March 27, 2011

I'm Sorry, Miss Austen

I never, ever thought this would happen to me. Ever. But today, I realized that something astounding has occurred. I have changed in a dramatic and unforeseen way.

I've outgrown Pride and Prejudice.

I know. This is shattering news. I myself am shaken to my very core. But what can be done? I saw the new version of Jane Eyre, and I thought to myself, That Mr. Rochester could beat the pants off Mr. Darcy. Next to Edward, Fitzwilliam looks like a whinny little sissy.

Okay, sure. Mr. Rochester isn't perfect. Mr. Darcy's primary fault was that he had poor social skills, a forgivable problem with which I can certainly identify (I mean, look at me, using my Sunday afternoon to write a blog post about romantic heros in classic 19th century literature and my varying levels of affection for them). Whereas Rochester is a deceitful bastard–surly, taciturn, and manipulative. Don't think my sudden affection for him doesn't alarm me (and remind me strongly of this).

Nevertheless, there it is. I thought I would share it. Go see the new version of Jane Eyre if that's your thing.

March 21, 2011


I decided last minute to go visit my mom in London. She purchased the ticket using frequent flyer miles and surprised me with a first class upgrade for the trip there. It seems that just about everyone I know has some experience flying first class. They've flown with a wealthy relative, or traveled for business, or been bumped up by the airline. They all get the same dreamy look in their eyes when they talk about the experience. Well, all except my sister who bemoans her decision to wear purple cut-off sweat pants.

I've never been interested in flying first class. Why would I be? I've loved my experiences in coach. I never have problems stowing my luggage, I almost always sit next to interesting people, and most importantly, I'm getting an almost identical product for 1/5 of the price, right? I mean, okay, sure, you get a bigger seat and a free toiletry kit in first class, but certainly those aren't worth thousands of dollars.

Oh God. I was so wrong. There is much more to it. The delight began when I checked in. "Hello. May I have your passport?...Oh my! What a lovely passport photo. (Lies.) But then you're a lovely girl. And where are you traveling?...Oh very good....Ok, you're all set! Would you like a jacket for your boarding pass? Now, here is your baggage claim. I've put a priority tag on your suitcase so it will be out first when you arrive in London. From here just head straight down the escalator to first class security. I don't believe there's much of a line...."

My short flight to Chicago was perfectly lovely. Then I had a five-hour layover before going on to London. I whiled away the time in the Admirals Club. I sat in a plush chair and was offered free drinks. I chatted easily on my cell phone without the near-constant interruptions of squawking announcements and golf cart sirens.

Almost as soon as I boarded the second plane, my seatmate, a large businessman flying from Texas to Turkey, began what would become a running complaint about the fact that one of his three tray tables was broken. He made frequent half-serious jokes to the flight attendant about being reimbursed for his ticket. But how can you be upset when they keep bringing round little dishes of warm nuts? (Cashews, almonds, and pistachios only—no lame nuts.) They also offered orange juice, champagne, and water beginning before the door to the airplane was even closed. (I've never understood the appeal of getting on the plane first. I should have realized it something to do with maximizing alcohol consumption.)

Proof of copious leg room. 
I flipped through the movie options. Available to travelers at a moment's notice were Burlesque, The King’s Speech, Black Swan, Harry Potter 7, True Grit, RED, Megamind, Waiting for Superman, The Social Network, Unstoppable, plus a dozen or so year-old movies and a few classics. If you don’t feel like a film, that’s okay. You can watch episodes of Mad Men or Glee or Arrested Development. Or, you can fully recline, get out your full-sized pillow and large comforter, and sleep.

Of course, anyone who knows me at all knows exactly what I selected.

The flight attendant had learned my name. “Miss ______, your dinner menu.” Dinner menu! Four entrĂ©e options. Dressing options. Dessert options. Everything came in real glasses and on real plates. There were tiny salt and pepper shakers. Of course, when there was sudden turbulence, it was no fun to see people trying to steady their glass wine glasses.

There were too many other amenities to completely enumerate. They hung my jacket in a closet, they provided me a copy of the New York Times, I received noise cancelling Bose headphones (helpful for tuning out my neighbor’s tray table complaints). Everything was endless. Would I like more water? More juice? More nuts? Did I care for another roll? Yes? Cheese, pretzel, or sourdough? I thought that business with the hot towel was made up, but they came round with those, too.

All those things were nice, but most impressive was the attitude of the flight attendant. Constant politeness. Helpful suggestions. When she noticed I had my phone out, I was shown a little drawer for personal items. When I precariously held my glass of water aloft as I attempted to pull out my second tray table so the flight attendant could throw a table cloth across in preparation for the arrival of the shrimp and fresh pineapple appetizer, what it must have cost her to smile and say kindly, “Maybe you should put your water glass down on your other tray table while you do that.” Such restraint! Such tolerance! Not even a hint of sarcasm or judgment, though I’m much mistaken if she wasn’t secretly very irritated with my stupidity.

It was lovely being treated like a human being rather than semi-fragile (but super-stupid) cargo that must be regularly fed and watered. Why don't we all treat others with such kindness? I suppose because it's difficult, right? It takes a lot of energy to be upbeat, to be thoughtful, to watch others do something that will create more work for ourselves and not get irritated.

So here's what I've taken away from the experience—I need to marry well.

March 18, 2011


I am a terrible packer. Not terrible as in I do it poorly, but terrible as in I SIMPLY CANNOT DO IT.

There are a lot of people who can attest to this fact, and none of them find it at all funny. I put on ridiculous movies. I putter around the house. I take snack breaks. I perform assorted unnecessary beauty rituals (face masks, pore strips, nail painting). My rubik's cube usually makes an appearance. But primarily, the trouble is that I allow my packing to have a James Joyce like stream of consciousness to it.

10:00pm (Enough time to pack and get a good night's sleep.)
I get out my packing list. I start semi-arbitrarily pulling out things I need to bring—small shampoo, a camera charger, earrings, high heels, chap stick. I frequently pause to look at things. Pulling out the shampoo occasions a thorough sorting of travel shampoos, conditioners, body washes, etc. The camera charger leads me to root through electronic equipment for a card reader. And so on and so forth. I frequently find myself staring slack-jawed at whatever movie I've selected to play "in the background" as I pack.

11:25pm (Still time to get a decent amount of sleep.)
I pull out my sketchpad to pack it and absent-mindedly flip through it. I find that I never finished that last sketch I was working on. I start looking for a B4 or B6 pencil. I rifle through my art drawer. I can't find either pencil. I start pulling things out of the drawer. I look in disgust at the old paints, the stiff rubber bands. I decide to clean the drawer. I take everything out. I divide items into piles based on whether they are often used, seldom used, or never used. These piles are based more on fiction than fact. When I repack the drawer, I keep the oil paints towards the front even though I haven't used them since I was in 8th grade. The Mr. Sketch markers, which I just took out to smell last month, go in the middle of the drawer. Meanwhile, The Care Bears Adventure Movie II is now blaring in the background.

12:35am (Possible to get a sufficient amount of sleep.)
When I'm done with that project, I remember what I'm supposed to be doing—finishing a sketch. I settle for an HB pencil I found and add a few lines to the drawing. I decide I need to see the photo the sketch is based on, so I go into the bedroom to look through my iPhoto pictures from Venice. I can't find the photo. I look though the pictures a second time. No dice. I go back and look at the sketch. Ah. Florence. Not Venice. I begin looking through my Florence photos. Hey. Look at that plaid shirt I'm wearing. Where is that shirt? I'd like to bring it on this trip. Pad over to the closet. Swish through button up shirts. Pull out plaid shirt. Decide to model it.

1:15am (Still possible to get some sleep.)
Now, there's a giant pile of clothes on the bed. I'm wearing army-green pants and a bright orange t-shirt I haven't worn since 2005 that says "The radio still sucks." I struggle to remember why I stopped wearing it. Oh, yes. Ran into the parent of a kid I was tutoring while grocery shopping in shirt. Take off shirt. Put on new-ish purple sweater. Realize I have no idea what weather is supposed to be like. Go over to computer. See Florence pictures and remember what I was supposed to be doing. Pull up photo of the Arno and the Ponte Vecchio. Study photo. Go back to living room and begin sketching.

1:55am (Unlikely I will feel at all rested in the morning.)
Hercules ends. Look over at clock. Screech. Throw down sketchbook. Race into bedroom. Pull out suitcase, unzip it, and flip open the top. Stare into it. Cast around the room for an item I want to take. I see my favorite book. I grab it and throw it in the suitcase. I cock my head and stare. The book takes up more space than expected. The suitcase is looking smaller now that there is an item in it. I take the book out and put in a smaller one that I like less. Much better. Stare at mound of discarded modeled clothes on bed. Start randomly grabbing things and tossing them in the suitcase. Wear myself out quickly by running around apartment. Decide to go to sleep and finish packing in morning. Set alarm for 5am and pass out on top of covers next to giant mound of clothing.

I'd love to say that it goes better in the morning, but that's not usually the case. No matter. It always works out.

March 4, 2011

Thoughts Upon an Emergent Technology

More convinced than ever this idea that cell phones can flumox plane equipment is a scam (for which I am grateful).


I am writing and publishing this post from the airspace over Colorado. I both resent and wonder at such a staggering capability. This time is for reading, not blogging! How dare the airline serve up temptation on a little piece of direction-laden cardstock prompting passengers to enjoy first-time-free inflight wifi? And yet, it is miraculous, is it not?