Monday, October 31, 2005

It is amazing how being on the road, doing what I do can almost erase my personality. When I walk into a guidance office, I am often greeted by,” Are you Northeast College? Welcome. Hey Darlene? Northeast College is here, where should I put them?” Now, there are many reasons why these statements are untrue or incorrect--the thing that always irks me most is that I am not longer myself, the human being representing Northeast College but the actual college--brick, mortar and all, standing in the guidance office. The other day, I finally had enough and in my lightest of tones, responded,” Well actually, my name is Jane Doe, Northeast College’s rep, but thanks for the compliment.” After a month and half on the road, I needed to be recognized as Jane Doe, a person who eats, breathes, and shits, unlike the lovely buildings that constitute my campus. I was tired of feeling like an incomplete person, or perhaps more accurately, like a person with a double personality. At one moment I am Northeast College, enticing the smartest and most adventurous students to our campus; the next moment, I am Jane Doe, friend, sister, daughter—irreverent, funny and of course, humble.
Over the past few months I have been astonished at how often I feel out of sorts, not like myself, because I am trying so hard to adapt to a new situation in a short amount of time. Sadly, or realistically, I just take a little longer to settle in, feel comfortable and let the good times roll. I need to get my bearings, feel people out and test the waters before my true personality can come out. Instead, I have a great dual dialogue that occurs. There are the things that actually emerge from my mouth (rarely considered before coming out) and the things that I think but never share. My brain is a fun place to be, and I have to say, I am pretty damn funny, but oddly enough, people rarely ever hear those witty comments. Instead, I frequently laugh at inappropriate moments while appreciating my own internal monologue and receive unwanted attention as people try to understand why the crazy girl in the corner is laughing.
I have been fortunate in my life to have great parents, siblings and friends who just accept my quirkiness and who frequently enjoy being a part of it. At my new job and on the road, however, I have not had time to suss out my peers, nor do I have time to uncover the humors of the kids and counselors I deal with, so I can very rarely let my odd sense of humor and irreverence for many things revered emerge. Instead, it is locked away for only my enjoyment. While I am a great audience, always laughing at my jokes, I have to admit that sometimes my head is a lonely place to be.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Thank you all for your comments. I have been secretly writing for a long time and now it is fun to share it with you!

Well, today was not a terribly interesting day. Last night, however, was pretty funny. I arrived at a good friend's house last evening, enjoyed a lovely meal and chatted by the fire. It was great. I start to yawn and think about the nice cozy bed that awaits me. Finally, I summon the energy to go upstairs and brush my teeth, get ready for bed, etc only to realize I left my toiletry kit in Bennington. I am now in Norwich...a few mountain passes away from Bennington. This leaves me without my toothbrush, deodorant, shampoo, soap, lotion, and most importantly, my contacts. Considering I have been on the road for a month straight and this is the first time I left or lost anything, I think that is pretty good. However, it is not like I just left a pair of socks behind. No sirree. Pretty much, everything that keeps me clean and presentable is sitting in a room in Bennington. Woohoo! No worries though, the nice lady in Bennington is overnighting it to me so I will only smell today.

Beyond that, my day was tame. I did see a great bumper sticker: WHERE ARE WE GOING? AND WHY AM I IN THIS HANDBASKET? Every time I look at this quote I start to giggle. And that is how I entered school #1 on this frosty, Vermont morning.

Last thought of the day:
How do small towns in the US stay afloat. As I drive along the back roads of New York, Vermont, Ohio, etc. I encounter these small towns with maybe 5000 people, if that. They often consist of a general store, a diner or two, maybe an insurance agent, and most importantly, a church, a bar and a school. None of these things seem like enough to keep a town running. I realize there is industry hidden away, off the roads, and most likely nestled along the banks of rivers, but how do these towns keep on going?
That said, I am sad to report that much of America's medium to large sized towns are starting to look the same. With Best Buy, Walmart, Pier One, and other "suburban" stores creating a strip effect in each town, sometimes I forget where I am. Driving along, I smile to myself as I see these little main streets with antique stores, restaurants called "Molly's" or "Jake's Diner", enjoying the unique-ness of that place. Then, just as I start to head out of town, I encounter this mass of brightly lit, horizon blocking stores--and they are the same stores every time. While I understand the need for jobs, and the need to have stuff, these stores look the same no matter where they are located. The individuality of the town is stripped away. I quickly forget Main St. and become overwhelmed by the mass of stuff in front of me. Often times I have just left a nice diner where everyone knows each other and people are friendly--the experience is personal, one-of-a-kind only to be clobbered by what seems to be the new face of America's towns. I don't like it. Now, I am not knocking big business, mainly because I think I am too ignorant to knock it properly, but I am wondering why these placces could not at least try to fit in with the landscape already in place. Why do these stores have to mammouth? Why couldn't they exist to complement the town instead of contrast and even overshadow the town? I fear we are losing our personality in the US. I fear that we are becoming standardized, de-individualized without asking questions or prostesting. These towns offer so much, each with their own flavor, feeling and personality only to be marginalized by a huge yellow Best Buy sign. I don't know where I am going with this. But, I do wonder why we are so complacent in letting our history slide away in favor of ugly, boxy, ostentatious stores that offer little in the way of service and nothing that is personalized or unique.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Yesterday, I tried to write, I did, but I just could not muster up the energy. I said everything that needed to be said the day before; but today, I am refreshed and ready to write some more.

Vermont--the Green Mountain State is my host for the duration of this 10 day trip. My first night in this amazingly beautiful state consisted of me alone in my car staring at the natural beauty that is upstate New York and Vermont. Me, alone in my motel room--a different brand too so it felt a little funny. Me, alone at a bar eating dinner--watching a bunch of close friends drink, eat and laugh together. And, last but not least, me alone watching the World Series, falling asleep to the World Series and missing the climactic ending of the World Series. All in all, it was a special day for the lone traveller.

Today, October 27th, was pretty awesome. It was a moody day in the mountains of Vermont and as always, really beautiful.
This morning, as I picked out my clothes, I decided to take a fashion risk. Now, this garment that I am wearing has been sitting in my closet since last Christmas because I have not had the guts to wear it. Because Vermont is, well Vermont, I thought it would be a good day to try something new. People here are pretty forgiving so the chances of someone outright laughing at me was slim to none....not that I really care if people laugh at my clothes, but you know... My new(ish), spiffy trench-type coat has one of those pleasant silky liners, feeling nice against my skin. I wrap my green scarf around my neck, look in the mirror, scrutinizing, and decide,"What the hell!" Normally, I would consult a friend or co-worker shortly after leaving the house to find out if I needed to feel embarassed for the rest of the day, or if I could stick out my chest and prance around like the proud pony I am. Well, today, I was on my own. And Vermonters, being the accepting people they are, presented no reaction. No laughing, no smirking, no compliments, no nothing. This could mean that it is horrible and they feel bad for me. It could mean that it looked professional so there was no reason to comment. Or, it could mean that people were slightly frightened of my fashion choices and, therefore, frightened of me so they declined to comment. Ladies and gents, you have just had a scary insight into my wandering brain. The very brain that keeps me from falling asleep during all my hours in the car. Speaking of the car....

As I was driving from Bennington to Bellows Falls, it decided to blizzard on top of one of the mountains I was crossing. As I drove down a long, steep hill -slowly because I don't trust my rental car- I noticed a sign that said,"Runaway Trucks" with an arrow to the right. About 25 yards later, there was a steep ramp off to the right that was about 50 yards long. This pattern continued about every half a mile until the ground levelled out. Wow! My dreams of driving big trucks in the mountains are shot!
First of all, that is a scary sign causing me to immediately check my rearview mirror and grip the steering wheel a bit tighter. My little PT Cruiser would not stand a chance! Secondly, if those trucks are screaming down this icy, curvy road at God only knows what speed, is 50 yards of ramp enough to slow them down? And, wouldn't they have crashed by then? Those curves are not just your average meandering curves, but switchbacks on ice with large ravines on either side. Needless to say, my trip down the side of that mountain consisted of me checking my rearview mirror, gripping the steering whell, feeling petrified and laughing my ass off!
All in all, today was just another exciting day on the road.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

So, I am new at this whole technology blog thing but I have decided to give it a whirl.

Having now been on the road for about a month and half staight, I have come to realize what a unique experience it is living out of a suitcase, waking up unsure of where I am and feeling perpetually lost-literally. Along with these rather disconcerting sensations come the benefits of traveling. Firstly, I have now visited a number of cities and towns to which I have never been and have the colorful privilege of learning about them through the eyes of teenagers.

Secondly, I have to say, and hopefully this won't jinx me, that these trips have renewed my faith in humanity. Over the past couple of years, I had found my faith in my fellow homosapiens waning, to say the least. In general,though, people are friendly, honest and, when you are lost in the woods of Maine, helpful.

Thirdly, I have truly come to appreciate the physical beauty of America. This country is truly stunning, ranging from the flats of Indiana, to the rolling hills of Ohio and Western Pennsylvania, to the green-ness of Vermont and the terrain that belongs only to Maine. At a time when being an American doesn't always feel like something I want to shout from a mountaintop, seeing the natural beauty of our nation renews my pride and my drive re-claim this country as my own. And lastly, being on the road has simultaneously challenged my ability to laugh at myself and/or the situation and increased my ability to laugh at myself--and let's face it, others.

On this trip, I have encountered a pick up truck chock full of Amish men- beards, hats, overalls and all-tooling along the highway. I have been in an accident, surrounded by true Downeastern old men dressed in camo and hunting orange, speaking a language I think was English but that is yet to be determined. I have sat in the squad car of a Maine police officer who told me of his dating history with red heads--he prefers us, apparently. I have ridden in a tow truck to Enterprise car rental with one of those Downeasterners, squeezed into the cab with a shot gun and the loudest CB radio known to human kind. I have arrived at Enterprise after this surreal experience, walking into an office full of young, hot guys in starched white dress shirts and pressed slacks, creating their own special reality in Bangor, Maine. I got sick from Cracker Barrel. I have had many cars honk at me and flip me off on their way by because I just never know where I am going (I just wave back and smile). I have been perpetually confused with the representatives from the Wheaton College in Illinois. I have laughed with my brother in Pittsburgh. I was welcomed into the homes of close friends. I walked trepidaciously through the streets of Squirrel Hill. I cried in my car when I discovered I had to work on my one full day home after three weeks on the road. I have had the pleasure of getting to know my co-workers (who are pretty damn cool, I have to say) over the telephone since we never see each other. I have attended the coolest, hippiest state fair ever. I have sat at the counters of numerous small town diners. I have been honored with the details of the lives of strangers. I have talked to some of the coolest high school juniors and seniors anywhere! I have visited private schools with nicer campuses than most colleges. I have visited a private school with a zoo! (Oh yeah, you read that right, a zoo full of real zoo animals.) I have been shown love and support from my closest friends. I have called my parents almost everyday and possibly worn out my welcome. I have watched the Red Sox lose. I am watching the White

All in all, these trips to the mid-west, mid-Atlantic and New England have been fun, interesting, tiring and so very worthwhile.

Oddly enough, I am getting used to that sensation of not being sure where I am when I wake up and it just doesn't bother me anymore. I just flip on the radio,, search the low 90s, high 90s, find NPR and wait for them to tell me where I am on this particular morning. However, if the hotel chains decided to mix up their lay outs, bed linens and curtains a bit, it might be a little easier to figure out my location. That said, these hotel rooms now feel like home because I have basically been staying in the same room the whole time. I am getting used to having zits constantly because the water is different everywhere. I may or may not be helping Starbucks and Barnes and Noble stay in business with my penchant for steamed milk. But most of all, when I finally rest my head, night after night, on my own precious pillow, and wake up to my own red curtains, I will feel so lucky. Lucky, or blessed, to have a place to call my own, a sense of humor, an appreciation for the beauty of my country and a few good stories to share with those of you who read my blog.