Sunday, December 14, 2008

Talk that talk

In recent years, I wouldn't have considered describing myself as a gullible sort of person. Growing up in suburbia did away with pretty much any sort of tendency I may have had to naively believe in anything that came my way. At this point you might be saying that if anything, that sort of setting should have made me more likely to accept anything without question, that under those circumstances if someone came up to me and told me there was nothing better in the world than the Santa Clarita Valley, I would have been brainwashed enough to believe this, but no, four years in high school and shopping at the local mall with a Charlotte Russe store in there showed me otherwise. Because it seemed impossible to believe that anyone would subject themselves to these things and still remain sane in the world, so I went through these formative years refusing to believe that these were the only things I had to look forward to in the world: peaking in high school and wearing a dress from Windsor Fashion to prom.

Then college was that time when, you know, the eye-opening education you're receiving is either supposed to shake your beliefs to their very core, or strengthen them, and then you emerge from this experience An Adult ready to face The World with a renewed Sense of Self and a self-assuredness in your step that wasn't there before, and a great interest in non-fiction books, e.e. cummings, and great French novels.

So ostensibly this is the state I find myself in now. A recent college graduate ready to tackle the world and show it who's boss. Which is why I'm so confused as to why I find myself accidentally believing things I really shouldn't be thinking twice about. Such as mistaking The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova for a piece of literary non-fiction writing.

I'm not sure if you're familiar with this book, but let me tell you what it's about: Dracula. And the point of the book is to let you know that Dracula, Vlad the Impaler, who died sometime in the 15th century, is still alive today. The author starts out the 909 page book describing research she did in the subject, which I mistook to mean that everything she is writing is non-fiction. After all, research = fact, right? So even after I read the following passage:

"The man had vanished; he had seen me see him. His face, between the awkward beard and new cap, had been indisputably a face from my university at home. I'd last looked at it just before it was covered by a sheet. It was the face of the dead library."

Even after I read that, that description of how the narrator saw a recently dead man walking around alive and well a few pages later, EVEN THEN, I just sat there nodding my head vigorously saying to myself "Yes! Completely likely! This man didn't actually die! He is still alive! I thought I saw someone like Thomas Jefferson walking down the street today, now I know how likely it is that he's still around!"

So it came as a big blow to learn that this piece of literature isn't actually non-fiction. It is about as fictional as Santa Claus and Charlotte's Web. Although the way things are going now, I get the feeling that this year is the year I will start believing in Santa Claus. I didn't when I was two, but now seems to be the time to start putting cookies out for him December 24th. So now I am left with reading 300 more pages of this book, and I am angry. I am angry because ever since learning this book is non-fiction, its writing has become significantly cheesier, and I have less patience than ever with the narrator's adventures waltzing through the south of France and Istanbul looking for a blood-sucking demon. And even though Hungary figures largely in the setting, the romanticized description of the people and the food nearly bring me to tears.

I am hell-bent on finishing this book now. I have dedicated too much time and effort to it. What I am left wondering, though, is HOW I could believe this was a piece of non-fiction writing. Has the ice-skating rink music I am subjected to every hour I am at work finally taking its toll? Does Sheryl Crow, Maroon 5, and Celine Dion on loop have this sort of effect on everyone, not just me? Because then I find this to be particularly disturbing. The museum would then be run by a group of people who would be looking for living dinosaurs in Central Park to put into cages, and would dedicate all their scientists to look for the Loch Ness monster.

Or is this recent character flaw simply a product of living in a city where I see insane things every day? A necessary lesson I have to learn to remember to keep my guard up at all times? This and other recent unfortunate events have taught me that perhaps it is best to be as skeptical about everyone and everything as I was in high school. The moral of the story is: be wary! Even if there are no vampires around to attack you.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Made in Vietnam

There are some days where I'd like to think I can rely sheerly on my instincts to get around. There are those days, in fact. Days where I can stumble across Broadway and 47th without opening my bleary eyes, clutching my cup of coffee as taxis zoom by and horse carriages graze the tip of my nose, days where I can just make a run for the empty C subway track, trusting my gut that by the time I reach the edge of the platform, a train will have pulled up to the edge, the doors will have opened, and an empty seat will be waiting for me to occupy. Today was really not one of those days.

I got back from work today with a package awaiting me in the middle of our living room. The middle of the living room is still a wide expanse of nothing, with a couch and a table meekly lining the edge of the space, waiting for something to pull them together. So this package looked like something special, which, in fact, it was. It was the brand new coat tree I had ordered on amazon. This product was meant to be the missing link, THE household item that would scream "YOU'RE HOME" as soon as you walked in to the apartment. Nevermind that we have no microwave or toaster, that just a few weeks ago we were using the air mattress inflator to blow dry our hair, this furniture was going to pull the assorted collection of items in our apartment together to make it a cohesive whole. So I tackled the task of putting together this coat tree with gusto, relying on, what else, but my gut to put together the 5 pieces of coat rack.

I have put together Ikea furniture before without too much grief. Okay, I take that back. Now that I think of it, I think I remember infinitely preferring sticking the wooden pegs holding my bed together into my eyeballs than actually trying to put them in the designated holes, but the long and short of this is that I am now the proud owner of The World's Crookedest Coat Tree. Yes, I managed to foible on the most idiot-proof coat tree in the world. It even came with instructions, which I gave nary a glance to until it was too late. I wish I had my camera here to show you how crooked it is, using my perfect posture as a reference. Only now, I suspect that what with the weight of the world and day, and just of utter defeat, on my shoulders, I would appear just as slumped and tired looking as my brand new coat rack.

However, I am not giving up on this thing. I'm welcoming the new coat rack into this apartment as if it were my own flesh and blood, and I'm going to shower it with so many coats you won't even be able to tell it's crooked.

Today was a long day.