Thursday, December 9, 2010

On reality television.

I grew up in a household without cable, so I didn't watch TV as much as many of the children my age. In fact, I got the entirety of my TV fix from either visits to a relative's or my babysitter's house. Luckily, that was enough to instill me with a firm foundation in the pop culture of my generation. From Dexter's Lab to Hey! Arnold to the Power Puff Girls, I experienced what may have been the golden years of children's entertainment on television. Because, let's face it, cartoons these days are not nearly the same caliber as the ones from the 90's.

Once I stopped going to my babysitter's house, however, I stopped watching my after-school cartoons. I was old enough to realize that the internet and Neopets were now more interesting the kids' shows. Besides, the quality of the the shows was already starting to deteriorate with such atrocities as Totally Spies and the new cast of All That. My attention was shifted from one lifeless entertainment machine to another, and I was totally fine with that. Every once in a while when I'd visit my aunt and uncle I'd put on Animal Planet to watch Steve Irwin wrestle some gators. That was enough for me.

For a long time I didn't watch any television at all, save for what I had on DVD and what I could dredge up online. It was tough, though, since the videos I found were either branded with Korean subtitles or pirated and their host websites shut down. With the advent of Hulu, however, I found myself in heaven. I was no longer in danger of my favorite shows being pulled due to copyright violations. This shit was legal. And so I fell comfortably into a new routine, watching episodes of House and Monk as they aired, but never getting too hooked. Online TV was recreational, a quick-fix but nothing that kept me crawling back. I could stop when I wanted.

Then, one lonely Friday night, I came across an episode of Bridezillas. Within the first few moments of the show starting I could feel the rage building up inside me. These women were lunatics, totally batshit crazy, narcissistic, infantile psychopaths. And I got all that before the opening sequence started. But even though watching Valerie smash vases and destroy wedding cakes filled me with anger and disgust, I couldn't bring myself to turn it off. Something about that show wouldn't let me turn it off. It was sick, I felt horrified, and yet I kept watching. I finished the episode, my mouth hanging open in disbelief through all forty minutes. I was practically sick to my stomach, appalled that such a human actually existed somewhere in the world, was married and had a child. I wanted to erase the last hour from my memory, return to a time where I had no knowledge of such revolting creatures as these Bridezillas. I wanted to put on something fun and happy like 30 Rock, or Psych, which I new my good friend Hulu had waiting for me just a few clicks away. But I didn't.

I watched another one.

And another, and another, until I'd exhausted every link, every website with pirated videos of this abomination. I wanted more, but there was nothing left.

Come on, Hulu, I thought. Don't disappoint me.

And disappointed, I was not. There they were, five full episodes of The Real Housewives of New York. So long quality entertainment. Hello, trash.

And so began my sick love affair with reality television. If I were to be in a relationship with it on Facebook, it would be listed as "It's Complicated." Here I am, a relatively intelligent, somewhat well-adjusted college student. I tend to believe that I am somewhat intelligent, have good manners, and know more or less how one should treat other people. Reality TV showcases everything that I vehemently stand against. Pettiness, materialism, and stupidity are among the three personality traits required to be on such a show. And the women are usually complete bitches, too, although many times that actually proves to be the norm. The level of bitchiness, though, is absolutely off the wall. No human should ever behave the way I've seen woman behave on some of these shows. It kind of makes me want to vomit.
Maybe that's what it is that draws me to them. Maybe it's a case of "opposites attract," or something. Since I find myself to be generally not crazy, I am strangely fascinated by watching people who are. Their actions confound me so completely that observing them is almost like a science project.  I'm like Jane Goodall observing chimpanzees. Maybe I should start taking notes.

"The blonde skinny one with large implants made some progress today. She learning that crying, now matter how loud one does, may not achieve anything after all. I am proud of her. She is learning well."

So now when I sit down to watch old episodes of Rock of Love, I don't have to feel so bad. The first time I indulged, I felt horrible about myself. How can I watch this trash? I wondered. But now I think it is a very healthy and natural thing to be drawn to, and probably why there can be such hype about reality shows (Umm, Jersey Shore, anyone?). We are constantly seeking validation that we are normal, we are sane, our choices make sense, and so on. Watching people destroy their lives from the inside out through whatever insanity they are cursed with helps us remember that our heads are, in fact screwed on just fine. 

I always used to think that term was misleading, "reality television." Because, come on, what reality are these people living in? An alternate one, I suspect. But I realized that the name may be accurate, just in a different way than I originally thought. Shows like The Jersey Shore and The Real World help keep us grounded, help keep us grounded in the reality that we should really be worrying about: our own.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

On Subway Preachers

Is it just me, or does anyone else find the people who preach religion on subways really offensive?

I mean, I get it that there's free speech and all, so legally there's no reason to make them stop, but morally I find the practice absolutely disgusting. There's a thing called freedom of religion, too, folks, but I think fewer people remember that nowadays.

Take today for instance. I was on a very crowded 6 train from Union Square, reading my book and thoroughly minding my own business. I had a seat, though, so I didn't mind the cramped car, and I was almost enjoying the ride to my school.

Then some loud asshole gets on at 42nd street, ranting about the Free Masons and the Illuminati and whatever, saying how they should hide because of something something, and true Christians shouldn't be afraid of them because they were pure and faithful, blah blah blah. Now, he, unlike some others, did not tell me I was going to hell, which I appreciated. But he was so goddamn loud that he made me feel like I was already there. When I got to my stop I bolted off that train like Satan's fire was at my feet.

There was another event on the E train one morning. It was very crowded (no surprise there) and all I wanted was to get the hell off. I had someone's ass in my face and another pressing into my shoulder from where I sat next to the door, and I was praying to my own special subway god that neither of them had eaten beans recently. From across the car I heard a woman's voice.

"Good morning, everyone!" she bellowed. "I am here to tell you about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ..."

I think I groaned quite audibly as I mentally kicked myself for not having charged my iPod the night before.

On and on, she rambled, listing the multitude of ways one is refused from entering the Pearly Gates. That's it, I thought, I'm screwed. Luckily, I do not subscribe to a religious doctrine, so that means I'm all clear, right?

Not according to her. As much as she praised Jesus and spoke of his unending love for his children, she also said that sinners and nonbelievers were to burn for eternity.

That's what always gets me, and probably what bugs me so much about hearing these people preach. Although I am not a religious person, I am both aware and respectful of other beliefs. But when all you're telling me is that because I choose a different spiritual path I am to suffer in the flames of hell, I'm no longer sympathetic, just offended. I try very hard to keep an open mind when it comes to religion. Is it too much to ask you to do the same?

For this woman, clearly it was. After a while all her words began to sound like "Listen to me, for I am clearly superior." I, along with my fellow passengers, was getting to be very agitated, especially since the train was taking its sweet, delicious time getting to the next stop.

"All you need," the woman shouted, "is to embrace Jesus!"

"All we need is for you to shut up!"

The response came from beside me, a thirty-something businesswoman who was clearly even more frustrated than I was. All eyes went to her, and from somewhere in the crowded car I heard a few chuckles. But still, the preacher continued her sermon, despite how obviously unwanted it was. 

When we reached 53rd, there was a mass exodus from that E train. The doors opened and a sea of irritated commuters flooded onto the platform, leaving the woman in a nearly empty subway car with no real audience to speak of. I assume she continued, despite how few people were left to listen. I stepped onto the escalator and sighed. When the automated voice reminded me to "please be courteous to riders behind me" I smiled. That's the kind of preaching I don't mind. Because, hey, everyone needs be reminded to be courteous every now and again.

Friday, December 3, 2010

On being a perpetual klutz.

For as long as I can remember, I've been a remarkable klutz. I'm pretty sure I stumbled while exiting the womb, because since birth I've had trouble simply standing up straight. In my elementary school days it may have been comical, perhaps even endearing. I picture a miniature me with dainty feet and legs just a touch too long for my body stumbling over somebody's Jenga tower or falling butt-first into the bucket of Lincoln logs and I laugh. It's funny because the image is rather adorable. I see a little blonde girl tripping over her own Polly Pocket sneakers landing smartly on her rear, and she stares up at me with bulging blue eyes just slightly glistening with tears. She's pretty cute. And I can only hope those who knew me at the time thought the same. Looking back on all the times I tripped at recess, I pray that that was the case. If not, then its just unfortunate.

As I entered the years that would fall into my "middle school" era (although, technically, I never officially attended middle school), my clumsiness only worsened. My body grew in all sorts of strange directions, and I found myself standing almost five feet tall in fourth grade, being nearly 10 to 15 pounds overweight. To complicate matters, I sprouted a healthy pair of breasts that were the largest of all my classmates'. Not only did I look awkward, but I felt it. My body didn't remotely resemble anyone else's, so I was sure something was wrong with it. I felt uncomfortable as myself, and often would wear boys' clothes to hide my chest and thighs. I didn't know what else to do with them. Needless to say, feeling uneasy in one's body does very little one's gracefulness. I was that girl who always tripped in the hall, sending a wave books of books papers onto the floor and under my feet. Stairs continued to be a problem, so stepping off the bus was usually a bit of a to-do. All my most serious injuries occurred between the ages of 9 and 12. In those years I sprained my shoulder (fell off the monkey bars), fractured my foot (it was just one misplaced karate kick), and sprained my finger (kickball, enough said). Although I stopped maiming myself by high school, I was no less clumsy. The hallways between classes were like a minefield. I had to be consciously aware of the people surrounding me and also somehow manage to not trip over students sitting on the floor, keep my books in my hand, and sometimes even carry a conversation. It was a circus act seven times a day. 

At my house my family gets a kick out of my lack of coordination. I can hear my sister's exact tone as she says "Got yourself?" after I trip over the dining room chair or walk face-first into the kitchen door. Stubbed toes have become routine. It doesn't even need to be dark for me to misjudge the distance between my foot and the leg of the couch. I had a running joke with a coworker of mine that continually bumping into things signified a case of "The Micahs." Working at a pet store was like trying to work in a war zone for me. I had boxes of cat litter everywhere, racks of toys with lethal metal pegs sticking out, and shelf corners that left me with unsightly bruises on every inch of my legs. I think I came home more beat up from just walking around the store than from any animal ever fell into my care.

Daily functions can even be a bit of an ordeal. Walking up stairs has always proved challenging for me. Many times while exiting the subway, I trip on the step and face-plant into someone's rear end. I take extra time while leaving my seat to go to the bathroom during class. I slide out carefully and deliberately, all the while bracing myself on both my desk and chair. Too many times I've stumbled over my seat in my haste to empty my bladder. The feeling of all those judgmental eyes on me while I regain my balance is often enough to make me wish I had just decided to hold it in. 

My mom would always tell me "Don't worry, you'll grow out of it" while I was still enduring the horrors of puberty. Well, here I am at 19 years old and it still feels like my body has yet to settle into its final shape. I continually miscalculate the area I take up or the distance between my arm and that sharp corner. My boyfriend usually suffers the most from my inability to control my body, perhaps even more than I do. He's taken many a knee to the ribs or elbow to the face, and I am so grateful that he hasn't started to hate me for it yet. I secretly fear one day he will.

I am so far from ever "growing out of" my clumsiness. I've been plagued by it for so long that at this point I've begun to assume I'll be like this forever, stuck perpetually in the awkward body of a pubescent young woman with a center of gravity that seems to change on a daily basis. To tell the truth, that kind of terrifies me. Will I always have these bruises on my shins? These scrapes on my knees? Will my loved ones be in constant danger of a flailing arm or poorly timed toss of my hair? The way things look from here I'm tempted to believe that answer is "yes."

God, if you exist, please prove me wrong.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Legend of the Polaroid Pirate

Well, I'm going to start out by disappointing you. This story is not a legend. Nor am I really a pirate, although that would be super badass. I'm really just a girl who likes to take pictures. And I have a parrot. And I may occasionally call people scallywags, but who doesn't?

What this story will be is how my parrot and I came upon each other. It is a tale of romance, intrigue, and high adventure. One of passion, danger, and... Ugh, fine. It's really none of those. I just wanted to capture your interest. Just read this story, ok? It's cute, I promise.

Our story begins back in October of the year two-thousand and eight. I had just started college, as well as a part-time job at a local pet store. It was entirely by chance that I was hired. I wasn't really looking for a job (Mom, if you're reading this, I'm kidding, I totally was) and I didn't really want one. I was miserable at school and all I wanted was to come home and sleep all the time. In all honesty, though, I really needed a distraction from the monotony of my freshman year. I didn't know it, but I needed something to take my mind off being depressed more than I realized at the time. When my mom came home from buying dog food one Saturday morning, she told me the pet store was looking for help, so we got back in her Jeep and drove on over.

I was pretty much hired on the spot. I'd like to think it was because I was overwhelmingly adorable and charming, but really I just think they were desperate, and, in many ways, so was I. Plus, this job was perfect. I had owned almost every kind of pet imaginable. Clearly fate was working its magic that day.

It wasn't difficult for me to get into the routine of things at the pet store. My tasks were fairly simple; put dog food on shelves, clean guinea pig cages, give water to birds. That sort of thing. But I didn't feel like I fit in right from the start. I was getting by, but barely. As much as I loved animals, my job was still just that. A job. Nothing more rewarding.

That is, until Elliot came along.

He wasn't Elliot when we met. He was just "The Black-Cap." He's a black-capped conure, a type of Amazonian parrot, but that's a mouthful of a name, so it was shortened some something more palatable. He was king of the bird room. Although small (hardly ten inches from beak to tail and no more than four ounces) he ran the show. Every morning he was let out of his cage, free to run around and pester the other birds as he pleased. He was never mean or antagonistic, even to the parakeets when they'd nip at his feet; he was regal. He asserted his dominion with poise, but maintained it fiercely if need be. I respected him, hoping he'd do the same for me, but mostly because his sharp beak was very intimidating.

I was lucky, though. He liked me. The first day my coworker, Sandra, brought him out to show him to me, he stepped right onto my hand without hesitation. Only after I boldly offered him my finger did Sandra tell me that he likes to bite, nay, attack people he isn't fond of. But, again, I was lucky.

Ever since then I considered myself privileged when he'd allow me to spend time with him. When I ventured into the bird room to get crickets, I'd let him walk over to me, see what I was doing. I'd brightly say hello, and he'd tilt his head and just stare with his obsidian eyes, watching. After a few weeks of this, he'd even hop onto my shoulder from his open cage, but I, always fearful of his wrath, put him back soon after. It took several months of this sort of interaction before he started to really trust me, and I, him.

Soon enough, we were nearly inseperable. When the sun went down and the customers dwindled to just a few per hour, I'd let him climb onto my shoulder while I swept the floors. In those quiet moments right before closing, he'd snuggle up in my hair, nibble my neck and go to sleep, perhaps thankful for the company or the warmth that I could provide. It was always hard for me to put him back at night, especially when he clearly did not want to be locked up again. But he was always grateful in the morning when he was released, sometimes rewarding me with a kiss on my lips, or a nuzzle against my cheek.

Like this we spent several months, the Black Cap and I. It was a comfortable routine, these stolen moments when the store was quiet, but I was ready for the next step. I began to consider buying him.

The first obstacle was convincing my mother. I knew I could never show her exactly how wonderful he was because he didn't know my mom, so he wouldn't give her kisses or preen her hair like he did for me. But after several demonstrations of our intimate interactions, she began to come around.

"For your birthday," she said, "if he's still here."

If he's still here...

It never occurred to me that someone else might buy him. After all, he'd already been part of the store's livestock for three years. What was another few months? But, of course, as soon as those words were spoken, someone took interest in my Black Cap. I needed to act, and fast. Thanks to my remarkable intellgence and charming wit, I convinced my mother to buy the Black Cap for me. As an "early birthday present." I'm joking, I really just begged until I turned blue in the face. It took several weeks, and I felt like a whiny brat, but I knew it had to be done. Otherwise I might never have seen my darling Black Cap again. When it was official that he was to join our family, we (my mother, father and sister) discussed names. I liked Oliver. It was cute, but still spunky, just like him. As adorable was he was, he never hesitated giving me a nip on the finger when I was out of line. But Oliver was vetoed. We discussed a few others, but the one that stuck around throughout the conversation was my idea: Elliot. As we began to reach a consensus, I tried saying the name aloud. Elliot. Elliot. It seemed to fit, and I was satisfied.

Elliot, I thought, you're part of our family now.

He was very quiet the night we brought him home. We had to put in him in a small cardboard box for the car ride, and he made almost no noise. "What? What?" was what he seemed to say from inside the box. "What? What-what?" Once inside my house I opened the flaps and lifted him out into the light. He looked around, quiet and observant, not making a sound. I was nervous. I had read that some birds don't handle transitions well, and a change in environment can make them grouchy and irritable. That first night I mostly left him alone. I gave him some cooked corn (his favorite snack), closed his cage, and went to bed.

"'Night, 'night, Elliot. See you tomorrow."

The next day I approached him carefully, not knowing what to expect. Was he going to be angry? Confused at this sudden and unwelcome change? Would he be depressed? I'd read birds can get depressed, too. But Elliot was none of these things. He squawked eagerly to be let out of his cage, and, once released, seemed... Happy. It was like he knew he was at home.

That was almost two years ago. Elliot and I have been through a lot since that first fateful day, and I am so happy to have him by my side. If you've never had a parrot as a pet, I'm sorry to say, you cannot understand the rewards of having an avian companion. It's different than with a dog, who loves everyone unconditionally. Or a cat, that will demand attention, no matter how much you try to push him away. With a bird, it's really like a friendship, a give-and-take. Birds don't like just anyone. In fact, they can be very choosy about who they will be kind to. So when Elliot lets me tickle under his wings or rub the new feathers coming in below his beak, I know it's because he trusts me. And he knows I trust him when I allow him to take a piece of bread gently from my mouth or place little birdie kisses on my cheek. Out of all the pets I've ever had, he is the dearest to me, and I am very lucky to have him.

We also play with Photobooth together. Yeah, be jealous.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010



I am Micah. I am not a boy (see also: female). I am in college. I get very very angry at strangers and like a good laugh. I want to make other people chuckle with delight, because I think I can be funny on occasion. I also find myself in one of the most hilarious cities on Earth, otherwise known as New York, so hopefully I will be able to entertain.

And, uhh. This will be my blog, I guess.

Please be my friend. I like friends.