Archive for November, 2007

Thanksgiving + Battlestar Galactica!!

November 25, 2007

Thanksgiving this year was spent at chez Eppich, in/on Long Island. David and I braved the fiendishly complicated LIRR and made it out there on Thursday afternoon. Except for the conspicuous lack of booze with dinner, it was a romp. We all ate way too much. And I had a surprise victory in a round of “TV Scene It?” by identifying an old photograph as the budding starlet Lynda Carter (alias Wonder Woman).

TV Scene It!

Anyway, I was convinced that sticking around NY for the holiday would turn out to be depressing, but it worked out marvelously! Not only did I see Lisa, which made me very happy, but also my friends Dan and Claire, Kathy, Allison, and Dustin, none of whom I get to see very often because they don’t live in the city.

Thanksgiving also afforded me enough free time, for better or worse, to have finally become severely and hopelessly addicted to Battlestar Galactica.

I remember being among a gaggle of foreigners for last year’s Thanksgiving feast at ye olde 5:19 bar in nu ren jie in Beijing. Alex talked loudly about his sexual proclivities, I feigned Britishness and talked to some British girls, and I met my good friend Melissa, who appreciates the Val Kilmer film “Real Genius” almost as much as I do. At the end of the evening I got stuck with compiling everybody’s cash and paying the tab, which added up to several thousand kuai. The owner of the 5:19, a nice and amazingly nerdy guy whose name escapes me, counted all the money out, poured me a free gin and tonic, and gave me a long wholly unprovoked lecture about the new Sci-Fi channel Battlestar Galactica show. It was weird.

Well it’s been a year, the weather has turned cold again, and I’ve finally allowed Battlestar to become my favorite excuse for staying indoors. I love that Edward James Olmos, and not just because he was in “Blade Runner”. His role in the show as Commander Adama is almost as memorable as his appearance as an idealistic AP Calculus teacher in “Stand and Deliver”. Almost.

community resources/resourcefulness

November 21, 2007

Working at a community or family support center as I do puts me in a weird nexus between the legal and illegal economies that function in our society. Alot of the people who come in here are undocumented, but they need to work to survive. So what do I tell them?

One of the social work interns I work with told me about a classmate of hers whose internship basically involves going around to crack dens and street corners and distributing clean crack paraphanelia, e.g. pipes and various ingredients. They do this to promote healthy and safe crack use (!!!)

Selling Crack in El Barrio

Read “In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio” by Phillipe Bourgois for a complete treatment of apartheid in America, social marginalization, and the gap between middle-class and street cultures. It turns out that the drug economy is, within the context of street culture, much more lucrative and socially rewarding than the minimum wage office work that would otherwise be available to the undereducated people of color who live in the urban ghetto.

So it’s clear that when you’re trying to help people negotiate the complex and unspeakably harsh world here at the margins of society, there isn’t any room for moral judgement. But where does that leave you?

I’m working with this one client who has some pretty grim physical disabilities and fairly low English level. We’ve talked primarily in Mandarin. (Because she’s from rural southern China, this would be her second or third language and she’s excellent at it.) I’m graudally finding out more information about this person and I’m realizing that she’s already been all around Brooklyn talking with people and using all the resources available to her. And she gets social security disability benefits from the federal government, so if she were actually able to find legal employment in her condition it would actually harm her financial situation.

SO basically I have to encourage her to (1) study English and (2) find some kind of illegal employment. And like I said she’s been all around town using all of the albeit flimsy community support structures that exist for people like her. You have to be real crafty if you’re unemployable!

Theoretically I guess I could just encourage her to become a crack dealer? I mean, if my sole purpose is to help people negotiate the world of employment, legal or illegal, then why not?

Further speculation: According to Sarah Kaufmann’s mom, a psychotherapist helps people figure out WHY they are the way they are. I think what I’m doing here is slightly different because I’m helping people figure out WHAT they need, or WHAT they need to do to live their lives. WHAT is your goal? WHAT is going on with you? WHAT do you want from me? Providing action plans, producing progress notes, making appointments…there’s very little room to think about causes. You never ask why (why did you come to America? why is it hard for you to find work? why do you experience racism?) even though the reasons are staring you in the face.

STANDARDIZED TESTING

November 14, 2007

I’m still jet-lagged, up ungodly early in the morning listening to pretty trance, and I’ve finally decided to get this GRE nonsense over with.

I’m motivated! Slap me if I’m not studying. I have a month! Something about the driving beat, slow but persistent development, and happy major intervals of this goofy trance music…it’s like listening to a really campy inspirational speaker but knowing that he’s on to something.

British excursion

November 13, 2007

Only a week abroad and I did everything I wanted to do!

Admittedly, my goals were few: see friends and family, celebrate my dad’s 60th, eat fish and chips, drink fine wine, hang around in Brighton…simple and elegant. Several days in the Suffolk countryside for pubs and bonfire festivities, another few days in Brighton for (gasp!) more pubs and lots of wandering through the Laines, and a final day in London for a family party. Which took place in a pub. Yay for England!

There were certain people there that I don’t know if I’ll ever see again, which was both joyous and awful.

My friend Bill recently said matter-of-factly that feelings are always bound to change over time. Several late night memorial glasses of the remarkably strong “Jimmy Thom” scotch whisky, bottled and subsequently sipped upon in honor of my grandfather James Flockhart Thom, caused me to have a different thought on my last night in London: Even though it’s been almost 3 years, my feelings about my family and about my Sussex friends haven’t really changed at all. I felt like I fit right in; that sense of home hasn’t changed. Some feelings it seems are extreme enough or deeply enough rooted that they won’t ever change.

Also, the jet lag gave me an opportunity to get up early in the morning, do yoga for the first time in ages, and be both thrilled and baffled by Al Gore’s appearance on the latest 30 Rock. Oh, how I love that man.

Rule, Britannia

November 3, 2007

In a couple hours I’ll be making my way to the airport, thence to London for a long awaited stint in the UK!
I’ll be seeing old friends in Brighton, aged relatives in Suffolk, various others in London. Oh and my dad will be around because it’s his 60th birthday. Apparently it’s easier for him to meet me on the other side of the planet than to drive up from DC?
The Turnpike must really be getting atrocious.

I have been constantly on the move since returning from Beijing. Getting things organized for Burning Man, moving to New York, starting work…now this. On the other hand, I hope that this trip will provide me with an opportunity to relax and an impetus to get my various and sundry shit together when I get back.

Halloween, etc.

November 2, 2007

I find that there is an amazing amount of complaining done among the general Americorps populus.
Volunteer work, as their oft repeated protest would have it, will not pay the bills. But I mean…when was that ever not the case? It’s almost as if we’re all claiming to have been hoodwinked. But no, we knew exactly what we were getting into. Most Americorps people I work with just want to get this over with while they finish their med school apps, so we’ll do anything to log hours.

Somehow skits count as community service, hence our participation in the Bay Ridge Halloween walk:

me and mummies

Meanwhile, Halloween over in the West Village is a street carnival, brimming over with booze, sex, and bizarre sugar-high energy. I affirm the possibility that people from all regions and walks of life will sometimes dress up in witty or hilariously elaborate costumes on Halloween. But only the New Yorker can stand in the cold for hours dressed as Chewbacca or, much worse, as Princess Leia during her stint at Jabba’s barge, waiting with aplomb in lines so long that I doubt people at the wrong end know what they’re even waiting for. And I was more than an hour late to meet my costume partner David due to the totally unexpected subway shit show.

Still, we were pretty successful:

air guitar