Pippy goes to New York City

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It rained lightly in the Garment District, filling dirty puddles of discarded food and cigarette butts; 6 o clock in the morning and still dark. I plodded along awkwardly, athletic bag slung over my back, feeling vaguely foolish as Google maps lead me through alleyways to Port Authority. A few of my friends and I had made a spontaneous trip up to Boston for the weekend to get away from school, and when I realized I would actually save money spending a day in New York on my way back, I entered my credit card information.

“Jessie’s Cafe”, I smiled, my name, and looked in. A short, Italian looking man stood at the front desk, display cases of baked goodness disappearing around the corner. I hesitate, the social anxiety simmers, three boots steps forward, one step back, swivel, the bells on the door scatter.

“Breakfast?” The man asked, New York accent warm and unexpected, I think he can tell I just stumbled in.

“Yes,” I smiled, eyes wandering to the display cases.

“Sandwich?”

“What do you have?”

“Everything.” He grinned. “Todays special is baconeggcheese on a croissaant.” This voice rolls and plays with the words. I like croissants, not a big fan of bacon, but I don’t want to waste his time, I am bad at wasting people’s time. And I’ve heard New Yorkers hate that. Maybe it isn’t true, but better to be safe. “Or I can put it on a bagel?”

“Croissant is perfect, thank you.” I sound so chipper in my woolen trousers, flannel and pom pom stocking hat, they must wonder I’m Heidi, Pippy or a Von Trap child, all flash by in my mind with pink apple cheeks. I realize that even though I’ve visited once before, New York might as well be another planet, mostly characterized by conflicting pop culture characterizations. I try to analyze every new moment to determine the truth.

“Cawfee?”

“Yes, black please.” I pay and sit down at one of those quintessential cafe square tables, it’s checkered tile on the top. Mahogany and cream, very 70s. News radio plays softly, the urgent speaker plugs McDonalds with a deadpan “I’m loving it” right after outlining the latest ISIS beheading.

The food is out in about two seconds, they hand it to me over the stacks of bread, and I’m surprised that the eggs are not from a carton, but actually from an egg. Starbucks can’t even manage that. Is it sad I am surprised?

Everyone else who comes in walks to the back, where they speak, usually in Spanish, to the cooks, asking for very specific things; they must be regulars. It seems like a good place to be a regular. Something about my rural upbringing makes me think it would be good to be a regular anywhere.

“Good morning Frank, two scrambled eggs, pepper- no salt, ketchup on a bagel, a la carte. Coffee, sweet and light.”

The man upfront may be Italian, he’s definitely Jessie, or at least the owner, but he speaks Spanish too, so maybe not Italian? I need to quit assuming everyone in New York is Italian. On the other hand, I haven’t heard so many different people speaking Spanish at one time outside my classes in my life. It’s musical. I feel like a sponge, I just want to absorb every little detail and lay them out to admire when I get home. There is nothing comfortable or familiar, my mind feels awake, I can’t coast through the minutes on autopilot. I need to do this more; just listen and watch.

I appraise the cook’s efficiency with the trained eye of my anal Protestant father, impressive, and they stack the thin meat by the inches. I feel that this is a New York deli thing, from the movies I have watched. Or maybe just a deli thing, there’s only one in Spokane and it’s more of a restaurant, and the ones in DC are not anywhere I’ve been. The prices are merciful, such a relief from the last three months in the Capital.

There are only a few tables, and the walls sport crooked frames with pictures of New York, about half of them match. I’ve been here for an hour now, and no other women have come in. Men of all ages, sizes, ethnicities, classes yes, but no ladies.

Where are they? On my walk here I didn’t see a single lady amongst the big coats and sleepy faces plowing through the dark. Is it too early, too dark to be in this part of town, or any part of town? We’re told not to go out alone after dark, even when winter keeps strict hours. How many experiences are lost because we are afraid to travel alone? How many hours are lost in the harsh light of Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, gumming bottled eggs spread on bagels that come in individual plastic wrappers, while Jessie’s Express Cafes lie cheerful in the darkness?

I marvel at where I have ended up. From spending my whole life living in rural areas with no diversity in sight to taking spontaneous solo trips to New York City. Everyone I told advised me not to go, but I felt more confident than ever that I would simply handle whatever came up. I finally believed that I deserved these experiences, to take risks and let the results blow my perspective wide open. Ladies, and gentlemen, the world, though rarely as safe as your home, is waiting for you, go explore!

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Introvert’s College Survival Guide: Part One

University is a daunting experience for anyone, but for the introvert, it may seem like a minefield. “Join or die” always seemed to be the theme of what media and friends threw at me as the ideal “college experience.” If you couldn’t balance Frat parties, charity work, student government clubs and befriending everyone on your floor with all-nighters and warding off the freshman fifteen, hah! You might as well curl up at home with a laptop and the University of Phoenix. Ta da! Here I am, ten weeks later, living proof that introverts have just as much fun in college. It was rough getting there, but I hope my experience can make it easier for someone else.

I made the choice to finish my last two years of high school at the Spokane community colleges (with American Honors!) because I couldn’t handle high school politics. I didn’t fit in with my peers. The gossip, football games, and ever shifting alliances were not my cup of tea, in fact, tea and a book has always been my idea of a good time. However, I considered this a personal failure, that I wasn’t good enough for everyone else, that I was weird and awkward for having different tastes, and I told myself college would be a fresh start. My awkward childhood a secret, I could finally blossom into a sparkling debutante of social politics in a big city.

Week one and I can’t remember anyone on my floor’s names! Or whether they are from Philly or Boston! Or their majors! Everyone introduced themselves this way and I already felt myself falling behind. In the Welcome Week events nearly every icebreaker asked you to give a fact about yourself that “sets you apart.” Amidst the declarations of impressive volunteer regimens, athletic achievements, and third or fourth languages learned, my weak answers made me withdraw further.

Everyone seemed to be pairing up and strolling around in groups, laughter ringing over campus like a warning bell. At my first class, we were told to mingle. My worst nightmare, a huge group of people and nothing but the vague order to “mingle.” What is mingling anyway? I stood in the corner nibbling a pastry anxiously, watching everyone else pull off their interpretations of the word without a second thought. I was feeling as though I had made a big mistake until it sunk in; I had nothing to lose and everything to gain by getting out of the corner. I walked up to the first person I clapped eyes on. She happened to be from my floor and we hit it off right about the diceyness of forced mingling, and we’ve been friends ever since.

Later that day, I walked past a girl with the coolest style, monochrome, modern, I paused a beat, turned around and threw over the courtyard “I love your outfit!” To my surprise, she changed directions, walked over and started chatting. She was from New Zealand, and didn’t really know anyone, would it be weird if we exchanged numbers? Now she is my best friend, and is visiting for Christmas so I can educate her on supremacy of the Inland Northwest.

Moral of my first week: Don’t stress out over not clicking with everyone. If you’re like me, you would rather have fewer friends with stronger bonds than run with a big crowd anyway. Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed to the point of withdrawing, remember you do have something in common with these people, you all fell in love with the same school and you know no one! There are people out there that will change your life and stay with you forever, but you have to earn these special friendships, go out and find them!

Come on pop culture, Brienne of Tarth!!!

Come on pop culture, Brienne of Tarth!!!

I don’t understand the constant occurrence of Brienne of Tarth’s “ugliness” as a plot line. I think she is gorgeous! In my opinion, her face is lovely, well above average. She reminds me of a badass Tilda Swinton sort of lady, but super tones and coordinated. Her height is mysterious and exotic, and that is simply the end of it.

It seems to me that the theme should be similar to Tyrion’s. The constant jokes about his height merely force the audience to agree that making fun of someone for being short is about as mature and intelligent as those obnoxious people in the comments section of youtube. He is so clearly brilliant, yet so few people fight him on his own level, instead making fools of themselves stating the same old thing repeatedly, allowing him to use their ignorance to defeat them.

I think that the same theme should be more robustly applied to Brienne. Her only “ugliness” is that she is extremely tall and rather stout. Although in my opinion this isn’t ugly at all. Simply different than the pouty-lipped, long-locked, perky-breasted maidens that dominate the screen. It seems as if the writers want you to feel sorry for her. How sad that she has more character than possibility any other character in the show yet is so ugly! What they should be doing is “how sad for all of the other characters that Brienne has more character, strength and uniqueness than any other character save Ned Stark and yet all the men can see is how small their penises look compared to her size!” It really is their loss, not hers. I think it would be too revolutionary, but I would love it if Jaime realized that Cersei is just a little bit unhinged, and bitter and opted for Brienne instead. Even if secretly. What a great win, you don’t need to be a cookie-cutter woman to be loved. Or even if everyone except me is so convinced she is ugly, a confirmation of the much said but little affirmed “beauty is on the inside” message.

Does anyone else share the same feelings? Disagree?

Children Aren’t the Niave Ones

Children Aren't the Niave Ones

Some people taking Spanish classes at SFCC organized a program to teach Spanish for an hour once a week for students at Holmes Elementary. It is in one of the most disadvantaged neighborhoods of Spokane, the East Central area. There is an almost 50% turnover rate at the school, because most of the students’ families move from place to place. I was sitting at one of the small, round tables in the library, teaching colors and numbers to the kindergarteners, first and second grade students in the program. The little girl next to me doesn’t participate much, preferring to elaborately color the connect the dots flowers we passed out. She can already count to ten. She enjoys one activity though. We gave out a worksheet with elephants in the shape of numbers. They are supposed to color each number/elephant a specific color.

“Alright everyone,” Cameron, my partner for the table, begins, “Dos- do you remember dos?”

“TWO!” The five students with us cry at different intervals. They are good at dos. And ocho.

“Okay color the dos elephant negro- do you remember negro?”

“BLACK!” They all repeat the word incorrectly. Nee-gro instead of nay-gro, and I wince inwardly. Despite the efforts of Cameron and I, it seems the former comes more naturally to them.

The little girl next to me tugs on my sleeve. “I don’t want to color him black.”

“Why not?” I hand her a black crayon. She takes it reluctantly.

“When I’m on the playground, they say to me ‘you are negro, you are negro, you are negro.'” She continues the sing-song chant and my mouth dries as my mind scrambles. I want to make her stop. I can’t bear to hear it in the sweet, innocent voice of a six year old.

“Oh my,” I manage pathetically.

“They make me cry. Negro is a bad word. I don’t want to color him negro. I don’t want him to cry.” She says matter-of-factly.

“Well,” I take a deep breath. “They’re stupid. Colors aren’t a bad word. All colors are good.”

She gives me a look, as if I am naive, picks up the crayon and colors the elephant black.

The United Capitalist Airports of America

The United Capitalist Airports of America

I am in disguise at the Minneapolis airport. I think in a way everyone at airports is in disguise as an ‘other.’ When you are busy trying to make your flight, cart your luggage and get a pastry for less than five dollars, the mind labels everyone around you as a homogenous other in order to lower stress.

There is black and white checkered tiles with white tables and black scaffolding making a rectangle above to support lights. the tables support iPads. Lots of them. There are 6 on my table. Back to back. The tables spread in all directions. I feel as if I have time traveled to the future. the tables look clean and modern from afar but this one has grubby stains from someones food and the lid of a soup. You swipe at the table for your purchase via iPad. It is loaded with apps for local stores, You can get your Lambrusco or tray of little meats and cheeses from the fake gourmet restaurant behind you (also equipped with iPads). This is not a high class airport, but it flatters those that are here. Makes us feel important. There is ample space to plug in devices and there are a few open seats. I wonder why it is only the G section that is furnished with these. Do the G planes fly passengers to spender places? I feel uncomfortable at being a part of a strategic but unidentifiable demographic.

The purchasing is so easy. You don’t have to get up, it will come to you. With everything here so expensive, these iPads seem like a ruse, as if the moment you seat your tired ass in the chair it will suck the pants off your legs. If this is profitable, I am very afraid. If this is profitable, soon I will walk into restaurants, airports, cafe’s and be greeted with a similar sight.

The tone on the card swipe is friendly. “Use our iPads for free, and swipe here if you’d like to purchase anything.” Use of contraction noted.

Wi-fi, notably, is “complementary” with download of an app and the viewing of a designated video. Is this the definition of free now? Is time no longer a value? Free water- with the viewing of our advertisements. I feel a deep foreboding. I can’t even post this until I arrive at my destination.

I am not sure why but I feel deeply disturbed. My broccoli cheese soup is settling in a nasty way. I feel as if this air port is a sort of 21st century trap. You are flown in, given a few hours to get bored and spend. You can’t walk anywhere without being accosted by signs, colors, and the smell of food. Burgers approach $9. You are flown out, carted off elsewhere, in my case, New York. I am currently in Minneapolis, Minnesota. But if asked later I would say I have never been to Minnesota. It is as if this airport is its own little country, and island with a moat to separate it from real life. I wonder if it is an independent entity, or if the other airports are in league. A United Capitalist Airports of America. I doubt this though because my airport of spokane, with hardly anything but a Starbucks, is not under suspicion. Certainly there would be no political dissent here. There is no unprocessed foods for me to consider purchasing. The shops stand in solidarity, charging twice as much as the real world. I got lost, because I kept passing Burger King, Caribou Cafe, a magazine shop, and Taco Bell, only to realize there are 3 locations for each so that you cannot arrive without walking past.

The workers here have a strange expression on their faces. Perhaps it is because they are constantly operating in a dual reality. For them, this is home, with the context of a big city filled with things they know and love. For us, the island is not a place but a half-way house. They look at us from under tired brows as if they know a secret. The secret is that this is a real place, and these prices are ridiculous. Although the prices themselves seem to convince us the opposite is true.

Snow+Humanity=?

Snow+Humanity=?

I live in Spokane, Washington. Washington state, that is, the one up in the corner. It’s not by Seattle, in fact it’s as far away as possible. We have snow here, and recently much more of it, like much of the nation. We’ve had a cold snap too, recently, like much of the nation.

I drive a half an hour to school most days. Straight through downtown. Last week it took me 50. The freeway was at a standstill, large white disks of snow didn’t drift down in lazy circles, but pummeled our windshields, as if in desperately, passionately throwing itself down it might cover our machines before the traffic let us move forward.

That’s the funny thing about snow. The romantic in me wants to smother the scientific so that I can wonder if the snow has a metaphysical meaning. It seems to be hopeful, that as a force of nature it can stop us. It can make us stay in our houses and turn off our exhausts and simply marvel. The most interesting thing about my hometown to me is that it goes on almost exactly the same year round. People go to work, get off of work, go home… regardless of ice or broken air conditioners in 90 degree heat. We insist that there is no reason to stop, slow down, adapt. We insist that we are too powerful to change our schedules because of something as frivolous as weather.

Perhaps snow has decided that fine, we can continue to go to work when the streets aren’t plowed by by god a few people may die.

On my way to school I watch the a brand new Forester in front of me cut off the truck next to her, swing over by three lanes in a sort of terrifyingly uninterrupted arch and the cars on the opposite side of the road slamming on their breaks, but instead this seems to shove them off like a boat from a dock and the straight line embraces the arch with a crunch. And broken glass.

On my way to school I am stuck on a ramp, because the first person lost their momentum. Their Buick’s wheels scream in distress as they spin, eliciting a terrible hoarse roar that instantly connects my mind to the day I high centered my car on a burm before I had a cell phone. It’s just around the corner, and we wait, emergency brakes cranked, turn up our productivity podcasts, wondering how many more cars until it is our turn.

Finally it is just the man in front of me. His transportation squeals like a pig, he tries to push it up the hill, his tennis shoes find no grip on the ice and he falls several times. He is the car in front of me. I watch in a sort of horrified fascination.

“Why isn’t anyone helping me?!” His voice was scalding and yet unsurprised. “We’re going to have to work together if you want to get out of this!” The tone of the thirty-something man seemed to be referencing American culture on the whole, condemning the society he lived in that would watch one person struggle with a burden too heavy, completely free of guilt, their own petty lives drowning out what they saw a few yards in front of them. As if a dam had cracked shame instantly poured into my ears and sloshed down to my boots. I jumped out of my car, muttering apologies to the man as I took up position on the bumper. Two other men bounded over and took up positions beside me.

It took several tries to move the car. Perhaps it is naive to say, but every moment was sharp, I felt insanely alive, redeemed, and pure in purpose.

“Don’t worry miss, we’ll get you out of here.” One of the men said, with all of the warmth of a father in his voice. I was touched, he had enough room to get around me, and here I was in an extremely odd nighties jacket, looking like a delinquent. I realized it was a man of about 50, and his son. I felt dizzy with American ideals of helping your neighbor sacking me in the head for the first time in my life. It didn’t take long to get my car out. I can’t stop thinking about the older gentleman, and the man in the car who seemed to somehow understand clearly the obligations we should have felt, and why we forgot to feel them.

If the snow was sentient, it may be malevolent. It may hate human kind and want to cover our dirty gray streets with seamless white so it can pretend it looks like the days when there was nothing but white trees. Perhaps, instead, it knows that the snow forces human interactions. In the snow, instead of damning to hell the person that cuts you off on the road, you back off and understand that etiquette is difficult when you can’t stop within 25 feet. My strict professor sympathized with my reasons for being late. People don’t mind that you take longer to cross the street.

It made me realize, however, that I drive past homeless people everyday, and I don’t really see them. What do they do, when nothing is dry and the wind chill is 9 below?

Girl on girl hate…. or maybe just fear?

Girl on girl hate.... or maybe just fear?

I am at a transfer seminar held by my honors program at the community college I have finished my last two years of high school at. The counselors ask us to go around the group and introduce ourselves with what we want to study in the future.
Biochemistry, psychology, engineering, English…

“I’m going to major in Journalism with a minor in Women’s Studies!”

My gaze, once flitting over the quotes on all of the inspirational posters around the room, reels to lock on the source of this sentence. This girl, who has single-handedly stolen my answer.

Her hair was in a ponytail, the kind that is teased and then the rubber-band is covered serenely by a piece of your hair as if to cover some indiscretion. She is dressed head to toe in Nordstrom. How do I know this you ask? Because in my town there are only two stores who sell the type of clothes she was wearing and it was definitely not Banana Republic.

Black leggings, black equestrian style leather boots, a perfectly fitted blazer, and the clincher, a shockingly white peplum shirt. I think peplum shirts are the inside joke of the fashion industry because they look almost inevitably ghastly on everyone who buys into the trend. They seem to be worn best when it is acknowledged that they obscure any hour-glass shape, not enhance it. Except her of course, she has magically escaped the peplum fate. Her make-up is undoubtedly expensive and quite demure on her tiny little head, which is attached to a 5 foot 5 inch body that is probably supported by size 6 feet.

Now, you are probably thinking I am completely mental to be taking such notice of this girl, which is probably the case, but I will explain my indignation anyway.

This sort of girl is everything that rubs me the wrong way because she is everything that I am not. My mommy does not buy any of my clothes for me anymore, let alone the fitted blazers I salivate over at Nordstrom, and eventually plod away from. I rarely have time to manicure my nails and I wouldn’t spend it on that if I did. I would NEVER wear leggings as pants. My appearance is fairly far from demure. I bet she listens to Adele and the Lana del Rey when she’s feeling deep. My voice could be described as low, dry perhaps while she rambled about her aspirations in a high-pitched girly, entitled tone that gave off yuppy like smoke signals.

When asked what sort of Women’s organizations she volunteered for, she said she hadn’t done any volunteering for women specifically, but did plenty of work around her church.

So why does she bother me so much? (Or the idea of her, as it’s obvious I’m just judging her based on what I’ve seen in my lifetime. Read: I don’t actually know her.)

Because she is everything I am not, everything I have rejected as superficial and soulless and commercial, and yet I have this terrible vision when I heard her proclaim my dreams as her own.

She’s going to be more successful than me.

The perfect clothes, stylish but certainly predictable, the upper middle-class mentality, the brisk entitlement, the pretty little face and cute little body.

It’s exactly what society wants in it’s women. She won’t make anyone uncomfortable. She has the naive will of someone who has always gotten what she wants.

I on the other hand, enjoy making people uncomfortable. I’m confrontational. I’m almost six feet tall and often much taller than that in heels. I feel like I am suffocating when I’m placed in large groups of people like her, and expected to talk to them. I feel better in any fringe group, no matter how polarized from myself.

And something inside me hates her for not being an individual, for not struggling with the same questions I do about what it means to be a woman. For taking no issue with exploiting the benefits of adhering to structure at the cost of becoming a slave to it.

I state again, I don’t know her. She may not be like this at all. But when I see women who present themselves like her, I suddenly feel panic spiking erratically as I am faced with the physical representation of what could very well beat me to my dreams.