Category Archives: Writing

Dead, but Excited

Do I look like I've had a bat mitzvah to you?

In November, I left the nonprofit where I worked for 13 months. I didn’t write about leaving, even though I started this blog around that time, and its namesake wouldn’t have come to be without my having worked there, either. But about a month before I left, the three of us full-time staff members represented our Jewish-affiliated organization at the JCCA’s Mitzvah Day, which was a mashugana of a misnomer. As a seasoned volunteer who wouldn’t have batted an eye at six hours of labor, I assumed that the advertised “day of service” implied, like, a lot of work, in order to, you know, do good. But hey, the Jews already did enough of that working for free stuff in Egypt to last for eternity! …Too soon?

It began at 10:00am with an hour-long breakfast of bagels and lox—Folks, if you’re here for scrambled eggs and bacon, you’re in the wrong place. The post-Mass hot meal for gentiles is in the basement of the church across the street—at the JCC on the Upper West Side. I rolled my eyes through a riveting discussion about altruism and the Torah. After letting my people go from the reception, it took forty-five minutes to trek across town to the senior home where a group of five or six of us spent a whopping ninety minutes spreading mulch around the building’s small backyard, concluding before 2:00pm.

Stuffed with tomatoes and tea, my group made a pit stop at the JCC’s bathroom before our exodus to the Upper East Side. Walking in, one of the girls sighed and explained how tired the workweek had left her. Realizing that she was not trying to sound pitiful, and was in fact looking forward to the day’s festivities, she stated offhandedly, “I’m dead. But excited!” And it stuck.

It’s a peculiar thing to say, which is why I love it. In the literal sense, these two states of being are mutually exclusive. You can’t be both dead and excited at the same time, unless maybe you die having a heart attack during sex (which, by the way, is fully how I expect Hugh Hefner to go any day now, so step up to place your bets on his cause of death, ladies and gentlemen). In the colloquial sense, it captures a sentiment I feel most of the time. It’s cynical, yet optimistic. It’s like I’m ever humping my proverbial baggage up a proverbial hill I ever anticipate will render my life awesome once summited.

My blog isn’t called Vegalicious, it’s name isn’t a play on my favorite movie quote, song lyric, or concept of Nietzsche’s, and the title was neither coined during a moment I am particularly fond of, nor by a person whose name I even remember. (Stephanie? I made that up just now.) But that’s the story, and as for the name—I’m still happy with it three months later, so at least there’s that.


A Primer for the Punctuation of A Rarely Silent Person

A photo I know I took when Casey* and I were in Central Park in February 2007. At press time, this was as related a photo as I could muster.

On Saturday, my best friend, Casey*, arrived in New York from Canada for a nearly three-week visit, en route to Switzerland. Casey and I were roommates in 2006, during a brief collegiate pitstop that lasted all of six weeks (both our being roommates and my enrollment at the college). We have remained close ever since, whether it’s sitting together for hours inside of an animal hospital, or subsisting on calling-card assisted weekly chats across transnational borders. Before Saturday, I hadn’t seen her in over a year and a half!

Although we have spoken on the phone at length quite frequently, more so lately than ever in the two and a half years since she graduated and moved back home, I was still surprised by just how long two people can really carry on talking. The conversation was more equally contributed to over the weekend than it has been in the past, as I’m used to taking the credit for–shocker, I know–doing more than my fair share of arranging sounds together that form words in the mutually-understood language that is spoken by the most people in the United States of America.

She left me yesterday evening to the quietly noisy, relaxed intensity (Edward Albee’s words) of my own company. Not wanting to go another week without posting something on my infant blog save for a Friday, I started looking through my writing folder again to see if there was anything appropriate to post. I happened upon a short piece that I wrote for a creative writing class in 2008 (during which my friend Yana and I met). It was a variation on a theme of Jonathan Safran Foer’s “A Primer for the Punctuation of Heart Disease,” originally published in the New Yorker on June 10, 2002.

Foer’s piece is wonderful and deep, while mine doesn’t do it justice and isn’t very good, but I have been struggling in the past few weeks to write about some important thoughts of my own. Contributing to the difficulty is my ability and propensity to talk instead of write, because the more I talk, the more I come to understand. The more I understand, the less I need to write in order to understand, and the more I need to re-write in order to write well enough to share.

Given all of that, here is “A Primer for the Punctuation of A Rarely Silent Person,” written in October 2008 (and to be transparent, edited today). Looking back at my writing, I’ve noticed that during college, I had a tendency towards writing cop out-ish, inconclusively abrupt endings, and this one is no exception. However, I think that of all, the last sentence is the most honest and funny, with my finding the elderly’s projected shared wonderment at new media utterly repulsive still being so true to this day.

The “silence mark” signifies an absence of language. It’s extremely common in my life. Whenever I’m home alone, this mark is always there. Note the use of the silent mark in the following conversation with myself.

The “singing mark” can be used in place of the “silence mark,” usually when the “silence mark” is too boring or impossible to maintain. The “singing mark” is often used when walking home from the park or while sitting in the bathroom. It signifies a moment when I have a song stuck in my head, and I sing the same couple of lines over and over. The song could be anything from Britney Spears’s “Womanizer” to Donna Fargo’s “The Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A.” This mark is most often used when no one else is around, which also means temporarily converting the “singing mark” into the “silence mark” when passing people on the street, even though no one else can hear me.

The “waiting mark” is used when trying to be patient. It can be used while waiting for my turn to speak in class, or while waiting politely to hear someone’s response in a conversation.

The “distracted silence mark” is most commonly attributed to my boyfriend. This silence occurs when he isn’t paying attention to me, because he is distracted by the internet, his Kindle, or nearly anything else that isn’t my face.

“So, what do you want to do for dinner tonight?”

“I said, what do you want to do for dinner tonight? I’m hungry. What do you want?

“If you don’t respond, I’m just going to make something for myself, and you’ll be hungry.”
“Huh? Oh. Whatever’s fine.

The “frustrated mark” is similar to the “waiting mark,” except it implies impatience while waiting. For example, when my hand is raised in class, but I am not called on, and I want to blurt out an answer or a question (a recurring action that partly defined my childhood).

The “bored mark” appears whenever I force a silence because I am tired of a conversation, and am signaling for a subject-change or it’s swift conclusion by another participant. It is usually punctuated by a sigh and lack of eye contact.

The “ignore mark” is used whenever I don’t want to talk to someone, like a disheveled man on the street who is asking too many questions about my dog, or an older woman who starts talking to me in the middle of a lecture, and then again after the lecture, when I’m packing up my stuff, trying to get the heck out of there. If a conversation includes the “ignore mark” anywhere within it, verbal responses will be short, complete with blank stares or looking down, if continued participation is forced. Here is how the conversation went with the older woman. I’d never seen nor spoken to her before she sat behind me in linguistics one day. She caught me unwilling and unaware as she suddenly began chatting away after class, as I was fixing to rush to my next class with less than 10 minutes to spare.

“Are you a linguistics major?”
“No, I’m a media major.”
“Oh! I took this class, Understanding New Media, last semester, have you taken that?”

“No, I don’t really need that.

*Casey is not her real name. She has asked that I call her something different on my blog.

Rejected First Post

I took this photo on 5/11/11, so I thought it was appropriate

I have a folder on my computer of all my writing over the past four years, most of which are long, paragraphless ramblings about relationships and feelings that are as foreign to me now as Azerbaijani. Twice in the past year and a half I wrote a first blog post, and, wisely, did not take the steps to set up a blog that I knew I wouldn’t maintain. But old writing is always entertaining to read, and I seek to publish much of it on my blog. So here’s the first, first post, originally written on 5/12/11:

Oh, hi.

Lately, a lot of people have suggested to me that I write. I’m sure the “adults” in my life, like my therapist (who I love!) and my aesthetician (AKA my second therapist slash fairy godmother), meant that I ought to keep a journal. Because that’s what people who were born before the introduction of the countertop microwave oven and who grew up with Larry Page and Sergei Brin’s parents tend to suggest.

But I was always the girl in school who used a computer to write out her homework, I take typing tests for fun, and my left arm feels a faint ache every time I merely think of putting a pen in my hand to do more than sign a check to Time Warner Cable (there’s a good joke in here somewhere about how every time I pay my bill, an angel gets Lyme disease, but I’m too distracted by the fact that cable costs $60 per month, and I still can’t watch No Reservations). These wrists were made for typing, and that’s just what they’ll do. One of these days these fingers are gonna write all about you!

So, here we are. I know my friends will get a kick out of this at least, and it’ll put those gchat logs and Facebook messages to good use. I don’t think my life smells as bad as the dirty laundry of someone who recently stepped out of a Bikram yoga studio, say, but I’ve got my fair share of witty commentary about online dating and Twitter direct messages to last me at least a couple of weeks until I get tired of the tone of my own rhetoric and e-mail myself asking if I can just shutthefuckup.