Sunday, January 13, 2008

Boy George and Be-Ribboned Pugs

I've gotten at least a dozen acerbic e-mails and texts, excoriating me for my inattention to my blog. Here it is, my first post in a month. My first topic is the one I would like some feedback on.

For Christmas this year I decided to eschew the typical gift-giving routine and try something new. This was prompted by a hatred of shopping malls, an inability to find a book or a scarf that conveys "thanks for birthing me and putting up with me for 26 years", and the realization that there is very little I can get my Dad, a successful attorney, that he wouldn't have bought if he really wanted it. Therefore, I decided to buy Christmas presents for a single mom in my area who had two small girls and who had just been cleaned out by a divorce. Just asking her what I could get her and her girls was humbling. The "must-have" gifts for this season are iphones, HDTVs, and Chia Pets. She asked me to get her rice, milk, and diapers. As a side note, that was the most awkward phone conversation I've experienced. I spent fifteen minutes paralyzed with my finger on the TALK button, trying to come up with a good way to say "I really want to get Christmas for you and your girls" without saying "I'm an upper middle class white kid who's faking the funk living in the ghetto in D.C. and I want to feel good about myself by buying Christmas for you just so I can blog about it to get girls". I think I did a good job, but I did stutter a lot and revert to my notes once. (Yes, I wrote out a little script. Whatever.) I thought the hard part was over once I finished the phone call, but my travails were just beginning. Once I got to the store, I realized that I cannot differentiate between kids aged 3 to 8. I don't know if 3 year olds can walk, if 8 year olds are potty trained, or if 6 year olds should be allowed to play with flammable materials. This inability forced me to call a couple of people with younger siblings (thanks girls, you saved me at least an hour) and ask what type of toys I should get. The truly awkward part was just beginning, however. I was terrified of getting the wrong toys for these girls, and so I did what anybody else without a clue and with a desire to look like a child molester would do - walk around the store and ask overprotective moms what size diaper their kid wore, what type of toys they played with, if they ever left them alone for long periods of time, if the kids knew not to take candy from strangers, etc. Luckily, the socioeconomic background of most of these women made them trust me based merely on the fact that I wasn't carrying a gun. Many hours later (don't get me started on wrapping, it took me two hours and two whole rolls of wrapping paper. I finally ended up just wrapping tape around the whole damned thing.) I had the presents bought, wrapped, and delivered. As I rolled out of the apartment, however, hoping to feel a sense of satisfaction for what I considered a good idea, I felt nothing more than regret that I hadn't been able to get more for this family that had so little, and contempt for myself, for spending money on some new clothes for work that I could have spent on more diapers or milk. This is a dichotomy with which I struggle frequently. Anytime that I volunteer my time or resources, I rarely come away with a sense of a job well-done. I instead feel guilty for not giving more when so many people need so much; a guilt which is compounded by the fear that I'm not fully appreciating and using the ways in which my life has been so blessed. Does anyone else feel this way? How best to alleviate giving more or by forcing myself to be happy with what I'm already doing?

Onto something more fun. My old roommate Spencer Hyde came out to see me in D.C., and we spent three days in NYC. Two memories really stand out. The first is the experience that Spence and I had at the Museum of Modern Art. If you aren't familiar with the MOMA, just imagine a chair made of popsicle sticks next to a painting of a cat with sunglasses. Now imagine an entire building of this "art". As an aside, it's amazing to me that our culture has evolved to such a point that people can survive who contribute nothing more to society than a giant canvas with a red stripe across it, and that these people have the temerity to call themselves artists. If they had lived 200 years ago they would have starved to death making statues out of cow manure while the rest of their community was busy planting crops and contributing to society. Anyway, they had a thermostat on the wall in one of their exhibits. It was just an ordinary wall thermostat that Spence and I stood in front of for a good 7 or 8 minutes, making inane chatter the entire time about the "organic flow" of the thermostat in the rest of the exhibit and whether or not it stayed consistent with man's search for meaning as contextualized in the....blah blah blah. Long story short, we had quite a crowd gather around the thermostat, several of whom were taking pictures of the "daring" piece of modern art. They are probably the same people who pay $400 for a bottle of wine because sommeliers tell them this was a good year on the east side of the vineyard in Sonoma Valley.

Our second memory wasn't in Manhattan, but in the Bronx. I think people forget that Manhattan comprises five different boroughs, that Manhattan is only one of them. Queens, the Bronx, and Brooklyn all have just as wide a variety of restaurants and attractions as Manhattan, albeit at half the price and zero of the touristy, kitsch factor. I was insistent that we go see the "real Little Italy", which is in the north end of the Bronx. This required an hour-long metro ride, after which we got out of the subway and started looking in vain for Arthur Avenue, which I had been assured was a fairly close walk from the subway. After having no luck finding it we started looking for a cab, and were met with derisive snorts when I asked where we could find one. I finally started hailing random cars until a black sedan with tinted windows and a Guinean driver named Muhammad stopped. We figured we might as well be driven to a remote location and killed as mugged on the street, so we hopped in the car for what ended up being a twenty minute cab ride. The food ended up being delicious and the waitstaff mocked me ceaselessly, which pleased my dining partners slightly annoyed with me for the epic scope of our dinner outing. The moral of my story is that you need to get out of the usual rut, and that you probably won't die while doing so.

I'm now back in D.C., and feel that a brief update is in order. I am interviewing at three different places on Capitol Hill this week. I have a first interview with Orrin Hatch's office, a second interview with the Senate Rules Committee (I decided to take my love of rules and following them as far as I can go), and another interview with a representative from Texas. I'm also taking the LSAT February 1 and I've decided to go to law school, probably this fall. I am, however, open to fire away. I'll keep y'all updated on how my interviews go, so check back later this week.

I wanted to close with my ipod-buying experience. I bought an ipod off of Craigslist, and had to go to Dupont Circle (you should be familiar with this as the neighborhood that I work in, and the gay district in D.C.) to pick it up. The door was opened by Chuck, the man I was buying the ipod from. Chuck was cradling a pug in one hand and sipping a glass of wine with the other. His pug had a bandana around its neck and a blue bow in its hair. Chuck's apartment was furnished with dark wood and lots and lots of nude male statues. A review of Hairspray was pulled up on his computer (a blue iBook) and he had a copy of D.C.'s gay community newspaper open on his table. He powered up his ipod to show me that it worked, and the first song that came on was Janet Jackson. He changed four songs and they were, in order: Wham, Aretha Franklin, Boy George, and Clay Aiken. I was starting to look around for the hidden cameras, because there was no way that any one person could embody every gay stereotype I have ever known, when the door opened and his partner came in. His partner was "Alejandro" (with an emphasis on the j - Alejjjjandro) and was cradling a Siamese cat in one hand. I shook his hand, gave them my money, and then tried to make it out of earshot before exploding in laughter. No, I'm not prejudiced at all. I just happen to be occasionally have the sense of humor of a 13 year old and the inability to control myself.

That's it for now. Check back later this week and I'll have posted updates on my interviews.


Lindsay12 said...

Oh Austin, I love your blog. I've been checking it daily for the past little while, wondering where in the heck you were!! Thanks for an interesting and humorous entry!! I only wish I would have been with you so I could've met Alejandro....haha!!

Paul Louthan said...

Oh my gosh, lol. I wish I could have been there with you for this, this... this unforgettably gay experience. I think I would have had the same reaction!

BTW, thanks for the text yesterday to alert me of your newer post. I need to figure out some other way to remind me to check this blog (in case you forget to notify me--until then you just keep the texts coming, haha). But as of yet my computer geekness evidently only extends into the expertise known as gaming, and does not afford me any greater utility into something that may be associated with productivity.

And regarding your comments on modern art, AMEN.

a.k.a. Pepe said...

In the beginning you spoke about your love letters to Sam Wright coming naturally? Sorry Austin, but yours always seem so time put more heart into your letters to Sam, if not for himself/he/him/his or I/me/myself/my/yo at least do it for the sake of the little children (they/them/themselves/those guys/them'ns) in Brunei.
(sorry for the mix up in tense, but I'm still working on my/yo/I/self's English wordingness).

Becker said...

Austin, you need to think BIGGER. You should pitch your blog posts as a column. You'd be syndicated nation-wide within the year!