Tuesday, July 26, 2005

July 21, 2005

(NOTE: Because I tend to be a lazy person at times, I thought I'd insert some excerpts from my journal now and then. Some are funny and/or interesting. Some are dumb. Some just take up space. You will know a post is a journal entry because, unless noted otherwise, there will be a date at the top and it won't be the current date. This one was just a few days ago, obviously.)

The other day I had some thoughts, at different times. After a long day which included 2 hours of intensive ESL tutoring, I sat listless on the subway ride home. I sat in the corner and put my bags on the seat next to me. If someone really needed it, I’d’ve (I’m really digging typing “double contractions” these days. Nice, eh?) moved my bags. But I needed some space. As I sat on the train, this one being particularly deafening with screechy brakes, I was too tired to really purposely start thinking about things, so I allowed them to lazily mosey into my head as they pleased. I think it’s interesting how, at certain subway stops, certain kinds of people get on. For instance: Wall Street. I never have to look up to see what stop it is because I can tell by the people who get on. So more often than not, whenever the train stops here, a couple of nicely dressed businessmen get on, refrain from sitting (even if there are open seats) (and believe me, living here, you want to take any vacant seat you can get--and sometimes even if they're not vacant) and continue the conversation they were having before they got on the train, while facing each other sharing a pole to hold on to. The thing though, is that they speak so loudly. Why? Maybe they’re excited. Working on Wall Street with all the big money gets them all excited and jittery and they just can’t contain themselves! More than weird though, is that it’s intrusive. I’m not offended by what they’re talking about. It’s usually boring stuff like where they’re vacationing this year. But I mean, why are you forcing your conversation on me? The volume at which they speak is such that it’s as if they’re inviting the whole car to join in. I feel like I should contribute. “Well, I think we’re heading to Coney Island for some Coney Dogs and lemonade…” And their whole manner and body language is the same way. It’s all loud. And sometimes one will have his tie untied and hanging over his shoulders around his neck as if to say, the world is MY oyster so I’ll take off my tie here as I humor the MTA, opting to take the subway when I can do whatever I want because I’m successful! Ahhh… lets kick off the ol’ shoes as well. Not that I’m bitter or jealous of successful people. I’m extremely happy for them. But still, their behavior is curious.

Then there was nothing more to think about regarding that and the thought made its way out of my head.

Sometimes on my way home from tutoring, I reflect back on the session and contemplate how it went, if I helped much, or if I even made any sense at all. This time, I reflected particularly on --though I try to use simple words and not use too much slang-- how I often said “Can you tell the difference?” Soojin and I were working on the way she forms her mouth when saying the “w” sound versus how I say it, in English. I showed her what she was doing and then showed her the [correct] American way. So I asked her (and I noted that I say this often) if she could “tell the difference.” Because tutoring ESL makes me think about/analyze English in ways I never have before, I then started thinking about the word “tell” in that context. What a strange phrase! She must be thinking, what in blazes are you talking about? Then I realized we insert that for basically any of the senses. Ehh…I don’t want to use “see.” “Look at these two colors. Can you tell the difference?” “Ew, that smell! What is it, can you tell?” Why do we say that? Just tell me what the distinction is. Say it. Talk to me about it. But I’m not really asking if they would explain it to me. I just want to know if they can see/taste/hear/feel/smell it. Interesting. It’s like Newspeak or something. Plusgood. Doubleplusgood. (this is a reference to George Orwell’s 1984, by the by. One of the freakiest books ever written) So I enjoyed that thought. I let it subside though, eventually.

Here’s something that happened yesterday that’s really more of an observation: In the stifling heat, I was walking along Bergen Street on my way to buy some paint at the hardware store. Whilst walking, I passed a pile of dog pooh and the commotion of my passing self stirred up the flies that had been [ew] feasting there and they started flying all around. This launched me into the scary realization that we must have way more indirect contact with pooh than we think. I mean, those flies were buzzing around my face after that. The next time a fly lands on your knee, you may have a bit of pooh left there when you swat him away. Think about that for a minute.


Adam Bateman said...

Jen. about thirty seconds after you and sean walked away last saturday i thought of your blog. you had just said something like: "i have interesting things to say too." you know, because sean and i always talk about art art art art art art art. not to mention all the people we know in common that you might know, but in a different way, or not as well, or maybe you don't know them. I'd've said something at the time, but, i'm waytoslow.... well, what i wanted to say was that i remembered your blog. i just wanted to say that what you do with your blog...you know, write the (increadibly interesting) observaions you make about your day....you write well, think about interesting things, write about them in unassuming ways, actually share your thoughts with people...and in a casual way. i've been impressed each time. i think you're smart. and even though there aren't any double conjunctions here, it's been a little passtime of mine lately as well...at least in emailspeak. can you tell?


Jen said...

Heeeey, thanks man! How sweet are you? You say such nice things to me. And it's ok if you and Sean talk art art art art art. :) But i do look forward to when you'll be in town so it'd be fun one day to just hang and chat about whanot. It's so nice of you to read my ramblings here on my blog. Do you have one? Let me know what it is! I'd love to check it out!

TellerOfTales said...

Can you tell? So resounds the privileged position of the spoken, the speakable, literary, literal, literate. It's built into the language, at least into the idioms we use. But we know the world is bigger than that, and we know that most of what is worth thinking about cannot be contained by language. We can refer to experience, discuss it, of course, but we should never make the mistake of thinking that we can translate the entirety of experience to the narrow -and demonstratedly prejusticed- confines of language.
So, let's all drop "can you tell?" and say "can you sense the difference?" or "do you perceive the distinction?" or better yet, maybe a simple "eh?" We'll leave the senses undelimited and complete. Let's be clear about what we're asking and openly reject the notion that anything important can be reduced to words.

jen said...

Amen, Teller. Amen...