Archive for the ‘Afterwards’ Category
It almost feels as though 2014 didn’t happen at all. Though it was a tumultuous year around the globe, with the return of Ebola and the continuing epidemic, the unjust killings of innocent American citizens by unpunished American police officers, natural disasters and the bizarre disappearance of two airplanes, my world seemed to stand still. So much was happening all over the world, but as I observed my immediate surroundings, it felt as though things were happening in slow motion to the point where I witnessed decay rather than progress. In the movie of my life, I was the one character caught standing still, almost frozen, as the rest of the picture moved around me, colors swirling and whooshing and encircling me while violins played over the picture. I haven’t been able to breathe comfortably in more than a year, struggling to tread the waters and stay afloat in a house filled with all of my earthly possessions. I have been drowning.
I had plans to move to Beirut in September 2013 to begin working with Transterra Media, but quickly nixed those plans when I faced the reality of becoming a homeowner, a recent college graduate with mounting debt and having accepted a position within a company that wasn’t willing to offer me a salary, or even a position beyond an internship.
Those post-graduation plans began in Boston, while I was still enrolled as an undergraduate student at Northeastern University. Then I returned to New York from Boston in the middle of the summer of 2013, and the house I came home to has been in a constant state of disorder since then. My brother and I began a major renovation due to water damage and moldy beams shortly after my father relocated back to Europe, and shortly after my return to New York. All of my belongings from five collective years at university in Boston packed away in boxes for a year and a half, three suitcases filled with clothing I haven’t worn in almost two years, and boxes of books I haven’t been able to access, let alone read, occupy most of the area that used to be my bedroom. Compounding all of my shit into my bedroom at the end of the hallway are all of my brother and father’s things, including two dining room sets, three couches, two full bedroom sets, two sets of kitchenware and appliances, etc. It was a struggle living that way, without any order, not too dissimilar than a season of A&E’s Hoarders. I managed to reach the end of 2013 hopeful that, in 2014, I would be able to achieve all of the things I had to put on hold in 2013, and that I would see the end result of the renovation early on in the year.
Well, unfortunately for me, 2014 came and went, just like that.
In the blink of an eye, twelve months somehow managed to elapse. I now find myself cooped up with my dog and my brother, living in my Aunt Andrea and Uncle Jimmy’s house somewhat uncomfortably for almost three months now, still waiting for my home to be livable again. Somehow, our house is actually in worse condition than it was at the beginning of the year. Since returning home, all I have done is wait for incompetent people to do jobs they are incapable of doing well. It began with one asshole contractor in 2013 and now involves three separate teams of contractors, all equally irritating in their own right. Over the course of the last twelve months, I have been jerked around by a number of people, offered too many platitudes and false promises, and treated like shit. Honestly, the time since August 2013 feels like it has been one dark, long, inescapable nightmare. It’s fitting, then, that I spent the final hours of the NO YEAR that was 2014 in bed sweating out a nasty virus and plowing through a box of tissues alone and with only a bottle of Vicks Vaporub and a mug of hot tea on my bedside table. The virus is seemingly the direct result of a rough year. As I sweat in bed through four blankets and two sweatshirts, waiting for the imminent end of the year, it feels as though my body is ridding itself of more than just a virus; my body is fervently fighting to endure the virus and the end of the nightmare.
I have lost, effectively, a year and a half of my life. I have a lot to catch up on in 2015. Thank God I had my brother by my side to suffer through the bullshit year with me, for if anyone knows what a shitty year it has been, it’s him. Thank God 2014 is over. I’ll always looks back on the past year as one of the worst of my life, for nothing seemed to go the way I hoped it would. As a matter of fact, nothing seemed to happen at all.
It was nice to wake up this morning, on the first day of a new year. I rolled out of bed, popped two more Tylenol capsules, and took a look outside. The sun is shining brightly in a clear blue sky, the wind moving the barren arms of the trees and the few brown leaves left rustle up and down the roads. It’s a fresh start.
Happy new year, everybody. Here’s to making shit happen this year.
“Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere,
and sometimes, in the middle of nowhere,
you find yourself.“
The WordPress.com stats “helper monkeys” (WordPress’ words, not mine) prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
I thought I would share the information with my readers and with all of you who are following my adventures, reading my posts, and the cause for the fireworks below. I never thought this blog would reach such heights. There is much, much more writing to come in 2013, when I will finally finish telling the tale of 2012. I will be honest, I slacked during this year. That is partly due to my return to a handwritten journal, which took me a few steps back from the blogosphere and from my pages here.
I promise you all, though, that more is coming soon. For now, I wish everyone a happy and a healthy new year!! I can’t wait to realize the promise of 2013, and to see what’s in store. Even more, I can’t wait to share the many wonderful things that have shaped 2012. And these tales will be told about the eight months I spent living outside of North America, away from home, with almost two months in Jordan and six in Italy.
2012: what a whirlwind year it has been. On Friday morning, my journey back home, via London’s Heathrow Airport from Rome Fiumicino Airport, kicked off in Germany. On Saturday night in London, I boarded my fourth transatlantic flight, and 21st flight overall, of the year. I landed at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport at 9pm EST on Saturday night, a mere three hours after I took off from London, according to my watch and thanks to the time zones. It was a long, exhausting, 54-hour trek, during which I was either seated 40,000+ feet up in the air or slouched in some of the most uncomfortable seating known to man, the airport waiting lounge at Rome Fiumicino Airport. What a way to draw the year to a close. On January 5th, I will move back to Boston to begin my final semester at Northeastern University. Bring it on, 2013!
See below for this blog’s biggest hits, popular themes, and what you all enjoyed reading the most. Again, I thank you for following, and I hope you’ve been enjoying it. I know I have.
Cheers, to 2012, and to you all.
Here’s an excerpt:
600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012, and that’s a lot.
My blog got about 5,100 hits in 2012.
If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 9 years to get that many views.
Thank you again, to all of my readers.
…But, I am still posting blogs that I wrote while in Jordan, between May 10 and June 13. I am also waiting on my professor, the boss, to edit, finalize and publish my third story from Jordan. That should be coming soon, so stay tuned.
In the midst of this, however, I’m preparing for another journey. Tomorrow night, in less than 36 hours, I will board a flight to Rome, Italy. For the remainder of 2012, I will be based in Perugia, Italy. This half-year experience will serve as my final co-op through Northeastern University. I will be working at TuttOggi, and learning the language of the land at the Stranieri (Università per Stranieri), through the Umbra Institute. Coincidentally, as I am preparing for yet another international reporting experience, I noticed that the Umbra Institute is beginning its very own co-operative education program. Northeastern University, always inspiring other higher education institutions to rethink the traditional four-year study program. (Jeez, that just sounds like a commercial. Northeastern is good, far from great. I didn’t mean to sound like a snob, or to imply that Northeastern is the best of the best and leading the way in the field of higher education.) In the spring (read: dead of winter) I will return to Boston for my final semester of coursework.
So, this is a preview of what’s to come, and a warning to you, my readers: in the next few weeks you will see posts here from Jordan, dated, as well as more current, timely posts from my travels in Italy.
I hope you’re ready! It’s ok if your answer is no. Join the club. I’m still packing after a very positive and productive all-nighter.
On my first full day at Sundance, I was able to wiggle my way into three screenings: Animation Spotlight, The Ambassador, and 1/2 Revolution. While the snow continued to blanket the streets and peaks of Park City, I waited in a heated white tent at the Yarrow Hotel Theater with Annilese and Katie. The three of us were early enough to snag wait-list numbers 20-23, which is pretty good. (To put that in perspective, I have had some tickets numbered upwards of 75, and did not get to see those films…)
Animation Spotlight was up first, and I went in with no expectations, mostly because I hadn’t read nor heard anything about any of the short films being featured. First up was director Stephen P. Neary’s Dr Breakfast, a hilarious, colorful and loud short in 2D. Thank goodness 3D hasn’t seemed to invade Sundance as it has my local multiplex. The sound editing and mixing, as well as the animation itself, was visually stunning and quite funny. The story is focused on a young man who wakes up in his cottage in the woods to a table full of food. Pancakes, juices, cereals- the list goes on and on. Perhaps that wasn’t the best choice to watch first thing in my morning on a nearly empty stomach. At the sight of this feat, his eyes literally become engorged and the right one pops out of its socket, dangling there. A zipper run the length of his eye, and a long, yellow, floating being springs out and proceeds to eat all of the food. Well, it doesn’t so much eat the food as it does suck it up like a vacuum. While this yellow being flies around the world and under the ocean to search for all the food it can possibly ingest, the young fellow is still seated at the kitchen table wearing his pajamas. A deer from the surrounding forrest peaks into the kitchen window, trying to get the guy’s attention. (This being animation, the deer can speak. Duh…) Another deer joins in the effort, and the pair join forces to give the guy a shower/sponge bath. Eventually, the yellow aura that began its food fiend journey around the globe in an eyeball returns to said eyeball, and the dude, who remains unnamed throughout the short, comes alive again. In his haste, he screams at the deer and kicks them out of his home. A moment later, surrounded by his empty home and consumed by his loneliness, he invites the animals back in for dinner. He lays in his bed when it’s all said and done, and falls asleep. His alarm goes off. It’s the morning again, and Breakfast is served.
Following such a bright, fun little flick, I was unprepared for the darker, more twisted and lengthier Night Hunter. Directed by Stacey Steers, this short explored much deeper themes of feminism and the dark nature of humanity. The story takes place, once again, in a small cottage in a wooded area. Only this time, gone are the vibrant landscapes and cartoon-like figures. The main character, a young girl no more than 15, is alone. As the time passes, the cottage become filled with eggs. A lot of eggs. She is nurturing them and watching over the fragile shells. In the background, a creeping snake emerges from the desk drawer. The story dragged on a bit too long; these same themes could have been successfully explored and the same story told on a shorter scale, in my opinion. What kept me interested during this short film, and kept my eyes open, were the animations and the soundtrack. The music was creeping and haunting, and served as a vehicle to move the story forward as there was no dialogue whatsoever. Never in my life have I seen animation of this kind. Most of it seemed hand drawn, though it was presented as a layered effort. The young female character was based on a famed actress of the early 20th century, though her image was altered a bit so that it fit in more with the rest of the animated animals and the cottage. The snake, which represents darkness and evil in the world, is always there in the background, plotting. Several times during the short film, the snake appears as it slithers out of the drawer, tempting and torturing the young girl, and always threatening the eggs, which are perhaps a symbol of humanity and its future. At its conclusion, I found Night Hunter to be too long, and too dark. Maybe it was just my mood after Dr Breakfast, but I was glad when the eggs hatched, the doves flew free, and the snake was dead, with blood pouring out of the desk drawer. Again, beautifully animated through the very end.
Up next was Avocado, which I don’t have terribly much to say about. The characters sat in an apartment, rode a subway, spoke in French, and nothing really happened. I didn’t get this one, but the animation was fun and quirky. I got a good laugh, though I’m not entirely sure it was meant to be funny.
One of my favorites of the bunch was a Japanese entry, 663114, by director Isamu Hirabayashi. The film was a simple one, both visually and thematically. Its focus was a cikada making its way, slowly, up a tree. The narration was all in Japanese with English subtitles built into the animation. As the cikada rises up the tree trunk, it tells the story of cikada’s everywhere: every 66 years, they come out of the ground, find somewhere to settle, shed their skin, lay their eggs, and die. That is simply their circle of life, and this particular cikada seems perfectly content with that. Toward the end of its slow rise, it pauses, and so begins the difficult process of squeezing itself out of its own shell. Suddenly, the screen begins to shake, and the cikada struggles to hold on. After the shaking comes the tidal wave. All of this is a metaphor for the terrible catastrophe that occurred in Japan, and off its coast, in 2011. The tsunami washes everything away, and the credits roll. It seems that the story is over, and all is lost. But the waters recede, and we can see the tree once again. The cikada is gone, now. But a new voice emerges, a new storyteller. This cikada reminisces about the terrible accident that occurred 66 years ago, and the consequences are immediately obvious. This cikada, a descendent of our original storyteller, is deformed, with a shell that is far from normal looking. Its legs and wings have also been affected, seemingly by the radiation in the aftermath of the nuclear power plant meltdown. In the end, though, the cikada lives a happy life, and we see him perform the same duty as his father did 66 years earlier. He struggles to shed his deformed shell and presumably lays his eggs. It’s a story of the perseverance of the human, and animal, spirit. It’s a story of hope; after a disaster, there is always another morning, a new dawn, and a new beginning.
And finally, the only animated short that topped 663114 was It’s Such a Beautiful Day by director Don Hertzfeldt. With stick figure characters and a heartbreaking, sweet story about a man who has a stroke, this simply animated short was my favorite. I loved the message as well as the narration. Although the man was damaged and lost the ability to recognize certain familiar places and people, he was still living his life and every moment to its fullest. I think that one of the most powerful moments came when the main character walks out onto the street, closes the door behind him, and revels in the beauty of the day. “It’s such a beautiful day,” he says. “I think I’ll take a walk around the block.” This action becomes a pattern, as he goes around the block and forgets about his walk. When he gets back to the door, he repeats himself, and this continues 3 or 4 times. While it was sad due to his condition, it also made me smile; I don’t think enough people take time out of their busy schedules to admire the beauty of each day, each moment. Each day since I have seen this short film, I have made an effort to take a walk just to walk. Not because I have to go anywhere, or need to rush to catch a bus or a train, but just to enjoy that moment or fresh air. Try it some time: just go for a walk, clear your head, and take note of the beauty around you.
I woke up this morning at 5:40 a.m. My eyes didn’t stay open long. After feeling around for a few minutes, I reached under my socks on the floor next to the recliner I slept in, picked up my watch, and saw that it was 5:42 a.m. Immediately, I made the executive decision to go back to sleep. The condo was quiet, other than a few minor snores coming from the bedroom above and the couch next to me. I know some people left shortly before I woke up, in order to get to the theater and get wait-list tickets to see Celeste and Jesse Forever. I didn’t yet have the energy to trek down and wait in line before sunrise. But, a few hours later, I woke up again, this time at the more reasonable hour of 8:10 a.m. I stretched a bit, and then waited. I’m not sure what I was waiting for, but I knew I had to wait for something. I was in no position to venture out into Park City alone, and even less ready to find a theater where a movie I might want to see would be screening. I didn’t even have a map of the festival yet.
After a few minutes, I mustered up the energy to stand up. I yawned. I stretched. I stared out the window, for longer than I think I intended to. But I couldn’t pull myself away- the snow covered mountains were just too beautiful. Snow had been falling since late last night, when my plane landed on the tarmac. Spotted: a Sundance film guide on the kitchen counter, where the movies playing each day are all listed on a nice, neat grid, with handy-dandy plot summaries and showtimes. Jaaaaackpot. I pulled out one of the bar stools and took a seat as I flipped through the guide, stopping to read the summaries of anything I had heard of, or sounded interesting. I was guilty of judging these movies by their titles and the screen shot that accompanied them. I’m sure that someone will think everything is interesting and the best film ever created, but I’m not one of those people. There are some movies I enjoy, there are some I’ll tolerate, and there are others I refuse to watch.
As I turned the pages, I became more and more excited about my current adventure here in Park City. Before I arrived, and before I booked my ticket, I think I was more excited about the idea of Sundance rather than the actual film festival. Now that I was in the moment, and actually planning out my day and picking out which films I want to see, it hit me: YOU’RE AT SUNDANCE! As soon as that lightbulb went off above my head- since I am, in fact, a cartoon character- I rushed into the bathroom, brushed my teeth, and started getting dressed. I threw my long johns on, pulled out my snow boots, and ventured out into the snowy morning with Annilese, Katie and Dan. We walked down the road, almost got run down by a snow plow, and caught the shuttle bus to the Yarrow Hotel Theater. I’m just saying: the plow was on the sidewalk, we were not walking in the street… I tend to get grief about walking on and around streets. It’s a long story. Ok, it’s a pretty short story- I got hit by a school bus in Boston in 2009. There.
Once we were on the bus, we ran into another member of our gang, Jessica. It was my first time meeting her. She sat down next to me on the bus and we chatted a bit about her morning and what films she had seen. We all exited the bus at the stop for the Yarrow Hotel Theater, where we went our separate ways. Katie, Annilese and myself got in the wait-list line for the Animation Spotlight, which was a compilation of all the animated short films being screened at Sundance. A total of nine short films were shown, each of varying quality. I personally loved the animation- some were 2D, others were 3D claymation, and to my surprise, none were digital. I’ll post a bit later on tonight about each of the films individually, but for now, I’ve got to get going. If I’m not standing on the line for 1/2 Revolution within the next 10 minutes, I will have to stand at the back of the line and my numbered ticket and the fact that I showed up two hours early won’t matter. (1/2 Revolution is a documentary about the Egyptian people’s revolution that began a year ago in January 2011, so I really
want to need to see it.) So, be back soon, people.
Keep reading 🙂 I mean, if you want to…. it’s a free country, and, for now, a free Internet.
Sometimes I wish I were better at planning ahead. As I write this, I am flying somewhere over the Midwestern United States- Wyoming, specifically- 45 minutes away from Salt Lake City International Airport. So far, we’ve flown 1,976 miles. This is one of the longest domestic flights I have ever taken. Actually, it is only second to a trip I took in 2007 to Sand Diego, CA. By the time my flight touches down on the tarmac, it will be around 11 p.m. in Boston, 9 p.m. local time. At least I’ll get to enjoy Salt Lake City for an hour or so before I head to the condo in Park City. I will be staying there, at the condo, with a group of 12 other Northeastern students and a cinema studies professor, David Grotell.
As this plan to make my way to Sundance took form and became a reality over the last month or two, I hadn’t given much thought to my agenda at Sundance. Obviously, I plan on watching a good film or fifteen- as many as I can afford and actually acquire a ticket for, I guess. But, this might be more difficult than I think. I mean, it’s Sundance Film Festival for crying out loud, it’s a big f*cking deal. You know, the same way Vice President Biden feels about Obamacare…. but on a different scale, and to a different demographic.
I hope I am wrong, and that I will, in fact, have the chance to see a multitude of incredible films on the brink of breaking out as bona fide hits after their debut in Park City. Who knows, I might be sitting in the theater watching the next “Slumdog Millionaire” or “Little Miss Sunshine.”
But aside from Sundance itself and my hopes and dreams of sharing oxygen in a theater with some of the biggest players in the game, this flight has given me time to formulate other, perhaps alternate, plans. You know, in case my whole college-kid-goes-to-Sundance-on-a-whim-with-a-pocket-full-of-dreams fairytale doesn’t pan out. The little 3×5 screen in front of me keeps reminding me that it is snowing in Utah, and that this weather is supposed to continue through at least Saturday, probably Sunday. So, given that information, I would be nuts not to go skiing, right? I totally agree with you, I’d be nuts. In the last hour alone, I have made it a goal of this trip to ski on real, west coast snow. Last time I went skiing was the winter of 2010, and it was more like ice-skating down a slope with skis instead of ice skates. Sure, the resorts in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont are more convenient, but they’re mediocre, at best. Or so I’ve heard…. I have a strong inclination that, come Tuesday, I will be one of those people that affirms if you haven’t experienced skiing out west, you haven’t skied. But for now, I’m still just a novice, naïve east coast kid who has skied here and there.
Note: this paragraph will consist mostly of stream of consciousness, side notes of random thoughts that don’t fit any place else in this post. My feet are freezing. I am flying with two carry on bags, so I didn’t have room to pack my boots or coat. So, I arrived at Logan airport wearing my heavy coat, hat, gloves, scarf, boots, etc. All this gear I’ll certainly need in Salt Lake City and Park City, but I was a bit over-dressed for Boston. The sun was beaming, melting the snow that coated the city on Thursday night. I think the temperature was hovering somewhere in the 40s. Point is, I was sweating, but it was necessary. Had I dressed appropriately and just packed for Utah, then I would have had to check a bag. And that is something I avoid at all costs. I’ve never had a bad experience myself, so I guess you’d call it paranoia. Or, more accurately, impatience. Waiting for your suitcase to come rolling by on the baggage carousel, after sitting on a plane for hours, is one of the worst periods of time on any trip. Thus, I opt out of it. That usually requires me to pack a little lighter, and lug more around, but it is definitely worth it in the end. Back to my feet- I think I still have them, though I haven’t felt since I woke up from my nap an hour and a half ago. I took off my boots as soon as I sat down in 28F, window seat (nice!). They’re big and bulky, and not the most comfortable things in the world. So, I took em off. Get comfy, I thought. Well, when I woke up, both left and right were still sound asleep. (Damn, they’re going to be up all night, now…) Numb, actually. I’m not sure why, but there is freezing cold air, -42˚C according to that 3×5 screen, creeping into the plane and rushing over my feet. The whole time, this air has frozen my feet to the point where I can’t even be sure they’re still down there. I refuse to put on my boots, though, because I’d rather wait until I’m about to get off the plane. These boots are great in the snow, and real warm, but they hurt my shins. Maybe I tie them too tight, or maybe my legs are just not accustomed to being trapped in a shoe that rises 4 or 5 inches above my ankle. I don’t really wear em unless I have to, for all those reasons.
Well, all that above was written on the plane. I am now back on solid ground at Salt Lake City International Airport, and it is 20 to 10. I’m waiting for the shuttle bus to arrive and take me to Park City. I’m so exhausted, but so excited to be here. I touched base with Dustin, another student here, and he is with the rest of the gang at the film festival waiting in line. I didn’t ask what they’re going to see, I think it would have made me too jealous.
To kick things off this early, snowy morning, I think I’ll use someone else’s words.
“I’m a morning person. The earlier I can begin, the better. I wake up knowing what I want to write- when I’m in progress with a story,” wrote Eudora Welty.
I don’t know that I’m quite a morning person by 21st century standards, but I will say that I love the morning, that promise of a new beginning that is realized with every sunrise. It’s a beautiful thing, the dawn of a new day, and a recurring challenge to live life the best way you can.
– – – – – – _ _ _ _ _ _ – – – – – –
Well, here I find myself once again: packing for a flight that takes off in less than 12 hours. This time, though, I’m flying in the opposite direction, and domestically, to Salt Lake City, Utah. Nope, still a little too early to form real sentences…
“These hards will try hard to define me/ and I’ll try to hold my head up high/ but I see despair here from the inside/ its got a one track mind/ Now I’m sitting alone here in my bed/ I’m waiting for an answer I don’t know that I’ll get/ I’m telling you that these times are hard, but they will pass.” So go the lyrics of one of the newest songs on regular rotation in iTunes. (Obligatory irrelevant fact: play count currently stands at 8, and I downloaded- er, bought- the song on Wednesday.)
Ok- let me just throw this out there- I realize I haven’t blogged here since returning to the United States from Istanbul back in June. But, I’m back. A lot has happened since then, and there’s a chance I will share my adventures of the last six months at a later date. For now, though, I think I will stick to the purpose of this post, which is to make an announcement, of sorts. In the summer of 2012, I plan on returning to the Middle East and continuing my formal education in Egypt and Kuwait, which will serve as a nice second chapter to my summer of 2011.
In just 11 hours, though, I will be taking off for Salt Lake City. From there, I will make my way east toward Park City, where I will attend the Sundance Film Festival until Tuesday the 25th. I could not be more stoked for this trip! That’s a lie- I would be more stoked if I didn’t have to sit through classes (and a 4 hour bus ride to Manhattan) all day before my flight. Expect another post from the airport, or the bus, depending on time. Be back real soon….stay tuned. Sundance should be epic.