Let's End the Month on a Somber Note

But not a sombre one. For some reason I really wanted to type it like that.

So I keep thinking about the Anne books, which I am rereading after more than a decade (aaahhh, time), and how a certain storyline and accompanying lesson recurs throughout: don't be too stubborn, don't let a quarrel get in the way of your happiness, don't become estranged from your lover and doom yourself to some degree of loneliness (being an old maid) or at least years of unhappy separation before eventual reconciliation. There are so many people that do this in these books. Many of them are too proud to admit they were wrong. Some are too scared to admit the other is right, and they are in love. All situations are stressful, and in such concentration, alarming.

Then you read about L.M. Montgomery's life and realize she was probably thinking about one or two of her beaus* who she didn't marry. And how she married a preacher and moved to rural Ontario with him. As my dad put it, "That's a real downgrade, even, or especially, then." She seems to have had an unsatisfactory life, although it was successful book-wise. L.M. Montgomery was probably trying to help her gentle readers avoid making themselves what she felt had been a dreadful mistake. The intensity of this theme in her writing combined with the reality of her life makes me sad.

Today I went to see The Secret in Their Eyes (El secreto de sus ojos), the Argentinian film that won this year's Oscar for best foreign language film, while I was in Ann Arbor. (I refuse to capitalize the award's title like Wikipedia/the world does, sorry.) It's a crime drama about a man who tried to put a murderer/rapist behind bars even after the case was closed, and about how he writes a novel about it as a retiree twenty-five years later, because he's still haunted by the case. It's a compelling film, often upsetting, but not unbearably so. There were twists and turns I half-anticipated, and others that were unexpected. It's some sort of love story, too—the main character is also haunted by the memories of moments where his life could have taken a different turn. He loved his boss, but twenty-five years later, she's married to the man she was engaged to at the time of the case and has two children. They never managed to talk about it, about 'us,' but, as the New York Times hilariously says, their not "especially secretive" eyes "appealingly convey the...heat of regret."

When the movie ended, we were all a little uncertain. I liked it. Cooper read the movie poster outside the theater and said that he disagreed with the quote on it: "It doesn't leave me wanting more." The story definitely ended. But it left me thinking about all the love stories put on hold, some indefinitely. Even if they work out in the end, think of all the empty years between. I dropped Cooper off at his house and drove to my next, lonely stop—I was to sit in my car by myself and wait for my brother to get back with the other car, so I could drive it home. I came to a stop at a red light, and sat and watched the rain all over my windshield.
The car was quiet, so I pushed the cassette into its slot. Sting came on, singing the Police's "So Lonely." I'm pretty sure it came on around 1:53 into the song—all the verses were done, and all that was left was over a minute of "Lonely, so lonely, so lonely, I feel so lonely." In the rain. Alone in my car with the specters of all those stilted romances. So lonely. So lonely. So lonely-lonely-lonely-lo, lonely-lo, I feel so lonely. 

Thanks, Sting.

*I bet that, knowing my proclivity for accurate foreign spellings and that silly coda to this post where I go on about accent marks, you didn't expect me to go with the anglicized spelling. Sometimes, I'm surprising. 'Beaux' is too weird for English.

Escapism, I Know You Too Well; or, How My Dad Killed the Internet

Over the last few days, I was going to write a number of blog posts, but I just couldn't focus. So, resolutions made over the weekend in Ohio aside, I went back to doing what I seem to do best: sacrificing my days, my evenings, my brain cells and my vision to the Sims (2, if you wondered). The habit has been degrading, though. I promise. You can only watch so many Sims have the same wants and fears and lifetime goals (and noses—their parents' genes don't meld well) before you get a little bored. You can try to give each one a different career, her own style of dress and decorating, her own approach to life. But in the end, they're just Sims, and the progression of their lives and the stories you've built for them in your head are not reflected in the game, let alone in the real world. If you look at ancient matriarch Brianna Conaghy now, there's nothing to tell you she was once a redhead in a cute denim pencil skirt who struggled to make a living in politics so she could move to a house that was proper for raising children. No one knows that her daughter Fiona used to have lavender hair that looked absolutely perfect on her, or that her mother, sick of these brown-haired kids, found a lover to father Fiona, her third child. I won't go on. I realize these details are boring when I try to relate them.

The point is that the Sims is losing its charm, but it's still an easy diversion. I sit there, my fingers darting between speeds one, three, and pause. When it's on three, I hold the key down, willing my people to go faster, faster, faster. When I stop playing and leave the PC to check my email on my Mac or wander aimlessly through the house, I realize my heart is racing. It seems I may have become the lamest of adrenaline junkies, although 'junkie' is probably going way too far. I don't jump off of tall things. No, I speed through simulated life.

When I'm not playing the Sims but am engaged in something and not just staring blankly at nothing, I've been rereading the Anne books. I don't remember what she was talking about, but my mom alluded to them when she brought up Anne's term "scope for imagination," and suddenly, all I wanted to do was reacquaint myself with Avonlea. The second night in Athens, OH visiting Rachel, I had to finish Anne of Green Gables before I could go downstairs to join in the late-birthday Riesling and horrible horrible limited release Woodchuck spring cider—no, seriously, the hint of honey or whatever actually means that this cider smells like perfume and as far as I know, tastes like it too. Avoid it. Brief research has revealed there will be a summer cider too, starting in June, with hints of blueberry. Talk about gross. Although probably not as gross, because blueberries are food and perfume is not.

Anyway, even though I'd read it at least twice before, I needed to see exactly how Anne of Green Gables ended. I was so excited for Anne and Gilbert to finally reconcile and become friends. (It was bound to happen, so this is not a spoiler...for all those people out there who are dying to read L.M. Montgomery but haven't gotten around to it yet.) At the back of my mind the rest of the weekend, I was excited to get home, pull book two off my top shelf, and find out what happened next. I think I had read most of the other books only once. I also think the Anne books are better this time around. I'm older, and more cynical, so it's more likely I would look at their prim sensibilities and Anne's bubbling enthusiasm and laugh a little meanly, then stop reading, but I don't. It's refreshing to be pulled into this sincere, simple, beautiful world. One reason that I appreciate them more now is that I've been paying attention to all the description. As a third grader, I doubt I did that too well. I spent most of my life as a fast reader, something which changed when piles of nonfiction were dumped upon me in college but which I can return to as soon as what I'm reading is both compelling and doesn't have a response paper at the end of it.

The description—flowery it might be, but so good:
The "Avenue," so called by the Newbridge people, was a stretch of road four or five hundred yards long, completely arched over with huge, wide-spreading apple-trees, planted years ago by an eccentric old farmer. Overhead was one long canopy of snowy fragrant bloom. Below the boughs the air was full of purple twilight and far ahead a glimpse of painted sunset sky shone like a great rose window at the end of a cathedral aisle.  – Anne of Green Gables, Chapter 2
I didn't even know what a rose window was last time I read this. And the old-fashioned speech, the inverted word order, the words L.M. Montgomery combines: the friendliness and tenderness of 'the Sarah-cat' and 'Anne-girl,' 'fireshine,' and "eyes shining with all the love-rapture of countless generations." 'Love-rapture' is silly, right? I could never write it. But it's perfect in its place. These books have renewed my faith in my ability to be earnest, somehow. At the same time, they've reminded me that descriptive passages can be like this. It's a sort of a downer, because I know I could never write like L.M. Montgomery. Which is okay, probably. It's not like I've spent my life in picturesque, unspoiled Prince Edward Island. I do think I should learn more plant names, however unlikely that may be.

While I tried to savor the first three books, my impatient nature got the better of me, and in three days I was done with Anne of Avonlea and of the Island. I'm a sucker for a love story, even—or especially?—such a subtle one as this. It's just so sweet, without being annoying. So, like the Sims, I raced through all of the Anne books in my house, and now I have to venture to the library to continue.

So now we get to the part where my dad kills the internet. The Sims has lost its luster. I've exhausted the reading options I'm interested in—because all I want to read is the next step in Anne's life, and I can't without making the two-block trek to the library I used to work in. I actually want to get some things done in real life, things that require the internet, like writing blog posts and dealing with my student loans and writing important emails, so I'm not going to allow myself to be sucked into fiction yet. Late Wednesday night, the internet flickers out, as it does rather frequently (apparently only since I've moved home, so it's my fault? do you believe that?). It doesn't flicker back on. I get pissed off—I was in the middle of an AIM conversation, I was writing something in Blogger. I go downstairs in the complete darkness (both parents are in bed) and hit reset on the router.

Oops. Wrong reset-choice. Our network had lost its custom name and reverted to simply 'linksys' and the password was gone. At least I was online again. Come Thursday night, this is a problem. My mom works at home two days a week, and she came home from work needing to finish a project by 10 a.m. the next morning. But she can't access the database if she's not on a secure network. You'd think this wouldn't be that hard to solve, but my dad can't remember how to change the network. He follows the instructions, but it doesn't work. The computer tells him, "Contact the person in charge of your network." "What if that person is me?" he asks, and soon resorts to swearing and yelling and ice cream in the basement with the TV. First he disables the internet entirely. My mom goes to bed, hoping he'll fix it before he goes to bed and she can get back up and work as long as she needs to. He goes to bed.

WHY DID HE KILL MY INTERNET CONNECTION? is all I can think the rest of the night. I don't need a secure network to work. I try to hook up my computer with the ethernet cord, but am unwilling to mess things up further and fail to get online. Every wireless network around our house is protected. I sit out in my car on the street to see if I can get something farther away, but no luck. Just loud, mysterious noises by my house. I rush out of the car and hurry to unlock the front door and get back inside. I seriously consider driving to Ann Arbor, just because I'm so angry. My computer is freezing even though, because it's not online, it's not doing anything. My phone's driving me crazy, too, because the buttons won't stop sticking and I'm trying to text my friends about the situation, and does Emma know if the library's internet is on at night, too? I don't check because I don't think the police would be so into a girl sitting in her car in the middle of the night, glowing conspicuously thanks to the laptop screen. And the police station is right next to the library.

I give up, go to sleep. My parents are up at 5:30 in the morning. I glance at the faint orange glow of dawn out my window and try to sleep. When I get up at 10:30, the internet is back. Without a password. My mom is gone, work incomplete, extension received. We still have to fix the network.

If 2007 Was the Summer of Apathy, Was 2008 the Summer of Bugs?

I wrote this post in the middle of the night/the early morning of May 24, 2008. I hope it's as funny now as it was then.
Current mood: scary bug!!

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh I KNEW THERE WAS A GIANT BUG IN MY ROOM BUT NO ONE CARED!!!!

I was lying in bed, thinking about how it was getting nice and cozy even though it was cold and lonely in my room and even the cat was missing, and even though those two reunited lovers were over in that one room talking really loudly to each other because when have they been able to think about anyone besides themselves??—when all of a sudden, rustlerustlerustle SOMETHING WAS MOVING.  And I made noises to call the cat to me, but there was no cat coming to me, so I went to turn on the light because sometimes the cat doesn't come, even for me.  But there was no cat.  And it was creepy.

And then I walked toward the next RUSTLERUSTLERUSTLE and all of a sudden something was flying by my face!  But I couldn't see because my glasses weren't on.  So I went to tell Emma but she was also trying to sleep and she told me it was probably a moth blahhhhhhh.  And I said, NO!!  The big creepy dead bug is missing from the side of my bed—because, you see, a couple days ago I noticed a big brown creepy beetle-like thing next to my bed and I poked it and the leg sort of moved which was scary but I thought it was just a weird dead-bug reflex because it seemed very dead.  But I hadn't almost stepped on it or squished it with a book in a couple days so that was weird.  Emma said the cat probably ate the big creepy dead bug.  BUT the flying thing that I saw with my blind blind eyes didn't look mothlike at all!  Plus, who wants a moth either???  But she didn't care so I turned on the bathroom light and turned off my light and hoped it would leave.

Thankfully, I was really sleepy and fell asleep, even though it was scary and those two people were still loud.  And it was REALLY scary—yesterday I heard rustling noises when I was trying to sleep but they weren't the cat when I turned on the light and I thought someone was somehow trying to break into my room or something even though that doesn't really make sense so I ran downstairs to my awake roommates.

ANYWAY, this is NIGHT NUMBER TWO OF THE CREEPY CREEPY RUSTLING BUG.  But I fell asleep anyway, but then at 3:20 I awoke, either because down the tiny hall they are still talking very loudly and male voices carry like whoa, or because of the RUSTLING noise that was BACK.  So I turned on the light and AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH it WAS the creepy dead beetle-thing!  He flies up and up all rustly and trying to get somewhere along the wall and runs into the wall and then falls on the ground and buzzes some and then haphazardly ends up in a different part of my room and does it again and it was creepy!  So I asked Ali to help me with the big scary bug in my room and Alex said "let her do it" and it was SAD so then I went and squealed some more because it's fucking SCARY and then I got a glass and couldn't find it but eventually did and now it is TRAPPED but AAAAAAHHHHHH WHAT A LOUD CREEPY INSECT.

Then I spent 15 minutes trying to steal me some wireless to make this ridiculous post that turned out really fucking long.

Now my foot is asleep, WHY??  I'm not sitting on it or anything, it's just asleep for no reason!  Scary.

*'Las Pampas' was one of the names Cooper and I were trying to give Table Cat, to Emma's dismay. Our efforts earned us the names Hegemonic Roommate the Male/the Female. Come on, geographic formations for names are hilarious. "Las Pampas is in the basement." "Las Pampas is attacking my printer." Grasslands don't do these things! Argentina is not in our basement!
 Above, the beetle-thing. Later, these were in/on our house. The last one is especially troubling—at the time, Emma asked, "Is this even from North America?"

Loose Ends (This is the post that never ends)

So, I graduated from the University of Michigan. With my German B.A. It was not a surprise. That was on the first of May. More of a surprise was that I got up at six in the morning that day, after going to bed around three. Why did I go to bed so late when I knew I had to get up so early, you ask? Well, our house wasn't exactly pristine on May 1st, when the lease was most certainly up. I kept nervously sweeping and facing the piles of rejected food left everywhere and then darting outside and calling out in my embarrassing high-pitched voice, "Here kitty-kitty-kitty. Heeeere kitty-kitty-kitty. Harouuun. Ha-rouuuuun."
My room the night before graduation. Yes, the thing hovering Nazgul-like behind my cute pink dress is the graduation gown.

Yes. The certainly not street-savvy not-quite-kitten escaped the night before we moved out. It had happened the previous night as well, and only housemate Bacchus (let's just leave his name at that) and I were concerned enough to go on a walk around the neighborhood foolishly shaking cat food and calling out to a not visibly present animal in front of the drunk people populating the lawns of Packard and environs. Haroun stuck around the house, we realized, but it was too dark to be sure he was there until he would come up to the door and think about going inside. At the first sight of us, he'd dart away. Eventually we lured him in with food and an open door, but he wouldn't come until we hid ourselves, and he was able to run past and upstairs without facing the shame. What shame? I don't know. He seemed somewhat crazed.

Anyway, that was stressful both times, on top of moving out and junk everywhere and emotional trauma due to leaving a way of life behind, abandoning my home, you know. And then: let's wake up at six a.m. because we need to get in line at the stadium early because maybe security will be awful because THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES IS GIVING THE COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS. As I said before, this unlikely eventuality was the only reason I was going to the big graduation. So, dark and early, we got up. And the thunder was crashing outside and the lightning was hard to miss. My parents were already on the road—I was impressed because this is unheard of in my family—and they told me the weather forecast was not good. But it worked out. My leather sandals may have been soaked for the zillionth time, and gotten a bit muddier than I'd like, and my hair was awfully frizzy for the photo(s) and really ever since—but even though even camera cases were not allowed, I managed to not break my camera, and Obama didn't get rained out. I was too short to actually see him, unfortunately, but maybe that's a detail I should edit out of my memory.
Wooo, the Big House. Big crowd photos always equal disgruntled strangers in the foreground.

I regret that I was too tired and on zombie-mode by the time we sat in our seats on the field to have realized I should ask someone to take a picture of me at graduation. I have pictures of friends, and strangers. Thousands and thousands of strangers. Graduation, part one did not feel like graduation. It felt like a hassle and a spectacle, albeit one where the president gave a good speech. I'm glad I went. But the real graduation was the Residential College graduation in the afternoon. There were moments where I thought about crying, because ends are sad and there were so many people who matter. I didn't cry until later, though.
The RC is a fun time, as is its graduation.

So the thing with the RC graduation—for all you readers who don't actually super know me, whose existence I doubt—is that, as our Director Charlie Bright said repeatedly, the graduates are the speakers. We each had up to a minute to say or do whatever we wanted in front of our fellow RC graduates, friends, and family. The guidelines were to entertain, and to probably wear clothes. As I alluded to without explaining two posts back, I didn't know what I would say. I did know I wanted to say something, because all too often, I say nothing, and I didn't want to finish the RC off with nothing to say. In the end, I came up with something while sitting in the audience, something that I thought was relevant but also formulated in a funny way. And that was really all I wanted. It turned out that my earlier blog post was something of a spoiler for what I said, although I framed it differently. Normally I have great stage presence, so I hope I pulled that off, but it was kind of a blur so I don't know. Everyone thinks I'm shy, and I am, but I like microphones and stages and speaking loudly. But not impromptu.

I had thought I was going to be teaching English in Austria next year, but this week, I found out that my application never actually made it there. So I have no idea what I'm doing, which reminded me of a quote I liked back in high school, back when I was sort of a crazy fan girl. It's funny for two reasons: the person who said it, and then the way it is said. But I like it. In 2005, John Mayer wrote that "Being lost is sexy."

I thought about explaining the context and making it more meaningful—Garden State is what made him think of this, and life is boring when you're not looking for something, so let's all look for things—but I thought I would rather go with funny. Plus I hadn't had time to practice it out loud at all, so short was better. I also thought about prefacing it with how I love German and the RC German program and things, but that seemed boring. Anyway, I think it went well, and it was fine, but then at the reception after the fun RC parade across campus back to East Quad, one of my German teachers came to talk to me. I hadn't been sure she was there, and before the graduation I hadn't told her or even my parents that I knew the Austria-verdict, but when she came up to me and asked about it, that's when the tears finally came.
The parade—the only photo evidence I have of me. With my brother! What faces.

I really did want to tie up all the loose ends in this post, so in the future I can get on with things, but it's late and I'm heading to southern Ohio bright and early tomorrow morning. So, know this: I did buy the silver-sequined heels I mentioned earlier, but photographic evidence currently does not exist. Follow up is required. I didn't wear them to graduation. Tripping on stage would've been too embarrassing. After a couple extra days, the house did get clean and completely moved out of. Haroun ran away a few days later when Emma was really moving her stuff back to her parents', and we were starting to despair when several days after that, we found him meowing under a back porch a street away from where he'd gone missing.
We even gave away the beloved comfy-maybe-moldy chair. (At least it found a new home before the rain came.)  And finally tossed our Christmas tree...

More loose ends, some tied up, some not: late last night I did the eCheck to pay the university the $2.52 I owed them for extra printing. Serious business. Now I think I will actually receive my diploma. But: most of my belongings are still not unpacked.

Notes for Emma, Away in Ann Arbor

I'm sitting in my bedroom in my parents' house. I've rearranged the furniture to try to get a new start with this room and this house and summers in this pleasant, pretty, but ultimately absolutely boring suburb. But I can't get the furniture right, and most of my things are still packed up. My dad and I just got back from Chinese food in Ferndale and so I don't want to move. I feel like I'm being sucked into the pillow-top mattress that's been on my bed since the last summer I spent in this house, three years ago—the summer yogurt and some pretzels became a valid dinner to me, the summer I gave up the Sims for at least a year because the computer ate my dynasty of four generations, the summer we were lonely late into the night, even when we weren't alone, the summer the last of my grandparents died. After the funeral we went back to my grandpa's apartment at the assisted living place and packed up the photo albums he'd made for my mom, the chairs from the kitchen table, some flannel sheets my mom had bought him. I had loved my grandparents' couch since they bought it when they moved into their trailer years before, but there was no way we could take it. My grandma's mattress, barely used because she'd spent so long in hospital beds, we did take. It's one and a half times as thick as my previous mattress and now my bed towers above the rest of my room. I don't want to think about that summer, but it's hard not to.

There are sirens to the west of my house, and I can hear traffic over the twilight chirps and calls of the birds. There's a plane somewhere above me. It's still not dark outside, so I don't want to turn on the lights, but what light is left hovers above the treetops and roofs and doesn't really enter my room. The computer screen makes me blind to everything else in my room, as it sort of does to everything, even in full daylight.

My mom wants me to make the brownies I said I'd make for her to take to work tomorrow. I don't want to. I'm supposed to add orange zest and orange juice—the recipe called for Cointreau but my dad concluded it was too old-fashioned for Kroger to carry, although he was so old-fashioned he didn't realize a grocery store would carry liquor, let alone self-serve. The orange juice he buys these days has pulp in it; he's revised his shopping practices to suit just the two of them, because we children don't live here anymore. Except, voilà, here I am again, begging for pulp-less orange juice and rolling my eyes at the skim milk and wondering what on earth these people eat. There's Velveeta in the cheese and meat drawer, which we never used to buy. "Your mother keeps going on these nostalgia-kicks," he told me as we headed to the checkout at the Kroger in St. Clair Shores (ours is undergoing renovations). "She'll never use it, but it's better to buy it so she knows it's there than to listen to her ask for it over and over."

The bells in the church are tolling nine o'clock. When the carillon started up sometime in the afternoon, my dad said, "The torturer's at it again." He can't stand it when they get the music wrong. Or when there are interloper grasses in our lawn. Or when paint is cracking off the house. At least he can happily walk, unlike my mom. It's going to be a long summer.