Reader Response: Miss Lora (Junot Diaz)

There is an important ambiguity in the first sentence of Miss Lora that is most easily spotted by the glaring question mark with which it ends, but the uncertainty extends far beyond the obvious signifier.

“Years later, you would wonder if it hadn’t been for your brother, would you have done it?”

From the content of this question alone, Díaz creates the base upon which a story is built that invites a variety of intellectual levels and personal connections to find what they might within. A first read of Miss Lora provides countless images that adhere to the reader’s memory, be it from personal association, surprise, fear, excitement, distaste or some other unforgettable connection—the language of the piece is powerful and commands one’s attention so that even a non-Spanish-comprehending reader understands the impact, if not the meaning, of the foreign words that Díaz integrates throughout. With so many ambiguous, relatable subjects available—sex, teen pregnancy, education, poverty, disadvantage, cancer, war, death—readers might miss the potential implications of the very first sentence of the story.

Narrator Yunior’s self-analytical “would you have done it?” prompts a small, anecdotal reflection about the woman for whom the story is named, which precedes the more comprehensive story placing Miss Lora within the context of his world. Regarding Miss Lora, Yunior’s now deceased brother, Rafa, had once said “I’d fuck her;” this is dually important as it provides a potential stamp of approval for Yunior’s ultimately sexual relationship with Miss Lora and allows a sliver of someone he loves to continue existing through his decision to engage in the tryst.

There is also an aspect of the opening question that implicates Miss Lora’s motivations for seducing the narrator, which is bolstered by details scattered throughout. “You know you look like your brother,” Miss Lora tells Yunior after they have sex. “She is always trying to get you to talk about your brother,” Yunior says of Miss Lora, who “goes right for [Rafa’s] boxing gloves” when she is staying with Yunior at his house; “she pushes them into her face, smelling them,” which is something that a person does when they miss or enjoy a smell, indicating that Miss Lora knew Rafa’s scent. The reader furthermore learns that Rafa had been sleeping with another older woman from the boys’ neighborhood, and the possibility is apparent that Rafa may have been involved with Miss Lora before he died.

“Years later, you would wonder if it hadn’t been for your brother, would you have done it?”

Is the narrator asking himself this question from the perspective in which he had forged a connection that allowed him to keep Rafa alive? Or is he wondering if he would have had the opportunity to be involved with Miss Lora if he had never had a brother at all?

Miss Lora can be read, accepted, and rejected by a reader in so many ways—it feels as though I would never read it the same way twice.

The First Seven Years of My Life: Events I

This post is working off of a prompt from Janet Burroway’s “Writing Fiction,” a book that I am currently studying for my creative writing fiction class.  The idea is to write out what I recall of the first seven years of my life, fitting into the categories of events, people, self, inner life, and characteristic things.  These will then potentially provide springboards for character, plot, and scene development in future fiction endeavors.  I am beginning with Events, though there is some bleeding into people thus far, which is OK because I am sure I will have other areas of focus when I come to the people category.  For now, I am just letting this exercise ride and writing whatever comes to mind.  Here is what I’ve got so far:

I was born on August 27, 1990. My birth certificate shows I was birthed by Theresa, but she prefers the termed “delivered,” and I use it dutifully when speaking to her about the act; it’s the least I can do for a woman who has experienced that pain four times over. I don’t know how my father feels about the term, but his name is Glen. He’s a doctor, so he probably has some fancy word for the whole ordeal and thinks of it in a way that resembles a Darwinian finch drawing, with every aspect pointed out by a very straight line and labeled with some Latin word that to anyone else would seem very remote from the idea of bringing a baby into the world. From a “Me”-project that I completed with the help of my parents around the age of six or seven, I can remember that I was born at Norwalk Hospital, about 10 minutes after midnight. From my various prodding—trying to figure out what might possibly make me interesting—I can recall being told that I was a late baby and did not cry or scream when I was born, like most healthy babies do. I simply looked around, wide-eyed, at whomever removed me from my cozy confines. I still prefer the warmth, comfort and safety of a bath, shower, or a swaddling of blankets over the company of people and the “great world” beyond. I was told that I was brought back to the hospital not long after I was released as a newborn because I was sick; I don’t remember what I was sick with, or if my silent birth was related in any way.

Though I know that I spent the first four years of my life in a house on Merrimack Drive, my recollections are all external to the interior of that house, as if my small brain knew that society valued exteriors and interpersonal relationships and the possessions of others more than the things one has and who one is inside, therefore only cataloguing memories that agreed with this system of superficiality. I can still see the exteriors of five houses in this first neighborhood of my first seven years.

The first is my own, or so I believe. I see a small, yellow house with a large lot made almost entirely of fallen leaves. A faded blacktop driveway comes equipped with an in-ground steel pole, slightly curved at the top with a worn-looking, yellowed basketball hoop and backboard. Each time I try to place the driveway in relation to the house, my mind rejects the location and distorts the image—as if I were trying to place a pre-determined piece of furniture in a video game within a space of three blocks, when the graphic needs four to stick. In this vision of my first house, there is always a large white septic tank being replaced in the ground, but I never see who is doing the work or what the process looks like.

The second house was straight across from our front door. The driveway sloped down and the lot gave their espresso and syrup-colored fortress the look of being completely buried underground (save the roof) when looking at it from my own flat lot, with its pale house. I have one memory of the inside of the house, which is dimly lit. My older brother Luke and I are riding plastic tricycles down a long stretch of hallway with AnaÍce and MattÍas, the children who lived in the exotic, chocolate house. I can barely see anyone’s face for how little light there is.

I believe the white house up on the hill to have belonged to the DaFeo’s, one of whom I remember was called Dave, a boy who played with us sometimes despite being a few years our senior. I recall being in a small bedroom of that house, like a ship cabin with a few unnaturally high and pill-shaped windows, that showcased a clear water-bed, filled with small goldfish and flanked with two, small, unvarnished light-wood nightstands. I remember disliking the motion of the bed and abandoning ship, while the other kids flailed and scrambled on it, laughing. I also associate the DaFeo’s house with a fire-truck-red, rolling tool chest. It was one of the metal ones with a number of skinny, one-pull draws lining its chest and a yellow decal plastered artfully on the front, though I can’t remember what the decal said and must have never gotten tall enough to see the top of the chest because I cannot recall it either. Perhaps I did grow tall enough but found the top of the contraption far less interesting than the rest of it, because I believe that the DaFeo family gave us this tool station and that I grew up with it in my second childhood home; I have memories of it in the garage of the house on Puritan Road, where I lived until I was thirteen.

I should mention at this point that the three houses I’m detailing last, the DaFeo’s, the Wilson’s and Emily G’s house, were not on my street exactly. They were situated on a cul-de-sac street (just beyond my house on the opposite side of the road) that had a majestic name that invoked mental images of fields and sunsets. I believe it was Goldenrod Drive or Circle or the like. We didn’t spend much time at or inside Emily’s house though she was a dear friend to me as a tot. Her house was yellow as well, and as flat-fronted as we were. Her dainty, ballerina-like bedroom had a front-facing window and a precious jewelry box on a beautiful dresser that I remember being excited to peer into. Opposing the constricted, picturesque, perfectionist nature of the G’s house was the Wilson’s, home to Morgan, MacKenzie, and Mrs. Wilson, who let us call her Andrea. I know Andrea was married but I don’t remember seeing her husband very often. I feel like he had a dark moustache, but what do I know? I know that their large house was a dark denim color with an array of burnt sienna decking out back. I remember the decking well because Luke, Emily, Morgan, MacKenzie and I used to buckle one another in to a stroller and push the stroller off the 2-5 inch deck drop-off after pushing the rider as fast as we possibly could across the stretch of smooth, painted planks. I don’t believe that we came up with this brilliant game with even a sliver of malicious intent or a shred of the thought that we could get hurt—for heaven’s sake, we even buckled the rider in! No, no. I remember clearly that we tried to explain to a very frazzled Andrea just how much FUN it was to be the rider without the vocabularical expanse to describe it; it felt like flying. The speed and the crisp whip of the air and the lack of control were invigorating. We all wanted as many turns as we could get.

There was a sturdy hammock tied up between a couple trees behind the Wilson’s house as well. Constantly searching for a rush, we three and four year-olds invented another game in which we would allow one rider to hold on for dear life as the others pushed the hammock back and forth until there was enough momentum built up to flip the rider, who would cling to the hammock like a burr to a web of shoelaces, to experience the thrill of seeing the world upside down. This was another motion-based game I recall disliking, like playing pirates on the waterbed. When I arced on the hammock, I immediately let go and allowed myself to drop to the ground, disliking the sensation of spinning. In the surprise of my impact with the ground, I had swallowed the gum I had been chewing and quickly learned from the Wilson sisters that “gum doesn’t go away for SEVEN YEARS inside you.” The thought made me so nervous that I must have gone home with a belly ache and told my Mom what happened because I remember that we had to sneak around to play the hammock game from that day on, one of us standing sentinel towards the Wilson’s second story kitchen windows, from which Andrea would check-in on us. I was a designated pusher after the incident with the gum, and as I still “suffer” from motion sickness, I’ve been the “designated”-a-lot-of-things throughout my life.

[To be continued!]

We Haven’t Located Us Yet Pt. 2.

So, here it is, the second half of my creative non-fiction researched essay that I wrote this semester, I hope you enjoy it and maybe even learn a little something  :)

I began thinking about the various aspects of Anderson’s films that I had mastered and memorized. I started with the element that seemed most obvious to me, the visual. I found an allure in the printed, monogrammed luggage that the Whitman brothers of The Darjeeling Limited tote around. I relished the refined, doll-house quality look of the icing-pink Mendl’s bakery boxes with their flawlessly tied blue ribbons. I wanted to live on the Belafonte, with its quiet library and deep-blue sauna and dreamy “observation bubble.” Through the charming château du Tenenbaum, I found that I simply must have a telephone room under a staircase. Though fantastically awkward, Rushmore’s Max Fischer made me wonder why I hadn’t been in more clubs in high school, or ever wore a red beret. In Moonrise Kingdom, Sam Shakusky’s Scout Master, Ward, has the most picturesque tent interior ever imagined and though I hate camping, I envied the occupant for being able to reside there.

            The characters’ clothing, possessions and living quarters are all decidedly perfect, simple, and easily identifiable, even if they are not necessarily logical to the world outside of the film. While I clearly adore the visual aesthetic, I decided that it alone was not the over-arching reason why I am so enraptured by these films; I next began thinking about the characters of Anderson’s films and realized that the landscape of the worlds they inhabit needs to be perfect.

“I ALWAYS WISHED I WAS AN ORPHAN. MOST OF MY FAVORITE CHARACTERS ARE. I THINK YOUR LIVES ARE MORE SPECIAL.” – SUZY BISHOP, Moonrise Kingdom

Anderson’s characters are incredibly complex, but verbally eloquent. They may never make the right decisions, but they tend to express just the right sentiments, sometimes saying things well-beyond their character’s age or apparent comprehension level. They all have strong personalities, quirks, and issues that only intensify when they interact with one another.

I felt enlightened when I realized that if both the scenery and the characters were well put-together, the movies would be boring; conversely, if both elements were out of order, the films would be impossible to follow. Not only did this illumination solve my questions about the perfection of the visual worlds of Anderson’s films, it pointed me in a much richer direction of discovery and understanding by allowing the characters to come to the foreground by themselves.

            In analyzing each of the characters, I found that there were some that I wanted to emulate, some that I did not relate to, some that I was curious about, and some that I understood. I found that I was not drawn to every single one of the main characters individually, but rather as a unit.

“I WONDER IF THE THREE OF US WOULD’VE BEEN FRIENDS IN REAL LIFE. NOT AS BROTHERS, BUT AS PEOPLE.” – JACK WHITMAN, The Darjeeling Limited

I feel like I belong in all of the unconventional units in each of Anderson’s films, these non-functioning families. As a girl with three brothers, I feel I play a silent role in the Whitman brothers’ spiritual journey. I want to be part of the chaotic Tenenbaum household and wear a fur coat and smoke cigarettes with Margot, as sisters. I see myself in Max Fischer, dreaming of recognition while anchoring myself to only the ventures in which I know I can succeed. Like Sam Shakusky, I have always thrived on my own independence and self-reliance, and been very particular and careful in handing out my trust to others. And in true Steve Zissou form, when my own family felt like a failed endeavor, I selected comrades and created my own artificial family to feel a part of.

            When I fled home in 2008, I spent a couple months sleeping on other people’s pull out sofas or floors or beds until I had my own place. One of the people I stayed with was my best friend Jasmine, and through her I met a variety of vagabonds who eventually inducted me into their circle, which we called “The Tribe.” It was through The Tribe that I first watched The Darjeeling Limited. We all sat together and watched the striking film through a cloud of cigarette smoke and we were glad to have one another. I didn’t miss my parents’ house because I had found a home, and eventually, my new rented space became the hub for all of us to be together.

            “Perhaps because his films are about childhood – literal and prolonged – they are also about family and the need, in the face of familial abandonment, to create communities in its place,” says Devin Oregeron, in an excerpt from his essay about Wes Anderson’s works. This synopsis validated my growing theory about Anderson’s invented families, but it also sparked more questions. If I definitively see myself in these “misguided but lovable individuals that populate his worlds,” what is the piece or element that leads to the fracture of the family unit, and inevitably to the emotional chaos within these characters’ lives? Why is there a lasting inability to function properly, even as adults?

“OBVIOUSLY, WE MADE CERTAIN SACRIFICES AS A RESULT OF HAVING CHILDREN, BUT NO, LORD, NO.” – ROYAL TENENBAUM, The Royal Tenenbaums

All of the characters with siblings either get along with their brothers and sisters or resolve their issues with them in the course of the film. Any characters without brothers and sisters begin, by the end of each film, to solidify the relationships that they’ve been building; the viewer is left with the impression that the character is no longer alone.

If siblings are not the ultimate issue, the parents must be looked at. In many of Anderson’s films, one or both of a main character’s parents are deceased; this restricts the child from resolving any problems they might have had with them, or keeps the child from any guidance that parent could have potentially provided. In the case of Zero’s father figure Gustave H., Max Fischer’s widowed father, the Bishops, the widowed Mrs. Whitman, and the divorced Tenenbaums, the parents are incapable of providing the emotional approval and/or stability that a child requires to transition into a mentally healthy adulthood.

CASE 1: While Gustave H. takes Lobby Boy, Zero, under his wing and eventually shows paternal and affectionate feelings for the orphaned child, he does not assume a mature, adult persona consistently. He flirts with Zero’s love-interest, gets the young couple in life-threatening danger, and places an immense amount of responsibility on Zero’s shoulders throughout their relationship.

CASE 2: Max Fischer attaches himself to a strong-willed, successful business man, Mr. Blume, and consistently lies about his own father’s occupation. Mr. Fischer, a humble barber, obviously lacks the “backbone” that Mr. Blume speaks of in the beginning of the film, when he had captured Max’s attention for the first time. Max’s father is a sedentary man who clearly wants Max to succeed, but he fails to ever implement any serious structure or consequences in Max’s life to help him achieve any of his goals.

CASE 3:Suzy Bishop finds a book on top of her parents’ refrigerator entitled “Coping with the Very Troubled Child.” When her mother becomes aware that she has seen the book she says to her, “Poor Suzy. Why is everything so hard for you?” as if she is completely helpless and lost in the rearing of her own child. Not surprisingly, Mrs. Bishop is fooling around with the local Police Captain, and invests more of her time into sneaking around behind her husband’s back than she does trying to connect with her “troubled” daughter, Suzy.

CASE 4:The Whitman boys travel to a convent in the foothills of the Himalayas in search of their mother, who departed after their father’s death and became a nun. She hadn’t spoken to her sons in over a year, and did not even attend her husband’s funeral. The boys are in need of some consoling and a sense of unity, which they disappointingly never get from their mother throughout the film. In a version of the script for The Darjeeling Limited, Sister Patricia Whitman, says to her sons, “Did I do wrong? I wasn’t ready to be a mother. I regret it.”

CASE 5: One of the three Tenenbaum children is adopted, but all three are declared geniuses. Each one succeeds in fame and finances, aspects of life that people generally hope to succeed in, and they do so from a very young age. It seems that the children have nothing to do but enjoy living, and yet they are all incapable of doing so. Throughout the course of their development, their father, Royal, manipulates Richie, has no affection for Chas, and openly treats Margot as an adopted child — not one of his own.

CASE 6: My father has worked 70+ hour weeks as a doctor for the entirety of my life. As a child, my mother worked as a secretary, and my older brother and I were placed in the care of an at-home nanny during the day. By the time I was five, my mother was still working and pregnant again; she would have a fourth child soon after. My father was often fatigued, and his free time was mainly spent focusing on sports with my older brother. I was a crappy athlete and we never ended up connecting over much.  Lovers since they were teenagers, marriage is my parents’ prison; parenting, their bane.

“YOU KNOW I’M NOT GOOD AT APOLOGIZING, SO I’LL JUST SKIP IT IF IT’S ALL THE SAME TO YOU.” – STEVE ZISSOU, Life Aquatic

I watched and listened to every bit of commentary and interview on every Wes Anderson DVD I owned, and on various online videos. These concepts of the “unorthodox family unit” sank deeply into my thoughts and their general relevance to my life became too clear to deny. I realized that closure is what Wes Anderson’s films momentarily give me. I am “seeking to affirm control over the uncontrollable” within my own life and I am not yet able to cope with the fact that “the order [I] seek is beyond my control.” I choose to repeatedly live in his worlds because they bring healing to the concepts I struggle with in my own. The films don’t end in heartbreaking tragedy; even if people have died and relationships have gone drastically wrong, there is an absolute feeling that these people, these characters, are going to be OK. There is hope for the outsiders, that we may too be OK, even if that form of peace is not what we anticipate.

“We Haven’t Located Us Yet”

Goooodevening.  Tonight I’ll be presenting part of a creative nonfiction essay that I wrote this semester.  The essay was completely open ended but had to be in the form of a researched essay — which is different than a research essay, the traditional scholarly-articles-nose-in-books 5 paragraph essay that we do for other classes.  A reasearched essay is one that incorporates information that you learn as you are writing the essay.  There are no formal citations and the point is not necessarily to be persuasive or educational in the traditional sense, but rather to provide some sort of insight that resonates with readers.  It is a journey of discovery.  Considering that my essay is 9 pages long, I’m going to break it up into a couple posts at hopefully appropriate breaking points.

Without further ado, PART I of “We Haven’t Located Us Yet” :

                 I didn’t realize that I had a fascination with The Darjeeling Limited until I got really sick in late March of 2014. For two and a half weeks my only options were the couch or the bed. Most of the time I chose the couch because there was no functioning TV/DVD player combo in the bedroom and I don’t have cable. I watched three movies one after another, every day; 2009 Sherlock Holmes, 2011 Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, and 2007 The Darjeeling Limited. My boyfriend Eric was fascinated at my stamina.

            “I can’t believe you can watch the same movie that many times,” he said.

            I shrugged. “They’re really good.”

            This was the first time I had binged the Sherlock Holmes movies, but Darjeeling was a six-year running favorite. After Eric brought this quirk to the foreground, I thought about why I never tired of The Darjeeling Limited and its accompanying featurette, “Hotel Chevalier,” which I never skipped despite the DVD menu offering the option. My thoughts touched the subject gently, as if it were a nearly over-ripened pear whose skin I did not want to pierce for fear of ruining the pleasure of eating the whole fruit, but not just yet. My answers, correspondingly, lacked depth.

“THE MOST DREADFUL AND UNATTRACTIVE PERSON ONLY NEEDS TO BE LOVED, AND THEY WILL OPEN UP LIKE A FLOWER.” – M.GUSTAVE, The Grand Budapest Hotel

On July 15, 2014, The Grand Budapest Hotel came to Redbox; I had seen previews for it on one media source or another, and was extremely turned on by the visual aspects, pace, and potential story line of the short sneak peek. My boyfriend was not as intrigued as I, however, and the few times we had money to hit the big screen, he vetoed seeing it. Needless to say, my excitement and anticipation were at an ultimate crescendo by the time the movie came to Redbox, and I rented it that very first day.

            I watched the movie while eating lunch and though the food was long gone before the movie was over, I watched it again immediately after. When Eric came home from work, I convinced him that he would like the movie and we watched it together that night, marking my third viewing.

I usually have pretty strict decorum for renting from Redbox that entails returning the movie within a 24-hour window: don’t incur a fee for an extra day if I’m going to end up buying the movie — that’s my rule. But I just couldn’t give this one back yet. I felt compelled to watch it again and again.

CHARLIE ROSE: “Who watches your movies?”

WES ANDERSON: “Yeah, that’s a good question. I feel like… y’know we, I kinda at one point or another tried to puzzle out is there an age group… or any kind of thing that [indistinguishable noise]? I think it’s like some personality type.”

CHARLIE ROSE: “And what kind of type would it be?”

WES ANDERSON: “Outsiders.”

            When The Darjeeling Limited came out in 2007, I was three months in to my senior year in a school system I had only just begun to attend as a junior. My best and only friend, Jasmine, had graduated the previous year and I failed to make another. I had, against my will, undergone a drastic family move from Connecticut to Georgia just 3 years earlier, at the ever-important and self-absorbed age of 14. My parents’ tumultuous relationship only seemed to be growing more psychopathic by the day and by May of 2008, I fled from home (and still have yet to return there to live). I don’t need a therapist to point out that there was and still is some “stuff” going on there.

            After watching The Grand Budapest Hotel more times than seems probable in a two day window, I returned the DVD. I did this partially because of my trusty “Redbox Rules,” but also to avoid giving Eric another opportunity to lampoon me about my obsessive movie-watching behavior – but not before my curiosity was piqued. As it so happened, the only other movie I could watch as frequently as this new gem and be as interested on the twentieth viewing as I was the first viewing was The Darjeeling Limited, and the two were overtly linked by one man: director Wes Anderson.

“YOU’VE JUST GOTTA FIND SOMETHING YOU LOVE TO DO AND THEN DO IT FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.” – MAX FISCHER, Bottle Rocket

            I yearned for more. I needed to see more of Anderson’s perfectly put together worlds. The color palates, the typography, the labels, the clean lines and quaint spaces. These were places I wanted to be, worlds I desperately wanted to be a part of. Within the next couple weeks, I bought and watched, just as fanatically, Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and The Royal Tenenbaums.

It is finally time to eat that perfect, delicate pear, for better or worse.

Cotton Candy Skies.

Lost and Found.

Each day we equip ourselves with an outfit and necessary add-ons that we hope will be right for the given weather and venue.  We make sure our socks and undies are clean, our phones are charged, and our nails are polished, but we fail to attend to the one accessory that we continually wear without consciously putting it on: uncertainty.   This sensation can range from something as simple as not knowing if you really want a sandwich for lunch because a salad might be more refreshing to questioning major life choices like your occupation, partner, or how you spend your free time.

Perhaps regret is only the invention of uncertainty; we fear our choices in the present and run to our past for a sense of comfort and self-understanding.  “If only I were brave again” and  “If only I had chosen to date into my thirties” allows us to affirm that we are making the wrong decisions in the present — we give ourselves an older, concrete (romanticized) version of our own life with which we can compare our current, unsure choices.  Could we stop recalling the past if we paid more attention to understanding and coping with the uncertainties of our present?

When we are young, we are conditioned to define ourselves in a series of favorites.  What is your favorite food?  Color?  Outfit?  Time of day?  Season?  And even if we don’t really have an answer, we pick one.  Pizza, Purple, Jeans and a T-shirt, 4 o’clock, Autumn.  Is it healthy to set our list of favorites at such a young age?  Maybe the reason why we are so addicted to quizzes about the “self” on Facebook and in the backs of our favorite magazines is because we get to do it all over.  Redefine.  BE defined in some concrete way.  “WHO ARE YOU?” they ask, and we remember how easy it was to pencil in a piece of paper in grade school and feel happy and unique and accepted.

What does setting favorites do for our present and future self?  In the ninth grade, my favorite color combination was black and pink, and thus most of my closet became shaded this way.  At the time, it was just another fun-fact about me: Leah’s favorite colors are black and pink.  I can see in retrospect that something about the juxtaposition of gothic dark black and shamefully feminine pink expressed the poles that my teenage-self was drowning between; a playing field that allowed me to flex and extend or recoil and contract depending on my findings.  A decade later I’m still not entirely sure I can fill out the “WHO ARE YOU” sheet of my childhood with certainty, but I can clearly see remnants of my “favorite color combination” declaration still in affect, unable to give up some comfort of feeling defined.

While we are stuck feeling that we used to be such distinct people, how can we learn to let ourselves redefine without using internet and magazine quizzes for assurance?

Perhaps this theory of uncertainty can be applied to the way our fashions recycle as well.  Did I cut and color my hair because this style really is my favorite?  Or is it because I miss who I was when I looked this way in the past?  Or further, because I was unable to allow myself to transition into some new, thus-far undefined version of myself who might develop new favorites?

The Hair.

Regardless, for now I believe I look and feel fabulous [and sometimes that is something that we need], but in the long run are we just using past favorites to avoid our present uncertainties?


 

I’d love to thank Alia at Tulip Salon Spa for giving me this fabulous cut and color and being an absolute dream.  :)   I could not be happier.  Below is a second picture without a filter:

No Filter Haircut

I’m so far behind, I’m ahead.

It’s true.  As if the world of Instagram saw the lies in my previous post, I was, quite shortly after posting, alerted to the fact that the new Circa album is NOT yet out (Descendus comes out Nov 24th and pre-orders start Oct 27th) and Worlds actually had its final matches about 11 hours ago.  So.  While I was accurate about missing the Interpol album’s debut, I was actually only overly anxious about missing a few other things.

I have literally been doing nothing but homework all day D:  I made some pretty bangin’ chili [Recipe from Mama Loves Food] but that was basically a slow cook over the stove top all day so I didn’t really spend much time with it.  It was a great day for chili though!  The highs were in the upper 60s and I went on two short walks around the complex to enjoy the small chill :)

Onto the next event missed while I was on hiatus!

Funland.  Okay, I had never been to this place before but apparently it was a serious staple for kids growing up in this area.  And I can see why.  Eric and I had one of our best weekends ever, and we kicked it off with some mini-golf.

Periwinkle.
Noir.
Adorable mini-house with a water wheel.

Admittedly, this course had a lot of opportunities to lose your golf ball or end up with wet jean-cuffs.  It’s kinda poorly designed and has definitely seen better days, but mini golfing just brings back too many great Cape Cod childhood memories to not enjoy it presently.

Eric kicked so much ass on the Wizard of Oz game, and I brought back my magic touch (product of spending too many hours and too many quarters on claw machines at a run-down, delicious hot dog joint in Bridgeport, CT) and snagged a little plush South Park Stan!  The only one left 😀

Makin’ money!
Doing my best ‘Staaaaaaan.’

And when Eric would hit jackpots and I got Stan on the second try?  Those were magical moments.  The kind that you don’t get by sitting on your butt at home.  The forty bucks spent was well worth it.  I definitely recommend having a date day at this place once and a while because even though the machines are all electronic now and the satisfaction of greedily watching your tickets spew out of the winning game station wildly have somehow become a thing of the past, the arcade still provides a time warp that 90’s kids just need.

We also got some surprisingly awesome prizes like BOOM snaps, glow in the dark teeth, a Nerf blow-dart gun, and an adorable owl ring.

We rounded that day out by visiting Barnes & Noble [the first time I have been in one without Jasmine Daniel since I met her], splitting a hot chocolate and browsing some magazines.  The next day we visited good ol’ Two Times New and picked up some really cute, bronze fishies for the bathroom wall.  We also biked to Ihop for breakfast, bought some new LED bulbs for the bathroom (hello, mini-suns, I now understand Lumens), and tried our hand at a create-your-own pretzel kit!

Cascading fish!
These were SO delicious!

So you may be thinking, ‘jeez, Leah… you say you are SO busy, but look at all this stuff you’ve been doing behind my back!’  Well, hear me out.  I’ve only really been able to enjoy, without the constant pressure of hours of homework, 3 weekends so far and I’m giving them all to you at once.

Now, I’m headed to do some more research and writing for a big paper I have coming up this Wednesday!  I am going to attempt to submit this piece and another that I have all ready written for publication on a couple websites so they will not be featured here on my blog unless they are rejected across the board.  Let’s hope not!

Today I strongly suggest listening to The Stooges – SEARCH AND DESTROY :)

Loooooove, Leah.

Catching Up.

Summer is gone, the new Interpol and Circa Survive albums are out, LoL Worlds are over, patch 6.0 dropped – – I am never taking six classes in one semester ever again!  I’m missing everything. :[

To be fair, I’m extremely glad that we are officially into fall.  I don’t even know where to start!  I guess I am going to retroactively note what all I have experienced in my absence, which probably won’t all go into this first post!  I actually have a class in about an hour so I am going to just get started and see where I end up.

For those of you who follow me on instagram @allmyfriendsaredragons, some of these pictures may look familiar but will be provided here with a story :)

I guess we can start with the fact that I got the Divergent series for my birthday and read all four books included in the set in about a week.

Series
Divergent

It was a decent read.  I enjoyed it more for the plot / story than any really awe-inspiring moments of literary genius or anything along those lines.  I am a fan, surely, but not for any high-brow reasons.  The writing wasn’t particularly great.

I made friends with yet another stray cat roaming around our apartment complex.  I feel so bad for these little guys and this one particularly struck me because he looks extremely similar to my family’s cat, Slice.

Meow.
Slice-a-like.

I also found myself doing a few arts and crafts towards the beginning of September.  One of them was a DIY featured in the school paper, The Blue and Gray Press, which can be found digitally at Blueandgraypress.com, if anyone would like a tutorial written by yours truly.  I am not going to explain that project here on my blog due to the fact that it is all ready published elsewhere, and that’d just be bad practice on my part!  [I originally found the DIY on Pinterest, credit to lilluna.com!]  That project turned out looking like this:

BlueandGray
LOVE – DIY project

It took me a few nights to make that whole thing but I am still really pleased with how it turned out!

The other project I undertook just for fun ended up not being so much fun, but it turned out decently just the same.  I made a Fall wreath based off a conglomerate of tutorials I found on Pinterest [just search ‘burlap wreath’].  The center part of the wreath is a separate piece that I found at my favorite thrift store, Two Times New.  The part I made was the outer burlap wreath.

 

wreath
Wire Outline (Hobby Lobby)
burlap
Burlap Roll (Hobby Lobby)
wreathf
Fall Wreath DIY

I don’t think I’ll be making a wreath like that again.  I totally had to wing the burlap folding and I burned myself on some hot glue like WOAH.  Not my favorite project, but it reminds me that I Redboxed ‘At Middleton’ to watch while I did that project and I’d give that movie a C+ at best.  Kinda cute?  I don’t know.  I could have gone without it, which is a shame.  It had a few good moments but wasn’t very captivating overall.  I debated whether or not I would have liked it more if I was older or a parent and came to the conclusion that the pot smoking scene would have probably put that in the ‘No’ category really quickly.

Also, if you haven’t noticed, I’ve decided that singular quotation markers are the new ‘IT’ thing.  I’m totally over the doubles.  Not that I can make such a bold move in my school work, but I feel like a chic rebel when I use the singles in my school notes >:)

Okay so my pictures are next guiding me to announce that I was and am WAY too excited about finally getting to wear hats again!  I have always been partial to them as an accessory, probably secretly because I hate fighting with my hair and trying to make it look half decent.  Speaking of which, my hair has hit new lengths and is COMPLETELY out of control.  I need some serious help finding a hairdresser that can manage a ‘scene’ haircut because this shit has GOT to go.  I can’t even brush it!

hair
Hats!

Jeez how the time flies.  I have to head out to class but I will be back, this much I can promise as I have set up in my phone a time-slot for blogging.  Worse comes down to it, I will at least be blogging on the weekends!  Be sure to tune in for more tomorrow – I’ll be making a case for why Funland is not just for kids 😛

How have you guys been?!  Comment below :)

The Press!

Hi everyone!  Super busy but very excited about some upcoming things I have to share with you!  For now, check out the new and improved website for UMW’s school newspaper, The Blue and Gray Press at http://blueandgraypress.com/ where yours truly has a [delicious] recipe featured on the front page!

Be sure to bookmark that website if you are interested in reading more of my articles that I will not be able to post about on this blog, as they will be in the paper instead!   The newest editions come out every Wednesday online and in print.

:)

Passions.

The chapter that I had to read for homework tonight for my CW:Nonfiction had a really cool exercise in it that I’ve decided to go ahead and do.  The idea is to think about 10 different roles that you assume in your life and write a paragraph about each one.  In the end, you are to find the connections between all the paragraphs – key terms, ideologies, etc.  These connections that you make between each of your roles will, without your trying to make them do so, end up highlighting deeper meanings in dealing with who you are, what your passions are, and what is important to you.  I am writing this intro paragraph after having written all the subsequent descriptions of myself.  I have all ready begun to realize patterns and words that connect the different positions I assume, but I would like to take the night to sleep on it and re-read these paragraphs in the morning to better recognize what matters to me.  With that being said, I encourage you all to come up with your own list and, if you feel comfortable doing so, share it with me in the comments below or in whatever way you’d like :)

1. Sister:  I am simultaneously fierce and loyal as a sister.  I worry tremendously about the mental health and general well-being of my brothers.  I cherish them in a way that goes beyond the modern use of the term.  I know that my bond with them is quite different than the bond I will have with any other trio of people in the world.  I love them in a way that they wouldn’t probably believe.  I want nothing but the best for them and I would do anything for them.  I am very protective of my younger brothers but I try to play it cool in front of them.  I worry that one day they will hold against me the fact that I left home at such an early age, while they were so young, just as I now hold things that my older brother has done to me against him.  I frequently try to impress upon them how sorry I am for feeling the need to leave, and I try the best I can to let them know that they are more than just anyone to me.  They are everyone to me.  Presently, my older brother and I do not have a relationship and I don’t think he knows how much it bothers me.  He has made me feel very unworthy of him; as if I have been some sort of alter-ego of his that he has tried so hard to shake off – in the process of which I have been discarded.  I worry that we will never mend our relationship.  Overall, as a sister I fear deeply the loss of relationships and want desperately to be not rejected by my brothers.  I want us to be inseparable and a force.

Bros.
JLS

2. Daughter:  While I recognize that I am a daughter, I rarely feel like one.  My relationships with my parents were very strained and confused when I lived with them.  Having been out of the house for 8 years now, these dynamics have shifted.  I love my relationship with my mother and I would do anything for her, but I feel more like friends than mother-daughter.  My father is a very generous provider and a busy person, but I don’t feel like I have ever made him very proud or been a person of interest to him in a genuine way.  This role is the most painful and stressing for me of any of them.  I have always worried excessively about making them happy and fulfilling their wishes; I am still learning how not to do this.  For example, I have chosen to be a writer, and despite the fact that I have informed them about my maintaining this blog, neither of them read it – a fact that really kills me.  In fact, if I had any fear of them reading this blog I wouldn’t have posted this paragraph at all, and yet?  I wouldn’t dare post a picture of them because the sheer terror of how they would react if they saw their picture on the internet scares me to death. [Despite the fact that both of their pictures are on the internet, and not by my hand]

3. Student:  As a student I am always doing my very best.  I tried to make my teachers, and now professors, proud of me for my brilliance the way I want(ed) my parents to be proud of me.  I always manage to make my intellect shine over the course of knowing an educator, and if I don’t feel that this trait is personally acknowledged by them, I become extremely disappointed… in myself.  This is the forum for me to make myself feel special and worthy of attention.  I go above and beyond until I cannot go anymore.  As a young student, my hard work helped me gain recognition that I felt I lacked elsewhere in my life, and it felt really good.  I am struggling in my older years to realize that just because someone is older than me and CAN appreciate what I can do, does not mean that I should be so desperately seeking their approval.

Forever.
Homework.

4. Waitress:  Similarly to how I feel with my “Student” tshirt on, so is the life of Leah the Server.  I continue to do what I am doing because it makes me feel good, and it makes me feel good because I am good at what I do.  I went through a period of seeking approval and recognition from my boss until he ever-so-gently crushingly called me out on it and made me think about why I was doing it with him;  I know he knows I’m great at what I do.  Even though it hurt my feelings terribly when he pointed out my shameless approval-seeking behaviors, I am glad that he did; if he hadn’t I would still question my worth in his kitchen.  Conversely, I still struggle socially at work.  This is the one time that I am forced to be friends with people and while I like them all fine enough, I worry that they speak ill of me behind my back.  I worry that they don’t actually like me at all.  I get nervous about only working in the right or middle sections – it could lead to a discussion about my value as a server or my integrity as a person.  To that idea, I have two veins of thought: 1) I only worry that they talk shit about me because they/we talk shit about other people we work with and 2) Even if they do talk badly about me, for reasons I’ve listed or things I would never even think about, they never really get stuck on these types of things for a long time.  I am really paranoid about my status at my job and I frequently worry that people think of me as a cocky person.

Me.
Drawing on my lunch container by: Jamie Humpfries, the best chicken salad sandwich maker in the world and a total BAMF in general.

5. Runner:  I love running, and most of the reasons for which I love to run I have all ready dissected in previous posts.  As a recap, I run because I feel accomplished afterwards.  What I haven’t yet disclosed is the fact that I listen to extremely motivational music while I run (to me, anyway) and I fixate my brain on a person that I hate or love to help myself cope with my feelings for them.  I spend my time running, obsessing.  I get it all out in one fell swoop.  I dance and sign and sing while I run.  I run with extreme focus.  This is my place to think thoughts that I forbid myself to think in other places and let myself get carried away for a defined amount of time.  It is therapeutic and makes me feel like I’ve made a point to someone who doesn’t even know I’m thinking about them.

Leggs
Run!

6. Singer:  As a singer I am very passionate and self-conscious.  I have tremendous stage fright; I don’t want to fail at the one thing my parents have praised me for since I was very young, in front of anyone.  Even when I recorded videos for Youtube, I would shake terribly and worry that someone would apparate and tell me that I suck.  There is a lot of pressure that goes along with always being told you are good at something.  Sometimes I worry that I am making a big mistake in not pursuing my career as a singer for the simple fact that I’m always told I’m good at it.  I’ve made people cry, by singing.  That’s really powerful.  And it’s something I never would have dreamed I could do.  I think I killed this dream off when I auditioned for American Idol in 12th grade and was rejected.  They said I was too young.  I think they could see the fear in my dilated pupils and knew I wasn’t ready for failure.  I think they could see my fragility and didn’t think I would get back up and fight when I was inevitably eliminated.  And I guess they were right, but I didn’t have to go any farther than auditions for their prophecy to come true.

hchssing
In Disneyworld in 2007 singing with the HCHS choir. [I miss you COHO]
7. Gamer:  I am a nervous gamer until I am confident that I can kick anyone’s ass.  I don’t enjoy the idea of possibly being embarrassed, especially because I consider myself a serious gamer, not just a chick that likes to play games now and again and show her tits on camera.  This is an escape for me, as well.  I enjoy being someone else online.  Not that I lie or make up ridiculous things and assume another personality entirely, but that I don’t have to censor my thoughts.  I feel that I come across much better in plaintext than I ever have in real life, and I attribute some of that to the fact that I can’t see the reactions of people when I say things online.  Sure they can call me names or be really rude to me, but that’s just a particular slice of the internet culture.  Most of the time, being myself leads to me making friends that I connect with better than anyone I meet face to face.  I love being a gamer for this reason, possibly more than any other reason.

Eric
Playing WoW at Morningside :)

8. Music Lover:  *Exhale*  I really.  Can’t.  Okay.  I have met VERY few other people in my life that see and hear music the way that I do.  I’m not going to say that I am the world’s most passionate music lover and screw everyone else, but I will say that I am tied with a handful of other people for the position, and fuck everyone else.  If you’re one of them, that’s awesome and you deserve it as much as I do.  This isn’t a perfectly unique characteristic, and I know that.  There is something that music does for me that I feel I could spend a life-time writing about.  Singing and playing piano flows out of my body as easily as listening to a record flows in when the music is a certain magic.  I know more music than anyone I know and I appreciate music with utter passion.  I would rather listen to music than do ANYTHING else.  Period.  Music is inside of me.  Innately.  I know music.  Not in the technical sense.  It’s personal.  It makes me feel like I live in an alternate universe.   I will definitely work on my articulation of this subject, but I feel really caught off guard by my own emotions about this subject.

9. Reader:  As a reader I am anyone I want to be.  I become so invested in these characters and their lives.  I find my place in their world, and since the world is so perfectly lain out for me, I fit somewhere perfectly.  I like to read fantasy.  I like to escape.  I can be a part of a world that is predetermined and bound to have meaning, and that feels safe.

 

My analysis to come soon!  Please feel free and encouraged to participate in this exercise, be it for yourself or to share with me.  You might learn a bit about yourself that you never knew.

Bunburying.

In my Modern British Fiction class, we are starting the semester with a reading of Oscar Wilde’s – The Importance of Being Earnest.  This short play is extremely witty and funny and, as the Norton Critical Edition points out in the preface, Wilde tackles lots of issues to deal with “class, gender, sexuality and identity” that somehow bridge the gap between the then and now (x); a mark of great literature, in the minds of many people such as myself.  As these things make wonderful thoughts and conversation, I have decided to extend my experience to you all! :)  [Free education!]

My new Professor, Kate Haffey, has given us some ideas and questions to take into consideration corresponding to the first act of the play, and I would like to share those questions and my thoughts about them with you.  While this may sound boring, I would also like to touch on a couple of Wilde’s quotes in ACT I that I found particularly prolific and/or perfectly stereotypical of the time period.  I really encourage reading this play, regardless of who you are or what you major(ed) in!  It really is very well layered with conflict and subtext, and even if you don’t care to read into any of that, it’s funny!

Professor Haffey’s questions:  “How does The Importance of Being Earnest play on the multiple meanings of the word ‘fiction’?  In what ways does fiction appear in ACT I?  What does the text seem to be saying about fiction?  What is the inverse or opposite or other of ‘fiction’ in these instances?  What are some other terms that might serve as synonyms for ‘fiction’ within the text?

The following is my first attempt at analyzing ACT I.  It is a free-write in which I will be referencing the book and attempting to answer the questions (or thereabouts).  I have not read any of the conversation about this piece before.  I will be putting words that I believe can be synonyms for “fiction” in particular circumstances throughout.  The paragraphs themselves will be ways that I see fiction appearing in the act.

FICTION: 1. The class of literature comprising works of imaginative narration, especially in prose form.  2. Works of this class, as novels or short stories (i.e. detective fiction).  3. Something feigned, invented, or imagined; a made up story.  4. The act of feigning, inventing, or imagining. 5. An imaginary thing or event, postulated for the purposes of argument or explanation.  6. Law  An allegation that a fact exists that is known not to exist, made by authority of law to bring a case within the operation of a rule of law. (Fiction as defined on dictionary.reference.com.)

Characters Involved include the following:  John (Jack) Worthing, his friend Algernon Moncrieff, Lane (Algernon’s manservant), Lady Bracknell (Aunt Augusta), and Gwendolen Fairfax (daughter to Lady Bracknell).

In the first scene, Lane is feigning that he didn’t hear something as obvious as a piano playing in the next room in order to keep within the confines of his lower status.  Correspondingly, Algernon pretends that Lane could possibly be truthful in his act that he did not hear the piano.

On the next page, this fictional banter continues when Algernon questions Lane about the amount of champagne that was imbibed at a recent gentlemanly gathering of his.  Due to the fact that the amount of liquor that was used is quite large for the small amount of guests that were in attendance, Algernon skips all accusations and questions Lane as to why, “at a bachelor’s establishment the servants invariably drink the champagne?”  To which Lane fabricates the notion that the alcohol at an unmarried man’s house is of much better quality than elsewhere, simultaneously ignoring the underlying accusation and flattering his superior.  Again, Algernon replies as if Lane’s suggestion is truthful.

When Lane mentions his previous marriage, Algernon’s reply implies that Lane’s family life is of no interest to someone of his status, to which Lane conceals any semblance of being human by saying “No, sir; it is not a very interesting subject.  I never think of it myself.”  Again, this can be seen as Lane being overly passive to his class-superior — this repetition is just now drawing the electricity to the filament of the stereotypical, fictional light bulb above my head and making me wonder if on the whole, Wilde is commenting on just how false the relations between man and servant were in the time period.  He clearly continues in other ways to pass judgement and poke fun at many other stereotypes of which I am much quicker to understand for the time period.

*Time for a quote that I very much enjoy: “The very essence of romance is uncertainty.  If I ever get married, I’ll certainty try to forget the fact.” – Algernon (Wilde)

I’m hard-pressed to put this next excerpt up in the realm of fiction.  On the one hand, I am not a woman with very liberal feminist views; on the other hand, there is a contradiction present between two men of the same class, time and society and I feel that these few lines between the two of them may fit into definition number 5.  Algernon says that Gwendolen will not marry Jack due to the fact that she flirts with him, and “girls never marry the men they flirt with.  Girls don’t think it right”  (8).  To which Jack replies, “Oh, that is nonsense!” and Algernon continues saying, “It isn’t.  It is a great truth.  It accounts for the extraordinary number of bachelors that one sees all over the place.”

Do you see my dilemma?  Maybe not.  This is obviously an exchange laden with gender bias and fits the mold of the general opinion of women held by men of the time period; however, in terms of fictional or not, Algernon uses the word truth, and asserts multiple statements under this aura of truth that in fact may be lies.  With regard to definition number five, this is also a turning point in the conversation between the two gentleman, as Algernon is about to refuse his blessing that Jack might ask his cousin Gwen to marry him.  With this in mind, the whole of what Algernon is saying may be a story he tells (regardless of his character or true beliefs) with the intention of starting a fight.

I’m noticing back in the real world that the clock is creeping ever later and the word count ever longer, and for that reason I am going to continue this post and finish this post by addressing the most obvious use of fiction within the passage: Bunburying. (A word you’ll want in your vocabulary, trust me.)

Bunburying is “avoiding duties and responsibilities by claiming to have appointments to see fictitious people” (as listed on wikitionary.org.)  This term came to be coined by Wilde, as his character Algernon has a made-up friend by the name of Bunbury, whom Algernon effectively uses to dodge various situations he would rather not have to deal with.  There is an excessive amount of dialogue between Algernon and Jack in which Algernon accuses Jack of being a Bunburyist himself, which Jack outwardly protests but eventually is found by the viewer/reader guilty of in the highest degree.  To make matters worse, Jack’s version of Bunbury is his faux-brother named Ernest that he uses as an excuse to ditch out on his family and neighbors in the locale of his country home, and simultaneously a persona that he assumes when he is visiting in the city.  Many people know him by the name of Ernest, including the woman that he claims to love, Gwendolen.

There is a lot more I could discuss about this act and the prompted questions given to us by Professor Haffey (thank you for those!) but I must digress for now.  Again, if you have a library card or a few bucks, this read is totally worth it!  If you have all ready read this text, what did you think of it?  Were your interpretations similar to mine?  Let me know in the comments below!

I may be MIA tomorrow, as it will be mah birthday.

Tiara is ready!

 

Answering questions you didn't know you had.