Monday, October 25, 2010

Obama and electro-dance punk.

I had two revelations this weekend. The first one, is that Obama has the most winsome and beautiful smile I have ever seen. Whatever the golden ratio is for teeth, gums, jaw muscles, and lips- he has it. I went to the Mark Dayton rally at the U of M Fieldhouse on Saturday with my parents. It was incredible to see how many people were lined up for the event, there was at least a mile of a line snaking around campus. Inside, we stood for more than two hours waiting for the rally to begin. Around us were people of all age, race, and gender. Children were perched on their parent's shoulders, there were canes and walkers front and behind us, married couples, groups of students with backpacks, men in business suits... It was wonderful to see the diversity that the DFL party in Minnesota had-- quite a bit different from the Tea Partiers that we saw while standing in line outside of the rally (read: old, white men). As part of this rally, both senators, the city mayor, a priest, and Mark Dayton spoke before Obama came on. Although every part of the rally was exciting, the downside is that because of our lucky front position, we couldn't hear any actual words coming from the speakers. The acoustics were pretty terrible, so I just clapped and "WOOT!"ed whenever everyone else did. It was incredible being 30 feet away from Obama, and although I couldn't hear much of what he said, I could still admire his poise and skill with public speaking. And, his smile. I hope that this rally got Minnesotans excited and committed about voting in the upcoming elections. It's high time that we replaced Tim Pawlenty with someone who values health and education in Minnesota. I think that Mark Dayton, although not a perfect candidate, at least is dedicated to progressive issues, and will not carry the same incredible disregard for disadvantaged people that Tim does.

My second revelation this weekend is to never go to shows alone. I went to see LCD Sound System with opener Hot Chip this Saturday at Roy Wilkins Auditorium. I was really excited because LCD's new c.d. "This is Happening" was my favorite album this past summer. My boyfriend Casey introduced me to them when I was living in Madison, and I fell in love with their dancy-dance beats and incredible lyrics. It's great music to dance like a maniac to. One of their best songs in my opinion is "Dance Yrself Clean," and that was exactly what I planned to do at their show two nights ago. IN general, the show was great. I loved the opening band, and I had floor tickets for the show, so I was able to get right into the action. LCD played a great show and opened with my favorite song. Great, right? The only problem was that I was alone. Sure, I had an acquaintance who I met up with, but he was with his girlfriend, so I drifted away after a while to let them be alone. And that was exactly the problem. Everyone was in a couple. I remember going to go see punk shows at the Qwest Club in Minneapolis when I was in high school and how they were really just musical dates, and how the fun of it all was leaning back into your boyfriend (who happened to have green hair and gauge earrings) during the concert. Well, nothing has changed. All of the indie underworld of the cities are apparently in committed relationships. I dodged couples for what seemed like hours, trying to find an unassuming and non-monogamous place in the crowd to do my thang. It felt a bit discouraging, especially considering my own boyfriend is currently 80,000,000 miles away in Turkmenistan. For the first time since we said goodbye, I felt really empty without him there, especially because LCD Sound System was one of the bands that we bonded over. During Dance Yrself Clean (which is his favorite song too) I danced through tears. Embarrassing. But, in a way, I felt o.k. being the awkward crying girl who was dancing alone in a corner. I felt clean afterward.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Non-fat, Sugar-Free, Half-Caff, No-Whip Latte.

In the words of my friend Fran, I'm now a "coffee bitch." Sorry, mom. "Barista" also works. The thing about working in a coffee shop is that people take their coffee seriously. Coffee is serious. For some people it is the difference between a good and bad day, or between sleeping and being awake. You don't mess with people's coffee. You give it to them, quickly as possible, and as dark, or light, or whipped, or foamed as they want it.

This is a good experience for me. Mostly, because I needed a job. The last customer service job that I had was at a Deli in the UW-Madison Union, where the majority of our sales came from our homemade ice cream. I feel as though this new job partially redeems my past of less- than-sterling customer service. At the Daily Scoop Deli during college, I spent a large majority of my time sneaking spoonfuls of ice cream, and allegedly scaring way senior citizens by sticking straws in my cowgirl hat and pretending that I was a goat, according to one less-than-glowing customer review. When I was 15, I worked at the MarketPlace Deli and candy counter at Marshall Fields, in which I specialized in making terrible wraps, eating more ice-cream and candy (!), and staring at customers when they would ask me things like, "I want .74 pounds of the dark chocolate peanut butter cups, an eighth a pound of sour patch kids, a mixed bag of .15 pounds of liquorice niblets and .35 of cherry blossoms, but please make sure the niblets are mostly on top." It changed me, knowing that candy could be so complicated. Candy should never involve measurements. It should just be eaten, often, with no questions and a lot of smiling. These were all slightly traumatic experiences, in which I had to confront entirely new worlds filled with complex details, many numbers, intricate processes, and cleaning.

I was really nervous to start this new job, scared of my potentially disastrous existence as a barista. I thought about flying arcs of spilled coffee. I thought about confronting that little hot steaming wand that baristas use to heat milk, and the harrowing possibilities of such an encounter. There are a lot of hot things in coffee shops. There are also a lot of very impatient women who order drinks with 7 adjectives in them and then expect you to remember exactly how many squirts of non-sugar vanilla that they ordered.

All of this aside, it has gone well so far. After a week of opening at Dunn's (yep, 5:30 am), I feel fairly confident about some things, and in general I like this job a lot better than my previous ones. I have almost mastered the cash register, and have even learned several coffee drinks. I have made several terrifying encounters with the steamer wand, and I have survived. I am certain that it will always win. I can sometimes pinpoint what someone will order when they come up to the counter, and I love the people who always get just a cup of coffee.

I have always been a huge coffee-shop bum; during college I would go to a coffee shop practically every day to write or do homework and stay sometimes for hours. I still do this, but I think that my hours working behind the counter will make my coffee-shop slumming a little more moderate. Although I am free to make myself coffee drinks whenever, I think I will be sticking to my simple teas or chai tea lattes. Everything else still sort of freaks me out.

Something I can definitely say with confidence is how much stock people will put into a coffee drink. As someone who used to buy chai lattes almost every day, I can relate. I think that people love the idea that they can completely control and elaborate their coffee drink, until it is practically perfect and unique. Coffee shops have become an outlet of creativity for people before and during their work days. Maybe it's the only thing that some people can control during their days, hence the "double-shots" and "skinny" and "no-foam" and "no-whip."

I think I'm okay with slinging lattes in this interim before Peace Corps. It has been a few strange months and I know that this feeling of ghostliness and displacement will not pass away quickly, but at least I am busier now. I know that being in Madison right now would not solve anything, even though I desperately wish I was still there and that it was summer...But, I think this is more about a person who is missing than Madison itself.

Tonight my Varsity girls are off to play their first section game against De La Salle! Cheers for good soccer and a possible bid at state! Go SPA!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Jane Austen is a trollop.

I think I’m at a cross-roads with myself. My yin and yang are showing, and they don’t like each other.

It’s Saturday evening. Last night I spent at home reading Sense and Sensibility (one of the last books in my house I haven’t read) and trying to get my dog to poop on walks. To be fair, my parents are out of town for a few days, so I am officially on Beppo-duty. It is still pathetic that these were my only plans, though.

Today my soccer team (SPA girls varsity) had homecoming against Blake, in which we held them off to a tie. This was exciting, and I really do love coaching and watching beautiful soccer. It was a lovely start to the day. I think the whole trouble started when I got home. It already looks like another night reading Jane Austen and talking politics with Beppo?

There is this huge push and pull in me these days. And I don't attribute it to the growing up process. Lets be honest; I am no adult. Inside of my body, lives an sometimes raucous and rowdy girl. On a Saturday night, she wants nothing more than to get happy on beer with friends and then dance to loud electro-funk beats. Or drink beer out of a boot and hop to the polka. This is the girl who has had the steering wheel for much of my life, although this is not always manifested through beer-drinking (don't worry, mom). She is carefree. She’s a good sport, social, quick to laugh, and magical on the dance floor.

The other part of me, however, is starting to show. Lets call her my stay-home-on-weekend-nights-and-read-sense-and-sensibility-girl. She also has a nasty flair of being environmentally conscious and asks herself such annoying and droll questions as, “is it worth driving 20 miles to go dance at a club?" or "Can I take a bus?”, or my favorite, “Would I be better staying at home, closely monitoring Beppo’s bowel movements and reading more about how to get a husband in 18th century England?” It's not that there is anything wrong with this. I just don’t feel that at 23, I should already be saying these things to myself.

The sad thing, is that I actually do have some friends here. Some really close ones. It has been much more shocking than I thought it would be to go from having friends who live blocks way in Madison, to here in the Twin Cities where my closest friends are a 20 minute drive away. I love being able to stumble out of my apartment at a preposterously late hour in Madison and meet friends at a bar or restaurant three block away. Something inside of me dies when I need the use of a car in order to have fun. I’m determined not to let this happen.
In Bill Bryson’s book, “I’m a stranger here myself” (A book about his return to the United States after living in the U.K. for some 20 years) he meditates upon our dependence on cars in the U.S. We are one of the only cultures where people drive their cars a block to get from one store to the next instead of just walking. It has come to the point where most of us take our car for granted. It is another necessary thing that we always keep on our person. Wallet, cell-phone, gum, car within a 20-foot radius, check.

I can be pretty stubborn, and this is something I am completely stubbornly committed to being stubborn about. I want to consider using a car as a privilege and a last resort. There is a decent bus system here. I have a bike. I live in the downtown of a (somewhat) bustling city. Not to mention that I don't even have a car, so I feel even worse for bumming one from my parents. This stubborn rule applies always. Except, maybe for tonight.

When it comes down to it, I may just need to stop mythologizing my former life in Madison and try to forge something for myself here, even if it sometimes requires a four-wheeled vehicle. I got a little nostalgic today and yesterday at SPA homecoming watching all of the high schoolers wander around in large breathlessly- happy groups. High school was certainly not always positive, but at least most of us constantly had groups of friends around us. I think that the major thing college does NOT leave you prepared for, upon entering a post-school existence, is the lack of a group of friends or peers that are often around you.

I really should get out of the house. I think even Beppo senses my antsy state, because during our last two “poop walks," he resolutely did not poop, despite my usually brilliant tactics of yelling, “Poop!” and “Focus, Beppo!” every few minutes, and varying my speed to increase the suspense and aid to his peristalsis. One thing I cannot stand is when Beppo is definitely doing his “I’m-about-to-poop-but-first-I-must-sniff-the-sacred-spot walk, and another dog enters stage left. I then do my best to shield Beppo’s sight of this other creature for the second that it takes for a dog to forget that something exists, because dogs can absolutely not poop within sight of each other. I don’t know if it’s stage fright, but I know Beppo needs some peace, some zen, when he’s doing his thing. And with those wise words, I am off to drive 15 miles to a movie theater in a distant suburb.

Screw you, Jane Austen.