Last First Day of School

Few things in life are as subtly disappointing as the first day of school.

From elementary school to graduate school, I have always approached the first day of school with the greatest of intentions. The night before school starts I am eager with the hope and promise of new courses, professors and classmates. As I lay in bed I feel comfortable knowing that my backpack is replenished with an arsenal of fresh pens, highlighters and notebooks. There’s an appropriately packed lunch in the fridge and my outfit is next to my bed. I am a maven of preparation, an archetype of organization. At the gentle hour of 9:30 p.m. I slide into an agreeable slumber and wonder why I ever wanted school to end in the first place.

The buzzing of my alarm at an unfamiliar hour the next morning serves as the first reminder. Despite being awake as such an uncomfortable time, I remain confident that I’ll get used to it as the quarter goes on. I delightfully rip the tags off my new clothes, dress up, grab my lunch and float off to my first class.

When I walk into class I begin my initial evaluations. I predict who the classic over talker, know-it-all will be. I identify the silent and questionably dangerous one, the smelly kid (generally the easiest task, for obvious reasons) and, perhaps most importantly, the one who I will wind up wanting to punch in the neck. My ocular radar has a 46% success rate so I sit as far from everyone as possible anyway, just to be safe.

After a couple minutes of awkward small talk and forgettable introductions the professor enters and forces us to tell our life stories for the class. My introduction speech goes a little something like this: “Hello everyone, I am Chelsea Parks. I’m from Baltimore, Maryland…well, not the Baltimore you see in “The Wire”, it’s a suburb of Baltimore, but I just say Baltimore so that people can get an idea of where I’m from. I’m not ghetto and I don’t kill people, I promise. Seriously, I’ve never killed anyone. I also have three dachshunds.”

The class looks at me uncomfortably. Because of my speech impediment about half of what I said was understood, which works on my favor. The professor waves me off nonchalantly and starts combing through the syllabus. As I review the assignments I seriously think to myself, “I’m going to dominate the shit out of this quarter.” I’m going to do my reading ahead of time, hell, I’ll even take notes and organize them alphabetically in a glass container protected by rottweilers. No more all-nighters and coffee binges, nope, not this quarter.

As the weeks pass on and the workload increases, my green hopefulness proves to be ephemeral. Any and all reading assignments are pushed back until they are eventually abandoned. I quickly begin consuming coffee as quickly and as rapidly as a pterodactyl masticating a pile of fresh meat. Lunches goes from well-rounded food pyramid homages to naked pieces of dry wheat bread (which have been separated from their moldy counterparts) and cough drops. The 9:30 p.m. bed time soon becomes dinner time and sleep becomes something enjoyed in sets of four to six hours. Outfits that were once planned ahead and politely ironed soon come from my dirty laundry bin and start to liken themselves to an ensemble a homeless person and/or Mary-Kate Olsen would wear. I slowly and methodically morph into a grosser, bigger asshole than I started out as.

This past Monday was my “last” first day of school (barring I don’t fail any classes this quarter or suddenly pick up the urge to become an occupational therapist in a couple of years) so I was understandably sensitive about promising myself the world. That’s why I decided to do something incredibly difficult for a neurotic, anxiety prone control freak such as myself. I decided that I will approach this quarter one day at a time. I will do all that I can to avoid over analyzing the raison d’être. I’m not going to think past the pack of Big Red I’m eating by the piece or the Ke$ha music video I’m unashamedly watching instead of finishing this post. I’ve spent every quarter at SCAD being worried about the future and things I can’t control and I’ve only ended up a cracked out, generally miserable human being, which is no way for a gal to live.

This quarter I’m going to focus on finding a job, doing work that I’m proud of and finishing that Jumbo Bag of Pretzel M&M’s. Some will happen sooner than others (I’ll be done with those M&M’s in about an hour) but I have to trust that they’ll all happen eventually. If I don’t I have no doubt that I’ll end up like Ichabod Crane: old, alone and unaware of how horrible my top hat looks on me.


The Perils Of Sleep Eating

I’m alone in my bed in a hotel room. Although, actually, it sounds like I’m not alone. There’s someone else in here; I know this because I can hear them snoring. (I use that term loosely, however, as the sound I hear is more closely akin to that of a congested boar or garbage truck ungraciously emptying dumpsters during adolescent Saturday hours.)

Anyone who has spent time in a hotel room understands their capacity to become impressively dark. This attribute works splendidly for someone looking to sleep until 3 p.m. Unfortunately, it’s utterly useless for someone trying to stealthily locate bedroom perpetuators/congested boars/garbage trucks. I quickly curse blackout curtains, ill-placed light switches and the human race for failing to pick up echolocation somewhere along the evolutionary road. Instinct tells me to grab my cell phone. It also tells me that this will not suffice as a defensive tool, but I bring it anyway, thinking that at the very least I can throw it at the intruder.

As I approach the edge of my bed my mind races. Who could be there? Did a maid sneak in here to take a power nap? Perhaps another patron mistook my room for theirs. I shine the light from my iPhone onto the ground and find none of these sorts of people. Instead, I see something much, much worse. I see George Lopez, “famed” talk show host and generally annoying human being.

Holy shit. I sprang up in my bed in the sort of “what the fuck is going on” bewilderment that comes with being jolted awake by a horrendous nightmare. I flipped the light on and was relieved to discover that George Lopez was not actually on my floor. It was only a dream.

I tried to fall back asleep. Except, of course, I couldn’t. At first I thought it was because of my subconscious encounter with George Lopez. This was understandably unnerving and unsolicited. No, it was something else. It was a sudden insatiable hunger. Fuck. It was happening again, I was going to sleep eat.

Sleep eating, in the most unscientific terms, occurs when one eats in their sleep. Those who sleep eat operate at the same level of consciousness as a sleep walker or one who has quickly consumed six stiff whiskeys. Unfortunately, I have been a sleep eater for years. Many of my past roommates have stood witness to me walking into the kitchen to methodically shove 100 or so cookies into my mouth. Aside from a bad taste in their mouth and scattered crumbs in their beds, sleep eaters have faint recollections of their late-night meals, which is why they must rely on others to fill in the blanks.

I have never had a sleep eating experience outside of my home, so when I woke up in the middle of night in my hotel room craving french fries and other salty delights I was understandably frustrated.  The only food-like objects I could find were Tic-Tacs and a suspicious piece of gum, s0 I grabbed my room key and a couple of dollars and hustled to the nearest vending machine.

At that point I was walking down the hallways of a very crowded hotel in polka dot pajamas and a truly appalling gray T-shirt. I neglected to put on a bra and shoes and failed to brush my hair so I assume I looked a bit like a half-assed crack addict. When I failed to find a vending machine on the first floor I remember thinking, “Go back to sleep, Chelsea. Just go back to sleep. Do not, under any circumstances, try and find a vending machine on the second floor.” Of course, I went to the second floor. And the third, to no avail.

I absolutely was not ready to accept that a full-service hotel didn’t have a vending machine. Surely this was a sick joke. Just as I was about to give up I walked by the front desk and noticed a glorious spread of tasty indulgences. Fooooooooood. I can’t recall with confidence what happened next, all I know is that I woke up the next morning to an empty King-Size Butterfinger wrapper, a bad taste in my mouth and a dusting of sweet, delicious crumbs. Some sort of transaction must have occurred and I’m quite confident it was awkward, which is why I maturely left through the side door as quickly and quietly as I had come. Just another peril of sleep eating.

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Five-Minute Observation: Shall We Not Dance?

It’s no secret that I am helplessly inclined to be awkward. If it is a secret, it doesn’t stay that way for long, as my persistent awkwardness insists on revealing itself almost immediately upon coming in contact with another human being. Its evolution is unpredictable and mercurial, especially when it comes to dancing.

Unfortunately, while I have done a lot on the dance floor (slipped, stood and lost a small fortune worth of cell phones and loose dollar bills), I can’t think of a time that when I’ve ever actually danced with serious intentions. I usually just “joke dance”, which involves me doing “the sprinkler” and other 80’s-era dance moves. Sadly, it’s really not a joke because I still put a lot of mental and physical effort into these moves.

It’s not that I haven’t tried to dance normally, because I have. It’s just that for some reason, when I dance I look like a delirious penguin on LSD. No matter how hard I fight it, my body moves at awkward intervals that are completely independent from the rhythm of the music. What’s worse is that my perception of how I look when I dance is vaguely disconnected with the painful reality of what my body is actually doing. In my mind, I’m seducing the crowd with a sexy hip swivel but in reality, I look like a rusty Tin Man trying to unsubtly dislodge a wedgie without his hands.

A couple of my close friends here at SCAD hail from Puerto Rico. Said friends are more evolved when it comes to the art of dance and when they dance, they do it for reals and they look good. So, I was understandably apprehensive a couple of weeks ago when they suggested that we go to a local club to dance. I didn’t want to them to be embarrassed by me, but I knew my dancing limits so I figured I would just default to my joke dancing. However, after walking in and witnessing the seriousness with which the beautiful and scantily clad people there were getting their groove on, I soon realized this method wasn’t going to fly.

If ever there was a time to abuse alcohol, this was it. I went with my gut and started investing in several cups of rum, hoping that the calming effects of these spirits would simultaneously reduce my anxieties and help me find some sort of rhythm. Unfortunately, after five minutes of awkwardly swaying back and forth and running my massive hands through my tangled hair in what I imagine was not a sexy manner, I had effectively scared off everyone within a three-foot radius of me. At that point, I unintentionally became living proof that alcohol has no apparent positive effect on ones ability to look cool while dancing in a club with other people who are actually good dancers. I tried to do a real dance and I failed. I never felt nerdier, for lack of a better word. In my rum-fueled haze, I vowed that I would never try to dance seriously again and if the people around me didn’t like it then they were just going to have to deal with it. I marched right back onto the dance floor and did what I’ve always done on such a floor: I lost five dollars.

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Five Minute Observation: Hail No

I was riding in the very front row of a charter bus headed north to Athens, T.N. to coach the last lacrosse game of the season. I like sitting up front because the big windows make me feel like I’m on one of those weird trains that ride around the food courts at malls during the holidays. Everyone you pass gives you a condescending smile as their way of expressing how happy they are to not be you. While I find the condescending smiles from the people in the RVs annoying, and a bit ironic, I’d still rather be up front because this means I’m not in the back next to the toilet, which, more often than not, smells like what I imagine the inside of a warthog’s poop shoot smells like.

 As I stared out the window and thought about all of glorious things I was going to do once lacrosse was over, a cloud blacker than Lady Gaga’s soul rolled authoritatively over the pale blue sky. Then, like a big, fluffy machine gun, the soulless clouds started firing bullets of hail at our bus. The wind picked up ferociously and with it, it brought any loose sticks, rocks and small cats crashing into the front, side, top and back of the bus.

 I looked over at our bus driver who suddenly became my savior. To my dismay, my newfound savior was un-heroically fumbling around on the control panel like a blind man. I assumed he was looking to activate the windshield wipers since we were knee-deep in a tornado and he had yet to turn them on. After about five minutes he gave up and decided the windshield wipers weren’t necessary to our survival.

 I took a mental note of his short-lived perseverance before I accepted that I was going to die. I was going to die on a charter bus with a bunch of people who I yell at everyday. The paramedics were going to find me after the storm and simply shake their heads in pity when they saw that I was wearing an awkward fitting Under Armour tracksuit and tennis shoes. One of them would probably sacrifice their own garments so that the last image my mom saw of me wasn’t one where I looked like an 80-year-old synchronized swimmer. In order to do that, though, they’d need a crane to lift up my lifeless body, which I assume would weigh more than my living body, if that were possible.

 Just as I was throwing together a mass text detailing my last goodbyes the storm cleared up. Our bus driver used this as an opportunity to pull into a rest stop and investigate the windshield wiper situation. He called corporate headquarters to “troubleshoot” the problem. I can’t say for sure what was said on the other end of the phone, but after he talked to them he turned a knob near the steering wheel and the wipers fired right up. I heard him say, “Oooooooh,” and then, without an apology or explanation, he whipped the car into drive and we continued our trip.

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Five Minute Observation: Old Man at Starbucks

I’m going to start a daily (but probably semi-daily) post called “Five Minute Observation”. In these I’ll briefly describe an encounter I had during that day in just five minutes so that I only have time to include the meat of the experience. I need to start listening more and observing the world around me (even if it means having to look at ugly, fat people, I’ll have to suck it up) and this is the perfect way to do it. We’ll see how this turns out. The first one is titled, “Old Man at Starbucks”:

I sit down at a table in the Starbucks next to the Publix on Abercorn.

Behind me there’s an old man. He’s sitting at a table for two but there’s no one with him. He’s reading the New York times with a white, plastic magnifying glass. Something tells me that magnifying glass isn’t really helping because he’s still hunched down to within two inches of the paper, his eyelashes even touch the magnifying glass. He seems deeply enthralled in the Business section until a customer walks in. At that point he becomes the unofficial greeter of Starbucks. He welcomes each guest with a, “How’s it going today, you fine young man?” and a “Good morning, my dear.” He talks to each customer as if he knows them but the looks on their faces make it clear he probably doesn’t.

He comes here everyday and reads the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, he says to my back. As I turn around, I notice he has one piercing blue eye and one eye that looks like a cloudy beach day. His long, wrinkled face contorts into a smile and he asks me what I want to do with my life. “I want to be a writer,” I respond. “Good, well now, I can say I talked to you before you got famous,” he says confidently as he decisively hunches back down to his magnifying glass.

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Let’s Stay In

These days I don’t get out very often. Too much school work, not enough money and a body that’s unwilling to fight the adverse effects of alcohol are a few reasons why I’m spending the prime of my life drinking wine in my bed and writing blog posts. I know, you’ve heard it all before. I am a loser. Big. Fucking. Deal.

But I digress.

I did get the chance to face the drunk hipsters of Savannah this past weekend and they kindly provided me with yet another reason why I generally loathe large crowded college bars: alcohol makes unfunny people think they are funny. After a couple cans of liquid courage and a few sympathy laughs everyone’s the next Richard Pryor.

Now, I’m not saying that I’m the next comedic prodigy because I know for certain I’m about as funny as a bag of ham. I also realize that when I pound down a couple brews I pretend to walk into poles and I eat sausage biscuits in sets of two but, like most people, I choose to believe society is the problem.

It’s just that nothing annoys me more than when I’m at a bar enjoying my mental judgement of everyone and some moron with a plaid shirt, ugly haircut and overwhelming body odor interrupts with quotes from “Jersey Shore” or “Zoolander.” Look, buddy, that was so 2,000 and late. You look like a bozo and you smell like a trashcan. Go home, wash yourself and work on some new material.

As Lucille Bluthe would say, these people “make me want to set myself on fire.” I didn’t take it that far. Instead I just drank away the pain. This could be why I am at the tail end of a two-day hangover. I don’t know when I become an anti-social 60 year old stuck in the body of a 24 year old but it’s happened and there’s no turning back. Sorry, friends.

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Body Notes

Body Notes

This was a short poem I wrote that was inspired by all of the little noises our bodies make.

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Shut the…front door.

As a grad student at SCAD I spend about 90 percent of my time plopped in front of a computer mindlessly shoving Starbursts and Coca-Cola into my mouth while I diddle around in Illustrator and Photoshop. I could do this in the comfort my home but instead I venture to the school buildings so that I can violate the lab’s food and drink policy. I love using the fancy new computers that all $50,000 of my tuition paid for, but I hate (and I mean really, really hate) the groups of imbeciles who turn the computer lab into their own private living room. These idiots come in, sit down and then just loudly blab without any consideration for their hardworking (read: Facebook stalking) peers.

Do they know that no one cares about how you got drunk on Saturday and made out with a street lamp? Have they considered that no one wants to hear their side of the phone conversation with their mom about what they ate for breakfast that morning?

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that if they are playing YouTube videos of cats tap dancing and FaceTiming with their boyfriends then they probably wouldn’t know the room was on fire unless it disrupted their internet connection.

Usually, I just glare at them, then up at the wall. At that point, I use my best Mike Posner creepy whisper voice and tell them to, “Shut up.” To avoid suspicion I shrink down into my computer chair, pop my headphones in and feign hard work.

For some reason this method of attack isn’t working. I have no idea why not.

The next step in operation “Shut The Front Door” will be to send them anonymous e-greetings starring the aforementioned tap dancing cat that will encourage them to shut their big, ugly mouths.  I’ll keep you updated on the effectiveness of my plan B barring I don’t get arrested for some sort of cat e-stalking.

The moral of the story: unless you want to receive an angry anonymous e-mail or you want to keep hearing muffled cries from a creepy girl in the corner then please, please, do us all a favor and shut your front door.

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New, New Years

For as long as I can remember I have spent the first day of the new year hungover and nauseous. In the past I’ve woken up on January 1st, sad that all of the whiskey and cheap beer from the night before rendered me incapable of seizing the new year. In fits of embarrassment and anger I’ve resolved to change myself, to pick-up new habits in place of old ones only to be disappointed to find out that my new habits have succumbed to the strength of my old ones.

So, this year I’ve decided that I’m not going to change at all. This year I am going do everything the same and I am going to take solace in my self-inflicted misery. I hypothesize that starting the year off at my lowest possible moral and physical state can only guarantee my upward progression for the remainder of the year. So this year my new years eve will be the same: I will still drink more beer than I probably should, I will still embarrass my boyfriend, I will still laugh so hard that I cry and cry so hard that I laugh. Everything will be the same which makes for the newest of new years.

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L.O.D. Sun Airway

“I wish we could be swallowed by the whales—
just a couple of fish inside the living ship we’d sail…
I’m just looking for a perfect sentence to keep us alive.”

Sun Airway: “Swallowed by the Night ” from Nocturne of Exploded Crystal Chandelier