Category Archives: Observations

musings on a feather

Another hidden gem: circa 2008, Creative Writing 1.

Musings on a Feather by Liz Van Buren

I stare. I observe its fragile beauty and the careful way it rests on the table, almost levitating. I note its elegance as the wind carelessly carries it across the counter, hairs aflutter. But beyond its mannerisms – beyond the way these hairs dance like tiny hands when my breath escapes me – I see something else, something more. I find peace in the way something so fragile can stand on its own – in the way it can be detached from everything native,
drift

to

the

ground,
and yet survive, independent, after suffering a lifetime of hiding behind others. Once alive, it is now battered with the harshness of time, yet still floats on. I am actually inspired by this resilience.

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Filed under Everyday Life, Non-fiction, Observations, Written Life

a very new paltz

New Paltz, New York

So, these have been the most unexpectedly bizarre past few days of my life. I am officially back at New Paltz, back to everything I’ve known for the past 3 years, everything familiar to me. Only problem is, I’ve never felt more lost.

As my summer wound down – in a most anticlimactic fashion, in case you were wondering – I started getting excited for New Paltz. For getting back to my school, which inadvertently became a second home of sorts, after spending a semester in a foreign country. While most assumed I should be sad to be back home, I was actually excited. I would take the things I learned in that foreign place – about the world, about myself – and apply them in a setting with which I was more familiar. And holy hell, was I wrong.

For one thing, I don’t even recognize half of campus. While I was away, and then while I was at home for the summer, construction workers finished up their “love child” – a giant glass…something. A mountain, a pyramid, a sad replica of the Louvre. However you want to refer to it, it’s gaudy, unnecessary, and a HUGE waste of money. There was no need for its construction, save for aesthetic “purpose,” though I can’t seem to find one. Except for the occasional, “Hey man, I’m at the big glass thingy. Meet me here in 5 minutes.”

As if this exterior was bad enough, the inside of the “glass thingy” looks like the front desk of a museum. Downstairs features a bunch of futuristic couches, a giant flat screen TV and a “rec center” complete with pool and an air hockey tables. From this area, you can see inside the bookstore, because they changed it to look like some store in the mall: floor to ceiling “store windows” complete with mannequins adorned with our over-priced campus merch. There are now two separate lines, one devoted solely to textbooks (the only good decision made), and it just looks bigger. Speaking of malls, they also felt the need to renovate the entire food area inside: adding, fixing, changing, ruining. I walk into the student union building and I feel like I’m in a food court at a mall. I can no longer recognize what was once there, what it looked like before all our Bob the Builders came along. Most offices in the basement were refurbished – because that many students honestly noticed the aesthetic errors of the R&R office when trying to drop Calc or Psych? – with full glass windows and modern furniture, much like a doctor’s office. If I can’t solve in 5 minutes what I came to that office to do, I’m not going to bother poppin’ a squat on one of their new and improved armchairs. Pointless.

I guess for a newbie, all this new crap must seem exciting. Like, Wow, I go to an under-funded state school but with the illusion that we have a decent budget! But for someone whose past three years were practically planted out in the quad, these changes are a bit jarring. Frightening, even. Especially since I found out that redesigning the school – from the logo to the lobbies – cost us $300,000,000. YEAH THAT’S RIGHT. Upon arrival, my room had one garbage can instead of two, our phone jack was completely destroyed, and they didn’t have “enough of a budget” to provide things like free planners for students – something, I don’t know, useful? – because they spent all their money building a glass thingy and all that came with it. I could vomit.

I can’t help but wonder if I should have lived off campus this year. I’m sure half of you are screaming, Yes!, but honestly, I just didn’t see the point, seeing as how I’m a senior who doesn’t plan on living here past graduation. I didn’t see the point in schlepping even MORE of my stuff up here than normal, and spending time and money (re)furbishing a house to which I didn’t have any long-term commitment. I guess I still don’t see the point. But 90% of the people I talked to on a regular basis here are now living off campus – which, although in some cases is down the street, might as well be in the next town over –  a fact which makes things even more foreign for me.

And the weather, I assume, doesn’t help. Rain comes and goes – in drizzles, drops, and downpours -like a drippy faucet immune to a plumber’s work. I didn’t realize when I arrived in New Paltz, I was also arriving in October, with its bitter air and its bleak, gray sky. Pour me some cider and pick me a pumpkin, where the hell am I?

Here’s to hoping the next 15 weeks aren’t as lackluster as this. *clink*

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too old for standing room only

Roseland Ballroom, NYC

I went to Something Corporate’s reunion show last night with my friend Mery. Once we reached Grand Central, thus began my hunt for a bank after a much needed pretzel pit stop (aka dinner). I know what you’re thinking – for every Starbucks in Manhattan there are probably about four banks/ATMs, so why must a “hunt” be involved? Answer: I’m not about to pay to withdraw my own money. I was going to include a simile here but quite frankly I can’t think of anything quite as ridiculous, especially when the sum of my fees – between the ATM itself and my own bank – would total $4.50. No thanks. Turns out, there are not as many HSBC banks as I previously assumed. After trying my bank card in four different machines – when did they stop posting the fee upfront so you don’t have to waste your time being asked what language you speak or if you’d like to check your balance first four separate times? – I finally reached an HSBC. Bada-bing.

Next was standing in line. Good news: we arrived late enough in the day that we didn’t have to stand there for 5+ hours waiting to get in. Bad news: the line was four blocks long. I’m all about band-loyalty and whatnot, but peeps, there is no need to arrive at 1:30 pm when doors open at 7:30. You already have your ticket. Do you really think once you get inside and park yourself front and center after waiting outside for six hours you will remain in that very spot for the entire evening? Get real, hipsters. Here’s what really goes down: you show up insanely early, park yourself in the perfect spot, and as soon as the band comes on, everyone shoves forward as though running for dear life and before you know it you are parked behind some six-foot-four, drunk frat “bro” with pit stains the size of Alaska. And to add insult to injury, halfway through the show you are elbowed in the jugular by some three-foot-nine teeny-bopper groupie who shoved her way from the back after arriving just moments ago. Lesson: those that show up at 1:30 and those that show up at 8:30 look no different through the eyes of the band looking out from the stage. I could’ve told you that after seeing Ryan Cabrera in concert in the tenth grade. (Yeah, that’s right. I was a fan.)

So there we were, standing on this line full of self-proclaimed “#1 Something Corporate fans” which, to the untrained eye, could’ve easily been mistaken for the line to audition for a new reality show that combines High School Musical with Jersey Shore and the Osbournes. However, at this particular show, I was a little surprised at the variety of wardrobe choices. Normally at a show like this, the majority of guests are 13-16 year old girls who have recently ironed their band tee for [insert band name] or opted for their favorite hipster/scene outfit, probably purchased at either Hot Topic or Pac Sun for this particular occasion. They want to appear “part of that world” right down to which/how many bracelets on each wrist, or whether they should leave their fake black, thick-framed glasses at home. Braided pigtails? Bump-it? Some dudes may even arrive with a [insert OTHER band name] tee, maybe to appear cool by association or in hopes to strike up a conversation with an unassuming stranger about how “totally sick” that band is as well.

Sure, there was plenty of that last night, but mixed in with that whole subcategory of ridiculous was another in which girls wore dresses and heels. What is this, the homecoming dance? The Oscars? I personally opted for a solid tee (admittedly of a neon color), jeggings (do not judge) and flip-flops. Seriously. If Joan Rivers approached me last night asking “who” I was wearing I’d be inclined to tell her “probably some young sweatshop worker.”

In my flip-flops, my knees buckled as tightly as the belt of a 400-lb. man trying to hide his “love handles.” My heels dug through the bottoms of my shoes as I felt all their little nerve endings slowly dying, standing flat with no support below the toe. And then they expected us to stand for another two hours?!

Cut to inside the venue, post-overpriced-tee-shirt-purchase, post-more-waiting, halfway into the show: there I am, having the time of my life, shaking what my mother literally gave me to the sounds of a band that got me through high school, when this ass-crack of a human being shoves his way in front of me and – get this – stops. Right there, two centimeters away from standing on my bare toes. I could’ve sneezed down the back of his shirt if I wanted. And in hindsight, I should’ve. Because the only reason he pushed his way back was so he could stand on top of some innocent bystander’s toes and smoke a blunt. I mean really, dude. Don’t you have some backseat in which to do that? Or maybe a basement party? And as if that was bad enough, he began dancing. Picture someone spinning onion rings on their index fingers while looking down and repeatedly picking his feet out of the gum he stepped in. That’s kind of what Homeboy’s dancing looked like. In a word, atrocious. In four more words, too close for comfort. At one point I caught the eye of a girl next to me, rolled my eyes assuming there was some kind of unspoken girl code about this sort of thing, and that she agreed. Then she tapped Homeboy on the shoulder and I thought, Sweet, I have a supporter. Then I realized she was asking for a hit of his joint, to which he graciously complied. Then they were friends. There goes that. Eventually he left and I was able to at least enjoy the encore knowing that I didn’t have to close one eye and turn my head sideways to see the lead singer.

There was a time when I could tolerate being surrounded by sloppy-drunk, overweight, shirtless undergrads that swung their sweaty blubber around as they body-slammed into each other for no apparent reason (“moshing”) just so I could be closer to the stage. There was even a time I could tolerate having one of them inadvertently slide his man-boob/armpit – where did one start and the other end? – against my fifteen-year old arm. All in the name of Yellowcard circa 2004. But now I’d much prefer staying towards the back where I have little chance of having a scene kid’s Chuck Taylors land on my ear as he crowd surfs above me, forcing me to participate. Kind of makes me sad, but really, how much am I really missing out on?

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