Things My Parents Do When They Visit Me In The City

1. Complain about how far a walk everything is.
2. Confuse waiters by speaking slowly.
3. Misunderstand the rules of sidewalks.
3a. Walk unacceptably slowly.
4. Ogle.
4a. Point.
5. Ignore cultural pretensions.
6. Ask me why hipsters dress "that way."
7. Point.
8. Take camera-phone pictures of "cool bikes."
9. Quiz me about Philadelphia's byzantine street parking rules.
9a. Eventually just make me park the car.
9b. Register surprise when it turns out that, after driving in the city for three years, I am an adept parallel-parker.
10. Quiz me about Philadelphia history like I am a tour guide.
H.M. Make me feel like I am sixteen all over again.

Reasons I Know I'm Getting Older

1. I prefer cranberry juice over other juice/fruit drink options.
2. I feel vaguely guilty when I download pirated movies.
3. I no longer cringe when I hear Journey/Bruce Springsteen/Rush.
4. The word most often used to describe my day is "frustrating."
5. When getting out of a good chair, I sometimes groan.
5a. Chairs and the larger wold of sitting have become more appealing.
6. I stay inside when it's cold.
7. Nineteen-year-olds seem frivolous in their extravagant lifestyle choices.
7a. I use the phrase "lifestyle choices."
8. The Atlantic is my favorite magazine.
9. I like waking up early in the morning and getting to bed at a "reasonable hour."
10. Plaid is my favorite color.
11. I will not buy or drink Popov, Vlad's, Ezra Brooks or any variety of liquor that costs less than ten dollars per fifth.
11a. Nor Kool-Aid is an acceptable mixer.
11b. Nor is a 5 gallon Rubbermaid container an acceptable punch bowl.
11c. Nor is a red Solo cup an acceptable goblet.
12. People call me "mister" when I'm dressed nicely.
13. Some Saturday nights, I stay in and make collages.
14. I neatly fold my clean laundry.
14a. I do laundry more than once a month.
15. I appreciate 60 Minutes.
16. There are four cardigans in my closet right now.
17. Feeding squirrels stale bread is an acceptable way to spend an afternoon.
18. When driving, I leave my right blinker on for miles.
19. Crosswords are the bomb.
20. My tweed blazer has elbow patches.

Hell is a Waiting Room

I woke up later then I expected

"Crap!" I shouted at my alarm clock, hurtling out of bed into a disoriented rummage for my clothes.
Suited up, I got in the car and drove an unexpected forty-five minutes, to CRI Worldwide, a sinister sounding organization in one of the ugliest parts of South Jersey that conducts clinical research trials. I was intended for the depression unit, JN-517.
I arrived fifteen minutes post-appointment, and put on my best guilty school boy expression when I spoke to the receptionist.
"I was supposed to be here at ten."
"That's alright," she chirped from her office chair perch, bloblike. "Just sign in."
There were fourteen signatures ahead of me, and seven people in the waiting room.
Hell is a waiting room, with out of date copies of Prevention magazine and The View on repeat. This one was special.
My fellow inmates were all considerably older than me and almost entirely sedentary. Except for one, the Television Coach.
Wearing what seemed to be a house dress and slippers, she sat in the corner when I walked in, talking on a land line phone (seriously! a land line!) and examining her nails. She hung up almost as soon as I sat down and opened the Susan Sontag book I was reading.
"Can I change the channel?" she asked the receptionist, from across the room, wagging her hand at the television. I grimaced to the pages of Suzzy Q.
"Sure," chips the blob, "but there's no remote. You have to do it with your finger."
My god, I thought, this waiting room is trapped in 1997!
Sure enough, Television Coach changes the channel and immediately discovers that Married with Children, easily the most pathetic excuse for a sitcom in the history of television, is on.
"Oh, you so stupid," she mumbles at the television three times before sitting down, and then proceeds to coach the family through the turbulent and very unfunny domestic issues.
"Mmmhm, you tell that man. He don't respect you."
"I'd give that boy a slap, that's what I'd do."
And so on.
The Blob, seeing I was reading, asked if I wanted to go sit in the other waiting room. Yet something compelled me to stay.
And then I realized: the story was not yet over.
A man walked up to the window, knocking on it. The Blob opened it.
"Can I get a Hot Pocket?" he asked, "And a Sprite?"
What? Surely he will be rebuked, I thought, for imagining this is a microwavable version of Ishkabibble.
"Sure, sweetie," says the Blob, and hollers into the back for Anna, who I can only assume resembled Cookie from Matilda, to prepare this man the finest Hot Pocket in all the land, and produces a can of Sprite from her desk.
"Oh, you gotta try that with some mustard, Honey," offers T.C., who is apparently the benevolent guide, the Sherpa of the waiting room, the keeper of the keys. The man nods at her, as if carefully considering her proposition. He turns back to the Blob.
"Can I get a smoke too?"
No. Fucking. Way.
"You bet," the Blob responds, proferring a pack of Marlboro Red 100s to the man, and letting him take three. He sticks two behind his ears, the other in his mouth, and struts out the door for his cigarette break while his Hot Pocket gets warm on the outside and the cold on the inside.
Twenty minutes later, they called my name, I peed in a cup, and drove away slowly from what was the strangest waiting room of my life.

Long Awaited Christmas Disaster?


My ever-loving aunt, who has paunch in all the right places and is generally the figure of growing old in the most beautiful, maternal way, while still not gaining the social insight into to people and life in generally that allegedly comes with age, got very ill today. Not in the way that prompts a Lifetime special or violins, but in the way that cancels Christmas dinner at her house and causes her to, round-a-boutly, break her ankle. Characteristically, she's angry, and can't get a brace until tomorrow when the bone-doc is on call. My sympathy goes to her, but I'm upset that Christmas was summarily stricken from the book of holidays this year - I actually wanted to see the extended tribe. This year, for the first time in Rudinski family history, I was slated to be treated like an adult. This chance is all but shot to hell, and now I'll have to start over at Easter.

Damn my selfish desires.

But also, the promised photos from my Color final. The series is titled "Happy Birthday to Me" and I'm not going to make an artist's statement.

Hiatus: Over!

I saw a Hummer wrapped in Christmas lights on the Parkway today. They blinked. I felt as though I was caught in some surreal time-warp back to last year, when driving a Hummer was a sign of asshattery, rather than just being out of step with the times.

But this has been the general theme of New Jersey. It feels like another universe, a complete separate culture. How is it that the space of a river changes the way people behave so drastically? Perhaps the world is more community driven than I've realized. Or maybe it's just the quirks.

Shot a whole roll of 120 VC backwards today. I actually managed to load it into the camera the wrong way round. The combination of disappointment and aggravation always makes me laugh.

ALSO! On the way to Morristown, there was a State Trooper casually weaving back and forth across 287 for about a mile, busting out all of 35 mph. He was the drunken shepard, and we were his flock, curiously following and wondering if on this serpentine swipe he just might, maybe, careen into the gaurd rail. And how magical would that be. Yet, when he finally stopped swerving at an arbitrary point, but did not accelerate, we all stayed behind him, wondering if passing him would incur his municpal wrath. Who knows, with Staties. They've got some superiority complex that only comes from years of being treated badly.

I heard Santa Baby three times today, by accident. I'm really praying it doesn't happen again.

Photos from my Color final tomorrow.

Week of Food!

Whoever is tagging "Pony Boy" gets two hundred points.

Thanksgiving was somewhat mundane, as it always is. The family is flat, not of us really want to see each other, we all get a bit tipped and eat way to much. It's a strange, very American sort of holiday, I think.

But more to the point: I threw my own pre-Thanksgiving, yet again, and it was one of the greatest successes it's ever been. Almost everyone I cared about was there. No one did anything hurtful. Despite the turkey, which was covered in bacon, setting off a minor smoke bomb in the kitchen that lead to temporary blindness and my drunken conviction that I had, much to my mother's chagrin, finally set the house on fire. However, it turned out perfectly, despite all odds against it.

And I actually felt wonderful, to see us all there, surrounding a table. It was the most Norman Rockwell of moments, the actual purpose of a holiday like this, made real rather than obligatory. And for once it felt satisfying to participate in a holiday, a tradition, because we had made it our own and made it mean something.

And there, over the turkey, we sang "Day Man." Completely spontaneously.

We are all together in this, I realized, as much as we are apart. We cannot escape each other if we wanted to, and though we may not be holding hands and facing the world, we are cheek to jowl, glaring into the distance and wondering what the hell is up ahead.

From the Department of Jumping the Gun Like Whoa, We Present Christmas!

This has been a strange week.

1. It is not Christmas. Lets stop kidding ourselves. I do not want your holiday music, flyers, or manufactured cheer. Thank you.

2. Why is it so hard to find a decent pair of gloves in this city? My fingers are freezing off.

3. Someone punched me in the face last night without provication while I was walking down 13th street. I was outside the Last Drop! Jeez, right there?! They didn't even do anything - just walked away while I swore at them. I'm still totally perplexed, although a friend of mine thinks someone was filming it for kicks. Odd hobby. At least the dude at the LD gave me a hot chocolate - very motherly.

4. Stairs, apparently, are not a valid method of transportation, according to security at Daffy's. I'm not a fan 0f elevators - they make me feel like a lazy, dumb American. I take the stairs when possible. Problem is, they're not always so easy to find. So, at Daffy's, I asked the security gaurd where I might find a flight. Her response was telling.

"Stairs?" she asked, furrowing her eyebrows like I had just asked her to produce a kiwi from her pocket.
"Yes," I said, afraid I would have to explain the concept of a rising system of boxes that could be ascended.
"You wanna take the stairs?"
"Well, yes."
"I thought it might be easier." Elevators are also very annoying, in my opinion.
"Oh, I dunno. It's kinda hard."

Hard? Hard to take the stairs, right, gotcha, lemme wait in line for five minutes so I can take an elevator one flight up. How can you not have a flight of stairs? Has no one ever asked where they are, or desired to take them? Does no one else feel accomplished after they take the stairs instead of the elevator? I must be looney, I must be loosing it.