In Which Ella Gets Caught in the Rain, Tells Stories from Middle School, and Visits Cecelia at Yale

There is nothing quite like the feeling of being caught in the middle of a torrential downpour without an umbrella.

Add to that carrying a backpack, a purse, a jacket (no hood), and a bag of books, and you’d have me standing outside of a very large train station this evening, trying to figure out the next leg of my trip home.

The books, thank God, were in a plastic bag from the Yale bookstore that completely protected them from the rain, but I had nothing to cover my body or bags. I watched the leather of my purse turn dark, the padded straps and back of my backpack began to retain water, and I could only imagine what was happening to the things inside of my backpack as the wet seeped through. My shirt was sopping and sticking to my skin like an extra layer of white and blue striped epidermis, and the front of my jeans were drenched. I had decided that I wasn’t even going to think about what my hair looked like, which meant, of course, that I was entirely focussed on it.

And then once I was finally indoors again, the really misery set in. I was sopping wet, and where I wasn’t, I was damp. And all I could do was sit still and wait to dry out. Let me tell you, it takes a very, very long time for jeans to dry and even longer for backpack padding. So when I had to pick my bag back up again to walk, my dry shirt was dry no longer.

But despite the fact that traveling home was not the world’s most fun experience, the trip was entirely worth it, and I have had worse experiences in the rain.

Keeping with the tradition of saving the good news for last, I’ll first share with you one of my rain horror stories.

When I was in middle school, I took the school bus to and from school every morning and afternoon. One day, it was raining. I didn’t think much of it when it started coming down at around nine, but by ninth period I began to get a little worried. The rain had not stopped, I was not dressed for the weather (I was wearing brand new suede Puma sneakers and did not have a jacket or umbrella.), and I could see giant pools of water forming wherever there was an indentation in the ground. An uneven sidewalk seam would create a lake. But then dismissal bell rang, and I ran out of the building, racing towards the buses, along with the other seven hundred students.

At that point, my biggest concern was how wet my shoes were going to get while I ran a block and a half home. (At this point of my life, I had decided that the optimal way of traveling to and from the bus stop was to sprint, completely hunched over with a very determined scowl on my face. My backpack was neon green, and I had strapped my lunch box to it at an odd angle, and it would thump loudly as I ran. It also occasionally would smack me on top of my head. In my defense, I was doing all of this when I was twelve, and now at eighteen, I walk upright with very few signs of complete insanity.) But then the bus started driving, and I noticed that we were taking a very different route. I first panicked, thinking that I had gotten on the wrong bus, but I quickly realized that I wasn’t and the route was just wonky because there was flooding.

I live on a hill at the base of a mountain, and there was no way for the bus to get to my or anyone else’s houses. We got let out over a half mile from home and had to wade across the train track through upper-shin-deep water. I took off my shoes, put them in my lunch box, and did it in my socks. For the next ten plus minutes, I walked in the rain through water of varying depths back to my house. Did I mention that it was early March and the temperature had significantly dropped since the morning?

But in the words of my first choir master, we’ve had our onions, and now it’s time for the orchids. (He said this when giving us reviews of our weekly performances in church. When I first heard it at the age of nine, I couldn’t understand what was wrong with onions. They’re in practically everything you cook! How were they somehow evil? And then my mother had me chop one myself, and my view entirely changed.)

But back to the present.

I got to see Cecelia! Albeit, it wasn’t even for twenty-four hours, but I’ll take whatever I can get. We walked all over campus yesterday afternoon as she gave me the grand tour of Yale.

Now, I have been to Yale a lot. It’s my parents’ alma mater, but seeing it from Cecelia’s eyes is entirely different, and to be perfectly frank, quite a bit more fun. We checked out the farm to visit the salad greens she had planted and explored her residential college. I met her incredibly nice and funny roommate. We ate dinner at my mother’s favorite New Haven restaurant and split a piece of carrot cake, only to eat double scoop ice cream cones five minutes later.

Later, we spent well over an hour in the Yale bookstore where I had the most awful time narrowing down my I-CANNOT-LEAVE-HERE-WITHOUT-IT list down to two: Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer and A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore. And then we watched a movie, which in typical fashion, meant that Cecelia fell asleep about fifteen minutes in.

The next morning, we had breakfast in a bookstore and went to the Yale Art Gallery. I have been having a torrid love affair with their third floor modern art exhibit for many years now, and this Ellsworth Kelly painting and I had a very happy reunion.

(If you ever have the chance, visit the Yale Art Gallery’s modern art collection. It is phenomenal.)

Sadly, after that I had to leave. But the Yale-Harvard game isn’t too far away, so I’ll be back soon.

In other news, I get to see Tal and hopefully Lily tomorrow! There might even be some visiting with Audrey! Long live trains and colleges’ fall weekends!

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if you’re into that kind of thing.

In Which Ella Cuts Her Ear and Just Might Become Van Gogh

I discover new things everyday.

As it turns out, it is actually possible to cut your left ear when you try to push your hair back while holding a knife. It was either an accident or I have a sudden subconscious desire to become Van Gogh. I’m still waiting for the painting ability to kick in.

On another injury note, it is also possible to get a blister on the sole of your foot. I wish I didn’t have to figure this out the hard way.

In other news, I was up until three last night writing, and today I spent around five hours at the café, three hours before dinner, plus however late I decide to stay up working. I’ve run out of words and bandwidth for a good blog post.

In another related story, I’m feeling much, much better than I have for the past week.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if you’re into that kind of thing.

P.S. I visit Cecelia at Yale in less than two days!

I Have Found a New Wonderful Thing to Love

I have found a new wonderful thing to love.

Blue Over Orange (Ellsworth Kelly)

Isn’t it lovely?

I just want to sit down on the floor in front of it and stare and stare and stare until it’s closing time in the museum, and I have to leave. Maybe I’ll stay there, seated Indian-style on the floor and they’ll have to grab me by my arms and drag me across the floor, my clothes and hair becoming a dust mop, as I strain my neck to keep eye contact with the blue and the orange and the white.

But it isn’t in a museum. Someone bought it for nine thousand five hundred dollars in an auction in 2007. Someone else gets to keep this beautiful, wonderful, perfect thing just for themselves. And I can only download the lithograph from Google Images.

I wonder if they love it as much as I do, if they’d let themselves become a dust mop, just so that they could have a few more moments of staring.

Probably not.

They’re most likely modern art collectors, but I don’t even know if it’s because they love it or if they want to impress their friends, relatives, neighbors, business associates at their cocktail party where they position the picture so that everyone will see it and know that they had nine thousand dollars to spend on art, which of course, means that they are quality, important people.

But for now I’ll just continue staring at my computer screen until my eyes become even more uncomfortably bloodshot. If I turn down the brightness, I can have another ten minutes of quiet meditation before it’s time to read poetry and turn in for the night. Maybe tonight when I dream, I’ll have this painting all to myself if only for a little while.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if you’re into that kind of thing.

In Which Ella Makes Up Songs About Museums and German Artists

We went to a museum in the city today to see some German and Austrian art, and I was totally game for the outing. I like museums; I’m fond of art; and I love being in the city.

It wasn’t until I was in the exhibit with the little metal clip you get as your ticket attached to my buttonhole that I realized for the millionth time what my actual relation with art exhibits is.

Unless I have someone standing next to me explaining the significance of the paintings, someone knowledgeable to talk about them with, or a child to talk to about the artwork, I get extremely bored and antsy*. Without context or a discussion, it’s just a series of pictures of people, things, or landscapes next to tiny placard with the artist’s name, the date of creation, and the medium. If I wanted to look at beautiful things, I could stare at a cat or people watch, and it wouldn’t cost me twenty-five dollars or involve a guard yelling at tourists with fannypacks for sitting on chairs that are clearly on display and not for sitting on.**

So I began doing what I normally do when I get bored: write stories in my head and compose tuneless, ridiculous songs. By the time we were seated in the café and I was eating Räucherlach mit Streichkäse (a dish that appeared to be very fancy-fied lox and cream cheese on bread), I had completed a story about orange sneakers, the subway, and vandalized movie posters and had made up dance routines to go with my new hit EP, featuring the songs “I Have Ants In My Pants,” “Why Are There So Many Naked People In This Room?” and “Egon Schiele, Your Drawings Are Disgusting. Whoever Thought They Were Museum Appropriate Was Out of Their Mind.” (I’d advise you not to look up Schiele’s drawings. They are unseemly.)

Of course, the next time that someone wants to go to an art museum and look at paintings silently, I’ll go with them cheerfully. I just can’t guarantee that I’ll be paying much attention or that I’ll be able to have a conversation about the exhibits contents without lying***.

*The only exception to this rule is modern art, which I L-O-V-E no matter the circumstances in which I’m viewing it. I have been known to park myself in front of Charter by Ellsworth Kelly for over fifteen minutes, and I have a postcard of it on my bulletein board that I stare at constantly. Also, the MOMA website has a bazillion pieces by him, which I may or may not spend an absurd amount of time looking at.

God, this painting is phenomenal.

**On Tuesday, I watched someone climb onto a Roman statue to take a picture, and the guard didn’t even notice. I was going to say something to them, but they were speaking some language that sounded like Swedish or Norwegian, and I feel really bad about the attack in Oslo. So I kept my mouth shut.

***Something I proved this afternoon when my mom asked me about some of the furniture on display in one of the rooms, and I responded by saying something about what a great artist Klimpt–who, as I later discovered, does not also design furniture–was while slowly backing out of the room.

Ella’s Fabulous Triumph

Today, I celebrate a great achievement. I went into the city to the art mueseum that had this summer’s most popular fashion exhibit and didn’t even feel the beginnings of a freak out.

We were jammed in the exhibit, shoulder to shoulder, and some morbidly obese man kept ramming his wheelchair into my legs in an attempt to push through the crowd, pushing me into whoever was next to me, and I didn’t even bat an eye. I just shifted my weight so that every time his foot rest hit my boot, I didn’t budge and politely told him that he was hurting me.

I ate an entire lunch without any prompting, and I rode in several glass elevators and walked down a bunch of escalators and stairs. I even didn’t feel a tinge of anxiety when a cab driver tried to pull away from the curb with my younger cousin halfway out of the car and me standing on the sidewalk.

And I also did this all on an hour and a half of sleep.

I’m a bit delirious right now, but I’m proud, really, really proud.