Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Struggle Goes Whole Hog

First of all, I want to apologize for the lateness of this post. And then I want to do what I was taught to do as a proud US Citizen and completely pass the blame over to someone else. In this case, that would be my friend Ben. You see, Benny-boy had this grand idea that we should do a joint post, rather like a conversation piece. Fine, I said, because in theory it seemed like a fun thing to do, and besides, I was still waiting on my next Netflix. Our email conversation started off really well, we had a solid back and forth, worthy of a few laughs at the very least. But what began as a steady stream of struggle ended up a tiny trickle that dried away into nothing, leaving my last response cold and alone out in cyberspace, waiting for Godot, and an email back. Lost, confused, a little betrayed, I wondered, was it me? Was it Ben? Was it the struggle? Sure, it's definitely that last one. But it's also something more. Because the more I looked around me at my peers, the more I could see a trend. I saw energy, excitement, a fresh approach to everything (even to pants. But tights? Not pants. You aren't an innovator, you are an idiot. Subject closed). But what you don't see is completion. So much build up, so little finale. There is a "that's what she said" joke in there, but I'm in no mood to make it. Because here is my grand revelation about most people in their early twenties: Excellent start, no follow through.

As I sat, fuming at Ben, and, of course, the mailman who had neglected to bring me my Netflix, I considered this strange phenomenon. After all, it's not just Ben, who couldn't follow up on an email, but it's all of us! It's all around us! We can figure out how to have sex, but we can't figure out how to use condoms! We can avoid an actual call by texting in abbreviations! And if I cared at all about the World Cup, I might bring that up too! I mean, is it any surprise that our generation is the one that has brought back leggings AND rompers, the two most half-assed garments you can possible find? I don't think so, people!

But me? I'm not going halfway down that road and stopping! No, my friends, the struggle isn't something you embrace just a little bit, with one arm, or maybe giving it a subtle graze on the buttocks! You have to get all the way in there, hug it out, throw both arms around the thing and just squeeze! So I am, from now on, all about the follow through, and you should be too! After all, they do say in for a penny, in for a pound, and while we may have thrown off the shackles of our funny-talking dry-witted former landlords in other respects, that little aphorism about their strange monetary system remains. So to inspire you to, as my father says, "finish the job", the following is a list of some current young people who I consider all talk and no action:

1. Amanda Bynes. Girl is retiring from her "acting" "career" at the age of 24.  I call foul on this one. Faye Dunnaway has an acting career. Isabella Rossini. Helen Miren. Hell, I'll even give Cathrine Zeta Jones more credit then Ms. Bynes. Because Zeta Jones isn't best remembered for humiliating Colin Firth and Saturday night on Nickelodeon. Yet. You need to HAVE a career in order to retire from one, right? Because if that's not the case, I'm telling everyone I'm a retired Navy SEAL.

2. Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson. Not only are they making horrible Mormon-propaganda films about sparkly vampires and the bad actresses who love them, but they NEVER WASH THEIR HAIR. I know that hundreds of thousands of people are standing in line to throw money at films that would make Sergei Eisenstein weep, are you telling me you really can't afford shampoo?

3. Gossip Girl. This show started out all sexy and fun but now it's gotten awkward and weird. That's usually the way it works when you go to college, but, you know, in REVERSE.

Don't get me wrong, I know there are plenty more out there. But I'm going to solider on, and preserve the thin slice of hope I have that for all the Gossip Girls and Bynes' out there there is a Carey Mulligan or a Regina Spektor whose clean hair and actual talents and jobs prove that my generation really can get something done. Otherwise, what's all the struggle for, then?

I can't condemn Ben completely, by the way. He did finally get back to me, and our experiment in joint-blogging will be up soon. So maybe follow through is something that can be learned and developed with proper encouragement and care. Still, I'm not holding out any hope for the Twilight cast.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Socratic Struggle

I pride myself in the fact that I avoided most of the common pitfalls of college. Oh, sure, I had my fair share of less-then-collegiate moments at not-Yale, most of which involved a bottle of Cuervo and a sudden obsession with a capella , and, on one occasion, the loss of a friend on a midnight falafel run (hi, Ned!), but by and large I missed the classics, the hospital visit for alcohol poisoning, the waking up in a frat house, Econ, Psych, dread-locks, starting a band, writing poetry, sleeping with a professor, and, of course, this being not-Yale, the joining of the GOP. But I did make one fatal mistake by cliche standards, and that was my enrollment in a little thing they call philosophy.

If you want certainty in your life, if you want absolutes and rules for how to live, do yourself a favor and don't take philosophy. If, on the other hand, you want doubt, you want uncertainty, you want, in fact, to question the very fabric of the universe to the point when your brain feels on the point of explosion, filled to the brim with Wittgenstein, Kierkegaard, Kant and Aristotle (that's a dinner party worth attending...) to the point when you snap and, obviously, reach for the Cuervo, then sure, by all means, go nuts. Take a philosophy class. Be my guest.

No, that's not entirely fair. The truth is that I had amazing philosophy professors and learned a great deal in their classes. But most of what I learned concerned how impossible the act of learning really is. I think. I'm not sure. Hang on, I have to go check that with Nietzsche.

If I had to guess, I would say that what concerned me the most about my philosophy classes was how subjective morality became for me. And why am I even thinking about this now, at least 4 years since I last put down a copy of the Republic and decided it was all Greek to me? Well, as part of maintaining my real estate licence (which I got before I was legally able to drink....true story), I recently found myself sitting in an office building on Delaware Avenue with a gorgeous view of Camden on a Wednesday morning well before 9am being instructed on ethics. Specifically ethics pertaining to Real Estate. Which, frankly, is a subject I didn't know warranted an hour, let alone seven! Ah, ZING, I'll be here all night! Tip ya bartender!

The sad thing is, most people just assume that real estate agents are unethical sharks who are trying to steal your money and deceive you into buying houses made of cardboard. The even sadder thing is that a lot of real estate agents really ARE unethical sharks who are trying to steal your money and deceive you into buying homes made of cardboard. And apparently, all of them were teaching me on Wednesday morning. Seriously, that had to be the group of least ethical, slimiest, sketchiest purveyors of houses I have ever met, and I have been doing this for a solid four years. Forging your client's names, deception, cash only deals, blockbusting, undisclosed dual agency, private interest, you name it, it was represented. Here's a hint, dude, if you want to teach a room full of people how to be ethical it's not a great idea to ply them with stories about how you committed, and got away with!, fraud. It's bound to be more of an inspiration then a castigation, if you know what I mean.

I can't really decide which I found more troubling, my year of philosophy classes or my seminar on Real Estate ethics. I left my philosophy class confused and concerned about the state of the universe. I left my Real Estate ethics class needing a silkwood shower. So I guess Real Estate class wins on the scale of more mind blowing life experiences, and not really in a good way.  Worst thing of all? They served us terrible pizza. There has to be something morally wrong with that.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Dinner for Struggle

It's been very clearly established that I feel fairly negative about most people most of the time, and it's true, I do. However, I feel very positively about most FOOD all of the time. And while I'm perfectly capable of eating large amounts of food all by my lonesome, I tend to try and get someone involved in the process with me, in order to, you know, fulfill social protocols, avoid drinking alone, and dispel all those nasty rumors that I'm building bombs in my basement. So when my friend Jacob (hi, Jacob!) announced that he would be coming into Struggledelphia for a brief interlude I saw no reason not to kill two birds with one stone and have a dinner party, giving me an opportunity to make an enormous meal, invite over tons of people, and, and this is the genius part, avoid actually having to deal with any of the guests.

You see, I'm a little controlling when it comes to cooking. Maybe it was the five years I spent working at a chef right here in Struggledelphia (and as a result if anyone needs a new acid dealer they should let me know, I know at least three!), or maybe it's my secret belief that if I put a knife in the hands of a stranger it gives them a tactical advantage over me should something go down, but I have spent at least 65% of every dinner party I have ever thrown sweating my make up off in the kitchen cooking and cleaning as outside on my patio youthful revelers carouse and quaff. And, to be perfectly honest, part of me really enjoys just that, the act of preparing and creating and watching other people enjoy the product of that process. And another part of me enjoys the fact that whenever I disappear for too long, my friend Mariel (hi, Mariel!) starts to call for me like a baby bird, and then everyone else notices I've been gone and drags me back out to ply me with wine and, (horror of horrors!) socialize. Well, if you can't avoid people, at least surround yourself with the least dreadful of the bunch. And make sure they bring the wine.

So to help out all those who are in search of dinner party guidelines, I've included a few helpful tips, along with photographic illustrations. After all, if I can manage to make it through a night with other people, open flames, food, knives and a gin-based Sangria (don't ask), YOU should be just fine.

1. Be an excellent cook. Or hire one.
 2. It's not the 1950's and 60's anymore, please avoid making Jello-based desserts. I love Mad Men as much as the next sane human being, but come on, people, there's love and then there's crazy. You wouldn't just go around stalking the object of your affection, would you? Walk that same line with pastry, and you should be fine.
3. I know there is a recession on, but serving your pet as the main course is tacky. At least have the class to capture and kill someone else's. It can be a group activity, and thus solves the problem of bored guests should that come up.
4. I don't care how bad you are in social settings, resist the urge to try and escape by any means necessary.
5. Finally, give your friends some love. Especially if they are the ones keeping your wine glass full, and not making fun of your apron.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Struggle Vs. Saturday

Some days I don't know why I even bother getting out of bed. And I don't mean that in a depressive, sad, the state of the world is so bad kind of a way, but more in an angry yet laughing to avoid slapping someone in the face kind of a way. Though, if I really think about it, a lot of the frustration I feel may be entirely my own fault. Here is the thing, I'm a planner. I love plans. Hand me a plan and watch me start to glow. Itineraries? I adore them. Building blueprints? I gush. Step by step instructions? That's my happy place. And while people may tout the glories and delights of the spontaneous, the random adventures, the unexpected pleasures, I would counter with the fact that those out of the blue moments are often accompanied by things like food poisoning, getting horribly lost, and prison. Sometimes all at once, in fact. Ask me how!

But sometimes, despite my membership in the church of plantology, I have to wonder if there is some kind of cosmic memo that goes around but passes me completely by. Something along the lines of: "Denizens of earth, please do your best to derail our favorite little documenter of the struggle today by any means necessary, use force if you must, the goals is a complete mental breakdown. Hugs and kisses, the universe". Are you guys all getting that? If you care, can someone please forward it to me next time? At least that way I will be slightly better prepared!

I suppose I should more fully explain. You see, all I wanted to do yesterday was attend the Northern Liberties Music Festival. Call it the fatty-no-friends in me, but I just wanted to enjoy a pleasant afternoon of day drinking and kebab chewing while listening to truly horrible bands serenade myself, my friends, and Strugglemano, who has abandoned the West Coast for a brief respite in the balmy Struggledelphia humidity. But the struggle, my friends,what did it do? That's right, it abounded.

First of all, Strugglemano, who is like a 19th Century French Heroine in this respect, has once again twisted his ankle. Granted, he did so jumping a fence in a stadium parking lot rather then, say, trying to breathe in a corset, but still, his Madame Bovary like accident has left him more useless then Tiny Tim. Because he finds walking in crutches to be quite a work out (and who DOESN'T, those things are rough!) he is confined to a 1 mile radius or less for the time being, and you have to allot time for breaks.

Second of all, for some reason these pesky people keep wanting to see houses even though it's the weekend and I'm tired. Some people have no consideration for others. I found this to be especially true as I biked away from one showing and almost immediately found myself being clothes-lined across the neck by a rubber coated wire tied between two telephone polls. As I lay on the ground with my bike gently crushing my left leg I caught a hand-written sign out of the corner of my eye. "Road Closed". Illegal much?

Third of all, of the many people I invited to enjoy this hard won afternoon of fermented hops, bright sunlight and sticky little children dancing to metal bands, only two of them showed up, and one of them happens to be related to me. So, while Kelly (hi, Kelly!), Strugglemano and I risked skin cancer, heat stroke and the perils of experimental artisanal beer (lemon grass, ginger and wheat, it's not all it's cracked up to be) to enjoy a neighborhood festival, well, we did so alone. The few, the proud, the sun stroke victims.

It's moments like this, my clothing sticking to my body like flypaper, passersby asking me if I've recently showered or been caught in the rain, abandoned by all those who had sworn to stand by me (or rather, slump by me in the shade), when I wonder, is it me? Should I not be so excited by plans, if the plan is going to let me down, die before it comes to fruition, leaving me as a footstool for my brother's swollen joints? Do I expect too much of people, by assuming they will fulfill their promises and actually show up to things? Is expecting anything from anyone a fool's game?  Maybe it's me, I think, maybe it's me.

But on second thought, I realize, that's just crazy talk. It's not me, it's everyone else. Step it up, people. Follow the plan.It's our only weapon against the struggle, take it from me. And at least now, thanks to Saturday's adventures, I'm struggling with a tan.