Monday, January 19, 2009

Inauguration Blah

I'm not terrifically excited for Obama's inauguration. I'm excited for his presidency, to be sure, for all the reasons we all are. I have no doubt that the upcoming years will lead the nation toward a greater truth and existence than we've been able to see since 2000.

But I'm one of the factors that led to his election. Not me personally, but that looming 7.2% unemployment figure. The day I got laid off, I went out with my colleagues (our entire staff was cut by the company) and got hammered. I remember sitting on a curb with my oldest, dearest work friend, hopelessly inebriated, smoking cigarettes (neither of us smoke normally, under employed conditions) and shouting to passersby, "WE'RE A STATISTIC! VOTE OBAMA!"

Our plight, and the plight of hundreds of thousands of others--and the wars and the restriction of choice and the Patriot Act and the blunders and the squandering of goodwill and the lack of tolerance and the and the and the--led to exactly that. We, as a nation, made the right choice. I'm proud of us. I look forward to being proud of our leader.

None of this helps me feel excited for the day we've all been looking forward to, though. I will be sitting at home, typing with a vague sense of futility; I will be organizing my apartment; I will be cooking; I will be exercising. It will be just another day one has when one is unemployed. I've been lucky enough to find enough work to get by just fine--but my sense of professional purpose has been dashed. When the thing getting you up in the morning is only inward, it's hard to feel a connection to the larger world and current events. Socioeconomic groups on the poorer end of the scale are sometimes criticized for not doing enough for themselves (thus leading to a backlash criticism when the loudest voices heard are those of white middle-class well-educated citizens). I've never been one of those critics, but I'm more likely now to vociferously defend the appearance of inaction of those groups: When your free time is a mandate, not a luxury, you use it both more carelessly and less so. My instinct is to use this time for myself, to better my condition--in the short term. Write a pitch, network, get a job. My instinct is not to go to a champagne brunch and celebration like the rest of New York.

I've got plenty to celebrate, yes. I'll just do it when I have a job.


I just found a slip of paper inside a book I'm tossing in my grand get-rid-of-everything fit (The Temple of My Familiar, a lovely book but a far cry from The Color Purple)--my induction into Greenpeace.

Well-meaning college students canvass for Greenpeace in New York, bombarding young professionals on the sidewalk during lunch hour. One day--July 23, 2001, to be exact--one of them caught me at the harmonic convergence of feeling financially secure, consumerist-guilty, and whimsical, and I joined. Fifteen dollars a month until I say nay. I've considered saying nay several times--I get so much damn mail from them that I can't help but think that my membership is actually hurting the environment more than my $180 a year is helping--but what the hell, good works and all.

Anyway, apparently at one time I held the e-mail address toxicartemis at So any mocking I've done of pained gothy girls should be null and void, because nothing cries out I AM SO IN PAIN PLEASE SAVE ME like an e-mail address containing the word "toxic."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Facts I Have Learned From Strangers, part I

Fact: Esperanto was invented in a town in Poland that is primarily known for something else: Bialystok, home of the bialy.

Fact-sharer: Postal worker Alex, a middle-aged fellow who advised me on the risks of sharing eye shadow with my sorority sisters. (Really, I was selling off my leftovers from my Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab perfumes to gothy teenagers via eBay, but you're not supposed to ship liquids, and certainly not to people you don't know.) He believes that Yiddish would be a better global language than Esperanto, and said that in the meantime we should all just "speak jazz."

Fact-checked: True, as per Wikipedia. Bialystock is also home to Boris Kaufman, cinematographer for On the Waterfront, and a handful of Soviet diplomats.

Fact-charm: High, especially because I can't remember how we started talking about either Bialystok or Esperanto. Plus, it will likely come in handy, because if I'm already talking about Esperanto with someone, it's probably a dorky enough conversation for me to introduce factoids about Poland.