Thursday, November 30, 2006

Please put down the joystick and go back to drinking your iced tea.

My apartment complex is a quiet place, for the most part. It's mostly grad students or young professionals like myself, and in general there aren't any loud parties or people shouting to each other in the parking lot. It's actually pretty eerie. I've only met two of the three neighbors on my floor, and even then only briefly, and I have only small notions of what goes on in their lives. The neighbors who live upstairs from me are also generally quiet people. I haven't met them. I only know they are a couple because once or twice I've seen them through the window when I'm coming in, if it's dark out and they have their lights on and shades up. I've heard the occasional TV sound. And I hear them peeing.

Due to some unfortunate acoustical infrastructure in my apartment building, the sound of these people peeing resonates into every room of my apartment. At times I've been convinced that they have 4 toilets: one directly above my bedroom, my living room, my dining room, and my kitchen. But really I know, there's only one, and it's directly above my own bathroom. For understandable reasons, the sound is especially clear when it is the man peeing, but I can hear her, too. And let me tell you, these are people who clearly take hydration very seriously. It seems they are always going! However, I've learned to accept this quirk of apartment-building life and live with it...especially since I don't hear any other noises.

Or at least, I didn't hear any other noises. For about a week I've been hearing loud, machine-like noises through the floor. It started last weekend. Daisy freaked out in the middle of the night and started running in circles on my bed, chasing her tail, then rushing into and out of the bedroom, into the living room and back, at around 3 AM. I woke up groggily and slowly realized there was what sounded like techno music coming through the ceiling. Very strange behavior from my otherwise reticent, liquid-loving neighbors. Then every night this week the repetitive noises filtered through, for a couple of hours every evening, usually ending around midnight. After a couple of nights, it struck me--it sounds like machine-gun fire! From some kind of video game. So my conclusion has been that these are crazy people who waited out in a tent at Best Buy or something to pick up a Playstation 3. I don't know, maybe the whole craze just inspired them to dust off their old Playstation 2, or some old computer game. I don't particularly care what it is; I just hope it stops soon. And if it is a PS3, I have to wonder, why didn't they just auction it off for a million dollars like any other sane person would?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

RIP AJM 1914-2006

As I mentioned last year, it's been a while since I celebrated Thanksgiving in the United States. I remember the last time, in 2000. I flew to PA from Boston for the long weekend, then flew back to Boston, went to my apartment for about an hour to unpack and repack, then headed back to the airport for a flight to Amsterdam for a job interview which eventually led to me moving abroad.

I think I may have gotten some of those details wrong, and I know that I'm fuzzy on the details of the Thanksgiving meal, but I know that things have changed since then. The house where we ate belonged to my grandparents then, and it belongs to my cousin and her husband now; instead of one child, they now have three, and two of my other cousins are married with kids too. And one figure whose absence will be felt at the table this year is my grandfather's--he died about two weeks ago. Grandpa had been in a nursing home for a few years, and in the past few weeks his health had been declining, so this was not a surprise, and after a long (92 years) and full life, this wasn't a tragic death. But it is a sad loss for our family.

My grandfather and my grandmother were both serving in the Navy when they met at a dance in July, 1943; they were married two months later. My mom and her three siblings remember their parents singing together, hosting fabulous cocktail parties in the 50s, leading family camping trips and swimming in the pond at the family farm. I remember him reading us stories as children, singing old songs, telling jokes or puns (or quoting quips such as this one from W.C. Fields: "I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy!") and helping me learn to do a back handspring in the front yard--continuing a family acrobatic tradition. Of course, we have less rosy memories--Grandpa's temper, at times, was as quick and sharp as his wit--but mostly we remember the 63 years he spent married to my grandmother, their shared love of family, travel, playing bridge and of course, their daily cocktail hour, which they shared right up until he died.

Life, and family, is always evolving. This year we'll play with the four new great-grandchildren who have arrived since the last time I was home for this holiday. We'll probably reminisce a little about Thanksgivings and other times past, but mostly we move forward. But we hope to bring some of those happy memories with us to share with the next generations.

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