Thursday, August 25, 2005

Mom found my stash!

This is why I think moms are smarter than dads. When your dad catches you doing something wrong, he will ask a bunch of loaded-gun questions and confront you and give you a lecture about being disappointed in you and the whole think-about-how-this-will-affect-your-future talk while you are either a) denying it or b) silently hanging your head in shame. From that moment on, instead of being more open with your dad all it teaches you is how to better cover your tracks.

But moms, they are different. Before they accuse you of doing anything they will somehow let you know they know. In few words they will make a comment. They will give you “the look.” This will either result in a) confessing, b) stopping the unfavorable habit, or c) both. They are like Law and Order detectives…. they put out the evidence first so you don’t waste your time in denying it. Sometimes they are like teachers, they just look at you and listen real good, and out of nervousness you keep talking and then you are like "how did I let all that out?" You start having verbal diarrhea.

I came home this morning from Strayleah. We are in the process of moving and I remember my mom saying on the phone how she wanted to sell a bunch of furniture. Of course I thought nothing of it at the time. Living at home at my age, you gotta have a goodie drawer… you can’t just leave stuff out in the open and being the type of woman who respected privacy, my mom never pried into my business so I never worried. But then the policewoman who lives across the street said she was interested in buying my dresser.

So this morning I come home and find all my drawers taken out of my dresser. In the middle of my bed are all sorts of rolling papers, filters, and a little plastic bag with brown stuff in it. This is why I respect my mom and give her credit. She didn't say anything. She knows that would freak me out and when I freak out, I am less likely to open up and talk. Even if she looked at me for too long or too closely that would freak me out. But there were no mention, no knowing smiles.... just the stuff neatly on my bed. In other words, she knows. And then this afternoon she called from work to say "Did you polish the wood on your dresser? The policewoman is going to pick it up tonight." That's basically her way of checking if I even walked into my room, and trying to find out if I know that she knows. So all this means that she will expect a confession tonight.

Imaginary conversation:
“Hey ma, you know that stuff you put on my bed?”
Then she will give me the look. “Well, I just wanted to let you know that I am over that stuff. That’s the old me, I’m molding young minds now. See, its not even green. What does that tell you? It tells you that it’s real old. Anyways, you look tired now. How about I do all the dishes and put on a nice movie for you? Oh, and did I tell you today that I love you?”

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Before U-Haul yourself to Philly...

Now halfway through my Australian adventure, I’m slowly thinking about the fact that when I return to Philly this time I will have one less friend. Since 2000, I’ve lost one to two “Philly friends” a year to Brooklyn. If I continue to lose friends at this rate, I expect to have no friends in town by 2010. Philly’s own Plastic Little explained this move-to-NY-after-you-graduate phenomenon the best in their song “Brooklyn.”

So when I read Jessica Pressler’s article “Philadelphia Story: The Next Borough” on the NYT website from my cousin’s Sydney apartment, I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of excitement about coming back home. I can’t wait to wrap my hands around a cold bottle of Yuengling (instead of Carlton Draught which is actually most Australian’s beer of choice…. not Fosters) and have a fun night out for less than $20.

At first I was surprised to read Pressler’s story where she wrote about New Yorkers, young artist-types particularly, who were leaving New York to transplant themselves in Philly for cheaper rent and a better quality of life. The trend she was writing about was the total opposite of what I was experiencing in my friend circle. But then I thought of all the new folks who I met at work and at parties (like that cool girl at the Nick Hornby reading) who came to Philly to visit a friend or a sibling, and ended up never leaving. So I guess it evens out because the people moving in replace the ones moving out to Brooklyn (not saying that friends are replaceable). Even I think of leaving sometimes, main reasons being cold weather, bad public transportation, and the thing you don’t hear most Brooklyn transplants admit to: the nearly incestuous dating pool. Maybe Pressler left out many of the bad things in her article because they aren’t bad to her (she’s lived in Boston and Prague before moving to Philly) besides, she didn’t grow up here like I did. It talks about Philly, but actually means only the gentrified neighborhoods of Center City, Old City, Fishtown and Northern Liberties.

Whenever I travel overseas and someone asks, “where do you live in America?” of course I answer “Philly” and get a blank stare. “I mean Philadelphia” I say soon after. Another awkward silence follows soon after to which I automatically respond “its this city between New York and D.C.”

THEN I get knowing-smiles and nods.

Throughout the years I’ve heard everyone, from true locals to transplants, call Philly many things… some mean and some nice. My friend Heroin Matt called it “the asshole of the universe” and The Worldly One called it “unsophisticated” but I like to think of it as unpretentious. I disagree with Pressler calling it the “The Next Borough,” it’s its own big city with a small-town community mentality, sometimes that’s good and sometimes its not. For artists, it’s more collaborative than competitive. My old yoga teacher Miko, who came from sunny California, said that she felt it had an “old energy”, and when Kari, the cute red-haired assistant on Mythbusters visited from San Francisco, she told me she loved that you can get vegan cheesesteaks from Giana’s.

It seems like every few years the mayor’s office or whoever is in power tries different tactics to get young Philly residents to stay to fight the “brain drain.” Every time the various marketing strategies pretty much fail. Youngsters leave to pursue different opportunities and maybe for a change of pace. I mean, it DOES get boring taking the same trolley to work that I took to high school. So this time instead of trying yet another marketing strategy to get Philly college grads to stay, business improvement groups are luring in outsiders. But why was a story about starting businesses and buying real estate in cheap, fat and dirty old Philly in the pretentious New York Times? Do we really WANT Philly to turn into “what Brooklyn used to be?” and most importantly, what is going to happen to all the families that have been living in their neighborhoods for generations and are slowly getting priced out of them? I’m not opposed to attracting new residents, but Philly is my home and I am opposed to a bunch of rich people who only are looking at it as an investment opportunity. The last thing this city needs is more slumlords. Remember that big “fuck you” we gave the Republican National Convention and The Real World when they came to town? Ha ha, that was funny...

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Bye bye, Mr. Jennings

The highlight of my short career dabbling in journalism had to be when I got to meet Peter Jennings through the Columbia J-School boot camp for college newspaper leaders. He leaned back on a chair at the head of a long table at ABC studios wearing a dust blue shirt, looking even more youthful and fresh-faced than the college students who sat around him (this was in the summer of 1999, before the infamous 60-hour work week he pulled during 9-11).

As viewers you can see an anchor on T.V. every night and feel like they are part of your family. But what was cool about meeting Peter Jennings was that familiarity was still there when I met him in person…. he was an instant uncle…. like he knew me too. He spoke about how NOT to become an anchor too early in your career, and the importance of learning foreign languages. I asked him how he communicated when he went to Bangladesh and he said “I was covering Bangladesh before you were born” (spoken just like an uncle) he said that the Indian army translated for him…. which might not be the best idea at the time, but hey we live and learn. I guess they didn’t have as many choices back then when it comes to translators, so you have to deal with the cards you get.

As shocked and upset as I was to read about his death many days later (it wasn’t covered at all in the Australian news) I feel so lucky that I got to meet him at all.

How much is a pinkie worth?

On Sunday I went to visit a distant aunt, who until very recently, I didn't know I even had. We bonded very easily and instantaneously for two people who have never met before (but I think that's because she looks and speaks strikingly like her sister - the aunt that I AM familiar with.) When I got to her house, she greeted me with what seemed like 20 different dishes, half Bengali (like torkari) and half were American dishes (like spaghetti). I'm guessing she was uncertain of how Americanized or how desi I was so to be on the safe side she cooked everything ­ very sweet woman. Her daughters and I were discussing the Australian public school system when all of a sudden, my attention span failed and I went "Ooh, you have a balcony!" and I swiftly walked over only to trip on a metal strip underneath the doorway. To break my fall I put up my hand but only my pinky caught the railing. So all in a matter of milliseconds, my whole body weight is on my pinkie and even though the pain was severe I had to look brave in front of my Australian relatives so I go "Oh, its nothing." Luckily, they were able to tell by my facial expression that I was really in pain so they offered me some painkillers and I was fine for the rest of the evening.

The next morning when I woke up, my pinkie turned blue and fat as a thumb, the pain even worse. My cousin-in-law suggested that I go to a clinic, where they did some x-rays and determined that it was broken. The visit to the clinic cost $35, and another $34 for the x-ray. At first I was mad, "my pinkie isn't even WORTH $60!", but then after two days with a metal splint on, I started to think of all the things that I really enjoy doing with my pinkie, like playing the guitar, taking
photographs, or writing in my blog.

At Sydney Royal Alfred Hospital's waiting room, I realized how superior the Australian healthcare system is. If you are an Australian citizen, you don't have to pay anything, and if you are a visitor its still somewhat affordable if you aren't going in for something serious. On Thursday I have to meet with another doctor who is going to determine whether or not I have to have surgery, which if I do, will cost at least $100. But if that helps me hold a camera again or finger-pick an E string, than money is no object.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Rainman was right, fly Qantas

A part of me thought that Australia would be a humongous Route 66, and that I would rent a vespa or something and have my way with it. But so far Sydney is just like any major city, commercial and congested with high real estate. Maybe the rest of Australia will be different. So yeah, I got here safely.

But let's catch up... The last few days before I left were crazy. One of my best friends was getting married, an hour before I was about to do my solo my guitar string popped in the trunk of my friend's hot car. (This will be the first time in 8 years that I will change a guitar string) I find out the DJ doesn't have a microphone stand, so I did my parody of Norah Jones "Come Away with Me to New Jersey" and Coldplay's "The Scientist" with no E string and a skinny kid as a makeshift mike stand. The husband and wife are both scientists and are moving to New Jersey (in case you are wondering why I picked those songs). Luckily it was an interfaith wedding so everyone was either gossiping or too tense to notice how much I sucked.

36 hours later I was supposed to be on my journey, but US Airways has gotten so ghetto they switched me to another flight that didn't take off till 4 hours later. The one perk about getting switched was that Heidi from the Apprentice (my old guilty pleasure) was on the same flight. I wanted to at least say hello and ask her about her experience on and since the show, but
she was on her cell phone the entire time mumbling something about NBC and Maxim. She had the mannerisms and accent of a total Philly girl. Yawn. So hours later, we are on the plane and they make an announcement that dinner is available for $7 and a snack for $3. Wait, why didn't anyone tell me this while I was waiting for 4 hours at the airport! I was hungry as hell and ready to shell out the $7, but when the flight attendant comes by he goes "Sorry, we are out of dinners, how about a bag of pretzels the size of your palm?" What?! A 6-hour flight with no food? That is totally unacceptable. I am adding US Airways to the list of planes I never fly again (along with Bangladesh Biman and British Airways.)

Luckily, the ride from L.A. to Sydney was a total delight. I was really excited about taking Qantas, which according to Rainman (one of Tom Cruise's good movies) is the only airline that never crashed. I kept repeating that to friends on my cell phone at the airport - so much that I worried I was jinxing myself. The attendants are so smiley and humorous that they can ease any tension one may have about flying over the Pacific Ocean. I finally saw Crash and this really good Australian film "Three Dollars" but the in-flight entertainment was certainly not indicative of what was about to come. Sydney is at least two years behind in pop culture. For example, people are just catching on to Sigur Ros and yesterday as I was changing currency at the
bank I saw at least 4 people in stone-washed jeans. Whenever I handle currency that's anything other than US dollars, I have to keep reminding myself that it is real and not monopoly money. More later.