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Too Early for Christmas Cheer?

(10/21/12 9:36pm)

There’s something about this time of year that makes me want to start belting out Christmas carols. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love putting up tacky blow- up ghosts and trying to figure out that never- ending spider web stuff as much as anyone. I can’t wait for candy corn and plastic vampire teeth to find themselves in discount bins in the front of stores. But there’s just something about the leaves falling to the ground that screams how near winter is. I blame this on the commercial society. Halloween is celebrated by stores starting in August, and near the end of October, things immediately switch to Christmas. I can’t be expected to just ignore an upcoming holiday when there are so many things screaming out trying to get me to start celebrating! Poor Thanksgiving goes unnoticed continually… one can imagine some lonely box of stuffed turkeys or autumnal ceramics shoved in a corner, crying softly to themselves as they are forgotten for another year. But Christmastime! It isn’t the holiday itself that holds me; it’s the time of year. It’s the inordinate excitement over an early snow of half an inch, leading people to stock up on canned soup and bottled water and talk about how “This one’s gonna be a doozy.” It’s the horrible sweaters with jingle bells hanging off. It’s the excuse to microwave my socks to make them extra toasty. It’s the best excuse for making (and eating) way too many cookies. My over-excitement about the season has pushed me into trying to behave as if it’s already time for Christmas cheer. I find myself sweating bullets on the way to class because it is 70 degrees and I’m wearing the equivalent of a suit of armor. You know, in case it decides to blizzard in mid- October. I’m using the coming winter as an excuse to eat more, likening myself to a bear fattening itself up to sleep for months. Gotta be prepared, right? It won’t be long now until I show up, huffing and puffing in a parka, pulling along a tree I cut down from the back yard because Christmas trees are never sold early enough for my liking. So far, I’m attempting to stave off this mania by cramming my brain full of so many fall- related things that there isn’t room for anything else. I eat pumpkin pie at least once a week, generally with a side serving of cocoa or cider. It takes me hours to walk anywhere now, because I have to stop so many times along the way and take blurry close- up cell phone pictures of leaves. I spent one crazed weekend making apple pie after apple pie with fruit I picked at Carter’s Mountain. But one thing can’t be subdued: the carols. I really, really can’t help this one. Again, it’s not even the holiday that the carols are associated with. It is just a simple fact that songs shouldn’t be so catchy and wonderfully snuggly- sounding if you’re only expected to sing them for one month of the year. So, really, my terrible howling of them is really just a form of social protest (aha, I have changed myself from “that” person to an activist!). And though a few of my friends put up with me, smiling horribly through pained expressions as I attempt to lead everyone in another round of “When We Went a- Wassailing,” many don’t. These are the people that turn away and make faces that say, “I have no idea who she is,” to sympathetic passerby. Honestly, though, I see nothing wrong with being a little enthusiastic sometimes. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to make a pan of fudge and maybe download “Greatest Hits of the Holidays.” For some reason, the house is strangely empty this morning… no one is around to join in on “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” with me!

Talk of the Town: Obama vs Romney round 2

(10/17/12 1:00am)

It’s so cool that they started with a college student’s question. I doubt Romney’s claim that he will make college more affordable, since he previously said that he would cut funding for Pell Grants by over half. Romney agreed with the kid that there was a problem (“too much debt, not enough jobs”), and kept saying, “I’m going to fix that.” But how? What is his plan? I liked Barack’s sly dig, “We need to build jobs in THIS COUNTRY.” I won’t be too partisan, but Barack actually laid out a concrete plan, so I respect that. -Ashley Spinks 9:08 p.m.

Vices and Virtues: Biden vs. Ryan

(10/11/12 1:30am)

Poor Biden is already behind. Ryan was more than correct! He and Romney understand how the Obama Administration represents America: as an apologetic country that’s afraid to take a stand against terrorism. It’s one thing to brag about getting Bin Laden, but another thing to call out a new terrorist attack when Obama’s in the driver’s seat. He’d rather say it’s America’s fault for a YouTube video, than call out what, from the beginning, was clearly a terrorist attack. -Sam Novack 9:13 p.m.

A Taste of Wine- But Not For Me

(10/08/12 4:18am)

This afternoon I had the exquisite experience of accompanying my parents and boyfriend to a wine tasting event in my area. When my mom suggested it to me, I surprised myself by not being overcome by any of my usual cynicism. Maybe it could be fun, I mused. Even though I am too young to drink anything, I could still hang out outside, catch up with the parents, meet some nice local residents and vendors… sounds great! And, as always, comes the usual line in my columns: Oh, how very wrong I was. The day was just cold enough to be uncomfortable. The clouds loomed and rain began to sprinkle down as we drove, and they all chortled to themselves, joking about how a little wine would keep them toasty. I just gritted my teeth and pretended to laugh along. Immediately upon entering the fair, I was assaulted by the lady checking in. She clearly had already partaken in a few beverages herself, because she doubled over laughing at the sheer prospect of me just following my parents and boyfriend around. “You aren’t even gonna drink a little? Not a bit?” she giggled, making the cop behind her glare accusingly at me. She made a show of not letting me have a wristband and then sent me off, raising her glass at my tensed back. Generally when I think of a wine tasting, I think of one or two tables with three or four kinds of wine on each. Unless I’m very much mistaken, this tasting was an exception. Nine wineries were represented, each showing around ten types of wine. My group eagerly dived in as I followed, feet dragging in the mud. It came out within moments at the first booth that I was just there to hang out and eventually be the designated driver. Many bad jokes of all assembled ensued, to which my parents laughed louder and louder the further down the wine list they went. They cheerfully meandered to the next booth, where we all sat through the same jokes again. I learned there to remove myself from under the tarp and stand in the rain, trying to look busy. What this resulted to was Googling hairstyles and hot drink recipes on my phone. Each time I looked up, I saw my mom explaining my presence to the vineyard employees, who generally burst out laughing immediately. If not, they looked on me with a mix of distain and pity and soon turned away, shaking their heads as they reached to their glasses, no doubt thinking about how lucky they were. Other than those working the fair, it was remarkable how many highly intoxicated individuals showed up outside on such a rainy afternoon. One woman in particular caught my notice; she was easily the most interesting character in the whole event. Not only was she particularly inebriated, but she was also about 70. As we followed the same path as her around the fair, we got to watch her scream at every wine merchant that “Grandma like to drink!” and “You can’t get nothin’ past Grandma while she still standin’!” Frankly, she put my crowd to shame. We watched in awe as she swilled whatever was put in front of her, only to slam her glass down, panting and shouting about how foul it was, only to ask for seconds. “Whatcha got that ain’t… [insert ancient Southern insults]?” she would demand. It was fine, entertaining even, to follow and watch her, until my dad decided, no doubt aided by the product he had sampled, that it was his job to harass this woman. They bantered back and forth for an embarrassingly long time, until it was so awkward that I begged him to move on. Just when we thought we were free, my dad decided to try one last tasting on the way out. We entered a tent that only had one other taster present, thinking that at last we were in for a break. That is, until a question passed his lips: “Is this wine aged in American or foreign oak?” This spent my boyfriend and parents into a tailspin, as they barely held on to their laughter long enough to sample the wines. They did quickly, in order, it seemed to me, that we could sooner get back into the car so that barrage of insults could begin to fly. And as I sat listening to them, I, for the first time that day, began to actually and for real laugh along. With that, I decided that really, in the end, good stories make up for any amount of silly situations and people I could ever run into, even if it meant I had to stand in the chilling rain all day while watching my favorite people slowly becoming sillier and warmer, to get it.

Opening Night: Reflections on the Debate

(10/04/12 5:51am)

Romney’s central argument is that reelecting Obama will be letting the same problems he’s had during his first term fester: namely, the deficit will balloon; money will be spent on wasteful alternative energy projects like Solyndra; the middle class will be crippled by decreasing incomes and increasing prices. The federal gov’t should step back, he says, and let the free market take care of problems like health care reform and education reform, opting to give vouchers for people to use in private markets instead of gov’t programs.

Too Many Apples, Too Few Ideas

(09/22/12 3:19pm)

On one of those nearly- fall days that are so beautiful that you have to resist the temptation to break into jolly show tunes, my family drove up and took my boyfriend and I to Carter Mountain to get those beginning- of- the- season fruits. Though this journey is a Charlottesville tradition, I had only been once before, and was dying to go back. The cool air on your face, the slightly vinegar-y smell of those fallen apples, the ability to see for miles in every direction… not a time or place to be missed. The last time that I went was near the end of apple picking season, and fruit was scarce. I still managed to partially fill a bag, but it was after many hours of work and sending people (who were probably too large to be doing this sort of thing) to the tops of trees to gather the lonely remainders. So, this year, as we drove up that dusty, windy path to the Apple Barn, I warned everyone that it was possible that we wouldn’t find enough apples to sate us. Good grief, but I was wrong. The smell of apples hit us in the face the moment we stepped out of the car. We gathered our bags and meandered down a generally deserted row, but not more than three minutes had passed until we were so thickly surrounded by apples that I felt like we were under siege. Apples hung at eye level, drooped to the ground, and crowded high branches like they were climbing over each other to touch the sun. It was like being in a buffet: we stuffed our bags until we realized that we could be choosy. We then started a “Find the Biggest Apple” contest, until we had so many that I couldn’t easily carry my spoils. Feeling triumphant, we returned home that night, swooning at our accomplishment and happily munching down the sweet fruit. I felt rich with the amount we had. We were going to be so healthy, we said. And so full! We could eat for weeks on this! The next night was particularly insomniatic, but when I woke up at four a.m., instead of bemoaning my fate, I sprung up, elated. I could start cooking some apples now! I fancied myself a regular housewife, imagined presenting a beautifully fluted pie to my roommates when they came back from school. Actually, what my roommates probably noticed was the clattering and banging in the kitchen before the sun was up. As always, these ideas never work out exactly as planned. Peeling and cutting and coring and chopping apples took up easily an hour, by which time I was unable to keep the stupid goofy smile on my face. I put some in the Crock Pot to make applesauce, then turned to the greatly reduced pile. Time for pie. I opened the fridge to retrieve crusts, only to realize that not only did I only have one crust and limited ingredients, but the grocery wouldn’t open for another two or three hours. No matter, I convinced myself. Open faced pie! That’s a thing, right? Sadly, he pie came out of the oven blackened on top, everything boiled down and burnt because of its lack of protective covering. I tried to cut it up and it just all ran together, making a mushy mess of cinnamon juice and burnt apples. To hide my shame I had to eat most of it right there. When the six hours were up for the applesauce, I re-kindled my excitement. The applesauce had been filling the house with such good smells all day. My fantasies started back up again: sitting around with my friends, laughing merrily in tacky sweaters as we scarfed down loads of sweet homemade applesauce… I opened the lid, expecting the pot to be filled… and it wasn’t. Not even close. The ten apples that I put in it had reduced to less than two servings. It tasted and smelled amazing, but I had to quickly package it away, in order to save it to show people before I ate all of that, too. After that, I called it quits on the apples. As a rule, I lose hope too easily, especially when food is on the line. The problem now is, I still have two bags of apples in my room, and no idea what to do with them. Also, my friends are talking about all of us going to Carter Mountain sometime soon… they hear the apples are great this year.

Why I am excited for fall

(09/12/12 1:30am)

I am never one of those people who gets excited for fall. Ever since I was little, one season is the only season for me and that season is summer. But after the first week of classes when I showed up to class dripping in sweat – my condolences to those of you in dorms without air conditioning – I found myself admitting that I am ready for fall. The gorgeous weather the past few days only solidified my excitement for the upcoming change of seasons as it means I can finally bring out my beloved riding boots, blazers, and cardigans. For those of you who don’t get as excited about your fall wardrobe, I am sure you can celebrate the start of football season.

My Charlottesville weekend

(09/03/12 8:50pm)

I came back to Grounds this fall with a sense of urgency- this is my last year in Charlottesville, so I want to make every moment and experience count. I no longer can rely on the excuse, “I’ll do it next year.” Despite missing my last Rotunda Sing because I had to go to work, earlier in the evening I stopped by the 4th year class dinner to pick up my “113 Things To Do Before We Graduate” poster. When I came home and meticulously checked off all the things I had done in my past three years here, I realized I needed to step up my game to complete the 61 things I have left to do before that dreaded day in May rolls around.


(09/03/12 7:11pm)

Moving in has always been a time of great stress for me. I over- think things, I pack and repack until my boxes and suitcases weep and beg for mercy, I have panic attacks over whether people are going to make fun of me for how much I bring. I thought that, after first year, I would no longer suffer from these symptoms. I fancied myself a god of moving, one that wouldn’t be brought down by an overstuffed truck bed or a father turned grumpy after carrying one too many bags. However, I was wrong. After waging the never- ending battle with my keys to unlock the finicky bolts that seem to exist to taunt me, only to open easily at the hands of the next pitying person to come along, I toppled into my new house. Gasping for breath, I looked as if I had carried my suitcase through the Mojave Desert, instead of the ten steps it took from the car. The entrance was not graceful, not put- together. It looked like I was evading an angry mob, rather than happily opening the door into this next phase of life. When we- myself and my current roommates- toured this house last winter, it was a disaster. There is no way around it. Supposedly five boys lived there, but you could have fooled us. It looked more like one of those abandoned cabins that you see on the news, one that the wolves had gotten to first and torn everything apart. The walls were disheveled and dirty; the rooms were in chaotic disarray. However, with that overly- accepting way that people have when entering a new situation, we declared it perfect. I imagine that we each spent the summer envisioning how the house would have magically transformed into a livable environment by the time we got back. In a way, it had. One of my roommate’s family worked tirelessly to clean the place up, to cover up the mysterious stains on the wall and set up air conditioners to get rid of years of accumulated boy- smell. It was when exploring the deeper recesses of the house that things got peculiar. One could focus on the outhouse- style bathroom setup in the basement, with the toilet paper hanging from a string and the noticeable lack of door. Or, perhaps, the “glass garden” of broken bottles next to the porch, which also turned up what my father hypothesized was either a dead squirrel or an old toupee. However, my favorite area is the attic. When I went upstairs to explore, I hoped to find a cute, open space, one that could perhaps use a chair and a table to read a book in with a cup of tea. I was already picking out the matching rug in my head and imagining all the great times we would have up there. Instead, I was greeted by rusted nails jutting up randomly through the floor and rafters, bits of feathers and cloth sticking to some of them, floating in the eerie half- breeze. In one place, the floor ominously bends downwards in a questionably human- sized depression, threatening to give way the second some unlucky squirrel merrily trips across it. This area happens to be directly above my bed. In the corner, the chimney pipe is coated in a material that, in a certain light, bears an unfortunate resemblance to blood. Jointly, we decided that the attic’s sole use would be as a haunted house at Halloween- we wouldn’t have to do anything to it, after all. I decided that I wouldn’t be taking my morning coffee up there anytime soon. One could say all sorts of things about walking across the threshold into a new house, many of them cliché. You know, things about crossing into the next part of life or opening the door to the future, all that nonsense. If one were to predict the events of this upcoming year by the way in which I entered the house, it would probably turn up a couple grimaces or further acts of pity. However, I think it sort of matched the house itself: not perfect, not graceful, but a haphazard, awkward leap into something completely unknown that will, no doubt, result in a good story or two at the end of it all. And, all in all, I think that’s a much better way to start anything. Welcome back, U.Va. Let’s make this a year full of good stories.