Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Wrachel Rites: Dear Mom

Dear Mom,

Things are great here in Swissvale. I found a nice place to crash, and my new roommates are really good cooks, if a bit messy. I don't mind cleaning up after them, though. I try to stay quiet and out of the way as much as possible.

I love and miss you!


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Dear Mom,

I know you're my Mom, so you're supposed to worry, but I assure you, I'm safe. I have no idea where you picked up all those horror stories about people like my roommates going on violent rampages and killing guys like me, but as far as I can tell, these two are definitely not the type. They know I keep a different schedule than they do, so they set out food for me every night. They even gave me a new nickname. You have nothing to be worried about.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Dear Mom,

Of course I remember what happened to Aunt Minnie, may she rest in peace. And with all due respect, I do have to point out that her situation was different than mine. Anyone would have been startled if they'd been caught by surprise by her sneaking around in the dark like that all the time. And her roommates didn't know she was there in the first place. Mine are well aware of me, and they even stay up late some nights to say hello. Despite myself, I'm beginning to like them.

Benjamin / Simon

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Dear Mom,

Last night the craziest thing happened! I was out for my snack (it was a lemon cupcake--homemade!), and all of the sudden, it was like the room was closing in on me. I'm not entirely sure what happened--it was all so fast--but I kept hearing my roommates' voices. It was the weirdest thing, though: I couldn't see them anywhere! I came out of it pretty quickly, though, and before I had time to think about it, I was running back into my room. I don't know what that was all about. Maybe they put something in those cupcakes.

Benjamin / Simon

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Dear Mom,

Yes, I have been eating my greens. I found a carnation the other day, it was so tasty! I have to admit, though, it is getting harder to eat well. I don't have time to go to the store, so I'm always left to just forage for whatever is around the apartment. I found some corn tortillas yesterday, which I just had to eat plain (my roommates didn't label it, so I figured it was fair game). I helped myself to some other stuff: bulgur, rice, some bread, granola bars, and even some chips. Hopefully my roommates won't mind . . .


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* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Dear Mom,

It turns out everyone has their limit. After I binged on their groceries, my roommates decided it was time for me to go. Don't worry--they were very kind about it all. I think they felt bad, the whole ride to my new place, they kept apologizing and saying how sorry they were, but that I'd just overstepped the terms of our contract. (And yes, Mom, you were right. Turns out the thing that happened to me before was some sort of trap, only the second time around it worked.)

I've been relocated to the country. It's very pretty here. It's green and lush, and there are lots of friends to be made out here, especially for a guy like me. In fact, I think I may even be able to start dating again. Maybe you'll have those grand-babies after all.

Your Simon

P.S. Here's a picture of me and the girl I was telling you about. Her name is Trina. Isn't she pretty? Wish me luck . . . !

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Wrachel Rites (Day Whatever: I Can't Get No Satisfaction)

So, Blogger being shut down messed up my "writing every day" thing. Thanks, guys.

Anyway . . .

When I was a senior in high school, my Dad gave me this CD. I'm not really into the whole "inspirational music" deal. Neither is my Dad (in fact, I don't even know how he came across this CD), but he said he heard one of the songs and it made him think of me. I was thinking of some of the lyrics as I was showering this morning:

We are reaching for the future
We are reaching for the past
And no matter what we have we reach for more
We are desperate to discover
What is just beyond our grasp
But maybe that's what heaven is for

Lately, I've been doing a lot of reaching. I dream of a future where we're not living from paycheck to paycheck and crossing our fingers that it will all work out at the end of the month. I dream of the past, where I had good friends and felt like I was important to people. I reach for better opportunities, a better situation . . . and I have an infinite capacity to be dissatisfied. (I think there's a fine line between the dissatisfaction that keeps a person from becoming complacent, and the dissatisfaction that breeds ingratitude, and I've been on both sides of the line.)

One of my favorite pieces of music is a piece we played on tour with the BYU Chamber Orchestra, Ravel's "Le Jardin Feerique" from Ma mere l'Oye. To me, this piece symbolizes this perfection, just out of our reach. It always leaves us with a reason to keep our hands outstretched. Perfection like that doesn't exist for us--at least not in this world.

The cadence near the end (about 2:34 in this performance) always has something of that yearning, and that's why this movement often brings me to tears. (I happen to know I'm not the only one who feels this . . . in fact, I'm pretty sure I've read this on some of my colleague's blogs! Also, if you read the comment thread on the YouTube video, it's pretty apparent.)

It's always better to be left wanting a little more out of anything you might do. In fact, if you give in and try to find complete satisfaction, you'll probably never find it. It could very well be impossible.

So, here's to never being completely satisfied.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wrachel Rites (Day 9: Pittsburgh Limericks)

Limerick #1 (The Sinkhole in Lawrenceville)

While driving my car 'round in Pittsburgh,
A hole in the road had been split. Birds
flew away when I said it,
(I guess I regret it).
My reaction: exclaim "Holy s- word!"

Limerick #2 (Playa Schenley Plaza)

Perhaps I should not try to preach,
And it isn't my place to beseech,
But bikinis and towels
Seem to me a bit foul
In a park miles away from a beach.

Limerick #3 (Diplodocus Carnegii)

With his long, graceful neck, you could see,
What his monstrous attraction might be,
Though, he makes me forlorn,
With accessories worn,
That dino's dressed better than me!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Wrachel Rites: Day 8 (Papa's Papas)

Some people find it odd how much I love potatoes. When I try to explain it to them, they say, “I know! Carbs! Who doesn’t love ‘em?!”

“No,” I say. “You don’t understand. If I were on a sinking boat, and had a choice between saving a human, or a five-pound bag of Yukon Golds, I’d be eating latkes the next day—alone.” They are uneasy now. “I love potatoes.”

I remember the first time I ate a potato. After having consumed nothing but breast milk and rice cereal, mashed potatoes were my ambrosia. Though the rice cereal would end up all over my clothes and in my hair (a clever trick I played on my mother—it at least looked like I ate it all), my dish of mashed potatoes would be licked clean, without a spot gone to waste. This made Ma-Ma (as I called her in those days) very happy.

In grade school, I was horrified at what the other children ate on their lunch trays, the slop masquerading as my beloved mashed potatoes. I tried to save them from what I was sure was poison (I would shout, “No! Potatoes don’t come from a box! DON’T EAT THEM!” as the lunch monitor dragged my flailing, six-year-old self out of the cafeteria), but after several dozen detentions, I gave up my fight. Let them die—at least I tried.

In middle school, when other boys my age had posters of busty women and rock bands, I took my favorite portrait of a Red Bliss to the photo shop to have it blown up and framed. My younger sister’s friends would come over and laugh at me, but it didn’t faze me. There was no image that could still my heart like that knobby little fistful of starch. It concerned my father, but my mother assured him it was just a phase. “All kids go through something like this,” she’d say. “For me, it was Barbies. For Elroy, it’s potatoes.” By the time I was in high school, I could tell just by the smell when my boiling potatoes were done. Sniff. Done parboiling. Sniff. Perfect for my German potato salad. Sniff sniff. Ready to be mashed. It’s a subtle difference, but you can definitely smell it.

One day, my junior year at college, I spotted the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen across the courtyard. Her hair was russet brown, her beady eyes sparkled in the sunlight, and her figure was the first perfect 10 I had ever seen. I sauntered over to her.

“Hey, beautiful,” I winked. She was taken aback. “Come to my place. I’ll make you dinner. From the looks of you, I think I’d like to get to know you better.” A gentleman isn’t supposed to be so forward, but I couldn’t help myself. I could not let such a beauty just walk out of my life. She timidly nodded, and took the hand I offered her.

At my apartment, I turned on some soft music, turned down the lights, and told the girl—her name was Janice—to wait in the living room while I worked on dinner. I pulled out all the stops. For our appetizer: Spanish-style Fried Potatoes. My favorite salad: niçoise, minus the lettuce, tuna, and eggs. Soup: vichyssoise, but without the leeks (I’ve never liked them, and I didn’t have any on hand). Then, the piece de resistance: Pommes de Terre Dauphinoise. (Dessert: ice cream.)

After the several hours it took me to prepare all this, Janice was visibly restless. I was glad I had prepared such a perfect menu—each course leading to the next, progressing from good, to better, to the very best . . .

“Janice,” I said, looking into those beady eyes, “you are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.” She blushed.

“No one has ever called me beautiful before,” she smiled, shyly. “It means a lot.”

“I can’t believe that!” I exclaimed. She was so enticing, I could have just eaten her up. “You look absolutely . . . delicious.” My eyebrow flickered involuntarily as I said the last word. Janice’s eyes flitted between my gaze and her vichyssoise.

“Would you consider yourself more of a Kerr's Pink or a Vivaldi?” I asked her.

“Excuse me?” Her face twisted a bit as she tried to make sense of me.

“You are so perfect. Those lumps, the nice full middle . . . I’ve been trying all night to decide out if you’re more of a Kerr’s Pink or a Vivaldi. At first I thought fingerling, but obviously you’re much too round for that. Your skin doesn’t have the luster of a Beauty of Hebron, so maybe you’re more of a Kerr’s Pink than anything else. Yes, that’s it. A Kerr’s Pink!”

“Kerr’s Pink? What are you talking about?” she asked, by this point, very confused.

“Kerr’s Pink: the most beautiful potato!”

“A potato?!” she exclaimed, incredulously.

“Yes! I’ve been waiting so long to find someone like you,” I said, and started to kiss her. Surprisingly, she pushed me away.

“You think I look like a potato. And you want to kiss me?”

“A BEAUTIFUL POTATO!” I was in love.

And that, children, is how I met your mother.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Wrachel Rites (Day 7: Fifteen Minutes)

When I was in elementary school, they used to make us do writing exercises where we don't pre-write, don't edit, and just write whatever comes into our minds. It's really hard for me not to edit. I'm a self-editor. But, for today's activity, I'm just going to write for fifteen minutes, and see what comes out.

I was just doing some online shopping for "sundresses." I tried some on in Old Navy the other day, but they all looked like muumuus, and I felt ridiculous. Maybe I'm not the type of person who can wear those cute, flowy maxi dresses and still feel good about life. My husband keeps telling me I should buy things. Yes, that's true. Yellow heels (finally found those) and sundresses. And Chucks, he wants me to have some Converse. I have the best husband ever.

Not just because he is my fashion consultant. The other day, I came home from a hard day at work (well, I work in a high-stress environment, so every day is a hard day) to find that he had cleaned the apartment. Then he gave me a footrub. He stopped just shy of a pedicure, but only because I told him to stop. Why am I so lucky?

The sun is out today and it's a beautiful day. I feel like I haven't seen the blue sky in forever. I sun-bathed on our balcony today, which felt amazing. I love the sun.

We have some buttermilk in the fridge that needs to be used.

Do you know in Pittsburgh, people leave out that "to be" part of the phrase? They'll say something like,

"The dishwasher needs fixed."

Does that make sense? I suppose the infinitive is implied, but it feels weird to me. I hear that all the time here. Crazy Pittsburghers.

I haven't had a burger in years. I can't even remember the last time I had a real live hamburger. I was a vegetarian from the time I was 15 until a few months ago (I'm still a part-time vegetarian), but I don't really like beef, anyway. I had bacon for the first time in years a few weeks ago, and it totally changed my perception of life, though.

The couch I'm sitting on is probably ruining my back right now. In fact, I can feel it. All the springs are broken, and I feel like I'm only sitting about 6 inches off of the floor. But you sink in--and not in the "comfy couch" kind of way. This couch was in the apartment when we moved in. The previous renters must have been lazy, because they left this couch, AND a washer / dryer. I wish our refrigerator would break. It's from about 1980, and to be honest, I'm surprised it does still work. I think it probably increases our electricity bill by about 20% each month.

Anyway, I'm taking the Praxis II tomorrow. I'm going to be a teacher someday. I hope soon. Then I can have a job that doesn't make me want to cry.


(Note: sorry, I missed yesterday. I just . . . I don't know. Anyway, back on track!)

Saturday, May 7, 2011



*Korean Food Bazaar with "Auntie" Sandy & family.
*Light shopping at the Waterfront.
*Pirates v. Astros at PNC Park (they gave us free ball caps), with the awesome Seegmillers.
*Zambelli fireworks show.
*Dessert at Eat 'n Park.


Sorry, no creative post today. I'm bushed.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Wrachel Rites (Day 5: Technology Traps)

Emily shook the box. It was small, but quite heavy. Electronics, definitely, she smiled to herself. It was probably the new iPhone 4 she needed. Her mother would say that it wasn't technically a necessity, but her mother didn't even have a cell phone when she was in high school. She made a point of reciting all her high school friends' phone numbers to Emily every time Emily forgot her phone at home and didn't know her mom's cell number to let her know she was going to be home late. That didn't matter, though, because with all the apps she'd load onto the brand new, white iPhone 4 she was certain was in that precious box, it would never leave her side. She started composing her tweet in her mind, the first task of her new phone: "oMg . . best Bday EVr! iPhone4 is my lvr!"

"Open it!" suggested her father. Emily relented without a fight. She stared at the now-unwrapped box on her lap. No.

"I figured since you're driving now, it would be good to have one of those e-maps," beamed her father.

"There is a GPS on the iPhone 4, Dad," Emily answered, with more than a twinge of displeasure in her voice. She recognized it and tried to mask her disappointment. "Thanks. I do get lost a lot around town."

"Why don't you give it a try?" asked her mother. "We can have cake when you get back."

"Yeah," Emily smiled. "I think I will." She wanted the time to get over the heartbreak. She took the GPS out of the box and went out to her Corolla, plugging it into the cigarette lighter.

"Hello, Emily," the robotic voice greeted her. At least they took the time to program it, she thought. "Now, where to go?" she said to herself. "We'll try Wal-Mart," she decided, entering the address.

"At the end of the road, turn right," said the voice. It was a woman's voice, and she seemed disinterested in the whole affair. Emily obeyed.

"Follow the road for point two miles, then bear right." Again, Emily obeyed.

"Are you sure you're taking me to Wal-Mart?"

"Keep straight," the voice seemed to be speaking more urgently now. "Follow the road for five miles." Confused, Emily followed the directions of the steely voice. She was in a dark wooded area, a place she'd never been before. She turned on her brights, and saw it was a cemetary.

"Creepy," she muttered. "I don't know, I've never been this way before."

"Don't second guess me," said the cold voice. "I'm a GPS. Are you? . . . Recalculating."

Emily was sure she must have imagined. Or maybe the technology was just getting more advanced. "Well, anyway, let's get out of here."

"Keep straight," said the voice. Emily was now driving on a country road. There were still no signs of civilization. "Keep straight," the voice insisted. Emily was approaching a bridge. "Keep straight. Keep straight. KEEP STRAIGHT." The voice was getting louder, faster, more insistent. Emily kept straight. There was no bridge.

As her Corolla plummeted down the ravine, the complacent voice said, "That's what you get for backseat driving."

* * * * * *

"I wonder where Emily is," said Emily's mother.

"I bet she went joyriding out in Krum," suggested her father. "Well, no sense in letting good cake go to waste! Em can have hers when she gets back."

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Lili Escribe (Día 4: Cinco de Mayo)

Sorry to those of you who don't speak Spanish. And, come to think of it, sorry to those of you who do (it's been a while since I've written anything other than casual emails and the like in Spanish, so my chops aren't what they used to be)! You can always get a humorously choppy translation . . .

Pepper Cinco De Mayo images
Cinco De Mayo Graphics - Tumblr Backgrounds

Desde mi primera clase en el colegio, a mi me encantaba el español. Recuerdo aprendiendo las sonidas de los vocales en el primer día de la clase, y como me fascinaba que las palabras que estaba usando mi profesora tenía sentido, aunque a mi me parecía muy confuso.

De verás, a mi me encantaba también la profesora. Se llamaba Sra. Parton, y ella fue joven, bonita, inteligente, simpática, y todo que pudiera pedir en una profesora. Era una freshman, muy tímida, y no me gustaba hablar en clase (desafortunadamente para mí, participación era parte de la nota), pero Sra. Parton me hizo creer en mi misma. Ella fue mi profesora desde Español 1 hasta Español 4 AP (y con su instrucción, recibí un 5 en mi Examen AP).

En realidad, lo que Sra. Parton me ha dado es mil veces más importante en mi vida que mi nota en el Examen AP. No hay otra clase que he tomado en mi vida que ha abierto la puerta para comunicarme con otras personas con quienes no pudiera antes. Tengo queridos amigos ahora quienes solo hablan el Español. Cada vez que uso mi Español, agradezco que he estudiado, que tengo esa habilidad, y que tenía esa profesora bien especial. Y aunque me odiaba el Language Lab (tal vez me parecía el FCC, escuchando mis palabras sin mi conocimiento), y tratando de ganar "pesos," me encantaba la lengua.

Ya lo me encanta.

¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo! ¿A quién le gustaría ir a México conmigo?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wrachel Rites (Day 3: Haikus)

I'm not used to blogging every day! Almost forgot.

Haiku #1
Today we went out.
Andy is very corrupt;
He wants me to cheat.

Haiku #2
Andy isn't bad.
He just wanted to help me
By feeding me words.

Haiku #3
Today we went out.
Spanish food, and dinosaurs,
And cupcakes for us.

Haiku #4
Simon is our pet,
Though many would disapprove.
We feed him cupcakes.

Haiku #5
Washington, DC,
Is a nice place to call home,
Probably, we think.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Wrachel Rites (Day 2: Lighting a Candle is Difficult for Someone Who Has No Desire to Burn)

One surefire way to be a loser in high school is to ride the school bus. By the time you're in high school, you should have friends who drive, or at least an older sibling (or that of a friend) who can take you to school and save you from certain social death. I pretended to loathe my bus rides, but secretly, I loved it. Bus 50P changed my life.

We were a cast of misfits:

Sam (Spam, Spermie): the only openly gay high school student I knew at the time (and Mormon, too). Skinny kid, red hair, rrrrrreally likes the Smashing Pumpkins.

Cari (Cari-Lynn, CaVincent)
: Sam's younger sister, and one of my favorite people in the world. Likes soccer, drawing stars, and the color green. She thinks she is The Hulk.

Matt (Fatty Matty): Nickname is deceiving, as Matt was actually not fat at all.

Josh: Chubby kid who once yelled "You can't ride a bike!" to a child of about 8 or 9 years out the window. Not mean-spirited, though perhaps experimenting a bit with the boundaries of personal censorship.

Jo (Ho): A pretty girl with long hair who played volleyball and had a crush on the Hot Bus Driver (not the Alcoholic Bus Driver or the Weird Bus Driver).

Me: Shy, awkward, and with a strong desire to be numbered among the Cool Kids.

We'd yell, "DON'T FORGET TO STOP!" as we crossed the railroad tracks (Jo usually led us in that one). As we crossed the bridge where it was spray painted, we would all scream at the top of our lungs, and as fast as we could, "LIGHTING A CANDLE IS DIFFICULT FOR SOMEONE WHO HAS NO DESIRE TO BURN!" We always sat at the back of the bus, and tried to make the drivers behind us uncomfortable by staring at them (it's amazing how many things in a car become very interesting to a driver who suspects they're being watched: the radio, the dust from the dash, their loose change, making sure the light is still red . . . ) I recall Sam stripping once, and whipping his belt out of the window.

We had a great time on Bus 50, whether we were listening to the awkward boy sing Shania Twain's, "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!," watching the rebellious girl light up a cigarette on the bus, tormenting the quiet kids, or making up rumors about why our drivers were fired.

Deep down, I think we all loved Bus 50.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Wrachel Rites (Day 1: Kory)

If you were approached by a balding man with a little broom of a moustache and round glasses, you might be inclined to hand him a big black brush, and say, “Sweep my chimney, guvnah?” If I were approached by such a man, I would give him a hug, because standing in front of me would be Kory Katseanes, and as every alumnus of the BYU Philharmonic knows, he happens to be one of the coolest guys any of us will ever meet. Unlike most conductors, there is not even a hint of megalomania in Kory. You call him “Kory,” not “Maestro.” He knows everyone in his orchestra by name—not only those in the first two stands, which is most often the case. He encourages us to be better, and we get the sense that it’s because otherwise, we’d be doing a disservice to the composer, and it would hurt Kory’s feelings. His quotes were legendary:

“Seconds violins, you’re acting like the world’s best lettuce. Be the meat!”

“If you’re going to sin, sin in tempo.”

“There’s a difference between passion and commitment. You guys have been on enough first dates to know that.”

And voted the favorite quote (during our run of Shostakovich No. 5, to Nate Watson, our timpanist), “Back to your battle station, Nate! Darth Vader's comin', baby!”

Yes, Kory was a lot of fun. True, he fed us with coconut macaroons, mint brownies, and BYU Sparkle (the Mormon-approved champagne alternative) at the end of the semester. Yes, I did fall a little more in love with him each day when the point came in every rehearsal for him to get serious, taking off his golf sweater and mussing his fluffs of hair in the process (He would smooth the sides, but there was always an unruly tuft in the back). Those aren’t the real reasons we loved Kory, though.

To know Kory was to love him because to know Kory was to be loved by him. He cared about us as a group, but also as individuals. I think for any of us, he was more than a teacher: a mentor, a father-figure, an inspiration, and a friend.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Happy May Day Lei Day

The pursuit of an advanced degree has led my writing down a terrible path: I now find it difficult to depart from Academese. I wrote for pleasure until I realized it wasn't "cool" to do that, and while I've always been pretty confident about my writing skills, I'm afraid that now, I'm just a really boring writer. So, I need to exercise my creativity.

For the month of May, I will provide you with 30 days of short writings on various topics. This is more because I want to flex my writing muscles than because I think anyone wants to hear from me more often, and I'm sorry you get caught in the crossfire.

I do need your help, though.

What should I write about?

I could write fictional stories, reminisces, fictionalized accounts of real-life events, short essays, poetry . . . I'm pretty much open. What do you want to hear about, though? It will help me in my exercise if I get a more random scope of topics. Otherwise, I'll just be writing about all the boring stuff I think about day-to-day, and nobody wants to read a sonnet about how much I enjoy vacuuming.

So, tell me what you want to hear about. Anything. If it's not too offensive to me, I will sincerely try to work it in.