6

No More Cookies

I did not do too much today, so here’s an update to a story I posted last July, with some more juicy (er…sugary) details.

Today’s post comes from the archives of my Amherst days.

You know sometimes in life you just have to live a little. And other times just have to say “no mas, por favor.”

So, one Friday night, I was at Hillel doing the usual. That night happened to have had a particularly generous sponsor and something must have been happening on campus because there was hardly anyone there. And usually, after the main course, people filter out anyway. Usually, the food was edible, but not great, with some lame dessert, and then after dinner we’d jet over to Chabad for Round 2.

But that day, however, there were cookies.

So few people, SO MANY COOKIES.

Just sitting in brightly colored piles of sugar, in pink and green and brown and yellow. As the meal wound down, there were fewer and fewer people to eat the cookies, so they were gradually being consolidated until they ended up on one gigantic plate that happened to be near where I was sitting.

I know what you’re thinking; this can’t end well.

So, my friend Zippy and I were just sitting there, talking about something, I don’t know what. Every so often, one of us would reach for a cookie, and nibble on it as we continued talking, and then take another, and another. Almost comically, the pile kept getting smaller, and smaller, and smaller. At the beginning it was a small mountain of cookies, and then somehow it became just a mesa, and then a plateau. We kept saying that we needed to stop eating the cookies, but they were there, so obviously that wasn’t happening. Neither of us actually thought of getting up and moving the cookies to any of the other unoccupied tables in the room, or to the kitchen.

Then, someone came to the table asking for a cookie, and we turned to him/her in unison, sugar shock in our eyes and voices, pleading, imploring:

“Take them away! PLEASE!”

And that’s how I learned that you can have too much of a good thing.

1

How To Get On My Bad Side On A Road Trip

I like adventures as much as the next person, and nothing says adventure like a road trip. I can never refuse an offer to get up and go somewhere.

But if I’m the one doing the driving (which I normally am), you better follow my rules of the road.

1. Don’t play your own music if/when I’m playing mine.

I don’t really care if you play your own music, but at least have the courtesy to ask, rather than just turn it on to try to overpower my music. And if it’s really bad, I have the right to claim it’s making me tired. Which brings me to number two.

2. If I’m doing all the driving, we are taking breaks when I say so.

People who don’t drive don’t understand how tiring driving  is. Driving is fun but extremely tiring, even if you’re the Energizer Bunny. Which is why you never see him drive. If it means that we have to stop every twenty minutes so that I can stretch or find a bathroom or sit and not be in motion, we’re stopping. Drivers need breaks. And no, you’re not driving my car unless you have a license, insurance, and the ability to get me a better car should you damage mine.

3. If you volunteer to navigate, navigate.

Yeah, I do some research before road trips, but if it’s somewhere I’ve never been before, there’s the possibility I can make a wrong turn somewhere. I have a GPS on my iPhone, and you probably do too. Don’t offer to do it and then fall asleep or sit there doing nothing.

4. If I ask you to navigate, navigate.

Sometimes you just need some direction. If you’re sitting in the passenger seat and my phone is right there, take a look at it and tell me if we’re going in the right direction. And don’t make me ask twice. Which brings me to number five.

5. If I ask you to stop doing something, stop doing it.

This list of activities includes horseplay, making horse noises, sticking your head/face/camera out of the window, having a too loud conversation, arguing/yelling, or just being annoying. Leading up to one of my least favorite things.

6. Never play with the windows.

I don’t care if we’ve been in the car for two hours and you’re bored; you should have brought a book. Putting the windows up and down is annoying enough; at least ask me before going ahead and doing it. Sometimes people don’t like getting a blast of cold air in the face. My parents always used to tell me to leave the door closed in the summer because we’re not paying to air-condition the front yard, and though I hate to admit it, they were right. If you want A/C, I’ll put it on. If you want windows down, we’ll do it that way. But we’re not doing both; it’s harmful enough to the environment as it is, and I don’t need you to make me feel guiltier. If you insist on having the window down, the A/C goes off. And if I ask you to put it back up, I’m not trying to bake you alive, I just want to put the A/C back on.

7. Don’t spill in my car.

Okay, so accidents happen, but my car is pretty new and I’d like to keep this one pretty at least for a little while. Just be careful.

8. Don’t offer seats in my car to people.

This car’s not your car, this car is my car. I operate it, I pay for the gas. If we’re going somewhere and you have a friend who wants to tag along, ask me. Most likely I’ll say yes and I won’t even ask them to pay. But also understand if I say no. Don’t promise someone a ride and then tell me.

9. I am not your personal car service.

I understand if we’re going shopping and you want to go into stores you see, or you have to pick something up, but I’m not going to drop off every single person anywhere they please. If there are a group of people in the car, and we’re heading home, remember that I’m tired and I want to get home too. I don’t care if you want to get home in time to watch the basketball game. If you want me to leave earlier, don’t ask when we’re there, ask me earlier than that. I don’t care if you’re going to be late to meet your friend; I’m not going to risk an accident or a speeding ticket for you. Actually, don’t take a road trip with me and make plans back in town with another friend on the same night.

10. Under no circumstances should you unbuckle your seat belt, open the door, or exit the car until I’m parked and the car is off.

This isn’t just a road-trip-with-me rule; this is a rule everyone should know. You can jump on or off the back of a truck in the Andes, or a bus in Israel, because I’ve done both, but never, ever exit the car until the vehicle is in a fully stopped and off position. You’d think that this was common sense, but I had to learn to tell people this, and I learned the hard way. One of my housemates in college managed to break rules 8, 9, and 10 in a single night. He and I were going to a mixer at Mount Holyoke College, the girls’ school in South Hadley, about 15-20 minutes down the road from Amherst. Before we left, he told me that we’d be giving his friend Norman a ride.

And yes, I believe that is his real name, but I don’t care about this one. Not only did he tell me we were doing this, a) I did not know who Norman was, b) who was going to take Norman back, and c) Norman wasn’t even coming to the house, my housemate had offered for me to pick him up at his place, which was in the middle of nowhere, and he didn’t even give us a decent address or directions.

We finally find him, he gets in the car, and barely says a word to either of us. We drive in relative awkward silence down to Mount Holyoke. I turn into a parking lot, and before I stop the car – in fact, before I even decelerate, I was going at least double-digit miles per hour, I hear a click, his seat belt is off, and without even saying thank you, he jumps out of the car like it’s on fire, slams the door, and takes off running towards the library. Turns out he wasn’t going to the mixer at all, he needed to go study or meet friends or something there and didn’t even have the courtesy to ask me. For some reason, I wasn’t tipped off by the fact that he brought a backpack to a mixer – maybe he kept his wallet in there? Anyway, my housemate starts to do the same, and I grab his knee with my free hand, and yell using his full name, “don’t you dare get out of this car until I am in a parking space and the motor is turned off.”

I’m normally very calm and forgiving, but I spent the next few minutes actually shouting at him while leaning on his knees to keep him from leaving. Since he had a brain – and needed a ride home – he sat and listened to me yell my head off about every single way he fucked this evening up before we even made it inside the mixer. I had half a mind to actually take him right back home, but then I realized that I couldn’t take away his allowance and hey, I wanted to go to the mixer too. But he did apologize, he learned his lesson, and we became closer friends after that. The only reasons I gave him another shot are because he did some really nice things for me, he bought me a full tank of gas even though he didn’t need to, it’s hard to stay angry at someone you have to live with and see every day who could potentially turn the rest of the house against you, and overall he’s a pretty great guy, and I knew that social skills were not part of his expertise.

To this day, when I am driving, if I even hear a click of a seat belt before the car has stopped moving, you are getting yelled at without warning and are in danger of becoming banned from my car.

On that note, let’s go and have some fun!

 

 

 

4

Take Your Toddler Off the Table

One time, I was having a perfectly lovely dinner in Houston with my friend, and her friends, who are a young couple with an adorable baby girl who sat and cooed in her stroller the whole time. What happened after dinner absolutely grossed me out. It wasn’t at a particularly fancy place, but it was gross nonetheless.

They put their baby daughter on the table.

On. The. Table.

I don’t know what possessed them to do that, but they did it anyway. And not only did they put her on the table, they picked her up and put her on her feet on the table as if she was dancing. Dancing. In her shoes. Only slightly less gross than if she were in her socks, or barefoot.

I just don’t get it.

If I put my own feet on the table at any point during the meal, you’d be disgusted. Same goes for anyone putting their foot on any dining table while it is being used thusly. You don’t know what’s on the bottom of that person’s shoes, or if their shoes look nice but their feet are dust mops.

Speaking of complete slobs, I knew a girl in Amherst who was one. Well, at least on the outside. She looked like she never showered or brushed her hair, always wore grungy looking outfits which were usually baggy, monotone, and polyester, and had gigantic, oddly-shaped glasses. But appearances aren’t everything, personality is important too…and personality she had. Of a dirty dish towel. She wasn’t an awful human being, just a dull one. I tried to find something redeeming about her, so I tried to grasp at straws. She was usually barefoot, and her feet weren’t grotesque-looking at first glance, but then, I saw her sit down and put her feet up, and on the bottoms? Let’s just say that she possessed a pretty dark and disgusting sole, times two. That is the image I have in mind whenever anyone’s feet, including an adorable little girl’s, go anywhere near where I’m eating or have eaten. Then there’s the whole issue of parents thinking that everything their children do is cute, but that merits a whole different blog entry.

So don’t put your children on the table and especially his/her feet. Or your own feet for that matter. Ever.

Except if the meal is completely finished, and the table has an inset lazy Susan.

Then, it’s adorable, as seen by Figure A (just imagine the record player inset within the table):

2

That’s So Random: Myths, Misconceptions, and Mind-Numbing Cold

Quote of the Day:

“So, how about this cold weather?” – Every single newscaster in America.

Seriously. It’s cold. Really cold. Almost every state had record lows today. It was way below zero in Madison, so I’m glad I was in Baltimore, which was…15 degrees, the coldest January 7 since 1994. That’s more than the number of miles I traveled today (about 1, if that) and hot beverages I consumed today (2; 1 coffee at home and a caramel macchiato from Starbucks). I went to the gym yesterday, but the thought of returning just chilled me even more, and not for any sort of dislike of exercise. It’s mind-numbingly cold. It’s just about too cold to think, so I came up with this idea based on a book I found at The Book Thing the other day.

But first, my post about Africa yesterday attracted more hits than ever, and brought readers from two African countries that were new on my blog counter, so welkom to South Africa, and karibu to Kenya. In addition, I also received a visitor from Denmark, so valkommen to you.

Back to the topic of the day. I picked up this book entitled The Book of Myths & Misconceptions. So I’m going to pick a random page, learn something new, write a hundred words or so on the topic, and top it off with a funny animated gif.

So…here we go.

Page 325: “It’s Over There: The Real Battle of Bunker Hill.”

The story: June 1775 – a violent battle occurred in Charlestown, Massachusetts, just across the “dirty water” of the Charles River from Boston.

The misconception: The battle occurred on Bunker Hill, hence the name.

The real facts: The battle did not occur on Bunker Hill. (Go figure.) American soldiers under the direction of Col. William Prescott started out on Bunker Hill, digging into the side of the hill, when Prescott discovered a hill that was easier to defend, so he moved the whole shebang to Breed’s Hill, a slightly lower hill about a half mile away. The next morning, Col. William Howe and his redcoats attacked, and won – but due to bad maps and the tide, lost a thousand British soldiers in the process, more than double the number of American casualties.

My thoughts (pretty much unfiltered, stream-of-consciousness, first-thing-that-comes-to-mind:)

The Revolutionary War. Something I haven’t thought about since probably high school. Seriously. I don’t think I ever took an American history course in college, at any level, and haven’t studied American theatre in that era. There wasn’t that much to speak of, except Aphra Behn’s The Widdow Ranter, the first play written with an American setting. But Aphra Behn was British. I used to live in Massachusetts. I spent a few years going to college there, at UMass Amherst. I love Amherst. I miss Amherst. Our mascot was Sam the Minute Man. Probably no other school is known as the “Minuteman,” which is why UMass is the awesome school that it is. The only thing that annoyed me was when I came home and everyone, my family included, asked me how Boston was. I was like “I don’t know, how is it?” because I did not live there, or anywhere near there. In fact, I’ve been to Boston a grand total of four times in my life: once on my first road trip with Dad, once to visit Boston University, once to catch a plane after my dreadful Brandeis University visit, and finally, for the 2008 APO National Convention. In June, LMDA will be in Boston, so that might warrant my fifth-ever visit. It still makes me cringe when people asked me what going to college in Boston was like, because I actually didn’t do that, unless you count going to the boy scout reservation in Sudbury twice for camping trips, including the first one when my big, Yukie, took us on an “alternative” route through tiny, winding roads that I later learned were along the New Hampshire border. Oh, Massachusetts, you with your deceptively long roads through nowhere. And your boring license plates. Because the spirit of Massachusetts is…

Oh, and here’s a picture:

There you go. Not much fun to be had at such a bloody battle.

This was also where Col. William Howe coined the famous phrase “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes.” 

Oh, that image search at least yielded a comic strip, so enjoy:

0

Happy Places

Getting in bed late last night, I was trying to calm myself down after a hectic day (well, mostly a hectic three hours’ worth of throwing a six-page paper together), and decided to travel to my happy place.

What is a happy place?

A “happy place” is something that I first heard on Friends, in the episode where Phoebe is trying to calm Monica down by asking her to access her happy place. Monica admits she doesn’t have one, so Phoebe lends her her own happy place, but admonishes her friend “…but please don’t move anything.” Phoebe then goes on to describe the happy place, which includes a waterfall. This fails to make Monica calm down, but does make her want to pee. Actually, I kind of have to pee now too, but I’ll finish writing first.

Probably not a great idea, but we’ll see what happens.

So, back in bed last night, I was attempting to find my own happy places, and realized that I don’t have that many. Then I really took a good long flip through my memories, and found that there are plenty of happy places for me – I just fail to recognize them as what they are. For a place to count as a happy place, it must be a concrete memory, and not just “the beach” or “in a garden.” It’s gotta be personal.

I’ve been short on stories lately, so here’s a list of random memories of times and place where I felt best, my true “happy places.”

Childhood

  • Not in my memory, but a picture of myself sitting on a brown blanket at the park near Wellwood Elementary, with my family. There are two pictures of that day that conjure up only happiness in my mind. In the first, I am a chubby toddler in a striped shirt and tan shorts, laughing and looking slightly south of the camera. In the picture, it’s just me, and for a moment, I am just happy with myself, by myself, just enjoying life. The second picture is one from that same day that my dad probably took. I am sitting on my mom’s lap at a picnic table. I know it’s from the same day because I’m in the same outfit. She’s bouncing me on her knee, and I’m laughing, and she’s looking down at me and laughing. In that frame, there’s no worry, anger, anxiety, or stress, just happiness.
  • Evenings spent sitting by my mother as she graded her third graders’ work. She sat, as my dad says “like a deer, on her haunches” on the blue bedroom carpet by the heater with her work in very specific piles around her, and usually me among them, talking to her or just sitting and reading or watching whatever channel my dad has decided on for the moment. Being situated between my parents was comforting, and such a familiar scene helps me feel like I’m right at home, in an easy part of my childhood.
  • Riding in the car with my mom, wherever, whenever, but listening to good oldies music. It seems like many of my childhood happy places seem to be close to my mother. I wasn’t really close with my father until I entered adolescence, really. Also, no school memories come to mind at all.

Adolescence/Teenage Years

  • Spending a peaceful Shabbat at home, usually involving a rotation between the couch, the brown chair in the basement, the plaid chair in the living room, my parents’ bed, and my bed. Extra happy if I got to finish at least one or two books.
  • Spending Shabbat in Ocean City. I’m not as huge on sitting on the beach reading as my dad is, usually because it’s cold, but coming with a suitcase of books and between the beach, the deck, the couch, the chairs, my bed, my parents’ bed, and my parents’ deck, worming my way both around the house and through several books could only be described as happy.

Amherst Years

  • Being lost in a bookstore. Any bookstore. Food for Thought, the big one on Pleasant St., the one in the mall in Northampton, some of the little ones in NoHo. Brattleboro, Vermont? Even better. A warm cup of something from Postcard Cafe, or Sylvester’s, (or Mocha Joe’s in Brattleboro), and a quick duck into Acme Surplus, just celebrating my freedom by hopping between stores.
  • Friday nights with any arrangement of Daniel, Goldie, Nora, Neta, Sarah, Cory, Kelsey, and Zippy on the couches at the Hillel windows for our weekly entertainment: cars getting towed on Phillips Street with their owners absent, standing by, or the best kind – running shoeless and coatless from a frat/sorority house only to watch their ride leaving without them – literally; or, watching guys pee in our parking lot, banging on the window and catching them midstream, and seeing their reactions. Pure fun with pure friends.

Israel

  • Midnight to 2 AM in the Nahum Lifshitz apartment, watching marathons of Hannah Montana, That’s So Raven, and Lizzie McGuire with Rael (and later, Adina). The routine: I get home from whatever I’m doing that night at the theatre or at the gym; if it’s the theatre, I put on the pasta and make the salads. If it’s the gym, I get out the veggies, put on the pasta, and leave the door unlocked for Rael so she can let herself in to check on the pasta in case I’m not out of the shower yet. In either scenario, at this point I take out my pasta and bring it to the table, as well as our salads and beverages. We watch show number one while Rael’s pasta continues to cook (she likes it stringy and mushy – I still don’t understand why, but whatever suits her appetite) and usually by the time show one is over, her pasta is ready and I focus on my salad or eyeball whatever dessert Rael has brought. The company, the conversation…man those were happy times. I can’t believe we’re so far away now. We did the midnight walks through Jerusalem as well…okay, this is bordering on tear-worthy nostalgia…
  • Being busy at the theatre. The busier, the better – I’m in control, I feel alive, and I’m in a million places at once, doing it all as hard as I can. Dedication, commitment, and in spare moments, a sweet garden to lounge in, or my insanely large office with the couch that served as a nap spot for myself and numerous others. Everyone comes to Jacob’s office.
  • Sunny days off, wandering around Jerusalem. Old City, New City, a different neighborhood anytime. The Old City’s the best though, the shuk, the Western Wall, getting lost and meeting locals and tourists, on the precipice of both myself. So fab. And in my happy place, I can have less acne.
  • Sitting by the sea in Kyrenia, Northern Cyprus, with the whole sea to myself. Sketching, reading, white wine, Mediterranean breeze – it was just one afternoon but it couldn’t have been more perfect. A language I don’t understand? Perfect for zoning out and being in the moment.

Houston Years

  • Hanging out in the apartment. Just knowing that I have this luxurious nest that I can go to and just lie on the couch watching TV, sit on the porch, or holing up in bed.
  • Studying at the Julia Ideson Library in downtown Houston. Leather couches and chairs, Greek statues, old bookshelves, roomy tables, free wifi, picture window views of Houston. Usually alone –  Houston’s hidden gem. Sometimes I just couldn’t sit still and got up and danced around the room – quietly, of course.

Bonus Happy Place: Vacation

  • Prague. A bench along the Vltava. A sunny Saturday. Getting lost in a book – but then looking up and seeing the most beautiful picture postcard in the world. And not only can I see it, I can feel it, I can touch it, it’s all there. I could sit on that bench forever.
0

Endings and Beginnings

I know that I’m nowhere near the ending of Houston nor the beginning of Wisconsin, but today, my thoughts are on beginnings and endings. I am a nervous person by nature, and though change excites me, it’s also worrisome. Will I be happy? Will I find purpose and meaning? Will I find friendship? Will I find love?

Words I dislike: schematic

Throughout the past 8 years, I have moved several times – from Baltimore to Amherst, back to Baltimore, Baltimore to Jerusalem, back to Baltimore, Baltimore to Houston, now Houston to Madison. Each move has been good and bad in its own way.

Moving to Amherst was my first big move. I knew basically nobody there and was totally unsure. My dad told me that he remembered me saying at a stop in Connecticut on the way, “This is the first time it feels like it’s really happening.” When I came back from dropping my dad off at the airport, I was really alone for the first time. Leaving Amherst was tough – mostly because I had become so comfortable there.

Israel was a slightly different story, although I probably had more attachment there.

Houston…I love it there, and over these past two years I’ve found I’m becoming even more and more of a Texan and specifically a Houstonian. I will miss it terribly, but hopefully the good memories will stay with me and the bad memories will stay there. Must make the most of the remainder of my time there and make even better memories.