Friday, June 29, 2007

Kitten woes

Nobody loves my kitten. My parents want to throw him out for jumping on the counter and tasting our dinner, and none of the sublets in Washington that I've seen want to take him in along with me. Why no love for the cute kitty? He is so small and timid and likes to have his ears scratched and his belly rubbed.

Who could fail to melt at this sight, right? Well, apparently a lot of people.

First, half of the country seems to be afflicted with cat allergies. Why? Why is kitten fluffiness toxic to so many people? Shouldn't this be a national concern, given the cuteness and fulfillment that people who are allergic to cats are forced to forego? Second, there is the problem of stuck-up landlords who mistakenly believe that cats are dirty when in fact cats learn to poop in a box much sooner than humans learn to poop in a toilet. And even in places that claim to be "cat-friendly," this has turned out to mean, "We already have a cat; we don't want any more." Or, in the case of one place I looked at, "We have a cat with no claws or teeth, so a second cat would probably kill him." That must be one awesome cat.

So, basically, Nigel is making my apartment hunt infinitely more difficult. What to do? (And, no, giving him away or turning him out on the street are not options.)

Also, I think poor, unloved Nigel might have kitty asthma. Imagine his poor, stressed kitty life.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A really cheesy story about the end of college

For the entire month or so before I graduated, I was expecting to get sentimental at any moment. Ordinarily, I am a weeping machine--nostalgia, schmaltz, history, philosophy, country music--everything brings tears to my eyes. I have an extensive list of conversational topics and public situations to avoid because they will all almost certainly make me cry. This includes the singing of the national anthem, stories about the deaths of American soldiers, the scene in the Iliad when Priam comes to Achilles to claim Hector's body, the fall of the Roman Republic, the Diet of Worms, the last lines of the Declaration of Independence, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. These all have their particular justifications--some more high-minded than others--and this list does not even begin to include all the vacuous movies with strategically selected music that have maliciously manipulated me into crying completely against my will over the years.

Surely, finishing college should fit in this framework, right? I mean, my life story, when pared down to the basics, looks something like this: pre-college = diapers, boogers, then sit on couch, eat potato chips, do some math homework; college = read tons of books, discover the Greeks, take excellent classes, have many (in hindsight, kind of stupid) thoughts, travel to Europe, work at a great job, intern in Washington, write, edit magazine, tutor silly children, live in the 5402, meet other people who have similarly given up the couch-and-potato-chips lifestyle, etc. Given that, the end of college should be something to be sad about.

For the last couple of years, I was pretty certain that college was the beginning and end of the excitement in my life. How could anything be better than this gigantic, socially-sanctioned, intellectually stimulating, slumber party? I would graduate, and then everything would go downhill from there; the world would close up again, and I would go back to the couch and potato chips life. I even cried at last year's graduation, in anticipation of my inevitable exile from the U of C. But you see me in those graduation pictures below, all hugs and grins? Well, they are not unrepresentative moments. I have a whole Facebook photo album of such moments over a period of a month or so. No lying in bed staring at the ceiling and reminiscing. No listening to Rhythm of the Saints on repeat. No sentimental walks around Hyde Park to savor everything one last time. Just finals and packing and partying, then graduation and moving out. Even the couple days after graduation, when we were moving out and you'd think all the nostalgia would set in, I was fine. I had things to do, boxes to pack, jobs to find. Everyone was still buzzing around. My roommates were leaving, but we were in a hurry, and everyone's parents were around, and it didn't totally sink in that the 5402 was disbanding permanently. There was no time to get weepy, and no single moment seemed decisively like The End.

And as soon as I left Hyde Park, the U of C conveniently fell out of my life. I was back in my parents' house, in the room I've slept in since I was six years old, and four years just became a minor update to my resume. "BA in History, with a minor in Classical Studies, June 2007." Hyde Park seemed really far away again, always kind of there if you needed it, but out of easy reach. Life pretty much settled back into the couch-and-potato-chips routine.

I went back down to Hyde Park this weekend to help Seb move out of his apartment, and it was emptier and less hectic this time, but life was still going on, without me. People were grocery shopping, drinking coffee, biking to campus, milling around the Reg. My inner solipsist wondered how it was possible that the university should forget me faster than I forgot it. I thought I was doing pretty well with this getting over it and moving on thing. I stopped by CVS later, and I ran into my hum professor in the nutrition aisle, debating his vitamin purchase out loud with himself. I finally got his attention, and he asked how I was doing. I told him about the job I got, and he congratulated me, and we talked a little while longer about graduation and the people he knew in Washington.

Then I said I had to go, and he wished me luck, and as I was leaving, he called out after me, "Flourish!" And then I went back to Seb's apartment and cried my eyes out.

I'm better now though. And in Washington, again, helping Seb move in. And looking for somewhere to live that's not next to a dairy farm in the middle of Maryland.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Lessons from the "real world"

- The suburbs really do require a car. I hate cars.
- Moving is a lot of work.
- So is finding a job.
- Now that I've graduated, no one sends me emails anymore.

The problem with living at my parents' house is that it (the house, and the neighborhood, and everything Lincolnwood and Skokie) is primarily associated with my sluggish pre-college life. Things have not been updated since I first left for school (my room even has my list of stuff to pack for the dorms still up on the whiteboard), and I am surrounded by all the enablers of the slug life--parents who want to do everything for me, a full refrigerator, computer games, doomed world chick music, heck, even the carpeting bids me to lay down, relax, and return to being the big fish of my very, very small pond (maybe a puddle, actually). Everything else can wait until I finish this book, which I am reading at the clipping pace of two pages per day. While I sip margaritas. In my bare feet. And pet the cat. And muse nostalgically on my childhood. Because I have a college degree now, so what else am I supposed to do? Turn off the Natalie Merchant and find a job? Really? Really?

That seems so hard.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Miss Self-Important is degreed!

I am graduated! Watch out!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Job search update

I just applied for a job at an all-girls' high school which seeks to "empower women" by offering three levels of fashion courses, but no physics or calculus. In addition, I am starting to see a strong correlation between history teaching and sports coaching/PE teaching. Whereas I previously assumed this was just a quirk of my high school, it seems that, actually, it is a national phenomenon and that I can look forward to hobnobbing with gym teachers for the rest of my life.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Adventures in networking

Thanks to an insider tip from Candace telling us that if we donated $20.07 to the senior class gift, we would get invited to a fancy mcschmancy party at the end of the year, the 5402 attended the alumni reunion fete on Saturday night. It was exceedingly lavish, suggesting perhaps that the U of C's recent fundraising has been going well and maybe by my 20th reunion, the school might be incorporated as its own city and covered by the climate-controlling bubble that we have dreamed about for four years.

But while the 5402 could have simply appreciated the classiness to which our school aspires and eaten our steak and gourmet cheeses in the company of our friends, we decided to take advantage of the presence of alumni and learn to "network." Our original, pre-party plan was to identify well-dressed middle-aged men and ask them if they needed assistants. This, however, turned out to be a short-sighted plan (which Julia also found politically objectionable), as most well-dressed men at the party tended to huddle in tight groups with other well-dressed men and discuss money, and since we couldn't even figure out how to start a conversation with them, it was unlikely that we could successfully request employment. When Alex and I tried to impose ourselves on a table of their ilk, they only huddled closer together, ignored us, then offered us their extra drink tickets and left. Clearly, that was a non-starter.

Alex and I then quickly revised our strategy. Obviously, middle-aged men were too advanced a step for networking novices like ourselves, and so we began to target a kinder, more receptive demographic: old people. First, we found a table with a guy who had graduated in 1952. Actually, we found his wife, because he was kind of a grouch. He told us how he'd lived in a tent on the Midway when he went to school here, and how he now lived on a wharf in San Francisco. This conversation went well despite our lack of convenient escape method, and we decided to try the younger male set again, armed with our new experience and wisdom. So we sat next to a guy who appeared to be in his early 30's, and we asked him about his life. Turned out he was neither an alum (his absent wife was though) nor a talker. We left. Next, we plopped down next to a very talkative woman who had graduated in 1967, and who was the first to ask about us rather than having us grill her about her life. We found out a lot about her, but neither Alex nor I could figure out just how to inquire about her profession without looking like total sleazebags, so we didn't. After consuming many small desserts and glasses of wine so as to give us an excuse to sit at all these people's tables, we finally called it a night and went home. All in all, it was a moderately successful training session, we think. Nonetheless, I believe that most of my employment opportunities will continue to arise out of activities other than the mass consumption of mini fruit tarts.