A Room of My Own

the inner ramblings of a self-declared geek

9/11/11 September 10, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — aroomofmyown @ 3:16 pm

I was a senior in college when the planes hit the Towers.  It was bizarre that I didn’t actually find out until about lunchtime.  I had gotten up before all of my roommates for an early class.  I didn’t turn on the tv to check the weather, as I was usually prone to doing.  None of my professors mentioned anything in class.  I don’t know if they were unaware as well, or if they were simply trying to act like everything was normal.  I didn’t have any particular friends in my two Tuesday morning classes, so I wasn’t really talking to anyone.  But there was this strange buzz around campus.  I didn’t know what it was, but you could feel something was going on.

I remember getting in the elevator for my last class of the morning and overhearing a conversation about someone’s friend in New York and whether is was a good idea to be in an elevator.  It struck me as odd, until I got home a few hours later.  All of my roommates were sitting around the tv (a pretty remarkable feat in and of itself for a Tuesday afternoon).   That was the first time I saw the Towers fall.  It was like a punch to the stomach.  I would see it, as would the rest of America, on a continuous loop for the next few days.  After that first week, I swore I would never watch that footage again.

I had the strangest reaction to it.  Watching the survivors stumble out of the rubble, dust-covered, blank-eyed, moving north, north, north, away from the scene, I was struck by how much it looked like a scene out of one of my beloved disaster movies.  Hollywood was much more accurate than they ever imagined.  I think I was in a little bit of shock.

But I was a child of the 80’s.  I had no experience whatsoever with national strife.  We had had it pretty easy until then.  My grandparents were the Greatest Generation.  They endured depressions and presidents dying and real evil in European mad men.  My parents grew up in the cynicism of Vietnam and Watergate.  Their generation learned to distrust their government.  People my age – we didn’t have wars.  We didn’t have huge scandals or necessary sacrifice. 9/11 changed everything.

My generation has now fought two wars, including the longest running one in our nation’s history.  We are insanely more skeptical of our government than our parents before us.  We have faced real evil in fanatical mad men and endured recessions and lived through untrustworthy leaders.  We are the Generation Who Will Never Forget.

I didn’t actually lose anyone or anything tangible on September 11th.  I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like for the people who did.  The 9/11 widows and widowers.  Firefighters.  New Yorkers.  Their experience is personal.  But in a way, I think every American carries that hole in lower Manhattan somewhere inside of them.  We are a nation of PSTD survivors, all grieving and healing and moving on in our own way.

For my part, this anniversary just makes me so goddamn sad.  It seems forever ago, and like it was just yesterday.  You heal, but that hole is still there, like the phantom pain of an amputated limb.

It is my hope that while my generation never forgets, we also learn to forgive.  I can’t bear the thought that our legacy from this would be vengeance and hate.  You cannot replace what has been taken, you can only take what cannot be replaced.  And that honors no one.

Ten years later, the struggle remains.  Forgiveness in the face of unthinkable atrocities.  Peace from the ashes of mayhem and rage.  Grace upon that hallowed ground.


I Want To Ride My Bicycle August 8, 2011

Filed under: my house — aroomofmyown @ 7:56 pm

So about a week ago, my neighborhood hosted the 24 hour bike race.  It’s usually pretty fun to sit outside and observe all the kinds of bikes and riders that travel past in the 24 hour period.  It’s great people-watching, all from the comfort of home.

However, being removed from the proceedings, it can get a bit confusing.  You see some things that you really don’t know how to explain.  For instance, in the next clip, why in the hell is the guy riding around with an extra bike strapped to his back?  I have no answers to this question.  It’s frustrating as hell.

I know it’s hard to tell without being zoomed in, but trust me.  The guy has a disassembled bike on his bike while pedaling like mad.  Also, why were some people driving around with little carts behind them, almost like rickshaws?

These guys had tunes and a cooler full of beer in the back.  Call me crazy, but I wouldn’t want to pedal anything extra if I didn’t have to.  And what category where they in – the tandem?  Speaking of that, look at this one for the best tandem bike of the race.  They decorated the bejeezus out of it.  The car in the video actually stops to look at it.

Then, there are the bikes that seem to defy physics.  When I saw the bike below, I wondered what the rider does when he has to stop at a red light.  Lean up against a telephone pole?

And don’t forget the bonus checkpoints throughout the race.  My street is just the standard route, but participants can earn extra points by stopping at checkpoints and doing random things.  I found this video showing one example.  It’s pretty funny.

At the end of the day, it’s a great thing for a neighborhood to be known for, particularly in a city that loves to focus on its negative qualities.  This shows that thoughtful, motivated, fun-loving, creative and crazy people live in Riverwest.  I think it’s a wonderful place to call home.


That Can’t Be Good For You July 26, 2011

Filed under: my house — aroomofmyown @ 8:06 am

This morning, I watched Laura eat leftover chinese food with a Mountain Dew for breakfast.  When I mentioned how strange a thing that was to eat at that hour, she said it was the breakfast of champions.  I immediately pointed out that the true breakfast of champions is coffee and cigarettes.  Everybody knows that.  I practically survived on it in college.

But it got me thinking.  I quit smoking over two years ago now.  I rarely drink coffee anymore, especially in the morning, because it gives me heartburn.  And suddenly, I feel kind of old, like I’m a subdued version of my former self.  The thing is, I’m pretty okay with that.  I like this version of me.


Party of One July 25, 2011

Filed under: me — aroomofmyown @ 7:02 pm

I had heard from one of my college roommates over a year ago that she was engaged.  I mean, this wasn’t exactly earth-shattering.  She and her fiance had been together since med school.  They’d suffered rotations, residencies, and worst of all (according to them) Dayton, OH together.  So, one could forgive me when I almost forgot about their wedding because they already seemed married in my mind.  That is, until about a week ago, when the invitation showed up in my mailbox.  And with it, a pit of dread began to form in my stomach.

This is one of those weddings that everyone comes across occasionally.  Other than the bride and groom, I wouldn’t know ANYONE at this wedding.  I mean, I remember her mom from visits in college, but it’s not like we were pals.  You don’t know the parents of your college friends in the same way that you know the parents of your high school friends.  Also, I highly doubt any of our other roommates would be attending the wedding…not that I’ve talked to them since college, either.  The only damn person I’ve kept in touch with is the one up on the alter, which does me no good whatsoever at a table for one.

Here is where the anxiety begins.  Being unmarried myself, I have no one who is obligated to go to this thing with me.  At least in that situation, you have someone to sit and drink free booze with whilst pretending you recognize people.  If I do that by myself, I just look sad.  Or like an alcoholic.

I’ve racked my brain trying to come up with a friend I can con/bribe into coming along so I don’t look completely pathetic.  But the added bonus of this wedding is not only is it out of town, but it is also on a Friday.  So anyone coming with me would feasibly have to take off of work.  I can’t ask Jeff to do that when he has no paid vacation time and a wife and kid he probably doesn’t see enough as it is.  Laura has to work the next day.  Besides, she already suffered through one of these with me last year.  I can’t ask her to go through that again.

I can get out on a technicality because I really don’t have any vacation time either.  So I would be perfectly justified in saying “no.” But I hate that I will miss her big day because I’m a loser who can’t get anyone to hang out with her for one night.  And I hate that I feel like I have to have someone with me in order to do this.  Alas, both of those things are true, whether I hate it or not.  I don’t have anyone to go with, and I don’t want to go alone.

I’m such a girl.  A pathetic, sad, party-of-one girl.


Here, at the end of all things July 14, 2011

Filed under: movies — aroomofmyown @ 7:14 pm
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Tonight is the night a decade or so in the making.  I can hardly stand it.  I’ve had tickets to a midnight showing for roughly a month now, and even though I will be insanely tired at work tomorrow, there is no way I’m missing the last new Harry Potter.

I wasn’t always this crazy.

No one ever said kids books had to be just for kids, but it wasn’t until J.K. Rowling started this opus to wizardry and friendship that I really believed it.  Sure, I had read plenty of kids books, but I read them when I was a kid.  I could reread certain children’s literature for the nostalgia aspect, but I wasn’t really interested in wasting my time perusing new ones.

But these books are something different.  They captivate you from the start.  No adult should feel silly reading these books.  They are so obviously written by someone that loves books and words and history.  The books grow and age, both the children in them, and the content and narrative itself.  It’s an incredible feat to be so aware of your characters at each stage and to usher them so lovingly and naturally through adolescence.

People often talk about how amazingly creative the books are, imagining new worlds and games and histories.  But to me it is much more impressive that Rowling is such a meticulous and informed writer.  She had the story fully envisioned from the beginning and plots it perfectly.  Things that appear in the first chapter reappear with greater significance books later, a modern usage of the rule known as Chekhov’s gun.  Her spell language and character names all have a basis in Latin that is full of foreshadowing.

These are books about children, but for everyone.  After the last one came out, I was sad to be at the end of the Harry Potter journey, but I consoled myself with the movies that had yet to be made.  Now, we are at the end of that journey as well.  It will be sad.  It will be exciting.  It will be perfect, here, at the end of all things.



Keeping My Friends Close June 26, 2011

Filed under: me — aroomofmyown @ 7:42 pm

Surprisingly, the hardest thing about having a new job for me has been leaving behind my old co-workers.   I stayed so long in a job I didn’t really love because I had a large number of really good people around me.  Now, it feels strangely lonely at work to not have everyone know me.   This is not to say that my new co-workers are not friendly.  Nor is this to say that I loved everyone at my old job.  But my comfort level and support network have been drastically altered, and it’s really draining.

So, when the weekends come, I am really excited to slip into easier associations.  This manifests itself in some unusual ways.  I have become kind of a social butterfly, scheduling all kinds of things with my friends in my off time.  I also can be somewhat melodramatic and clingy, which must be pretty annoying for Laura, who has to live with me through all of this.  I also overcompensated the feeling of ease at my cousin’s wedding last week and drank entirely too much gin – effectively proving that while I may love gin, it does not always love me back.

This weekend, I managed to squeeze in a lot of socializing with people who know me best.   Nights out with some of the guys I used spend all my time with are few and far between now that everyone is married, with children.  But last night, I sat in the bar, laughing and talking and reminiscing and joking with Jeff & Jeffrey in a way that is precious for how rare it has become.

Then today, I had brunch with the girls, catching up and planning ahead.  I love how we can always pick up exactly where we left off, no matter if a couple days or a couple months have passed.   I’m not sure if I really believed in high school that these friendships would have been so important to me when I became an adult, but it has been a happy surprise of my life to be surrounded by people who knew me when, and who know me best.

Additionally, I have been receiving the nicest emails and texts from numerous friends checking in and curious about how things are going.  The bistro crew and Andy have been great.   Of course, my old co-workers have been interested and supportive as well.  Stopping in last Monday, Melissa’s shouting was as flattering as it was uncomfortably attention-drawing.

And each day at work is made slightly easier by the thought that I have someone amazingly patient (even in my dramatic moments) and unbelievably supportive back home.  Laura makes my work days so much less daunting.

So, a big Sunday-night thank you to all my friends that have stuck with me through the craziness, and love me anyway.


These kids today June 12, 2011

Filed under: waxing pseudo-philosophical — aroomofmyown @ 4:36 pm

This week, I went to the hospital to welcome the newest member of my cousin Kelly’s family. Her daughter, Blakely Paige Cieslak, was born June 7th. She’s tiny and squirmy and perfect. On the way home, I happened to pass an old-school Volkswagen Beetle on the freeway (trust me, this segue works). I realized how long it had been since I had seen one that old.  It seems like they were all over the place when I was growing up, but now they haven’t been manufactured in the U.S. for over 30 years. I thought about how Blakely and her three-year-old sister, Payton, would only know the new model Beetles as they grew up. This made me start to think of all the other random things they will not know growing up in 2011.

  • The country will have always had a black president.  Can you even imagine that being the beginning of your history?
  • Alternatively, they will always know a world that has Lady Gaga.  Yep, meat-dress-wearing entertainers and African-American presidents, equally present in their reality.
  • They will never hear the words, “Yesterday, on Oprah…”
  • The phrase “You have died of dysentery” will hold no special meaning for them whatsoever.
  • Bob Barker will have never hosted the Price is Right.  I mean, what will they even do on the days they are home sick from school?
  • Speaking of school, they will be able to research their homework with a computer or an iPad.  Good bye, Dewey Decimal System.  I can’t exactly feel bad for them about this.  Dewey wasn’t the most user-friendly kind of guy.
  • They won’t give a crap where in the world Carmen Sandiego is.
  • Communism-schmommunism.  Islamic terrorism is where it’s at, the -ism of choice for today’s kids.
  • They will learn about 9/11 in their history books.  Towers will fall and people will panic and mourn on the page.  They won’t watch it play out on TV and live with the consequences.   Lucky kids.
  • They won’t ever get to meet my grandmother.  Or eat anything she has baked.  Unlucky kids.
  • On a Saturday night, they won’t know the special excitement that exists when your dad takes you to the gas station or the pharmacy (or later, Blockbuster) to rent a video.

Payton and Blakely don’t have it so bad, really.  They have two devoted, wonderful parents who are doing their best to raise smart, considerate and kind little people, and a slew of family who will  spoil them within an inch of their lives, despite the protests of their mother.  But their childhood looks like a different world compared to mine.  How things can change in 30 years.