Portsmouth, NH | Durham, NH
Sweaty

Squashed

When my friend Katie first asked me to play squash, I was thrilled. Katie is the captain of our club tennis team, I’m a member of the club tennis team– tennis and squash had to be similar, right? I had transferrable athletic skills for days. Squash would be a perfect addition to the list of Sports I Rock At. (The list of Sports I Rock At would be more accurately titled Sports I’m Least Likely to Embarrass Myself Playing, and it goes like this: tennis, skiing. I scored 18 points in a rec league basketball game when I was twelve, but it’s all kind of been downhill from there.)

We met at our campus gym at 4:30 PM. Rush Hour. I had to claw my way through crowds of shirtless sweaty dudes playing basketball and Hot Girls executing flawless crunches just to find the squash court. Katie, being both one of the kindest and most athletic people I’ve ever met, showed me how to hold the racket and swing properly. We warmed up the squash balls by hitting them against the wall as hard as we could, over and over again. Fun fact: if you don’t warm up your squash balls, they don’t bounce.

(Pause for giggles.)

Moving on.

We continued warming up and hitting practice shots. The proper squash swing was close enough to the proper tennis swing to make me feel overly confident in my abilities, and different enough to ensure that I swung-and-missed at least 15 times in the first 20 minutes. Before we started to rally, Katie gave me an important piece of advice.

“You’re gonna want to run to the ball to stop and swing, like in tennis. But if you do that, you’re going to hit the wall. Believe me, I did my first time. So you want to make sure you just lunge for it.”

“Okay, sounds good,” I answered, half-listening as I whiffed another backhand.

I thwacked the ball at the front wall, and Katie thwacked it back. The entire court is fair game to both players the whole time, so the game itself is kind of nuts– you have to concentrate on where the ball is going, how you’re going to get there, and which route to take so you don’t bowl over your opponent in the process. Hand-eye coordination is key. I was attempting to take all of these things into consideration, and I’d noticed some well-sculpted dudes jumping rope on the other side of the plexiglass wall just before the start of the point. So I may have momentarily forgotten Katie’s advice.

She hit a strong shot– it thwacked the front wall, ricocheted off the side wall and moved towards the floor. That ball was mine. I sprinted, sweat flying, hair frizzing, desperately reaching my racket towards the tiny black ball that refused to bounce…

BAM. I hit the wall.

There were two main points of contact:

knees
face

in that order.

My kneecaps throbbed. My cheekbone stung. My ego was probably going to bruise.

For a second I thought Katie hadn’t seen and I tried to play it off like nothing happened, but squash court acoustics dictate that every player-wall collision shall be accompanied by a sonic boom. So that would’ve been hard to ignore.

“Are you okay?” Katie didn’t even laugh until after I’d started to. I swear she’s the most kind-hearted being on the face of the Earth.

“Yup. Yup, yup.” I nodded and shook out my knees. “Lunging. Not running. Got it.”

She completely kicked my ass in the rest of the game, of course, but the sport is just so fun. (I do think I’ll have to take it off the Sports I’m Least Likely to Embarrass Myself Playing list though. I ran into a wall, for Christ’s sake.) We made plans to play again next week, hopefully with a few other people from the tennis team. And who knows, maybe I’ll even invest in one of those wrap-around eye goggle things. They could probably score me some serious street cred.

I can’t wait to play again. I think it’s official.

I’ve been squashed.

 

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Artsy

Join Me In The Apocalypse

My friends, I will be the first to admit that I have a borderline unhealthy appreciation for dystopian fiction.

Has modern greed and excess sent society spiraling into a post-apocalyptic wasteland? Sweet. Have we traded vast technological advances that improve quality of life for some while most suffer from a tyrannical government? I’m in. Have a couple of hardened and resilient teens begun to fall in love despite it being the end of mankind as we know it? Are there only a few survivors left on earth? Will there be a revolution of any kind? I’m already on chapter three.

Hannah has explained in her post about why the Hunger Games could be considered an addictive substance like cocaine or Oreos, and I’d like to talk about how we’ve read enough books about end-of-the-world scenarios to compile a genre. Some are great, some are corny and terrible, but if you judge them by the summaries on their inside covers, they’re all worth a try. It’s a little something I like to call The Twilight Effect. After the hysterical success of Stephanie Meyers’ vampire love-story trilogy, the world of books flooded with similar tales of supernatural, blood-sucking love. Now, post-Hunger Games explosion, (though I will admit that the Hunger Games is a vastly superior trilogy to Twilight), dystopian fiction crowds the Young Adult sections of bookstores everywhere, both old and new. So if you’re into seemingly-hopeless stories about post-apocalyptic societies, here are some of the best Hannah and I have found.

The Giver, by Lois Lowry (for the younger crowd, but it’s Hann’s favorite).
The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
Divergent, by Noelle Roth (kind of a knock-off Hunger Games, compelling as hell).
Delirium, by Lauren Oliver
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
The Circle, by Dave Eggers

The inspiration for this post came from The Circle, a Christmas present I bought for myself and finished in three days. It’s about an all-encompassing, social media-based company whose innovations inspire radical change, including cameras that record every moment of everyone’s lives and successfully end privacy as the world knows it. It’s well-written and full of social commentary and one of the best books I’ve read in a while. If anyone wants to borrow my copy, let me know.

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Study Abroad

London Calling

Hello from London!

Julie and I would like to acknowledge our brief blogging hiatus. We can only imagine the tears that have been shed in the last two weeks over our lack of Internet presence, and we’d like to formally apologize for any emotional damage we may have inadvertently caused. But don’t fret, my friends, we are back.

I write to you from my lovely little hostel in South Kensington, where I really should be doing some work for my Travel Writing class. (I’m writing in London for two weeks with eleven other students and a professor from my university. I may have found heaven.) There is so much to do in this city it makes my head spin. But we’ve been adventuring, researching, and writing, and I’ve made some interesting discoveries in the past week.

Things I’ve Learned in London:

There are three different pictures that you could see at a crosswalk sign: green man, red man, and no man. Green man means go ahead, the road is clear. Red man means look both ways and sprint across if you’re feeling adventurous, but don’t say we didn’t warn you. No man means if you try to cross now, you WILL be hit by a double decker bus. It took a few close calls for us to get the hang of this system. (Double decker buses drive with sports-car confidence.)
The bridge behind us is actually called the Tower Bridge, while the London Bridge is what we’re standing on.

The Brits don’t believe in paper towels.
The forecast for London in January is always rain, even if the forecast is not actually rain.
A wax figure Justin Timberlake doesn’t like my jokes nearly as much as real Justin Timberlake would.

Questioning the Queen’s power in a not-so-quiet voice in front of Buckingham Palace is NOT an act of treason, though it is generally frowned upon. (I may have wondered aloud, in front of the palace gates, if the people of Britain enjoyed the Queen taking all of their tax dollars. In retrospect, not the brightest thing I’ve ever done, but it was a relief to find out that freedom of speech in the UK is more in vogue than its ancient statutes on treason. Four hundred years ago, I  probably would’ve been burned at the stake.)
Stonehenge might just be the strangest tourist site in the world. (Welcome to the pile of rocks, we’re not sure exactly how they got here, or anything else about them for that matter, but they’re rather large and if you pay a thirteen pounds you’re welcome to go look at them.)
The Abbey Road crosswalk looks a lot like every other crosswalk in London.

Coins here can be worth as much as one or two pounds, so dropping them on the sidewalk and thinking “eh, face-up, it’ll be someone else’s lucky day!” isn’t as popular a practice as in the United States.
The geese in Hyde Park are ENORMOUS.
Platform 9 3/4 stands clearly marked at King’s Cross Station, and is staffed by two employees dressed in Hogwarts garb who will make fun of you while holding your scarf for a photo op.

Today we’ve spent most of the day drafting our next piece of travel writing, but tomorrow we’re visiting the sets of Harry Potter. THE ACTUAL MOVIE SETS. If a career as a writer doesn’t work out, Professional Harry Potter Tourist is next on the list. (I’m sure that would pay well, right?)

For now, enjoy these sophisticated snapshots of London taken from my iPhone, and you’ll be hearing from Julie next week!

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