March 29, 2007

Way down here, you need a reason to move...

Lose your load,
Leave your mind behind....
Oh, Mexico....
the sounds so sweet, with the sun sinking low
the moon so bright like to light up the night, make everything all right....

This is Alice's fondest hope. Somewhere that she can make everything, or at least herself, all right. If not this week, perhaps next. For the next decade, she has two weeks every March in Cabos to make everything all right, or at least, not have to pay attention to what is not all right, with her or the world.

She had a good week in Mexico, swimming and sunning and talking and eating and only checking in with her email to discover her account -- not the alice, uptown account, but her hard-core business account -- had been declared irretrievably dead by her ISP.

That made everything not-so-all-right: when Alice returned, she had to change her email address in 20 places, plus an omnibus e-mail that she's not sure her friends have all received. Simultaneously, her American Express card was expiring, meaning another round of telephone calls. Alice didn't realize until the other day how she was her AmEx card; her AmEx card was her. It is how she tracks spending on damn near everything.

(As a financial planner, Alice thinks it an unwise strategy, citing statistics that people who are cash-only spend 70 percent to 80 percent of what charge-diva Alice puts out. This is justified by the fact that at least Alice knows where the money goes, that it's not $100 out at the cash machine melted by half by the time she reaches home.)

The town is tourist-central, but 10 kilometers out, where Alice will be sojourning, the stillness is palpable. Alice can see entire constellations from her terrace, vs. the one or two stars visible from her home in Wonderland. She is looking forward to her return to Mexico, to leaving the world behind, in particular the part of it wedged in her mind, and having to seek a reason to move. She can't wait.

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March 16, 2007

Snow splash stops airline

I should be on a plane, bound for Cabos San Lucas with a friend. I packed last night for 10 days in Mexico, then checked my email to find the airline -- which, like ever other I've flown, shall remain nameless, unless you think about continental drift -- had cancelled my flight.

The airlines used to take real snow storms in stride -- this so-called storm hasn't begun to stick to the pavement. Now, the airlines are so frightened of bad publicity, it's as if they won't attempt to fly if the weather isn't perfectly clear, with no precipitation forecasts. Did the pilots forget how to fly with instruments? Even I know how to fly a plane, albeit not a jet, under clear skies.

Reminds me of when I learned to drive: my parents wouldn't let me behind the wheel if there were the slightest cloud on the horizon. Came time to take my road test, it was cloudy and pouring rain. I almost hit another car as I pulled out of the parking space to get into traffic. Needless to say, my three-point turn took four; I hit the curb when attempting to parallel park; and I had to retake the test another day.

These days, I could drive the car that parks itself. (I think it's a Lexus, though that is not a silhouette I recognize.) That doesn't interest me nearly so much as one that drives itself would. According to the commercials, the new Volvo reminds absent-minded drivers to stop before they hit someone. That is my kind of car, one that plays automatic co-pilot. That is a silhouette I recognize, one I want. It's the one that falls under the category of public service.

It would be lovely to have an automatic co-pilot in my life, someone or something to intervene and take over when my mind goes on cruise control. This is the major drawback to being single: the only person available to take up the slack is the same person who needs the rest. Granted, this is predicated on the concept that a marriage of two people, whether de facto or de jure is a partnership, which, from what I hear, doesn't quite seem to pan out that way.

Men are still considered "good husbands" if they "help out" around the house or with the children, while women are the ones directing the homefront, regardless of what responsibilities each spouse has in the world-at-large.

This division of labor is less discordant with my friends who are involved in gay partnerships. Yet the potential discord would be one reason why I live alone: there is no one to disappoint me.

In a sense, I am flying the airplane and I am the airport. In the air or on the ground, the one who declares it's a snow day is me.

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March 09, 2007

A quarter century in the "real world"

In three months, I go to my college class's 25th reunion. Since I am one of the co-chairs, it fell to me to create a reunion book. Herewith, the Q&A I (as editor of said book) helped create.

Name in college: alice, uptown
Current name: same
Address: Wonderland

Home phone: yes, several -- in New York City
Email: alice DOT uptown AT gmail DOT com
Family details: I am a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend.

How do you occupy your days?
I sleep late, work as an independent financial planner, read, nap, blog, email, travel, and, occasionally, cook dinner from scratch.

What would your classmates find immediately recognizable about you since graduation?
My height, hair color, and penchant for sarcasm.

What would your classmates find the most surprising thing about you since graduation?
That I ended up in a profession so far removed from what I allegedly studied and what I wanted to be (a novelist).

What would your 1982 self find most shocking about your current life/self? Why?
That I have retained the same phone number for 25 years, and moved only once, to an apartment building adjacent to the original one. And the two people I cared for most in 1982 remain in the category of people for whom my door is always open.

What was a typical Friday night for you in college What about now?
Then? Always the Pub. (On campus.) Closing the Pub. Closing the off-campus bar. Thursday nights, when the weekend started, we’d head across the river to dance at the county's only disco, or our other favorite club where we wouldn't see everyone we knew. Now? Dinner at home and reading, watching DVDs or staying up talking. Or traveling. Spare me the plane, but give me a great hotel any night.

What are your favorite memories of your time at in college?
Cartwheeling on the Pub dance floor; tea in the Rose Parlor; Halloween costumes; late night tête-à-têtes. Doing my homework in the “work corner” of the Pub. Hours of pinball and dancing. Writing essays for the college newspaper. Liquid lunches with faculty at a campus-related hotel. The surprise party for my 20th birthday. Off-campus dinners with friends. Convincingly participating in class when I hadn’t read the first page of the book under discussion.

What are your three favorite inventions/innovations over the past 25 years?
Caller ID.
Private email discussion lists.

Where do you imagine yourself to be in 25 years?
Retired, content, (I hope) healthy, with a place in the mountains and a place in the Caribbean, with my friends around me.

If you live by someone else’s words of wisdom, what are they?
“To have that sense of one’s intrinsic worth which constitutes self-respect is potentially to have everything: the ability to discriminate, to love, and to remain indifferent.” – Joan Didion

"To be content with what one has is to be rich." -- Tao Te Ching

Sig: T tab po prn

If you were to be next year’s graduation speaker, what would you say in light of your college experience and subsequent life choices?
Life is more maintenance than you could have guessed. Be prepared. Sleep when you have the chance. You’re capable of more than you can imagine, and, if you must start again or choose to, don’t be afraid of yourself in the dark. One of our school's gifts is permission to be a nonconformist, to question authority. Hold onto that perspective – you’ll need it.

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