Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Wouldn't it make sense?

Wouldn't it make sense if there were all-night libraries? Think of it. It would be a great place to go. Honestly, the only time I have time to go to the library these days is after midnight. And you know there's some newly minted college grad who has fallen in love with Jeanette Winterson or Tom Robbins and wants to engage in some previously ilicit "fun reading." I say ilicit because reading unassigned works is tantamount to treason in college.

You must stick to the assigned reading.

Hell, I found it hard to even consider the "recommended reading" some weeks.

So here is their chance. It would give them an opportunity to let their minds breath and consider all that the past four years have crammed into their heads. They could explore other career opportunities outside their now useless liberal arts degree and make an honest buck that does not involve telemarketing or steamed milk.

Why isn't this some kind of required work for every post-college grad? It would give them a chance to give back to the community. It would also give them a chance to learn new computer skills so that they can file away the next eight years in an office with a cubicle far from a window.

The Ride

One of my favorite scenes is from the 1996 movie Twister with Helen Hunt. A troupe of stormweather enthusiasts pursue tornadoes across a plain in Oklahoma. The hunt (no pun intended) is on. Cars race to the point where a tornado is about to touch down. In each car, drivers blast their favorite music pushing the scene to climax. Whether heavy metal or classical, I love the excitement of the chase.

I never listened to music growing up. My family mostly listened to sports talk radio and traffic reports. The first usually gave me a headache and the static of the second has probably had long-term effects on my mental functioning. Perhaps it is for these reasons that I am drawn to high energy music now. I love songs with a strong bass. I like electronica. I like dance music. In the morning, I drink coffee and then stand still in a packed car for 40 minutes. This is probably not the best idea as my head feels like it is about to explode from caffeine by the time I get to my destination. Usually I end up racing out of the turnstiles, eager to be moving. It is here though that the Twister scene will come to me. What music should I choose to blast? Vivaldi Four Seasons or Scissor Sisters? Pump up the Jam or Mozart's Requiem? Glory Glory Hallelujah?

I think I need some new music.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Mine Eyes

I have seen Him in the watch fires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps;
His day is marching on.

No, not a spoiler passage from the new Harry Potter, a lyric from The Battle Hymn of the Republic, a song I found in the missal at Mass this past Easter weekend. Yes, I went to church. I had not been in over a year. Before college, I missed Mass only a handful of times. Now I am absent and church politics give me reason enough not to return. This weekend I decided to join my family, but instead of sitting with them in the main hall and putting on appearances for the other families, I sat in the last row of the chapel. It has a view of altar "stage-right" when the stained glass is cranked open. I felt more comfortable back there, and it was a good spot to view it all from in my jeans.

Now when I go to church, its hard to see beyond the symbology and performance of people coming to see and be seen. Its strange because I still consider myself a religious person. I believe in a higher power. I pray. But the rhetoric of the church, like the fear instilled from the song lines above, feels misplaced. Thats not my faith. Thats not how I want it translated. I guess it would be exciting if Mass were like the song above, but a parking lot full of SUVs hardly feels like a hundred circling camps.

I originally stopped going to church because I didn't like the idea that I had to go. I wanted to wait until I wanted to, when it would have meaning for me again. As my days go marching on, I am not sure it ever will.

Monday, March 28, 2005

bag lady

At this risk of sounding very "Sex and the City," I've noticed there are accessory essentials for every smart New York city woman who works in an office. You need a good bag. And by bag, I mean Marc Jacobs or Balenciaga. Since I can't even afford Coach, I'm somewhat at a loss in this department. Nevertheless, I would need about eight chic bags to carry around all my stuff. Maybe that's a conservative estimate.

Try as I may, I always end up shlepping around a million things. My AP American history teacher in high school summed it up: "LeBlanc, you're a bag lady!" For the sake of my long-suffering shoulders, I've tried to pare down to the essentials. I no longer carry around knitting projects (arm warmers, sweaters, hats, scarves), or a thick Clairefontaine notebook which serves as my journal. But I still tend to carry the past 3 week's "New Yorkers" along with whatever random magazines I pick up at work and a book or two. I always carry my moleskine planner, cell phone, metrocard, etc.

However, as soon as you develop better habits, other necessities waltz into your life. Now it seems like I end up carrying around a change of clothing because work is either too cold or (like today) too stuffy and sometimes I crash in Morningside Heights with the beau. I rely upon canvas bags from Labyrinth Books and my devoted Herve Chapelier sacs which I bought in Paris many moons ago when I knew them as Parisian diaper bags rather than Ivy League lady sachels. All of these items are Woolite washable. That's a good thing because I often toss in my coffee travel tumbler which I foolishly believe is empty.

Don't fool yourself. Coffee cups are never empty. Sooner or later, everything I own is touched by caffeine.

I'd like to think that there will come a day when I'll have an office where I can hang up a blazer in a closet, shelves for the magazines and novels and a kitchen nook for bottomless mugs of tea and coffee. I'd like to not snort at the mention of a clutch purse. Til then, I carry my personal office on my back. Is there room to stash some Advil?

Sunday, March 27, 2005

The appealing trappings of Woody Allen

When I was younger, I liked to describe myself by saying I was very Annie Hall

I didn't really know what that meant considering I had never seen the movie, but it was my way of explaining to others that I was offbeat and interested in things other than boys and dating. I think I told people this when I was 11 years old. Diane Keaton, in her tie and vest, holding a glass of wine on a rooftop in Manhattan, was just the epitome of cool to me. That's the kind of kid I was. But I think there's a part of me that still feels that way. I like to define myself through the books and movies I read, the places I've lived, the art exhibitions I've adored, my favorite albums and my various schools. I have no problem considering myself to be a snob. As long as you realize the context. I think this is actually more like Diane Keaton's character in Manhattan. Correction to my 11 year old self.

I'm not alone. Other folks have other fantasy relationships to Woody Allen films. Meghan Daum (My Misspent Youth) longed for Mia Farrow's apartment in Hannah and Her Sisters, somehow thinking that walking barefoot on hardwood floors in a Upper West Side apartment would make her a witty, urbane intellectual. How is it that the trappings make the man? Books and writing may be our solace, but movies truly give us a literal glimpse into lives we wish we had. Maybe some of us relate more to Woody Allen films because we're already neurotic, so it's not such a great stretch to imagine oneself floating around dinner parties charged by canapes and interior monologues.

When I was a kid, I used to also judge people by saying, "They're the kind of person who rehearses their conversations in front of mirrors." I always thought those people were clever, even though my criticism was a definite dig. Watching Melinda and Melinda today, I noticed why it was so hard for me to finally show up in Penn Station with a bulky suitcase and a new address: I thought I could never become so sophisticated as a Woody Allen heroine. They all are the type who rehearse their dinner party dialogue in front of mirrors while changing clothes to find the ensemble that strikes the right mood.

Now I live in Park Slope, Brooklyn (does anyone in a Woody Allen film live in Brooklyn?) and I am grateful I'm not a character in a Woody Allen film. I still like relishing in how aspects of my life are just "so Woody Allen," but that's enough for me. I've lived just enough to know about some of the entanglement that ends up in his films. Life is hardly boring enough to ask for more of that. I'll take the setting without the conflict. Or the older men.

Friday, March 25, 2005

All Hands on Deck

For the past few weekly team meetings, I have voluntarily prepared a demographic summary on the patient population we study. This Friday meeting usually happens at 4 pm, but today it was moved to 10 am. I had to do all that I could to get myself there on time, nevermind prepare the summary document. Today of course would be the day that the summary was really needed and I didn't have it. The head doctor asked that I prepare this document for all future meetings. He referred to it as "the poop sheet." I am not sure why it's called this, but its nice to know this is now part of job. Sure to be a hot one on the resume.

Crossing Manhattan Bridge

A phone call jarred me out of sleep this past July. It was after 9 am. I should have been awake, but the heat of summer in Manhattan and my state of unemployment kept me up late the night before. Late nights are a luxury for the young and the unemployed.

The call was from a guy who had posted a Craig's List ad for a roommate. I remembered the ad immediately. Instead of just asking for queries, the guy wanted to know what you liked to cook. This weeded out the lazy, disorganized and uncreative. Clever, my kind of thinker. Evidently my fried catfish with almonds and jambalaya tempted his interest. He called to be sure I made it to the open house that night. I jotted down the directions to Park Slope and said I'd see him later.

When I got off the 2/3 at Bergen Street, I knew I liked the neighborhood. There were trees and brownstones. And it wasn't so congested as Manhattan. Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Museum, the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, the Botanic Gardens and Target were nearby. Tempting factors, all of them. But it was the not quite lime, not quite mint color of the walls that sold me on the room. Everyone thought I was crazy for taking a room without a window. "Eh," I thought. "I'm a Southerner. I know all about all kinds of smothering."

And I moved in shortly after the GOP convention. Since then, the lack of window hasn't been a problem. I knew I would always have the view from the Q train while crossing Manhattan Bridge. When I went back to Manhattan that July night, full of excitement for my new home, I listened to Bob Dylan's "Mississippi" and looked out at the Statue of Liberty across the way, lit up with her torch high. Everyday I look out at her, like I did at the statue of Athena in Thomas Great Hall while still a Bryn Mawr student, and remember why I'm still here. This view is exactly what I want.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

South Africa

A friend of mine mailed me her copies of J.M. Coetzee's "Disgrace" and "Elizabeth Costello" a month or two back. I had never been interested in his work since having to listen to a friend in college moan about how she "waited for the barbarians and they never came." But years later, pressed by another friend, I thought I would give Coetzee a chance.

I was immediately taken with his storytelling and his economical use of words. The experience of contemporary South Africa is present in the conflict of the novel. Usually I find this kind of work to be a bit heavy handed, but this was exceptional.

Now I'm suddenly taken with South Africa and would really like to learn more. There's a movie called "In My Country" which is based on a book that the same friend sent to me a year ago. Guess I should have read that one first... Or not.

Has anyone been to South Africa?


I have become addicted to interior design magazines. I just subscribed to Wallpaper*. I read the last two issues of Dwell cover to cover and took more diligent notes than in most of my undergraduate courses. I bought Metropolis today and can't wait to read it. Am I learning or memorizing? Is this a new interest or is it because of my "new interest"? What does it mean to look at expensive couches when I can't afford to sleep on anything BUT a couch? To what am I trying to subscribe?

Is this thing on?