i have a question...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Best of 2009

It's time for the THIRD annual [clever title] Best of List!!

BOOKS
A Director Prepares by Anne Bogart
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
August: Osage County by Tracy Letts
The Passion by Jeannette Winterson

MOVIES
Revolutionary Road
Up
The Hangover
17 Again
Away We Go
(Desperately want to see: Precious, Brothers, Up in the Air, Fantastic Mr. Fox.)

MUSIC
“Halo” by Beyonce
“My Life Would Suck Without You” by Kelly Clarkson
“Grounds for Divorce” by Elbow
Relapse by Eminem
“Use Somebody” by Kings of Leon
The Fame and The Fame Monster by Lady Gaga, especially “Bad Romance”
"Happy Ending” by Mika
Riot! by Paramore, especially “crushcrushcrush”

THEATER
August: Osage County
In the Heights
Endgame at ART

Stay tuned for adventures in 2010, including:
my last semester of graduate school,
graduation from graduate school,
my return to my summer gig,
my first year of employment with a Master's degree and teaching license!

Happy New Year! Thank you for reading!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Word of the Day, vol. X

Word of the Day: ALCOHOL: a Post in Factoids

Number of times I got drunk before I turned 21: 1

Substance I got drunk off of in that instance: Raspberry Smirnoff Vodka

Place I consumed said substance: the Substance-Free Dorm I lived in at college

Number of drinks I consumed on my 21st birthday: 0

Number of fires I put out on my 21st birthday: 1

What S and I lived off of during our nine-day trip to NYC when we were 22: Trader Joe’s Oriental Rice Crackers, omelettes, and alcohol

Number of men over 40 I have kissed while intoxicated: 1, that I know of

Regrets I had while hungover after said kiss: Many

Number of shots I consumed during about 90 minutes on New Year’s Eve 2005: 7

Number of seconds I blacked out on New Year’s Eve 2005: just a few

Time I passed out on New Year’s Day 2006: 12:05 AM

Number of bottles of wine I consumed the night before MTEL review: 1

Number of times I’ve been to an MTEL review still drunk: 1

Number of times I sang a song while intoxicated on New Year’s Eve 2008: countless

Time I passed out on New Year’s Day 2009: 4ish

Time I woke up on New Year’s Day 2009: 8ish

Hours it took me to get out of bed that day, threatening that if anyone touched me I’d throw up: 2

Number of times I’ve thrown up from alcohol: 0

Number of times I’ve consumed alcohol from a McDonald’s cup: 1

Combination of beverage in said cup: Root beer vodka and Diet Coke

Number of days in a row I was drunk over Thanksgiving: 3

Number of days in a row I plan to be drunk on Christmas: 2

Number of days in a row I plan to be drunk while in CA for New Year's: 5

Thursday, December 17, 2009

LOLing at the office

(discussing baby names)
me: you're "serious" about rhyme?
why would you be "serious" about rhyme?
S: i think it's actually a good name!
for a little black child of a famous performer
me: you're insane.
well
S: hahahaa
me: get on it.
S: finding a famous black performer to knock me up?
it's probably not that hard
...
me: gross
gross
i thought YOU were the famous performer
and babydaddy is black
S: hahahaha
i don't know
at this rate i don't think i'm
going to be famous
so i leave it to the father to be both famous and black
me: that's a lot of pressure!
S: this is hilarious
me: i love how sometimes you act like you wanna be a trophy wife
S: i would totally marry someone rich! i don't think i could be a trophy wife though
i'm not pretty enough
and i don't want to get a boob job and such
me: well marrying someone rich is one thing but marrying someone because he's rich is another
S: well, i just think that rhyme can't be the name if he's just a regular kid
it has to be a famous person's kid
you know, so he can play with apple and moses
me: right
and coco
and bluebell
S: exactly
me: and bronx
and moxie
and pilot
S: i really thought you wrote blueball
ahhaahahaha
who is named bluebell???
me: and jermajesty
geri halliwell's kid
S: jermajesty would totally play with rhyme
jermajesty can BABYSIT rhyme
me: LOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL
that is hilarious
oh my god

Thursday, December 3, 2009

dude, where did the year go?

Has anyone else noticed how INSANELY QUICKLY this fall has gone? Or how INSANELY BUSY these last few weeks have been? It can't be just me.

There are officially two weeks until my production goes up. And 19 days until my semester is officially over.

My three brains are spinning; let's take a moment to reflect on how:

Work Brain: RM has also been INSANELY BUSY, and when I'm at work I am juggling emails and special events and her incredibly full calendar. Her spring is going to be ridiculous, with a special event in January, a full production she is directing in March, and the two classes she will be teaching here. Plus, she has been doing a ton of traveling, and she's on like 800 committees. The woman can't say no.

Class Brain: I have a final paper due in less than two weeks. I've got the format and the subject of it but have no idea how to begin or what exactly the content will be. Needless to say, this is sort of taking a backseat to my...

Director Brain: I keep thinking that things will settle down but there are 10 people in my cast, which makes it essentially impossible to get everyone in one room together at one time. Not to mention the fact that we've been rehearsing in a hallway for months, which, actually is pretty normal in my experience. I spent this week and last scrambling to find a "versatile and unconventional" space to put up this conceptually site-specific piece. This has proved much more challenging than I anticipated, so, of course, I've had to and am willing to compromise. Today is the first time that I've gotten any confirmation that we might actually have a space. This brings me some relief.

As does the fact that I'm taking tomorrow completely off. Except for maybe trying to write my final. And sending out scheduling emails. And probably doing lots of other responsible things.

Whew.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

I'd buy this album.

I can't believe I haven't met him yet. I'm totally friends with good friends of his.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I am a Pop Culture Genius, vol. IX: The Dark (Dumpling) Knight edition

Last night was DUMPLING NIGHT at the cousins' house. It is their tradition to make ridiculously amazing dumplings FROM SCRATCH! So I drank red wine and photographed the activities, then ate my weight in pork-shrimp dumplings.

By the time we sat down to eat, I was drunk, and The Dark Knight was on TV. I know, I know. It's been AGES since my last Pop Culture post!

I recognized this guy who is neither Russian, though he was playing a Russian thug in The Dark Knight, nor Scottish, though he played Trey's Scottish cousin Caleb in the episode of Sex and the City where Charlotte and Trey get married.

I also recognized her playing Commissioner Gordon's wife. She also played Bobbie Barrett, the wife of the obnoxious Utz spokesman, on Mad Men. She was part of Mad Men's Top Ten Shocking Moments, apparently.

Some day soon I will give you an update on the craziness of this semester. Alas, that is not today.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Insane.

Death-defying?

Word of the Day, vol. IX

Word of the Day: CLOTHES

There are moments in my life when I physically feel it changing. It’s like something shifts into place again or a chord is struck within. This happened a lot when I was living in Apartment 8. I could sit and look around and realize how much work I had put into the person that I was, the person that I was becoming. These friends that I had met, this home I had created, this art I was making. It all felt so different from what I had ever experienced. Better than what I’d expected life could be like.

My relationship with clothes is volatile. Because it’s so much about my relationship with my body. And I’m only recently just beginning to really figure out how to live in this one.

I guess I can look back and realize that I spent a lot of time hiding in my clothes. High school was tough because I was the New Kid all four years. I didn’t know how to make anyone see me in the ways I wanted them to. I was just trying to get out of my house and the small town I saw so many people get stuck in. I rarely thought twice about “what I looked like,” because I always asserted that I wanted people to accept and want me for more than that. It was a preemptive strike. I beat people to the punch by putting on clothes that made me disappear. They weren’t noticing me anyway, I proclaimed.

In college, I lived with people who were consumed with their outer appearances in ways I actually resented. We all know how much I love S, but it still boggles my mind that a casual outfit to her is fitted jeans, a detailed blouse, and low heels. In college, when I was throwing on frayed jeans, polo shirts in sizes too big, and running shoes, this made me feel incredibly inadequate and unnoticed.

I hated shopping because I could never find things that fit and I never had any money, but one day during winter break, my friends dragged me to San Francisco where I spent literally eight hours in fitting rooms, while clothes were piled up and thrown at me to try on. I spent my entire budget of $500 on a new wardrobe and the rest of the night sobbing that I didn’t know how to let go of the old me. It was a full-on breakdown, one that scared me and my friends. It felt intensely scary and risky to try to have people see a me I didn’t know was ready to come out yet. And incredibly sad to realize that, in a lot of ways, I didn’t think I deserved to feel like a better version of myself.

As I started regularly wearing clothes that really fit me and began learning how to shop for myself, I slowly began to realize that feeling good about one’s self on the outside does trickle in to what’s going on inside. It doesn’t have to happen every day, and it doesn’t have to be a lot of work. It’s important for me to dress the body I have because those clothes are the most flattering anyway. And it’s amazing what finding the perfect pair of boots or a really amazing blazer does for one’s self-esteem. I can’t deny that.

Last weekend, I attended a party alone. It was a pretty low-maintenance grad school gathering, but I dressed up because it finally feels like fall, and I did just purchase a fantastic pair of boots. I threw them on with black tights, a black and white plaid skirt, and a royal blue sweater. As I was getting ready to leave my house, I felt a hearkening back to physically feeling my life change.

It was like my body realized how much further I have come. Realizes again how much work I’ve put into the person I am, the person I’m becoming.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Word of the Day, vol.VIII

Word of the Day: TRAVEL

Until I was 20, my passport picture was of me as an infant. I look miserable, like I am sick AND just woke up from a nap. I got a passport as an infant because my family lived in the Netherlands for a year then. We were there long enough for me to start speaking in both English and Dutch. It’s part of the family lore that my brother and I would jabber away in Dutch, to the utter confusion of our mom. The other standard story is that we got caught in a rock slide there. Obviously, I remember none of this.

I do remember spending a family vacation in Florida once and being sorely disappointed that we didn’t visit any sites, just stayed in our hotel and by the beach. Sea World? No. Disneyworld? No way. Miami Beach? Nope. We might have gone to exactly one zoo.

I’ve never done the tourist trap things in Los Angeles, even though I feel like I always plan to.

I’ve been to Disneyland exactly three times. The first time was when I was probably under 5. One of my first memories is the Small World ride. I went again as a high school senior for Grad Night and had, what I understood later to be, a panic attack on the crowded line to Pirates of the Caribbean ride. I went again with friends in college and we spent 11 hours there, riding the Winnie the Pooh ride several times in a row for no other reason than that there was no line, at the end of the night.

I didn’t travel out of the country again or get a new passport until I was a junior in college and spent the summer in London. It was a magical summer, full of revelations about living on my own, feeling like a woman, like an actress. Seeing thirteen plays in four weeks. Learning dialects that I teach now. Doing some of the best acting I’ve ever done in my life. I always say that if I could afford it, I’d move to London in a second.

I spent a tense Thanksgiving in Portland, Oregon one year, cooking because it didn't seem like anyone else would. And a lovely week in summer there another, when my brother and I had an amazing time at the local zoo and played a lot of Guitar Hero.

Honestly, though, I hate traveling. I hate airports. I hate flying. I hate couch-hopping. I hate spending so much money. I hate being away from my own space, my own things. I have a hard time being on other people’s schedules or visiting places where I have a ton of people to see and feeling like I’m performing for them and them for me for days.

S is probably the only person I’m really good at traveling with. We realized this when we traveled to NYC before moving there and consumed only alcohol and Trader Joe’s oriental rice crackers for nine days straight.

I think I don’t like traveling because it makes me feel displaced. Traveling feels too much like moving and I’ve certainly done enough of that for two lifetimes.

Still, some of the best family memories I have are when we would all travel to my mother’s family’s hometown in upstate New York. For years in a row, we would have large family reunions there. Reunions that I was too young to resent or be bored or stressed at. I would bunk with my cousin, dress up for large dinners, play games late into the night, sit in the sun, swim in waterfalls. One summer, my mom, her sister, my brother, and two of three cousins stayed in a house by a lake and we’d fall asleep to the trains rumbling by and wake up to go swimming first thing. We were all giddy with the safe freedom of those days. We’d float air mattresses into the lake. We’d make up ways to make each other laugh. We’d play Charades and music until the summer heat cooled at night.

I remember that as one of the best times of my whole life.

Is it still considered traveling if it felt like home?

Friday, October 9, 2009

conversations with (a) teacher, special edition

When I graduate in May, I will be receiving a Master's degree as well as a Massachusetts state teaching license. Along with the requirements of my program, I am required to take certain classes, complete a two-part standardized test (both of which I've taken and one of which I've passed--I get results for the second part at the end of this month) and student-teach for 300 hours. The leg work it is taking to find a student-teaching slot in an urban high school, which is where I'd like to work, is consuming a lot of this month.

So at 6:30 this morning (after waking up every hour on the hour starting at 2:30 AM and really just dozing from 5:30 on) I got up to visit a high school in Cambridge. The theater teacher there is notoriously elusive and admittedly reluctant about taking on a student-teacher, but I think my persistence will pay off. I spent the morning with her, observing her introductory and advanced theater classes.

She begins each class with a check-in where each kid states a word or phrase describinghow he/she is doing that morning. She also has a large packet from which she asks thought-provoking questions that each student must answer, taking time to let them air their grievances or chat about changes they would make or stories they have to tell.

The beginning class is doing a unit on pantomime, so they spend the day doing physical exercises and engaging with imaginary objects. I was incredibly impressed with these beginning students' commitment, senses of humor, and general enthusiasm. She has obviously created an incredible environment, where the kids trust her and where her care and concern for them is evident.

The advanced acting class started with a totally casual chat and ended with them presenting the two-person scenes they have been working on in a playwriting unit. These texts were nuanced, deep, thoughtfully written, and generally solidly acted. I was so impressed and enthralled.

When one of her beginning students was leaving the class, after he had convincingly pantomimed a lizard crawling into his jacket, she said, "Be safe this weekend and remember your future is in theater." It broke my heart.

It made me think of something one of my professors says, that there are people on the planet because of her. And that there are only so many professions where that can be said.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

i'm glad we agree on these things

S: i am a very patient person, but i am not cleaning up your vomit
me: um
no
unless you gave birth to him
S: EXACTLY
me: which you didn't.
although
to be fair
i've cleaned up your vomit
and i didn't give birth to you
S: true that
i would clean up yours
me: holla!
S: holla!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

controlling what i can while i can

I just spent a good half-hour, while Sex and the City played on my laptop, strategizing both what I will eat and wear for the rest of the week.

This is instead of doing any actual work, which I feel like putting off while I still have time to.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

countdown to graduation starts...now

It's my second week of school. And, normally, that would mean I'm sort of squeaking into the routine of the semester. This semester, however, is a little wonky because I'm only taking one class, working more hours than usual on campus to accrue them for when I student-teach next semester, and beginning work on my directed study.

I've only been on campus four times in the last nine days and only spent 3 1/2 hours in a classroom in that time. It's weird and slightly uninspiring to be in a classroom again, which SHOCKS me because we all know how much I love and adore school. I can't tell if I'm just disoriented because my summer was so long and frenzied or if I'm really just ready for the next step. The Real World, as it were. The Next Steps.

I had auditions for my project Monday and yesterday and they ended up better than I expected. There are a ton of auditions going on right now and I ended up talking the project up and getting some random people to audition. Now, I need to make sure they actually want to work on this project with me, and I might actually have a respectable, eager cast.

Mostly, it feels a little bit like I'm going through the motions instead of plowing ahead with enthusiasm and excitement, like I felt like I've always done during the first weeks of a new semester.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Word of the Day, vol. VII

Word of the Day: HEARTBREAK
The first year I went to sleep-away camp, I turned eight on the very first day. This made me the youngest camper in the whole camp, which was made up of both boys and girls who were mostly from Pennsylvania and New York and ranged in age from eight to fourteen. Campers could attend one or two two-week sessions, and I remember being sorely disappointed at the end of every summer break. Camp life was always much easier and more magical than real life. I spent seven summers there, turning fourteen before my graduating year.

I don’t remember which year I met Dave (and yes, I totally remember his name and pretty much exactly what he looked like as a 14-year-old), but I do remember that I developed a very sudden and very intense crush on him. Oh my God, he was so cute. I couldn’t have been older than 10, but somehow, I became the pet of his co-ed friend group, hanging out in the gazebo, where they would spend the free periods locking lips and breathing into each other’s lungs. What they were doing wasn’t exactly kissing, but it was definitely…something. I never participated, just watched with fascination and slight unease.

Every session, there was a dance on Saturday night of the themed weekends. Dances where we would pile into the dining hall, where the long tables and benches where we ate French toast sticks, bug juice, sloppy joes, and chicken nuggets three times a day would be pushed against the walls.

One day, Dave must have said something like, “I’ll see you at the dance.” My brooding, 10-year-old brain interpreted that as an invitation to go to the dance with him. Like, as his date. I must have mentioned this thrilling fact to one of his female friends who, I believe, out of a combination of pity and territoriality, decided to clear up this misunderstanding. Dave, very earnestly and sweetly, broke it to me that he didn’t want to take me as his date but that he did promise me one slow dance. This wasn’t enough, and I literally ran back to my tent and sobbed into my pillow, totally broken-hearted and shocked by how quickly things had changed.

I couldn’t believe that I had misinterpreted him so royally. How embarrassing and how disappointing. I’m sure I refused to go to the dance, positive that I couldn’t show my face at an event where I had already been rejected.

I don’t remember gathering myself up to get ready to go, but I do remember that Dave and I did share a slow dance. He even spent the song shuffling back and forth on his knees, so I could reach my hands around his neck and look into his eyes.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Word of the Day, vol. VI

Word of the Day: PUBERTY
Before leaving for my summer gig, I pulled out the word “puberty” from my word bag. (Thanks again to UL for the inspiration for this exercise.) Then, I spent seven weeks running after newly-post-pubescent people and realized that a) I wouldn’t have time to craft a thoughtful post about puberty and b) I was grateful that I am no longer a teenager.

The year I turned 14, I moved across the country. From the only house and city I’d ever known, a place where I had been that kid on the Brooklyn streets, the one that played on the street in the summer until after the sun went down, the one that walked to and from the corner store that she actually believed was called Corner Store to buy Sunkist soda and Sour Powers, the one that navigated the subway alone at a ridiculously early age. I loved growing up in Brooklyn, despite the tumult of my family life at the time. And in 1997, we moved to Cambria, California, a rural tourist town of a little over 6000 people. I entered a high school of under 200 students.

There is no way for me to process my puberty without noting that this move caused a huge shock to my system. In fact, I’m beginning to believe that this huge change is part of the reason that, despite the fact that I am 26, I often feel about 13.

Evidence that I am 13:
a)My mother still pays for my cell phone;
b)My wardrobe consists mostly of solid colored T-shirts and jeans;
c)I wear Converse sneakers or flip flops almost every day. In fact,
d)I don’t own one pair of proper high heels;
e)I have a teddy bear;
f)I’ve never lived alone;
g)I rarely wear makeup. In fact,
h)I only learned how to do my own eye makeup last year, and I’m still not very good at it;
i)A home-cooked meal is heating up a can of soup or making a sandwich.

Some of these points (and others) are reasons why meeting the worldly, mature, beautiful young women I was in charge of this summer totally paralyzed me. These girls terrified me. I felt outnumbered and overwhelmed, certain that they’d all had more experience and knew more things at their age than I did at mine.

It took me a couple weeks to pull myself out of that thinking and realize that they were 16- and 17-year-olds and that that actually meant I had 10 years of life on them. And that I’d been through a lot. Had a lot to offer them, even.

Evidence that I am not, in fact, 13:
a)I have not lived in my parents’ house in 8 years (barring the 8 months I was in CA last year);
b)I have a college degree and am working on a Master’s degree;
c)My work resume has experience on it from my first jobs in college, which I had 7 years ago;
d)Aside from not paying my phone bill, I have been financially independent for four years;
e)I do my own taxes every year;
f)I held down a full-time job for almost three years;
g)All the furniture in my room was not only purchased but was also put together by me.

The trials and tribulations of the teens I was in charge of seemed like things I’d never experienced. Or things I had experienced lifetimes ago. While they were lamenting the fact that they didn’t get on the weekend trip they wanted or obsessing about which teen boy would notice them at the dance, I had to worry about paying my rent and making sure I would have a roommate to sign my lease when I got back to Boston.

I’ve been very zen since getting back. My mantra lately is “no drama,” and I think that’s because I was finally able to experience the kind of teen angst that I was shocked out of experiencing for myself. I have this new sense that things will work out. That worrying over them and perpetuating drama and over-talking and over-thinking things won’t do any good.

It’s all making me finally feel my age.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Exciting celebrity news!

Is it wrong that this makes me ridiculously happy?

Best. Couple. Ever.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Year Ago Today...

I woke up at a ridiculous hour to catch my flights to Phoenix and then Boston.

I totally cried on the way to my tiny plane, telling my mom to "be strong."

I vomited as we landed in Phoenix, the first time I'd been airsick like that in years but chalked it up to nerves.

Landing in Boston, I saw the blue water under us and thought, "I already love it."

I remember the weather being surprisingly perfect. It seemed like a good sign.

So many things happen in a year.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Summer Job, vol. XXX: That Makes It Look Like a Sexy edition. It's Not.

When someone asks me what my summer was like, I will tell them it is the summer I did not sleep. It’s amazing what your body can do when you think it can’t do anymore. It’s also amazing how much your mental and emotional states are linked to your physical state. I have never known exhaustion like I did at the point after I had been roaming around the quad in the rain for two and a half hours and then sat in a cold and breezy archway for an hour and a half one night. Or after napping from midnight to 4:30 AM on the last night the kids were there, to shuffle some to the airport, suffering a sore throat and fearing I’d gotten the dreaded swine! BAJ told us that there is a certain point in sleep deprivation when the body just acts and feels as if it’s drunk. I think we reached that at around week four, after we had been working for two weeks straight between sessions. We would stumble around, barely forming sentences but somehow understanding each other’s grunts and grimaces. Somehow, we were able to laugh at the absurdity of it all. When did my life become walking around in the rain, making sure no kids were making out in dark, dank corners?

Sometimes I think when I am asked about my summer, karaoke will be the first thing that comes to mind. I sang an awful lot of it this summer. Every Wednesday night we had off, I was often the first person on the stage where we sang. I will look back at this summer as the summer of Bonnie Raitt, Annie Lennox, Grease, Sir Mix-a-Lot, and No Doubt. Even as I was beginning to lose my voice last week, I busted out Total Eclipse of the Heart as my final song. I just had to. Besides that, I frequented the karaoke activity that happened for the kids every week. That’s where I debuted my performance of Eminem and sang duets with RL. I had duty during our final days there and he actually assigned me to that activity, he knew I loved it so much. Our standard was Cruisin’, for anyone who’s curious.

Or maybe I’ll mention all the music. The dances where staff seemed to enjoy ourselves more than the kids. The flash dance in sunglasses during one of the hottest afternoons. The outbursts of song to keep our spirits up as we hustled from one repugnant task to another. The random musical references and spontaneous duets.

Maybe I will describe this summer as the Summer the Rains Came. First session, we were very lucky: cool mornings and nights and mild days. I wore sweaters, for God’s sake. Thunderstorms hit once or twice, but they were fast and fun, sending us scampering for cover after dances and duties, hearing the loudest cracks of thunder and seeing the brightest flashes of lightning right outside our windows; it was like we were in the storm! Second session seemed like one big rainstorm: days of downpour that kept us cooped up inside or roaming with umbrellas and wet shoes. The kind of weather where you don’t ever feel completely dry.

Maybe I’ll mention ALL the food first. I’m not saying I miss it, per se, but there’s something really special about our moments in the dining hall, isn’t there? The hot stickiness, the inexplicable two lines, the terrible bottlenecking at the hot food line. The endless carbs: pasta, potatoes at every meal, desserts that we took on the go. Scalding hot cups of tea and coffee that were our lifeblood. I will never understand how some people made such beautiful meals out of roasted vegetables, tomato sauce, French fries, and rolls!

Maybe I’ll tell whoever asks me about this summer about my first session girls. They’ve made themselves siblings on Facebook. Almost four weeks later, they’re still heartbroken at being apart. I was given a ring as a gift when I was first settling into life here in Boston. My friend, PM, told me to give it to a student of mine when I thought it was time. The night before the first session kids left, I decided to give it to one of my Italian girls. I told her the story of it being given to me and that she had to give it away one day as well. She was speechless for the first time I’d seen all session. We’re in touch almost every day now.

Or maybe I’ll mention my second session girls, who seemed to appreciate my kooky sense of humor and thought I was the most energetic RA on campus. Who nearly consistently begrudged every activity we did but eventually came around and worked together with generosity and warmth.

Maybe I’ll tell them about how time was weird there. How we could do so much in 10 minutes. How a day felt like a blink of an eye and a week. Because our days were packed with hours which were packed with minutes which were packed with seconds. We lost track of who we talked to when, where we were at what point. Where we needed to be next. How we needed to grab that 20 minutes of quiet time to nap or scribble notes about tomorrow’s lesson or strategize so the kids didn’t take over.

If someone asks me what my summer was like, I think I’ll mention Trivia Night, where I felt like an actress, a comedienne, a drama teacher all night long, playing four different characters without a moment of self-consciousness as I hosted the game with another staff member, ND. My girls even won third place that night!

Or maybe I’ll mention the surprise success of my 10-minute Shakespearean play activity, where I worked with DD and brainstormed settings and characters and made the kids run around the quad, and we actually put up Romeo and Juliet in seven minutes! Or maybe I’ll mention how I enjoyed that activity so much that I requested to do it the next week…and no one came.

Maybe I’ll mention being a hypewoman with PK at the basketball game. Where I did cartwheels and sang cheers and made kids do the wave. Where I danced with men who were 6’7” and screamed my voice raw and sweat through my orange staff T-shirt, even though we lost. Afterward, my boss told me he had gone to see a basketball game but ended up watching me.

Maybe I'll mention the pride I felt in doing things where I could be the silly, outspoken, unself-conscious version of myself that I found there. Whether it be walking around for half the day with a backpack full of candy, keeping people energized and satisfied through traffic duty or dancing to a drum circle on a free period with abandon.

If someone asks me how my summer was, I’ll tell them it was the summer I ran a classroom alone for the first time. And cried in joy and frustration and awe at what my students were doing, what they were giving me, teaching me, both good and bad.

Or I’ll tell them about that final performance night, where my eyes welled up at the sheer earnestness of the modern dance class and I stood up and cheered for the A Cappella class and watched in absolute astonishment at the genius of the Rock Composition and Stomp classes. How lucky these kids were to have these teachers! I envied them that night.

Or I’ll tell them about that last night. When we took off our orange shirts and lanyards and scrubbed the summer off ourselves and put on real outfits and ate and drank together for the last time and danced on the patio steps until we were weeping and laughing and dripping with sweat. How I just sat on a bench and tried to take in the whole summer. And thought how lucky I am to have met these people and connected with them in this way, even though it was sometimes really hard. Thought about how crazy life is, to put me in a situation in which I met people I never would have in any other time or place. And how magical that is.

Of course, the sad thing is, in real life, it’s impossible to describe all the moments that shaped this experience. As we’re overwhelmed with the realities of rent payments, roommate situations, classes beginning, hometown friends to see, how do you describe seven weeks like those that were shared?

So maybe I’ll just tell them it was the hardest summer of my life. And that I might have to go back next year.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Things That Have Crossed My Mind Since I've Been Home

"My bed is HUGE!"

"Public transportation sounds weird."

"I missed free laundry."

"Oh my God. I'm in the bathroom by myself!"

"I used to have 16-hour workdays, but dammit, I'm proud of myself for doing FIVE WHOLE things today!"

"Where do I keep my jeans in my dresser again?"

"I can take ANOTHER nap? Like, right now?"

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Summer Job, vol. XXIX: the Incoherent edition

I slept from about midnight until 430 am, headed to the airport with six students flying out early, got back to campus around 930 am, slept until noon, ate lunch, cleaned fridges, scraped paint off of stones, took signs down from dorms, and picked up trash until 315 and now will nap again until about 445, when I will shower, buy some booze, get ready for the final staff dinner and then party and relax with the rest of the staff until I imagine I will pass out from exhaustion and maybe even a little inebriation from champagne (I've earned this, dammit!)

But. My job is over. Officially.

I did it.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Summer Job, vol. XXVIII: the Almost There edition

So.

Sometimes I feel like there is some other force pulling me through these days. I've been nursing a sore throat since Tuesday. I am exhausted. Duh. I cried in a meeting yesterday. I'm packing. I survived my last day of classes and the Drama Cafe, where both of my classes performed.

In fact. Dare I say it. The show even went well. They worked together. They had fun. They entertained the audience. The theater fairies definitely visited us today.

And, my clothes are packed. My closet is nearly empty; my dresser top is clear. Only the things I need for the next two days are still out. I've bought my train ticket back to Boston.

I wake up at 430 AM for the first airport duty. That will definitely hurt, but apparently, it's not so bad. There are only six kids we have to make sure get in the air safely, and then, we can head back here to nap until the 1230 staff meeting. I'm sure my body will be confused, but hopefully, I won't ACTUALLY die. I must say, it's discouraging in light of my sickness and UTTER exhaustion. But somehow I'll get through this too.

My head is muddy with this whole experience and my physical state. Hopefully, someday soon I'll be able to reflect back on it clearly and write about it here.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Summer Job, vol. XXVII: the Swine Flu edition

It's happened. We've lost 11 kids and 2 staff members to quarantine due to the flu. What crappy, crappy timing, and the fact that I have a sore throat makes me sad. BUT. I'm almost positive it's just a cold, and, frankly, I'm surprised I haven't gotten sick sooner. I just need to hold out for 3 more days and then I can rest and recuperate and take care of myself. C'mon, body! You can do it!

I definitely see the light at the end of the tunnel. I didn't yesterday, when I had an emergency meeting with DR and he came to assist me in my crazy, unmanageable classroom. I've reached my limit with them and they seemed to notice today, when I just got quiet or ignored the ruckus and continued explaining the day to the kids who were listening. They're like tiny puppies, lying and crawling and mewing all over each other. I've never seen anything like it before, and I'm not sure I ever will again, considering nothing like this would be tolerated in a real school setting. Or anywhere where teachers have any leverage over the kids. Anyway, point is, today went relatively well, which, for me, is a huge triumph.

We're going out for Karaoke Wednesday one more time tonight. Tomorrow, I was requested to help out with the karaoke activity that happens on Thursdays, which makes my whole week. And tomorrow night, I'm on duty and will oversee the end of session clean up and packing that is required of the kids before they can go to the dance. Friday night, I'm off, but because it's the last day of the session, we're required to stay on campus, so I will get my own packing done, I think...

Saturday is the great big departure and move-out day for the whole program and then Saturday night is our end of summer dinner, thank yous, and party. Not sure yet how or when I'll be home on Sunday, but, at this point, I'm counting down the hours...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Summer Job, vol. XXVI: the Impending Final Days edition

Friday was another disaster in class. I went so far as to threaten that we not perform in the final presentation. Why would I let 16 frenetic, chaotic, disrespectful bodies loose in front of an audience EVER? I'm just bracing myself for this final week. Five more days of class with these kids feels like a lot.

The weekend was lovely. Yesterday's day off was nearly perfect. I slept late, showered, ate a great breakfast alone at a nearby cafe/bookstore, talked to S for a long time, deposited my paycheck, did some retail therapy, sat in Starbucks with some coworkers and got some work for the week done, took a nap, ate a good dinner, saw (500) Days of Summer, and had ice cream and sake to end the night.

Today, I was due to attend the Litchfield Jazz Festival as this week's trip, but it turned out that the wet weather would have meant sitting in the rain with 25 kids for hours and it didn't seem like the best idea. So, we ended up going bowling and then to a nearby mall, which struck me as a pretty lame alternative, if what we're trying to do is challenge these kids and introduce them to some culture. BUT. I bought a denim skirt and three tops, so I probably can't complain.

I know how quickly the week will go, and I'm already stressed about packing and figuring out how the hell I'm getting back to Boston. But, first, I have to survive another week.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Summer Job, vol. XXV: the New Day edition

I'm learning all kinds of things about time at this job. You can do so very many things in 10 minutes; it's sort of shocking. Today, for instance, I was running to Walgreens because I'm nearly out of shampoo, conditioner, floss, and lotion, but had a meeting with DR at 4. I was SURE I'd be late, but I wanted to get back to my room to drop my stuff off, grab my water bottle, fill it up, and then head to the meeting. I texted him that I wanted to run back to my room and might be late...but I wasn't. It was weird. A lot can be done in no time.

Anyway, the point is, today was a good day. (A good day here meaning I got through my lesson plans without screaming at anyone, I got a nap, I had good meetings, and I used my free time well.)

I'm trying to take it moment by moment here. The weekend will be another nice break, and I'll be home in 9 days.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Summer Job, vol. XXIV, the Disgruntled edition

I don't know how much of this is fatigue and how much of it is downright discouragement. Sometimes this feels like a crappy job. We have staff meetings every week, where, lately, we've just been scolded at how poorly we're doing, how we're not engaging with the kids, how our energy and focus are low, how we're not ending up where we're supposed to be.

It's frustrating since I'm the kind of worker that, when told something like this once, figures out a way to change what I'm doing and consciously tries to do better. Hearing that we're still, "as a group," not doing what our boss wants us to do doesn't help anyone's morale or motivation. At this point, I think the general consensus is if we had gotten a real break to recharge, mourn, regroup, we'd all be doing far better this session. We are not robots. We cannot connect significantly to anyone or anything 24/7. And, at an organization in which he wants us all to concentrate on connecting with the individual, it's a bit discouraging to be lumped into a group of 120 staff members, as if we're all doing something wrong.

In other frustrating news, my improv class is still a bit hopeless. I keep plugging away at my lesson plan, strategizing literally every day to try to stay ahead of the kids. Yesterday, they just weren't listening or paying attention so I sat silently for the last 1/2 hour of class, and they began to play Freeze, which is a game with no point and no lesson, aside from quick thinking. They played it for nearly 35 minutes and got nowhere and exhausted the game. I've stopped caring a little bit because there are too many kids in that class that admittedly and pointedly (like, they have actually put it into words for me) do. not. want. to. learn. anything.

What does a teacher do with a group like that? In a class that could very easily just be called "Drama Games"?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Summer Job, vol. XXIII: the How Many Days Left? edition

I'm not sure how I got through the rest of the week, on fumes alone. Today is a glorious Sunday off. Glorious only in the fact that it's off not in the weather, which seems to be cloudy with imminent storms. I have laundry and eating to do today but I really, really don't want to move.

My improv class is improving, which is pretty much all I can hope for. I had a meeting with DR in which he pegged me so hard right between the eyes about how this is really the ultimate test for me because it's about giving up a little bit of control. We all know how hard that is for me to do in REAL LIFE, so a class of sixteen testing me to do it is certainly trying.

Yesterday, I led a trip to Chelsea Market. Mostly, it was exhausting, especially since the boys in my improv class that are so challenging were ALL THERE. I felt distracted and overwhelmed and it was hard for me to concentrate and enjoy the tour and the food we got to taste. Maybe one day I'll go back to the Chelsea Market and try to actually absorb and enjoy it.

Today, my body is screaming at me to lay low and be silent and alone. There is a small group dinner planned for later, but I just don't know if I can muster the energy needed to be social in even a small group. I also have some work for the week to do and desperately need to start my laundry.

I'll be home in two weeks. Which seems like no time at all and also like an eternity. Time is strange here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Summer Job, vol. XXII: the Boys Drool edition

It's the middle of the first week of second session and I am finally feeling ready to be done here. There are many flaws in this system, the first of them being the fact that the only people who teach here are also the only people who live with students, the second being that when I am on-duty, I have 16-17 hour days. The combination herein means that I am only doing my job about half as well as I would if I only had one of those responsibilities as part of what I do here. We are all fatigued. We have not had a full day off in two weeks, and we are dealing with an entirely new and different crop of kids.

It is mildly satisfying to be able to "do over" my lesson plans from just a few weeks ago, and I'm feeling good about the changes that I have made in light of what went well then. My acting class this session is quiet, serious, enthusiastic, and charming. So far, it is already an easier and more manageable group than last session. I am working with the golden number of students--12--which is a huge improvement from last session's 17. Twelve is divisible by oh so many numbers, whereas seventeen was always impossible to divide in a way that made any sense or felt consistent. That alone is a great change from last session.

My new improv class is a battlefield. I am at full capacity with 16 kids. Eight of them are 16 year old boys who know each other from previous years here, are combative and disrespectful. I am managing them as if they are kindergarteners, which it always feels like they are. I know that they are in the class because they want to be, but it is my great task to try to make sure they actually learn something, rather than just let them destruct and distract.

Monday, every single activity I attempted to have them do failed. I was so frustrated and pissed that I let them go 10 minutes early. I went into class yesterday with a plan to get a better idea of what they wanted from the class and determined to implement a 3 strikes system: one strike is a warning, two means they sit out of the exercise and three means they sit out of the entire day's lesson and I speak with their RAs. Yesterday was an improvement to Monday, and today was an improvement to yesterday. They seem to be a group that really wants to DO, which I totally understand and even appreciate. Still, my challenge will be to make sure these boys do not hinder the learning of anyone else in the class.

They really don't have any idea who they're messing with.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Summer Job, vol. XXI: the Second Session Begins edition

I will be home in 21 days.

Our intersession was partly magical and partly disappointing. For one, I spent dinner with two other staff members, drinking wine and eating good food. Then, we headed to the park nearby where Sister Hazel (remember them?) were playing. As we arrived, All for You, their most famous single, began playing and we ran to catch up with other staff members who were all singing and dancing, in a large glorious and joyous group. We stayed outside, as the sun set and the air cooled for another 45 minutes or so, and it was just lovely.

The rest of the night was spent bar hopping and traveling in a crowd, and I headed back early, in anticipation of another very long day and frustration at the social dynamics of a too-large group.

Today, I got to sleep ALL THE WAY TIL 8(!) and then helped prep the campus for registration and move-in. I was placed at the very first check-in point, which happened to be the health screening station. I haven't even heard how much swine flu has shut down camps around New England, but we have been very strict about health standards here and the first thing the kids did when they arrived was answer questions about symptoms and get their temperatures taken! Move-in lasted from noon until about 5 and then we met our new girls and ate dinner with them on the quad, gave them a tour of the campus and their boundaries, played some get-to-know-you games and laid down the rules.

So far, it's been a pretty chill night. We have a couple French girls, a girl from China, and a girl from Israel, which is fewer international students than last session. The girls, for the most part, seem eager and quiet and respectful, which is also a switch from last session. It will be VERY interesting to see how this group dynamic unfolds.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Summer Job, vol. XX: the Bittersweet edition

The first session kids departed today, and it's been an excruciating day. Woke up at 6 am to eat and pack a lunch before my 7 am-12 pm shift of shuffling students to and from the train station. My girls had not slept at all; I had only managed to rest about 5 hours and everyone on campus seemed dazed by the impending activities.

I spent the girls' last night here gabbing about first impressions, staff gossip, boys, and how quickly everyone bonded. They were a remarkably tight knit group and my job was made very easy by the lack of drama and abundance of generosity and warmth. I am sure those 22 young women spoiled me, and I have a feeling next session can never be as easy. We laughed and cried last night, amazed and shocked at how quickly it had all gone.

Yesterday, my two classes also performed in the Drama Cafe, to great success. My acting and directing classes' monologues held the large audience's attention and didn't even go over their time limit as much as I anticipated. The kids really stepped up to the challenge of performing hard and emotional material, and I was so, so pleased. My improv comedy class was a HUGE hit and the audience had a blast participating in their pieces. It was a wonderful and hilarious afternoon.

Today, after morning tears, long duties, and exhaustion, the staff cleaned up the campus in about an hour. I was part of a team that moved a refrigerator (yes, you read that right) and furniture from one side of campus to another. I was sweaty and miserable, running on so little sleep. Once the "repugnant tasks" were done, we formed a line and crossed the campus, picking up trash as we went. FINALLY, we were freed for the afternoon and gathered at a nearby restaurant for pizza and beer, and I just woke up from a 2 1/2 hour nap.

Going out now for snacks and wine, and hoping to go to bed very soon because the NEXT session's kids come TOMORROW. (If this job doesn't kill me, I will feel like a superhero.)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Summer Job, vol. XIX: the Classroom edition

The session is ending, which is both shocking and welcome. The past couple days have been incredibly intense for me, feeling disconnected and navigating the complicated social culture that is this place. I have a hard time with keeping up with a social life that occursin large groups, especially when I don't feel particularly connected to anyone. Beyond that, the culture of traveling in groups and drinking is something I think I've outgrown and, therefore, sometimes results in me feeling isolated.

The honeymoon period is definitely over, and the end of the session has brought a LOT of work. Evaluations for everyone I work with, evaluations the kids filled out for me in both my classes and my dorm group. Final presentations to prepare for and facilitate tomorrow, final meetings with curriculum advisors, planning for next session, which begins on Sunday, preparing for the students' departure, which happens Saturday. It feels like three more weeks of this is just too many.

And I still miss my bed.

Having survived three weeks of teaching, as I actually have, I thought I'd take some time to write a bit about my classes.

Acting+Directing, which I teach first period during the week (9:10 to 10:20 AM) was a tough class to plan because I couldn't figure out how to get each kid to do be able to do both. The solution ended up being assigning them monologues and putting them in actor-director pairs to work on them. We spent our first week establishing a foundation of theater lingo, playing games and working with the text of a fairy tale to facilitate the understanding of certain words that I hoped would come up later in their processes. The second week was a week planned around exploring interesting texts (Angels in America, August: Osage County, and A Streetcar Named Desire, of all plays) to introduce rehearsal methods: exploring objectives, engaging physically, interpreting subtext, etc. This last week has been mostly focused on monologue rehearsal, in preparation for the performances that will happen tomorrow afternoon in front of a small audience.

The challenge in this class ended up being sure that their processes were not only working for them as both actors and directors but also that they were...good rehearsal processes. There was no feasible way for me to oversee 17 different processes, but I am hoping to do a better job of encouraging and fostering the skill of planning and creating rehearsals next session. It's always tricky to ensure that students of various skill levels are all engaged in positive ways, but I aim to try to engage individual students better next session as well. Luckily I have a great curriculum advisor in DR, and he has already worked very hard with me to make my teaching and classes better.

My improv comedy class (10:50 AM to 12 PM) was, obviously, a bit less structured, and I had a bit of challenging group. (I got several "she was too strict"s on my evaluations, which I don't necessarily take as an insult. The trick, though, is allowing the kids to have fun while also keeping them on track and not letting them steamroll me.) It's very easy to lose sight of actual concrete objectives and assessments in a class that can so quickly turn into "drama games," and I'm not sure I succeeded in avoiding that fate. Mostly, kids just wanted to play the games they know and love. They were often VERY resistant of what my plans were. Frankly, I'm not sure I satisfied or honored their great need to PLAY. I think I planned a good, structured, intelligent class, but I need to be sure to draw my carefully laid out plans back to the objectives of creating full scenes, telling stories, and analyzing why we think certain things are funny, at the same time as honoring what they already know and allowing them to contribute to the class in those ways.

There is currently a HUGE thunderstorm outside, and I am very excited to fall asleep to it. The next couple days are going to be exhausting, as the students move out early Saturday morning, we clean the campus as efficiently as we can and then get ready for move-in on Sunday. I need a nap just thinking about it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Summer Job, vol. XVIII: the Sometimes Kids Make Me Cry edition

Dear Annie,
1st [sic] thanks for being this wonderful teacher and friend that I like so much. Secondly, for teaching me more about the art of comedy and laughing a lot with me.
Finally, thanks for everything. Yes, everything that contributed for these 21 days, the best days of my entire life. I think I've never grown so much in a short period of time like I've grown here...
I'm going to miss you a lot!
PS: I'M STAAARVING!!!
:)
Kisses,
PG
BRAZIL

Monday, July 13, 2009

Summer Job, vol. XVII: the Slightly Magical edition

The beginning of our third week (the last week of first session) was looooooong. This is virtually the first time I'm getting online and it's tomorrow. :)

There are moments during any summer, I think, that you realize will prove to be unforgettable. A song or sunset, a conversation or joke. These moments that make you feel a physical shift, a chord being struck within yourself.

I can tell that this summer will be full of them.

A brief list of the magical moments I've already experienced:
Acoustic music magic at the staff talent show
Learning the Jai Ho dance from two students at gate duty
Playing improv games at activity hour and gathering a crowd
Dancing to a drum circle for nearly an hour
Singing acoustic versions of 90's and Disney songs while letting kids back on to campus
Demanding both staff and students to spontaneously play "Vegetable-Off," in which two people stand back to back, take three steps forward (away from each other) and then make the body shape and sound of the vegetable that someone else has called out
And this list doesn't even include the realizations I've had in the classroom and my own dorm!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Summer Job, vol. XVI: the Sunday Morning in Bed edition

I'm starting to miss my apartment. My bed. Wrapping my head around the fact that this session is nearly over, which makes it seem like the entire summer is close to ending too. I saw a video of friends from home and was shocked to remember that life is going on without me there. I still have culture shock every couple days here; I can't imagine what readjusting to real life is going to be like.

Yesterday, a few of us manned a very chill trip to Providence. We scooted the kids through part of Brown University, let them run around Thayer Street, shuffled them through the RISD Museum and were home in time for dinner. The other RA's and I, spent most of the afternoon napping, either on the bus ride or in the grass at Brown. I can't really complain.

My list of things to do today, my last full day off in two weeks:
LAUNDRY
Devise a runthrough schedule for my last week of class
Write a "good directing practices" worksheet for class
Review my lesson plans and perhaps amend them for next session
Request materials for dorm time
Submit a reimbursement form
Concoct a chart by which my students will be able to map their progress in their last week of class
Make copies for the first few days of next session

I plan on parking it somewhere cool and quiet and pounding this work out, being silent most of the day, and alone, which feels like a rare luxury these days.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Summer Job, vol. XV: the Karaoke edition

Wednesday night, I sang Something to Talk About by Bonnie Raitt solo. It was a good night.

This afternoon, I sang Lose Yourself by Eminem with a 17-year-old student. And back-up on many a song, since karaoke was the activity of the day. It was a good day.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Summer Job, vol. XIIII: the This Week is Flying edition

I can't believe it's already Thursday! It will be fall before we know it.

Some good things that have happened this week:
Doing exercises in tableaux in my class on Tuesday, one of my students exited the room saying, "I love this class...it's just so fun!"
During my seminar on dialects yesterday, one of my residents who attended it said, "Annie, I've learned more in this hour than I have the entire time I've been here."
Yesterday was a short day because my seminar was over before lunch and I had the night off, during which I sang some mean karaoke.
I've been taking some amazing naps lately.

Some strange things that have happened this week:
During an activity I ran, taking a group of students to Walgreens, the fire alarm in the store went off and we were stuck in a downpour. It was one of those moments where I question what on earth I'm doing here.
I came up after dorm activity today to take a nap and remembered 30 minutes later that I had left my water bottle and backpack outside. I never do things like that.

My trip this weekend is to Brown University, which I don't believe I've ever seen. I absolutely cannot believe another week is nearly over.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Summer Job, vol. XIII: the July 4th Weekend edition

Goodness, it seems like years since I've posted. It was a packed weekend. Saturday, I had my first entire day off. I was so proud of myself for sleeping over 8 hours! Had brunch with some peeps, then took a nap, then a group of us headed to a fairly lame amusement park by a lake, where we proceeded to loll about in the grass for about 7 hours. We sat and drank and ate and played games and snuggled under blankets when it started getting cold. By 10, we were all pretty antsy, but the upside was the 4th of July fireworks seemed like they were RIGHT ABOVE us.

The kids here spend the weekends on trips, so Sunday, I was part of a team that took a bunch to see South Pacific in NYC. We left campus around 9:30, with the hope of parking it in Central Park for lunch before heading to the theater for the 3:00 show. Everything really went off without a hitch, except for the fact that the bus driver seemed to not understand the city at all, and I ended up navigating us from Soho to 65th and Central Park West. I was actually pretty impressed with myself.

S dropped by for part of the afternoon in the park, and I was reminded of my real life for a brief moment, which was great.

The show was...ok. The lighting and scenery were wonderful; the music and singing were obviously lovely, but the acting left a lot to be desired. I was slightly underwhelmed by the entire day, and it's a hard show to see when exhausted, which we all were.

I have no plans tonight, another night off, beyond catching up on some work and getting prepared for the week. This session is nearly half over!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Summer Job, vol. XII: the Day Off edition

I am freshly showered, feet up, breezy window open after another long day. Tonight even felt a little bit like a night off because the evening event was a dance in the quad, and I spent part of my rounds jamming on the dance floor with other RA's.

I have lofty goals of exploring the local bookstores and getting some work done on my lessons tomorrow, my first day off in two weeks. But the priority is sleeping. I miss it so.

Tomorrow night, a bunch of us are going to an amusement park and lake to chill out and picnic and watch the fireworks. Then, Sunday, I've been assigned to accompany the students on a trip to see South Pacific in NYC! So exciting.

....Zzzzzzz......Where are blackout curtains when you need them?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Summer Job, vol. XI: the Must Sleep edition

Things that went badly today:
I woke up at 4:30 AM and was unable to go back to sleep;
I tried to sleep late because the night had been so long, so I missed breakfast;
I sat on a wet railing and had wet butt through my first class;
I wasted 10 minutes figuring out what the hell to do with 17 kids during an exercise that required a very different equation;
I read the vibe of my second class wrong and had to totally wing the last 1/2 of class;
I got indigestion after dinner.

Things that went well today:
DR told me that observing my improv class was the highlight of his week;
I heard from another staff member that two of my improv students were saying the class was their favorite time of day;
I found out I'm seeing South Pacific this weekend on a trip for the kids;
I went out with a group of staff members off-duty, had a lovely time, and was home at 11 PM.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Summer Job, vol. X: the First Night Off edition

I have been officially off-duty since 6 pm! HURRAH!

The first two full days has been absolutely insane. I can't even describe it. My time is literally delineated by the hour here. Here was my schedule yesterday:
Breakfast from 730-830
Morning check-in from 845-9
Class from 910-1020
Class from 1050-12
Lunch from 12-1
Dorm group from 115-145
Free time from 2-315
Meeting with Resident Directors from 315-415
Free time from 415-530
Dinner from 530-630
Evening check-in from 7-715 (last night included a fire drill)
Main Event staff from 730-11 (last night was a Boston hip-hop group; it was GREAT!)
On-duty in dorms from 11-12

Today's schedule was almost even crazier, even though I have the night off:
Breakfast by 830
Class from 910-1020
Class from 1050-12
Lunch from 12-1
Dorm group from 115-145 (which went badly and ruined my day; teenaged girls are mean, plus we went through the activity missing one girl and my co-RA didn't notice on the attendance and I didn't notice until I got back to my room...GRRRRR!)
Free from 2-315
Duty in the gym from 315-415
Improv activity group from 430-530
Staff meeting from 545-615
Dinner till 7

Fewf.

I am:
tired
overwhelmed
frazzled
trying to stay upbeat
excited, mostly, about my classes
scared of 17 year old girls that are beautiful and foreign
amazed it's only the 2nd day.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Summer Job, vol. IX: the Dogs are Barking edition

Good lord, my body hurts.

Things I did today:
Went to Walgreen's to fill the backpack for my afternoon position as "Staff Morale" person (more on that later);
Worked as part of a human conveyor belt to empty a room literally full of blankets and fill another room with said blankets four stories up (I love my job);
Met and greeted families as they unloaded what seemed like YEARS' worth of luggage;
Spent three hours lugging aforementioned luggage from street to campus;
Walked someone's grandmother to campus from the car, carrying a suitcase in one hand and a Klondike bar in the other;
Ate a lunch on my 10-minute break I had packed at breakfast;
Spent three hours roaming campus as the "Staff Morale" person, and by "Staff Morale" person, I mean Snack Person, also known as Candy Woman;
Met and greeted 22 high school senior girls who are living in my building for three weeks;
Tried to engage 22 high school senior girls in name and get-to-know-you games before dinner;
Led 22 high school senior girls around a campus tour;
Tried to engage 22 high school senior girls in name and get-to-know-you games after dinner, while also introducing rules;
Somehow managed to get online before 11 PM.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Summer Job, vol. VIII: the Impending Doom edition

The kids arrive tomorrow. DUN DUN DUN!

This morning and part of the afternoon were spent cleaning up the campus and organizing the offices in preparation for what will apparently be an insane day. I did big and important things like set up a water station, pick up trash on the Quad, finalize our dorm decorations (our dorm group is a "time warp," with each building a different decade--we're the 70s, and each student's dorm door bears either a record, a platform boot, or an Afro; our door is decorated with lava lamps), and alphabetize trip permission forms. It was a glamorous day.

We spent the early afternoon and evening on a "trip," as part of the training for how we spend our weekends here. We took over a park overlooking ALL of New Haven and had a cook-out, which was so camp of us, I could hardly stand it.

I took some time this evening to do some final prep on my classes, since I know I won't have time to concentrate on them tomorrow and Monday is the first day I teach!

I can't believe I was celebrating birthdays less than a week ago. Time has certainly shifted while I've been here. I have best friends and boyfriends for a day and then it feels like I never see them again. At the same time, I keep expecting to feel particularly connected to people here, but I'm not positive that will happen. There certainly hasn't been time this week to feel at all like what we're talking about is meaningful.

Still, I'm proud of myself for how calm I've been and how prepared I feel, at this moment. At this point, that's about all I could really hope for.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Summer Job, vol. VII: the Talent Show edition

Honestly. I don't know where the days go. It's so, so, so strange to not be connected online all day long and to have the first time I do get online be at 11 PM.

Quickly (and I know I'm spoiling you with these daily updates--I'm JUST NOT SURE how much longer I'll be able to do this), today was virtually our last day of training. We have duties and activities and supervision that we must do during the students' free time in the afternoons, so we were informed of those and given a tour of the duties sites and then spent the afternoon dealing with issues of difference and diversity, as they've come up here in the past.

It was cloudy most of the day and then, as the afternoon waned, the sun finally broke out and it was perfect weather. My co and I spent a bit of time preparing dorm tags for the girls, and, literally, within the hour, it was dark and purple out as a thunderstorm arrived. I hadn't been in one in so long!

The evening was training for Main Events, which happen here every evening, and the night culminated with a Staff Talent Show, at which I read this. I wasn't sure what the tone of the evening was going to be or how people would respond to it, but I got several appreciative and genuinely emotional comments, which was lovely.

The show, in general, was apparently the best they've had in years. I actually felt myself getting emotional a couple times during the evening, thinking about a) how intense the rest of the summer will be, b) what good hands these kids will be in, and c) what my summer experiences were like when I was of camp age.

My heart seemed to grow a little bit, and it's only the fourth day.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Summer Job, vol. VI: the Kicking into Gear edition

First of all, a moment of silence for Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett....
Crazy.

Secondly, I should count how many times I start my blog posts with "I'm exhausted." This was a very long day, focusing on the role we have as RAs, living with and spending living group time with the 22 girls we will be living with. 22. That's a lot.

At this point, I don't even really remember anything that happened today, except that we heard all about the bad things that can happen to students while they're here (there are a lot), and we did some role play of dealing with difficult situations with students (trickier than you might expect).

Our evening was spent with our dorm group and working on our residential curriculum. My co-RA and I planned some good, fun, probing activities for our first week of living group time (we get a 1/2 hour each day with them and an hour at the end of the week with the whole dorm group), and then we actually went to the curriculum workroom to do some prep work on our lesson plans. I didn't stop working until about 10 PM. There are only so many hours in the day. It's kind of insane. (But I did just watch the dance clips from last nights SYTYCD--GO EVAN AND RANDI!)

So, I must sign off now and go to bed. Tomorrow, we hear all about the OTHER duties we have on-campus (besides teaching two classes and a workshop, planning living group activities, and dealing with kids in the dorms). At some point, we also have to find time to decorate the dorm. Luckily, I'm living with an artistic co-RA. I told her my artistic skill is limited to writing names.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Summer Job, vol. V: the Is It Raining? edition

I survived my first dorm shower in 7 years today, after sleeping only 6 hours last night (still haven't settled into my sleeping rhythm here). Actually, it was pretty painless, considering the water pressure wasn't terrible and the water was warm. I'm pretty sure I can start sleeping a tiny bit later, since it doesn't take me long to get ready and breakfast is pretty quick.

We spent the morning with our curriculum groups, getting questions answered and playing some student-centered learning games. After lunch, we had the unpleasant but oh-so-camp-like task of sorting over 200 boxes of supplies by course number in the rain. It's amazing how one forgets one is getting soaked after a while. Good thing it wasn't freezing out too, or I would have been miserable.

I got to tour my classrooms today too, both of which are associated with the Yale School of Drama, which is ridiculously exciting. I texted S and SE at one point, "Sometimes I am in the Yale School of Drama Paint Shop." Who knew I'd ever end up there? It was a lot of walking around in the rain and a lot of trying to remember logistics.

Thankfully, I had some of the afternoon and most of the evening free. I had a 1/2 hour meeting with DR, who also happens to be my curriculum advisor. Luckily, we've already established a good working relationship, so I wholeheartedly trust him to get me through these next crazy few weeks.

The saying about this place is that a day feels both like a minute and a week. I can't believe this is only my third night here but I also can't believe that it's already after 10 PM.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Summer Job, vol. IV: the Happy Birthday edition

After sleeping for MAYBE three hours last night (a combination of a loud street, open windows, and being in a new place), I was mildly miserable about the day. We sat through about 9 hours of lectures today, getting generally oriented and hearing a lot about rules, security, health practices, and professional expectations. One day I'll get into the logistics of what my six weeks is going to be like. The gist is that I'll be teaching in the mornings, have early afternoons off, have duties in the afternoon around campus and in the evenings in the dorms, and every other night off. Plus, one full day of the weekend on-duty and one off.

One of the early activities we did today was get to know those around us and share fun facts about ourselves, then announce them to the whole group (120 on staff). I spoke for my group and self-promotingly announced it was my birthday. Before we broke for the afternoon, two administrative staff members busted into the lecture hall and sang The Beatles' "Happy Birthday" to me, then the whole group sang the Birthday song. I was SO TICKLED. It was hilarious, especially because it meant all evening, people I didn't know came up to me and said, "Happy Birthday...what's your name again?" Now, I guess they all know. Plus, whenever anyone asks how old I am, and I say "26," they unfailingly go..."OHHH!" (Like, "damn, that's old.")

After our final activity of the evening, I was able to come back to the dorm and read all my emails and FB messages, which were all lovely! Then, I got ready to head out to a bar with a bunch of staff members. One person bought me my solitary birthday drink; I danced for about an hour and a half and then happily came back here to pass out.

Tomorrow is another long day.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Summer Job, vol. III: the Travel edition

After staying up til 6 in the morning Saturday night into Sunday, I slept about 12 hours last night. Woke up, grabbed some food, packed up the remainders of the weekend, and began the part of the day I'd like to call The Struggle with Seven Weeks' Worth of Luggage. The cabbie helped me in but then had to drop me off a block away from the train station. I couldn't find an escalator and had to walk around the station to get to it. Once we were finally boarding, I heaved and hoed to get my bags on the train, and the train attendant standing on the platform did nothing to help me. Then, I discovered I had actually entered the dining car, so I had to maneuver to swing around and go back to the previous car. Shoved my 90-pound suitcase in the area by the door and searched for a seat, above which I'd be able to throw my 45-pound medium suitcase. It took two attempts for me to get it above the seats...WHY DID NO ONE HELP ME?! The train ride itself was uneventful and I had the wherewithal to ask the attendant for help OFF the train.

I checked in on campus. Dragged my bags to my dorm(!) and promptly got lost. Well, not really, but I peeked my head into a room that was occupied and it took me several minutes to realize I was actually in the right spot. I am sharing a suite with my co-RA, E, who seems very chill and cool, a recent graduate of F.I.T. We chatted as I unpacked. We each get a room to ourselves, but mine has an extra bed frame in it that needs not to be, so I can actually feel like I moved in. Plus, the bathroom is dirty and we don't have a fridge (which we were promised).

I met DR as soon as I'd unpacked and he gave me a brief tour of the campus and the students' boundaries. Then I spent the night with E and some other RAs that she had already met. It's a bit like the first day of school, where you're stuck with the people you meet first. I'm proud of myself that I'm not freaking out or feeling left out or getting anxious. I feel like the elder stateswoman here, since I'm probably the oldest RA by at least two years, and I will just try my hardest to do my job and keep the drama at as low a level as possible. (What is it about 20 year olds that equals drama?)

Tomorrow, even though it's my birthday, will be a busy, long day. We have training from 9AM-830PM, but I intend on doing something at least mildly celebratory after that.

Mostly, I'm tired, but it seems like I'll have a bit of time to get some writing and corresponding done, so KEEP IN TOUCH! I HAVE NOT FALLEN OFF THE PLANET COMPLETELY!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Summer Job, vol. II: the Excited AND Scared edition

Somehow I managed to finish packing. That is, as long as I can stuff my toiletry case, my pillow, and my alarm clock into one of my two overstuffed-not-sure-they'll-close suitcases.

I hate last nights in places I call home. I can probably name more than two hands' worth of them in my life. Seven weeks sounds like an awful lot longer than six weeks, doesn't it? Especially if you consider that fact that I'll be back in Boston in AUGUST. That is ages away.

My classmate and friend, DR, has been waiting with bated breath to be mentioned in my blog. He'll be in CT with me, and he has, and I quote, "nothing but confidence when it comes to me and [the job]."

I will let him be confident for the both of us. For now.

evidence we are going to Hell

S: did you hear about the pilot that just died mid-flight?
me: NO!
S: http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2009/06/pilot_dies_mid-flight.html
me: ugh
S: yeah
so awful
we were talking about it at lunch today
and we were like, where do you put the body??
me: um
gross
and even grosser that i imagined they kept it right where it was
S: i know right!
but i figure they must store a body bag on planes
just in case
me: right
ugh
or at least those flimsy blankets
S: hahaha
me: but like
S: nice
me: cockpits aren't that big
S: yeah, someone thought maybe they put him in a bathroom and closed it off
just like propped him up on the toilet seat
me: TERRIBLE

Word of the Day, vol. V

Word of the Day: FOOD
My stomach hurts. That means I’m nervous. Mostly about lugging my two large suitcases to Back Bay tomorrow, then somehow carting them to New Haven on Monday. For some reason, I foresee this being a ridiculous effort. Like that my arms will suddenly stop working or that the weight of the two suitcases and my backpack will become so overwhelming that I will stop mid-street and mid-stride and give up.

My stomach hurting sometimes means I can’t eat. Because I’m nervous. For a period of time this past winter, it meant I dry-heaved for 10 minutes every morning, panicked on the T on the way to class and could barely keep food down. (Want to lose 10 pounds? Get ANXIETY!) It was sad too. Because I love food.

One of the qualities I am proudest of (and most grateful to my parents for) is my adventurous sense of taste. I’ve been eating sushi since I was in elementary school. I eat it with such passion and voracity that I went to a traditional sushi restaurant with a Japanese native in college once and she said, “I’ve never seen a white person eat sushi like you do,” as I inhaled my chirashi. It was a great triumph.

I was on a cruise with my family as a teenager and tried caviar, escargot, and pate for the first time all in one meal.

I remember great traditional Chinese feasts with my mother’s family. All 15 or so of us would sit around a Lazy Susan, and I would try each dish as it rolled past. Once, I was even dared to pluck out a fish eye and eat it. It had the texture of a raisin and tasted like garlic.

My mother cooked dinner for us almost every night: baked ziti, Chinese chicken over rice, pork chops with homemade tomato sauce over them, tuna salad with celery and relish and carrots and radishes, sausage and peppers over couscous. Now, she watches the Food Network like it’s an old friend and experiments with dishes like Rachael Ray makes.

My dad cooked duck for a Christmas meal once, and I ate most of it. He’d make what he called Everything Rice, which had everything we needed to get rid of in the fridge and somehow tasted great. [Note: my brother just reminded me it's official title is Salad Fried Rice. I stand corrected.] Chinese beef and string beans, tilapia, quince. We grew basil in the backyard when I was very small and ate pesto so much, my brother and I were off it for years. I also can never eat beans and rice ever again. It’s a family joke.

Even my brother is a good cook. He makes homemade ramen and concocts fried chicken out of thin air.

I was really proud of myself once for making French toast for dinner when I was in middle school. I think making a quesadilla is a feat, especially if I put salsa and sour cream on it and eat it with a side of avocado. Mostly, I just throw a sandwich together or heat up a bowl of soup.

One of my early grad school assignments was to teach my classmate something and have her teach me something. I professed I could not cook (or ride a bike) and teamed up with someone who offered to teach me how to make a quick, easy meal of veggies and curry. It was stressful but ended up being delicious. (I still don’t know how to ride a bike.)

I actually do have a couple culinary specialties: soft-boiled eggs with bread in them and steaming edamame to perfection. (Seriously. Nobody does those two things better.)

Sometimes, my palate gets fatigued. I cannot imagine eating another Morningstar Farms Grillers Original with swiss cheese on wheat toast or another tortilla with hummus or another Columbo yogurt. This happened last week, and I was hoping there were some frozen chicken breasts left from my previous roommate, so I could attempt to put something homemade together. There was a whole bag, but they were so freezer-burned, they looked cooked. So I had some oatmeal for dinner. And went shopping the next day: chicken tenders and avocadoes and carrots and couscous and grape tomatoes.

I came straight home and marinated the chicken in a lemon Italian dressing. I dredged the tomatoes in olive oil and salt and pepper and roasted them for 15 minutes. I sauted the chicken, sliced up an avocado, and enjoyed what was probably the first meal I’d ever really cooked for myself. I froze half the unused chicken and cooked in later that week, making a poor man’s honey mustard sauce and eating the sauted chicken (my expertise begins and ends at sautéing) smothered in sauce over rosemary and garlic couscous.

Perhaps what my parents and brother have been telling me for years--that cooking can be fun and easy--is finally sinking in.

I guess this is growing up.

I think I'll have oatmeal for lunch.

(I’m taking the word bag to CT with me. We’ll see if I have time to do anything besides write frantic, short posts about the cat-herding I’m doing there.)

worlds apart

S: i'm going to eat lunch at the rainbow room today
me: fancy!
i'm going to eat lunch in my pajamas today
and every day
S: i want that!
me: we always want what we can't have.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Summer Job, vol. I: the Packing is a Challenge edition

So. I'm officially packing for my seven weeks in Connecticut. And I'm officially traveling this weekend to celebrate our 26th birthdays with S. Because if I didn't, I'd be sitting on my bed waiting for something to happen all weekend and resenting it, and it would be the first time in six years that she and I were not celebrating together.

I have approximately three lists of things I need to pack, one which was provided for us and two which I've made. Because I am a crazy. I have two large open suitcases in various parts of my house and laundry going in the basement. My brain is slightly fried. And my room is an utter mess.

Hopefully, this is the hardest part of the summer. But I doubt it will be.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Word of the Day, vol. IV

Word of the Day: BOOKS
There is a famous picture of me from when I am probably younger than 2. I am reading a book with great intensity. It is upside down.

I remember taking my Sesame Street Dictionaries with me to bed and reading them before I fell asleep. I pored over my children’s books: The Runaway Bunny being a great favorite. Where the Wild Things Are being another. I loved Richard Scarry’s big book of words, especially the food section.

I don’t remember which I became aware of first, The Baby-sitter’s Club books or Judy Blume. I wasn’t a Baby-sitter’s Club fanatic, but I remember reading the ones about Dawn’s makeover (so she can get a date), Stacy’s diabetes (she gets very thirsty and tired on her train ride home to New York to visit her dad), and the superspecial one about the group getting shipwrecked (Claudia finds a piece of glass and is able to make it reflect so that the plane flying overhead finds them) each more than once.

I’m pretty sure I learned about sex from Judy Blume’s book Forever. I was probably too young to read it, since I distinctly remember reading the back cover and not understanding what “the first time” was. Deenie was another favorite—that one’s all about masturbating. As was, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, which is all about getting your period. But it was a lesser-known Blume book, Just As Long As We’re Together, that I remember reading every month for a year.

The chapters in To Kill a Mockingbird about Boo Radley kept me up at night. I still think about haints when I walk through a suddenly warm patch of air.

I didn’t read Little Women until I was 22 because I was sure Beth’s death would upset me so much I wouldn’t be able to sleep. I’ve read it again since.

My AP English class was probably the first class I ever had in which I remember loving the books we read: Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns, and Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier were all on our book list.

I’ve read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon, The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, Sweet and Vicious by David Schickler, Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier, and On Beauty by Zadie Smith all twice; Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible three times, and Wally Lamb’s I Know This Much is True probably five times.

I have never read one word of the Harry Potter series, the Twilight series, or The Lord of the Rings series.

I have never read any Jane Austen, even though I have been carrying around a copy of Sense and Sensibility for more than 8 years.

I have read everything Suzan-Lori Parks and Amy Hempel have ever published. (I think.)

I have cried on the subway because of the book I was reading.

I have missed my stop on the subway because of the book I was reading.

Three of my favorite people have told me I have to read A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, and, for some reason, I refuse.

The best pop culture writing I’ve ever read is an article by Chuck Klosterman, “Bending Spoons with Britney Spears,” in his book IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas.

The best play I have ever read is August: Osage County by Tracy Letts.

I just read The Secret Garden for the first time. It was given to me by my mother’s parents in 1993. I was pleased at how true to the book the musical I know by heart is.

Tori Spelling’s memoir sTori Telling made me sob. Jancee Dunn’s memoir But Enough About Me… inspired me to write a fan letter to her.. Jeannette Walls’s memoir The Glass Castle gave me nightmares because it is about neglected children.

Whenever I move, my books make up most of what I’m packing. I only keep the good ones: the ones with the best cover art, the ones I imagine will be of use one day, the ones that left me breathless or sobbing, the ones that make me ache to write, the ones in which I see myself.

Currently, my bookshelf is overflowing.

They are my prized possessions.

There is the love of another person, and then there is a love of books. These are the two great loves of life. Anyone who has ever felt like an outsider knows this.--Charles L. Mee

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Word of the Day, vol. III

Word of the Day: WRITING
Sometimes I forget how important writing has been to me for most of my life. I remember sitting at my mom’s computer at as young as six years old and typing out sentences and the beginnings of stories.

The middle school I attended was called Mark Twain Intermediate School for the Gifted and Talented (HA!) and we had to test and audition to get in, even though it was a public school. It’s funny but I didn’t even think of auditioning for the drama program. Instead, I tried out for dance and creative writing. I was dancing three times a week at that point, if any of you can believe it, but they ended up placing me in the creative writing “major.” And I spent three years writing everything from a sitcom script to a horror story, from a newspaper article to a historical fiction text. It was actually pretty great training, even though our teacher was a nightmare and seriously scary-looking. Ms. Friedman. We were all sure she was actually a man. I wonder whatever happened to him/her.

Anyway, I started keeping a journal pretty consistently the winter before I moved to California. Here is my first entry:

1/2/97
Wow! 1997! It’s not really unbelievable though. I just finished my HW. I had a huge-ass load of math. She always gives us so much! I have the second half of a Science test tomorrow, but I’m not worried about it because the 1st ½ wasn’t that bad. AVERAGE. That’s all I am. Average. BORING is another word for that. I am and always will be an AVERAGE girl. What does “average” mean anyway? How can someone be AVERAGE? Isn’t everyone supposed to be different? No one is the same as anyone else and that’s what “average” means.
God, you know what, SCHOOL SUCKS! It really does! It takes up too much time and it’s not fun enough. School should be one constant educational game.


Don’t you just want to hug her and tell her everything is going to be OK? I reread that today and think…did I really think I was average? I’m not sure how long that lasted, but it seems a little bit like I was feeling sorry for myself for the sake of feeling sorry for myself.

I’ve filled five journals, spanning from January 1997 to May 2005, right before I graduated from college. I used to reread them pretty regularly. Now, I’m not sure why. Self-torture? Revisiting them tonight, I was very uncomfortable. I was going to type out some entries:
My last summer at the camp I attended for seven years (after weeks of complaining about feeling left out, I ended up writing it had been the best of all seven years);
My first day of high school (I feared everyone would be a snob);
When I got my driver’s license on my 16th birthday (I passed by four points…shhhh);
The love letters I passed back and forth to the boys I liked in high school;
The night I got news that my mother’s father had died;
The last night I spent in my house before moving to Berkeley.

I couldn’t bring myself to actually retype them and post them on the web. Even though I’m sure that that writing kept me sane through the move to California, got me through high school, always seemed a safe haven during the heartbreak and joys of college.

I began to journal less often when I moved into Apartment 8. Because then I began writing poems and songs. I spent the entire summer of 2004 as a songwriter, with S’s brother my co-writer and musician. This is the song I started writing on a walk and had to run home so I could get it down on paper:

Far-Sighted

We turn away from what we know is real,
Disregarding all we truly feel.
We throw our instincts clear out the window,
Calling those closest to us our foes.

Truths leave us frightened or maybe it’s alone.
We avoid that to which we know we’re prone.
Our vocabulary shrinks every day
Because there are no words to say.

Chorus:
Stagnantly stumbling in circles,
We forget exactly what was said.
We can’t even see each other.
We look around instead of ahead.

Our eyes met once but we closed them fast.
Now we prefer to keep them downcast.
We put ourselves in the apparent dark to grope
For what we think will someday be called hope.

Breathing side by side but separate,
We know the future cannot be this desolate.
But still we stay a safe distance apart—
Never fully listening to our hearts.

Chorus

Linger here a little bit too long.
Something inside us thinks this would be wrong.
Simply afraid to just jump right in,
Afraid the veil between us too thin.

Careful not to tip the scales too much,
But doing so we never really touch.
Confront each other with a velvet glove,
Hate is not the opposite of love.

Chorus


I was pretty proud of myself at the time, but even it seems like it was written by someone who was very young.

In contrast, I realized I was a woman when I wrote this poem after I ran away to Reno for a night with S and our other friend:

Thoughts Mid-Flight

I need a distraction from this destruction.
Gotta take a van and just fucking drive.
Leave the rubble behind to lie under a tree,
Hum a song in the grass and chase the sun.

I ran away from you and sought solace with a drink,
Cleared my mind and tried to gamble us away.
All I needed was to dance in a storm,
But all I did was smoke a cigarette at noon.

We’re good at pretending nothing’s wrong.
It takes 400 miles for me to get angry.
Had to wail along with Janis to breathe again.
Laughed with a weight on my shoulders.

We drive and I’m not sure I know you anymore.
So I sing at the top of my lungs and dance on a hill.
Stars above and I am home again.
Who knows how long I’ve loved you?


I started writing essays and reviews in New York. Most of them are posted on this blog. In fact, I started this blog because I was writing all these essays and my friend M suggested I put them online. This is the first one I wrote, and I posted it here with my brother’s blessing. I carried a small notebook at all times, so I could mark down interesting things I’d hear or weird scenes I’d see on the subway. The blog enhanced my awareness, forced my senses to be even more receptive. It was a creative outlet for me in a time that felt very stagnant.

I’ve always had big plans for my writing. I want to write my memoirs, a novel about a boy whose name just happens to be Jesus, a play about a family like mine, short stories about the people I see on the street…

My friend SL once gave me a gigantic book of blank pages. I asked him to inscribe it and he wrote, “If there is anyone I know who can and will fill up this entire book, it is you. Every page will be you and every page will be part of the whole. On page 564, I expect an entry of collaboration between you and me. Maybe pg. 90 or 120 or 1028. Today is May 18, 2005.

This book is now full of artistic pleasures. That day is _____ __, ____.”

It’s June 10, 2009. I’m on page 369…

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Word of the Day, vol. II

Word of the Day: INSPIRATION
Apartment 8. The words are nearly legendary to a group of 20-somethings who graduated from UC Berkeley between the years of 2003 and 2007. It was a strange apartment. With two entrances separated by a hallway, a rat maze of a bathroom, large French doors between the living and dining rooms through which even I saw ghosts, a fridge in the dining room, a balcony that peeped right into the dorms across the street.

I moved in the summer before my junior year of college. And my three roommates and I spent three straight days painting it and cleaning it and building it up over Labor Day weekend. I wasn’t sure I could live with them. They all seemed so…optimistic. So creative. Like dreamers. I mean, S’s dad built us a BAR in the dining room. We repainted the kitchen a cozy yellow, the dining room a sexy red, and the anteroom a beautiful turquoise. It was the kind of TLC I’d never given to any living space. A kind I didn’t really think was necessary.

We hosted a housewarming party. It was only the first of many, many ridiculous, themed parties that we’d host over the next two years. At the Halloween party we had that year, I dressed up like a callgirl, complete with a calling card stuck in my black push-up bra that said 555-SEXX. I wore bright red lipstick and called a boy back to the party, after he had left, so we could make out in my dining room. S found a dress that had the design of a fox made out in sequins on it. She wore her hair out to here and carried around a plastic mic, as a drunken 80’s lounge singer. At the First Annual Holiday party, we dressed up, drank from martini glasses, sang carols, and put mistletoe in every archway. We hosted an 80’s Fiesta, which I only remember because I left it to have a heart-to-heart with a new friend and wore a crazy outfit, complete with bright red poncho (which I still have). Our Flappers to Rappers party was the only one that had to be broken up by the police, after the drummer from the pit of my production of She Loves Me got alcohol poisoning and had to be carted away on a stretcher. Our last party in that house was a prom, complete with formal attire, a photo backdrop and tiaras for all four of us. People talked about these parties and showed up to them from all over Berkeley.

It was a magical place. And I remember realizing very early in that first year that I was living with people who would become my best friends. I remember physically feeling myself, my life, change while living in that house.

I became the kind of girl who scribbled poems on napkins. I thought of song lyrics on walks home and would have to run back to the house to write them down.

One of my roommates was studying composition; S was doing a ton of singing, and I was juggling acting, directing, and writing. I will never forget one night when a few of us were sitting in our living room, and M was pounding out notes in her room. S started singing, to compete and compliment the music, and then I started booming out the Shakespearean monologue I was working on.

It was inspired cacophony. It was chaotic, creative joy. We had a karaoke machine, for God’s sake.

I discovered Suzan-Lori Parks during the time we lived in that house and found a quote of hers that literally became the stamp of our lives there. A poster superimposing the text of the quote and two pictures of my roommates and me hung in our dining room for almost a year and is still hanging in the apartment I moved out of in Brooklyn two winters ago.

After we all moved out of that house in Berkeley, there was a burglary in it and, separately, a shooting right in front of it. The ghosts must not have liked that we left. At some point, S and I returned to the apartment to pick up some mail that had been delivered there and we saw that the girls who had moved in had painted over all our vibrant colors. The dining room was now a boring and cold light blue. The anteroom a strange teal, and the balcony door barred by a lofted bed. We felt betrayed and grief-stricken.

S and I moved to New York, and I seemed to lose myself and all my inspiration on the flight east. I remember having a fight with her in Prospect Park once about whether or not I could ever stage a production of Into the Woods site-specifically there. I was convinced it was an impossible and illogical idea. S couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t just pull my resources together and do it.

It only occurs to me now, as I write this and anticipate the site-specific production I plan to helm in the fall, that maybe I’ve finally become a dreamer. It all started with those three days of painting, which turned into two of the hardest and best years of my life.

Laughter isn’t a way of escaping. It’s a way of arriving on the scene. Think about what happens to your body when you laugh. It’s almost the same thing that happens to you when you throw up.—“Elements of Style” by S-L P.