Friday, September 24, 2010

Cruzing Back Into Things

I'm finally back in Santa Cruz!! After what felt like an endless summer, I'm now moved into my new apartment and starting classes. Everything's been going exceptionally well, and that's almost scary to a cynic like me, but I'll go with it. In what is probably my most diary-esque post to date, I think I'll share a list of 5 of the best things that have happened since being back in SC, in no particular order:

1. The Big Cut
Cutting your hair as short as I did is a bold and drastic move for any girl, but I feel like in my case, the new do is even more monumental because my hair has been a huge part of my identity, for as far back as I can remember. As a little girl with perfect ringlets, old ladies were constantly complimenting me by saying things like "Most people would have to pay a lot of money to look like that!" But behind the scenes, my parents struggled to maintain it, sometimes resorting to horse shampoo or Sacramento ethnic hair salon King of Curls, which more than one person has since suggested is actually a drug front (they have a van with their name painted on it. What could a hair salon need with a van?). As I got older, people liked to tease me through elementary and middle school, and I think a defining moment in my life was when I chose to join in and laugh at myself, showing that it wasn't a big deal and earning respect. In high school I was glad I didn't look like every other flat-ironed girl around, but sometime in my first year of college I finally started toying with the idea of making a change. For a while I thought dreads were the way to go, but eventually I decided to go for the bold, clean, slightly bad-ass look of short on the sides and longer on top. What made the cut even more fun was that I only told two people my plan to go short beforehand; that way I got shock everyone else. (My friend Jazmine looked at me for a good five seconds before recognizing me and yelling "WHAT?!") I also got to donate my hair to Locks of Love. Whoever gets a wig made out of my hair is in for a wild ride.

2. I Love (Haunted) Lamp
So I got this lamp at the Salvation Army store for nine bucks, and now I can't stop telling people about it. It's perfect, old-fashioned and decorative and slightly broken, and it fits in well in my nostalgia-inspired room. But because I bought it second-hand, I'm afraid it's got some creepy baggage. The first night after I got it, it kept turning on and off by itself as I was trying to fall asleep. Now I unplug it when it's not in use, but I still think it's the coolest fucking lamp ever.

3. Hitchin' a Ride
Hitchhiking is fairly common in Santa Cruz, especially among students. I only partook in it a couple times last year because I was a scared freshman, but this year I'm making up for lost time. I've met some really nice people, but the best were some monks I met who were on their way to the Porter Squiggle to give a yoga presentation. We chatted about how Western culture has ruined yoga by turning into a purely physical thing so that money can be made from it. It was a blast. I'd write more about the whole concept of hitchhiking, but I'm saving that for a possible upcoming CHP feature.

4. The Gift of Words
I love Bookshop Santa Cruz, probably too much. Whenever I'm on Pacific Avenue, I make whoever I'm with stop in and take a look around with me, and more I often than not I walk out with a purchase. Naturally, I'm a fan of theirs on facebook, and occasionally they hold contests to win free books. A few days ago, they asked people to post their favorite John Stewart moment, in honor of his new book. I posted a video of him slamming CNBC, and the next morning there was a message in my inbox saying I had won a free book. SWEET! I was so excited, you would have thought JK Rowling had announced an eighth installment in the Harry Potter series. But what can I say? As I've showed before in this blog, I love books.

5. Nineteen
Did I forget to mention that today's my birthday? It's been a pretty fun day so far, and I'm having dinner with a lot of my friends tonight, some of whom I haven't gotten to spend much time with since we've been back here. I have a feeling that nineteen is going to be a good year for me-- sophomore year is so much easier than freshman, and I feel like I have a better life outlook than I did a year ago. As I told my BFF Jesse on the phone at 12:02 AM, "Eighteen was a bitch year. Nineteen is gonna be great."

Monday, September 6, 2010

Reading Into Things

I started repacking today in preparation for my return to Santa Cruz. In general, getting my stuff together is a lot easier now than it was last year because I've learned to edit my belongings more effectively-- for some reason, I used to think that I wouldn't survive my freshman year of college without my eighth grade diploma tucked somewhere in the bottom desk drawer in my dorm room. But it's still difficult making rational packing decisions when it comes to a huge portion of my belongings: books.

Put crudely, I fucking love reading, and I love reading anything-- magazines, newspapers, blogs, my little brother's school essays-- as long as it's not a textbook, I generally don't mind looking through it. But books (novels, short stories, and especially creative nonfiction) are an obvious favorite, I think because they're long enough to form a memorable emotional and intellectual connection with. And once you form such a connection with something, whether it's a human being or a story, you don't really want to leave it lying around in your garage, do you? Imagine forcing your aunt to sit in between cobwebbed boxes of your old childhood toys, waiting for you to come home over winter break and hang out with her. It's really not the way to go.

Yes, I realize that the physical books aren't nearly as important as the words written in them, so maybe it doesn't matter what I do with them as long as the stories live on in me, or something like that. But I like having the actual books around, because each one of them meant something to me. Just like pictures remind me of good times with friends and family I don't get a chance to see all the time, books remind me of all sorts of things. I see a Christopher Buckley novel and remember going to my favorite used bookstore years ago with my dad. I know I'm not likely to pick up The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsanytime soon, and displaying it in my room certainly won't win me any cool points, but it signifies an impassioned argument I had with my high school boyfriend, who scoffed at this supposed "chick lit". I see Joan Didion's Where We Were From and think about how much I like living in California, despite all its problems. If I had to pick any one concept to believe in completely and wholeheartedly, it would be belief in the written word, belief that writing and reading can and often does change people. Yes, I have some books that I prefer to others, but how can I choose to leave behind anything that means that much to me?

In the midst of writing this post, I realize something that I can't believe I didn't see before. This sentimentality isn't just about books. It's about, big surprise, me not wanting to leave behind anything that shaped who I am today, which has been somewhat a theme in my life lately. It's not even that I liked a lot of the things that shaped me, but for some reason I'm not ready to forget about them. All this time I thought I was so smart to be feeling so passionately about books, but maybe they're yet another symbol of the things I can't take with me. I'm not really sure. It's late, and my thoughts are all over the place, and I don't think my writing is as concise as it could be right now. But, you know, I wouldn't even know what good writing was if I didn't read so much.