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When Henry Met Ally

February 3, 2011

If we were playing a word association game (because that’s what I like to do at parties – which probably explains why I’m invited to so many of them), and someone said the word “Kissinger,” there is a 50% chance that I would respond with “my dad.” (The other 50% goes to Richard Nixon.)

Back in high school, my house was the go-to house for every history study session. Every major test required a group cram-a-thon, because being with 10 other girls and an endless supply of takeout and junk food would obviously make us smarter 12 hours before the test. We rotated houses, usually gravitating towards who got the best grades, or who had the most entertaining parents. My friend Chrissy usually hosted math night, because she was usually the only one who understood math, while I claimed history because everyone wanted to hang out with my dad.

My dad is the best. He’s brilliant and hilarious and he just loves history so much. The night before every test, from about seventh grade until the AP American history exam, my dad would hold court in my kitchen – making diagrams on the dry erase board (these usually got us in trouble with my mother the next day – “who erased the grocery list for an obscure Presidents flow chart?” – that sort of thing), playing air guitar, reciting whole passages from Last of the Mohicans – and would basically teach us the semester’s worth of things we had forgotten.

Anyway, back to Kissinger.

For some reason, the AP gods had huge crushes on the cold war and the 1970s when I was in high school. This meant that Dado had to teach us everything from around 1945 on in one night. So, we ordered a pizza, and he performed a one-man show, informally titled “Nixon and Kissinger: A Conversation,” in which he played the roles of both Nixon and Kissinger. To differentiate the two, Nixon held his hands up in peace signs and shook his head a lot, while Kissinger sort of frowned and spoke in a German accent.

“Mr. President,” he said, hunching his shoulders and sounding a lot like Franz Liebchen, “I must tell you that whatever must happen ultimately should happen immediately.”
“But Henry!” (Peace signs waving) “I am not a crook!”

The good news: we all became détente experts, had nerdy Animal Farm-inspired inside jokes, could recite whole chunks of “All the President’s Men,” and pretty much aced every history exam we took after those sessions. The more unfortunate news: every time I have to work on some Serious Project featuring this time period at work, I continue to picture my father’s interpretation and giggle. And apparently, one is not supposed to giggle during Serious Work Projects.

Which is exactly where I found myself on Monday night. I was in a booking crisis – we had just found out we were crashing a show for Friday, and, most likely because it was after 6pm on a Monday, no one was returning my calls. As you may have guessed, Henry Kissinger was on my list. I called his office, emailed his scheduler, and waited. A few hours later, still anxious and lacking in the bookings, I looked over at the TV next to my desk and who should I see, but Dr. Kissinger himself. And he was in the studio a mere 6 floors below my desk.

Before I knew what I was doing, I was heading for the elevator, rushing down the hall, and standing outside the studio. It was only then that I realized I had no idea what I was going to say. The only thing I could think of?

“But Henry!” (Peace sings) “I am not a crook!”

He came into the green room, looking very much like I expected him to. He started to put on his coat, his hat, his scarf (it’s cold out there), and I got very “it’s now or never” about it.

“Dr Kissinger,” I said, rushing forward and sticking out my hand. My brain was flooded with peace sings and fake German accents and flow charts on dry erase boards. I had a craving for pizza and the Beach Boys. Word vomit kicked in. I talked about my show and the crisis in Egypt and how it was an honor to meet him. I gave my pitch.

He sort of smiled but looked like he didn’t know why some girl who looks like a 12-year-old was trolling the green rooms for him at 10:00 on a Monday night.

After an awkward little back and forth and a handshake, he told me he would have no objection to an interview, but I would have to wait for a call from his office. I mean really, the man is busy and doesn’t have a scheduler for nothing – and who am I, barging in and demanding things and sort of feeling like I had been momentarily sucked into the pages of my AP history textbook.

(“But Henry!”)

In the end, they turned me down – he’s too busy. I guess there can’t be any crisis, since his schedule is already full.

(My dad is probably laughing right now.)


Paging Rod Serling

January 27, 2011

Nothing brings New Yorkers together like a grotesque display of weather. We find common ground in our misery, in our willingness to blame every inconvenience on government officials who may or may not have anything to do with our actual problems, in how ridiculous we all look in our dopey winter gear. Surprisingly, everyone’s collective hatred for everything can sort of cancel out our usual propensity to act like assholes when things don’t immediately go our way.

This morning, while running really late to work (I did not anticipate how long it would take to cross a street, and also refused to get out of bed for a good 45 minutes) I witnessed total strangers clinging to old ladies to keep them from falling over. Some guy actually offered me a seat on the subway. Which I was riding to work, much to my chagrin.

Let me just add a little sidenote here, which will try to unpack my thoughts on the subway. I have mixed feelings about this particular form of public transportation. Lately I’ve been trying to appreciate it for what it is, especially since I’ve been reading The Subway Chronicles, which has really opened my eyes to the abundance of crackpot characters who ride these things at all times of the day. Seriously, the subway is kind of like an aquarium, with different species all banging into each other and the mutant fish and maybe some fungus hiding in the back corner.

But in the morning, it’s just Too Much Pork. People are mean and cranky and crammed together and lots of them don’t bother to brush their teeth before leaving home so I have to smell their morning breath and listen to the soundtrack to The Worst Movie Of All Time, which is usually blasting though their headphones. Plus, ever since unlimited Metrocards surpassed $90/month, I have boycotted their purchase. Instead, I buy a regular card for $20 and see how long I can stretch it with walks and inconvenient transfers. It’s like a game show. I’ve especially come to enjoy my walks to and from work, and the only things that can really hinder these are monsoons, snowpocalypses, and the fact that even after 4 Massachusetts winters and almost 3 New York winters, I still do not own proper snow boots.

Anyway, today was one of those mornings where I left my apartment 15 (okay, 40) minutes later than usual and walked to Broadway so I could get the 1 down from 86th to 50th Street. My one street, one avenue walk took almost 10 minutes and I absolutely cannot believe that I did not fall. It took another 5 minutes to get down the stairs, because the AM New York guy was standing around screaming about the ice and everyone was gripping the railing with looks of absolute terror as they descended the stairs one at a time, in single file This is, I’m sure, normal – for normal people who live in normal cities, but for New Yorkers, it is a novel concept. Do something slowly? Take icy subway stairs at a reasonable pace? What are you doing? Once again, I cannot believe I did not fall down. Things could not possibly continue to go so smoothly (after all, this is NEW YORK SNOWSTORM AFTERMATH!), so I predictably encountered some Trouble at the Turnstile. I swiped my card, only to find that I was $1.15 short of the required fare. How I ended up with $1.35 on my card is still a mystery, as is how subway fare got to be $2.50 without fleece lined cars with gold plated robots serving hot chocolate – or riots breaking out.

Anyway, as I was about to go buy a whole new card, something miraculous happened. Some Guy – from out of nowhere – came up and offered me a swipe of his card. I have rarely encountered true public transit altruism, but now I believe that such things are possible. People were all jovial and jokey on the ride, too – I even took out my headphones so I could bond with my fellow commuters. Clearly, the snow has transported our fair city to the Twilight Zone.

Further contributing to this theory, I was actually struck with how pretty the world looked this morning. Me – the hateriest hater of all things snow and winter – saw some beauty in all this doom. If I didn’t live at the top of a six floor walk up, I would have gone back inside to get my camera in order to document the powdery, peaceful glow hanging over my street.

Of course, I do live at the top of a six floor walk up, so that clearly was not happening. I haven’t descended that far into madness yet. But don’t worry; we still have to get through February.


January 27, 2011

i have accepted that i will never have another snow day again.

winter panic

January 18, 2011

If today had a face, it would look like this.

There is a moment each winter when panic sets in. Where is the sun? Will I ever see it again? Will I ever be warm again? WHAT IF THERE IS NO MORE SUMMER EVER AGAIN? OH GOD MY LIFE IS A DARK ICY PILE OF SLUSH.

For me, this moment often leads into a downward spiral full of drawstring pants and things covered in cheese and/or chocolate. I await its ominous and deadly approach each winter, like the guy waiting for the ghosties at the end of House on Haunted Hill. And, much like the dancing acid-pit skeletons, my moment came for me last Sunday.

That afternoon, I was reading a book for work, when I looked up at my screensaver slideshow of pictures from my glorious weekend in Los Angeles. As the pictures flipped from Santa Monica to Venice to me cramming In-N-Out in my face, I felt a crushing, hopeless, over-dramatic wave of sadness. A small wintry voice in my head was like “hey, ally, you know…maybe summer won’t come again. I mean, it could happen. Maybe it will just be cold FOREVER and you will have to live in an igloo and spend your life this:”

In the morning, I couldn’t get up. Instead, I wanted to throw my alarm clock out the window and watch as it was run over by a circus train. I wanted to cry. I wanted to bury myself in a pit of chocolate frosting and eat my way out. I wanted to wear sweatpants for the rest of my life. But I did not do any of those things. I finally got up, sulked, and dragged myself to work where I spent the day dreaming of cupcakes and worrying that it would never be summer. I feel like I am melting into a big pile of cranky-mush.

There are lots of names for this. Winter Blues. Winter Shits. I prefer Winter Panic because of the manic, disaster-theorizing way in which my brain works. My thought process from January-mid March goes more or less like this:

It’s cold –> 30 minutes of sunlight per day –> YAWWN –> Is it going to be like this forever? –> SNOW –> Yes, it is going to be like this forever –> Remember that time it was warm and you were happy? That’s never going to happen again. –> AHHHHHHH –> Everything is awful –> There is no hope here. Only plague.

Incidentally, that last line was a quote from “The Season of the Witch,” which I spent $12.50 on last weekend. See, this is the kind of thing you do when you are in winter panic. You actually pay to spend hours of your life watching Nicolas Cage fight plague-infected monk zombies and Christopher Lee with buboes all over his face. And then you turn around and watch the freezing rain falling for the 12th straight hour from your office window, and you somehow know that it’s your destiny to fall ass-first into a freezing slush pool on the way home. And although everything you do seems meaningless, somehow Nicolas Cage and his snarky plague banter start to make sense. And Santa Monica and Venice and In-N-Out seem so far away.

is it going to be like this forever?

The Rally

January 7, 2011

Have you ever seen that episode of “Saved by the Bell” where the girls are shooting a music video but Jessie has too much work to do, so she takes a bunch of caffeine pills and then falls asleep right before the gig, and when Zach wakes her up all she can do is sing the Pointer Sisters and cry? That happened to me once.

Back in 2007, a scandal rocked our little campus. And, being the muckraking college journalists we were, the newspaper staff was determined to get to the bottom of it. Also, because we were a campus of 2,200 female liberal arts students, a rally was in order. The Stop Hate Rally was planned for Thursday – the very day our weekly paper went to press.

The aforementioned scandal related to an offensive and anonymous newsletter, which was written to one-up another offensive and anonymous newsletter. Yeah, that’s right. Mount Holyoke students rebelled by writing newsletters. Anyway, the one-upper had gone way overboard and had basically offended everyone on campus to their core. The students were out for blood, the administration was out for damage control, and we were out for THE TRUTH (bangs fist on desk for emphasis). We were determined to find the author and break the story, thereby solving the mystery. Our editing process would usually take all of Wednesday night, and getting our pages to the printer before sunrise was a huge accomplishment. The week of the rally was complicated by the fact that we were all going for a Pulitzer in investigative reporting, and by the fact that I had a paper due in my Shakespeare class the next day.

Also, Shakespeare was taught by a God. My professor was an epic experience. He was brilliant and hilarious with a terrifying wrath that could be awakened in an instant if you wore sweatpants to class or tried to come in late or wrote in pencil. I’d watched people be reduced to a quivering blob of goo under his stare for such infractions, and I didn’t want to think about what would happen if I turned in a late paper. But, true to form, I trooped to the newsroom on Wednesday afternoon with nothing but a flimsy outline for my five page paper on Richard II. The upside of all this was that it was only five pages, which the average Mount Holyoke junior could write in her sleep with both hands tied behind her back. That meant that should the occasion present itself, I was fully prepared to write a paper on an obscure Shakespearian play with my nose. Or something.

By midnight, we were still interviewing students and waking up constitutional law professors on our crusade for THE TRUTH (bangs fist). There were still at least three articles that needed to be written, and I hadn’t even started on Shakespeare. I was no stranger to caffeine pills at that point in my life, so when one of the staffers offered me an Adderall, I figured “what’s the worst that could happen?” and took it. An hour later, nothing had happened and all I wanted was a nap, so she offered me another half. I blame lack of sleep for my clouded judgment, because I don’t know what would possess me to think that that could possibly be a good idea. But I took it, and that’s when my life morphed into an episode of Degrassi.

By 2am, I was feeling great. I was churning out articles and running laps around the campus center and guzzling water by the gallon while standing on my head and probably singing the Pointer Sisters. Everyone around me began to fall asleep, even though we were no closer to THE TRUTH. Because I was vying for the Editor-in-Chief position for the next semester, I decided that I was in change once the editor fell asleep.

She woke up at 4am. I was manically hunched over the computer with a blanket wrapped around my head, drinking coffee through a bendy-straw and making a giant diagram for the front page in MS Paint.

“What are you doing?”

“Oh! You’re awake! I’m making a timeline for lead art and I also went on a bagel run and wrote the staff editorial and re-arranged all the file cabinets!” I also hadn’t started my paper.

The next few hours are a blur. The only things I know for sure are that by noon, the newspaper had been submitted, lead art was not a giant timeline, we didn’t solve any mystery, and I still hadn’t slept, eaten anything or started my English paper, which was due in four hours. I had also entered into full-blown Jessie Spano territory. And I was SO excited for the rally.

Dazed, thirsty and still vibrating with energy, I decided that in order to write my paper, I needed to be inspired. I needed to take off my shoes and feel my feet in the grass, even though said grass was still covered with snow. We gathered in the middle of campus and people held hands and recited poems and spoke about tolerance and love and friendship and it was just so BEAUTIFUL and INSPIRING and I COULD NOT TAKE IT.

I cried. I cried out of exhaustion and brain-addled love and I couldn’t stop. I called my mom and told her how beautiful everything was. She knew something was up – I could tell – but she went along with it while I told her how much I loved Mary Lyon (the puritan woman who founded Mount Holyoke in 1837. She sort of resembles a troll doll if troll dolls hid their rainbow hair under bonnets).

My mom is a good sport.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” she asked.

“I just love you so much,” I sobbed. “I love everyone so much. Everything is so beautiful.”

“Yes,” she agreed. “Yes it is.”

“Also,” sniffle, “do you know anything about fourteenth century England?”

I spent the next three hours alternating between crying, pounding red bull, frantically writing, and block-quoting every passage that may have been somewhat relevant. By 3:59 I was sprinting across campus, desperately trying to get my paper into my professor’s mailbox by the time the English Department office closed at 4pm. I got there at 4:01, but the door was already closed. I can vividly remember running into the door, and slowly sliding downwards along its surface towards the floor, like a cartoon character. That was it. I had failed. I also hadn’t bothered to try the knob.

The door flew open. I looked up at the department Administrative Assistant, who looked concerned. I hopefully held out my paper, which she took and placed in my professor’s mailbox. I was overjoyed to see that it was overflowing with my classmates’ papers.

I started crying again. I thanked her profusely and may have told her I loved her. Then I remembered something else: I was scheduled to lead an information session on the up-coming Student Government elections in two hours. I bolted back to the campus center and hatched another brilliant plan: I was going to make color-coded information packets for each of the candidates. By the time I got up to give my speech, I looked like this:

The speech itself went something like this: “…and on the pink sheet….the pink sheet. Pink. You know what pink reminds me of, guys? Love. You have to love each other. Because love is beautiful. What was I talking about?”

That’s about when my co-chair cut me off and took over. I went home and sat in the common room of my dorm and babbled about love and friendship until my best friend lead me upstairs to my room and listened to Sufjan Stevens with me until I fell asleep.

I slept through Friday, and got a B+ on the paper.

Music Wars

December 20, 2010

My apartment is haunted by a twenty year-old pop-country singer. That’s right, I’m being plagued by the Ghost of Crappy Music.

Let me back this up a little.

New Yorkers know a lot about our neighbors, even (especially?) the ones we’ve never spoken to. It’s not all that hard to believe, considering that the vast majority of us live crammed together in sardine-can apartment buildings.

Though I would oftentimes prefer not to, I know some of the more intimate details of what goes on in the private lives of people I’ve never met – and I’m sure they can say the same about me. This fact only strengthens our unspoken agreement not to acknowledge each other’s existence. If I saw most of these people on the street or in the grocery store, I probably either wouldn’t recognize them, or avoid all conversation and eye contact with them if I did recognize them.

I’ve had some super awkward neighbor relationships in the past. There was the opera singing couple, the domestic-violence-prone leavers of passive aggressive notes, and the angry nocturnal family who hung creepy murals next to our door. There are the girls who live next door and enjoy hammering things and practicing their runway walks at odd hours of the night, and the family who hangs out and screams in the alley behind my building with their 87 children. But all of them have now been drowned out by Taylor Swift.

She has become our new, unseen roommate, thanks to the three girls who live in the apartment across the way – the one with the spectacular view of my kitchen. They have this crappy stereo with even crappier speakers that they inexplicably leave pressed against the window facing my apartment. And they really like Taylor Swift. A lot. So much so that it’s driven me to hate the T.Swizzle, who apparently represents all that is good and pure and blonde in the world. Also she is jezebeling it up with Jake Gyllenhaal which is SOOOOO not okay. (Sidenote: I spelled his name correctly on the first try, which is kind of impressive.)

Anyway, after like the eighth straight day of “I’M NOT THE PROM QUEEN / BUT I WANT A UNICORN / AND JAKE GYLLENHAAL / I’M BLONDE AND PLAY THE GUITAR / AND LIKE FAIRY TALES,” something had to be done. We carefully considered our response. I have these nutso speakers that I’m pretty proud of, so our message would be heard loud and clear, whatever we chose.

Should we go ironic (Run DMC, MC Hammer or Michael Jackson). old school hilarious (NSYNC, “Aaron’s Party”),or all out abrasive (any of the screamo roommate and I bonded over in high school [THIS IS A LESSON IN PROCRASTINATION])? We scrolled through our music libraries until the perfect thing hit us.

Ladies and Gentlemen: enter Kanye West.

If you are unfamiliar with the West-Swift rift, I give you this:

It was perfect. I’m not sure why, but between the two of us (with a little help from youtube), we have a pretty sizable Kanye collection. It’s proven to be just what we needed – their volume has remained at a reasonable level for the past few weeks. And, when it gets out of hand, we know just who to turn to.

So, neighbors, I’m really happy for you and Ima let you finish, but my roommate and I have one of the best revenge soundtracks of all time.


How the Grinch Stole Breakfast

December 20, 2010

Karl Rove has been haunting my dreams lately. While, yes, I know this is weird, I also think I know why it’s happening. First off, I’ve been staring at his face on a screen for weeks while editing a six part mini-series at work (my name is on the DVD box!). Before it wrapped up last Sunday night, I was dragging myself home at 2am – fresh from 14-16 hours in a windowless edit room – where I would then dream about Karl Rove and friends doing things like lifeguarding on a cruise ship and driving me to the airport in a humvee.

The second reason is because this week is the company holiday breakfast. Last year was the first time I got to enjoy this lovely occasion, and I was pretty excited about it. I was standing in line, staring down the dwindling basket of everything bagels, which rank among Ally’s Favorite Things in Life. By the time I got to the front of the line, there was only one left. Enter the Architect, who swept in out of nowhere and casually helped himself to the very last everything bagel of them all.

I was all Cindy Lou Hoo about it, like “oh I bet they’ll bring some more out if I just stand here like this.”

Not the case. I soon learned that we were already in holiday breakfast overtime, and there was no more food to be had.

Really, it was for my own good. Though I love them, I should only be allowed to eat everything bagels when alone. I can’t eat them like an adult and usually end up covered in poppy seeds with cream cheese in my hair. But still. THE NERVE.

Update: I got my bagel this year. AND IT WAS DELICIOUS, thank you. Now if I could only stop the scary show dreams, I’d be set. Unfortunately, I have a feeling Mr. Rove is going to be riding around in puppy-drawn sleigh packed with bagels and hoohash in my head tonight. Just take a second with that one, friends. (And carve that roast beast!)

LASTLY, this is my 100th post. I DEMAND BALLOONS.