You know how you hate those people who say things like "Last night was wild!"? Well prepare to hate me, because last night was WILD. It was a roller coaster ride of thrills and chills and all sorts of happenings. I spent the first part of my evening attending a video installation themed theatrical piece created by Colombian Theater Company Teatro Mapa. I watched a stocky Colombian woman prepare some sort of fried corn dough object as footage of the destruction of a neighborhood in Bogota played behind her on giant white panels. And that was pretty much all it was. I understand that at it's heart there may have been so much more then that, perhaps it was celebrating the rich and varied history of Columbia, it's people, it's culture, the destruction that gang warfare and drug cartel have wrecked on the community. Possibly. But, as my friend Gabriel noted, something must have been lost in translation, because from what I could figure out this was a 80 minute cooking lesson with colorful moving scenery. What have I gained from this experience, you might ask me? Well, they gave us the fried dough business at the end of the show and now I know I NEVER want to go to Bogota. Seriously, that place looks scary.
Still reeling from the impossibility of this production, I met up with a few friends for drinks. Ah drinks. But I digress. Some friends of mine had wanted to go to a party hosted nearby, so we set off into the night to attend said event. Well, I must say, by not-Yale standards this party was pretty, what is the term the kids are using nowadays, raging? Is that it? Whatever it is, this soiree was that. People were spilling out of the building like water from a basket. When I inquired as to where these people had come from, I was told that this was the celebration of the 25th year anniversary (that's silver, for those of you playing along at home) of an Improv Group here at not-Yale. Now, I think I have made my thoughts and feelings about improv fairly clear, but I did know a lot of these people and this was free alcohol, so I was in. Once inside the event I had the startling realization that many of the people in attendance were alumni of not-Yale. Here is the funny thing about alumni of not-Yale, they don't become much cooler, but they DO become more nostalgic for their experience here. They also become lousy drunks, but, you know, college is another world. Additionally they talk about themselves QUITE a bit, but, you know, welcome to not-Yale. I must say, however, there is something supremely amusing about watching a group of drunk former college students attempt to use the English language properly. One bright spot was seeing my gloriously gorgeous friend Ashley Fox, whose presence highlights my life. Speaking of highlights, here are some of the strugglesome things I did while wandering around this party:
1. I told a distant acquaintance that I have a massive friend crush on him because I recently found out about his deep seated love for Battlestar Galactica. 2. I hugged my friend Alex so hard I think I might have broken the poor girl. 3. I lost the friends I entered the party with. Major bad party behaviour. 4. I roamed the house for a good thirty minutes trying to find a bathroom. Lost that battle. 5. I gave up on the bathroom and went for chinese food. Delicious delicious chinese food.
You know who sings pretty? Priscilla Ahn. She shares her last name with my friend Presca, so she automatically rises above any struggling that might come her way. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKfDwChOoHI&feature=related
So I was in the gym today, as is my habit, sweating out the alcohol of the previous evening and reading a magazine, which, well, I know, I know, how anti-feminist can you get. But really, while I am trying to pretend I enjoy exercise and that the stairmaster is fun and exciting rather then being like a medieval torture device in it's build and execution, I really do need a magazine. It just, it helps. The mindless advice on enhancing my eyes and the thousand words they find for hairstyle somehow soothe me as I am pretending my body isn't in pain and that I wouldn't rather collapse on my bed and start drinking early. So I read stupid things. But I have to say, today's reading choice was especially idiotic. As I pursued the magazine section of the convenience store I realize that the only new magazine was cosmopolitan. Not my first choice on a bad day, but fine, screw it, Cosmo it was. So I bought it.
Okay, the thing is, I have a huge amount of haterade I am ready to spill all over this issue of cosmo. First of all, this particular issue for the month of March was deemed "the sexy issue". Really? Seriously? As opposed to every OTHER issue of this magazine? This gem of a publication that has gifted me sage advice such as "text your guy sexy things like how you aren't wearing underwear but thinking of him" and "ask your guy what his ideal vacation is to open up his emotions". I mean, this is a job? People pay you to think this up? Honestly, can I please be a part of this? If I can think up ten ways to describe hair I could totally pay my way through grad school.
Another article featured in this deep and contemplative tome was "50 things you can do when naked". Really? You're giving me permission? Thank you so much! I would NEVER have been okay with taking my clothing off had you not told me I could do so! Oh, really, I can light candles in the nude? That DOES sound exciting! Gloria Steinem could not be more proud of me right now! I do find it amazing that this magazine assumes that I would need these tips and tricks to feel sexy. What, was I waiting all year to feel good about myself? Thank God this came in March, wait another month and who knows what I would have gotten myself into. Crack is only wack for so long...
This evening as I walked into my dorm room here at not-Yale I saw a young man with a very large sword dancing around the green. He was twisting and turning around in the dark as if he was auditioning for Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon Two, The return of the flying Chinese guy. He flew around like some kind of bird, his sword shining and glowing in the night. I stopped, amazed, rather intrigued, wondering if this was a struggle or a triumph. And then I realized, this guy has a sword in his hands. It's whatever he wants it to be.
When I woke up this morning my neck was sore, my eyes were blurry, my mouth tasted like I had decided to go on an all cotton diet and this incredibly annoying light they tell me is called the sun was cheerfully poking it's stupid big head through my window. What was wrong? Had I gone on a bender the night before? Indulged in gallons of diet coke and vodka and finished the evening with a pack of cigarettes? Well, no, sadly, I hadn't. What I had done was return to school. Now, I recognize that as a student I am very lucky to be getting regular vacations (though all that ends soon, ask me about how that makes me feel if you want to see a spontaneous physical meltdown). However, and anyone in the world will tell you this, the thing that is awful about vacation is the return from it, not only because you are no longer on vacation, but because assimilating back into pre-vacation mode takes twice as long as the vacation itself. That's a scientific fact. Well, it could be.
So even though I have been back here at not-Yale for three days (which has felt like three lifetimes, I swear, I'm in my late eighties and retiring to Florida next week) I still have not gotten back in my groove. I'm feeling all jittery and sleepy at the same time, and even my good friend coffee hasn't been able to help. The worst of it is that my sleep schedule has gone all too hell, and Hulu has recently added three full seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I mean, no it hasn't. And I certainly am not up to the second season. Not even a little bit.
So as I lay awake in bed last night, unable to sleep, hating the fact that in the morning I would be waking up early and, more importantly, still in not-New Haven, I thought about all of the other things I currently dislike. For your amusement and enjoyment, the list is as follows:
1. Decaffeinated Coffee. I refuse to acknowledge it. I don't see the point. 2. One Tree Hill. Truth be told, I've never seen the show, but something about the fact that it's out there really irritates me. 3. August Strindberg. What a douche. 4. Ugg Boots. Come on now, can we just let this trend die? 5. Goth clothing. In any incarnation. At any point in time. 6. Very smelly people who sit next to you in public places. 7. That new Ciara song. 8. Improv Comedy. 9. Chapped lips, my own, or anyone else's. 10. Apartheid. What? I can hate serious stuff too.
There. Now I feel MUCH better. Here's hoping this will help me get some shut-eye! Or at least think less bitter thoughts while I'm not doing so.
Above is a photo I surreptitiously snapped of a huge gothy struggle at the Philadelphia Flower Show.
As is often the case when I spend time at home my mother suggested that we take a family jaunt to Reading Terminal, an old train station that has been converted into a large indoor market where the Amish of Pennsylvania peddle their wares and the scent of scrapple fills the air. If you don't know what scrapple is I'm not going to be the one to tell you, but it's best if you just eat it and don't ask what goes in it. Anyway, we had agreed to go, as we enjoy shopping for interesting produce and breakfasting at a delicious food stand while observing the impossible beards of the male members of the Amish sect. And a few of females. I must say that while restricting the use of technology developed past the 19th century may be saving their souls it is NOT doing much for their appearances.
So when my mother woke me up this morning alarmingly early (and by this I mean at 8:30. Oh, come on, it's my vacation! I need my sleep!)I by all rights should have been prepared and excited to venture into the world of homemade jams and freshly slaughtered poultry. However, I wasn't. What could possibly have made me less then my best self this morning? I'm so glad you asked! It was the events of the previous evening. In one of those rare amazing moments in time a handful of my friends from high school were in not-Philadelphia at the same time, so we all decided to go out to dinner. The thing is, however, that when Mariel, Elyse, Ben, Michael, Jon and I do go out to dinner, we tend to fall drink heavily, and, because we don't want to become outrageously large and die alone, we don't eat much. That's not really fair, Ben and Michael eat. And once we leave the restaurant we tend to want to go to another dining establishment, one that includes a bar, and keep drinking. This particular evening took us to the downtown hotspot (as hot as anything gets here in not-Philadelphia) Bump, a gay bar/dance hall. As I observed Jon being activily checked out by the entire bar, male and female, and sipped on my vodka tonic, I realized a few things. One, not-Philadelphia needs some better bars. Two, mesh is definitivly not a good look on everyone. Three, it's wonderful to have people who drink as deeply as you do from the haterade bottle so you can dine and talk shit about pop culture icons (Twilight? Seriously? Have you tried to read that thing? It actually made me less intelligent. I got literally halfway through. People like this crap?) And four, I really really didn't need another drink, because even my thoughts were beginning to slur.
When I did finally make it home (thanks Jon!) I slumped in front of my computer for a while, watching Hulu and furiously attempting to hydrate.
So you can see how this morning I wasn't at my best. But my mother and father, bless them, motivated my strugglesome self out of my bed and into my seat at the Down Home Dinner, a delicious brunch place located within the market. As I allowed the eggs and biscuit to enter my system I savored a cap (or four) of coffee I began to be a human being again. Ah, mornings.
So the thing about my family is that we have always been dog people. Like, always. I have lived an alpo life, I swear it. Anything that needs a walk and shakes it's tail has always been able to earn my immediate approval and adoration (and that includes some well trained rabbits and one very talented pig). So you can imagine my surprise and dismay when my parents, the very people who has instilled in me my pro-canine values, fell madly and desperately in love with a cat. I know, it's shocking. It was hard. There was some group therapy, a bit of drinking, who am I kidding, QUITE a bit of drinking, but slowly I came around, under the sheer force of the personality of this animal. For quite simply put, this was no ordinary cat. No, I will give this feline the highest compliment I am able and say this cat might actually have been half dog. I KNOW. Insanity.
Maximus the cat came into our lives quite suddenly and without any warning, like the plague or the Internet. When I returned home to not-Philadelphia last summer my parents, while delighted by my presence, had a better child to distribute their love upon. They had found a small ginger colored cat to love. It's a difficult thing to find yourself second in your parent's affections, however, being possessed of an older brother I was used to it. Being third, however, was a bit of a shock. But once acquainted with this animal I was willing to forgo my resentment in the face of pure adorableness. I can be utterly honest and say that Maximus is not only much cuter then I am, but much nicer. Besides, he is the sweetest little cat in the world. Big yellow eyes and a tolerance to my father pulling his tail puts this cat in the realm of sainthood. Clearly this was the ideal cat for us.
However, this god sent animal had already been promised to another. Yes, Maximus had an owner, a woman I would quickly deem "that dumb bitch" whose lax pet-owning methods allowed Maximus to run wild and charm my parents into hoping this cat could someday be theirs. Alas, it was not to be. After almost a year with Maximus appearing before their french doors every morning and evening he disappeared. Suddenly and without warning Max wasn't there. He didn't respond to the food left out for him, nor did he come late in the day as I made dinner. No, Maxie was gone.
Distressed by the anguish of my parents, I took it upon myself to ring on the doorbell of the previously mentioned dumb bitch and inquire as to Maximus' whereabouts. However, not only was she not home, but her neighbor informed me that she had LOST the cat by her sheer neglect and stupidity. SERIOUSLY? The nicest cat in the world and she LOST it? For reals?
My parents are devastated, I myself am extremely vexed and saddened, and I can only hope that wherever Max is now, he is with a family that loves and cherishes his charming nature. So Maximus, wherever you are now, whatever you are doing, I hope that you are avoiding the struggle with all your tiny kitty might. If anyone deserves to beat the struggle, you do.
Unhappy for Max? So are we all. Sulk with Joshua Radin. It's dorky but it works. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXu3WafBt6I
While other families might spend their vacation time in the beautiful tropical islands fringing our country lounging on the beach, strolling the picturesque walkways and marvelling at the monuments to our recent colonial past as they chuckle gently and patronize ancient Caribean civilizations, my family, in the words of my friend Cory, doesn't play that. No, not this time. This time we had a mission. This time we had an empty house more akin to a museum then a dwelling. This time, we had to FURNISH.
So this time I was awkwardly thrust into a rental car and serenaded by the dulcet sounds of hundreds of angry Puerto Rican drivers screaming at my equally angry Puerto Rican father as he navigated the highway system leading to the neighboring township of Carolina, which calls itself "la tierra de los gigantes". This means the land of the giants. Since most Puerto Ricans come in at about 5'3'' I have no idea about the validity of this motto, but logic and Puerto Rico are so rarely friends, so whatever. In Puerto Rico the word for a traffic jam is tapon, which literally means plug. I once explained this to an Argentine who delicately wrinkled her noise at the imagery, but I have to hand it to the Puerto Ricans, they have a way with slang, and if you are ever caught in traffic here you will know why. With many a hand gesture of a dubious nature my father got us to the furniture store in Carolina where my mother and I wandered through rooms and rooms of identical and identically ugly sofas. Having picked out the least offensive of said items, which actually ended up being a lovely group of chairs and an adorable set of armchairs (with free ottomans! Every little girl's dream!), my father decided to leave us at Marshall's super store near by while he transported our new furnature back to San Juan. Then, he assured us, he would be back for us. Like a hero in a World War II themed novel, my father took off into the wilds of the Puerto Rican highway system as we wished him godspeed.
Well, I don't know if any of you have actually been to a Marshall's Super Store, and if you have, I commend you, because that place is terrifying. It's super. It's bigger then super. It's got lots and lots of things that I couldn't possibly imagine a use for but the people surrounding me sure as hell could because MAN did they fight over these ceramic bunnies and plastic bottle stoppers in the shape of lions. STRUGGLE. You want an aquatic themed set of plates in plastic? Check. Several patio tables featuring the visage of the Virgin Mary? Check. An entire aisle of candles? CHECK. Insanity.
But the real craziness begins when my mother and I left the Marshall's. Hungry, tired, in need of a bathroom, my mother and I decided that while a singing unicorn might be a nice addition to our place here, we could live without it. So we left the store in search of a place to eat and sit and maybe have some kind of libation as a reward for our hour in the depths of the Marshall's struggle. Alas, my friends, this was not to be, for of course Puerto Rico is the opposite of pedestrian friendly. So my mother and I, in a fit of adventurous bravado, decided to walk along the highway till we found a Wendy's we both recalled having seen an eternity ago. That's right. We walked along the highway. We sprinted across upramps and downramps, we climbed through overpasses, we waved off a very nice young man who stopped to give us a ride. We walked a path that I can be fairly certain no Puerto Rican has ever attempted. I could have sworn we were going to die on multiple occasions, but we forged the highway like migrant workers in the 1930's and we won! We survived! We achieved the Wendy's! I swear, I doubt there has ever been a more comforting sight to me then the Wendy's sign at that moment. As I turned to my mother with joy written on my face in giant, relieved letters, I saw her face fall. "I bet they don't serve wine in there, do they?" She sadly uttered to me. I sighed, and put my hand around her shoulders. "No, probably not, Mom" I said, "But they do serve french fries".
Having your own cross highway disaster? Lisa Hannigan can't help you. But she does sing really pretty. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QaFs_uEfqhM
If you have been wondering desperately where your favorite blogger went, and I know you have, well, wonder no more, gentle reader, because I am in Puerto Rico! Spring Break, wooooo! Or it would be, if I wasn't here with my parents. Like I am every year. What's that, Leah? Your diamond tiara is too tight? Its SO hard to be dragged to a glorious tropical island year after year? Tears for you! No, I know, I'm insanely lucky, I really am. This place is a beautiful little gem seated in pristine aquamarine waters and briming with culture, history, and nightlife! (Did I mention I'm now working for the Puerto Rican Tourism Board? Ask me about cheap flights!) No, but for reals, I do love it here, I have family here, it's great.
Except it's also an enormous struggle. Like, on a grand grand scale. Puerto Rico, as those in the know will recall, is neither its own autonomous country, nor is it a state. It is in fact a U.S. Commonwealth, which means it has all of the problems and none of the solutions or representation of a real state. Additionally Puerto Rico operates a lot like any other Latin American country, only it's far easier to get to, because you don't actually need a passport to fly here. True story. So should you ever visit this cute little button of a place you will find it overrun with fat tourists gawking at the tropical plants and scratching at their sun burns while the poverty stricken locals sell them rum, and, strangely enough, polo shirts. While there are many shops here where you can buy decorated shotglasses and meaningless items made of shells, there are also several upscale outlets where you can buy Ralph Lauren towels and Guess sandels. (I would recommend the towels, though, they are AWESOME).
So Puerto Rico is this lovely place where everyone has an ipod and nobody has a computer. In San Juan, which is the largest and most cosmopolitan city on the island, they periodically shut off the water for the entire city for several days at a time. Just because. ALL THE WATER. SEVERAL DAYS. Struggle. Now, thankfully, said event has yet to happen this year (though ask me about last year. I got stories). And the weather so far is fine, the rum free flowing (thank you, Deborah and Angel) and the stray cats all seem fairly friendly. So we are doing okay, as of now. But please, stay tuned, beloved reader. I'm sure I'll find some way to fail at this.
Longing for that Latin Beat? Ralph Robles has you covered, which is impressive, as I'm not sure if he is still alive. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0FjxImJMwE
I should have mentioned something else that is fantastic about not-Philadelphia. And that would be the people here. You see, I don't really like most people. So it goes without saying that I don't really like most of the people I went to high school with. Well, does anyone? I mean, what would be the point? You are at your lowest point in high school, or at least I was. I had braces, glasses, was even more socially awkward, it was tough. No doubt you all have your own horror stories, but the nice thing about getting older is that you never have to tell them.
But there are those few people who love you regardless of your awkwardness and are pleasantly surprised when you improve as you grow older and my friend Jon is one of those people. Jon is like the best possible mix of Britney Spears and Blair Waldorf with a little bit of Chuck Bass thrown in. So, he basically owns the world, or at least the part of it that houses a Bergdorf Goodman. Therefore I am excited to see him in Philadelphia, the way you are when you get into a room with someone who has seen you in the most awkward struggle of an outfit you may ever wear and still takes your calls. Jon has introduced me to so many things, Tequila, designer jeans, buying designer jeans while drunk on tequila, you name it. Please stay tuned for our adventures in tandem this spring vacation. They are bound to be amusing, and, because Jon will be involved, very attractive.
There's many who say you can't go home again. I say, screw that, go to amtrak.com, find yourself a train heading in the right direction and do that thing. But then, I enjoy going home, I really do. At a certain point in my time at not-Yale, usually immediately upon returning to it, I crave my home and my bed and my parent's delightful wine cellar. Though not always in that order. And so I do tend to get very excited on the eve of my return to my home in not-Philadelphia. Despite what not-New Yorkers might think, not-Philadelphia is a delightful place full of very fattening food and charmingly impolite people. Unapologetically ethnic and strangely environmentally minded, not-Philadelphia is, despite my many travels, still the place where I feel most at home. So I was thrilled to be returning to my home on Friday afternoon. I had a snack, my toothbrush, several different headbands so I could be more like Blair Waldorf, the essentials. I had booked a train ticket, picked up my paycheck, and I was just shaking off my hangover from the night before when the struggle began. Of course it did. It always does.
A friend of mine, Lisa, who is as generous as she is beautiful, had offered to give me a ride to the train station. Well, in this economy, how could I refuse? By this I mean I practically blackmailed her into giving me a lift, but you know, what is friendship about if not offenses punishable by a short stay in a white collar prison? So Lisa had agreed to do this and everything was going fine. That is, until we actually reached her car and realized that by some strange act of God the car battery was dead. Lovely.
So I called a cab. But of course not-New Haven cabs are notoriously undependable, and said cab came far too late for me to catch my train. Right. Because that's fun. Resigned to getting another train and paying for another ticket I settled into the cab, clutching my belongings around me like a war refugee. Luckily for me, my cab driver was utterly and completely insane. Yes, he almost got us into a series of accidents, and I have no idea how we arrived safely at the not-New Haven train station, it is a mystery to me. Moreover, he was on the phone the whole time. Which is fine, well, actually it's terribly dangerous, but I recognize that his job is fairly boring and possibly very unfulfilling, and I can get behind that, I really can. But does this man not recognize in turn that I am physically proximate to him? I mean, I am literally in the cab with this man. Does he not perhaps wish to discuss his bowel movements and valve-replacement surgery in a more private setting? I mean, I would. Well, to each there own, I suppose.
Arriving (finally) at the not-New Haven train station I was luckily able to catch another train. As I sprinted the length of the station, thanking my past self for being incredibly compulsive and insisting I go to the gym, I reached the train just in time. Pulling my sweaty and exhausted body onto the train all I could do was sigh, enjoying life's little ironies to the fullest. From then on, what could harm me? The horribly annoying fellow travelers? The delay in New York? My desperate need for a drink? No, no, from then on I was safe. Because once you get on the train, well, it might as well be going anywhere, just as long as it's taking you home.
Feeling mopey? Aimee Mann's Save Me wont make you feel any better, but you might like it anyway: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNbTC6xLVg0&feature=related
As you and I and everyone paying any attention to the universe are aware, human beings are totally irrational creatures. If you disagree, I would advise you to look as subjects like anti-gay marriage advocates and women who think putting anything on a salad means it's healthy for evidence that logic doesn't live here. And there are many reasons that this is a good thing. Love. Faith. The mass consumption of reality television and the Harry Potter franchise. Okay, based on your personal feelings those last two might not work, but surely you can find something that does. The point is that I am not one of those "purists" that demands that everything "make sense" or be "logical". As someone who adores the struggle that is existence I am clearly more interested in the absurd then the rational, the inanity then the significant. Any idiot on the street can talk about the big picture but I flatter myself it takes a real genius to care about the awkward kid asleep in front of me in class. Flatter being the operative word there.
Now, in terms of my own irrational behaviour, as a rule I like to attempt some semblance of logical sequence in my day. You know, breakfast before lunch, cream cheese before lox, bros before hos, death before dishonor. The standards. Y'all know what I mean. But there is this thing I do that is totally insane and irrational (as opposed to all the other insane things I do) that this very morning bit me in the bottom. For reals.
You see, as a very young child I went to a school quite far away from my home. And while my mother is wonderful for many reasons she is not a morning person, so every morning at 5 in the morning my father would wake me up on several intervals, every 5 minutes, to be precise, until it was actually the time for me to wake up. Now, I'm not blaming everything about my personality and behaviour on my parents (yes I totally am) but this practice has stayed with me for quite a while. So much so that every morning I set my alarm at least an hour before I actually have to wake up. It's very satisfying to wake up and laugh at your alarm, mocking it's stupid buzzing little stupidity and then go back to bed. Despite the lack of any medical evidence to support this, I secretly believe this is the best kind of sleep, the sleep you know you are having. Its delicious. There is nothing better then feeling like you have gotten one over on a piece of machinery. It makes up for every time your computer crashes, I swear.
However, there are times when this practice can truly backfire. Like, for example, this morning. When after some of the nicest snooze time I'd ever had in my life, I awoke in a blissful haze to peer at my clock and gasp in horror at the time. 9:10 am. When, of course, my first class of the day was at 9:25 am. How charming. I took a moment to enjoy the strange delightful contours of the universe and then sprinted through my morning routine like a flannel clad tornado. Somehow, perhaps with divine intervention or superhuman speed bought on by adrenaline and self-berating inner monologues, I managed to grab a half a bagel and roll into class with my work for the day ready to go. I looked a hot messy struggle, but that really isn't the point, now, is it? No, the point is that I made it. I pushed through the struggle. I feel victorious and very zen right now.
So, if you will excuse me, I have to go to bed now. So I can do it all again tomorrow.
Leah Franqui is a fairly interesting person/director/writer/reader/eater/drinker. She likes ugly dogs and dislikes her hair in the morning. She's a sucker for environmental causes and plays hardball with deals on chewing gum. She is a struggle.