Sunday, June 14, 2009

They're Coming to Take Me Away!

Last summer, Kirsten and I drove across the country. She needed to get her car home, I love driving across the country, and we'd done it once before, so we knew we were great driving buddies.

Our first overnight stop was planned for somewhere near Flagstaff, AZ, but the forecast there was calling for heavy snow. Yes, snow. In May. We thought about detouring south, but the rest of Arizona was scheduled for severe thunderstorms, so we chatted with a guide at the visitors' center and settled on a campsite right by a town called Williams that was close to Flagstaff, but at a lower elevation.

The campsite at Williams was lovely. We set up our tent right across from a huge lake, then spent some time exploring said lake and enjoying the scenery. I happened to notice that everyone else at the campsite had decided on an RV for their camping experience, but I figured our rain cover and cozy sleeping bags would protect us from any snow [almost] just as well.

Soon, the sun began to set, and since I'm not much for reading by flashlight, I snuggled into my sleeping bag and fell asleep.

A couple hours later, I began dreaming that the military was out to get me for some reason. I ran and I ran, but they were shooting at me from all directions. My dream startled me awake, and I was welcomed to reality with an enormous booming sound, just the noise I would imagine a legion of tanks might make as it makes its way through the woods.

Though I soon got over my fear that the army was out to get me personally, I was convinced that all the noise was indeed a covert military operation through the woods of Williams, Arizona. I just knew that there was a tank brigade making its way through our campground. But then I panicked all over again. The tanks may not have had specific orders to hunt me down and kill me, but Kirsten and I were the only ones at the campground who were not in an RV; there was no way the tanks would see our dinky little tent, and we were sure to be crushed by their covert advance!

Soon, as a few minutes passed and I remained 3-dimensional, I calmed down and decided that I was just being silly. There was no secret military mission through the woods of Williams, Arizona. The noise had not stopped, though, and there had to be some explanation for the cacophony. Instead of a military maneuver, I then decided that the noise was caused by a number of trucks and helicopters swarming the campground. Of course, that explanation needed an explanation, so I decided that there must be a serial rapist-killer on the loose (perhaps one who had just escaped from custody). Again, I panicked. Kirsten and I were two little girls in a tent whose walls could easily be breached with a simple steak knife. And of course, no one would hear our screams because they were all holed up in their big RVs!

Eventually, my fatigue took over and I was able to fall asleep. Thankfully, I woke in the morning to find our tent un-slashed, uncrushed, and Kirsten and me as chaste and pure as the night before. Upon leaving the campground, Kirsten pointed out a set of train tracks that couldn't have been more than a couple hundred yards from where we had slept. Turns out there had never been any secret military operation, nor a frantic search mission, only a routine railroad run. Funny, I would have never guessed trains could be that loud.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

When You Wish Upon a Star

When I was younger, I was obsessed with the Animorphs series. When I say obsessed, I mean Seriously. For those of you who have never had the good fortune of encountering the Animorphs story, let me give you a brief overview. There are a group of friends who are visited by an alien and given the power to acquire the DNA of any animal they touch so that they can later morph into that animal. While in the animal state, half of their brain power can be controlled by their own human minds, and the other half is controlled by the mind of the animal. So not only do they get to have the body and abilities of their animal, but they get to experience how that animal thinks, as well. While in this state, they communicate with each other telepathically. Of course, all of these powers are ultimately to serve the greater good of stopping some alien race who implant themselves in human brains from taking over Earth, but I never actually cared that much about that particular plot twist.

Now, to give you an idea of my obsession, let me just say that it is all I wished for. Ever. If an eyelash fell out and I put it on the back of my hand to blow it off, I wished to be an Animorph. If I won the greater piece of a wishbone, I wished to be an Animorph. If I noticed the first star in the sky, I wished to be an Animorph. Even now, I hesitate to admit to these wishes, not because they are embarrassing, but because writing them here most definitely qualifies as telling someone about them, thus rendering these wishes unfulfillable.

While the idea of becoming an Animorph has always been a dream for me, it has also haunted me. Tonight, I was put in charge of caring for my poor, terrified dog during a routine summer thunderstorm. I had to use the bathroom and, with everyone else either asleep or out of the house, I couldn't just leave my dog in the hallway to shiver alone. In fact, I didn't even have to coax her into the bathroom; she just ran right in. But of course, I then felt strange dropping my pants and taking a seat in front of my dog. After all, what if she wasn't actually my dog, but instead were one of my friends simply morphed into my dog? How embarrassing would that be?

I managed to accomplish my bathroom tasks, but not without overcoming a fair share of stagefright. And this is not a rare occurrence for me. Anytime an animal of any sort is in the bathroom with me, or in my room while I am changing, or present while I am picking my nose or something of the sort, I feel awkward and worry that said animal is actually a friend in morphed-form watching me in my personal moment.

I know it's silly, but I just can't get over it. So the next time I'm around friends, perhaps I'll invite one or two into the bathroom with me. At least then, I'm not worrying the whole time about whether or not they're my friends in morphed-form, since they'll be friends in just-plain-normal form. Or maybe I'll just have to get more comfortable with my embarrassing habits. And anyway, if I have a friend who decides that they should morph into my dog and follow me into the bathroom, I guess they kind of deserve whatever show they may get.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

This Little Piggy Fell Down Dead

Swine flu. In two weeks, I'm leaving safe, uninfected Maryland to fly on an enclosed airplane with a hundred or so potentially-infected passengers to Claremont, California, where one case of swine flu has already been confirmed! And that's just one case! There are a ton of other cases of swine flu (120, perhaps?) all across the United States that are quite the hot topic of conversation.

And I'm not scared. Not just because I think I'm invincible and that I could never come down with swine flu, but because everything I've read tells me that this is just another flu virus. It can spread quickly and easily among people. It can mutate faster than we can track. It can kill. Sure, I don't want to come down with any flu, but I've never panicked over the regular flu, so I'm not going to worry too much about swine flu.

Now, I do know that the major difference between the regular, ol' flu virus and this strain of flu is that this one apparently has the potential to kill young, healthy people in their 20s and 30s. That's what happened in Mexico. However, something tells me that there might be a bit of a difference between living conditions in Mexico versus living conditions here in the U.S.. After all, I've never had a friend become violently ill from brushing their teeth with tap water in the U.S.. I have a sneaky feeling that the swine flu may not have been the only factor in the death of these people; their access to resources could very well have also influenced how they reacted to the virus.

And this is what really irks me about this swine flu panic. I know that the World Bank and other agencies or countries have sent aid to Mexico and I think that's awesome. But around here, all the media can talk about is how to avoid getting swine flu, how to tell if you have it, and where cases have broken out in the U.S.. Healthy people in Mexico have died from what is essentially a fancy version of the flu, and instead of seeing that as a sign that Mexico and its people might need some serious assistance, people here focus all their energy on making sure that they don't get sick, that we have a vaccine ready as soon as possible. Don't get me wrong, I want a fever and nausea as little as the next guy, but if I have a few days of vomiting because my country decided to use its resources to save lives elsewhere, I have to say I'm supportive of that.

So really, everyone? We don't have to worry about swine flu. But there are people out there who do, and as far as I see it, that's indicative of bigger problems that should be exposed by this swine flu outbreak. So pull your head out of the toilet, wipe that vomit off your mouth, and let's get to helping them!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Quite the Character

Apparently, whenever I go dancing in Baltimore, there is some other-worldly force that guides me toward men who are easily described as cartoon characters.

First, there was the leprechaun. He was remarkably short, had messy red hair, and used "fuck" at least three times a sentence. He may not have worn a little green top-hat, and he certainly did not have a pot of gold, but he was legitimately Irish (not yet a US citizen), and fit the stereotype well with his 30-odd cousins and penchant for drinking.

Then, a couple Thursdays ago (Holy Thursday, to be exact), I met a sailor. To be fair, his status as a genuine sailor is questionable, but he was legitimately a mate on a boat and had sailed around the world three times. I didn't get around to questioning him about any bouts with scurvy, but he did inform me that he did not fit the stereotype of a drunken sailor. After all, he explained, someone on the boat must be responsible, and that's hard to do while drunk.
He also, however, described to me his inability to return to his hometown near Charleston, SC because he had an ex-girlfriend there whose dad wanted to kill him. And then he tried to pull down his pants to show me where this man had actually shot him in the ass with buckshot. To which I responded that it's good he lives on a boat, where it's hard to find him.
Finally, despite my neglect in the scurvy-answers category, I did get a chance to ask him if he had an anchor tattoo. To my surprise, he did not - he had a large cross on the back of his arm, instead - but was indeed looking for a good tattoo shop to get his next tattoo, which was to be - you guessed it - the anchor.

Last, but not least, I met a policeman last Saturday. Kind of. A man approached me while dancing and told me that - according to what I could hear - his friends had dared him to ask me to touch his "junk." Of course, I've never been one for touching the genitals of strangers just because they asked, so I argued that he had held up his end of the bargain. He had asked me, after all; the dare wasn't that he must get me to actually do it.
He didn't seem to follow this logic, however, and repeated his request, but this second time, "junk" sounded almost like "gun," so I jokingly placed my hand on his pants pocket. He shook his head and told me to touch higher and - since higher meant farther from his penis - I comfortably obliged. That's when I found out that he had indeed said "gun." He was an undercover police officer and I had just groped his concealed weapon.
Because policemen make me uncomfortable - and because he probably had a good 10 years on me - I did not ask for any more specifics on his job. So, sadly, I cannot venture a guess as to how many times he's been shot nor to whether he frequents Dunkin' Donuts for their coffee or their namesake.

And now, it's Wednesday and I don't have any plans to venture to Magerks until at least the weekend. But perhaps I'll get lucky and meet a millionaire on my next visit! Or a prince!
Oh, the possibilities are endless.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Fools!

I do not like April Fools Day. My second-hand embarrassment plus my fear of looking stupid makes me a poor sport in the case of April Fools pranks. I don't like fooling and I don't like being fooled. Last year's April 1st was the first exception to this rule, after I became the butt of a remarkably well-played joke.

April 1, 2008 started out just like any other day. I biked to school, I ate lunch with friends, and I hated life on the bike ride up Indian Hill on the way home from school. But when my housemate, Margy, came home that night and greeted me with, "Is someone living in our garage?" the day took a turn for the weird.

Apparently, Margy had been looking in the garage for an exercise ball (or something) and stumbled upon a bed. When I went to investigate, I found that -sure enough - there was a sleeping bag, a pillow with a book on top, a jar lid full of cigarette butts, a broken cookie, and even a paper bag with a little bottle of booze sticking out, all hidden behind the spider chair.

Explanations raced through our heads as we ran back into the house to discuss the situation. It had to be someone we knew; otherwise, how would they know that we hardly ever go into the garage? If it was someone we knew, what kind of trouble would spur them to secretly move into our garage instead of just asking for help? Should we leave a note on the garage door explaining that they should just come talk to us and we can probably find a space for them in the house if they need it?

Then it dawned on me. It was April 1st! Margy laughed and yelled that we had been so fooled. But there were more questions to answer: Who did it? How did they know that we would find the bed on April 1st, especially considering that we really never go in the garage?

To be sure that we were right, we returned to the crime scene. With this revelation, the setup did indeed look too perfect to be real. The determining factor, though, were the cigarettes. The jar lid held cigarettes, but no ash, and I ask you - who smokes a cigarette in one place and returns to their bed to deposit the butt in their "ashtray?"

Finally, a call to Kirsten cleared up the entire mystery. She and Phoebe had made the set up and even had plans to sneak out that night when we were all home and make creepy noises in the garage to freak us all out. Turns out, they hadn't planned on Margy going into the garage that day, either. I have to say, I'm pretty glad it didn't get that far; I'm not so sure I would have thought it so great a prank in that case.

So, my friends, that is the story of last year's April Fools Day, the first time that I enjoyed the holiday for what it is - friends playing good-hearted tricks on other friends. I'm still not sold on the holiday, though. So don't get any ideas.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Book Report

In middle school, I became a huge fan of KoRn. As an impressionable 12-year-old who was trying to figure herself out, the band offered me an identity. I didn't have to fawn over the Backstreet Boys like all the girls at my school, and I didn't have to turn to Hanson just to be different (because, let's face it, the two weren't ever all that different). I could listen to KoRn and other rock bands and be all cool and alternative. And while I don't make it a point to be freaky and different anymore, I like to think that my love for alternative interests has stuck with me, so - silly as it may be - I give a lot of credit to KoRn for helping me become the quirky, lovable girl I am today.

For anyone who is not up on their current pop culture trivia, the lead guitarist of KoRn, Brian "Head" Welch, recently became a born-again Christian and published a book (Save Me From Myself) about his trials with KoRn and how he found God. Of course, since KoRn had had such an impact on my life, it only seems right that I read Head's book about KoRn's impact on his life.   

Let me start off by mentioning that I would not actually recommend this book to anyone. I love this guy Head and what he did for KoRn and all, but, considering that he graduated from high school long ago, I can't say that he's a good writer. 

Poor prose aside, Head's journey through his addiction to meth and his final commitment to God is interesting material to ponder. He gives an interesting description of speaking in tongues that certainly made me rethink the practice (as in, I don't think it's just people being crazy and yelling gibberish anymore, but instead, I think that those who partake in tongues are undergoing a legitimate religious experience). 

He also talks about how by turning his life around, he's lost his addiction to meth and is now addicted to God. He's living his whole life for God. Whatever Head might want for himself is irrelevant; the Lord makes his decisions for him, now. While I think it's great that Head has found something better to live for and is finally happy with his life, I don't agree with his kind of faith. I don't think that - if God truly created the world and we are each one of His children - His desire was for every person to devote her life to Him. I don't think that a desire such as that is love. I think it is entirely selfish and I don't think that this God should ever be described as "selfish."

Personally, I believe in some sort of God. Maybe it's just because I don't like the idea that we're out here in the universe on our own, or perhaps it's remnants from my nine years of Catholic schooling, but I don't think there's any way to truly rule out the possibility that a God exists. When I think of this God, though, I don't think that I need to live my life for him. I think of God as a parent, someone who loves me and wants me to make the right decisions and grow into a good person. Sure, I believe that God can punish me if I do something terribly wrong and I'll pray to God for things that are really important to me. However - just like my mom doesn't mind when I forget to thank her for all that she does - I don't think God gets her panties all in a bunch if I forget to pray every day. I think God created me (not in a creationism sense - I believe in evolution) so that I could have my own life, my own adventures, and my own happiness. I think that it's through my own experience of my life, which God hopes I live as a moral, upstanding person, that God finds happiness. Sure, I shouldn't kill anyone, but the decisions I make regarding what organized religion to follow (or not), or who to love, or whatever are part of the path I've forged for myself and I believe that God will support me in whatever endeavor I undertake.

So I think it's great that Head got himself out of his meth addiction and has found a love for God. But I think that attaching himself so completely to this God is also unhealthy. As far as I see it, Head is still trying to shirk responsibility for himself. As hard as it may be to take responsibility, I think that responsibility is part of what makes life so much more worthwhile. Personally, I think I've been given a life so that I can find my own happiness and self-worth. And maybe God will help me on that path, but she's not going to dictate it for me (nor should she) and she's not going to disown me for choosing a different one. I like to think she's got my back and she'll protect me and love me for who I am as her child and, more importantly, as an individual.

Sorry that turned into more of a sermon than a book report. I hope I don't sound preachy. Them's my thoughts, though.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

You're So Silly, America!

Last weekend, a search through the Catonsville branch of the Baltimore County Public Library for some book title that has since been forgotten led me to a memoir-esque book detailing the adventures of two Englishmen as they crossed the US breaking numerous "dumb laws." Though the book initially sounded interesting, turns out they had plans only to break 25 laws total, and thus far have been unable to break at least 8 of them. The lack of truly interesting material can be forgiven, however, because this book has inspired me to do my own cross-country crime spree. Sure, it's unoriginal and cliche, but it sounds like such an adventure, I have to do it.

So, my tentative itinerary is as follows:

1. Stand in a public park in a sleeveless shirt.
2-3. Curse and then spit on the sidewalk within Baltimore City limits.

New Jersey
4. Pass people without warning on the interstate.
5. Frown at a police officer.

New York
6-7. Stand on the street wearing "body hugging clothing" while greeting someone by putting my thumb to my nose and wiggling my fingers.
7-9. Eat an ice cream cone on the sidewalk while wearing high heels and standing next to a man in a jacket that does not match his pants in Carmel.

10. Sing in a bathtub.

11. Wear patent leather shoes.

12. Swear in front of a woman or child.

13. Cut a woman's hair.
14. Wave a burning torch in the air.
15. Wear something red in public in St. Croix.
16. Put litter into someone else's trash receptacle without their express permission in Hudson.

17. Stand around outside a building with no good reason to be there.
18. Sleep naked.

North Dakota
19. Lie down and fall asleep with my shoes on.
20. Wear a hat while dancing in Fargo.

21. Go fishing alone.
22-23. Worry squirrels and throw hard objects by hand in Excelsior Springs.

24. Destroy the beer cask or bottle of someone else.
25. Eat a lollipop.

26. Leave my car door open for longer than necessary.
27. Dry my dishes with a towel.
28. Eat a donut while walking backwards on a city street in Marion.
29. Walk around with my shoes untied in Portland.
30. Make someone think that their property may be subjected to "offensive physical contact" in Portland.

31-32. Drive while wearing a housecoat (or a robe) at speeds in excess of 60mph.
33. Kiss a man with a mustache in Eureka.
34. Wipe my car with used underwear in San Francisco.
35. Carry my lunch down the street between 11 and 1 in Riverside.
36. Hunt moths under a streetlight in LA.
37. Throw salt on the highway in Hermosa Beach.
38. Drive my car in reverse in Glendale.

There it is - 38 laws all within easy breaking range. Of course, this roadtrip follows my ideal route, but I'm up for any adventure, really. 

Now, all I need are companions for this journey. Preferably at least one man so that he can grow a mustache and kiss me. Who's ready?!