Pope Island, USA

Written on Saturday, September 26th 

The Pope comes to Philadelphia this weekend. A lot of the student body went home to the weekend, to escape the inevitable swarm of people of the city. Class is cancelled all the way from Friday and Monday afternoon, because SEPTA is practically shut down. I’ve heard from people that Center City is lined in porta-potties. The 7-Eleven across the street from my dorm was selling Pope bobble-heads and my dad asked me to get one for him, but they were twenty dollars so I bought him a magnet instead.

Here, in North Philly, things are very quiet.

There aren’t any tourists up here. It’s just college students, and not too many of them either. Maybe this is what the apocalypse is like– the sky seems that way.

I went to a Pope party Thursday night. There was a kid dressed like the Pope and they served beer out of a keg and wine from bags. People were wearing togas. It was fun, actually.

The dorms have drastically increased security. There’s security and EMS everywhere, on their bikes. They eat in the dining hall with us. We’re not allowed to bring open bottles into the dorm– not even mugs.

It feels like I’m in the eye of the hurricane. Nothing’s happening here, but if you look down Broad street you can see the top of City Hall and just imagine there’s something crazy going on down there. Nothing’s changed, but everything has. It’s not like I’m going to get to see the Pope. He’s having mass on the freeway, for Christ’s sake.

Here on Pope Island, things are a little spooky. If nothing else, an interesting end to September.

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DON’T SETTLE//I Dread the Weekends

Don’t settle for half-friends who purposely leave you out of things; don’t settle for friend who never call; don’t settle for friends who take from you but never give back; don’t settle for friends who make you feel bad for liking what you like.

It’s not so noticeable during the week when I’m constantly busy, running from one club to the tech center to do homework, to get food, to class. But when Friday night rolls around, Saturday, Sunday, I realize that I am very, very lonely. I still exist in the pseudo-friend realm of college. The only people I hang out with is my roommate and the other girls on my floor, and I’m rapidly beginning to realize I don’t like them.

And they probably don’t like me either.

As a naturally introverted person it doesn’t always bother me. Like I said, during the week I’m often too busy with school to think about it. However, being away from a home I desperately miss, away from my sister, away from my best friend– it just makes it that much more difficult. I cry on the phone to my sister a lot. It’s just how it is.

Sometimes I think I made a huge mistake coming to Philadelphia. It’s not my city, not in the way I feel Boston is. Sometimes I look at schools I almost went to– Emerson, Suffolk, and think about transferring (not that I could afford to go to those places in the first place). I think Thanksgiving break can’t come fast enough.

I take a deep breathe. I text my infinitely patient big sister, who calls me brave and tells me she loves me. I text my infinitely supportive best friend– love you long time, she says. I’m thinking of getting that tattooed above my heart, with a rose. Rose is my sister’s middle name.

Don’t settle into easy routines that hide the pain; don’t settle for being ordinary; don’t settle for being meek and afraid; don’t settle for restraining yourself.

Don’t settle: do more.

These Ocean Kids

I write a lot about where I grew up. At least for the moment, it’s a topic that keeps floating around my head. Maybe it’s because I miss it so much. Maybe it’s because our hometown shapes us in permanent ways. I don’t think we can escape where we come from; whether that place was good or bad we don’t have to be ashamed. To be fair though, I’m not from a rough area. I’ll leave that topic to another person at another time.

I was a lower middle-class kid growing up in a middle to upper middle-class town. Or, towns. My high school was two places (now three) pushed together. For the most part it was a bedroom community for a major Navy yard fifteen minutes away and a small city just over the state border in New Hampshire. It was also twenty minutes from the beach, and forty from a really good beach. Now that I live in Philadelphia and know a lot of kids from Pennsylvania, I’ve realized just how unique that really is.

The best time to be in New England is fall and summer (or winter, if you’re into wintery things). Fall is what you hear about on TV shows, and yes, it really is that nice. In the northern parts, the leaves start changing all the way back in late August, but it gets later and later as you head to the coast. The best place to go is up one of the small foothill mountain– I’ve been going up Mt. Blue Job (pronounced Jobe) since I was a kid. It also has the advantage of being littered with wild blueberry bushes. Applecrest Orchard in Hampton is probably the most popular apple picking site in the area, well worth it because of the apple cider donuts. There’s a person on my street who sells mason jars of real maple syrup, which is delicious but dangerous, because you can never go back to the fake stuff.

Summer is– well. It’s something special. My gripe is that it can get very humid and I don’t have AC. The summer of 2013, when I was a rising Sophomore in high school was the best one of my life, the quintessential New England summer. My sister worked nights, and I spent a borderline absurd amount of time with her and two very good friends. We drove a 2001 Kia Spectra, a car of legend, and drove around in bikinis listening to sugar-pop on the radio. There are often thunderstorms at night, and we’d drive to the beach and sit on the storm wall and watch lightning crack over the ocean.

I don’t have these things anymore– they mostly go away when you start working in the day full time– so I can’t help but romanticize them. Maine is the Vacation State, after all, and you have to stick to back roads if you hope to get anywhere on the weekends. There are also cyclists everywhere and New England roads were not meant to accommodate joggers, bikers, and two lanes of traffic.

New England is fickle. Every stereotype is both true and false. Last year, we lost power of Thanksgiving because of a snowstorm and winter lasted clear until April. To quote– “it was a wicked shitty winter.”

And yeah, people actually talk like that.

The Saddest, Loveliest Place on Earth

Location study: Millinocket, Maine 

Millinocket Maine is a place hardly anyone has heard of– in New England or elsewhere. Not exactly surprising; anything north of Bangor is essentially the middle of nowhere. This is a place where the speed limit is 70 and highway is divided by honest-to-god mountains in places. Once upon a time it was the home of the Great Northern Paper Company mill, but it stopped running back in 2008. These days, there’s no reason to be there at all unless you’re headed to Baxter State Park, a place not without it’s own controversies.

Why is this place worth writing about, besides a eulogy? Simply: I love it, and I want more people to know about it before it slips away entirely.

I ended up there because three years ago, my dad proposed to my sister and I that we go camping and whitewater rafting together. It would be the first family trip since my parents separated when I was thirteen. Once we’d dipped our toes in the relatively tame Kennebec, we decided the next year we’d graduate to the Class V Penobscot four hours north of us.

The Kennebec is a great beginning river, and because of that it’s the most popular commercial rafting river in the state. The town it’s located in, The Forks (pop. 35) receives a good amount of tourist attention particularly because it’s proximity to Portland and Boston. The Penobscot, however, is located over five hours from Boston in the Maine interior.

The drive into Millinocket from I-95 is perhaps the dreariest I’ve ever been on. First is the trip through Medway and East Millinocket, where the streets are lined with signs advocating “National Park YES” or “National Park NO.” It’s obvious that the whole area is quietly dying, though the people who live there are still just as wary to outsiders as they’ve ever been. That includes me and my family, lousy southerners, but we can blend in well enough. It also includes well known runners like Scott Jurek, who broke Baxter Park rules by publically drinking and received exactly no pity.

Unemployment fluctuates between 13-20 percent in the area. Yet still, throughout its profound hardship, it is undeniably beautiful. Coming over a crest in Millinocket means a jaw-dropping view of Mt. Katahdin, Maine’s highest point at 5,267 feet and the traditional end of the Appalachian Trail (though that, too, has been up for debate as of late).

I have admittedly not seen much of Millinocket besides the home base of Three Rivers Whitewater, the superb mom-and-pop style rafting company we’ve used for two years now. What I have seen is a run down commercial area, campgrounds, and woods. On rafting day, the drive to the Ripogenus Gorge and the Maine Electric Dam takes you up the Golden Road, a private highway for logging trucks built supposedly for a million dollars a mile all the way up the Canada. It’s also where American Loggers is filmed. Go figure. It’s unlikely you’ll spot a moose (I never have) in the daytime ride, but looking is a distraction from the turbulent hour ride.

Rafting down the Penobscot is phenomenal. Firstly, it’s fun as hell and compared to other class V rivers, relatively safe. What I mean by that is all the rock in granite, so you can’t get sucked under if you fall into the river– which will probably happen at least once. Secondly, on one side of the river is Baxter State Park, and the other is the Allagash wilderness, just north of the 100 Mile Wilderness section of the Appalachian Trail. There’s the shadow of Mt. Katahdin, Bald Eagles, the whole works.

If you live in any other part of the country, Millinocket is most likely nothing like anywhere you’ve ever been. It is the epitome of perfect, beautiful melancholy. A full sky of stars bordered by the trials of a struggling town. Robert Frost would love it.

In August of this year, they tore down the mill. I saw the cranes. I come from deep working class families– my dad grew up in a mill town very much like Millinocket and worked at a tannery in high school. It was like– watching something. Sometimes the words won’t come, and that’s all I can say about that.

If you ever have the time, please, take a trip to Millinocket. While you still can.

For the data on Millinocket I heavily use Wikipedia and this Portland Press Herald article. If you want to know more about the state of the town, I definitely recommend it.

Five Beautiful Quotes from my Mother

Moms are cool. My Mom is really cool. She sends me quotes from books she’s reading so they can float around in my head. Here are five beautiful ones.

Note: Click on the thumbnail to be redirected to the novel’s Goodreads page

“And I who was heavy that day with thoughts as small as my whole life would ever be, especially compared to the thousand shining trees, gave thanks to whatever sent her in my direction…”
Mary Oliver

I’m not actually sure what this is from. If someone knows, please drop me a comment.

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“History is not just facts and events. History is also a pain in the heart and we repeat history until we are able to make another’s pain in the heart our own.”
-To be A Slave, Julis Lester

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“I want to tell you I’m strong and resolute, but in truth, I feel afraid, alone and uncertain. I’m left with nothing but this strange beating in my heart that tells me I am meant to do something in this world.”
-The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd

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“Henri and Etienne raced through the tall grass as the fireflies floated away from them, illuming on and off, always seeming to rise just beyond their reach, as if the earth were smoldering and these sparks that their footfalls had prodded free.”
-All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr

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Also from All the Light We Cannot See:

“His voice is low and soft, a piece of silk you might keep in a drawer and pull on rare occasions, just to feel it between your fingers.”

Friends like on Disney Channel

friend

This is a picture of my older sister Hannah (left) and my best friend Sam (right) at our high school graduation last June. Without a doubt, they are my two best friends– and that’s been the status quo for almost nine years. Obviously my sister and I have been siblings for as long as we’ve both lived, but Sam and I met all the way back in fifth grade. Oh the yellow school bus– breeding ground of infectious disease and friendship everywhere.

Here a picture says a thousand words; not only are Sam and I close, but she’s close with my entire family. My sister is her sister. When introducing her to my extended family, my dad called her “his other daughter.” It’s the kind of friendship that only happen in fiction– and something I could have never expected to happen to me.

I don’t make friends easily. Just not something that comes naturally. I can be social when I want or need to be, but I just don’t feel the pull towards other people. Lament the paradox of the extroverted-introvert. But in high school, I had a tight-knit group of friends, and four weeks into my college experience, I’ve yet to make a truly solid connection with anyone (not to say that the girls on my floor aren’t wonderful, because they most certainly are).

This is the truth: it’s hard to make friends when, deep down, you don’t want to.

I have friends. They just happen to be scattered about the north east. It’s incredibly difficult to make connections with people when subconsciously you’re holding yourself back. My friends back home already understand me and my mannerisms. As one of them says, “we’re Xbox-Kinnected.” But I can’t have that here in Philadelphia until I let people in. That’s just how it works.

I want to make friends. I want to make Philly belong to me like Boston, like Maine belongs to me. But I’ve yet to find the balance of belonging to two separate places. Somehow, I think I’ve gotten it into my head that you can’t love two things. I love Sam, and I love my sister. I would never give those things up, never in a million years.

The thing is? I don’t have to– I just have to make myself realize that.

Me, My Mom, and the Media

Adapted from a paper I wrote for Intro to Media and Society, where we were assigned a media log to record our media habits for five days.

No one pays that much attention to our daily exposure to media. Maybe it’s just showing my age, but what’s the point in observing our daily media habits besides exclaiming wow! I sure diddly do spend a lot of time on the interwebs! It can be an amusing exercise, sure, but it’s not like someone is going to enact meaningful change on their life from recording their media use for five days.

However, I did have one interesting observation: when I asked my parents (both of whom are in their 50’s), they had trouble pinpointing exactly what media was. Not how to use it– because I know from experience that they’re tech-savvy on some level– but identifying what is classified as media and what is not. Maybe, dear reader, you’re also a little confused. I can help with that!

Media is, very generally speaking, anything that is produced for a wide audience. This includes, but is definitely not limited to TV, books, radio, internet, advertising, and some social media. An easy way to think about media consumption is to lump everything into three major categories: recreational, functional, and ambient. Recreational is self explanatory– stuff you do for fun like playing video games; functional is using media for school work or just work work; finally, ambient is media that you experience in passing, like five minutes on your phone or billboards.

According to the American Press Institute, 88% of millennials get news, in some form, from Facebook. Not that the company makes that difficult, with widgets and the trending news feed. That number steadily drops as people get older, even with older millennials age 30-34. A TIME poll claims that Jon Stewart (beloved ex host of the Daily Show) is the most trusted news anchor in America. 

But back to my parents–

When asking for their habits, I texted them both, for the record. This is the exact text my dad sent me: “I use it a lot for my job. Less in my private life, but I appreciate the resources.” The first part is legit. He teaches middle school history, and kids love a good movie day. But I also happen to know my dad spends a lot of time playing online shooters and watching sports in his free time– both of which count as media. My mom was much more specific with the websites she used– Pinterest, online shopping, banking, etc– but not other media that’s not internet based.

This brings to a my major conclusion of this little exercise; perhaps the greatest factor of the “digital divide” is not the ability to use media, but the ability to recognize it in our daily lives. What does this mean? Nothing, maybe. I’m not even sure what it means. I just wanted to write this to get people thinking about media in a way that isn’t all doom and gloom, but I might revisit the topic later. Let me know what you think in the comments below. Cheers!

Sorry Mom, I’m a Writer

Sometimes in life you come to the conclusion that at one point or another, you’ve become totally and utterly predictable.

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a novelist. But like all little girls, I became a bigger girl and all big girls grow out of their childhood dreams. Why would I want to be a writer? My mom and dad– a librarian and a teacher respectively, always told me that I could be anything I wanted as long as I could support them when they were old and stale. A joke, sure, but it stuck in my mind like a piece of gum on the underside of a chair.

Time went on. I read, widely and deeply, and every English teacher tell me and my parents I was a gifted writer. It’s not like these things are unique– there are plenty of kids with my same interests and talents (which, by the way, I think is totally rad). I had people telling me literature was in my very bones, but I ignored them. There’s no money in English, I thought. I want financial stability, not the anxiety about money I had growing up. I did love it though– still do– I just wanted better for myself than I though an English degree could give me.

So I decided to go into advertising. And five minutes into my Advertising 101 class, I thought oh shit, I want to be a writer.

Sorry mom, but I guess I became exactly what I said I wasn’t. Full circle from being a little kid with a dream to a college student taking actual copywriting classes and starting an actual blog. I never really changed a bit.

WHO AM I?

Ok, there’s no need to be so melodramatic.

Any Scrubs fans? No? Ok nevermind then.

The basic point of this is some boring introduction on me (the writer of this blog) and some basic facts about me. Not that interesting, right? But unfortunately necessary. So what’s up?

My name is Abigail, an undergraduate Advertising student with a double minor in English and Art History. I live in Philadelphia, but I’m a transplant from wonderful, cold, and cranky New England, a place that I miss terribly every day and cannot wait to get back to. College students aren’t supposed to say that, though, right? We’re all supposed love being away from home and not miss it one bit. In my experience, that’s mostly crap. But I’m trying to be brave, so here I am almost 400 miles from where I was born and raised in small-town Maine. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, I guess.

I have one mom and one dad, both of whom raised me to be aggressively independent and an avid reader. I also have one older sister, a girl I love more than anyone else on this earth, but who– annoyingly– lives nine hours away. My cat is named Ziggy, who I raised from an itty-bitty kitten but he had to stay in Maine to kill rodents. Typical– everyone you love always leaves you to hunt rats underneath your house.

The point of this blog is that I want to be a writer, and in order to be good, you need to write. A lot. Even better if you have your own blog. Even better if you’re published (I’m working on that bit still). I write about things that interest me. Mostly, that means literature, but it will also include papers I’ve written for this or that and adapted, or opinion pieces. Who knows– sky’s the limit. Clearly. I’m not an astronaut/billionaire/both. My goal is to make entries between 300-500 words and post MWF, though considering my lack of experience in blog writing I have no clue whether or not that will work. I guess we’ll find out!

Well then– welcome to this strange and wonderful thing we call blogging.