Tuesday, April 10, 2012

An American Experience

As an American, you have to look at the opportunities and advantages we are given as citizens of this country in order to overlook the nastiness these advantages can sometimes create in our society. The summer after I graduated high school my family took a trip to Massachusetts. Being born and raised in California, none of us had ever been to the east coast before. Even though it is only on the other side of the country, it seemed like a world away. (I think I remember even asking on the car ride to the airport if we needed to exchange currency. Again, I had just graduated from high school.) We planned on staying a few days in Boston, then drive up to Cape Cod and finish our week vacation in Hyannis Port, the home of the Kennedy Compound.

On our first day in Boston, we decided to walk around and explore the city. While we were leaving our hotel, located in the heart of the financial district, I remember being amazed at how clean the city was. Since Los Angeles was really the only “big city” I had experienced up until that point, Boston seemed like the complete polar opposite. We found a trolley down by the harbor that took you around the entire city, letting you get off at different stops throughout. We got off to explore places like Paul Revere’s house, Independence Hall and walked some of the freedom trail, a red line painted on the sidewalks leading to different historical places. I was mesmerized being able to see all the places I had read about in history books and learned about in school since I was a kid. Experiencing this made me proud be an American, a country whose forefathers wanted nothing but the best for their people.

After a couple of days, we left Boston and headed to Cape Cod. On the way, we visited Plymouth Rock and Salem, Massachusetts where we went to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s House of Seven Gables and saw a reenactment of the Salem Witch trials, where 19 women were sentenced to death because of suspicion of witchcraft. Realizing how intolerant and judgmental Americans used to be, or so I thought, started to put a damper on my newly-found patriotism. On our second day in Hyannis Port, we woke up early to catch the ferry over to Martha’s Vineyard, an island about 50 miles off the Massachusetts coast. Visiting Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket was what I was looking forward to the most out of the entire trip. Going to an island in the middle of summer made me feel so swanky and Kennedy-esque and I made sure to pack my favorite summer dress, an orange and purple sleeveless Isaac Mizrahi wrap-dress, for the occasion.

As soon as we docked, I felt like I had stepped off of the boat and into a Ralph Lauren ad. Everyone seemed to be wearing Polos and khaki pants, linen dresses or cut off shorts over their designer bathing suits. Even though I am from California, and am used to going to the beach in the summer, this was a completely different experience. In California, people are a lot more laid-back and casual, where the east coast seemed to make going to the beach an event. We practically went straight from the boat onto a tour bus that was going to take us around the entire island. My family and I piled into the old school bus with about 75 other tourists and were driven past the beach where they filmed Jaws, the restaurant Ted Danson likes to eat at when he stays on the island, and a little bluff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

After the tour was over we were starting to get hungry and had remembered seeing a little pizza place on the main road by the harbor. The street was filled with people going in and out of shops and restaurants and I was trying to stay as close to my parents as possible as not to get separated from them. All the sudden a girl not much older than me stood right in front of me and said, “Oh my gosh, your dress is so cute! Where did you get it?” I was a bit taken aback from the suddenness and flattered at the compliment and I managed to smile and reply, “Oh, thank you! I actually got it at Target.” I saw her look at the guy next to her and then both of them start laughing and walk away. I just stood in the middle of the sidewalk, in disbelief, wondering if this girl had really just laughed in my face because of where I had gotten my dress, that two seconds earlier she was saying was cute. I looked over at my family, who had also stopped when the girl had approached me, and saw them all giving me a quizzical look. “Did she really just do that?” my sister asked. “I can’t believe that just happened,” my dad said in astonishment. Suddenly, I felt like I was one of the witches on the Salem Trials, being judged and humiliated in front of everyone. My face was burning so much from embarrassment that I may as well have been up on the stake. That is when I realized that as much pride as I was starting to have for being an American, I was also starting to understand how judgmental us as Americans still are. A few days earlier I was looking at the places where people fought for our country to be a place of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and now I was realizing we had become a country that judged each other on how we looked and on something as trivial as where we shopped. I had always heard of other countries thinking we were materialistic and superficial, but for the first time in my life, I actually understood what they were talking about.

I took away so much from that vacation. I found a new respect for my country and the forefathers that dedicated their lives to creating a land where people could live their dreams and prosper. I also found a new sense of duty, that as an American to always be an example of what this country represents: equality, tolerance, and an open mind. Looking back now on that girl on Martha’s Vineyard, I am thankful that I was able to experience something that humbled me and showed me how I never wanted to be as a person. Because at the very core of the American experience is the ability to change yourself for the better and to thrive as the person you have always wanted to be. I also wore the shit out of that dress that summer because screw her.

Thursday, April 5, 2012


            When spring came, even the false spring, 
        there were no problems except where to be happiest.
                           Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Day I Found Out the Easter Bunny Wasn't Real.

Or for my younger audience in the 0-10 year range, "The Day I Found Out the Easter Bunny's 'Secret'", or "The Day You Found Out Why You're Probably Too Young To Be On the Internet"

It was the night before Easter, or Easter Eve as nobody calls it, and I was on a search. I was about 7 or 8 and I was looking for my Easter basket, respectively. I didn't know that the Easter Bunny was suppose to bring  your Easter basket, I always thought I was suppose to leave it out for him the night before like a Christmas stocking. I can only guess I got this impression since I got the same Easter basket every year. So it's the night before Easter and I'm on a mission to find my Easter basket to put out by the fireplace before I go to bed. I look everywhere, and by everywhere I mean mostly just the garage because that seems like the most obvious place it would be stored. But it wasn't there. So the next place my child-mind thinks it could be is my parents' closet, because why not? So I'm looking through my parents' closet and I stumble upon it. Not the Easter basket, but it: our Easter present. An inflatable Shamu pool toy. Or at least the box for an inflatable Shamu pool toy. And I say "our" present because my siblings and I didn't get individual gifts in our baskets that year, Shamu was going to be a gift for all of us since we had just had a pool put into our backyard. And probably because my parents couldn't afford to get us all gifts because we had just had a pool put into our backyard.

Within a couple seconds of making this discovery, I realize I'm not suppose to have seen this, and I realize what it means. I start to become suspicious.  Is this just what our parents are getting us, or is this what we're getting from the "Easter Bunny?" I start to put imaginary quotation marks around "Easter Bunny" in my head in a pessimistic and cynical way. I suddenly devised a plan. (I should probably stop here and make a note of me being an extremely dramatic child, as I almost always was pretending I was somebody else, mostly a character in a movie I had recently watched, so upon discovering the Easter present I immediately turned into a 7-year-old Columbo.)

So I devised a plan that consisted of sneaking out of bed and hiding in the living room, presumably all night, waiting to see with my own eyes who would deliver the present: my parents or the Easter Bunny. It was a simple enough plan, but I, of course, had to spruce it up with my dramatic flare. Right before bedtime I prepared my sisters' hand-me-down Cabbage Patch quilted baby bag for my expedition. It was equipped with a single travel flashlight and nothing else, because I had no idea what else you bring with you when you're trying to debunk a traditional holiday character. I hid the bag and crawled under my bed covers waiting for the perfect time to sneak downstairs. At around 9 or 10 I stealthily crawled out of bed and grabbed my Cabbage Patch bag and threw it on my shoulder. Before I left I grabbed one of my dolls, one whose hair was the closest to mine, and laid her head on my pillow with her facing the wall and pulled the blankets up to her chin. I figured if someone were to come in my room to check on me, this grapefruit-sized doll head would TOTALLY PASS FOR A SLEEPING CHILD.

Me with my stunt double

Operation: Easter Bunny was now in full effect. My dad was still awake downstairs watching TV so I had to be careful making sure none of the stairs creaked as I made my way to the living room. As I made it off the last step, I crept over to the dining room table. Because it had a view of both the front door (the Easter Bunny's entrance) and the stairs (my parents' entrance), I stationed myself underneath the table for the remainder of the night, waiting. After five minutes of sitting under the table I realized how long and boring the wait was going to be, but I was determined. About a half hour later I heard the TV in the other room turn off and I knew my dad was going to bed. He walked in the kitchen to put some things away and I positioned myself where I wouldn't be seen. I watched him walk up the stairs, and then was caught off guard when I saw him reach the top of the stairs and not turn left, where his room was, but turn right to make his way down the hall where my other siblings and I were suppose to be sleeping. It took all of two seconds before I heard, "Emily!" coming from upstairs.

 I remained quiet under the dining room table thinking how it was impossible that my dad didn't fall for the doll head decoy. I heard my name called again. I started to think of how much trouble I was going to be in, and again remained quiet to avoid punishment. Again I heard my name, but it didn't sound mad, it actually sounded worried and I started to feel bad. I crawled out from under the table and responded, "I'm down here." "What are you doing?!" I heard my dad say back in the dark. I start to climb back up the stairs, "I was waiting for the Easter Bunny." "Under the living room table?" "I wanted to see if he was real or not."

I don't remember exactly what happened after that, but I do remember getting back into bed and telling my dad about finding the Shamu and wanting to know if there was really an Easter Bunny. I don't remember what his answer was, but I know he didn't lie to me or try to make me still believe he was real. I also know I cried and I remember him saying something along the lines of, "Everyone figures it out, you just found it out the hard way." And then telling me I can't just go sneaking off and hiding without telling anyone. I agreed and he stayed with me until I fell asleep.

I know I was bummed because I remember crying but I don't know if it was because I found out the Easter Bunny wasn't real, or because I got caught hiding under the dining room table and trying to pass a doll off as myself and was utterly humiliated? We may never know.

A funny thing happened last year though-- I had the privilege of being the Easter Bunny at my work. I would normally never use the word "privilege" to describe something that has to do with kids, but because I didn't have to actually talk to them at all while I was in costume, that in itself was a privilege. But I realized something quite monumental as I was sitting on my throne of 12-packs of Coke posing for pictures: I am going to be apart of this kid's childhood. Maybe. I'm actually hoping they don't remember any part of it, because that's a huge responsibility to be forever burned into a person's psyche, but for those that do-- I was the Easter Bunny for them. For that 5 minutes I interacted with them, they believed me. Especially the kids that screamed bloody murder, I was most definitely real. I wonder how those kids are going to figure out it's not real. I wonder if any dining room tables and Cabbage Patch baby bags will be involved.
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