Monday, June 23, 2014

Planes and plains.

A whirling weekend involving impromptu travel plans began promptly at 5:15am Friday morning. I'd fallen asleep only five hours before, the twinge of excitement alive in my stomach making sleep fitful (also to blame: the nocturnally hungry cats). But the adrenaline pumped as my alarm went off and I showered, put on my pre-planned air travel outfit (slouchy dolman shirt, slouchy boyfriend jeans, a study in ultimate comfort) and threw my toothbrush in my backpack.

Arriving at the airport at 6:30am I busied myself near the gate with the iPads available to order breakfast at every seat around. Coffee, bagel STAT. An hour until boarding. Perused internet places, fell in love with some writers, felt even more motivated to write more. Mentally noted some places I could take my characters next time I sat down to write.

Boarding! Got to my window seat, opened my book, and promptly fell asleep. An hour and a half later I woke up and didn't understand why we were still on the tarmac at LaGuardia. WHAT IS HAPPENING?

And that's where everything devolved. We eased back to a different gate due to a mechanical issue with the air conditioning. And then we heard the problem could be solved! With a new part! That would take 4-5 hours to arrive from JFK airport. And so, at 10:30am my 8:30am flight was rescheduled for 5pm.

I was supposed to arrive in Minneapolis at 10:30am, pick up my rental car, and be reunited with husband, band, cool studio/house by noon on Friday. Instead, I did not arrive until well after 9pm. I spent my day at LaGuardia.

The moment that I cracked? I was waiting standby for the fourth Minneapolis flight of the day at 4pm, surrounded by the others from my stranded flight hoping to get on another, when I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was a co-worker who was sweating profusely.
-- Jessica! What are you doing here?
-- I've been here since 6:30am! What are YOU doing here?!
-- I am going to visit my friends in Minneapolis! I thought I was going to be late, I've been running through the airport. Oh, look my zone's boarding! I hope you get on this flight!
I stood there as she scurried to the gate agent. I watched her drag her carry-on behind her and walk right under the screen that had my name listed as #13 on stand-by priority. And then I started laughing. She'd been in the airport for maybe 20 minutes. And she was on her way to Minneapolis!

As I stood by the window to the new gate at 5pm, waiting for my original flight, I started laughing at the absurdity again. That's right: I was laughing to myself, by myself. When the plane pulled into the gate I was quite shocked. I raised my hands over my head, gleeful and unbelieving. IT'S HERE! I yelled. FULL OF GLEE.

Because many people from the original flight were lucky enough to fly stand-by earlier or get another flight or cancel altogether, I had a whole row to myself when my original flight finally took off at 6:30pm. YUP. I slept most of the way, and the adrenaline returned as I stepped off the plane into MINNESOTA. I nearly dropped to my knees and kissed the ground. But that's gross.

I picked out my rental car, plugged my iPhone into the car, entered the address for the house and I was on my way! It was actually quite a beautiful ride as I drove further into the rural countryside. And then, as it grew darker, I remembered my true feelings about rural countrysides: they are scary.

But I arrived soundly at house Pachyderm, a rental living space and music studio, where Nirvana most famously recorded In Utero. The Motion City men are recording their sixth album there. When I entered the house I was met with complete silence (it was empty since they were recording in the studio building). On first impression, the house looks like it was built in the '60s (it was), but not in the woods of Minnesota, more like the hills of California. Perhaps it was because I was just reading about the Manson murders and the death of the '60s, but I was like, this looks like a murder house. There's orange carpeting and floor to ceiling windows. It's so retro California and at night the windows are pitch black and anybody outside can look in without you noticing. These are the thoughts I have. I mean, serial killers live in the woods, right?

Luckily Jesse met me and showed me the rest of the premises, but he had to get back to recording. He told me to relax, swim in that indoor pool if I wanted (it was very inviting after being in an airport all day!), and just chill out. So, I attempted to. The pool is poorly lit and the bottom of the pool is painted black, so pair that with the giant wall of black windows, I was little skittish. But the pool was warm! It was inviting! I got in and dipped under water. When I came back up I heard a BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! above me, like someone running through the kitchen. It ended up being Justin coming back to the house for something, but that was the moment the water grew cold and I started shivering and I tip-toed back to Jesse's room for a hot shower, locking every door behind me. 

Black bottom pool
The house is very beautiful, but, y'know, it's also feels like MURDER HOUSE at night. MIGHT JUST BE ME?!?!!?!

Saturday, my only complete day to be spent in my husband's presence, was a fun day filled with friends. Fellow MCS wives Lindsay and Jill joined, along with our best man Jason, and other new people. There was a lot of catching up and game-playing while the men wrote and recorded. We drank wine and listened to the progress of the recorded songs. I cannot wait to hear the finished versions of these songs. They have me amped. Lindsay and I are already planning dance moves at future shows. When the guys wrapped up for the evening we sat around the dining room table discussing all sorts of topics, but me, I mostly talked about serial killers.

Discussion about some keyboard parts
Takes three men to get this grill to work
Work work work
And on to another subject entirely. It must be noted that throughout this whole weekend, my best friend in the whole world was in labor. I was anxious with updates and I didn't want to go to bed until I'd heard a baby had been born. So around 2am I was able to breathe easy again and let me tell you, as the first of my close friends to have a baby, the photos of that baby made me weep with joy and dance around because he is beautiful and I am so happy for my friend. 

It was a sad Sunday morning, as only about 36 hours had passed, and I was packing up to leave again. Jesse and I made breakfast and sipped coffees looking at photos of our friend's new baby. Everyone else slowly joined the kitchen congregation and then it was time for me to say my goodbyes even though I'd just said hello. 

The drive to the airport quickly took my mind off any melancholy, however, because it began pouring a solid wall of water and my fear-filled weekend ended on a note of hydroplane anxiety. I made it fine however, because I am an excellent driver. 

I boarded the plane on time, it left on time, and it even arrived in New York on time. As I de-planed I noticed my co-worker that I'd seen on Friday had been on the same flight as myself, too. Oh, oh the coincidences--that we must not ignore, because that's the beauty of life, right?

Funny one because I like it

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Yesterday: the heat.

There were two plans and both involved going to the movies and one was reliant on another factor and included the director doing a Q&A and the other was just two ladies getting together for a subversive comedy. First plan devolved and then the second shortly after. I went home to the cats.

The cats were happy to see me and I was unhappy to see their fur coming off their bodies in swaths. The heat! The air was thick not only with humidity but also cat hair.

I made myself comfortable and heated up my leftover Thai food and got up again to crack open that last Crispin cider in the fridge because did I mention it was hot? The humidity was making my hair reach out to there.

The second season of Orange is the New Black continues to prove that there are still many, many stories out there left to be told (let's stop re-hashing the same stuff, right?) and a lot of those untold stories are that of women and people of color. I admired the brilliant unfolding of the fourth episode with Lorna's backstory. It's just full of the kind of storylines and people I don't see in the media much. More of this! More, please, more.

My attempt to stay cool in the apartment were dwindling as my cider evaporated but lucky for me Adam was nearby and he too enjoys cider. I walked into the bar and he already had two ciders waiting. Somebody asked if we were hydrating by drinking pints of water. Oh no, dear friend. This is cider.

After I flopped onto my bed and slept barely in that warmth. The cat wanted to snuggle like most nights but I had to push him away; what are you crazy? I said.

Tonight, my own personal brand of torture: doing laundry.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


Planned impromptu travel plans with the husband last night. It becomes a much more difficult task when you're thirty and have a job and a pet and friends who are nine months pregnant and plans already in your calendar for the time you're looking to escape town. But escape I will and I'm looking forward to the journey and the adventure to come in three days time. His photos have been drenched in a lush greenery and I imagine that while he will have to do some work I will use the solitary time to focus on some writing with that green decorating the edges of my focus, fueling the creativity. At least, I hope.

Monday, June 2, 2014

On The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Death.

The following contains SPOILERS regarding 2014's The Amazing Spider-Man 2. If you're a fan of the comics, you pretty much know what I'm about to discuss.

A few weeks ago I found myself with a lack of plans since most friends were busy and my husband was out of town. This particular Tuesday afternoon I decided to see The Amazing Spider-Man 2 when I left the office. I settled on the superhero movie because I’d seen most everything else interesting in theaters, and because I figured the Very Important Thing from the comics had to happen in this sequel.

In one of the most defining moments in the original comic book series, readers witnessed the death of Gwen Stacy, Peter Parker’s high school love. It’s a crucial and dramatic scene made even more tragic because it’s unclear in the comic whether Green Goblin has already killed Gwen when she’s thrown off the George Washington Bridge or if Spider-Man’s web grabbing her mid-free fall whiplashes her so severely her neck breaks. This one moment is so much a part of Spider-Man legend that to this day people still debate what really happened and it even inspires amazing surreal-narrative novels. About a fictional event! In this latest series of films Gwen Stacy is played by the endlessly charming actor Emma Stone. She’s funny, intelligent, and gloriously blond as Gwen; her rapport with Andrew Garfield (her real life boyfriend) feels like the real glue of the story and the films would feel empty without this element.

So, I went to the movie to see Gwen Stacy die. Not that I wanted her to.


I settled into my seat at the theater with my nutritious concession-stand dinner of chicken tenders. I ripped open ketchup packets while observing the crowd as they filtered in. I enjoy the experience of going to a movie by myself; of course it’s rare that I’m truly by myself. Observing others’ reactions to the same material has always fascinated me.

That night the theater was relatively empty—another reason I love to go right after work on a weeknight. There was a family in the row directly in front of me; a man and woman with two small children. The children, a girl and a boy, were seated between their parents. A twenty-something man in a tie arrived just as the trailers started and by the looks of it, he had also came straight from work, though a large popcorn and soda would serve as his dinner. He was two rows ahead of me.

The movie started, and just like in the first film, I was most captivated by the scenes that centered on Peter Parker, not as Spider-Man, but as a teenager talking to his Aunt May or going back and forth on his need to break up with Gwen to make sure she is safe (foreshadowing!). The action was fine if quite unthrilling. The movie almost felt like two separate movies mashed up into one, and I probably yawned as Jamie Foxx’s Electro tried frying Times Square or when Dane DeHaan’s Harry Osborne tried saving himself from his father’s own ugly fate1 or… I’m not even sure what Paul Giamatti’s bad guy role served. With a two hour and 22 minute runtime, I was noticing every piece of film that could be excised from the tonally uneven mess. I was taken out of the movie simply for wondering, “Why does this scene exist?” The thing was bloated from the beginning; nothing would have changed had they deleted the first 15 minutes (which they should have). I could go on, but If you want to know my feelings regarding the movie as a whole, my opinion most closely mirrors Film Crit Hulk Smash, who has 237 burning questions for it.


Perhaps that bloat was for a reason. Maybe the director and others in control of the final product also didn’t want to get to the saddest part. There was a minute there where I thought, hey, maybe she won’t die! Alas. Gwen, plucky as ever, decides to help her boyfriend at the last because she cares about the people of New York I suppose, and because she’s smart and knows about electric power-grid machinery. But she is not a superhero, and that’s where she’s less smart and it’s a bit aggravating.2

Gwen meets her demise in somewhat similar fashion to the comics—the Green Goblin drops her down a shaft as Spider-Man comes to rescue her while simultaneously sparring with the enemy. The main difference is that she is alive and screaming Peter’s name as she falls, waiting for that gentle snap of being caught in his web, which was demonstrated so innocently in the first film. As Spider-Man fends off the Goblin, he’s also trying to make sure his web reaches her, but there’s a cascade of metal objects falling as well, and getting in the way of her assured safety. Finally, Spider-Man neutralizes the Green Goblin and dives into the shaft to focus on Gwen—his web reaches her torso in slow-mo, hoisting her, just as her head snaps back and comes into contact with the ground. She appears immediately unconscious. When Peter reaches her and holds her, and that tell-tale blood appears, then it is sure: she’s dead.

You know what’s tough? Seeing Emma Stone die. That guy in the tie two rows ahead of me sobbed. I managed to hear him through my own shallow breath, my tears streaming freely. Gwen Stacy was the untarnished good person in these films, partly due to a lack of any true character depth, but mostly because of Stone’s gargantuan likability factor. Stone portrayed her so lovingly, so ultimate-best-friend-like (and girlfriend-like), that her death really had that emotional gut punch on screen. It felt like the soul of the film had departed.


As I tried hard to stifle any sort of vocalization of my tears, afraid that those nearby might hear me cry, I heard the tiny voice of the little girl in front of me ask her mother, “Why isn’t Gwen waking up?”

And then I cried all over again.


After the movie it was that little girl I couldn’t let go. Because she must have been six or seven years old and she didn’t know what death meant yet.

I tried thinking of when I first understood death. I think I probably had my first inkling when I was a kid watching movies like Jaws. I have a vague memory of sitting on the rug playing with my dolls in my aunt and uncle’s living room in Rhode Island while my aunt and dad watched tv. It must’ve been the late ‘80s. I was not paying attention to the television until I heard the first notes of that famous John Williams score, and then my eyes grew wide as I saw the great white shark and its victims. I was intrigued by the gore and how painful it looked—I recognized that red stuff was the same ooze that would materialize when I scuffed my knees playing with my brother, its mere appearance made me cry—but I didn’t grasp death. Forever is a hard concept for a kid to get, too.

I don’t remember asking my parents about death. I’ll have to ask them if they remember having to explain it to me. I wonder if it was after a horror movie, or any movie. Unless it happens in real life first, I have to think a fictional death in a movie or a book is the kick-off for the conversation. I wonder if we even had the conversation. Or did I come to understand death on my own after collecting all the evidence via media and then understanding more fully when it happened to my aunt or my grandmother or that girl in college? Does understanding death happen all at once? Or incrementally until you’re on the same page with everyone else?


Some people spend their lifetimes trying to comprehend death, and if there is more that it entails beyond the ceasing of life. Death happens, but there are so many unknowns around it. All I’ve learned is that you really begin to understand other people when death looms. When your friend has to go in for extra tests because of a lump. When the younger brother of your best friend passes in his sleep and you see the different ways all of her friends react. When you get the call about the death of a relative two days after it happened. You then understand how death means different things to different people. Everybody understands the cold reality of expiration, but it’s those still living we really have to worry about.

Years from now, that little girl may or may not remember witnessing Gwen Stacy’s death on the big screen, but maybe that was the spark that set off a curiosity about the concept of death and the film’s correlation to reality. Perhaps like Jaws and the blood, she’ll begin to see how movies can reflect the hardest parts of life even if it’s not real. I left the theater thinking about the girl and what that on-screen death would mean to her and what it had meant to me to hear her, but I wasn’t really thinking about Gwen anymore.

1 I was also gawking at how much DeHaan looks like a young Leonardo DiCaprio, perhaps just as capable an actor too—point is I was not paying attention much to Green Goblin.