Saturday, April 21, 2018

Come Alive.

I've recently had to come to grips with the fact that I actually really do like musical theater. I feel like hating musical theater was always an, if not integral, very well-defined part of the Rachel Persona. 

But I like the idea of singing songs when you feel an emotion. I mean, like, I do that. At least, I listen to songs when I feel an emotion. Maybe if we all sang out whatever we felt, we'd all be more mentally healthy.

So anyway. Kristen got me to see The Greatest Showman. It's not the best movie in the world, but it is very enjoyable to watch.

And the music. It's so good.

Ever since, I've had the soundtrack as my running playlist. It's 40 minutes long, which is a good length for a run. "The Other Side" is a good pacer. The rhythm of "From Now On" is so infectious that I have actually skipped/danced to this down the running path, in full sight of other runners and groups of kids riding their bikes. One windy day when I was feeling a lot of emotions, I ran straight into the wind while listening to "Never Enough" and I cried.

I'm always pretty excited when "Come Alive" comes on. It's the part in the movie where P. T. Barnum has recruited all his circus freaks and he's trying to inspire them to put themselves out there for their first show.

I recently listened to a podcast about confronting stigma. A journalist named Johann Hari was on the show, who writes about drug addiction and the failure of the war on drugs. According to his research, besides the chemical aspect, we fall into addiction because we have a lack of connection in our lives. Those with strong support systems are better able to fight drug addiction.

He tells this story of going to this devastated neighborhood in Cleveland, "and it was one of those streets where a third of the houses had been demolished, a third had been abandoned, and a third still have people living in them-- huge addiction problems, as you could just see walking around."

At one of the inhabited houses he met this woman. "She was talking about what the area used to be like, how everything that made the area make sense--the work, the sense of regularity, the sense of the future--was all gone. And she's trying to describe what the area used to be like, and she meant to say, when I was young. What she actually said is, when I was alive."

That anecdote has lingered with me, and changed what that song means to me.

I wouldn't have put it that way myself, but I feel that way sometimes. I know that I used to be alive, when I wasn't so afraid and I didn't wonder about so many things. I know exactly when I died that deathless death. I can count the number of years I've lived as a zombie.

But in the song, he says that "the world becomes a fantasy and you're more than you could ever be 'cause you're dreaming with your eyes wide open."

When he says that, I stand up a little straighter. I let my legs carry me forward without having to strain to make them go. And I feel like the run I'm on is the waking dream I'm dreaming. The dream I'm making come true with every time my feet pound the earth below.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Life is a mystery.

When I first got my car, I named it "The Archbishop." And the Archbishop became a friend. I pictured him tall and skinny with a hook nose and sunken eyes, like a man who resembles his pet bird. When I got into the car after work, I would sometimes say, "Hi, buddy! How was your day?" When he had trouble getting up hills, I would sometimes say, "Come on, Arch. You can do it!"

I don't do that anymore. I don't know what happened--whether it faded slowly or disappeared all at once. What I do know is that whenever I talk to my dad on the phone and he asks, "Is the Archbishop running okay?" it takes me by surprise. I've forgotten that he's a he, and not just a car.

I had a friend and I lost him. He's still there, but I let him slip away. It made me think about this blog. How she's been constantly here for me for 7 years. Just like friends, we started out slow as we got to know each other. Then we became best friends, and I turned to her all the time. When our relationship started to wane, I redoubled my efforts with her, but that was the kiss of death. She has languished and lingered in the back of my mind since then.

I could be much better friends with my blog than I am now. I could be much better friends with my car than I am now.

I could be much better friends with real humans than I am now.

I was talking to an old roommate about how one of her friends recently severed their friendship, more or less. That has happened to me. It happened in first grade and it happened in sixth grade. But since then, my friendships do not often go up in a burst of flames. They languish and linger on the sidelines. I see them there, but turn my head slightly away.

I love Like a Prayer by Madonna. The first line is life is a mystery; everyone must stand alone. I think about this all the time. I once sang this in front of my mom, and she said, "That's not true!"

But when I think about it, it seems more true than when well-meaning people say, "You're never alone."

We're alone 100% of the time in our own heads. That's the joy of being human, actually--to not belong to some networked group sentience, but to have your own sentience, locked up inside a body where no one can get to it. Life is like going to the movies by yourself. The lights and sounds are big, and you're free to think and cry in the darkness.

But that's my biggest pain too. The mystery of always having to stand alone. To feel it crushing me. To feel like the longer I am alone, the less valuable I will become to others.

Sometimes I let this pain become the only think I can feel. But then I remember that my friends are standing on the sidelines. They haven't gotten into their cars yet and driven to get Saturday morning pancakes with their loved ones. I'm actually on the sidelines too, just a few feet away. I'm so intimidated by the fact that they came to this girl's soccer game with their spouses and sisters and I came by myself and haven't said hi yet.

I'm just so, so afraid of never having someone to go get pancakes with.

This blog though, whose seventh birthday it is today, is kind of like the friend that helps you out. Who drags you over to where your friends are standing with their loved ones and says hi. I just smile a little and stand a little outside the circle, waiting for someone to acknowledge me. She does the talking for me, and, in that way, is a wonderful friend.

So happy birthday, It's Such a Good Feeling. I wish the Archbishop wasn't celibate so you could get together one day. You're both very good friends. You all are.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Funniest Moments from My Favorite Comedies

(These shows are listed in the order in which I watched them for the first time.)

1. Parks and Recreation, 2009-2015

One-episode guest star stealing the show.

Bonus: All the things Leslie Knope is pro in her city council campaign ad.

2. Community, 2009-2015

The funniest thing about this is imagining LeVar Burton coming up with Pierce a thousand times.

Bonus: This show went on too long, but at least we got this out of it.

3. The Office, 2005-2013

Physical comedy at its finest.

4. 30 Rock, 2006-2013

Our basketball hoop was a rib cage. A RIB CAGE.

5. Arrested Development, 2003-2006

Her screams. Also the word parmesan is hilarious.

Bonus: Any time Buster calls it Army.

6. Brooklyn Nine-Nine, 2013-Present

There's not a single moment that I love best. It's pretty much everything Gina says.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Already Tomorrow

Sometimes, when I'm driving home from somewhere very late, I turn on NPR to listen to the 6 a.m. BBC World News.

Not because I want to listen to the news, but because it's strangely comforting to know that it's already tomorrow in London.

London from the London Eye

Monday, January 1, 2018

Ways I'm Different Now Than I Was on January 1, 2017

I'm 26.
I've lived in two urban areas.
I've participated in a protest.
I have a master's degree.
I've left the country.
I crave fish all the time.
I know what profiteroles and frangipane are.
I've done legit, private-room karaoke.
I wear glasses.
I've been to mass.
I've seen an episode of The Golden Girls.
I've had an egg cream.
I've had pink hair.
I've gone on a second date with someone I met on the internet.
I've seen Peter & Paul and Conor Oberst in concert.
I've cut my hair three times in one year.
I've seen Frozen.
I'm obsessed with Frozen.
I wear leggings as pants.
I've made meringue.
I've purchased milk in a reusable glass bottle.
I've been to Platform 9 3/4.
I own a windbreaker and a professional coat.
I've babysat my niece.
I've taken an uber.
I've had a boyfriend for longer than a month.
I've read a Jane Austen novel all the way through.
I know SQL.
I've lived in 3 states in one year.
I understand "there's always money in the banana stand" jokes.

Gargoyles atop Notre Dame

Best friends

Saturday, December 23, 2017

My 2017 Reading List

I started out with a goal to read 12 books this year. When I started finishing a lot of books (thank you to my DC commutes for that), I raised it to 36. And I did it!

Here they are, grouped into categories based on how I felt when I read them. My especial favorites are marked with an asterisk.

All the feminist feels:
Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture by Peggy Orenstein 
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
*Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik

Needs no introduction:
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling

All I want to do is read about race in America:
Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson
*Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg
A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression by Jane Ziegelman

Why is this the worst?:
Bossypants by Tina Fey

And its companion, Who let this be published?:
The Kingdom of Speech by Tom Wolfe

Classics so good, I can't believe I waited so long to read them:
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
*Emma by Jane Austen

Good because it's a classic, but I'm also not that into it:
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Guilty pleasure:
The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
Princess in the Spotlight by Meg Cabot
Princess in Love by Meg Cabot

Lol, why am I reading this?:
Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever's Search for the Truth about Everything by Barbara Ehrenreich
That Quail, Robert by Margaret A. Stanger
It's a Long Story: My Life by Willie Nelson with David Ritz

Book topics that are automatic heart eyes:
Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash by Edward Humes
Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us about Who We Really Are by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz
Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America by Ari Berman

I thought this would be a guilty pleasure, but these are legit good:
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

I loved this as a teenager and I love it now:
The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty

Gotta pause every 5 minutes to think:
But What If We're Wrong? Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past by Chuck Klosterman
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell
*Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Washington, D.C.

I just listened to Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. He talked a lot about his years at Howard University, or, as he called it, "the Mecca."

He talked about living in D.C. About hanging out in U Street, about the police brutality in neighboring PG County. 

His descriptions of D.C. hit me so hard that tears filled my eyes in my car as I was driving. I only lived there for four months, but I miss it. I ache for it. I have missed every place I've ever lived when I left it, but I've never cried about it before.

In the last few years I realized that I am a city girl. As a child, I was endlessly anxious about one way streets and somehow getting lost and turning down a side street that suddenly became a dangerous part of town. 

Now, though, cities fill me. I'm afraid to speak to people I don't know, but D.C. let me be near people. I didn't have to say anything, but I could watch them, overhear their conversations, sometimes feel my body pressed up against theirs on a crowded metro ride, interact with them through the courtesy of public life--of passing on the left on the escalator or holding the door open for someone behind you.

In D.C. there were people with skin of every hue. During the week, the metro was filled with white people surging in from the suburbs to go to work, but on the weekends, the cars were emptier and ridden by people with brown skin going to and from their weekend errands. 

I saw people wearing multiple types of religious clothing and headwear that I wanted to know more about.

I saw things that puzzled me. There were never any middle aged women on the metro in the morning. When I got to work, the building was filled with them. How did they get there?

I saw things that awed me. More fathers than I could count taking their children to day care in the morning. The fathers. Alone, no mother in sight, taking part in the quotidian intimacy of morning and evening commutes with their children.

These people were more often than not dressed more formally than I saw anyone dress for work in Utah. No casual Fridays, just day after day of morning coffee and walking several blocks in high heels, to huge old buildings to do government. To talk and argue and submit the same data to multiple subgroups in Congress, having to reformat their reports for each one. Landscape! Portrait! Only to get home so late that they barely have time to eat and work out and watch one episode of a tv show before they have to go to bed so they can do it all again tomorrow. 

When they lay down to bed, the constant sirens whizzing past them sang them a lullaby to sleep.

These people did government on a daily basis. Sometimes just steps away from museums filled with the best art and history that our country has had the pleasure of having. People came on vacation to see these things. They came on vacation to a city that was mine, and I always forgot that until I was walking in the surprisingly warm winter air on a Friday afternoon and I saw groups of them, not fully sure they were walking in the right direction, but taking in the awe of it all.

As a child, I went on field trips to D.C. and I was one of those people. I regret that on my eighth grade field trip, I was more interested in the cute boys from a different school in line in front of us than I was about seeing Ford's Theater.

Now, though, I relished any time I could steal away to the Lincoln Memorial. It's not really close to any metro stops, so it takes a while to get there. And once you're there, you have to give it the time it is due. To go in, find a way to ignore the crowds, and say hi to your best friend. To talk quietly to him in your mind. To enjoy that sacred feeling of being inside of a type of temple.

Then, you go out and sit on the steps, and stare out at the city. The reflecting pool, the Washington Monument, the Capitol. You feel the confidence of Lincoln behind you and the beauty and the fragility of the American dream in front of you.

I think Washington, D.C. and I are made of the same things.

The view of the city from the top of my apartment