Its Officially the Holidays!!

Hello and welcome to December! I hope everyone’s Thanksgiving was adequate. I am not too much of a Thanksgiving fan (I am not that into the food and dark orange is not a good color scheme for me) but regardless I had a fun weekend. It was full of highs and lows.

Highs: Seeing my cousins, high school friends, spending quality time with my parents/sister. Lows: Having a flat tire and being too exhausted/full to function properly for most of the weekend. All and all I would say it was a draw.

But enough about Thanksgiving! That’s old news now. The turkeys are gone, and Black Friday has ended, meaning that the holiday season is now officially upon us. It is a time of laughter and joy and presents, but also of stress and long simmering resentments. What a time to be alive!

Chrismukkah is my preferred winter holiday

Chrismukkah is my preferred winter holiday

It is only the first day, so the true month of holiday excitement has not yet begun, but still, things are beginning! Multiple best-of-2014 lists are being created (Slate has one about books, as does Amazon.) Advent calenders are ready to be eaten. Its generally an exciting time, even if this few weeks mark the time of the year when I am at peak panic levels, trying to finish off all of the work I have neglected to do all semester. This year it is worse than ever, with the added bonus that this is my last semester, making motivating myself harder than ever. The important thing to focus on however is CHRISTMAS THINGS.

So with that, I will leave you my favorite Christmas song, to get everyone excited (or depressed, it is not the most cheerful of songs.) Happy December!

In other news, its 70º in November

I am very tired today, falling asleep on the train a record FOUR times this morning, so I really don’t have it in me to write a full blog post today- especially because I’m fairly certain the only people who read these are my dad, and I only know that because he always sends me concerned, “you-doing-ok-buddy?” emails after he reads them. (Thanks Dad!)

Anyways, today is very warm, and I have a cold, which is deeply unfortunate. It is also humid, and I hate humidity. Pressure systems that cause humidity are my least favorite kind of weather systems, in case anyone was curious.

Today is not a day to dwell on the negative though (global warming, people dying of ebola, all the work due before Christmas, the inevitability of me dying alone and unemployed in an alleyway being eaten by stray cats, etc.) Instead we will focus on positive things:

1. I did not watch the American Music Awards on TV last night, a decision that I feel will only improve my life going forward.

2. Thanksgiving is coming up, everyone’s favorite holiday. The perfect combination of food, family, and willfully forgetting our countries part in the genocide of millions of people over hundreds of years.

3. Pie! So many different kinds of pie are gonna be around this week- pumpkin, apple, pecan, and, if you are like me and have an Aunt from Texas, Chess pie! Woohoo pie!

4. It will probably be at least another 2 decades before global warming completely destroys the planet, and we are left in a situation my friend Jordana refers to as “real life Hunger Games”. That means there is plenty of time for to improve my wildlife survival skills before imminent doom.

5. Me being sick means I will probably be less hungry on Thanksgiving, and therefore will eat less, and be less likely to get diabetes.

 

“Stories are Wild Things.”

Two nights ago, I stayed up in bed till 2am, reading A Monster Calls.

I read this book once, back in high school, and fell in love with it. The story is about a 13-year-old boy, Conor, who’s had a recurring nightmare ever since his mother started her cancer treatments. And then a monster comes walking, an ancient wild monster who wants the one thing Conor refuses to give: the truth.

I never got the chance to reread it. Recently, on an errand for Gotham, I found the book by chance, sticking out of a shelf in the YA/Children’s section of a bookstore, and as it was the only copy left, I took it as a sign to buy it. And so I did and took to reading it every night, when no one could disturb me (and also because reading alone at night helps me get into the atmosphere of the story).

Well maybe that was a mistake.

I’ll say this: a book has never made me bawl before. Bawl as in sob into your pillow like your heart has been broken to pieces. I suppose I didn’t cry the first time because I read the book while surrounded by loud teenagers and an ever-moving environment. But the story did lodge into my heart and stay.

And there I was two nights ago, reading the last few pages of the story, and it was as if instead of lodging in my heart this time, the story lodged in my throat like an Adam’s apple, and  I was crying, right onto the book and then into my pillow. I couldn’t help it. The language, the utter pain of Conor losing his mother slowly, the grief, the knowledge that no matter what, there are some things in the world you can never ever control, and one of them is bringing someone back from death, was just overwhelming. And I kept imagining my own family, my own mother, and like an idiot, placing myself into Conor’s sad shoes.

And for the first time, I positively bawled over a book. So thank you Patrick Ness. If I ever meet him, I will tell him that I aspire to write like him, that I aspire to be a cruel unforgiving writer who makes her readers sob and cry about the unfairness of the emotions the story give them. Maybe I’m too emotional, maybe I too easily allow for stories and films to stick themselves in my heart and torture me, but I guess that’s the point. “Stories are wild things,” the monster told Conor, and indeed they are.

 

On the Road Again

Whether it be seeing America or seeing the world, books about wanderers are awesome. Here are a few of my personal favorites:

  • On The Road– because, duh
  • Killing Yourself to Live by Chuck Klosterman- Not really a novel, but this story of Chuck’s travels across America as he ruminates on ex girlfriends and dead rockstars is probably one of my all time favorite books. My friend Dan borrowed it about a year ago and never gave it back, and I’m still upset.
  • Between The Bridge and The River by Craig Ferguson-  Once again, this book is not quite a road trip story, but the fact that it does feature a true cross country adventure as well as multiple characters escaping to far off journeys makes it qualify, at least in my mind. Plus this book is really awesome.
  • Contents May Have Shifted by Pam Houston- This story is of a life time wanderer, and how her travels affect her personal life, and help her deal with a tragic pass. To be honest, I’m not as crazy about this book as about some of the others on this list, but it is still an interesting and well written take on “seeing America”
  • The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño- The characters in Bolaño’s best known work are all romantic, bohemian poets and revolutionaries, who spend their lives wandering around South American and Europe and creating art. This book is also one of my favorites, and I intentionally expanded the scope of this list beyond simply America simply so I could include it. In the past I have heard people compare Bolaño to others, calling him “the Chilean Keruoac” or something similar. I disagree with this assessment- I think Bolaño was a much better writer and a more interesting person. Remember: Everything that begins as a comedy ends as a tragedy
  • Travels With Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck- This road tripe novel follows Steinbeck, at the end of his life, traveling cross country with his dog Charley. Normally road trip books have more youthful protagonists and a more optimistic outlook, but this book- about an aging man watching as the America he once knew fades away- is more bittersweet.
  • Death Comes For The Archbishop by Willa Cather- This is another choice that does not quite fit, but in my mind at least, this beautiful, quiet novel about European Catholic priests making their home in the American south-west is all about the journey. At its core, the book is a meditation on faith, and the unity of human existence. Its about how even in foreignvcultures, like minded people can create a home.

Obviously, this list is far from complete- there are hundreds of great travel stories out there, most of which I probably haven’t read. Regardless, next time you are looking to get away for a while, I would recommend trying one of the above.

A Rainy November Day and New Things

It was a very atmospheric day here at Gotham–it rained all day and is still raining. In the afternoon, it was raining so hard that the AC sounded like it was being battered. The sound of the drops constantly hitting the part of the AC that juts outside reverberated throughout the entire office so that we were obliged to mention how loud it was. I stepped outside the room for a minute and was amazed to hear how silent it was, compared to the ruckus of the rain inside the office!

I enjoyed it though. It was good background music and the first time since I joined Gotham it rained so hard. And for someone who likes rain, hey, I didn’t mind. I was just thinking how it would’ve been nice to play in that rain if it was warmer, which it’s not. Right now, it’s slowed down enough so that it’s like a simple and sharp tut tut tut on the AC. Rainy rainy November day.

On a less rainier side, yesterday, I watched Big Hero 6 in theaters for the second time! (I love that movie so so much.) This time with my best friend, who’s never seen it. She was all-out crying by the end of the movie so I believed I’d done my job. Afterward, we went to Chinatown, where I tried lychee bubble tea with tapioca balls, garlic-flavored popcorn chicken on sticks, a dish of lo mein and rice vermicelli on top of each other with vegetables, warm mini cakes from a small street vendor and sweet coconut bread bun–all for the first time! 

Yes, it sounds like a lot and it was a lot! (Gosh now I’m hungry just thinking about it.) If we get technical, the chicken was our appetizer, the noodles were the main dish and the sweet coconut bread bun that we shared was the dessert. The tapioca was too bland for me, and I preferred the lo mein to the vermicelli (I must get that again), but if we talk general, I loved just about everything, and I’m definitely returning! Plus, the prices are great.

I guess I forgot to mention that by the time we had the noodles, it was really dark and we ended up eating in darkness in a park filled with old people where we generally felt safe–but made sure we sat right by the entrance so we could book it if we needed to! We did book it eventually–but because I saw an enormous rat scamper across the park, looking like it was tiptoeing, and it pretty much freaked us out.

Quite an adventure for a Sunday! But I got to try new things, which I absolutely love doing. I’ve found that trying new food and new experiences help me become more open-minded, and I think it can help anyone become open-minded. This is just the start–I have many more new things to try.

The foods I tried in the exact order I tried them:

We got the Beats

For one of my classes this semester (Buddhism and the 20th Century Novel) I had to read Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac. Previously, I had been very neutral towards beat authors. I’d read On The Road of course, and at some point in high school had read The Naked Lunch for reasons I do not recall, but I had never really gotten into the Beat literary scene the way a lot of other people I knew had. I had liked Kerouac well enough at the time, but there was other stuff to read, and to do. Plus I was at an age where a lot of the more philosophical ideas went over my head, as did the whole “Americana spirit” of Kerouac’s book.

Now, as an older person closer to the age of Kerouac, Ginsberg and the other authors when they wrote the books, I find I’m a lot more tolerant of their ramblings than I had been previously. There is something beautiful about the spirit and the fervor with which they consumed life. Of course there are aspects to many of the books that I hate- the sexism, the substance abuse, the collective inability to hold a steady job- but there is still a sort of innocence to the Beat writing that I can’t help but be seduced by.

Everyone, I think, at some point in their lives, has the urge to go drive off some day, and look for America. Reading Howl, On The Road, and other books like it pull on that urge, enticing the reader with their stories of rucksacks and Chevys and Benzedrine fueled parties. The Beats are far from perfect, but that doesn’t mean their writing aren’t thrilling, at least on a subconscious level.

My plan is to continue in this direction for at least a few months, and get a better taste of what the Beats have to offer, from a literary standpoint. So far on my list are the following books:

  • Big Sur– Another Kerouac, but I’ve heard good things about this novel, which is a little older than On the Road  and Dharma Bums. I wanted to check out some more Keroauc, and this seems like a good place to start.
  • Howl– I loved Howl  in high school, but I haven’t read it in years, and have honestly completely forgotten most of it at this point. Rereading Ginsberg’s most famous poetic work is next then.
  • Off The Road- This memoir of sorts was written by Carolyn Cassady, the former wife of Kerouac character Neal Cassady (aka Dean Moriarity, aka Cody Pomeroy.) I started this book over the weekend, and so far it has been a very tragic, albeit interesting read. Cassady’s story is that of the pregnant, abandoned wife who stays home while her husband’s off adventuring. Reading her story really highlights exactly how sexist society was at the time, even in the more liberal, hippie circles. Be warned: Anyone who idolizes Kerouac, Cassady, and others as “great men” may be in for a rude awakening after reading this account of how they treated the various women in their lives. The saddest part of the whole thing? To this day, after all Kerouac and Cassady did to her, Carolyn still loves them both.

Around 2008 to 2010, the emo/alternative rock scene became pretty big, with many bands of such genres rising to the top and becoming popular. I’ve listened to a lot of these bands and I still love some of them. However, I realized that a lot of their songs have lyrics that don’t even make sense. Maybe you listened to them back in 2008 and thought, “Wow, that is so deep, it’s perfect, yes, that’s exactly how I feel” but now, you’ll probably think “What the heck was that even supposed to mean?!” So here I present to you a list of lyrics from certain songs by these bands that don’t really make sense to me now.

  1. The white on your nose is your secret to tell -“Built for Sin” by Framing Hanley
  2. I creep around over egg shells down at the start. -“WarZone” by Framing Hanley
  3. Towers won’t fit our view -“Clocks” by Versaemerge
  4. Cast about the night with your hands -“If You’re Wondering” by Eisley
  5. Your initial reply hit me undercover -“Remember When” by There for Tomorrow (I’m sorry TFT, I love you to pieces)
  6. Adulterous conditioned to a spin cycled submission -“My Blue Heaven” by Taking Back Sunday
  7. Flower tongue wilts with too much sun -Lonely Lonely by Taking Back Sunday
  8. Till every word I say is on waver -“Hell On The Throat” by Dashboard Confessional
  9. I taste you like a hammer through my teeth -“The Cheap Bouquet by Pierce the Veil
  10. I tried to settle for the taste of touching glass over the sound of answering machines- “The Sky Under the Sea” by Pierce the Veil