Weekly Shocks' Blog


A Slice of NYC Life

Not to brag, or anything, but I live two blocks from Penn Station. It’s an easy stroll to Times Square. The Macy’s Day Parade ends about twenty feet from my apartment. I saw Alec Baldwin outside a McDonald’s not far from my Upper West Side office not too long ago, and last week, a man in a pink tutu and a tiara told me he liked my hat while we waited in the subway during the massive and utterly lovely post-Christmas blizzard.

Yeah. I kind of like it here.

That said, there is an oddness to New York City that I can’t always wrap my head around, and part of it is happening as I type this blog entry.

The man who lives next door to me is currently engaged in what I can only describe as wild monkey jungle sex. He seems to be enjoying it, as is his partner. Good for them. It’s hard finding love in the city, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to criticize the joys that these two have found (quite literally) in each other, even if it’s frankly all kinds of awkward for me, and, gosh, these walls are outrageously thin.

But here’s the can’t-wrap-my-head-around-it part: I’ve met this guy. He’s over 60. He gets dialysis twice a week. He is on more drugs than Keith Richards and his death rattle snores have woken me in the dead of night more than once. (Like I said: thin walls.) The guy is in a wheelchair, ferchristsake.  How he’s accomplishing what he is accomplishing at this very moment defies the laws of physics. And yet, somehow, someway, there he goes. And goes and goes and goes. It’s gotta be a New Yorker thing. It’s gotta.

I’d like to know how he does it, but a mild-mannered, soft-spoken white girl doesn’t ask those kinds of questions of her elders, no matter how sassy her hat is to the drag queen strangers she meets in the subway. Nevertheless, if this old guy keeps it up (thatswhatshesaid), I’m pretty sure the structural integrity of the outrageously thin walls will be compromised, leaving me with a picture perfect view of the proceedings. I suppose I could just wait.

Or I could go try the new sushi restaurant down the street. There are always options here, thank God.


WalMart Headline of the Day

I have to open this with a shocking, punch-you-in-your-face-and-knock-you-on-your-hinder confession. So, please: sit down, preferably with a bottle of Scotch handy and some smelling salts if you’re an antebellum Southern belle or otherwise prone to fits of “the vapors.” Ready? OK.

I have never been to a WalMart.

I know! I know! I’m a freak of nature and an elitist snob and a sorry-ass excuse for an American. The worst part is I didn’t even realize this sad fact about myself until very recently. I mean, shit. How the hell have I managed to avoid the obligatory WalMart experience? And not even realize it?! Christ on a bike. I’m going to have to put ‘Visit Shrine of WalMart’ at the very top of my bucket list or else I’m surely destined for a violent and invasive examination by stern-looking Homeland Security officials, not to mention a cozy seat of fire at the hand of Satan, deep in the pits of Hell.

WalMart is making those trips to Hell even more convenient by getting into the coffin-selling business. You can order one online. And have it delivered in 48 hours. This new venture of theirs just shrieks all kinds of trouble if you ask me, but you won’t, because, again: I’ve never been to WalMart. I am deeply ashamed of my shortcomings. Forgive me, capitalism, for I have sinned.


The Californian Moon. Multiplied by 400.

Have I mentioned I’m a little homesick?

God bless the broke, broken, and bumming state of California.

In other, not-America-or-bum-related news, I’m planning a trip to Germany at the end of this month. Once upon a much more bright, innocent, and schnitzel-filled time, I used to live in Germany and spoke the language pretty fluently. But that was a long-ass time ago (I have bums on the mind, it seems), and I have long since forgotten most of my glorious, crabby Deutsch. Therefore, I expect that my shiny and sparkly return to my erstwhile home should be interesting. I also plan on getting there via train, because every plane that leaves the ground these days seems to end up crashing in a fiery blaze into an ocean or a farmer’s house or a napping cow, and, well, I’m just not up for that. So, my peripatetic journey will be England to Deutschland via train. Hot dog. I am crazy like a fox.


Oh, America.

Well, slap me on the bum and call me Fanny. What’s going on, my good people? How’ve you been? Hope you had a boozy and goofy but not too crazy 4th. Though if it was crazy, send me the pictures. After you get released from prison, of course.

Wow, it’s been a while hasn’t it? Yeah, I know, this blog is filled with far too many shameful instances of me disappearing for days, even weeks at a time without so much as a hint of explanation, then returning, all grovelling and stinky,  begging forgiveness, and offering up more pathetic attempts at wittiness. That’s how I roll. But I’m back now, so you may all rejoice, sigh, grimace, sob, vomit, or whatever it is you do in the comforts of your own home when you read my blog. I’m not one to judge.

Speaking of judging, it’s a good thing I’ve finished with my degree (exam went well, thank you) and will be heading back to Yank Land in a couple of months, because based on what I’ve been reading on the glorious intrawebs, the country is all kinds of screwed up. You people obviously need me. Beyond the recent spate of celebrity deaths that have plagued the land of my birth, seriously, folks: what the hell is up with your state governments? Let’s look at a brief rundown of all the absurdity that has occurred in the past few weeks, yes?

The Democrats in New York locked the Republicans out of the State Senate, after the Republicans apparently tried to ‘seize control’ of the place as if it were Alcatraz. Neat-o.

The “State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations” is trying to change its name, and not because it’s stupidly long and no one even knew the ‘Providence Plantations’ bit even existed, but because that bit is apparently too reminiscent of slavery. Exquisite.

We all know about Mark Sanford’s little disappearing act into the arms of a certain Maria in South America and how he put his saucy little jaunt on the tabs of the South Carolina tax payer. I had a fun few days before the news of his rather predictable affair was discovered wondering where exactly he was and what he was up to. Holed up in a mental institution was my first (and way more interesting) guess. Either that or he skipped off to join a circus. Given how things are going for him at the moment, either of those two options seems to be a good next move for the man.

Good old Sarah has dropped the reigns of power up in Alaska, though I can’t quite figure out why (her unscripted remarks have led me to believe that she’s going to try out for the WNBA, though).

California is so broke I suspect Arnold is gonna hafta raise funds by taking that role in Kindergarten Cop II: Slaughter in the First Grade after all.

Minnesota finally settled the months-long legal battle over its Senate seat and gave the thing to a comedian, because, clearly, the whole issue was nothing but a joke anyway.

Really, guys, I know it’s been a while since I’ve been home, but I expect that you can hold the fort down a bit better than this. It’s fun reading about it and all, but it’s getting a little embarrassing, too. Get it together, people. I’ll be back soon, but first I have to take care of that Harry Potter actor who contracted the dreaded swine flu, and then there are those Facebook photos of the new M16 boss in a Speedo that need to be destroyed, so I’ve got my hands full at the moment. Carry on as best you can without me, ok? Be strong. Also, go figure out which team Ms Palin is trying out for. I have a bet with a friend here.


I’m gonna staple this thing to my forehead.

This may surprise some of you, but I am not the most organized person in the world.

“But Kris,” you’d exclaim (Well, you’d exclaim that if you knew my name is Kris. Hi. My name’s Kris.), “your writing is so elegantly precise and so agreeably direct! It’s enough to make Strunk and White weep tears of joy! How could you not be a paragon of virtuous logic and care in your day-to-day living?! How could you not be a shining example of calm, meticulous order in an otherwise traumatically nebulous, careless world of intellectual anarchy and deliberate obfuscation! And when do I get paid for saying this on your cheesy blog?”

Well, thank you, imaginary reader (see my accountant, he’ll take care of your promotional fees), but the sad fact is that whatever precision I bring to my writing disappears altogether when it comes to the more pragmatic elements of my life. My room, for example, is an utter wreck at the moment, as it usually is. It was fairly orderly when I left it a couple of weeks ago, but I’ve been back for more than twelve hours, so, of course, it now looks as if the Royal Air Force has been using it as a weapons’ explosive training ground. In fact, the only time I ever really clean my room is when I’m procrastinating work on my dissertation, the first draft of which is due this weekend, so chances are good this place will be spotless by tomorrow.

Regardless. I’m usually pretty good at hiding my complete lack of sense and order because people tend to hear the words “Oxford graduate” and automatically assume I’m way smarter and more mature than I actually am. I used to feel somewhat uncomfortable and guilty about misleading people like this, but these folks also usually think Oxford is just a subsection of Hogwarts and we all carry wands with unicorn feathers in them and have classes in broom-riding and shape-shifting, then holler absurdities like “wingardium leviosa!” at each other during exams (that last part is only true if we’ve been drinking, people!). So I’ve just come to the conclusion that there are simply enormous numbers of sadly deranged lunatics on this earth, and I continue along my happy, messy way.

One of the side-effects, though, of being a mess is that you lose everything. Because I am a broke grad student and own almost nothing of value (except, of course, my Sigmund Freud action figure: yes, I really do have one and, yes, it is every bit as awesome as you’d expect it to be), this usually isn’t a problem. Last fall, however, I lost my passport. While I was in England. Two days before I was due home for Thanksgiving. I believe the phrase “Son of a bitch!” left my mouth with alarming frequency when I came across that charming little discovery.

If you’ve never lost your passport while in a foreign country, go ahead and down an entire bottle of Jack Daniels, get into a cab, tell the driver to drop you off at “the zoo” (No worries if there isn’t a zoo anywhere near you: just wave a sawbuck at the driver and that temptation combined with your intoxicated charm and projectile vomit will get you a punch in the face so sharp you’ll see exotic birds circling your head. See? The zoo.), then toss your wallet out the window while en route. That’s pretty much what losing your passport in a foreign country feels like.

The best part about losing your passport right before you’re due to travel is that you get to make the Journey of Shame to your local Embassy in order to get a new one. It’s so humiliating. The place in London looks like that armed compound the Branch Davidians had in Texas before Janet Reno blew it up. That’s always a comforting image to have in your head when you’re trying to replace your primary identification document several thousand miles away from home, isn’t it?! After you get frisked by the guards armed with Uzis and answer a hundred questions about why you’re there bothering them and whether you’ve had any contact with farm animals recently (seriously?), you’re herded into a holding cell that has all the charm of the DMV with none of its efficiency. For the next six hours you sit on a metal chair and occasionally get called up to have a conversation with a screaming, angry troll behind bullet-proof glass who demands every identifying piece of information you have ever collected over the course of your life in exchange for a TEMPORARY EMERGENCY PASSPORT. A TEMPORARY EMERGENCY PASSPORT is only valid for a year and possession of one automatically puts you at the top of the “Immediate Strip Search and Anal Probe Required” list at every airport in the whole damn world. Flying internationally, once a minor inconvenience, has become a bad episode of Cops with a touch of The Twilight Zone thrown in for extra disorientation and shame.

I still have my TEMPORARY EMERGENCY PASSPORT and I’m still grilled about it every time I fly in and out of the UK. “Where was this issued?” “Why are you flying on a temporary passport?” “When was the last time you were in the Middle East and TELL US THE WHEREABOUTS OF OSAMA BIN LADEN RIGHT NOW OR WE’LL KILL YOUR ENTIRE FAMILY!!!!” OK, I made up that last part a little, but it’s still a royal pain-in-the-ass. When I do get around to getting my permanent passport, I’m stapling the damn thing to my forehead and telling anyone who objects that I’m starting a new fashion trend and you’d better join me before becoming hopelessly passé and tacky. It’s all the rage, people. Hop on board before the anal probe gets you.


Camping (aka, Spending Money to be Voluntarily Homeless)

One of the dangers in living in a country as beautiful and temperately mild as the UK is that you occasionally run into people who think spending lots of time sleeping on the ground outside and fending off wild animals is just the most brilliant idea in the whole wide world. I seem to know all of these weirdos. Most of my friends know better by now, but when I first moved to this country, every six weeks or so one of them would drop acid and then suggest six of us pile into a tent designed for two small children, hike through the wilderness until pus-filled blisters oozed through our socks, and then ended up wishing each and every one of the others were dead, eaten by wolves, and roasting in hell. Ah, good times.

I may not have made myself clear: I am not a fan of camping. Seriously, what’s the point? I’m spending a bloody fortune to educate myself so I won’t have to be a homeless bum burning leaves for warmth. Why do it “for fun?” Judging by the number of camping enthusiasts out there, I sincerely worry that there are large swaths of mankind who actually enjoy going days on end without showering, peeing and crapping in the woods, and getting dysentery from a half-raw, half-burnt dinner of moldering hot dog buns and roadkill. A love of camping suggests dark things, my friends, very dark things, indeed.

I think my view on camping may be tainted by the fact that I lost a good portion of both my soul and my sanity the first time I went and have yet to retrieve either. I also lost many of my toenails as well. Those, luckily, I got back, which I should be grateful for, I suppose. Still, it was an utterly traumatizing experience. One day, when I was eleven, my parents decided they wanted some quality time to themselves, so they sent their three pre-teen daughters off into the woods of New Hampshire, along with a pair of well-meaning but woefully unqualified camping guides, six other inner-city girls, and a Ziplock bag filled with trail mix. It was times like those when I questioned whether my parents really loved me. I think the entire trip lasted only a weekend, but I seem to remember slogging up the White Mountains for months, perhaps years, wondering if there was in fact a merciful God and what I had done to deserve such punishment at His hands. Really, there are only so many ice storms you can endure and only so many times you can sink in mud up to your waist before you start thinking maybe that eternal pact with Satan in exchange for a warm bed and a shower isn’t such a bad deal after all.

On Day 7,435 of our Journey Through Hell (or Day 2, I can’t really remember) I decided halfway through our afternoon death march that a change of socks was in order. My feet were soaked, either because of the previously mentioned Mud Pits of Doom or my blisters had finally broken and a lovely combination of blood and pus was now filling my boots. These boots were ever-so-slightly too small for me, which isn’t much of a problem if you’re a city girl and have no intention of hiking, but “ever-so-slightly too small” turns into “instruments of unmitigated torture” when you’re on a dirt trail twelve hours a day, trudging up a bloody goddamn mountain. (Did my parents love me? Seriously?) Anyway, as I slumped on a boulder, peeling off my filthy socks and wondering how this could possibly get any worse (WARNING WARNING WARNING IT GETS ALL KINDS OF ICKY AWFUL WORSE), four of my toenails responded by committing suicide and peeling off entirely from my foot and onto the sock!!!!! Holy Mother of GOD!!!!! I mean, honestly, what do you do with yourself when you’re eleven, your parents clearly hate you, your boots are too small, you’re covered in mud, your toenails have shuffled off their mortal coil, and you have seven hundred years left before you can go home again, take a bath, and change your underwear?!

So, yeah, thanks anyway, but I’ll take a pass on the camping if you don’t mind, freak. You go right ahead without me, though, and have yourself just a lovely time getting a rash, pneumonia, and Lyme Disease. Just make sure you take a shower or three before you come see me again, ok, buddy? Enjoy!


Sloth: American Style

garfield

Important stuff first: despite rumors to the contrary, I had nothing to do with this.

Now that we’ve dealt with those heinous accusations and slurs against my good name, sincere apologies for falling off the grid the past couple of days, folks. I’ve been rather busy with my loving family, visiting the poor of my parish, tending to the sick, concentrating on my prayer life, celebrating the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, and, in general, being full of crap.

I actually have been busy, sort of, but mostly I’ve spent my time happily readjusting to American life, which for me means delicious laziness. Part of this is obviously because I’m on vacation at the moment (don’t tell my supervisor that), but, really, life in the States offers all kinds of modern conveniences that make day-to-day activities so blissfully easy it paradoxically becomes difficult to do anything at all. Seriously, compared to America, living in England is like being on an episode of Survivor, only with stranger accents, more beer, and, thankfully, fewer body lice.

I never expected this when I first went to England. It’s not as if the country is some Third World hell-hole. Oxford, for example, is a jaw-droppingly lovely city, rich in history, culture, architecture, and traditions, a place where you can feel confident that students and locals alike will stumble out of pubs at 2am, bellowing about the football, and then vomit all over themselves and each other before brawling in the streets and passing out in pools of their own blood and urine. True, glorious civilization, as it were. And thank God I live there, because there are only so many American yokels I can take before I go utterly mad and disown my entire redneck family! Haha!

(My mom is totally going to kick my ass.)

Anyway, England. There are all sorts of things about England I didn’t expect. Like windows without screens. Which is fine as long as you never want to get any fresh air without every bug in a fifty-mile radius coming into your room and draining your body of all its blood while you sleep. But, hey, not having any blood is actually a benefit in the UK. Partly this is because everyone there looks as if they wandered off the Twilight set, but mostly it’s due to the fact that the British have yet to master the grand technological wonder of mixed faucets. This annoys me to no end. It is impossible to wash a damn dish in that country without either burning off all the skin on your hands or having your fingers turn into icicles and snap off into the sink. But, again, because you have no blood, at least it cuts down on the clean-up. And you’ll need every bit of help you can get in the clean-up department, because the English don’t seem to like garbage disposals either. I found this out the hard way. After a hearty meal of hiding bits of blood sausage under a giant, oozing pile of mushy peas, I was appalled to discover that the hole in the kitchen sink was simply a hole without any sign of the friendly, waste-grinding machine I had taken for granted all my life. Nothing makes you long for a garbage disposal more than digging around in a kitchen sink hole and bringing out fistfuls of greenish, black-flecked gunk that reminds you of a gangrenous wound, or, worse, that revolting meal you were just forced to eat. It’s enough to make an American weep for home.

Ah, beautiful American living. It really is a glorious place, but it does turn me into a drooling cow. When I’m in Oxford, for example, I walk three to four miles a day, easy, just because I have to – there’s really no other way to get around the city unless I want to get squashed under a lorrie while riding my bike or wrestle with the drunks on the bus. And walking in Oxford is wonderfully pleasant: the city is so conducive to strolling around, I can’t imagine navigating it any other way. I always wonder if the people trying to drive in its impossibly narrow and curving streets are either high on crack, insane, or both. On the other hand, when I’m back in Boston, which is supposed to be one of the most walkable cities in the US,  I cannot be arsed to walk the two blocks from my house to the mailbox. I swear this is shamefully true. This is partly because Boston drivers are, in fact, both high on crack and very, very insane, and view sidewalks as simply the far right lane, so getting mowed over while on a peaceful stroll is more than a remote possibility. But it’s also because no one – NO ONE – in the city would even think of walking to a mailbox and if I were seen doing so, I’d either be shot or carted off to a looney bin.

So, really, it’s much safer for me to stay indoors, enjoy my home filled with mixed faucets, lovingly caress my garbage disposal (this wasn’t the brightest idea I’ve ever had, by the way), and do nothing. Sweet, sweet nothing. I know, I know, it’s not much of an apology for my lack of blogging over the past couple of days, but frankly, it’s all I can muster on the limited pool of energy I’ve got left after all the conveniences of American life have sapped me of my will to move. God bless this country. Moo.