Archive for June, 2010

“Ingénue, I just don’t know what to do.” (& the Lovers of Valdaro)

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Lately I find myself in solitude, mulling over certain situations while shaking my head back and forth.  Other times I’m on a crowded train, but still very much alone, as my body conveys this physical expression of disagreement.  When I catch myself doing this, I wonder if anyone notices, and if so, what they think of the girl in silent dispute with herself.

One thing upsetting me is how not upset I am.  The repeated heartbreaks I am forced to endure leave me passively disenchanted with love and cynically disappointed with humanity.  There’s cruelty in a world that allows two people to gravitate towards one another, only to be torn apart by disinterest or infidelity.  Oftentimes the bruised half of the equation aches and fantasizes, while the other appears unaffected.

I’ve seen it so many times that I fear I’m becoming indifferent.

Still, I refuse to surrender my naiveté when it comes to love.  Meanwhile, I need to heed the signs so often ignored.  For example, yesterday I was at the duck with Rona.

“One night,” I told her, “when xxxxxx really made me feel like shit – it was the night we were at the bar with friends, and when I went to hug him he told me not to ‘be weird’ – I went home and sat in my bathroom and cried.  And the whole time I kept telling myself that I didn’t want to feel this way ever again.  I kept asking myself why I let this happen.”

Even after that occurrence, I kept on with this boy.  I let my innocence crush my defenses, and with my armor down he unmasked to show me his true face before hurling his flail into my chest.

Tragic, I know.

But don’t allow my melodramatic words fool you.  Like I said, I’m upset about how not upset I am.

“You seem different this time,” Rona told me.

I thought for a moment.  “I guess I’m not as sad, I’m more aggravated.  It’s like when people tell you that you deserve better, but inside you never really believe it.  Well this time, I believe it.”

The shift in self-perception is bittersweet.  It’s a change.

Speaking of change, Mike and I were on our way to see sami.the.great last week.  Somewhere around 14th Street and Avenue A, he stopped and pointed to the ground.

“Uh, Ashleigh, look,” he said.

There at the base of a tree were two dead birds.  They appeared to be holding one another.  It reminded me of a news story I read over three years ago in which archaeologists uncovered the bones of a man and woman locked in an eternal embrace.  The couple was dubbed the Lovers of Valdaro.  Their skeletons were over 5,000 years old.

One theory suggested that the man was killed and the woman then sacrificed so his soul would be accompanied in the afterlife.  I wholeheartedly reject this theory, and instead propose that these Lovers were truly lovers, so devoted to one another that their breaths were in sync.  They could not live without each other.

I do hope that people have the capability to love this much.

Dead birds, 14th Street & Avenue A (above), Lovers of Valdaro (below)

Fats Waller

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

“What else is sacred?  Oh, Romeo and Juliet, for instance.
And all music is.”
- Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Breakfast of Champions

It was the winter of 1926.  Thomas “Fats” Waller, the popular jazz pianist, had just finished a spirited performance at the Sherman Hotel in Chicago.  Following the concert, Waller was approached by four men wearing dark suits with wide lapels.

“We want to make you an offer that you can’t refuse,” they told him, as one of the men shoved a revolver into Waller’s corpulent stomach.

The men led Waller outside and into a black limousine.  He was terrified, but knew it best to follow their instructions.

Orders were given to the limo driver to drive to the Hawthorne Inn in East Cicero, a suburb of Chicago.  Inside, Waller found himself in the middle of a huge party.  The kidnappers shoved him towards a piano and demanded that he play. The loudest applause came from a familiar man with an unmistakable scar: Al Capone.  Capone was having a birthday party, and Fats Waller was a present from “the boys”.

The party lasted for three days. Waller exhausted himself and his repertoire, but with every request bills were stuffed into his pockets. He and Capone consumed vast quantities of food and drink. By the time the limousine headed back to the Sherman Hotel, Waller had acquired several thousand dollars in cash tips.

Currently, there is an art installation by British artist Luke Jerram on display around New York City.  Titled “Play Me, I’m Yours”, it consists of 60 newly refurbished pianos scattered in public places among the five boroughs, available for anyone to play.  Following the artwork, the pianos will be donated to local schools and community groups.

Next week, I plan on finding some of these pianos and listening to people make music.  Maybe I’ll even make some myself.

Fats Waller (above)

An Important Lesson from Pee-wee

Monday, June 21st, 2010

Do you see how you hurt me, baby?  So I hurt you too.  Then we both get so blue.  – Joni Mitchell, “All I Want”

Yesterday I returned to New York after a much needed week-and-a-half long vacation.

On this trip, I happened to watch quite a few episodes of Pee-wee’s Playhouse.  Each was brilliant, but one in particular lingered in my mind throughout my entire stay down south.  It was titled “Why Wasn’t I Invited?”

In “Why Wasn’t I Invited?”, Mrs. Renee passes by the Playhouse on her way to Cowntess’s birthday party.  When she tells Pee-wee where she’s headed, he says that he wasn’t invited.

“I thought the Cowntess was my friend,” Pee-wee solemnly states.  Chairry suggests that maybe Cowntess didn’t send any invitations, but then Randy, the Playhouse bully, tells Pee-wee that he got an invitation in the mail.  Everyone else in the Playhouse except for Magic Screen and Chairry admit that they, too, received invites, and they head to the party.

Pee-wee claims that he can have fun at the Playhouse with just Magic Screen and Chairry.  They attempt to enjoy themselves, but eventually Pee-wee gives in to his disappointment.  “We’re not having a good time because we weren’t invited to that party,” he tells his friends.

After wondering what to do about it, Pee-wee decides to write a letter to the Advice Lady.

Dear Advice Lady, he writes, I have two questions.  Number 1: Why would somebody that’s your friend not invite you to their party?  And number 2: What should a person do if something terrible like this happens to them?  Please answer this letter as soon as possible, if not sooner.  Your pal, Puzzled in the Playhouse.

Mr. Kite takes Pee-wee’s letter to the Advice Lady, and not even five seconds after Mr. Kite’s exit from the screen, the Playhouse Picturephone rings.  It’s the Advice Lady calling to answer Pee-wee’s questions.

In response to the first question, she says that there could be a lot of reasons why a friend wouldn’t invite another friend to his/her party.  For example, if it is a party just for family members, or a party just for girls.  The Advice Lady also says that if someone has a million friends, he/she cannot possibly invite them all.

“I guess you’re right,” Pee-wee tells her, “but it doesn’t make me feel any better.”

This brings the Advice Lady to Pee-wee’s second question: what should he do?

“If someone hurts your feelings you should let them know about it.  If you don’t, you’ll only end up feeling worse,” she advises.

Pee-wee considers her wise words, agrees, and hangs up the phone.  “I’m going to call the Cowntess right now and give her a piece of my mind!” he tells his friends in the Playhouse.

When Cowntess answers the phone, her party is in full-force.  She begins to say that she heard about Pee-wee not getting an invitation, but he interrupts her.

“You really hurt our feelings and we don’t want to be your friends anymore!” he shouts.

“But I did send you invitations!” Cowntess claims.

Unfortunately, Pee-wee is so hurt and upset that the statement doesn’t even register.  He continues yelling at her.  “Have a nice birthday party without us Cowntess!  GOODBYE!”

Pee-wee hangs up the phone and begins frantically pacing around the Playhouse.  He still doesn’t feel any better about the situation.

“Maybe you could have told her in a nice way, Pee-wee,” Chairry says.

“Maybe I could have.  Maybe I should have,” Pee-wee replies.

At that moment, Reba the Mail Lady shows up with the missing invitations: one for Pee-wee, one for Chairry, and one for Magic Screen.  Seconds after she leaves, the Cowntess knocks on the Playhouse door.  She says that she couldn’t enjoy the party knowing that she hurt Pee-wee’s feelings.  They both apologize.

“I was mad and I just wanted you to feel as hurt as I was.  I’m sorry.  Do you forgive me?” Pee-wee asks.

“Of course I do.  If you can’t forgive a friend, who can you forgive?” the Cowntess replies, and they all head to the party.

Recently I had to forgive someone for something terrible they did, and I also had to forgive myself, not only for my reaction to this thing, but for my naiveté in the whole situation.  I haven’t told this person that I forgive him, and I honestly don’t know if it’s necessary, or if he’d care.  I had to forgive him for me.

Still, as it goes in these situations, the radio silence is deafening.  And so very, very sad.

Crackers (a.k.a. Muffins the Attack Cat)

Monday, June 7th, 2010

Years after Tuffy died, we got another cat.  Her name was Crackers, or Muffins the Attack Cat according to my brother.

My cousin had found Crackers along with another female kitten in a field in New Orleans.  He named the other cat Ritz, and she lived across the river with my Aunt Emily.

When my parents finally moved out of New Orleans in 2002, they didn’t take Crackers with them.

“What did you guys do with Crackers?” I asked my mother.

“Well, we gave her to your Aunt Emily, but not long after, she died,” my mother told me.  “We think she died of a broken heart.”

I wonder if it’s possible.

Maybe Crackers felt so discarded that her heart just couldn’t maintain.  One day, she was in a loving home that she knew so well, and the next day she was taken away from it, never to return.  Days passed with her expecting to see us, the people she believed had love for her.  (This was a reasonable faith, as we had never done anything to prove otherwise.  Quite the contrary – we showed her nothing but affection.)

After a while, Crackers realized we were never coming back.  With no phone calls attempted or letters received, she was left to wonder if she was actually alone the entire time she was with us.

Some people never experience this kind of heartbreak.  I pity them, really.  It’s very bittersweet.  The hurt is so great because it is bred from something amazing.  And the more incredible it is, the more pain it causes.

Really, it physically hurts.

10 pounds, 15″x7″x7″

Saturday, June 5th, 2010

In 2007, an 18-year old girl entered the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.  She told specialists that for five months she had been experiencing pain and swelling in her abdomen.  Additional complaints included vomiting after eating and an unexplainable loss of 40 pounds.

X-rays revealed a large, dark mass in the woman’s stomach.  Concerned doctors then lowered a scope through her esophagus for further investigation.  What they found was a large ball of swallowed, foreign material nearly filling the woman’s entire abdominal region.  Doctors scheduled an operation to remove it.

When the woman underwent surgery, the foreign material proved to be a 10-pound hairball.  It was 15 inches in length and measured 7 inches across by 7 inches deep.

Upon questioning, the patient stated that she had had a habit of eating her hair for many years – a condition called trichophagia.  Trichophagia is the compulsive eating of hair, usually chewed while still attached to the head and then swallowed.  The hair eventually collects in the gastrointestinal tract causing symptoms such as indigestion and stomach pain.

Five days after the mass of black, curly hair was removed, the woman began eating normally and was sent home.  Supposedly, she has stopped consuming her hair.

For my vacation next week, I think I’ll be curly-haired-Ashleigh.  However, I will be sure to not dine on my hair, but at the greatest restaurant know to humanity – Chick-fil-A.

The (disgusting) hairball (below)

Three Things I Can’t Ever Do Again (But Want To)

Friday, June 4th, 2010
  1. Eat Smurf-Berry Crunch Cereal. In 1983, Post introduced Smurf-Berry Crunch cereal.  Smurf-Berry Crunch was a “fruity sweetened corn, oat & wheat cereal fortified with 10 essential vitamins and minerals”.  On the box, Smurfette and two other Smurfs picked smurfberries off of a smurfberry tree while Papa Smurf ate Smurf-Berry Crunch from a bowl.  In proportion to Papa Smurf, the bowl was rather large.  If I concentrate hard enough, I can almost smell the delicious smurfberries.  Oh, what I would give to enjoy some right now.  Unfortunately, Post no longer manufactures Smurf-Berry Crunch.
  2. Eat Dunkin’ Donuts Cereal. A related, unsatisfiable desire is to consume Dunkin’ Donuts Cereal.  This delicious treat was unveiled in 1988 by the Ralston Company.  The cereal came in two varieties: glazed and chocolate.  (I would happily accept either one.) The box described the cereal as “crunchy little donuts with a great big taste!”  When I meditate over the flavor of those tiny circles, I can recall the savoriness quite accurately.  They too have been discontinued, torn from my life for reasons unbeknownst to me.
  3. Talk to my Grandma. My Grandpa passed away when I was two years old, but the family has told me stories of how Grandma and Grandpa would fight.  There are tales of them screaming at each other, at times even throwing appliances.  It would interest me to ask my grandmother what fueled these intense arguments, and if through it all they truly loved each other.  Supposing they did, maybe Grandma could explain to me why people hurt the ones they care about.

Airplane Seat Selection (“You can have the past ’cause I’m in love with the future…”)

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

I’ve been busy.

Last week I finally booked my flights for New Orleans and Bonnaroo.  As usual, the seat selection process was quite distressing.

Okay, I thought, open seats are blue, unavailable seats are grey.  I want to be close to the front so I can make a speedy exit after landing, but I want to be close to an exit row in case we crash.  Also, I want a window seat because (a) I find it easier to sleep when I can rest my head against the wall, and (b) if violent turbulence causes the overhead compartments to come open, I don’t want someone’s luggage to fall out and knock me unconscious.  Seat 7A is open, and so is seat 14A… But what if the plane crashes and the person in 7A lives but the person in 14A dies?  This choice is clearly a matter of life and death…

I decided to research the safest place to sit on a plane.  Popular Mechanics claims that the back of the airbus is best, while researchers from the University of Greenwich say that a seat up to five rows from an exit offers a better chance of escaping if there’s a fire.  They go on to say that “when seated six or more rows from an exit… the chances of perishing far outweigh those of surviving.”  However, Independent Traveler writes that there’s no clear answer about where you should sit in order to fare best in a plane crash.  They even cite the two previously mentioned studies and discuss how they contradict each other.

Causing further worry was the fact the my mother suggested I fly AirTran, but instead I booked on JetBlueWhat if the JetBlue flight crashes and the AirTran one doesn’t? I internally debated.  As the plane is going down my last thoughts will be that I should have listened to my mom…

Unsure of what to do, I went ahead and checked 7A for my flight out of New York and 14A for my returning flight.

Assuming I survive the flight to New Orleans, this vacation is going to be fantastic.  The day I arrive, we are going tubing on the Bogue Chitto River.  The following day we are driving to Tennessee for Bonnaroo.  After camping there for four days, it’s back to New Orleans to visit with friends and family.

In unrelated news, I picked up my cap and gown the other day.  I arrived at the Graduate Center extremely hungover and late to meet Rona for lunch.

“I’m here to pick up my cap and gown,” I said without removing my sunglasses.  “Last name Walker, first name Ashleigh.”

The woman shuffled through boxes.  I was half expecting her to say there was a problem, like I was actually a few credits shy of graduating or that I failed to fill out some necessary paperwork.  But she didn’t.  She handed me my cap and gown.

“See you next Monday,” she said and smiled.

It hit me.  Holy shit, I’m finally graduating. “Yes, yes you will,” I replied.  “I’m looking forward to it.”

That’s an understatement really.  I’m looking forward to a lot of things…

(Diagram provided by the UK’s Mail Online)