now.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What I Learned In School Today...

I wont lie. I didn't come to grad school for grad school. Is that ridiculous?

I applied to Suffolk on the strength of a colleagues recommendation about the assistantship programs. She had been an assistant in student activities, and worked with residential life in some capacity as well, and her recommendation about the working programs was stellar. To wit, I do not remember her talking about the academic program at all. That wasn't my interest at the time, though. My interest was getting on campus, keeping my position on the Regional Board, and getting the preparation to take on serious roles in Student Affairs.

To date, I feel like the most important things I've learned here HAVE been through the assistantship and work experiences I've taken within the University. I've had incredible instructors in my supervisors and peers. The things I'm learning from my direct supervisor, my co-adviser and others in the program is unparalleled. Its a phenomenal education in the ins and outs of residential operation. Granted, no class is going to teach you how to host a successful judicial meeting. There were professional workshops, of course. No class is going to make you adept at dealing with student or parent concerns. It seems, no class is going to attack the practicalities of the vocation. Which I should understand and expect.

What I HAVE learned from the higher ed program is that, to date, it has not been what I expected. The learning has been cursory. Study of theorists has so far been reduced to "You should know about Chickering at some point, but we're not going to talk about him here." I've learned that professors are mostly effective when they are teaching to their interests. Of course, this is understandable. Whose interest is "Organization and Administration"? I doubt there are any readers who can stand up and say 'This is something fascinating'. That should not, however, limit the effectiveness of an educator. It is arguably an important topic (I say arguably, of course, because I'm not yet convinced of its value), and should be addressed as such.

Somehow, this relates back to the readings I've been doing about Service Learning programs. In these programs, students take their theoretical classroom knowledge and apply it to programs that do good in the community. It is practical application, which is meant to enrich the educational experience.

It is the practical application that is most enriching here. Part of me feels like I am going to learn so much more in my job than I will in class. Perhaps I'll be exposed to new ideas, but more likely I will be learning from the office and then applying back when we cover topics in class. In this way, ideas are being learned before the classroom, and merely articulated through their classroom presentation. Part of me wonders, then, am I paying for the job education with the side benefit of a masters degree, or am I getting ripped off with a masters program that has great side benefits that will stack my resume?

These are heavy charges to lay during the first month of classes, so perhaps some of it is just the waiting game. The sense I get, though, is that I'd better just hunker down and get what I can from work.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

On Leadership In Progress

Throughout the 2008 election cycle, I've written about my desire to get into national politics at some point in my life. Certainly, action is not indicative of interest here, since I'm currently sitting on the 9th floor of a residence hall, rather than getting into the nitty gritty and networking with the parties that would connect me to the option of being a political figure. The desire is there, I suppose, but the commitment is not. Or at least, the ability to make the commitment.

Throughout this election cycle, I've also been trying to integrate into my opinions and worldview what is quickly becoming Barack's empty promise about post partisan politics. Let's call it a trope in the overarching theme of my quest for greater personal development. One day I'll be able to look at a democrat and republican and say "no, the republican is the better leader. They are the better choice". As an aside, that almost happened in Connecticut in 2006 when I considered voting for Joe Lieberman (and good lord, I dislike that man). It hasn't happened since.

(As an aside, I established MA residency that year, and didn't end up voting in the Connecticut elections. So I voted for Edward Kennedy that year).

These two ideas come rushing together... here.

Watching Sarah Palin's ABC interview on youtube, I was struck by how ill prepared she was to answer most, if not all, of Charlie Gibson's questions. Perhaps I mean "ill prepared" in the sense that she responded how I might expect someone in the current administration to answer. Perhaps I mean that, if I paused the video and composed an answer and then listened to hers, that they would be comparable in understanding of world affairs or similarly articulate. Perhaps, my definition doesn't matter. Rather, it is the fact that I can apply the term "ill prepared" at all. This is a candidate that will help shape policy for up to 8 years after her potential election. Maybe more... and here is some uppity grad student calling her on being "ill prepared"? I'm sorry, but that is not a phrase I can use regarding Joe Biden. It would likely even be less applicable if I was referring to Jodi Rell. I hate to say it, but even Mitt Romney (although, good lord I dislike him) cannot be called "ill prepared".

In truth, I leave her interview thinking "I could do that just as well, right now".

So it is that sentiment that further inspires me. This is not Hillary Clinton, who made me feel like it was my civic duty to effect a positive change. This is not Joe Biden, who makes me want to prove that some catholic blue collar kid can make a splash AND make it home for dinner. This is not John McCain, who shows me the honor of service and humility and faith a servant of the nation should show, humbling me with his love for country. Instead, this is Sarah Palin, who makes me think "Jesus, that's all it takes?"

I'm moving to Alaska. Moore for Governor, 2020!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Partisanship is the new post partisanship

Once upon a time, specifically just before the summer of '08, I was promised post partisan politics.

Now, either someone has reneged on this offer, it was a limited time promotion, or we've just moved past it. Post-partisan politics maybe got lower Nielson ratings than the Olympics, so we switched back? Maybe John Edwards' affair made it so, no matter what the presidential candidates were doing, at least they weren't having affairs on their terminal wives.

Forget the faux-outrage. Forget the calls that each statement is "the new low". Forget that you're trying to win an election. This is not the model on which electoral politics should be built. Elections are not about figuring out who is the worst candidate, or trying to persuade me to vote for you because the other party is a terrible choice. This is not about pandering to my interests because it might win you the blue collar vote.

Maybe this is a little idealistic, and maybe this is a little naive. Part of the reason I felt so great heading into this election was that there was so much less in the way of attacking the other candidates. It was about "this is how my idea works, this is why my idea works". When the party driven attacks began, it wasn't necessarily snarky or personal. It was "this is why my idea works and theirs doesn't". Its the process of persuasion. This is why I'm the best. Look at my virtues, look at his virtues, and if you like one over the other then you're going to have picked a president based on their value.

Instead, when I ask people why they are voting for someone, the answer is often "McCain is Bush's 3rd term... he's shown poor judgement..." or "Barack Obama is too inexperienced...He's not the reformer he claims to be...".

The time is coming where the electorate needs to call up in one voice, outraged with the course that both parties have set. I refuse to stand by and levy the same attacks used against me. I refuse to degrade opinion for superficial reasons. I refuse to vote for someone simply to vote against another.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Barack Obama is the new Donna Karen

About a week and a half ago, my Obama for President shirt was delivered to my office. Since then, I have worn it two times, one of those times being today. When I put on the shirt, something is different. People see it and they respond.

For example, I wore it the day before 1st year move in, and a half drunk woman on the street yelled out for "an across the road high five". Sometimes, things like that happen to me. Every day, I think I end up with a ridiculous story. So, I don't think its anything too incredible. However, I wore it today, and one of the cafeteria workers, while ringing me through for my veggie burger commented on how she liked my shirt, then remembered who I was later on when I saw her on the Common. Or, at the Elections office today, the director made a point to say that Obama was his boy, and then helped me out quite a bit more than I expected any bureaucrat to help an uppity grad student. Even the lady on the elevator up asked me "So, my buddy Sarah Palin didn't convince you the other night?" So we had a very nice conversation about her, as well.

Maybe its because people are so fired up for this election-- this one means something, we think. There is a change we can make, a situation we can prevent, or a world we can save with our paper ballot and civic engagement. Participation in the grand pageant of civic duty is somehow more relevant than in years past. As though, just maybe, we can effect the change we wish to see, empowered through participation.

This, of course, is the premise of how we run the country. The often imperfect but nonetheless elegant process by which we elect our leadership. It is shocking to me that some might find the fact that my voice is a part of the choice for the national leadership anything other than humbling and a huge civic responsibility. That one might pass that opportunity by is, in fact, heartbreaking. To be entrusted with such responsibility and to cast it aside so easily is a betrayl of the sacred social covenant to which we find ourselved bound. Regardless of your opinion, you must have one. Take the time to present it via your vote.

The other side of the enchantment that happens when I wear this shirt is the assumption of the Obama campaign. Somehow, I worry about the way in which I reflect on his candidacy and operation. If I act imprudently or rudely, does that reflect back on Mr. Obama himself? Thats why I always smile when I walk by the McCain Victory Headquarters. Just in case I run across a vocal McCain proponent, I can smile and make a great conversation, build a bridge and maybe shake hands at the end. This, by no small measure, is surely a result of having worked in residence life, where every action reflects on the department, and every misstep is played out against you in a judicial hearing.

Perhaps this all means that I am wearing a brand. Like any other brand, people make assumptions about your character and interests as a result of who is across your chest. Whether a zinger pushing the envelope or a political icon, there is a representation of self and the values and interests you purport to have. Mine, then, is just an Abercrombie that people have opinions about?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

I can has grownup?

The past few weeks, posting here has been light.
By light, I mean, non existent.

Mainly, I'm going to blame that on my work engagements and getting accustomed to living in Boston. Life is taking off for me in a lot of different directions right now, so I've had less time than I did this summer to decompress via verbalization. My priorities have also shifted-- no longer is watching CNN the highlight of my day.

I've started working in the office at my assistantship, and its certainly been more work than I expected. Students are confused, and while I have access to some information, I'm certainly not experienced at the workings of the office. So, while I have been able to do what I can, for the most part it feels like the blind leading the blind. On top of that, I'm fielding parent phone calls and working on developing a university sponsored organization with a 5 figure budget.

The other day, I received notice that I will be starting my judicial responsibilities as well. Adjudication is part conversation, part confrontation in my mind. It requires patience, knowledge of policy, and professionalism. These are not my strong suits at all. How am I going to be a University Judicial Officer, when my personality is better suited to observation or having fun? Can you host a judicial meeting where you make a student laugh, and still be effective as an official? As an administrator? As a disciplinarian?

Aside from a job bordering on professional with real responsibilities, I've discovered that I've been trying to develop adult relationships with my parents. Today, I invited them up to Boston for a weekend. In short, they are visiting me of my own accord. Not because they're moving me out, not because they're giving me money, but as a social call. I have chosen to host them. I suppose these aren't necessarily large responsibilities or transformations, especially when my mother and I are particularly close. However, the situation and experience of this visit is of a tenor unrecognizable to my past experience.

I've also begun painting again, in an attempt to fill my free time with a worthwhile experience. Perhaps a hobby? An avocation? More likely, a healing experience. My former major, after the experience I had in the academy and the betrayal I felt on the eve of my thesis defense, this is a first step in the process of reclaiming something which was once so important to my life and experience, to my identity and self. It is a healing action, I hope.

I'm currently watching the RNC, and hoping I can one day be the kind of person who can vote for a candidate because they are the most qualified, not because I identify with their party. That requires many things, I think... but first, it requires the kind of adult personal growth I currently am seeking. The fact that I'm watching the RNC is probably also the reason the writing on this post is as low quality as it is. I'm too busy watching the cowboy hats swing back and forth as Cindy McCain woos me with her committment to doing good in a world so beset by tragedy. I may not agree with McCain/Palin, but I can definitely respect Cindy.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

My Internal Compass Is The Kind That Draws Circles

Dear Boston,

I have no sense of direction. What do you suggest I do in order to get a feel for this new, large city.


Dear Michael,

Suck it up, grow a pair, and learn to read. Seriously? Its impossible to NOT end up where you live! Its a straight shot from most lines to your front door! The fact that you got lost five blocks in the other direction (ie, nearly walking INTO the Harbor when you should have been heading the other way) or walking in circles at midnight shows that you will clearly die on the streets of Boston. This is how the homelessness problem got as noticeable as it currently is-- they're not homeless, they're just as lost as you seem to get.

No Love,
(P.S., Fenway is in the OTHER direction. If you could read a map, you'd know that, and NOT end up in Chinatown, wondering why continental drift accelerated so quickly).

So far, the score is Boston, 1, Michael, 0. I have yet to find my way to any place independently without getting lost at least once, for at least 5 minutes, which is terrible. I planned on walking the Freedom Trail totally solo the other day, but after I hit the state house I lost the line, panicked, and ended up in the West End for what seemed like an eternity. I would like to point out that the Freedom Trail is often used by foreign tourists and school children. It is easy to follow, since there is a GIANT RED LINE painted down the middle of the sidewalk that says "No really, just keep walking the way I'm going". I could not figure out how this worked, so instead I just kept walking in directions until I realized "Oh, this is where the blue line is" or "at least there is a starbucks here".

Yesterday night, I took the T back from Jamaica Plain, where I went bowling with Sarah Cohen and Scott Berghegger (Clarkies). Of course, I could barely find my way out of the station when I arrived at my stop. When I did eventually reach the surface, a tiny fact about Downtown Crossing manifested, although not to my knowledge-- there are multiple exits. Clearly, I walked out the first one (obviously, I thought, this must be where I came in. Its simple logic). 20 minutes later, I was at the harbor, beginning to panic, walking up and down Congress Ave thinking "I know this will take me right back to where I need to be. I know this."

I did not know this, and after finally finding the stop I came out of originally, there was an opportunity to orient myself and get back to Tremont Street. The horrible part about all of this is two part: 1) Downtown Crossing is SO CLOSE to where I live. Literally three blocks. Its not hard to navigate. 2) I considered just transferring to the red line to get to Park Street, which is right on Tremont. However, I said "no, that would be ridiculous, I'll just walk". Hmm.

The good news about all this is that I mastered Government Center and discovered Finagle A Bagel, the only independent food source I have been able to successfully use. Also, in a few weeks I will be able to say "oh, I know that area so well-- I got lost there SO many times."

Monday, August 4, 2008

Men I'd Like to Be: Phil Borges

Phil Borges is a photographer who deals with the rapidly diminishing number of native tongues and populations in a world that is rapidly globalizing. The work pictured here shows two sides of his work and two sides of the world. He is just as concerned with the aging remnants of a culture as he is with the children growing up, not knowing the language or culture. His work is tied to the Bridges Project, which aims to preserve the rapidly dissolving cultures in our world. Specifically, he is photographing peoples with animist religions tied to the natural world.

The images themselves are desaturated digital photographs showing indigenous peoples in their God given land and in their current complex social surroundings. Figures are meant to "pop" out from the background, and with a striking result. The descriptions of his work are often compassionate narratives on the plight of the individuals in each image. They are not about the image as image. They are the image as reactant. As mover and shaker.

What I like most about his work is that 1) his interest is more sincere than Edward Curtis and 2) that his artwork is tied to a social theme and organization. In the *past few weeks, I've been thinking hard about the roll of the artist in the world after the death of the image. Creating images that tie into and further social action and social betterment could be one of the roles of the artist in this age.

More specifically to the point of this series, Phil Borges has turned his artwork, something he obviously loves and about which he is passionate, and turned it into a personally fulfilling and outwardly helpful experience. He is culturally enriching while providing a global service. That, my friends, is the goal

*bloggers note: Most of this was originally written for my senior capstone blog in studio art. I wouldn't be posting it here if I didn't believe all the same things I wrote about it 10 months ago -M

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Which Would Be Fine, But...

I was going to bed around 11 tonight. From the time stamp on this post, you can tell that this is getting published much later. Its 2:54 am according to my laptop clock, and my body is showing no signs of shutting down and getting ready for sleep mode. Nothing. Close the eyes, and the mind keeps going. Not even a yawn or a head nod.

Which would not be a problem-- except I am supposed to be waking up for an 8 hour shift in an hour.

The 4:30 shift at Starbucks is certainly not the worst--the first two hours are relatively uneventful: as a barista, I stock the pastry case, brew some coffee, clean the oven, and peel some bananas. Then comes the rush around 8, and then you're out by noon or one pm. Really, if I could get an egg sandwich on the way to work, it would be the perfect shift. All in all, its not a bad trade off, if you can swing it correctly. I am not one of the people who can swing it correctly, and end up with the rest of the day to do what I please.

Instead, I will fall asleep around 2:30 tomorrow afternoon, and wake up from my "nap" around 6 or 7pm, only after sleeping through at least two phone calls. Then, I'm up and shining until.... we repeat this process over again. Which would be fine, but I like the day light hours. This will also be compounded by the fact that I tend to run pretty full steam in the mornings, so I will also likely come home with a headache that will last from the end of my shift to two hours after waking up from the nap.

Being young and fresh faced, I know that I can pull this off-- I've done it before, once going 40 hours without sleep, working through a morning shift and the Head RA program. However, I was never as much of a bitch as I was that day before bed time. During that awake time, I was also involved with some watermelon carving to make snacks. To rehash, I am angry and wielding a knife on Olympic amounts of awake time. It sounds like the body of a news article. You know... the suspect had been awake for days, and brandished the knife in a fit of rage before plunging it into the watermelon. More at 11.

This is my last week of work at Starbucks-- and I'm generally pleased about that. I love my working environment, I like most of the customers, and my coworkers are amongst the more incredible people I've met in Worcester. However, the high pressure of the rush times, the under-scheduling, and the pressure that I put on myself to perform well as a barista are more than enough to make me sigh with relief when I take off the apron for the last time on Wednesday. Its just coffee-- it shouldn't have these longer reaching effects on my private life.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Things I Found In My Car

Some of you know very well that I am a MESS. My room, my car, my personal life... its all one big hot mess. This is not news to most of you, nor is this new and reflective of something going on in my life. I've always been a mess. I would get yelled at in elementary school for having an unorganized desk. In fact, my mother once threw everything on the floor of my room out the window while I was at work, so when I drove up I saw piles of my clothes IN THE BUSHES. One day, I'll write a post titled "I am white trash", and this will be the first damning piece of evidence.

So, I'm selling the car. Or, at least having my parents hold onto it until I am back from Boston. That being said, its necessary for me to start cleaning out the absolute mess of things in that car-- its disgraceful. Below is a list of things I found in the car, which I'm sure will surprise some, but not all of you:

-two clementine peels
-about 30 Starbucks hot and cold cups
-$20.18 in change
-lots of broken glass
-CD cases for CDs I bought in junior year of highschool
-flashcards from "Classical Myth in Greek Art" from freshman year
-Hannukah wrapping paper
-A heartfelt letter from one of my best friends
-An ice scraper I wish I knew I had when I was using a clipboard to scrape ice off my windshield earlier this year.
-OJ's other glove
-A parking ticket from Junior year when I parked for like, 20 minutes to grab breakfast and OMG really? No one even uses that part of the street.
-Part of a chocolate chip cookie that I don't remember ever eating or having the opportunity to eat.
-Driving directions to Ithaca NY, Andover MA, and Cape Cod.
-Play Doh
-A full pack of American Spirits
-4 lighters
-Synergy from 2006-2007
-McDonalds bags-- I last had that in my car in March, and I'm sure these are from before then.
-What might have been an independent genesis of life.
-My NACURH stadium cup and certificate of recognition for being the NEACURH ADPR.
-Black shoes
-Seriously, where did all this broken glass come from?
-A bowl made out of an old record
-My Bonnaroo ticket from 2006.

And that was only the front of the car. I wonder what mysteries my trunk holds!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

This Time, 4 Years Ago...

As I unlocked my bike this morning, a funny thought popped into my head. Would the Michael 4 years ago have recognized the Michael of today? Certainly, I don't know what triggered this thought. Maybe it was the bike, which we've had for years. Maybe it was the conversation about the dog park and paying rent. Maybe it was the social obligations. When I was doing this, I had come from the dog park and was heading to Sara's for her birthday brunch which was DELICIOUS.

So, tonight, I figured it might be fun to take a look back at where I was 4 years ago at this time in the year-- just graduated from high school and onward to Clark. In that weird in between with no lingering responsibilities and the specter of something larger than your past looming ahead of you. Like a freshman year roommate or a view of Boston Common.

As I am writing this in my new blog, I thought it would be appropriate to use my livejournal as a tool for this retrospective. Certainly, my memory alone is not good enough to handle the task, which is part of the reason why I've always kept a blog of sorts. Looking at the summer of 2004, I found out the following about the old Michael:

-I used the word "woot" repeatedly. In text and probably in real life. My apologies to everyone involved.

-Everything in my world view was pretty black and white. Judging from the posts, I had a hard time reconciling what my perception of gay culture was with my own identity. The question "can activism and body glitter go hand in hand" was actually asked. At the time, I was going to change the world and be the great gay liberator-- I had aspirations to run the HRC, and had volunteered for the organization. Granted, I was also a raging homophobe, so I don't know how I was supposed to reconcile that. There is something so delightful in the broad brush approach I took at the time to "gay rights", and how I thought I could solve everything by integration into mainstream culture.

-I spent an inordinate amount of my time thinking about standardized tests, and how awesome it was that I was an AP Scholar. How rad was I?!? OMG LYK AP EURO!!!1!

-Much as I am currently obsessed with residence life, I was obsessed with honors society (of which i was the president) and being a PA (peer advocate). This is probably one of the more relevant things I discovered. Did it socialize me towards taking on activities and responsibilities in college, or did it instill in me a need to be active in my community? Could the Michael of West Haven High School looked at me entering the M.Ed program at Suffolk and think "This is a logical progression of my interests"? My thought is no-- I wanted to be the gay Martin Luther King Jr.

-I posted what I then called "an emotional enema", wherein I basically whined for two pages about how I was in LOVE with Ian, how I never knew my mother, how I felt disconnected from my friends, and how I should recognize the beauty of the world around me but I just couldn't. Much of it was valid or driven by hormones, but it still just sounds like I should have a striped sweater and brushed over bangs. Although, at the time I would have said "black fingernails".

-Around this time of year was the last time my mother and I had a significant fight, which lasted for all of 11 days, wherein we did not speak. This is also interesting, since we haven't spoken in close to three weeks after a stupid argument over my graduation party. Certainly, I do not remember the reason for the fight. Back then, as it was now, it was all about control. You'd think that I'd learn from myself.

I encourage anyone who has a diary, journal, livejournal, etc, to go through and try this same thing. It is nice to put into perspective how much or how little you appear to have grown.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Lazy Sunday

I love lazy Sundays! The humidity is hovering somewhere between "dish sponge" and "underwater", the dog is under the table splayed out on the cool tiles, and even the fan and iced tea can only do so much. Still though, today is exactly what I like about days off!

We were supposed to go to the bar and Spiritual Haze last night, but I was getting my man period, which usually means an impending migraine and general queasiness, sometimes grumpiness and other general displeasures. So, after Taryn's birthday dinner and a little cool down period at Maria and Dom's, I made way to the Blarney Stone, but knew that alcohol was only going to make me feel worse. Coupled with the loud music and attractive straight men, I knew I was only doing myself in. So I walked home, took two Tylenol Migraine pills and passed out. I'm great at being exciting.

I had also made plans with Jenn to go to Annie's this morning and then to the dog park. However, I have been living under a rock for 4 years and didn't realize that Annie's is not open on Sundays. Go figure. So when Jenn woke me up, I offered to make pancakes! I'm so generous when I'm half asleep!

Last time I tried to make pancakes I sort of forgot how to cook. Meaning, I tried to make one large, dense pancake the size of my frying pan. As you may have inferred, it did not work out as I planned. As an interesting aside, something that large is difficult to flip without spilling gooey hot batter all over your range top. It is subsequently harder to clean off when it starts to burn onto the stove. A hot range will also cook your sponge as you attempt to clean up the mess. Again, things I probably DO know, but forgot in the storm of "fuck fuck fuck" I was chanting.

This time, they came out pretty fine, except for the ones that accidentally came out wrinkly. So Jesse, Jenn, and I had delicious pancakes for breakfast. Afterwards, Jenn and I took Bean out to the dog park for the afternoon.

The dog park was probably the cutest place I've ever been. Its out in Boynton park, which is basically in Paxton. You walk down a little bit of a forest path, and then a big baseball field opens up, and there are 25 or so people out with their dogs. Bean, having recently earned the nickname "Paris Hilton", took a little while to warm up to the other dogs. Then she was off, running around, sniffing butts left and right. There were a million cute moments, but the cutest (aside from Oscar's owner, who was gorgeous and a little awkward) was this other Boston Terrier who was JUMPING up and down to lick the saliva and genitals of this giant Mastiff. I mean, really dog? Have some class and wait for the third date.

Now its time for some iced tea and a little more relaxation before smoothies and laundry. Such a well spent Sunday!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Men I'd Like To Be: Mark Bittman

Mark Bittman writes about food. Okay, I feel like thats a gross misrepresentation of what he does, although, in a nutshell, that is his job. Check out any of the "Minimalist" articles in the New York Times, and that is what you will find. He writes about food, and its simple.

I could leave it there, but there is more going on.

Mark Bittman embodies an aesthetic. Writing for the New York Times, you sort of know that you're getting a certain crowd of readers. I think of lots of Columbia educated Brads and Buffys in white sneakers, or older gentlemen in tweed jackets. Obviously, that is not the entire readership (and this is not going to be a diatribe on class), but I feel like its the readership to which the Times is geared.

What is so incredibly appealing about him in this environment is that he keeps everything simple. Its not about long lists of ingredients, its not about being fancy (or is it?... I'll get to all this later), its not about the pretense of fine foods. Rather, it is about simple elegance. Its about a certain lack of pretense.

That being said, he's not saying "take a can of chili and nuke it for a minute". He's using edamame, eggplant, pecorino romano (yum!), and seaweed. But its not overwhelming. Its three steps and maybe five ingredients to make something simple and delicious. It says "cooking isn't hard". There isn't a blueprint for the dish, as there are in most cooking articles or cookbooks. Rather, there is a general guideline. Not a road map, but a local's oral directions to your destination.

What made him stick out in my mind as the kind of person I'd like to be is found in a video on He's making an "impromptu"(!) vinaigrette, and is squeezing lemon juice. He looks up and says, and I'm paraphrasing, 'you dont need a strainer or anything to catch the seeds. Just squeeze the juice right through your hands. Its simple, and it works'. To me this says don't waste your time, don't waste your money, take a simple approach to things. In a sense, it is a moment in which the entirety of the Minimalist aesthetic unfolds.

Friday, July 11, 2008


I spent three days in CT recently, and the drive back recharged my batteries for topics on which I'd like to write. I'm listing them here, because I have the long term memory of Dory from Finding Nemo.

You know, that one.

So here is a list of topics on which I'm considering writing! Feel free to contribute in the comments section if there are topics about which you would like me to write.

In no particular order:
5 Men I Want To Be
Noticing a distinct lack of male role models in my adult life, as well as part of my quest towards self improvement, I'm going to be looking out for people I'd want to 'grow up' to be. This may be a tag that I incorporate, or it may be one blog post.
Perception Vs. Reality
A concept that a close friend and I have discussed at length, presented here through politics,, and facebook.
Self Interest
Not because I am self interested (or is it just that I find myself interesting), but the ways in which we work against our self interest, and why. When does it serve us, when does it establish identity, and when is it just stupid?
Personal Updates and My Life
Lets face it-- my opinions are long. More interesting are the things that happen to me and then things that I make happen. This is why I like reading Mary's blog,, and if I can get my writing up to her level, then I'll feel good about myself. :-)

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Worcester Nights

I've been having a great week.

Worcester held its Fourth of July festivities on the 3rd, so Dan, Bridget, and I took a cab down to the park on Shrewsbury Street to catch the half an hour long show. I have to say, I was really impressed with the fireworks. Back home, the fireworks are the biggest event of the year-- we get all 50,000 people down on 8 miles of beach for a fireworks spectacular. While Worcester certainly didn't capture the same feelings as the West Haven fireworks, which are such an integral part of my childhood and adolescence, the show was monumentally better. The Boston Symphony played us through the show like champs, and the children behind us in the crowd were an absolute riot. Each time a firework went off, they would scream "ooh yea! WOOH!"

After the show, and the obligatory acknowledgment that fireworks were invented in China (God bless China, land where my shit comes from), we headed out for a mini pub crawl. The night started at Mezcal with a pitcher of margaritas. The drinks were a little weak, but the company was stellar. The people watching was also incredible--playing the "those pants are so ugly" game is never so rewarding as when the contestants are in ear shot.

Post Mezcal, we wandered up to Funky Murphys, which is much like a smaller version of Nikita in New Haven. Same kind of "My New Haircut" crowd. After forcing our way through a crowd of dudes asking "Where are the hot chicks going", we found a place by the wall where we talked about Broadway and Jagerbombs.

We then took a turn down to Algos, which was a much quieter scene (thank god). For most people, the night was winding down. We, however, were not. It was also not a quieter scene once we got there. My apologies to the patrons. I considered serenading the table of girls behind us, but we all figured it was a terrible idea, despite the fact that we might have known them. Hmm.

At this point in the night, its either go home or do something ridiculous. And we've had a few drinks in our collective systems. So we decide to walk the three blocks to Water Street, through a former industrial area and past the train station. When we get there, I accidentally forced us to go to Blu. Thank god we went there.

There was a foam party
and we had no idea when we walked up there

The foam party was, in fact, a shit show. But incredible. We danced with people who were either vastly older or younger than they appeared at first. This was my first real experience with the phenomenon of someone looking MUCH cuter when you drink. The guys dancing next to us were in their 30s, for sure, but I definitely thought they were my age for a while.

The shot boy that night was also hilarious--he was clearly doped up on something, and tried to chat us up. However, I have a strict "you must be wearing pants to hit on me " policy. Tighty whiteys do not cut it. He also had a handshake like a wet fish, and god knows what a turn off THAT is.

Last night was similar, but certainly less storied. I feel like, maybe, I've done the 4th of July correctly this year. Or at least, age appropriately.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Those Pesky Elites

Elite. Its nothing more than a dirty word. People sitting in a country club, cold drinks, big hats, talking stocks and conspiring to run the country. The senator from the great state of Taxachussetts, living off the hard work of the middle class.

The fuss people are getting into over the term elite during this presidential election is absolutely ridiculous, in my opinion. I propose that there are 3 reasons why:

1) Everyone is middle class, so the "elite" are "not like you and me"
2) We equate "elite" with "elitist"
3) To gain any power and run for things like Senate seats or the Presidency, one must ascend to the echelons of the elite.

1) Everyone is Middle Class
This is a concept we discussed in my Feminist Theory course, although I dont remember which theorist or who we read. What I do remember is the concept, which must count for something. What it stated was that some incredible percentage of people believed themselves to be "middle class".... it was something like 70%. This is despite, after polling, their incomes varied incredibly-- from less than $25k/year to over $100k. To me, neither of those figures look particularly "middle class". That looks like a general spectrum of wages from "working class" to "particularly affluent".

There is an article in the Chicago Tribune here that corroborates what I remember specifically from the course. The poll you can take is particularly telling.

So then, if everyone is middle class, then the elite nomenclature is extremely problematic, even if its mostly unfounded. It implies a distinction between "us" and "them" (which I'll talk about more in #2). The 'elite' must be separate and uninterested in what suits 'our' needs. By creating these distinctions, which allows us to distance ourselves and not identify with other groups, we are only creating an unnecessary divide that is not wholly correct and almost entirely useless.

That being said, I think it is extremely important to mention that the whole concept of being "middle class" is based entirely on your surroundings. 'Middle class' for West Haven, CT is different than 'Middle Class' in Reading, MA is different than 'Middle Class' in Appleton, WI. This is important to note, because it means we create such a myopic world view of our own wealth or lack of, and what is normal and what is not.

2)All Elites Are Elitist
I don't know that I can write this post without defining "elite". I don't think I care to, though. The point is that we fear this nebulous, scary, influential specter of elitism. Defining it creates a definite boundary of what is and what is not elite, fencing in what is and is not. Aside from that being completely subjective and based on circumstances, it would enable this fear of an undefinable absolute.

That being said, there is a direct correlation in news reports about candidates being Elites, as though it is a slur. If they are elites, they must be elitist, and must not take the common man seriously. As though all beliefs and actions are predicated on a crazy system of delineation based on tax bracket. By most accounts, John Edwards has ascended to the strata of the elites (this is important later), but no one seems to think of him as such. How is he an elite without being an elite? How is a square not a rectangle? Its because the distinction is entirely baseless and founded on a perhaps contrived perception. And perception creates reality, as we all know.

3)You Have to Ascend to that level

The most striking thing about the whole "elite" brouhaha is that one really HAS to be a so called elite in order to run for office. This means Governors, Senators, high ranking members of the administration. People ascend through the ranks to these levels, circulate in these pools, and then run for office. Your association with this strata of governance makes you an elite, I guess, regardless of your background. Remember John Edwards? Son of a mill worker-- but he's an elite by virtue of his success.

That is perhaps the most frustrating part of this whole thing. People like Barack Obama (and even John McCain and Hillary Clinton, I would argue) legitimately rose through the ranks by virtue of their intellect and tenacity. Their success, regardless of their backgrounds, propelled them to this level. They are still from the kinds of families you and I are from, and one does not simply shed that when you have a title attached to your name.

What is (actually) the most frustrating part is that I would rather have someone who has risen through, who has the skills and qualifications, to be the person running my state/country. I don't want some guy 'just like me' to run the country. I'm not qualified to be president. I'm not even sure I could be mayor of my town. When we elect people who present an air of being the dude from down the street (and thats all presentation, bear this in mind), we get ongoing war, slumping economies, and an erosion of civil liberties. What I find most interesting is that he is the actual elite, in all the examples I have given. He is what the specter of elitism looks like!

My point is that we must look past pretense and presentation to the heart of the candidate and the concern. Who has the brains, who has the right answers, rather than "who presents themselves in a way I like". Arugula never killed anyone--bad choices over 8 years have.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Power of the Purse

I didn't intend for this to be my "Vegan Starbucks Pre-Grad Student" blog. Of course, it’s inevitable that WOULD be what happened here. After all, I'm writing about the world around me and the things that impact what I'm doing. What blessedly small percentage of our thoughts are not based in our immediate interest and focused on ourselves and our benefit?

Even writing that, it makes me realize that I should really bear that in mind when I judge self involved customers, people on the street, students in class, etc forever. I'm as self interested as you, as self interested as them. I'm sure there is a conversation about the expression of self interest that I'd LOVE to have brewing somewhere inside me, but that’s not my post today. Although, keeping with that theme, I can almost guarantee that it’s going to be based off an entitled Starbucks patron. After all, that is where my self interest lies—or at least, where from where the rent check is born.

Instead, I wanted to talk a little about the power of the purse.

It’s a phrase to which I was most intimately introduced in AP European History, although I will be the first to admit that I do not remember many of the particulars of the course. The concept, though, is that one group can influence another group’s actions by virtue of cash flow. In that context, it involved the levying of taxes exclusively by Parliament, which limited the power of the monarchy. I'll have to get Mrs. Grosshuesch to start reading this and explain further. Perhaps a king suspended parliament in an attempt to gain leverage? Perhaps....? Mrs G, where you at?!

I started thinking about the power of the purse on the train ride home from Boston today. If you could increase the number of commuters between the cities (or surrounding areas) that used the rails, we could lower costs and decrease our dependence on cars. You know, speak with our wallets. Pipe dreams, I guess. But perhaps this is doable? I was just thinking about what it would look like for my [former] faculty adviser to take the train from Newton to Worcester on the 3 or 4 days a week that she works. How many other Elli Crockers are there out there? Maybe she and Tim Murdoch could share a cab to campus from the train station?

This all got me thinking. When I exited the train, my line of sight was straight down the street where I work. The distance between the train station and my Starbucks has been described on more than one occasion as "walkable". So there was a twinge of regret that I couldn't just walk to work from there.

I had parked overnight at the train station, and really, I could have walked to Union Station. I've done it before--its about a 10-15 minute walk. Why had I driven? I think it had been justified with running errands before I left, so that I could have more leisure time to goof off and read And so, I'd have to gas up sooner. That puts money in the pockets of the oil companies, investing in a system that I do not support in principle, but in practice. Oh, $4 gas is still buyable, damn it! 3.99?! A STEAL!

It also made me think about how Worcester is a pretty walkable city for me in the summer. Everything I need is within 3 miles, and that’s less than an hour walk. Before I had my car, that was nothing. I remember walking to my best friend's house one day, for the hell of it, who lived down the beach practically in the next town. Or, in 7th grade, walking 4 miles from school with my bass clarinet. Granted, that happened because I missed the bus. Still though, I had done it.

The simple act of riding the train made me wonder how I'm using my money, and whether I should really put it where my mouth is. So, my goal is to research alternate travel options for the next time I have to get home. How much is a train to New Haven? I know I can just jump the J bus from the Union Station in New Haven and end up on my block. The question is, will I? Will any of us?

Perhaps that is the hidden benefit of rising gas prices: they make other forms of transportation more cost effective than driving. Shelling out bigger bucks for the train, as that begins to equal the cost of a a tank of gas, will help drive down costs in general for train transit, which will (in my mind) drive up train ridership in less urban areas as a method of choice.

The alternate power of the purse, of course, is the power it has over you, and the way we make decisions based on the contents of our wallets, as though that is totally representative of our self interest. For example, the cost of a round trip ticket from Boston to New Haven is $82 on Amtrak, $63 on Peter Pan. It would still only cost me about $40 in gas to drive home. I'll have to do some soul searching next time I want to head back, and try to figure out if maybe I should just find a ride share.

The competing powers of the purse.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Night Before...

To most people, it comes as no surprise that after heavy drinking, my best friends are often my cell phone and my computer. By best friends, of course, I mean the agents of massive embarrassment.

I remember most of what happened last night, so I'm in good shape on that front. I didn't get stabbed, sleep with someone I picked up at Moynihans, or otherwise put my life in danger. I didn't sleep with my roommate or her dog, although there was a period of time where I did crawl up on her bed in a semi seductive way. Things happen. That didn't.

What did happen was that I fixed myself a vodka tonic at home, at which point Jenn says that we're going to the bar. So we head down, have a few beers and play some pool. Its a generally pleasant time. Some other friends come by, and we head over to a booth. The conversation, which I remember as hilarious, involves pornography and asking the married guy we were hanging out with about he and his wife watching porn.

After all this, Jenn and I walked home. When we got there, I fire up my computer-- obviously a good choice-- and so the night really begins.

The thing I'm most proud of is probably when I drunk emailed Hillary Clinton. I'm laughing out loud right now as I type it, because that is just so ridiculous. From what I remember, it was a very sweet note about how she made me want to run for congress. I alluded to the fact that she might run for president again, but it might have just sounded like I was drunk and uninformed. I don't remember, and she hasn't emailed me back. I guess I'm probably safe. Even still, now I know that about myself: that I'm the kind of person who drunk emails Hillary Clinton.

I also know that I texted Mark, my ex from a few years back, asking what kind of pornography we'd watch if we were still together. It was not straight porn, which made me question why we wouldn't have been more adventurous. I think he and I could have gotten into it. This is around the time when someone said "Women never look like they're having a good time in straight porn. When its two girls, they are always having fun". My apologies to Mark-- not only for always doing shit like this, but also for making it seem like I'm not over you. Oh, and for texting you saying that "I want to dutch oven you".

All in all, it wasn't too destructive an evening. I know I've done worse. Although, Hillary Clinton definitely takes the cake. Also, I can't stop typing that as "Hillary Clintron". Like she is a transformer or something.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Open Letter to Barack Obama

Dear Mr. Obama,

I did not vote for you in the Massachusetts primary. As one of the many ‘jilted Hillary supporters’ who ‘might turn towards McCain’ as our presidential candidate of choice, I feel like you owe me a favor or two. Perhaps you owe me as many as I can list below. After all, my drastically shifting political allegiances just might win you the presidency.

Pick a Damned VP

Yes, I get it. You’re ‘vetting’ your potential second in command. You’re vetting the people who are vetting. You might have even personally vetted those vetters. It has been going on for days, and I’m finding it hard to concentrate on the other things in my life. Seriously. I haven’t done a load of laundry in a month, because you might announce your candidate. Midnight seems like a perfectly feasible time for you to release your choice—it’s still in time for the 6pm news in Hawaii. MSNBC was running a bracket on potential candidates for the number 2 spot, and I would currently be watching the analysis again for this week if it weren’t for Tim Russert getting vetted from life by a cardiovascular disease. (Too soon?)

Yes, it’s a big choice, but surely you’ve had enough time. My suggestion for this round of fundraisers with Sen. Clinton should proceed as follows: You stage a vaudeville style conversation with Hillary Clinton, trading jabs and jest. It continues on, but softens. One of you starts the song and dance routine, and the other chimes in. There is a little soft shoe, about 3 minutes of song, and then a sign gets lowered from the top of the stage, announcing Obama/Clinton ’08.

If that is too cheesy, might I also suggest a puppet show with General Clark as a smart mouthed ventriloquists dummy, or tape recording the speech you meant to give, lip synched by either John Edwards or Kathleen Sebelius?

At this point in my CNN addiction though, I imagine the only thing that will satisfy me is a performance of “Seasons of Love” by your entire cabinet at the Democratic National Convention. You’re going to play Mark, so I suggest Taye Diggs for Secretary of Defense. Janet Reno can reprise her role as Attorney General—you’re gonna need an Angel.

Tough Leadership

One of the few things that really endeared me to you was that, during the massive primary debates, back when there were 8 or 9 contenders, you made a comment about social programs. You said that you wanted to increase spending for some program, but wanted the American people to have no illusions about the fact that yes, that would require raising taxes. It was so…. Real. It was like looking someone in the face and saying “yeah, we’re going to have to tighten our belts a little to get what we want. So you’re just going to have to suck it up or vote for someone else.” To me, that best summed up your manifesto of change. You addressed the American people like a community with the same ideals who might get together for a charity pot luck to save Social Security.

Something I’ve noticed is that leadership means sometimes painting with a large brush, and often it means dripping paint on the floor. The large brush, though, is What Is Best For The Country. The floor is often people’s personal interests. The paint itself is probably mauve.

Thomas Friedman wrote this article about Bush’s current oil addicted energy ‘policy’. At the bottom he outlines an intensive plan for what might be best for the nation, albeit setting gas prices at a baseline of some god forsaken amount. Is that against my personal interests? Yes. Absolutely. The less money I spend on gas, the more money I can spend on booze. However, it might just be what’s Best For The Country. So I’ll suck it up.
My point, is that you’re going to need to be tough and make some unpopular statements and choices as president. You’re going to have to talk to Ahmadinejad, set a tough energy policy, and maybe keep troops in Iraq longer than you planned. Maybe you’ll redirect a troop surge into Afghanistan and try to stabilize the region and find Osama Bin Laden. Maybe you’ll have to say “you know, the concept of educational accountability is great, but not the way it works right now. We need an overhaul that stimulates students in more than science, reading, and math. You can’t totally quantify critical and creative thinking”.


-Campaign song—Barack Obama f. Tupac: Changes, the Remix
-A solemn vow that you’ll never let your daughters get photographed if they ever look as awkward as Chelsea Clinton
-A B.J. (submitted by Jenn B.)

Now, I’m not saying that I won’t vote for you in November if the following demands are not met, but do you really want to take that chance?



Friday, June 20, 2008

Am I a Vegan Yet?

For the past few days, I've been trying to phase egg, cheese, and milk out of my life.

Until yesterday, I was pretty convinced that I couldn't do it, for a variety of reasons. Mainly, because I live off milk. America runs on Dunkins, but I run on whole milk iced caramel macchiattos. 2 or 3 a day when I'm working, actually. It is not a beverage, it is a nectar given forth from the gods. Lo, and it is delicious.

Then, there is the issue of sampling food at work. Everything is milky/eggy/has butter in the name, and its been a challenge to not just pick up a slice of that blueberry coffee cake and gulp it down like a goose: no chewing, just straight down to the gullet for digestion.

Most of the problem is the compulsiveness of my snacking at work. Any chips that I've spilled on the counter are an instant fudgy treat. I'll make cream steamers to sample new syrups without thinking. Once I get the treat into my mouth, I think "Shit, milk!" And then its already in my mouth, and I'm not about to spit chocolate chips out in front of customers. Especially because any time I try to spit anything out gracefully, I end up dribbling for a good 30 seconds. Radical.

Compounding this issue is the fact that I am deathly allergic to soy milk. I dont know what it is, but there is something in soy milk that makes my brain fizz over, my sinuses rupture, and my throat grow a thick winter coat of fur. Its not in other soy products, thank god, but just the soy milk. So, that limits my intake of lattes significantly. Significantly, here, meaning to 0.

The past two days, however, have been much different. Something clicked in my head, and I've been more aware of my snacking at work. Part of this is probably just mindfulness. Having those thoughts in my mind, that I need to be aware of food contents has helped curb the habit. Aside from that, I've also started sampling new drinks for work. My favorite so far has been the "Green Tea Americano". Basically, its a green tea latte (matcha powder, pumps of melon syrup, and hot water. Its sweet and green and tastes like a garden of delights.

I've also found stores in the area that carry rice milk, and am discovering the joys of tofutti, a soy based ice cream. By discovering the joys of tofutti, I mean gorging to the point of stomach sickness on this delicious ice creamy dessert.

So, for now, I'm eating up the rest of my milk and cheese and eggs. I'm excited for the day when I don't have animal products in my fridge, and I can start feeling superior to you in a more complete way. :-)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What Does Your Drink Say About You?

The more I work at Starbucks, the more I begin to notice trends in drinks. Certain people order certain drinks. Now, far be it from me to categorize--after all, categorizing is NOT something I'll do here. However, I've noticed that I cannot help but notice class distinctions, knowledge of cafe culture, and they way people want to present themselves based on the beverages they drink.

Some of these categories are unfair, some are extremely judgmental, and most showcase the breadth of my dissatisfaction with what I'm doing this summer. Most of this is just for fun, because obviously you cant put all people into one category. There is, however, a nugget of truth in each of these. So a short list, for your reading pleasure:

Vanilla Latte--Usually 30+ women with some extra money, but don't expect a tip. Generally polished looking, maybe a little impatient. Have kids named Jake and Madison. With non-fat, skinny, or 3 pump drinks, you can almost watch their net income rise.

Bone Dry Cappuccino-- I can tell before they come to the window that my customer is going to be a rail thin woman with loads of extra money. They tend to be really sweet though, even when they send back their drinks. I generally hate high maintainence customers, but bone dry cappuccino people are generally okay types.

Soy Chai Latte-- No one thinks you're cool because you order a drink with soy. In fact, ordering a soy chai makes you sound like a douchebag. I don't know why, and I dont know why all soy drinkers are chai drinkers, but god almighty. Like a horse and cart, they are. The pretense abounds.
--- addendum on soy: Soy happens for legitimate health reasons, choices in eating, etc. Soy doesn't automatically make you a d-bag.

Tea-- Tea drinkers generally know what they want and how they want it, in an unassuming and pleasant way. They don't have a shit ton of pretense about what they're buying, either. Often the same with iced tea drinkers, although that is completely not the case if you get milk in your sweetened iced tea YOU CRAZY SON OF A BITCH.

Black Coffee-- Generally 35+ men, generally lower class (although, its really a classless drink). Generally will tip, probably because they didn't just spend $4 on their beverage. Not a picky crowd, and they keep the lines moving fast. I like them.

Caramel Drinks (non Macchiato)-- I don't know what it is about caramel, but its the favorite of lower class customers. Maybe its the mcdonalds coffee, maybe its the dunkins push with caramel. I dont know. All I know is, caramel is a delicious treat, that most find redonkulously too sweet.

Caramel Macchiato-- This is the "in between" drink. Lots of college students like this, because its sweet without being a frappuccino. Its between a vanilla latte and a caramel drink (see above). Its espresso on the top, so you can choose how you want to drink it. If you're drinking a caramel macchiato, try to do some soul searching and find out who you are.

Monday, June 16, 2008

On Eating Meat, June 16th 2008

For about 15 months, I was a practicing vegetarian.

Let me break down what I mean first, because I think there is a lot to say about my practicing.

When I say practicing, I don't mean how a doctor practices medicine. I mean in the way that I tried. I practiced. It was a way of living, but not a way of life. I generally did not buy or eat meat. If it was served at a family meal (which I attended mainly at special occasions), then I would eat it without remorse. Partially to keep peace with my family, but also as a result of my motives for 'practicing'. Of course, practice makes perfect, and we practice because we are not perfect. I slipped up from time to time, or made conscious decisions in times of stress. After finals my junior year, I planned on and deliberately went to KFC for some breaded chicken deliciousness-- the result of which was particularly disappointing. Who would have thought that KFC tastes like spicy death?

This weekend, I was home for Father's Day. As part of the festivities, we had steak and veggies. I obliged, eating a small serving of steak. On an unrelated aside, it was very close to smaller than the 4 oz. recommended meal sized serving. I didn't feel too badly about it at the time. Reduced usage still reduces the fiscal payback to large farms. I was still mainly vegetarian, and planned on resuming the practice when I came back to Worcester.

Two events occurred over the weekend, though, that reaffirmed my need to avoid meat. They were also potentially enough to help me shake off animal products in general, lest they are certifiably cruelty free. They are, in this order:

This video is one of the many "factory farms are cruel to animals" films that are out there in the internet ether. I had seen some of the anti-foie gras sites and anti fur videos, but never had I realized the depth and scope of the cruelty involved in products that are relevant to almost everyone's daily life. Our dinners are served on bloody plates: tainted by the wanton cruelty towards animals for profit and our consumption. Even a glass of milk is suspect, and perhaps as terrible as veal. In fact, it enables veal. Pigs, which are intelligent creatures capable of the same kind of cognitive processes of three year olds (according to this site) are disemboweled alive.

I'm put in a tough moral place with this kind of knowledge. Obviously, meat is a part of a human's natural diet... but does engaging in that need at the cruel expense of the animals justify our place in the food chain?

Also, I am deathly allergic to soy milk and have heard rice milk contains known carcinogens. So my moral dilemma also encompasses the question of "what do I put in my coffee and cereal"?

2) Lobster
I was unable to make it home for Mother's day, so I decided to surprise my mother with her favorite meal: Boiled lobster.

Now, again, I try not to eat meat, but generally didn't feel guilty when I did partake. Perhaps that is because there is a distinct emotional disconnect between buying a shapeless slab of meat or piece of bacon, and actually killing your meal to eat. But, like a good son, I boiled the water, set the lobsters up, and dropped them in to their deaths. Unlike some, I did not deprive myself the responsibility of watching the result of my actions. They clearly knew that they were fucked, could feel it, and suffered. As they turned bright red, I felt so extremely guilty. So I put the cover on the top of the pot, and walked into the other room to pet my mother's cats. It struck me that what I had done was in some ways no different than stuffing my cat into the oven for dinner. The only difference was that people don't generally eat cats-- but they do eat crustaceans. Social norms made it okay to boil these bug-fish alive.

I felt terrible for the next eight minutes, then plated them up with what I thought of as a brave resolve. My mother had set the table outside, so we carried the carcasses outside with a side of mashed red potatoes (which I will serve at my wedding, when I find the guy). Rending the tail from the body, I looked inside and saw what appeared to be green sludge. My mother tells me that it meant that both of the lobsters were pregnant. It took a great emotional resolve to choke down the meal... but delicious emotional resolve smothered in real butter.

I'm still feeling a little queasy from the meal, probably from the emotions and not the lobster itself. What I have decided, though, from all this, is that I have a responsibility to reduce/remove animal products from my diet wholly and for better reasons than "it was something fun to try for 15 months".