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Blather Making Fun Of People Music Observations Pointless Narcissism Pop Culture Rant School Think

“Molly’s Lips” Are Still Sweeter Than Dave’s “Halo.”

…or, A Big Fat Raspberry For Dave Grohl, And Other Irrelevant Thoughts.

I’ve just finished a thirty page project in which I had to write about people writing about music. For my magazine publishing class (from last semester, I’m that far behind), we each had to choose a magazine to do a final project on, and since Rolling Stone was not one of the acceptable choices, I chose SPIN. I’ve read SPIN from time to time since I was a teenager, and have enjoyed it, albeit less than I’ve enjoyed Rolling Stone. Doing this project made me realize several things:

1) I hate SPIN magazine. The articles are too short, the subjects are too mainstream, and the writing is unexciting. And the design is absolutely atrocious. Having done my research, I know that this is because there was a major overhaul in 2006, when the magazine was sold. If I knew where Nion McEvoy (the buyer) lived, I’d slap him in the face for ruining a good magazine.

2) I love music (this is not something I’d forgotten, but it was reinforced). While working on this project, I thought it would only be right to listen to music I hadn’t listened to in a long time, thereby resurrecting the music in my own collection the way I wished that Bob Guccione Jr., or someone else who cared, would resurrect SPIN. Because the project took longer than I anticipated, I rediscovered Nirvana’s Incesticide, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Mother’s Milk, Frank Zappa’s Lather, The Pixies’ Doolittle, Pink Floyd’s The Division Bell, Helmet’s Meantime, Black Sabbath’s We Sold Our Soul For Rock N’ Roll, The Ramones’ The Ramones, and about a dozen others. In addition, I also listened to a CD from a friend of mine’s band, Counter Clockwise, as I would listen if I were a critic–I played it at least six times during the time I spent on this project–and it turns out I quite like it (big shocker there). I also pulled out one of the two Foo Fighters albums I’ve owned for some time but never listened to. It’s on my stereo right now. I haven’t thrown it across the room yet, but I’ll get back to you after I’ve heard the whole thing.

3) I love writing about music. In picking apart the articles I was reading about the music, I found myself weighing in on it, tearing apart the writers’ assertions or areas of neglect while filling in my own opinions and trying to back them up enough so that they were interesting to other people. One of the most satisfying blog pieces I’ve ever written was a post called “Saving Grace,” and writing for this project made me nostalgic for [[I have to interrupt here to say that song #2 on the Foo Fighters album is tempting me to chuck it at the double door]] the feeling I got while writing that post. I can’t put my finger on exactly what that feeling was–I guess the idea that I had something to say about that particular album that other people might be interested in reading.

4) I can’t wait to get back to writing for my own reasons. Although what I’m doing right now is technically “writing for my own reasons,” it’s something I rarely have time to do, and I’m doing it now only because I’m too inspired not to. I miss the freedom of not having schoolwork hanging over my head, telling me that I have higher priorities than babbling on and on about the petty little things I give a shit about, like why Grace is an album that every human being with a heart should listen to at least once all the way through, and why I just might snap a CD I paid for in half in about two minutes.

5) I want to have my own radio show. It’s something I’ve thought about before, but the desire has been cemented by spending the better part of a month closely reading successive issues of a music magazine and realizing that I care about music enough to want to spend the time and energy to expose other people to the music that I love. In coming up with ideas for potential stories for SPIN as part of the project, I started thinking about the demise of radio, and how much I actually care whether or not independent radio–and the possibility of learning about new music from listening to the radio–survives. I care a lot, and I want to be part of it.

6) I really wish Dave Grohl would go back to reaping the profits from the untimely death of the creative powerhouse behind the band that made him famous. Or maybe fire his entire band and start over from scratch–as the drummer. Having now listened to four songs off of the aforementioned neglected Foo Fighters album, I’m ashamed to admit that I paid four dollars for it in 2003. Yes, it was a clearance sale at my college’s bookstore, and yes I got the CD, brand new and sealed, for only four bucks, but I still want to hide my face in embarrassment because it’s garbage and I should have known that before shucking out my hard-earned $4 for it. Boo, Dave. Boo. I think I might have to listen to Incesticide again just to rid my head of the catchy but obnoxious melody of song #2.

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Books Insomnia Observations Rant School Think

A Torpor Only Joyce Can Induce

I had thought, with the terminus of Robinson Crusoe, that my sentence of terrible British literature had been served, but I was mistaken. I didn’t realize that Defoe could be outdone in the realm of boring, redundant and pointless prose–that is, not until I tasted Joyce. I have just spent the past six and a half hours reading A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man. For those of you who aren’t familiar with my reading speed, I could have read all of Jane Eyre (some 500 pages) in the time it took me to take down this thin little wisp of a book. Though I have barely moved the entire evening, I am exhausted from trying to derive meaning from what is supposedly a great book. The only truth I have gotten from it is this: Anyone who willingly reads Joyce is either a zealot (religious or aesthetic), or a masochist, or both. And to think, people actually read Finnegan’s Wake, which is easily four times as long.

Everything hurts, and the Vicodin is not helping. I’ve wasted an entire night for the sake of a sophomore class in which I currently have a C. I’ve never had a C in my entire college career. If I ever sign on for another class in British literature, someone please have the decency to smack the shit out of me.

That is all.

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Blather Insomnia Observations Pointless Narcissism Rant School Think

Lament For The Death Of My Pen

Going to school for writing has all but killed the writer in me.

Throughout my adolescence and into my early adulthood, I was a writer. Any chunk of spare time I had, I devoted to writing. I wrote poetry, short stories, letters, journal entries–I even attempted to write plays and screenplays. I did all of this without prompting or purpose–I did not write with the intention of getting published (though it was always a fantasy of mine) or because I had an assignment, I wrote because it was what I wanted to do, all the time. I stayed up late almost every night, writing and collaging journal entries, or typing out letters on a second-hand typewriter I’d borrowed from a friend. I composed opening lines of poems or short stories in my head as I walked or rode the bus from place to place. I looked forward to the end of every shift at every job I ever had because I had something in my head I wanted to commit to paper. Everything I read inspired me to write.

My poems were mostly bad, and my short stories were worse, but the words, terrible as they may have been, came out of me as though a geyser had been loosed. I had no control over them–they were there, and they had to be committed to paper. Though I did have temporary bouts of writer’s block when I was too happy–I’ve always written better when depressed–for the most part, I was never without inspiration. I carried a journal or notebook with me always, and for many years not a day went by when I did not write something in it.

Going to school for writing was an eventuality. Writing is a profession that requires–unless you are stricken with an exceptional innate brilliance, which I was not–at least a college degree. Unfortunately, that eventuality appears to have taken the writer in me and put her into severe hibernation, without a foreseeable date of release. With the exception of this blog, which is usually nothing more than narcissistic ranting, I do not write for pleasure anymore. Though I am always up late at night, usually it is for work, or drinking, or the excessive consumption of inane television. The 8 1/2 x 11 hardbound journals I used to carry around and tape all sorts of things into have given way to a compact black journal which is mostly neglected. I haven’t filled a big fat journal in years. I don’t write poetry anymore–not for years.

The amount of time that I must devote to studying and reading for school has made pleasure writing a thing of my past. I write assignments at the last possible moment before they are due, and with the utmost resentment for their necessity. I frequently have ideas for short stories, and even novels, but I force myself to abandon them because if I were to sit down at my computer and attempt to commit them to writing, I would be taking up time that should be devoted to schoolwork, and I’d fall behind in my classes. I have learned to look at writing with a practical approach–what do I reasonably have a chance at getting published?–and have almost forgotten how to write creatively and without abandon as I used to do.

Right now, in fact, I am ridden with guilt over the fact that I should be working on a paper that’s due Thursday instead of sitting here with this delicious glass of Pinot Noir and typing this blog. The guilt is the culprit, I know. The fact that I have learned this regimented approach to learning, with its deadlines and due dates and page requirements, has killed my ability to write and read spontaneously and for my own enjoyment. The threat of bad grades and irresponsibility–something I never considered before I embarked upon the “college experience” has made it impossible to approach writing as I once did. Right now, with this glass of wine in hand, I could sit on my porch and type for hours, and create something either beautiful or terrible–but I know that I have to get up early, hours before my class, and do the reading. Then, after class, I have to write a paper for a different class. After that, I have to get up and go to school all day, after which I’ll be too tired to endeavor anything creative, and the next day I begin a weekend chock-full of work.

How is it that when I was no more than a waitress or a retail employee, I wrote five times as much as I do as a writing student? And why did the writing process itself feel so much better? Have I made the wrong choice in attempting to make this love of mine into a career? Should I have pursued something entirely different and not requiring of an education in order to afford myself the time and mental tenacity to write?

When I think of myself in the abstract, I see a rebellious girl, or woman, sitting in near-dark with a glass of wine or whiskey, with either a big book or a notebook in hand. I see a woman who lives entirely by her own desires, a hedonist who bends to no one’s wishes. I see a romantic, a person willing to live on nearly nothing in order to be able to create. But that is not who I have become. I have become a “normal,” a person who prioritizes responsibility and deadlines to the crushing expense of her inner desires. For the first time in my life, I’m depressed, and I cannot write because I keep convincing myself I have more important things to do with what little time I’ve got. I watch TV because it requires little participation, and I’ve come to a point where I’m too tired to participate. I don’t craft anymore. I don’t collage. I sleep, and when I wake up I’m always late for something.

I miss the girl I used to be, and I don’t know how to get her back without quitting school and abandoning the path which I’ve always thought to be the only one worth pursuing. I’ve come too far, and it’s cost me too much time and money to give up now, but when I get this degree–this expensive degree that I’ve worked so hard for–will it have been worth my time? Will I be so destroyed as a writer and creative person that I’ll just take the paper and walk away to a life of office work or bartending?

How do I get me back?

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Blather Books Observations Pointless Narcissism Rant School Think

No Wonder Sir Thomas More Was Beheaded

Someday, and I hope it is soon, someone will give me a legitimate and sufficient reason why, pure sadism aside, college professors routinely insist on assigning to their students the most laborious and unreadable muck. Often these assignments are preceded by something along the lines of, “well, it’s a bit dry and not very engaging, but…” Well, if it’s dry and not very engaging, then why the hell should I subject myself to the task of reading it?

I have, as of five minutes ago, officially given up on reading Sir Thomas More’s Utopia, for which our class was granted a total of two days. I am a fast reader, and I take down Shakespeare like it was the Bobbsey Twins, but I liken the attempt to read More’s tireless manifesto to riding a bicycle through wet cement.

The great irony here, too, is that in another class, Magazine Writing, the text insists that one must be as concise as possible in writing, and avoid unnecessary and arrogant clutter. Yet, in my British Literature class, in which I expect to be reading the “greats,” all I have gotten so far is clutter. Of the 110 pages I’ve read so far (and the book is about 145), I would guess that the whole of More’s statement could be conveyed in no more than 50 pages, and that would be generous. His sentences are so long that before you reach the end of them, your eyes begin to cross and you must return to the beginning to recall what exactly he was talking about to begin with.

I know that as the class progresses, and the timeline moves forward, the reading will get to be less tiresome, but I like to think of myself as a diligent student, and it pains me to cast aside an assignment out of frustration in only my first week of classes. Were this the only time this has happened, I would not be so annoyed–but it has happened multiple times, and I’ve started to notice a trend. While I understand that much of 16th century writing is thus cluttered and long-winded, I’m sure that there could be chosen another example of the time period which would at least engage a reader to the point of completing it. I can only imagine the trouble this awful book has given the other students in the class, mostly sophomores, some of whom undoubtedly read more slowly and retain less than I do. I finished Tristram Shandy (which, for those of you who don’t know, is a 700 page book with neither plot nor point, which moves around at random and has a jillion footnotes) and I think I was the only one in the class who did.

If I can take down Sterne as I did, then my inability to finish this godforsaken piece of (completely irrelevant at this point in time) political rubble should be recognized for what it is: proof that More’s writing is dull, overly puffed-up ego-tripping. So what if it was a stab at Henry VIII? So what if More was beheaded for it? I’d behead him, too–and not for the insult. So what if he was sainted by the Catholic Church? I find myself in direct disagreeance with nearly everything the Catholic Church has to say. His complete madness should be evidenced by the fact that he wore lice-ridden hairshirts and whipped himself, for fuck’s sake. And this is someone whose teachings I’m supposed to be enlightened by? No one who purposely mortifies his own flesh with goat hair should be taken as anything less than a lunatic.

So there. Now you all know what I’ve been doing, and why I’ve been so silent lately. I have gone back into “school mode,” which due to my self-defeating class choices means that I will have very little time to write long-winded, puffed-up diatribes of my own.

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Blather Pointless Narcissism Rant School Think

The Inexplicable Draw

It’s mid-July, and I’ve been out of school for more than two and a half months. Initially, I was relieved not to have to wake up in time to get to class, to have my evenings to myself instead of devoting them to homework, to be able to read whatever I wanted in whatever time I felt like reading it. I like spare time, a whole hell of a lot–and I’ve had enough of it to read several books, go to the Vineyard a few times and screw off, and idle in my papasan chair to my little heart’s content.

But I’m ready now. I’m ready to have a purpose again; a reason to get up, and something that requires my attention in the insomniac hours after work. I’ve been vaguely inspired to write lately, but not enough to complete any work worthy of submitting to either a professor or a publisher–I’m in desperate need of deadlines. Similarly, I’m reading two books at the moment, but without a specific time frame in which they must be finished, I’m stagnating–either reading trash magazines or doing a whole lot of nothing instead of reading. It doesn’t help that my new tattoo prevents me from going to the beach and sunning myself silly with a good book.

I have another six or seven weeks until the semester begins, but I’m already looking forward to it with happy anticipation. There’s something about having to be in the heart of the city every day, with a mission to accomplish, that’s strangely addictive. I know that once I’m in the throes of it, I will resent the lack of spare time, but right now, I miss it. Each night I open my computer and stare blankly at its screen, wishing that I had something which needed to be accomplished with it. I have this fantastic new machine–the machine I should have bought in the beginning of last year when I realized my old computer was shitting the bed–but beyond this blog and the sporadic checking of email, it’s being sorely under-utilized. I even have a peaceful place in which to concentrate, with multiple porches on which I can hibernate and get my work done, only I don’t have any work to get done.

Theoretically, I should write anyway, but that’s not the way it works. I either have a deadline and an assignment, or I do not write anything other than this pathetically narcissistic blog. I wrote a page of a short story tonight (which I actually assigned to a friend and she hasn’t written because she’s having too much sex to bother writing, damn her), but as I only know the setting and a bare-bones idea of the character, that’s as far as I got. I’ve got all the time in the world to make love to these keys, but I’m totally blocked. In November when I’m waist-deep in required reading and a manic ball of collected stress, I’ll be brilliantly inspired and I’ll sacrifice even the tiniest bit of sleep in order to get the words on the page. Go figure.

Categories
Books Music Nostalgia Observations People Pointless Narcissism School Think

The Two-Dollar Cure For Brain Death

When I was a teenager and had little in the way of responsiblity to worry about, I read. I mean I read a book a day, almost every day. I’d stay up into the wee hours of the night on a school night to finish whatever book I’d had clandestinely hidden behind my textbooks in class, and the next day I wouldn’t feel any worse for the wear. I read voraciously, and I read anything. I’d go to the local Thrift Store because the books were fifty cents, and I’d buy heaps of them. Some I’d never read, but most I’d pick off within the week.

This unflagging ability to read continued into my early twenties, and ended promptly when I returned from a three month trip to New Zealand in 2003. While I was in New Zealand, I read books I found on hostel shelves, I traded books with other travelers, and when there was nothing free, I ventured to used book stores and usually came out ten minutes into the visit with twenty pages under my belt already.

Upon my return from the trip, I enrolled in community college in Monterey, California, where I was living. I was also working full-time at a restaurant. While I did still read–often by average standards–I did not have the time or the focus to keep up my previous pace of three books a week or more. It also became more difficult, as my attention drifted to academic reading and my mind reeled over the unprecedented fullness of my schedule, to pick a book to read. I’d stand in front of loaded shelves and stare, pick up book after book and read their jackets, and leave the store empty-handed. Because I am incapable of riding buses or sitting around without some sort of reading material, I begun to read magazines–Spin, Outside, Backpacker, Rolling Stone, the New Yorker–whatever glossy cover attracted my attention and boasted of having something intelligent to say inside. After a few weeks of “reader’s block,” I’d find a book, usually by accident, and I’d be back in the saddle again, so to speak.

As my educational pursuits have continued to become more focused (writing and literature) and more difficult, the reader’s block has stayed with me, and it’s gotten more frequent and more… well, blocked. During the semester, I am able to read my required reading (which last semester consisted of two novels, fifteen to twenty essays and ten to twenty short stories per week), but I become incapable of reading anything else, due largely to lack of time–and guilt. It is during the semester, however, that I routinely find books I’m desperate to read–only I can’t read them, I have to put them off. By the time I have time for them, I’ve either forgotten what they were or lost interest.

I’ve found, disappointingly, that this block has continued well into what is supposed to be my relaxation time–my free reading time. School does not begin again until mid-September, so I have all the time in the world to sit around and read, but by and large I can’t. Since the end of the semester in May, I have read a total of three books. Three books in six weeks. That’s a sixth of what I used to be capable of. I’d like to say that my disappointing reading record is due to a busy schedule, other projects, a sudden burst of artistic creativity–hell, I’d even willingly blame it on a new friend or boyfriend. But it’s not that. I’ve got plenty of time to read, I just don’t. I stand in front of my shelves and look at books I’ve intended to read for months or years–half-finished biographies, books of essays and letters, “must read” classics. I stare, I ruminate, I walk away empty-handed.

When I do find something, I’m grabbed and I hold on for dear life until the thing’s done, but I’m reluctant to read the last pages, because I know that when I’m finished, I won’t have anything to read for days, or even weeks. This was how I felt the other day when I finished Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Dreams, which I’d borrowed from a friend months ago and left sitting untouched until in a moment of desperation I forced myself to read the first twenty pages of it. From there, I was golden–but I don’t like forcing it.

I’ve just moved into a house with three other people–three other people who read–which means that I’ve got their entire lot of books at my fingertips as well as my own. The morning after I finished Animal Dreams, I stood in front of the shelf and stared not at the same familiar titles I’ve been looking at all year, but at new ones. A few of them jumped out at me: a Vonnegut book I’d never heard of; Steppenwolf; Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang; a history of cults. It was this last which piqued my interest–I’ve always been fascinated by cults and the people who join them; I am baffled by the ability of some people to suspend free thought and blindly follow the rules of a charismatic but megalomaniac leader. “I think I’m gonna read about cults,” I said to my roommate, excited. Five minutes later, I put the book back on the shelf, along with The Monkey Wrench Gang and Salinger’s Franny and Zooey.

Then yesterday, the unexpected happened. I was loafing around in Harvard Square, slowly going about my errands, and I followed the smell of cheeseburgers toward Bartley’s, a legendary burger joint. Of course the place was packed beyond consideration, and I turned around. On my way back, I passed the Harvard Book Store, an independent with a great selection of used books and nearly everything new that I would ever want. I spent five minutes inside, considered a few things, and walked out, disappointed.

On my way back to the train station, I passed the Book Guy: a bespactacled, Z.Z. Top-looking vendor who sets up a stand on the sidewalk (it used to be downstairs inside the T station) and sells books, his dog tethered to his director’s chair the whole time. I paused at the Book Guy’s stand and a thick white paperback caught my attention immediately. Rolling Stone Magazine, its cover declared. A history of the magazine’s beginning, and its polarizing, revolutionary/capitalist founder, Jann Wenner. In small print under the book’s title I saw Hunter S. Thompson’s name, and when I flipped open the cover, his words of praise for the book were printed at the top of the first page. I’ve been a reader of Rolling Stone for years, increasingly reluctant to shell out my five bucks for what will largely be ads and stories on music I don’t give a damn about, but unable to pass up the chance of reading the occasional gem that it seems only Rolling Stone is capable of digging up. And Thompson, well, he was the clincher. I would enthusiastically read anything he ever touched.

I paid the Book Guy my two bucks, and by the time I’d reached the platform in the subway station, I had read twenty pages. By the time I got home later in the evening, I’d read 78. And this book, which takes place largely in the late 60s and early 70s, is the perfect segway to reading about cults.

For the moment, I’m cured. Thank you, Book Guy, for throwing a mountain of books in my path and making me stop. I’m eternally grateful, and will continue to give you my two bucks as often as I am able.

Categories
Blather Observations People Rant School

The Bleeding Foot Liberal Speaks (About Shit That Actually Matters).

This afternoon while I was supposed to be paying attention in class, I was instead reading an essay called “I Went To College And All I Got Was This White Trash T-Shirt,” by Kat Marie Yoas. In the essay, Yoas discusses having grown up poor, in a trailer park, her mother struggling just to keep the place inhabitable without any outside help. Yoas herself is the first in her family to attend college, and when she gets there, she begins to take feminist classes. After a while, however, she realizes that the feminism she is learning in college is not an ethic that relates to her own life–it is the feminism of upper-middle class white women, where Yoas herself has come from, in the eyes of her classmates, “white trash” stock.

The entire essay was thought-provoking and relatable: I grew up in a very affluent community, where most of my peers had the latest fashions, played sports and lived in nice houses with hardwood floors and golden retrievers or black labs in their yards. Their parents went to PTA meetings and showed up for every parent-teacher conference. Their parents went as chaperones on field trips. When the girls started going to dances, their mothers would help them to pick out dresses that would not only not get them made fun of, but would actually look good. They had Nintendo, Sega, computers, huge trampolines in their back yards. I had a hand-me-down Walkman my mother had given me (the real thing–it was metal) and my back yard was full of other people’s boats, as I lived in a tiny, soulless cottage that belonged to a boat yard. My father didn’t chaperone or go to PTA or parent-teacher conferences because he worked sixteen hours a day at a back-breaking job to support us. He didn’t even have his own bedroom–his bed was positioned against one wall in the living room, and I had the only bedroom in the cottage.

In her essay, Yoas mentions being dropped off at home by her friends’ parents, and the pitying looks that she would receive from them: “Kathleen, your house is very clean on the inside. Very…well…put…together?” I could immediately identify with her sense of embarrassment and hurt–as a child in or on the brink of poverty, living among people who are far more affluent than you are, you are absolutely conscious of your own other-ness. I remember some of my friends’ first visits to my house, the curiosity and judgment on their faces when they saw my father’s bed in the living room, the hideous and threadbare couch, the nail driven deep into the fake-wood paneling on which he hung his coat. Added to this other-ness was something else: I was the “girl whose mother died.” I was looked after by a number of women who had my best interest at heart, and helped me through a very difficult time, but it was in no way the same as what other girls had. I envied the constancy that they had–of always having a woman around to ask the difficult questions, to seek comfort in, to do “girl” things with. My women were at the end of a telephone line–sometimes they answered, sometimes they didn’t (though when they did answer, they were all wonderfully understanding and patient). After a while, I felt guilty for calling, as if I were bothering them too much, or trying to call too much attention to myself.

Yoas, between anecdotes about her childhood and touching stories which convey the indomitable strength of her mother, relates her college experience with candor and honesty:

“I was so lost in the theoretical language that I had begun to see my family as the enemy. Academic language defined resistance as: using big words to name oppressions, attending protests, and creating change by moving on and up in the world–taking on the patriarchy in a big way. My family did none of these things. I mean, if there were ways to counter oppression and hegemony, why was it that my family just stayed in the same town doing the same jobs, with the same low economic and social standing?”

I remember hearing my father rant during one particularly ugly part of my adolescence when I had been taken away from him and put into foster care, largely due to a misunderstanding between him and me that had been blown way out of proportion. He complained that the system refused to take him seriously, that they were “out to get him,” untrusting of a single father raising a teenage daughter. At the time, I told him that was ridiculous, that they were not out to get him at all, it was just a complicated process and he was projecting his own distaste for bureaucratic agents on them. Gradually, however, I begun to realize that I was being kept in a system that I had no need for (and that could be far more beneficial to someone else who was in need)–I was not in any physical danger, nor was I about to go without food, clothing or shelter, despite our precarious financial situation–for reasons I could not identify. There were supervision issues, and the house was a mess, but then and even now, I don’t see the problems that were present as reasons enough to take me out of my home, out of my community entirely (the foster homes where I lived were full, so I was shipped away), treated as though, like the majority of other female teenage foster children, I was a high drug, pregnancy, crime and runaway risk. In retrospect I see the problem of the system not as one of sexism against men, but as classism against the struggling working-class. In the opinions of the social workers, I would be much better off in a clean, supervised, middle-class household than I would be with my own father. In the beginning, the situation was more complicated than that, but as it drew on, I realized that what I viewed as my “incarceration” would last indefinitely if the social workers had their way.

Subconsciously, in early high school I gravitated towards friends who were among the same socioeconomic class as me (what some would consider “white trash”). One friend, who lived down the street from where I’d once lived with my mother, lived in a tiny mint-green house–a glorified trailer, really–with ugly shag carpeting. My friend lived in a teeny-tiny dungeon of a bedroom. Her younger brother slept on the couch, and her mother had the other tiny bedroom. In retrospect I realize it was this friend’s house in which I was the most comfortable–though she had cable TV, which my father would never pay for, she was pretty much like me. She had a small family that was scraping by with the best they could muster, but they loved each other. She taught me about music all through my adolescence, bringing me into her dark little room and playing bands and artists I’d never heard of, music that was nothing like the superficial pop that was on the radio. Her mother was a single parent of two children and worked her ass off to barely support them, but every time I happened to be there at dinner time, there was a plate made up for me, and at one point during difficult times with my father, my friend’s mother offered that if I needed a place to live I could live with them.

Perhaps the most poignant point in Yoas’s essay is when she addresses the current trend for mocking “white trash” or “redneck” everything:

The terms “white trash” and “trailer trash” cut and affect me in a way that academic-speak never could. Yet, right now we are at the height of commodifying working-class and trailer park culture. I can’t go anywhere without seeing fucked-up depictions of my home and people. There are the mesh trucker caps and the trendy ironic T-shirts that say MAKE MINE A DOUBLE with a drawing of a double-wide trailer on the front. She goes on to mention the “hipster-queer subculture co-opting of working poor culture” which anger her, including invitations to “white trash” and “redneck” themed parties.

After reading this, I realized that I hadn’t taken offense to this ridiculous fashion statement–I’d just thought it was silly and would run its course. But Yoas mentions the blue mechanics’ work shirts which have become trendy, with oval-shaped name patches saying “Mike,” or “Bob.” My father did not wear one of these, as he either worked for himself or for people who did not enforce uniforms, but he did the sort of work where these uniforms are common. I have friends who do wear the “grease-monkey” uniforms, not for show, but because that is how they make their living.

After reading Yoas’s essay, I found myself becoming more angry, more conscious of my “other-ness” within the peer structure at the college I attend, much like Yoas found at hers. I am not studying feminism, as I abandoned any pursuit of it years ago, having been driven off by overly bitter lesbian man-haters and overly idealistic hippie-chicks with no grip on reality. Oddly, the best feminists I know are men. Go figure. But I digress. So I am not studying feminism or Women’s Studies, I am studying writing, at a prestigious college in Boston largely populated by middle- to upper-middle-class kids just out of high school. My school’s financial aid policy alone dictates how many students finance their own educations there: “For the purposes of financial aid determination, all undergraduate students are considered Dependent, regardless of age (paraphrased).” For this reason, I had to fight for three months with the school’s bureaucracy to get them to consider me an independent student; at the time I was twenty-five and had been supporting myself since the age of seventeen. I am the oldest student I have come across in any of my daytime classes (the night classes, called “Professional Studies,” have more of a diversity regarding age). Not only do I feel separated from my classmates by age (I listen to Guns N’ Roses because that’s what was popular when I was a young teenager; they wear Guns N’ Roses T-shirts for the same reason they wear mesh trucker hats), but by socioeconomic class as well. Though there are certainly Emerson students from disadvantaged backgrounds, the majority of students are a homogenous mass of trendy, fake-rebellious, privileged middle class kids who are still living off of their parents’ dime. Their reality growing up was completely different from mine, even more than the kids I went to elementary school with. These are kids a generation behind, who have been coddled by their parents, raised on commodity culture (instead of back yards and the woods), video games and Paris Hilton (though they’d never admit it), whose closest brush with dire straits has most likely been running out of money to buy (trendy) PBR beer on a Friday night. They are perfectly-coiffed (this includes the guys), perfectly made-up, with their wardrobes perfectly concocted to demonstrate how (ironically) white-trash or hair-rock or 80s they are (not). Their mothers were never house-cleaners, or blacksmiths (both of which my mother did) or waitresses past college. Their fathers were not truck drivers, welders, masons, fishermen.

One student in my Personal Essay class, an exception to my above generalization for sure, wrote in her essay about being envious of her peers because they got to go to Disney World with their families on vacation, and she and her family didn’t, because her father was a cook and her mother worked in a billing office and they couldn’t afford it. I’ve never been either, I wanted to say, though my desire to visit Disney probably expired when this girl was in first grade. It is an identification thing–“I know what you mean.” Every year growing up, I watched my classmates come back from Florida and the Bahamas, tan, having spent their vacations lounging on the beach while I shoveled snow or watched fuzz on the black-and-white TV in my living room.

I have been trying to figure out for a long time–since I got to this school, and perhaps before–why it is that I feel such contempt for the superficial culture of the generation behind me and indeed the generation itself. After having read Yoas’s essay, I realize it is perhaps because they take such pleasure in making fun of people they do not understand, cannot understand. The world is there for their entertainment and ridicule, and they don’t recognize those who are being lampooned as even being people at all.

Don’t get me wrong. This is not the shiny-happy-people, love everybody blog. I am not saying that making fun of people is wrong–I do it all the time (mostly I make fun of myself–half the time I see these kids, I want to tell them that I dressed like a trucker in high school a decade before it was cool, and completely unintentionally). What I’m saying is that there’s a trend among the younger generations to mock American working-class culture–mechanics, truckers, etc.–which comes from total absorption in media culture and complete ignorance of what it’s like to do without–and it pisses me off, because they just don’t get it.

**Incidentally, I have just gotten drunk by myself off of Budweiser “pounders,” while listening to Appetite For Destruction on repeat. And I stepped on a piece of glass about half an hour ago and, have unwittingly been bleeding rather profusely for some time.**

Categories
Blather Insomnia Music Pointless Narcissism Rant School

This Is What I Do When I’m Procrastinating Something Big

I am not a neurotic person. I’m a bit of a slob, really, and a world-class procrastinator. While my room is not filthy in any sense–there are no vermin anywhere, nor will there be–it is certainly not what one would call neat. My person is relatively the same–while I am never dirty, I am not generally very well put-together, so to speak. I have the wardrobe of a fourteen year old boy, and about as much of a clue regarding what goes with what. I wear frumpy shoes that don’t go with anything, I don’t blow-dry my hair, my bag is ugly and matches nothing that I own, and the most fashionable item of attire that I own is a pair of red-brown Frye motorcycle boots, which I wear with everything, whether or not it looks good.

That said, there is one area in which I am neurotic: my music collection. I have somewhere around 500 CDs and counting, and while the rest of my room, life and self are usually in a complete shambles, my CDs are always arranged neatly, in alphabetical order, in a self-contained custom-built CD rack/trunk which I designed and my father built (this nifty device, while excruciatingly heavy when full, saves me the time of re-organizing my CDs when I move). Also, though I do not back up my writing or anything truly important with any regularity, I musthave hard copies of my music, which means that every time I rip a CD from a friend or coworker, I burn it onto CD as soon as I have the chance. Partly this is paranoia (if I got it for free this time, and my hard drive or iPod crashes, how will I replace it?), partly it is the all-American sense of I want more, partly it is that my stereo is currently without iPod adaptation and my computer without good speakers, but mostly it’s that when I don’t know what I want to listen to, I like to squat in front of my beloved CD rack and browse, like one would in a record store. When I do this, I come across things I haven’t listened to in years, or on occasion, ever. Sometimes I go to the rack with a purpose, sometimes I close my eyes and pick blindly and force myself to listen to whatever I grab, even if I don’t think I’m in the mood for it. If I hadn’t bought my first record player only six months ago, maybe they’d all be vinyl. Someday…

So my point, which I’ve procrastinated almost as badly as I’m procrastinating the aforementioned “something big,” is that ever since I bought my new computer three weeks ago, I’ve been in a perpetual state of organization regarding my one neurosis. First, there is the ripping of music into the new computer (I switched from PC to Mac, wiped the iPod, etc.). Second, I’ve brought my computer to work three or four times in the past couple of weeks and while the restaurant was slow, I ripped everything in the building that I had even a remote interest in onto my hard drive (the old comp. was a beast, and I’m gluttonously reveling in the new one’s prowess)–which, of course, means I have a lot of CDs to burn myself, 30+ to be specific. Once I’ve burned everything onto “hard copy,” I must re-order my rack, putting all the recently-ripped CDs back where they belong and finding places for the new ones, which will certainly necessitate the shuffling of CDs from shelf to shelf to make space. Zappa will have to join the soundtracks on the bottom shelf of the right side; Atmosphere will have to make room for Tori Amos on the top shelf of the left side.

So what’s my point, you ask? Why have I chosen to share all of this self-indulgent nonsense with you?

Because the one thing I’m neurotic about is not in order. And it bothers me. Particularly since it won’t be in order again until I’ve ripped all of my CDs into the new computer (I’m at “S,” going backwards from “Z”), which won’t be for weeks yet.

Oh, and I have a ten-page paper due in two days, which I haven’t even started, and I’m having lunch with my father tomorrow, after which I’ll surely take at least a two-hour nap (he’s an exhausting fellow, I get it from him). Despite my best (half-assed) intentions at academic diligence, I will undoubtedly see the wrong side of dawn on Tuesday… again.