Thursday, March 31, 2005

Posted by Hello

Plane Honest*

Baby, I'm back. Safely ensconced in non-suburban Boston, and not quite but almost my old self. I still have to recover from jet lag, a week of eating burgers, and the red-eye flight home. Nothing to complain about though--the trip back was spectacularly uneventful, just me in my leather seat with my 36 DirecTV channels trying to figure out if the ladies in my row were a mother/daugher combo or May-December lesbians. The serenity of this return experience was a welcome relief after my flight to California last week, a trip that ran the gamut from mild moments of unease to painful drops in sanity and consciousness.

I am not afraid of flying. My attitude has always been, if my time's up: it's up, and why worry about it in the meantime? Also, my own death in general has never scared me, only the death of other people. And flying is safer than driving, yada yada. But due to an abnormally violent storm in Los Angeles the night I arrived (thanks for that, California) and bad weather throughout much of the Western United States, the second half of my JetBlue from Boston was just one bumpy drop after another. You try concentrating on "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" (Bravo DirecTV channel 11) when you are being tossed around like Carson Kressley's blonde locks. Some mild nausea, a few fleeting thoughts about mortality, then my logical side switching on for a quick reminder that no plane has ever been brought down by turbulence, and I'm okay.

Until we try to land in rainy, angry Los Angeles. It's dark outside, water is streaming by the windows in Agatha Christie fashion, and my hazy glimpses of the vast, lit metropolis that is LA have never made it look so inviting. Five feet above the runway and the blessed end to this unpleasantness, a blast of wind hits, the plane goes careening sideways, the engines roar, and we're headed up again.

The ten minutes it took for the plane to circle over the pitch black Pacific in order to attempt another landing were long ones. Our DirecTVs shut off due to "Normal Aircraft Movement," depriving me of my five perky companions, and the nerdy Boston College kid next to me (after being silent all flight) started babbling semi-coherently. That's the thing about flying, tell yourself what you might. Whenever you're in an airplane, you're just a very short ways away from nervous. And then a short ways from nervous to panicked. Yes, flying is safe, but you feel vulnerable as hell up there, and it makes you think about dying in a way that you wouldn't while planted firmly on the ground. It made me think, it would not be too cool to be stuck with this geek for my last moments on earth.

Commercial flying is one of the safest ways to travel. The pilots are extensively trained and teamed-up, the crew is knowledgeable, and the planes are checked compulsively--none of which can be said about driving, or biking, or swimming, or walking. But flying nonetheless leads to all sorts of interesting fears and thoughts of the worst-case scenario. But I actually think this is good: you make sure to tell people you love them before you leave, you mull over your life and think about how people would evaluate it if it ended now, and you pray a little bit more up there than you do down here. In short, it cuts through the fat and keeps you honest.

Last night I dug deep in the tv cabinet to find a scratchy video of "Almost Famous" since we are sans cable and, a la jetlag, I was wide awake at 4:00 in the morning. There's a funny scene in the movie where the band's plane is caught in an electrical storm and everyone spills their guts thinking they're about to die. Everyone hates everyone else, or has slept with each other's girlfriends, or is gay. Of course the storm passes. It's the climax of the movie, and I don't think that's because of the special shaky plane effects. It's because everyone is being honest for the first time in the film, and some great stuff comes out.

Even if you're all by yourself on a shaky ride, great stuff can come out. The kind of honesty you can only get on planes can make you realize how good your life is, how many wonderful things you have waiting for you on solid ground, how much you would be missed if something happened to you. Morbid maybe, but also nice. It's like you can really see how good your life is when you're up above it, not caught ant-like in the everyday muck.

Obviously I made it to LA just fine, after a harrowing but successful second landing, had the chance to relate the whole tale to my appreciative family, got to spend a lovely week dyeing Easter eggs with my little brothers, playing the chalk game on our sidewalk in the warm California sun, and hanging out with people I care about a lot. Did I appreciate those things a little bit more because I'd had a quick little chance to think about missing out on all of it? Yeah, maybe I did.

*(a pun for the title in honor of spending a week with Dwight Sullivan, pun-lover extraordinaire.)

Friday, March 25, 2005

...stuck in the suburbs. help.. am. losing. feeling. in my legs

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Posted by Hello

Outta Here

The time has come for that crucial annual Sullivan tradition called get the hell out of New England in March. This year's destination is California to visit the family, and I am leaving in a few minutes. So I thought I would say goodbye, because although I am definitely going to try, I can't promise that I will be posting from the OC. (I say it that way to show how ridiculous calling Orange County "the OC" is in real life. No one does it. Also, my family doesn't live in the OC.)

The internet situation at my family's house (dial-up, naturally) is sketchier than Bill O'Reilly with a new intern so I may write a whole post only to have the screen freeze up and kill it or, more likely still, I may find all the sites I need to visit blocked due to parental control spyware. Yes, that is very likely. I think they might have blocked over there.

If I do post, I'll be all hopped up on good California attitudes and sunshine so my posts will probably be unbearable anyway. We'll see how it goes. If I do post, things I am interested in writing about include: 1) going to the Garciaparras' for Easter (okay, it's a long shot but you never know) 2) how many times I go to In-N-Out and how good it is (haha lydia) and 3) really that's about it because, people: not a lot happens in the 'burbs.

In the meantime, try to survive without me and hang ten! (or something a little less '80s)

Friday, March 18, 2005

Posted by Hello


I am almost too exhausted today to say anything. I am recovering from a week of frantic amateur rehearsing, nerves (see post, below), overly speedy post-performance vodka tonics, dying my hair hot pink (just kidding), last weekend's roadtrip, next week's planetrip, my shock at this nice Boston weather, my attempts to herd four famous Joyce academics onto an experimental conference panel, keeping up with rapid fire tourney eliminations, trying not to blow an April 8th deadline for my first chapter draft, and reconciling the fact that my St. Patty's day celebrations last night consisted of opening an American Express bill and cleaning my room. (What happened to St. Patty's Day? The days of me gadding about Boston in inappropriately short skirts and bare legs on March 17 are over, I guess? At least until this weekend; we'll see how that goes.)

The performance on Wednesday was super fun and went well, thank you all who asked for asking. DVDs available for $9.95. (That's a joke, in case there was any kind of sliver of doubt. Although there is indeed a DVD.) Luckily my sister is a loud and supportive giggler, so she helped drum up good crowd response to my comic monologue. And I myself managed to conjure up some tear-filled eyes for the dramatic scene, which people commented on afterwards. So that was nice. Who knew crying easily would ever be listed as an asset.

Since I don't have a lot to say today, but yet feel the need to connect with y'all in an electronic, bloggy type way, the onus is on you to fill up the comment board for this post with pithy, witty tidbits from the recesses of your fresh and energetic little minds to make up for my lethargy and depletion. How 'bout it? Yeah, it's your turn. Go!

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Posted by Hello

Jenny, Nina, Prudence

So I find myself uncharacteristically nervous. Nervous because tomorrow I am to take part in a show with my fellow acting classmates at a tiny little theater in Harvard Square. The show is the traditional end to the class, in which the students subject their friends and family to a series of hopefully entertaining monologues and scene studies, showcasing what they have learned in ten weeks. I haven't done anything remotely like this since the 8th grade Christmas pageant at Bethany Christian Junior High.

Tomorrow, I will be impersonating a distraught grieving housewife (I will of course be drawing upon the week we cancelled cable for my motivation here), a starving New York city actress unduly interested in anal probes, and a prissy preppy girl on a blind date. It is times like these that I wonder just how I managed to stray so far from James Joyce and Irish transnationalism.

That is the thing about odd hobbies. People think you are so weird for doing them (I didn't tell my in-laws I was in acting class until they found out by accident) and yet their weirdness is exactly why they are worthwhile. Does it make sense for me to be chasing down a pink sweater set and a set of plastic cups (no glass on stage!) all day rather than something more practical...say, writing pages nine through twelve of the old disser? Of course not. But it's so good.

I love that I feel a little nervous about something--in this case, the prospect of looking like a true idiot in front of 60 people for forgetting a line, spitting up on my pink twinset, or just plain acting like crap. It's a lot harder these days to get that kind of feeling. I no longer jiggle so much as an eyebrow when presenting a paper on threshold symbolism in Ulysses to a roomful of Joyce scholars (they're ancient and extremely receptive); I long ago got used to lecturing to Boston University undergraduates on something I just read for the first time the night before; and no matter what manner of unusual or neurotic thing I do in front of my husband, he's already gotten on the train for the long haul, so how high are those stakes, really?

When we were kids, adolescents, and even post-college newbies, every move was fraught with disaster-making potential and ruin, or at least it felt that way. For every uncomfortable, terrifying new thing, there was also great hope though: the possibility of relief, success, achievement. Now we're older, smarter, and more comfortable, less freaked-out about whatever it is we do on a daily basis.

Comfortable is of course just a tiny, skinny little hair away from complacent though, isn't it? For that reason, I'm not ready to give up that sense every so often of being on utterly shaky ground--completely out of my element--that feeling that the whole house of cards is at imminent tumble. So here's to new diversions, interesting "acting friends," anal probes, twinsets, and the possibility of doom. Huzzah!

Friday, March 11, 2005

Posted by Hello


I'm going out of state, and I don't really have time to post right now, but I can't leave Ann Coulter's smug mug atop my blog for the whole weekend, and I had to say something about weddings. Not just any weddings, but the weddings of your oldest friends.

My oldest friend is getting married this weekend. We met in junior high. I was the smart geek, she was the badass. She is getting married this weekend, and it makes me think about how weird the things are that actually happen that you have always imagined. (Another weird thing is that sentence.) Whenever we pictured her wedding as kids (we didn't picture mine as often; I was a budding feminist at thirteen and who could say for sure if I was getting married?), there were always extravagant trappings and lots of let's face it rockin' 80's style bridesmaid dresses going on. Did Lita Ford play the reception? LA Guns? Maybe there was even a horse-drawn carriage--forgive me my friend if I have got the details wrong.

Seventeen years later (a whole, sentient, curfew-breaking person worth of later) I am headed through an imminent snowstorm to a small, I imagine elegant and very non-80's wedding at a manor in upstate New York. My friend is marrying a man with three kids, has possibly left the West Coast behind forever (that could actually be said of both of us), and she will become not only a wife tomorrow but a stepmother. It's all so amazing. I bet her soon-to-be stepkids would have liked the horse-drawn carriage thing, had it survived.

My point is: how the hell do we ever know what's going to happen? I actually ended up getting married myself, and even though I didn't have bridesmaids with burgundy velvet boots as once envisioned (or, for that matter, bridesmaids), I did have a winter wedding as originally planned circa 1988. It's just a little bit crazy to see the plans you make and then their real life counterparts. It's a fun game if you can stand the wait, and I guess it's a game we'll always play. What am I going to be when I grow up? (Most people I know still have no idea.) Are we all going to have kids? Will they all be unmanageable brats as I fear? Will we ever have those week-long reunions on tropical islands when we're senior citizens like I hope and pray we will? I guess we'll see. The wait's over on this particular round, and it looks like the turn came out pretty good. Way to go, MJC.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Posted by Hello


This is just me shaking my head, electronically, and needing to share the craziness with y'all. This week's sign of the madness comes courtesty of Ann Coulter, that really blonde, venomy woman. In a recent article about Jeff Gannon--the fake reporter issued a White House press pass--Charming Ann states, "Press passes can't be that hard to come by if the White House allows that old Arab Helen Thomas to sit within yards of the president."

What? I must have read that wrong. Nope, that's right, "old Arab" in reference to Helen Thomas, a highly respected White House press corp member who has covered every president since JFK, and whose parents were Lebanese immigrants. Ann's column, which is inexplicably syndicated, was doctored to remove the "Arab" reference when it went out to papers across the country, but it's sitting right out there on her website if you'd like to see it, as well as that fetching photo of Ann taken after she was caught behind a jet plane.

How is this okay? Would Ann keep her job if she had said "that old Jew Helen Thomas"? How about "that old black"? "That old Korean"? (You get the distasteful idea.) I should hope not. And she shouldn't keep her job for this. But this is the woman who said about Abu Ghraib, "I mean, this is lesson, you know, one million and 47 on why women shouldn't be in the military. In addition to not being able to carry even a medium-sized backpack, women are too vicious" (Stop projecting, Ann). And, on the Middle East, that "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity," and everybody stood up and cheered about that, so I guess her job's pretty much safe.

It's fun to rail against the craziness anyway, though, so this is what I suggest. Send an email to Lee Salem of Universal Press Syndicate, who distributes Ann's columns, at with the following message:

Dear Lee,

Ann is a racist wingnut. Stop carrying her columns.

A non-crazy person

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Posted by Hello

Daddy Truck, Baby Truck

(Before I move on, it's important to note that spring training game scores don't matter [for those of you wondering about the Sox/Yankees game yesterday]. Never fear. Doesn't Matter. Just wanted to get that in there.)

So: I've been resisting it, but I think it's finally time to throw in my two shiny cents on this whole Women's Brains and Science issue. It just isn't going away. The hoo-ha started, of course, when Laurence Summers, the president of Harvard, gave a speech at a conference on women in the sciences in which he managed to piss off members of his own faculty and women scientists across the country. Summers seemed to suggest that the underrepresentation of women in the sciences is due to a fundamental difference between men and women's brains. That, in short, women aren't as well cut out for the job mentally.

Smart move, Larry. A funny little wrinkle to the story is that senior job offers to women faculty have dropped steadily each year of his 3-year presidency. So brou-haha ensued, naturally, with women walking out of the lecture and folks talking about Summers' job being in jeopardy. This all happened back in January, and he's still firmly ensconced across the river, so I guess his post is safe though.

He made himself sound like an idiot, yes, but the thing about Summers' speech that really delighted me was his super sophisticated "Daddy Truck, Baby Truck" theory. (Oh yeah, Summers is an economist, with no significant scientific training whatsoever. Forgot to mention that.) The DTBT premise that Larry came up with refers to the gender-neutral training he and his wife attempted to give their daughters, and the charming way in which it all came to naught. Apparently one of the mini Summers was given two trucks instead of two "girly" type toys, in an effort to break out of society's rigid gender expectations. Yet, in an outcome worthy at least of a journal article in Nature Neuroscience, Summers' daughter named the trucks "Daddy truck" and "Baby truck," as if they were dolls, demonstrating that girls are cut out for mothering, not motoring, and proving once and for all the primacy of nature over nurture. Right?

Yeah, it's silly. But what's sillier is that many media publications were eager to jump on this bandwagon and take Summers' ideas seriously, producing reams of articles carefully examining this economist's points and trying to determine if they were true. Based on his own apology, that seems like a pretty stupid thing to do in retrospect. As put more succinctly by Denice Denton, outgoing dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Washington: ''Here was this economist lecturing pompously (to) this room full of the country's most accomplished scholars on women's issues in science and engineering, and he kept saying things we had refuted in the first half of the day."

It makes me think of how many times I have listened to similar "arguments" made against women's abilities in science, math, business, leadership, religion, law, engineering, bartending, you name it. They are usually just about as sophisticated as Daddy Truck, Baby Truck, and yet they are being aired, and being listened to. Sometimes they are being aired by women. Sometimes they are being accepted by women. I can understand why an entire country respectfully considered Lawrence Summers' brainbusted ideas--after all, even though he's not a scientist and didn't know what he was talking about, he happens to be the president of Harvard. So you can understand our collective mistake. But why do we give that kind of platform to just anyone on the street? To those well-intentioned but misguided male and female friends, those occasional old-fashioned teachers, spiritual leaders, and relatives? Why do we listen to this?

No one is suggesting that men and women aren't different. Thank god, we are. Voila, spicy world. But although we do have generally different strengths and weaknesses that have been documented, women are not inferior to men, not even a little bit. And it shocks me that I actually have to write that down. But I feel it bears repeating, since the notion comes creeping in these days much more sneakily than it used to, swaddled in implications and inferences. Don't buy it. Whether it comes from Lawrence Summers or L. Sanders, your neighborhood know-it-all, don't buy it.

(And Happy International Women's Day! Yeah, I don't know exactly how to celebrate that either; if anyone has any ideas, let me know)

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Posted by Hello

True Colors

I have discovered the cruelest game in the world. It isn't Chinese water torture or Killerball (though that one has provided me many hours of desperate misery) but an unassuming little game called "True Colors." Ever heard of it?

Your first clue as to the game's ruthlessness comes in the tagline splashed colorfully across the box front: "What Do Your Friends Really Think of You?" Before you jump on in, give it a second. Do you really want to know this? I mean really? What's bound to come out, after all, when you gather together four of your oldest and closest friends and dish out the down and dirty? These are not your polite grad school relationships; these are not your husband's friends or your professional colleagues. These are people who have known you for ten years. They knew you when you had Daisy Duke hair and liked Hootie. They knew you when you were even more poverty-stricken than you are now and were therefore willing to sneak smoothies from the Natural Cafe. You were less patient then too, and happy to lie to restaurant hostesses about people's birthdays to get tables. They knew you in the last stages of that dysfunctional post college relationship in which your m.o. was "look out for yourself and screw everybody else." They knew you during that delightful rebound as well, when you threw yourself relentlessly at the office copy boy and tried ecstasy as a coping mechanism. Did you really do all those things? Yes. Have they forgotten them? No.

They love you, but years of backstory and information are swirling about in the back of their heads, forever, influencing their answers to such questions as "Who here is most likely to cheat on their husband?" (Ooooh, fun! So glad we didn't play Pictionary!) "Who here is the biggest baby?" and another good one, "Who here would you NOT tell if their underwear was showing?"

When I played this game a few weeks ago with aforesaid close friends, I was decidedly not coming out roses. But I was hanging in there, taking my cuts with the rest of them, until the innocuous question that knocked me off my feet: "Who here would you most like to raise as a child?" (I'm aware that this is an odd and sort of kinky question--that's True Colors for ya.) But no big deal, right? Out of your friends, there's probably one or two you can best picture as a sweet little tyke that you wouldn't mind cuddling and tucking in at bedtime, so you pick them.

We made our choices (two votes each), the cards were displayed, and no one had picked me. This might pale in comparison to other delightful rounds such as "Who here is most likely to steal your clothes?" but for me it was a little punch to the gut. The thing is, my own parents hadn't raised me to adulthood--my father because he didn't want to, and my mother, who did want to, because she wasn't given the chance. I had survived this, partly by making meaningful connections with other people. And it was just too much to discover these people wouldn't have wanted to raise me, either.

After the turn ended, I'd squawked (in the process effectively garnering lots of votes for the subsequent "biggest baby" question) and thus received some explanations as to my lack of votes--all of which were all good and harmless. (I'd have to be fed all the time. Can't argue with that one. I would never want to go to bed. Again, fair enough.) But it still stung--such a flippant little question! And it made me wonder what everyone else's secret stomach-punch card was lingering in that deck. The card that the rest of us would laugh off or immediately forget, taking no offense when we're voted "least desirable to take a bath with" or "least likely to ever get married."

The reason "True Colors" is True Root Canal is because the makers of the game, those minions who wrote out the cards, don't actually know you. They simply put together a deck of harmless fun, with no warning as to which question will hold the particular little barb for you. And the thing is, people who have known you for ten years may not know which question that is, either.

And even though those friends will dish out the good right along with the bad (everyone was pretty interested in reading my biography someday--well, that's neat), and even though it is nice to find out your friends do really love you (even if they think it's likely that you have, say, lied to their face), it's just not worth it.

So that's why there is only one smart thing to do ("Who here is the biggest party pooper?") if you are ever presented with the sight of that--let's face it, creepy--"True Colors" split face box: Stay away. Stay very far away.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Posted by Hello

Spring, Sweet Spring

Despite eight more inches of pure white powder dumped on Boston yesterday, it IS spring somewhere, and I know this because spring training is starting in one day, six hours, and eighteen minutes. Every year at this time in New England, the pasty-white faces and dark-circled eyes of a region are forced to gaze longingly on the bright greens and reds of the photos coming up from Ft. Meyers, Florida. It would be cruel, except that it means baseball is on its way up north in a few weeks, and that means summer, and that means we aren't all going to die locked away in ice after all. (Dramatic? Try living here for five years.)

This week's tales from Red Sox camp have our trusty bandits headed to the White House to meet Bush and perhaps service him orally while they are there, based on the bubbly effusiveness of the following quotes--

Say it ain't so, Trot Nixon:
"It's going to be exciting, and not only meeting President Bush, but hopefully we get to meet most of the party, the people behind the scenes. I look forward to just meeting President Bush. Obviously I'm not going to get a chance to talk that much to him. He's a busy man."

Et tu, Johnny?
"Oh, it's going to be great. I've always been a huge fan of his and also his father, "Damon said. "I always thought his father got a raw deal. He was never able to do the things he wanted to in office. George W. Bush, I think he's done a great job. I can't wait to meet him."

Even Mr. Jack Daniels has butterflies:
"Oh man, it's awesome," says Red Sox first baseman Keven Millar. "It will be a great time. You get a chance to get a picture of President Bush up on the wall, it will be a blast."

Ah well, this is why we love our players for what they do on the field, not on matters of public policy.

One person the Sox haven't been so loving toward is A-Rod, who has officially replaced Derek Jeter as the Yankee We Love to Hate. In fact, A-Rod is so pathetic (ALCS girly slap aside, did you SEE his Sports Illustrated swimsuit spread with his wife? Let's just say they were under a fountain) that he actually makes Jeter look kind of like a stand-up guy. I never thought I would say that. Especially after seeing Jeter in that argyle sweater at Saint. The zingers just keep flying out of both camps, ratcheting up the tension level of our April 11 home opener against New York (I think something else is planned for that day... some kind of ceremony? Oh yeah, they're passing out World Series rings) to new heights of animosity and passion. Good stuff.

Yankee-bashing or no, it should indeed be a good season on the field. You can check out other websites for pitching analysis, endless speculation about young Hanley Ramirez, and consideration of whether David Wells has finally stuffed himself too full of doughnuts to ever turn in a complete game again. But here at humble OhDidISay, I am happy to simply sigh gratefully in the knowledge that another year is crankin' up again. Let the games begin. One day, six hours, seven minutes.