Sunday, January 18, 2015

Pip and the Beanstalk

There was once a young woman named Misandra whose mother pressured her incessantly to marry.  Disinclined to inherit any domestic work, she held off for a couple years.  She got her PhD in psychology and became a university professor, advising her students to put education and pride before men.  But her mother’s probing grew worse and worse, and she could stand it no longer.  So Misandra decided to pursue the only man she knew to be unspoken for: Ken Dryfus, the Medieval Studies professor. 
Ken never cared much for the modern day, but he did long for a woman, for every good Middle Aged man had one.  As Misandra took her best shot at flirting, Ken jumped at the chance to live a life that Geoffrey Chaucer would have, maybe, been proud of. 
After years of not paying much mind to each other, Misandra and Ken eventually found it proper to have a child.  They didn’t have the most impressive genes, but they weren’t bad.  Decades of impertinence and antediluvian fantasies surely took their toll on them.  Following twenty months of pregnancy, Misandra gave birth to a baby ogre whom she called Pip.
Despite his tiny name, Pip Dryfus grew to an imposing height of twelve feet high and five feet wide by the age of ten.  But this wasn’t due to bountiful nurturing.  Pip’s mother and father were always too busy teaching and making political statements to look after their little ogre.  So Pip quickly learned to fend for himself and even took on a job stocking shelves at Poppers, the local grocer.  After months of being assigned to Aisle 12, Pip found something out of place.  Betwixt the Lima and kidney beans, he felt an odd hybrid—somewhat like himself.  Pip wondered what a velvet bag of loose beans was doing next to the merchandise, but he figured some crazy kid just threw them up there to tease his little brother.  He took them to the lost-and-found, hoping the poor child would recover his strange possession.
In the meantime, Pip was accepted to his parents’ alma mater and started his own business, revolutionizing the way grocery store aisles were organized, no velvety bags of beans to be found.  To accommodate the shorter people in his life, he even designed a series of staggered ladders to reach every shelf of every aisle, all the way up to the ceiling.  Pip became the CEO of Poppers, immediately rewarded by his inventiveness and leadership.
Far removed from his stock boy days, a twenty-two-year-old Pip decided to check out the old storage unit where he used to spend many a day eating bologna sandwiches and cutting sheepskin parchment for his dad’s latest manuscripts.  Pip was astonished to find that the velvet bag of beans was the only item left in the lost-and-found, sitting squarely in the middle of the box.  Seeing that it had been seven years since he had put them there, he figured it was about time to claim them himself. 
Once Pip came home, he inspected the beans and quickly found them impractical for typical use.  Too rough to eat, too hard to cook, and too unsightly to put on display—again, much like Pip—the beans could potentially serve one last purpose in the garden.  So he planted two out of the five beans, not expecting a whole lot to come of it.
Much to Pip’s surprise, the beans grew into an incredible beanstalk by the next morning, reaching higher than the clouds above.  Not once encountering a plant taller than him, Pip was curious to see how high it actually went, and promptly climbed to the top.  Astonished to be far above the clouds, Pip noticed an empty lot, filled with grass and trees and various creatures.  Although Pip wasn’t the deforesting sort, he felt that this land was prime for development, and because it wasn’t on the ground, so to speak, he didn’t feel too bad about it.
With the grand sums of money he made from Poppers, Pip was able to start his own construction company, hiring some old buddies from his shelf-stocking days.  In a matter of weeks, Pip and his friends had built a road with four houses on each side, Pip’s being the first one on the left.  Now all he needed was a wife.  Because Pip had only brought men to his new home, this task would have to be accomplished down below.
Before that, however, Pip thought it best to settle into sky life.  None of his colleagues stayed long, precisely because the prospects of finding a mate up there were so low.  Poor Pip was so attached to his new development that he couldn’t bare to let it waste away with no one tending to it.
So for a decade Pip stayed high above the rest, breeding animals, building instruments, and counting his gold.  Pip had become increasingly greedy in his solitude, resolving to produce for his world only items that could make him lots of money and save him lots of time.  He soon uncovered enough magic soil to produce a hen that lays golden eggs and a melodic talking harp.
He had also grown increasingly anti-social, talking only with his magical harp on occasion.  Pip no longer found it efficient to speak in full sentences, so he reduced himself to short phrases, words, and vowels.  What’s more, his animals had become overpopulated and subsequently started dying off.  Pip craved forbidden meat.
So accustomed to his utopia, Pip found it hard to pry himself away for more food and a wife, at long last.  No neighbors for miles at his Earth home, Pip never had to worry about anyone discovering his secret place, but he didn’t want to continue taking that chance.  He decided that after he met a woman, he would chop the beanstalk.
Missing for ten years, Pip realized that his dad had put up posters all around town, offering a $10,000 reward for his safe return.  Even though Pip was in his early thirties at this point, his father didn’t forget about him.
But Pip didn’t think about his parents at all when he reached the ground—all he wanted was food and a wife.  He found both at Poppers, on the now-abandoned Main Street. 
Manning the deli counter at that time was Gwendela, an extremely tall and lanky woman fit for a man of outlandish proportions.  She welcomed him kindly, offering up the finest selection of ribs and sausages.  This sounded good, Pip thought, but not from a cow or a pig like young Gwendela was suggesting.  He then noticed the impressive bounty of humans occupying the surrounding tables.  At once, Pip grabbed all the people including Gwendela and brought them up to his house, immediately cutting the beanstalk like an umbilical cord as he reached the top.
Terrified out of their wits, the humans had no choice but to accede to Pip’s wishes, climbing one at a time into the oven to meet their doom.  Last in line, Gwendela shook in her boots until Pip offered her a compromise: be his wife and spare your life.
Gwendela regretfully agreed and spent the next several years a slave to his wishes.  Misandra was rolling over in her grave.
Living a life of contentment with his wife and animals, Pip took comfort in the fact that no one whom he didn’t have total control over could bother him.
But one day, out of nowhere, a young boy named Jack came wandering down the street, instantly drawn to the only occupied house, where Gwendela was standing out front.  Disenchanted with her husband’s brutish ways, Gwendela decided to help the child, giving him food, until Pip walked in, smelling the human flesh he so often desired.  With the help of Gwendela, Jack was able to evade Pip by hiding in the oven.  Later that evening, Pip noticed that one of his bags of gold was missing, though he knew his wife would never steal from him.
A few months later, Jack returned for more food, and hopefully a prize.  Gwendela agreed to let Jack in again, but warned him it would be tough to escape Pip a second time around.  Somehow Jack managed, taking Pip’s prized hen with him.  Just as the hen squawked, Pip woke up from his nap and finally realized there really was a young human on the premises.  He wondered how this could be and finally remembered that there were three magic beans left at his Earth house.  Some peddler must have ransacked his place and tried to sell them for money.
            Taking great thrill in his stealing, Jack came back one final time, his eye on Pip’s talking harp.  Jack realized that the couple was onto him, so he snuck into the house without either one knowing, snatching the harp which screamed, “Master!  Master!”  as he ran away.  Pip couldn’t stand the thought of losing his last prized possession, so he ran and ran after Jack, almost catching him until he tripped over a rock.  He then recognized something all-too-familiar: a beanstalk.  Pip slid down the stalk but then abruptly broke his crown just as Jack cut the stalk, from the bottom this time.
            Pip woke up after a few hours, no longer angry, greedy, or controlling.  There was no way to get back to his wife or the remainder of his animals, but he accepted that.  He thought about his father, who never forgot about him, even though Pip had forgotten about his father. 
            When he walked to his parents’ house, a young woman answered the door with a surprise that quickly faded away.  Pip asked about his father, but the woman told him he had died several years prior.

All clothing designed and made by Sarah Worley.  All photos courtesy of Nicole Picchietti.  Look them up! :)

Monday, January 12, 2015

Beside Myself

Below is a reflective essay I wrote over Winter Break, 2011-2012, during my Freshman year of college.  I was going through a sort of quarter-life crisis at that time and was deeply unsure of what to do next.  Nonetheless, I powered through with the philosophy that concludes this piece: "Life's a battle, but it can also be an empowering journey...[if you will it to be]."  I never could have met so many awesome friends and my magnificent boyfriend (who think I'm funny!...see below) if I had not interpreted and revised my struggles the way I did.  I'm also happy to be practicing the descriptive writing "therapy" that I describe in what follows. :)

“Who am I?”  Neither a drug addict nor a repressed child, I have nonetheless struggled with this question for years.  There is no logical reason for which I should feel this way, given my privileged upbringing, the unabashed love of both of my parents, my friendship with my twin brother, the incessant enjoyment elicited by my perfectly feisty dog, my apparent caliber of intelligence and athleticism, and my innately cheery demeanor.  Regardless, I have never really felt one, or in sync with myself, almost as if there is a Socrates/Aristotle-coined separation of my mind and my body.  My numerous academic and frequent athletic achievements have evoked great pride within myself, but only for a moment, after which time I continue my quest for self-identification, asking myself, “What do those accomplishments say about me?  Are they indicative of a difference I have made in my community, whether of local, national, or international society; of my immediate social or familial network; or of my psychological infrastructure?”  Sometimes I wonder how I even created said groupings of society, networks, and the self, and why the need to “Make a Difference” is so important to me.

I remember daydreaming about my philosophy on life and my existence and role therein at the wee age of five.  Cumulus clouds and blue skies encapsulated the air—the ceiling and the walls, while nimbus clouds lined the floor.  The dream was not very long, but it was surprisingly profound in that it was woven by an amalgamation of thoughts, which I afterwards gathered to amount to, “What is my place on this Earth?  Is my mind operating at higher level—whether mentally or physically, figuratively or literally—than my body?  Is that why I see all of these family members, friends, and acquaintances flying above my head in a heaven-like place as if my mind is preoccupied at a supra-natural level, governing and watching my head and my body from above?  Sometimes, everything seems like an out-of-body experience to me.  While my body and mind may feel burdened by stress and anxiety, there is a small part of my mind that nevertheless seems to float above, wondering why I feel this way and why life is so hard.  The same can be said of my most joyous experiences; I think, “Is this really me who is experiencing this, or is it some vestigial offshoot of me?”

Perhaps I oftentimes do not feel “in-the-moment” because my successes and failures can seem so polar that their concurrency in my life escapes my human understanding and properly attributed sensations.  Likewise, I sometimes feel incompetent or “not quite with it,” despite all of the ways through which I have appeared to have proven myself.

Sometimes I even think, “Forget my philosophy on life; what is my philosophy on writing essays?!  Do the best that you can?  Work your butt off?  Exceed yourself?  What?!!”  I do not know how to handle college.  Perhaps no one does, but any feeling of being out of control or out of the driver’s seat in the vehicle of my own life irks me.

There are so many things my “friends” don’t know about me.  My keen sense of humor is one.

In composing this abridged autobiography, I have realized my idiosyncratic, ideal therapy: descriptive writing—specifically about my blessings and for what I’m grateful—coupled with a dose of reality.

Despite anything and everything that’s happened to me, and considering anything and everything that’s happened to the numerous people who are less fortunate than me in so many if not all ways, I have to realize that my life isn’t as bad as I fashion it to be.  In fact, it’s really great.  Life’s a battle, of course, but it can also be an empowering journey and a testament to the strengths you’ve cultivated in your mind, replicated in your body, and engrained in your spirit.


Dress: J. Crew.  Trench: Saks Fifth Avenue.  Headband: Nordstrom.  Shoes: J. Crew.  Bag: Kate Spade.  Necklace: J. Crew.

All photos by Sean Su.