Monday, January 18, 2010


It's been a while. Please accept my profuse apologies and deepest shame. Let's catch up.

Employment status: Who even knows at this point.

Application status: Yup, still have a bunch of those out there.

Reading status: Four books completed! After Jonathan Franzen I read
Werewolves in Their Youth by Michael Chabon (the author of Wonder Boys, which is an amazing book that I highly recommend) and Little Women. I somehow went 22 years of my life without reading Little Women, and I'm glad it was finally remedied. The disadvantage was that I could only picture Winona Ryder as Jo, which I was definitely not okay with. This morning I started The Kite Runner and am more than halfway through. I think I will run out of space on my chalkboard.

Rule status: I am not allowing myself to read Pride and Prejudice (which I have read roughly seven billion times) or Sense and Sensibility (which I have read roughly six and a half billion times) this year. It's time to take a break. In a year I'll be able to appreciate them with fresh eyes. I am also trying not to read any books I've read before, but I give myself more leeway with this rule. It's only two weeks in; I may need to be flexible later on.

Pittsburgh status: I can officially drive to the giant commercial shopping mecca, The Waterfront, without my GPS. I have also been able to drive back from random places without looking at my GPS. However, I still have no idea where I'm going half the time. But, in exciting news, Keri used some of her Xmas money to purchase a museum membership for us, so we can go to 4 museums whenever we want for free! We've used it twice this week.

Reliving college status: The boyfriend was in town for a bit, and Keri and I dragged him to trivia, which was an honored and joyful tradition during our senior year. It was a very different venue, and there were roughly twice as many teams as we were used to playing, but the familiarity was comforting. We also failed miserably, so if anyone is in the Pittsburgh area and knows a lot about a lot of random crap, please get in touch. Sports are the weak part of our game. (Although the two questions that were sort of my area of expertise I still got wrong... I brought shame to myself and to the memory of the Dirty Washingtons. I'm so sorry.)

Computer status: Guess whose hard drive failed? Poor Pemberley. (Yes, I named my computer Pemberley. I don't care how lame that is.) Thank goodness for warranties and free repairs from Apple. However, I felt completely dirty and commercial in the store. The employees were very polite and made a big point of calling each customer by name. Personally, I hate it when companies try to mask the impersonal corporate structure with gimmicks like that. At least in an impersonal situation the customer can be anonymous if desired. I hate the patronizingly soothing tone of someone two years younger than me explaining, "Okay, Allison, now we're going to do a system check and see if..." Perhaps some of my discomfort stemmed from another employee asking me if I was back at school.

Me: No, I graduated last spring.
Him: Congratulations! How's life?
Me: (not as convincingly as I would like) Good!
Him: (awkward pause) Good. So Allison, the system check is showing...

That being said, I still love you, Mac. I hope Pemberley and I have a long and happy life together, even if it does mean I need to trade forced pleasantries with disenchanted Apple employees every so often.

So that's life. You have no idea how much I wish there were more thrilling adventures to report. I feel like I'm finally starting to hit my stride in terms of Pittsburgh adaptation (conveniently this happens days after the boyfriend visits and I fail at showing him around), so maybe sometime soon I can regale you with stories about the South Side or casually throw a "yinz" into the blog.

Okay, if I start saying "yinz," you have my permission to stop reading.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Growing a spine

I had an interview for a retail job. And then a second interview. Today I got a form email telling me they couldn't offer me a position. Although I was never madly in love with the idea of this job, it is somewhat disconcerting that I couldn't even land a retail position that I have essentially had a billion times before.

Fortunately, right below "find a totally awesome job," I have written "read a book a week" on my list of goals. And that is going splendidly. Not only have I finished Eat Pray Love, but I am more than halfway through How to Be Alone, a book of essays by Jonathan Franzen.

Final verdict on EPL? A good book to start the new year. Originally I was annoyed by Liz. Admittedly, she was going through some rough times, but part of me wanted to scream "Snap out of it!" every time she got mopey about her relationships. (Just because you love someone doesn't preclude them from falling into the "rebound" category.) I thought the structure of the book was interesting (109 mini chapters to represent Indian prayer beads, or japa malas... sorry, I just typed out that explanation and realized that everyone on the planet has read this book already), but the "beads" got repetitive. Quickly. Along the way I realized that I didn't dislike Liz (although "like" would be too strong a word), but then the ending... *spoiler alert* I'm sorry, but do not make me read 300 pages of this amazing adventure that you had just to end it with "and then I fell in love with this awesome Brazilian right as my entire trip was ending." I know that this is her real life and not some contrived plot, but why must a "journey to self-discovery" end with a husband? Seriously?

Sorry, just needed to say that. Anyway. How to Be Alone. I purchased my (autographed) copy for a dollar when my school bookstore was switching companies and cleaning out everything. Franzen read at my school my freshman year, and now that I'm (finally) flipping through one of his books, I'm trying desperately to remember the details of his visit. I remember sitting in the back of a large auditorium (granted, at a small school like mine, "large" is a relative term) and listening to him read from some unpublished work about bird watching. He apparently misnamed a bird and felt awkward about it and kept rambling about "I knew it was really this... I just said this by accident" to the strangers surrounding him during this error. I knew nothing of Franzen at the time, but since I was a darling naive freshman I went to basically every reading offered that first semester. During the Q&A session, I remember my theater professor commenting that Franzen was editing his work while he read, and of course someone asked about his Oprah issues. To be honest, he didn't make that much of an impression on me, which is probably why it took me four years to pick up one of his books. Now that I'm reading it, however, I'm assimilating everything I remember from that day into my schema of Franzen as, well, kind of a jerk. I'm really enjoying the essays (especially the ones about Alzheimer's and the postal service), but if Franzen came back into town and offered to take me out to dinner, I probably wouldn't go. Well, maybe I would. A girl's gotta eat, right?

So with January 7th marking my first deadline, I am ahead of the game. Odds are I will find a new book tomorrow and begin filling my door with fabulous neon titles.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

How to fill your time while unemployed

Today, my roommate (We've switched from "suitemate" or "housemate" because we're no longer in college, and in the real world people use "roommate" to describe those they share a living space with, regardless of the actual arrangement. Unless of course we start dating, in which case she becomes my "live-in lover" or something equally certain to shock my parents.) sent me this link:

Guess what my project for 2010 will be? I say project instead of resolution because, well, resolutions are lame and last about three days. This is a fun exercise I'd like to try because, as much as I love books, I am often a capricious rather than voracious reader. I go through spurts where I read twelve books in a row without surfacing for air, and then a month might go by and I haven't even touched a trashy magazine. So this could be a good way to keep a steady pace and savor my literary selections.

My concern about the project is the same one that plagues me when I borrow books from the library: how the deadline affects my attitude towards reading. When I read something that has to be returned in two weeks, I sometimes forget that I chose the book and instead feel like I have to get through it before the time elapses and mysterious library ninjas pry it from my fingers mid-sentence. Even when I'm enjoying a novel, I still find myself flipping through to see how many pages are left. (I do the same thing during movies. I love movies, but you will inevitably see me check my watch a dozen times in a theater.) The difficulty will be knowing I need to read x pages a day to finish a book, but still reading enthusiastically. I do have an exciting way to stay motivated and track my progress. Gold stars? Please, those are for amateurs. The back of my bedroom door is covered with chalkboard paint, so every time I finish a book I'm writing the title on the door with my fabulous neon chalk. It will look so awesome by the end of the year! I do recognize that this will only motivate me to plow through books, but... well, I really want an awesome door.

This week's book is Eat Pray Love. I'm halfway through, but still not sure how I feel about it. I'll keep you posted.