I Need You – Yes, You

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It seems I’ve become a master of absentee blogging – and by that, I just mean that I’m really good at neglecting things. Sorry. I was busy, and now I’m lazy and self-conscious. But disregard that, because it isn’t why I’m writing this post.
I’m writing this post because of school. I’m currently in a class where I have to create my own journalistic startup company (for any of you in Grady, it’s called Entreprenurial Journalism with Greenman, and I give it as many thumbs up emojis as my phone could fit into a text message or tweet or something), and I’ve got a good idea. A good one. And I’m currently in the phase of my product where I’m developing my audience (and I don’t think linearly, so I’m also thinking about potential advertisers and establishments I would feature on my site) and seeing if anybody would actually use my site.

My idea is something I like to call Townie Travels.

  • Townie Travels is going to be an Athens travel site that is specific in that it will cover all of the neighborhoods here (unless I decide to skimp out on Watkinsville and Bogart, I need input on that).
  • Why should you care or show any interest? Because Athens isn’t just UGA or downtown – it’s a whole city. There are over 116,000 people here, and a lot of those people aren’t students. There are things happening besides shows or little craft fairs downtown (not that those aren’t great and won’t be covered). However, if those things aren’t going on in your neighborhood, you probably don’t know about them. Look at Flagpole – they post tons of event previews every week, but you’re primarily reading about things going on downtown.
  • This is where Townie Travels would come in. Athens is more than one neighborhood, and people should be able to experience that.

I should also go ahead and present the demographics of my audience (I even have a nice, crude diagram):

  • Townie Travels would primarily aim towards people who live here and aren’t enrolled in university. This crowd would be in the 30s-40s age bracket and would most likely have families and pets. These people also likely have jobs. What else are these people like? Well, maybe they’re stressed. Maybe they want to have a nice weekend, but can’t afford or mentally handle the drive to Atlanta or the mountains. They don’t want to travel far – they also want their kids to have a good time (and according to my research thus far, there are a lot of parents here who aren’t aware of activities or programs that kids could participate in), and maybe they want to bring their dog along, because that dog is crying and these people have hearts (Did you know there are bars here that allow dogs? Well, now you do.)
  • The secondary aim is going to be most of the Athenians who see this post: transient Athenians. They’re in college, they just graduated and want to stay here, or they just moved here. They want to explore their new city, and wouldn’t it be great for them to know that there’s more to Athens than college culture (which is great, but, you know, there’s more!). Or, perhaps in their short or nascent time here, they need to entertain members of my third group:
  • Visitors – parents, sisters, cousins, brothers, friends, colleagues, pen pals, grandparents, high school classmates, in-laws – are my final target audience. How does this apply to you? Well, you’ll probably have a visitor during your time here. What if your grandparents are visiting and you want to take them to lunch? Townie Travels could recommend a restaurant that’s not too far away for you. Less distance, less hassle.
  • Below is my lovely diagram:

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Or maybe you’re wondering about how I’d make money. Well, I’ve thought about that too. I’d aim for advertisements for local businesses (oh yeah – Athens is also unique in that its passion for local business is really strong, and you can bet I’ll feature them on my site), and have a donate button somewhere for anyone who’s feeling generous. But I also have some other ideas, like raffles and wristbands. Users could pay a dollar for a drawing for something like a ticket to a local concert or gift card to a local shop. Or they could buy a wristband for a little restaurant tour or bar crawl itinerary I’d set up, and customers with a wristband would get a discount.

As you can see, I’ve thought about this startup a lot. So, why on earth would project this be problematic?
My mind is exploding with ideas all the time. My thoughts aren’t really linear or fluid unless I’ve had a lot of iced coffee. Seriously, right now I’m working on three different paragraphs at the same time. So I miss things, or lots of my ideas don’t fully develop.
This is where I need you.
I need you to tell me what you think. Yeah, it would be awesome if you like my idea, but if something is bothering you, I want to know about it. Criticize me! Tell me my thought process is scribbly! Tell me how I could improve! Give me suggestions! This startup isn’t about me, it’s about Athens, and there’s a chance it’s about you.

Coffee and Me: An Evolution in Tolerance

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One day when I was seven, I went to eat lunch at Carrabba’s with my dad – my parents had been divorced for a little while, so I was used to eating out with my dad by this point. I’m not sure why my little sister wasn’t with us, though.
We had just finished eating. I know exactly what I had, because I got the same meal every time I went to Carrabba’s until I turned eight or nine: chicken fingers with a side of penne. The penne was buttery and salty, and I doused my chicken fingers in ketchup: it was a really good course for a 7-year-old.
I remember being tired. I was never keen on sleeping when I was little, so this bothered me. I think I must have been tired for an extended period of time, because I was actually worried about it.
My dad recommended that I order a coffee. I’m not really sure why a 37-year-old man would recommend that his 7-year-old daughter order a coffee. He must have known that I wasn’t going to drink the whole thing. I ordered a cappuccino, because “cappuccino” was a big, grown-up coffee word and I wanted the waiter to think I was intelligent and mature.
I don’t exactly remember what happened after my cappuccino was set on the table. I only know two things. The first thing I knew was that I did not like the way coffee tasted; the second was that my light-up pikachu keychain that my mom bought me somehow fell in the cappuccino, and after that incident, it never lit up again. The pikachu incident probably had a bigger influence on my dislike of coffee than the actual taste. Remember, I was seven. I pledged to hate coffee from that day on – before I tried the cappuccino, I’m sure I said I didn’t like coffee, but it didn’t really count because I had never tried it. But that cappuccino was associated with a sense of disgust and loss I never wanted to bring upon myself again.

Although I disliked the taste of coffee and didn’t really want to set any of my belongings near a cup of it again following the Cappuccino Incident, I could not deny that I loved the way it smelled. I remember getting hungry 30 minutes before lunch in 3rd grade and getting as close as I could to my teacher’s coffee cup – for some reason, the smell satiated my hunger a little. I also remember discovering the saltshaker full of coffee beans that lived at every perfume counter. I would smell as many samples as I could, and then take solace in the scent of the coffee beans. I still do it, too. I will make myself look like an idiot just so I can smell coffee beans: I’ll stick my nose into the dispensers at grocery stores and linger around any full coffee cups in my home.

When I was in high school, I realized that people thought drinking coffee was cool – I’m sure this belief was associated with Starbucks’ huge boom in popularity at the time. 2007, right? I was in high school then.
Whenever I think of Starbucks now, I think of dishwater, but back then, I only thought of Frappucinnos and those tacky ice-cream-like coffee drinks with whipped cream on top. Preppy, 13-year-old girl drinks and sugar bombs (and fat bombs too, since they were all doused in whipped cream).
I didn’t want to jump on the Starbucks bandwagon because I didn’t want to drink such unhealthy beverages (the whipped cream on top has 12 grams of fat, and that’s just the whipped cream – let’s not forget the rest of the drink) and I thought Frappuccinos were really tacky. Plus I still had a grudge over the pikachu. I think that’s a respectable opinion.
One night when I was 15, I was hanging out with a group of friends who wanted to go to Starbucks (a new one had just opened down the street). I didn’t want my friends to know I was a pompous, coffee-hating asshole, and I definitely didn’t want to be left alone at the house or anything, so I went with them. One of my friends ordered a chai latte.
Being half-Iranian, I have drunk a lot of tea in my lifetime. I could drink it hot. I could drink it without sugar. My grandmother didn’t filter all the leaves out of the tea my relatives and I drank. I could handle hardcore tea.
When I heard my friend say his drink was a chai latte, I became intrigued because chai is what my family called the tea we drank after dinners at my grandparents’ house. It’s pronounced differently, though. It’s cha-yee, not chye.
I figured I could toughen up a little and drink something that had such a familiar name.
I ordered one. I liked it. I got super hyper off it. I guess it was a sugar rush.

Gradually, I warmed up to coffee, starting with the girly drinks I hated thinking about drinking. For some reason, my mother is hooked on mocha Frappuccinos. Oh, I know the reason, because it’s the same reason I started tolerating other forms of coffee: chocolate.
Not surprisingly, college was what brewed my tolerance – and need – for coffee (like my bad pun there?). I found myself having a hard time concentrating while studying for midterms or finishing a paper unless I was jacked up on caffeine and sugar. I took classes that met at 9:00 or 8:00 in the morning. I had to drink coffee so I wouldn’t fall asleep while my Milton professor read passages from Paradise Lost and didn’t allow anybody in the class to start a discussion.
The stigma I developed that day in Carraba’s has evolved into a dependency. I drink the stuff regularly – I drink it several days of the week. Thankfully, I don’t have to have chocolate or intense amounts of sugar in my coffee to be able to stand it anymore. I can even drink it plain, although I don’t really enjoy doing that.
I’ve learned my limits with caffeine. I know what I need to drink to perk up a little (a latte) or get completely jacked up so I can have plenty of energy to get through my assignments or a particularly busy day (a mocha, because the chocolate will make me hyper, or plain old black coffee). Plus there’s actually really good coffee here in Athens, so I enjoy walking over to Athens’ corporate coffee stand (Jittery Joe’s, represent) or a cafe down the street.
Drinking coffee makes me feel more like an adult, and hey, it obviously keeps me alert too. It might have taken around 12 years, but I finally got what I wanted that day in Carrabba’s when I was seven.

Norman

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There comes a time every semester here when some students will walk around campus holding specific plants, and whenever that time has come in the past, I have been extremely jealous. “Why does she have a plant? I have to figure out which class this is,” I’d think to myself.
The first time I encountered Plant Day was during my very first semester of college. I heard somebody say that a certain introductory English class here had an assignment where students would have to take a plant home, watch it grow, and write about it. I thought that was an awesome assignment, and then I got bummed because I would never be able to write about a plant growing for a grade (I AP’d out of English 1101 and 1102, so there was no way I’d ever be in one of those plant classes.)
I tried to think of other ways to get a plant. I took a plant biology class the next semester, but I never got a free plant. It didn’t occur to me that I could just do the assignment I heard about on my own for months.

It happened to me in September. It was Plant Day again, and I finally decided to go up to somebody and ask what class the plant he was carrying around was for. He said ecology. I had already taken both science classes I needed for my degree, and I was not exactly keen on taking one as an elective, especially since I’m double-majoring, so yeah, I kind of can’t waste my credits. I decided then and there to get my own plant.

A few days later, I walked out of the local Wal-Mart with my plant, which I had placed into a pot that was a little wider than the plastic one he came in (the pot is more for decoration.)  I named it Norman. I would have bought a pack of seeds, but autumn was approaching and I didn’t want to kill anything. Plus this is one adorable plant. I sat him outside in the warm air, and marveled at the realm of botanical responsibility I had entered.

Me and Norm in his winter clothes during Christmas break

Norman’s growth was pretty, well, nonexistent for a few months. I didn’t think he would get any bigger at all, actually. After the semester ended, I brought Norman home to Macon with me for Christmas break. It worked out really well because Norman fits in my car’s cup holder perfectly. We drove towards home and the holidays excitedly.
I figured he’d die of loneliness at my dad’s house, so I took him to my mom’s. She was really excited to meet him – she was one of the first people I told about him, actually. My mother took excellent care of Norman. It was during one of my last days on break that she pointed out how well he was doing at her house – Norman had grown an extra leaf. My mom wanted to keep Norman, because he was obviously happier in Macon with her than he was in Athens with me. But no, I was selfish. I brought him back to Athens, where he resumed his old life: stable, yet complacent.
Little did I know that my decision to bring Norman back to school with me would almost kill him.

Two months later, spring break arrived. I decided to leave Norman in Athens for the duration of my absence. He really doesn’t require that much water, and I assumed my roommate would water him if he got too dry.
He didn’t.
When I returned to Athens, Norman’s soil was dry and flaky. It even looked like some had disappeared – I have no logical explanation on how that happened. My other ideas don’t make that much sense.
The first thing I did when I saw Norman in such a frail condition was stick him under the faucet. There wasn’t enough dirt in his pot to support his drooping stalks, so I went outside and put some soil from a dead plant’s pot and put it in his. Norman needed support: his stalks were hanging over, and some of his leaves fell off when i touched them. That terrified me.

For days I paid a ridiculous amount of attention to my plant. I gave him too much water at first – so much that the top layer of his soil looked like it was covered in either mold or rhizomes, I’m still not sure. Then I decided to make sure he got as much sunlight as he could so the excess water would get dried up. That worked a little.
Then I decided that maybe by having a companion, Norman could return to his health. I bought a pink hydrangea and named it Happy, and sat her next to Norman on the table on my porch. Happy was different from Norman – she required lots of water and actually produces flowers. Despite their differences, Norman and Happy have a beautiful friendship. They always sit next to one another and I water them at the same time. I think Happy’s presence actually improved Norman’s health, because he has started growing again. Now my baby Norman has six new leaves and a wonderful pink friend. And best of all, I didn’t kill my plant.