The desert is my true home

When I started college in August 2006, I thought I’d made a grave , life-ruining mistake by selecting the University of Arizona for higher education. The campus grass had been green during prospective student visiting week, but it was brown and worn out by the end of summer. The cacti had lost its initial appeal and the lack of redwood trees was suddenly alarming. I’d grown up in foggy northern California, a cold yet peaceful part of the Golden State, and at first it seemed like I belonged nowhere else.

After a year in Tucson, however, I began to love the desert. The dry heat felt good, even though it burned me practically every time I stepped outside. The palm trees made me feel like I was always on vacation. The fake grass wasn’t so bad after all — at least we didn’t have a ton of rain in Arizona! The sunshine kept me upbeat and inspired to get out and do stuff, and we appreciated the few gloomy days we experienced each year.

I loved the desert even more after three years on the east coast — one in D.C. and two in Manhattan — so it was awesome to go to Palm Springs last weekend. I met my lovely boyfriend’s parents in the desert, and the two of us went hiking during the day. Though I can’t run up the mountain like Ian, I can certainly climb it slowly, and that’s what I did on Saturday and Sunday:

View from the top
View from the top

the top

I’ve always written about my obsession with sunshine and dry heat, but the more time I spend in SoCal, the more I love its weather. Maybe I’ll end up in Palm Springs someday — I’d be the luckiest person ever. Have your White Christmas and snowballs if those make you happy, but 75 degrees on December 25 is better than any holiday gift I could ever ask for.

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Not even UCLA can take the place of UA, my alma mater

at ucla
UCLA

As I wrote in my last post, it feels great to be a student again. I love watching shows/films for homework, writing by hand, and interacting with other people my age. It’s nice to have some structure during my transition period as well, and UCLA gives me a lot of that with its screenwriting program. Though I love Westwood and the UCLA campus, I realized yesterday that University of Arizona will always be “college” to me, and I have no desire to relive the same experience in southern California.

In the year following my college graduation, all I wanted was to be back at UA. I missed the oppressive heat of Tucson, the weird people on campus and in the community, my friends, etc. I thought I’d return in a heartbeat if I could, but the more time I hang around UCLA, the happier I feel that I’m past that stage of life.

At UA, I wore whatever I wanted, and this is part of the reason my roommate Jen picked ASU over UA. People at UA walked around in pajamas and sweats, she said, and she wasn’t interested in looking like a slob. She wanted to be among well-groomed students with high aspirations. I had big dreams all right, but you wouldn’t have known this by glancing at my wardrobe. I lived in sweats and hoodies, and even my friends laughed at me for looking so shabby during the week. I purged all my sweats before leaving NYC, but I may as well have done so years ago, as I stopped looking so sloppy upon moving to DC and being mocked for it.

VS
My college sweats!

Before class yesterday, I browsed the UCLA book store, which sells many pairs of sweats. In college, I would have been all over that section. Now I’m just not interested. A lot of the students I spotted dressed the way I did at UA — without much care or thought. It’s a freeing thing for sure, but I feel so much better about my own personal presentation now, so I wouldn’t go back.

It’s slightly nerve-wracking to be at UCLA now that I’m 25. I always wonder whether others can tell that I’m not an undergrad. I may seem young, but I’m definitely not 18, and I feel older than dirt around the people at school. Either way, they’re all so wrapped up in their own lives, they don’t notice.

I went to the coffee shop an hour before class last night to have a snack and read the school newspaper. The best part of my college experience was writing for the Daily Wildcat, so I was highly amused by the front page news of UCLA’s publication:

dailyb

I’m not sure “man steals from dorm” would have made the cut for the Daily Wildcat, but we were definitely guilty of publishing useless content at times. I certainly turned in columns I’d later regret, or that were clearly not my best work. That said, it’s good to know I had a solid publication backing me at UA, and I miss that aspect of undergrad most:

Last day at the Daily Wildcat

Daily Wildcat bunch. Jazmine and Luke, never forget Spring 2010!
Daily Wildcat bunch. Jazmine and Luke, never forget Spring 2010!
Daily Wildcatters in Tucson, my favorite place in the world!
Daily Wildcatters in Tucson, my favorite place in the world!
Daily Wildcat co-workers
Daily Wildcat co-workers

It’s been 3 years. Time to ditch these sweatpants

As a kid, I despised September. It indicated the beginning of a new schoolyear, which almost always meant terrible experiences for me. I think I spent so much time hating the fall that I’ve actually grown to appreciate it as an adult. In fact, summer isn’t really my favorite season anymore, at least not in NYC, where it’s hot, humid, deserted, and lonely for several months. Fall is another story: the new TV season is starting up, the weather is cooling down, subway platforms aren’t suffocating, and Halloween is right around the corner.

Fall is a good time to make changes, and that’s why I’m donating a bunch of my old clothes to charity tomorrow. I’ve never been a big shopper, but like many people, I sometimes keep items I don’t really need. In New York, that’s not a good habit to get into, so I’m giving away the things I haven’t worn in 6 months to a year. Not everything, of course, as I do need to keep warm in the winter, but I’m going to have to part with these two lovely pair of sweatpants, which were my BFFS in college:

VS

At University of Arizona, I wore both of these with Uggs throughout each “winter,” which in Arizona isn’t that bad but still requires full leg coverage at least once a week. Part of the reason my roommate chose ASU over UofA was the fact that all UofA students dressed like everyday was Pajama Day. She wanted to look nice for class whereas I … looked like I just rolled out of bed. I was proud of this for some reason, and sure I had my fair share of dates in college, but nowhere near the amount I had after graduation and retiring these pants to my closet:

Dyanna took this photo of me on campus once, haha
Dyanna took this photo of me on campus once, haha
No makeup but holding pepper spray on campus
No makeup but holding pepper spray on campus
At Chipotle --- wearing the sweatpants!
At Chipotle — wearing the sweatpants!

My sweatpants days are over. They were fun, and boy do I look relaxed and chill in those pictures, but I haven’t sported them in years for a reason, so it’s time to pass them over to somebody who might — or somebody who is just going to toss them. Either way, I had a good run with the sweats. But there’s no room for them in my new life.

Do you have a rough time getting rid of old things? Share your experiences in the comments section.

I embody the quarter-life crisis, but at least I’m in Hawaii

Rowing
Rowing in Maui, summer 2006

Not for long, though, and that goes for both parts of the headline.

Seven years ago, my good friend Crystal and I came to Hawaii to celebrate our high school graduation and vacation one last time before going off to college. I was headed for the University of Arizona and she was about to start classes at UC-Davis. When we went to Hawaii the first time, smartphones weren’t really a thing, but we used our flip phones to keep in touch with our boyfriends and coordinate meeting times with the rest of my family (also on the trip). We didn’t think to use our mobile devices to take pictures — we had real cameras for that. Though we documented our stay pretty well, we focused more on enjoying the island than keeping the trip alive through images.

Life is much different for us nearly ten years later. Crystal is temporarily living in Honolulu for her final year of eye doctor school and I’m, well, visiting because there’s not a whole lot going for me in NYC anymore. My open schedule enabled me to jump on a plane to Santa Barbara last week, and I’m dreading my return to Manhattan on Wednesday. I thought I had an extra day in Hawaii, but I was wrong. I will say I’m excited to see my NYC friends again (and have more food options at my fingertips). That’s another thing about Hawaii: Gorgeous as it is, I’m not crazy about the cuisine. I miss burritos, Italian food, bagels, and Chinese takeout. As soon as I get back, I’m ordering Blockheads or eating at Chipotle. And it will be glorious.

Because she had her first day of work today (I totally acted like a mom on her daughter’s first day of school too — so nerdy haha), we did most of our outdoor adventures over the weekend. On Saturday, we drove out to Honolulu to go snorkeling, which was incredible but left both of us with major battle wounds and sunburns. I’m still on NYC time, so I got up at 5:45 and FORCED myself to stay in bed until 6:15. I felt like my Boston grandparents who cannot for the life of them sleep in past 5:30. I have a feeling I’m going to take after them when I get older. I was pretty hyper for Crystal but she commended me for having so much life and enthusiasm in the morning. I swear I’m not always like that — I just happen to be pretty worry-free at the moment.

We enjoyed some Lava Flows

In Hawaii

Hawaii picture

I’ve been pale since birth, and the last time Crystal and I came to Hawaii, I got burned all over my body, so I was much more careful this time around. I bought Coppertone’s SPF 70 sunscreen and lathered it everywhere — naturally, I missed a few spots on the backs of my legs and looked kind of like a lobster at the end of the day, but there was no way I was getting out of that experience without at least one bad burn.

We left our phones in the car, so while I wanted to take tons of pictures of the beach and what not, I wasn’t willing to leave my iPhone in the sand all day, so we couldn’t photograph the water or anything like that. We didn’t take our cameras to the beach seven years ago, and sometimes it’s nice to just live in the moment without Instagramming or Vineing. We can’t always be our own publicists, right?

For whatever reason, I’ve recently had some increased control issues, so you can imagine how tough it was for me to approach snorkeling at the beginning. For one, there’s a lot to focus on in the water. You’re not allowed to touch or walk on the coral beneath you, but if your mask leaks water all over your eyes or your breathing tube is full, you need to stop and get your gear together. You also have to pay attention to your flippers and breathing tube, and for me, it was a lot to manage in addition to swimming and keeping saltwater out of my mouth (accidentally swallowed gulps of it too — almost threw up afterward). With Crystal’s assistance, I found my way, and we had an awesome time looking at the beautiful fish below us. One actually swam right up into Crystal’s face and caused her to scream underwater. I’d seen the same fish lurking around — he was definitely looking to mess with people that day.

I got thrown around by the waves a couple of times and slammed both knees into the coral (ow!!!), but it’s all part of the experience. The scariest thing that happened was getting a foot and calf cramp on the deep end. I was in serious pain but swam through it — it’s either that or death by drowning. Goes to show I need to stretch before physical activity and eat more bananas. My calf still hurts a little — someone’s out of shape!

On Sunday, we went jetskiing on two separate jetskis. At first, I was nervous about being on my own, as we’d shared one in Hawaii seven years ago. I was fine after the first few minutes and we waved at each other during the entire run. Then we saw Gabe Bondoc in Honolulu. She’d seen him before but he was just as great this time as he was in Portland. Crystal introduced me to his music last month, and I will admit to tearing up during some of his songs. He did too, so it was totally normal. The audience was pretty lively and entertaining as well — The guys next to us were rowdy yet hilarious, and I think the high energy of the room really added to the experience.

A lot has changed since we came to Hawaii nearly a decade ago, but I’m glad to say our friendship hasn’t. Crystal is a reliable honest friend, and that’s why I laughed when she straight up said I’m the dictionary definition of the quarter-life crisis.

“You want to start going by your middle name, you’re changing industries, you’re moving back to California, you’re giving up on journalism. And you’re 25. You’re the quarter-life crisis in a box.”

“Is it bad that I don’t see it as a crisis?” I asked.

“No, I guess not.”

I’m starting to view all this as an opportunity, not a bad thing. I left one field to pursue an industry better suited to me, and though I’m at the very, very bottom of the food chain right now, there really is something liberating about recognizing when a major part of your life just isn’t working out. I was very successful as an online writer/editor, but most of the time, I was stressed and always feeling behind. I could have the greatest day in the world, but 24 hours later, everyone would have forgotten about the heartfelt article I’d published and put so much work and thought into. They were more likely to remember my missteps than my accomplishments, but isn’t that how we’re all wired?

Somebody recently messaged me out of the blue to say they don’t think screenwriting is going to come together for me. I’m not afraid to admit that’s a possibility — but what I don’t need is default discouragement simply because I’m taking a big risk and entering another cutthroat business. There’s a huge chance I will fail at this, but as my friend Nikki wrote in her own blog, I’ll still be me at the end of the day, and nobody can ever rob me of my love for writing. I’ve dedicated my entire life to writing, and I may not be the best at it, but I’m never going to stop working to serve others with this particular skill.

If you don’t think I’m going to succeed, or don’t want me to succeed, that’s OK, but just know that I wouldn’t have decided to change my life if I didn’t think I could make the transformation. It was either that or stay in a line of work that was destroying my spirit. Which one would you choose?

Hawaii
Hawaii

My blog 200,000 page views and five years later

Me and nephew Sawyer shortly after I started this blog. Can't believe this picture was taken 5 years ago!
Me and nephew Sawyer shortly after I started this blog. Can’t believe this picture was taken 5 years ago!

As many of you know, I recently decided to leave journalism, in part because of its abominable emphasis on page views. With the exception of the Times, every news site must use effective SEO strategies, publish over-the-top headlines, and produce morally reprehensible content to stay competitive. I hate to say it, but all this is necessary in the 24/7 news cycle, so I’m out of the traffic-baiting industry for good.

I’ve never been someone who cares about page views or hits. When I was 22, I enjoyed being a viral writer/editor for TheDC, but I knew I wouldn’t stay in that role forever. I’d often take to this blog, which I started in 2008, to write about whatever I wanted. I didn’t care who read it, I just wanted my own platform. Five years later, I’ve now earned 200,000 views, which is nothing to those who live for high traffic, but it gives me an excuse to reflect on my history as a blogger.

Let’s go back to fall 2008. At the beginning of my junior year at UA, a good friend of mine/former Wildcat colleague, Evan Lisull started The Desert Lamp, which describes itself as “the only free and independent student publication at the University of Arizona.” He’d tried to recruit me full-time a few months earlier, but because I was so new to the Wildcat staff, I wasn’t interested in writing for another publication. Luckily for Evan, the Lamp didn’t need me, and it collected a major award coupled with $10,000 just a year after going live. Though I wouldn’t contribute to the Lamp, Evan encouraged me to create my own WordPress account. At first, I thought I’d use BlogSpot, but WordPress ultimately felt like a better, more professional looking host for my work.

In September 2008, almost five years ago to the date, lauradonovan.wordpress.com was born. I initially focused more on reporting, but once I realized no one was reading my straight news items, I moved to my true love: opinion journalism. I was already writing opinion pieces for the college newspaper, but coming home to my own blog to write about a broad range of subjects was pretty nice. Everything was on my terms, something I just wasn’t used to. I was free, and sure enough, my following grew in a short period of time.

Everyone having fun at my DC summer internship dorm while I'm hunched over working/blogging like a loser.
Everyone having fun at my DC summer internship dorm while I’m hunched over working/blogging like a loser
Wearing my green sweater in the Daily Wildcat newsroom
Wearing my green sweater in the Daily Wildcat newsroom
Daily Wildcat awards banquet, May 2010.
Daily Wildcat awards banquet, May 2010.
Daily Wildcatters in Tucson, my favorite place in the world!
Daily Wildcatters in Tucson, my favorite place in the world!
Daily Wildcat bunch. Jazmine and Luke, never forget Spring 2010!
Daily Wildcat bunch. Jazmine and Luke, never forget Spring 2010!

This blog started off as a place for me to ramble about celebrities and news stories that kept me up at night. Reading old blog posts isn’t super fun for anyone, as the first dozen are straight news items and pretty boring, but here’s an early blog post from May 2009 I find particularly amusing and telling of my personality at the time I began writing for the internet [editor’s note: I just added pictures to the old entry].

I wrote the blog post a day after winning the Excellence in Commentary award from the Wildcat. I hadn’t expected any accolades from the paper that year. I’d raised a ton of hell with my columns, threatened to quit twice in emotional bouts of unprofessionalism, publicly fought with the editor-in-chief, and demonstrated the thinnest skin of anyone on staff. I was just 20 years old, but I should have been better than that. Nevertheless, I was rewarded for the very thing that seemed to cause so many problems around the office: being unafraid to speak my mind. That was what Justyn said when he handed me the award (which is pinned to my bedroom wall in NYC — I know I know, I need to get a life!).

The next day, I chose to blog about the unexpected experience, and it ended up setting the tone for the personal nature of my blog, which only documents my feelings and what not these days. It started off as a news blog, but it became something richer, and this entry helped shaped that:

“I was genuinely surprised to get an Arizona Daily Wildcat award for Excellence in Commentary yesterday. From putting out more controversial columns to briefly quarreling with the old editor-in-chief, I’ve come a long way at the newspaper, and I hope to continue publishing good work.

Former Wildcat editor-in-chief, Nick Seibel, with whom I once publicly butted heads, is a good friend now, and I thought he worked hard during his time in charge. He’s funny and personable and I know he’ll go far in his future leadership positions having learned a lot from his DW experiences.

Yesterday, Seibel told me that he has a male friend who passionately hates my articles and my character, even though the two of us have never met. The guy violently disagrees with my politics and everything I write, but according to Seibel, this hater of mine never misses my columns. Every Tuesday, he picks up a copy of the paper just to read my weekly article and then calls Seibel to rant about what a stupid idiot I am. He assumed Seibel’s abrupt removal from the Wildcat was my fault (because a mere columnist has SO MUCH PULL AND POWER that she can singlehandedly overthrow the EIC of the Wildcat), and he seems to complain about everything I put in the newspaper. Basically, I’m Hitler to someone I’ve never met or even known about until yesterday. Awesome.

As weird as it sounds, I’m honored that someone would take the time to hate my writing. He is, after all, a dedicated reader of my work, so as much as he can’t stand my opinion, he can’t bring himself to stay away from it, and I’m glad to be evoking any kind of emotion out of others.

Luckily, I’ve received more writing support than criticism from students, Tucsonans, citizens, friends, strangers, etc. One person said my voice is unique and recognizable, and another said I have the purest writing of anyone he knows.

I sometimes get emails from a non-traditional UA student who thanks me for opening up certain taboo discourses on campus, and as an older student, he was grateful that I wrote about the rift between traditional and non-traditional students because other students started noticing and approaching him with their hands outstretched, quoting my column. I’m glad to have had somewhat of a positive effect on a small group of people.

To the guy I referred to earlier in this post-You may want to seek anger management if you feel so much hatred toward a person you’ve never even spoken with. There’s no reason to despise a writer or spend all that time assuming I’m the devil. Tear apart the columns, not the columnist. Your time will be much better spent if you find something to like and stop shortening your life by hating me so wholeheartedly. It makes me sad for you, because while you’re living a life of hate, I’m having an amazing year writing columns, making new friends, and winning awards.

Really, though, I’m happy to know that I have at least one faithful reader, a hater he may be.”

I still have no idea who that guy is, but I hope he’s doing OK wherever he is — and not wasting his life trashing and fuming about people he’s never met. He’s what we now call a troll, and unfortunately millions of his kind hang out on the internet feasting off the failure and criticism of others. Every once in a while I laugh about the silliness of public figures (i.e., the teen bride aspirations and outrageous music videos of Miley Cyrus), but I’ve never been someone who thrives on tearing others down, and I’m sad to say this guy was just the first of many to try to do that to me. I never learned his name, but that’s irrelevant at this point. Trolls are all the same, so he’s just as much an internet bully as he is a former, or current, UA student.

Though it’s kind of neat to have 200,000 hits on my blog, what I care about most is satisfying my audience and entertaining readers. The moment I stop doing that, I know I’ve lost, because without you — even those of you who dislike me — I can never succeed. I’m not interested in your page views, but I am interested in your perspective and support, so please keep me in check and let me know if there’s anything you believe I should write about in the future. If there’s anything I’ve learned over the past few years in online media/journalism/social media, it’s that a writer cannot really be a writer without readers. This is a two-way street, and you’ve more than done your part. Make sure I continue doing mine.

RIP, Cactus Moon

RIP Cactus Moon

I’m pretty bummed out, guys. The Cactus Moon, which was my favorite bar/nightclub in my college town, has closed up shop. Hard to believe the girls and I were there just dancing to the “Cupid Shuffle” there two weeks ago for Dyanna’s bachelorette party, when we had no clue this was going to happen. The Arizona Daily Star had this to say about it:

The urban saloon- a favorite midtown watering hole for redneck gals and long-haired country boys since 1989 – has closed.

As for those good-hearted women and ramblin’ men who may fall to pieces over closure of the Cactus Moon, they will have to ease their achy breaky hearts with suds in a bucket from another country-Western establishment.

On my last trip at the Moon, I commented on how crazy it was that I could get 25 cent drinks on Wednesdays before 10 p.m. — Ladie’s Night. After 10, each drink cost a whopping $1.25 for women. It was such a good deal and an amazing time. During the first semester of senior year, my creative writing professor assigned his students to write an essay about a Tucson spot that meant a lot to them. I chose Cactus Moon, which was a ton of fun to research. I interviewed regulars, staffers, and the bathroom employee, who was tasked with watching the stall doors.

Several reports attest that the club was struggling financially, and I wouldn’t be surprised given the low drink prices and entrance fee. What a shame, though.

An unexpected pick-me-up from two years ago

One of the front covers of my college newspaper. Oh, that Donovan was always a troublemaker.

For whatever reason, I had an urge to dig up some of my old college newspapers columns this evening (here’s one!). They’re rather hard to find on the Internet, as the Daily Wildcat website keeps undergoing changes and futzing with the archive, but during my aimless search, I stumbled upon something that was written about me exactly two years ago today. The author, Ben, who worked with me at the school publication, had written a farewell blog post to me and fellow columnist Evan Lisull, as the two of us had just graduated college and were headed for new things. Evan’s immediate future was certain, but I didn’t quite know where I was headed:

I should have posted this a couple of weeks ago: Desert Lamp co-founder Evan Lisull and Daily Wildcat writer/editor and independent ‘blogger Laura Donovan took their bachelors’ degrees at the University of Arizona and will be moving on to bigger things.

Laura Donovan was one of the most capable people I’ve encountered on Wildcat staff in my seven years in town. No word on her future “plans” other than that the plan for now is no plan, aside from ending up in Washington DC in the fall. It should be interesting.

Best wishes to both of them in their future endeavors!

Last day at the Daily Wildcat
Last day at the Daily Wildcat, May 2010

Interesting, it has certainly been, not to mention far more rewarding than I ever could have imagined. The funny thing is, I kept my word and moved to D.C., even though very few people actually thought I’d follow through with that goal. Who could blame them? I wasn’t actively searching for work. I had some vague desire to relocate across the country to the east coast, having interned there one summer and thrived off the hustle and bustle, but could I actually make the big move? With the help of Anna Baker, to whom I’m eternally grateful, I did. Tucker Carlson was kind enough to offer me my first post-college position and allow me to joke around with his other employees all day every day. Things suddenly fell into place, but I got restless. Not with the Daily Caller, which is hands down the most fun office in the country (fully equipped with a bar, ping pong table, and keg), but with D.C. in general. The politics energized me, yet I felt too old and under-stimulated with the city, which felt very business-like and sterile. I didn’t love commuting among 45-year-old suit and tie folks every morning. I was always the youngest individual on the train. Some said this was admirable, as I had my life together for a 20-something, but I found it depressing. I wanted to be surrounded by every type of person, not just bureaucratic, disillusioned, serious men. There had to me more to a city than sanitized D.C. I could have hung around my cousin more, but in the long run, I just needed to be in New York, where my weird antics would be celebrated and, well, not so weird to anyone — at least in comparison to the others around.

Daily Wildcat bunch. Jazmine and Luke, never forget Spring 2010!
Daily Wildcat Awards Ceremony, spring 2010!

As much as I whine about NYC’s bipolar weather patterns and pathetic excuse for sunshine, I absolutely love living in a place in which couples can check

Laughing with Luke and Jazmine!
Laughing with Luke and Jazmine!

their teeth for food on a crowded subway home. Yes, I witnessed this happening the other night and it put a smile on my face. To an extent, I love some of the crazy people. The bars are incomparable and the subway was made for me. But thanks to my inherent need for excitement, I’ve held three full-time jobs since graduating college. For a two-year period, that is too many. I need  to settle down and fully establish myself at one place. I did that at the Daily Wildcat, where I worked for two and a half years, but I was also in college at the time and school was my big focus. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it until the day I die: the Arizona Daily Wildcat was the most rewarding writing experience I have ever had, and that includes all the writing positions I’ve held since then. You know why? Because it was the first platform in which I could put my sole talent and love to good use. Up until college, I’d been filling journal after journal to practice, but I rarely embraced local writing opportunities, as they were few and far between and not for me. I also wasn’t courageous enough to stand my ground back then, but college proved to be a much better, more responsive, and more open environment for that. It wasn’t until I started working for the Wildcat that I truly believed I could make a career out of writing, and by the time I left, I knew I was incapable of doing anything else. I still feel that way and am insanely lucky to have remained in the profession after college. It means the world to me to have had the support and confidence of Ben, Evan, Justyn, Jazmine, Anna, Alex, Luke, Woodhams, Lance, Misha, and everybody else on staff. I wouldn’t have made it to New York without them. Thanks, guys. The Wildcat will always and forever have my whole heart.

Living the dream?

I dedicate much of my blog to complaints about the travails of living in Brooklyn, so when people say my living situation isn’t nearly as awful as I let on, I perk up and breathe a sigh of relief, mainly because I know my mother would be relieved to hear someone thinks my apartment is perfectly safe.

This week, my friends Anna and Maddie visited from the University of Arizona. Faithful readers of this blog (among the few!), they’ve heard all about my problems with the area and what not, but upon seeing my new home for themselves, they concluded that I exaggerated its awfulness. Which I already knew. Sort of.

They agree that my bedroom view of a junkyard is unpleasant and uninspiring. They also see why I constantly gripe about the G train, which is the most unreliable line on the New York subway system. But my other issues aren’t so grave, they say. College seniors, they claim I seem to be living the dream for supporting myself in a big city. It doesn’t feel that way to me, especially since I limit my nights on the town and experience immense loneliness every time I return to my isolated apartment.

While we’re on the topic of the apartment, I have to move out as soon as possible. There’s nothing I dislike more than relocating, packing up my stuff, and apartment hunting, but this will be a worthwhile change. I need to reside closer to my office and friends, so I think I’ll be a lot more cheerful once I’m in a new spot. Hopefully my next neighborhood will have a stronger community and not cause me so much shame and stress. Anna and Maddie watched me fight with the lock to the front door of my apartment building and realized firsthand how hard it is for me to actually enter my home. Things simply don’t have to be that way.

The girls understand why I believe my apartment is haunted. I warned them of the supernatural force when they first arrived, and last night as we were about to fall asleep, Maddie whispered, “Is that sound the ghost?”

“What?” I asked.

“The constant ticking. It has a weird pattern and rhythm to it.”

“Oh, I’ve grown to tune it out. But yeah, that’s the ghost.”

She was right: We hear tons of creaks in the night, but the noise is constant. The building is either really old or something weird is going on. We already find odd objects that belong to none of us around the apartment, so there’s no doubt in my mind that this old, sorry place is occupied by an annoying attention whore ghost. I used to imagine this sort of thing would scare me, but I’m honestly more bothered than frightened by it. I get that you have unfinished business and all, but don’t really like sharing my already-too tiny apartment with a lost soul.

In spite of it all, I don’t have it all that hard, but hopefully my circumstances improve when I leave this behind next month:

Brownstones!

The girl on HerCampus’s rant beat bashes UA attire

Though writing for the University of Arizona newspaper remains the most rewarding journalism experience I’ve ever had, I wish I’d also contributed to HerCampus, an online magazine for college women. I would have had so much fun blogging for the publication. After all, it has a designated ranter, a beat that would have suited me well in school.

There was plenty to rant about: Tuition increases, student government’s lack of transparency, on-campus food prices and nutritional value, textbook costs, student fees, residence life, etc. I had my fair share of outrageous opinions in college, but never pertaining to clothes. I recently stumbled upon a HerCampus article blasting the girls who sport “skants” — a skirt and pair of pants together — at my alma mater.

I’ve never even heard of the combination, much less seen it at the UA, but let’s not forget that I graduated nearly two years ago. Clearly times have changed since my Kappa Alpha fangirl days (hi, Chris, Joey, Matt, and Erik!). Back when I was a student, there was a widely known movement against anyone who wore Uggs and a skirt at the same time. The argument was that we lived in the desert, where Uggs are unnecessary to begin with (but let’s not forget the 30 degree winter nights…). The contrast was too absurd for most people, but I personally couldn’t have cared less about the clothing of my classmates. I basically lived in bright-colored Victoria’s Secret Pink sweats year-round, much to the amusement of my newspaper coworkers. I probably offended a lot of people with my casual outfit selection, but I did whatever I wanted in school. It was the only time in my life in which I could fully march to my own drum without backlash.

Wearing my green sweater in the Daily Wildcat newsroom
Making pumpkins for Halloween!

With that, this young woman’s rant about the UA student “skant” fad has me fairly perplexed:

“Dear U of A, I LOL’d so hard when I found out there is actually a name for what I am about to rant to you all, my lovely readers, about…Apparently some girls think it is trendy to add extra layers and bulk to an otherwise fine outfit.”

How dare anyone be unfashionable in college, the only time in one’s life that condones sloppiness?! Don’t seize the opportunity, run away from it!

“I am sorry, but when did a classic jean and a tank top become tired?”

When it’s 70 degrees one day and 95 the next and you need to have the option to either slip out of your pants or pull off the skirt depending on the weather. This is southern Arizona.

“If you want to add individualism or flare to an outfit, there is a whole world of accessories out there for you. What ever happened to statement necklaces, belts, and what about shoes!? Must you really add a whole other article of clothing to feel satisfied when you look in the mirror?”

Haven’t you ever heard of Lady Gaga?

“If skirts are ok to wear over jeans, where will it stop? Shorts over jeans? Capris over jeans? What about leggings over jeans? I can picture it now….Sexy. -___-“

The uglier we dress, the larger your dating pool will be. You should be THANKING us.

“If you ask me, I think it is just an excuse for girls to not have to shave their legs in the spring. That is the only possible reason I can think of why someone would do this.”

You caught me. I would rather sweat like crazy in a pair of jeans than take two minutes to shave my legs every other night. It’s much easier to simply overheat. That’s why people like this style.

“Did you know it makes you look bigger?”

OMG I LOOK FAT?! Now I’m going to go vomit up my dinner, thanks for destroying my self-esteem.

“Ladies! Now would be the time to shave and do the pants off dance off. In other words, take off the jeans. If I see ANY Skants this Spring I cannot be held accountable for my actions. AKA, you’re going down. Love, Haylie”

I don’t mean to put down a fellow Wildcat by any means, but this piece is either a joke or an unflattering reflection of the UA student body. The writer of this post is probably a terrific individual, but she’s not sending a good message about our world class university by making fun of the way her classmates dress. This isn’t high school, this is college, where you’re free to broaden your horizons and mind and try new things. I’ll let you in on a little secret, Haylie: You may or may not be in Greek life, but college isn’t the time to bash people for expressing themselves and experimenting with their look.

I’d give anything to return to my sweatpants donning, blueberry scone eating routine. Was I in a sorority or a member of the UA Homecoming court? No, but I had the greatest time of my life in the Daily Wildcat newsroom, where Misha and I would frequently stuff our faces with breadsticks, Luke, Jazmine, and I would laugh up a storm every few minutes, and Anna and I would have endless conversations about the things that kept us awake at night.

Giggling with Jazmine and Luke in the newsroom!
The unstoppable trio ❤

I may have looked like a lazy Californian, but I won a lot of awards for the work I did whilst wearing lime green and magenta Victoria’s Secret sweatpants, both of which I still own and occasionally slip on during weekends in New York City. You can’t really slum it on the east coast, but you’re totally entitled to do so in Tucson, so don’t disparage those who live their college years to the fullest and abide by unconventional styles.

So, Haylie, do the UA proud and rant about something other than the unsightly attire of you schoolmates. Even at a grand institution like the UA, there’s plenty for you to take issue with, and if you need any help coming up with rant subjects, I’d be glad to give my two cents. Otherwise, read the Daily Wildcat for updates on budget cuts, campus news, etc.

David Sedaris is coming to Brooklyn…I can die happy now!

Every other blog entry, I complain about living in Brooklyn, but the borough has a lot more to offer than I initially thought. “Me Talk Pretty One Day” author David Sedaris, my favorite writer of all time, will be visiting Brooklyn in early May!

He’s hosting a reading and book signing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) on May 8, just in time for summer. This will be the third time we meet, as I saw him in 2010 and 2007 during his book tour visits to the University of Arizona.

The first instance we chatted, I confessed that I hadn’t yet read his books but was coming to his reading to get a signed book for my older sister, a big fan of his.

“Don’t waste your time on my books,” Sedaris said to me. “You have better things to do.”

I considered his advice until he recited a chapter of his memoir, which had me doubled over on the ground in laughter. Really. Inside my sister’s paperback book, Sedaris wrote that I was enchanting, a compliment I’ll never forget. That night, I finished “Me Talk Pretty One Day” in a single sitting and decided that Sedaris had the exact career I wanted for myself: To write books of essays on goofy life experiences.

It seems Sedaris and I are meant to cross paths every two years. I first met him in 2007, so by our second encounter in 2010, I had already become a full-blown fan. Kendra and I were the first people to show up to his reading, and I sat in his chair until he arrived.

At Tucson's David Sedaris book signing in 2010
Waiting for Sedaris!
Kendra in his chair!

We were the first to have our books signed, and in honor of his latest book on talking animals, he said he would draw our animal of choice in our books.

“What kind of animal would you like?”

“A pig,” I said.

“You know what? I struggle with my pig drawing skills, so thank you for this opportunity,” he said.

As he sketched out the swine, I confessed I dreamed of emulating his career and thanked him for showing me exactly which path I wanted to take. This put him in an obvious state of discomfort, but he laughed and warned me of the awkward times that go hand-in-hand with memoir writing and documenting the behavior of others.

I covered this well in my 2010 entry about him, so here’s exactly what he told me back then:

“I wrote about this rude dermatologist and then my friend called him when the book came out. I was like, ‘FUCK! I don’t want him to see what I said about him!’ So you have to be prepared for that.”

And I will be. I hope. Perhaps he can further help me out with this when he gets to New York. I can’t get enough of his essays, so let’s hope he pushes out another book soon. I need more laughing material besides his essays, “You Can’t Kill the Rooster” and “That’s Amore.” Here are some of my favorite excerpts from those works:

Essay about David Sedaris’s crude hillbilly brother, Paul:

“‘The Rooster’ is what Paul calls himself when he’s feeling threatened. Asked how he came up with that name, he says only, ‘Certain motherfuckers think they can fuck with my shit, but you can’t kill the Rooster. You might can fuck him up sometimes, but, bitch, nobody kills the motherfucking Rooster. You know what I’m saying?’

It often seems that my brother and I were raised in two completely different households. He’s eleven years younger than I am, and by the time he reached high school, the rest of us had all left home. When I was young, we weren’t allowed to say ‘shut up,’ but by the time Paul reached his teens, it had become acceptable to shout, ‘Shut your motherfucking mouth.’

My mother was, for the most part, delighted with my brother and regarded him with the bemused curiosity of a brood hen discovering she has hatched a completely different species. ‘I think it was very nice of Paul to give me this vase,’ she once said, arranging a bouquet of wildflowers into the skull-shaped bong my brother had left on the dining-room table. ‘It’s nontraditional, but that’s the Rooster’s way. He’s a free spirit, and we’re lucky to have him.'”

Here’s a funny portion of the essay, “That’s Amore,” which is about Sedaris’s rude New York neighbor Helen:

“My only real constant was Helen, who would watch Hugh leave the building, and then cross the hall to lean on our doorbell. I would wake up, and just as I was belting my robe, the ringing would be replaced by a pounding, frantic and relentless, the way you might rail against a coffin lid if you’d accidentally been buried alive.

‘All right, all right.’

‘What were you, asleep?’ Helen would say as I opened the door. ‘I’ve been up since five.’
‘Well,’ I’d tell her, ‘I didn’t go to bed until three.’

‘I didn’t go to bed until 3.30.’

This was how it was with her: if you got 15 minutes of sleep, she got only 10. If you had a cold, she had a flu. If you’d dodged one bullet, she’d dodged five. Blindfolded.

After my mother’s funeral, I remember her greeting me with, ‘So what? My mother died when I was half your age.’

‘Gosh,’ I said. ‘Think of everything she missed.’

With the exception of my immediate family, no one could provoke me quite like Helen could. One perfectly aimed word, and within an instant I was eight years old and unable to control my temper. I often left her apartment swearing I’d never return. Once I slammed her door so hard, her clock fell off the wall, but still I went back -‘crawled back,’ she would say – and apologised. It seemed wrong to yell at a grandmother, but more than that I found that I missed her, or at least missed someone I could so easily drop in on. The beauty of Helen was that she was always there, practically begging to be disturbed. Was that a friend, or had I chosen the wrong word? What was the name for this thing we had?

Helen fell in the tub and sprained her wrist. While she was laid up, I went to the store for her. Hugh took down her trash and delivered her mail. Joe, a widower now, offered to help as well. ‘Anything that needs doing around the house, you just let me know,’ he told her.

He meant that he’d change lightbulbs or run a mop across her floor, but Helen took it the wrong way and threw him out of her apartment. ‘He wants to see my twat,’ she told me.”

Nerdtastic! I miss those sandals 😦