Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Why We Love Lists

I don't know.

I don't know why we love lists, but I was hoping I could get some ideas. Of course, most of you won't read this now because it's not a list, but at the very least, the page view will count, so thanks. This post is not the first time you've become privy to the concept of the internet-list-as-means-of-conveying-everything, and I know that because you have eyes and you have a computer and you're a person. Maybe I'm being presumptuous; maybe I'm not taking into account that you are the one person who has not fallen prey to hours and hours of your life disappearing into the ether on account of reading some lists. I'm sorry, person. I'm sorry you're not like the rest of us.

And now for the rest of us! I ask you to look at the lists you currently have open on your browser. I'll go first: A complete list of every book referenced on Orange is the New Black, a list of secrets about Breaking Bad (I don't watch Breaking Bad), and yet another list with 20-somethings as both the subject and audience. This one focuses on how I will for SURE fuck up everything because something precious about being dependent on my dad's wallet or some bullshit because...millennials? I am sneering at the latter list, and that's because I kind of hate it. I can only speak for myself (but if you want me to speak for you, too, let me know) but I am so done with this assumption--created and cast by the internet--that I am struggling the most on account of being 23 and female. Not every list targets women, of course, but the content of these lists is can be pretty gendered. And when I use "struggle," I mean it in the most shallow way possible, like it's cute or it's some kind of fun thing that we are "lucky enough" to experience. My definition of "struggle," as I'm using it above, was informed by these very lists, the ones that also assume I am cute and I am shallow and I am playing grown-up. As far as I'm concerned, it's  a farce to assume that all 20-somethings achieve "grown-up" status at the same time. It's also really ignorant from gender, class, and racial standpoints--painting with a broad brush isn't especially effective or sensitive. The point I'm getting at is that it's insulting for anyone to assume we're ("we" being the list's target audience) all sitting in the "real-world" and crying because we don't know how to buy stamps. I'm tired of the internet telling me I should always have frozen vegetables in my freezer; I'm tired of the internet telling me to go to Europe for six months because that's probably the only thing I can do really well right now; and I'm especially tired of the internet telling me I'm totally unqualified to be a semi-functioning member of society. I don't know everything. Jesus, of course I don't know everything. I just know the things I know, and I'm doing fine.

Here's a stock photo of young adults having fun. This looks like you and your friends, right?

And now I'm using the internet to talk at you, too!

There's no denying the hypocrisy in using my web-based blog, a thing that is inherently self-serving, to talk about how crappy the internet can be. Let's just chalk it up to being self-referential, meta even, and carry on. I'd also like to go ahead and point out that the solution to my anxiety is to stop looking at lists. I know that. But if I did that, then...what would I have to bitch about? And what would I have blogged about instead of the internet? My five year reunion? The fact that I didn't wear a bra to my five year reunion? The fact that I'm now wondering who I told I wasn't wearing a bra, probably between my rum and Coke and my Jack and Coke, before we took a group picture that is for SURE the drunkest but I have to send to the alumni magazine anyway? Is that when I told someone I wasn't wearing a bra? I don't know, you guys. I just don't know.

I really am curious as to why the list format has taken off so wildly. If I find myself in a rabbit-hole of pop culture lists, I can easily lose hours. Now, that is my wheelhouse. I have read every 90s related list out there, especially if I sense the eventual mention of Pacey Witter. Okay so...easily accessible nostalgia? Is that a reason lists are great? Does it also have to do with the fact that all of the people who are currently compiling and writing content for these kinds of things are exactly our age, making the lists exactly accurate?

Remember when I Love the 80s would play for hours on VH1? And it was really fun and Michael Ian Black totally got the most air time, but only because he deserved it? We were too young for it all, but it felt so close, like if I could just stretch my fingers out a little further, I could touch the 80s and be in on all the jokes. Okay, so these pop culture lists? The ones we're looking at now and totally loving? They're our jokes, guys! We're finally a part of the nostalgia jokes! We get it because we lived it. Speaking of nostalgia, yeah, I owned a TalkGirl. I recorded hours of fake celebrity interviews on that baby. I am pretty positive that nine-year-old Katie was like, "So, Katie Holmes, tell me about the cool, teenager things that happen on Dawson's Creek." No regrets.

This is Hal Sparks, who was actually my favorite talking head on I Love the 80s.

What else?

Attention span. I mean, is it really an attention span issue? I think that some would agree, and for good reason, that we are extremely used to quickly and efficiently controlling all of the things happening in our digital lives. So when we get bored, we zone out. I get it. I, personally, think it has more to do with being busy, with budgeting time differently, with wanting to turn off our brains at the end of the day. Sometimes, I really don't want to dedicate a lot of myself to the things I read. Are lists our generation's version of airplane literature?

What else?

They are so fun, come on. Even the ones that are more life-lessons than pop culture are really fun. And there's one for everything, which means you can search "Rookie of the Year Buzzfeed" (or whatever) and something will appear. And you don't even have to go plot point by plot point because someone already took the time to make all those fun gifs. But if you really want to know about Rookie of the Year, just ask me. The first time I went to Wrigley Field, I just texted my brother the whole time, telling him where I was standing and where Henry would be at that exact moment.

Yeah, guys, he did. (ROTY)

Do we like to feel like we're a part of a greater community than the one in which we actually live? Like we are all part of the 20-somethings who need 20 ways to make sense of our liberal arts degrees? Like we are all part of the universal cat-loving community? Like we belong somewhere, maybe, but if we don't, it's okay because so many other people like this list, too? I think we've all had that moment in which we can't believe how perfectly specific a list is to an inside joke with a friend. It reminds us that we're all thinking the same thing, fearing the same thing, missing the same thing. To varying degrees, of course.

I'm pretty freaked out by any form of confessional social media. Is this post confessional? Not really, it's just wordy. I'm just being ranty and attempting to make sense of something. The closest I get to confessional social media is when I live-tweet Mighty Ducks 2, in which case, I am deadly serious about that shit. (See? Nostalgia does power the internet.) It's not that emotions displayed on the internet that make me feel uncomfortable, as is the case with so many 20-something lists. I just don't understand why anyone would want to share said emotions. I do, however, understand why so many people like that type of thing. It's just that I, personally, don't get the angle and I don't get the objective.

Oh, and they're condescending as shit.

This is Guy Germaine, and he was this close! (D2)

But maybe this is too, you know? You might feel condescended by me and that's cool. Perhaps it's arrogant of me to think that anyone reading this is on remotely the same page as me. But that's what the internet is for, right? Reaching out and then never knowing if you were seen or heard, if even for a second, by someone, anywhere, who might be able to relate to you? I think that's what makes it fun.

The other day, I walked to get lunch with a friend from work. When we arrived, we stood in front of a glass case of beautiful pies. I asked, "You gonna get some pie?" She said, "No, I don't want to get into another thing." "Yeah," I said, "that's why I haven't started The Wire. I don't want to get into it." Maybe there's just too much out there--don't even get me started on my television anxiety--and perhaps organizing it all into tidy, numbered lists is what allows us to process.

I don't know why we love lists. Maybe because they're so simple, and it's the brain firing off ideas in rapid succession with limited editing. I don't hate them all, not by a long shot. A lot of them are really, really good and I like the communities they bring together online. I like that people feel like they're a part of something. I think they're popular because of the reasons mentioned above. Or maybe they're popular for none of the reasons above. I only know what I know. Like this: I'm handwriting this entry in a notebook, as I do most things. That's how I allow my brain to process. That's how I make sense of things. My brain needs to understand that my hand is producing the work before it can tell the rest of my senses to believe it. We're all just trying to process, I think. We're all just trying to do something.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Another Post About Hair

I was in the middle of purchasing this flower arrangement -->

when I decided to pause and write.  I had been thinking about blogging in recent weeks, and my joke was starting to get expensive,  so I thought I should take a break and re-evaluate my life. We can return to the flowers later.

First and foremost you (you as in vous, because I know I have seven readers) should know that this fun little romp into blogging will probably end soon. I've pretty much fallen off for most of 2013, and I know that, but that's only because I started doing things like working and playing with my friends. I've also realized that in the age of certain tell-all-we're-all-in-this-together kind of websites, I think you all just want to read lists of shit you're supposed to do in your 20s. (ALWAYS FORGIVE BUT NOT AT THE PRICE OF WHO YOU ARE.) I also realize I'm truly not candid enough to keep a successful blog nor do I understand the internet box well enough to make this even remotely aesthetically interesting. I mean, come on. I screen shot that picture of the flowers and let out a "yippee!" afterwards because I was so pleased with myself. With that in mind, I think it would behoove me to begin working towards or some variance of my name within a professional-looking domain. So I mean, I'll still exist on the internet and stuff! Just not here. Well, that's not technically true, because the internet archives stuff forever, doesn't it? The point is that I should really start putting writing things all in one place, and I don't mean the green trapper that I've been keeping hacky teen-romance scripts and poems about Shane West in since I was 12.

But for now, I'll tell a story!

There are two things on which I refuse to spend what I consider to be "a lot" of money. Those things are everyday-wear shoes and haircuts. I beat the shit out of my shoes and my hair does whatever it wants, so spending an exorbitant amount of money on either of those things is, frankly, stupid. But Katie, you're saying, you need to invest in these items and luxuries in order to be satisfied with your experience. Fair. A few years ago, I budgeted my summer earnings so I could afford my very own salon treatment, where I would get my hair done instead of just cut. My Done Hair lasted for a few weeks before humidity had its way with it; before my cool new side-sweeping bangs were drenched with forehead grease before lunchtime; before I realized that my hair looked basically the same way it had before the stylist touched it. My history with my hair is that scene from Boy Meets World, "Hair Today, Goon Tomorrow" (season 4, episode 2) when Topanga cuts her hair and gets hotter and then, in an attempt to make a point about superficiality, Cory also visits Mr. Cillini's salon. When Mr. Cillini reveals Cory after a very long-winded (kind of like this example!) and passionate synopsis of his most important cosmetic work to date, we see that NOTHING has changed about the way Cory looks. That's me after every haircut. 

Cory's joyful face before realizing nothing changed. Sorry, buddy. 
(If you get a chance to watch the full episode, though, you should, especially if you just graduated from college. Eric's storyline is too real if your life right now is anything like mine was last summer at this time. The whole thing's on YouTube!)

A few months back, I desperately needed a trim. It was a few days before I was going home for Easter and I thought, Yes! How I will impress my family and friends with new Done Hair! This will be a signal to them that I am surviving the city! I decided that I wanted a substantial amount of length to go away, nothing tricky, but enough to relieve me of my then mid-to-long-ness. But, since I don't like to spend money on haircuts, I needed to find some kind of Best Hair/Classic Bangs/fast food style hair cutting institution. I found one...and then proceeded to have a really fucking weird experience. Basically, the woman refused to cut my hair because it's too pretty. That's right. She didn't believe or accept my request to please cut off six inches. I sat in her chair for nearly an hour while she hacked away at my hair, half inch by half inch, cringing as she did so, and saying repeatedly, "It's just too're going to regret're going to regret this." Now, look. If you've seen my hair, you know it's an extremely standard shade of brown. It's thick, there's a lot of it, it's very shiny and healthy looking, yes, but that's just because of the excess scalp grease. But it's nothing to advocate for, especially by someone who's not me, and this woman truly believed she was saving me from the horrible fate of not being long-haired anymore. I kept pointing to my chin, because that's where I wanted my longest layer to hit, and then her eyes would grow wide with horror and she'd shake her head and keep trimming off insignificant amounts of hair. I finally just stopped her because my hair looked fine (if not the exact same as before) and I wanted to get the hell out of there. And then she rang me up and it was double what I thought I would be paying, but I hated her on a personal level at that point, and if paying more meant getting the hell out of dodge, I was okay with that.

So naturally, when I went to get a hair cut yesterday, I went back to the same place.

Why? Because I don't spend a lot of money on haircuts, I already told you that! I also planned on pointing and shouting "Not that one!" at the woman if I saw her. Instead, I was greeted by the angel I now know to be Elyse, the most perfect beauty specialist in all of Chicago. I saw her and I instantly knew, my hair has been waiting for you for so long. You wanna know why? Because Elyse's haircut is exactly what I've been wanting but I've either a) not described it correctly or b) been denied! Elyse asked, "What are we doing today?" And I said, "I know this might sound creepy...and I swear I wanted this before I got here...but I want your haircut. Exactly." And that's exactly what she gave me! ELYSE, YEEEAH!!! I was starry-eyed through the whole process as I watched my hair change shape into something other than its old descriptors: "plain"; "sad"; "big." And then Elyse charged me the correct amount for my cut...and it was so, Akron cheap...and I skipped all the way home, clutching Elyse's business card to my heart. It was the most divine haircut the world has ever known and I can't believe it happened to me. 

And that's the story of why my hair is short now. Oh, also because it's been 90 degrees in Chicago for like, a week, and I just can't.

Oh, right, the flowers. If you see them at the reunion, that means I bought them. I hope that provides you with the closure you were hoping for.

ALSO (so many post scripts, I know, I'm sorry) thank you for the "Rachel Writes Erotica" love. I'm not sure when the next installment will be complete but I think it will be called "Rachel Roots for the Home Team" and YES there will be pink Browns jerseys and lots of buffalo chicken dip made in the crock-pot. Because ladies.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Remember when I used to blog?

Do you remember that one time I had a blog? And then I would write in that blog and force it upon you because that's how social media works? I, too, have a vague recollection of that time. I had big plans for the blog, you know. It was going to be the medium to which I was most dedicated after college. Things change, man. Most days I get home from work, zone out for awhile, stuff food in my mouth that sometimes resembles dinner, and then I call it a night. This routine is of course peppered with various hobbies and interactions, but the point I'm really trying to get at is I'm a tired, old person now. I'm thinking about how I have to walk literally next door to Walgreen's to grab a few items, and it makes me grumble. Getting old is the hardest, you guys. Resist it if you can.

The fact of the matter is I have limited news to share, which doesn't bode well for the level of interest you will end up having for this post. I've been working and that's been great. I was approved for a credit card, so now I have that bill to pay, too. I recently started level 2 of the writing program at Second City, where they are teaching me to be funny. In fact, the most productive thing I did today was sign into my Second City account and switch the card information for an upcoming automatic payment. I realize that doesn't sound like a huge achievement but, frankly, the SC student portal isn't super user-friendly. Also, I'm bad at computers, which doesn't help. Whatever, I switched the card information, and that's all that matters.

In addition to working and learning how to be funny, I've also been planning my five-year high school reunion. That's right; we do a five year. I've talked to numerous people who are shocked that my class is already jumping into reunion territory. These people typically respond with something semi-mocking or condescending, making me feel silly about the fact that we're only five years out. Hey, man, the people want what they want. Actually, I didn't ask anybody if they wanted the reunion, I just assumed it's a thing we're supposed to do. The fact of the matter is that it's happening, even though I haven't sent out invitations yet. Actually, I'm supposed to be designing invitations right now as we speak. It was the next item on my list after "Email Yassi" and "Fix your Second City payment information." I did both of those things, saw the invitation memo, and immediately opened up a project I haven't looked at in two and a half months. (That's this blog.) Look, guys, you'll get your invitation, okay? In fact, I'll open up a Word Doc right now to remind myself that the invitation has to be designed today. See? Here's what I've got so far:

 That's my favorite line in Wet Hot American Summer, if you were wondering. Will it be on the invite? Maybe. 
Now why is Katie planning a high school reunion? I'll tell you: I was our class president and the administration tells you at like, 17 years old, that you'll have to do this every five years for the rest of your life. And then I took the job anyway. (I really mean that. Nobody else ran for the position.) Of course other people are helping, but I can't really get over the comedy of my planning a party in Akron while I live in Chicago. I'll probably just end up RSVPing "Can't come--live in Chicago now" and then I'll laugh really hard.  Like, joke's on you class of 2008! I'm not even coming to my own party! But I'm not doing that BECAUSE!

I'm using my weekend in Akron as the jumping off (or end, haven't decided yet) point of a week long excursion to see all my buddies and biddies. Look, I know I don't post pic-stitches of my best friends when it's their birthdays and I know I don't turn my Facebook statuses into long-winded thank yous to all the people who have ever had anything to do with my life, but that doesn't mean I don't care. So I will be making the great Northeast trek to New York and Boston in hopes of rekindling some college magic, which is something I miss dearly. For the past three weeks, I have had college friends visit me in Chicago and each visit was so uniquely wonderful and fulfilling. I think what I enjoyed most was the amount of comfortable laughter and the degree to which I didn't have to impress anybody. Isn't that the best? When you don't have to impress anybody? I hate the feeling that I do, and I hate even more when my feeling is correct, so spending some time with people who have seen you at your drunkest/saddest/most outrageous is pretty nice. In summation, I hope I see you in Boston or New York in July of 2013.

What else? Oh, right. This is going to be featured in a Canadian Language Arts text book for 10th graders. True story. The 16 year-olds of Canada will finally come to know what it means to be snarky and American. So, you're welcome? I'm also working on a play that BFF Robert and I have been devising. Ok, confession time: I was actually doing research for the script after I handled my Second City account and before I started this post, so that means invitations were bumped twice. I swear I'll do them. Look! I'm already making progress!

In regards to the script, we don't know what we're doing with it. I've written down like, seven bullet points on a legal pad thus far, so this certainly is not time sensitive.

And finally, I recently bought tickets for a screening of Caddyshack at the Music Box Theatre for Boyfriend and me. There is rumor that Bill Murray will be there. I broke out in hives I was so excited to hear this. BF is also in the process of talking me in to seeing Huey Lewis and the News sing all of Sports for its 30th anniversary. I'll think about it.

Also, I saw a dead rat on the sidewalk the other day. Though I had nothing to do with it, I couldn't help but wonder if my incessant ill-wishes on the greater rat community of Chicago had somehow affected this guy's karma. I'll just assume they did. So remember: regardless of how much you "do" about your rat problem, it's probably just best to wish really hard that they stop bothering you. Kind of like all your problems in life! Believe in your dreams!

And Happy Mother's Day!!!! Again, just because I didn't convert all avenues of social media to a sonnet about my mother's love does not mean I don't think she's great. I sent her a very lovely card last week that had an old-timey cowboy pistol on the front. So. I think that covers it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

10 Things I Know to be True: Part 1 of, well, 10

A few nights ago, I was pacing around my kitchen while waiting for some water to boil. I know that a "watched pot never boils", ha ha, no seriously it doesn't, but that has never stopped me from doing it anyway. It's hard to estimate how many minutes I've wasted on boiling water, but it's the way I do things and I'm far too old to go changing now. Right, so I was pacing around the kitchen and it dawned on me that this would be an opportune time to BLOG, a thing I used to do often. Then fairly often. And then every three weeks if I found myself in the mood. What, you think this is easy? When you have an audience as large as mine (seven people), there's a lot of pressure to perform. Anyway, I opened up a blank blog page and typed, "10 Things I Know to be True" in the title bar. Yes, I thought to myself, and now I impart wisdom. 

And then it took me three tries to get my water to boil.

I wish I were kidding, but the whole cooking thing really turned into a process. I'm definitely not going to tell you why I had to boil water three different times, just know that I did. Also, I don't have to explain myself to you people because I'm proud of who I am!!! So in this extensive, am-I-cooking-or-am-I-just-hanging-out period of time, I typed out the first ten things that came to mind when thinking of absolute truths in my life. But Katie, let's examine how you define "absolute" in relation to your idea of "truth." Well, I hadn't thought that much about the list. I still haven't thought that much about the list. I'm pretty sure that by the time I actually get to the post about the tenth truth, the list will have changed dozens of times. The point, really, is that I never published that post about the things I know to be true, and it's because of (you guessed it) the water in pots one, two, and three.

I'm back tonight and slightly more focused so I figure I should address one of the items on my list. It's about the Rat who took up residence here two months ago and, apparently, hasn't left yet.

#8: When things go seriously wrong in my apartment, I won't know what to do.

I am a very capable person. I'm good at figuring out unfamiliar situations and I'm a pretty quick learner. In fact, my room mate told me just a few weeks ago that I have the face of someone not to be messed with, and that's probably why dudes don't continue to call after me after I give them initial Bitch Face. Great! I thought. Everybody's falling for it. Because guess what? I'm faking all of it and I'm faking it so you stop hitting on me, and so you don't feel afraid to be in this neighborhood, and so you trust that this will turn out okay. But when I'm by myself, I don't need to convince anybody of anything so that's when I freak the shit out over our struggling toilet. That's the connection to this item, by the way: the toilet and all other parts of our bathroom that were wheezing their last breaths of life. My room mate was out of town for a week so I just assumed that all of the things that could overflow were, in fact, going to overflow. And I wouldn't know what to do. From a renter's perspective, I believe the correct response is "Call your landlord." But that's not how my brain works. I wanted a logistical and immediate solution for the thing that hasn't happened yet. After thinking about it for way too long, I had nothing that remotely resembled a plan so I decided to just call it a night and go get a banana split. That's the other reason I didn't finish that blog post. I was eating a banana split.

I went to bed that night, because that's when people go to bed, and at around 6:30 the next morning I heard a noise that I immediately knew belonged to a rat. More specifically, Apartment Rat. Oh, right, the bathroom problems don't really come into play again. What's that rule? Put a gun in the first act, better shoot someone with it in the second? Well, I broke that rule because this story is about Apartment Rat, the other seriously wrong thing happening in the apartment that I don't know how to handle. So this noise wakes me up at 6:30, right? And I immediately knew that little bastard was back. I actually had a moment in which I figured out what I was going to say to him when I confronted him. I sat up in bed and put on my glasses and started a mental first draft of my Speech to Apartment Rat. Look, I just think it's really rude that you think you can just come in here whenever you want--and then I reminded myself it's a fucking rat. I instead barricaded my door as to not allow Apartment Rat access to my chambers. This is the exact same course of action I took two months ago when I was drunk at 5 am and building a rat blockade. I think that speaks volumes about the strength of my survivor instinct.

I got up an hour later (so I could live my life), and I made sure to creep into the dining room and sneak up on any remaining rodents. I didn't actually expect to see anything, or at least I don't think I did. So imagine my surprise when I saw something. That asshole rat had accomplished the following:
  • Apartment Rat got into our apartment in spite of the various booby-traps we had set up for him. We knew he'd be back (they always come back) so we have steel wool stuffed in various structural holes, duct tape over base board openings, and glue traps just waiting for a catch. The plan was not fail proof, it is true, but we thought that we had taken a decent amount of the proper precautions against rat home invasion. 
  • Apartment Rat ate our food. You do not pay rent here, Rat. You do not pay bills, you do not pay my loans, and you do not buy the groceries. So you think you can just come in here at any hour of the night and eat our food? You thought we would be "cool" with it? Like, "Oh, no, these girls call me Apartment Rat! We're friends! They let me crash here!" No, man. You took it too far this time. And I think you know that.
  • Apartment Rat proceeded to drag said food from the dining room into the kitchen. In the process of this migration, Rat just straight up spilled crumbs and food particles everywhere. Like. Everywhere. And then Rat, because he is hilarious, must have done a god damn rat jig atop all the food particles (it was rice cakes, by the way) and ground everything into the carpet. 
  • Apartment Rat didn't stop at the carpet. Oh no. He climbed on top of my coat and scarf, the very clothing items I wear every day, and rat-danced all over them with his rice cake covered paws (claws? feet? talons?) before rolling around in rice cake and making rice cake dust angels. On my coat. Do I have proof of this? If you think the palpable feeling of rat betrayal is proof, then my answer is yes. 
So do you know what I did? Because something was going seriously wrong in the apartment and this is the part I was dreading: the part where I had to do something. I did the only thing my limited skills allowed me to do: I wrote a Bitch Face email to my landlord that, after addressing the rat problem, ended with something to the effect of, "OH. And my bathroom is struggling. Let's fix that." And sure enough, I got home today to a totally rat-trapped apartment and the promise from an exterminator that his serious of devices will most definitely work this time. He says that when it "works" it will be "loud" and we will "know." I also came back to a bathroom with full functioning everything AND they fixed the dryer! Right, our dryer didn't work either. I addressed that in the email by saying "our clothes are hot and soaking wet and frankly it's disgusting."

And now I await Apartment Rat's return. Your move, buddy.

This is who we believe to be the culprit. He likes the Cubs, pizza, and messing up my life. 
I realize now that I kind of refuted my own truth by the end of this entry, a trend I really wasn't planning on starting. Don't worry everybody--if there's a gas leak I'm running and, more than likely, going to get a banana split. Unlit pilot lights don't know how to react to sassy emails.

Also, you should know that when I got home from work yesterday, Rat had been back during the day, finding more rice cakes and having his way with those, too. He's getting too confident and there is truly nothing worse than an arrogant rat. RIGHT LADIES?!?!

I agree. It's bed time.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Stay Hungry

First of all, what the what is this:

What kind of sad, cat lady things have I been searching for Facebook to assume this is what I need? Or, creepier yet, does Facebook know what I look like and, again, assumes this is what I need? I can forgive but I won't forget.

But onward (and upward) to more pertinent things! There's a reason I haven't written in two weeks and it's better than my usual catalogue of reasons that boasts items such as "Had too much TV to watch" or "Not enough TV to watch so I better find some." Though I sounded pitiable and a little down-trodden in my last post, what you didn't know is I had applied to a job that day. Well, I had applied to a bunch of jobs that day and a bunch the day before and a bunch the day after. But on that particular day I applied to a job that I ended up getting hired for less than a week later. And let me tell you something: I am thrilled for myself. I think I'm allowed to say that, even if it makes me some kind of asshole. My new job is awesome, I'm good at it, and I get to actually tell people I'm a writer when they ask what I do. Seriously, I can say that and I will be telling the actual truth, not the "I'm a writer...I have like, 20 pretty dependable readers of my blog, so that's cool" truth. And the bonus on top of that bonus is that I got the job all by myself. It was a pure hire, people--no connections. At my final interview I was asked, "How did you find out about us?" And I said, "Uh, I Googled writing jobs in Chicago?" Which is true. And hilarious because that's a pretty terrible way of searching for anything and all of those horrible college tutorials I had to take about how to use the library were, apparently, kind of useful. Go figure. Anyway, so the lesson to be learned is this: Go to whatever college you want even if no one has heard of it, major in whatever you want even when people demand to know what you will do with that, graduate without a plan, move to a city you like (still sans plan), put up with a lot of bullshit from a lot of different people about everything I just mentioned and then get the coolest fucking job ever without anybody's help. And why is this acceptable? Why should you be allowed to do this after years of being forced to write out arbitrary life outlines for the sake of appeasing your parents, teachers, and college counselors? Why should you get to ignore this notion that your goals are far-fetched and ill conceived? Because you're a badass, that's why.

So obviously that's big news. Jobs, yay! But there was this other thing that happened to me (also last week) that was so incredibly great that I am compelled to share it with you.

Note: The following story really is a deviation from my personal comfort zone. Really cool things happen to me all the time. Really cool things happen to a lot of people all the time, in fact. But the following really cool thing is worth sharing.

I met Dave Eggers. And yes, you're right, A LOT of people met Dave Eggers that day. It was a publicized signing, that's how these things work. What's kind of funny is the part where I haven't actually read all of his books. In fact, I've read less of his books than more of his books. There are also writers who have definitely had a bigger personal impact on me than Dave Eggers. Last spring I wrote a heart-wrenching email to one of these writers, and I received an automated response back from her publicist, telling me she couldn't communicate with fans but if I wanted to book her for my next event, I could follow the link below. I tried to see this same speaker at a conference that same spring and then she canceled last minute. The woman has broken my heart a strange amount of times, the more I think about it. And then there's Scott Russell Sanders who I emailed a few weeks ago and within 24 hours he responded with the sweetest message ever. I digress. I'm supposed to tell you about meeting Dave Eggers.

Right, so Dave. I first read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius...I don't know. Three years ago? Four? It was not new when I read it, though, which I always forget about. It came out in 2000. Anyway, I really liked the book but more than that I really liked the format of the book. He tried a lot of new ways of writing, which I thought was so so so awesome. And what was even MORE awesome is some of the forms did not work and he knew that and he called himself out on it. I love format and I love experimenting with it, so he was employing techniques I just hadn't seen before. The content was good but the form? Man, I fell in love with it. I started doing a lot of research on the guy and that's when I got really interested in 826. I had been reading McSweeney's for a little while, per my friend Abbie's recommendation. Before I started college I basically just got interested in everything Abbie was interested in because I thought Abbie was the coolest and I assumed this would help me in college. (It did.) (A lot.) The point is that I wanted to do all of the Dave things, too. And thank God I did because then I met him.

Ugh, that was the point of this story, wasn't it? Meeting him? Anyway. My room mate and I arrived at the book store around the time the signing began and we were already in group H. The groups started at A, so we had a bit of a wait. For two hours I sat in an aisle and read a George Saunders collection. Then group H was called and we made our way to the front of the bookstore. Dave was sitting at a table with two chairs and it appeared that all of the commoners were afforded the opportunity to sit down with him and talk about anything they wanted. I thought that was so cool!!! Until I was at the front of the line and I realized I had no idea what I was going to say to him. The girl in front of me in line had sat down and started chatting immediately, asking questions about publishing and something else that was very specific. She came prepared. I overheard another Fan-Dave conversation in which a woman was more or less just telling him what his new book is about, which I thought was kind of funny. Then it was my turn and I still had nothing. I mean, less than nothing. So much nothing that when I tried to sit down, my coat and scarf got caught on the table and in an attempt to squirm out of this, I ended up pushing the chair away from my body with my ass, and I kept trying to sit but the chair kept moving. So there was easily 30 seconds in which I forgot how to sit down, which studies have shown is the best way to make a first impression. Once I was physically and finally in the chair, I still didn't have anything to talk about, which was disconcerting at that point. I brought two books with me for him to sign and, since I wasn't saying anything, he made a grab for the books. What I hadn't told him is that one was for me and one was for my buddy, Scott. That's when I shouted at Dave Eggers:

"WAIT! Are you gonna, like, write, like, to? Uh? Somebody? Like their name?"

Dave Eggers: Yeah, if that's okay. Now do you spell that with an -ie at the end...?

"Yes. WAIT NO. That one's for Scott! THAT BOOK IS FOR MY FRIEND SCOTT!"

Dave Eggers: Oh, cool. That's really nice of you.


And then Dave Eggers looked up from the book and he stared directly into my eyes, smiled said,

Katie, you're a really good friend. 

And then everything was fine after that. The book I wanted signed for myself is How We Are Hungry which is a short story collection that I absolutely love. Again, going back to form, that was a major influence on how I formatted my senior thesis project. It is still a fantastic collection to turn to when I just don't know how the hell I want to get a story across. If you haven't read it, that is really my primary DE recommendation, especially if you're a writer. So I handed him the book and said something about loving it and how it's written and a bunch of other stuff that was hopefully complimentary. And then I said these words:

"I really think that this collection has influenced my writing the most."

Then I paused. Big, noticeable pause. And I thought about what I had just said. And then I said this:

"I'm sorry. That's not true at all."

Now you're probably thinking I had blown it because logically, that's what happens next. But then I said:

"Raymond Carver has influenced me the most. But he's not here right now."

And Dave Eggers thought that was funny and laughed, because I had looked around the coffee shop before pointing out that he's not here right now. Physical cues, you guys. Don't under estimate. And we kind of shared a moment of respect for Raymond Carver and how he was just the greatest. Dave was still holding my book and he started flipping through the pages. He said:

I'm reading from this tonight, you know. I'm a little nervous because I haven't looked at it in six years. But I just thought I should read from it.

Then Dave Eggers took a moment, with my book, and just kind of thumbed through the pages. And I thought, this is so cool. I had just told the guy how much the book meant to me, he told me that he hadn't thought about it in six years but decided he would read from it, and then recollected a specific time in his life by flipping through the pages that I had flipped through so many times in an effort to become a better writer at a specific time in my life. That was kind of incredible. It seems small, and in terms of actual time it was, but that might be my favorite point of the conversation.

I sensed that I had already spent too much time at the table, so I made the game day decision to very quickly tell Dave some important facts about myself. I originally didn't want to do it but then I was like, eh, fuck it, why not. I said I had read AHBWOSG many years ago and it was at that time that I really introduced myself to 826 and McSweeney's. I made a promise to myself, however many years ago that was, that I would be an 826 volunteer and I would be published in McSweeney's. The punch line of this being, that I said to Dave:

"And I'm very proud to tell you that I achieved both of those things this past year."

I don't know what I thought Dave Eggers would say, but I didn't expect his jaw to drop and then for him to say this:

Oh my God. Congratulations! That is....that is awesome, wow, McSweeneys's! Did you work with Chris??

And what's funny is I DID work with Chris, Chris being the editor of McSweeney's online so then I got to say:

"Yeah! I worked with Chris!"

Then Dave was just this really unbelievably kind, mushy, congratulatory dude who was so pumped that someone somewhere was getting something out of all these extra-curriculars he had started.The time had come, however, for me to get up and let someone else have a turn but as I was standing to leave, DAVE EGGERS said to me:

I expect to see you again. 

It was the coolest. Just. Man. The coolest. Then I asked him for a picture with me and he looked at me, like we were friends, and said, Oh, we have got to shake hands for this! And if you've seen the picture of us on Facebook, we are indeed shaking hands, per Dave Eggers's request.

Then I bought a Subway sandwich with a gift card. It was the best Saturday ever.

In years past I've hated the month of February. It's just cold and awkwardly placed and I mean, you know, it's February. But damn, February 2013 is making me sing a different tune. As I bring this post to a close, all I can do is smile and think about how I get to go to my job tomorrow. Disgusting, but true.

Thanks, Dave. You too.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

How I feel about my decision to pursue writing as a "Thing" or I wish my "Thing" had been based more in a proficiency for Photoshop or web design

At some point in my life I heard a story about Woody Allen's writing process. I might have been watching a documentary or maybe my mom told me, I don't remember, but I do know that I immediately became fascinated by it. Whenever Woody Allen has an idea for a new movie, he writes it down on a small scrap of paper and then puts it in a drawer. The man has been writing since the early 1960's, so you can imagine how many of these ideas are in one drawer. When the time comes for him to make a new film, he reaches into the drawer and starts pulling out the scraps of paper. When he finds an idea he likes, he turns it into a script which then becomes the movie. I just took a quick peek at Woody's IMDB page and it appears that he is responsible for some 60 titles in about 50 years. Regardless of your opinion of the guy's movies--if you hate them, don't get them, still harness feelings of extreme bitterness because Annie Hall beat out Star Wars for Best Picture--I think we can all agree those kind of numbers are insane. He pumps out so much stuff because he is never at a loss for material. That is where my fascination and frustration for writing comes from: what do I write about?

If you're a writer, or perhaps just a regular human being, you're aware of how much self-doubt goes into the initial stages of any project. Starting things is terrifying. Some people, like myself, are not convinced to start anything until they believe it's actually pretty good. That could potentially make for a dangerous cycle. It's actually a wonder I've ever completed anything on account of how many times I've said Uggghhh this is the worst to whatever it is I'm writing. You can either convince yourself that your bad idea is actually a very good one or you commit to its inherit badness and agree to go along for the ride.

Why bring up Woody Allen? Why bring up being afraid of starting things? And why burden you with writing about writing? (Don't answer that one.) Woody Allen tosses anything and everything into that drawer. (I can hear you assholes, by the way. Sling your insults about your least-favorite movies at a later date.) When his idea is "Quirky girl meets neurotic guy; they talk," it still goes in the drawer. I need to do more of that. I need to put more stuff in the drawer, no matter how ridiculous or boring or unoriginal I believe a concept to be. I am infamous for writing pages of dialogue, re-reading it, and thinking it sounds too similar to something I've seen already. Of course discretion is important with this kind of thing, but come on people, we saw No Strings Attached and Friends with Benefits come out within months of each other. I think it's important to have really crappy ideas or make really shoddy attempts at things, such as being 23 and giving yourself a break when your expectations far exceed what is realistically possible. I typically don't follow my own advice, but I'm trying to come around to that one.

Pursuing writing as a thing seems silly, and rightfully so. For the most part it doesn't produce anything tangible and convincing people that you were productive today is next to impossible. You aren't getting paid to do it, you don't actually know if you're doing it well, and if you stop doing it in the middle of the day in favor of watching the two hour block of Boy Meets World, nobody is going to wonder what happened to the book that was never written. Maybe someday I will be paid to do these things and I will have someone to whom I answer, but for now it's pretty much just me tapping away at my slowly dying laptop and hoping that I produce enough good material to send off somewhere. Knowing that my laptop is on its last legs is unbelievably stressful, by the way. For what is an artist without a canvas or an accountant without a calculator? But even though I am painfully aware of all the logical reasons I should just throw in the towel, I've never been one to listen to other people, especially a general public that assumes it knows what's "best for me." Funny story, I've had jobs where I was explicitly instructed to cut creativity out of my life and guess what? That sucked. So in spite of the odds and how they are very much against me, I find myself blindly trusting myself to not fuck it up.  There's that shoddy attempt at giving myself a break.

As I've mentioned before I am currently unemployed. It's not great. I eat a lot less and the other day I bought beer with a Walgreen's gift card I got for Christmas. I apply for all of the jobs every day but it's difficult to expect results when all these applications are thrust into the infinite abyss of the internet. I've been applying for jobs since September of 2011, so my ego is just numb at this point. I would, however, have much better luck if I had any kind of competence with website maintenance, social media, or a general understanding of the things in the computer. There is a surprising wealth of job opportunities for writers who know their way around a computer. If I have one bit of advice for current English majors who spend their time convincing others what it is they will do with that: learn web design, learn photo shop, learn how to write code, establish some kind of general competency with software, and don't hate social media as much as I do. I know it sounds sad, but I am Brooks from The Shawshank Redemption. I got out of college, realized the world had changed, but I was too old to catch up. That's where the comparison ends because then it starts to get a little depressing.  I see so many job postings everyday with qualifications such as "Must be hilarious! Witty! People person! Awesome written and verbal skills! Oh, and by the way, you will definitely be the person maintaining our website so know how to do all of that." Make a cool Tumblr. Create a blog that looks better than this one. Take pictures of stuff other than food. It's a young woman's game out there--learn how to play it.

Tomorrow will be another day of fantastic volunteer work with some of the smartest kids in Chicago. After that I will probably go to Subway, because it's on the way home and I have a gift card. And then I suppose I should return to the drawing board, which is really just a little purple note pad I have with a great big list of things-to-do printed on it. Many of those items are about "editing" and "starting" and "looking at again," all things that were one time in my drawer but I had the courage to pull them out. You know why? Because I want to be a writer, damn it, so that's what I'm going to do.

...or maybe I'll just go to the Art Institute because it's FOR FREE!!!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Holiday Wrap-Up, and stuff

Well, well, well. Look who it is. The prodigal daughter has returned! Many moons ago I decided blog posts would come out every week. Obviously, I have broken that rule before but this time I've really gone past my personal deadline. So I apologize, seven dedicated readers. You missed out on holiday cheer of the Ohio variety. Here is a quick recap of all that Ohio cheer:

-The Man Friend and I boarded an AmTrak bound for Cleveland on the night of December 21. We both decided that if the world was indeed ending, we would at least be on a train together. The entire journey was in darkness, but that's fine because you're supposed to sleep through those kinds of train rides. Did we sleep? For sure not. We did not sleep because of the two clowns sitting behind us. They had never met before selecting their seats next to one another, so they had years of stories their real friends had already heard. But because they were new friends, they could re-tell stories about being in marching band at their respective colleges and all the cool music apps they had on their phones. You want to know something funny about music apps? They make noise. Once we had put up with them for far too long, we decided to make our way to the Club Car and see what kind of characters we could find there. And guess what? Characters abound! In case you didn't know, drinking is allowed on the AmTrak and you can even bring your own 6-packs or bottles of wine/liquor or just buy it from the Cafe Car. At this point, we were closing in on 3 am so the Cafe Car was long closed but the remaining Club Car attendants were all drinking from bottles and cups they had brought themselves. We made fantastic train friends. We met a lumberjack who works in Oregon and he was on the train back to Vermont for Christmas. Oregon to Vermont--on a train! Did you know that such things still happen in America? We met a Humboldt State University student who was going from California to New York to visit his aunt. And then there was the gay couple going from Chicago to Cleveland like us. I wanted to keep them forever and write a sitcom with them. I dream about running into them again and then going to brunch. I mention brunch because we talked about being Chicago Brunchers, not because that's a thing I assume they'd enjoy. Then at about 5:30 am we rolled into the Cleveland station to begin a dreamy holiday break in snowy Ohio. (Because it hadn't snowed yet in Chicago. Weird.)

-MF and I then indulged in various activities of the season, such as driving out to my favorite neighborhood for Christmas lights. Yes, many of the houses are gorgeous, but there is one in particular that I needed him to see. This house is ridiculous in the best way possible. First of all, the decorations at this place touch on all of the symbols of Christmas. There is a massive lighted crucifix hanging in a tree and strands of lights go down to the ground, probably to suggest a "waterfall" of "glory." And, you know, lights. There are also penguins riding on a roller coaster. There are M&M characters on a ferris wheel.  There is a giraffe dressed as Santa Claus posing in a rotating glass cube. There is a bear riding a unicycle on a tight rope. There is a dog commandeering an airplane. And there is a life size nativity scene on this family's front porch while all nine reindeer perch on the roof above. It's a scene, one that encompasses the true meaning of Christmas. In America.

-Christmas eve and day came and went. There are many omitted details from this section because really it's a bunch of stuff that you already know about assuming you celebrate Christmas. And if you don't, then I guess it will just continue to be a mystery. I took Boy to the airport on Christmas Day and when I returned I started reading Bossypants. I finished it in a sitting. I think it surprises a fair amount of people that I had never read it before receiving it for Christmas. As a self described Tinaphile, one would think I had done this already. But I had not! There's a lot of things you'd think I'd done already, such as reading any book that can be described as a classic. Anyway, I read the book super fast and then immediately wanted to get to work on this list of goals I made a few months ago, many items being very superlative and a little crazy. Things like, "Be most powerful lady writer in world" are on this list a long with "Hand personal thank you letter to Conan O'Brien." My mind only works in extremes, what can I say.

-New Years Eve began the most delightful of friendship reunions. I drove to Pittsburgh to go see Biz, my best friend who I managed to not see at all when we were both in Akron. In case you haven't noticed, one of my goals with this blog is to maintain a degree of anonymity for characters who are mentioned fairly often, hence Man Friend and Room Mate being referred to as thus. The internet is a weird place and you never know who is reading what. But Biz is different in that you need to know her name to understand her character. People constantly ask me, "Biiiiz? Is that her real name?" And I say, "Yes, but I'm not sure she's a real person." I mean that with love. Most of the hilarious dumb things I've done in my life have been with Biz so OBVIOUSLY I had to spend my NYE with her for the second year in a row. This year, however, had the added bonus of two of my greatest buddies from college also partying in Pitt for NYE. The planets had aligned. I pretty evenly split my time between the two groups and we (college pals, boys mind you) even managed to be the lone dancers at Diesel, the classiest night club in Pittsburgh. We were there because there was no cover charge until 10 and, as it was 8:30 when we rolled up, we more than took advantage of the lack-of-people. We even had our picture taken with the women of Diesel! The four women of Diesel did that girl thing where they recognized that I am not as good looking as them but my two male friends seemed excited by their sparkly mini dresses so they were like, "No, sweetie, you get in the front!" And I was like ugggggh and I am literally lurking in the shadows of this picture. As the evening progressed and I parted ways with the boys, I found myself at a party with Biz and her friends. Biz only got in one altercation with another girl and fists were not even thrown, so it was a very tame evening. Then we held hands and walked home. Hoorah 2013!

And that was, more or less, the 10 days I spent away from Chicago. They were very good and I think I needed them. The life of the post-grad can be psychologically damaging, and I mean that in the least worrisome way possible. We are used to immediacy. We want answers now. And when perfection or our definition of successful isn't accomplished really really fast, it's very easy to think, "well, I guess I just wasted 4 years." The obvious wisdom/advice I keep reminding myself of is to be patient but being patient is kind of weird when I'm not working towards something as concrete as a degree. Setting your own time table! It's rough man, let me tell you. Be most powerful lady writer in 20 years. Guh, fine. I'll wait but I don't like it. Anyway, home time was very re-affirming for my goals, interests, plans, hopes, dreams, fears, etc., etc. Why, you ask? I have no idea. That's just how it works, I think. Also there were cats and a mommy there so that probably affected my sub-conscious. And the eastern standard time zone, which I miss EVERY DAY.

Next up: my new years resolutions! But not now. I am hungry and I made a promise to myself that I would not make dinner until I finished writing this. A list of new years resolutions is also something I've yet to come up with, so maybe I'll take a crack at that. Spoiler alert: there will be no mention of going to the gym.

This is a picture my boyfriend sent me. It has nothing to with anything you just read. I'm trying to come up with a connection but I got nothing. Here's to 2013, the year of baby models rocking creepy glasses.