Sunday, August 29, 2004

my last day of freedom, or, more about the kitties

and i'm not spending it protesting. no, baby. i'm going to sleep in the sun with our new cat, sotto, a much more successful endeavor so far than our previous homicidal kitty from whom we have finally separated ourselves. of course we couldn't simply hand homicidal kitty off to a shelter. we're not an Eye for an Eye kind of makeshift family. we weren't crying for Blood. we were crying, in good liberal style, for Rehabilitation.

so, like i said, housemate dina found a crazy cat lady. crazy cat lady (CCL) turned out to be the GI Joe of crazy cat ladies. CCL lives on the 6th floor of an abandoned walk-up in alphabet city. she and several other folks who were homeless at the time started squatting there in the late 80s, and after a brief and unsuccessful attempt on the part of the NYPD to oust them, new york shrugged its shoulders and gave them the building. CCL replied by getting a sex change and then filling her apartment, floor to ceiling, with cats. cats with ears missing, eyes missing, paws missing; ferile cats, skeletal cats, fat hising cats; and one cat named, er, Osama bin Falafel.

CCL herself is over six feet tall, broad-shouldered and serious, loaded with muscles the way fruit trees are loaded with fruit, tattooed up the wazoo. the first time we trekked up to CCL's own private zoo, dina asked CCL of her worst cat-inflicted injury. cheerful CCL showed us the scars. actually though, CCL reflected, i don't mind being mauled. it's a rush.
kind of like getting a tattoo?, i asked.
exactly, said she.

anyway, CCL has taken charge of homicidal kitty and we, in turn, have adopted one of hers.

this whole cat process has occupied me nicely during this last week of indolence. i also spent a lot of time hanging out with folks, dining, strolling, food shopping, watching a lot of Bravo, enjoying the sunshine, going to the Met, and reading Vanity Fair in preparation for the new mira nair movie. time passed much more quickly than i expected it to, and i've been on a more even emotional keel. we'll see if my happy calm withstands tomorrow on which starts:
swat (not on labor day, for the first time in memory)
the republican national convention
and my time as a salaried member of corporate society

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

the verdict is in

psychotic kitty is out. housemate dina returned from california and perhaps through her airplane-induced exhaustion tried to love kitty too hard. it responded by chomping down on her arm. and whoa blood! blood geysering, blood pole vaulting, blood that could have participated in the olympics. lucky thing we had two first aid kits and a law student in the house.

dina's fine now, just shaken & bandaged up. she's been looking into where the kitty can go now. she doesn't want it put to sleep, which would be the inevitable result if it were dropped off a shelter at this age with its habits. apparently though she's happened upon a cat lady in the area, i imagine an old british boarding skool matron, who sez sternly that she knows how to handle biters and could teach dina if dina were interested. trouble is, of course, that dina, like ben and i, is going to be insanely busy this fall; none of us have time or energy to train a worthless cat into a merely mediocre one.

cat lady's going to come sniff around. i hope she brings a riding crop. meanwhile, i'm going to accompany dina to cat lady's house, because the flipside of cat lady taking psychotic kitty is that we have to adopt one of cat lady's cats. supposedly several of them have no violent histories at all and that is what i'm hoping for. i mean, sheisse. life is complicated enough without a drama queen with fangs for a pet.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

the glue that holds the peace together

well, it's done. i'm officially registered -- advised and registered -- for my first nyu graduate class: "intro to the city." "the city" of course would be new york, for any of you just tuning in from a dark cave somewhere at the bottom of a swamp in another corner of the galaxy. we're in new york now so new york is the Only city, and as long as i'm working on accepting that i figure i can learn as much about the Only city as possible.

i'm finally listening to a song by the postal service, after hearing so much about them, and i like. i also keep listening to that one song i happened to download by the white stripes and it makes me wonder whether i'd like that album of theirs that everyone else saw made shrines for like years ago. any thoughts?

classes start september 7. you eagle eyes will recognize that september 7 is not, repeat not, labor day, and a wave of nostalgia will knock you off your keyboard. aw. swat starts labor day, always has, and more than once i began the semester with a marge murphy class. my wacky history prof marge would march in and, without bothering to remove her cowboy hat, would begin a lecture about how ridiculous it was that a liberal arts college could so blatantly ignore the importance of labor day and as her form of protest there would be no class. she'd grin, "they can make you come in today, but they can't make me teach."

once in that situation, she turned on the clinton/lewinsky tapes and for the whole period we listened, sharing the nation's fascination and disgust, to linda tripp pretending to console a disconsolate monica while noshing on corn chips.

i should do something on labor day to celebrate. it was marge who encouraged me to pursue my ridiculous special major, and if it weren't for that self-designed curriculum i wouldn't be here right now about to start a self-designed MA program. our relationship endured some ups and downs as is common, for whatever reason, of my relationships with my most influential teachers. but when she found me at graduation, none of it matters. she gave me a big hug and said, "you did it your way."

Monday, August 23, 2004

no more ellipses

claire and kate, two fellow swattie ex-pats who now live around the corner from me, asked if i'd miss swarthmore more once the seasons changed. i'd been missing swarthmore so much as a matter of course, irrespective of season, that it hadn't occurred to me that the coming of labor day without the attendent stress of returning to college would be strange. last year at this time, i remember reading rabi's blog and feeling sorry for her. now i get to incite pity in others, and like the sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.

how is new york?, you may ask, and well may you ask, since i haven't upated in a week. i've been busy -- well, thrift store shopping, which never fails to thrill me, and circling my neighborhood, and hanging out in thompkins square park where dogs orgy as fond humans look on, and eating too much & too well in honor of ben's birthday, and absorbing Bravo by the hour to stock up for when we convince our housemate cable tv is too rich for our blood, and food shopping, and cooking, and reading tarot cards, and sleeping with the cat who is only tolerable when asleep. he's frikkin jekyl and hyde, this cat. he goes from purring and meowing to attempting to eat my face.

naturally i've also been fighting off brief bouts of depressiveness. this i imagine i'll just have to wait out. once i'm more acclimated to the city and my days have more structure and purpose, i hope i'll be happy here. i have five friends within the city limits, and a great apartment, and ben, and a job and a skool only one of which, really, has to be worthwhile. thus, i have a high note to end on.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

any one placing any incumbrance on this balcony ...

the fire escape is beautiful but strict. it warns that wrongdoers and malfeasants (is that a word? it should be. i hereby proclaim you: word) could be financially disemboweled to the tune of ten dollars.

i take back what i said about the internet. it's kinda nice to sit here by the window since we have a stellar view into treetops and other brick buildings and their fire escapes. very sesame street. as opposed to the view out our bedroom window, which is very warsaw circa the warsaw pact.

i'm also feeling better in general for no appreciable reason except that it's pretty out today, & i've been thinking that even if i don't feel like a new yorker yet, that doesn't mean i can't or won't at some point find my niche. maybe, as hrc sez, it takes a village. plus, as of today, ben, who's cozed up with me here also shamelessly utilizing the free wireless, has been cozed up with me for 3 and a half years. awwwwwww.

Monday, August 16, 2004

... grumble, grouse ...

so i'm in new fucking york. that's the good and bad news.

two friends, in addition to ben, were hanging around willing to help me move in with a smile, like a welcome wagon. neither would stay to be treated to a thank you dinner either -- my mom had to settle for buying them thank you margaritas. unfortunately i hadn't eaten anything all day, and the combination of travel, hunger, alcohol, stress, and heat made me sick. luck followed by bad luck, the snake eating its own tail.

today i woke up feeling more adjusted. i unpacked. i squared my shoulders to the windows and, thus, the world, and thought, I can do this! then i crumpled like a suit slid off its hanger. i can't do this. this isn't my city, isn't my home. i don't know my way around; i follow ben, and i follow him into stores where i want him to buy clothes at retail prices in order to look like everyone else. i want to look like everyone else.

my housemate's cat is the worst kind: adult male, bad tempered, and fanged. the supposed "free wireless internet" i was inadvised enough to mention is equally high-maintainance. you have to squat on the arm of the couch facing the fire escape with the grate open in order to make the damn thing work. it wouldn't be worth the frustration if i weren't such an addict, and if i weren't so homesick. currently Home feels like almost any place but here.

at dinner, we discussed the difference between "sullen" and "morose." sullen implies a radiation of hostility while morose is more inwardly directed. i feel a pretty good example of both.

Friday, August 13, 2004

brace yourself, folks

what's the opposite of retro-fitting? you know, fitting for the future? that's what i'm getting done this afternoon. my new clothes are going to be tailored so that they look Convincing and i look Assertive, rather than like a Little Girl Pretending to be in the Mob. (the suits have broad shoulders.)

all that miracle-making can't take place in a single afternoon. my transformed clothes will be mailed to me in my new apartment along with my last cty paycheck and whatever you choose to send me, internet.

every time i pack for someplace, i try to take a representative sample of books with me. the sample varies each time but tends to include some old favorites, some promising looking young things i haven't tried yet, some poetry, and some snark. the idea is kinda a paralell one to the hope of a young cabaret singer that a movie mogul will happen in while she's singing her heart out and offer her a contract. except, in my case, the "contract" would be for friendship and admiration.

this may be my last post as a dc resident fully dependent on her parents. i've enjoyed that life.
on the bright side, my new apartment has free wireless.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

sketch. the good kind.

on the theory that you, as a reader, can't fully understand who i am without knowing random stories from my childhood, i'm going to write a little about one of my worst summers ever. also because my other alternatives are packing -- unpacking, THEN packing -- or watching yet another episode of either the sopranos or the west wing.

here goes.

i wanted to be the witch and instead i was the steward. i wanted to be bernadette peters and instead i was -- i didn't even know! no one knew the name of the actor who originated the role of the steward in into the woods on broadway in 1987, and why would they? all the steward did was badinage a little with cinderella's prince and then kill jack's mother. jack's mother, incidentally, was one of the parts the auditioning team called me back for. also little red riding hood. did i get either? noooooooo. the most self-posessed 13 year old you ever saw, a beautiful black girl named tessa, became little red riding hood, and i became the steward. not even the steward: one-THIRD of the steward! i had to share my miniscule, sorry excuse for a role with TWO OTHER PEOPLE.

please understand: into the woods was my favorite show in the world and bernadette peters was my favorite actress. the previous year, in a BAPA summer production, i had played the Princess in The Princess and the Pea. that means, in case you need guidance, i had the title role. ensemble went one way during rehearsal days; i went another. i went with the stars, the other stars, like the prince who i had to dance and hold hands with -- no kissing, not even on the cheek, the director decided -- during the climax of the show. when i returned to the dressing room after the curtain call, the cast turned and cheered for me in one voice. ever since, i'd been addicted to applause, and? as the steward? i knew i wasn't going to get shit.

why was being 12 so much harder than being 11? how had i gone from royalty to servant, from sex object to asexual, from the last curtain call to the first? when our director gave the cast a stern talking to about the making out backstage i could only look embarassed i had no one to make out with. the summer before, billy, a fellow cast member, had finally worked up the courage to pass me a note saying, "i like you. call me. billy." i was still the same person, wasn't i? billy wanted to watch surf ninjas and adams family values with me, show me how to beat mario games, introduce me to his parrot -- why didn't anyone in this cast?

the worst moment of all came when the director, for a moment, decided to pay attention to the stewards. okay, she said, i want you all to practice walking. she wanted us to look like the wicked witch's guards in wizard of oz. so up we got and before the rest of the cast, a cast which had real acting and singing to do, we practiced walking in a circle. only, the room had three walls made of mirrors, and i couldn't help but notice in several of them that i had a stain on the back of my white-and-blue striped limited shirt. i started walking faster, hoping perhaps i could outrun it. i tripped on the steward in front of me; he tripped on the steward in front of him. i walked even faster. soon we were a blur, tripping, speed-walking, glaring at each other, until finally the director, with a tinge of disgust in her voice, put us out of our misery. we never practiced walking again and i never wore that shirt again because at that point no one had revealed the secret to getting blood out of fabric (in case any pubescent girls are reading this: cold water).

the point is, yes the point, is, that i've finished going through puberty. tada! i'm done, as of this summer. my face has stopped breaking out. my face started breaking out when i was 12 so that means puberty took only 10 years. that's not bad, right? i mean, i don't know what the national average is or anything, but 10 years, that seems okay. at least now that's it over. and thank god i never have to do it again.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

will power

i am bone tired. or muscle tired, rather. everything feels taut and pulled at the same time, as if people are playing tug of war with me. i'm home. yesterday evening i went out with my parents and learned the difference between a highball and a cocktail. today i went out with my mother and bought my first pair of real heels. the kind you totter in. at least they don't have pointy toes (because, you know, i don't). i bought an air-conditioner, in the process alarming ben, who suggested, with solomonine wisdom or at least foresight, that we shouldn't have any shared stuff. fine: it'll be my air-conditioner then, and it'll go in my window, in my half of our bedroom.

i am equipped for new york. i will be more equipped once the clothes that my mother and i bought today for obscene retail prices are trimmed to fit me and i have a martini shaker. preferably one shaped like a penguin.

cty is over. cty is over, and for a moment there upon my return i reverted to childhood. curled up in my bed with a crying jag, pouting into my pillow that i couldn't be 13 again, or at least preparing to return to swarthmore again, instead of preparing to make my professional bed and lie in it in the big city.

missing cty makes me miss college and it's all one big old mess. it's hard to look backwards and forwards at the same time.

Friday, August 06, 2004


there's always something that keeps me from going over the edge and drowning in a sea of enthusiasm. no matter how happy happy i am in general about an experience, i can't help but also notice the vomit stains on the floor, or whatever the opposite of a silver lining is. mostly, this allows me to maintain perspective and that's a good thing. it also makes me sullenly want an unsullied experience, an experience so amazing that the vomit stains on the floor become insignificant.

except my relationship, come to think of it. relationship aside. (good relationship.)

the happy happy of cty consists of:
+ an admin staff that treated me with a surprising amount of respect
+ an RA staff including a handful of people i consistently wanted to be around, and a larger handful of folks whose company i could enjoy from time to time
+ two halls of girls whose constant chirping of "ester! ester!" stemmed from their love of me. (look, we're not talking about a boy now, we're talking about 12 12-year-olds. there's no need to be coy. i treated them like adults sometimes and sometimes i chased them down the hallways; i bought them starburst and listened to their problems and gave them their mail; and they loved me. they even said so on their evals. so there.)

the vomit stains consist of:
- the fact that i feel vaguely expendable to the RAs in general. i didn't make a strong enough impression. i wasn't hero, villain, or fool. it may be that i'll just never be popular in/to large groups, only in comfy subsets. but that doesn't it make less disheartening.
- small irritations about bad food, body image issues, problems with the way cty is run, over-privileged children, not getting any tips when one RA got $150 and a gift certificate. mostly it's just the expendable thing. the possibility of being both expendable and mediocre is my bigger personal fear.

it's over. the kids are gone. all that's left for the RAs to do is get smashed tonight and be off campus by noon tomorrow. several of us got started early, drinking cocktails at tea time while watching beauty and the beast. no vomit stains there, though there might be some later, heh heh! ... sigh. i think i'd prefer deep conversation to drinking, frankly, or at least some combination of the two. i've been spoiled for life by my friends from home with whom that kind of thing is not only possible but de rigeur.

tomorrow i'll be home, for at least a week. my only summer vacation of the summer. it will lack several key players, scattered damn-it-all to africa and the middle east, but by god it will include digital cable, good food, no responsibility, a dog, and at least a fraction of my family. 'twill serve.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

john swift

for four years, i wanted to talk about gender. there never seemed to be an adequate enough convergence of time, space, and other interested parties. classes on the subject managed to come off as both flaky and over my head; i never took any.

now i'm reading middlesex -- and i'm rejoicing. where did this book come from? when people recommended it to me in the past, why did they leave it at a casual verbal thing instead of frog-marching me to the nearest store?

in case you haven't heard, or weren't listening, either, middlesex is a pulitzer-prize winning epic novel from jeffrey eugenides. it is not about a town in new jersey or the dark ages. the main character, cal/calliope, wrestles with issues of sex v. gender as he, a chromosonal male, looks back on having been raised female in the 1960's midwest. (caution: spoilers!) when a specialist interviewed cal as a young teenager, he found that the influences of cal's environment and breeding outweighed the influence of undropped testicles: he recommended genital surgery and injections of estrogen to transform cal into a more real girl.

cal had always believed he was, and thought of himself as, a girl. yet the doctor's proclamation set off a panic in him. for reasons he couldn't quite understand, rather than be an improved version of calliope, he ran away from his parents, bought a new set of clothes, got a haircut, and commenced life as cal.

that's as far as i've gotten. mostly i only have time to read at night and while on duty. the latter provides copious opportunities to study the chillun -- after all, technically i'm supposed to "watch" them. makes me wonder. are the boys more obnoxious because they're conditioned to be? if they wore the skirts, would they strut more and talk less in class? that's banal. okay. how about this? could these kids, for their advanced intelligence, be any more receptive to advanced ideas about things like gender?

very little experimentation happens at this site in any visible way. no one seems to be challenging norms, gender- or otherwise. cty doesn't encourage kids to be radical, which i think is a missed opportunity. even if you're not going to end up on the bank with a cigarette impassively watching the mainstream flow by, it can't hurt to be exposed to a glimpse of what's up there.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004


a couple minor tragedies struck my friend and fellow RA emily yesterday. i had never seen her so stoop-shouldered and red-eyed. defeat loomed over her and unbrushed hair made her look like she was in mourning instead of just, as usual, late. but she managed to shrug all of that off, for one of the best causes i can think of: zombies.

every afternoon, each RA is responsible for conceiving of and putting into effect 2 activities for the chillun. the perfect ones combine elements of originality, simplicity, and stumbling around made-up to resemble the undead. considering these factors, last session emily and i came up with Zombies. we painted our faces whitish green with purple eyes, added gashes here and there, then topped it off with toilet paper bandages. the chillun copied us. when all were ready, we went forth, wreaking havoc on the campus, groaning "brains ... brains ... "

super fun, especially when strangers shot us that Are they playing around or not? look, and then decided they didn't want to stay to find out. people ran away! it was awesome and it worked like imitrex on emily, whose mood improved immediately once did the activity again yesterday. i hadn't even been feeling depressed and it made me feel better too. i only wish i had a picture. if i may say so myself, i make a freaky-ass brain eater.

Monday, August 02, 2004

the grim month

in my experience, august never lives up to july. august is a slow, sweaty, uninterrupted march out of summer and back to the real world, until now signified by skool. the transition always unnerved me a little because i didn't appreciate not knowing what would happen in tenth grade, or eleventh, or my senior year. but at least i had the foreshadowing of a brother one year older.

now this is a much bigger august. i keep looking around for the foreshadowing, since adam isn't there to provide it for me, and read the details like tarot cards: a bird! maybe i'll have a ... cardinal year! or, bad food in the cafeteria yet again! maybe this year will be like a cheese quesadilla that's burnt around the edges and mysteriously void of cheese!

(meals this ridiculous make me question being a vegetarian. twice a day, i'm shooting myself in the foot, limiting my options to three instead of, perhaps, six -- and for what? cuz i think it's gross or wrong to kill something and eat its carcas? is that even how you spell carcas? people don't even read me a vegetarian, so i get the limited food options without the silent admiration of the weaker folk. once, when i revealed my dietary preferences to someone, she furrowed at me and said, "but you're so cynical!")

since things are winding down here at camp cty, i have more time to angst these things, to worry, for example, about what kind of body image issues new york is going to instill in me if being surrounded by thirteen year olds is enough to make me feel doughy and short. what will i wear to work in new york? will i have to buy shoes? makeup? is my unairbrushed look going to be cute and collegiate or simply painfully out of it? is sex and the city any indication of what's expected of me?

what the fuck. if jamie can handle a year of the unknown in ethiopia, surely i can handle middle manhattan. i'll just be sure to stay away from the financial centers.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

how do girls learn to shriek like that?

the first thing i see when i walk into the dorm is their little legs dangling above me like fringe, sticking out of the gaps in the banister. they're looking down on the staircase singing, I KNOW A SONG THAT GETS ON EVERYBODY'S NERVES! EVERYBODY'S NERVES! EVERYBODY'S NERVES! they were exactly in that position when i escaped, to walk into civilization for a few moments and exchange a defunct dvd of spaceballs for breathless.

the variety show this afternoon will probably be as calming and enjoyable as the entryway to my dorm. i'm bracing myself.

having made it this far into the weekend, i can't imagine i'll collapse now. for a couple moments there yesterday things looked tenuous: kids were whiny, weather hot, and other RAs making everything inutterably worse by acting as too-cool-for-skool as the kids. NEWSFLASH, i wanted to scream while grabbing one of them by the throat. WE'RE NOT HERE TO BE COOL. WE'RE CAMP COUNSELORS, FOR GOD'S SAKE.

i have to control these impulses. every time i see a thirteen year old strutting around -- or rather attempting to balance -- in limo shoes and a paris hilton skirt, i want to knock her over. it's partly a function of self-deprivation, i guess, partly of jealousy, and partly of pure frustration. can't these girls let go of their desire to be Teen People for three short weeks?