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« June 2001 | Main | August 2001 »

July 19, 2001
[so close, yet so...]

"So close, yet so far away," the woman said. We were waiting for our numbers to come up, waiting to turn over our papers, our 2"x2" recent photographs, our money--for passports. I was thinking the same thing, myself.

She didn't know anyone had heard her. Toddlers were crying. A young Chinese woman was asking a stranger how to draw the number 6.

The reality of the Passport Agency was entirely different from the image I'd created in my mind. I thought there would be a small, empty dark room in an old building, wooden doors with translucent glass panels. Instead it was a large, bright room in an old building, with a flickering fake-wood-paneled closed-circuit television in the sky that posted the Numbers Being Served, the whole space utterly devoid of character, yet full of characters, people with problems and dreams of all nationalities wanting out of America for some reason.

Due to my grossly inaccurate fantasy, I'd expected to be there for ten minutes, tops. I had filled the meter--which was 6 blocks away--with an hour's worth of quarters.

We had developed a temporary camaraderie, the woman and I, being the only two female American natives in the crowded room. She was slightly older than me and wore a baseball-style shirt with "EMI Records" printed on the back. (I kept hearing Johnny Rotten's voice: "EMIIII!" I tried to suppress it.) After she'd signed in, I had made room for her to enter my aisle. We had cooed over the young Asian baby in front of us. Actually, she cooed; I just smiled.

For most of the wait, we stared at the passport processing ladies, whose chatter between calling each next number seemed endless. "Stop talking. Don't you realize how long we've been waiting?" I tried to transmit my thoughts to them silently, but then realized that they probably were enjoying themselves less than I was. And they had to be here all day. Like everyone, they should be allowed respite.

Shortly after her quiet cliched sentiment, my new friend turned to me and said, "You feel like you're so close...."

"I know," I said. I watched the red letters scroll across the electronic display: "Welcome to the Philadelphia Passport Agency. The Estimated Wait Is 53 Minutes...." The time fluctuated with each new applicant. If they were taking a while, the estimated wait time would rise. The lowest it got was 37.

At last, I was called. "Bye bye," EMI-woman said. The actual application process took about three minutes. I decided that they need to revamp the system and make a special line for Americans traveling alone. But I guess that's kind of self-serving.

I expected to find my car sporting a parking ticket, but I jogged back to it anyway. Indeed, unknown hands had touched my wiper, lifted it up and placed a $15 ticket against the glass. Thank you, Philadelphia.

That woman and I--these brief human interactions make me feel so normal, and this, I think, is actually a good thing. It's heartwarming that an instant comfort level can be created between two people who do not know each other. Bittersweet, perhaps, that the similarities of our color and gender and age were the driving force behind that bond, this time. Perhaps when I am abroad (in Denmark, for anyone not in the know), I'll discover differently.

File under DAILY. Posted at 12:00 AM

July 13, 2001
[so i'm sitting here...]

So I'm sitting here with a pink scarf tied around my neck. It's 10:30 PM. While in the midst of a private fashion show for moi, I had the urge to go back and read the interview I did for Steve earlier this year. So I read it. I decided I sound generally articulate in that interview, and I'm not yet embarassed by anything I said in it. I guess the real issue is whether I have grown at all since then. It was half a year ago. I still feel mostly like I'm in the same place. But lately, I have started to gain some clarity, I think.

I tried to see Legally Blonde tonight (alone). It looks like an entertainingly dumb movie. But after a reckless/fun high-speed drive to the local theater, I learned it was sold out.

So I visited the local Marshall's and spent the next hour and a half there instead. Bought a black french-girl early '60s shirt (hence the scarf), jeans that are a replica of current jeans I own except 1 size smaller (I am losing some weight, at last), and a dress I potentially could wear to a coworker's wedding in 2 weeks. No, I haven't put this in the money journal yet. I feel rather guilty. That's what the money journal does to you.

Earlier today, the radio said that Philadelphia hopes to contend as a host city for the 2020 Olympics. I will be 41 in 2020 (providing I am still alive). My first thought was, of course, "What will I look like when I'm 41?" Then I started having an existential crisis--humanity is pointless and why are we here and why do we love, etc. What we do just comforts us while we're here. Except for the suffering people, they aren't too comfortable. How unfair. No one should suffer. Human behavior can be so disappointing--not that of the sufferers but that of they who cause suffering. Though sometimes suffering can be self-inflicted, of course.

I hate when I start thinking in cliches. "Life is so unfair, neh neh neh." As if you didn't know.

File under DAILY. Posted at 12:00 AM

July 07, 2001
[today i learned that...]

Today I learned that one of the elderly women who lives upstairs from me is certifiably insane.

Last month, my electricity bill was about $80. I have no idea how I could have used $80 worth of electricity. I don't leave stuff on. Okay, once I left the air conditioning on while I was at work. And I might possibly have left it on when I was away for a weekend. But generally, I don't hardly ever use air conditioning. And I am not here much and use lights minimally when I am. The only thing that stays on is my computer.

And the light in the hallway. I'm not sure if the light in the hallway is my electric responsibility, but I think it is. And until last week, it was on all the time. Day and night. My bills prior to this month had been about $60/month. Still outrageous, given that in Pittsburgh, our bills for a much larger place had been around $40 monthly. Though we had a gas oven there, and here it's electric. Whatever. Do I cook? Ha.

Anyway, Greg and I had been ruminating that these high bills were the fault of the light in the hallway. I only use this hallway to retrieve my mail. I am probably in the hallway for about 30 seconds every day. But the light has been on 24 hours a day for the past year. I didn't want to turn the light out, because the old ladies are old ladies, and I don't want them to fall. I had heard elated conversations when one burnt-out bulb was replaced and the hallway became even brighter. I didn't want to ruin their light-saturated lifestyle.

But for the past week or so, the hallway light has been out. I don't know who did it, but it's out. And I'm not turning it back on, because I sure as heck don't need it. Things are still visible, because the lower staircase light is still on, and light filters up into the hallway from there.


This afternoon, as I sat in my office (which has one door that leads directly to the hallway), I heard one of the women on the other side of the door, approaching her apartment from the staircase.

"Ooh! [big breath] It's dark," she said. "It's real dark. It's dark. It's so dark! Real dark. Ooh! [big breath]" At first, I thought she was speaking to a companion, but then I realized it was not so. As she complained about the darkness, I considered going out to flip the switch, but decided against it. Her dialogue continued as such: "I hafta get out my light, I know I have my light in here, where's my light, where's my light, I know I have my light in here, ooh! [big breath] I know I have my light in here. Where's my light." And then: "I found my light. Ooh! [big breath] I found my light. I found my light. Found my light. I found my light. I found my light. Ooh! [big breath]" A flashlight spot crossed the space between my door and the ground, and then she unlocked the door to her apartment.

Wow. I just sat, mainly surprised, slightly disturbed, and somewhat pitying. I am curious about her now. Is she like this in public, or only when she thinks no one can hear her? She reminds me of a character in a book. And I have no idea how I would handle a confrontation between the two of us, mostly because I have no idea how she would. Actually, I would probably just be very polite.

File under DAILY. Posted at 12:00 AM

July 02, 2001
[so it's july now...]

So it's July now. I wonder if anything monumental will happen in July.

I am going to see the Go-Go's play in Atlantic City for the 4th. And I will gamble, but not too much. And I will take advantage of the free rum and cokes provided courtesy Donald T in his Taj Mahal. The Go-Go's hit the stage at the Taj the same time the fireworks are set to start outside of Bally's Casino: 9 PM. I think the girls should wait until the fireworks are over. Maybe it is a ploy to keep the boardwalk from overcrowding, though.

I remember being at the Jersey Shore for the 4th when I was younger and watching Ocean City fireworks up close and Atlantic City fireworks far away at the same time. I'd wonder if the people in A.C. were having a better, more romantic, more glamorous time than I was. As a young teen, I always wanted a summer romance, but I never found myself one. I am not the summer romance type, unfortunately.

Tired today. Could not sleep last night. Watched Kiss: Beyond the Makeup until 2 AM. I recommend it for insomniac viewing. It seems that after the first couple of albums, all Kiss records were kind of shitty, but it didn't matter. They added their own blood to the ink of their comic book, so everything was okay. Also, I would like to watch the Kiss movie. From their interviews, I am not sure the members of Kiss grasp how humorously bad that movie looks like it is.

If I owe you an email, don't fret. Right now, though, it is bedtime. Or naptime, at least.

File under DAILY. Posted at 12:00 AM