Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Thanks, that was fun.

The annual trip to Philadelphia this year was more fun than usual, mostly because I could escape the family and experience the city proper as it should be experienced by somebody my age. You know - ordering lagers like it's your job, not going home, clicking your heels in the street.

Well I click my heels. I think that's normal.

The family wasn't so bad, either. In the grand scheme of things, my family is not really one of those intolerably nutty and smothering clans that people make holiday movies about ("Fuller, go easy on the Pepsi!"), but since I am used to an unusually small family most of the time, entering into the loud Irish rabble can be jarring. Fortunately, Emily and I have made a habit of taking wine and cake into her room and listening to music while laughing at the drunken nature of our relatives. This year there was a lot of Yo La Tengo and Povel Ramel*.

Re-entry has been kind of ick, if only because everybody's stressed out and a day ahead of me in work acclimation. On the plus side, Andrea made me some new friends to add to my growing desk menagerie:

The big owl is Armen, named after our former buyback manager, who is the sweetest old Armenian I've ever met. The little fuzzies have yet to be named (any suggestions?), and the shark is due to be shipped out to New Jersey tomorrow.

*We bought his CD at Swede Things, since we had so enjoyed our last Scandinavian CD purchase. Because we didn't understand any of the titles on any of the CDs, we had to buy it based totally on his face.

Monday, December 11, 2006

An Open Letter To the Conservatory Boy On My Train Every Morning.

Dear Sir:

Every morning you race onto my train at the last minute. We sit or stand within ten feet of each other, usually looking straight ahead, but often enough making eye contact and looking away abruptly. We both get out at Mass Ave, go up the back stairs, and head down Gainsborough Street until we reach St. Botolph, at which point you take a right to St. Botolph Hall, and I take a left into Northeastern territory. The same thing happens every morning. And I'm not complaining.

Well Ill say it: I like you, and I know I don't have any real reason why. Remember that time you smiled at me as we stepped off the train, and I grimmaced? I'm sorry. Really I am, but I was flustered. Because I like you, and since I decided that, I haven't been able to smile at you or talk to you or anything, because what happens if I grimmace again? And anyway, it's been damn near impossible.

It's the angles, you see. The angles are all wrong. I'll stand next to where you're sitting, or vice versa. Smiles exchanged at these angles are creepy. Or that fat guy who stands in the open doorway blocks any possibility of nonverbal communication. For pete's sake, I always have a seat free right next to me. Sit down! So much easier!

On top of that, we move in parallel lines. Always we are side by side. We step off the train in tandem, walk up opposite sides of the staircase, only getting mixed up when we reach the turnstiles. And no, I can't talk to you at the turnstiles, because it's just too late. If I'm going to talk to you at all, it has to be right at the get-go. Am I right, here? We go down the stairs on the other side, this time you on the right and I on the left, matching each other's down-going patter. I walk down the left side of the street, you on the right, and at one point we are on the same line, going in oppposite directions. Someone should write a poem about that.

I'm not sure what to say, but this isn't working. And I'm too much of a neurotic perfectionist to be comfortable initiating conversation with you in anything short of faultless circumstances, so I'm afraid it's up to you.

My heart is still a-flutter from this morning,
The Other Redhead In the Car.

ALTERNATE VERSION: Picture me standing on the orange line with a boombox over my head playing Touch and Go's hit single, "Would you...?":

I've noticed you around
I find you very attractive
I've noticed you around
I find you very attractive
I find you very attractive
Would you go to bed with me?

I've noticed you around
I find you very attractive
Would you...?

I've noticed you around
I find you very attractive
Would you...?
Would you go to bed with me?

I've noticed you around
I find you very attractive
I've noticed you around

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Today I...

  • Got lost in "Takk..." by Sigur Ros. Especially "Glosoli".
  • Froze to death.
  • Felt wrath when my friend's compassionate nature was being abused.
  • Decided to kill the girl responsible.
  • Turned doing nothing into a worktime sport.
  • Had the best sandwich of my life.
  • Got a soy chai for free.
  • Wore the outfit that boosts my self-esteem 10-fold.
  • Took a test and maybe didn't fail.
  • Hung out with Kate for the first time in ages.
  • Got drunk off Guinness at the People's, as it is meant to be.
  • Talked to an old man about "Visual Thinking" and Bob Dylan.

Truth be told, the only thing that mattered was that I got to return your smile outside Jordan Hall for the first time in months.

Maybe my priorities are out of order, but I must admit I'm rather enamored of a stranger on the T, and I'm okay with that, in part because in doing so I realized I miss the oboe something awful, and in part because it's about time I felt butterflies in my stomach again.

Friday, November 17, 2006

A little more about my family.

I sent my mother the link to my grandfather's enlistment record online. I explained to her that Dad was unsure about the truth of both the age and marital status discrepancies. I thought she would find it interesting, as I did. I received the following email in response:

Hi Jess,
I know for a fact that Me-Mom and Pop-Pop didn't get married till he got back from the service, (Uncle Jimmy was almost 2) which is why there are no wedding photos. It was a shameful thing back then, and I discovered it the summer we visited Uncle Eddy and Aunt Betty in California (Aunt Betty told me -- ) Me-Mom never spoke of it to me, and I'm not sure if Aunt Grace even knows...your Dad didn't till I told him...years later...
So...tough news to be getting, eh?
I think that's when Uncle Jimmy and your grandfather had their falling out when he 'had' to get married, and Mom-Mom told him the family secret...but it's still pretty closeted...
I don't know who knows and who doesn't know...yikes!
Love you, we'll talk soon...face to face, no less!!!

This news isn't tough to get. What's tough to get is why I haven't heard this before. My grandparents are dead, and we live in a time and place in which this is not shameful as much as it is a frequent occurrence (especially in my family). I don't understand why this has been kept from me.

I had confronted my father with this and his answer was ambiguous. I'm an open-minded adult who can keep mum.

I think I'll dig around Aunt Theresa's basement soon.

And I really wish they had taken pictures.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Baby REALLY got back.

The highlight of Tuesday's outing to the People's Republik was actually the walk to the Central T station afterward. As Josh, Emma, Rob, and I walked down Mass Ave., an older homeless man walked into our path, arms outstretched as if greeting old friends.

" I kissss...the sky..."

We passed him, smiling.

"I like...big...butts and I can...not...lie..."

We laughed. A lot. Especially after I checked my bag and noticed that it covered my ass completely.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

About my family...

Every family has its fuzzy bits of history that can't be explained.

Mine is no exception. My mother's mother was born fresh off the boat in Charlestown, the child of an Irish immigrant whose name was Eileen (like my mother) Finnegan. Or was it Houlihan? I couldn't tell you. My great-grandfather, who abandoned Eileen within months of finding she was pregnant, was a Greek immigrant whose name was Paul. My grandmother was given up for adoption, and lived like Cinderella with an idiot adopted brother. It's been said that Eileen had written to her daughter over the years after moving to the midwest, and that Ms. Hatch, my grandmother's caregiver, had burned the letters to shield her from what pain they might cause.

It's all a mystery to me - heard in snippets from my mother and aunts. I'm used to that grey area in my family's history.

On my father's side, the only remotely interesting story is that my great-grandmother was on this national watch list in Ireland because she was in love with a British soldier at an inopportune time, and was therefore a ticking time bomb of treason in the eyes of the Irish Republic.

At least, I thought so, until I tried to locate my father's father's military records. The only Army enlistment for James T. Mullen of Philadelphia was a man born in 1920, a private who was single and had no dependants.
I knew Me-Mom and Pop-Pop married before he enlisted because they were expecting Uncle Jimmy at the time. And Pop-Pop was Catholic to the letter. And I thought he was born in '21, but I'd have to check with Dad. And he was a sergeant, too - not that he was when he enlisted...

I called my dad.

"Dad, it's not that important, but when was Pop-Pop born?"
"Um...I don't know."
"Da-ad! You were born in '48, I know that, so when was Pop-Pop born?"
"Well, nobody really knows..."

What? I then explained the record I found in the National Archives.

"You know, that's probably him."
"But he wasn't single -"
"We, uh...we don't know that, actually..."

I think I just opened a big door that had been bolted for years. I am excited and confused.

But mostly excited.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Bill Cosby - Dentists

This is what I've been watching all weekend - really, all my life - made so much better by my fear of dentists.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

We all need to make our lives more interesting.

Today at work is dedicated to placing book orders for the winter quarter. I've been calling publishers all over the country, and the process is usually boring - a form dialogue that has artificial inflections to make it sound like it's two people talking rather than two machines.

Then I called Blackwell, in Vermont. I told the man on the phone that my name was Jessica, that I was calling from the Northeastern University Bookstore, and that I would like to place an order for a book.

"You would, would you," he said.
"And you require my assistance to accomplish this nefarious deed."
I laughed. "Yes, I do."
"I just found that word in the dictionary, and now I'm using it all the time."

Now, I do that, too. Every morning I check Merriam-Webster's word of the day, which I have on my Google home page. Yesterday's word was rhadamanthine.

"I see."
"It's a good word," I said, hoping I could place my order and hang up soon.
"Well, I've always been a sucker for a pretty voice, so I'll help you. But if we get caught, I'm squealin'."

I placed my order, and he went through the motions of explaining shipping options.

"So you're down in Massachusetts. Heck, I could drive that down there and be back in time for dinner!"

When I told Sarah about the odd man, she said she didn't realize Blackwell employees could drink on the job.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Love is kinda crazy with a spooky little girl like you.

I am disappointed at the number of people who have approached me with exclamations regarding my attire today. That is, as a redhead, no, I am not wearing orange. I am not in costume. I am not wearing fangs. Being the youngest full-time employee at the bookstore, it is expected of me, and I just didn't feel like it this year.

I did, however, wear my Starlight Mints shirt, complete with kind of creepy logo. Nobody noticed that. Granted the logo is on the side, which is what I wanted when I bought the shirt, anyway. Their loss.

There are a number of reasons I didn't dress up this year:

1. Nobody ever gets what I'm supposed to be. I hate explaining things, usually.
2. I have a midterm tonight, and I'll be damned if I take it with glitter in my eyes.
3. This year breaks my three-year streak of wearing the Absinthe costume. I even gave my green wings to Sharon so that she could wear them to Costumed Gays for Patsy (contra dancing at the Unitarian Church in JP).

I am looking forward to drinks with friends this evening, though. Points to Josh and Emma for their gender-bending couples costume, Kermit and Miss Piggy. I have my camera charged in my bag as we speak.

Boo! And happy Halloween.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Ah, the decline of the academic paper.

So tonight, in order to quell my own poetic fury, I accompanied my outline-writing with a glass or two of wine. It was working really well...

"Both Ajax and Pentheus reach the same fate they planned for their enemies, presenting the strongest female characters the greater grief and real, not divinely inspired, madness of their own."

...until later, when I decided to expand on each bullet point...
"Ajax stabs himself when he would have stabbed Odysseus, Menelaus, and Agamemnon, thereby causing his wife and mother to wail madly and lose their shit."

Perhaps it's time I go to bed.

Procrastination is painful.

I have always been one to procrastinate. Even when I was little - my dad called it "the Jesse Parade". Even now he calls it that.

I do so much to break through. Last night I meditated to clear my head, turned off the music, cleared off the table, and compiled a to-the-minute schedule of how I would write the two papers that are due Wednesday night. When it was time to get to Time Block One: Making the Outline, I stared at the page for a solid thirty minutes. That was half of Time Block One. I was going to be behind schedule all over again, and a new schedule would have to be devised.

It's terrible to be me working on a paper.

I have an active imagination, which is usually a blessing. I would have had such a lifeless childhood without it. The problem is that I don't need physical distractions to make my mind wander. It has never been classified as ADD, and I have never considered it as such. I always thought it was this sort of intellectual hedonism that drew my mind into things that pleased me more than the task at hand.

Yesterday my Furor Poeticus paper on the near-equivalence of femininity and madness in The Bacchae and Ajax was clouded by thoughts of the third book of the Maisie Dobbs series, which I had finished Saturday afternoon. The books satisfy all that I want in a book: I am taken to another place, in another time, I am discovering new things, I am learning about something I'd never considered, and I can't put the thing down.

Maisie is a sleuth/psychologist in late-1920s London who still suffers from memories of the Great War, in which she served as a nurse at a casualty clearing station in France. Her approach to solving cases is mostly meditative and empathetic, and determining who the Bad Guy is takes until the very end of the book, as each suspect is considered without bias.

Recently the books by Jacqueline Winspear have stimulated a latent curiosity about World War I, about which I really only learned while depressed one summer in London and Belgium. And now I wish I had felt more of an interest while walking the trenches in Ypres or looking at the paintings in the Imperial War Museum. At any rate, I don't have any time to learn what I want to at present.

I have a paper to write.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

She's gone.

Samantha (Sammy) Mullen. March 2, 1989- October 12, 2006.
My girl.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The right mots.

Two weeks ago I had the following things to say and fret about:

Last night I dreamt about the Northeastern student I sometimes refer to as the love of my life, which put me in a positive mood for the day. And then he actually came into the store! And I was so excited, because we had actually built up this cool mutual acknowledgement in the hallways thing, and our eyes met, and I smiled, and he said, "can you point me in the direction of mathematics?" And a part of me died inside.

Tonight, in French class, I found the words to describe what happened. Il me vouvoie.

Monday, August 07, 2006

On the way to Cape May. . .

I'm down the shore, and I love it!

Actually I feel a little like crap. My throat is swollen, I'm tired, I want to hide from my family.

Not all my family - not the babies. My cousins have the cutest kids in the world. And I've only seen one of them, because the rest are tired and napping when I'm awake, and vice versa.

This is a boring post. My apologies. I'm in an internet cafe and time is running out.

A bientot.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

It's nice to be noticed.

Anyone who has ever taken a writing class has been strongly encouraged to do at least one of the following things daily:
  1. Write down your dreams.
  2. While out in public, describe your surroundings in a journal.
  3. While out in public, eavesdrop on a conversation and write it down, word for word.
  4. For half an hour, don't stop writing. Get all the junk out of your head so you can write the real stuff later.

All good advice. All great brainstorming techniques. I am embarrassed to do most of them most of the time because I will invariably make up stories about the people around me, and if they were to read over my shoulder, I would be devastated.

On my way into work, I was sitting next to a man who was engaging in some such writing exercise. He was writing about me. I was almost flattered, but then again, I was the closest person to the guy. Naturally I read over his shoulder. It said something like:

She was wearing a necklace of yellow beads, a denim skirt, sunglasses. She was likely on her way to work like the rest of us. Reddish hair...she boarded at Roslindale Square. She seemed -

That's all I got! Of course it's nice to know that somebody was looking at me at all, taking note of the details to which I devote so much time in the morning, but I was just getting to the first impressions bit. What vibe do I send out when I'm sitting on the T? That man was going to tell me, however unintentionally, and I was going to know at last if I really look as much like a bitch in public as I feel I do.

As you might have guessed, it was at that point that the bus stopped at Forest Hills and I had no choice but to leave.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Check it out!

I've always wanted to be a new kid on the block. Now, obviously, I am.

More later ... I swear I'm more interesting than anybody's first blog entry can make them seem.