Friday, May 29, 2009

Seven oceans pummel the shores of the sea

A long-awaited, detailed memoir of my trip to Los Angeles is forthcoming. Just hold on a little while longer! There's so much to be done in the meantime ...

Work consumed me once again as soon as my first day back. I came to my desk and found it littered with stuff people had rummaged through but failed to return properly. Boxes were piled up and sticky notes strewn across my desk with instructions and tasks for me upon my return. It was completely overwhelming seeing all that there -- so much stuff that I felt needed to be taken care of all at once and as quickly as possible. Still, I muddled through, taking one thing at a time, and soon my desk was neat and organized again, everything in its place.

Now, everyone's traveling (or in one of our editors' case, getting married and going on his honeymoon), and there are literally six people in the office today, including myself. It'll be a quiet yet busy day, with clients coming in for a meeting this morning and lots of images yet to track down for the Naval Academy.

I'm really looking forward to tomorrow, when Darren and I are volunteering at Earth Fest, an environmentally friendly fair and concert event sponsored by Whole Foods and Radio 92.9 at the Hatch Shell downtown. Our shift runs from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. -- our job basically involves making sure everything that needs to gets recycled properly. There will be tons of vendors from all over offering free samples of their wares (free food!), and artists such as Soul Asylum and Shawn Mullins will be performing in the afternoon. As volunteers, we get a voucher for a free box lunch from a vendor on site, as well as a free T-shirt and wristband that allows us into the "VIP" section of the stage for the performances. I'm excited to help a worthy cause, eat lots of free samples (Barbara's Puffins was there last year when we went, and we won a free stuffed puffin and got lots of single-serving packs of Barbara's cereal; Clif Bar and Starbucks were also there, along with some other great companies offering organic pizza and chocolate, and Whole Foods was practically giving away groceries and environmentally friendly shopping bags), and finally see Soul Asylum in concert. If anyone's interested in this great event, please stop by the Hatch Shell tomorrow between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. for some great fun, and don't hesitate to seek me out and say hi!

Sunday, I believe we're going biking again with Igor. That is, if Darren's stomachache allows him to. He started feeling queasy last night just as we were going to bed, and that feeling continued this morning. At first he blamed sour soymilk, but I tested it and ruled out that hypothesis. I really hope he feels better today -- we have a busy weekend ahead of us, not to mention Darren starts his new job bright and early Monday morning!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

California, California, here we come

It's only a matter of hours until Darren and I fly out to Los Angeles for our five-day Memorial Day vacation. We'll be staying with two of his friends -- one in Irvine, one in L.A. proper -- and engaging in lots of cool sightseeing, athletic, and culinary activities and adventures. We've been planning this trip for months and scored two direct flights from Boston to L.A. and back for relatively cheap, leaving us more money to spend on eating and adventuring. I promise to return with many exciting stories, and, I'm hoping, a tan ...

Besides finishing up things at work before I leave early today, I'm also in the midst of preparing for my fourth German host family's arrival in late July. They're taking a tour of the American East Coast and have changed their plans to make an extra stop in Boston to see Darren and me. It's so exciting, since they've never been to the U.S. before, and I haven't seen them in about three or four years. When I was first there as an exchange student six years ago, their son and daughter were 10 and 8, respectively. They're now 16 and 14! I can't believe they've already grown so much. I can't imagine what they look like and who they've become. I often think about my host families and friends back in Germany and wish I could go back to visit more than every four or five years. These days, it's especially difficult because of obligations here in the U.S. But this visit should be extra special, and I can't wait to share my own home country (and one of my favorite American cities) with them.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Memories fade, like looking through a fog mirror

The weather has taken a turn for the best, and I really hope it holds out tonight for Elyse's birthday party. Honestly, I've been waiting all week for this. It's been awhile since I've gotten out and attended a nice function surrounded by friends. I think I sometimes take for granted just how fortunate I am to have so many of my friends from college nearby -- we all seemed to migrate to Boston. I know some of us had talked for a few years of moving out here, and now our dreams are a reality. I can't wait to add even more memories tonight to our already long list.

It's not really that great of a song technically or musically, but I've heard it so many times on the radio now I'm beginning to fall for it, as well as the band. The song is "Sometime Around Midnight" by the Airborne Toxic Event. It tugs on my heartstrings, leaving me with this pulling feeling in my chest. I've got to investigate the rest of the band's debut, self-titled album soon.
As you stand under the bar lights
and the band plays some song about losing yourself for a while,
and the piano's this melancholy sound check to her smile.
And that white dress she's wearing -- you haven't seen her for a while.

But you know that she's watching,
she's laughing, she's turning, she's holding her tonic like a crux.
The room suddenly spinning, she walks up and asks how you are.
So you can smell her perfume, you can see her lying naked in your arms.

And so there's a change in your emotions.
And all these memories come rushing like feral waves to your mind
of the curl of your bodies like two perfect circles entwined.
And you feel hopeless and homeless and lost in the haze of the wine.

And she leaves with someone you don't know,
but she makes sure you saw her. She looks right at you and bolts.
As she walks out the door, your blood boiling, your stomach in ropes.
And then your friends say, "What is it? You look like you've seen a ghost."

- "Sometime Around Midnight" by the Airborne Toxic Event
I also hope the weather stays good throughout the weekend. Either day (I'm thinking Sunday, which looks to be the best as of now), we're hoping to go for another bike ride with Igor. We were supposed to go last weekend, but postponed it because of the ominous weather, which actually turned out to be beautiful on Saturday ... anyway, the weather report was giving me the runaround, promising rain for Saturday and Sunday, but now it says it'll be decent. It better stay that way!

Friday, May 01, 2009

Fräulein Else

It's May Day, and the weather couldn't be more miserable. At least it's not raining ... tomorrow, Darren and I plan to take another bike tour with Igor, Darren's former coworker at Analog. The weather for tomorrow forecasts morning showers and a mostly cloudy afternoon. I'll take clouds over rain anyday. That's what we have now, but I think it's supposed to rain later.

The metaphorical light that does shine through, however, is the fact that it's Friday. The weekend (albeit one in which the weather predicts no sun will appear) lies just within reach, and at the office it's a pretty quiet, slow day.

Some of my coworkers have gone to the American Association of Museums conference in Philadelphia, a trade expo where we've rented out a booth to showcase our company's talents and capabilities for museum curators and other special-venue representatives seeking to update or add new exhibitry, designs, shows, or signage to their spaces. We've created this pretty cool interactive postcard-creating program to give potential clients a taste of what we do and how we do it. I really hope we come away from the conference with a lot of new leads and a lot of new potential clients for some great work in the future. Of course, the economy has deflated potential clients' ability to secure grants to fund our work, and many can't find it in their budget to afford work like ours, but there is good work out there -- we just have to find it and snap it right up. When all's said and done, four of us are down in Philly for the weekend, working hard to snap that very work up.

I've been rereading "Fräulein Else," a novella by Viennese writer and playwright Arthur Schnitzler published in 1924. I took a German class at Syracuse on Schnitzler and fin du siècle Vienna and its impact on Austrian (and German) literature. This novella was one of the many Schnitzler works we tackled in the class, and it was probably my favorite German work I read in my entire four years in the SU German program. It concerns a 19-year-old young woman named Else. Written in a stream-of-consciousness style, the reader gets a firsthand glimpse into Else's innermost thoughts, wishes, hopes, dreams and sometimes delusions. She's a very dynamic and interesting character, especially when considering the time the novella was written. Freud's theories on psychology had a huge effect on the literature of the time, and Schnitzler's writing is no exception. "Fräulein Else" is riddled with scenes and thoughts that allude to Freud and his version of the psychology of women's minds and thoughts. In my mind, it's like a "Catcher in the Rye" with a female protagonist.

Our heroine meets a tragic end, but does she really? Because of the stream-of-consciousness voice of the entire text, it's difficult to tell exactly what happens. Nevertheless, I just reread this one passage of Else's oftentimes self-contradicting thoughts, and saw some truth in it. Schnitzler really is a brilliant writer. I highly recommend this novella, as well as his plays, "Anatol," "Liebelei" and "Reigen," all of which we also read in the Schnitzler class. If you're at all familiar or interested in Austrian turn-of-the-century history and literature, or just want an interesting read, even if just for entertainment and not academic purposes, check into the English versions of these texts. Of course, I've only read the German versions, so I can't attest to the quality of the English translations. If you need one, let me know -- haha. If you know German and want to tackle the original text, most of the full texts (now considered in the public domain) can be found on the Web. If you need translation of a passage or two -- seriously -- let me know.

Anyway, this quote from "Fräulein Else" really caught my eye. My translation follows the original German.
"Überhaupt ein anderes Leben anfangen. Das müssen wir alle. So darf es nicht weitergehen." - "Fräulein Else" by Arthur Schnitzler. Paul Zsolnay Verlag: Berlin-Wien-Leipzig, 1924. S. 37

Translation: "Even start a new life. We all have to. Otherwise, life won't go on."