A goodbye’s as important as anything. Basically, life’s too uncertain/awesome for me to keep fretting about schedules and Berkeley’s oddities and sophomore year and boring crap like careers and stuff, and writing about that stuff in here. I’m just kinda waking up and living. Hopefully this blog will be helpful to incoming freshmen, at least. Otherwise if you’d like to know what’s up with me and all the topsy turvy turns my life is taking, feel free to break into my room and steal my diary.
Summer came and went like one of those giant waves at the beach that looks huge from far away, but diminishes and breaks before it even reaches you. That’s not to say summer wasn’t great, because it was. It all (AIDS/LifeCycle, Bulgaria) just looked so scary in the distance and now it feels like it never happened at all.
On to the good stuff. This year is gearing up to present me with some interesting new fronts, including a mystery application I can’t stop talking about, a Greek Affairs Liaison gig in the Office of the President, living in Chi O, recruitment and big sisterdom, volunteering, smiling at strangers, becoming something of a UGH (hopefully not too much lamer) and a whole lot of math. For a second there I thought I wrote meth. Hehe
Here’s what I’m taking…I think.
Math 16A: This is a math class. Why am I taking it? That depends on how I feel after it’s over.
Math 16B (wait-list): This is a math class. I’m taking two at the same time because Chem 1A is easier in the spring, and I needed to fill its very large spot with something also…prerequisite-y.
English 45B: I read on RateMyProfessor that the professor’s so great he has groupies outside his office hours.
English 117S: Another well-known fella. The class is entirely on Shakespeare and I actually am excited for it.
L & S C101: Edible Education: The Rise and Future of the Food Movement. Taught by The Michael Pollan, taken with Sarah Dorf. And it’s P/NP, so we can’t possibly screw this up.
“But it is precisely the loss of connection with the past, our uprootedness, which has given rise to the “discontents” of civilization and to such a flurry and haste that we live more in the future and its chimerical promises of a golden age than in the present, with which our whole evolutionary background has not yet caught up. We rush impetuously into novelty, driven by a mounting sense of insufficiency, dissatisfaction, and restlessness. We no longer live on what we have, but on promises, no longer in the light of the present day, but in the darkness of the future, which, we expect, will at last bring the proper sunrise…Reforms by advances, that is, by new methods or gadgets, are of course impressive at first, but in the long run they are dubious and in any case dearly paid for. They by no means increase the contentment or happiness of people on the whole. Mostly, they are deceptive sweetenings of existence, like speedier communications which unpleasantly accelerate the tempo of life and leave us with less time than ever before.” (236)
- Carl Jung “Memories Dreams Reflections” (1963)
P.S. Yes, this may or may not be what I’ve been doing for the past two days here in the BG. It’s hot out, okay?!
On Monday I’ll be heading off to Bulgaria on a solo trip straight to my roots. I’ll be staying with my grandmother on my mom’s side and other family members, so it’s not like I’m backpacking or hostel-hopping, but it’ll be pretty wild all the same. I have a few friends who visit the country of their birth or where their family is from every few summers, but this is not normal for me.
My parents and I left Bulgaria, after every generation in both families was born in the same country when I was three years old. My brother and sister were the first to be born outside the country (Mission Viejo, holla) and I, being the oldest, was that funny in-between kid. Bulgarian was my first language, but English as taught by the Disney Channel started the Americanization process young.
Probably similar to a lot of other immigrant families, Americanization was encouraged in our house. We didn’t leave Bulgaria on the best of terms - my father was a Protestant pastor in a post-Communist orthodox country, where religious tolerance was an idea used only as a joke during arrest. He was arrested a few times, and we were robbed, and my little babylife was threatened. (This is getting me really excited about going back to this place..) So we got American. But that didn’t mean I looked like it.
My entire life, people have thought I’m either Hispanic or Persian. Nothing against people who are either of those ethnicities, but when you get the same two guesses for the vast majority of your life, it starts to get a little (so) annoying. So I’m really excited. I’m about to go somewhere where they know where I’m from. I’m one of them!
That’s why this reconnection with the random country I was born in is so important to me, as is learning about my lineage/parents. Then it’s actually visiting Bulgarian landmarks and tourist spots. Bulgaria’s glory days may have been during the 1100s, but I’m about to see the revival.
The story takes place in a South American port town, on the day that 12-year old SiervaMaríadeTodoslosÁngeles is bitten by a rabid dog. SiervaMaría is already a remarkable, if not strange child:
“She could dance with more grace and fire than the Africans, sing in voices different from her own in the various languages of Africa, agitate the birds and animals when she imitated their voices…(The slave girls) hung Santería necklaces over her baptism scapular and looked after her hair, which had never been cut and would have interfered with her walking if they had not braided into loops…Frightened by her nature, her mother had hung a cowbell around the girl’s wrist so she would not lose track of her in the shadows of the house.” (12)
When you mix all that with mental disturbances rabies can cause, you’ve got one demon-possessed pre-teen!
The first half was a sleepier version of One Hundred Years of Solitude. The girl’s father and mother vaguely hate each other, but no one dies (yet). A woman gets struck by lightning on a cloudless day, but it isn’t as big of a deal. But kudos to Márquez for allowing characters to have rowdy hammock sex in more than one book. Anyone getting the urge to visit South America?
The story finally takes off when SiervaMaría’s father sends her to a convent in order to be exorcised, the (apparently lengthy) process of which Father CayetanoDelaura, the convent librarian, must oversee. Until he falls in love, that is.
“It is not that the girl is unfit for everything, it is that she is not of this world.” (44)
“The Marquis wiped his perspiring hands on his trousers, walked through the door, and found himself under a canopy of yellow bellflowers and hanging ferns on an outdoor terrace that overlooked all the church towers, the red tile roofs of the principal houses, the dovecotes drowsing in the heat, the military fortifications outlined against the glass sky, the burning sea.” (53)
“It was very simple. Delaura had dreamed that Sierva María sat at a window overlooking a snow-covered field, eating grapes one by one form a cluster she held in her lap. Each grape she pulled off grew back again on the cluster. In the dream it was evident the girl had spent many years at that infinite window trying to finish the cluster, and was in no hurry to do so because she knew that in the last grape lay death.” (75)
“It was the ritual of a prisoner condemned to death. They dragged her to the trough, wet her down with buckets of water, tore off her necklaces, and dressed her in the brutal shift worn by heretics. A gardener nun cut off her hair at the nape of the neck with four bites of her pruning shears, and threw it into the nun burning in the courtyard.” (128)
“Abrenuncio tried to dissuade him. He said that love was an emotion contra natura that condemned two strangers to a base and unhealthy dependence, and the more intense it was, the more ephemeral. But Cayetano did not hear him.” (145)
“…she dreamed again of the window looking out on a snow-covered field from which Cayetano Delaura was absent and to which he would never return. In her lap she held a cluster of golden grapes that grew back as soon as she ate them. But this time she pulled them off not one by one but two by two, hardly breathing in her longing to strip the cluster of its last grape.” (147)
My only desire after reading this book is to read the rest of Gabriel GarcíaMárquez’s work in Spanish. Here’s to hoping AP Spanish and the preceding four years of torture actually do me some good.
So, I’ve never seen Fight Club. It’s the film adaptation of Chuck’s (Palahniuk’s too difficult) work of the same name. Going into Diary, I guess I was expecting a witty, modern diary-related deal. It was those things, but it was also a rather bizarre story. It was almost R.L. Stine-y, actually.
The frame: a diary, naturally. It’s a “coma diary” kept by Misty Tracy Wilmot while her husband Peter is in the hospital, unconscious after a suicide attempt. The book is written almost entirely in 2nd person, as if the diary is talking to Peter, and not very kindly. “Just for the record” and “Just so you know” is the sarcastic beginning of many a paragraph. This is the normal part.
Misty started out a trailer park daydreamer, drawing pictures of grand homes and dreamy landscapes she thought existed only in her childish imagination. She goes to art school, where she meets Peter, a guy everyone considers a flirtatious, old-brooch-wearing creep. He encourages her to paint. They get married. They move to Waytansea Island, Peter and the entire Wilmot family’s home. Misty stops painting, but is soon encouraged by nearly everyone on the island to pick up that brush again.
After Peter slips into his self-induced coma, Misty starts getting weird calls from folks that have had their homes renovated by Peter. Closets and entire kitchens are missing, boarded up and painted over with menacing messages about the island and Misty herself, with Peter’s signature on them.
Then things get weird. It’s not that Misty should start painting again, she has to. She’s part of the plan, and she’s not the first of her kind. The island has had previous famous female artists, and Misty’s been finding their messages everywhere she goes. And the islanders will stop at nothing, from faking injuries to poison pills to faking deaths to get their masterpiece.
“Can you feel this?”
“What you don’t understand, you can make mean anything.”
“Before we go any further, you might want to put on some extra clothes. You might want to stock up on some extra B vitamins. Maybe some extra brain cells. If you’re reading this in public, stop until you’re wearing your best good underwear.” (18)
“And just in case you forgot, you’re one chicken-shit piece of work. You’re a selfish, half-assed, lazy, spineless piece of crap. In case you don’t remember, you ran the fucking car in the fucking garage and tried to suffocate your sorry ass with exhaust fumes, but no, you couldn’t even do that right. It helps if you start with a full gas tank.” (40)
“Just in case you don’t remember, every time she comes to visit you, she wears one of those old junk jewelry brooches you gave her. Misty takes it off her coat and opens the pin of it…She pokes the pin of the hairy old brooch - real, real slow - through the meat of your hand or your foot or arm. Until she hits a bone or it pokes out the other side. When there’s any blood, Misty cleans it up. It’s so nostalgic.” (41)
“You’ll need to suffer to make any real art.” (47)
“The mentalis, the corrugator, all those little muscles of the face, those are the first things you learn in art school anatomy. After that, you can tell a fake smile because the risorius and platysma muscles pull the lower lip down and out, squaring it and eposing the lower teeth. Just for the record, knowing when people are only pretending to like you isn’t such a great skill to have.” (62)
“Michelangelo was a manic-depressive who portrayed himself as a flayed martyr in his painting. Henri Matisse gave up being a lawyer because of appendicitis. Robert Schumann only began composing after his right hand became paralyzed and ended his career as a concert pianist…You talked about Nietzsche and his tertiary syphilis. Mozart and his uremia. Paul Klee and the scleroderma that shrank his joints and muscles to death. Frida Kahlo and the spina bifida that covered her legs with bleeding sores. Lord Byron and his clubfoot. The Bronte sisters and their tuberculosis. Mark Rothko and his suicide. Flannery O’Connor and her lupus. Inspiration needs disease, injury, madness.” (65)
“Grace turns back a couple pages and says, “Oh dear. My mistake. You won’t have that terrible headache until the day after tomorrow.” (96)
- “You might be more careful, Mother. We don’t need you anymore.”
- “I loved you a lot more when you were dead.” (225)
The plot was a bit strange, but Chuck’s messages about art and self-expression were striking. The author also seems to know a lot (or researched a lot) about random things like the muscles in your face and paint toxicity. It was downright educational. And I liked the book enough to get stoked for Palahniuk’s newest one, Damned, coming out later this year. (It sounds hilarious?)
A book The King started writing in 1976 and picked up again over 30 years later. It asks the question: what if a small town is physically cut off from the rest of the world? Related questions are also, who the hell is doing this? What if the town leader is a nutbag who’s considering killing his own son? Where’s our propane? Is that a meth lab over there?
I really enjoyed this book. But at 1,074 pages, it’s too hard to summarize. Without giving too much away, I’ll say that the book allows the reader a bird’s-eye (and sometimes very, very up close) view of humans destroying themselves, whether they are actively bringing about their own demise or not realizing the powerholder actually finds life under the Dome quite pleasant, thus becoming the subtlest tyrant ever known. He’s almost Manson-like, and I’m not talking about Marilyn.
While the humans are doing a great job killing each other and themselves, one can’t forget that someone…or something, has placed this strange dome over the town. Is it the US Government? Is it aliens? Is it that clustermug-causer, Jim Rennie? Regardless of who’s running the show (or holding the magnifying class over the ant hill, so to speak…hint theme hint) corruption runs deep and personal freedoms are taken away until the Dome’s inhabitants can’t even, well, breathe.
One thing I appreciated was that King made sure the book was current. That is, he expressed some anti-war sentiment as well as support for the Obama Administration and gave religious hypocrisy a (deserved) skewering. But despite these beliefs, the heros end up being an Iraq veteran and a Republican journalist, which I liked. Also, the poetry references. I had a great time. Stephen, were you in my 45C class?
“It’s a small town. We all support the team.”
“An explosion. Maybe Chuck Thompson’s fancy little airplane had crashed after all. It wasn’t impossible; on a day when you set out just to shout at someone - read them the riot act a little, no more than that - and she ended up making you kill her, anything was possible.” (26)
“It occurred to him that he was still on a roll - the roll of all rolls. Today he had killed two girls he’d known since childhood. Tomorrow he was going to be a town cop.” (139)
“The Lord spake unto him again, saying, “Did you get up on the stupid side of the bed today, Lester?” (162)
“Scarecrow Joe began sending emails by the dawn’s early light…No doubt The Man would shut down the Internet soon, as He had with the phones, but for now it was Joe’s weapon, the weapon of the people. It was time to fight the power.” (180)
“The Constitution’s been canceled in The Mill.” (187)
“The family that slays together stays together…” (459)
“He might be seen on any given day cruising around in his Porsche, with its bumper sticker reading MY OTHER CAR IS ALSO A PORSCHE!” (519)
“…my temper got the best of me. Again. My religious teaching suggests You put that short fuse in me to begin with, and its my job to deal with it, but I hate that idea…And you know what’s worse? If You’re Not-There, I can’t shove even a little of the blame off on You. What does that leave? Fucking genetics?” (563-564)
- “What you say about meth is correct. Selling it is wrong. An affront. Making it, though - that is God’s will.”
- “Do you think so? Because I’m not sure that can be right.”
- “Have you ever had any?” (670)
“So let us go then, you and I, while the evening spreads out agaisnt the sky like a patient etherized upon a table. Let us go while the first discolored stars begin to show overhead. This is the only town in a four-state area where they’re out tonight. Rain has overspread northern New England, and cable-news viewers will soon be treated to some remarkable satellite photographs showing a hole in the clouds that exactly mimics the sock-shape of Chester’s Mill. Here the stars shine down, but now they’re dirty stars because the dome is dirty.”(801)
“Their heads snapped around, but for a moment they froze, neither trying to raise their weapons nor scatter. They weren’t cops at all, Chef saw; just birds on the ground too dumb to fly.” (974)
“She strikes Carla Venziano, who is fleeing with her infant in her arms. Velma feels the truck jounce as it passes over their bodies, and resolutely blocks her ears to Carla’s shrieks as her back is broken and baby Steven is crushed to death beneath her. All Velma knows is that she has to get out of here. Somehow, she has to get out.” (984)
“A reddish moon finally clears the accumulated filth on the eastern wall of the Dome and shines down its bloody light. this is the end of October and in Chester’s Mill, October is the cruelest month, mixing memory with desire. There are no lilacs in this dead land. no lilacs, no trees, no grass. The moon looks down on ruination and little else.” (1035)
“She is a cat with a burning tail, an ant under a microscope, a fly about to lose its wings to the curious plucking fingers of a third-grader on a rainy day, a game for bored children with no bodies and the whole universe at their feet.” (1062)
When I was in 6th grade, my teacher did something that probably could’ve gotten her fired if enough parents freaked out. She, after finding the book in our book alcove, challenged those willing to read Stephen King’s The Stand within the final three weeks of the school year. In case you didn’t notice, I’m a competitive kiss-ass/book nerd, so naturally my hand shot up. Due to parents more concerned than mine finding out, the only other kid who wanted to try it as well had to drop out of our little competition, leaving me alone at the starting gate.
So began my initiation into the world and works of Stephen King. The first cuss word I ever read in a book was in The Stand’s introduction, and it was some colorful phrase involving “motherfucker”. The book was the dirtiest, most graphic, violent book I’ve read to this day. And (not counting The Bible) at around 2,000 pages, is the longest book I’ve ever read.
I wasn’t sure how to feel when I was done (within two weeks, booyah), but I knew I wasn’t done with this author. Since then I’ve read Desperation, It, Rose Madder, Carrie, The Dark Half, Cujo, The Tommyknockers, Insomnia, the personally vital On Writing and I’m currently working on/will be yammering about a more recent one, titled Under the Dome. (P.S. I like Wikipedia.) Not sure why I haven’t read The Shining, but it’ll happen. I’ve also never touched the Dark Tower series, mostly because I seem to have every book in the set (garage sale find) except book 1 in my possession.
People have actually made fun of me for considering myself serious about English and listing King as one of my favorite authors. Of course, these are the people who have never read King’s work and so compare it to teen slasher films. I think Stephen King is a genius, and y’all are missing out.
His books usually take place somewhere in Maine and the characters are as human as it gets. Except when they’re not, of course. Even though his novels usually have something otherworldly going on, one realistic/exciting element is that people and places from different books sometimes bump into one another or are mentioned in passing, as if they’re real! But forget for a moment the (awesome, always somewhat gruesome) plot, I still don’t understand how he can think up and develop so many characters. So. Many. And the theme is rarely grandiose and the speech is always in vernacular. What can I say? I love the man. Look at me! I’m so rich!
There is so much I’ve failed to describe about this experience, and there’s even more I’ve failed to capture in a picture. Looking through my pictures, the AIDS/LifeCycle ride pretty much looks like pretty views and pretty queens, but that’s only the surface. There were the roadies - directing traffic, in charge of bike parking, serving food, working gear trucks and keeping a sense of humor, doing millions of things I probably didn’t even notice; basically working harder than the riders do. There was Ginger Brewlay, former rider Ric Uggen’s drag queen persona. Ric can’t do the ride anymore because of his 27-year personal battle with AIDS, so instead she (he) dresses up in her finest and cheers riders on at the top of the hardest hill. There was the infamous Chicken Lady, who placed a plastic egg on every single bicycle seat with a lifesaver and kind words inside. There was Lori-Jean’s “HELLOOOO RIIIIIIDERS,” and Neil’s awkward poetically-driven speech conclusions. There were strangers in every city, young and old, ringing cowbells and handing us treats as we rode by, and even a couple who had coffee and donuts out by the side of the rode for us.
I took on this challenge because that’s what it was - a shit-this-sounds-crazy challenge that I could look back on and feel like a champ; like I can do anything. The event does do that, but (now that I done drank the Kool-Aid) honestly? Riding a bicycle is not what AIDS/LifeCycle is about. If we jogged across California the story would be the same: spreading awareness, taking care of each other, smiling at strangers, boosting the local economy, wearing the red ribbon proudly.
Note on the bicycle: I went into this thinking my bike would be something of an embarrassment. I mean, it’s a solid 30 years old. But as it turns out (given the fact that the bicycle worked and got me to the finish line), riding a Centurion mixte was like rolling into a car show in a 60s Corvette, it’s got its vintage charm and if it works after all those years, hell, it has its merits. In the beginning more older riders noticed the bike (one gave me a high five hehe), but eventually others began to notice its manual gear shift and steel frame. The bike tech guy got pretty excited to see it “after all these years”, so I’ve become pretty proud of the thing. But it’s still damn heavy and if (when) I do the ride again, it’ll be on a new bike. Then I’ll be passing the old ladies, dammit.
“I think this is the methamphetamine stop so it should get a lot easier after this.”
I don’t mean for this post to sound so negative, but I’m afraid it does. This was a stressful day. Since we took team pictures at 7 am and the route had been open since 6 am, I hit major traffic along the way. Lines for everything from food to porta-potties at rest stops were huge. I wasn’t worried I wouldn’t make it to the finish line on time, but I was worried about LA traffic and general unpleasantness. I don’t even like driving in LA, so riding a bicycle seems downright stupid.
One problem was freeway-turned-beach parking. The road and ocean looked very similar to Santa Cruz, only now there were cars and campers parked all along the side of the road. One ill-timed car door opening and you could be a mid-traffic pinball. But other than the stress and attention required, it was okay. For some reason the ceremonies were really underwhelming for me, possibly because it took my family forever to get there so I was pretty much by myself. I think it was also because I felt like I hadn’t captured or even experienced all of what AIDS/LifeCycle had to offer. It’s definitely an event you come back to over and over again.
The Jane Lynch speech was cool though!
Roadkill: Coyote, pelican. Zoinks.
Elevation: Nothing too frightening other than a very sharp turn that sent us into a steep hill. It was labeled as the “last hill!!!#@!#$” but it wasn’t quite.