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A Memory of 9/11/2001

For one month after September 11th, 2001, I walked around my Greenwich Village Streets with the tinge of metal smoke in my ears and eyes. Pedestrians around me wore cloths on their faces, and others sported clunky gasmasks. I felt comparably unconcerned. I was juggling with my age: thirteen.
The tragedy occurred on the second day of my eighth grade academic year. Sitting in Spanish class, we fidgeted and buzzed in the ending wisps of summer and admired each other’s graceful sun kissed limbs. Eighth grade: a year of self-absorption.
The news did not strike me as a drastic issue for the first five hours. Nobody knew what had really happened. People gossiped and theorized, but no certain conclusions surfaced for twenty-four hours.
My mother had been home that morning. When she heard the boom from our open living room window, she took out her sharp-lens camera and documented what her eyes did not believe.
She did not show me her photographs until 2006—the year I graduated high school.
My friends that lived below Canal Street had to evacuate their homes. I wondered where they would go, but asking them never felt appropriate.
One Saturday morning, a week and eleven days after the disaster, I left my house for a slice of pizza. The humidity locked a concentrated amount of toxic fumes in the atmospheric layer coating Manhattan’s sidewalks. My nose felt invaded and the city streets looked different. My neighborhood, at one time a source of comfort and familiarity, struck me as unsafe and foreign.
Three out of four pizza places on my street were closed for the day. So I entered the fourth. A quiet handful of people sat on cushioned red stools, each one eating alone. A delivery boy wiped his sweaty brow and devoured two slices of sausage pizza. I looked at a woman, reading a newspaper, who trembled at the wrists as she rose her folded cheese slice to her tongue. I felt nauseous, teary from smoke, and stung with weakness.
I left and returned home, and began to process the aftermath of September 11th, 2001.

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Johnson

The smell of ignored space follows me as I wind my way through the twists of the Johnson art building. Every floor, a maze of cryptic architecture, has accumulated dust in the angular corners—in each hallway and annex. Paint and glue fumes waft from the cracks under each studio art door. Students shuffle quietly between strips of deteriorating carpet and linoleum shimmer.

No matter how well the college cleaning staff attacks the dark building, Johnson will always feel brittle, eroding, and embedded with moist mold. Its imperfections breed loyalty.

Johnson’s illogical staircases, worn and shredded, remind me of nothing other than the first-semester haze of unpredictability. Gobs of oil paint on my canvas overalls, hands dry and irritated, I prepare to use my brain creatively as I walk up the first detour: the stairs. And then I walk down to get to the second floor. I am still processing the last sequence of activities as the next events unfold.

Attractive Middlebury students, comfortable, focused, older, are painting. More experience, more ease. To them, Johnson is not a maze. They know which way to turn around the next brown wall. They know the cracks and loopholes of this place—of this school. Time teaches familiarity and ease.

Mountain Biking in Utah

I never knew it could be like floating. Like magic.

Yesterday, my father and I awoke at the crack of dawn, flew to Salt Lake City and drove for four hours to Moab, Utah. We arrived for dinner.

All day today, we saw nobody except for our guide within a one hundred fifty mile radius.

On mountain bikes designed by ingenious engineers, we cruised up ledges, down copper dirt, through wet sand.

Patches of snow speckled the eroded sandstone.

Rock salt stains formed plastic shapes in fissures.

A waterfall froze into an ice armchair; my wheels glided over.

I sprung onto Potash and glided on fossils.

Sunlight guided us up, then west.

Allowing Sleep (Revised Draft)

(This is my revised draft of my braided essay. My multimedia project, however, is my final project. It currently resides under Barbara’s office door.)
October 17th, 2005
__The hot smell of diesel mixed with fermentation fills my nostrils. The familiar airport smell—that blend of cleaning fluid remnants and stale paint—is not present. This new smell in the Indira Gandhi International Airport has no resemblance to any odors stored in my olfactory memory. Soon I will recognize this smell everywhere, omnipresent, hidden, blunt, breeding, until it disappears.
*
December 5th, 2005
__Have you ever been to a rave before?
__No I have not, why? Have you?
__No but we’re about to.
__What do you mean?
__We’re going to a rave.
__I don’t think I want to do that.
__Yeah let’s go. Hop on, Clo.
__On what?
*
October 17th, 2005
__New Delhi. New Delhi, India. My eyelids are heavy, and my neck craves a massage. My flight for Jaipur leaves in twenty-two hours. Get to the hotel. I clutch the paper proof of my reservation for a twenty-eight dollar hotel. Only seven kilometers from the airport.
*
December 5th, 2005
__This is Rashik. He has a motorcycle.
__Lola, I don’t want to ride on that.
__It’s okay, just get on the back.
__No, Lola. I can’t do that.
__Really?
__Really.
__Why?
__Because it’s a terrible idea. What are you going to ride on?
__On Abdul’s motorcycle.
__Don’t let Abdul drive far away from Rashik. We have to stay together.
__Here, I’ll get on Rashik’s. You ride on Abdul’s.
*
October 17th, 2005
__I spot my tiny green suitcase on the conveyor belt. I need money. Rupees. Slow. Watch. A taxi or rickshaw is offered to me with my every breath and twitch. I take my time and ask nobody anything. Here we go. The little blue rectangle of plastic in my wallet manages to withdraw money from the gray machine. Magic. I take out three thousand rupees. Sixty-six dollars. I know that is more than enough.
__All the women I see flow by me with sweeping saris. Skirt hems reach the tops of their calloused feet. I look down and feel the moist denim on my legs strain. My waistline sinks below my midriff after hours of travel and contortion. Children are barefoot. In the airport too? I flex my toes, protected, inside my hiking boots. Clunk.
*
December 5th, 2005
__The hot air whips through my hair. No helmets really? Oh but at least Abdul has a turban! Great, just great. The motorcycle headlights illuminate cylinders of dust-black sky. Spreading through space. Maybe there are stars but I cannot see them yet. When I grip onto Abdul’s light cotton sleeves, my eyes close. We breathe warmth but there is too much of it. The motorcycles feel like they are flying uphill. The bars of light reveal groomed chaos. Oh, look out. Rock! Nobody is here except for us; the distant moon owns the view ahead, and we own the pitted road. No time for other concerns. I want to know that home—not imminent abduction—is in the future. I pray for this rave to exist.
*
October 17th, 2005
__All I need is a sign that says “MEEP MEEP HERE I COME, THE GRINGA.” Except there is a unique word for Gringa in Hindi.
__Swarms of eyes follow me, and the floor feels sticky. The heat is no longer a strong enough motivation to shed my bug-repellant fishing shirt.
*

I am not taking malaria pills but maybe I should be. No malaria pills bad idea why didn’t you just take the stupid pills what kind of side effects could be worse than malaria? Well actually the side effect of nightmares sounds terrible and scary hallucinations no thanks so maybe I am doing the right thing. But I have to sleep in a mosquito net then and have every piece of skin covered at night so that the mosquitos have no way

*
October 17th, 2005
__“Do you know where the Royal Palace Hotel is?” I ask the eager driver. He is exchanging eye contact with other onlookers, silently bragging that he is the chosen one. Is this really so exciting? Can we just make this happen?
__“Yes yes, no problem. Three fifty.”
__Does he mean dollars? How does he know I am American? I could be a European.
__“Three fifty what?”
__“Yes Madam.”
__“Do you mean Indian money?”
__“Yes Madam, this is India.”
__Three hundred fifty rupees. Obviously.
*
December 5th, 2005
__Cloooo how are you baby? Lola’s voice whistles through the speed.
__I’m good. There is nothing else to say.
*
October 17th, 2005
__The driver is lost. But he is still very happy.
__“How far is this hotel from the airport?”
__“Only seven kilometers, Madam!”
__Before I ask, “Are you sure?” I decide that it is a useless question when we stop at a travel agency so that he can ask for directions.
__“I will come back,” he says to me. The white teeth in his grin reflect the harsh high sun.
__What time is it?
*

to bite me because even though the chances are low I still could get that one scary mosquito that festered in a hot swampy puddle near the sewage of Tilonia and will have contracted malaria in this desert setting even though it is dry and hot and

*
October 17th, 2005
__Twenty minutes alone in the backseat with my small green bag. The honking on the road is an appropriate chorus for the rattling buses, swerving rickshaws, sedentary cows, goat carts, children begging between vehicles, and other automobiles dodging the infinite obstacles in their paths.
__Sweat. Swimming in my socks. Then my happy driver emerges from the travel agency and stands outside the front entrance, propping open the rickety screen door with his shoulder. A scrawny man with legs that appear to be twice the length of his torso stands very close to him and strikes a match on the wall. He simultaneously lights two beadies and they each take one between their lips and inhale.
*
December 5th, 2005
__I see a structure in the near distance. And I hear voices. Whether or not this is a rave, there are people. My finger grip loosens and my breathing slows.
*

apparently has practically no malaria. Who am I believing though? Who actually knows about all mosquitos in a whole entire region of a country? All of Rajasthan has no malaria? That tropical disease doctor has a clean office on Park Avenue with air conditioning and secretaries and I am here wrapped in a mosquito net sweatshirt and have my Aladdin cotton pants tucked into my brother’s socks that I borrowed for well uh two months and this sheet as far as I know has not been washed in ten years so I don’t think I can fall asleep on it and my bug spray smells good to me so why should the mosquitos hate it? I mean citronella is definitely not as gross to a mosquito as poisonous deet. If I eat more raw onions with my meals maybe I

*
October 17th, 2005
__I watch them smoke and talk for five minutes. Take action.
__“So!” I call from the car, my door half open. “Do you know where to go?”
__The driver looks at me as if has forgotten that he is taking me somewhere, and that I paid him already. Stay calm.
__After some more chatting in Hindi with his friend, who has now flicked the beadie onto a patch of broken clay cups, my driver walks towards me and says, “You go in there, you talk to him, he will make you a call.”
*

will taste worse to them. But no, probably not, even the cats here lick the leftover delicious daal that is not supposed to be delicious to cats because it is as spicy as hydrochloric acid and I cry and cry and inhale bottled water every

*
October 17th, 2005
__I leave my green bag in the car. I’m giving this happy man the benefit of the doubt. The scorching mid-day blazes into my retinas but I decide not to sport my sunglasses. This is not the time to look even more like a Gringa. On the small patch of pavement between the car door and the travel agency is a very skinny cow. It turns its head to watch me, horns rotating, lazy eyes. I walk in its direction, and it does not respond, so I walk around it.
__The scrawny man sits at a wooden table with a very old telephone and a stack of papers dividing the table’s rectangular surface into thirds. Next to him is a very fat man leaning against a dark corner, staring at a boy. The boy, wearing bell-bottom jeans, is watching me. Okay.
__I address the scrawny man. I show him the piece of paper that came out of my mother’s printer back in Paris, not so long ago. The Royal Palace Hotel, 14 Palace Road, New Delhi. Three stars. A little picture of the hotel accompanies the address. Even while I was in Paris, I could tell from the awkward tilt of the photograph and the cryptic angle of the building façade that the hotel would not resemble the image. But I assumed it would exist.
__The scrawny man looks at the paper and says, “I see.” He holds it towards his face because there is little light in the room, despite the white light outdoors. The fat man walks over from the corner and the boy joins them. All three men scrutinize the sheet and exchange long monologues in Hindi. The scrawny man lights two beadies and hands one to the fat man and sucks on the other one.
__I peer out the front door to make sure the driver is still there with the taxi, and that my bag is still there. I do not see the driver, but I see the car and my bag in the back.
*
December 5th, 2005
__A whir of light leads us into a field and finally I am alongside Lola again. We are exhausted and alert. A smell of sweet peanut oil wafts from a crowd of people clustered in clumps on the grass. Small gas stoves dot the landscape and illuminate the faces of white and brown people, some with eyes rolled into their heads, some asleep, some singing, some moving almost rhythmically, some with foreheads pressed together, speaking intimately. The sound of rave is penetrating.
*
October 17th, 2005
__Then I spot the driver. He is engaged in a histrionic conversation with a bicycle rickshaw man, who is lounging in the back of his parked open-air vehicle with his calloused feet dangling over the edge of the yellow seat. The rickshaw man suddenly sits up and brings his body upright, and begins to share some chapatti with the taxi driver.
__They are eating.
__He may not know where to go, but this taxi driver is harmless.
*

time I dip the chapatti into the daal so yeah maybe the mosquitos don’t care about hydrochloric acid or raw onions or anything else I could emit from my pores while sleeping on this mattress made of pure wood. Lola will be here in how many days now? In seven days. One week and she can help me get over the cockroaches in this house so that I don’t have to sweep alone and be scared of the spiders and the dogs that want to kill me every night on my way back from dinner in the dark. She will calm me

*
October 17th, 2005
__The three men continue speaking in the travel agency. They are agreeing with each other by moving their heads from side to side, bringing each ear to each shoulder. The scrawny man repeats, “Ha… ha.”
__“Chai?” the boy asks me, standing by my side. I did not notice him move towards me, but he stands there holding a tray of metal cups filled with steaming milky tea.
__“No, no thank you,” I say. I cannot yet remember the Hindi word danivat from my list of useful travel words. The scrawny man dials into the ancient phone on the table to call his cousin, a tour guide. I stop myself from raising my voice.
__Suddenly, I am calm. Whatever it takes. But today I will not sleep.
*
December 5th, 2005
__The four of us approach the bodies. Behind the matted grass is a risen wooden stage with no roof. Now I can see the stars clearly. Enormous speakers stretch up towards the bright specs of light. I could touch them from the top of the speakers. The moonlight sheds heavy shafts of light, illuminating the DJ, thumping. The pulsing mass of dancers is as crowded as water molecules.
__Abdul leads us to a circle of people he knows. They speak in Hindi and English. I forget what I am wearing and look down. When I notice that my arms are bare, I shiver. Lola finds a bag of green grapes, and begins to eat them.
__Don’t eat those, Lo.
__They’re so good.
__I know, but we don’t even have bottled water let alone dirty water to wash them with.
__We can buy bottled water.
__Where? I look around. I realize that next to each gas stove, an Indian woman wearing a sari boils water, cooks, and sells packaged snacks to people. People like us. The women and the rave-junkies stay out here through the deep hours of the night and linger with the morning sunrise. A few steps away from me, an old woman wearing a vibrant orange headscarf sings and rocks her heels into the dry grass, surrounded by a few porcelain cups, groundnuts, rice puff candy, and bottled water. Chai is brewing in her blackened pot. The euphoria of cardamom flows in my direction.
*

down and make me forget about all of the other diseases it is possible to contract from these mosquitos like Dengue Fever and Chikungunya. At least I am vaccinated for some fatal diseases and at least the food here agrees with me entirely I never thought I would like this whole vegetarian thing but

*
December 5th, 2005
__Lo, I’ll buy some bottled water and chai.
__Okay, get me a chai also. Chai masala.
__I doubt she would even make it without spice.
__Yeah, you’re right. Oh, and bargain with her. Abdul says these women can get away with murder. They sell water for forty rupees because—look at these people, they are all tripping out.
__The woman transfers two boiling cups of magic to my outstretched hands. As usual, the sweetness numbs my palate and I burn my tongue. These cups were not washed in between drinkers. I am tired enough so I am apathetic. The sea of limp faces blurs into soft shapes.
__Lola is speaking to an Australian traveler with dread-locks about Shantaram, the book we are both reading. I am almost done with it. Her words are evoking images that I imagined while reading the book. In the backs of my closed eyelids, dreamy sleep is waiting. My ear rests on Lola’s knee. I curl my body into a ball and the electricity of the music lulls me into a sedentary state. Just like the cows, when the motion and cacophonous surroundings of the city give them no need to move. Just like the cows, I am still, but I am not really asleep.
*

they do it so well and make it so delicious. I have to bring home so much chai. Remember that remember to bring home so much chai and email mom from an internet café and ask her if we have a lot of cardamom and saffron because there are so many things I can make with those now and maybe we can cook chana masala at home. Okay, sleep.

Plan for my Final Media Piece

Beginning:
1.    I will start with photographs of kids playing in a schoolyard, and with ambient noise of laughter, talking, and other recess sounds. Eventually the noise will turn into silence and then music (dramatic) with a picture of a group staring at an odd one out. Then I will start speaking the story in the form of answers to questions. I will indicate that this takes place in Paris rather than say it anywhere.

Storyline: So what?
1.    Through the absurdity and hilarity of questions posed to me by French kids about being a New York City kid, I became self-aware about my identity as an American. I have a soundtrack in mind for the background.
2.    At first I answered the questions honestly, perplexed by the ridiculous questions. Over time, I had fun with these questions because they were directed only at me, even though I was being asked about New York City as a whole, and occasionally, about the United States as a whole.
3.    The piece will have a pivot point when I start answering questions ironically. I will edit the set of accompanying images for this section, and instead of a real picture of New York, I will place a red apple on top of the Empire State Building. I will repeat some of the same images with small edits. The music for this section will be quick-paced, playful, and a little crazy, with a jazzy undertone. I may add sound effects.
4.    Towards the end, the storyline will change to my reflections (with more showing than telling, hopefully) about being an American versus a French person.

Media Project Take 1: Let Me Tell You Mama

bathtub.jpg

Click Here for Audio Component.

Wanted by Me in My Multimedia Piece

Stories – I listen:
Looking for people
who tell stories
and continue to tell them
even if I feign boredom.

christinas_world.jpg

Christina’s World

Painted by Andrew Wyeth, 1948.