Exclamation Pointz

New rule. When discussing age post-25, an exclamation point is required in all uses. It symbolizes wisdom, maturity, old age and the acknowledgement of my mortality. Of course, I’m typing this from my comfortable sitting spot on my bed, the bed I recently migrated to after spending 12 hours on another comfortable sitting spot on the couch.

Hello, super late 20s, when recovery from any activity that demands physical exertion and the consumption of questionable beverages now requires at least one full day of doing just that.

Uck. Uck. Uck. Is how I’m feeling at this very moment.

Which almost didn’t happen, actually. As 28! approached, I decided I’d do nothing for it. I’d been going through some kind of funk for several months (Normal quarterlife crisis fare, like what am I doing? Who am I? Is this real life? Who moved my cheeseball?), and felt like 28! should come and go quietly. I was ready for it. After all, 27! was spectacular, which meant 28! couldn’t possibly top it.

Phil would get here, I decided, and we’d do something quiet, like a quiet dinner and quiet drinks. Because that’s what responsible, mature, mortal 28! year-olds do.

But then I had a sobering thought. What if this was my last birthday on Earth, and I’d always know I’d spent it feeling bad about myself?

Not cool, friends. Not cool.

So, I bought a new dress (something that said I’m 28! Hear me ROWR!), rounded up a few friends and sent this.

Note: Off-the-clock, Real Life Karen sometimes writes without capitalizing stuff that normally should be capitalized, and adds Zs to things that should be singular. Relaxed Karen is CRAZY!

Also, names have been changed to protect everyone’s identities.

slothful saturday![1]

hey friends!

i’m super excited to be celebrating my birthdayz with you guys tomorrow. here’s what we’re gon’ do.

9 p.m. dinner at macondo

drinks & dancing & all-around tomfoolery at von

let me know if this works by replying to all one neat fact about yourself. i will start.

when i was little, i had an imaginary friend named maren who teleported between my world and hers with a flush of the toilet. to this day, she remains one of the coolest people i’ve ever met.

your turn.

I’m deathly afraid of clowns, and even more scared of dolls. The concoction of a clowndoll, I believe, is the recipe of the devil.

Which makes “Poltergeist” the scariest movie ever (haunted clowndoll hiding under the bed)…. and “Zombieland” one of my favorites (zombie clown is pretty fuckin serious as well).

–Qwerto B.

Yesterday, I was in the bathroom at my new job and I noticed the toilet paper was running low. So, I changed to a spiffy fresh new roll. During the exchange, the silver holder in the middle broke in two, leaving me completely hopeless. Thinking quickly, I slid the new TP onto the spring that was inside the holder (the only piece left) and promptly left the bathroom.

Next thing I know, people are getting blamed left and right! Who did it?! Must have been Eldra the cleaning lady! She’s so old now, jeez. Then wait! It was the doorman! He must have come in here to use the bathroom and broke it.

Then came lots of frustrated bathroom-goers muttering, “This is bizarre,” “So crazy,” “Weird,” all while I sat back with my feet up giggling ever so softly at this major catastrophe I’d created.

–Fleah

Growing up (elementary school age), I thought my older sister was the coolest. If she bought the La Bouche “Be My Lover” single, I had to buy the La Bouche “Be My Lover” single… even though we lived in the same house. Basically anything she liked or did, I wanted to follow.

So at one point, she decided she wanted to get a perm. And so by the rules of coolness, I had to get a perm. She told me I’d look just like Joey McIntyre. I don’t know if she was messing with me or what, but since my sister was cool and NKOTB was cool at the time, I thought it’d be a sure thing.

Long story short, I spent a good few months rocking a perm. It was the coolest few months of my life.

–Bill

i have an obsessive compulsive affinity for clean smells.

fresh laundry, shampoo, lotion… i have to sniff it all. as i’m throwing on a clean shirt, sniff. when pulling out a new towel, ahh yess, i sniff. shampoo in my palm? sniff!

I LOVE IT! and i will love you more if you smell clean, too. that’s really why we’re all friends.

–phyla

Ok, so when I was 9 years old and my sister was 5, we spent the night at our two friends’ place, which was also in our same apartment complex. Dotty and David. Those were their names and they were brother and sister. (I amaze myself sometimes with this random memory of mine.) Anyway. Along with us, there were at least seven other kids that spent the night, too. It was a big slumber party; now that I think about it, I’m surprised my parents even allowed this.

The very next morning, we all went outside to play kickball. The night before it had rained, so it was wet and muggy out. One of them kicked the ball too hard, and it went rolling across the street, so we went after it. We couldn’t reach it in time before it went tumbling down into a sewer ditch — one that ran along behind the houses in the neighborhood. The stream of water carried the ball farther down the ditch, and we were determined to go get it.

I remember we all looked at each other to see who would volunteer to go down and get it. Not a peep. Then, my little sister shouts, “I’ll go get it guys!” Me, being the retarded older sister I was, says “ok” and helped her down. (holy lord, what was I thinking?)

As soon as she reached the bottom of the ditch, the current of the stream started to carry her along with it. We started screaming for her to get up but every time she tried to stand up, she slipped and fell because the bottom of the surface was covered with algae and the current was too strong. So there she went, floating away and crying.

One by one, we each went down in an attempt to save her, and of course each time was no different. Next thing you know there was a stream of 11 kids being carried away with the current, and the only thing we could do was yell for help. We floated for a while, at least four or five good blocks until we reached an overpass, where we were greeted and fetched out one by one by the fire department. To accompany them was an ambulance. Thank goodness no one got seriously injured, except one girl did have a cut on her foot.

And thank goodness we were spending the night at our friends’ house because you know Dotty and David’s momma made sure no one’s parents knew what took place that morning since she wasn’t being a very good babysitter!

–Zoozee

***

As you can see, everyone else’s stories pretty much clog-danced all over mine.

And instead of listening to “Dashboard Confessional” in the dark with a tub of ice cream (and buffalo wings and a jar of pickles — don’t judge me), I spent my Saturday night with great company.

28!, I think you and I are going to be just fine.

FOOTNOTE
[1] A reference to an email Phyla sent about this being us on Saturday and this on Sunday. Which is pretty much what happened.

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Into the Rabbit Hole

I had this whole entry planned about exposing yourself to bulk, positive randomness. It was outlined in my Moleskine. My Moleskine that, as I type in the sunny dining room of my apartment, is sitting in the office, probably under a pile of court opinions.

Nonetheless, I can’t think of anything more appropriate than taking a random approach to writing about randomness. Screw plans! Let’s freestyle this sucker.

I see your fingers inching toward the X. Resist. It will be worth it.

(Self, that was super convincing. You’ve dazzled them with your charisma! Stop slouching. And growling. Rar.)

So, uh, as we were.

This post really came about from a series of conversations with friends, work things and life things. When I take my experiences in totality, the ones I remember the most were largely unplanned.

For instance, when I moved to New York, as people who move to New York often do, I planned just enough to get me here. Everything else, I left up to the universe. But I know I wouldn’t have had the courage to do that had I not exposed myself to bulk, positive randomness beforehand.

That, to me, was Spain.

“Can you look up (insert something derogatory here)?”

I rummaged through my purse for my Spanish dictionary. “Fuzz on the lip?”

“That can’t be right.”

It was 2007. A friend and I had ended up at a random bar in Seville and, laughing about the day’s adventures, had attracted the unwanted attention of two men. They’d sat themselves down at our table and spouted off rapid Spanish. We pretended not to speak the language, hoping they’d leave us alone.

It didn’t work.

Instead, they spewed vulgarities, laughing to each other in self-congratulatory fashion.

Insert something vulgar. Cackle. Another something vulgar. Cackle.

After a couple of minutes of this, I looked them in the eye and, with a smile, said, “No me gustan los hombres viejos.”

“Y feos. FEOS. FEOS.”

I don’t like old men. Or ugly ones. (UGLY. UGLY ones.)

I refer to my study abroad experience quite a bit because while it was only for a semester, there has been no other time in my life when I experienced so many changes in such a short period of time. After all, I was in a different country, in a different culture with a different teaching style in close quarters with people from different countries.

Such a situation is pretty much an experiment in social dynamics. It’s so unnatural and out of your comfort zone that your emotions are heightened. You react differently to things there than you would if you were among the familiar.

Given this, I saw people mainly reacted in one of two ways: they clung to the familiar or at least the closest thing to familiar – by refusing to learn the language, eat the food and by sticking close to those who resembled their friends back home.

Or they dived right in.

One of my favorite adventures in Spain happened during the study abroad equivalent of spring break. Semana Santa, as it’s called, is a weeklong respite from diligent studies (I use diligent loosely), and gives you the opportunity to do whatever.  One option was the group-organized trip to Morocco. At first glance, you probably think the natural reaction would have been for me to say: Hell yes! Morocco! When else am I going to travel somewhere so exotic with an organized group of friends and age-similar group leaders?

But by that point, I was familiar with these group-organized trips. All I saw was itinerary after itinerary. Organized tours. Planned meals and meetups. Fun activities confined to specific timeslots.

It was exploration in bullet points, which, to a meanderer, is kind of like reading the Cliffs Notes version of a really compelling novel.

Screw that, homeslice.

Instead, I opted for the bulk, positive randomness route: backpacking through Southern Spain with a friend, a book, a Moleskine.

I don’t need to tell you it was amazing. I should probably tell you that I, still relatively new to this type of travel, had moments of – Oh my God, we’re going to end up sleeping next to Evil Brain-Sucking Tree Gnomes. It helped that my friend, a seasoned wanderer, was there to tell me things would all work out.

And they did. I’m certain I became a much braver meanderer as a result, moreso than had I gone the group route.

Whenever I feel trapped in a grand life scheme I’ve made for myself, I look back on that semester. I’m reminded that we have the tendency to plan things out – school, work, marriage, kids – and stick with the plan regardless of the variables that arise. The plan, after all, gives us the illusion of control over some linear path. But life isn’t linear. Success isn’t linear. Travel doesn’t have to be linear. We’d do much better preparing as much as we can while also giving ourselves the freedom to deviate from that plan.

To embrace bulk, positive randomness is to recognize that deviating from the plan isn’t a form of failure but an opportunity to create something new. Yet, it doesn’t mean venturing into the wild unprepared. In Spain, my friend and I armed ourselves with the language, sufficient street smarts and did enough research to know where we should and shouldn’t be. We recognized when people were being extremely creepy – two girls in their early 20s, believe it or not, had no trouble attracting the creepy – enough to abort conversations and when to trust that the people we met were truly as awesome as they seemed.

The funny thing is, as much as exposing yourself to bulk, positive randomness relies on trusting the uncertain and unknown, the ability to continually do it gets better with experience. Partly because our minds, unchecked, run wild. We imagine the absolute worst (Evil Brain-Sucking Tree Gnomes) to explain away what we don’t know, only to find that the anticipation of the unknown is actually worse than the thing that does occur. Even when it’s really bad.

Granted, the specifics of each situation are different. The effect, though, is the same: it hones your ability to adapt. It lets you know what it’s like to feel completely hopeless and lost and frustrated and beat. And, just as important, it lets you know what it’s like to get yourself out of it.

In a way, you become comfortable in the uncomfortable to the point that when you’re feeling your senses atrophying, you seek it.

The great thing about it all is while the change of scenery is temporary, the change in mindset lasts. I took that mindset home with me, to work with me, to moving back home with me. That kind of consistent exposure prepared me for what was next. Two years after Spain, bolstered by my previous random experiences, I moved to New York. Sure, I thought up worst-case scenarios where I slept in a cardboard box in Central Park next to Evil Brain-Sucking Tree Gnomes, but I didn’t let it consume me. It has worked out just fine.

As for the creepy old men, how did they respond, you ask? Unfortunately, we did not burst into spontaneous song about good versus evil (I imagine it would have gone something like this, and it would have been AWESOME.).

They simply picked themselves up, gathered what was left of their dignity, and left.

The Many Faces Of

In New York, I bid farewell to these fools and headed off to DC for five days of trademark law fun. Each year, thousands (about 10,000 this time around) of lawyers from around the world gather in one city to discuss, educate, learn and, ahem, enjoy, while my team covers the sessions and produces the daily newsletter.

When I arrived late Friday night, the front desk apologized for not having a king-sized bed waiting for me. They told me I could switch rooms the following night.

Whatever, said I, she who falls asleep in non-discriminatory spaces. A bed is a bed, after all.

I started regretting this when I saw my room lacked a full-length mirror. I mean, I’m not that vain (okay, I am), but who goes on a business trip without being able to see if her suited-up self is acceptable? Further, the interior was strange. Lime green dresser. Cheetah print bathrobe. A partition in the wall with a too-high rod and a curtain for a closet.

But then, there it was. What it lacked in me-sized reflections, it made up for in this.

Clearly, all problems can be solved with a bit of distortion.

Note the many evolving phases of the iron and ironing board. With little time to dilly dally, I was only in the room to sleep, dress, undress and sleep again. You don’t want to know about Hurricane Bathroom.

Happy Tuesday, friends.

Who Ever Ever’d

Life is kind of a whirlwind sometimes.

Remember my San Francisco adventure post-work thing last year? Well, the same work thing is happening now, except in DC. But that’s not the only thing that’s happening. Some of my favorite people who ever ever’d are in town – Paul and Alex. Alex and Paul. You might remember them from this.

I’ve known these guys since college. Despite living in different cities, we still try to meet up every once in a while. Or more like, I go on about my business and wait for them to come to me (Journalism pays peanuts, what can I say? Like, this morning I tried to barter a peanut for a piece of gum, and even creepy Billy McGee with the one-eyed parrot felt bad for me).

When we do end up in one place, we turn into carefree, frolicking dweebs (See picture above). There are just certain people whose energy is so infectious you can’t help but want to be around them.

These guys definitely have it.

Let’s start with Paul. Paul, you might recall, left New York for Seattle some months ago. New York hasn’t quite recovered. Sometimes I hear the city wailing in my ear: “Paaauuuullll, why did you leeeaaaaveeee meee?!!” and I have to pat her quivering, soot-covered shoulders, and say, “Chill out, Big Apple. He said he’ll visit.”

Paul emits a certain kind of energy that makes things happen just because he showed up. Allow me to demonstrate.

Setting: swanky lounge. The place is packed but for one empty couch.

Paul: Hey, is that couch available?
Waitress: It’s reserved.

For the commoners, the story ends there. But with Paul…

… But you can sit on that couch over there. Let me kick those people off.

It kind of reminds me of the “30 Rock” episode with Jon Hamm living his wonderful bubble existence. Except Paul’s not at all inept. He’s actually really good at what he does. Dare I say even great.

In college, this made for the “Mean Girls” effect. Like, one time, I saw Paul wearing army pants and flip flops, so I bought army pants and flip flops. In New York, I’ve had people ask me about this mythical Paul creature they keep hearing about but never see. I tell them that perhaps when the moon and the stars align like so, maybe, just maybe they’ll have a Paul sighting.

Then there’s Alex. He wears his heart on his super v-necked T-shirt sleeve, which, for his friends, materializes into a ball of energy. In yo face. Alex can do whatever. He wushus. He acts. He flips. And schmoozes. He can schmooze anyone into doing his bidding. I’ve seen it happen. Like, see this lifeless room with lifeless people? Alex doesn’t know what that’s like, because the energy shifts once he enters the room.

But he’s more than just your average overachiever. He has insight. He talks about life and love and the universe. The other night, at a loud, dude-filled sports bar, he was too busy talking about molecules and atoms and the universe to answer the trivia questions the DJ was doling out (DJ: What country am I talking about when I talk about Sandinistas? Me, rudely interrupting Alex as I throw up my hands: Nicaragua! NICARAGUA!).

Point being, with friends like these in town, a second can’t be wasted on blogging. OK, a second more than I’ve already spent writing this can’t be wasted on blogging (though I wouldn’t really consider this a waste since I kind of like you guys).

I’ll be back soon with tales, pictures and insights. For now, check me out on Twitter and Tumblr.

Friday beckons.

(About the picture: Shoutout to Christine, who also just might be one of my favorite people who ever ever’d.)