Friday, October 31, 2008

In which I go to the parade

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 31:  Parade goers dressed a...Image by Getty Images via Daylife In 2005, I attended the Village Halloween Parade as a class assignment. This is not the official article I turned in.

We were packed a little too close for comfort – or chastity, for that matter. Darkness and masks kept things fairly anonymous.

This was to be expected at the Village Halloween Parade.

“Excuse me!” screamed a man as he shoved his way through the crowd, muttering under his breath when the people around him would not give way. Police officers – some real, other perhaps not – used their authority to cut across the street.

At 5 foot 2, I knew the only way I would be able to see anything would be to wear the highest heels I own. That’s exactly what I did, but a life in sneakers left my ankles a little weaker than is ideal for the boots I had chosen. Between that and the jostling of the crowd, I managed to lose my balance.

The man who caught me was very nice, setting me upright and asking if I was all ok. I responded honestly with a smile and a thank you.

Nearby, two girls were talking. “I would have grabbed his balls if I were you!” one instructed the other, her voice taking on an angry edge. Some pervert had rubbed up against her, I figured.

The crowd pressed in, and the helpful man was pushed against me. I was poked from one side; the woman to my right had a handbag that was pressing against me.The woman left soon, and then so did the group to my left. The crowd shifted to account for the change in available space. The man behind me did not take advantage of the space next to him. I wondered if he noticed, and wished I had access to it. I was blocked off.

I felt another poke. The woman with the handbag was long gone by now, so I half-concluded, half-hoped that it was the man’s hip. I shifted away when I could, and he shifted right after me. Everyone was filling in what little space was available, so I accepted it, even when I realized it was not, in fact, his hip. A straight man pressing against a woman sometimes has certain reactions. I reasoned that it was natural, and probably very embarrassing for him. Accidental gropings are a fact of tight crowds. I was annoyed, but perhaps a
little amused. This would make for quite a story when I went to the bar later that night, I decided.

Even so, I tried to inch away. The man in front of me noticed that I was a bit uncomfortable. “Are you all right?” he asked, looking mildly concerned. Once again I smiled and said thank you.

The man behind me began moving. At first I thought it was more crowd-related shifting. Then, I noticed a rhythm that accompanied the poking. I decided to ask the man in front of me for help, planning to simply say that the man behind me was making me uncomfortable, and could we maybe switch spots? But before I could say anything, the man left.

“Are you ok?” the man behind me asked.

“Yeah,” I snapped, turning around to see if I could recognize any identifying features. All I caught was a racial description and a hat. I tried to slip into the spot the other man had just vacated, but I was followed.

There were hands on me. First my hips, then my waist. Again, in a crowd, accidental gropings happen. I glanced behind me again, but got no more information. The police, about ten officers a few yards away, could not see me, and I knew if I made a fuss, they would not hear me, either. I would have been more likely to anger the man behind me. Also, I was still not entirely convinced that anything was actually happening; If I don’t believe it, I reasoned, How can I expect the police to?

I steeled myself to endure it until I got an out. Every few minutes, groups were sent across the street, so I resolved to join one.

The hands were moving, and they definitely belonged to the man behind me. I tried to make myself trip again, hoping that maybe I would fall and in the process push him away. It did not work.

His hands slipped under the jacket of my suit, touching skin.

I grabbed the hem of the suit and tugged down, snatching the fabric out of his hands and allowing no space between it and my body.

I then turned.

I have no idea how I pushed out of the crowd, but I did. I briefly considered walking a few blocks to another corner, now that I was away, but before I could reach a conclusion, someone bumped into me. Pressure, on my back, right where the man had been rubbing against me. I turned around, frightened, expecting to see him.

It was someone else. Different race, no hat, very confused-looking. I choked back the tears that had just started and ran as quickly as I could on a crowded sidewalk while wearing those damned boots.

My instinct was not to call my mother or my boyfriend. All I could think was, Damn it! I don’t have enough information for a story. That, and, So I fail. There’s no way I’m going back.

The good

Well, in the end my professor told me that the above was well written -- that it made him very uncomfortable, which was a sign of talent. If it made you uncomfortable, I'm very sorry -- it could have been much worse, and for far too many women, and men, it is.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

In which I get rid of books

I want a library. I want a room of my house to have huge shelves well-stocked with good books, comfy chairs, and appropriate lighting. Artwork and curios would be ideal, but not necessary. Maybe a station for my writing, although I'm probably better off having an office space with fewer distractions (ha, like I'll have the time and space to pull off both!).

I certainly have enough books to fill a library now. The problem is, I don't -- can't -- read them all. So over the next several months, I plan on sorting through the crates and boxes and shelves of books I own, and making four piles:

Favorites. Books I love, and will definitely re-read. Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow. Anita Diamont's The Red Tent. Heck, Little Women, which I actually replaced when my old, battered copy finally died. I am always looking for new books to fill this category, and am willing to lend them to friends (at least, friends I trust to return them!).

Resources. Dictionaries. Style guides. Poetry prompts. Organization manuals. And other books, which may be more trivial or less wholesome. I may not read them out of love, but I'll refer to them out of necessity. And, yeah, sometimes fun. I'm a nerd like that.

To be evaluated. Books I haven't actually read yet, or never finished, or read too long ago to inform a decision. These will be read. If I can't read them, or don't like them after having finished, then they go on to...

Elimination. It'll be hard, but the books in the section have to go.

Now this raises a new question. What should I do to get rid of these books? I've got a couple options that will directly benefit me:

Sell them. A good option for textbooks (the nice thing about having been an English major is that most textbooks are fairly timeless). Novels, however, may not pull in more than a dollar or two. And where would I sell them? Is EBay really the best choice?

Swap them. This might be a better option for the novels and fluffier nonfiction. I can offer some books up on Paperback Swap, and get new books in return. My reading list is pretty long, after all. Then again, that doesn't really eliminate books so much as it rotates them.

Raffle them. I have a review blog. There are books I've read that I enjoyed, that I might even recommend, but that just don't make it to my "Favorites" or "Resources" piles. If I review one of these books, maybe I could then give it away as a promotional event. If it works, it could definitely draw in readership. If not, I'm out the cost of postage with nothing to show for it but an empty spot on my bookshelf.

What would you do?

The good

No question, I'm blessed to have such a love of reading and the means to amass such a collection.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

In which I battle PennDOT

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (Pen...Image via WikipediaImage via Wikipedia Image via WikipediaI don't drive.

No, I should be honest here. I can't drive.

I got my permit at 16, took driver's ed, and just never took the test. My permit expired. Between carpools and and mass transit, it never got urgent.

But since I don't actually know where I'll be living a year from now, I can't depend on trains and subways and buses being readily available. So I need to learn to drive. Again.

On October 4, I gathered up my ID info and my forms and took the bus to the PennDOT center in town. I signed in, took a number, sat down in the waiting area.

I then proceeded to pull out my things, so I could present them easily. As I checked against the form, it turned out something was missing.

It never occurred to me to see what the requirements to prove state residency are. I have a PennDOT-issues state ID. It never occurred to me that it wouldn't count.

So of course it doesn't. So I left, got back on the bus, went home. I dug up some tax forms and ate lunch, then headed back into town.

I signed in, took another number, organized my things again, and was called up to the counter. The guy behind the counter asked if I had my birth certificate.

Now, the form says I need my birth certificate or two of the other forms of ID listed. I really wasn't interested in dragging my Social Security card and my birth certificate around all day, so I had opted for "two other forms."

The PennDOT guy pointed to a sign on the wall and said that the requirements had changed. That said, I could still take the permit test, and if I passed I could bring my birth certificate in another day and they would issue the actual permit.

Fine. Whatever. I had made the trip (twice) and might as well take the test.

I passed easily, took my eye test, and had my form signed so that next time, they could just give me the permit.

On October 11, I re-gathered all my things, including my birth certificate, and got back on the bus to take get my permit. I fully expected them to make me re-take the test, but I could deal with that.

So I got to the PennDOT center, and... they were closed.

Confused, I looked carefully and noticed a very small sign that explains that, due to the Columbus Day holiday, the PennDOT center is closed on Saturday.

So: still no permit. Maybe some higher power is telling me I'm not supposed to drive?

The good

Well... at least I passed my permit test.


10/18/2008 -- Success at last. I showed my documents, wrote my check, and left with me permit. Any PA drivers want to barter for driving lessons?

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