Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Underused Interjections and Adjectives.

At one of my previous workplaces, I used to sit at a station with three other people. We all sat with our monitors facing one center, so we could see and hear each other at all times. This was both maddening and endearing. You get to know a person's mannerisms very well when you're exposed to them day in and day out.

My coworkers could all be boiled down to one favorite utterance, so that if you were to do a DJ mix of the most frequent sounds heard at our work area, it would go like this:

M: "Jesus." [in a rushed, irritated whisper]
B: "Awwwwwww sheeit." [in a deep, Southern drawl]
T: "Unbelievable." [in a clipped, angry Midwestern voice]
Me: [silent, disdainful stare] ?

Here are some words and phrases I'd like to see thrown around more often:

Superb

Radical (as in, "awesome")

Good grief

Nonpareil

Word (as in, "that's true")

Spectacular

I am dependent on:

Terrible.

Bummer

Any others? What is your favorite utterance? Or your least favorite?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sixth-Grade Notes With My Barely Literate Friend.

I'm doing more transcribing these days than actual writing, thanks to my ongoing efforts to whittle down the trove of papers sitting at my parents' house, to which I have confined my hoarding habits.

I saved birthday cards, doodles, passed notes, Santa lists and anything else that was ever was written down in the history of my life, apparently. The following is an exchange I had with my friend Stefanie. I know that it is from sixth grade because that's the year that my coterie of friends all decided to shorten our names to make them cooler (so I became Chrissie and Stefanie became Stephie), and also because that was the year I renovated my handwriting to look more edgy (check out those super-stylin' 'a's and 'g's).
Dear Chrissie,
What did you put for number 6?
Love Stephie
PS. Write back!
PSS My address is the one next to you!

Stephie,
You blundering idiot! It is plainly B.
P.S. No!
P.S.S. What the !?*"" are you talking about?

Dear Christina Bruce Nuenez,
I'm very sorry you got so hiped up about everything. I was saying I'm sitting right near you.
Love always
Stephie
PS. Don't write back.

Stephie,
You still can't spell my last name after 3 years? for your practice, it's N-U-N-E-Z. The word is hyped.

Dear Chrissssiiee (ronda)
I acept you apalogie.
Love always
Stephhiie (wonda)

Stephie,
What apology? And what is the word after chrisssieee?
Chrissie

Dear Chrissie
The apology you gave me. The word after chrissie is Ronda you bluntering idiot
Love always
Stephie
PS. Don't write back

Stephie,
You're such an idiot! You still can't spell blundering and Rhonda. Also, do really think I'm not going to write back?
Chrissie

Dear Christina Bruce NUNEZ (Rhonda)
You shouldn't have written back because I told you not too. You BLUNDERING IDIOT.
Love always
Stephie (Wonda)

Stephie,
What am I, your slave? For today's homework, you will write W-A-N-D-A, and T-O.
Chrissie

Chrissie,
If you wish to be my slave I have no objection at all
W A N D A T O
W A N D A T O
W A N D A T O
W A N D A T O
Is that good teacher?
Love always
Stephie
PS DON'T WRIGHT BACK!

Stephie,
I give up! I can't get you to spel anething riht! W-R-I-T-E
Chrissie

Chrissie
Spell
anything
write
Love
Stephie
PS. You better practice those spelling words!
PSS. Don't write back pleaese!

[me]
Look who's talking! Besides, I did that on purpose -- P-L-E-A-S-E
I guess this is what passed for fun in sixth grade. I can't imagine getting this hopped up (sorry, hyped) these days without caffeine and/or alcohol (Four Loko?).

Many things were arbited via note-passing in school, when you think about it. In elementary school, that was pretty much exclusively the way anyone ever asked anyone out, (or "to go," in grade-school parlance). My friends and I came up with whole stories, riffs and characters that became recurring themes. Entire fights played out during class, on paper.

Some of these notes seem very emotional and urgent. From my friend Jill in junior high:
Chris -
I really am WORRIED about Beth. Now Terri doesn't want to go and either does Roy. What now? I wish Beth + Andy would come but she won't now that Roy said something you know her. I'm REALLY scared. She's depressed. She needs a shrink. No kidding. It would help her so much. We're talking Mass depression. She should just come w/ us. We'd have a terrific time. Usually, people can open up to me. Hell, in Elem. school my nick-name was psychiatrist. She just won't talk to me. OR anyone. SHRINK! HELP! W/B/S
I have absolutely zero recollection of what this was regarding. W/B/S meant Write Back Soon. Remember?

Jill and I began writing our notes on Kleenex, making mini-newspapers and calling them the Posh Puff Express. I saved some of these, too. Sample entry, again from Jill:
Quick Flash Report:
Mrs. [teacher's name redacted] is very queer. Discovery made in room 228 at approx. 1:47 p.m. Now -- back to the P.P. paper.
You get the idea. Real wiseacres. We were very amusing, witty and important, as all teenagers are.

Here's some drama from me:
Terri,
I'm writing this to tell you my side of the story. I resent the fact that you thought everything Beth said was for me. I do not need Beth to speak for me and I told her so. I really liked you when I first met you and I thought we were friends. Obviously you are the kind of person who has just one main friend.
It goes on. Again, no recollection what this was all about. I guess I never had the guts to deliver that note or I wouldn't still be holding on to it.

But as I said, all of this was very important. Much more important than, you know, learning anything in school.

Our poor, poor teachers.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Could I Have Been Serious?

I recently found what must be the most low self-esteem letter to Santa ever written. I can't be sure of the date on this, but I must have been around 8 or 9 years old. The unbelievable fact that I was still entertaining the concept of Santa at this age is recounted (and yet not adequately explained) here.
Dear Santa,

Again this year I think I have failed to behave. I am very enthusiastic about Christmas. It was really very nice of you to give me presents last year. I don't think I deserved them. In case you have any second thoughts on my behavior, here's a list. Love Always, Christina Nunez

Here's what I would like for Christmas:

Star Wars action figures: Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, R2D2, Darth Vader.
Barbie Dream House
Furniture to Dream House
Smaller Homes and Gardens
New play make-up
A portable TV

Good luck on your job!
Merry Christmas!

This is either completely pathetic, or a stroke of manipulative genius.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Happy National Unfriend Day.

Spell check says I have a misspelling in my headline here. That's because unfriend is more recent and bizarre as an English word than we think.

Can it really be so new? Doesn't it seem like it's been around forever? Doesn't it seem as if you've had extraneous friends -- lingering at the fringes of your subconscious, cluttering your chi, and generally weighing you down -- for ages now?

All those ex-coworkers, friends of friends, extended relatives and high-school vestiges relentlessly pummel you with their thoughts and developments, daring you to unfriend, and now Jimmy Kimmel is offering you the perfect excuse to cut them loose.

We didn't adequately consider the question of who is worthy of 'friend'ship, so now we're in the position of considering the resulting question: Who deserves to be unfriended? You probably already know.

These are the people you friended on a "what the hey" kind of day. You were feeling fine about it, and now you see their status updates and wonder what possessed you to accept that request. These are the people that you truly, madly, deeply do not care about. The people you forgot you friended -- or even knew.

I think it's ok to have some baseball-card friends. These are the friends to whom you have virtually no other connection other than Facebook and your shared past. But you really love that these people existed in your life, and you want to keep them in your collection. They get to stay.

Anyone who ever screwed you over in real life has to go. Anyone who actively annoys you with his or her status updates has to go. Anyone who never does anything on Facebook at all (except for my dad) has to go.

Maybe you are unfriending me right now.

Will you celebrate NUD?

Monday, November 08, 2010

One Night Stand: 'Burning Down the House'

Six Feet Under on DVD tonight tipped me to the fact that Bonnie Raitt covered "Burning Down the House."

Now, I love Bonnie Raitt. And the choice of this cover, which is a "Something to Talk About" sort of deal imposed on a multigenerational party scene, makes sense. But it only served to remind me that you do not fuck with the original.

I was not really into New Wave or whatever you would have called this in the '80s.

It was 1983, I was fully into Prince. But you could not deny the awesome weirdness of this song. My parents, who were in their 30s at the time and were still the barometer of cool to me, grooved to this. We may not have identified with it directly, but we knew that it was cool.

The thumping drums on the long outro are a tip-off. It's your sign that the '80s are leaving without you.

Music: "Burning Down the House"

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Sunday, November 07, 2010

Pen Pal.

At age 13, I went on a cruise with my family to Bermuda and met another girl on the cruise. We hung out for one completely unremarkable day. But after that, we wrote each other letters for more than two years.

Not so long ago, I'd tried to look up my old pen pal, to see what she was up to. I could never find any results for her name, which seemed odd. Had she disappeared? I remembered that she'd always moved around a lot. Was she OK?

Then I found the letters and noticed her last name -- I'd been two letters off in my memory of it. So there she was on Facebook! A junior high school teacher in Florida, the last place she'd moved in our letters. She looked great. "Wow! Of course I remember!" she responded when I wrote her. "I can't imagine, though, what our letters were about...I have no idea where mine are."

Exactly. What were are letters about? They sat bundled up on my coffee table, mostly hers, but a couple of mine that I'd either copied out or never sent. I held off rereading them for a little while. Maybe they contained great forgotten undercurrents of emotion, our miniature dramas, our deepest sentiments and fears.

Or ... maybe they were boring.

I finally read them all. They were boring. Most of the time.

We talked about our grades in school, when we had written each other last, what music and movies we liked (Prince for me, Bryan Adams for her), what boys we liked. Pretty standard stuff.

L. and I didn't have a particularly special bond, and our meeting was even briefer than I'd thought. As I remembered it, we were friends for the whole weeklong cruise, though I couldn't conjure up a single aspect of our time together. As it turns out, we only met on the last day: "Today we just hung around on the ship," I wrote in my diary. "I met a girl named L. We hung around together."

Still, this completely lackluster encounter happened to occur between two girls who had a vested interest in writing letters. So we wrote, sometimes every month, sometimes every three, from that June in 1984 through the end of 1986. We wrote with seemingly no purpose beyond keeping up the correspondence, as banal as it was.

But in 1986, L.'s letters became interesting by leaps and bounds over the previous years. Early that year, she wrote:
Well yes, I have a Florida Love -- his name is Mike he is a junior, we go to the same school and he drives a Camaro -- what more can a girl ask for --

HE IS MY DREAM!
A guy with his own car? The only guy with his own car that I knew at the time was my dad.

L. always had a new guy, or five, in her letters. A few months later, she wrote:
How is your love life? Mine sucks. I've been used so much this year. I'm in love, I just wish he liked me, his name is Eric [last name redacted], he is the perfect guy. Blonde hair, blue eyes, good height, great body, sweet, everything. I mean, he is really fine. Except he hurt my feelings, the jerk used me. Well I didn't mind.
How was my love life? Imaginary. Confined to the realm of Prince songs, movies and boys in school that I thought were cute but never did anything with or even talked to, really. This passage from me pretty much sums it up:
My next door neighbor (in ninth grade) had over a friend named Sam. He seemed really nice at first, but then I found out that he thinks I'm a chill just because I didn't do anything with him when I first met him. Isn't that lowly?
To be fair, I think this letter was written in 1985, when I was younger. But my 1986 was pretty much the same.

Meanwhile, L. was really ramping things up during her 1986 summer, which was spent in Santa Cruz, Calif.:
This has been an interesting week. My sister and I have had nothing better to do all week so we have been going to the boardwalk. The first night I went, I met the best people. This one guy Kym [Kyron?], who is just a friend, then Jeff, he is 22 and won't leave me alone, and last my favorite Charles! He was sooo cute. He is 18, nice, has a great job, but there is one problem he has been thrown in jail! I was so upset when I got the news. Then there is Don. I don't think you remember, but I talked about him last year. Well he is visiting my next door neighbor again. I am so in love with him, but he just doesn't see the picture. It makes me sick. I mean I really drool over him. He is so stupid. When I was over there tonight, we asked him what he wanted to do. He said he had to take a shower, so of course I said, Good, I'll take one with you! He said sure, but he was only joking, I wasn't, but like I said he is stupid. I am so in love with him! Enough about Don, I shouldn't be thinking about him.

Guess what!?! I have a blind date on Monday! I can't wait! It's going to be so cool. One of my older friends set it up. Except, I cheated. I found a picture of him! He is pretty cute. I hope it's fun.
18-year-olds, jail, blind dates -- this was all stuff that happened in movies, as far as I was concerned. I mean, we were still in ninth grade. At the same time, I knew I was behind when it came to boys, even by pedestrian standards.

Another one from me:
I haven't had a boyfriend in so long it's really sad but then if you take a look at the guys in our school that's pretty sad too.
It's hard to tell what I meant by "in so long," because I had never actually had a boyfriend, unless you counted the boy that I "went steady" with in sixth grade (a relationship that consisted of several passed notes, one slow dance and a lovely keychain he made me), which I probably was.

But I love that two girls with pretty much zero in common except for one day on a cruise ship managed to keep up a conversation for as long as we did. Toward the end of our correspondence, L. wrote: "You know -- this is really incredible -- that we are still writing each other, that's pretty good! It's been a few years now." I agree, L.

Music: "Hey Mickey"

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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Emotional Rescue.

grumpy adj \ˈgrəm-pē\
: moodily cross : surly

I know someone who admits he is a grumpy person. However, he is quick to point out that he's not an angry person. "Angry and grumpy are different," he maintains. I think this is true. An angry person will let life eat away at him from the inside, will let the anger permeate his entire being. Anger is a river, ebbing and flowing but ever-present.

Grumps, on the other hand, simply don't like the way things are going right now. They don't approve of that stupid shirt, your annoying way of up-speaking, your lackluster service, your loud celebration or your obtrusive position in the subway car. They are going to let themselves get good and bothered about it, and they are going to make their feelings known. But grumpiness is a storm cloud, one that forms when a highly developed notion of what should be meets a highly developed awareness of what is, and then passes on.

The same qualities that contribute to this person's grumpiness also make him good at telling people (including me) to hold tight, stay the course, look at the big picture, not get worked up over silly stuff, and, as he calls it, CTFO (chill the fuck out). In general, the grump is an expert at forbearing, being sensible, and appreciating the things in life that do not suck, because those things are so very rare.

"Poor you, you have to calm people down a lot," I say one day. "It's like the emotional equivalent of rock-paper-scissors. Grumpy trumps jumpy." Hm, yes. I am onto something.

I, for instance, am jumpy (more precisely, neurotic). But I also find that people confide in me a lot, maybe because they know that no matter what they're freaking out about, I have probably already freaked out about that same thing and can offer some insights (or at least empathy).

And maybe you are that sensitive one, that one who errs a bit to the side of being open, aiming to please too much. We'll call you chatty. Chatty neutralizes grumpy, which becomes either placated or simply stunned and confused when faced with a wall of input.

So there you have it: grumpy (rock) trumps jumpy (scissors) trumps chatty (paper). What other flaws of ours can be turned into secret, singular weapons?

P.S. I am also grumpy and overly eager to please, so I guess I always trump myself.

Music: "Doncha Bother Me"

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