Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Travelling Audiophile

Riding down the road in the backseat of my stepmother's pick-up truck. Fairly new, the stereo system can rattle the loose pavement we speed down. My father takes the advantage to blast Ozzy Osbourne and Zakk Wylde; in awe of the musical power of the latter and Randy Rhoads. It is the stuff on which I was raised. I know all of the words Ozzy has ever muttered, and can successfully mimic the pinch harmonics and slides elegantly used in each bridge and lead break. My father was who got me into music. I may not be an extremist amongst audiophiles, but what I have studied, I have studied well. However, creativity never sleeps and there are still numerous discographies to be had, and lyrics to learn.

These trips to the store, on family outings, to visit with friends, they all went by so quickly because of music. Whatever the choice of artist, from AC/DC to Yellowcard--bluegrass to screamo/alternative. Whether Shanna and I decided it was a good day for The Bridges or Eisley or my father thought it was time to dig up Dio, music has always been part of my life. I remember when my mother made me endlessly listen to the sounds of Boston and Duran Duran. Until this day, I still hate those bands. But she did help me respect Celine Dion's vocal ability and actually be able to enjoy Reba McEntire and Nickel Creek, although I was very reluctant at first. Saturday trips to Walmart killed my will to fight it when she caught me tapping my fingers to the rhythm of "The Fox and the Hound." If I had not given in, I would never understand how beautiful "Doubting Thomas" really is.

Through teenage angst and the creation of the portable CD player, I was able to branch out on my own. While I may have helped single-handedly bring down a small fraction of the music industry, burned CD's were my best friends. I explored my tastes by indulging in the more popular at the time: Avril Lavigne, Good Charlotte and My Chemical Romance. I grew a little--lyrically and physically--and moved into Fear Before the March of Flames, Bjork, Alexisonfire and The Almost. They were an odd combination of sounds, but I was trying to find what fit me. I know now these sounds of my pre-teenage years will stay with me for the sake of memories, but they are not what suit me today.

My favorites of now cannot be narrowed down sufficiently; I listen depending on my mood. But the more popular indie and folk sounds definitely have a playlist of their own. The Sugarplastic and The Shaggs are guilty pleasures. I mostly turn to their "revolutionary sounds" when I need a good laugh. I am sure many who have some shallow understanding of why The Shaggs made any sort of impact might gasp in horror. But just as I will respect The Beatles but always hate "Yellow Submarine," this is one more thing I suppose I will have to grin and bear as others snicker at my inability to grasp the complexities of such things. I am an audiophile in my own right just as I am a writer. As the music industry moves into digitalizing everything once sacred and vinyl, my iPod will soothe me as I travel far distances by foot or by car. I can count on Wilco, Death Cab for Cutie, Paramore or even Chris Tomlin to connect with me when the conversation next to me lags, or I would much rather drown out the world than pretend I am having a good time.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

To Whom It May Concern:

With every word I have posted on the internet I have always wondered two things: Who is reading it? How it will affect me (or them) later? These questions need to be answered, even if the author does not plan on committing any crimes in which the text might incriminate them more. When one creates a new account on the internet, they write part of their life over to an unknown force with an unknown binding contract of Terms and Conditions no one ever bothers to read. It is for this reason I have deleted several accounts that, for all intents and purposes, have become rather inactive. Social networking is merely a device--a tool people use to try and satisfy their insatiable hunger to be more than they are. We upload photos of ourselves that are more appealing than we are on a daily basis--college students and their showering habits are not something to be admired during the week--and we post status messages that are often cryptic or quote pieces of literature of which we have never felt the binding in hopes of appearing more insightful.

And I do mean all of us.

People often say they do not do it for the popularity or vanity of these websites and what they have wrought unto our social lives. However, if we did not care, we would not have profiles or care to join the "next big social experience." The internet is not just a resourceful tool for research--no matter how flash-y or primitive (i.e. Bing vs. Google), but it is a way to define ourselves without all of the work of actually evolving into real people. Our phones and our computers are the extensions of our arms the hands lost the evolution game against. Darwin never did take into account the efficiency of technology greater than the mere discovery of fire. Life is not about recording every moment. It is about enjoying every moment--good or bad--but especially good, and remembering out there, somewhere, is someone having just as good of a time. They have made all of the same jokes and wear the same clothes and live in a town or city resembling the one we say we hate, or sometimes love, depending on how lucky we are. We sometimes forget these rather obvious facts and record our lives--even the uninteresting things about them--as if someone is out there looking to document it all. People were able to enjoy life way before there were ways to prove it to the rest of the world.

I am taking extra care to include myself in this, simply because I know I have been just as guilty of it in the past, and still am at times. I wonder, "What if this person read this? What would they think?" I should not be so hung up on who is reading my status messages that sometimes mean little-to-nothing about who I am or my actual life. We let our profiles shape us into these designs of what simple profiles, with uniform layouts and often times uniform information, can represent about human identity rather than grow from the real experiences of day-to-day life and socializing outside of chatting on each other's "walls" and "Tweeting" the latest gossip. I will admit, I have been one to preach safe-guarding myself on the internet, but my few worries since I have been logged on have passed and I find the minutes I spend on the internet just "surfing" to be enjoyable. I do not mean to ramble on end about the mindless chatter that fills my every feed to which I have subscribed, but I would hope to make the point that everyone can slip up at times. And I was a bit careless. While my MySpace has since been deleted, I refuse to sign into Dailybooth, Tumblr, Xanga or even my old AOL email address; Facebook and Twitter are the only two proclaimed "social networks" I am plugged into at this time, and they will forever be as safely monitored by myself and private as I can make them.

The stalker never ceases, and the internet has only increased the yellow and green stalkers in us all. When was the last time you went to someone's page of whom you were not "friends" with (because reality has no place in a world run by a website dedicated to specializing in the officiating of friendships and relationships) just so you could look at their pictures and hopefully see something they have posted recently? How many "friends" do you have on Facebook? How many people do you "follow" on Twitter? Do you really care about every word they write or are you just looking for something to catch your eye?

It is possible, ladies and gentlemen, to spend one's time more efficiently outside of the barricades of a bedroom. Even looking out a real window with an actual sunset can be more enticing and relaxing than winding down next to a monitor which, in ten years, will only be benefiting your optometrists' incomes. This is not my good-bye letter to the internet. This is not me saying the internet is a complete waste of time. Blogging is still my outlet and personal way of getting some form of my writing "out there," to some degree; and clearly, I care about keeping my friends entertained and up-to-date otherwise no one would be able to find me right now on Twitter or Facebook. But I am infuriated by the way it has shaped our minds. I know several people who walk around with impulses to "Tweet" or update status messages every time some mediocre and usually energy drink-induced thought crosses their minds. Nowadays, I have learned to overcome those addictive urges and usually just use my Twitter for entertainment and to say things I cannot typically yell at people for fear of getting hit by the girl in line in front of me who is about 100-pounds heavier and can count to ten after taking off her shoes. But the need is still there, to say something about myself. It is why I had to let go of my narcissism--or what little bit I felt I deserved to express--and stop updating my Dailybooth or keep a regular shit-blog in Xanga or even sit on my bed, ignoring the burn marks on my legs from my laptop's fan, and wait for new things to stream on Tumblr so I could get my two seconds of entertainment at a periodical five-minute rate every night. However, despite my wildest attempts to lessen my need for web-additives, I still manage to stay signed on long enough to have an unwanted and unneeded friend request meet me as I peeked at Facebook via my iPhone (yes, you got me too, Steve Jobs).

The request, since anonymity is what he brings being I have no recollection of the man, though I have his name, came from a person who, through his daughter's MySpace a few years back, tried to talk to me, and proposed I "not tell [my] father about it." Obviously, being that I was much younger and more liable to freak out over instances such as these, I called my father and told him who it was. He said he knew the man. After a bit of calming me down, he told me to inform him if the contact continues. It was years ago, so what I actually can recollect of the ten minutes of horror is there was no further communication, just he was face-less (but I knew what his daughter looked like by the end of it, thanks to her profile picture popping up with every new message), and he knew my mother--as if this fact would make me want to talk to him more. It was, for lack of a better term, creepy. Almost three years later, I come to find this same man has hooked himself into the life-logging world of Facebook and has again found me. I saw the request first and obviously denied. Anyone who has been on the website long enough can attest strange requests often come in numbers, and I assumed this was just another. However, when I checked my messages, the same person messaged me.

The fact that this ignorant human contacted me a second time shows his inability to not only gather but use common sense. He started the message with, "Hey Jen." which only infuriated me more. Why someone with whom I do not speak would feel comfortable enough to shorten my name even to a common nickname of "Jennifer" is beyond my ability to even grasp the little I can of this person. But I am officially not a fan of his distant, but still definitive, persistence, nor am I happy he bothered to search me at all. However, if this dimensionless and inescapable world of online connection has benefited us at all, it is these websites make one significantly efficient dream a reality: the ability to delete and block people out of our lives.

I have done just that.

For right now, this person is out of my life as much as I can make him disappear. Any further contact is to be recorded and reported. I refuse to give this person the knowledge he has wasted any of my time and/or energy--you decide. However, I am going to be even more particular about what I say in light of his need to find me again on the internet. I may un-protect my Tweets, eventually, after I find out what I have said, and if I have said too much.

The truly entertaining piece of information I hope my audience takes from all of this rambling is the irony of tonight's events: I just left the theatre after seeing "The Social Network."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Re-Evaluating Motivation



I still cannot decide if saying she looked like a Betsy is really fair to her. It could always be worse, of course. I could say she looked like a Bernice, and then references of "Bernice Bobs Her Hair" would haunt me for the rest of the day. She may have looked like a Betsy, but she definitely was not a Bernice--Shelley Duvall is a scary woman. Regardless, her unfortunate birthright did not stop her from helping me.

"I hate writing now. But I mostly hate how hard it is to get people to talk to you." I could not stop the ranting even if I had tried.

While this "realization" is not new for me--common sense tells me this problem was going to happen once my audience, and with that, my sources, quadrupled--I needed to vent before I imagined throwing myself from the roof of the science center. The idea might have crossed my mind, but I was too lazy to focus that much energy on the full image. Betsy listed a few people who are the worst. It seemed as if getting quotes was something more akin to natural childbirth. It is enough to make me lose complete patience in the entire practice of journalistic writing.

"It will get better, eventually, once you learn who will and won't talk to you," said Betsy. Not exactly the positivity for which I was hoping, but it gives me little reason to doubt all of humanity; though I am drawing dangerously near. I am still a little surprised, despite everything, I hold humanity to any regard at all, myself included.

A local elementary school took a tour of the campus. Busy young adults were running passed the small children, trying to make class after spending too much time napping or in the coffee line. The kids were trying to stay in some sort of line--though nothing straight about it--while they got to see what we call school. I remember elementary school; the one story, one building with every room and office within convenient feet from each other. I miss not having to fight against the clock and my lack of athletic ability just to achieve anything throughout the course of the day.

When I was younger, life was something one achieved, not something everyone just fell into. What I wanted to be when I grew up was such a distant dream, and I had infinite nights to dream it. I wanted to be so many varying careers and even mediocre jobs. I even considered fame through athletic triumph or stringent instrumental practice. I could be anything. When I got to see new places, everything seemed so big and magnificent. I can only imagine what the kids must have thought when they walked into our English hall and saw the tall ceilings and bright, cathedral-esque windows. The marble floors of the foyer baffled some of their young minds. Many stopped and tip-toed across the floor, gawking at the beautiful patterns in the dark green slabs.

I imagine, to them, everything has a marvelous smell and feeling to it. I used to be able to feel those things when walking into a new place. Unfortunately, sometimes comfortability takes away from the true magnificence of a place. I still adore the English hall, it just does not seem as big as it once did. Two years ago when I took my campus tour, I walked into the hall only to be amazed by it. It was just as I had pictured a building that homed journalism and English to be. Traditional, beautiful, the light subtle, the halls peaceful.

Misery does not just love its company, it breeds despair. I am on the journey to my dreams. I am no longer 7-years old with "my whole life ahead of me." I am going to go into this with high spirits from now on--with the unbreakable faith of a child, and the wisdom (or bit of it I have gathered) of an adult.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Explicit Campus



It is Monday. On Mondays, my eyes refuse to open--figuratively and literally. I am more irate, more incommunicative, more unwillingly to simply roll out of bed. When my alarm goes off at nine-in-the-morning, it is not a particularly early hour, but just as on the weekend, I prefer at least another hour of sleep, and the bulk of my work be done much later into the night after my fun has worn out its welcome. It may not be early, and I know I have seen day begin and dew before it evaporates, but it feels like the earliest I have ever been made to wake, every time.

I miss living on campus. Being huddled in another family's dwelling feels more comfortable than it did in the beginning, but more often than not, it still feels intrusive. I try to not let these feelings show--I would hate for it to appear unappreciative than for what it really is. If there is one thing I do not miss about living on campus, though, and I am certain it is only one thing, it is the expletives to be endured over the course of three days. Friday nights, classes let out, typically from 2 to 3 in the afternoon, at which point every student and loose faculty member finds themselves somewhere, eventually, with a drink in hand, or at least passed out on a couch--sometimes both. Cause and effect; we learn it in school. When Monday morning arrives, broken beer bottles and crushed cans of Red Bull are strategically strewn across the well-manicured lawn, along with unidentifiable pieces of clothing on occasion. For those who were actually sober and can document their weekends to any asking police official, they still wake looking as ragged and morose as the hungover. Between the howling, chanting from fraternities and loud clogging of ridiculously priced and stilted high-heels, sleep was nigh impossible.

The bright sun and humidity of the air leads to words of a colorful language as people step out and greet the new day with a grimace. It is back to working and running around campus. Living off of fumes is something to which I have become accustomed, but never content. Mentally, there is no way to catch speed, but the body works in mysterious ways, and the feet will find a way to break record times across campus; the only solace being the promise that, on the other end, there is a seat, at least moderately comfortable, to nap in while the professor lectures about a subject that will prove useless by the end of the semester.

Thousands of dollars go into the care of the hedges, brick and students of this institution, and yet, carvings are still made in the bathroom stalls, the water fountains are milky during the peak of seemingly avoidable construction, students still refuse to throw away their trash and dorms are left smelling of musk and mold due to an inability to report back to the room and tidy up between errands, feedings and a bit of sleep. But do not be mistaken, I love college. This experience gives me something to say; I have endured some of the strangest and harshest conditions while here. Lord knows I have been through worse, but at this very moment, I am feeling the pressure. I have already colored the walls of every hall on this campus with some sort of colloquialism or side-step of the English language. As of this moment, Monday is winning, and my day is far from over.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

20 Years Go By



Friday, October 8, I officially entered the period of life known as the "limbo year," in which I still cannot legally go to a bar, in time of emotional crisis, an drink myself unconscious yet; but I can now live with the shallow confidence that since my age no longer ends in the suffix "-teen," I am no longer a child. Of course, this celebration comes with the bittersweet understanding that while I may no longer be a teenager, I now have to take on more responsibilities as an adult. The thought scares me, terrifically.

But whatever misfortunes adulthood might bring have been stifled, at the moment, by celebrations galore this weekend. I often feel bad for my mother having to squeeze me out of her pelvis twenty years ago. Sometimes, I will reflect on possibilities of a future with children, and I am not as willing to sacrifice my sanity for hours of pain--even though I know I probably will one day, regardless of how I feel now. Twenty years ago, I was the bright light in all of my parent's darkness, even during my months of colic behavior. Now, I am my father's oldest child, only daughter and an adult student in college--I honestly cannot believe I have made it this far, and how fast it has all gone by.

Friday, my literature class was cancelled, and I was more than a little thrilled to get an early break from school on my birthday. I met up with my boyfriend Trey who gave me the best birthday card and gift I can remember getting. He actually pays attention to the little things that matter to me. We spent two hours together just talking and I ended up unintentionally reminiscing about my mother and how I wish she could be with me, to see me--to see how far I have come. She saw me at 16-years of age (a time I would rather forget), but she never got the chance to see me now, or the journey I took to get here. It is the first birthday her passing legitimately affected me. But I would rather feel some sense of attachment to the woman who made my life possible than not at all. Particularly on the day it is all being honored.

The night was followed by a little across-the-border cuisine at a Mexican restaurant 10 minutes from Chelsea's house. We met Elizabeth there and sat a table just big enough for the three of us and my presents. Beside my party, there were two older ladies, probably regrettably looking face-to-face at forty and more drunk than they were willing to admit. Not only were they loud, but they were very social and the minute they saw the shine bounce off of one of my present's packaging, they decided to consider themselves part of the party. When their presence was first made known to me, I did not mind. We chose a table outside, in a more private area of the restaurant's seating arrangements. I assumed anyone sitting near us would be awkwardly part of our conversations. Both of the women were dressed rather casually--over-sized t-shirts with explicit graphics referencing hunting or a NASCAR driver; their margarita glasses were deeper than the soup bowls in the kitchen, and the amount of salt stuck to the rim of the glasses made even my lips feel dry. The look on their faces when they saw the birthday cake made me wonder how long they planned on joining us from across the tables.

Eventually, we ended up talking to them about men and "how they all like to play games." According to the more vocal and intrusive of the two women, "All men play games, you just gotta' play harder." If I were not so against being a redneck feminist like the rest of the women in my family, I probably would have cynically agreed. On the other hand, I do not waste my time playing games with anyone, so the idea of playing a game against someone out of spite or a need for power left me simply giggling as the woman expounded upon theory after theory. And in the years she had been an active player in this love-game of hers, she has come up with quite a few theories. "I'm gonna' write a book one day. I really should do it," she said. Her friend was no help--she merely encouraged her.

I respected the time we spent talking to them. After all, I, just like the rest of the world, like to have a story to tell, but I appreciated more when their excitement died down and they left. Eventually, the night was as dark as it was going to get and Chelsea, Elizabeth and I were the only three left sitting outside. I finished opening my presents and ate a bit of birthday cake, only to find myself growing tired. Chelsea called out for the check, and the waiter shooed her away saying our dinner was covered. By whom, we can only assume, the two women we had entertained earlier. Trey met us again at Chelsea's house after the three of us had an odd photo shoot, in the living room, full of weird faces and advances at each other. The entire night was a success, and I got to spend it with the three people who, down here, mean the absolute most to me. I could not have asked for more.