Christmas Break Catch-All: Movies, Books, 2015.

Time acts in strange ways. Certain days can last forever, certain weekends are gone with the blink of an eye, certain months can feel like they never even happened. What always seems strangest is when time makes you feel as if you’ve lived whole lives between a point A and a point B, when in reality, that span of time only lasted two weeks.

That’s how I feel about this holiday break. I am lucky to have a job where things slow down around Christmas and the New Year, so I spent a week at home in Oregon and then spent a few days hanging out back in the city.

Before I forget them (though I’m kicking myself for not doing this even sooner because now the Oregon portion of my break seems like a long time ago), here are a few highlights from the holiday…aka a rundown of the books and movies and moments I most want to remember.

1. Me Before You

In my parents’ neighborhood, there’s a house with its own little library out front, where people can take and leave books as they please. I passed it while on a walk with my mom and sister, and I took Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, a book I’d pondered buying before but held off because I was in the middle of something else. I was pages away from finishing Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and this was early in my trip, so I figured I could polish off Moyes’ book in time to return it before going back to New York.

Maybe it sounds dumb, but this book became like a friend to me. I just wanted to spend time with it. Before this book, I’d read the first two Hunger Games books (sounds easy, I know, but fantasy/dystopian books are just not my cup of tea) and A People’s History of the United States, so in hindsight I realize I was probably just overjoyed to have a book I could breeze through. But it was more than just an easy read. It was a delight. Just about every night I was home, I’d stay up late and read it in the light of the Christmas tree.

I’ve had a serious crush on England for the last year and a half, so I loved opening it to find the prologue set in London and the rest in an English country town. All its characters were distinct and developed, and the central romance was sweet – obvious the whole time, but built to in a much more satisfying way than I could have anticipated. Even cynics like myself need a good love story every now and then.

2) New Movies

Since I had some time on my hands the last few days, I wanted to get a jump-start on watching some great new movies in 2015. Instead, I mostly ended up re-watching old favorites (more on that below), but I did watch two movies for the first time and quite enjoyed both: Pulp Fiction and Thank You for Smoking.

Sometimes I view movies as opportunities to understand more cultural references. It seems like I hear about Pulp Fiction a lot, so I thought I’d watch it to expand my pop-culture horizons. I think I need to watch it again and again to pick up on everything, but I love movies where you just get swept into it, where you’re not realizing it but an hour has gone by and you’ve just been enjoying the story. That’s kind of how I felt about Fargo, too. You’re not expecting it, but you’re sucked in.

And Thank You For Smoking. Jason Reitman’s Juno and Up in the Air are two of my favorite movies, but this was the first time I’d watched his debut feature. I don’t know if it’ll become one of my favorites like those other films, but I still thought it was great. Dripping with cynicism, urging its viewers to question everything, filled with the same quick, intelligent dialogue that made me love the other Reitman films.

And since awards season is right around the corner, I saw a few movies in theaters over the break, too: The Imitation Game, Into the Woods, and Whiplash (which was by far my favorite of the three).

3) Old Movies

I’ve taken the last couple days to catch up on random stuff in my life – unpacking, cleaning the kitchen, organizing storage drawers, etc. – and it’s hard to watch new movies while doing those tasks because I can’t devote my full attention to the film. So I re-watched some old favorites, most notably Good Night and Good Luck, LA Confidential (clearly there’s a David Strathairn thing going on) and Manhattan.

The first time I watched LA Confidential was on a bus back to NYC after visiting Boston for a weekend. And I liked it even then. But this time, I appreciated so much more. Like Kevin Spacey. How did I not recognize its true greatness in my first viewing? Spacey’s is my favorite in a movie filled with incredible performances.

Before I went out to celebrate New Year’s Eve, I turned on Woody Allen’s Manhattan. I first saw it almost two years ago but since then I think I have developed a better appreciation for films and a better understanding of what it is to live in New York. The beauty and intelligence of the opening sequence was apparently lost on me the first time, because I hardly remembered it. Now, I just want to sit and watch it on loop. It’s breathtaking.

Other lines I loved: Tracy joking about not knowing who Rita Hayworth was, then Isaac reprimanding her. “Of course I’m joking!” She says. “You think I’m unaware of any event pre-Paul McCartney.”

And Isaac describing Mary as “the winner of the Zelda Fitzgerald Emotional Maturity Award.”

4) 2015

It is now 2015, and I can’t say anything feels much different. Maybe that’s good, though. Maybe the years where it doesn’t feel like much will change or improve are the years when big things happen. Or maybe by saying it out loud, I’ve ruined any chance of that. There are 361 more days to find out.

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What Home Is

I’m sitting on my bed in New York, snacking from a bag of homemade Chex mix that traveled with me this morning on a plane from Portland, Oregon. This is bringing me great joy.

For the first time since I moved to New York over two years ago, I went home for Thanksgiving. I’d been home other times, of course, but this was the first time in a few years that I spent Thanksgiving in Portland. I was lucky to get a good chunk of time there, too – flew out Tuesday morning and came back Sunday afternoon.

One thing that’s surprised me about living in New York is how infrequently I get homesick. Or rather, how infrequently I get Portland-sick. I miss my family, but we talk all the time, and since my sister is also in the area for school, they come to New York at least a couple times a year. We’ve also gotten together in “neutral” places, like a trip to Florida last summer. So while I miss a lot of things about Portland – friends from college who live there, extended family, Fred MeyerPowell’s – I find myself able to go a long time without physically being there, because so much of what represents “home” to me can be found elsewhere.

This was my first trip to Portland since last Christmas, and I think I was wearing my almost-a-year-away-from-home badge with some degree of pride. I secretly wanted to see if I could make it a year. And I know I could have done it, but what’s the point? The opportunity to go home was there, and I wouldn’t have jumped at it if there hadn’t been some part of me that longed to be in the actual place.

These little thoughts about home have been bouncing in my mind since Tuesday. What is home, really? A place? The people in the place? A combination of the two and several other elements? When I landed at PDX on Tuesday, my first stop was my old high school, where my mom is still a teacher. A landmark for me in Portland – but the school changed locations in January. I loved chatting with my favorite teacher and cross-country coach, but we weren’t in any of the classrooms I used to sit in. It didn’t matter, of course. But it was different.

And about a year after I moved to New York, my parents moved within the Portland area. They’re not far from the old house at all – my sister who’s still at home didn’t change schools – but there’s not the same sense of nostalgia. I’m not going to Portland so I can sleep in my old room, you know? My whole frame of reference for driving has changed, too. Again – none of this really matters. Home is still home. Portland is still Portland. But I was reminded this week of how things are always in flux.

It’s the physical places that are in flux, though. Not the people I spend time with. My parents and little sister are the same people, as are my best friends from college. It was a joy to see those girls. I think there’s a relaxed air to the Thanksgiving holiday that doesn’t exist at Christmastime, where there are more events to attend, gifts to buy, places to be. At Thanksgiving, we can just hang out.

I know there isn’t a formula calculating the perfect number of times one should visit home. There are so many factors. But I know this visit was perfect, and perfectly timed. I saw so many amazing people, made two trips to Powell’s (scored a gloriously retro used copy of this for $2), tried new (to me) restaurants and sang at the top of my lungs while driving up and down I-5 (though I discovered that in two years of basically never driving, I’ve lost my parallel parking prowess).

There’s something I love about landing at JFK and knowing I’m home. Not home in the “this is where I was born” sense, but in the “this is where I am supposed to be right now” sense. So here I am. Eating snacks from home and thinking about what home really is. I think the last few days have given me a pretty good idea.

Familiar Faces

Over the past few months, I’ve perfected the Readers’ Digest version of my life story to share with the new people I’ve met in New York. You know: “I’m Paige, I’m from Oregon, I was a journalism major, I work in the PR department at Sports Illustrated and since you asked, yes, Portlandia provides an accurate description of my hometown and yes, my school’s football team has a lot of uniforms.” I can’t even count how many times I’ve shared this surface-level information about my life since I moved in June.

The conversation has gone deeper with several people, and I’m beyond grateful for the new friendships I’m forming. But I’ve gained a new appreciation for the people who’ve known my story for years, and a few of those people made their way to New York over the past couple weeks. I was so excited to see familiar faces.

First visitor: Sarah. Sarah was my roommate in our sophomore year, but we go back even further: Fall term of our freshman year, we were in the same J201 class (the most introductory of the introductory journalism classes). She went the broadcast journalism route while I did PR, but we had a few other classes together along the way (including a hip-hop class just for kicks…we have skills).

Nostalgia photo: Sarah and me at the Oregon-Arizona State game in 2009:

Anyway, her older brother is in a graduate film program in the city, so she took a few days off from her job as an assignment editor at KATU (she’s a boss) to visit him, and I was lucky enough to crash their party for awhile. We spent Sunday walking the High Line, exploring the West Village and eating pizza, and I met up with Sarah and her sister (who’s also a boss and was in the city rehearsing for a touring show she’s in) for dinner after work on Monday. ‘Twas a blast.

Grace, Sam, Sarah and I on the High Line:

The next weekend brought two more old roommates to town, and these two actually got the pleasure of sleeping on my couch.

Kate and I were roommates for most of my freshman year (my first roommate transferred at Christmas break) and when I think back to the awkward Facebook chats we had after finding out we’d be roommates, I can’t help but crack up…”I’m so excited to be your roommate! How is your break!” etc. We’re way past that now, and I’m proud to call her one of my best friends from college. She got married in March and moved with her husband, TJ, to Boston in May. While I still haven’t made it up there to visit, I often find comfort in knowing that one of my closest friends is just a few hours away (when pretty much everything and everyone else familiar is on another coast).

Nostalgia photo: Our house formal, June 2009, when we were roommates:

Shannon and I were never technically roommates, but we’ve been housemates since my sophomore year – both in the giant co-op I lived in through junior year and the smaller house with six others we lived in as seniors. We had quite a few classes together since she was also a PR major, though I probably spent as much time raiding her closet as I did sitting in class with her – she needs a fashion blog. Anyway, Shannon went to stay with Kate for a week, and they came to New York for a long weekend (arriving really late on Thursday night and staying through Monday morning).

Oh, and Shannon nostalgia photo: Modeling the last Autzen-Stadium-student-section arm stamps we’d ever wear at the Pac-12 Championship game last year.

Bonus nostalgia photo because I miss college: Shannon and me at graduation, in front of said senior-year house:

It was Shannon’s first time in New York, and Kate hadn’t been since high school, so I loved sharing my favorite parts of the city with them. On Friday, we walked through Central Park, explored various neighborhoods and enjoyed the rooftop beer garden at Eataly:

Kate, our photographer, not pictured here.

I work from home Saturday afternoons and evenings, managing Sports Illustrated‘s Twitter feed, so after a morning pilgrimage to Citi Field (Shannon is a huge baseball fan, and her brother played in the Mets’ farm system for awhile), Kate and Shannon set out for a day of exploring on their own. On Sunday, we bought rush tickets to Chicago on Broadway – while Broadway shows are always breathtaking experiences, I was underwhelmed, but that’s probably because I adore the movie version and judged the play too harshly against it – ate brunch on the Upper West Side and did more exploring. We ended their visit by watching Wonder Years re-runs and eating takeout in my apartment Sunday night.

Kate and me waiting in line for Broadway tickets.

The three of us walking beside the Hudson on a gorgeous, sunny Friday.

These visits were refreshing. Going from a world of familiarity to a world of unknowns is exhilarating but stressful, so after nearly four months, returning to a bit of that familiarity was just what I needed. Thanks to Sarah, Kate and Shannon for venturing to NYC…and if you’re reading this in Oregon and need some time away, my couch has your name on it.

Breakfast and an iPad

Today marks the end of an era for the Landsem household: My parents ended our subscription to The Oregonian.

For as long as I can remember, The Oregonian has been part of my life. In middle and high school, I’d read the sports or living sections while eating breakfast (Fridays were reserved for the A&E). I loved reading the comics in color on Sundays, too. A self-proclaimed hoarder, I have copies stuffed in my closet commemorating the deaths of Michael Jackson and Ted Kennedy, and countless sports sections recounting the Oregon Ducks’ recent football success.

Our final Oregonian.

I’m a journalism major in the “print v. web/newspapers dying/internet paywall” age; that print papers are on the decline is not news to me. But for some reason, that discussion never really hit home until last night, when my parents announced that today’s paper would be our last home-delivered Oregonian.

While much of my parents’ decision to cancel their subscription is based on the availability of other options – my dad can read a print copy of The Wall Street Journal at work, they both have iPads and both read a lot online as it is – another factor was the poor delivery service. I haven’t been home to witness it, but my dad’s been frustrated for a few months since our delivery is often missed.

I’m sure the Oregonian has bigger worries, but when it’s so easy for consumers to get their news elsewhere, you’d think they’d bend over backwards to serve loyal customers (my parents have subscribed since they married in 1986; and really, since 1982, when my dad split a subscription with his roommates at OSU). After a few days of no paper, and no apparent effort on the part of the paper to remedy the situation, my parents decided it was time to cancel.

My parents are not customer service snobs; they’ve considered unsubscribing a few times in the past, but never had as many reasons to as they do now. One factor in their decision was as simple as clearing the clutter that accumulates with a daily paper. They still plan to buy the Sunday edition from Starbucks or 7-Eleven, to take advantage of the expanded feature sections and coupons.

I completely understand what they’re doing. Since I’m not home 90% of the time, it doesn’t even affect me. But metaphorically speaking, a stage of my life ended with the end of the Oregonian subscription. The Landsems are no longer one of the households keeping print media alive. My eight-year-old sister will never run outside, pajama-clad, and grab the paper to read over breakfast. To archive major world events, I won’t save a front page in my closet drawer; I’ll take a screenshot or clip to Evernote.

It is sad, but more for what it represents in journalism than for what it means to my family. I’m not losing any sleep over it – I’m waking up with breakfast and The New York Times on my iPad.

Pondering Life’s Big Questions. Or, My Last Night in NYC.

An email with this subject line just popped into my inbox: “Check in for your flight to Portland.”

That means my return flight from NYC to PDX is less than 24 hours away.

What?

When I booked the flight back in April, just leaving for New York in June seemed lightyears away. And now it’s August? What the heck?

Editor’s Note: I really don’t analyze my emotions as much as the next few paragraphs might suggest. Bear with me for one post that’s more on the “reflective” side.

But my final day in the city has arrived. And I’m not sure how to feel about it. Last year, I was legitimately homesick and ready to be back in Oregon. This year, it’s different; I’m excited because I’ll be reunited with family and friends (and Oregon football), but I’m also bummed because I’m worried that a lot of the growth I experienced this summer – personally and professionally – might be stunted once I’m back in my true comfort zone.

It’s not as though I can’t grow during the school year. I’ll be involved in a lot of different internships and activities that will undoubtedly challenge me, and I truly can’t wait for it all to begin. As much as I loved the city this summer, there were times I wished I was at home, where the pressure to be doing something all the time is lifted. But when you’re in New York for an extended period of time, you can’t imagine being anywhere else. What’s the point of living in another city when everything happens here?

Sure, that’s a slight exaggeration, but I’ve pondered the question. I think part of my nervousness stems from knowing that I only have one more year of school (and fun and wearing sweats all day and being home, if I do relocate after graduation) left before I’m tossed into the real world, and I’m scared that I won’t make the most of it.

But amidst all these larger-than-life questions, there’s real work to be done. When I get home, it’ll be time to roll up my sleeves and start preparing for the year at Allen Hall Public Relations, the student-run public relations agency at the University of Oregon, where I’ll be Firm Director. I’ve also started working with Baseball Prospectus as one of their social media interns, and my mom has informed me that I must deep-clean my room and my car before I head back to Eugene. It might not be New York, but all of the aforementioned tasks (except maybe cleaning the car) make for an exciting agenda upon my return.

Guess it’s time to print my boarding pass.

Side Dishes for your Thanksgiving Dinner

It’s basically Friday, which means it’s a slow day on the blog; most people have already checked out of their responsibilities and are on their way to some exotic locales to spend time with family.

However, there are a couple of fantastic items that came my way last night that I wanted to share with you all.  So, rather than a substantial blog post, please enjoy these two “side dishes.”

Side Dish #1: The Song

Last week, I wrote a post declaring my love for the “I Love My Ducks” video that a group of University of Oregon students created.  It was pulled from YouTube because they featured Puddles the Duck, our mascot; Puddles is licensed by Disney and some people over at the athletic department worried they’d get in trouble.  That situation aside, you can now download an mp3 of the song featured in the video.  If you have a long drive ahead of you this Thanksgiving, don’t listen to the radio.  Listen to these guys profess their love for the Ducks by rhyming “Legos” with “eggos” and saying that Jeremiah Masoli is “sicker than E-coli.”  Check it out here.

Side Dish #2: The Break-Up Letter

A friend from my journalism class sent me this from USC’s student paper, The Daily Trojan.  It’s the Pac-10’s break-up letter to USC.  “We’ve been inseparable for what seems like forever. Whenever somebody mentioned “Pac-10,” they couldn’t help but bring up ‘USC,'” the letter says.  “…After what happened with Oregon, well, I just don’t know where we stand.”  Great piece of writing, even if it did come from USC.

That’s it.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

I Love My Ducks: SPREAD THE WORD!

If you’re not familiar with the Oregon Ducks and their fans, you will be after watching this.

Earlier this week, a brilliant group of Oregon students created a video called “I Love My Ducks,” in which they proclaim their love for the Oregon Ducks football team. (Watch the video here; I’m working on embedding it into the post, but there seem to be some problems with Yahoo! Videos on WordPress blogs.)

“I smell roses,” they say, referring to the Ducks’ chances of making it to the Rose Bowl.

Things are not so rosy, however, when it comes to dealing with the Oregon Athletic Department.

The video features our school’s mascot, Puddles the Duck. Puddles is licensed by Disney, and while I’ll admit that I don’t know every detail of the copyright restrictions, the AD pulled the video from YouTube because they were afraid of a call from Disney. They were worried that Disney would be upset that this unassuming group of students would get them in trouble, simply for using the Duck in the video.

What better publicity for your school than to have three typical college guys creating original raps about their intense love of the team. They’re showing off the Oregon logo throughout the video, they’re in front of Autzen Stadium…basically everything about this video screams free publicity.

But all because of Puddles, this video is deemed unworthy by the Athletic Department. It’s too bad they’re keeping the video from attracting fans to their games, bringing traffic to their website and putting more money in their wallets.

Here’s how you can spread the word about this great video:

• Post the video on your Facebook page.
Tweet the link. (Even better, tell ESPN College GameDay to play the video on Saturday, when they feature the Oregon v. Arizona game.)
• Comment on blogs that posted about the video, like Deadspin, The UO Sports Dude, Communication Rhodes, and this blog.
• Become a fan of Supwitchugirl on Facebook; that’s the group that created the video.

Feel free to comment on this post if you love the Ducks and/or this video and if you know of another way to efficiently spread the word about it.