Thursday, December 22, 2005

strike? what strike?

this post is for all those of you in the rest of the world who, reportedly, were able to carry on your lives much as you were accustomed to this week.

i want it on the record that this strike did what nothing else - not awkward relationships, not midterms, not mismatched roommates - could do: it gave me a nervous breakdown.

tonight was the last radio show of the semester. seeing as how so many of my shows get cancelled for events or for gigs, i desperately wanted to make this week. plus, i had an archeology presentation (i built a model of stonehenge using gummy bears - insert spinal tap quote here) uptown right after the show. plus, i had a free ticket to see the yu play (more on that later). in short, i had a full night ahead of me. so the first call i made when i sat up in bed in the morning was to security: what do i have to do to get uptown by seven?

the answer i received was, leave no later than three.

well, ok, i thought. that's not so bad. i'll catch the bus from school, i'll bring my music and my knitting, maybe some work in case i get to yu's only four hours early.

"are you crazy?" says the security guard when i get to stern. "there's no three o'clock shuttle. the traffic sets everything back three hours. if you don't get on the one-thirty bus, you gonna have to wait till four-thirty for another, and then you ain't gonna get there by seven. you gotta get on the one thirty."

i glance at my watch. "one-thirty? um, ok, it's one now. let me run back to the dorm and pick up my roommate (new and improved- moved in with the neighbor!) and drop off my lab books - i'll be right back."

"sure, sweetie," says the security guard.

we show up, racing and breathless, at one twenty-five, to find that the shuttle left at one fifteen.

"Why did it do that?" i say.

the guard shrugs. "that's when it came. the next one's at three. why don't you try that one?"

i glance at my neighbor.

"we'll go to archeology class," she says, "and then we'll come down here at two-fifty, so we don't miss it. and we'll have all our stuff packed and ready to go. we can make it."

"ok," i say.

an hour plus of class later- two forty-eight - my neighbor and i are standing once again on a street unclogged by shuttles.

"sorry honey," says the security guard. "it left at two forty-five. you know what, there's another one coming at four-thirty. why don't you give me your number and i'll call you when it comes?"

"will we make it at four-thirty?" my neighbor says to me.

"it'll be tight, but we have no choice," i say. by this time, my hands are beginning to clench, a little. "hey, at least we can run down and get lunch!"

"the caf's not open...we'll have to go back to the dorm."

"we have another two hours, almost. we've got plenty of time."

two minutes after we get home, the phone rings. the shuttle's here and it's about to leave.

"now? they said it wasn't coming for another hour and a half!"

"it's here now, it's leaving, no lunch, let's go!"

we race out the door for the third time, bags thumping heavily behind us, faces red - we dash up to the shuttle, climb inside -

and the driver climbs out.

"where is he going?"

"he's taking a break now. he's been working all day. he has break until five-thirty."

"you mean this shuttle isn't leaving until five thirty?"

"that's correct, miss."

"but it's twenty-five to four."

"that's right."

"isn't there anyone else who can drive it?"


"but we won't get there in time!"

"i can't help you, miss."

my neighbor looks at me. "we could walk."

"you still won't make it in time," the security guard advises. "plus, y'all gonna get mugged in harlem. i wouldn't walk there at night. why don't you stick can't hurt."

i just stare at her. my neighbor stares at me.

"we'll wait outside," i say cautiously. "in case you change your mind."

"it's cold out here, miss. this shuttle ain't leaving till five-thirty."

"we'll wait in the tv lounge," my neighbor says. "it's ok. just relax."

"you'll call us before it leaves?"

"of course. this shuttle won't leave without you."

at this point, i am beginning to feel tired, and a little bit stressed. five thirty to seven in rush hour traffic, when nobody knows what's going on- call me crazy, but i don't think we're going to make it. and that means my show is off. again. and i won't get to see the play, or make my presentation, which i have, by the way, worked hard on.

but ok. we'll wait in the tv lounge.

well, wait a minute. five-thirty, that's two hours away. clearly i'm not getting to yu ahead of time, so i won't get any work done. there's no point in lugging a bag full of fifteen library books with me all around campus. i'll just drop it off at home and...

and as i walk past the shuttle, i notice that it is full of people. i stop and stare. why are there people on the shuttle two hours before it's scheduled to leave?

"are you going on the uptown shuttle?" a security guard on a smoking break asks me.

"yes," i say, utterly confused. "but it's not leaving yet."

"oh, it won't fill up without you. they wrote your name on the seat."

"really?" i say hopefully.

"no," he laughs, shaking his head. "if you want to go on uptown at five-thirty, you better get your butt on a seat NOW and hold on for dear life."

"it doesn't leave for two hours," i say, heart sinking. "there has to be seats. what am i gonna do - just sit on a stationary van for two hours?"

"unless you can fly."

sure enough, i climb aboard the shuttle to discover that there are about three seats left. the bus is filled mostly with rambunctious security personnel tired from working a long day, angry about being bumped shuttles, and desperate to get home before rush hour.

i call my neighbor. we sit on the shuttle for two hours. we watch as newcomers, finding no available seats, casually move posessions used to save seats onto the floor and sit down. one old man comes on and yells that someone has to give up their seat so he can go uptown. a girl wants to sit on the floor but security won't let her. shouting erupts on the bus. people start heckling security to get the shuttle rolling already. security responds in kind. i try to knit but my yarn is an endless knotted loop with no end for me to twist around the needle, and i have no scissors. my phone stops working, and my mp3 player's battery runs dangerously low. we have to squeeze over to fit as many people as we can per row. i start to feel nauseous.

finally at five, the shuttle begins to move. wild cheers erupt.

and die down immediately, as we hit third avenue, bumper to bumper, and it slowly dawns on us that no one is getting home any time in the near future.

i can not explain to those of you who haven't really experienced new york traffic how harrowing it is to sit, crammed like a sardine between two people, watching the same stop light change color over and over again. gaining ground inch by inch. realizing that in the past forty-five minutes, you have moved essentially five blocks. extrapolating that you have - say - 170 more blocks to go. realizing that you are going to have to get onto the fdr - that you can't even CONTEMPLATE getting onto the fdr for another two hours minimum - unable to even move, the people are packed so tightly - negotiating with yourself. "ok, so there's no way i can make the radio show. but i may still make the presentation...ok, so i'm clearly not making the presentation. but maybe i'll make the play...or the second act...or...oh my G-d, that cannot be fifty-second street. it's six-thirty. we have GOT to be past fifty-second street..."

i lost it. i tried to lose it with dignity and failed. i had my own private panic attack, right there in the bus. i hadn't eaten, i felt sick, i could not imagine sitting on third avenue for another two hours, but there was no end in sight...i started gasping for breath like i haven't done since i was eleven or twelve years old. i put my head down between my knees. nothing helped. i pulled the hood of my coat over my face and started to cry - about traffic, which was even more humiliating because there are more worthwhile causes for which i have shed not one tear - and i don't think i stopped crying for the next hour or so. i called my mom. i would like to say that i didn't cry out loud. hey, you gotta take pride in something.

by some miracle, we made it to the station on time, thus dashing my cohost's dreams of stealing the whole hour to blast his personal hitlist such as "kryptonite" and the like.

once the show started i could laugh again. my friend the station manager - remember him? - guest starred for a special rendition of "if i knew you were coming, i'da baked a cake", by my father's special request, which was so priceless that i'm going to sneak into his studio and steal the recording. we had my cohost, of course, back on the show, and he always adds a certain...special...something...that can only be defined as 'needless interruption.' not to mention a five-and-a-half minute shout out to his girlfriend. good L-rd. but my neighbor came on for a little bit, the station manager was his usual gravely ridiculous self (always willing to play The Man and Authority Figure for necessity's sake), and a lot of my friends ACTUALLY LISTENED this time. good times. good times.

after that, the cohost, my neighbor and i ditched the station manager (heeeeey!) to go to my presentation, which, due to spectacular stress and a campus-wide lack of gummy bears, did not feature me, per se, presenting. on the way back we passed the poc (remember him?) "and there's another one of our tour guides everybody wave hiiiiiiii the cheat(kch)."

we sat in archeology for awhile eating tuna sandwhiches and feeling slightly silly embarrassed as the other students proceeded to run through excruciatingly detailed accounts of their site's archeological implications. no gummybear stonehenge and multiple-choice-around-the-world for them. my neighbor assured me that mine was just "special." we had to leave early to make the play, but my neighbor, utterly riveted by the intriguing slides of zimbabwe's ancient culture, stayed behind, leaving me and the cohost to sneak out of furst with as much dignity as possible.

i want to talk about the play because it was pretty darn good. i say that, admittedly, coming from a background of "Annie!" and "oliver!" productions, but this was seriously the most intense performance by jewish kids that i'd ever seen. the play was called 'The black box', and it reminded me so much of this video game my dad and my brothers play...i think it's called half-life. anyway, the play, from what i hear based on something that actually happened, portrays a psychological experiment that a few college students took part in - a few were designated as prison guards, the other five were prisoners, and they were supposed to live out their roles for eleven days as realistically as possible without using violence. the experiment was supposed to study the different conflicts and interactions that the prison-and-guard relationship inspired...a very slight euphamism for examining the mechanics of nazi concentration camps - how the prisoners' wills were broken and how the guards could as human beings bring themselves to commit the atrocities they did. the college students were held in check by the incentive of credit and money - if one person left, no one got any of either, so peer pressure really left no escape for any of them. there were the prototypes: your revolutionary thinker who wants to out-mastermind the proffessors, your aloof possible-spy, your wimp who wants to go back to their mommy. and the guards - the jerk, the leader, the one who feels bad for the prisoners and tries to help them. and the professor reminded me of nothing if not john cleese in one of his hysteria-enraged monologues.

but the actors carried the whole procession to its grim conclusion with so much conviction. one of the prisoner's nervous breakdowns was so convincing i was momentarily afraid he would charge right at me and start shaking me (we were in the front row). the violence never felt staged, and the set design and props were so realistically stark that when one of the guards charged in with a gun - and it cracked - i jumped in my seat. there were a few weak links in the cast - i found a few of the guards to be less than memorable, or a little overdone - but ultimately, the shaking, convulsing, terror, horror, the sense of something gone completely out of control was very palpable to me. i haven't seen so many plays, but of those that i have, it was definitely involving and well-produced. i wish my brothers and my dad could have seen it, though. i know kovi would've memorized the whole thing.

anyway, the cohost is friends with a lot of people in ycds, so we got invited to the cast party, which was - you guessed it! - right outside the radio station. and featured awesome, awesome chinese which i did not eat, and many deserts which i did. to tell you the truth, i felt a little uncomfortable there after awhile - the art crowd is going to be eccentric wherever you go, but you also have to factor in the 'party' half and you've got a great recipe for sketchiness. so i brought the station manager some food and hung out in his office on 'the comfy chair' while he made the setlist for his show - spamless komedy show, a history of musical comedy, which airs at midnight on thursdays. you know, making fun of his every choice. me and the cohost crashed his office and took over his computer. then we proceeded to crash his radio show, along with my neighbor/roommate, the guys' freshmen president (he was in the play), and his older brother, who is the arts and culture editor of the commie. this last bit was especially cool for me because i am a big fan of this year's arts and cultures features - he seems genuinely committed to good, varied and interesting music, and he explores the jewish issues as well: he did an expose of kol isha and women in jewish music that really interested me. anyway, after an hour or so of discussing the pros and cons of country yossi, censorship, and matisyahu, during which several people's mikes were turned off forever, we called it a night. my neighbor and i walked back to yu ten minutes early so we would be sure to catch the last shuttle of the night.

which, of course, had left without us. twenty minutes before the sheduled time.

merry christmas.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

fairway's stocks waffle crisp

you know what i have realized? i don't need to impress and constantly work to please some tentative wishy-washy people into sort of being friends with me. the friends i've got are pretty darned good.

last night, for instance, i was supposed to review yet another concert for the paper. admittedly, it was more of a 'high art' shebang--a dissonant symphony composed by one of our proffessors--but you don't really understand that difference until you have committed yourself to sitting through an hour and a half of what sounds, to be dangerously frank, like an orchestra tuning.

anyway, i brought along my neighbor, who is so intent on experiencing life in general i think she would happily come along with me to prison, and at the last moment my radio host, who volunteered under the woefully inaccurate assumption that we were going to a rock concert.

'what? we're going to a classical concert?'


we had to take a subway to the venue, some artsy place on the upper west side, and my radio host in particular grew more and more alarmed as we took our seats.

'there are no guys here,' he noted palely. 'there are only old people. fancy old people.'

the concert started. it consisted of four or five compositions which were dreadfully complicated, more interesting than classical, and not allowed to contain any harmony. that's right: none. no harmony. is my proffessor wildly talented? definitely. did i wish, somewhere approaching the forty-five minute mark, that i had not pledged to sit through till every last note had been screeched, grated, and twinged? oh man...when the houselights at last came on, i felt like arthur dent, gasping for air, lolling back in his chair as the vogon captain reshuffled his poetic notes.

my neighbor muttered: 'that was awful.'

my co-host piped up cheerfully from the reserved seats, like ed wood: "that was AMAZING!"

anyway, by this point there have been two developements:

development a) the station programmer/manager/set designer (?) has arrived; he is a good friend of ours, and came bearing radio prizes

development b) members of my school's only all-girl band have materialized in the audience

development b bears especial signifance, not to diss the all-too-easily dissed radio friend, because they want me to play with them thursday night for a school event, and aside from having to give up my radio show, i really don't feel equipped to do so. i've practiced with them once, and it went fair-to-well, but having only really played with my dad's band before, i do not think two and a half practices are going to be enough to make me sound decent with their band. the problem is that their guitarist quit, and apparently there are no other guitar-playing girls in my school. sad but true.

so, after several renditions of 'if you don't play, none of us gets to play!' and 'you can do your radio show any week, but this is our big chance to play a stern gig, and you're our only hope!' which is of course siamese for 'you're ruining it for everyone, you stupid loser', i agree to play thursday's gig with them. which means from now until then, basically, i'm going to be a thinly-disguised rack of nerves with an amplifier built in.

but none of that was the good part.

the good part came afterwards when, to save on subways, we decided to walk back along broadway. correction, that was my neighbor's idea, and i agreed only because it was cheaper, i felt guilty for dragging her along, and she promised me there would be real grocery stores along the way.

'big ones!' she said, stretching out her arms. 'with lots and lots of cereal! it's the upper west side!'

'but what about safety?' i said.

'come on, we've got two guys with us! we've got...'

she trailed off. reality sunk in.

'we've got the co-host and station programmer with us,' i said. 'i think if push came to shove, we'd have to defend them.'

'eh, we'll handle it.'

listen, we really miss grocery stores.

so essentially we walked back along broadway, bouncing from grocery store to grocery store, marvelling at all the many amazing items you cannot get at duane reade. we got waffle crisp, crispix, mixed berries, milk, and chocolate whip cream, which did not survive the trip home. (don't do it. it tastes like chocolate milk whipped up.) we stopped at a pizza store the station manager recommended to us on the way home and ordered pizza, before the guys realized they were still fleishing. while we were waiting for them to thaw out, my neighbor and i slowly picked all the broccoli and mushrooms off their slice.

then we all continued walking back, employing several registered Silly Walks, offering whip cream at key intervals, walking into a few poles in the case of the co-host, and just generally having a good time. i felt more like a teenager than i've ever felt in my whole life, which is weird. it's like some deferred high school experience.

lest my parents fret, we were home pretty early.

anyway, the point is, i had a really good time. at a dissonant symphony, for goodness' sakes. and it occurred to me that as long as you've got someone to share your geeky humor with, it really doesn't matter how ridiculous anybody else rates you.

Monday, December 05, 2005

the high life

i am the happiest i have been in a long time.

today i rearranged my furniture and it's like the apartment is brand new. i created my own neat little space. my desk is no longer in the corner between the dresser, the closet and the bathroom. my bed no longer juts precariously into the hallway. my stuff no longer spills onto the floor like an monster of paper.

as if that weren't enough joy, my neighbor messaged me today (she could have just shouted through the wall, but whatever) and my ex-roomie came down, and we held a Monty Python Breakfast Cereal bash. we all went down to the lounge with Comfy Chairs and watched monty python and the holy grail (but only after we finished our work, this was stipulated in our contract). it was hilarious. on the couch behind us, a couple practicing some shady manuevers actually stopped because they got so into the movie. the security guard came down to watch it with us and took down the title in his address book.

then after the movie, we walked out to the grocery store and each bought a box of cereal, except for my ex-roomie, who bought a popcycle (in the middle of a blizzard). then we proceeded to exchange boxes and much on random cereal while walking back to the dorm through the driving snow. and you know what? it was cold and gluey and we were all laughing and i know it sounds like some corny girlpower movie, but i feel so happy again that corn is a small price to pay.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

must sleep

i spent shabbos by my aunt and uncle this week.

at least, i think i did.

i knew i was tired as i hauled my suitcase up the subway stairs, but i didn't think it was a tiredness of any particular importance. friday, coming as it does at the end of the week, is always a tiring day. nobody expects to feel bouncy.

i made it to my aunt's just fine, about an hour before shabbos, no problem. my aunt tells me to come in, sit down. i ask if there's anything i can do to help, we put in some kugels, and she tells me just to sit on the couch, and she'll be down in a couple minutes, and....

and BAM! some one is calling me for kiddush.

"huh?" i say.

"kiddush," says my cousin.

"is it shabbos?" i say.

"it was shabbos two hours ago," my cousin says, looking at me as if i am from mars.

meanwhile, the three-year-old pipes up: "it's awake! it's awake!"

slightly groggy, i go upstairs, change into my robe, and come back down. my aunt and uncle have two medium-sized children and two small ones, who do such things as climb inside cupboards and jump out on your head when you think you are alone in the room. so their shabbos meal is a hit-and-run affair: take your food, get it off the table, eat it while you can. my aunt and uncle engage in much extremely dry humor, and i notice that my aunt talks a lot like my grandmother, which is eerie, because it means that like my father, i am slowly beginning to go insane. i put my fork down and ruminate on this thought, and...

BAM! "wake up so we can bentch!"


"yeah, it's eight-thirty!"


i feel like rip van winkle.

"did i miss desert?"

"you can still have some," my aunt concedes. "why don't you finish your supper first."

desert's pretty good and comes, ironically, from an extremely familiar bakery in chicago, cause that's where my uncle went on a business trip. my aunt and uncle refer to chicago as if it is a small town in indiana, and my aunt expresses surprise that they have a bakery there. i have to go get dressed to go stop by the dean's house (she lives two doors down from my aunt, and invited me on thursday), so i excuse myself and head up to my suitcase...

and BAM! nine-thirty.

"hmm," i say to myself, aloud. "i must be tired."

i do not fall asleep at the dean's house. i decide that i really love her. aside from being fascinated with everything and anything you tell her, she gives off a very comfortable impression, like she knew you since before you were born. also, her husband sounds exactly like alan alda.

back to my aunt and uncle's, where the two parents are trying to simultaneously feed antibiotics to the two youngest children, and my aunt is coughing up a lung. WHOA! i think. when did THAT happen?

'oh yeah,' my aunt tells me. 'the babies all have fevers and coughs. don't eat off their plates.'

'huh,' i think. 'that's not good.'

and BAM!

"are you going to shul? it's nine-thirty!"

the worst part is that the bed i am sleeping in is a futon bunk-bed, which is like what i have at home in my parents' house. so i wake up staring at the bottom of what i think is elana's bed, hearing what i think is my mother telling me to get ready for shul. oh, it is definitely the shabbos from rip-van land. if you listen closely, you can even hear the little men bowling. or thunder.

and it goes on that way for the rest of the day.

"wanna play life with us?" my cousins ask.

"sure," i say. "i'll be down in five minutes."

and BAM! "it's been two hours, are you coming or not?"

"do you want seudat shlishit?"

"sure, just let me say minchah--"

and BAM! "wake up for havdalah!"

so i go back early motzei shabbas, to avoid overlong exposure to my devastatingly cute but uncoolly sick cousins, where i sort of catch the tail-end of the poli-sci shabbaton. that's right. if there's going to be a cool shabbaton, it's going to be the week i'm not there. everyone from the radio station is there. they go bowling, and afterwards we go back to one of the dorms for pizza. there are no plates. someone spills soda all over another guy's pants, which leads to a statement which, i feel, accurately sums up the entire radio station. rachel, the station manager, looks sternly at both parties and says: "this is why we can't have nice things."

after some creative and desperate searching for a place to watch a movie, me and my next door neighbor and weed settle for watching 'moulan rouge' on my laptop in the brookdale lounge, which is like trying to hear music using headphones as speakers in a room where twenty-five other people are talking very loudly. at any given point in the movie, we would make conjectures as to what we thought was going on. it was kind of like a running bet. 'she's going to die now.' 'no, i think she's just...having tuburculosis.' 'no, she's definitely dead now.' 'maybe they're both dead...maybe they're ghosts.' 'no, i think it's just her.' 'if she's dead, she wouldn't be coughing. that would be a sucky afterlife.'

the only person who knew was ellen, my neighbor, who had seen the movie five times already and spent most of it on her cell phone anyway.

i finally get to bed at about two-thirty, so tired i can't move, but for some reason, i don't sleep. i have a few long, semi-real dreams about my parents and family. slowly, my thoughts spiral into one long string of commands, like a strand of dna:


as i begin to drift off...BAM! the door opens. light in the kitchen goes on. my roommates are back. i hear one whispering into her cell phone.

'OUT...SIDE,' i say, without opening my eyes. 'I'M...SLEEP.'

i don't know what their response is to that, because suddenly i am just out.

and the next time i am BAM!ed, it is to the sight of my roommate, fully dressed, talking on her cell phone. there's light streaming in through the window, so it must be morning.

'how did you wake up so early?' i ask her, squinting.

'early?' she says, laughing in amazement. 'it's a quarter to noon.'