Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Friday the 13th Tale

It was a typical day, it just happened to be Friday the Thirteenth. I had just moved back to campus to start training for my job as a night desk worker at the dorms. The thought of a new year and new opportunities energized me; everything was going to go so well this year for me. I was excited to be back on campus, and to start working and making money, being the poor college student that I am.

That day the dorm staff met in the lobby at 10 AM to discuss basic protocol and safety regulations. My hall director discussed what to do on the job and how to handle emergency situations, like in the case of a fire in the building or a shooter on campus. I listened intently, but thought to myself “that’s never going to happen to me”, like we all do when we hear about crazy situations. I just knew that work would be normal and uneventful, and I was glad about it.

The meeting ended, and the crew dispersed. I lived in a room on the fourth floor, in a building that annoyingly did not have air conditioning. Living on the fourth floor, in the farthest room from the front, it was quite an extraordinary effort to climb up seventy-two steps of stairs just to get something out of my room. So like the lazy person that I was, I thought it was a perfectly logical idea to take the convenient elevator. Even though the building was a million years old (well, more like forty, but who’s counting?) I still had confidence in the elevator, despite the fact that it was slow and slightly rickety. So I pushed the up arrow and as the doors opened I walked across the landing and stepped inside into the small metal chamber, paint chipping off the walls and a “secret” camera in the corner following my every move.

As the doors closed I prepared to be safely taken up to my floor. And then I hear the sirens. The fire alarm started screaming its banshee call all around me. The sound seemed to penetrate the air with its deafening howl. Instantly the already small five by five foot space became the size of a shoe box, a shoe box that was soon going to be filled with smoke. Panic poured over my body, like a giant bucket of ice cold water, and I was paralyzed by the icy sensation. One thought consumed my brain. There was a fire in the building and I was stuck in the elevator, the worst place to be. Like an animal in a cage, waiting for the outside predator to eventually find it and pounce. I was trapped.

After what seemed to be an eternity of fear and claustrophobia, I remembered there were emergency buttons staring me right in the face. The “FIRE DEPT” and “IN CASE OF EMERGENCY” buttons that your mother tells you never to press when you’re a child, but you always secretly want to push just to see what will happen. I realized that NOW was the time to press those forbidden buttons. And so I frantically punched the buttons with all the force I had in me. I had no idea if the elevator was continuing its journey skyward or whether it had stopped altogether. I figured I might as well try pressing the “open door” button, hoping with all I had that it would open and let me free. Spastically, I pressed and pressed. And then miraculously, my guardian angel pried open the thick metal doors and the vacant second floor hall appeared in my sight. Sheer relief at not being confined in my shoebox prison spread throughout my body, until I realized I was still not home free. I shot out of the elevator, a bullet in a loaded gun, and zipped down the two flights of stairs, across the lobby, and out of the door. I could see the rest of the dorm inhabitants in the courtyard a few yards ahead, and in a few seconds I was safe at home plate.

No one knew what had caused the fire. There were about twenty of us, so the likelihood that someone had forgotten about their popcorn in the microwave was very small. And it was too soon to have a fire drill, so there was something else going on here. We waited five minutes, and then the sirens of the fire trucks alerted us that help was here. After fifteen minutes, the fire fighters came out of the building and alerted us as to the cause of the fire. It had so happened that the elevator had finally thrown in the towel after so many years, and a fire had started in the shaft. As I heard this, the feeling of panic and fear began to burn in my chest. I had unintentionally started the fire, because I had been lazy. Of course, it was bound to happen eventually, but MURPHY’s LAW, I was the one who brought the trouble on.

Later on, when I realized exactly what day it was, I had to laugh. And then I remembered that around midnight the night before, I had seen a black cat sprawling out on the grass as I had walked nearby. I had not been superstitious at the time, but I now felt a chill run down my spine. What a cliché. This was just too, too much.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

i'm unique just like everyone else

A clip from the film "Garden State". It perfectly describes myself and my peers in our wish to be a unique individual. I think sometimes we strive too hard to be nonconformists, that we ironically begin to conform to that idea. Here's a message kids: just be yourself. Like what you like, do what you want to do (as long as it doesn't break the law and your personal moral/ethical code), love who you want to love, and be happy with yourself. It's a simple thought, and easier said than done. It comes down to this, you're the only you that you're every going to be, so make the very best of it.

Monday, July 19, 2010

M.I.A. : /\/\ /\ Y /\ (MAYA)

She may not be flying like paper or getting high like planes anymore, but M.I.A. is still quite fly. Her highly-anticipated new album, /\/\ /\ Y /\ (MAYA), follows after the huge success of her 2007 album "Kala". M.I.A. busted into pop culture with the hit "Paper Planes", which was featured in both "Pineapple Express" and the Academy-Award winning "Slumdog Millionaire". This song had a significant impact on pop music. All of a sudden the sound of gunshots and cash-registers, not exactly radio-friendly, came flooding out of car stereos everywhere. In my memory, it was arguably the most popular song of the summer in 2008. I never thought, when i bought "Kala" back in 2007, that the big hit would have been this particular track. Even those who didn't like the unconventional sound of her music started to pump it through their speakers. In other words, M.I.A. grew on the mainstream.

Her new album,"MAYA", is a bit of a surprise to me. I expected M.I.A. to create an album that was even more radical and rebellious, and often abrasive, than her previous work. M.I.A. is known for the political and social statements she sends through her blend of rap, electronic, and sometimes reggae beats. Don't be mistaken, this album still speaks to the activist artist that she is, but it is also quite...pop at the same time. While tracks (and videos) like "Born Free" ooze with a defiant, rebellious attitude, making it somewhat of an anthem of youth and independence, other tracks like "XXXO" and "Teqkilla" are radio-ready and most likely already hot requests at trendy dance clubs. But as fun and free-spirited as the album is, the theme of the album seems to be the Internet and the way everything is connected through it, and the belief that the government uses this social networking as a "Big Brother" of sorts to track unsuspecting users (the album opens with the lyrics "connected to the google/connected to the government"). In this Facebook and Twitter age, M.I.A. is sending a message that we can have fun and dance to the beat, but we have to be careful about what we do because you never know who may be watching, or Googling, you.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Cleanse: Day 1

So it's the first day of my cleanse. Don't be mistaken, this isn't a psycho-celeb "Master Cleanse" type of cleanse, I'm not that crazy. This is more like a lifestyle adjustment. I'm taking these all-natural supplements for two weeks to gently cleanse my body of the toxins from processed food and the environment that accumulate in the body after awhile. In addition I'm going to do my best to eat as "clean" as possible, limiting simple sugars and...here's the hard part...cutting out my beloved Coke Zero. During my first year of college, sleep became replaced by these fizzy aluminum soda cans that contained my life source. And I've always had an obnoxiously ravenous sweet tooth, I might as well have been an extra kid with a golden ticket to Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. Don't get me wrong, I will never say goodbye completely to my vices, but for now I'm challenging myself to get back to basics. My goal is to not be dependent on caffeine and sugar for energy by the end of the summer. It's only been a few hours, so the insanity has not yet set in. I wonder how long it will be before I'm pulling out my hair from the inevitable headaches...I wonder if they have a rehab for caffeine addicts?

disturbing memories of childhood

when i was a youngin', i used to play a game of barbies with my mom. she was always "cowgirl barbie" and i was always "sun sensation" barbie...but because i was young and couldn't pronounce words correctly, i instead said "sensual barbie". maybe that's where my problems began

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mexico on my mind: Mangoes

I love America. As cliche as it is, sometimes you need to get out of the country to realize that. As much as I'm obsessed with foreign cultures, it's important to love your country, it's home. But there are definitely many things I miss from my recent journey out of the land of the free and home of the brave.

On my recent trip to the city of Oaxaca in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, I got to experience the lush and vibrant culture of this relatively quiet and tranquil part of Mexico. I went there to study Spanish at the Instituto Cultural Oaxaca, hoping to improve my speaking ability. I lived with a lovely host family who treated me like one of the family, showing alot of love and care. One of my favorite memories is sitting around the kitchen table and eating breakfast, and oh how I miss that Mexican breakfast. Every morning Soledad, the matriarch of the family, would prepare for me a lush platter of cut-up fruits (carefully prepared with the skins removed, to avoid contamination from the unfiltered water). This scrumptious plate typically included apples, cantaloupe, banana, papaya, and the most important ingredient, mango.

Before Mexico, I had never had a real mango. These fruits, with their bright golden flesh, tasted like no other fruit I had ever tasted. For me, these mangoes were an escapist experience. When I took a bite, I would close my eyes and be transformed into a khaki-clad adventurer, sifting through the tropical jungles of South America, searching for an oasis in the oppressive heat and humidity. I would find the mythical tree of mangoes, and that first bite would be my salvation. The golden juice would cover my sandpaper tongue, and I would forget about the scorching heat of the sun and the sting of mosquitoes. For a moment, the mango was the only sensation that registered, and it was a much welcomed relief.

I miss these mango reveries. There are only a few foods that I have tasted that provide the magical ability to escape into another place. On returning to the United States, I tried my luck at the mangoes at the supermarket, and my heart sank as I realized that these mangoes were not the same magic mangoes I had tasted in Oaxaca. I know someday I will return to South America and have another magic mango, and escape once more into my romanticized adventures.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

There are two types of people in this world...

Person A: The person who eats food either plain or with the occasional condiment.

Person B: The person who eats EVERY (or almost every) item of food with some condiment or another. It could be one condiment in particular that said person is particular to, or it could be a few. The point is, this eater must ALWAYS have a condiment available on a need basis.

Mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, salt, pepper...there are so many condiments that are quintessential to the All-American diet. We slather them on sandwiches, hot dogs, hamburgers, fries, you-name-it. And while most of us use these "food accessories", if you will, in moderation, there are some of us out there who just can't get enough of that stuff that they love. I am here confessing that I am a condiment addict.

When I was a child, my mother would pick me up from my school in Rochester, Minnesota to find yellow stains on my clothes. Thankfully, this was not due to a urinary problem (I would have had a much more difficult time socially if that were the case) but because of a condiment problem. Every day in the cafeteria, I would not squirt, not drizzle, but slather mustard on almost every gray-tinged food item that was on my industrial-grade food tray. It seemed like there was no wholesale-bought flavor that couldn't be improved by a generous glob of that bright, golden sauce that tasted like raindrops from the sun. Occasionally it would be accompanied by it's good friend Ketchup, and on the special occasion mixed together into an orange concoction I fondly called Mustup, much like many of the other curious or bored children at the lunch table. But I was first and foremost always loyal to my yellow friend. Eventually I became more careful aiming the bottle, saving myself more unsightly stains for my mother to try and scrub out. Yet my love for mustard has not waned, yet it has matured. Today I am a mustard connoisseur who enjoys the wide varieties that the mustard seed lends itself too, from spicy to Dijon to stone-ground to honey mustard dressing. So I guess I will always be a condiment person, and that's a mark that I don't want to come out in the wash.