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Same, same, but different

You go to sleep in the US. I get on a plane in  the US. You wake up in the US. I’m in India.

The longest distance is between two people.

I flashed, oh, about twenty people today on my way to India. My cute new button-down I felt I wore so smartly? It doesn’t button so much as unbutton. Especially when I’m not looking. I plop down on a train heading from New York City to Newark. Next to a cute day trader from Jersey. He smiles. I smile. Then he smiles bigger. I look down. My shirt is half open.

I get on a plane. The flight attendants are Angry. No one obeys any signs. No one really understands each other. Do you want veg or eggs? I want veg! Here you go. But where are the eggs? Eggs is non-veg, sir. I want veg. But that’s not eggs. Since when are eggs non veg? It’s all very perplexing.

They ask the 79-year-old Mr. Singh to Sit DOWN every five minutes during take off. He complies. But he’s first up when we’re still thirty seconds from landing. “Sir! Sit DOWN!” They repeat and repeat. “He doesn’t speak any English,” I say. “Ruhikia,” I plead with him. I think I’m saying wait. But I actually want to speak in Spanish. I don’t speak Spanish. I don’t remember Hindi. I can’t really remember where I am.

But then we touch ground. And it’s there. It’s the smoke in my eyes. The babies coming home to see their grandparents. The “you have change?” at the pre-paid taxi stand. It’s the taxi driver who I give directions in broken Hindi to all the way home, and we arrive and he says in perfect English, “Do you need help carrying that bag up?” I do, thank you, and I’m home. It looks different. But the same. The plants are bigger. The kittens are the same size. The gummy bears I bought four months ago are still tightly sealed in their tupperware pack. My beautiful friend rushes over and she’s still beautiful. And it’s night on my balcony and the sounds of life are everywhere and I pull out my charpoy and the moon is overhead. And I’m home.

2 Comments

  1. Bruce Hopkins says:

    Melissa, this behavior is so shocking! Were you trying to compete with those cougars at Opening Day at the Delmar Races?

  2. jim glendining says:

    no such thing as an accident.freud ?

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Time thins

I leave in hours, not weeks or days or months. Hours. I’m going back to a country I called home at the start of the summer. I came to a country I thought I could never really love again at the start of the summer. But love is fickle, love is funny. Love slips away from you when you least expect it, and then sneaks back at you from around a different corner. I’m in love, desperately in love, with the good old USA. Me of the apathetic patriotism. I want to burrow into the cornfields of Iowa. I want to go try my hand at being a starlet in the silicone valleys of LA. I want to climb the storied steps of Congress and play with politics. I want to go hunt wolves with Sarah Palin and dally on Broadway with Nathan Lane. I’m scared of India. Scared of its expanses. Its empty fields and its crowded streets. I’m scared of winter’s fog. I want to sit in the sunlit here a little longer.

But, still, I pack my bags and go.

It is at the edges
that time thins.
Time which had been
dense and viscous
as amber suspending
intentions like bees
unseizes them. A
humming begins,
apparently coming
from stacks of
put–off things or
just in back. A
racket of claims now,
as time flattens. A
glittering fan of things
competing to happen,
brilliant and urgent
as fish when seas
retreat.

Kay Ryan

One Comment

  1. Lee says:

    “Im wich you.”

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The Ex’s Wedding.

It’s one thing to go to your ex-boyfriend’s wedding. It’s another thing to seat yourself in the front row in the direct eye line of the groom-to-be.

When we were dating—years and years ago—I used to tell him, “We better stay friends when we break up.” Obviously I didn’t have much faith in the relationship. But he did listen to me; the friendship stuck.

It didn’t seem odd to be going to his wedding. At least to him, his fiancée and me. Everyone else, though, seemed to find it slightly surprising.

“You were invited?” More than one friend asked with clear shock in their voices.

When not one, but two (yes, two) men cancelled as my date to the wedding my best friend wrote me: “This is so embarrassing. Can you bring your brother?”

I wrote back: “Are you serious?? That’s like having to go to the prom with your brother, only when you’re 30!”

Maybe, just maybe, there was a tiny pang of uncertainty at the prospect of going to my ex-boyfriend’s wedding. I ignored that pang until I wound up in the front row staring straight at the ex-boyfriend.

It really wasn’t my fault. I followed my friends into the seats not really thinking about it. There was a roped line of chairs in front of us, presumably for the family. But as we sat and waited, the chairs stayed empty. I looked around the room and realized that the groom’s family was in the same row as me.

I furiously hissed at my friend, “Why did you choose this seat?”

“So we could see best!”

I calmed myself down, thinking, ‘Well, at least the groom’s back will be to me. They always stand on the right.’ Wrong.  For the first wedding in all the weddings I’ve gone to, they decided to switch it up. So there I was, face-to-face with the guy.

Oh, and did I also mention the bit about his aunt coming up to me a few minutes earlier, saying it was great to see me there and then announcing to the entire seated congregation how she always told people the oral sex story about me?

Another friend turned to me, similar hair, similar size and says, “I hope to God no one confuses me for you tonight.”

So the oral sex story isn’t as scandalous as you may think. It was simply a debate I had with his family once upon a time about my generation thinking oral sex was not actual sex. For the record, I agree with the older generation. Also, for the record, I was officially dubbed the “oral sex girl” for the rest of the wedding night.

Suffice it to say, it was, oh, as awkward a start to your ex-boyfriend’s wedding as possible.

Luckily, my attendance had no real impact on the wedding other than entertaining my friends for most of the evening.  They spent the night trying to devise the most humiliating scenarios possible for me. Most involved heavy drinking, dancing by myself in the spotlight during dinner, and/or seducing various family members of my ex-boyfriend’s.

What actually ended up happening was I watched a good friend’s face light up and his eyes fill with tears when his bride walked down the aisle. And I got to see it all thanks to my front row seat.

4 Comments

  1. Jen says:

    Tee-hee!

  2. Chengiz says:

    Lovely!

  3. duLuna says:

    Hiya! somehow I found your blog looking for buildings to draw for my Perspective Class, read a couple entries and I love your stylistic entries (maybe not all that stylized, but you’re to the point and blunt. I like that :D ). Bookmarking and hope to read more! thanks for sharing X3

  4. Melissa says:

    Thanks, duLuna!

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Folks, we’re all gonna die.

You better appreciate this post. Because the longer I sit here typing it, the faster my ovaries are shrinking and dying and a cancer is growing inside me.  You didn’t know? Yes, as wars rage and children starve, newspapers warn us: laptops are but the latest psycho killers destroying our fragile human bodies.

I mean, duh. It’s not hard to guess that making out 24/7 with some weird device that sends out electronic signals into the ether is probably not the safest thing to do.

But guess what? We’re all gonna die.

Eight years ago, there were more than just a few computer waves to make me see death. A sudden shower of falling steel and cement blanketed lower Manhattan. I ran. I can remember everything—everything, but noise.  I can only remember silence. The blue sky, the shadows of the buildings, the smoke, the dusty confusion in everyone’s eyes, and silence.

I ran. Everyone ran.  Buildings fell. I ran. Bombs had been planted in cars. I ran. Ambulances were going to explode. I ran.

Then I passed some invisible line. I crossed Hudson and terror hadn’t reached its streets yet. I still ran, but I ran past people brunching at a sidewalk café. Waitresses served food. People flipped through their newspapers. I could see my casual, safe past in the diners’ calm faces. They still thought my reality was just a bad Hollywood premise. I ran by them, already in the future.

A few months ago I thought I saw death again. A ladder in the middle of the freeway sent my car into a two-wheels-on, two-wheels-in-the-air, spinning, churning, dance with death. Everything became extremely quiet. I was or I wasn’t going to die. There was nothing to do, but hold on. It was only when I was safe, when the car finally came back under control, and was pulled over on the shoulder, that the emotions came. First I laughed. Then I cried.

But I don’t want to dwell on death. Death comes for the archbishop and death comes for me. Death doesn’t deserve my attention. What does matter is the moment after. That moment, that moment when we cry, when we laugh, when we realize there is nothing to do but live. Maybe that’s why newspapers scream of the myriad ways to die; why Discovery channel runs a week of shark attack shows; why I sit on airplanes and imagine them crashing. Because we forget to dwell on life. We forget that this existence—listening to my sister and my mother gossip, ordering a chocolate cake instead of lunch, riding my bike with no hands—is incredibly, amazingly ours.

The world experienced this in a sort of punch to the collective gut on September 12,, 2001. We were all so very alive. My friends and I left the empty streets of New York, traveled to a beach house and crammed everyone in, twenty-some of us on couches and cots. My boyfriend at the time had spent four hours the day before exchanging phone calls with my parents; talking to my friends; waiting, waiting to hear if I was dead. When they found out I was alive, he didn’t tell me what it was like to think about my death and my friends didn’t ask me questions. He sat next to me quietly as I cried and then he cracked dumb jokes and I laughed. And my friends made big bowls of pasta and opened bottles of red wine and dealt cards. And all we went on living.

There is so much sorrow. But there is so much life. There is only one thing I can do in the face of it all.

I have to tell you: I love you. I cry and I laugh and I love you.

Now I’m going to finish eating my cake.

Cake

2 Comments

  1. nalis says:

    I might be an emotional type, but this gave me goosebumps.

    When are you back in the Land of Life?

  2. Melissa says:

    Thanks, Nalis! I’m back in one week exactly. Can’t wait. xx

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America from the window of a uHaul.

rearviewmirror2Friday night is Prime Rib night at Lincoln’s Restaurant in Stuart, Iowa. For $12.99 you get a bloody two pounds of beef, and all you can eat from the salad bar, with it’s lineup of pickled herring, egg salad, canned peaches, pepperoncinis, chocolate pudding, pistachio fluff, and cheese cubes.

Friday night is also softball night at West Central Valley High School, home of the Wildcats! The girls duke it out as the whole town mingles in the bleachers. The sun is setting over the cornfields. Hot damn, this is America.

A sign points to a turn-off from the freeway: The Cove Family Restaurant open since 1961. Only it’s not open. The back door has its glass knocked out and you can go in and wander through the empty, trash-strewn place. They won Restaurant of Note five years running from the community newspaper. The bulletin board up front advertises a garage sale. And a Xeroxed sheet: family restaurant for sale. There is a pair of reading glasses on the floor and a child’s devil trident on the bar. I think, this crazy recession.

Outside a minivan has pulled into the parking lot. Wade and David are construction workers. Wade wants to know if we’ll buy the place. If you buy it, I’ll come. What happened? I asked. Oh, the owners, they liked to gamble a little too much. They lost all their money down on the casino boats. He and his friend are drinking beers and smoking cigarettes before driving home to their wives who don’t like them drinking beers and smoking cigarettes. When we drive off, he shouts, Buy the place! I’ll be your best costumer!

Birds fly and dip and swoop before storm clouds. The cornfields grow gradually into undulating hills.

At the country’s largest truck stop, there is an old milk van from Chicago. It ran entirely on electric. It’s from 1911. Who killed the electric car? In the bathroom a pretty, rail-thin girl applies thick black eyeliner. She grins at me in the mirror. Where you headed? To San Diego. Oh, I want to go there. She’s a little jittery. What about you? I ask. Oh, we’re haulers. Headed to Chicago. Then we’ll turn right back around for Denver. She and five guys take turns driving. Chicago to Denver in 16 hours. Unload. Denver to Chicago in 16 hours. For five days straight. Moving. Moving. I wonder for a minute if she’s hitting on me. Sex in a truck stop bathroom. Isn’t that what happens in the movies?

It’s nighttime early here.Fod

Saturdays in Logan, Iowa are garage sale day. Everyone’s got their tables set up out front. I wonder who’s buying and if they buy something from their neighbors on one Saturday do they then sell it at their garage sale the next? Out front the Double Barrel gun shop, Chris is trying to sell a wooden high chair with a teddy bear painted on the back. He kind of looks like a giant teddy bear. He is so excited to talk to us. His wife Jodi loves Clint Eastwood, shows me her pink handgun. She has a Clint Eastwood cardboard cutout. A Clint Eastwood clock. A Clint Eastwood doll. A Clint Eastwood mirror. Chris says, We got married at 17; Jodi was 18; we were pregnant. We got divorced for a year and a half. I couldn’t live without her. We got remarried.

He looks me up in down in my all-black outfit. Where you headed? California. He tells us right away: Chris is not an Obama fan. Although Obama has helped boost gun sales. Jodi says their products are just flying off the self. She calls it the “Obama Effect”. Everyone’s stocking up cause you know Obama’s going to try and overturn the second amendment. I say I’m a journalist. She gets so excited. Time magazine just came and took photos of them, asked how Americans spent their money now. She shows me the laminated article. In the photo Jodi’s holding a purple shotgun.

The Religious Museum has a life-size wax diorama of Jesus Christ’s life. Kathleen is sitting behind the counter. The exhibit is truly awesome, she says. She’s right. It is truly awesome. You walk through a dark passage way and suddenly a scene will appear, with heavenly spotlights shining down. There’s the manager scene, Jesus riding his donkey, the twelve disciples at the Last Supper. I want to climb up and take a photo as the 13th disciple at the Last Supper. I’m aware this may be vaguely sacrilegious. But Jesus has a sense of humor, right? An alarm goes off. High-tech Wax Jesus apparently does not have a sense of humor.

In Colorado, all the snow is melting and the rivers are flush with water. Joe sells antler horns on the side of the road for 45 days a year. He makes $33,000 a year. Though this year he may have to work 50 days. It’s a little slower. Not so many people looking for antler horns. The rest of the year he just heads out hunting. His 22-year-old daughter just brought down her first big buck. She’s a better hunter than most of my friends, but of course I taught her to hunt, he tells us. All the other men in his family, 14 cousins and brothers, are all bald. His mom says he’s the milkman’s son, but he’s got the family nose. He holds up his waist length ponytail. I think its cause I smoked dope; it keeps the hair!

Margaret and Ernest built their taxidermy shop in 1955. Their oldest son’s footprint and handprint mark the occasion in the cement outside the shop. They all lived in the back growing up. Now their son’s a stockbroker in California. She’s not exactly bursting with motherly pride. Especially since no one’s going to take over their shop. Do you shoot all the animals yourself? Margaret looks aslant at me. I learn later: you ‘hunt’ animals; you don’t ‘shoot’ them. I wish I were more country.

Mikela and Dawn swim in the shallow end of the Sand Dunes community pool. They don’t want their make-up to get wet. They’re 16. They hate it in Monevista, Colorado. There are no boys to date. Everyone is in everyone’s business. Mikela talks. Dawn treads water.  We’re interrupted by a man shouting in the deep end. He’s struggling to pull a guy out of the water. I run over. An old Hispanic man with a thin mustache is blue. His lips are actually blue. A nurse runs over. Starts CPR. He coughs, opens his eyes. We throw towels on him. The guy that pulled him out of the water has bright red blood springing from fingernail scratches on his neck. Man, I thought I was going down too, man, he says, laughing. Everyone’s laughing suddenly. We’re all okay.

Outside Yuma, Arizona a sign reads Yuma Proving Ground. What’s a proving ground? What do you have to prove to be there? I have miles to ponder the Proving Ground. It’s nothing but sand and low brush and saguaro cactus. But finally in the rearview mirror we see a huge dust cloud. It’s moving. Fast. It comes up behind us: a low-slung camouflaged tank. It’s roaring down the desert, over the brush, down small canyons, up dunes. It speeds past us. I think of this whole wide country we just passed through. And the boys in that tank that will have to leave it all to go to another whole wide country across the world to race tanks there.

I see what I think is a film set in the middle of the desert. Huge cranes, a sea of white tents, lights set up on booms. I wonder what they could possibly be filming out here. But it’s not Hollywood. It’s Border Patrol. A sign boasts how many arrests they’ve made that year: 6,456.

Another sign on the side of Route 60. The sign says: You are now beyond Hope.

Welcome to America!

One Comment

  1. Sarge says:

    I have an unnatural fascination with taxidermy and mid-western salad bars that has been herein satisfied. Please now a post on being Indian and being adopted.

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Forget driving and texting. First there is walking and iPods.

I don’t have an iPhone. I don’t drive. But I have still been stuck listening to everyone worrying and wincing this summer about how deadly the combination of a car and an iPhone can be.

I could have told everyone this years ago. Apple products may look pretty, but like so many pretty things, danger lies just beneath that tantalizing smooth surface. I mean don’t you think it’s a bit too coincidental that they named their company after the forbidden fruit that caused the very downfall of the human race?

Step back in time with me, if you will:

It may be a hazy memory of life-before-the-iPod, but try to harken back to those first new days when it arrived on the scene and we were all realizing this tiny white machine was Actual Magic. If you can remember that, you’ll understand why, on a bright New York fall day, I am walking about in a bit of a daze: I can’t stop staring at the beautiful little guy I just bought.

This is going to revolutionize my life. In the most important way, perhaps, I will become an actual gym-goer. Yes, I am lazy and I hate the gym. But with Magic, all things are possible. I will create perfect playlists. I will love the gym because it allows me uninterrupted time with my new toy. And I will be the envy of all the other gym-goers. So what if I can’t last longer than 10 minutes on a treadmill? I have an iPod.

So, on the first day of the rest of my life, off to the gym I go. With iPod in hand, I strut proudly through the sweaty crowd of non-iPod owners. I feel everyone’s eyes turning to follow my path. Sunshine has broken through the ceiling and its golden rays are glinting off me. I am shiny. I am beautiful. I am furiously looking for the perfect song to start my new workout life. I glance up and see an open treadmill. All around me people are writhing with jealousy. I flick through the songs with a nimble twist of the thumb and settle on “The Passenger” by Iggy Pop. It is a song of freedom and possibility. I step up on to the treadmill.

And suddenly everything goes horribly, horribly wrong.

Some otherworldly force flings me off the treadmill and I go flying backwards. Luckily, a stationary bike is there to catch me. Unluckily, a man on the stationary bike is caught in the crossfire. He sprawls to the floor. I soon follow. The whole gym is in an uproar. Blood drips from my legs. Blood drips from the man’s head. And Iggy Pop sings from my headphones.

Some idiot had left the treadmill on at 8 mph. But had I settled on my song a few seconds earlier, I would have noticed that the treadmill was a spinning wheel of death just waiting to ricochet a distracted victim off into an innocent bystander. All that magic I had believed in? It is black magic, deadly and full of lies.

Trainers rush over. Patch us up. Promise us a free month of membership. I apologize to the poor bike man. I pull myself together. I think, “Maybe only a few people noticed. Today is the first gym day of the rest of my life. I can’t just walk away! Maybe I failed the iPod. Maybe I need to ease myself into my new life.”

I stumble over to the weight rack and pick a Nina Simone song. “Fodder in her Wings”. It is a song about loss and shame. I grab a 2lbs weight. I pretend to know how to do bicep curls.

A guy comes up. He’s smiling. He must like my iPod. He wants to talk. He probably wants to know what music I’m listening to. He’s kind of cute. I take out my earphones.

“Man! You’re still here? That takes some balls! I can’t believe what happened to you. If that had been me, I would have bailed so fast and gone to get some donuts.”

I hang my head and hobble out the door.

5 Comments

  1. Loony says:

    Maybe, in the end, what you’re saying is really good, our salvation – that we won’t, in fact, be taken over by all these smart little gadgets: they won’t make us better writers or more fit – in the end we still have to do it all ourselves. That it’s not the ab toner widget but our motivation to do ten thousand crunches; that it’s not the Google writer thingy, but our own brains and thirst to explain ourselves or hunger for affirmation or whatever. That in the end all of our human fuck-ups will prevail and undermine, no matter how much Hal hectors. I feel much better now.

  2. Tron says:

    This whole driving while texting “crisis” is some kind of pet project of the New York Times. They published like 8 front page articles about it. Then some legislation got passed and they published 8 more about that. Aren’t wars happening or something? I feel like this is how the New York Times procrastinates.

  3. Melissa says:

    Stories about driving and texting are always a procrastination. See above post as a case in point, please.

  4. sandra742 says:

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. :) Cheers! Sandra. R.

  5. neha says:

    i was marathon reading your blog post and stopped at this one. loved it, think it we all dwelled on the fact that one day we shall die, we may remember to live a bit more! this time when i was travelling, met an old friend and the only details of the past 3 years i wanted to share was the simple moments and nothing more, the job, petty issues, all fall off like termite dust.

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In-N-Out = Heaven on earth

cali-19

If you want to question how busy my summer has been, I present irrefutable proof:

I arrived in San Diego July 1st. I ate at an In-N-Out on August 24th.

In the annals of Melissa Bell History that is a sad, sad record.

Usually it’s the first stop on the way home from the airport. And it’s a pretty steady part of my diet while in California. I have the 1-800-number of In-N-Out stored in my phone just in case I’m driving along and need to find the closest one. Yes, it’s embarrassing, but you’d be surprised how often it comes in handy (1-800-786-1000 for you hungry few). Even when I was a vegetarian for the year I lost a bet to my sister I still ate there religiously, ordering the grilled cheeseburger, hold the burger please.

So it’s been a pretty pathetic summer, devoid of delicious double-doubles, strawberry shakes and fries. Thankfully, I’ve started making up for lost time.

And today, much like every time I finish my meal there in a delirious food coma, I wonder about one thing: why the hell aren’t there more chains like In-N-Out?

In-N-Out brings in more money than any old McDonalds, Wendy’s and Burger King despite it’s limited ad campaign. It provides high wages and health care for all of its employees. The manager at the Las Vegas restaurant brings in a more-than-hefty six-figure income. All from $1.99 burger sales. The expansion plan follows strict regulations to only open within 500 miles of the places they purchase their fresh beef, which comes in daily deliveries. And money keeps pouring in to the company. I’ve never not waited in a line at the place, no matter what time of day or night I go.

So why is every food chain not jumping on the In-N-Out model?

It all comes from our instant gratification society. Every major corporation suffers from this. Can we please get a bit more future perspective on things? They seem to think cheap goods = cheap eats = lots o’ money now.

But that’s not true. At some point, people are going to realize that we’re all dying of obesity; that it’s weird our bodies are preserved past death because of all the additives we eat; that we’re destroying fertile land to support cattle that are being butchered into cardboard-tasting burgers. At least, I hope they do.

It just seems so simple: people want juicy goodness. People want somewhat-healthy fresh lettuce and ripe tomatoes. And, yes, people want brand loyalty. Sure, we in the USA grew up loving our Happy Meals, but once it wasn’t cool to want the toy collectible, we all settled for something a bit more realistic: decent food. And yet, no one else seems like they are even trying to attain In-N-Out status.

I have this crazy fear that one day corporations will rule the world à la warlords of yore. Are you a Google man? Or are you a GE Joe? But then I visit the calm, cool, white red and dots of yellow happiness that is In-N-Out . And I remember, at the end of the day, people also want a little personal lovin’ even if it is from a corporation that sells a supposed $420 million in burgers a year.

So maybe it isn’t just the simple deliciousness of the burger that makes people come back time and time again. Maybe it’s the service. ‘Cause while there is a set menu–hamburger, cheeseburger, double double–there is that lovely intrigue-worthy secret menu that the servers are more than happy to cook up.

Case in point:

In-N-Out 100x100

The 100×100. Yes, that is what they mean when they talk about staying power.

4 Comments

  1. Andrew says:

    The Secret Menu is one of the nest parts of In-N-Out. 100×100 looks amazing. There is a restaurant in Austin that is trying to copy the In-N-Out method called P. Terrys. The burger isn’t as good but I’d say the french fries are much better. But I don’t think they have the secret menu. http://www.pterrys.com/

  2. Lee says:

    in-n-out. love at first bite.

  3. raju says:

    http://www.babysbadassburgers.com

    am told is really the place

  4. Keith Bedford says:

    I am so graving one of those burgers right now. You have to smuggle one of those 100×100 back to India.

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This newspaper is experiencing technological difficulties.

The other day a family friend invited me to sit in on the morning editorial meeting of a mid-size paper in a mid-size town somewhere in America.

If you have somehow managed to miss the endless moaning and groaning of the entire media population prophesizing the death of our industry, I suggest you sit in on an editorial meeting at a mid-size paper in a mid-size town somewhere in America.

The editor starts off the meeting: “I was just thinking to myself as I read the paper this morning how good we are and how no one appreciates us!”

I was raised on the fumes of newsprint. I walk into a newspaper office as reverently as I approach a temple. I dream of smoky, trench coat-ed news hounds, sipping scotch and discussing what to make of Deep Throat.

Instead, I get a group of hardworking journalists struggling to fill their columns, juggling a staff shrunk by two-thirds, and debating which desks to give the newly integrated web team in the newsroom.

But I swallow my disappointment when Robert Redford doesn’t appear to pound on the table. At the end of the day, it’s still a meeting full of what I love about this job: people sitting around talking about ideas. What is interesting today? What is unique, surprising, necessary to know? And how do you tell the rest of the world about it?

As it turns out, I am not the only one entranced by the meeting.

Twenty minutes into it, in the middle of an argument about how to cover a ‘kiss-in’ protest, a voice crackles from the speaker:

“Hellooooooooooo?”

The conversation stalls. Obviously an editor in a satellite office is not pleased. Or so we think.

“Helloooo! This is Mark Greene with State Farm Insurance. I was calling to talk to you about your insurance policy.”

“This is a private line!” the editor-in-chief snaps.

“Oh, yeah, I could tell,” Mark says. “But this is a real interesting conversation, real interesting. What are you folks discussing all this for exactly?”

“How long have you been on here?”

“Oh, about 20 minutes. I became so interested in the conversation. It’s real great—”

Another editor hangs up the phone. We sit a bit dumbfounded. Who is this guy and how did he get on the line?

“We need to get those tech guys in here to look at the phone,” the editor says and then she clicks the phone on again to call back the satellite offices.

Mark crackles onto the line again, seemingly uninterrupted: “Yeah, I was just at home making some peanut brittle. You guys were just really entertaining, so I told myself, I’ll just keep quiet here—”

Again someone slams the speaker phone off.

I guess it’s a good thing we aren’t discussing Watergate after all.

One Comment

  1. Samrat says:

    The weekend edit meeting at the conference room in Hindustan Times, Delhi got interrupted this Monday by the phone ringing. We thought it was the Bombay edition folks calling in to join via video conference. It was actually an irate reader looking for the Mint editor’s number. Our editor in chief, who was chairing the HT meet, politely gave him the board number, but not before the caller had scolded us all for the muffled giggles in the background.

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Civil disobedience.

In another honor to my mother’s birthday in Santa Cruz, here’s a lovely peek inside the city council meetings that make the place hum.

I am so glad I’m not a Santa Cruz city council member.

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Comic-crazy.

I find my sister in line for a panel on Adult Swim slumped over her purse asleep. She jolts awake when her boyfriend arrives with a diet coke and the two turn on us with the wide-open, red-bleary eyes of crack users: “Have you been to the Furries table yet?” “Did you see the Free Hugs gang?” “Have you lost the Game yet?” “Did you see the ex-Bond girls? You can get their autograph.” “The Lost panel was so amazing; I totally cried at the end.” “I don’t know about this panel; everyone wants in on it. I don’t think we’ll make it.” “Hollywood is totally taking this place over. There’s a complete fight between the old school comics and the corporations.” “There’s Stan Lee!” “Did you see that?” They shoot out rapid-fire questions. They’re not listening to our answers. They’re talking over one another. They are seriously and scarily Comic-Con-Cracked Out.

The monster that is Comic-Con has morphed from a few hundred comic geeks getting together to talk fantasy to a hundred-thousand-person melee with Johnny Depp, Robert Downey Jr., Meghan Fox thrown in for spice. It’s four days of perfect madness. But what makes it such a beautiful thing–more than the Hollywood hoopla and the artistry of indie comic writers–is the lovely insanity of the legions of fan folk filling up the San Diego convention center. Here are a few of my favorites:

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One of the more peculiar phenomenon’s at the Con had to be the Free Hugs campaign. It’s sweet in its idea: people need more hugs. But it’s a lot of young, young kids offering them. And it’s kind of creepy. It’s vaguely sexual and a little aggressive. I’m not totally sold on it. But I don’t think they really care what I think. They are totally happy hugging strangers. They have secret hugs: the Snake Hug, the Koala Hug, the A-Frame Hug. To take photos, I had to offer up a hug. The kids, all under 18, shouted, “She needs a Barry Goldwater hug!” And then they bum rushed me. Before I knew it, I had ten kids hugging me. It actually felt kind of nice. 

free hugs

Another gem: The Game. You see, we’re all playing the game. And if you think about the fact that you’re playing the game, well, you lost the game. If you lose the game, you try to get other people to lose the game too by telling them about the game. Sorry, you’ve now lost game. This was all explained to me by a hyper-active girl-child running through the convention center in rainbow-colored toe socks and pajamas. I couldn’t grab her for a photo, but she did show me her small plastic toy monkey because “monkeys are awesome.”

the game

The man below is probably not a Furry. I have no idea why he’s wearing a tail. This man probably just likes wearing a fox tail around. But there are people at the ‘Con who do enjoy dressing up in animal costumes and who do enjoy having sex while wearing said animal costumes. I couldn’t take photos of them, so this guy had to do. 

tail man

Update: My sister took photos with a Furry. Her photo is better since it is, in fact, a Furry. My sister is the one on the right.

furry

Then there are just a bunch of other people super excited to have an excuse to dress up. Take, for example, the following photo. A bunch of people standing around trying to figure out directions. I timidly ask, Can I take a photo? Someone shouts, Group photo! And instantly they’re transformed into an elite squad of fighters.

group shot

I find these two extremely sexy. I think I was at the ‘Con too long.

willyI don’t know what’s going on with these kids, but they scare me.

the end is nighI got this guy’s phone number.

snoop trooperAnd this one’s too.

two

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