Friday, July 30, 2004

okay, the sun's out

a damn good thing too. today was "RA day away," when the RAs are officially free from 9 am to 3 pm. we have one per session and the theme was supposed to be "rob day". we didn't do much searching for rob, our AWOL co-worker. instead several of us decided to rent the first two star wars movies, get lunch, and not think about children, ours or rob's mom's.

our 2nd paychecks also arrived, enabling me to replenish my account. now my girls are arriving, enabling me to be responsible again. only one week more.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

water without fun
has anyone else noticed that it won't stop raining?  this is not seattle, where it's okay if it rains because seattle is a mystical, wholesome city, free of materialism and greed, overrun with  characters from tom robbins novels wearing flannel and drinking free-trade coffee. 
i would do anything to be a character in a tom robbins novel, one of the well-described ones with an exciting personal life.  instead i'm merely an RA, back on duty in baltimore after my soggy and slightly unfulfilling day off.  yesterday featured some high points, including meeting my family's new neurotic beagle whose name, i suggested, should be Disraeli (british dog, jewish family.  no brainer.)  dizzy for short. 

yesterday also featured a moment of Hitting Bottom: me, splayed out on my bed, crying into my pillow, stopping occasionally to look at the tear stains and consider the resemblance to ink blots.  really, i just didn't want to come back here.  being home, with access to dvds, cable, a full fridge, a car, newspapers, and dizzy to play with, brought home (if you will) the fact that i haven't been home much this summer.  i haven't had time to recharge and i will need to recharge -- desperately -- before i begin my Life in the City.

which, by the way, i hear, now comes with a cat.  namewise, i vote for Gladstone.

Monday, July 26, 2004

fun with water

i think i've gained a little bit of weight since i've been here.  the cafeteria is awful.  no wonder the jhu students are so depressed!  the veggie options consist of bagels, pizza, french fries, grilled cheese (white bread soaked in butter and then fried), cereal, sandwiches, and a tepid salad bar.  sometimes veggie burgers.
the only reliably good food is honeydew, soup, ice cream sandwiches, and cookies, all of which you're forced to fill up on once the ordinary food leaves you unsatisfied. 

yesterday the cafeteria staff yelled at me for eating a peanut butter sandwich on my way out.  i had to throw it away.  protein!  garbage can!  sigh.

my moods during the day tend to vaccilate anyway, but the eating the same thing three times a day that i've been eating three times a day for five weeks is beginning to drive me crazy.  i've viciously attacked a piece of cake and no, not in a metaphorical yummy way.  i've shot murderous glares at the cafeteria televisions which, at breakfast, blare some insipid Regis and Kathy Lee-derived show and at lunch soap operas. 

but that's not the point of this post.  the point is that somehow no matter how dark the outlook during meals, things rebound.  the balance is restored.  in today's case, my activity Fun With Water helped.  the kids had a blast and afterwards some of the RAs took to the water guns and buckets and had an even better time, because everything's better when you're older.  the prospect of my day off starting tonight also helps. 

in the same vein, the weekend went better than expected.  the RAs put together another casino carnival, this time featuring a Marriage/Divorce booth.  i manned the thing all afternoon, inventing new rules and occasionally shocking the children by asking if they've been tested.  maybe they liked being shocked: i attracted a contingent of hangers on. 

it's moments like these that keep me from just walking off campus into the great gray yonder of baltimore.  moments like these, and rocky run's margaritas, on the rocks with salt.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

gurgling death

fiddlesticks!  are you telling me my new favorite summer pastime is over?  evening after evening, several of us would crowd into natalie's room.  we called it "jewpardy!" because the four of us most devoted are --  well, clearly, half-danish and half-lebanese.  we four, and our hangers-on, would chomp starburst as we called out the answers, occasionally proving ourselves smarter than kenjen.

that final jeopardy! question, about which 2 20th century american presidents have middle names of other american presidents?  i was all over that.  i was the first person in the room to call it; and kenjen was the only contestant to get it.  sometimes, kenjen and i, we felt like we were on the same wavelength.

and you're going to take that away from me?  til september?  by september, i won't NEED 30 minutes of Adult World anymore.  here, it's a lifesaver.  consider the commercials: because apparently the average age of a jeopardy! viewer is 109, we get a metamucil competitor, perscription pills for heart disease, and, of course, Depends.  (the commercial features an aged Thelma and Louise-type duo who travel the country, laughing and letting the wind blow through their hair, because they're free!  free!  from the tyranny of toilets.)

it's our antidote to the other 23 and a half hours of the day, wherein we're responsible to children who weren't ex-utero when madonna was cool.  my god, alex!  take that stupid smirk off your face and tell me: what are we supposed to do now?

Friday, July 23, 2004

smoke gets in your eyes

n.b.:  i know i haven't been smacking my forehead about politics lately in this medium.  please don't interpret that as a signal of indifference.  life here leaves me too drained for public displays of indignation, yet i can't stop reading the news.  iran/iraq, the 9/11 commission report, the release of catwoman -- none of these horrors have escaped my attention.  only my comment.

this session is harder.  everyone agrees.  one by one, each RA wanders into the office, sees another RA writing up a camper and realizes s/he has to write up a camper too.  at around 11 pm, if you walk into the office, you'll see every RA grimly scribbling away: so-and-so eats nothing but honeydew; so-and-so's consistently late to class; so-and-so is fighting with her instructor.  it never stops.

it wasn't like this last session.  most of us agree we don't want to romanticize the recent past and still we recognize there are more incidents this time around, more insubordinate kids.  that the weather's getting intolerable doesn't help.  at some point yesterday i was ready to walk off campus, write off this whole thing, pull a Rob.

Rob is alternately scapegoat and hero here.  he's a Man of Mystery, a red-headed skinny RA who showed up two days late for orientation, claiming his "car" broke "down."  he didn't say much else then, or later; he hung around with a half-smile, looking by turns bashful and awkward.  then, two weeks in, he disappeared.  poof!  nobody could reach him.  at the phone number he left, the person who answered said, "Rob doesn't live here any more."

the question remains:  was Rob al qaeda?  a quantum leap-type time traveler?  a shlimazl who got trapped under something heavy?  all of the above? 
signs point to yes.

i should mention that various RAs and one quintessential TA talked me off the ledge, with the help of two excellent margaritas and some less-excellent but more-hilarious karoke.  (yeah old skool alanis!)  now i'm fine.  i'm not going anywhere.  i will deal with my depressive/bug ridden/needy/terminally shy campers, as well as everyone else's, and by gum when i'm finished i will be more than able to withstand the same that awaits me at The Company.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

one of the RAs, E., slumped down next to me looking more frazzled than usual.  the dean of residential life had given her a talking-to about her performance.  not for any legitimate reason: E. may be a little spacey sometimes, and she doesn't always remember to brush her hair, let alone make her scheduled presences, but her girls love her and she's great with them.
i shook my head and tsked with her and we commiserated for a while.  then she startled me.
what do you do?, she asked.  do you have any tips? 
i couldn't understand what she was saying at first.  what i do?  with what?
your girls, she said.  what do you do with your girls that works?
it still took me a couple seconds to process that she was asking me for advice.  not about what movie to rent or word choice in an essay.  about campers --  kids.  that moment made me realize i've been successful here.  i've given someone the impression that i know what i'm doing.  at least enough.
at the same spot on campus a few hours previously, i'd been sitting conversing with a couple different ladies, L. and Sh.  Both were expressing their confidence in the idea of marriage.  L. has been dating a guy for 1 and a half years and she knows he's right.  She won't marry him til she's done with skool, but marriage is there.  On the table, in the cards. 
Sh., though she doesn't have the exact person lined up yet, is similarly engaged to the idea.  more than anything else, she said, i want to have kids.  that's the easiest way.
when i said i wasn't sure about marriage, ever, let alone in the forseable future, both sorta gaped at me.  Sh. said, predictably, But what about kids?
another RA had joined us, a guy, S.  he chortled.  No way, he said.  ester's not having kids.
why not?, asked Sh.  i think she'd make a great mom.
no way, said S.  and chortled again.
the funny thing is, being here has made me curious about having kids.  they're such strange creatures and i spend all day watching them, wondering, Do they have inner lives?  what do they think about?  i almost want to have one just so i can know one intimately, collect data or have something to base theories on besides fading memories of what i was like as a pre-teen.  maybe that's not an adequate reason.  on the other hand, i neglected to ask the two ladies i was talking to what their reasons were.  maybe they only would have gaped more profusely.
o, what a good girl am i

hey!  did anyone catch that i have the same birthday as heather (aka dooce)?  my birthday went off somewhat more smoothly than hers: no vomit on my part, although, while ben was down here with me for intersession, i nearly slipped and fell in someone else's vomit.  you can't get much lower than that.
the other RAs were sweet to me.  one bought me chai.  another made me a card.  another covered my pizza during our late-night celebratory watching of eddie izzard's more-manic-than-usual new movie sexie.  and they threw me a "surprise" party that i totally saw coming.  i didn't expect the halo they made me though.  the halo is pretty cool.
best of all, my hall from last session ("madonna") made me a birthday package and left it with J., my one girl here for both sessions, to give to me.  it had a card, and candy, and a gift, and very yonic looking cookies, and a funny note.  like, wow.  i was glowing about it all day.
i also paid my first month's rent on the new york apartment.  thanks to my first cty paycheck -- well, and thanks to graduation -- , i could cover it.  that may not be amazing to you but it is to me.  i'm growing like a beanstalk here, people.  how about that.

Monday, July 19, 2004

the whatever year
when i first opened my door this morning, i saw an upside-down cockroach wriggling on the floor.  i yelped and ducked back into my room.
when i next opened my door, i saw a crowd of sedate, timely campers ready to go to breakfast.  the ringleader greeted me: "we all have dry skin." 
(i had told the girls that last session, one of my favorite campers had come to my door early in the morning, knocking frantically.  "what is it?  what?" i asked, once i'd made it to the doorway.  she extended her hands, palms up.  i expected to see stigmata, boils, thunderbolts -- but there was nothing.  "what?" i asked again.  "they're just hands!"
"they're dry!" she replied.
"you woke me up because you have dry skin?"
"but i just put on lotion and they're still dry"
"then go to the nurse!"  *slam*)
one of my favorite exchanges thus far this session:
girl:  " ... skank-hos."
me:  "hey, now ..."
girl:  "sorry.  fast women."
happy birthday me.  and stefanie, if she's reading this.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

on the verge
i'm 52% done with cty.  last session ended reasonably well: although i didn't get a touching goodbye moment with all my girls together, or a $50 tip from any parent, i did get lots of hugs and hearty recommendations.  one camper, when told to list my strengths, began with 'sarcasm!'  others gave me credit for putting up with their craziness while managing to keep control.  aw.  and: phew.  at least *they* felt like i was in control.
the one day intersession the RAs had off did not suffice to return me to a state of nirvanic calm.  but it did make me happy.  ben dropped in, loaded with presents -- a marilyn monroe poster i had seen and envied while apartment shopping, in honor of my birthday, and a belated, but AWESOME, graduation gift from his mother.  she basically ransacked the criterion collection for me.
now, my new girls are trickling in.  today's steady rain better not be the harbinger of misfortune it seems to be, or god and i are going to have words.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

money changes everything

who cares about the rock? i got what matters more: the CHECK. check #1 for my time here, which i've enjoyed far more than the times i was here as a camper. how amazing is that? free room and board, plus a salary, for having this experience.

it's affirmation of a different, more practical sort. i did my job the way i was supposed to. in return, i got money. no lobbying necessary and certainly no guilt.

so i feel better, despite the fact that i haven't gotten used to the idea that my precious girls will be leaving me. virtually simultaneously, my email address will be leaving me. that address and i have been very close over the past few years. sure, i knew that our relationship was winding down. we haven't been communicating well. it's been moody. sometimes it would plague me with spam; other times, it would stonewall me, offering nothing.

it was clear we were moving in different directions. but knowing this day was fated to come doesn't make the coming of it any easier to bear.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

end result

i got The Rock. i have it: it's mine. currently it's sitting in a place of prominence on top of my fridge next to my camera, an unpopped bag of popcorn, and a stick of Degree.

getting it felt good, but not good enough to outbalance the bad of two weeks of not getting it. i anticipated that. plus, i don't feel as though i received it as the reward it ostensibly is, for Rockin' as an RA, because i lobbied for it. i resorted to cheap flattery, bribes, blatant self-promotion. while i stopped short of handing over cash or making promises i couldn't keep, i didn't wait for my quiet, quality actions to bring the spotlight to me either.

maybe i should just accept that this is the way the world works. my brother famously didn't vote for himself in a 5th grade election and he lost by one vote.

literature has cast a pall over my mood. the best books never leave me feeling light and full of love, because they poke my bruises and purr, "Why aren't you writing?" part of the problem is i don't know what i should be writing. poetry? a new screenplay? a revision of the thesis? a novel? should i take up fiction again, after my 4 year hiatus? what do i give up? what do i try?

that, in turn, makes me wonder whether i made the right decision in turning down the m.f.a. program at emerson. there, i would likely be cold, lonely, and unhappy; and productive. writing.
i can't think about the future. in a few days, my girls will vanish and new girls will take their place. these three weeks will happen all over again. one last swirl for me in the bathtub of the present, if you will, before i am sucked down the drain.

shit. maybe i should just be a ___________

Monday, July 12, 2004

the rock, the rock, the rock is on fire ...

i've been kissing up like crazy to the boy who currently has The Rock and whose job it will be tomorrow to hand it on. The Rock is supposed to be a reward, passed from RA to RA at each weekday morning meeting. due to bad planning, however, there are more RAs than there are weekday mornings, so some of them/us will not get The Rock. some of them/us are a little bitter.

personally, i find these motivational things unmotivating. they incite a kind of knee-jerk anger from the angsty pre-teen in me. and, of course, that angsty, bitter pre-teen wants nothing so much as the appreciation she feels sure she will never attain.

so i've been kissing up like crazy to the boy who currently has The Rock. i just handed off my last diet coke. i'm willing to go farther. don't ask how far. this is serious business. life with the losers is all right for some, all right for a while; it's entertaining watching the wallowing, making the snide comments; but then you want to be on the flanders' side of the pond, the side with all the light and rainbows and little furry animals. ("dad, you took a baptismal for me! how do you feel?")
you want to be recognized for the small but constant contributions you make to the group: the snark, the increasing skill at Set, the occasional lectures about gender. come on! my girls think i'm cool. they said so, and i didn't even have to put them at gunpoint. and one of the RAs called me genuine.

none of it matters so long as these "traditions" persist in honoring "overachievers." well, fine. i can handle it. life with the losers isn't so bad. we've been watching fine retro films like hackers, empire records, the craft, and heathers. i'll bet the winners are too busy "planning things" and "making those things then happen" to do THAT. i pity them.

just, please, please. give me the goddamn rock.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

close encounters

me: excuse me, i'm sorry. your shirt isn't appropriate and i'd really like it if you could go change.
her: why? what? what's wrong with it?
me: well, it's see-through, and you're only wearing a bikini top underneath.
her: but i'm wearing a shirt. look, it has long sleeves!
me: that doesn't matter much when i can make out the exact pattern on your bikini.
her: why are you looking at my boobs?
me: i'd prefer if i couldn't look at them, or see them, so please go change. now.

ah, the pleasures of being an RA.

Friday, July 09, 2004

language, harry

my girls are currently attempting to dye their hair with kool aid. I DID THAT, 10 years ago, when i was their age. at cty, even. i told them it didn't work then, and unless kool aid has been spiking its punch with bleach, it won't work now.

on the other hand, it gives them something to do besides shriek.

currently i'm bracing myself for the weekend ahead. weekends are not easy for the RAs. luckily this weekend begins with a clash dance, for which my calves get to wear one bright green fishnet knee sock and one blue sparkly one. the rest of me is not as exciting -- how could it be?

here goes.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

and watching others' identity crises ...

on my day off yesterday, my little brother took me to see spiderman 2, a truly excellent summer blockbuster and a much better flick than its predecessor. i still have some problems with it, namely everything about kirsten dunst. why does he like her? throughout, her eyes hang at half-mast as though she's in mourning for reagan. it makes me want to sneak up behind her and scream, "boo!" or "iran contra!" to shake her out of it. and then force-feed her crackers.

luckily maguire is a good enough actor to pull off the groundless obsession. speaking of obsessions, i could form one, if i watched the movie a couple more times. holy god, when he walks down the street? trying to be all suave? he's the cutest thing i've ever seen.

back to more rational judgements -- although i wouldn't discount his adorableness as a contributing factor of the film's success -- i thought raimi and the various story/screen writers did a terrific job of combining urgency and drama with moments of good natured self-mockery and a light touch all around. crazy science experiments gone awry and dubious longings for kirsten dunst aside, this film felt *real* to me in a way the first one did not.

i would, with your permission, like to highlight an interesting trend in recent blockbusters. harry potter III begins with harry playing with his wand under the covers late at night, trying to make it work. similarly, spidey develops (psychological) problems with shooting his spidey stuff. this is not gary cooper, people. this is impotence in our heroes. & it's resonating.

does this spell victory for the freshly minted team of kerry'n'edwards? i can only hope so.

Monday, July 05, 2004

identity crisis

i cycle through several identities a day. and by identities i don't mean "oh, gee, i feel somewhat punk today" or "it's goth time! get out the black!" i mean actual ages, periods of life. i mean TEENAGER, PRE-SKOOLER, ADULT, and back again.

i go from watching sex and the city, season 1 (which i purchased on dvd for a sweet $15) to watching care bears. care bears: STARE!
i sit down to rationally consider the future i'm building -- no really! -- with my boyfriend of almost 3 and a half years, and then i stand up to flirt some more, as though i'm one of my own 12 year old charges who spend their time filling their cheeks with marshmellows and designating certain flipflops "magic".

don't think i'm not ashamed of this! i am! but the effects of summer camp are strange and wonderful, even on those of us who are, ostensibly, full-grown. we're far, far from immune. for example: going out saturday night, when i was so exhausted that i could barely stand, was probably a less mature decision than my girls would have made. i virtually had to crawl home. at least i was grinning while crawling. i may be in the adolescent gutter, baby, but i'm looking at the stars.

Friday, July 02, 2004

daily life

for a few days, i was really fired up about seeing fahrenheit 911. now i've become more circumspect about the idea, more moderate; i'm beginning to redirect my energy to spiderman II. i imagine i am not unlike the rest of the country in this respect.

i think m. moore has talent and passion and a knack for generating controversy, all of which i admire, even if his bombast, chauvinism and narrow-mindedness turn me off almost in equal measure. but after reading everything i could find about the film, i almost feel as if i've already experienced both the high of the bush-bashing and the frustration of his limits myself.

i still want to see the film, which is setting records like ken on jeopardy!, and i would urge all you to except that clearly i'm the only ambulatory, non-senile american left who hasn't gotten a chance.

i did get a chance to go bowling last night -- duck pin! which is the exciting kind. cty organized an RA-TA Soiree that would take us all off campus for a bit and let us curse without having to look over our shoulders for impressionable younguns. i didn't do half-bad, as it happens.

when i left college, one of my biggest fears was that i'd never again find a community of like-minded individuals with whom i could spend hours just talking, comfortably. last night i realized that coming to cty was a perfect choice because the collection of RAs here -- cool folks around my own age -- is helping me ease out of that college holding pattern. good conversation kept me up last night, as though i were back at swat, and it was blissful.