Tea & Strumpets

I have come to two conclusions this week, both of which are preposterous. Both conclusions also involve me recognizing things that irk me, and--for those that know me--that isn't a terrible surprise. As those people will tell you, "Everything annoys [Dawn.]" Yes, I do have many pet peeves, irritants, annoyances...whatever you would like to call them. Basically, I am a Negative Nancy that either flat-out dislikes something or shows no interest in an activity other than what I am used to or have done before.

However, I have found that I am greatly enjoying assisting with PC TAG this week, and it is something I have never done before. Granted, I am teaching middle-school-aged children how to do Shakespeare improvisation, which I find completely fascinating. "All right," I said to a group of kids on Monday. "Here is your situation--" I drew a small strip of paper from a manila envelope I had previously prepared--"Two of you are Romeo and Juliet. You are the proud owners of a brand spanking NEW.....Slip 'N Slide! ............GO!" (One of the better situations involved the students dropping something valuable while wearing an incredibly obscene ruff that they could neither see around or take off.)

I wouldn't completely say that PC TAG is an exception to my agnosticism-s. After all, I did Speech (aka Drama) in high school, and am currently a Theater major. So I'm not completely out of my element. Sometimes it seems like the kids are, though. Even though we (the instructor, another assistant and myself) run through both the Shakespearean and modern English translations, read them a summary of what they are supposed to act out, and then feed them lines, many have yet to participate fully. Hopefully tomorrow--the day we film their antics--they will be better behaved, better prepared, and ready to astound us. If not, then their rendition of A Comedy of Errors will truly be one.

Speaking of the students, this brings me to my first irritant. Now, we (said instructor, assistant and myself) only cater to a couple dozen students, but there are a few Taylors and a couple McKenzie's. Of course, these names have been adopted from males, whom originally stole them from last names. Personally, I would almost prefer them just as last names--especially when the "owners" of these titles are both girls and boys. (Perhaps I am a bit old fashioned if I think names should be associated with a particular gender? Perhaps I should also move to Germany, where the government requires parents to give their child a name that will immediately denote his or her sex.) Furthermore, why complicate matters even further and provide alternate spellings for these multi-gender aliases, such as "Tayhler" and "MacKinsea?" I love the name Nathaniel, for instance, but would never consider naming my son "Nathenyel," "Natanial," or "Nethaniyel." Heck, even I would only call him "Nate." On the other hand, maybe I will start my own trend, and name my children ridiculous things like Udi, which is Hebrew for "burning stick."

This reminds me...there is a large pile of branches, weeds, and sticks in the backyard that my mother plans to burn. The annual "burning of the stick pile" usually evokes small festivities on the behalf of my mother and I, and we typically make s'mores and roast hot dogs. However, I believe she plans to burn said pile of discarded lumber while I am back in Indiana. This is mildly upsetting, but not nearly as upsetting as the process of packing bras. This, I must tell you, is my second annoyance.

Now, I have traveled before...to several places. And, due to the fact that I am a young woman traveling in a reasonably-civilized nation, I require the use of a bra. Unfortunately, a woman cannot go through life with just one bra. (There are nude-colored ones, sexy black ones, cute ones with polka dots, ones that are too small, too big, make our boobs look somewhat misshapen, strapless ones, racer-back ones, push-up ones, and maybe even the bra that our significant-others bought us.) As such, when packing, a woman does not pack only one bra...she must pack at least two, perhaps even several. For me, two is enough...those cups just don't seem to curl around anything else I shove into that suitcase (which, this time around, includes Tupperware, Pringles, a heating pad, and six pairs of shoes).

Oh how I love those three-week vacations. After all, I may need one after tomorrow. I'll probably have to morph into some version of Brunhilda, which means "Armor-wearing fighting maid." It seems appropriate, but Shakespeare might not have approved. He would have wanted to name me "Miranda" or "Rosalyn," and turned me into a strumpet. A bra-less strumpet.

Cornstalk's Walk

I love cities. I relish in having the opportunity to explore urban architecture, popular tourist destinations, and--if just fora little while--submerge myself into a more liberal place that seems never to sleep.

My hometown in Iowa is a little different. The majority of the population is conservative, and the main business is the sole gas station that, both east and west, is ten miles from the next. Now, know this isn't extreme--I live in a rural-suburbish town just fifteen miles from a larger town of fifty or sixty thousand, and Omaha is on the other side of the Missouri. I will agree that I have a good mix of both the hustling, never-run-out-of-things-to-do city atmosphere and the gentler, everybody-knows-everybody small town life.

One thing my beloved cities lack, however, is a place to peacefully walk with my mother in the evening... on a particularly hot, 86% humidity evening.

Not long ago, my mom, standing inside my bedroom door, asked if I wanted to go on a walk with her. I readily agreed, eager to do a bit more "bonding time" before I go back to Indiana for 'vacation.'

We left a little after eight in the evening, immediately perturbed over the amount of moisture building on our skin and arguing over whether to walk on the gravel or in town.
"I don't want to walk on the gravel," my mother said, limping down our street.
"Then we won't take it," I responded. "I just didn't know where we would be going. Let's just go down our street, up Holst, and then--"
"No. You don't want to do that."
"Mom, it's fine. We can stay in town." I crossed the street and hopped onto the pavement. "Besides, the gravel is probably still wet from all the rain."
"Not with the sunshine."
"It's not a big deal. We'll just stick to this area."

Both my mother and I paused at the end of the sidewalk, on opposite ends of the street. She was staring down 300th. I was staring at her, my hands on my hips, waiting for her to cross over to me.
"Nope." She shook her head, determinedly striking out and walking down to the gravel. I sighed, shook my head, ran back across the street, knowing that
such "arguments" between my mother and I were common. We will often disagree about something, argue for a bit, give notice to the other side, and then do something that neither one of us suggested. In this case, it was the painstaking decision of whether or not to take a stroll through town, or 'hike' out to "the pines."

The walk itself was pleasant enough, if I disregard the humidity, the dust from passing cars being blown into my facial orifices and onto my sticky skin, and the three (both relatively fresh and relatively flat) cases of roadkill. However, there were other things on 300th...things that I haven't yet noticed until now, six weeks after I started running on it.

For instance, what both my mother and I believed to be a fox hole turned out to be a skunk den. Tonight, when we heard rustling in the ditch, we turned to see a grown skunk shimmy into its home in the terrace, obviously upset that its mate was now lying dead in the middle of the road.

Another quarter of a mile down, I noticed vines growing on part of a barbed wire fence. Remembering that my uncle used to grow raspberries in his backyard, I brought the vines to the attention of my mother.
"Wow," she said. "I never noticed those. My guess is that they are either raspberries or strawberries. You can see that they have blossoms and little green berries on them."
"I would totally walk out here and collect them," I said. "Granted I would have to wash out the gravel dust."

However, what I noticed most was the sunlight. We were walking close to dusk--after 8:00--and the sun was beginning to dip lower in the horizon, casting a yellow-orange glow about. The fences seemed to shine, the water in the pond shimmered, and everything around me--the trees, the corn, the ditch weed--had a magnificent halo of sunset. I saw everything through my camera's eyes...wishing that I could find a way to capture the way the crops looked at that moment, the way the terraces' shadows stretched to the outer edges of the field. Though I wished I could pick up my aged Kodak and snap away, I knew that I would never be able to make that old barn look magnificent; that faded red gate shine with age.

I was thinking of these images, of their simple beauty, as my
mother and I walked back towards town. I thought about how little time I have left before I go back to Indiana, and how much my mother regrets allowing her baby girl to grow up. I thought about my relationship with my mother--how it has lost some of its vivacity and yet matured over the years. I melancholic-ly thought back to when I was nine, when she and I would take walks in the summer nearly every night, criss-crossing all the streets and waving at fellow "Treynorians" who sat on their porches, idly chatting.

"What are you thinking about?" I asked mom.
Her answer shook me away from my mellow thoughts. "Pie?" I asked curiously.
"And the ice cream socials."
"Okay." That was unexpected. I had been expecting her to be thinking somewhere along the same line as me, especially since we hadn't been speaking for a few minutes. So much for being sentimental. "You know that it all depends on what type of pie you're thinking of."
"Cherry, Rhubarb, and chocolate cream."

Mmm...not bad choices...just like the idea to take a walk on the gravel. If we hadn't, we wouldn't have been stung by bugs and consequently sung, "Shoo fly, don't bother me" at the tops of our lungs. We wouldn't have pretended to be Mr. Miyagi and fight off the already-deceased roadkill. Last but not least, we wouldn't have provided ourselves with a conversation that allowed us to finish each others' sentences.

And, of course, I wouldn't have had the close satisfaction of my mother's fondness for me when she, once again, stood in my doorway after the walk and said, "Thank you for going out with me. I love you."

Though my back was to her, I smiled. What did I know about sentimentality?

Warning: This is NOT a Tweet

I'll admit that I am sometimes a follower of fads. For instance, in fifth grade, when Warheads and yo-yos were popular, I made sure to join the bandwagon; I bought bags of the sour candy, as well as a lime green Duncan long since thrown away. I also purchased more than 200 Beanie Babies at that time, the majority of which are packed into a large box and stowed away in my mother's closet. Furthermore, I used to glorify the Backstreet Boys and be the 'proud' owner of a Skip-it. One of the more recent fads I partook in was Myspace; that is, until I deleted my account.

Today, however, fads are more than Chia pets, embarrassing "Macarena" dance moves, and birthday parties held at the Rolla Rena; more or less, they are associated with technology. I assume that most will not fade into existence like the pet rock, but be culturally integrated until it is considered socially acceptable to participate--i.e. the cell phone. And, of course, the biggest and most recent technological fad I can think of is Twitter.

Twitter, for any who do not know, is a free, social-networking service that broadcasts personal, up-to-the-minute activities and thoughts to friends, family, co-workers and strangers. Personally (though I am guilty of being the possessor of a social-network profile), I do not understand the obsession that the "Twitter generation" has with expressing and monitoring each others' lives. I fully believe that far too many people are spewing out personal information and random musings to complete strangers. In fact, I find it a perfect medium for those who desire to have a stalker. However, that is exactly what Twitter is designed for: to be a mode through which individuals can exchange an endless stream of conscious babblings with anyone who has the time to lurk around the website.

Eric Auchard of Reuters acknowledges the same idea. "The great big science experiment in Web voyeurism strikes me as just another example of the Coyote Ugly dive bar approach to the Web...treating the world as if our lives were meant to be public spectacles at all times."

Skillfully articulated. It's a good thing his observation wasn't limited to 140 characters.

What I find even more amusing, however, are the "orphaned tweets," or the messages posted by a user who only signs up for Twitter long enough to leave one post before never returning (I'll thank tech.slashdot.org for that definition). The following examples are one-off posts, all of which I found in an article posted by MSN, called "Orphaned Tweets:"

  • "I don't get it. What's the point of this thing?" ben_pursell
  • "This technology is awesome. If you haven't signed up already, do it now so we can all stay connected. Its much easier than email or phone." treyharness
  • "picking lint from Judy's naval while she is napping!" apsolutely4me
  • "eating a miniature pie" anord04

I wonder if anord04 is still working on that pie, since we haven't heard from him for awhile.

Furthermore, there are other orphaned tweets that just make you wonder:

  • "it hurts to breathe. should I go to the hospital?" Phillyrules
  • "life is hopeless......" muthuboss
  • "I am writing an email to the makers of Spray N Wash to thank them for making a product that got the blood stains out of my new PJs and robe." DouglasAllen
said in a comment on Slashdot, there is a Universal Law of Twitter that declares that, "there is, on average, only one tweet per twit."

This reminds me of the bumper sticker I saw on Facebook the other day. It predicted that, one day, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook would combine to become "You Twit Face." Honestly, I look forward to that day; it will be the day I will rid myself of all social networks, potential online stalkers, and the endless struggle to think of a more poetic status update than "____ is changing his/her socks" or "____ is going to bed," which seem to be common exchanges for the typical Twit.

Anyway, I'm off to eat some pizza before going bowling tonight with friends! Check out the video I posted below! It's hilarious!

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