Monday, July 31, 2006

Last Night in North Carolina

What is it about the end that makes you think about the beginning?

I saw my favorite Wal-Mart greeter in the low-cost Asian import super center tonight. I didn't mention to him that I am moving. We've never said much more to each other than good morning, good afternoon, good evening or good night but I am going to miss him. He has the most sincere smile.

I'm glad there are no Wal-Marts in New York City, but apparently there is one coming right behind me in 2008. By then, I'll have been a New Yorker (or an aspiring New Yorker / New Yorker in training) for almost two years.

I wish I had more time to relax, reminisce and soak up some memories. After living in Cullowhee all these years, memories come to life in front me all the time. You always retain more memories than those who move away because you are often confronted by old ghosts - good and bad. I learned that as a military brat and I relived it when I became employed by my university and many of my college friends returned to their hometowns after graduation or found jobs in new places. I'd really just like to take one final walk through my college and post-college stomping grounds and just take some moments to remember. No time. I guess I'll have to come back for a Homecoming one year.

I have been planning for this for over a year. Working 60-80 hours a week. Purging my apartment slowly and carefully - throwing, selling or giving away. Tying up lose ends at work. Finishing up projects. Yet I'm still pressed for time as I come down to the wire. I guess we always end up jumping into things even if we stick our toes in first. Even me, the consummate planner, cannot think of everything.

One thing I have been thinking about lately is on how much time I've missed out with my family and friends throughout the past year while working 2-3 jobs. My parents live an hour away in Asheville, yet I've only visited them a handful of times. I've spent time with my closest friends, right down the street, much less than I'm willing to admit. I turned down so many invitations from coworkers for evening drinks. I sacraficed so much to be able to finance this move. In fact, I began to notice that my friends stopped inviting me places because I was always declining. I really missed out on good times with them and I'm beginning to feel the regret. Even now, I just want to hang out with them and just look at them, talk and laugh, but I have to be out of my apartment by tomorrow evening and Terrence and I are driving overnight to New York City. I guess you can say that "it's the magic of risking everything for a dream that no one sees but you ... (Who was it who said that?)" But at what price? I suppose it doesn't matter now because I've already paid it.

This evening, Terrence and I drove to Asheville to pick up our rental, a delightful little Stow-and-Go Dodge Caravan. We'll be stylin' and profilin' all the way up the East Coast with the best of the soccer moms! We pulled out of the apartment complex in my beloved Honda that I am going to miss so much, windows down, sunrays beaming through the moon roof. I looked over at him and said, "I can finally say that this whole year was worth it!"

I knew I would be able to say it eventually; it was just beginning to feel like the day would never come. That day was today.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Good Luck & Oh Yea

I worked my last night at Harrah's Cherokee Casino on Friday. More mixed emotions. I was so happy to work my last section with the 20-pound tray propped on my shoulder. I am going to miss the beverage servers, the gaming hosts, the table hosts, the EVS personnel, especially Roger!

In the locker room prior to pre-shift, we were squeezing ourselves into our bustiers and I turned around for Michelle to zip up the back of my top. Just as I was thinking to myself, this will be my last time pulling my boobs up inside of my push-up bra, Michelle said to me, "This is the last time I will ever zip you up." I put on my wrist guards for the last time, slipped my feet into my uncomfortable pumps for the last time, and did a quick inventory of the contents of my tip cup: straws, sugar and sugar substitutes, matches. Not exactly rocket science, but it pays the bills and between my three jobs over the past year, I've saved more than enough money to move to New York.

The night was rather uneventful. Those, who knew it was my last night, said some good-byes and wished me good luck. I couldn't help feeling sad. Back in the locker room after my shift, I took off my uniform for the last time. I couldn't help feeling happy.

As I walked out of the back of the house and to the employee lot, I could not keep from smiling to myself. I looked up into the dark sky and felt light and free. I had a good 11-month run there.

Terrence came up from Atlanta to help me pack and move out of my apartment. He's also driving me and what I haven't sold, given away or thrown out to New York on Tuesday in a rental stow-and-go minivan. He'll stay in NYC with me for about a week. I am really glad that he will be involved in the beginning of this adventure.

Tonight, I took him to eat at the nicest restaurant in the casino - partly to thank him in advance for the coming week, partly because I had a $25.00 comp to Seven Sisters from working a snow day back in February, partly because I have been wanting to eat there since I started working at the casino, and partly because I wanted to return to say final good-byes that I didn't have time to do while I was working the night before.

After dinner and a lap-and-a-half around the casino, my beverage supervisor completed my exit paperwork while I cleaned out my locker. I threw my pumps in the trash can. I don't normally pay attention to the physical intricacies of the way a trash can works, but I think the image of my shoes going into the trash and the sound they made as they slid down the lining has permanently embedded itself in my memory bank. I signed on the dotted lines, she walked me to the back of the house and took my badge, and that was it. My life as a part-time beverage server was officially over.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Top 10 Favorite Asheville Memories

In half a week I will be leaving for New York City! Here, in random order, are my Top 10 Favorite Memories from high school and the life I will be leaving behind:

Slip & Slide
One of my favorite memories will always be when Matt was chasing me around the high school gym. I can't remember why. But as I ran across the basketball court, I slipped and fell sliding sideways on my hip. Matt began to laugh as he slowed to a jog behind me, and as he crossed the area where I had fallen, he slid and fell. I happen to be looking up at him when he had begun to laugh and point at me on the floor, and I saw the momentary look of terror as he lost his footing and slid right next to me. And there we both lay on our backs, where we had fallen, laughing hysterically.

Teen Rescued from Reservoir
I still have the Asheville Citizen-Times article in a scrapbook:
Emergency crews rescued a 17-year-old Alexander boy who got stuck after rappelling into an abandoned reservoir Wednesday.

"He just rappelled in, and he couldn't get out," said District Chief John Bancroft of the Asheville Fire Department.

Aaron Zaval apparently went into the reservoir on Beaucatcher Mountain around 4 p.m. Rescue personnel got him out shortly after 10 p.m.

A member of the Asheville Area Rescue Squad was lowered about 50 feet into the reservoir and attached a harness to the teen. Zaval was then pulled up by members of the fire department and rescue squad.

Bancroft said Zaval was not injured in the incident.

That article was a result of the the typical mischief of Aaron and Jeff.

Mooo ... With Fries
Jeff is one of those people I'll never forget. I don't know where he is now, but I do remember his many talents and unique character. Half of my high school worked at the McDonalds in Weaverville, and I distinctly remember a day when Jeff hid behind the bunwarmer and made a variety of sounds while we tried to take orders, including various animals (a rabid dog, a cow, a goat) and an authentic crying baby.

A Particular Incident Involving Gum & Hair
There is only one other person in the world who knows about this, and he knows who he is.

Homecoming 2007
It's kind of corny and a very not-another-teen movie cliche, but I was on homecoming court my senior year of high school (and my fourth year of college), and - in a super-loser way - I was really excited about it though I tried to be nonchalant (both times). My favorite part as a high schooler was the professional photo shoot with the other girls at the Grove Park Inn. My fifteen minutes of fame.

Senior Skip Day
Almost every high school has a senior skip day or cut day, a day when teachers and administrators expect the seniors to leave early or not show up at school at all. There's a reason why parents don't want their children to participate in certain things. My senior skip day involved a house party with no parental supervision, a lot of underage drinking, vomiting and passing out, waking up next to Matt laying in the grass behind the high school pool house with a little league soccer game taking place in the distance, and going home drunk at 18 years old. Not my finest hour.

Recovery Effort
Generally, I rode shot gun in Autumn's jeep and Matt and Josh rode in the back. And that's the way it was for the fabulous four cruising the streets of Asheville listening to tracks by the likes of Tupac, Jodeci and Ahmad: "Back in the day when I was young, I'm not a kid anymore, but some days I sit and wish I was a kid again..."

However, during a particular ride, the passenger door suddenly flung open, and Autumn heroically grabbed me and kept me from tumbling out as she maneuvered the steering wheel. As is often the usual with teenagers, we laughed at the incident rather than recognizing the danger and reflecting on what could have been. And Autumn and I still laugh now.

Friendly Nomination
I was nominated for "most friendly" for the senior superlatives and tied with a girl named Laura. After a revote, she won, but I felt like 'friendly' was a good thing for which to be known regardless.

New Year's Eve. Fourth of July. Bele Chere. Good friends. Fun times. Great kisses.

Young Love
Often you may hear of adults telling teenagers that they are too young to understand what real love is. To an extent, this may be true. Unconditional love is hard to fully grasp during the egotistic, hormonal, narcissistic and selfish years of adolescence. But I do believe that young love is real, no matter how short-lived. After all, infatuation and lust are essentially the basic foundation of love. I know I loved Matt, and I know that he loved me. We learned a lot about ourselves in that relationship, which inevitably helped mold who we are and shape what we want now. Part of my heart and my childhood will always live in that place. Even if there are many, there is always a first.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Time Flies ... Sometimes

It's funny because you anticipate something for so long. The months feel like years. The weeks feel like months. You think you have plenty of time to get ready and time can't go fast enough. Then you start to get down to the wire, you start to feel less and less prepared, and suddenly you can't slow time down. I've been at my parents' house for five days, and trying to pack in adequate family time and necessary errands has made five feel like two. I have so much to do and I'm running out of time to do it. Yet I've made time to blog ... hmm.

The days will soon turn into hours, and I am starting to realize how scared I am ... I believe the term is shitless.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Ageless Love

My family went out to eat tonight with my parents' neighbors Jack and Sarah who, over the years, have become like surrogate grandparents to my brother and me. The dinner was sort of a good-bye for us, as my brother will soon be leaving to teach English in China and I will be moving to New York City in five days. At dinner I was reminded of how it has been meaningful and enchanting to watch Jack and Sarah age over the years.

Meaningful, in that I would not at all say that they are now shells of their former selves because they are still very much alive - and often lively - and well - but sometimes physically not-so-well. Sarah is a former executive with astounding vocal skills; Jack was once an engineer who continues to dabble in a variety of interests and hobbies. Their yard, which was once the envy of the neighborhood and where my high school friends gathered two years in a row to take prom pictures, has become overgrown with underbrush and weeds.

Enchanting, in that they have shown such dedication to each other through the constant perils of Sarah's struggle with Alzheimer's. Sarah has begun to forget who we are and it has been hard for our family to helplessly watch as her cognitive abilities begin to fail. But despite having to deal with a variety of other health ailments between the two of them, they have managed to age with class, style and grace.

Tonight at the restaurant, Sarah's mental clarity was touch and go, dipping her breaded chicken in coffee, forgetting which salad plate was hers, and asking what she should do with an orange slice garnish - typical actions of an Alzheimer's patient. It did not bother me at all, though it made me a little sad to see her in such a state. Nevertheless, there were moments of vivid comprehension when Jack would say something familiar and she would look at him as if they were on their first date. He returned the gaze and sometimes reached over to pat her on the hand. Even if it is only for fleeting moments, which are becoming fewer and farther between, it is apparent that Alzheimer's is having a hard time battling that little thing called love.

I hope that I age as they have and get to know that kind of love that Alzheimer's has to struggle to beat. When Jack and Sarah look at each other, you know they only see what they remember they looked like in their youth. Just like when I look at their yard, I only see curtains of roses and fountains of honeysuckle.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Top 10 Favorite Cullowhee Memories

One week from today I will be leaving for New York City! Here, in random order, are my Top 10 Favorite Memories from college and the place I will be leaving behind:

The Battle for the Old Mountain Jug
Some question whether or not the mountain rivalry between Western Carolina University and Appalachian State University is a true collegiate football tradition or a clever 1970's marketing ploy, but for those of us who took down the goal posts in Whitmire Stadium in 1998 following Western's first win over ASU in 13 years and subsequently left one of them on the Chancellor's front yard, it will always be a favorite, genuine and unscripted college moment. Sheer joy. True bliss. Solidarity among thousands. Whenever I think of that moment, I will forever have an image in my head of Tokii and me, linked arm in arm, racing onto the football field and screaming as the goal post fell and narrowly missed both of our heads.

Summer in Park Place
 As much as we hated it at the time, we love to laugh about it now. The summer that Jessica, Daphne, Shameika, Dominique, Travis and I all lived in a two-bedroom (single-wide) trailer in Park Place will always be one of my most unforgettable and vivid memories. This was not just any trailer. It was undoubtedly the worst trailer in the world. To briefly describe it, there was a hole in the living room floor under the stapled-down carpet that everyone used to stumble over; mesh netting was duct-taped, thumb-tacked and stapled over the windows (a quick fix by Travis after the landlord continued to ignore our requests for new screens); a system of box fans in different windows served to facilitate airflow through the trailer in the absence of air-conditioning (it was basically a metal box sitting in the sun); the hard water, which smelled of sulfur, left an invisible film on your skin after showers and was unsuitable to drink (ask Dominique about the time he accidentally made a pitcher of Kool-Aid using the tap water); about half a dozen stray cats lived under the trailer (which was my fault because I kept feeding them); there was a wasp nest with an indestructible force field and super, incredible-hulk wasps above the back door; we woke up to our neighbor's Mexican music on full blast every morning at a quarter to eight; there was only one bathroom so we all got to know each others' scents a lot more than any of us would have liked; a crack head showed up on our doorstep one day when I was home alone and tried to sell me a boom box and a box of cassette tapes; I slept in one bedroom, Jessica and Shameika slept in the other, Daphne slept on a couch, Dominique slept on a futon, and Travis slept on his 6x1' military cot. Dominique and I used to ride around in my little, green Saturn or hang out in Burger King just to be in an air conditioned environment. Late into the night when he and I were the only ones left awake, we'd watch infomercials about exciting products like the Revostyler, the Perfect Pancake and steak knives. And after Travis moved out, Dominique was the only male with four women, who would all go on their period at the same time. I think that may have been the closest we have come to hell. But there is no other group of people with whom I'd go to hell and back ... again.

Hide & Go Seek in Hunter Library
Hunter Library, on the campus of Western Carolina University, is the largest library west of Charlotte. In the basement there is an endless sea of enormous bookshelves and study cubicles with group meeting rooms along the perimeter. I will never forget playing Hide & Go Seek with my girlfriends and a bunch of the players from the Men's Basketball team in the basement of the library during my sophomore year. You know it's a big library, when there are over half a dozen 6'6"+, 250+ pound dudes running around and nobody can find anybody else.

The Brothers I Never Had (besides my real brother)
Dunston, Jon and Pat were three of my best friends from my college daze: sledding and snowball fights in the winter time; summers at East Laporte; riding aimlessly around the Cullowhee-Sylva-Dillsboro triad; do-da-do-da-do by the track; dragging furniture into the elevator in Walker Hall, sitting in the chairs and waiting for someone to call the elevator to their floor; educating me on Sports Center; hanging out at the airport or on a random mountainside; showing me my first porno film; taking care of a puppy that my freshmen roommate and I adopted and illegally housed in our dorm room. BJ was initiated into our little clique later and never failed to make us laugh with his impersonations of Bernie Mac. They were the brothers I never had - in addition to my nearest genetic match, David.

Coco Cherry
The greatest hamster to crawl the Earth - or to ever run on a stationary wheel - went by the name of Coco Cherry. His first name was Coco because I love to name animals Coco. And his last name was Cherry because his eyeballs looked like cherries. He was the illegal dorm room pet of Helder 350, the room Tokii and I shared our junior year. We bought him in Greensboro (the same night that Jagged Edge spotted our clique in the mall, and gave us free tickets to their concert during A&T's Homecoming) because he was the only hamster we have ever seen who would chase your finger if you dragged it along the bottom of his cage and would crawl into your open hand on his own. His only flaw was that he had really bad gas - unless Tokii and I were always placing him to blame. He had a long, happy hamster life and ended up living out the remainder of his days at my parents' house while I was out of the country. I did not get to honor him with an appropriate hamster burial because I was studying abroad in Spain when he died, but I believe my parents buried him in the backyard. It was either that or they sent him to the happy farm where all of our other pets have gone.

The Night I Met Rickey
Rickey and I saw each other on campus for the first time when he approached our parked car near a short row of commercial buildings - jokingly referred to as the Cullowhee Shopping Strip - and flirted with my friends. I knew by the way he peered curiously at me in the back seat that he liked me immediately. We were formally introduced later that evening on the University Center Lawn during Valley Ballyhoo, a welcome back event hosted at the start of each fall semester. I was a sophomore and still dating my high school sweetheart at the time, and Rickey and I would not end up dating until almost a year later. However, the way he genuinely approached me that night and the perseverance and sweetness in which he pursued me over the following months was so remarkably sincere that we became inseparable almost immediately after the distance between WCU and UNC-Wilmington ended my three-year relationship with my high school boyfriend. Rickey and I dated for almost four years ...

He died unexpectedly in Augusta, Georgia. One of the hardest things for me to deal after his death was my foolish immaturity following an argument that we had two weeks before he died. That would be the last time we would ever speak. My biggest regret is that I tried to make him suffer after our last fight by ignoring his phone calls. I foolishly wanted him to really fear that he was losing me for good. The morning his father called to tell me that Rickey had died, I saw his number appear in my cell phone. Just before I decided to answer the call, I remember thinking to myself, Ok - I'll talk to him now...

... Losing him that way with so much left unsaid - just losing him at all - was nearly unbearable. Sometimes I go back to that moment in mind. Just before I answered his father's phone call. To a moment when everything in me knew that I was about to speak to Rickey. When hearing his voice still felt familiar. And I wish for that feeling. That feeling of knowing that I am about to talk to him. I don't know if I'll ever get over the fact that I can't anymore. That no matter what I do, his absence is permanent. That I can't change it. That I can't go back. That I'll never see him or talk to him again. That every day, his existance becomes more and more distant in my memory. That if I live to be 70 years old, he will still be 27.

I do know that now, when I forgive someone, I forgive them without any games or stipulations. I'll never play around with time again.

The Pretend For-Real Marriage of Daphne A. Moore & Kevin Garnett (The Newly Weds, Season Going-On-At-Least-Five)
I don't know when they were married exactly, but I recently found an email from 2002 regarding this blessed union, so this serves as direct evidence that this charade has been going on for at least four years. Daphne Moore, the self-proclaimed Daphne Moore-Garnett, has been living an imaginary life in which she is married to Kevin Garnett, #21 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. It's almost like having an imaginary friend with a mild case of borderline stalking. Yet despite the fact that my boyfriend's best friend plays for the Kings, our sorority sister's ex-boyfriend plays for the Wizards, another friend's brother plays for the Warriors, and two members of our college circle dance for the Bobcats, she has never had a chance to meet him and inform him of their nuptials. How can something so beautiful be so sad?

Ms. Sue Ella
My best friend Tokii is a master of impersonation. She is a gifted actress, who will soon begin her fourth year as a drama student at The Juilliard School of the Arts in Manhattan. Give her 30 minutes and she can mimic most - if not all - of your personal idiosyncrasies. Those nearest and dearest to her, and some random bystanders from time to time, have had the pleasure of meeting one of her alter egos, Ms. Sue Ella. Ms. Sue Ella is a combination of several ghetto-fabulous women, including a former coworker of Tokii's who always ate beanie weenies and Spam during breaks. It was always a pleasure to run into Ms. Sue Ella in one of the residence halls, especially when we were on RA duty. We've got several encounters on videotape!

Flipping for Directions
My current boyfriend Terrence and I started dating after I had graduated from WCU and had joined the university as a member of its staff. My closest friends, and even my family, were initially concerned that I was using Terrence to fill the void created by Rickey's death. I even tried not to worry about that, too. But our friendship eventually became the relationship we have today, and both of us believe that it would not have developed so deeply had it not been for a classic case of the right place at the right time. The summer I graduated from college, Terrence and I used to pass the time by jumping in my car (when gasoline was less than $1.50 a gallon) and flipping a quarter to determine whether to take a right or a left at each intersection. Our 25-cent (plus a tank of gas) adventures led us to a giant chessboard in Dillsboro, a hidden dirt road along a beautiful area of the Tuckaseigee River, and the train and bus wreckage purposely leftover as a tourist attraction from the movie The Fugitive, among other places. Well, we went to college in a place where a Super Wal-Mart is downtown.

Unbreak My ... Splat!
Another cameo from Tokii makes the Top 10 Favorite Cullowhee Memories. Our clique will recall a particular night when she and I were on RA duty. Since we couldn't leave our post in the RA station, our friends came over to hang out with us in the lobby of Scott Hall. While sitting on a couch, I used a video camera to record Tokii as she strutted atop a coffee table, singing Toni Braxton's Unbreak My Heart to the camera as if we were shooting a music video. Through the lens, I recorded Tokii's sexy rendition of the sultry verse "unbreak my ..." and then a nanosecond of sheer horror crossed her face just before she disappeared from view. I immediately panned down to the floor, where Tokii had fallen at my feet between the coffee table and the couch and was laughing uncontrollably. The tone and volume of surrounding laughter on the video is sharp and piercing, yet contagious, endearing and characteristic of my girls. I will love them always.

Monday, July 24, 2006

For Sale

Went to the Honda dealership where I purchased my Accord back in 2003 to see about selling it back to their Certified Used Honda department. Their buy-back guy wasn't in today; have to go back on Wednesday. Stopped by their service department to check a tire that I've been having to reinflate every two weeks. Been trying not to buy new tires for the past couple of months since I'm moving. Was told that the tire was a blow-out waiting to happen. Ended up getting a great deal on some Michelin high-speed/performance (or whatever tires) since my general safety over the next week is somewhat important to me.

The dealership shuttled me to the Biltmore Square Mall, where I spent two-and-a-half hours wandering aimlessly. Tried on a pair of white Reebok Classics in Champs, but decided to wait for Terrence to get them on his sister's mall discount in Atlanta. Bought some gel strapless boobs in Victoria's Secret. Great investment. Read some magazines in a bookstore. A temp agency in New York called after seeing my resume on and made an appointment for me to come into their agency next Friday. Finally gave in to hunger pangs and got an 8-piece order of nuggets and a Diet Coke from Chic Filet.

Back at the dealership, I talked with one of the service reps about attempting a private party sell instead of a buy-back. Got home and contemplating spending $65.00 on an ad in the local newspaper. It's only 11 words. Good grief. Also put a free add in another print publication, but it won't come out until next Tuesday ... the day I leave NC. Guess the car will hang out at my parents' house for awhile. I hate to do that to them. I'm sure to pay my dues in guilt trips.

If anyone wants to buy a car (my free ad on with unlimited words):
Trading a 2003 Honda Accord EX for the NYC Metro system, 4-dr, 4-cyl, AT, less than 38K miles, silver w/ blk int, well-equipped w/ brand new 6-disc CD, moonroof, alloy wheels, new tires. $16,500 ... This car is my baby, the auto-love of my life, I hate to let it go ... but NYC, here I come!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

A Different World

Driving along the stretch of I-40 between Cullowhee and Asheville, my gaze followed a flatbed truck as it overtook me in the fast lane and eventually disappeared among the mountain bends that make this segment of the interstate one of the curviest of all of I-40. The truck was transporting three camouflage U.S. Marine Corps jeeps, and as I watched it ahead of me, I wondered if the jeeps were being shipped to Camp Lejeune or Fort Bragg and then maybe even on to Iraq.

Me and my silver Honda cruising along to my parents' house in Asheville and this flatbed and its cargo headed to a base to receive its future driver. My thoughts could not help but wander. In the midst of my country's invasion of Iraq, I tried not to wonder who might die in one of those jeeps one day. As the sight of the flatbed's military cargo clashed with the visual mystique of the Appalachians on this beautiful summer afternoon, my mind fast-forwarded the flatbed down the highway and to its destination. The clouds sped across the sky and the sun rose and set in seconds around the flatbed until my mind arrived at an unknown time and place somewhere off in the distance. I pictured the little jeeps - a world away from the lush mountainsides of Western North Carolina - in a vast, desolate terrain among gunfire and explosions with a faceless body huddled lifeless in the front seat. It was not a normal daydream for someone who still cannot sit thorugh "Nightmare on Elm Street." I wondered who the person might be who might lose their life on one of those jeeps one day. Where might that soldier be right at this very moment as our paths indirectly crossed during this momentary chance passing on the highway? I wondered what that soldier might be doing right now ... perhaps he or she is already in the Middle East patrolling a suicide-bomb ridden street or playing cards in the barracks. Maybe he or she is waiting to be deployed and is taking advantage of numbered days with family and friends. Maybe those jeeps will simply spend their days shuttling officers around a North Carolina base. The flatbed appeared ahead of me in the slow lane, and as I passed by and left it behind me on the road, I hoped for the last scenario I had imagined of its cargo's future. Or some other variation in which the man I pictured embracing his daughter might never be removed from one of those jeeps on a stretcher.

I thought about how many paths we indirectly cross on the streets, highways and expressways ... and soon for me, subways. I saw a commercial recently for a new television show filmed in New York City. I think it was called "Six Degrees." The narrator of the television preview said something like, "They say that if you live in New York City, you'll walk right by the person you are going to marry at least three times."

How different the streets will be there from here. Earlier today, as I left my apartment complex, I saw two trucks loaded with college guys and innertubes. Headed to tube on the Tuck no doubt. The Tuck is the Tuckaseigee River, a river I have tubed a few times throughout the years, but not that often because it is so cold. I am sure I won't see too many trucks full of shirtless guys and innertubes in New York City. I thought about that as I was pulling out of the parking lot behind them and smiled to myself even though it made me feel a little sad.

Even sadder in the realities of our world were the new images from Beruit that I saw on the news tonight. Such devastation. Beruit was becoming a beautiful city after several decades of rebuilding since the last war over God. My dad said that in recent years it had been earning the nickname, the Paris of the Mediterranean ... and now the city has been reduced back to rubble. Another senseless war. As opposed to a sensible war?

I worked my last Saturday night at the casino last night. One more night of serving beverages next Friday. It's been a long, fast year. Just like it's a big, small world.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Friday Night Lights ...

... and slot machine bells and cigarettes and cigar smoke. I got home from a Friday night/Saturday morning at Job #2, washed my face, brushed AND FLOSSED (that's so important) my teeth and collapsed on my bed with my loyal laptop. No shower; it doesn't seem worth the effort. As usual, it's going to take a little while for my ears to stop ringing and for the illusions of colors to stop flashing before my eyes.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I had thoughts yesterday/today regarding my 10-day countdown to my NYC relocation, but I ended up packing more stuff into my Friday than I had planned between editing a 30-plus page draft of a training manual I am creating for whoever assumes my job at the university, the beginning stages of cleaning out my office, trying to catch up on some paperwork, and beverage serving at the casino. Had to reiterate the beverage service in there as it was the most important and influential part of my day - the thousands of lives I touch, the sheer volume of thirst I quench. The magnitude of what I provide to unbridled gamblers in Western North Carolina is truly ... yea ok, I'm starting to annoy myself.

Anyway ... reflecting on the thoughts surrounding my final days in Cullowhee, I just don't remember exactly what they were anymore. Yesterday/today was such a hectic blur, but I am sure my thoughts were deeply profound and unnecessarily redundant.

What a clever play on words – in an Andy Kauffman kind of way. It’s really just exhaustion talking. Exhaustion, meet July 22. July 22, meet exhaustion. And both of you, this is Sleep.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Countdown: 10 Days

The 10 day countdown has begun ... I do have some thoughts on that so I'll be back shortly. Until then, this is what I hope to find in New York City: The Dance of the Sugar Plum Lesbians

... Well, I don't mean a pair of lesbians for myself (or even one since I'm already betrothed to Matthew McConaughey ... although ... that just might be the way for me to get his attention), but encounters like this ...

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Secondary Good-byes

My sorority sisters had a "surprise" gathering for me last night at Tanisha's apartment (a soror/ friend/ university colleague). We had such a great time that I thought I might not make it to work this morning, but I did and was surprisingly on time.

We toasted my move with daiquiris, feasted on chicken wings and finger foods and laughed the night away. Other friends showed up and I found myself already missing them and wishing I could stay in North Carolina and move to New York City at the same time. When I relayed my thoughts to Daphne, she replied, "Katie, you know a night like tonight is an exception in Cullowhee. Get out of here!"

In response to the semi-farewell email I sent to my university colleagues yesterday, this is an excerpt of my boss' reply:

... And you’ve been around me enough to know my convictions for those unexpected bumps in the road. There’s a verse that says, “In this world there will be trouble, but take heart for I have overcome the world.” It lets me know not to be shocked when things don’t go my way because I was given a heads up that things don’t always go smoothly, but in the midst of the trouble, I trust in the Overcomer.

Let these beautiful mountains be a reminder during those times as well. Have you ever noticed that things grow more profusely in the valley than they do on the highest mountaintop? I believe the same to be true in life—I don’t think we grow a lot at the pinnacle of successes; rather, we grow through the valleys of adversity. We just tend to spend more time enjoying the view from the top. So, enjoy the peaks, grow in the valleys, and enjoy the journey.

I am not a particularly religious, which my devout Catholic mother takes as a personal failure in her efforts to raise me and my brother in the Catholic Church. I don't think she has failed. In fact, I consider myself a spiritual person (which seems to be a fad term amongst the inactive, nondenominational crowd). Though I do not always agree with the Catholic Church on certain issues, I attend church as regularly as possible out of respect for my mother's beliefs and in my personal pursuit to turn out the way she wants me to ... I am, afterall, my mother's daughter. However, I am just as much my father's daughter, who has learned from a relatively liberal Catholic mother and an even-more-liberal Unitarian father (amazingly still happily married despite the differences in faith) to appreciate religion yet question everything. And have a little humor along the way.

I appreciate religion because it provides faith, hope and love within the general population. I question religion because it causes conflict, war and hate among the general population. Sometimes I don't know what I believe. Other times, I question what I think I believe. Some say that is a sign of a lost soul. I say that is the mark of a soul seeking to be well-informed.

I appreciate the beliefs of others and when they care enough about me to share - not enforce - their faith with me in order to offer fellowship, guidance or love. The words that my boss took the time to compose mean so much to me that I had to add them to this blog. His words have left their impression on the start of my journey and will serve as a source for reflection in the peaks and valleys.

P.S. Family and friends, rest assured that not all personal correspondence will end up making a cameo in my blog; it will depend on the degree of privacy, of course!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Primary Good-byes

I just sent the following email to my colleagues at the university (comically labeled Job #1). I want to leave a copy in my blog so that I can look back later and remember how I feel at this very moment.

Dear Everybody,

Thank you so much for lunch and for the opportunity to work with each and every single one of you. I was feeling a little emotional today because, while driving to the restaurant, I started thinking (for at least the hundredth time in the past month) about how much I am going to miss this area, this work environment and the people – especially those in this office who have accepted me and my faults as I continue to strive to mature professionally (and personally).

Believe it or not, I have taken both large and small pointers from each of you – especially in my own self-examination as a professional – and there is really nothing quite more humbling than examining your strengths and your weaknesses through your own self-reflection. I’ve also found it interesting lately that I have been using the interview process for new candidates in our office – and in probing for their attributes – to look at my own work character, ethic and style in order to recognize what I do want to take with me to New York City … and more importantly, what I don’t. This is not a testimony of my personal assessment, but those of you who know me well can probably identify the areas in which I excel and the areas in which I need much improvement.

Over the next few months (and perhaps years), I will be getting to know the person I will become in New York City. As I have found throughout my life as a military brat, we often become a product of our environment and of those with whom we choose to associate. We incorporate a lot of what surrounds us into the characteristics founded and molded by our pasts. I hope to take with me to New York the positive energy that each of you radiate and the lessons that you may not be aware you taught me.

I have been realizing more and more lately how truly beautiful this area is, but I will certainly never forget the sincere beauty of the people. Thank you for the memories.

This isn’t good-bye just yet because you will surely receive other emails over the next two weeks ranging in a wide variety of topics, from Open House and [student organization] updates to flex reminders (which I’ve been forgetting to send lately) to requests to leave empty boxes that you don’t want outside my office.

... It has been a good three years.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Two Weeks From Today

Some of my sorority sisters from the local alumnae chapter took me out to eat in Asheville this evening. We ate at the Tupelo Honey Cafe in downtown and started with an appetizer of fried green tomatoes. As long as I have lived in the South, my first time tasting fried green tomatoes came two weeks before I move north! The server popped a bottle of Champaign and we toasted to my new adventure.

As always, my sorors were a wealth of information, knowledge from experience and support. And I shared with them my personal thoughts, hopes and expectations. My expectations ... I am expecting to not know what to expect. I hope I am prepared for most things. And I think I will be fine.

I have no idea what is going to happen, and I love that I am going to experience that. Even if nothing goes the way I want it to go, I know that I will look back on this time and be glad that I did it. I would rather regret failing in New York City than regret never trying at all.

I am not moving to New York just to be able to say that I live in New York City - even though my opinion is that it has to be the most fabulous city in the world. My intention is not to create or find a life to serve as a bragging point to friends, old and new. To paraphrase a stranger on myspace who I quoted in an earlier blog entry: Sometimes we don't truly appreciate the potential and opportunity for our own personal happiness because we are too busy comparing our lives to others. Then we spend the rest of the time trying to live up to the expectations that others directly or indirectly help set for us.

And I certainly do not expect to arrive in New York City like Anne Hathaway in the "Devil Wears Prada" - though I am looking forward to going to see that movie in Asheville next week with my mom, and I would jump at an opportunity like the one Anne's character gets in the book. However, I think that the reason why some people often fail (and are subsequently devastated by their failure) - whether it's in the Big Apple or elsewhere - is that they set unrealistic expectations within an impractical timeframe and strut as if they have already arrived. Like they say (my boyfriend and I often debate over who "they" are), some people are so busy talking that they never actually start walking.

While I am a believer in self-confidence, personal motivation, and strength and openness of mind, I am also realistic and fairly logical, as long as my emotions are in check (the emotional part just comes with being a woman). I expect to struggle, I expect to start at the bottom or close to it, and I am willing, ready and able to do both. I expect to experience a certain level of culture shock (though growing up as a military brat has afforded me the ability to adapt well to 180-degree situations). I expect to get frustrated ... maybe a lot. I expect that I'll probably cry from time to time ... but I won't admit it on this blog until a substantial amount of time has passed. I expect to question the direction of my life, but I don't expect to question my abilities. I expect to be homesick.

As a matter of fact, as I was driving back to Cullowhee from Asheville this evening, the sun was setting behind the mountains creating a red hallow along the mountain ridges and spreading captivating orange sunrays along the tree lines. And I realized again how beautiful Western North Carolina is and how much I am going to miss this area. You can take the girl out of the South, but you can't take the South out of the girl.

Do I really want to trade my daily life surrounded by the natural beauty of the Appalachian Mountains for the day-to-day hustle and bustle and grind of a northern concrete jungle? Absolutely.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Is It Too Soon?

Is it too soon? Even the trailer under "Video: Click to Watch" at made me a little emotional, and I pride myself in not crying at movies.

Out of sheer morbid curiosity, I went to back in April when the movie about the United Airlines flight that crashed in Pennsylvania was released. Among the video trailers, spots, clips, and featurettes, I read the Director's Statement. Why didn't he think it was too soon? I know it's important to never forget, but should movies be one of the first forces to help us remember? It has barely been five years. It makes me wonder if the future of mankind will be one where every great tragedy is reenacted for box office sales and a shot at an Oscar before a scholarship fund can even be established. And now another movie called "World Trade Center" is about to be released. I saw a preview for it on TV this morning and again felt the kind of emotional lump in my throat that movies - much less previews - do not usually make me feel.

It seems like exploitation when it's not even history yet. Some people say that it will help us remember. But it's not like any of us who were old enough to know what was happening on September 11, 2001 could ever forget. It's not like Pearl Harbor or D Day - events in which most of Hollywood's major moviegoers weren't alive to experience. It just bothers me sometimes when it seems like we've become a society that needs a movie to depict for us why something is important. Instead of learning, researching and thinking for ourselves, we wait for Hollywood to tell us which events or issues are significant.

Back in April, Ebert & Roeper gave "United 93" two thumbs up. "World Trade Center" has yet to be reviewed, but this was Joel Seigel's review of "United 93" in April:

April 28, 2006 - Full disclosure: I did not want to see "United 93," the controversial Sept. 11 film that opens today, after premiering at New York City's Tribeca Film Festival, which, ironically, was started after 9-11.

This film is the story of the hijacked Boeing 757 that crashed into a Pennsylvania field after passengers struggled to retake the cockpit from terrorists. It's not easy to watch, but "United 93" is great filmmaking, and it's sure to make my "Ten Best" this year.

The action and stomach-churning tension in this film doesn't happen on the flight but in the air traffic control centers, where many of the cast members are playing themselves. And how they lived through this horror a second time, I'll never know. The quick camera moves - sometimes handheld, sometimes out of focus - create a hyper realism, docudrama raised to a new level.

Many of the most effective scenes are played out in real time, and there are no recognizable stars. If we saw Denzel Washington in row four or Harrison Ford in seat 7B, we'd feel in our hearts someone would save the day. On this day, we know in our gut no one does.

You'll notice that there's no musical swells, and no pregnant pauses punctuating the dialogue. That would make it a movie.

The soundtrack, too, is perfect for the dialog. In the beginning, waiting for Flight 93 to take off, its percussion, made to sound like a heartbeat. At the end, when Flight 93 hits the ground, there's no sound, no explosion, no crash. The screen goes black.

And from the audience, no applause. Sobs. Real, deep, heartfelt sobs. That's why I can't recommend you see this movie. Only you will know if you can. It is that close to being there. Grade: A-.

My Review (not having seen "United 93" and with no plans to see "World Trade Center"): I'm not questioning anyone who wants to see either of these films. Certainly that is every American's right - every human being's right. But after the lights come up, the theater empties out, and popcorn boxes are thrown away, the best way to honor those who saved our Capitol or who perished with the Twin Towers is to sincerely cherish each and every day that they lost. So let's roll with that ...

Sunday, July 16, 2006

TV Dinner Days & Pan de Sal Nights

Got home from working at Job #2 last night/this morning at 3 a.m. I had one of the best Saturday nights at the casino that I've had in a long time. The beverage servers call weekends Amateur Night because that is when all of the small-time tourists (who don't tip for drinks) come in to gamble. Often high rollers avoid high-volume nights and weekends because they don't like crowds and want more personal attention and better service. And they know how to tip.

I warmed up some pan de sal that Tita Connie bought for me in a Filipino area of Queens when I was apartment hunting in New York last month. I've been preserving it in the freezer so that I wouldn't have to eat it all right away. Eating pan de sal in the morning with my brother and my aunts is one of my favorite memories from being in the Philippines as a child. It tastes great with butter.

I cannot wait to move to New York City, where pan de sal will no longer be the highlight of my night. Until then, it is now. And in my now, Job #3 starts in an hour and a half. I'm going to heat up a Lean Cuisine and get ready for work.

Seriously it's got to be better in New York.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

"Just Do It"

I have had no shortage of people asking me why I want to move to New York City. When people ask me where I'm going and my response is New York City, I often get a wide-eyed look and a "Why would you want to go there?" I wonder if they're picturing this naive, half-Filipina, half-White, military brat turned Southern Bell (without the accent) wearing an "I (heart) NY" T-shirt and a foam Statue of Liberty crown waving an American flag and looking up in awe at the Empire State Building ... which actually might have been me about 10 years ago.

It all started about a year and a half ago when I was on I-40W somewhere between Raleigh and Greensboro in a white NC State vehicle headed back to Cullowhee from a college fair I had attended for work (Job #1 at the university). At that time, I was a member of the single-employment-and-always-broke population. Long drives and plane rides to and from college recruitment trips always prompted random thoughts and (I'd like to think profound) ponderings about life, love and blah - well, more random thoughts for me than on a usual day.

So there I was on I-40W, wind in my face (well, the breeze from the AC), random thoughts abound, and for whatever random-Katie-moment reason, I pictured myself in my mid- to late- thirties vacuuming a living room floor in flip flops with a baby on my hip. And I realized at that exact moment that if I continued working in Cullowhee, that is all that would be next for me. And it's not that I don't want that. I do want the vacuum and the flip flops and the baby, but I knew that I needed something to happen to me between now and then. And in one of the deepest moments of self-reflection in my entire life, I realized that I owed it to my college sweetheart, who had passed away two years prior, to get out of this small town where we had shared so many years and move forward with all the things I had wanted for myself.

So driving along I-40W, the breeze of the AC in my face, somewhere between Greensboro and Asheville, I began thinking about how I was 25 years old and still talking about living in New York City one day, and I had been talking about it for almost a decade. I decided to stop talking and I started walking. One day was going to be now ... or sooner to now than later ... In fact, I set a goal: I was not going to start 2007 in North Carolina. That would give me a year and a half to plan, save money, tie up lose ends in the South and go. No excuses.

I got home, turned in my state vehicle at the Motor Pool lot on campus, hopped in my Honda, drove home and started assessing my financial situation. Mediocre salary. Diminutive savings account. No college debt, but some credit card bills. And I said to myself, "Self, I'm going to need a second job."

While I wouldn't consider Western North Carolina to be Pobunk, No Where - it's not exactly overflowing with job opportunities. I considered my options: Super Wal-mart (where I could see everyone in town at least once - maybe twice - a day), a Sonic Drive Thru (I don't roller skate very well), a gas station or tanning salon attendant (I could catch up on some reading), waitressing (I did that all the way through college and preferred to leave it as a last resort). Then a colleague at the university reminded me of the casino about 30 miles down the road.

"You could make a lot of money as a beverage server on the weekends," she said, "How hard could that be?" Pretty hard, it turns out. In a constricting bustier that disrupts your normal breathing pattern, a tray loaded with 20 pounds of drinks, the patent leather pumps (no seams allowed) that cause blisters and cramped feet, and the wrist guards that help, but do not prevent, the beginning stages of carpal tunnel syndrome - it's even harder than waitressing.

After working my second weekend, I got home around 3am, got in the bed without washing off my make-up and cried myself to sleep. It was more of a frustrated, exhausted cry than a sadness cry ... and the only thing that came of it was the need to wash the mascara stains out of my pillow cases the next day. With a mentally exhausting job like the one I have at the university and an emotionally and physically exhausting job like beverage serving, I commenced to feeling sorry for myself for a few days.

But my university colleague was right about the money at the casino. So I stopped acting like a baby, sucked it up just like any well-disciplined daughter of a Naval officer would, and two weekends turned into two months and two months turned into six. The sun rose and set, the moon went through its phases, the seasons changed and then it had almost been a year with Job #2. A year later and I am out of credit card debt, and I have a decent savings account and a plan.

I added Job #3 at the crab shack, which - in addition to the supplemental income - served to further fuel everyone's belief that I am crazy. I like to believe that the crazy people are the ones who get shit done. Or they get themselves killed. Meh. Though I am not hindered by the opinions of university coworkers, the casino or the crab shack, it's nice to know that not everyone thinks I'm nuts. A university colleague recently said to me, "You know what I admire about you, Katie? When you decide you want something, you really go above and beyond to get it. Almost over the top."

That's what I am looking for. I'm looking for my own personal over the top. I don't know what that is yet, but I know I won't find it here. I just know that one day, when I am vacuuming my living room in flip flops with a baby on my hip, I don't want to look back on my twenties and wonder, "Why DIDN'T I ever go to NYC? What stopped me? What was I waiting for?"

I've definitely stopped waiting.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Countdown: 20 Days

My mom called today with news that my dad was in the emergency room for an emergency CT scan. His physician was concerned that he might have a brain aneurysm. The CT scan ruled an aneurysm out, but they did find some shrapnel in his skull from an incident in Vietnam. He remembers the incident involving friendly fire, but he didn't know there was shrapnel embedded in his head. Kind of funny and interesting. There is no cause or concern to believe that his physical symptoms have anything to do with the shrapnel, and they ran more tests this afternoon and into this evening, including a spinal tap. Eventually the doctors decided that he may have a unique form of migraines and put him on a regimen of medication.

It's weird how random moments flash before your eyes when faced with risk or danger. When you think you might lose someone you love, suddenly it feels like all the random moments you shared with him or her have all led up to this very moment.

It was the same way when my college sweetheart died. When Rickey's father called to tell me he was dead, there was this ethereal moment when I saw, felt, heard everything that had ever happened between us within a matter of seconds. It was NOT like it played before my eyes as if in a movie with poignant music in the background; they are just moments that you know exist and are jumbled into one last flash to which your mind, body and soul try desperately to hold. And then this shock hits your system as you try to add this new moment into the timeline of your life ... in which this loss is your new reality. And then that flash slips away.

The thing is that you continue to watch it slip away for the rest of your life. Or maybe you keep it from slipping too far and you drag it along with you. Sometimes it's hard to just let the dead be dead.

As scared as I was for my dad today, I was more anxious for my mom. My dad is a logical man who accepts the natural occurrence of death as easily as he accepts that the sky is blue. He has gotten our family through the deaths of relatives and got me through Rickey's death with that logic. And though it is always different when it's your own, I am sure that he will face his own death in a similar fashion. I am just not ready for that day to come yet. And I know my mom is not either.

Twenty more days to go before I end the chapter of my life in Western North Carolina and start a new one in New York City. And I really need my dad to be around for that. And I want him around for awhile thereafter.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Cry Me A River

Leaving Job #1 (the university), headed to job #3 (the crab shack). Oh. Woe is me. Whine. Whine. Complain. Cry me a river. More later.

Sunday, July 09, 2006


Just after 5 a.m. Got off work (Job #2) in Cherokee at 2 a.m. and went grocery shopping at the 24-hour Super Wal-Mart in Sylva. Got home, put groceries away, washed my face, couldn't sleep. Turned on MTV and listened to music videos while I repotted a plant that had been dying in its little pot for almost two years! I had been sustaining it just enough to barely survive (the botany equivalent to being in critical condition) while always forgetting to put potting soil and a bigger pot on my grocery list ... until recently. It's an amazing, resilient little plant and I've decided that it's going with me to New York. I had to repot it again in some better soil. Then I cleaned up around the apartment a little while watching a cold case TV show about Jon Benet Ramsey's murder. Well, I wasn't really watching. It was just on. Wow - It's been ten years since that happened. Side thought regarding Job #2: If you cannot afford to tip your beverage server a quarter for your free drink, you have no business blowing your money in a casino. The moon was yellowish orange tonight. I wonder why. I'm going to sleep. Job #3 starts in less than 12 hours.

Just read back over today's blog entry. Conclusion: I need a life.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Internet Thoughts

Even though I have started my own blog, this whole online journal thing is somewhat intimidating to me. I guess if I strived for anonymity in these entries and did not disclose their existence to family and friends, it would not matter. I value the opportunity that I potentially have here to describe intimate aspects of my life as I live them without worrying that people I know will read all about them, but the true purpose of this blog is to record things in here that I want to remember. And I would like to share these memories, moments and random thoughts with family and friends - kind of like a big, mass email or an impersonalized Christmas letter. As a former professor of mine once said, "If you do not write down your thoughts, your thoughts will die with you."

I suppose the only disadvantage is that many of my entries may end up censored. It is certainly not that I worry what other people think. We all care to some degree what others think ... otherwise we wouldn't do a lot of the things we do. And honestly, it can be selfish to not care at all what anyone thinks. However, with regard to this blog, there is a difference between worrying what others think and not wanting everyone to know what you think.

I guess if this blog were truly just for me, I'd keep it in a diary with a lock and key ... or this day and age, in a private Word document on my laptop.

Friday, July 07, 2006

A Year Since July 7

I know I am supposed to be writing about becoming a New Yorker, but this blog is probably going to end up being full of random thoughts completely unrelated to the Big Apple because that is who I am. I am random as hell.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

A year ago today, Kathleen and Emily Benton of Knoxville, Tennessee, became survivors of the London Underground terrorist attacks. This morning, I read that if they had to do it all over again, they would still get on that subway because this ordeal has made them who they are today, and they feel like they are better people because of it. It is refreshing to know that they have taken a tragedy and used it to change their personal lives rather than spend it holed up in some corner crying and asking why.

I saw something interesting on "Good Morning America" almost a year ago about a Web site called This site features touching, dramatic, funny and inspirational photos submitted by people around the world proclaiming that "We're Not Afraid." The creator of the Web site was featured on GMA and spoke about the purpose of his Web site. I agreed with everything he said except for one thing.

He said that we need to go on with our lives and not change anything we do because of terrorists. I agree that we should keep going to work, visiting family and friends, taking vacations, going on dates ... Of course, we should continue with the simple pleasures of our every day lives.

But there are also some things we need to change. Our government needs to change a lot of its domestic and foreign policy because there are many cases where America is just plain wrong. Examples include:
US-Sponsored Plan Colombia ...
Farm Subsidies ...
Failing Foreign Aid Programs ...
Environmental Destruction ...
U.S. Support of Repressive Dictatorships (But I thought Bush wanted to stop the "Saddams" of the world?!?!?!?!) ...

If any or all of these topics are unfamiliar to you, then you should start with David's Wallechinksy's article "Why Do They Hate Us?" - he sums it up pretty well and it doesn't even take 10 minutes of your time.

What can individuals change about themselves in the wakes of these terrorist attacks, whether they are here, London, the Middle East or elsewhere? We need to change our wasteful consumption of every resource. Buy a fuel efficient car. Combine trips to save gasoline. Don't leave the water running while you brush your teeth. Turn off the lights in rooms you are not using. Read more about issues that DON'T affect you directly, like conflict diamonds in Sierra Leone.

My new favorite comedian David Cross does a bit about Americans and our desire to remain willfully ignorant. We live in a country that has access to the news and nobody wants it. To paraphrase him, he says that the most f***ed up thing about the United States is that we have to go to Web sites and news sources outside of our country in order to get the real news. I mean, we live in a society where the major headline on American network news is the genetic reproduction of Brangelina. One of David Cross' funniest lines is: "I am an ignorant mutherf***er who just watches network news and I vote."

And that is why "they" hate us. Many of the big and little things we do for ourselves (whether they are government operations or personal choices) have direct and indirect negative impacts on the people of many other nations. We don't think enough about others to even wonder if what we are doing will hurt anyone else. And we don't even realize what we AREN'T doing. Ignorance is truly bliss. Like David Cross says, Americans can be very greedy, ignorant and short-sighted. We vote on one issue (for example, gun control) and don't pay any attention to any of the other truly evil shit on that candidate's agenda.

Following September 11th, President Bush told us to keep driving, shopping and spending money. What he didn't tell you is that the longer we continue to waste gasoline, the longer it will take our troops to come home. And that's just the real deal. Don't believe me? Read a little and keep up with the facts. And I don't mean to get your news from People Magazine, USA Today, or rely solely on 30-second news segments on FOX or NBC.

It is not my intention to belittle network news or to claim that their 45-second summaries are not valid sources. I certainly tune in to GMA each morning while I get ready for work and laugh at their "Around the Water Cooler" segments, and between jobs I try to check up on national and international events that make it to Charlie Gibson's evening anchor desk. However, it becomes dangerous when millions of Americans use those news segments as their only reference. Tune in to CNN, CSPAN, the BBC or listen to NPR. And try reading!

Pick up the Wall Street Journal, TIME magazine, or Newsweek. Try sitting through some programs led by some of our top opinion leaders, such as Wolf Blitzer, Bob Schieffer, Bill Maher and even Bill O'Reilly. As much as I dislike O'Reilly, you need to know all sides in order to create your own opinion. Try reading some books that vary in topics, such as Al Franklin's "Lies: And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right" OR Tammy Bruce's "The Death of Right and Wrong: Exposing the Left's Assault on Our Culture & Values." Then, THINK for yourself. There are two sides to every story and the truth is often somewhere in the middle.

And if you just want some damn funny reading. Check out "The Daily Show With John Stewart Presents America the Book: A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction."

The problem is that most Americans, who claim they don't have time to read a newspaper, would rather watch "The Fabulous Life of Paris Hilton" or catch up on reruns of "Fear Factor." Sure, those shows are fun and I enjoy them, but I try not to let myself become a celebrity- or reality-TV junkie (Give me a "Friends" marathon though and you might not see me all day!). But spread out your interests and you'll become a more interesting person - or at least a well-informed person. I'd rather have a healthy debate with a well-informed person who disagrees with my opinion than to agree with a willfully ignorant individual who only knows a tiny fragment about an issue and can only repeat what he or she heard the nightly news anchor say in a 30-second news bit.

Some say that if we change our lives, the terrorists win. No. Paraphrasing Bill Maher from his book "When You Ride Alone, You Ride With Bin Laden," when you don't change your habits of wasteful consumption and choose to remain ignorant of the issues that face others, the terrorists win. I am inclined to agree.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Headline News

So I get into work this morning (the university job), pull up the Internet and what is one of the top news stories this morning? Updates on Baby Shiloh's first month. Wow. This is news? I am sure her first month has been luxurious and comfortable. I mean, what other life would a newborn lead who made $4 million dollars within her first week of life? And she's already a philanthropist, having donated the entire lump sum to charity. What a baby!

In all seriousness, I don't wish either way for the media to leave the Jolie-Pitts alone or to stalk their every move. On one hand, it has to be annoying for them; on the other, that's part of the biz and what makes them rich. But I care as much about their baby as they will about mine, if I ever have one. It's just roll-your-eyes, bang-your-head-on-your-keyboard, gag-you-with-your-ballpoint-pen annoying that this is front page news when there are so many more important issues in the world. And I hate to feel that way about a baby because this is undoubtedly one of the most important and cherished times of a new parent's life. I am sure Angelina knows what the real national and international issues are (I'm assuming because we've never actually met), but she admirably takes time away from her fabulous Hollywood life to confront those issues face-to-face. So she may understand why people like me are going, "Baby Shiloh Headlines? Come on. Really?"

But for some morning comic relief, here's a little bit that I like from last month (on
Hazzah! Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie gave birth to their new baby girl, Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt (well, Angelina did most of the work), reports People Magazine.

The baby was born May 27 in Namibia, and will soon be crowned supreme Ruler of the Known Universe, and has been betrothed to Suri Cruise for the first ever Baby Lesbian Super Celebrity Marriage Extravaganza. To be broadcast on Pay-Per-View. She will then be a guest judge on American Idol.

All hail Supreme Ruler of the Known Universe, the Great and Mighty, All-Knowing, All-Seeing, Perfect Being - Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt. We are yours to command as you see fit. May God keep you, and protect you for all of your days. Amen.

And from a mass email I sent out last month to commemorate the occasion with 100+ of my closest friends in my Yahoo! address book:
From - People magazine has reportedly won the Shiloh Jolie-Pitt picture sweepstakes - for a price of $4.1 million. Every weekly magazine editor was summoned to the New York offices of the Getty photo agency late Saturday night to see the first pictures of the newborn. Once the pictures were shown, the bidding war began. A source says: "We were sequestered into separate and un-air-conditioned offices. The photos were shown to us around 10 p.m. to midnight, and then we had to submit bids by 6 a.m. Sunday morning. No one got any sleep at all, as it was a manic game of phone-tag to top each other's bids. I'm convinced it was Brangie's revenge on the weekly magazines."

This baby is not even a week old and has already made $4 million. Unless Brad Pitt is carrying some dormant mutant gene, it is scientifically impossible for this kid to turn out anything other than absolutely gorgeous. Her life will not be any different. She and big sister Zahara will be the next Paris and Nikki Hilton. If I was this kid, I swear, I wouldn't even bother to learn to read.

Katie's Opinion: There is something seriously wrong with this world when we have wars, famine, poor education, and I'm still not married to Matthew McConaughey, AND YET someone will pay over $4 million for pictures of this baby.

Oh yea ... other major headlines of the day: I have to work tonight at the crab shack, and 25 days until I move to New York City!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Night Off

This is my first night off in over a week, and what's on the agenda? Sleep.

A simple recap of the past three days:

Monday - Because of the high-volume weekend associated with the 4th of July holiday, I had to work at the casino Sunday and Monday night in addition to the usual Friday and Saturday night shifts. The university was open on Monday (God forbid that the State grant us a long weekend to celebrate our nation's independence) so I also worked in the office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Tuesday - I got home from working the Monday night swing shift at the casino around 3 a.m. and slept until 8:15 a.m., staff meeting at the crab shack at 9 a.m., back in bed at 10:30 a.m., evening shift at the crab shack from 4 - 11 p.m., went to bed without taking a shower. I wasn't truly cognizant of the fact that it was the 4th of July until I heard the town's fireworks going off somewhere outside the restaurant. For a split second, I remembered how I had spent New Year's Eve serving beverages in the casino while the guests marveled at the fire and light show across the casino ceiling. There I stood holding a tray full of drinks and watching the guests around me jump up and down, blow horns, and kiss and hug each other. It's weird how you can feel completely alone in a sea of people. Didn't really feel like New Year's then, and it didn't feel like the Fourth now.

Wednesday (TODAY) - Woke up smelling like steamed lobster tail and fried fish, took a shower, skipped breakfast, and arrived at work (WCU) almost half an hour late. Decided to go grocery shopping on my lunch break since I just realized this morning that I hadn't been grocery shopping in two weeks and all I had left was a can of green beans and a jar of peanut butter. Had a productive afternoon at work thanks to a can of Red Bull. Left at 5:30 p.m. and received a phone call from my boyfriend Terrence whose flight had just landed in Las Vegas. He's going to spend the week hanging out at the NBA Summer League with his best friend, Kevin. This will be Kev's third year playing in the summer league; he's extremely committed to staying active in the off-season and continuing to improve his game - and though I've never told him, I really admire that. He has enough people trying to schmooze with him and kiss his ass.

And now I will shut my laptop and convert myself to the horizontal position on my couch, stare at the television, and pass out at my earliest convenience. Things have got to be better for me in New York.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Thank You, Michelle

It is 3:23 a.m. and I am finally home after a long workday - the 16-hour double between the university and the casino, where I am a beverage server on weekend evenings and holidays. College degree + state government job = 1-2 other jobs necessary to supplement state income ... or just plan to live with no future plans that require money.

Many people could never imagine how physically, mentally and emotionally grueling beverage serving is. It's harder than waitressing. A full drink tray (approximately 18 drinks) weighs about 20 pounds, and a server will walk anywhere from six to seven miles around the casino in patent leather pumps each night with this liquid burden. Furthermore, many guests do not tip for their free drinks because they assume the casino pays us well above minimum wage or I am guessing that they think we already make a lot of money in tips. Neither are true ... well, the latter is somewhat true if you look at it from an ignorant perspective.

Here is what we, the beverage servers, know: In general, we make decent money each night, but it is a small amount compared to the volume of work we do. We carry approximately 18 drinks on a tray, and it takes about three trays to complete a 30-minute section (plus special orders for cappuccino, hot chocolate or other drinks we don't normally carry with us), which equals almost 60 drinks every half hour. We often come out of a section with no more than $5 = Five dollars for 60 drinks. That's Western North Carolina for ya. You could argue that at least $10 in tips per hour plus our hourly wage of $5.95 average out around $15 an hour, but you also have to factor in the fact that some sections (i.e. players in the penny and nickel slots) often do not tip at all. And again, until you do the work, you really don't understand how hard and underappreciated beverage servering is. After just a Friday and Saturday night, my back, arms, wrists and feet usually ache until Monday evening. For that reason alone, I have the utmost respest for the full-time servers.

The highlight of my night at the casino came early in the evening when a guest named Michelle scolded a man for not tipping me for the drink I gave him. "She gives you a drink, you give her a dollar," Michelle said. To which the man replied, "What if you're broke?" Michelle retorted, "Then you take your ass up to the bar and get your own drink." I wish Michelle could have followed me to every section of the casino I worked tonight.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Kicking My Own Ass

Zoned out at my desk. Sitting in my office with a parking lot view. If other employees can take multiple 10-minute smoke breaks throughout the day, I can take five minutes to blog ... five minutes to blog - written like a true blogging nerd. I've arrived!

I work at a university, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. It was my first full-time job out of college, and I currently serve as Senior Assistant Director of Admissions (sounds more important than it really is). I coordinate the university's Open House events, manage the recruitment travel calendar, supervise the student telerecruiters and I'm in the middle of organizing our new student tour guides.

I am exhausted. I have been kicking my own ass between three jobs (one full-time, two part-time), but I can't complain too much because I chose to do it. I have been working two jobs for the past year to save money for my relocation to NYC. But about two weeks ago, I decided that I don't work enough and picked up a waitressing gig at the new crab shack in town. But my blog break is over. Time to get back to work. More about the exhilaration and excitement of multiple employment later.

Kicking my own ass is going to be worth it.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Blind Faith is Not Foolish

Taken from a random myspace profile. I don't know if this was his original thought in his own words, but I've taken the advice of a stranger who doesn't even know I exist and I'm applying it to what I know does ...

"Life is a beautiful gift that is often taken for granted. Sometimes we don't look at it this way because we are too busy comparing our lives to others. Then we spend the rest of the time trying to live up to the expectations that others help set for us. I've made so many mistakes in my life, I don't have a choice but to be wise. Life's greatest challenge is to be happy with yourself and the choices you have made in your life - to treat your life like it's worth more than gold. I understand sometimes we end up getting lost in our chaotic lives and adjourn things we love. Just jump and believe you will land on your feet - and if you fall, believe that you have the strength to try harder. Some call it faith, others call it confidence. If you don't have both, at least have one."

And when I was initially impressed by a man who offered to read my palm for free while I was walking with my aunt in Queens (NY) last month, my best friend (who currently lives in the Bronx) sent me the following text message:

"Ok. Just don't let it tempt u. Not 2 b a bummer but u r not the kind of person that needs her future success & comfort validated. Aside from my personal convictions about it I just remember the types of people that buy n 2 that never prosper (i.e. [she named some people we know here]). The type of people that go 2 them are kind of weak. U may worry a bit, but blind faith is a good thing and that's a muscle of yours that can stand 2 be worked missy! (Insert finger wagging here)"

As my move date draws nearer, the frustration of apartment and job hunting continues to stress me out, and the exhaustion from my three jobs weakens my spirit (yes, I have been working three jobs to save extra money and fund my relocation), my confidence and faith have begun to waiver. I saved the text message that my best friend sent me last month while I was apartment hunting in Queens - not to remind myself to avoid horoscope hype (which I don't believe in anyway) - but to remind me that blind faith is not always foolish.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Countdown: 30 days

One month from today, I will be moving to New York City - a big change from where I have spent the last decade of my life. At the risk of sounding cliche, I will be starting a new life. I cannot wait.

I have joined the blogging world to record the activities, events and incidents as they happen to me, along with my correlated thoughts - the good, the bad and the ugly and the boring - so that maybe the bad and the ugly will be funny one day, and the boring will be ... well ... that's just life sometimes. How wonderful and unfortunate it is that we live in a society that can afford to be bored? But that's an entirely different topic (welcome to the random thoughts of Katie J).

I once heard that you have to live in New York City for at least 10 years before you can officially be considered a New Yorker. I have 10 years and 30 days to go.