- Chantez et vous trouverez votre chanson -

Life isn't about finding yourself.  Life is about creating yourself.
     -George Bernard Shaw

It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves- in finding themselves.
      -Andre Gide

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Fresh Air, Old Memories

Warning: This post may not hold any interest if you did not attend St. John's University.

Yesterday I needed fresh air, so I went for a long walk - the in 20 degree weather no less.  It felt good to be numbingly cold.

I wandered through my neighborhood and around the frozen pond down the street (where do the turtles go when the pond freezes over?), over to Jamaica Estates (Starbucks/Barnes & Noble stop), and then made the return trip.  I passed college friends' old apartments and remembered the fun we had in them and cut through St. John's campus and saw the changes and remembered the way it looked all those times I trudged through the snow to class.  It all seems so long ago already.  Specific moments flew back like a stream of consciousness. 

Walking past the house on 168th Place (the atrocity next door is finally built - complete in pink sandstone and adorned with large stars, ha), I remembered sitting helpless on the stoop one morning after I'd lost my cell phone and my dignity and needed to apologize, but couldn't wake anyone up to answer the door for me (What was I thinking?  What college kid would be up at 9:30am on a Saturday??).  And then the time I locked my keys in my car and we made a mad dash on the bike (complete with me on the pegs... hilarious in hindsight), whizzing past high school kids on 164th St. at 8 in the morning to find the spare keys in my apartment before alternate side parking came into effect at 8:30 (oh the guilt of making you race around with me to find them...I felt ridiculous standing on those pegs, and heavy, haha, you shouldn't stand on pegs past age 9).  At least we made it in time!

Now on Homelawn, I walked past another group of friends' house and thought of that awesome summer post-college, right after you guys moved in there and none of us realized life was going to change that much after we got degrees (kind of a bummer that it actually did).

As I approached campus, I remembered the moment I first set foot on campus (Is this what college is supposed to feel like?  Is this the right school for me?  Will I fit in...be homesick?). Oh and now the Great Lawn... ultimate frisbee on those sunny days and our ill-fated bake sale (that included some delicious melted chocolate pudding pie and lots of help from friends). Passing the church, I remembered when it was first built, and RCIA classes, and racing back every Tuesday/Thursday afterwards for lunch with everyone at Montgoris.  Remember when the St. Vincent Stairs didn't exist??  Now that was ridiculous (...cutting through 2 or 3 buildings just to get to the other side of campus... no sense).  Good ol' Montgoris - group dinners, morning-after brunches, stealing lunch trays for sled riding (and eating the same meal, the only one I could stomach, everyday... deli sandwich and cucumbers with ranch dressing).  Oh man, and then I saw Donovan Hall.  I looked up and saw all of our bedroom windows... the smoker's rock outside is gone now (God, I wish I was a freshman again).  Oh and that back fence that we'd hop to cut the corner on the way to Traditions... lots of cuts, ripped jeans and bumps from doing that every week, ha.  

Leaving campus, I remembered that dumpster/cafeteria stench and the air conditioner "rain" by Gate 6 (now that's actually just really disgusting, haha), and waiting on the curb for cabs to Bogarts  or - gag - DNA, hahaha.  That scary ROTC building with the barbed wire is now the Public Safety office (sans barbed wire, thank god).  Ohhhh those mundane nights of scanning IDs for Public Safety to make minimum wage.  Sgt. Anna!  She scared me and looked so tough.  Always thought she was a lesbian, but learned later she was preggers, so who knows. 

Then, I found myself en route to Traditions... We never wore appropriate outerwear, thinking it took away from our "hot" outfits for the bar.  Therefore, we froze our butts off during the walk and would borderline run and pretend we weren't cold.  "It's summer and we're wearing bikinis!!"  "It's so warm - all I'm wearing are shorts... and a top hat!"  Haha, don't ask.  There were so many walks (and stumbles) to and from that bar.

Funny how "fresh air" can bring back so many old thoughts and memories.  And that was only one side of Union Turnpike.  If I had gone to the other side, I would've passed two more old apartments and tripled the memories.

I guess it was a nostalgic day.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Rules for Saying Goodbye

So, I've taken a brief hiatus from blogging.  I could say it was because of the holidays, but that's not really true.  I think that I've just been a bit uninspired.  After all the excitement and new experiences in France, I came back to New York to sit in my apartment, search for a new job all day, and a few nights a week, walk downstairs to work at the same bar... with the same customers... that I've been working at since I was a Junior in college.  Sigh.  It's been kind of boring around here.

But... the upside to having a lot of free time is that I've been reading a lot.  Latest read: Rules for Saying Goodbye, by Katherine Taylor.  It was recommended to me by a friend who said the protagonist reminded her of me.  I read it and decided that in many ways, I agree.  That's both a good and bad thing.

"We worried about holding on to our rent-controlled apartments even though the hot water worked only occasionally and the doormen stole our packages and the landlords constantly tried to evict us.  We worried about how all the crying would give us wrinkles and we worried about the price of cigarettes we would have sent up from the grocer downstairs.  We worried about explosions on the subway and whether or not our insignificant boyfriends were alive when they failed to phone.  We worried about taxi accidents and making enough tips to cover the weekend's activities and we worried that we drank too much or that our careers would never speed up, at least never as fast as everyone else's careers seemed to go.  We worried that we had the wrong friends, or not enough friends, friends with not enough money or too much obvious money; we worried about who we knew and who they knew..."

The book follows Katherine Taylor as a pre-teen who ships off to a well-to-do New England boarding school, and then on to her college life and ten or so post-graduate years of living in New York as a bartender, with brief stints (and boyfriends) in Brussels, London and Rome.  Split into four parts according to four major life changes, all including a "break-up" of sorts, I related most to her mid-twenties-self, a voice that was a tad selfish and superficial but very confused and exasperated all at once.  Basically, take a look at the excerpt above.  I get that.  I'm there.  And I think a lot of us are right now.

Another reason my friend thought of me for this book is because, obviously, I am a bartender.  It was my method of paying rent throughout college and my fallback money-maker while the economy is tough and I'm stuck doing the never-ending job search.  This book follows almost too well the instability that comes with the turf of being a bartender.  It's fun, but definitely not always fun.  The money is amazing, but occasionally you barely make ends meet.  People tell you that you're gorgeous all the time, but it's not the people you want to hear it from.  You have all of your days free, but can't seem to get out of bed at reasonable hours or do anything productive with them.  I think you get my point.

Another reason to read this book: although it centers around a coming-of-age woman and her hook-ups and break-ups and ups and downs of life in New York ... it is not a Sex & the City wannabe.  Sex & the City is wonderful, but should be saved for only Sex & the City.  Katherine Taylor has a different way of writing about these events of life.  This novel sways in and out of periods of her life like a running memory.  It's full of sarcasm, understated humor and at times, a bit sad.  Making up for the depressing moments are sharp one-liners and an uplifting ending.

I leave you with a few of my fav lines from the novel.  Enjoy.

"'I have got to get out of there' is the most famous refrain of bar employees, but no one ever gets out of a well-paying bar, no matter how underworld the whole situation may be."

"He used the phrase 'make love.' ...I have never known a girl who could stomach the phrase.  It's a mystery to all of the women I know how it remains in the language, when simple natural selection should have removed it."

(speaking about a neighbor who constantly threatens her)
 "... but in New York, giving up a rent-controlled apartment to save your life is as ridiculous as living in Queens." (ha!  ouch... poor Queens, we always get a bad rep)

(speaking to his mother, who really does mean well)
"My brother has told her, 'People like us do not get up before eleven a.m.'"
"Unemployed people?"
"Bartenders, Mother."

Rules for Saying Goodbye available on Amazon.com