Movin’ On and Movin’ Out

As the end of April approaches, I find myself in the dubious situation of moving out of Slanty House.  This is a place where I have been not only content, but happy.  A few weeks ago, as my roommates and I were cozied together on couches at a photography studio reviewing pictures from our “Family Photoshoot” the week before, I realized how much I am going to miss this part of my life.

Slanty House has become my home over the past two years.  I may have been in and out depending on what I was doing and where I was going, but I always knew that I had somewhere to return to.  My roommates and I have become a small family of our own.  We look out for one another and share everything – stories about our day, our biggest goals and dreams, and an awesome and obviously horrible bout of the flu that swept the house in January and only ended when Elyse went a little nuts with the bleach.

The house itself is nothing to brag about. In fact, the state of it is a little ridiculous.  The man we thought was our landlord is apparently under some sort of fraud investigation, so we have been living without much interest in our actions or attention to the state of the house.  There are six small bedrooms, each of which has a different colour of wall and flooring, and the basement looks like something out of a horror movie.   People often think they are on a boat the first time they walk into the house due to the inherent “Slanty-ness” of the foundation and it is impossible to not sound like an elephant while climbing up or down the stairs.  There are two full bathrooms, but the door to the one in the basement is stuck open due to the fact that no one uses it and the house has shifted so that the ground meets the bottom of the door.  The walls are stucco and hurt when you fall into them.  The kitchen would be cramped for three people, yet we somehow make it work for six.  Sometimes while laying in bed at night, for some unknown reason, I can feel the house shake.

Despite all these “quirks”, we have made this house into somewhere great to live and I will forever look back on Slanty House as somewhere warm and inviting and safe.  How can I possibly leave a place where complaints are few and laughter is ever-present?

I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to live with such an amazing and unique group of people. Our eclectic mix of personalities somehow made everything work, and I have been known to say that I live with a cast of characters that a successful sitcom could most definitely be based around.

Elyse is a smart and slightly nerdy biology student.  Her favourite book as a child was The Lorax, and she only recently discovered how much sense that made in conjunction with the hugely environmentalist part of her personality.  She always has a “witty” one liner ready to go in any situation – quotation marks because they are often more cheesy than witty, but always enjoyable.  Elyse spent a semester abroad in Sweden last year and got to see much of Europe during that time.  We missed having her in the house then, but it made things all the more exciting when she returned.  She is outspoken, sporty, outdoorsy, and has one of the most infectious laughs that I have ever heard.

Jenn is a thrifty yoga addict who loves to attend raves.  This sounds like a weird combination of traits, but that is Jenn in a nutshell.  She is the best person I know at haggling store owners for a good price and making almost anything work on a smaller budget than you would imagine.  It is not an uncommon sight to see Jenn dancing around Slanty House wearing bright colours and some sort of tail.  She is incredibly enterprising and resourceful and she always has big dreams that she works hard to achieve.  She is currently training to do an Iron Man Competition in the near future.  Jenn spent a year living in Holland and the stories she is able to tell about her life, partially due to that experience and partially due to so much more, are absolutely amazing.  She has recently decided to become vegan and is totally succeeding at making that life change.

Dustin is our token male in the household.  He is slightly ridiculous and utterly loveable.  His biggest dream in life is to be a contestant on Survivor and he has researched becoming an American citizen in the past solely to qualify for the show.  Dustin is intelligent and entertaining and his talents include making people love him, pterodactyl noises, and ordering takeout food.  He likes to walk around the house with his pants undone, and once forgot and answered the door to a Chinese food delivery with his underwear prominently visible.

Steff is an athlete who believes in her own set of food groups:  Burgers, Pizza, Pizza Pops, Baked Goods, and Other.  Luckily, she is an intense rugby player who trains all the time so she really can eat whatever she wants and still be in good shape.  She has a knack for pop culture and is constantly educating the rest of the house about it.  Her dearest dream in life is to own a starmole named Dave as a pet (if you have never seen a picture of one of these, google it.  Now.  Ok now you understand how terrifying that is.).  Steff is the baby of our house but is much taller than all of us except Dustin and often uses her reaching ability to help the rest of us out.  She can usually be found watching trashy but addicting reality TV shows.  I have her to thank for my addiction to the ridiculous dating show Sweet Home Alabama.

Ami is probably one of the smartest people I know, but no one would ever think that the first time they meet her.  She has been known to desire good marks in her classes because “A is for Ami!”.  She is an intelligent, creative, and committed business student who has travelled as far as Hong Kong to represent the university at case competitions.  She loves hot yoga and dreams of one day making “noseblowing” into an acceptable social convention – don’t ask.  Ami is a firm believer in paying for experiences, not material things.  She once spent a summer living in Barcelona with little money, and when she came back, her hair was falling out because of her poor nutrition.  She believes that lack of money should never be the only excuse for not doing something; if you want something badly enough, you should be able to make it happen.  Ami has felt a calling from California for much of her life and plans to make that move in the fall of this year.

I fit somewhere into this mix of complete individuals, and we have created an incredibly happy and welcoming community in our home.  We’ve had parties, game nights, The Bachelor nights, movie nights, and quiet evenings during which we sit around and talk about life.  I enjoy reminiscing about all the happy days I have passed in this house and with these people. I know I will go on to be happy still, but this will always be a time that has a rosy glow in my memory. It is impossible to look back at every amazing moment that has happened over the past few years, but there are a few mostly recent examples that I will carry with me which illustrate the magical ridiculousness of Slanty House.

We had a house party near the beginning of our time in Slanty.  The night ended with half of the fence in the backyard ripped out and thrown into a fire pit as well as two human-sized holes inside the house.  The next morning, while cleaning up, we noticed a homeless lady in the back yard picking up all our hard-earned cans.  Elyse did not even hesitate – she went right outside and told the woman that those were our cans and we needed the money from them for repairs.

We once went to a Ke$ha concert and Dustin spent the entire time yelling “Ke$ha… you suck!” feebly from the back of the stadium and was met with glares from our entire section. This is in stark contrast to the time that a few of us attended a Capitals baseball game and Dustin spent the game failing epically at making any noise that wasn’t incredibly feeble through his newly-acquired vuvuzuela.  During the last inning, when he finally was able to to pull off triumphantly sounding the horn, our entire section cheered for him.

In January of this year, we made a rule that whenever all six of us were in the same room, we each had to do a shot.  One day after that, all five of us girls creeped into Dustin’s room as he was napping and woke him up by exclaiming “Oh my God!  We’re all in the same room!” and then handing him a shot of vodka.  We eventually started to actually avoid each other in order to evade shots early in the morning or far too late at night.  I think since then we’ve learned to take it in stride and do it when we need to – good karma, you know – but it is always nice when a roommate is out of town and we can trounce around the house without a worry.

Throughout this season of The Bachelor, we often hosted a group of people on Monday nights for the show.  More than watching, we would catch up with one another, eat amazing food, drink wine, and make fun of the antics of Ben and his ladies. A few of us (mostly just Steff and I, and a little bit Ami) also nursed an addiction to Sweet Home Alabama. We would often stay in on Friday nights just to watch the show and would spend half an hour afterwards talking to each other in our southern accents.

Just the other night, many of us were sitting together in the living room and somehow decided that we should figure out the rules and attempt to play True American.  For those of you who don’t watch New Girl, this game is an incredibly confusing drinking game in which the floor is lava, and the names of US Presidents are shouted often.  Needless to say, this resulted in one of the more ridiculous nights we have ever had.

Steff recently bought a Groupon for a photography session and our whole house went together. The photographer thought we were insane, but somehow went along with our every whim. We dressed in black shirts and jeans and brought along funky sunglasses. We did the cheesiest poses you can possibly think of, and they turned out amazingly. We are going to have some wonderful and quirky family photos to remember Slanty House. The only regret I have is that we didn’t do an on-site photo shoot!

From the slanted, creaky floors to the creepy basement, from the wall panel where we have all marked our height to the wall in the basement we have collected guest signatures on, from the the too-small kitchen to the weird non-existent side door, from the “Beer Pong Room” to the “Man Den” (or “Tan Den”), I will definitely miss this place.

Thank you, Slanty House, for giving me these amazing years.  And thank you for putting me in the lives of these amazing people.

Love KG

“May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor”

It has come to my attention that I have stopped blogging.  This was definitely not by intention… it was just something that seemed to fall away when I got busy with work and life.  But I’ve decided to jump back on the blogging train.  And what better way to do so than to start a discussion of the story of the hour, The Hunger Games? I will preface this by saying that I am definitely a fan of these books, and I had gone to the movie twice by 2 PM on Friday, March 23rd (which is especially impressive given that it opened at midnight that Thursday night).  This movie has been a huge story in the entertainment world, which has pulled the books into the spotlight again as well.  For those readers that have not heard of this dark and intriguing novel-turned-movie, I guess I can give a brief overview.

The Hunger Games is the first in a trilogy of three books by Suzanne Collins.  These novels are set in a post-apocalyptic society, in a country called Panem which is located somewhere in what is known today as North America.  Panem is made up of 12 Districts, which are all ruled by a city called the Capitol.  The people of the Capitol live a life of indulgence and excess, while the people of the Districts have barely enough to get by – they work to supply the Capitol with everything they need to sustain their frivolous lifestyle.  Every District has its own industry, each of which is necessary to provide for the Capitol.  There was once a District 13, which the Capitol destroyed during a rebellion years before.  As a reminder to the remaining Districts about where the true power lies in Panem, and as a warning against uprising, rebellion, and revolution, the Capitol holds the Hunger Games every year.  Each District must offer up two tributes between the ages of 12 and 18 to participate in these Games – one boy and one girl.  These individuals are elected in a lottery that ensures the poor are the most at risk for selection as  children are given food for their families in exchange for submitting additional entries of their own name.  The “winners” of this lottery in each District are sent together into an arena to fight to the death.  The individual that emerges is declared the “Victor” and is provided for by the Capitol for the rest of his or her life.  The entire Hunger Games is broadcast across Panem, and the masses forced to watch.  In the Districts, this is done with sadness as they watch their own children fight, kill and die.  In the Capitol, the Games are viewed much in the way that we watch reality television or sport broadcasts today.  The frivolous, privileged, often silly residents of the Capitol place bets on tributes, cheer for kills, gossip about the Games on the streets, and view the tributes and eventually the victor as celebrities.

The Hunger Games follows the adventure of one girl from the poor District 12, Katniss Everdeen, who steps up to volunteer as tribute when her 12-year-old sister’s name is chosen in the lottery.  Katniss’s story is definitely a part of the reason that this novel and movie has been so successful, but I am not going to go into details about that.  In this discussion, I would like to focus on the underlying themes of the premise of the novel.  It is these themes that make these books appeal to a much broader audience than just those that read teen fiction novels.

Though there are themes of rebellion and revolution in The Hunger Games, these are much better developed later in the series of the books.  The idea of revolution is maybe a little more present in the movie with riots in District 11 shown during the Games.  I find it interesting that the whole reason the Capitol stages a Hunger Games each year is to keep the masses from rebelling, but in Mockingjay, the third book, it ends up being Katniss’s involvement in the Games that paves the way for revolution.

In the story, the Hunger Games themselves become a comment on real-world society’s love for reality TV and the desire we have to watch people do horrible things to one another.  Of course, we do not put people in an arena and watch them fight to the death, but reality TV franchises are always pushing the boundaries for the big shock that will result in being the show that everyone is talking about.  Shows like Fear Factor and Battle of the Exes have been known to make people do things that are dangerous – why do we enjoy watching other people go through frightening or painful experiences?  There is a certain shock value in the morbid fascination the people of the Capitol have with watching children kill other children, but this fascination is not so different from my own desire to discuss Courtney Robertson’s actions the night after an episode of The Bachelor –  I mean, she is a real person, and it may be entirely unfair the way she was portrayed on the show.  Regardless, we love to hate her and at the same time love to watch her do and say horrible things to the rest of the girls.  Why do we, as a society, get enjoyment from that?

Before reality TV became popular, the only spectacle that people could view that did not have a predetermined ending was sport.  The Hunger Games are promoted and enjoyed in the same way today’s society enjoys a hockey game, or a mixed martial arts fight, or any number of sporting broadcasts.  Bad things can happen during these games too – does that make our fascination with them morbid as well?  And what do we love more than a hero in today’s society?  Think the guy or girl that gave it all to win the championship in any sport – isn’t this was the victor ends up being once the Games are over?

The Hunger Games is about more than just the love triangle that seems to be so prevalent in all media surrounding the story.  The background of the story is a comment on today’s society, and an interesting new perspective on our consumption of sport and spectacle.