Monday, December 22, 2014

An afternoon at Small World

Not the Disney ride, but one of the two independent coffee shops in Princeton. It's a cash only place where the baristas are always cheerful instead of surly, like every single coffee shop employee working in Philly. I have the next two weeks off from work, and so am out in the world at 3 p.m. on a Monday. I fully expected the place to be quiet send deserted, but instead, it's hopping with white people, almost exclusively, some old, some young, some in between. Perhaps they are also off work because of the holidays, or else there are a lot more people in town with leisure time than I ever knew. It's standing room only, so I am sitting at the counter part rather than a table, next to a woman who appears to be reading a book that requires her to underline sentences. How she can focus on words with the trio of girls next to her is hard to fathom. The girls are all brunettes, either skipping seventh period high school or possibly college students, though their topics of conversation (ranging from whether women are repressed because they don't have large pockets in their clothes like men do, to the hotness of David Bowie in the movie Labyrinthine, to what the girl should name her new iPod) do not help me determine their ages. Seventy five percent of the young men in here have some kind of facial hair, long sideburns included, and the women have that messy ponytail look. Other than those two observations, I see nothing else of note.

I do love this town, and I love that I can get to the center in less than ten minutes by foot. I stopped at the Arts Council on my way in and the women in there were so nice, opening up the art sale shop even though it closed on Saturday, and so I was able to pick up two very cool gifts, and they gave me both gift boxes and gift bags to go with them.

The town is magical and my fear then is that I'm not taking full advantage of it. Every night that goes by when I'm not out attending a lecture by a famous brilliant person or hearing a world-renowned choral performance or watching an independent film at the small theater feels like I am squandering my lifestyle. But the truth is that we have been more active here than in Plainsboro and have gone to movies and a concert at the Princeton Chapel and I am in the coffee shops every weekend and I go to the library Saturday without fail to check out more books. What I need to start doing is bringing my camera on my walks--I can start taking pictures again like I used to in Philly, though I have noticed a very distinct lack of cats in windows in this town. The one drawback.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A as in...

The other day, someone I don't know asked me to give her my email address over the phone. For whatever reason, she had trouble hearing what I was saying, even when I went really slowly. I did that thing where you say the letter, and then give an example. I always say, "'A' as in apple, 'B' as in boy..."

She was very confused, and when she repeated what she thought my email was, she had written down something like,""

We started again.

"No, the letter 'A' as in apple..."

She said, "Okay, apple..."

This went on for some time until I just started saying yes, that's right, and accepting that I would never get an email from her, though someone with a thirty-five letter username would likely be receiving her message.

I told my friend Adam this, and he said he had an idea for a skit, where you're in an office setting and start spelling out your email to a client, but using really profane, inappropriate language, as if it's nothing: "Yes, that's right, A as in anal, l as in labia, b as in bestiality, a again as in ass..." You get the gist.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ugly Sweaties

Everyone at work, at the coffee shop, at the library, at the synagogue seems to be talking about the Ugly Sweaties parties they're invited to. You've heard about them--those are the usually office-centric parties where you are required to wear the ugliest Christmas/holiday sweater you can find at Goodwill. Except now, it's such a popular phenomenon that you can buy these special horrible sweaties at Target and Urban Outfitters and Kohl's.

What an embarrassment, though, if you bought what you thought was the funniest, most unique sweatie at Walmart, only to realize that Jean from accounting is wearing the same one!

I've participated in these parties and I even suggested one at my last job, but I guess it's one of those snotty things--like, once everyone's doing it, it's no longer funny and cool. And then you start to see the variations of sweaties that allow men to talk about their favorite subject, the penis.

And women too, can use it as an opportunity to show off their stuff.

I prefer the more traditional ugly sweaties, such as the ones below circa 1952 (though again, this may be an ironic ad from UO).

You could go the cynical religious route as well.

Unless you are a person of color, you should not wear a black Santa sweater.

Adam, this last one is for you.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

I Vow Not to Bitch about Christmas Music

Or to complain that they start playing it earlier and earlier each year, or to wonder if anyone under the age of 35 has any idea who Bing Crosby is or to say that I cannot watch Elf again. We have purchased a single wreath which Dan hung on the front door, but have not yet committed to a tree, as the whole endeavor will also require lights and new ornaments, since we can't face the same Target ones circa 2006. I am not invited to any Ugly Christmas Sweater parties, but we will have a staff party on Thursday and another one the following week.

I have done no Christmas shopping, and have no brilliant ideas for what to buy my loved ones. Maybe we need to sit down and make our respective lists for one another. PJs? Yankee candles? Gift cards to Starbucks? I really need to find some time to think about this more--I used to be creative and make photo albums and gift certificates, but now, I feel like I'm just trying to figure out how not to wait until the last minute.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Dave Eggers book consumed in two days

Princeton Library has this table of book club books and I occasionally browse through them. They're not current books, necessarily, just books that the people seem to be popular with book clubs at the moment. A month ago, I checked out A Tree Grows in Brooklyn because I never got to  it when I was younger. I read four pages, felt depressed by her scrounging for tin,  and put it aside. My guess is that the girl will find that the tree is her one steadfast friend through her years of poverty and painful girlhood lessons. But I could be wrong.

Instead, I checked out a Graham Green book, The Heart of the Matter. I read half of it, and then realized that I wasn't sure if the story was set in Africa during WWI or Syria during WWII or possibly current day Dominican Republic. The main character's name is Scobie, and so that made him hard to take seriously. I couldn't decide if it was a novel of intrigue, socio-political critique, or an historical account of racial relations in whatever country.  Instead, I read Dave Eggers A Hologram for the King. I actually started reading it in the library, somewhat skeptical (I was one of the few people I know who didn't love A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius). Something about the main character that I liked immediately, and though the story of a failing, middle aged white guy trying to make it with this last minute business venture isn't a plot I typically warm to, I read the book in about two days. And guess what, they're making it into a movie starring...Tom Hanks, of course. I like Tom Hanks, but only in so far as I am still in awe that he made it this far after starting on Bosom Buddies. I recommend the book--though it feels like the final message has something to do with the futility of life.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Frances Ha

Did you see this movie? I missed it somehow, and so we rented it on Saturday. The beginning scene is two twenty-something women talking in this slightly stilted, artsy way (or maybe it just seemed artsy because the movie is filmed in black and white) about their futures together. They're best friends, not lovers, but they are extremely close. That first scene is needed to set up the rest of the film, which is somewhat about the friends going in different directions (one appears to be jumping on the career/marriage track and the other is still finding her way), but it's mostly about Frances, a 27 year old dancer's apprentice trying to make it in New York.

It took me a while to warm up to the movie, and it took Dan about 30 minutes to dismiss it completely to go work on a logo in the kitchen, but I kept watching, and it never became what most movies about women turn into--this search for heterosexual love. In fact, there was pretty much no sex in the whole film, because, surprisingly, the focus was on Frances' self-actualization---her getting let go from her job, and taking up too much conversational space at a snotty dinner party, and having to go back to her undergrad as a residence adviser for the summer, and moving from a series of shared apartments in the city. All the while, she keeps making mistakes, saying the wrong things, taking foolish trips to Paris and missing every connection. But in the end, she takes the crappy secretarial job and gets to have this fairy tale moment where everyone comes to the show she choreographed, and then, the last scene is her putting her name on the mailbox of her own place.

It reminded me of living in Chicago and how I spent two years with bad roommates (and being a bad roommate) and then finally found a cheap apartment on Hazel Street, on the North-ish side of the city near the Sheridan el stop.

At 27, I thought I was old. There's a scene in the movie too where she tells someone her age and the other person goes, "Oh, you look much older than you." But when you're 27, everyone else seems both so much younger (all those college days seem far away and the kids going to the Art Institute appear clueless) or so much older and together than you (your friends who are getting married and moving to the burbs and registering at Crate and Barrel). So, you can feel stuck and end up making out with lots of bartenders.

I lived in Chicago for five years and had a semi-serious boyfriend for two of those years, but was mostly single and thinking about how my ship had sailed--how I was just going to get older and older and pile on the cats and the bad relationships. And that kind of did happen, because when I lived in State College for six years, I never had a serious boyfriend. FOR SIX YEARS.  I mean, I had six month relationships and three month relationships with lumberjacks and then one on-going fake love affair with a flaky poet, but none of it was real--none of it was the day to day stuff of living with someone, and I wanted that so much, because that's what you're supposed to want. Or maybe it's just that it's okay to be unhappy, as long as you're unhappy with someone else. Not alone. Much worse to be seen as unhappy and alone.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Thankful for Route 206

Now that we've lived in Princeton for two months, I can say that the main thing I like about our new location is avoiding route 1 completely. Remember last year? Remember how I used to race home at sundown because I was so scared to drive on route 1 after dark? And when it rained? Or during the day? And pretty much any time I got behind the wheel?

In our new location, I take 206 into work. Not only is it a shorter distance by about 10 to 15 minutes every day, it's one lane. One windy country road that goes past farms and mansions and the governor's house and then through quaint downtown Lawrenceville. There are a few traffic lights, but that's okay with me too, because it keeps people from racing too fast. I have a theory that you will find better drivers on country-type roads, because they are more interested in having a calm drive than in getting to their destination as quickly as possible. Those who want speed, efficiency, and near-death experiences are drawn to the highways and interstates. Those whose biggest worry is hitting a deer (and this is not an insubstantial concern, they seem to be almost suicidal at times) take the back way.