Working-class Perspectives and Amarilly of Clothes-line Alley

The story of Amarilly of Clothes-line Alley is a familiar one. A young working-class girl has her fate decided for her; she will work hard her entire life, marry a local bartender, and live in a tenement in Clothes-line Alley. When she has a run-in with a very wealthy man, however, her luck changes. For a while, it seems as though Amarilly and her rich lover, Gordon, are playing out the familiar Cinderella story. At the end, though, Amarilly returns to Terry, her poor barkeep. She is shown happy and content with her place as a worker, and gains some social mobility through hard work. Amarilly is a champion of the working class. She does more than accept her place in society; she prefers it, and illustrates the classic “American dream.” She has no desire to be part of the wealthy, snobbish upper class that rejects her family. Instead, she incites pride in the hearts of blue-collar workers. Mary Pickford tells her audiences that they are good enough for America and that they should be proud of who they are. While the fairytale story line might not be an accurate representation of the working-class in 1918, the target audience is reflected in Amarilly’s acceptance of her lower-class status. The rich characters lampooned by the filmmakers are a result of progressive-era class politics; in this way, films were a way for the lower-class to have their anger expressed in a public forum. In its typicality, Amarilly of Clothes-line Alley tells a story of a crushed lower class looking for validation when none was readily available.

            Frederick Lynch describes the Progressive Era as a time when the nation suffered “gross political corruption, corporate arrogance coupled with consumer impotence… pockets of acute poverty, and urban decay.”[1] Class in early films was a distinct divider between industrial giants or old money and immigrant or blue-collar workers. Sometimes, working-class themes in early films were highly politicized. Movies about strikes, union organizers, and working-class fights against the upper crust reflect the strong sentiments held by the working class.[2] One way in which filmmakers catered to their working-class audiences was through the mockery of the upper classes. Jokes concerning the trivial worries or practical foolishness of the upper class created a feeling that the upper class was out of touch or not part of the “American dream.”[3] The upper class of the progressive was both extraordinarily powerful and afraid of losing status due to the rising influence of worker’s unions and immigrant populations. These fears led to an attachment to rigid social and business practices.[4] Together, these factors created an upper class that was an easy target for filmmakers wishing to appeal to workers.

            Amarilly contains several elements that reflect the dislike of the bourgeois upper class by working-class audiences. Different scenes serve to divide the upper and working classes culturally. A scene portraying the two families eating an evening meal illustrates this concept. Before showing the upper-class family eating, the screen reads “Dinner, when it is eaten.” When the working-class family is sitting down for their meal, the screen says “Supper, when it is ‘et’.”[5] The effort at marking clear linguistic differences between the two families shows that Amarilly’s household is not interested in propriety; the busy, happy family in the tenement home compared to the prim, bored looking family in the large estate convey that the message directed toward moviegoers is one in support of a working-class audience.  One character in particular, the Mrs. Phillips who attempts to “fix” Amarilly into a society woman, represents the upper class in a way that gives the viewer a portrait of an elitist, out of touch element to root against. Steven Ross remarks that films directed at the lower class “did not offer solutions, nor did they present sophisticated critiques of capitalism. [They] offered audiences something more immediate and gratifying: revenge.”[6] While Amarilly does not contain many elements of harsh revenge, it does give a sense that Amarilly is “winning” by coming to her senses and living a good life. In an important scene, Amarilly’s family is invited to the decadent home of the woman taking her in. The “fish-out-of-water” imagery presented after the scene describes how Amarilly and her family feel in the presence of these people. The upper class is presented at the party as being judgmental and petty; one woman, in particular, is just as worried about her dog’s illness as Amarilly’s mother is about her son’s. Another woman, ashamed of her lower class past, feels insulted when Amarilly’s mother asks if “enny of youse ever took in washin’,” revealing to the audience the moral character of someone who abandons their place in society.

            The handsome rich man that Amarilly falls in love with is another example of the upper class being portrayed in a negative light by filmmakers. While he is good looking, he is shown as being flaky and shallow. At the beginning, Gordon is seen telling a fib to his aunt about his “Bible study” class, which in actuality consisted of him and his friends drinking and enjoying a spa. In contrast with Amarilly’s or the bartender’s hard work, the Gordon’s waste of time on frivolous activities paints him to be a poster child for the spoiled rich. Films in this era often made it a point to exaggerate the decadent lives of the upper class, and Amarilly takes particular liberties in this area. [7] The table settings, lavish parties, and focus on “training” Amarilly to become part of the desired upper crust give the viewer a sense that the people participating in these activities have nothing better to do, and are part of the group living off the wealth earned by the working man. At the end of the film, when Amarilly realizes that her place is not among the rich society, Gordon continues to attempt to take Amarilly “away from all this.” He insinuates that “this,” or Clothes-line Alley, is not good enough for a girl with as much potential as Amarilly. Gordon looks disappointed when Amarilly compares mixing the classes to mixing “ice cream an’ pickles.” Working-class pride is felt at Amarilly’s refusal to be “fixed.” The downtrodden look on Gordon’s face gives the audience a sense that Amarilly’s choice was her own, and Gordon’s surprise at her unwillingness to come with him is a result of his lifelong belief that his class is superior. While Gordon may be goodhearted, he is also out-of-touch with the cultural context in which Amarilly exists.

            In conjunction with elements that represent the upper class as undesirable, Amarilly of Clothes-line Alley also contains moments that directly support the lifestyles of working-class immigrant families during the Progressive era. Amarilly and her family are happy to engage in what others might view as “dirty work.” The first scene of the movie is Amarilly joyfully scrubbing windows, while her mother works running her laundry business. Even when she is given the opportunity to live in the house of the wealthy characters in the movie, Amarilly resists. She comments, “I’d rather stay here an’ go on with the scrubbin’. Gran’ma scrubbed… Ma scrubs…”[8] Amarilly’s sense of familial and class loyalty and gives her a quality that is likeable to people who hold work and family in high value. Her attitude about generations before her doing the same work reveals that she is not “too good” for work that the upper classes would never do. In a scene where she unfairly loses her job at the theater due to a fire, the contrast between the wealthy theater owner and innocent Amarilly is strong. The theater owner, enraged at Amarilly’s interruption and the fire, tells her to leave which leads to her job celling cigarettes at a local cafe. Here, she meets Gordon. When she speaks to Gordon, she remarks, “My regular business is in the theatrical perfesshun.” This line is put into place to comment on Gordon’s removal from the society he is used to and Amarilly’s refusal to become what he expects. The audience expects to hear that she is an actress when this line is spoken, but instead is reminded that she’s just the scrubwoman at the theater. This scene reinforces the idea that Amarilly’s life, while anything but glamorous, is not something to be ashamed of. Her pride at the idea of being a scrubwoman gives the audience a character to relate to.

            Amarilly of Clothes-line Alley is a film that reflects several common themes of Progressive era films. While not as outwardly political as trade union films, films like Amarilly “allowed the filmmakers to demonstrate the moral superiority of the working class while lavishing attention on the glamorous life-styles of the wealthy.”[9] At the end of the movie, Amarilly and Terry are seen five years later with two children and nice clothes. They are driving a car, which contrasts with the broken-down bike Terry drove five years ago. They are living the middle-class dream of upward social mobility without betraying the working-class roots that relate to the audience. Movies that represented this social mobility or transplanted poor characters into lavish settings gave the audience hope; nice clothes and a car are things that an immigrant could reasonably attain, in contrast with the decadent life of the extremely wealthy that would never be attainable.[10] Like many cross-class fantasy films of the time, Amarilly give viewers a chance to see how the rich live, while at the end suggesting that they would be happier living within their own social boundaries.[11] In a Progressive era where the working class had few modes of expression, films that reinforced the values of hard work, family, and practicality gave audiences someone to validate their lives and look up to. While Amarilly of Clothes-line Alley teaches working girls to dream, it also shows them the probable end result of their hard work in a practical way. The message is simple: it’s all right to make money and a good future, but dreams of upper-class existence are lacking in moral fiber.


[1]      Frederick Lynch, “Social Theory and the Progressive Era”, Theory and Society 4, no. 2 (Summer 1997): 161.

[2]          Steven Ross, Working-Class Hollywood: Silent Film and the Shaping of Class in America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998), xii.

[3]    Ibid., 65.

[4]    Lynch, “Social Theory and the Progressive Era,” 163.

[5]    Amarilly of Clothes-line Alley, directed by Marshall Neilan (Artcraft productions, 1918.)

[6]    Ross, Working-Class Hollywood. 79.

[7]    Ibid., 78.

[8]    Amarilly, 1918.

[9]    Ross, Working-Class Hollywood, 198.

[10]  Ibid., 199.

[11]  Ibid., 201.

 

Bibliography

 

Amarilly of Clothes-line Alley. Directed by Marshall Neilan. Artcraft Productions, 1918.

 

Lynch, Frederick. “Social Theory and the Progressive Era.” Theory and Society 4, no 2. 1997.

 

Ross, Steven. Working-Class Hollywood: Silent Film and the Shaping of Class in America. Princeton:      Princeton University Press. 1998.

 

Ross, Steven. Struggless for the Screen: Workers, Radicals, and the Political uses of Silent Film.” The     American Historical Review 96, No. 2. 1991.

Living through celluloid

There isn’t just one reason that people watch movies. Individuals have different reasons for doing anything; movies are no different. Take my dad, for example. He’s not a huge movie person. Getting him to sit down long enough to watch anything more lengthy than an episode of “The Three Stooges” is considered a Vatican-certified miracle. Just like anyone, though, he has a few favorite movies that he will watch over and over. I’ve noticed that most of the movies share a couple common themes, not limited to:

-Awesome airplane scenes.

-Revenge.

-Really, really boring dialogue.

-War, but not the lame action movie type war with too many explosions. Strategic war.

-Characters with a strong moral compass. No moral ambiguity for this man. No steamy affairs, heavy drug use, or shady salesman techniques will be excused when my Dad’s watching a movie.

-Bizarre situations concerning in-laws.

-Cats dying in comical ways.

 

These themes are reflected in a lot of his favorite movies: 12 O’Clock High, Tora Tora Tora, Chevy Chase’s Vacation and Christmas Vacation, Airplane, Lonesome Dove, The Ten Commandments, Kujo (for some reason). So my dad, being the morally upstanding yet comedically bizarre pilot he is, enjoys movies that validate the way he views the world. I’m kind of the same way; I watch movies because, in a way, I like feeling like someone understands me. I don’t think this position is unique, but I also don’t think it’s the only reason everyone watches movies.

 

Take early films. A lot of comedy, some melodrama, nothing too deep (in most cases). Early movies, meant for the lower classes, provided an escape from daily reality for a lot of people. People working hard and living a hard life don’t really want to go see something that is trying to reach a way deeper meaning; they just want to be entertained. A lot of parallels can be drawn to Bollywood now. In India this summer, I noticed that most of the Tamil films that were released contained a few crucial elements: catchy song and dance, romance, comedy, and ridiculous drama. Theaters there are relatively inexpensive, and a lot of the time serve as a release for the lower classes who are living very difficult lives. Someone who spends all day worrying about their sick child and laying bricks does not usually want to see an in-depth film about the Spanish Civil War. Sometimes, people just need to be removed from reality for a while. These films definitely still exist in the United States as well; I don’t think anyone’s going to see Jackass 2 with high hopes of being enlightened.

 

From my standpoint, though, modern cinema (and most of what would be considered “good” cinema from the past) aims to do one of two things: criticize an aspect of society, or make the viewer feel alive. Gone with the Wind doesn’t necessarily criticize society all that well (apart from some nostalgic scenes of the “good ol’ days,” but the sweeping, colorful scenes and emotionally tense plot make the viewer feel as if they themselves are living on Tara and trying to squeeze into an 18 inch corset. Movies like Clockwork Orange and Soylent Green use scare tactics and psychological elements to criticize the current society, with less focus on the feelings of the main character and more focus on the events occuring in the story. Making the viewer feel as if they are really experiencing life, as if they have fought in the Vietnam war or lost a child to a desperate cause, is a crucial element of “good” modern cinema. If the viewer doesn’t have a dramatic emotional connection with the movie, the movie just doesn’t stick.

 

The perceived security of the society we live in mandates that people must seek outside sources of humanity. Simply put, people in the United States now generally live comfortable lives. We know where our next meal is coming from, we have shelter, and we have some sort of political voice. Movies, with their dramatic endings and unfortunate characters, help us to feel empathy toward people we deem less fortunate. Slumdog Millionaire, for example– you mean they really live like that? In those houses? And there’s so many of them doing it? They must be really living life, then. To know what really struggle is– that’s really living life.

 

 

Sepia Toned Sappiness

My favorite movie is “O Brother, Where Art Thou”. I have no deep, philosophical reason for liking this film. Mostly, this movie appeals to my senses in a way that other movies don’t. The sepia toned filter, the sappy bluegrass music, and the not-so-perfect love story make me feel like I am in a place that I have always known. The strong sense of sentimentality the film achieves for me presents a background upon which characters who do not take themselves too seriously fight against what they perceive to be injustice. The three main characters of the film are not superheroes of the depression-era South by any means; they are selfish, ignorant, low-class criminals who will do anything to preserve themselves. At the same time, they have a gentle, kind, and generous human side that makes me feel empathy like I am reading Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. I don’t care what these guys did to land themselves in prison– I’m rooting for them either way.

 

I’m sure my upbringing in a musically talented Southern family is one of the major reasons this film hits me the way it does. I’m fairly simple in my film and TV tastes– while I enjoy a good message, I’m not trying to hunt too hard when I’m partaking in entertainment. “O Brother, Where Art Thou” manages to make me feel like I’m intelligent by relying on witty wordplay and literary references to reach it’s “educated” audience, while also sensually overloading the viewer with music and cinematography that create an environment that feels like a stifling hot summer day. There is a sense of stillness in this movie that the history major in me eats up. The feeling that there is nothing special about this particular day or moment, that everything around is is suspended while we experience it, is one of the reasons I love to study history. I love anything that can allow me to imagine that once, people lived on this earth, and it was no more special to them than the world is now to use. A quote in Natalie Babbit’s Tuck Everlasting evokes, to me, the emotion that this movie does: Time is like a wheel. Turning and turning – never stopping. And the woods are the center; the hub of the wheel. It began the first week of summer, a strange and breathless time when accident, or fate, bring lives together. When people are led to do things, they’ve never done before. On this summer’s day, not so very long ago, the wheel set lives in motion in mysterious ways.” 

 

The humor, drama, and music are all reasons I love “O Brother Where Art Thou,” but I mostly love that the movie is enjoyable both in pieces and as a whole. There are certain movies and books that make me feel as though I’ve taken a long, scenic hike and while I may have been tired at points during the hike, I’m glad I did it. This movie is more like a series of adventures that, individually, are fun and interesting in their own right. Each scene has some new reference or moment of normalcy that begs the viewer’s attention, making the movie one of the most re-watchable ones I’ve come across. At the same time, the movie is incredible as a total piece; when I finish it, I feel as though I’ve been filled up with a feeling I didn’t have before.

I’ll be honest– I’m not a huge movie person. I tend to have a pretty short attention span when it comes to movies, and I generally would rather be reading an article or watching a TV show. This is one of those movies that I can’t just have on in the background. While I know it might not be the “best” or the most sophisticated choice, it’s my absolute favorite. It speaks to my background and it makes me feel like someone understands where I am coming from. This probably means I am narcissistic, easily entertained, overly sentimental, and a sucker for wordplay and period films. But for me, watching “O Brother Where Art Thou” is like reading my favorite childhood story over and over; the adventure and beauty will never get old. 

This blog is, for the next semester, the property of Dr. Welky’s film class. Here’s a video of one of the most emotionally riveting songs in the history of American film– something my mom can be really proud of.

Friday fun

Today we celebrated James’ birthday. Siobhan snuck a cake up to the flat without him knowing and invited us all over around lunch time to eat some. James didn’t know about the cake, which must have made the synchronized arrival of Hari, Mads, and I seem kind of odd. When Siobhan brought the cake up, we were relieved to have a reasonable cause to be situated in a circle around an empty table. The cake read “Happy Birthday Mr. James,” seeming not at all out of place in a land of formal English like India. The cake itself was like everything else Western in India: good, but off enough to signal that some ingredients had either been refrigerated too long or substituted for something missing.

 

In further celebration, we went out to Pondicherry in the evening for dinner and drinks. The French half of Pondicherry is surprisingly clean and still retains some of its former French charm. At the posh outdoor bar we sat down at, our waiter was flamingly French and Westerners dotted the other tables. After drinks we navigated our way through the mess of cars, bikes, beggars, uneven sidewalks, and stray dogs to make it to a pizza place located on the fifth floor of a hotel. The hotel’s air conditioner seemed to crystallize the stagnant humidity that covered our bodies. The tiny elevator, however, took us to an outdoor restaurant where we quickly got re-acclimated to the heat. At the door, a strange man we assumed to be the chef with a thick Italian accent greeted us. He took us to our tables and listened intently as we ordered. After ordering, he quickly shot questions at us. “Where are you from? Why are you here?” Upon learning Hari and I were from Arkansas, the man concluded that our state had “Bill Clinton but not much else.” Throughout the course of the meal, he drilled us on everything from Monica Lewinsky to 9/11. He took a poll to see how many of us at the table believed 9/11 was an inside job, and the proceeded to attempt to convince all of us of his point of view. After we agreed with him to end the discussion, he turned to Siobhan and James. “Do you like the Queen?” he asked. They agreed that she was alright, and their conversation turned to an agreeance that Prince Phillip was an idiot. Just as we were wondering what he could possibly say to Mads about Denmark, he gave us an interesting factoid I hope to someday use on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” “Denmark,” he claimed, “is a very tiny country. But, it has the most pigs in the world. It has more pigs than China.” I have absolutely no idea how this man knew about Denmark’s pork economy, but apparently he was right. According to Mads, there are 20 million pigs in Denmark. There are four times as many pigs in Denmark as there are people. I learned this today as I was eating pizza on the fifth floor of a hotel in Pondicherry, India.

 

Apparently the man came to India 30 years ago as part of the Auroville project. Auroville is a communal village located about ten minutes away from Pondicherry. We plan to visit tomorrow, so I’ll fill you in on my verdict. So far, I’m leaning toward creepy; Siobhan and I agree that Auroville seems like an expat community based on the idea of a spiritual, untouched India and not the India that actually exists. It seems to avoid most things and people that are too “Indian.” I’m hoping that a trip to Auroville will change my mind.

 

School-wise, today was exciting and long. The kids decided they wanted to play the game Red Rover that we had taught them the previous period. They absolutely love it, as most kids love running into each other and screaming. I did get the opportunity to teach an art class today. I had fourth graders. As I said before, art classes basically consist of the teacher drawing a picture on the board from a coloring book and the kids copying it. They’re not actually learning anything at all; I had a couple of fifth graders have absolutely no idea that yellow and blue made green the other day. I decided to teach them something simple and fun– drawing a face. I used the traditional method of drawing lines through an oval to show them where the eyes, nose, and mouth should be. The kids were so excited and interested in learning how to draw what I showed them. They attempted to show me their drawings with bird-like chirps of “Madam! Madam! Madam!” It was hard for them to grasp the concept of a self-portrait, however. I would really like to work on face structure with them again; they were so eager and intelligent, I believe they would be able to pick up more.

 

I’ve noticed that the kids at the school are, in a lot of ways, more well behaved than American schoolchildren. They are so smart and respectful; they might get rambunctious like any kid, but they are never purposefully disrespectful. They genuinely want to learn. They are the easiest pupils. The kids are also amazingly resilient. Their playground, for example, would be about eleven instant lawsuits in the states. The slide is made of concrete. The swing has a rusted support bar that makes the entire metal frame shift and also leaves jagged rusted piping exposed for whatever tetanus-filled fun might be had by it. The only word I can use to describe them is one that my high school basketball coach used constantly: scrappy.

 

 

It’s Thursday, and Hari and I have officially

It’s Thursday, and Hari and I have officially been in India a week. We stayed in Chennai for a few days,  saw a couple sketchy hotels, and slept a lot to ward off the jet lag. Most of our time was spent in an incredibly nice mall and at a movie theater. We didn’t really do anything touristy; we were tired and looking for creature comforts. Besides a few terrifying auto rickshaw rides and some confusing encounters with the hotel staff, India did not seem that different from a very dirty American city. By the time Hari’s cousin drove us to Pondicherry on Sunday afternoon, the heat, lack of air conditioning, and increasing amount of garbage everywhere were a bit of a shock to us.

 

Sunday afternoon an administrator at the Nirvana school, Elumalai, checked us into our volunteer residency. Volunteer residencies are in the Nirvana High School complex, which is a short walk from the Nirvana Primary School that we were assigned to volunteer at. The residency was simple, but clean enough; it had a bathroom, bedroom, two beds, and a strange living room with no furniture in it. We expected to not have air conditioning in the room and the first night was fairly tolerable heatwise. Indian ceiling fans are no joke. They aren’t like the pretty decorative fans with light fixtures attached to them that we have in the United States. They are constructed out of metal and move fast enough to make me not want to go anywhere near the ceiling. When you turn them on, all of the air in the room moves around you like a cyclone, creating the illusion of coolness. With the fans, we figured that we would adjust to the Pondicherry heat (which usually has a heat index of over 100 degrees Farenheit) and be comfortable enough.

 

We met the other volunteers. James and Siobhan had been at the school for a couple of weeks and occupied a different volunteer residency on the second floor. They are recent graduates of Cambridge and have been in India since February volunteering and traveling. Mads, a Danish student about to enter University, arrived the same time we did. We all get along well, and often eat meals and hang out together. James and Siobhan noticed the insane amount of garbage in Kottakuppam, the village we are staying in, just as we had. One field in particular, which children often cross to get to the school, is horrifyingly dirty. Besides the mounds of trash, feces, and the large amount of stray dogs and goats, the field has broken glass in the sand that causes problems when children play games on it. According to the headmaster of the school, Mrs. Samani, the field used to be a coconut grove. When population rose, the trees were cut down and it was turned into a trash heap. The stench of smoke from burning trash and animal dung are horrible. James and Siobhan have been researching previous efforts to clean up the trash, and found that the village as a whole would like to see the field cleaned but have no where to put their garbage. Kottakuppam does not provide sanitation services, and the nearest dump is kilometers away. James and Siobhan are now in an effort to find out about successful sanitation efforts in Tamil Nadu, hoping to inspire the village to clean up the field. Hari and I like their idea and have offered to help educate the children about sanitation, something which they seemingly know very little about.

 

After a few awful days of drowning in our own sweat, the volunteer residency became unbearable. The lack of air conditioner wasn’t a problem as much as the lack of circulation was. Our room was a first floor room surrounded on both sides by a large concrete security wall. The bedroom itself was very small and received even less circulation than the living room. No breeze could pass through the walls, and the room was completely stagnant. We woke up more than one night so hot that we couldn’t sleep and had to take a walk around the complex just to cool off. We were drinking about 2 liters of water each just overnight. While I’m pretty sure the sweat lodge effect cleared my skin up a bit, we were so hot and miserable that we couldn’t eat. We wanted to tough it out and stay in the residency though; the money went to the school and plenty of people in India survive without air after all. It became clear, however, that we would not adjust to this situation in time to actually get anything out of our trip. We wandered into a guesthouse behind the school and asked about rooms. Rooms with AC were almost double of what we were paying, and we began to walk out of the guesthouse. The owner stopped us, saying he had a large flat next door with AC in the bedrooms and a kitchen for the same price we were paying at the school. We moved in that night and have felt much better since. While the power still goes out often and the air isn’t always working, the room itself has incredible circulation and we no longer have to drink an entire soda bottle of water overnight.

 

Besides the residency, the school is wonderful to be at. The kids are absolutely enamored with Hari because he can speak Tamil and understand them. They make fun of me; apparently my name sounds like the Tamil word for “body odor” to second grade boys and my accent is hilarious when I try to talk to them in Tamil. Listening to them draw out their vowels like me in jest is really strange. There are a few things at the school we’d like to teach; the art class basically consists of copying a picture the teacher has put on the board and the physical education isn’t always fun. We started a mural of the Tamil alphabet on a wall and have had the kids help us with that as well. Today, we received timetables. I will be teaching mostly computer classes, PE, and one art class. I am going to speak with Elumalai to see if I can teach more art. Some days, we will be tutoring the high school students as well.

 

I will post again when I can get internet. We have to go into Pondicherry via a loud, crowded, and erratic bus that we can never seem to catch to find an internet cafe. I’ve posted pictures of the trip that I can manage to take.

 

Pray I don’t drown in the apparently oncoming monsoon,

Kelsey

Touchdown in the blogosphere

So I’ve avoided the blog thing for a while, mainly on the premise that I do not like having an audience for anything I do. I’m beginning to find that phobia a little ridiculous as I push forward into the “real world,” or whatever they call it. How am I supposed to find a job if I’m scared of performing for people? How am I supposed to find a job with my degree in history (don’t forget the ever-useful minor in interdisciplinary studies), period? So, in an attempt to develop my writing skills past fifteen page research papers, I’ve created this pretty little thing with one of the nice preset themes WordPress offers. Like the colors?

I’m going to India in about a week, which is another motivating factor for creating a blog. My mom wants me to be a female Anthony Bourdain and has been pushing me to record every moment of my trip. I don’t really tend to do that- I HATE seeing a new place through the lens of a camera instead of with my own eyes- but I owe it to her and the nice people at UCA Honors that paid for the trip to record it in excruciating detail. My boyfriend Hari and I will be spending four weeks volunteering with the Nirvana School in Pondicherry, and another week travelling around the state of Tamil Nadu. I have basically no functional knowledge of India, teaching, or travelling by train. I’m thankful Hari can at least speak Tamil, even if he hasn’t lived in India since he was a kid. I can’t really say what I expect out of the trip, because I feel as though India is going to be a completely indescribable culture shock. Although I am excited to arrive in Chennai on June 12, I can’t say I’m completely at ease about the entire experience.

The impression I have of India so far mostly concerns paperwork– getting a visa (which I didn’t realize I had to do until the last minute) was like paying to wrestle a bear while waiting in line at the DMV. I was so paranoid I wouldn’t receive it that I spent two full days simply filling out the paperwork and getting documentation in line. I’m finally ready, though; I have my passport, Hari’s passport, and Hari’s Overseas Citizen of India card safely tucked away in a folder, visas intact. I’m chronically disorganized so I’m making up for it by planning every square inch of this trip beforehand. Even then, I’m sure I’ll end up with a few mishaps. Between the paperwork, the Indian heat, and the threat of Delhi Belly I’ve become uselessly worried. The root of most of this is sitting at home with nothing productive to do besides clean my room, which I’ve of course neglected. As a result, hours upon hours of time have gone into researching the trip and frequenting the indiamike forums. I can’t help it– the history major in me loves to pursue knowledge, whether it is useful or not.

I’ve used up some of my free time in the past few weeks by beginning to dabble in genealogy again. Last summer, I worked as an intern at the New York Genealogical and Biographical society. It was an amazing experience, and I came back with both a love for New York and an even more curious mind than I had before. Messing around on ancestry.com always produces great results, and there’s never a lack of ancestral branches to research. Spending an afternoon tracing a far-off corner of my family tree back to 1600’s Virginia never disappoints. Currently, I’m reading the book Hey America, Your Roots are Showing by Megan Smolenyak. The book (so far) is about solving genealogical puzzles. I want nothing more than to be Megan when I grow up.

Whether I turn into Megan Smolenyak or Anthony Bourdain isn’t really important right now, though. Today I’m more concerned about selling my old clothes to earn some extra trip money and meeting Hari at Subway for lunch (we’re classy people, we go on classy dates). If I haven’t updated in a few days, call the police; I’ve probably been snared by a creature made of old jean jackets and lost socks in an attempt to organize my ridiculous room.