Written Words – Boxed

May 31, 2011

I’ve been tracing my fingers along the seam of a fastball for too long.

There’s a space in the back of the attic for memories like these.

For newspapers, crinkled and yellow, with my name on them.

For European pictures.

There’s a place in the attic for all the ideas on post-its that I fell in love with, that I never quite made it to.

Not defeat. Just storage.

There’s only so much space when you fly with carry-on baggage, and I can’t keep carrying on like this.

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Written Words – Golden Boy

May 30, 2011

An Oxford classmate once warned me about the phenomena. He told me he hated his job with the campaign, that they wouldn’t let him do anything. When I asked him why, he told me cryptically, “it’s because I’m the golden boy.”

At the time, I was not terribly concerned by the prospect that a campaign wouldn’t let me do the dirty work. But now I’m starting to get it.

See, when I moved back to the country, I thought it was culture shock. And maybe it is. But I’m having the same conversation over and over again.

“What do you do?”

“I’m a doctoral student.”

“Where?”

“Oxford.”

:: pause ::

“Oh… well, Oxford. Look at you.”

It’s the “oh” that gets me. The “don’t you think you’re special” undertone. That sense that my education sets me apart, or makes me not normal. That I can’t communicate because people can’t relate to the basic building blocks of my life the last few years.

It’s a barrier. Just like living in England for the last three years is a barrier. The preludes to my stories throw people off now. Every story has a “so I was at Oxford” or “Oxford has this college system” or “I was doing freelance for the New York Times in Athens…”

And I get it. I’ve been extremely fortunate, and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for the world. But it never occurred to me that they’d keep me from being a part of things. Disqualify me from being part of the crowd.

Make me a Golden Boy.


Found Words – Sports Night`

May 29, 2011

“I’m on my feet, I’m bobbing and weaving, breaking tackles, there’s nothing but open field.”


Found Words – Crawfish Boil

May 28, 2011

Maryland crabs training coming through. Today at my first crawfish boil, I was told by a New Orleans native:

“You took to the crawfish table like a duck to water.”

Day one. My life rocks.


Written Words – Thesis v. Cousins

May 27, 2011

It is little moments that get me.

So I’m with my cousins in Atlanta. Trying to keep a good face — but I’m more than a little stressed about the thesis, and some other, well, upcoming events I guess.

I’m wrapping up a rough cut of a chapter that has been absolutely brutal to write. Quick side note — now that it’s done, I realize that this chapter, in and of itself, is as long as my entire Master’s thesis. Good grief this doctoral thing is a pain.

But that’s not terribly important for the story. The point is, I’m trying to get this thing out the door, Stressed. Tired. And my cousins come up and ask me if I can go play basketball.

Now, I tend to only see the cousins once or twice a year, and they’ve been exceptionally understanding that I’ve had some work to do. Immediately Nicholas looks at me and says, “don’t worry if you have to keep writing.”

What a kid. I told him I’d try to make it out.

5 minutes later, I decide heck with it, and out of a sort of familial obligation I reluctantly hit the court.

I was walking out to the backyard hoop when I heard them yelling:

“Big Stephen is coming! Big Stephen is coming!”

Wish I could capture that moment in words. Just the pure excitement that I was coming out to play with them. And the thought that all I had to do was come play. Not be good, not be anything exciting. Just coming to play was enough to get them that excited.


Written Words – Vignettes from a Royal Return

May 25, 2011

The passenger side door in the van no longer opens.

Some might consider this a problem. A detriment to any number of activities. Definitely dates — I mean, how can I be chivalrous if I can’t even open the passenger door?

These are the things I think about.

But then again — perhaps being chivalrous in your parents’ mini-van isn’t exactly possible anyway.

Have the date climb in from the driver’s side? Sit in the back, limo style? Do the awkward get in and hammer at the door until it decides to open? While praying it does?

And if that set of options seems grim — turning on the radio in DC makes things even worse…


“Excuse me?”

“Yes?”

“Are you ready to order?”

I blink once. “Uh, give me a second.”

This is happening more and more often since I got back. Three years, more or less, in England.

But now I’m back, and not used to the extensive American menus. Or waiters who actually wanted to take your order. Or too much of anything, to be honest.

The worst is parking lots. That sudden moment of panic, when I have no idea where the cars are coming from. Left – right. Left- right.

The left-right thing never gets me when I’m thinking about the thing I’m doing. It’s only when I’m looking for a parking lot that I’ll lose track of the other vehicles. Or when I’m thinking about what to do for dinner that I walk on the left side of the sidewalk.

“Only,” but I’m begin to think that the panic, the drifting, is always there, just under the surface.

“A burger, I guess.”

They don’t have those in the UK. At least, not real ones.


The text message said, “I’m back home for a few weeks,” but he knew that was more lie than true. Home being the relative concept. When I want to be more accurate, I refer to it as my parents’ home. And it’s wonderful. Just not mine — as I rediscover every time I walk into mass at St. Rose and the only people I know are the parents of my friends.

The confusing bit is that there is no home. No roots. No anchor. And increasingly, no people.

There is very little in any given location to come back to.

In a couple of spots some memories. In Philadelphia, another life that it’s not clear I’m prepared (or interested) to jump into.

Vibrations.

“aww I guess that’s life- everyones moving out! I just moved back but hopefully ill be gone soon like you.”

I didn’t mean to make it sound that bad.


Traveling Europe helped me solve one of the mysteries of the Universe.

There are a couple of stereotypes that drift back across the atlantic. The bad British food (more accurately bland), the tight European clothes (or, as I now call them, “trendy”), and the lack of showers taken by all citizens across the continent.

That last one, it turns out, is relatively easy to explain:

Bad showers are miserable – old cities make for bad water pressure – and European cities are old.

Really — that simple.


Found Words/Found Music – Sara Bareilles

May 24, 2011

“Leave unsaid unspoken
Eyes wide shut unopened
You and me
Always between the lines
Between the lines

I thought I thought I was ready to bleed
That we’d move from the shadows on the wall
And stand in the center of it all
Too late, two choices: to stay or to leave
Mine was so easy to uncover
He’d already left with the other
So I’ve learned to listen through silence

Leave unsaid unspoken
Eyes wide shut unopened
You and me be
You and me always be

I tell myself all the words he surely meant to say
I’ll talk until the conversation doesn’t stay on
Wait for me, I’m almost ready
When he meant let go.”

Between the Lines