Monday, February 23, 2009

Patrol Pledge.

Not long ago, I made a reference to the "patrol pledge" among friends and got blank stares. "Weren't any of you guys safety patrols in school?" I said.

"No. What's a safety patrol?"

The more I tried to explain, the dorkier it sounded: Well, in grade school you could apply to be a patrol and if you got it, you wore an orange belt with a badge on it and would get off the school bus and wave kids across the street when they were boarding and exiting.

It was a desirable position. Really!

I mean, not just anyone could be a safety patrol. You had to have good grades and a flawless obedience record.

Okay, it was dorky.

But still, I was psyched to be a patrol in (I think) fifth grade. First, there was the belt, which to me connoted leadership and also was an additional accessory that needed to be cared for and folded properly. Second, you got to sit at the front of the bus at all times, which I liked to do because the view from the big front window was much better than from the sides, and also I liked Mrs. Kidd, the bus driver. Finally, it felt pretty official to be helping kids cross the street and, most importantly, reciting the Patrol Pledge:

I promise to do my best to:
·report for duty on time
·perform my duties faithfully
·strive to prevent accidents
·always set a good example
·obey my teachers and officers of the patrol
·report dangerous practices of students and
·strive to earn the respect of fellow students.

Between this and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, I was doing a lot of pledging on a regular basis in grade school. And you know what? I like the Patrol Pledge. I still think it's a good idea to report for duty on time, perform my duties faithfully, strive to prevent accidents, always set a good example and strive to earn the respect of my fellow humans. Not sure about obeying the authorities or snitching on dangerous behavior, but I'm sure in some cases that makes sense too.

Any fellow patrol alumni out there? Anyone?

Music: "Goody Two Shoes"

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pass It On.

I put this page up approximately 10 years ago.

First of all, is anybody out there still weirded out when they can say things such as "I've known so-and-so for 20 years," or "Yeah, that was 10 years ago?" I mean, I feel like I was born 10 years ago. And then, the World Wide Web came along a few years after that. No?

Anyhow, Haruki Murakami is like this awesome vacation spot you found that eventually got overrun by tourists just like you. His novels and short stories are bizarre affairs marked by disappearing women, pensive men, impeccable clothing, jazz and whiskey. He has also written nonfiction, about the sarin gas attacks in Tokyo and about running. He is an author the way Christopher Walken is an actor: He inhabits different roles, but is always resolutely himself.

I was really getting into Murakami when I typed up his short story and put it on that page, which has languished on my other site, which additionally has languished on the vast Internets, in the decade since. But what's nice about the Web is that people can find just about anything. And everyone once in awhile, one of them will write to me. Here is the most recent note:

I am just writing to let you know that your painstaking transcription of Haruki Murakami was not in vain. I just read the story and it reminded me of stories my dad used to tell me. I started scanning the book to send it to him in email, but my scanner is very slow. So I decided to take a look around the internet to see if I could save some time. Anyway, I googled "The Second Bakery Attack" and your transcription came up. Thanks for doing that.

It's nice because most of the time, I am never the person who put up that thing you were looking for. That song, that movie clip, that image from the '80s, that commercial... I greedily consume it all and link to it all and rarely contribute. I leave it to the saints of YouTube and imeem. But in this one instance, I am helping out people who want to know and/or share what this author is about. Also, I am committing copyright infringement. But I hope the spirit of the former helps mitigate the latter.

Anyway, I recommend "The Second Bakery Attack" and anything else by Murakami. If you like what's on that page, get the collection from whence it came, The Elephant Vanishes.

Music: "Star Crossed Lovers"

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

One-Night Stands: 'Sparring Partner'

Have you ever noticed how a visual can affect the way you process a song? Do you have songs that you like because you first heard them within the context of a music video, movie or TV show?

Do you ever wonder whether you would have liked the song if the imagery or scene hadn't led you into it? I mean really, think about "Take On Me" by A-ha and tell me you would still remember it today if it didn't have that video attached to it.

"Sparring Partner" serves as the backdrop for this scene in the disturbing French movie 5x2, which tells the story of a couple's breakdown in reverse order, starting with the divorce and ending with their first meeting. As you can tell from the scene, it is very, very French. There is a lot of smoking and people never being incredulous or shocked, even when a bunch of fucked-up shit happens.

This song, particularly within the context of the scene, is hypnotic and could not be a better choice. The singer, Paolo Conte, sounds like his vocal cords were dredged in gravel, whiskey, tobacco and severe disappointment for several years. The piano and the guitar snake around each other beautifully in the beginning. You know, like sparring partners.

I listened to it compulsively after watching the movie and still come back to it every once in awhile. To me, it captures what is seductive and also elusive about love. Then again, I am utterly clueless regarding the meaning of the Italian lyrics, which involve a monkey, memory, a secret, a smile, an elephant and some other words that came up on Babelfish.

It appears that the title of the song, however, has no convenient Italian translation. Conte finds the phrase "sparring partner" so necessary that he turns to English within the song. I almost prefer that the lyrics remain unknown to me. That said, if anyone out there knows Italian and cares to translate, that would be welcome.

Music: "Sparring Partner"

UPDATE: Thank you to commenters for the insights! Lyrics translated below, as listed in Phil Powrie's "The Haptic Moment: Sparring with Paolo Conte in Ozon's 5x2." First of all, I can't believe someone wrote a whole paper on this song as featured in the movie. My hat is off to Phil Powrie. Second of all, I just learned a tubular new word, one that dovetails nicely with the previous post: haptic. Finally, "Sparring Partner" may not be about the seductiveness and elusiveness of love, but rather about the seductiveness and elusiveness of lyrics translated from Italian.

A macaque without history,
She says about him,
As he lacks memory
At the bottom of his dark gloves
But his gaze is a veranda
Give it time and you will see him,
Entering the jungle
No, don't ever meet him

Did you look inside the game
Is this all? -- well, you know
I'm an old sparring partner
And I never saw
A calm more tiger-like
More secret than this,
Take the first bus, go,
Everything else is already poetry

He might be more than 40,
And that applause
Is due to him for love,
No, don't ever meet him
He was there in his smile
Looking at the trams go by
Old elephant track
Spread over the tarmac

Monday, February 09, 2009

Things That Should Not Happen in the Workplace.

In general, I am anti-touching when it comes to the office. No matter how friendly I have become with my boss, I still think that hugging him or her, even in a final goodbye, is a little weird. I realize this is extreme. There's nothing wrong with hugging someone goodbye. It's just that I would prefer that the universes of work and touching intersect as little as possible.

Someone recently told me that one of his coworkers tried to give him a pound before a meeting, one that he reluctantly returned, only because he wasn't sure what else to do.

First of all, I think it's hilarious when guys try to interact in a specifically guy way in an office setting. It drives me nuts when I see guys drop "man," "bud" or "bro" to each other at work, while refraining from using such expressions around women. So, for example, "Hey, Christina, when do you think that project will be finished? OK, thanks!" becomes, "Hey, man. How's it going? Cool, cool. When you do you think you'll have that project? Alright, thanks, dude."

Why do guys do this? After all, women don't walk around going, "Hey sistah, how's that report coming along?" or "Could you forward me that e-mail? Thanks, girlfriend." Maybe we should start!

Here is a list of things that I would prefer not to see in a work context:

- High-fives

- Fist-bumps

- Winking

- Patting someone on the head

- Hip-bumps

- Bumps of any kind

- Exceeding the capacity of any given seating, i.e. sharing a chair in a meeting

- Resting any part of your body on my chair as you are talking to me

- Coming any closer than eight inches away while leaning over me to look at something on my screen

That's all I can think of right now. Anything else?

Music: "I Have the Touch"

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Now Departing.

On March 12, 2006, I moved into San Francisco. On March 14, 2009, I will move out. I thought I may have been buying, but it turns out I was only renting, and now my lease on the city is up. Three years and three residences. One large failure and many small triumphs.

The decision to move here happened quickly and because of one person. Opting to leave behind a job, apartment, family, social life, and city that you love within weeks of an ex calling you up one day is crazy, isn't it? Yes, it's crazy -- but if it works out, you're also romantic and brave. If it doesn't work out, what else are you besides crazy?

People who take a harsher, more absolute view of life would say I screwed up. It was a mistake, pure and simple, and now I'm reaping the consequences -- maybe I'm not even reaping enough consequences. It was a very damaging, wasteful move for which I should be apologetic and regretful. Sometimes, I am the person holding this point of view.

Most of the time, though, I do not see it this way, for the simple fact that I cannot imagine my life without the people in it now -- people I met in San Francisco. I cannot imagine never having worked for a small cooking party company with purple and green walls and pop music in the background. I could not, at the time, imagine losing the person who brought me here. I guess it's a character flaw. Like George Bush, I prefer to put a positive spin on ruinous situations of my own making.

After I became single again, the question became not whether to move back East, but when. Many people asked me whether I wouldn't just stay in San Francisco. It has so much to recommend it, and I had built my own life here. Why leave?

My family lives in the D.C. area. It's true that I miss them and do not like spending money and vacation time on going back and forth to see them. But if I didn't have them there, would I still want to move back? Does it matter?

What connects you to a place?

Family is a big part of it, but it's also a "connection to the geography," as my friend Jackson put it. I know someone who grew up in Napa and says that the brown, dry hills of the Bay Area make him feel like he's home. To me, the trees and the air of the East Coast make me feel like I'm home.

I appreciate the rolling fog of San Francisco, the amazing, ever-changing light, the fact that skiing and wine country are both easily accessible, the produce so good you feel as if you never really tasted anything before, and the way the ocean seems massive and imposing on the beaches and cliffs here, as if it might swallow you. I appreciate all of that, but from a distance, as a visitor.

I am at home in trees with deciduous leaves, the hickory smell of fall, wide avenues and low buildings, Great Falls, snow in winter, seeing your breath in the air, cherry blossoms in spring, hay fever, heat waves, rooftop bars in Adams Morgan, sky-cracking thunderstorms, WHUR and the Quiet Storm, the residential streets of Northwest with quaint single-family homes built before the McMansion era, the Potomac River and the C&O canal, Georgetown, and beaches that are less impressive, but hot and familiar.

My social life and job prospects are likely to suffer a downgrade in quality, at least initially, in this transition. Every place, just like every relationship, involves making compromises and determining what you're willing to give up.

I tell people I'm going to come back and visit San Francisco regularly. I actually mean it, too.

Music: I'm trying to post YouTube links where possible because I know imeem forces a registration popup. If anyone knows of other good ways to link to songs, please share. Also please share your song selections in the theme of being home, or anything else you feel like airing, so long as it is not a proselytizing treatise.

"Going Home" (Rolling Stones)

"Coming Home" (SWV)

"Solsbury Hill" (Peter Gabriel)

"Home" (Zero 7)

"Hometown Glory" (Adele)

"Coming Home" (Cinderella)

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Fits of Pique.

Herewith please find a day of bitchery, broken down into instances listed in no particular order.

"But, Christina," you say, "I already have plenty of things that I get annoyed about on a daily basis. Why should I care about your petty annoyances? And why do you have to bring the universe down with your negativity, man?"

Fair points. I say this to you, or my imagined you: first of all, maybe you share one of these peeves and we can commiserate and laugh about it all and shake our heads and then marvel at the miracles of life; secondly, maybe you would like to air your own grievances in the comments, which I welcome; thirdly, my negativity is but a wisp of smoke compared to the nuclear cloud here.

1. Sorry for the inconvenience. "You've stumbled upon a temporary problem we're having with Yahoo! Mail. Usually this problem gets resolved quickly, without you doing a thing." When I encounter this message at least five times a day, it's more than a "temporary problem." It becomes a soul-searching journey about how I am so attached to my Yahoo! e-mail address of 10 years that I cannot cancel my service and open a different account elsewhere, because that would require me "doing a thing," and Yahoo! knows that I prefer to have problems resolve with complete inaction on my part. What strikes me especially about this Yahoo! message is how they say, "Sorry," with no pronoun attached. Not "We're sorry," just, "Sorry." With this language, they succinctly manage to convey the sentiment, "Shit happens, man. Oh well!"*

2. Did you find everything OK? I'm at Trader Joe's, waiting in line. The cashier, a white guy with ratty dreads and a pierced lower lip, says to the customer in front me, "Did you find everything OK today?" The guy says, "Eh, I was looking for some chile powder but didn't find any." The cashier says, "Yeah, wasn't meant to be." I always wondered why grocery cashiers ask this question about whether I found everything I was looking for. I assumed it was an effort to improve customer service and inventory in case the answer is, no, your establishment has failed me on a particular item (e.g. inner peace). However, it turns out that I was wrong about this, and that sometimes the question merely offers an opportunity for the cashier to comment on the cosmic probability of uniting with one's desired groceries. Maybe when the timing is right, and that man is in a better place in his life, he will find the chile powder he seeks.

3. Your remote car lock system. I cannot stand it when a car's key-based remote locking system is hooked up to the car horn, so that when the person locks up, the car emits a "bip bip" like it's honking at someone. Naturally, these cars are usually SUVs. My question to the public is, is this a setting that can be altered? In other words, should I be mad at the car owners, or at the manufacturer? Or both? Please do not say "neither." That does not jive with the misanthropic theme of this post.

4. Giggling at hip-hop. One of my (cool) coworkers hooked up her iPod Touch to Pandora on our sound system to change up the office music and tuned it in to the R&B and Hip-Hop station. Select members of the office took this as a cue to snicker at every song and comment on how funny they are. Now, I'm not saying songs such as "Lollipop" and "Grillz" aren't amusing on certain levels, but by the time we're on the fifth song and it's "Gin and Juice," you need to either get over it and put your head down (and bob it) or you need to say "Hey, this black music makes me uncomfortable and is kind of inappropriate for an office, can we turn it off?" Either one would be acceptable. Tittering the whole time like a kid looking at Playboy is not.

Music: "What If I Had a Gun"

* Please do not tell me to open a gmail account. I eschew gmail. I want discrete e-mails, not Conversations.