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Archive for April, 2009

I debated what to bring with me to last night’s live This American Life show in Chicago, in hopes of getting Ira Glass’s autograph. The DVD of the television show? My TAL t-shirt? My copy of The New Kings of Non-Fiction? A tattoo pen for my heart?

I decided to take my ipod. Not only was it small enough that it easily fit in my purse, but if there is one object that I associate with This American Life, aside from perhaps my car’s radio (which would have been challenging to bring), it is my ipod. It was the 80+ episodes of TAL I had on my ipod that got me through three freezing January nights without heat and electricity. It’s on my ipod that I listen to TAL while I’m taking my dog on a walk through my neighborhood.

When I was carefully considering this decision, I found myself contemplating my status as the type of person who wants Ira Glass’s autograph in the first place. It’s not accurate to say that I enjoy public radio. I don’t. When it comes to my favorite radio shows, like This American Life or Radio Lab, I really. love. them. I wondered if I should be more ashamed that I act like a hyperactive groupie about a public radio show than should, say, fans of the Jonas Brothers–a phenomenon that seems to lend itself more naturally to grand displays of unnecessary affection.

In one of my favorite episodes of This American Life, “What I Learned From Television,” Ira Glass says, “The things I love, I love completely.” That quote is an incredibly accurate description of how I function. When I love something, I can’t help but commit an incredible amount of energy toward loving it a lot.

I met (politely accosted?) Ira Glass twice last night, once before the show, and once after. Yes, it wasn’t enough for me to meet him just once, when I apparently stumbled inadvertently into a pre-show reception where he was probably supposed to be talking up important public radio donors or something. I had to follow that up with my public radio groupie act by waiting outside the theater’s back door, because in truth, I really wanted a picture with him, as well. Dear god, I am needy. But both times, he was nice enough to talk to me. To sign my ipod. To stand in the rain and take a picture with me. He didn’t seem to be too bothered by my flailing words of inarticulate appreciation, or that I took it upon myself to track him down not once, but twice.

Last year’s This American Life Live(!) event seemed like a celebration of the TV show. This year’s event seemed like more of a celebration of the radio show. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the TV show, because I have enjoyed every episode of it. But I will never love the TV show the way I love the radio show. The TV show, I appreciate on an intellectual level, but the radio show provides me with a visceral level of comfort and happiness.

So, when Ira Glass asked me after the show last night if I had “any notes,” all I could do initially was babble incoherently about how wonderful This American Life is and how haaaaappy it makes me and it is just the beeessst and, oh, I am a dazed, brainless fangirl iiiiiiiidiot.

Eventually, I managed to get a slight handle on the situation and say something about what I actually did really enjoy about the live show. It took the standard radio show elements, and added a really interesting, and sometimes unexpected, visual layer on top of that. I found it to be really effective. The experience still felt essentially similar to listening to the show, but it happened to also have the visual sense added into it. It was fun and funny and clever and wonderful.

The big difference between last night’s show and listening to the radio show was the experience of being in a room full of people who all love TAL. Radio is a solitary and personal experience, and that is a part of what makes it so special. But last night, there was something even more personal about sharing the singular radio experience with so many like-minded strangers.

When my friend and I were walking towards the Chicago theater last night, I stopped to take pictures of the marquee that advertised This American Life Live in Chicago! I noticed all around me that other people were also stopping on the sidewalk to take a picture of the marquee, just like we were. “I’m with my people!” I told my friend.

I love This American Life completely, for reasons I can articulate and for reasons that I can’t. I may be more dorky about the way I appreciate This American Life as compared to the 3,596 people in the theater who did not stand in a cold, wet, dark alley after the show, but I wasn’t nearly as alone in my love as I usually am. I was with my people. Everyone else may have simply applauded when they saw Torey Malatia on stage, and I may have yelled, “GREAT SHOW TONIGHT!!!!” when I saw him in the alleyway, but in the end, we’re all joined together as the nerds that know who Torey Malatia is in the first place.

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Seven in seven

A week ago, I had a rather horrifying experience.

I tried on two of the costumes for my dance recital at the end of May.

I know I’m not as thin as the last time I was in a dance recital, five years ago. But when my dance teacher suggested that she order a size medium for my costumes, it made sense. A medium-size costume is what I used to order, and I typically wear medium-sized clothes.

It seems that “medium” was a very bad choice. “Medium” is the size that makes me look in the mirror and shudder in horror. “Medium” is the size that makes me say to myself, “I don’t want to leave my room wearing this costume, much less get up on stage.” “Medium” is the size that causes the dance costume to ride up in unpleasant ways when I actually try to move in it, and not just stand still and suck my stomach in as far as it will go.

These “mediums” are not made out of helpful material. I have worn very flattering medium-sized dance costumes in my past, even when I weighed more than I do now. But these two costumes are made of very, very thin, shiny, stretchy material. That very thin, shiny material is stretched across all those body areas that I try to hide. The light reflects of the shininess, and hey, what do you know, that is not a pretty sight at all.

After trying on these costumes last week, I got the idea that I needed to lose seven pounds in seven weeks. Not only would I hopefully look a hell of a lot better in my dance costumes, but hopefully the exercise necessary to accomplish this would make me stronger in actually performing the dances.

And I do say “necessary exercise,” because here’s the thing–my diet is actually really good. I almost wish I had a worse diet, so that I could make some drastic changes to it and be able to drop some weight quickly. I do occasionally enjoy sweets and white bread, but a typical day of eating for me looks something like, oatmeal for breakfast, steamed kale and lentils for lunch, and roasted sweet potatoes and chickpeas for dinner. With some pomegranate juice and chocolate soy milk thrown in there, along with some sort of very small dessert-like something. I can’t really make a whole lot of modifications to that, other than eating less of it all.

But I’ve thrown away the last of my Bunny Basket Eggs, and put the rest of the Easter candy in the freezer, to be enjoyed after the dance recital. I made cupcakes for a friend’s birthday, and I threw away the leftovers. I’ve made an easy cut to my daily calorie consumption by no longer drinking the chocolate soy milk.

So, this means exercise, which I hate. Lots of it. I’m trying to work myself up to starting (and actually completing) the torturous 30-Day Shred this Monday, the day I get back from a trip to Chicago.

It means six weeks (because the first week has already passed) of a new level of self-discipline. Because the alternative involves me being on a stage in front of an audience filled with people who will undoubtedly be sitting there saying, “Look at that girl, the one with the lights reflecting off her shiny, round middle section! Yikes, I’m glad that’s not my daughter, embarrassing herself like that.”

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My last day in Boston, I was so busy patting myself on the back for being extraordinarily competent at remembering how to do something as simple as knowing when to get on and off a subway car, I failed to be competent at something as simple as correctly reading the time of my departure flight.

The day I left Boston, I woke up at 8 a.m. and leisurely packed and got ready to go to the airport. My flight was to leave at 12:35, so I figured that if I left the hotel at 9:45, that would give me ample time to get to the airport and get through security. It would give me more than enough time, really, which is what I wanted, because I get anxious when I travel.

I arrived at the airport and went to the self check-in machine. I inserted my credit card and the machine searched for my reservation. And then the machine politely informed me that I was checking in too late for my flight.

I didn’t know how that was possible, because it was 10:30 at that point, and my flight wasn’t until 12:35.

I was checking in too late for my flight? Well, yes, I was, because my flight wasn’t at 12:35. My flight was at 10:35. My flight was scheduled to land in Chicago at 12:35. It was not scheduled to leave Boston at 12:35.

Idiot.

I tried to quell my panic as I realized that I must have incorrectly read the travel itinerary that I had printed off before my trip. What was I going to do? How was I going to get home? Most importantly, how much was this stupid mistake going to cost me?

Meanwhile, the machine helpfully asked me if I would like to re-route my flight. Uh, YES PLZ AND THANK YOU.

I was put on standby for a flight that actually was supposed to leave Boston at 12:35, and then put on standby for a connecting flight to Louisville that would get me home at 8 p.m. that night. Somehow, I was lucky enough that I got on both flights, and I arrived in Louisville right at 8 p.m.

After my initial hours of self-flagellation, I became unnerved by how little I was being punished for my mistake. Certainly, I had luck working in my favor, because if those flights had been full, then I would have had a much harder time getting home. But I did get lucky. And I was not being punished. Why in the world was I not being punished? That’s obviously what’s supposed to happen to people when they make a stupid mistake. You aren’t supposed to make a stupid mistake, and then “luck out” and get on the next flight.

I got home that night, and took a look at my credit card bill online, to see what kind of damage I had done in Boston. I noticed that there was over $400 in “pending charges” that was lurking on my credit card. I could not figure out what that could be, except for one thing. The airline must have charged me some crazy fee for missing my flight, and they never told me they were doing it.

I can understand being punished (I DESERVE to be punished!), but it seemed unconscionable that they would have charged me money, without telling me first and give me an option. I mean really, HOW. DARE. THEY? The money that this would cost me! $400! ARRRGGHH!

For nearly 24 hours, I continued in my anxious, indignant state, until my mom finally told me to call my credit card company and make sure that the $400 pending charge was from the airline. I called the credit card company and was informed that it was merely a holding charge the hotel I had stayed at had put on my card. I would not actually be charged that money.

There would be no punishment whatsoever for my mistake.

Say what you will about the airline industry. I have said most of it myself, particularly when I found myself trapped in the hellish Newark airport. However, I am impressed with a company that says, “Hey, you screwed up? Well, here’s what we’re going to do. I am going to re-arrange my schedule to accommodate for that screw-up. And you know what? I’m not going to charge you a single cent for being such a complete dumbass.”

Thank you, American Airlines, for getting me home, despite the fact that I can’t read a piece of paper.

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On Sunday, I came back from a trip I took to Boston, where I had a wonderful time. It was a mini-reunion with my friends from college, and I immediately felt like no time had passed since the days when I spent nearly all of my conscious hours of these people. I found within myself the person that I was when I lived with those people for three years. All the old dynamics were there, despite the fact that all of us have grown up a little bit more since the last time we saw each other.

Before the trip, I had agonized about whether or not I would still remember how to navigate the T–especially since the MBTA had gone to a fancy Charlie Card system since I had left. How dare Boston update their antiquated T system and expect me to readjust, after two long years of driving a car wherever I need to go?!

But I had no problems whatsoever. As soon as I walked into the airport T station, I said to myself, “I’ve got this shit. Why did I worry?” (The answer is because I am a first-class worrier, and why give up that piece of my identity?) It may have been two years, but Boston was still my city, and I could get to where I needed to go.

My friends and I spent one day on our college campus, Wellesley, which is just outside the city of Boston. I was truthfully a little worried about how I would react to being at Wellesley, because it is a place that represents to me, some of the most pure feelings of belonging and self-worth. I associate Wellesley with the happiest version of myself that I have ever experienced.

When I was getting my graduate degree at BU, trapped in a terrible living situation, and spending as much time as possible at Wellesley with my friends who still technically belonged there, when I had to leave campus, every time, I had an overwhelming urge to throw myself down on the ground, right there in the snow and dirt, and refuse to ever leave that spot.

But Wellesley, just as with Boston, and just as with my friends, it felt like I had never left. And when it was time to go, I didn’t feel like I needed to throw myself onto the ground and absorb the soil of that place into my skin, so that I could never be separated from it. It didn’t feel like I had ever left Wellesley. It felt like I continuum of where I had been and where I would continue to be. I mean, I actually took a nap in the student center. I can’t think of another public place where I’d feel completely comfortable and justified in sitting my ass down on a couch, putting my feet up on a table, and falling asleep.

My time in Boston and at Wellesley was incredibly comforting to me, because it told me that I could go away for years, and then come back, and I could still feel like I belonged there. Boston, and Wellesley especially, will always be a little bit of my home. This trip made me feel like I can go away, and I can come back, and it will all still be there waiting for me. That part of my life isn’t as over as I had thought it was. It’s still there, and I can have it back when I need it again.

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