The Camry

A touch of bad news that I’m sure is happening for a reason I can’t see yet: The Camry has reached her last days.

I first got my 2000 Toyota Camry summer going into my senior year of high school.  It was a gift from my parents. They traded in their 1999 Ford Windstar (Embarrassingly enough, that was the car I learned how to drive with) for this old model Camry. She was dated but drove excellently. Of course there was a little repair to complete down the road, but it got me through my last year of high school, all through college, and then some – at least up to now.

One of the repairs that had to happen within a month or two of having the car was the alarm system. The Camry came with a very worn remote locking/alarm mechanism attached to the keychain. Though this was useful up to a point, the alarm system must’ve become worn with age and the remote was probably on its last leg of battery. I’ll never forget the day the alarm went off…and wouldn’t stop. It was high school, early fall – either September or October – and I though I can’t remember why, I got out of school later than usual. It was 4 or 4:30. All the after school traffic had dispersed and it as pretty quiet as I began the walk to where my car was parked – uphill on a side street, considered primo parking with the overwhelming demand for parking spots around the high school. I fished for my keys, hit unlock on my remote, and bam – The alarm began blaring full blast. I pressed unlock again, lock, unlock again. No use, alarm still going off. In a normally quiet residential area, people started to stare as it looked like I was breaking in to my own car! I took the key and unlocked the door. It opened. I slid inside, put the key in the ignition, and attempted to start it. No use. The alarm must’ve had a mechanism in place preventing the engine from starting when going off. Feeling helpless, I remember calling my mom in a panic. Eventually it stopped and I was able to start the car and drive away, attempting to hide my embarrassment. A similar alarm fiasco happened another time after this at home and then I demanded the system be taken out. I laugh about it now.

The Camry has a lot of memories associated with her because she was my first car. I only got into minor two accidents with her – The first, I was slightly sideswiped by my grandmother’s landscaper one evening coming home from work. Not my fault. I was making a left and he impatiently tried to go around me as I turned. The damage was only superficial. What was interesting about that (besides him being a total ass) was that I didn’t know it was my grandmother’s landscaper. It wasn’t until he came into her house to get paid a week or two after the accident that he saw my high school senior picture proudly displayed on her dining room table that he recognized me. Naturally, my grandmother informed us all and now we’ll never forget.

The second accident was partly my fault. Early morning on a double-laned street, I attempted to change lanes from right to left, going around a school bus. The left lane was empty, the light was red, and the three cars in front of me had just done the same thing. While straightening out, the light turned green and a Mercedes-Benz zoomed out of nowhere blaring its horn going about 50 mph in a 25-35 mph zone threatening to crash into me. I freaked, cut the wheel too hard, and my headlight hit the metal bumper of the school bus. I was mortified. The headlight took awhile to replace though as the tsunami/earthquake natural disaster had recently struck Japan. Thankfully insurance paid for everything.

In the Camry I drove carpools to shows, came to the rescue and picked up drunk friends, and shed many a tear in the midst of a deep conversation. I ventured to the shore, chatted with friends before their full year abroad, and blasted my fair share of Saves The Day, Kevin Devine, Into It. Over It., Elliott Smith, et al with the windows down and my sunroof open especially after a long day of school or work.

What I really loved about the Camry was the cassette player. About a year ago, I found out it couldn’t really play cassettes. It was pretty shot. But for a few good years I was able to use a cassette adapter to plug in my iPod and phone. It expanded so many listening possibilities. But like everything else I guess, it started to crap out within in the past two years making an annoying clicking noise, stopping, and spitting out the cassette. It was good while it lasted though.

What sealed the Camry’s fate was a rusty exhaust pipe and catalytic converter. The cost of replacement is almost what the car is worth. It’s not a problem I can ignore. It’s necessary equipment for the car to run. We’ve decided to sell it and maybe down the line buy or lease a new car, maybe one for my mom and I to share. Nothing’s definite though. Today I’m heading over to the garage to clean all my things out of it. I accept that it’s gone but I’m not used to the fact that I’ll have to rely on rides from others for a time. When I go to food shopping, the library, or the bank I’ll have to walk. I’m not used to that idea.

I was saying to my mom a few mornings ago as she was driving me to the train how the older I get and the more independent I try to be, the more I end up having to rely on others. It frustrates me. Because I  always thought in your twenties you were supposed to be someone and be yourself and make things happen to advance your life and “career” (whatever that means anymore). It’s like there’s a large rubber band around my waist and every time I run forward, I get snapped back. But sometimes we fight so hard that at times like these we must lay down the sword and accept what’s to come. What happened with my car was out of my hands and I cannot change it. I can only move on from this and hold on to the 5-6 years of memories that the Camry gave me. It’s the end of an era, but hopefully this will pave the road for better things ahead.

How to Blow Your Nose in Public

It’s January, it’s cold – it’s cold and flu season. Coughs, sniffles, sore throat, runny nose, phlegm and mucus – Who’s hungry?

I don’t mean to unceremoniously sound the alarm (or honk my horn for that matter), but this is a issue I’ve been debating for a few weeks now as I unattractively stumble down the New York City streets with tears streaming down my face (which later transform into baby icicles) and my nose running like it has its own train to catch. Sometimes I ashamedly bury my face in my scarf trying to breathe some life into the numb, frostbitten lower half of my face while casually hiding the fact that I have Flubber coming through my nostrils. What’s worse I can’t even feel the swamp that resides over my upper lip because of these polar temperatures! My hand are two blocks of ice buried in two layers of gloves and as I blindly reach for an already used tissue in my jacket pocket, my headphones pop out of my phone and I being to juggle dabbing my rose, replugging in my headphones, and attempting to access my all-touchscreen phone to replay the music I was listening to. On occasion I’ll throw in a little balance challenge because I’m maneuvering through snowy and icy New York in sneakers. But I have to say when it all comes down to it, I end up trudging down 7th Ave doing the best I can, hoping no one is looking at me, praying I don’t run into anyone I know. How many more days ’til Spring?

Last week I was on the PATH heading down to Christopher St. and the time came – I had to blow my nose during a semi-rush hour on public trans. I couldn’t breathe right and I could feel that all too familiar trickle…Well out comes my tissue and the dirty looks I got, GWORL LET ME TELL YOU! If you ever needed to part a crowd, blowing your nose and maybe screaming, “Oh my God, I’m gonna throw up!” will probably get the job done. You feel everyone’s eyes squint at you in disgust as they minimally shuffle away and then avert their eyes to judge you as discreetly as possible. So that’s when I put my Ego aside, tuck my consciousness in the right-hand drawer in my head, and put a blindfold over my feelings. Listen, honey – I don’t blow my nose to look pretty. The noisy clearing of my sinus and nasal cavities is not the new mating call and never will be. I mean, would you rather I just let it slide down my face? But I know as soon as I sound I’m automatically labeled as a diseased, germ-carrying, terminally ill rat. But the best part is when roles are reversed, I’m disgustedly shuffling away from you too. I don’t want your disease. Ew, gross!

I’ve often wondered what the hell the proper nose-blowing etiquette is. It’s too loud and messy to be polite in any way, shape, or form. Ick! A 6-year-old Yahoo! article says it should be done quietly in private with your own tissues and with washing your hands afterwards. Oh yeah and don’t look at the tissue…Like that needs to be said. Well luckily I check out on all of these – when I’m comfortably settled in somewhere like at home, except at home I could be as loud as I want. But when I’m on the street in the blistering cold, what then?! Where shall we turn? Is there a savior among us commoners who could potentially save the human race from the future embarrassment from blowing their nose in public?

I Don’t Know Why I’m Writing This

You ever look at your Twitter feed and be like, “Oh my gosh. What should I care about first?”

It’s overwhelming, all the things that suddenly demand our attention.

Even this post, my blog in general – Here I am, demanding your attention for fear this should fall on deaf ears or blind eyes or ignorant minds.

And I think this recent weirdness, which is unavoidable with the advancement of the Internet and our growing understanding and reinvention of it, plays a role in preventing ourselves from finding out who we really are.  At least that’s my perspective.

I’ve grown up with computers throughout a majority of my natural born life and it’s still this phenomenon that I find is always changing, a phenomenon everyone pretends to be so sure about and really has no idea, just a superficial knowledge.

I don’t know why I’m writing this. I don’t know what I’m complaining about. All I know is that I needed to put something out there to ease the tension in my mind. I’ve recently realized I need to be somewhat involved, if not constantly involved, in some sort of creative output. I’ve recently been getting frustrated with my primary output, music, because I feel it takes too long for me to get my ideas out and put them together. But more often than not, music has always been my therapeutic fallback, reliable through and through to quell the unease in my heart. Writing comes a close second. When I really feel moved by something and want to speak, words come easy to me. I can write or type things quickly and then have something to show for it within a reasonable amount of time. I haven’t delved into fiction in awhile, but I’ve been thinking of taking it back up again. Baking and cooking is also a favorite of mine. It’s a type of creation that relies on effort, skill, and feedback from the tasters, yourself included. Is this good? Do people like this? How can I do better? Do I like this? Am I proud of myself? Was this too easy? Too hard? Did you know Elliott Smith worked in a bakery for a time?

But to get back to the Internet – It’s this popularity contest, you see?

Sometimes I get into these writing modes and I just free write (with a PEN and pages of notebook PAPER!). But I can’t help but make it lyrical sometimes, even tossing in a more than a few rhymes. I think it could best be described as a stream of consciousness to what I’m feeling or what’s going on around me, but it’s too long to be a song. There is no verse or chorus or bridge. And I just go on for pages and pages with no end in sight until I tire out or resolve whatever inner conflict seems to be dwelling inside me. But anyway, one night I came up with this line that I remember just tumbling out of my pen: “Computers extend high school” and looking back, I just feel that’s so true. We’re constantly being updated with the intimate intricacies of people’s lives, rumors, gossip (whether it be personal or political), trivial pictures and videos, bombarded with news headlines that all start out as “BREAKING“, stupid .gifs, suddenly finding out I can stream ‘The Fox and the Hound’ illegally from YouTube, having my attention span broken again and again like I’m procrastinating a homework assignment I don’t even have. But what am I procrastinating? Life? Is that it? Is that what we all do when we reach for our phones perhaps like a smoker reaches for a cigarette? A alcoholic reaches for a drink? (etc) Have you ever tried to go a day without eating bread or just eating fruits and vegetables or no meat? Have you ever tried to go a day without looking at your phone? It’s hard! What is the defining factor of addiction? What bands am I supposed to be caring about? What shows am I supposed to be watching? Will there be a Buzzfeed article that will tell me, conveniently illustrated with reaction .gifs for every cleverly concocted line?

I never know what to look at first because I get so easily overwhelmed that I cannot care. That used to happen to me in high school a lot. I would get so overwhelmed and stressed with my workload that I would just say, “Fuck it,” and take my time doing would I could and if I couldn’t get to everything, “Fuck it,” and that was that. But that was high school and this is the rest of my life. See, and the kicker to all of this is there is no way you can cut any of this out of your life because this is the norm, this is the status quo. You have to be Internet savvy these days for jobs, networking, communicating. People are getting rid of their TVs, their house phones. This is the new hub of communication. Most of my icebreaking when meeting people well-known or otherwise has all gone down on Twitter. And now we’re back to square one: I am stuck in an endless cycle of social media, an information avalanche that I cannot break out of without destroying my online presence which since 2005 has sneakily become a part of who I am because it has influenced nearly everything I do and say. I would be a Luddite to protest the ingenuity of technology and to cower into the cave where our neanderthal ancestors once dwelled, disconnected from the 1s and 0s of our postmodern time.

I cannot live as a person unless I have some ball of electricity buzzing at my center. Perhaps what I’m describing is a transcendent sensation and words cannot do it justice, but for the time being that’s as accurate as I can describe it. That electrical light went out today for a few hours and I felt completely and utterly helpless.  No direction to turn, nothing to do. TV is not satisfying, music is not satisfying, reading is not satisfying, menial housework is not satisfying, video games are a bore, it’s too much effort to do anything. I become unmotivated and stoic, begrudgingly sipping water and nursing this sore throat I currently have with tea and honey. If I were to drive, where would I go? If I were to purchase something with my slowly decreasing funds, what would I buy? I take no pleasure in obtaining material goods unless I have a proper use for them. I need a finish line in my life or I cannot not get up, will not get up. Call it purpose, the desire for experience, or whatever other name you see fit.

When it comes to the dreaded job search, I am overqualified or not experienced enough and when we are given the tempting promise of entrepreneurial life we know it is just fruit from The Tree of Knowledge – something forbidden we think tastes so sweet but is actually more trouble than it’s worth, at least to me. I feel restricted and tied. I am trying to make a sound but it’s as if I haven’t even opened my mouth.

This is 23-year-old me, struggling to make peace with my world around me and it’s hard. It’s confusing. I am trying to move forward, yet I feel like I’m just spinning in a circle. I am trying to get somewhere not knowing where that is, other than knowing it is somewhere other than here. Strange to think our time for “Coming of Age” has passed when I feel as though it hasn’t even begun.

The Kid In The Corner With The Eyeglasses On

I’m 23 years old and sometimes I still get that feeling I don’t fit in.

There’s an awkwardness that accompanies me everywhere I go.

An uncertain hesitation that constantly occupies my mind.

Some days it’s easier to sweep under the rug.

I think belonging and acceptance are quintessential to life

because think about the times when humans roamed the Earth as nomads;

We were part of clans, tribes, families. We traveled, laughed, cried, suffered, and died together.

We were part of a community that aided our physical and mental selves.

It’s a different type of loneliness that I could probably cry in the dark to.

There’s always two sides to every coin,

three sides to every story,

and an infinite number of feelings that get so easily trampled on by the slightest movement.

A moving rainbow swirling in and out. A spiral.

The “cool” factor so convincingly persuades me that high school never ended. It’s still ongoing:

There’s an in-crowd to every clique, to every clique a flag

waved in your face – A reminder you don’t belong.

With all our resources tapped out,

when we stand in the dark naked

staring ourselves down in the mirror,

trying to reach out and touch our own soul,

who are you then?

That’s what I’m trying to figure out.

Building For The Future: GoldieBlox

GoldieBlox

Oh my gosh. Have you guys heard about GoldieBox?! It’s the newest company on the market of building games for girls, with hopes of opening them up to the world of engineering at a young age. These cool inventions also come with a read-a-long book series that follows the tales of protagonist/girl inventor Goldie, as she creates inventions to help her friends. When playing and building with these toys, these little engineers probably don’t even realize is that while they’re having fun, they’re also working on improving spatial skills, engineering principles, and creating self-confidence in problem-solving [GoldieBox].  Plus there’s more than one way to complete a project, so girls don’t feel restricted to one right answer. This is what I’m talking about when I go on about how pop culture can influence society. Toys are part of pop culture!

GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine
GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine

Engineer, founder, and Stanford ’05 graduate Debbie Sterling created a whole line of engineering toys for girls to help inspire them and spark their interest at a young age. How genius! In fact, “she has made it her mission in life to tackle the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and math” [Engineer Girl]. The line has been very successful and reactions have been overwhelmingly positive. I had the chance of catching her short interview on ‘CBS This Morning’ and was inspired in the 5-10 minutes Ms. Sterling spoke about her wonderful idea. Drawing from her own personal experiences, while at Stanford she realized how much the engineering field was dominated by men (Female engineers only make up 11% [The Mary Sue]) and when suggested by her high school math teacher that she major in Engineering, Sterling was embarrassed to admit at the time, she didn’t even know what it was. Interestingly enough, she also descends from a line of strong women pioneers as her grandmother was, “one of the first female cartoonists and creator of ‘Mr. Magoo'” [Engineer Girl].

More Than A Princess
More Than A Princess

GoldieBox started out as a successful Kickstarter project in 2012, which then developed into a thriving toy business.  It raised, ” over $285,000 in 30 days…and has been featured in numerous publications such as The Atlantic and Forbes” [Engineer Girl]. Before the Kickstarter project went live, Sterling was told, “‘construction toys for girls don’t sell’ and ‘you can’t fight nature'”, but like all great success stories the people who dared utter those statements were proven wrong. When asked why people love Goldiebox, the response was perfect, “‘I think it’s in part because the passivity of the average girl-marketed toy is frustrating to so many people from all walks of life. We’re not interested in condemning femininity or suggesting that a girl shouldn’t be a princess if she wants to be. We’re about giving girls the freedom to use their entire brains, whether they build a rocket launcher, or a parade float, or a catapult. It’s up to them'” [Intuit Small Business Big Game]. Isn’t that AWESOME?! See this super cool commercial featuring the Beastie Boys’ “Girls“:

As an interesting side note, Sterling/GoldieBlox was recently sued by the Beastie Boys for using this song for their “commercial” without proper licensing [SF Gate]. Granted, I understand that Adam Yauch (a.k.a. MCA), “requested in his will that the Beastie Boys songs never be used in advertising” [GoldieBlox] but this isn’t some heartless company trying to sell beer or cigarettes or cell phones, this is a company that has the potential to change and influence an generation of girls to believe they’re worth more than the bombardment of pink packaged toys they constantly see in every toystore. Something as great as GoldieBlox can help break gender lines for an entire generation. Surely MCA were he alive would’ve realized the honor in contributing to that. Not only did GoldieBox transform a sexist song (namely, the last verse) through empowering lyrics encouraging girls to build things, and besides the fact that hip-hop is a culture primarily BASED on sampling and reappropriation, Adam Horovitz (a.k.a. Ad-Rock) is married to world-renowned feminist, riot grrl pioneer, female advocate and musician Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill, The Julie Ruin, and Le Tigre. What a confusing move. I won’t say anything more as I do have great admiration and respect for both The Beastie Boys/Ad-Rock and Kathleen Hanna. But come on. I think the commercial is a great bit and the song was an excellent choice, both catchy and easily recognizable just trying to motivate young girls to believe they can be more than a princess.

Debbie Sterling was actually in the audience of Stanford graduates when Steve Jobs made his famous, now viral Commencement Speech [Huffington Post].  And because of that it should be no surprise that after hearing that speech firsthand, she was been so successful at passionately pursuing the project and tearing down barriers. Sterling has been quoted as saying, “we don’t have a national shortage of princesses, but we do have a national shortage of engineers” [Intuit Small Business Big Game]. I stand by her and her ideas and wish her all the success in the world.

On a personal note, as a young girl I was raised to think outside the princess bubble.  Sure I had Barbies and dolls and played dress-up from time to time. But I was constantly showered in books, encouraged to write, draw and paint, and at the age of 4 or 5 began watching Star Trek Voyager with Captain Kathryn Janeway in command. She served as a positive female role model then and continues to hold that role today in my life as 23-year-old young woman.

I watched the Magic School Bus, Bill Nye The Science Guy, played computer games that taught me musical instruments of the world, how to problem solve, and how to read. I was told that instead of being a cheerleader, I could be my own cheerleader and was actively involved in piano lessons, gymnastics, karate, soccer, basketball, and softball. I was a die-hard Yankees fan at the age of 7 and independently picked up a guitar at 14. Perhaps these are all things not part of a stereotypical girl’s childhood. Maybe it doesn’t even matter if it is or isn’t. What I know is that the way I grew up and the things I did and the fact that I was allowed to follow my interests made me the woman I am today. I think it is important that Ms. Sterling is focusing on trying to open up an area for young girls they didn’t even know existed, and making them feel welcome and inclusive in world that has for so long been dominated by boys. Sterling says, “The biggest challenge is one of alienation and not feeling understood by your peers. It’s important to stick to your guns and maintain your perspective” [Huffington Post]. I believe Sterling also understands that how a girl or any child grows up and what toys they play with/gravitate towards, is the beginning of a lifelong process which helps cultivate interests and can determine the direction of their futures.

Sterling is helping to encourage and inspire an entire female generation that they can excel in fields that have so long seemed out of reach or vacant by their fellow female friends. I can’t wait to see how far GoldieBlox gets and wish them all the best. I hope parents and teachers alike embrace this wonderful new product, along with the future little engineers in hopes that they’ll enjoy it as much as I enjoyed learning about it. The future can sometimes seem bleak but when I hear stories like this, it makes me beam from the inside out. To echo Rosie the Riveter, “We Can Do It!”

“For the past 100 years, construction toys have inspired our boys to be thinkers, builders, and inventors. Our girls deserve the same…I created GoldieBlox because I believe that every girl is more than just a princess” – Debbie Sterling [Intuit Small Business Big Game]