Yeah, so, jet lag. My body was either thinking positive thoughts all of yesterday or was running strictly on caffeine. Both are entirely possible. Anyway, 8:30 dawned early this morning. We whisked together a light, healthy breakfast because we had a very special, very important, very relatively early orientation session this morning, for which we […]
Well, folks, this is an official ‘Pip, pip, cheerio’ from the far bank of the pond! We are all settled here in Londontown, even if our bodies’ clocks are straddling the Atlantic. After about a seven-hour flight for a large group of us (all of your friendly bloggers except the California-native Emily), departing from PHL […]
January 24, 2017 @ 1303
Well. Another promising day on the Home Page patrol. Skies are clear, with high morale and a high probability of cat videos. Reactions of grades ANGRY or SAD are at a monthly low and the only rogues going live and clogging up the newsfeed are the usual suspects.
Only four notifications to report this morning.
- At 4:24 AM: a CandyCrush request from Ellen Lester, that girl who went to your high school and sat with you for two hours at the SEPTA station and thought that made you ‘Nam buddies.
Recommended course of action: the standard protocol of IGNORE will suffice.
- At 6:15 AM: a Poke from your father.
Recommended course(s) of action: a swift retaliatory Poke or a diplomatic reminder that a call or text are just two of many preferred means of interaction.
- At 8:03 AM: a post from Sean Rosen in the group, ‘RHS Class of ’08’ regarding the football team’s latest win.
Recommended course of action: self-removal from the group with all due haste.
- At 8:58 AM: a friend request from Will Garner, the cute mutual friend of Emily’s you met yesterday.
Recommended course of action: acceptance of request followed by thorough Facebook profile examination for potential girlfriends, boyfriends, or any other romantic interest. (Note: In the event of a noted absence of romantic interest, see the ‘GET IT’ manual located in the ‘Help’ tab.)
Otherwise, it is free Home Page patrolling this morning.
Jeremy shared an AJ+ video; best to watch the first twenty seconds, then scroll on. Oh, good, Lily shared a cat video; best watch the entirety. Nothing that needs immediate attention.
NOW REPORTING: a large body of text. From foe or friend? Ah, an FMF—frequently misguided friend. Subject matter? Oh, dear god. Politics. The fiend! POV? Wrong. Dead wrong. Completely wrong.
Recommended course(s) of action: ignore this blatant attack, which will surely happen again or … dispatch the enemy surely and swiftly with counterattack.
Express understanding. Go.
Validate point, superficially. Go.
Standby, switching tactics. Ready …
Tactfully disagree. Go.
Provide crushing textual evidence. Go.
Bring it home! Use evidence against FMF main point. Go.
Increase force of sass in order to …
CONFIRM HE IS WRONG. GO. GO. GO.
All that’s left to do … reply button armed and ready. And. Go.
Well done. Another Facebook FMF forever changed thanks to your thoughtfulness and intellect. Congratulations. The Home Page thanks you.
NOW REPORTING: notification from FMF. ALERT. We have a reply without a like, I repeat, we have a reply without a like. Reply report: several Gs of sass, maximum amount of ignorance, and zero degrees of change.
Recommended course(s) of action: respond with flag of truce or respond with force.
RESPOND WITH FORCE.
LAUNCH THE HIGH HORSE.
LAUNCH THE BIG WORDS.
GIVE ‘EM HELL.
Reply button armed and ready. And. BOMBS AWAY.
NOW REPORTING: notification from FMF. Notification from friend of FMF. ALERT. We now have a joint attack and not a like to be seen.
Recommended course(s) of action: respond with flag of truce or fight on both fronts.
FIGHT ON BOTH FRONTS.
LAUNCH THE LOGICAL FALLACIES.
LAUNCH THE HOLIER-THAN-THOU GUNS.
Reply button armed and ready. And. MAKE THEM WEEP.
NOW REPORTING: notification from FMF. Notification from 3 friends of FMF. ALERT. It’s an ambush. You’re in enemy territory. There’s only one way of escape.
Recommended course(s) of action: respond with flag of truce to keep a shred of pride or do not respond, thus admitting you were wrong.
FLAG OF TRUCE.
PULL THE AGE THROTTLE.
Systems reverted to second-grade vocabulary and problem-solving abilities.
Launch the little words.
Launch the emoticons.
Launch attacks on personal attributes.
Launch semblance of concession.
White flag ready. Reply button armed and ready. And. White flag is raised.
Relationship with FMF: Ranging from strained to broken
Likes gained: 0
Friend requests gained: 0
Opinions changed: 0
Big words used: 16
Instances of misconstrued tone: 28
Mental well-being: -35%
Moral well-being: +0.5%
Summary: Not Worth It.
Comments: “We have so much to say, and we shall never say it.”
If I’ve assumed something of you, I’m sorry.
If I made you feel smaller or less important, I’m sorry.
If anyone has waited a moment before murmuring about the ignorance of my statement, I’m sorry.
I assure you I didn’t know.
I assure you I’d want to know
If I’ve hurt you.
Because the two things we can both understand:
The need for kindness and
The want to be kind.
Just because I don’t know
Doesn’t mean I don’t want to know,
Doesn’t mean I can’t learn and do better.
You see, I’ve learned what has been done in the past;
I’ve learned what not to do.
I haven’t learned what to do.
I know now …
It’s time for me to listen—
I’ve been speaking for far too long—
So talk with me as you’d want me to talk with you.
Tell me stories.
Help me laugh, help me cry.
I’ll never know, but I can try.
You’re a person, same as I,
So let me sit beneath your sky.
Won’t say a word or make a sound,
Just listen to your words resound.
Won’t start my mouth until I’ve found
That you and I share equal ground.
“Right, so go to the home page … No, Ma. No … Ma, don’t tap that. No, I told you that’s just a text, probably from- No, I said don’t!”
“You tapped it, didn’t you? Jesus, Ma. I told you not to do that, now we gotta start all over again.” Lila fell back aggressively on her white duvet with a huff.
She rolled over on her side to look at me as she rolled her eyes.
I smiled slyly at her from behind my knees and went back to enjoying her tutoring session with her mother, scanning Facebook, putting the finishing touches on an essay, and eating a salad. And reminding myself how much I hate kale.
“Okay, you’re back at the start? Okay,” Lila sighed. “Open the app that says- the icon. The floating little square thing. Right, the grey one with the gear on it, it’s labelled ‘settings’. Then scroll down with your finger … I am not sassing you. What tone? There’s no tone. I’m not- I know. I know you did, it must have been very difficult. I know! Okay. Now scroll down to ‘general’. You see that? Okay, now go to ‘accessibility’. Like halfway down it should say ‘larger text’. Touch that. Okay, see the slider right there? Yeah, slide it all the way to the right. Yes, all the way. All the way. Ma. Ma, you’re blind as bat, go all the way to the right. Right. I know! Yes, it’s much bigger, I know. Yeah, so that should do you until you find those glasses. Okay. And if it’s not big enough, just call me, I’ll get you the secret font sizes that no one else knows about. Yes, I can do that. Do you doubt me, Mother? Are you testing me, Mother? To whom do you owe your next week of cellphone-ular interactions, Mother?”
I guffawed and Lila looked up at me, wryly blank.
“That’s what I thought. Uh huh. Okay. Love you, too, Ma. You’re welcome. Anytime. I know I’m the best. I know. Okay. Yeah. Love you. Bye.”
Lila hung up and knuckleballed her phone into her pillow. She gazed up at the cement ceiling of our dorm room, her hands pulling her hair.
I watched her for a moment. “How’s Deb?”
She let out a burst of wind, a pathetic excuse for a laugh. “Deb has two doctorate degrees, twenty-seventy vision, and still cannot master the apple.”
“Well. Making the font bigger? That’s pretty advanced stuff.”
“User-friendly my ass.”
“Hey. Come for my iPhone one more time today, I swear to god, fight me.”
“Don’t need to, your fucking Note 7 will burn your ass before I do.”
“No! Too fucking soon! Get out of my house!” Lila sat up and pointed at the door.
“Make me, you won’t. I’ll go to Deb’s house. She’ll be like, ‘well, at least, I have an adopted daughter who loves me and visits me’.”
Lila feigned gagging at my flawless imitation of Deb’s Jewish mother. I smiled into the next bite of salad, typing, ‘allows France to forget its violent colonial past, which consequently reinstitutes the ‘radical terrorist’ and, in the words of Fanon–’
“But, like, she’s so smart,” Lila reasoned. “She’s so educated and, like, worldly. And she can’t even figure out this little device. This little thing in her hand.”
“Well, yeah, but you grew up with it. It’s not fair to judge her ‘cuz she can’t figure out something that’s only existed for the last … what, seven years of her life, and you’ve had your entire adult life,” I said as I typed, ‘this forgetfulness revitalizes the settler’s racism in bouts of outrage regarding a conflict that is interlaced inextricably into the nation’s DNA, reappearing at every sinusoidal turn of the double-helix’. I stopped, disgusted with myself and jabbed at the delete button to get rid of that last piece of bull-
“Yeah. But she used to be a quick study.”
“With stuff that she knew about. Like ask her to play baseball or something and she’d be a trash can at it. But new scientific methods, she’s great at.”
“Yeah. I guess I just thought this would be close enough to what she does already that she’d be fine by now.”
“Old dog. New tech.”
“You calling my mother old?”
“Good. ‘Cuz, like, I’ll fight you.”
“So violent today.”
“I’m PMSing, you know that.”
“I fucking do. We had chips this morning. No fucking chips anywhere anymore.”
“Eat your fucking kale.”
“I will eat my fucking kale,” I said through a mouthful of fucking kale.
She watched me try to force the oversized leaf into my mouth, amused. I stared back at her, blank.
“It’s like eating a tree,” I mumbled.
She snorted. “I don’t touch the stuff.”
“No, Miss Susquehanna University eats Chipotle bowls only,” I announced into my fork. “That’s right, it’s the Burrito Bowl Diet for Miss Susquehanna University. Just look at those love handles. Irresistible.”
I dodged a pillow pet dog named Goat.
“Go fuck yourself, Miss I-Burst-Out-Of-My-Fucking-Yoga-Pants!”
“I was doing squats!”
“They’re very strenuous.”
“You look like you’re constipated whenever you do them.”
“Yeah, well, you are too fucking extra in zumba, so fight me. Like, honestly, who you tryna impress? There ain’t a single set of balls in the whole room, so like … why?”
“Just because I have fun doesn’t mean-”
“You are not having fun, you are trying to get some,” I said, clapping the last few syllables.
“Makes one of us, so.” She flopped back on her bed again.
“Whach’you know ‘bout me?” I grumbled, turning back to my essay.
Lila laid on her bed a moment longer, then sat up and grabbed her phone. “But actually. This is my mother. Like I depend on her for everything and always have for the past twenty years, but now she depends on me for something that is, like, at the center of being a human in twenty-seventeen.”
“At the center of being younger than thirty. Older people don’t use their phones like we do.”
“Yeah, but, being a professional, especially being a scientist … you kinda have to know how this stuff works.”
“Right, but our parents’ generation that doesn’t know how it works is being phased out. Eventually it’ll be just us.”
“So, like, why is no one hiring us?”
“Ooh. She said it.”
“But actually.” She slid off her bed and padded over to her closet.
“But actually.” I shoved another leaf of fucking kale into my mouth. ‘Although the film’s depiction of both French and Algerian violence would certainly strip a Frenchman bare of his present ‘innocent victim’ status, it would also do much to console that confused (and now indecent) Frenchman in that it provides a rational formula in which constructive violence is a variable.’
I closed my laptop, content with my progress. Lila, now pajamaed, leapt into her four-foot raised bed and turned off her light. I turned off mine.
I blame Disney.
There is no wicked witch.
No fair, gentle princess.
No evil sorcerer.
No handsome, charming prince.
No small, conniving minion.
No cute, infallible furry friend.
No sage elder to give advice.
To tell a child so is pure falsification and over-simplification.
All of these traits, tropes, and characteristics lie in her or him.
She is kind to her grandmother, yet bullies her classmate.
He advises his brother, yet cannot decide what to eat.
She is proud with her boyfriend, yet shrinks with her father.
He loves his father, yet hates his teacher.
When life becomes:
My choice is good, yours is bad
My opinion is right, yours is wrong
My president is good, yours is evil,
We begin to expect
Gaston’s fall from the balcony,
Clayton’s fall and hanging,
Frollo’s fall into the fire.
We begin to expect retribution
For that inherent evilness.
(Even despite ‘Thou shalt not kill’.)
When we assume evil in a person, we can no longer see the person.
He is her prince and sage.
She is her furry friend and minion.
He is his sage elder and sorcerer.
She is his princess and torturer.
I blame Disney.
You have diminished me to one.
You have falsified my world.
You have made it black and white
When I want to see all the colors of the wind.
There are times in the present climate that I feel a black, desperate need to write, to express, to calm myself and hopefully others. Yet at every turn, I feel I cannot say more eloquently or with any originality what others have said before me.
Therefore, I turn to an artist that I feel tends to be swept aside like so many ‘commercial’ songwriters, despite a succinct, powerful, and relatable way with words. Anyway, every time I see what’s going on around me, I hear this song of John Mayer’s in my head. I hope it soothes any feelings of loneliness or fear as it does for me.
‘Stop This Train’
No, I’m not color blind
I know the world is black and white.
I try to keep an open mind,
But I just can’t sleep on this tonight.
Stop this train.
I want to get off and go home again.
I can’t take the speed it’s moving in.
I know I can’t,
But honestly won’t someone stop this train?
Don’t know how else to say it:
I don’t want to see my parents go …
One generation’s length away
From fighting life out on my own.
Stop this train!
I want to get off and go home again!
I can’t take the speed it’s moving in.
I know I can’t,
But honestly won’t someone stop this train?
So scared of getting older,
I’m only good at being young.
So I play the numbers game
To find a way to say that life has just begun.
Had a talk with my old man:
Said, “Help me understand.”
He said, “Turn sixty-eight,
You’ll renegotiate …
“Don’t stop this train.
Don’t for a minute change the place you’re in,
And don’t think I couldn’t ever understand.
I tried my hand.
John, honestly, we’ll never stop this train”
Once in a while, when it’s good,
It’ll feel like it should
When you’re all still around
And you’re still safe and sound
And you don’t miss a thing
‘Till you cry when you’re driving away in the dark.
Singing, “Stop this train.
I want to get off and go home again.
I can’t take the speed it’s moving in.
I know, I can’t
‘Cause now I see I’ll never stop this train.”
I was struck by how small and lonely my car looked there on the snow-brushed cement patch of a parking lot. Amidst the naked trees and the brittle branches of brush standing bravely on the snowy hills, something that contains and catalyzes my life was made small by dormant nature.
Even asleep, it bests me on my best day.
In my brown boots, black pants, black jacket, brown hair, I suppose I blended into the broadly-stroked sections of trees. I crunched the snow on a runner- and runner’s-dog-trodden path. Behind me lay a small, white, lonely cottage that more than likely held some historical significance-of which I was completely ignorant-and its accompanying nondescript, colonial equivalent of a garage.
In front of me was a wide swatch of open field with snow and slumbering grass, rimmed with stoically trembling trees, cut down the middle with a path drawn perfectly with a surveyor general’s hand. I was currently enjoying his handiwork.
The sky was in twilight’s last few grains of sand. The clouds were moving hastily and haphazardly, as if seeking warmer days as recklessly as their biped subjects were. In one corner were clouds stretched like abused cotton balls and in another, they were clumped together as if in anger to bring rain and wind.
The path lured me onward, much whiter than the surrounding area by nature of its relative smoothness. Somewhere within my gut, I felt a tug.
Yes, the alleged call of impulse. I had heard of this and remembered it vaguely.
It struck at a most inconvenient moment for Miss So-And-So of my kindergarten period. She and I were going about our days: she was pouring her heart, mind, and soul into our learning of numbers and letters, and I was half-listening, making circles and faces on my already-completed handout. I had learned numbers and letters weeks ago; these were old news.
Yet something was making a peculiar noise outside, beyond the window’s view. I couldn’t quite place it. It sounded like a cat, or perhaps it was a squirrel. Maybe, if I was lucky, it was a dog. This, of course, was of much more interest than old-hat numbers and letters.
It came: the familiar tug of the gut, and my tuckus parted from the seat and I was up at the window before G became H.
Then came my name (which was neither a letter nor a number) from Miss So-And-So’s mouth, then a question as to my doings (to which I had no answer), then a demand involving my tuckus and the still-warm seat. Then the afterthought of a please.
Being a get-along kind of kindergartener and something of a goody-two-shoes, I had no choice but to do as Miss So-And-So said. So, my tuckus was placed in the seat again and my fingers went back to my circles and faces.
In this way, Misses and Misters from kindergarten on up had used my goody-two-shoe sensibilities against that elusive tug of the gut such that I rarely feel it even now. Or if I do, I swallow it with a cup of coffee and go on with my day.
So, given an open road, the tug of the gut came back. It surprised me. I thought it was angry with me. I’d neglected it for so long, why should it come back to me now? But here it was.
And off I went.
My brown boots took off as if given Hermes’ wings. My arms pumped with collected strength at my sides. My brown hair was a mess in my own wind, streaming behind me like a wild battle flag. My ankle bent to the side and I nearly took a tumble in the snow, but caught myself, not breaking stride. This patch of road was rough, so I picked my way with speedy efficiency over rocks and pockets.
I sprinted out of my body for a moment and looked down from above at my silly self running over snowy dirt, looking quite doplic. At any other moment in my life, I’d have stopped the display of extreme lack of dexterity for fear of someone seeing and using it as a weapon against me, but this night I did not.
I carried on, given speed by that tug of the gut.
A lone, fat tree on the edge of the path came quickly and my gut pulled me up next to it like a winded, bridle-broken horse. I touched its trunk and found it to be one of my favorite varieties of tree: a sleeping zelkova. Its trunk had fiery lines like wasps or wind-driven bits of hail had slit scores into its flesh. Next to it was a sign.
“WARNING: Sinkhole. Stay Back from Edge”
with an unfortunate man sliding down a hill, who had not only suffered a great fall, but apparently a beheading as well. I observed the broken English, mulling over whether the addition of a ‘the’ would have been so hard, when my gut drove my feet forward again.
I hooked my arm around the sign and tapped the icy ground beneath the sign with a toe (just one of the two goody shoes). Nothing happened, so I placed my whole foot tenderly on the ground and gradually shifted weight. Again, nothing happened. I stood and looked for a sinkhole.
I stepped forward. I stepped again. And again. And again. Until I found myself in the middle of a field.
I was out, standing in my field.
Mourning my regrettable joke, I mentally proclaimed the sign a liar and a cheat. My now nearly frozen toes tempted me to go further, but even though I had stopped, my nose was still running and my teeth were beginning to clap. I put my hood over my head and stood for a moment in the supposed sinkhole with my hands in my warm pockets. I gazed at the moon darting in and out of holes in the clouds.
Why is it, in movies, that the moon is always full?
The moon is hardly ever full, but it needn’t be full to be beautiful. It whisked aside the remaining breath of cloud and beamed down at me and my field, giving me a cold shadow. Its minions of stars crept out from cloud cover, as well, sparkling and twinkling with a kind of icy mischief. They certainly knew something I didn’t.
I knew then that I needed that reminder.
They had watched me in all hours of my life. I couldn’t see them, but they had seen me. They saw beyond what I gave to others, what I laid out for others to see.
I lay out clothes to wear, and jewelry, sometimes makeup, I think out words to say, I conjure up movements, I cut out feelings to feel from the immense backdrop of emotion I experience daily, all per Miss So-And-So’s standards, who has grown into my leering peers, my well-wishing advisors, the informative voices from my television screen, the tapping thumbs behind my palmed screen. Nevermind the tug of my gut, I’d gladly step off the edge into that well-advertised, well-lit, five-star-rated, doctor-approved, Jennifer-Aniston-endorsed sinkhole if the sign told me to because I am a get-along, goody-two-shoes kind of kindergartener who has simply grown out of her Mary Janes.
“Warning: Sinkhole. Stay Back from Edge”
Words to get along by.