We were supposed to fly stand-by from JFK to Pittsburgh yesterday afternoon, but our flight was full! So we took the AirTrain to the E train to the F train to East Broadway and took the Chinatown bus instead. And I only cried once, briefly! Here are some highlights from My Sunday Night on the Chinatown Bus:
Early on, I wondered, “Hey, who is smoking on this bus? I bet they will get in trouble.” But it was the driver.
A number of people left the bus for a moment at a gas station, and the bus driver drove away without them. “STOP! STOP!” their friends screamed. But the bus driver did not speak English. He did, however, recognize the universal language of people running towards a bus holding water bottles, waving their arms desperately.
We stopped several times at different points in Pennsylvania which I could not identify. Someone got off at a Subway at the side of the highway, and some women got on at another gas station. One of these women sat behind us and conversed with the man next to her, who was visiting Pittsburgh for the first time and seemed to be growing increasingly doubtful that he would ever end up there. “How far are we from Pittsburgh?” he asked, once we had actually entered Pittsburgh. “Another hour or so,” replied the woman. She did not speak English very well. She was just waiting for us to stop in Pittsburgh so that the bus would turn right back around to New York, her intended destination. “I’m going to see the cherry browse,” she told her seatmate. He did not understand. “The cherry browse?” she said again. “Is that right? The trees.” “Cherry blossoms?” suggested the man. Yes. That was it.
Most importantly, someone started playing a Chinese miniseries on the bus’s televisions within the first half hour. I’m assuming it was a miniseries because it lasted for seven hours and had not finished when we left the bus. Since it was in Chinese and also subtitled in Chinese, comprehension was limited, but as far as I could tell the plot was such: A Handsome Guy and a Pretty Girl are on a boat with a Mute Girl. Then, a totally different guy and girl hug in the rain and cry. They disappear for the rest of the series (unless they were killed off in the hour I was asleep). An Evil-Seeming Woman with an incongruous strand of hair across her forehead makes a brick. A man with a beard touches the brick and starts to cough up blood. Pretty Girl picks some wild mushrooms and serves Mute Girl a soup, but the mushrooms are poisoned! But Mute Girl’s okay. Sometimes we can hear Mute Girl’s thoughts. Pretty Girl is being forced to marry a guy? I think. Sword-fighting interlude, featuring none of these characters. Handsome Guy is addicted to drugs and carving stone. Unless the stone contains drugs? There is a stone-carving competition. Handsome Guy is freaking out. Handsome Guy threatens to kill self unless Mute Girl gives him drugs. Mute Girl consumes the drugs so that Handsome Guy can’t, and he wrings her neck. This is where we got off the bus, literally. If anyone knows what this miniseries is, please tell me immediately.
Sometimes the student-athletes you tutor turn the volume of their iPods up to deafening in order to drown out your meek and pathetic warblings of “Hey, guys, maybe we should get off Facebook and start writing?” or “Hey, maybe let’s not punch each other right now?” And then other times when they’ve finished their paper and you say, “You did it!” they say, “We did it,” or they’ll tell you they’re coming in every Thursday night from now on, because you were a lot of help. At the latter times, you worry that it will take everything that you are, a herculean effort of will, to keep from becoming a crude facsimile of Hilary Swank in Freedom Writers.
Yesterday I sat with my grandparents as they watched Patrick in Fiddler on the Roof. Of the show, and Patrick’s performance, they were wildly supportive. “Why, this is wonderful!” my grandmother kept shouting out during musical numbers. And when Patrick began his solo, she shook my grandfather’s arm violently. “That’s Patrick!” she cried, in apparent disbelief. “That’s Patrick!”
Of his bio in the program (which ended with a non sequitur “Word to ya Moms”), they were less enthusiastic. “What the hell does this mean?” my grandfather demanded.
"Oh," I said, “‘Word to ya Moms’ just means, ‘My regards to your mother.’"
"Oh!" exclaimed my grandmother, sounding appreciative of this sentiment.
Then my father, their oldest child, seemed unable to help himself, and drew their attention to the bio of another actor in the show, which included the sentence, “Shout out to all the homies!” My grandmother looked horrified.
One undergraduate (male) leans over to the one undergraduate (female) sitting to the left of him—whom he clearly doesn’t know—and points out how she can fix the typo in the document she is typing. “You just have to put a space in between these two words,” he says, and then he hits the space bar on her keyboard. “Boom!” he says. She laughs nervously.
Tonight as you chug your dyed-green beers, take a moment to consider how rampantly alcoholism runs through my enormous Irish-American family. Also, how susceptible we are to skin cancer. Erin go bragh!
When I was 17, a short story I had written on looseleaf paper while I wasn’t paying attention in math class entitled “If Kurt Vonnegut Was My Father” was accepted for publication by McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. Then, a couple of months later, the editor, John Warner, e-mailed my AOL account to take it back. I can quote from his e-mail because at the time I printed it out and put it in my journal (because I am a masochist). “Dave and Mr. Vonnegut have a personal relationship,” he says, “Dave thinks that there are people who could twist it to be negative.” (It wouldn’t have been that hard, because in the story, my Vonnegut-father was a meth dealer). At the time, I was crushed. “Dave's” rejection had floored me. I didn't really think about the fact that one of my favorite writers had read my story and not (presumably) vomited all over it; I didn't really pay attention to how amazingly kind, how unnecessarily encouraging John Warner's e-mail was. Maybe he had deduced by the numbers in my AOL screenname that I was 17 years old and didn't want to break my spirit, or maybe he just genuinely thought it was a good story. In fact, it isn't. When I re-read it now, I can see the points where it slips into sloppiness, where I'm trying too hard to be funny or kooky. But at the time, its rejection (not even a rejection! An acceptance take-back!) seemed to negate whatever modicum of talent I thought I had.
But. Still I went to college and minored in creative writing. Still I decided to go into massive, insurmountable debt to pursue my MFA in fiction. Still I feel comfortable scoffing at the work of others—even the published, the well-regarded—thinking, “Well, I can do better that that.” Still I have timidly sent some stories out, and still I have been rejected by e-mails not one iota as kind as John Warner’s, and still I have thought, “Well, these people are clearly idiots.” What is this that makes me keep doing what I’m doing?
Delusion. I think it’s necessary delusion. When I try to pinpoint what keeps me going as a writer, even when I write a lot of nonsense one morning or for several months in a row, all I can come up with is that I believe that I am good writer. When I write badly, I never forget that I’ve written well before. I believe, despite all attempts to dissuade me, that it is possible to make a life out of doing this, and I believe I’m going to do it. I am aware of the possibility that this is delusional.
Because this past month I’ve spent a lot of time reading stories sent to Hot Metal Bridge, and I will not pretend that some of them were not bad. And still I want to send each writer a personalized note about how brave and amazing they are for even sending their work out in the first place, something that I never seem to be quite brave and amazing enough to do. But one of these days I’m going to do it. Oh, yes, I am. If writers of bad stories can read over their work and say, “Yep, this is it, this is my ticket to J.K. Rowling-esque stardom,” then so can I.
Kevin and I spend a lot of time talking about how wildly successful we’re going to be—the champagne pools in which we will swim, the solid-gold robots who will perform our menial household tasks. On Sunday, shortly before I nearly crashed his car and killed at least myself while driving back to Pittsburgh from New Jersey, he said something to the effect of, he believes that every successful person is successful because they just did what they wanted to do, despite the many times they must have been told that it was impossible. This accounts, he noted, for the success of people who have no discernible skill or intelligence, like most of the people who work on E! News. I think that he’s right. I also think Max Fischer is right when he says that the secret is finding what you love to do and doing it the rest of your life. How can you fail when you love what you’re doing?
“I can’t say I understand it. I mean, ‘Twitter’…’following’…’Tweets’…’Hanx’…”—My father lists some of the new-fangled terminology the kids today are using, including the term with which Tom Hanks ends all his Tweets.
First, when you’re trying to write a pithy blog post about how you haven’t spent a second of your spring break writing so far, forget how to spell “edition.” “Adition?” “Addition?” Oh, God, no, it’s “edition.”
Arrive home immediately preceding the Academy Awards. Start watching the E! coverage at 2 p.m. You might remember that in past years, this E! coverage has done nothing but make you hate mankind, specifically its members employed by E!. But you will watch it anyway, because it is an excuse to eat so much food. This will be the longest Oscar telecast in a while, by the way, so it’s really great that you’ve tacked on an extra six hours of watching Jay Manuel stumble over his own words.
Have no memory of what you did the next few days. Oh, wait, no, remember: you woke up at 11 a.m. and then finally did some laundry at 2 p.m. You found a hole in your only pair of pants, which became a fine excuse to wear sweatpants for the rest of the day. Though you spent much of these days in front of a computer, do not open up a blank Word document or anything. That would make too much sense. If you wrote something, you would stop feeling sort of depressed and really lazy. So seriously, don’t do it. Check the internet some more. Definitely keep checking the internet, at least every fifteen minutes or so. If you don’t, Corey Haim might die and you won’t know until hours later.
After ten hours of watching Oscar coverage, I feel about as drunk as George Clooney must have felt four hours ago. Did you guys see his interaction with Ryan Seacrest? Dude had that hazy-eyed look about him that usually makes me edge away from strangers in bars. I don’t have a lot of thoughts. Sometimes I wonder about the logistics of the plot of The Lake House, starring Academy Award-winner Sandra Bullock. When Kathryn Bigelow won, I said aloud, “The Spice Girls must be happy” (girl power). Um. Just now I held a plastic Oscar in my hands and delivered a speech to an audience of Kevin, thanking Nathan Lane and Natalie Portman and Sam Rockwell’s character in Moon and Clive Cussler, and Kevin told me that not thanking him in an Oscar speech would be a dealbreaker. “That’s a threat,” he added. I think that’s fair.
“Oprah called me and was like, ‘Hey girl, do you want to ride [to the Oscars] together?’…I was like, ‘I got it Oprah, calm down. I don’t want to show up with you. People will think we’re too cool.’”—Gabourey Sidibe, who should win an Oscar for this quote alone.
Whenever an Academy Awards telecast approaches, people begin to inundate me with requests for my Oscar predictions and Oscar dreams(*). I suppose it’s because I have a well-documented love for watching celebrities interact with other celebrities, especially when they are crying. And I don’t think I need to remind readers of this blog of my disturbing ability to name every best picture winner ever (1935=Mutiny on the Bounty, I’m not even going to look that up to make sure that it’s right, because I know for a fact that it is). So it only seems right, here on Oscars Eve Eve, to share some of my hopes for Sunday’s show (and E! pre-show!), with the disclaimer here that I have not seen many of the movies nominated, I do not plan to ever see some of the movies nominated, and that my stated opinions are completely irrelevant as I am nothing but a girl who loves movies and seeing actresses in pretty dresses.
1. I hope that Avatar does not win Best Picture: The other night when I was watching Titanic, and Gloria Stuart was saying dumb things like, “A woman’s heart is a deep ocean of secrets,” and other dumb things were happening, I was thinking things like, “My God, this movie is so much better than Avatar." Kevin has reminded me a couple of times now that I actually enjoyed Avatar when I saw it, and it’s true, but the effect a movie has on one should not be eye-rolling dismissal the more one thinks of it. Also: I hope James Cameron never gets a chance to say anything at all.
2. I hope that Matt Damon magically wins Best Actor for The Informant!: This doesn’t make sense because he’s not nominated. Look guys, I didn’t see Crazy Heart, okay? And look Mom, I know that George looks really great in a tux. But Matt Damon was really good in The Informant!, you know? I will state this opinion every day until the day I die.
3. I hope that E! does not indulge in a pre-show lingerie fashion show: I don’t know how many of you start watching E! at 2 p.m. on Oscar day (for my own sake, I’m going to assume it’s all of you). Until the celebrities actually get there it’s sort of a 4-hour long commercial for various products that the nominated actors could theoretically be using to prepare for their big night, and always, always, there is an incredibly awkward Victoria’s Secret fashion show, in which some smiling, cold-looking models are trotted out in front of the camera in their underwear while the fully-clothed female hosts say something like, “I know our camera guys are excited!” and usually something similar of Sal Masekela. Sometimes Sal will say icky things, too, and the effect is always one of a heterosexual male who is not particularly comfortable in his masculinity desperately trying to convince the audience that he is not homosexual. Oh, it’s awful.
4. I hope H. Pots wins Best Cinematography: I thought this was the first nomination for the Harry Potter series, but I just checked and it’s actually the seventh. Hahaha, never mind. I don’t care. Except this movie is actually very pretty.
5. I hope Giuliana Rancic gets fired between now and Sunday: She is AWFUL. She is THE WORST. She is always screaming things at George Clooney as he walks blissfully past her, and asking women who possibly suffer from eating disorders their diet secrets. OH GOD SHE IS TERRIBLE. Furthermore, last night we saw a preview for the truly scintillating-looking season finale to “Giuliana and Bill,” the show about her struggle for closet space in her husband’s apartment. Something BIG is going to happen on the season finale, you guys. Clearly it’s not that big, because she’s still alive and not pregnant, but the commercial screamed at us that IT’S! NOT! WHAT! YOU! THINK! and Kevin turned to me and said, “You know, there was a time in my life when I didn’t know who any of these people were.”
6. I hope Gabourey Sidibe wins EVERYTHING: Okay, guys, true facts. Gabourey is the only person I am actively rooting for. I know that this is probably a lost cause. I know that she will most likely lose to Sandra “The Net" Bullock for Sandra’s kind of racist role in a kind of racist movie (it’s probably important to note that Precious is similarly kind of racist, in ways, I think, and so do some other people, I don’t know, it’s complicated). I’m coming to terms with the fact that after Sunday, Sandra “Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous” Bullock will have an Oscar, which is an award that Greta Garbo, Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, Barbara Stanwyck, Peter O’Toole, Fred Astaire, and Orson Welles never got. But wouldn’t it just be so great, I mean, so incredibly great, if Gabourey Sidibe won? Think about it. Just think about it for a while. For one thing, Giuliana Rancic would probably spontaneously combust.
Thus concludes my seriously important Oscar opinions.
Once Lot’s wife and I drove to her ex-boyfriend’s house and egged his car, then drove home singing “You’re So Vain” as loud as we could. I thought we would be friends forever, but she hasn’t been the same since she turned into a pillar of salt.
Noah and I are in the same Stats class. I’m into him and I think he might be into me. Sometimes he picks me up in his ark and we just kind of float around for a while, which is nice. And one time we were walking around and we reached a mud puddle, so he let me ride one of his gazelles across it. He tells me we’re just friends, and I’m okay with that, but I think that if we’re just friends, he should stop making me all those misleading mix CDs. And if we were really friends, he would stop telling me I’m going to drown in the great flood with the rest of the sinners.
I’m telling Thomas, one of the twelve, my plans for after college, how I’m just going to wander the globe for a while in an effort to really find myself. He makes this face, his eyebrows way up and the side of his mouth curving into a smile. “What?” I ask. “Let’s just say I’ll believe it when I see it,” he says. Thomas can be such a douchebag.