Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Facing the Facts of the Weather

Earlier this year, when I told people I was moving to New York for grad school, the response I received most was, "Man, good luck dealing with a real winter. It gets cold out there," or something to that effect. ("Wow, Jon, that's a great opportunity for you. Good luck" was distant second). They immediately gave me all sorts of advice: get some Long Johns, wear a hat, just stay in California where it's warm, that sort of thing. It sounded like good advice, but I suspected that I would ignore it anyway and walk around in a t-shirt, jeans, and a jacket that would seem a little light by New York standards. Sure enough, that's how it's gone so far. Some mornings (like today, for example) it's been really cold, but when I think about it, I suspect that none of the advice I've received would have helped much anyway. You see, out here the problem is, as my dear friend Kevin Markley would put it, your face.

I suppose I should be used to my face being the problem at this point, but what can you do? Long underwear may be great, but I'm not going to wear underwear on my head-- this isn't summer camp. Yes, a hat would go on my head as well, but that still leaves my face out there, exposed to the elements, and really, really cold.

So what are my options? I thought about going the ski mask route, but aside from the problem of not being able to go into the corner store without the owner introducing me to the business end of his shotgun (for obvious reasons), it turns out it's illegal anyway. The city takes the approach of trying to make it look like no crimes happen here to deter criminal from committing more crimes (not even criminals want to be the first person to drop something in the tip jar. Ooooh, psychology), so it's against the law to even look like you're going to knock over a liquor store. I could also go the invisible man route, but I never did figure out how he sees out of that thing. So then I'd have to get a seeing eye dog too. Too many complications. I've also considered just exchanging my face with a guy who still lives in California, but it turns out you can't actually do that. Who would have guessed that a John Woo flick would not have a realistic premise?

So what, as Regis would ask, is my final answer? Nothing. I've learned that really all I can do is sit there, take it, and hope it stops. Kind of like with "your face" jokes.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

White as Snow?

Well, I've once again gone far too long without posting, and once again I have no better excuses to offer than multiple jobs, grad school, and a dependence on sleep that hasn't gone away despite my best efforts. Now, however, I'm in what I like to call "the calm after the storm." It's like the calm before the storm, only without the sense of impending doom, which ultimately undermines any comfort the calm provides. No, even though the calm before the storm is the one everyone talks about, the one after is clearly the better of the two.

This semester ended with a storm that was both figurative and literal, which was an interesting change. In California, I hadn't had a storm since I was in middle school. My reactions to the two different storms were vastly different. The literal storm had me giggling like a school girl after the teen heartthrob of the week caught her eye and gave her a wink. It was bad. I also immediately (and by immediately, I of course mean the next time I went outside, which was several hours later due to the figurative storm) made snowballs and hurled them at trees. I missed. It was also bad. But as much as the literal storm made me love life, the figurative storm made me hate it even more. There's something about locking yourself in a lab for hours and hours working on a "group" project that brings out the worst in me. I turn the rest of my group into scapegoats (surely I could never be the problem, right?), so it makes me a little anti-social. This leads to passive aggressive behavior, often in the form of deteriorating hygiene (it's not my fault I didn't shower, guys, I didn't have time because I was doing all this work). It spirals downhill until I start resembling something I swore to myself a hundred times I would never be. No offense, by the way, to any of you who choose to partake in that, but balance it with a normal life as well.

But that's really neither here nor there. What did I learn in all this? If you're guessing something about the value of working on a team, silver linings on every cloud, or the ridiculousness of passive aggressive behavior, then you have clearly never read an entry on this blog before. No, the lesson I learned was just how deceiving the phrase "white as snow" really is.

Now, the first night, the snow really was white. It was beautiful. A blanket of pure white draped over the city, as we all scurried inside to be warm next to our fireplaces (and by fireplaces, I mean heaters for everyone except the super rich). The next morning, however, it was a horse (or, I suppose, a blanket) of a different color. In the streets, there was chameleon snow that decided to turn itself the same gray color as the asphalt. On the sidewalks, it stayed relatively white, but with speckles of whatever people had dropped throughout. And then there was the blue snow. I honestly have no idea what in the world turned that snow blue, but there it was.

A couple of things came to mind when I looked out at this now fairly disgusting blanket: Snow (Hey Oh) by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Now, the Chili Peppers I'll forgive, because most of the time it seems like they're getting the lyrics by opening accounts on various websites and writing down the test words they enter to prove they're human; I don't expect them to make sense. With Snow White, on the other hand, I am beginning to wonder if it was intentional. Is there a dark side to Snow White that nobody knew about? Was she really the evil one, and we should have been rooting for the queen the whole time?

That's certainly something to think about, which is why I'm going to stop. It's the calm after the storm, after all, I don't want to spend it using my brain. That would be a waste.

Monday, December 7, 2009

NY ♥ Christmas

I suppose it's something of a love triangle. Walking around midtown, two things are very clear: tourists are like sheep (though generally less intelligent), and they love New York. Unfortunately, most tourists discover that New York doesn't feel the same; New York's heart belongs to another.

That other, it would seem, is Christmas. Obviously there's the giant tree in Rockafeller Center and the Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes, but there's more to it than that. There are snowflake lights on light posts throughout the city. In some places, there are even stars and angels and the like suspended over and across the streets. It's very Christmasy. Then there's the trees. They're everywhere. It's great. I can't go anywhere without smelling doug fir and remembering my childhood. I'd love to get more specific and make witty comments about the various displays around town, but to be honest, the season has me so giddy I can't think about it much more without creating a disturbance in the library.

But what really gets me about Christmas in New York is that people here aren't afraid to actually call it Christmas. It amuses me that all the places I've lived before have been little white suburban towns chock full of WASPS, but for some reason everyone was afraid to wish each other a good old fashioned "Merry Christmas" instead of the bland and useless "Happy Holidays." But take a look at New York. It's second largest Jewish population center in the world (the largest outside Israel). It's got enough people with African heritag to make Kwanzaa more than an afterthought. It's the birthplace of Festivus. Yet here, people aren't afraid to say "Christmas." It boggles the mind.

If I continue writing at this point, my usually light hearted nonsense will turn into a rant about people assuming others are over-sensitive, political correctness, and whatever other topics get in the way. So instead I'll just say "Merry Christmas" before I spoil the Christmas spirit.

Merry Christmas to all