January 22, 2011

What I Did for Love

[On Call - Kings of Leon; Let's Dance to Joy Division - The Wombats; Heartbeats - Jose Gonzalez; Oxford Comma - Vampire Weekend; Seaside - Kooks; Winter White Hymnal - Fleet Foxes; Skinny Love - Bon Iver; The Prayer - Bloc Party; Moth's Wings - Passion Pit; VCR - The XX; The Lady is a Tramp - Ella Fitzgerald; Boom - Anjulie; Darling - Zee Avi; Fly One Time - Ben Harper and the Relentless 7; Mango Tree - Angus and Julia Stone; Fitz & Dizzyspells - Andrew Bird; The Rake's Song - The Decemberists; I and Love and You - The Avett Brothers; Rox in the Box - The Decemberists; This is Why We Fight - The Decemberists]

When I went to Germany when I was 15, I made room for a discman, giant headphones, and a case of forty-eight cds, despite only having brought carry-on luggage for the 3-week trip. (I felt stupid about underpacking until Posh's checked suitcase was sent to Africa.)

When I went away to college, I brought a case of 256 cds, a case of 100 cds, a couple dozen-cd cases, and a few individual cds. Nearly 400 albums might not sound like a lot now. But then—before the itunes store and sites with free, legitimate downloads existed, before music could be shared digitally, when cd burners were rare—it was a ton. Other college freshmen marveled at my collection. No one had anywhere near as many cds as I did. It's possible my roommate's friend Mac had more music than I did since he downloaded stuff illegally, but at some point his computer crashed and he lost it all. Proof that a digital library wasn't the way to go.

By the spring of freshman year, I'd decided I couldn't live without my boom-box. It held six cds, and you could create a program that would play any song off any disc in the order you specified. It was magical.

Then I found out about ipods. My parents understood their relevance to my life before I did. To me, they sounded like a lot of work. Upload all my albums to my computer only to download them to some finicky gadget? Constantly put music on and take music off? Why not just listen to a cd? Uploading an album took around 10 minutes. Doing that 400 times didn't sound like a picnic. I was interested without being interested.

Some sort of alchemy happened in the next two years. Ipods became popular, coveted. Their usefulness became suddenly obvious. I was going to Austria on an abroad. Was I going to tromp around with dozens of cds? NO! My parents gave me an ipod for my birthday, just a couple months before the trip. OMG! WHAT WAS I THINKING NOT DEMANDING ONE SOONER!?

It was 10GB, and adding songs was like my own little slice of manifest destiny. How long would it take to fill it completely? 2,500 songs isn't as many as it sounds. It took no time at all.

A couple years later, when the iPod video came out, my mom gave me one as a gift.  30GB. I was traveling a lot at that point, and being able to load new music without selectively removing something else, being able to travel with photos and video, it was all so nice. But sooner than I would have expected, that iPod was full, too. So when I bought a new computer and had the option of getting a free iPod, I got it. (Dur.) 80GB this time.

I started running. My 80GB iPod seemed huge, clunky. I saw those adorable little iPod shuffles that clipped right on. How practical! So much smarter than jogging with the heavy iPod classic! I bought one. Once I had it, I started using it all the time. It came with me when I walked anywhere—to work, around the super market, at airports. I was constantly trading out playlists for walking around with playlists for running. Sometimes I would get to the gym and realize I hadn't updated my ipod. Jogging to "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" or "I Will Follow You Into the Dark"—not a great workout.

I went with my father to the Apple store to get my sister's computer fixed, a repair he expected to pay at least $300 for. He politely listened to by uber-luxury troubles. Why couldn't my shuffle just hold two playlists? When we got to the genius bar, it turned out that the problem with my sister's computer was a known defect. The repair was free! My father, delighted by this windfall of good fortune, purchased a second shuffle for me.

By this point, I'd started naming my iPods after Atlas Shrugged characters—as the Rake put it, a giant eff you to anyone who questioned my right to have so many ipods. To be fair, my first ipod was really just a sentimental ipod by this point. I couldn't get rid of it. It was full of music that was clearly from my college days. Liz Phair songs with play-counts well over 100, a playlist from the road-trip Dynamite, Juice Box, and I took to Texas. I didn't really want to listen to it, but it was like a little time capsule.

You feel like a sucker now, right? This blog has just been one long justification for my extravagant lifestyle. I'm like one of those elderly people who grew up during the depression who now hoards sugar and butter. Years of lugging around cds has made me ipod crazy. I know it. I've known it for years. That's why I decided to stop. The number of ipods held steady at 5 for a long time. But this year I fell off the wagon.

Ipod touches were on sale after Thanksgiving. They suddenly seemed so practical! I could access the internet when I was out and about in the city. I was doing interviews for work, and it had a voice recorder. It would be great for travel—weather updates, alarm clocks, a calendar, a camera, language dictionaries. I had made up my mind that I would never get an iphone. This was a reasonable alternative. No outrageous monthly plan.

A month after buying the ipod touch, my family got new phones. I got a little green one with a fabulous keyboard and a terrible touch screen. The screen would only respond to my instructions 70% of the time. On more than one occasion, I accidentally called someone because the contact list was hard to work. It was difficult to move from screen to screen. As I would sit struggling with my phone, I would look over and see my ipod touch, so angelic, so easy to use, its touch screen as close to perfection as could be hoped for. Even then, a part of me knew I was being stupidly stubborn.

This Monday, my dad called me. He told me that he had traded his new phone in for an iphone. It was within the 30-day exchange period, and the price of the iphone 3G had dropped to $49, making the exchange practically free. "Now, instead of screaming at my phone, I can just use it," he explained. He wanted me to drink the kool-aid.

I patiently explained that, while I was happy for him, I would look stupid toting around an iphone and an ipod touch. Plus I had railed against iphones for so long, how could I get one? It only took two days of constant calls and texts from him telling me he was cooler than me for me to break down.

So here I sit, feeling cool and foolish at the same time, totally clueless as to how to wrap-up this blog post.

January 14, 2011


A few weeks ago, Kitten realized in the nick of time that the improv class I was driving her to was at 1pm and not 3pm. The nick of time didn't allow for a shower. Just clothing.

Once in the city with time to kill during Kitten's class, I thought about going over to Berry's nearby house. She was out of town. Her shower would be free. I had maybe even left some shampoo there over the summer. Then I felt an irresistible impulse to not only do it, but write a blog entry on creeping around someone's house without permission while they're out of town. Except Berry reads my blog. In a living room 1,000 miles away, she would see what I had done.

A blog is a good way to find out someone has been using your shower while you're out of the house, right? It's certainly incentive to keep reading.

January 13, 2011


I usually do my grocery shopping in a hoity-toity area where a Whole Foods, a Target, and a Schnucks (a traditional grocery store) are all clustered together. That way I can get my specialty items at Whole Foods (goat cheese with honey, out of season fruits and vegetables, curry sauce), home items at Target (paper towels, sponges, floor cleaner), and basic groceries and brand-name items at Schnucks (eggs, bread, Oreos). It's a ridiculous system, but it's working for me.

Over the years I have adjusted to the insane trappings of the grocery store in this well-to-do area—hardwood floors, special cooling lockers for milk, little cooking stations. The fanciness has, I think, contributed to the fact that I see grocery shopping as one of the most adult things I do. It always seems so responsible! I make a list. I go to a classy place where the produce is spritzed down like it's enjoying a spa day. I buy fresh food I can assemble into meals. I make decisions about time, about health, about causes, all in the process of filling my grocery basket.

Yesterday I experienced quite a shock when I decided to pick up a few groceries after my graduate class. The grocery store I went to was in the college town where I'm taking the course.

If someone has asked me to design a grocery store when I was 17, the result would have been this store. There were multiple chip aisles, spaced throughout the store. A huge, garish sign reading "Party Central!" in lime green letters was hanging over the liquor isles (three of them). They carried Ben & Jerry's flavors that I'm pretty sure were discontinued years ago. Displays of junk food were everywhere, eager to pop out and tempt unsuspecting shoppers.

Instead of the usual tasteful entrance display of soup and other traditional lunch fare, I found the display pictured below.

Lunchtime favorites indeed. 

I can't ever go back there. Not if I want to feel at all like a grown-up. 

January 10, 2011


[O Children - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Stars - The XX, Dust Bowl Dance - Mumford & Sons; I'm Not Calling You a Liar - Florence + the Machine; Beach Baby - Bon Iver; Lightness - DCFC; On Call - Kings of Leon; Eve, the Apple of my Eye - Bell X1]

"And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains." –excerpted from Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut

Now that Kitten and I have these new keyboarded phones, texting is remarkably easy. Kitten is taking even greater advantage of this fact than I am. When we're together, someone's phone is constantly going off. With a phone beeping or blinging or buzzing every minute or so, you've really got to grasp tightly to the thread of a conversation to keep it from running off when you're not looking.

Of course it's just as difficult when I'm on my own. Potential situation: Put pan on stove. Turn on burner. Pour sauce into pan. Hear text message sound from living room. Decide to wait until food finished cooking to check phone. Dice vegetables. Add to pan. Stare at pan. Shove sauce around in pan with spatula. Will food to cook faster. Decide food is OK on its own for a moment. Run to living room and check message. See text from sister that reads "Chow chow splat toot!" Text her back to express my displeasure with meaningless texts. Set phone down. Begin to return to kitchen. Stop in tracks when text message noise sounds. Go back to phone and check message: "Crystals!!" Text sister: "That's not a thing!" Look up and see Lonely Planet Italy guide on bookcase. Remember that I owe Posh a phone call about our likely spring break trip. Text her to let her know I'm free to talk tomorrow evening. Receive text from sister: "What's not a thing?" Roll eyes and text back "You know what!" Feel like I had something to do, but forget what. Take Italy book off shelf and sit down to leaf through it and reminisce about last trip. Hear weird noise from kitchen. Pad into the room to find sauce splattering all over stove.

When I'm writing, texts barge into my train of thought like persons from Porlock. Only they're more self-inflicted than that, aren't they? So I'll drop the Coleridge comparison in favor of Vonnegut. I am willfully handicapping myself.

And yet, in the back of my mind as I prepare to post this, I am hoping reading it doesn't discourage anyone from sending me texts, even pointless ones. I like them. I appreciate the funny or charming or loving updates.

"A buzzer sounded in George's head. His thoughts fled in panic, like bandits from a burglar alarm."

January 7, 2011

Sisters Without Borders

Kitten lived with me in Nook House for the majority of this winter break. 

I love my sister.

I tolerate her stuff.