Friday, July 31, 2009

Actual Updates from the Alumni Bulletin

The Swarthmore Alumni Magazine came today, which is always a tasty treat. Here are real, honest-to-god updates for my fellow Swatties:
Jason's third album, The Epic Album, has been released. If you are interested in listening to his experimental rock and medieval epic fantasy, please contact him at [email]."

Julie is still living at an orphanage in Monte Cristi, Dominican Republic. She runs the English Institute in town and leads an environmental education project in the local public schools.

Qian is composing, working at the Asian and Pacific Island Wellness Center, and volunteering at The Walden School. ... He recently served on the 30th Anniversary Coordinating Committee for Community United Against Violence, an LGBTQQ anti-violence organization [I would never have guessed -- ed.]. On a recent Northeast tour, he enjoyed [Swattie's] opera and celebrated enlightenment with [other Swatties]. Qian also recently attended the Queer Contra Dance Camp in Aptos, CA, with [Swatties].

There's not quite enough room here to report everything Hollis has been up to, but selected activities include ice climbing, running the outings for the local Adirondack Mountain Club, running the crisis hotline in upstate New York, traveling as national secretary for the national crisis hotline board, teaching suicide intervention professionally, sitting on New York's state trainer board, and, oh, getting his pilot's license, of course.
It goes on and on. The sad thing is, when I went to school with these people, they were all three-dimensional. Though I try to remember them like that, more and more in my mind they become caricature. Except for all my friends, of course, who don't write in to the damn alumni magazine. That might be because they're not "still in Hawaii working on a doctorate in the neuroendocrinology of reef fish" or "exploring the rat research world," or even "still living in DC and looking forward to the summer after traveling to El Salvador as an electoral observer early in the year and preparing for early summer travel to Italy (for work, not play)."

I shouldn't be disgruntled. I like my life. There is no need to mock / envy other people's achievements, even if my most striking recent accomplishment has been bringing friends and one of their mothers to Drag King Bingo.

In fact, I just heard from a young woman to whom I made a difference five years ago. Via Facebook, she wrote:
This is a strange question, but I was wondering if you're the Ester who was an RA at [summer camp] in 2004. Completely out of the blue, flipping through some things, I found the literary magazine from that summer, remembered poems that Ester (you?) had written and smiled.
Cutest message ever, right? I wrote back in kind, and then she replied:
There was at least one in the lit mag that summer, yeah. It might be embarrassing now - I mean, it was 5 years ago and I already see a younger version of myself in the writing, but I remember it meaning a lot to me then and just generally enjoying chatting with you during the session.

Thanks! I really loved my first year at Smith and am counting down the days till I get back.

Funny how those things are. I'm struggling to remember my own RA's name from that summer, but I guess, probably because of the poetry, that you still stick out among it all.
I still stick out, and not because of the boobs. (Or so she tactfully claims.) Isn't that adorable enough to rival Puppywar? It made my Friday, anyway.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

27 again

Two grand things came out of turning twenty-seven, aside from getting to celebrate for a full weekend. I now own the full set of DVDs of the Wire, and part of my identity moved cross-country to West LA.

Owning the Wire means I can not only open my eyes wide and earnestly preach its virtues to folks, but I can also push boxes of proof into their hands. This brings me great joy. Left up to themselves maybe people would follow my advice to shining towers of pop cultural brilliance, or maybe they would wander unguided into thickets of bad taste, from which they eventually emerge whining about how there's nothing good on television.

And I can re-watch it, either with the folks to whom I'm preaching or by myself just because. Though an exciting prospect, this marathon will have to wait. I've been dosing myself with intense art lately: reading literature about war and its aftermath (City of God, City of Thieves, Away, A Canticle for Leibowitz), watching shows about violence and what happens when you cleave to a morality system of your own making (Sopranos, Weeds). Too often, my dreams have been disturbing, even horrifying. Last night it was all rape and pillage, rape and pillage, with random murder on the side.

It seemed wise to put myself on a diet of family friendly fare, like the Gilmore Girls, until my subconscious adjusts.

Meanwhile, to help with the distraction, I have an iPhone with a super new West LA phone number! If you didn't enjoy Pt 1, below, you definitely won't enjoy the second installment, so I'll skip it. In short, after much haggling and some help from my brother, I have the most exciting new toy I've ever had. I hope 27 makes me worthy of it.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

iphone saga: the beginning


Adam: Ester, I would like to buy you an iphone for your birthday. ... Hello? Are you there? What's that sound?
Ester: Me jumping for joy while simultaneously descending into neurosis.


Ester: Am I cool enough? Am I important enough? Will people laugh at me?
Rebecca #1: I though self-deprecation went out in the 90s.
Ester: Not for me.


Adam: You're getting an iphone -- just accept it. It's a phone, not an existential crisis. Ok? Good.


Ester: Hi, I'm here to get an iphone.
Genius: Okily dokily! ... Hm. This says you need to give us $500, which we would hold for a year.
Ester: This is like some sort of ransom?
Genius: Yes.
Ester: And at whose chest can I point this Gun of Desperation, which contains a magazine full of Trustworthy Looks and Sensible Explanations?
Genius: That would be AT&T's. Store's right around the corner.


Ester: Hi, I'm here to understand why I can't get an iphone.
AT&T Lady: Hm. This says that there are stray cats that have better credit than you do. And felons. And street urchins.
Ester: That's impossible.
AT&T Lady: Sea urchins, even.
Ester: Three months ago, I qualified for a mortgage!
AT&T Lady: Thank you, have a nice day.
Rebecca #2: Come on, honey. Let's go resuscitate you and then get you some food.


: Hi, I'm calling to understand why sea urchins have better credit than I do.
Bombay: Thank you. May I have your date of birth?
Ester: July 19th.
Bombay: Oh! And how was your birthday?
Ester: Like sex without coming. The iphone was supposed to be the big present, you see, but I couldn't get one because there's some problem with my credit.
Bombay: I see. To help you, I will need $15 every month for the rest of your life.
Ester: Here you go.
Bombay: Thank you. Here is your actual credit score.

Ester: Oh! But that isn't bad at all. It's lower than it was 3 months ago.
Bombay: That's because AT&T checked it twice: each time knocked it down a bit.
Ester: How thoughtful of them.
Bombay: Be of good cheer! Your score is lower than that of my very efficient and capable twelve year old daughter, but it is higher than that of Bernie Madoff.
Ester: Good enough for me. Thank you.
Bombay: Thank you. And may the lord in his goodness and mercy grant you your orgasm/iphone.
Ester: Amen.

To be continued ...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

What is ester?

On the happiest day of the year, according to Google, "ester is" ...
  • mainly used in food and cosmetics
  • $162910
  • just too sweet!
  • a beautiful name.
  • derived from the German Essig-√Ąther (literally: vinegar)
  • widely used in leather and daily chemicals
  • stable
  • a thirty-three-year-old married woman with four children
  • tasty!
  • in your extended network
  • used in making soap
  • generally immediately available in most volumes.
  • much more business like, organized, and efficient. While Tati would amble in around 8:30, 9:00 or 10:00 am, Ester is here at 7:00 sharp.
  • filled with various moving companies. Before choosing a moving company in Ester, you need to take several precautions.
  • a giant of a human being, head and shoulders above most others (7'0", 325 lbs.). She usually has a friendly grin on her face.
  • giving a helping hand to her husband
  • a fan of: Music. Susan Boyle
  • true commic Genius.
  • Ester is a Hedonist: She does as she chooses when she chooses. She is unfettered by notions of sin and shame and is unconcerned with what others may think
  • neither an anarchist nor a polygamist and that she is in good mental and physical health.
  • pure joy!
  • a very nice looking girl that combines femmininity with evenly fairly developed muscles.
This is all true. Also, please note the following:

"The odor of the ester is more easily detected when the ester is mixed in some water. Never try to. directly smell the ester while it is still hot."

Monday, July 13, 2009

How will it all end?

my bathroom
Originally uploaded by shorterstory.

Our localized version of Katrina hit around 2:30 AM. I woke up to the sound of rushing water, which was pretty peaceful until I realized what it meant. Mr. Ben, being quicker on the uptake, was already dressed and scurrying around, doing things, while I fumbled for clothes. After a brief debate about whether we should dial 311 or 911, Mr. Ben was on the phone with a dispatcher; soon, three of New York's Bravest were at our door with iron implements and befuddled looks on their faces.

Was this some kind of karmic punishment for our not going in the water at the end of Saturday's "Going Places, Doing Stuff" ride through NYC? I wondered. The tour was led by a brilliant but crazy friend of ours. It smashed together 40 strangers on a vegetable-oil-powered bus built for 30 on a trip from Long Island City, to Woodlawn Cemetary at the end of one subway line in the Bronx, and finally to the beach at the opposite end of another.

Along the way, we broke bread with a Ghanaian king and members of the Federation of Black Cowboys. We tried to avoid poison ivy on a post-apocalyptic elevated train track in Queens. We crawled through holes in fences, did a loop in a Halal slaughterhouse, and deciphered graffiti in an abandoned munitions factory.

All with good cheer! It was a fun day, and it was lovely to end up facing the waves. But by then the temperature had dropped to about 65 degrees, and what with the clouds and the wind and everything it seemed like you'd have to be crazy to strip off your clothes and dive in the water -- especially since you had at least another hour on vinyl seats, cheek-to-jowl with your fellow man, before you'd get to a subway that would take you home.

A sane decision, and yet one for which we were punished: Sunday night, the water came to us.

The firefighters went off the way they came and we spent an hour turning our bayou back into a bathroom as best we could. The effort required two mops, two huge buckets, lots of towels, and a rubber dustpan that functioned as a ladle. It was gross and exhausting, and we were already exhausted; by the time we were done, we could barely stand. We put our filthy selves back in bed (naturally, we had just washed our sheets) and turned off the alarm clock.

Who needs an alarm clock when you have your own personal waterfall starting at 8:00 AM? "We just cleaned that floor!" I moaned as Mr. Ben jumped out of bed to gauge the new damage. At first it didn't seem so bad. Then, as were trying to figure out what to do next, the ceiling collapsed. If I had been using the toilet, I'd have been deader than Elvis. I will never take my safety while on the can for granted again.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

the paradox of choice

OMG, you guys, I could have an iPhone.

Do you know how cool I think iPhones are? They're like puppies. When I see someone else with one, my eyes get wide with excitement and misty with sentiment and I ask if I can play with it.

The trouble is, I do not believe I am cool enough to have an iPhone. I cannot tell whether this is a logical impulse, being that the following things are true: I do not have the money to support an iPhone in the manner to which it is accustomed; my own lifestyle does not call for one; I might worry about it too much to enjoy it.

Or is the impulse plainly silly? Is it reasonable to be intimidated by appliances?

The back-up potential gift is an iPod because, believe it or not, I don't even have one of those. But they've been out long enough that I think I could swing having one, though I'd still know, in the back of my head, that it is more attractive than I am. Any over-thinkers out in Internet-land have an opinion?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

the happiest time of the year

It's been Michael Jackson Week for about nine days now, with short interruptions in which we were instructed to laugh at the ramblings of Sarah Palin. ("If I die, I die," she says now, nonsensically. I wonder if she even knows who she's quoting.)

The AP begins a story on the funeral by describing the somber atmosphere:
Michael Jackson's public memorial started out more spiritual than spectacular Tuesday, opening with a church choir singing as his golden casket was laid in front of the stage and a shaft of light evoking a cross as Lionel Richie gave a gospel-infused performance.
I'm not sure "spiritual" is the word I would use for any of that. Then again, Harry Potter trailers are as close to spiritual as I get.

The Harry Potter movie is only one Michael-Jackson-Week away! It is one of the many reasons I am crazy about summer. Also Twelfth Night in the park and Harold and Maude in the other park and the idea of my birthday on Governor's Island.

Over July 4th, Mr. Ben and I basked in the good weather in Asheville, NC ("the San Francisco of the South!") with his mom and ten thousand other tourists, pasty from the past month or so of rain. To justify its reputation, the town had one gay bar and the local movie theater was playing "Every Little Step," the documentary about the making of A Chorus Line. But it was still the South. For every rainbow, there was a Jesus fish, and in the midst of the tourists in the town square waiting for the fireworks, there was a man dragging a large wooden cross. We don't get a lot of those in Brooklyn.

It was a nice change of pace, as well as a nice transition into my favorite month of the year. July will turn me into a 27 year old, even if it doesn't turn me into a published novelist (the prospect of which dims with every passing minute). Ah well, who's counting? And who's lining up to join the fun and help take my mind off the failure?