Thursday, September 11, 2008

The More Things Change

A year ago I wrote a post regarding September 11th, and little has changed in its relevance (save for changing "six years" to "seven"). In fact, things might have gotten worse, especially after Giuliani's presidential run with "noun, verb, 9/11" speeches, the unknown whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, and--most disgusting for me--this "tribute" video from the Republican National Convention. With every passing year a terrible tragedy and a beautiful rebirth get more and more trivialized, marketed, whored out and profiteered with devastating effect. Remember 9/11 today, remember what came out of it in November.

It's been seven years. Wow. Like anyone else, I can ramble through the particulars of the day: pre-litigated Coach Feldman telling us about a plane hitting the World Trade Tower (but still having to teach us about safety while lifting weights); going into Chemistry and watching both towers fall; the crisp, sunny afternoon and how something this terrible isn't allowed to happen on a day this beautiful. I'm sure you've been running through these same scenarios in your mind all day as well. The details still cut with incredible precision, and I doubt they will dull in time.

It's strange how the day has been mutated ever since. It has become a talking point, a fear tactic, a construction plan, a reason for more death, a squabble over a politically correct statue, a tent pole for polity. It's been a while since the tiny American flags were on every car, front door, and overpass. It's been some time since tragedy was transformed into unity, then patriotism and a rallying cry, then belittled as a conspiracy theory, a talking point, a charade. It says something dire about our society that we could so effortlessly and mindlessly turn a negative into a positive and then right back into a negative. The tragedy keeps unfolding.

Seven years. We've all had that weird "has it been seven years already?" moment, where we try and go back and touch the clothes, listen to the music, see the people. We try and put ourselves back into the proper perspective to re-break our hearts. To most of us, seven years in the past is just a marker of where we've been, where we've gone, and what has changed between then and now. What gets lost is what those seven years could mean others. The infant boy whose mother died is now a second-grader. The sixth-grader who has to cope with the loss of her father is starting college. A wife has to spend what was to be her 25th wedding anniversary alone.

I hate the phrase "never forget." It's common sense; I don't have to be reminded to remember. Far too often we remember Tower Two getting hit, the awful long shot of both Towers in line with each other, a plane coming from the right, a dreadful pause, then the blow out of fire, smoke, debris and flesh from the left side. We think of terrorism, and we fill our hearts with hate.

Tonight, remember the people who were working a boring job to pay the mortgage, or to get their kid through school, or because that's what their parents always wanted her to be, only to be killed. Remember the kids who, in a flash, had to traverse an infinitely more difficult road through life than we can imagine. Remember the firefighters and police who held the badge and their duty over their own lives. Don't think about the conspiracy, the wars that have come forth, the fear that we're constantly reminded of and held down because of. Remember the victims, remember the heroes, and remember the families of both.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Low Light

Is there a stronger human emotion than loneliness? Or is emotion not the right word; mechanism, condition, fault, component, downside? It is the one constant we are always striving against, even if it isn't in those terms. We do not want to be homeless, alone on the street somewhere begging for money from a group of people totally and completely disconnected from us. We pick which colleges to go to, the good ole' vessels for our future, based on the sizes of student population, determined to find out which one we would fit best in. We drunkenly hook up with one another because we want the carnal experience, sure, but it isn't a terrible feeling to sleep with the comfort of someone directly next to you.

Is there a more palpable sense in the repertoire of humanity? Pain is a feeling to extreme to contemplate; you simply feel it in varying degrees. In a lot of pain, you never stop screaming to ponder, "in what ways did I bring this pain on to me, and what is the best possible means to alleviate myself of this stigma?" Your brain is wired on instinct to help yourself (in most cases, get to a hospital). Grief is something that can overcome all rational thought, shutting down your cognitive because it cannot function when it's submerged so deep in sorrow and tears. You never think "why am I so sad?" when a loved one passes away, you simply are and we accept that fact. If you're happy, there is never a point where you try and analyze the function that causes your happiness. Oh, I found five dollars in my pocket, but why is my mouth all stretched out? Technically you broke even with yourself, but notching a +5 in your mental bank accounts just feels better.

Loneliness is unique because it is a feeling that can be seen in almost all feelings. You can be sorrowful because you are lonesome, can exacerbate pain because there is no one to aid you, and the sheer avoidance of the state can lead to happiness on its own, even if the time you had with people is lackluster. It can certainly damper your mood, alter your state of mind, inhibit your actions...hell, if it made you crash a car it would probably be illegal to take across state lines.

Yet it is the unique problem that we all suffer from, across the board, in every part of the globe, within every last shred of humanity. They even pulled it off with a robot in the brilliant Wall-E. That movie works in the most basic way because while it is an animated robot from the future, he deals with a constant in our lives and is instantly relatable, no matter the vessel in which the message is delivered (or trash compacted).

If the universal language is music, then all the solos exist because of loneliness. It is the condition that drives at least a quarter Beatles songs. It is the mechanism for terrible social and romantic ideas. It makes watching movies in the theaters more enjoyable because it is avoided. It makes attending sporting events better because you can high five someone other than yourself.

I have never felt more boxed in then being back at home after college. There is a clear divide that occurs almost immediately after you receive your diploma (or, in my case, a diploma holder with nothing in it until you have to retrieve it on your own the next day). Like a light switch being flicked up, suddenly you are an adult. You cannot relate to anyone under the age of 21 in the same way again. Ostensibly, your childhood is over. The 16+ years of schooling have been preparation, one grade after another, for this moment, where you are thrust into the adult world. But this is common knowledge.

What isn't--or at least wasn't to me--is the post-college experience of living at home. My work schedule doesn't match some of my best friends’. It doesn't even match some of my not-so-good friends. Yesterday, I had to put my car in the shop and my mom wasn't answering her cell phone, so I figured I'd just call someone else. As I'm walking down the street carrying a trumpet case and listening to an iPod on a road that is not designed for foot travel (don’t ask), it dawned on me that I had no one to immediately call. If I were in Boston in March, there are tons of numbers to call of people who are a mile or so away that could quickly come to my aid. Now, I have friends at jobs on Wall Street who I'm lucky to see once every weekend. I have friends going to Europe for years on end. I have friends who I know simply wouldn't pick up the phone.

By no means is this meant to lament my stasis, to "woe is me" until I'm crying to Dashboard Confessional. Instead, I think I'm hitting on a great irony. After years of being told "Michael, all your classmates feel this way," I'm taking a step out onto the ledge. My entire grade that is home right now mostly sits at home, bored, waiting for someone to talk to or call, yet we don't have the gumption to do anything about it because we don't know where the hell we are, let alone anyone else. You can't walk down the street and run into people; you see them briefly on a road as you both shoot by in cars, gaining a simple moment of acknowledgment, a thought of "I never see him/her/them" glances by just as quickly as the moment. Here we are, all of us, a group separate, but oh so connected in a most vital way.

And we're too alone to even realize it.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

How Alive? Too Alive

The brain has such a unique and complex ability to block out ideas, events, and conduct that it simply does not want to render. If you are abused as a child, your brain can trip its own defense mechanism and completely block it out of your conscious mind. Or, if you are drunk and do something incredibly stupid, do you black out, or does your brain resist remembering the event because of the guilt that you would have to suffer through?

I know there is one thing I certainly forgot about: moving home after graduation. Now here I am, back in the same home that was purchased so I could one day grow up and frolic in a back yard, sitting in the same room where I went from sleeping in a crib, to a big boy bed, and finally to a longer big boy bed, and I can't for the life of me understand how I neglected this part of the equation. Of course I had to live at home. What was I going to do, get a great job from junior through senior year to carry me over so I could afford a place to live? Pfft, yeah.

I'm now a graduate with a film and television degree, where else was I going to go? I feel like I'm in a Greek tragedy, and that since I was a freshman in high school who decided he had to go to film school, I have been avoiding the inevitable, somehow unable to see the future that I could never avoid. You know, without that whole “sleeping with your mom” thing.

Anywhoo, here's some random shit that's been bouncing around my head for the last...well…before I embarrass myself by figuring out when my last "random" blog post was, I'll just say it's been a while.

Is there a household in America who actually allows a house cleaner to fully do her job? For a brief stint, the Anton family had someone come by and clean the house every week. It was so long ago that we were using the archaic and now certainly non-PC term of "cleaning lady," as opposed to the now-appropriate "cleaning woman." Every week before she came over, my mother would yell at me that [b]we[/b] needed to clean the house, for the cleaning lady (pardon) was coming the next day.

What other profession exists where the people hire someone to do a job, and then attempts to accomplish it before the employee gets there? Before surgery, do you clean out your internal organs and try to make them as neat and presentable before the doctor cuts you open? Do you start building your deck before the construction crew arrives so you don't have to be embarrassed by how much progress you haven't made?

What is the point of even having a cleaning woman if you're going to do half the job but still pay her full price? Shit, I cleaned my room and never got a dime, but this woman strolls in, neatly puts some things in a corner and hits my desk with Pledge and gets all the reward?

The other half of the payment has to combat the weird insecurity women (especially mothers) have when they invite other people into their homes. Except, ya know, this person is supposed to thwart said insecurity by cleaning the house so that the mother does not have to deal with such a problem. For whatever reason, moms have this idea that they need to present a house to others that seemingly no one has ever lived in, neglecting to recognize that everyone else is pulling the same gimmick.

It's a vicious cycle and I'd have someone try and sort it out for me, but I'd be embarrassed that this problem exists in the first place.

Is there really anything worse in the world than seeing a wet pubic hair on a toilet? There is simply no getting around it. You walk into a public bathroom that you clearly have to use (why the hell else would you be in a [i]public toilet[/i]?), you lift the seat up or just stare down, and there it is: wet pube.

You can't avoid looking at it, either. Like a traction beam, it just holds your rapt attention while you stand there, motionless, unable to stop it. Do you wipe it? Can you seriously wipe away someone else's curly, awful personal hair that is no doubt not covered by any other liquid than urine?

My god, what if the offending pube and puddle of piss [i]aren't even a matching set?[/i] How does one cope with this? There it is, just looking at you, kinda bent more than curled, drowned in waste, hanging on to the edge of the bowl, refusing to be effortlessly washed away into the swirl of the toilet.

We are fighting many losing wars--Iraq, Afghanistation, on Drugs, on Blatant Horseshit and Rampant Stupidity--but we cannot lose the war against wet toilet pubes. Don’t worry, just vote to give me power to act, and in three weeks time I'll bomb the toilet at a McDonalds.

Mission Accomplished.

I was never good at Logic in Math class, but here goes nothing: If there is a drunk girl, and there is a table in the room, a drunk girl will dance on it. I have seen it nearly everywhere I go, and have no idea what the allure is. Dancing above people? A fascination of putting your shoes where other people eat and have no doubt that it will not be adequately cleaned for patrons the next day?

In a rare form of proper journalistic conduct, I have decided to actually do some work in a segment I will entitle "Useless Knowledge," where some of my pithy rhetorical questions will be answered by someone who does one of those things I am mystified by. Because it is me and it is this blog, don't expect this segment to ever come back.

I dispatched a call to my friend Catherine, a self-proclaimed master of dancing on tables, to try and get to the bottom of this phenomenon. She explained, "Well, I guess, if you like dancing, doing it on elevated surfaces is just one step better. Oh, and it's about being the center of attention, pretty much. When I get drunk, I feel the need to climb on things and dance. Not something I feel the need to do when sober."

She will fall off the table "infrequently," and the impromptu scaffolding must always be "secure…unless I'm really drunk." When asked if she would fear dancing on the table if she fell off (the only time she could recount falling was when she had "three girls on one table," clearly not enough table to support the three ladies), she decidedly answered no. Clearly, when you fall off the table, you hop right back on the horse and dance. Or something.

Finally, when asked if she saw a girl dancing on a table, then saw two tables stacked one on top of another, if she would climb that mighty heap just to dance on a more elevated surface, Catherine answered an emphatic “yes,” before saying, "well the elevated surface needs to be secure." It is that second of recognition of danger and the abject lack of safety that is quelled by alcohol. Therefore, we have found out that girls need to be the centers of attention at all times, and that alcohol fuels their undying quest to both show up men and especially other women around them.

And they do not care about the sanitary conditions of tables, yet they will never eat something that falls on the ground. Hypocrites.

Friday, April 18, 2008

It's Here

The days have all been getting shorter, while consequently the sun has been going down later and later, for The Day approaches. It's a day that, while you aren't always aware of the exact date, it lingers in your mind for months and months. Maybe even from October forward. It might not be on the tip of your tongue when you're talking to your friends, but you all know what's going on behind the curtain; we certainly can't be such fine actors that we all hide it. When The Day finally comes, it seems surreal, like it was always just around the corner. Now that it's here, nothing is the same.

Everything from this day forward is different. It just...feels different, smells different, tastes different. There are more clinical more pointed words to describe what the day itself is, but what lingers more is the feeling. This is a day you remember for some time. It's a day without care, forethought, or pants.

It's Spring Day.

Spring Day is the first true day of Spring in Boston. Now you can say, "well it's been nice out for a couple of weeks, and the first actual day of Spring was a week ago you non-calendar-reading dope." True, and I do hate calendars, which is why I never put up Zack's move-in gift the 2007 Extreme Ironing Calendar. But has it trulybeen Spring? No, it was New England's attempt at the season, which goes as follows:

Go outside in the morning and it's 45 degrees, even though it says the high will be 68. "Impossible," you say, since this weather holds through Noon. Suddenly at 2 pm, it's 64 degrees, prompting you to stop on your walk and take off your hoodie and put it in your backpack or bag while you sweat constantly down your pant legs. You go to class and walk back home but the sun is low, causing shadows that feel like your marching to lay eggs in Antartica while Morgan Freeman does voice over for your actions. Shade moves and you're sweating out 68 degree heat again. Even though there is no sun, the night can stay anywhere between temperate and "fuck this" cold. Finally, it's time to go to bed and it's 30 degrees out, causing you to bundle up before waking up in the morning in yet another pool of sweat. This is less of a "warm season" and more like water boarding.

Spring Day is the first time where it's warm from when the day opens until deep into the night, and involves a leap of faith that almost everyone is willing to take. While guys can break those shorts out of hiding, it's a whole other ritual for women. It's as if they are finding some catharsis for six months in leggings, coats and scarves, making up for lost time. As you walk down the street, there are sun dresses, low cut shirts, and mini skirts in all directions. Everyone is happier, more fun, attractive, funny, personable. Spring Day is also not just for the upper crust of attractiveness, as it makes everyone just much more attractive. Ugly face? Great legs! Freak arm that bends the wrong way? Cute smile! It is some sort of carnal and peaganistic "fuck you" to winter in New England. We beat you, we survived, and look how little clothes I can wear!

Being the journalistic watchdog I am, I decided to go outside and check out Commonwealth Avenue and BU's campus to live blog the day's events. Except that I just typed up little notes on my cell phone and I'm writing about it a few hours after the fact. But it's close to live blogging, and I don't think there's anything creeper than going out with a laptop on a beautiful day, sitting around on the grass, and reporting--in real time--what people are or aren't wearing. Instead, I'll merely tape delay it, and therefore feel like a normal person.

10:30 AM - Well, nothing going here. Could I have guessed incorrectly? Was I too optimistic? Sigh. There are only some capri pants, which are just a ridiculous idea. How indecisive a person are you where you can't decide between shorts and pants? Has anyone ever said, "well, my ankles were really warm today while my thighs were freezing, but thankfully I had my capri pants for this perfect intersection of comfort, clothing, and weather." I'll accept them on mothers over 40 and girls under 10, who are undoubtedly influenced by their mothers in clothes selection. I refuse to accept them on males in any condition, European or not. You should be more sensible.

11:00 AM - On the T, see some shorts, a low cut shirt, but that's about it. Every male is wearing shorts. Sorry women, this day doesn't seem to be equal for you. Another thing to add to the list whenever a man brings up how painful it is to be hit in the crotch. For some reason, women as a group just cannot allow men to get away with discussing how much pain is involved when hit in the genitals. There must always be a follow up on how bad it is to be a woman involving child birth, periods, getting hit in the breasts. Add "Spring Day oggling" to the heap.

12:27 PM - It begins!

12:46 PM - The BU Beach is a curious place. For those not in the know, BU's campus is mostly along a strip of Commonwealth Avenue in Boston from about 500 Com until 1019 Com, and the only strip of grass is located in the middle of our "campus." The slang term for the patch is the "BU Beach" because if you lay down on the grass and hear the cars passing on a fairly major road just next to the grassy knoll, it supposedly sounds like waves at a beach. I prefer to think it sounds like cars on a well-traveled road because that's what it fucking is.

The Beach on Spring Day--and many days after--is just littered with humanity, looking like a refugee camp for the Hamptons. Stretching as far as the eye can see, there are lush greens and pale whites desperately trying to eviscerate their skin cells until it becomes a lovely mocha. I cannot slight those girls who go to get their fake tans (right above a sushi place, so you know it's quality) and have a rolling start when the season begins. Hope the cash was worth it because now you get FREE sun.

There are also guys just peppered around, talking to no one in particular on cell phones as they take a slow 360 degree turn to let everything in. They will also slowly bike by and errantly throw a frisbee around. It's quite pathetic. But then again, they aren't writing about it, let alone in a time-specific manner.

1:05 PM - There are three Yeah Dudes hanging out at the top of the hill, shirtless, and trying to get some attention. Yeah, ok. That works. Another reason why Yeah Dudes/Dude Bros ruin everything.

What is potentially shocking is that two of the most sexually promiscuous days of the school year are now days apart. Spring Day is today, and then Marathon Monday is...well, this Monday. Hold on to your hats, folks. And by hats, I clearly mean prophylactics that merely look like hats.