A Mississippienne in Yankeeland
Monday, May 31, 2004
I'm blogging now from an apartment in NYC's East Village belonging to Alex (Dogson), Rose's friend. Me, Rose and Travis rode in on the bus and toured the city, from the Empire State Building to the Hudson, where we glimpsed the Statue of Liberty. Times Square quite dazzled our eyes, and Central Park was beauteous if rainy. A man gave me 3 postcards, free of charge, saying "They're a gift from me to you."

More later.

Saturday, May 29, 2004
It's Memorial Day Weekend, and everyone's got plans. Alyssa has gone to South Dakota for her niece's baptism and Marcos flew into California to visit his family. Jacque's visiting an uncle who lives locally and Sara is off with Megan. I dunno what Sasha and Chris are planning, but me, Rose and Travis went and bought our tickets. New York City, baby, tomorrow morning, bright and early at 9am! Here's what we plan to see...

The Statue of Liberty
Ground Zero
Times Square
Metropolitan Museum of Art

We're hoping to stay overnight at a hostel, but if that doesn't work out Rose has a buddy named Alex who lives in the East Village and will put us up for the night. I talked to him on the phone and our conversation went like this:

ALEX: If you could be a mythological animal, what would you be?
JESSICA: A griffin.
ALEX: Good choice!
JESSICA: Thanks. I didn't want to be anything too twee, like a unicorn. What about you?
ALEX: A phoenix.
JESSICA: That sounds lonesome. You'd be the only one of your kind.
ALEX: That's cool, dying and being reborn would make up for it.
JESSICA: So ask me a question. Anything.
ALEX: What am I meant to do with my life?
JESSICA: What are you meant to do? You are meant to do something that you won't discover until you are thirty-five, married, with two kids, a mortgage, and a minivan. You'll wake up some morning and think "Oh, I was supposed to be a caregiver in Zimbabwe!" about twenty years too late.
ALEX: That's depressing.
JESSICA: I don't make the rules, buddy, I just report 'em.

Thursday, May 27, 2004
Today was such fun! We got to sleep in because my team was doing Service Learning today, touring Hartford's Capitol, and our tour didn't start until noon.

So we went to the Capitol and camped out on the front lawn, enjoying the gorgeous weather. Chris then suggested rolling down the hill, which we did, and then we began having races to see who could roll down the fastest! After a number of minutes of flipping heels over head, we all had grass in our hair and mouths and grass-stains covering our uniforms. Whee!

We're supposed to find out about our new project sometime this week. Am very nervous, really hope we get a good one. Rose and I will probably be going on an excursion to New York City this Memorial Day weekend, wish me luck!

Sunday, May 23, 2004
I'm writing you from Fire 8's holdout in Massachusetts: Camp Norwich, the second oldest camp in the nation. It's run by the YMCA, and today was its first day of operation in 15 years. It was pretty madcap -- I froze in the little AmeriCabins, then helped build a fire-pit, and cooked way too many marshmallows.

It's so beautiful here -- all green and the air smells sweet. The frogs trill all night, and me and Robyn hung out at the docks tonight, talking and listening to the splashing of the water.

Saturday, May 22, 2004
Today was the last day of Build-A-Thon; I climbed about on the roof and sang "Happy Birthday" in French to one of the home-owners ("Bonne anniversaire a tu...). One of the workers did a little stomp-dance while singing "I'm addicted to... caulk" that was very amusing.

Later (6:00) we're leaving to visit Fire 8 in Massachusettes. Team Wierd meets Team Gay! Will keep you posted.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004
I'm writing now from a computer lab at Quinnipiac University, where me and the teamies are attending a conference for Non-Profits. We've had 2 classes today so far -- mine were "Hypnosis for Stress Relief" and "Identity Theft", and I have one to go, "Public Speaking". This is part of our Service Learning, something Americorps requires so we learn about the communities and organizations we work with.

I'm thinking, half-jokingly, about signing up Fire 3 for Mtv's "True Life". Couldn't you just see it? "True Life: I'm in Americorps". It'd be great. I could see spin-offs, even. Work-out videos, product placements, action figures in tiny AmeriWear. Merchandising! That's where the real money is.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004
Today was the first day of Build-A-Thon, a kind of blitz build for Habitat. Rose and I built a wall, discovered our measurements were off, cut it down and built it again, then were told that wall wasn't needed at all, so we started work on another wall. We were on our fourth or fifth wall (I misremember) when it was time to go home.

Rose has informed me she is keeping a tally of the number of times she almost dies in Americorps. "Do you keep a death tally?" she asked, and I shook my head. "I keep a sexual harrassment tally," I said.

That reminds me! Chris is an ass-grabber! There I was, innocently signing in at the YMCA, when someone walks past and slaps me on my ass. I whirled around, ready to kill, only to see Chris scamper off, giggling "Heh heh heh!" I'm onto him, that ass-grabber.

Tomorrow we go into New Haven for a conference or something. Yay.

Monday, May 17, 2004
Yesterday me and Alyssa and Sasha attended the dedication of one of the Habitat houses we've been working on. It was a truly moving experience. Suddenly, the dirt under my fingernails, the aching muscles, the gash above my right knee, all seemed worth it.

We really worked hard on getting that house ready for its new family -- I caulked everything in it that could possibly be caulked, and possibly some stuff that can't. Alyssa was teasing me that my right pinky finger was going to become unusually buff and muscular from using it to spread caulk for several hours each day. "It'll be my big guns," I proclaimed, wiggling the pinky finger. While painting the bannisters in the basement staircase, Rose and I began talking about Life After Americorps (tm), namely, what we plan to do. She wants to become an astronaut, I'm currently debating whether to go to college in Texas, get a job in Turkey, or run off with hippies.

We then began musing on what people's reactions would be on learning of our Americorps experience. "It's certainly unusual," I said, diping my roller into a bucket of paint. "Traveling the country for 10 months, living with 8 other random strangers."

"It's like being married to 8 people," Rose said. "That's it! That's what I'll tell people when they ask what I've been doing for the last year. No, I didn't go to college. I was married to 8 people for a year. 3 guys, 5 girls," she said with a big grin. We cracked up.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004
So yesterday a man stopped me and asked where Oak Street is. Then he asked me out, so I'm not sure if Oak Street is real or just something he made up. Hmm.

So me, Robyn, and Wanda are currently planning a camping trip to one of the Carolinas -- we're thinking either South Carolina (Myrtle Beach) or North Carolina (Wilmington). Will keep you posted on how it goes.

Today, me and Rose cleaned the upstairs of one of the almost finished Habitat houses, swept the basement, put turpentine on the bannisters (and accidently melted a plastic cup), washed all the windows, and put fresh coats of paint on about 10 walls. Go us!

Monday, May 10, 2004
I've really been enjoying Hartford -- compared to Baltimore, it's one of the cleanest, friendliest cities I've been to. The library located just a few blocks from the convent doesn't hurt either!

Yesterday, me and Jacque, Chris and Marcos went to see "Van Helsing". Not bad, but I liked Kate Beckinsale's boots better than anything.

Finally found a doctor -- I probably called 20 places and got told all sorts of crap, from "We've never heard of your insurance" to "We're not taking new patients" to "Call back in June" -- by June, I'll either be healed or dead from my illness, ya numbskull! Anyway, finally hooked up with Dr. Subramanian at UConn Health Partners who diagnosed me as suffering from flu crossed with allergies, gave me some nasonex and Allegra, and vaccinated me against meiningcoccus while she was at it.

The team's been working its butt off building houses for Habitat -- I can now sheetrock, drywall, and wield a power screwdriver like a pro. Go me!

Saturday, May 01, 2004
Whew! I'm writing from the Hartford Public Library, located just a few blocks from the St. Patrick's-St. Anthony's church where we're staying. Today was my team's first real day of Habitat; we hammered, pulled out nails we'd hammered wrong, then hammered them in again. We were assisted by about 20 teens from the local high school; all I can say is they're all going to heaven, because we CAPed the hell out of 'em.

Anyway, after an exhausting five-hour drive (during which time we were lost only twice!) we arrived in Hartford and moved into our totally swank digs at the convent. I then promptly came down with laryngitis and spent several hours sleeping on the floor at the Emergency Room, only to have the doctor prescribe "gargling with warm salt water".

But the good news first! The first night we were here, me, Rose, Chris, Travis, and Marcos went out searching for ice cream. After being turned away by several bars, we finally happened across a restaurant called Hot Tomatos. "We have ten dollars," Chris said, "we just want some ice cream."

Out of the goodness of their hearts (or perhaps just to be rid of us) Hot Tomatos then volunteered to treat us! We each got desert and coffee, the total of which should have come to a $60 tab, then left a $10 tip. Thanks so much, Cas and Jerry and random-waitress-whose-daughter-is-named-Nicole!

Anyway, I'm really missing all my friends, even Robyn and her mad ramblings about Dawson's Creek. Wah! On plus side, have converted Rose to Preacher. Go me!

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