Thursday, August 24, 2006

Oh my God, kids! I think it might be time for another installment of Things (And People) That Piss Me Off! Hooray!

1. The people who saunter down the middle of the sidewalk at approximately 0.05 miles per hour when I'm hauling balls to get somewhere (either because I'm running or because I'm about to be late for a class).
2. People who take up time in seminars asking bullshit questions that are phrased so as to sound profound but which, once all the trappings and "isms" and name dropping has been cleared away ("Well, as Deleuze said about Derrida's friend Foucault's ass...") is actually the height of ignorance. Especially crappy when the professor tries to gently tell them they're full of it, but they KEEP ASKING ANYWAY because they're THICK AS A BRICK (to quote a Jethro Tull song). It's not the stupidity I object to--I can forgive that. It's the pretense.
3. Fish that is not salmon or fish sticks. I haven't eaten either in a while, but I remember that as a kid I loved me some damn Mrs. Paul's fishsticks, with the homemade tartar sauce my mom put together (Recipe: take mayonnaise, canned pickle relish, and a little lemon juice. Mix.) It's the breading, I think--it masks that fishy taste. That, and the fat.
4. Watermelon. Watermelon flavored candy. Melon in general. Calling breasts "melons."
5. All the women on campus wearing skirts that, I swear to Jeevis, are six inches long. Sooner or later one of the guys (or gals, for that matter) is going to be so entranced by these articles of clothing--essentially very wide belts--that he's going to walk straight into a tree. On second thought, that would amuse me very much.
6. Let's say you actually find a good magazine in a waiting room. Let's make it an issue of Curve (a lesbian lifestyle magazine). Let's further say that you see an article in the table of contents that interests you very much. So you flip to that page and find...that someone has torn it out of the magazine. They should be consigned to the tenth level of hell, which they will share with people who tear things out of public yellow pages and those who tip less than 15 percent.
7. Popped collars. You aren't from the 'hood; you're the son of an investment banker and a socialite/fundraiser. Also, your name is Sterling and you're from Long Island. Go screw.
8. People who say things like, "I don't think there's anything wrong with gays; I just don't think they should be (insert profession here: teachers, clergy, etc)." Obviously you DO have a problem with gays and lesbians. Here are your options: either stop being so homophobic (the best option), or take it to the hoop and admit that homosexuals creep you out.
9. Thousand Island dressing. First, that orange can't be found in nature. Second, it tastes like someone's already eaten it.
10. Apropos of this week's events: Frat boys who don't know that saying "I'd fuck you" to a stranger is not a compliment; it's a crime. My prescription: a week in a woman's body, Tiresias-style, to get a feeling for just how degrading and scary that attention can be.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The MCAT, God be praised, is over. I was expecting it to be a long test--I'd reckoned on 6 hours--but imagine my surprise when I arrived at the testing center and realized that it was instead a 9 hour ordeal. Well. I'd completely forgotten to factor in the writing sample portion of the test, and to make allowances for the sundry registration and administrative tasks that inevitably accompany such a test. Thus, I spent the majority of my Saturday (from 8 in the morning until 5 in the evening) in the grip of this...this...thing that is the Medical College Admissions Test. Making it somewhat more bearable: the fact that I feel I did well.

And then, today (two days later) I took the make-up final exam for my Organic Chemistry course from last semester. Frankly, I think I'll be proud of my grade when all's said and done; I busted my ass over the summer, studying like a champ. The sole stain on an otherwise satisfactory exercise was the fact that there was a question on the exam (a 20 point question, fully 10% of the total grade) that focused on information that was NEVER. MENTIONED. IN. CLASS. We never covered Fischer projections, never. No one ever intimated that they were important; they were never on any of the tests; we skipped over the sections of the book that covered them. And yet there it was, crouched like a malevolent beast on the first page of the exam: A Fischer projection of glucose. Damnation.

What else is there to say? I had an interesting experience tonight (more than a little frightening, truth be told). I was out running a little after dark--you could still see lingering rays on the horizon--and of course there were all manner of inebriated students out celebrating the last days of freedom before the beginning of the semester. My main beef with drunks on the sidewalk is this: When I'm running, most people at least pretend to move out of my way, giving me a few centimeters' space to pass (centimeters--ha. Now I know I've been in science for too long). People who are drunk never do. They plow blindly forward, or stop, trying to get their bearings before staggering a few more yards. These particular drunk people, two men and a woman, were on the sidewalk on a fairly unpeopled stretch of my usual loop. As I approached, one of them tripped, spilling her drink. "You dropped your beer!" another one cried, laughing. Then one of the men--I'm not certain which one--saw me coming towards them. "Hey, you!" he called. "I love you!" The other one called, "I love you! I would fuck you!" I kept running, passing them by running on the curb. "I would totally fuck you!" I didn't say anything. I started to worry--what if he followed me? Should I turn around, which would mean passing them again, or just keep going? Was it my fault for running after dark, alone? For wearing my shorts?
I don't think most men--even 'sensitive, evolved' men--really understand what it is to be a woman in American society. To have to set up a 'battle plan' every time you go out after dark, not to feel safe (and not only not to feel it--but really, genuinely not to BE safe) if you go out alone. For all our talk about the horrors Afghani women endured under the Taliban, their confinement to their homes and so on--and to which, by the way, I am hardly comparing my situation--we are remarkably unmoved by the fact that most women feel confined to their
homes after dark here, too. At least if unaccompanied by someone else--maybe not by a male relative, as is the case in the Middle East, but still by a 'guardian' of sorts. So, to avoid being harrassed, I have to give up running after dark and doing other things I want to do? I realize it's in my best interest to be careful, and for the most part I am, but giving up freedom for a dubious security? Fuck that.

For information on dealing with harrassers and abusers, and coping with the aftereffects: The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. Check it out at www.rainn.org

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Next in our overview of diners: the State Street Diner, right here in lovely Ithaca. It sits (duh) on State Street, one of the main drags, and it possesses all the prerequisites for diner status:
1. A preponderance of tile; not the kitschy, oh-honey-let's-do-the-kitchen-in-'50s-style tile either. The real McCoy, from back in the day when tile was happening for the first time.
2. Smoky-voiced waitresses who write "Thanks" on your tab in smeary ink pen and deliver your food with speedy matter-of-factness (though they will chat with you once you become a regular, or if they're feeling particularly friendly, or if, like me, you look 12 years old).
3. This based on one experience with their coffee (I haven't been a coffee drinker long): coffee that will give you an ulcer if you don't already have one, and turn your stomach into Mt. St. Helens if you do. Maybe--probably, in fact--this was an isolated incident. I'm sure their coffee is generally very good, although to quote Dar Williams' song Southern California wants to be Western New York: 'They want to own a family business in sheet metal or power tools and they/ want to own a diner where the coffee tastes like diesel fuel..."
4. Straightforward, greasy spoon food. Hash browns, eggs, grilled cheese, burgers, fries. No marinated tofu or fresh-picked baby lettuce here. When I was still really ill, I hardly went to the State Street; when I did I got cottage cheese and diet coke (and amused looks from the waitresses--less amused looks from my friends). I haven't gone back yet.
5. Those yellow and red squirt bottles for ketchup and mustard that you probably remember from the elementary school cafeteria (remember fighting the tremendous urge to just squeeze ketchup all over the person next to you in line, turning their white shirt into a work of art like some crazed eight-year-old Jackson Pollock?). It makes one doubt that they buy Heinz; then again, it's nice to see other ketchup companies get a chance. I bet you money they just keep a 10 gallon drum of cheapo ketchup in the kitchen and refill the bottles with it every so often. At least that's how I like to imagine it.

This is where I went out for a late-night nosh with my friends the night of...the incident my freshman year of school. Maybe that, too, is a reason I've avoided it in the past. And maybe scrambled eggs and waffles with syrup and golden, oniony hashbrowns are good not only for fixing hangovers but for healing in general. I should go back.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Let's talk about diners. We'll start with the chains, I guess, though to my mind these are not technicall diners but rather a marketing masquerade: these are the ubiquitous casual restaurants that you visit every time you go on a cross-country trip (it was always Waffle House for my family, since we lived in Missouri and made most of our sojourns either to St. Louis or to points further south). First, there's the fact that the Mason-Dixon line could easily be called the IHOP-Waffle House line. Waffle Houses, which serve not only waffles but other quintessential diner food--greasy eggs, greasy sausages, and somehow--only God and the Waffle House people know how-- greasy grits. Not much vegetarian food. None at all if you consider that everything is presumably cooked on the same griddle, subatomic particles of bacon finding their way into my grilled cheese sandwich. But, when needs must, one reverts to being six years old and makes do with such options. It is a fact that when my grandfather died and we drove to St. Louis for the funeral I ate nothing but grilled cheese sandwiches during the three days of our trip, at various Shake-n-Steaks (how far does the Shake-n-Steak empire reach?) and Waffle Houses. It is also a fact that, when I drove myself to school my sophomore year (all 1200 miles, most of it with my Iowan friend Amy) my mother drove with me up to the Waffle House near the Kansas City airport, north of the Missouri River. We had breakfast there and said our tearful goodbyes; then I jumped in the car, consulted the map, lit a cigarette and headed for Lenox, Iowa. So we have established that Waffle Houses are special places indeed.
Later there will be more--about the IHOP where I spent most of the summer before my freshman year of college, and where my friend R. met a slew of unsuitable boyfriends (ranging from the simply boorish and unmotivated to one who was a bonafide ex-con drug dealer). About the Corner Restaurant in Westport where I met my friends over Christmas my freshman year, and told them that I had been raped at school. About Winstead's, a Kansas City tradition, where there are chocolate "Skyscraper" malts that easily serve three (not to mention a smoking section that my clearly-underage friends and I were allowed to sit in late at night when no one else was in the restaurant), and damn fine grilled cheese sandwiches, too. About Nichols' 24 Hour Diner, on Southwest Trafficway, where my first girlfriend and I went for a late-night snack one snowy winter's night and where I was sure, for the first time, that I was really in love; we were served tater tots with cheese sauce by a transvestite waitress (Nichols' is right next to a drag bar). And more. All these secrets, all these memories, summoned up by the smell of hash browns and extra-strength coffee, a waitress who calls you "hon," a Formica tabletop.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Aaaaaaaaaaaagh!

A little more than 24 hours until my flight. I hate flying. I hate packing. Because I begin to pack and think, huh, I don't have that much stuff...and so I start putting little extras in (oh, I could use that candleholder...and that jacket will be nice once it's cooler...) and then before I leave I go to pick up my suitcase and it's definitely over the 50 pound weight limit and by then I've decided that the candleholder and jacket are necessities, and I don't want to have my mom ship them out to me, so the real decision is should I leave behind my yoga mat or some of my CDs, and how much exactly could I cram into my carry-on without having to worry about a) not being able to lift it into to the overhead compartment and b) throwing off the weight calculations for passengers and cargo? Also, I try to put heavier things into my smaller suitcase, reasoning that I can fit fewer of them, so I won't exceed the 50 pound-per-bag limit if I put all my books in the smaller case and my clothes and such in the other, but then my small suitcase nearly dislocates my shoulder when I try to pick it up and I realize that it's time for another exciting game of musical suitcases. If anyone has a foolproof, stressproof packing strategy, I'd like to hear it. As I sit and ponder this, it occurs to me that there might be a saner way:
1. Identify the items that I'll need immediately after I get there (MCAT study book, Orgo book, shorts and T-shirts, undies, toiletries, drugs, CDs), and put those in; other things can be shipped later.
2. Identify things that will be nice to have around once I arrive, but aren't indispensible or necessary to life (DVDs, more than a few pairs of socks, a swimsuit, vibrator...)
3. Last, if there's room, the extras...the candleholders, the jacket if possible...but if things are out of season or there's just no room, have them shipped instead.
Ha. I'm a genius. And I'm slightly--slightly--less insane than I was when I began to write.
Maybe it's the Ativan kicking in, or maybe it's just that it's 1:30 in the morning and I'm beginning--ever so slowly--to return to a regular sleep schedule.
Now if I could just find my digital camera and make sure I don't forget my MCAT admission ticket...