Wednesday, February 06, 2008

oh baby i hear the blues are calling, hot salad and scrambled eggs...

the number of things that are capable of breaking my heart on a daily basis are almost too numerous to mention. some of them are no-brainers. like old people, and especially old chinese people. if you were to plot my output of pathos against the age and chinese-ness of a person, you'd see the line shooting out from the origin point (0) at a steady and true 45 degree angle. i have bottomless amounts of love and sympathy for (most) old people. i want to scoop them all up in my arms and take them home and give them makeovers and play old time-y music so they can slow dance with each other amid a pile of puppies and kittens and babies gamboling at their feet.

today this guy eating a sandwich on the subway almost made me cry. there's something so tragic about eating something you made at home on the subway. it's the way i used to feel whenever i went out to a restaurant and saw people eating alone. but i've chilled out on that some, because i'm the person eating alone sometimes...and i realize that it's just a fact of life. just like i'm sure someday i'll reconcile myself to the fact that eating a made-at-home sandwich on the subway is just another fact of life. but i'm not there yet. the tragedy was compounded by the fact that his pants were too short and exposed almost half a foot of calf above his ankle socks, which in turn were wedged into no-name slip-ons of the vans variety. he didn't have the face of someone you'd peg as a subway-sandwich-eater. he was actually quite good looking. but when he took out his blue-lidded no-name tupperware (!!!!!) and started eating the sandwich he had clearly packed, on a subway late in the evening, it struck something deep inside me. the sandwich didn't even look half bad. texas toast sized white bread, a slice of lettuce (romaine), a slice of cheese (white), some kind of thick-sliced beef, three halves, wedged together in that blue, no-name food storage container. in some ways, the fact that the sandwich looked semi-decent made it even worse. it's the semi in the semi-decent that is another compounding factor. if the sandwich was AMAZING, then i'd probably be all like, "right on, buddy. you eat that ace sandwich". or if the sandwich was a mayonnaise on white bread deal, then it would be kind of expected. but the semi-decent sandwich and the too-short pants conspired to make me unleash a tsunami of (quiet, internalized) empathy. i couldn't stop staring. the crunch the lettuce made with his first bite, how he hit a patch of tough roast beef and had to worry at the sandwich with his teeth to get a decent-sized bite...all the while packed in there between two other nondescript subway-travelers who were too typical to rouse my sentimentality. is it weird that i obsess over minutia like this? is it weird that i think i've deconstructed the semiotics of subway sandwich eating? does it make it even weirder that the only thing that enabled me to stop staring was the fact that i noticed he had a nice, new pair of name-brand running shoes on top of a gym bag, and somehow, the fact that this guy engaged in some kind of sporting activity necessitating both a gym bag and nice new name-brand runners assuaged the torrent of pained, shared humanistic connectivity that i was silently directing at him?

i'm a giant ball of stress right now...i can feel it sitting in the middle of my chest. i'm not really sure how to move through it, other than to just keep my head down, plugging away. i have three assignments and a presentation due next week and one of them is group work and another one is about government documents and i hate that prof (same roadie, "beers after work" prof that i hated last semester) for being such a little pissant and giving us stupid assignments that involve blindly wrestling with the united nations documentation system. EFF YOU, BUDDY. am i wrong in thinking that ONE assignment shouldn't take me TWELVE hours to complete?

in other news, i've somehow managed to carve out a niche for myself as the resident "class clown" in my sociology class. i don't know how it happened. today we were having a discussion about how meaning is constructed. the author of the article that we were reading, wendy griswold, suggested in her piece that the way meaning is constructed is through this dialogic negotiation between the cultural product and the receivers. my question was: how do the receivers know HOW to read the cultural product? and the answer was that there are certain presuppositions that we draw from (which i kind of buy, but kind of don't). which then led me to question, how, if the available meanings arise from our base presuppositions, over time, (and this argument is influenced by my readings of kuhn) there'd be a narrowing of the available field of meanings. like, i understand fight club (a movie i intensely dislike) to be about x and y, and there's a generation of people who more or less agree that fight club is about x and y, and they perpetuate it, and then gradually, you create a canonical understanding of what fight club could be about, which allows for small differences of opinion, but overall, people agree on the general thrust, and this continues to reify itself over time. some of the people in my class didn't get what i was talking about, so this is when i got to say the following: "so, for example, nowadays, there's a general agreement about what hamlet is about. i mean, it's not like you can say with any traction that hamlet is about...ummmm...i don't know...CONSUMERISM" hahahahaha!!! this could be me being a colossal loser laughing at an esoteric, academic-style joke (and if this is true, punch me in the junk, because academic, discipline-specific jokes are THE WORST [even at the same time that they are THE BEST]), but the idea that hamlet could possibly be about consumerism is hi-larious.

here is the kind of academic, discipline-specific joke where, if i wasn't the one making it, i would have TOTALLY rollseyesdotbarfdotgif'd over (and hated me for): i was talking to my friend matthew in the class, and he was asking me how i was handling the full-time work and school combo. so i said something along the lines of, "oh, it's okay...it comes in waves where i get really stressed out and don't think i can handle it, and then other times where i think i'm okay. i basically move between repudiation and deferral" *insert collegial chuckling between us* it's basically a stupid, poncey reference to derridean philosophy...but at the same time as i hate myself for saying it...it's just so rare that you get to make jokes that play on derrida. so i'm basically turning into everything i hated about frasier. great.

fin.

4 comments:

dr.rei said...

hahahah awesome hamlet joke....especially cause i can totally hear you saying it in my head.

regarding the sad sandwich guy - i totally get you on that one dude. once i actually cried because i saw an old guy sitting by himself in McDonald's at around 9pm, in the dead of winter, eating a vanilla soft serve ice cream. it was the WORST.

karl lagerfeld, esquire said...

dude...i'm tearing up RIGHT NOW.

sg said...

Hi mercedes,
I came by to say hi and to say that I once saw two guys in the window of this diner with at least 12 orange crush cans on the table between them; like they were drowning their sorrows but with pop, orange pop. at least they were together. Call me tonight re: one of your assignments and maybe i can help (i am at around 20 hours!)

Chris said...

Quite the literary wizard this morning.....Dr. Crane.