Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Airports...

I knew I was going to forget to mention something about Montreal....

So, on the way home from Canada, I got hassled twice by security.

I'm not sure if something about me screams "terrorist" but this was the fourth time I've been stopped at an airport for a random search.

Montreal definitely takes the cake, though.

At the regular security check, I got asked to step out of line and get searched, which was fine. The airport personnel dug through my carry-on bags and searched my body. The security guard was kind of cute, so I thought of it like most of my first dates minus dinner. It very well could have been random but I've just been asked to do this so many times.

I'm not sure how to feel about it. I feel like my name is on some kind of list somewhere.

After I got the big OK to mosey on through, I got harassed -- and I mean literally harassed -- at customs.

Anybody who knows me is aware that I don't travel light. When I went to Mexico City with a class last semester, I think I was the only person who packed two suitcases for eight days; everybody else had packed one. When I go home for a weekend trip, I usually pack a giant suitcase and a separate bag for belts and shoes. I think I'm physically incapable of packing lightly.

Montreal was no different.

I packed my two largest suitcases full, had my laptop bag full of wires and books and had carried on a separate bag full of shoes and random objects. My checked luggage weighed about 85-90 lbs combined.

Getting my luggage to Montreal was fine, but getting it back, through a customs agent, was a pain in the ass.

When I arrived at the counter, the man swiped my passport and immediately said, "we have a bit of a problem."

He didn't bother to ask where I was going, what I was doing, the usual customs-counter banter. He just stared at me and said, "we have a bit of a problem."

I imagined that when he swiped my passport through the reader the computer probably popped up a screen that read "FLIGHT RISK!!" or something hilarious like that.

"...problem?" I asked.

The agent inquired about why a person who was in Canada for seven days would need 95 lbs of luggage.

"Your one bag is 54 pounds and the other is over 40," he said.

"Oh, they didn't stop me when I checked the luggage. Is there any way they could shift four pounds out of the one bag to the other to comply to those weight restriction things?" I asked.

"This is customs," he snapped back. "If it made it through checked luggage, I don't give a shit how heavy it is. I just want to know what's in the bags."

"Oh ... clothing, belts, shoes," I answered. "What else would be in there?"

"You tell me," he said, spinning around his computer monitor to show a picture of my two suitcases on a conveyor belt, bulging at the seams.

I hate when people do stuff like this. It's that age-old mind fuck that people try to play with you. Kind of like how you discipline a dog when they fuck something up. You grab the shredded piece of whatever and present it to them, to let them know they've done wrong.

It was as if he thought the sight of my two pieces of luggage would elicit some knee-jerk confession out of me like:

"OH LAWRDY, THEY FOUND THE BOMB!! RUN!!"

or

"I'm moonlighting. This is my first stab at human trafficking."

I just kept staring at this guy like he was an asshole, because, well, he was being an asshole.

"You sure that's all you have in the bags?" he asked.

"Positive. It's clear from those pictures that I don't travel light. If you're not going to believe me, go ahead and search them ... shoes, belts and clothes."

"I just want to give you an opportunity to identify any items that we might find in there if we have to search your bags," he said.

"Look sir, you're not hearing me, so hear this. I was only in Montreal for a week, but I was at a journalism convention for gay people. I went through anywhere from two to three outfits a day. Ninety-five pounds of luggage seems a bit conservative for me. I've already paid for both bags to get on this flight. If I seem a little uncooperative it's because I'm tired and haven't slept all night and I just gave you guys 50 dollars to handle these bags.

"And don't you guys x-ray the luggage? For 50 dollars, you can't just run the bag through a machine to see that it's just belts, shoes and clothes?" I followed up.

"What do you do for a living?" he asked, skipping right past my mini rant.

"I'm a student," I answered.

"Where do you go?"

"Penn State."

"What are you studying?"

"Jour-na-lis-m," I said slowly, as to indicate that I thought this man had a problem with hearing or comprehension.

At this point, I no longer cared about even trying to act polite.

"Do you work?" he asked.

"Not at the moment -- just school," I said.

"How does a nonworking student afford a week-long trip to Montreal?" he asked.

"What are you getting at?" I asked.

"...there's no dope in your bags?" he asked.

As soon as this man said the word "dope" I chuckled.

"Excuse me? Dope?" I laughed.

"Yeah."

"No, there's no dope in my bags."

"You sure?" he asked.

"YES!"

"OK, you can go," he said.

So then I met back up with the three other students whom I went to the airport with. The shit was getting heavy and I needed some caffeine, so we decided to stop at this coffee kiosk near our gate.

While Lauren, Anthony, Blair and I were in line, two airline employees (I'm assuming a pilot and co-pilot by their outfits) turned around and asked me, "What the hell was that all about? At customs? I've never seen anybody get questioned that much."

"I don't know," I said.

It was ridiculous. I'm so happy to be home.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I'm home!!

It's been forever since my last update. I'm sorry.

Montreal and the NLGJA convention were so fantastic. The weather, the people, the sights, the friendships, the work -- all amazing.

It was the first place I've ventured outside of the states where I didn't know the language. The language barrier drove me crazy, especially since French is spoken everywhere you turn.

It sort of makes me want to learn French. The language is so beautiful and melodic. I'll put it on my to-do list.

The first night we arrived in Montreal was amazing. The students got to hang out and get to know one another before our work began in any official capacity.

The convention was held at the Hyatt Regency Montreal and across the street was the newly opened (it opened the night we got there) Place des Arts, a plaza with water/light installations that synched up to create breathtaking views. The design and layout seems so simple, yet it adds so much to that space of the city.

For the grand opening of the plaza, a group of artists from around Montreal held this celebration called Le Grande Basier (The Great Kiss). Because of the language barrier, I'm not exactly sure what the underlying meaning was behind the event. It was a bunch of artists retelling, in French, of their first kiss and then some sort of skit would occur.

It was quite a spectacle. There were probably about 2,000 or more people just standing around, dancing, singing, enjoying the moment.

After every artist would pop up on these giant video screens, a scene would take place. There were acrobatics, floats, choreography, music, singing -- a little bit of everything.

I took exhaustive video of the event, so, check it out for yourself. It was an amazing thing to witness. How a community could come together and enjoy a simple space and story telling. And the event was free of charge. It seemed like something I would never see here in the states.


video


video


During one of the last numbers, the participants in the parade grabbed members of the audience and dragged them to the center to dance. I think it surprised a lot of people.

video



Montreal was like no other city I've been to before.

It seemed very...cohesive. Like a community full of people that were in it together. As if it were one unit working toward this goal of happy co-habitability. It was a weird experience. People were just so nice.

The nightlife was different, too.

The city's gayborhood (on the far end of Rue Saint-Catherine) was a decent size. There were more bars, restaurants and "saunas" than you could shake a stick at. We didn't get to go to a lot of them, but the ones we did were fun.

Oh, and another thing about Montreal gay bars that took all of us by surprise -- porn.

Every bar you walk into had porn showing on multiple television screens. And this wasn't softcore "Cinemax after dark" cable porn. This was full-on, gritty, shameful, watch-by-yourself porn. I think we probably looked a lot like tourists that first night because we couldn't take our eyes off of the television. At one point, I think I started blushing...and I'm not bashful.

Another thing I enjoyed about Montreal was the couple I interviewed for my video piece. I went to the home of the first same-sex couple to apply for a marriage license in Canada. They were so nice and welcoming and warm. They even gave me homemade jam after the interview as a gift. It was a really sweet gesture.

Here's a pic of the jam. I think it's...blackberry? Idk.






Either way, Michael and Rene were fabulous. It sounds awkward, but they've been together so long that it's a reminder love still exists and people can make it -- even gay guys. It seems at times that monogamy and happiness are so foreign for the LGBT community. They've been together 35 years and have been married for five years. I'm going to sound like a teenage girl when I say this, but I'm envious. I hope to find that special one someday.

Montreal was made even more amazing by the people I worked with for the week. The seven students and handful of mentors have had such an impact on my life considering we only worked for a brief time. Events such as this and meeting other bright students is like a glimpse into the future; we are the people who will be running the industry one day. It's inspiring.

If any of you seven other students is reading this right now, I just want to say thanks. We bonded, we shared, we laughed, we had fun. I can't wait until we all get to hang out again! And I hope you all "make good choices."

There are too many experiences during the past week to try and recall here. I really shouldn't have neglected this blog for as long as I did.

But for now I need to get to bed. This week is going to be full of assignments and G-20 Summit preparation.

Will update tomorrow. Promise.

Oh, and here you go. Because I thought it was hilarious.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What frightens me...

Over the past several days I've been thinking more about fears.

I've been pondering my own life and what frightens me.

It may sound like a strange topic to focus on, but do any of us really know what makes us fearful?

There are those superficial fears -- things that make our skin crawl and situations that make us cringe. But what about deeper fears? Insecurities?

The past several days have been full of examples of what I think I've pinpointed as my greatest fear: mediocrity.

Being a college student is one of the most uncertain times in a person's life. The only "constant" is this journey with pit stops for classroom lectures, exams, papers, deadlines, parties, bad dates and one-night stands.

The thought is frightening, but I have no idea what next year will bring.

I spend an excessive amount of time preparing for, attending and doing projects for class. That's my focus for the present and near future; I don't have enough energy to focus on anything else.

Yet, there seems to be this uninformed consensus that journalism is one of the easiest majors to tackle.

This is a relative assumption.

I believe that any major can be easy to accomplish.

A person can coast through college with D's and C's and probably still obtain a degree. As long as they pass the curriculum, they get shuffled through the system and are allowed to walk.

And after they obtain that degree, what is the next step in their life? Career? Marriage? Grad school?

The name of the game is fulfillment -- none of us would be in college if that weren't true. To some people that means making gobs of money. To others that could mean job security, job satisfaction, getting married or raising a family.

When people ask me what I want to do for a living, I'm not really sure how to respond.

When I was a child, I started off wanting to be a doctor, then a lawyer, then a teacher, then an accountant and now a journalist.

But I'm not entirely sure if I want to be a journalist now. I feel like I want to enter teaching at the collegiate level.

And this is the new goal for myself. I want to fast track myself to a Ph.D. -- if you want to call eight to 10 years "fast track."

I've never taken the easy route for anything. I think it's my nature to "go against the grain" if you will.

I'm a high-school drop out who carved out his own path to college. (A lot of people still can't believe this.)

Even throughout college, I've always tried to challenge myself and learn new skills, taking classes because I want to learn, not because I thought it was an easy "A."

People would often ask me, "Are you taking Russian for your language requirement?"

And I'd say, "No -- just for fun!" I took the class because I wanted to get better at Russian, and I did think the class was fun.

Yesterday, I ran into my Introduction to News Writing professor, Margaret. She is one of the best people at this campus. I love her!

But anyway, I ran into her and she asked what I was taking this semester. When I told her "entomology" she said, "Why? Why not just take biology or earth science?"

I answered: "Bugs interest me...?"

The other day in my Database Management and Organization of Data class (Information Sciences and Technology is my minor) the professor actually put me on a 20-minute "time out" from answering questions because I was picking up the slack of the rest of the class during lecture.

She had asked some easy questions that were covered in the reading. After every question, I'd scan the room, looking for somebody who wanted to answer. Nobody would raise their hand and contribute. I took it upon myself to just spit out the answers.

I'm pretty impatient. Also, I was frustrated because I'm the only journalism major in the entire class. Every other student in there is either an IST, MIS, SRA or engineering major.

This really bothers me. I hate it when people don't contribute in class for several reasons.

  • It makes me look like "that kid." The kiss ass that answers every question. I mean, I'm aware that I'm a kiss ass, but I try to conceal that.
  • It slows down the pace of the class, which more often than not is already moving slowly.
  • It makes the rest of us look like we didn't do the work.
  • It's another affirmation that my generation is full of lazy, binge-drinking slobs.
Even if nobody knew the correct answer, they could guess! I don't care if they get the answer right or not, but as long as they try. I hate when people have this "defeatist" attitude.

But this brings me back to my original point.

I hate feeling invisible. I fear mediocrity. I want to make an impact and be at the top in whatever I do with my life. I'm aggressive when it comes to learning. I want to facilitate conversation and thought.

The journey is just beginning for me, but that's why I'm such a grade-grubbing, challenge-undertaking, ass-kissing son of a bitch.

The work I put in today will have huge payoffs for tomorrow. Even if I don't exactly know what tomorrow will bring. Life isn't difficult, but you definitely get out of it what you put into it.

Today on the bus, I overheard a conversation between this girl and guy.

The girl had said something to the effect of, "I could study my ass off and not have a life, but brains aren't everything, ya know?"

To which the guy replied, "Yeah, it's like, I'm in college. I want to have fun."

I just chuckled and sighed a bit when I heard this exchange.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Dentist

This weekend has been really boring so far.

I forfeited a Friday night of awful movies and Chinese food for the two-hour drive home to Lebanon. I had scheduled a dentist appointment back in March and had completely forgotten about it until last weekend. I didn't even remember what the appointment was for. I spent the entire drive home worrying that I would show up and the dentist would clasp his hands together and nonchalantly spit out, "Ready for that root canal?"

I've never had a lot of anxiety when visiting doctors or dentists, but my greatest fear is a root canal. I'm not even really sure what a root canal entails, but just the name of it sends me into a panic. Its name isn't friendly.

Root canal. Reading it makes me cringe.

If they utilized some deceptive marketing and called it something else, I might feel differently:

Happy-super-fun-time-with-a-side-of-uncomfortable-pressure procedure.

That makes it sound almost tolerable.

Or, if they called it something vague or complicated:

Extraction and transplantation of nonworking denticle.

I do know some people that have deep-rooted (ha! I'm so punny) irrational fears toward the dentist, though. I remember an episode when I was a teenager where my best friend Kate and I took her 20-something-year-old sister to the dentist. Her sister was having something very minor done and her fear of the dentist is so great, she couldn't even drive her own vehicle there -- I had to drive.

I don't even think we made it inside the building. I think we parked, got about 15 feet away from the door, and turned around and went home. I felt bad for her, but I just couldn't put myself in her shoes or understand what she was going through.

As I sat at home Friday night with my mom, watching her browse eHarmony for a new, rich father for me (because there are so many single, attractive, successful men in the world), I wondered about fears.

Where do they come from?

I can remember one instance from my childhood where I went absolutely bat-shit crazy at a doctor's office. I think I was 6- or 7-years-old. I was getting shots -- standard immunizations I imagine. And I remember that there were several people that had to hold me down so the doctor could inject me.

When I spotted the tray of syringes and vials of liquid, I threw a fit and had somehow acquired the strength of several grown men because my mother and the doctor couldn't subdue me. So another woman came in, and then another, and I think it ended with me kicking some poor innocent lady and screaming at the top of my lungs. I don't know why I went ballistic, but the sight of those needles sent me into a frenzy.

And after it was all done, I was fine. I completely lost my cool for no reason and I felt like a little bastard. Is this a typical childhood reaction, or was I being unreasonable?

And eventually, I thought about what I had done and rationalized that there was nothing to worry about when it came to the doctor.

But why do some people never outgrow these fears? Why do grown, rational adults lose their shit? My friend's sister is really smart and insanely successful, but when it came to that dentist's office she was crippled. Her fear completely hijacked her and transformed her into a child.

I've never really had one of those "novelty" fears: clowns, snakes, spiders, heights, dentists, etc. I feel left out.

And another thing that bothers me is this clown fear. Did everybody just wake up one day with this fear? It seems like the trendy thing to do now and people are just jumping on the bandwagon. Kind of like when being bisexual was cool.

I've encountered so many people in the past few years that are afraid of clowns. Grow the hell up or give up the charade, pansy.

I spent more than a year working at a gay bar and have seen more drag queens than I'd prefer to. A man the size of a linebacker stuffing his balls into pantyhose and applying 2,394,823 layers of Mac makeup is scary -- clowns are nothing.

The rest of my Friday night was spent with my mom who was completely glued to her computer and this really awful show, "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?"

I just need to rant about this show for a minute.

What in the fuck...

Who invented this show? It's a trivia show where the contestant can win $1 million, a la Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

But the questions are selected at random from a pool of facts that children from the 5th grade and lower should know.

Watching some of these people answer questions was hilarious. Watching my mother play along at home was even funnier.

One of the questions was about greek mythology, and asked what the name of the three-headed dog was that guards the underworld.

I think my mom said something like, "I wonder what that dog's name is!?!"

"...Cerberus." I said.

"How do you know that?" she asked.

"...I don't know, but that's the answer. And the asshole on T.V. spelled it with an 'S.' What a douche!"

She then asked why I didn't apply for one of these shows and win us an assload of money. I explained to her that the producers of shows like these are out to make money. They need stupid people to come on these shows and win very little money because that's what is profitable.

Also, Jeff Foxworthy hosts this show. Never in a million years...

So, after a rousing night of redneck television and my mother looking for love in all the wrong places, I needed an escape. I retired to my room and transcribed notes from an audio interview for a few hours. It was a fun night.

The next day on the way to the dentist, I thought more about this "fear" theme that was going on in my head. I was hoping there would be interesting people in the waiting room. That's how I pass my time. Most people will read magazines -- I like to read people. I was hoping there would be a crying child or adult so I could have up-close-and-personal observation of this fear thing.

When I got there, I spotted this woman sporting the fiercest mullet I had ever seen and a guy who had very few teeth -- neither of which looked too anxious.

Out of boredom, I constructured this idea in my head that the man was there for dentures more than likely.

The woman was a different story. I couldn't peg her. Besides the fact that she was probably a fan of Nascar.

...and Jeff Foxworthy.

It turns out the woman was there with her husband, brother, boyfriend, whatever; a male companion of some sort. She was sitting there the entire time reading Ladies Home Journal, which I thought was hilarious because she didn't strike me as LHJ's key demographic. Especially with her awesome "Rider" jeans and Tweety Bird T-shirt. Field and Stream magazine seemed much more her speed.

After about five more minutes of waiting, my name was called to come back to one of the rooms.

My root canal theory was squelched when I asked the hygienist, "I'm here for a..." and let her finish the sentence.

"Cleaning and check up," she said.

She seemed like a nice woman, and possibly new because I've never seen her there before. When she opened up her mouth, it was a different story. Her voice was...unusually happy. This woman was too happy. It was frightening. Nobody is that happy.

She had prepped me for oral x-rays to check the status of my wisdom teeth, which have been happily resting in the back of my mouth, with little action happening for the past several years.

While I was reclined in my chair and she was done putting some bite guard thing in my mouth, she draped me with a lead apron and said, "...for a little extra protection from the radiation!!!"

And she said it in this way that just...cut right through me. This woman had just moved from my list of "nice stranger" to "unforgivable asshole."

Bitch, I know what the apron is for. Is what was going through my head.

And I tried to be nice, but what came out of my mouth was just as bitchy.

"You're directing a short beam of radiation directly at my head, and you think my neck is the area I'm worried about?" Except it didn't sound like that. It sounded like I had a bite guard in my mouth.

I always hate dealing with hygienists. They somehow think that small talk must come into play when dealing with patients. And without fail, this chit chat always occurs when they're wrist-deep in your mouth.

After the x-rays, she got to scraping and cleaning my teeth.

"So, are you a student?" she asked.

I gave her a thumbs up, since nodding and speaking wasn't an option.

"Where do you go?" she followed up.

I thought about what it would take to get this bitch to shut up. What was I supposed to do to answer this question? There's no easy or simple way to mime Penn State. And I couldn't pretend as if I didn't hear her, because I just gave her a thumbs up to the last question. She tossed out the line and I took the bait. There was no going back, so I threw her a bone.

"Pwlenn Schtate" I half-assed.

"Oh, cool. I had friends that went there," she answered, still scraping and polishing my teeth.

Everybody has friends that went there. Is what I thought.

But I just tried to smile with my eyes and said, "Cool."

Then she went on to tell me some story about her children. I started to zone out. I hate when strangers tell you stories about their children. It's just bad etiquette to assume that people give a shit.

So, after she was done poking and prodding in my mouth, she gave me a little plastic bag with a toothbrush, toothpaste and floss.

Does it bother anybody else that the bag says, "Smiles" instead of "Smile"? It seems like the bag would be directed at the person holding it. "Smiles" is third-person singular. If the bag were speaking (let's pretend), it would be talking to you. You smile, not he, she or it smiles.

It was a nice gesture, but I tried to give it back to her.

"I'm more of a Crest kind of guy," I said. "And, I already have a toothbrush, toothpaste and floss at home. Just keep this for somebody else."

"Oh, that's fine, just keep it, you never know when you'll need it," she said.

BITCH! You're not listening! I don't need this crap! Is what I wanted to say.

She wasn't budging, so I just complied and said, "Okay, thanks."

I've learned that a little diplomacy goes a long way.

Then, she went and retrieved my x-rays and tried to convince me that I needed to get my wisdom teeth removed.

I feel kind of fortunate that I don't need to get them removed. They've essentially stopped developing and are resting in the back of my jaw, kind of closed in by my jaw line, which grew over them.

It's hard to explain without a photo, but suffice it to say I'm fine.

But this hygienist kept going on about how I should get them removed so they don't cause problems later on in life.

"But later on in life they could absess or become infected," she said, with the same intonation that many Republican lawmakers use in those "doom and gloom" scenarios.

"But I don't really feel like having my jaw broken to remove four teeth that aren't bothering me right now and probably won't in the future. The doctor has already told me I'd more than likely be fine," I replied.

"It just worries me; I've seen a lot of people who think they're fine but end up with problems," she shot back.

This bitch was getting on my nerves...

I thought she was going to pull out an antiquated film strip from the 60s that illustrated "when wisdom teeth go bad!"

You know the type of video.

Like those ones they showed you in high school health class, where the two naive teenagers are at "makeout point" and give into their "urges." And then almost immediately, the video cuts to a scene of their graves, side by side.

Here lies John and Jane. They couldn't keep it in their pants and as a result of their sinful premarital fornication, they died.

I decided that this woman was a little too thick for civility and finesse. I needed to be more direct.

"Look, I'm not going to take time out of my schedule for an unnecessary surgery that will set me back a few days. Break my jaw to extract four teeth? No thanks! I'm fine. Thanks for cleaning my teeth."

So, then she bowed out and told me the doctor would be in to check me out.

I love my dentist. He's the coolest old guy ever. He has to be in his late 60s now, at least. I've been going to him since I was 12-years-old. He's seen my teeth through five years of painful orthodontics and one or two cavities. He just seems like the type of person you'd want to have a beer with and talk about politics. I feel like we understand each other.

So, when Dr. Daugherty comes in, he inspects my mouth, compares my past three x-rays and says, "There seems to be no development going on with your wisdom teeth. I don't see any need to remove them."

"If it isn't broke..." I said.

"...don't fix it," he finished.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dreams

I've always been fascinated with the subconscious and dreams. Ever since I was little, I would have the weirdest, most elaborate dreams. Sometimes good, sometimes awful.

When I was younger, around age four or five, I would rest my head on my pillow and fall asleep listening to my pulse. The pressure of my pulse in my temples would resonate throughout my pillow and create this faint rhythmic sound. It was pleasant -- kind of like my form of counting sheep. But the image that I associated with this sound was horrifying to me as a child.

I would close my eyes and listen to this, imagining an army of tiny "sandmen" were marching to the beat of my pulse. I somehow convinced myself that I needed to fall asleep before these sandmen made it to my room. I don't know what initially created this correlation, but like I said several posts earlier -- I'm weird. I don't know why my brain operates the way it does.

But it was around this age when my mind truly started to wander right before bed. I've never had an easy time falling asleep, even as a young child. I have this problem of what I call "Wikipedia syndrome" where your mind will think about one topic, and then you'll link to another topic, and then you'll think about another topic, and so on.

The fun part of this is always trying to retrace your steps and remember what you were initially thinking about. Kind of like, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, 86 the bacon.

Another problem I have when falling asleep is my breathing will sometimes pause for extended periods. I know this because my mother told me. I don't know what is worse though: the fact that my breathing sometimes stops, or the fact that my mother has observed my sleeping patterns. Creepy.

But anyway, the constant mind racing has always been a big part of my falling asleep ritual; after a busy day, your mind just tries to decompress. You revisit things throughout the day and think about how it affects yourself or others.

I think we all have our little systems for handling stress and our own mechanism for decompression, and I think I need a new outlet. The right-before-bed thing just eats up too much of my time.

I keep all of my thoughts tucked away in the back of my mind all day, constantly trying to focus on the "here and now." The time I spend revisiting trivial things that I need to do is always right before I fall asleep, when I'm in bed, in the dark, staring up at the ceiling, cursing my mind for not dealing with stuff earlier at a more appropriate time in the day.

I need to write that paper!
Did I put my toothbrush back on the charger?
I should do laundry!
Where did that piece of tape on the ceiling come from?
I like the way this fabric softener smells.
I need to print out notes for tomorrow.
Ugh! I need to pee.
That segment on naked mole rats on the Discovery channel was interesting.
My cuticles look like hell! Why do I bite my finger nails? >
At this point, my fingers would be in my mouth and I'd be biting my nails.< How could I approach this story assignment?
What are some sources I could contact?
Oh, here's a great idea! >
At this point, I would grab the nearest notebook and write something down.< That was really interesting what ______ said today.

Today around 5 p.m., since my mind has been on overload lately, I decided to take a nap. I didn't have that time to decompress and, amazingly, I passed out almost immediately.

But the subsequent dream was familiar and one of those repeat or déjà vu dreams. It was full of references to stuff I would normally have thought of during my normal falling asleep ritual -- all the crap I would push out of my head before I pass out. I've been trying to piece it together, but I still can't figure it out.

I was at a party at my old apartment back in Harrisburg (6664 Terrace Way, Apt A, Harrisburg) where I lived more than two years ago. It was my apartment, but the layout was completely different. I was with my old roommate Kristie, and she was the only familiar person in my dream.

So, she and I were at a house party, everybody was having fun, the music was loud and everybody was drinking and talking and having a good time. I was with a crowd of people in the living room which was right outside of the kitchen. But for whatever reason, I couldn't make it to the kitchen, which had this red glow emanating from behind and underneath the door.

I desperately wanted to reach the kitchen, but couldn't. I wanted to know where this red light was coming from. And the one attempt at making a dash for the kitchen door was shot down because some force lifted me off the ground and pushed me up into the opposite corner, where I remained for the rest of the dream.

This was the familiar part of the dream. I've had this recurring dream where I will be doing something completely normal and then out of the blue, I get lifted up into the air and I can't get down. I can kind of control my direction, but I keep getting lifted higher and higher and I can never reach the ground again.

But while all of this was going on -- being lifted off the ground by some invisible force and pushed into a back corner -- nobody budged or noticed. Nobody thought it was weird that I had floated through the air and was suspended in a back corner.

Another weird aspect of the dream was that I was resting midair on some sort of narrow force that extended from the back of my head down to the small of my back. I felt as if I were going to fall one way or the other and I constantly had to shift my weight and had a difficult time keeping my balance.

I can remember I shouted to the rest of the people in the room:

"WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?! THERE'S SOMETHING RUNNING FROM THE BACK OF MY HEAD TO MY ASS!"

But nobody stopped what they were doing.

The one person that thought it was weird was this girl who I know in my dreams, but can't pinpoint in real life. I say I "know" her because she's been in several dreams I've had before. She and I were coworkers at some restaurant that I worked at in another dream. She was also at some awards ceremony in another dream.

She has red hair, which I think is weird because I honestly don't know any red heads. The more I think about it, she sort of reminds me of the girl from "Strangers with Candy." The one that Jerri always calls "Red."

Anyway, she had entered the living room from the kitchen after I shouted. She was looking around, locked her eyes on me and let out this earth-shattering scream.

While she was still screaming, she looked at me with this awful contorted face of horror (think Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun" music video). It was really surreal. Like her face had gotten really large and then began to melt, like one of those Salvador Dali paintings. I was freaked out.

I didn't know what was so scary about me being stuffed into a corner, but at that moment, I had this astral projection type of thing happen, and I could see myself. There was no invisible force that had kept me in the air. I had the narrow edge of a 2x4 nailed into the back of my head, with nails running down its entire length, straight through the board into my flesh. It was...disgusting.

And right after that, I woke up.

I still don't know exactly what it means, but it was one of the more unusual dreams I've had in a long time.

The good thing is I keep a notebook within an arm's reach of my bed, so I can write down all the details of most dreams upon waking up.

I think the dream could have something to do with the entomology course I'm taking this semester.

Today we discussed the organ system of insects and how their "heart" runs on the dorsal side of their bodies from their heads to their rectum.

The professor had also mentioned "pinning" insects several times for display.

The bad thing is, this class really interests me. I should probably start zoning out and using class time for decompression, because I don't think I can handle another dream like that in the near future.

Damn you, bug science!


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Back to business

Wow... it's been a while since I've updated.

Since my last post I have:

  • Gone home to Lebanon, Pa.
  • Visited with a few friends.
  • Hit my quota of mom time I can handle; I'm good until Christmas now.
  • Not had enough time to visit with friends.
  • Returned to my apartment in State College.
  • Made it through the first two "syllabus days," which means it's time for actual work to begin.

Let's start...at the beginning.

A week ago exactly, around this time (10:20 p.m.) I had finished getting my car packed up and was driving out of Charleston. The drive usually takes six to seven hours, but somehow, I found a way to stretch it into almost nine.

Let me preface this by saying that I got lost...AND I have a GPS on my phone. How lame is that?

Charleston has two highways that run through it, I-77 and I-79. I had made the drive home multiple times over the summer and thought I knew exactly where I was going.

It was a pride thing for me to try and find my way home without directions.

It was a total lapse of judgment and I was having one of those "Clark Griswold" moments, determined to embrace the open road and all of its shenanigans.

I feel like I rely too much on my phone to get around, and decided to test my internal GPS. Which told me to take I-77 north.

...or was it I-79 north.

FUCK! I can't even remember now.

Either way, I took the wrong highway and didn't realize I was going the wrong way until about 40 miles into my travels. Talk about embarrassing. And it was one of those embarrassing moments where you're alone, you know you're alone, yet you still look around the car and road to see if anybody is pointing and laughing at you.

So, I turned around and spotted a nondescript off-ramp gas station -- like the kind you see in slasher flicks. I figured they probably had coffee and I needed to fill up my tank, anyway.

The entire scenario was weird. It was just me, the lonely pump and a dilapidated building. From the outside, this building--the convenience store, if you will--looked like it housed two things:

1.) food stuffs and products from the Nixon era
2.) an angry store clerk I imagined had posted a sign on the door that read something incredibly narrow-minded, like, "GO HOME IF YOUR NOT WHITE, CHRISTIAN AND STRAIGHT!"

And of course, the sign would have used "your" instead of "you're." It's more fun like that in my head.

I didn't see anything on the door, but the guy did look disgruntled from the outside. My "remember, not all folks act kindly toward gay people" sense was tingling.

I was just glad the pump was equipped with a credit card slot so I could spare myself the trouble and pay there.

I was going to go inside and grab a cup of coffee, but I was in these comfy pink-plaid shorts, solid pink shirt, and flip flops -- because pink is such a macho color and very fetching for West Virginia.

I figured I'd save both myself and the clerk a lot of anxiety and just get on without caffeine for the next few miles. From my string of run-ins with people in West Virginia all summer, I could spot this situation turning ugly from a mile away.

I don't know how many times I've been asked to my face, "You're not from 'round here, are ya?"

I had a happy departure at work that evening and wanted to keep that energy going.

So here I was, saddled with frustration and sleepiness and I still had about 400 miles to travel.

Oh yeah, and I had just traveled 40 miles in the wrong direction.

Super duper.

It wasn't that fun of a drive, which was made more miserable by my teeny-tiny bladder.

Because of my caffeine lust, which I chose to satisfy with lots and lots of coffee, I had to stop every 45-60 miles to pee.

I finally made it home around 7 a.m., right as my mom was halfway through her morning routine for work.

I was tired, but still very shaky, resembling the alertness and cat-like reflexes of a crackhead because I had consumed a lethal dose of caffeine.

My bags filled my car...and I mean literally filled my car. I didn't want to let them bake in my car all day, so I decided to move them from my car, down our driveway, and to the sun room (it's air conditioned).

My room is on the second floor, and I really didn't feel like lugging that much crap up a flight of stairs. I don't travel light by any stretch of the imagination.

Here's a photo of what I initially took down to Charleston with me.
Three full suitcases, three trash bags -- because I ran out of suitcases, two crates full of shoes and belts, a laptop bag, multiple books in another backpack -- and plenty of spillover books, and a bag packed with copy desk items (HUGE dictionary, AP stylebook, Working with Words book, The Elements of Style, two steno notepads, highlighters, pens, etc.)

It was just easier to half-ass it and live out of a suitcase for a few days. Plus, leaving all of my stuff in the sun room meant that my stuff was a lot closer to my car when it was time to come back to State College.

Just as I had finished carrying all of my stuff into the sun room, my mother comes out of nowhere and says, "You need to carry your stuff upstairs."

There was no, "How are you? How was the drive? I bet you're tired, let me do motherly things, like make breakfast!"

I asked her why I needed to carry all this crap upstairs, especially after just driving all night.

Her response: "This is the cat's room now."

Cat? What fucking cat? We have a cat?!

...I guess my absence this summer prompted my mother to get a cat. I felt sort of replaced. I, along with 8,394,823 lbs of my luggage, were being told to scoot for some 12-week old kitten.

I have this sneaking suspicion that my mother is slowly evolving into a lesbian and doesn't even realize it. That, or she's having some kind of midlife crisis.

Last year, she bought a brand-spanking-new Harley and got it all decked out and customized to accommodate her tiny stature (she's 4'11"). This year, she purchases a cat. Next year, I'm speculating something dramatic, like cosmetic surgery or some new lifestyle. Like, she'll adopt yoga or pilates and make it her mantra.

But back to the cat. He and I didn't exactly understand each other at first.

He would stare at me like, Yo, bitch, back off my kool-aid!

And I would stare at him like, ...I wonder if she'd notice if you "ran away"?

Despite him completely bogarting my resources and draining money out of my mom that I could be using for rent, he is really fucking cute. His name is PJ, but I usually just call him "Cat" or "Hey, Shithead!"

Here are a few pictures of him.
Here he is standing on my laptop.

And again. He was pissed off I wasn't giving him attention, I think.



Sorry for the crappy quality. These were taken with my iPhone, and my hands are about as steady as an epileptic in a disco.
PJ, totally tangled in a yarn-type toy in the kitchen.

We settled our differences and I decided to give him a shot after I saw how scampish he was. He bites at anything that moves and constantly wants to play fight. I could borderline torment him, and he loves it. We get along great.

My time at home flew by so quickly. And my mother seemed to want to capitalize on a lot of it.

She and I went shopping Thursday for business casual clothes for my upcoming journalism convention in Montreal.

We went around to a few places, and for dinner she asked me where I wanted to go eat. I told her, "CPD."

She had no idea what it meant, and it didn't even dawn on me that "Colonial Park Diner" isn't referred to as "CPD" by anybody except for my circle of homos and fag hags back home.

When I explained to her what Colonial Park Diner was, her face sank a little.

I think she said something to the effect of, "seriously? a diner? ......why?"

My mom is kind of pretentious about stuff like that. I think a bit of it has rubbed off on me. I'm not a snob, I'm just a product of my environment. I blame her.

In fact, my entire family is like that about certain things. We're not like ridiculously wealthy or anything, but my family is all about "quality." Or their perspective of it.

My mother can only use certain product brands, and I think it's more "brand loyalty" than anything else.

Growing up, and to this day, my mother only uses certain brands:

  • Tide for laundry detergent.
  • Downy for fabric softener
  • Kraft for mayo
  • Heinz for ketchup
  • Palmolive (eww...) for dish soap
  • Pantene for shampoo
  • Stewarts for root bear
  • Maxwell House for coffee
  • COCA COLA -- not Pepsi

There are a lot more that I can't think of, but the point is my mother is just...weird. She only uses certain things and totally turns her nose up at anything outside the box.

When I told her "Colonial Park Diner" she acted like I said "The Dog Shit and Curry Buffet!"

Her reaction was...priceless.

The humor is compounded by the fact that her FAVORITE restaurant is this shitty little diner in Lebanon called "Heisey's," which is an old-school diner front that resembles a trailer. You know the kind I'm talking about.

Anyway, over dinner, we were talking about different things and she asked me what I had planned for March.

I looked at her and said, "I don't know what the fuck I'm doing tomorrow? How the hell would I know what I'm doing in March?"

||Sidenote: We never had rules regarding language growing up. We had free rein to express ourselves however we felt fit, but were always told to keep it to ourselves in public. It really took the novelty out of words like 'fuck' but I still use it in my everyday syntax, especially around my mother, who uses it probably as much, if not more, than I do.||

After grilling me about the fine details of what I was doing in March, she turned to me and said, "Well, I'm going on a singles' cruise and I don't want to go alone, so you're going with me. I need to make the deposit this week."

To which I replied, "I'll go, but just know that there will be NO MEN on this cruise. It's going to be all 40-something-year-old women and their gay sons. All the 40-something-year-old men are married to 20-something-year-old women. Also, if you want to hook a man, you may want to tighten up those thighs...and put down that burger."

We have a really loving relationship. Most people are astounded by how open my mother and I are to each other. It's not a lack of respect. I actually think it's the complete opposite.

We're weird people.

One of the great things about going home is meeting up with old friends. Especially when you can just get together, even after not seeing each other for months, and you feel like you never skipped a beat.

I hung out with my friend Nichole for a little bit while I was home, and it was awesome. I missed her. She's a bit more ridiculous than I am about certain things, and vice versa. We make each other look sensible, which is no easy task.

Nichole and I went to Park City one day because her iPhone case was jacked and she needed to hit up the Apple store. I needed to get a few last articles of business casual attire.

When she got to my place, we had that tug-of-war about who would drive.

I always want to drive when I'm with Nichole, because her driving is erratic, and she always brakes WAY TOO LATE.

There were at least four or five instances on the way to Park City (about 20 miles from my house) when I had to yell, "BRAKE NICHOLE, FUCKING BRAKE!!"

Whenever I shouted this, she did her goofy Northeastern Pennsylvania Laugh and said, "You're ridiculous!"

After shopping, she lamented about the MOUNDS AND MOUNDS of laundry she had to do and how her schedule was totally packed and she didn't have time to do it at home. She asked if I wanted to go with her to the sketchy laundromat in Harrisburg, Round the Clock Laundromat. I reluctantly said "sure..." knowing that this would turn into an all-night affair and I wouldn't get home until well after midnight.

We went back to her place, she dicked around for 20 minutes, and finally gathered all of her laundry.

...in two small laundry baskets.

In my mind, I just thought, "This is MOUNDS AND MOUNDS of laundry??? Really?"

But I just went with the flow, knowing that some sort of adventure would occur.

We're en route to the laundromat, and Nichole is frantically searching for her iPhone because it was absolutely necessary that she sent a text at that very minute as she was barreling ass down Route 22.

She can't find her phone, so we pull into Dunkin Donuts to get coffee. She then asks me to call her roommate Jamie (Me Blog U Long Time -- It's his blog, check it out) and ask him to look for her phone.

Jamie finds the phone, and then I have to ask him for a number. The number of Nichole's new beau.

So then, after getting the number, Nichole asks to use my phone to send him a text, to see if we can stop by his work.

I say, "sure" and surrender my phone.

I used the word "surrender" because I didn't see my phone for the rest of the night.

So, she's texting her man and we're sitting at the laundromat and she asks if I want to go with her to visit him while her clothing is drying.

I give in, and we get on the highway, on our way to meet her guy.

We stopped to get coffee, and in true Nichole fashion, she ended up knocking her coffee over, spilling it all over the floor. I have a picture of her cleaning it up. If you know Nichole, you will appreciate this. She's notoriously messy.


Finally, we meet her guy, who looked really familiar. I'm still not sure where I would know him from. I'd write more about him, but Nichole's a pretty private person, and I don't think I'm privy to tell too much about him.

So, my adventures at home were fun and completely typical for me.

But I could not be happier to be back in State College.

I'm really excited about this semester, because I have so many exciting projects happening. This really is going to be the best year ever.

I'll keep you bitches posted on the latest!

But now, I need to finish an assignment and sleep.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Oh, Lebanon...

...you silly town

I was a little pensive about writing an entry about this, but, here I am, finding myself so disappointed that I must.

HEALTH CARE!!!

Earlier this week, my hometown made national news because of some unruly outbursts during a town hall meeting in which Sen. Arlen Specter was discussing health-care reform.

This is a really contentious topic for a lot of Americans, so much in fact, that there really seems to be no gray area. The topic has polarized our country, which is evident from the videos of the town hall coverage posted on CNN, Larry King, New York Times, etc.

If you need a refresher, here are some links:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/12/health/policy/12townhall.html?_r=1
http://www.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/politics/2009/08/11/sot.specter.town.hall.cnn.html
http://www.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/politics/2009/08/11/sot.specter.questions.cnn.html

In the last video, around the five minute mark, Specter is fielding a question from a woman who says that she is furious at the systematic dismantling of our country and constitution.

In his remarks to the woman, which are a little jumbled (c'mon, Specter is getting old, give him a break, he's allowed to ramble) he says this:

"In our social compact, we have a provision to see to it that we take care of people who need some help."

To which the woman replies:

"But the good hearts of the people will do that -- not the government!"

This mentality just pisses me off to no end.

The good hearts of the people will do that? Blow me.

A broken system...

Health-care reform needs to happen. It's needed to happen for quite some time. I feel--and you should, too--such a great personal investment in the outcome of health-care reform. No matter which side of the aisle you sit on.

Growing up, I've had multiple issues with my health. I've visited so many doctors and been in so many waiting rooms, I actually developed a bit of a routine which most often involved me scouring the magazine rack or pile for the latest issue of Highlights magazine. I'd find a chair, sit down and do those little "hidden picture within the picture" things until my eyes went cross.

But anyway, back to the medical stuff.

I was born with Transient erythroblastopenia of childhood. It's basically just a decrease of red blood cells that your body naturally produces. It's not a huge deal, but I had to get blood transfusions from my father (we have the same blood type, but don't ask me what type it is) and was put on a regimen of steroids and some other medicine when I was a few months old.

When I was six, I was diagnosed with Legg–Calvé–Perthes Disease. It's a rare degenerative bone disease that affects the ball-and-socket joint of the hip. It affects something like, 4 out of 100,000 children. Something causes a lack of blood flow to the hip region, which leads to the bones not developing as quickly as the child. Ergo I was doing activities of a typical 6-year-old--running around on the playground, random gymnastic type crap, beating the hell out of my body--but my bones were only as developed as say, a 3-year-old.

The onset of the disease probably happened when I was four or five, and my bone specialist suspected that the TEC played a role in my bone development.

How I found out about the LCPD was by playing on the playground one afternoon with my family.

My sister and I were on the merry-go-round, and my father was spinning us around. It was one of those synergystic things where we would shout, "SPIN FASTER!!" and he'd huff and puff, turning the merry-go-round like a madman. We just fed off of each other's energy.

Well, I've always been a little clumsy, and I got brave and decided to try and move toward the outside of the merry-go-round and hang off the side (I didn't understand the delicate law of centrifugal force yet) and ended up getting thrown from the merry-go-round...because I'm awesome and have the coordination of an elephant on oxy.

I landed on my right side after I fell off, some five or six feet away from the merry-go-round. It hurt, a lot, way more than I thought it should. The only thing I can really remember was this hollow, throbbing pain.

I picked myself up, my parents checked to make sure I hadn't died, and we thought all was well.

The next day, I couldn't move. I woke up with a bruise that extended from just underneath my armpit down to the middle of my thigh. I've always been a bit of a "softy" but my parents knew this wasn't normal. Kids are meant to take a bit of a beating; I on the other hand, had bruised like a geriatric.

They took me to the family doctor, who didn't really know what to do.

Somehow along the line, we got referred to a bone specialist, Dr. Clark, at the Hershey Medical Center. We made an appointment, I went there, they ran some tests, and the doctor suspected I had LCPD.

I was scared, I didn't know what was going to happen, but that day, we made another appointment for me to come in and do some physical tests to measure my mobility and try to gauge the severity of the situation.

After a lot of poking and prodding, catscans and x-rays, the consensus was: Your hip is fucked up, kid.

I don't remember how many surgeries I went through (there are four that I can distinctly remember where I had to be 'put under') but I had a tendon cut, right hip bone repositioned, some sort of localized injections(steroids I suspect) and went through physical therapy to learn how to walk again.

I started off in a wheelchair, then moved to crutches, then moved to wearing leg braces for about 18 months. The leg braces were these ankle-to-hip length leather things, that laced up from bottom to top. There were two metal bars soldered to the inside of each leg, to keep my legs completely immobile and stretched apart. I can't really think of how else to describe them. I'll have to find photos.

But anyway, back to the health-care reform.

As a result of all this necessary--but really scary--surgery, my parents found themselves CRUSHED under a pile of medical bills. And my father had excellent insurance. He worked FOR the hospital for Christ's sake. I never once thought the treatment I was receiving was some sort of "luxury" and at the time, I thought that everybody's parents had decent jobs and could visit the doctor as often as I had.

But times got tough. My father's insurance company, Blue Cross Blue Shield (it used to be called something different) would only cover up to a certain amount. My medical bills exceeded $300,000, leaving my parents scratching their heads and wondering: "How in the hell...?"

Even with cutting back and switching from everything name-brand to no-brand, trimming the budget, selling one of the cars, consolidating our lives to the very essence of BARELY getting by, they ultimately had to file bankruptcy. This was in 1994.

It sucks, and I know my needs helped put them in in that "rock and a hard place" situation. And I know they don't hold any sort of resentment or anger; they're my parents, they'd move the world for me if I needed them to. But it's just a shitty situation. Especially considering we had insurance, fantastic insurance.

Even now, with no real "symptoms" still present, the disease always lingers in the back of my mind. People with LCPD are very susceptible to developing arthritis at a young age.

And now, my younger cousin Katie has been diagnosed with Lupus. She sees doctors constantly and undergoes many, many treatments. When I visit my aunt's house, sometimes her energy is so sapped that she just stays in bed. Other times, good days when her immune system isn't being a bastard, she joins us and laughs at all my stupid jokes.

But now her family is in a similar situation. And her family does quite well. And they have health insurance. But where does this end? Are they going to become so swelled with medical bills, or treatments that the insurance company doesn't deem as "necessary" and throw that burden on my aunt and uncle?

Fuck that.

And what happens if--God forbid--one of her parents dies in the next few years? Or if she would go to apply for insurance on her own? Would she get denied because she has a pre-existing condition?

Again, fuck that.

If all my cousin and I had to fall back on was the "goodness of people's hearts" I'd probably be crippled and she'd probably be dead.

Medical conditions pop up when you least expect them to. My parents were prepared to raise three children, but as the old adage goes, "Shit happens." They would have given up anything to make sure I could walk and have mobility, but going to the poor house is a bit extreme.

Anwyay, I'm really starting to ramble. I need to get showered for work.

Bleh.

If you're bored, and have a few minutes, READ THE BILL!! I'm tired of people bitching and misconstruing what this bill is about. Literacy is so important, and the materials are out there for you to read.

This is a link to the House version of the proposed bill.

It's a lot to take in, but if you really are concerned about this, and not just bitching because this is a "right or left," "blue or red," "democrat or republican" thing, then educate yourself and know what the bill is about before you dismiss it.

http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-h3200/text