Dec 31, 2009

Happy New Year

I always make New Year’s resolutions. I am this kind of person. I love lists. They make me feel organized and hopeful. They give me something to worry about, complete, and then release, and therefore offer, ultimately, the opportunity for relaxation, which is something I’m not always so good at. But of all my New Year’s resolutions this year, the most important one, I think, is to break this habit. To try to relax in the midst of other things. To stop feeling like my life hasn’t really quite begun yet, just because I have no job, and no idea where I'm going to be in another year.

Life as I now know it

Due to a peculiar turn of events, I am now interning for a Weddings magazine and blogging about parenting. When I closed my eyes last night I saw scores of sparkling engagement rings floating around in a mind equivalent of Flash animation. I fear that this will end with me deciding to be childless and unwed forever. Either that or I will be the most knowledgeable unengaged non-parent in the history of time.

Has YOUR wife ever been kidnapped?

Dec 29, 2009

We are all 75% chicken

If the human genome is 98.5% identical to chimpanzees (and 75% identical to that of chickens, and 88% percent identical to that of rodents) is it fair to extrapolate that my experience of life is 99.9% identical to that of, say, a Nigerian cellphone shop owner, or a Brazilian prostitute, or a Cambodian businessman?

Dec 27, 2009

So about Avatar

1. I liked the 3-D glasses.
2. It's sort of (spoiler alert) a wish-fulfillment fantasy for all of us who would have liked things to have turned out differently with the Native Iraqians (a conglomerate people who share qualities/circumstances with both Native Americans and Iraqis).
3. But giving in to the fantasy made me feel a little guilty.
4. Michelle Rodriguez is really hot.
5. I thought it was cool that a blockbuster movie left me thinking about the environment.
6. But if that $500 million had actually been just used to try to improve things, wouldn't it have helped a little more?
7. I dunno. I guess that wasn't the point.
8. Seeing it in 3-D was pretty awesome.
9. I wish I could connect tails with Mirabelle and train a bird-horse to fly me around.
10. I did recycle the 3-D glasses.

Dec 26, 2009

Kids these days

Matt's niece, upon hearing that we found Mirabelle, our dog, online: So you just printed her out off the computer?!

Christmas ennui

It happens to the best of us.

Dec 23, 2009

The WTF Hotel

Almost all the way between Massachusetts and Virginia, everything looked like this:Except for the time we stopped at a giant strip mall to get a coffee, where we saw this sticker, for the Waterfront Hotel, in Fells Point, Baltimore. Really! No joke.

Zeitoun

In preparation for the 12-hour drive we made to Virginia yesterday, Matt and I got a few audio books from the library. One of them was Zeitoun, by Dave Eggers, about a Syrian-American's fairly horrifying experiences in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. That was the one we decided to listen to.

I wasn't sure if it was fiction or nonfiction, but somewhere around the point when the book started involving detailed descriptions of the main character's dreams, I decided it must be fiction. Besides, the way it braids together a commentary about America's response to the September 11th attacks with its response to Hurricane Katrina seemed a little too neat for nonfiction.

I was comforted by this as Matt and I got further and further south and the story got increasingly terrifying. But I just looked it up, and discovered the book is nonfiction. I'm not feeling so good about being an American right now. In fact, I'm feeling a bit terrible about it. But I would definitely recommend the book.

Dec 22, 2009

3-D glasses

AVATAR! (More on this later.)

Circa 1996

My first car was a Mazda from the 1980s, a blue two-door hatchback that my dad passed down to me when he upgraded, which I named Violet. By most measurements she was definitely a bad car. She slid in the snow, she was tiny, and she didn't even have a tape deck, only a radio, so I kept this radio-operated, tan, plastic tape player on the dash. But I've never since then felt as warmly about another car as I did about Violet. Sometimes, I'd be heading to school, driving across the George Washington Bridge, zooming around trucks, smoking a cigarette—many, many cigarettes were smoked in that car—flipping my Mazzy Star tape to the other side, or whatever, and even though it was a pretty dark time in my life, I'd feel, a little bit, like I was flying. Like as long as I had Violet, I could get anywhere and do anything. I guess this is actually how a lot of people feel about their first cars, but I didn't realize this at the time.

Violet had manual transmission, and I taught a few friends how to drive stick shift in her, most memorably my friend Nancy. We went to the parking lot behind my dad's work and jolted forward in little bounds, again and again, until she got it.

A few weeks later the clutch had to be replaced, but I never told my parents why. And then a few months later my mom upgraded cars, I got her old station wagon, and Violet went to some grad student of my dad's, who drove her for the next ten years or something, which always sort of pissed me off, because all that time she could have still been my car, even though my mom's car had four doors, and 4-wheel drive, and a tape deck actually built in to the radio. But the reason I was thinking about all this is that this jolting and then stalling, this moving in fits and then stops, this is exactly how my life feels right now.

Dec 21, 2009

Would you eat this? I would not eat this.

The bright yellow chick Peeps sold around Easter have never disgusted me with their fakeness, so why do Sugar Cookie Peeps strike me as so amazingly repulsive?

Dec 20, 2009

The Christmas branch

Unfairness

I don't remember ever having such strong feelings about the weather as when I woke up this morning, looked outside, and saw that it hadn't snowed.

Dec 19, 2009

My strangeness as a child knew no bounds

Between the ages of five and eight, I went through a religious period. This was a total anomaly in my life. I didn't know anyone who was religious, except for my distant cousins, who were Mormon, and who I only saw once every few years. I'm really not sure how Christ found me, but he did.

My version of Christianity, however, was completely my own, and mostly consisted of rules and assumptions firmly based in a child's superstitious view of the world. For example, red was the color of the devil, so must never be touched (the tree with the red berries outside my parents' deck was a constant threat). Also, I said my prayers every night, and if I didn't, I believed something terrible would happen. And saying them lying down was not enough; in order to avoid the terrible thing, I had to say them kneeling by my bed, my hands appropriately pressed together.

I remember yearning, desperately, to be Joan of Arc or St. Francis of Assisi, and devouring loads of books about them from the children's section of the library. I also remember the awesome shoebox diorama I made of St. Francis surrounded by a bunch of animals. My best friend, the one with the goat, was in on all this too, and when we got together we would practice writing out various hymns from this little book she had, and then when I went home she would give me "homework," which involved writing out more hymns, and which I had to do, obviously, since she was older. In fact, now that I'm thinking about it, it's quite possible that my friend was the original source of this whole phase, but either way once the ideas were in my head, I ran with them.

I'm don't remember how all this ended. I guess it probably faded away the way most childhood phases do. But this habit of thinking—that if I do this, then that will happen, or if I don't do this, then that will happen—never has. I now understand it as simply being a way to manage my fears.

Dec 18, 2009

My mother the bird whisperer

My mom is a science teacher, and this bird walked into her classroom yesterday. Really! It's an African blue crane, and it turned out an estate near her school had them on the property (her school is fancy, or at least in a fancy neighborhood). While the caretaker was grooming the bird, it got loose and wandered over to MY MOM'S CLASSROOM. I love that it knew to go to the exact person who is able to recognize numerous bird calls (my mom, the birdwatcher), and who knew to give it sunflower seeds. I also love how this affirms every cliche I've ever heard about "estates."

Dec 17, 2009

Speaking of strange

I also really like this American Psycho/Talking Heads cover by Miles Fisher, for many reasons, not least of which is the humongous cellular phone.
And then there is this video from Bob Dylan's new Christmas album, which I can't decide about. It does look like a pretty good party. I mean, Dylan is there, wearing what appears to be some crazy wig, people are drinking and dancing and one guy is even doing that crouching knee-kicking Russian Cossack dance. There's a fight! And someone swings on a chandelier! But what on earth is going on? What's with the sailor costume? Or Dylan popping up creepily from behind the bar with two bottles of liquor? As for the song itself, I don't generally like Christmas music, so when I say I like this a little better than, say, the version of Jingle Bells you hear at the lot where you buy your Christmas tree, know that isn't saying much. Also, just so you're forewarned, every time I watch it, the chorus stays in my head for two days straight.

Nouveau psychedelia

This video brings things to a whole new level of strange. But I'm sort of fascinated. It's good. I think?


Dec 15, 2009

Death wish

There is this squirrel that spends a lot of time in the tree by my front door. The tree has these little red berries that the squirrel seems to really like, and, probably as a result of eating them so incessantly, the squirrel has become very large. Sort of obese for a squirrel, in fact. These days, when he goes out on the thinner branches they dip in this precarious way.

This is not the squirrel's problem, though. I'm sure his fatness greatly improves his chances of surviving the winter. His problem is that whenever I let Mirabelle outside, even though the squirrel is always safely ensconced in the tree's branches when this happens, he feels the need to jump ten feet down from the tree and make this made dash across the yard to another tree. He does this EVERY TIME. And Mirabelle responds, EVERY TIME, by making a mad dash after him.

Clearly there is something wrong with this squirrel. It is either that, or he once came across a terrifying tree-scaling beast that looked exactly like Mirabelle. What is more likely is that we are dealing with the stupidest squirrel in the history of squirrels, in which case natural selection will probably feel the need to have some sort of intervention. This will, in all likelihood, take the form of Mirabelle. In the meantime, the situation remains a matter of abiding fascination.

(That is not a picture of the actual squirrel, by the way, but the actual squirrel really is that fat.)

Dec 13, 2009

The snow day I wish I had

Today my car skidded in the snow a few times and the final time I went sliding across the street (albeit fairly slowly) I realized it felt pretty good. It was not the potential of crashing that I enjoyed, especially because each time it happened there were few cars in sight, but simply the act of moving without exerting any effort. My satisfaction with this can only be explained by the fact that I have been almost paralyzingly busy these last few weeks. By the way, does the picture above make it look like that pole is actually going through my head? Because that's sort of how being almost paralyzingly busy makes me feel.

Dec 12, 2009

The year of the goat

I grew up in Rockland County, a suburb of New York, with my mom, my dad, and a cat. My dad had a good job that he liked, we lived in a perfectly nice little suburban house, and my mom didn't work until I was about 12. There was something of a 1950s sheen to things.

My best friend, Shannon, lived about a mile away, and her family situation was less generic. Her mom was a potter with a studio behind the house, they had a wood stove for heat, and they kept chickens in a coop in the backyard.

Shannon, who already knew she wanted to be a vet, was always acquiring new animals. There was a flying squirrel with a broken something one year, a cockatiel another. And then there was the goat. At first it lived in a big pen that had been built specially in the backyard. But it turned out to be a very needy goat who would make terrible goat noises whenever Shannon was away from it. Once the neighbors complained, the goat started spending a great deal of time inside the house.

Eventually the neighbors threatened to call some authority or another and Shannon's mom decided that they would have to get rid of the goat, but that meanwhile the goat could never be left alone. That week Shannon and I were supposed to have a play date at my house, but the only way this could happen was if the goat came along. So that afternoon, my mom, with me in the front seat, picked up Shannon, stuffed the goat in the back of her station wagon, and drove all of us the mile between our houses.

While Shannon and I played, the goat hung out on the back porch, making its piteous goat noises. The kitchen window looked out onto the porch, and at one point I remember the goat craning its head in the open window, like some sort of weird apparition in the well-groomed little neighborhood I lived in, looking stubborn, pathetic and presumptuous all at once. I liked that my mom would stuff the goat into the back of her station wagon, and I liked how having the goat at my house broke up the 1950s sheen of things, which already felt a bit oppressive and would become so much more so later on, but I never liked that goat. I think it is probably the reason I have never liked goats since.

Dec 11, 2009

New computer

This is from when Matt had just gotten his new computer, and made me Skype with him from across the kitchen.

Dec 10, 2009

Being at sea

I would love it if my brain could produce a paper printout of my thoughts. Most of it would be hogwash, of course, but the fact is I do my best writing when I'm walking, and it's hard to walk and write at the same time. Hence my ideal writing situation: on the deck of a moving boat.

Dec 9, 2009

Win win

Today I woke up to a polaroid camera with a little bit of film left in it, all of which made the world look purple, and a snowstorm. I think it's the first time Mirabelle has ever seen this much snow.

Lose lose

The fact that it is so much easier for me to quit drinking whenever Matt isn't drinking makes me feel like some sort of girlfriend-bot. On the other hand, drinking in the company of non-drinkers, even more so than drinking alone, makes me feel like a lush.

Dec 8, 2009

You've Got Mail

After reading MeaghanO's charming post about You've Got Mail on filmosophy, I re-watched the movie last night. I've been doing this more, lately, the whole watch-the-same-movie-many-years-later thing, and I think I'm officially into it. Considering a static object (the movie) from two distinct viewpoints (in my case, as a 17-year-old, and as a 30-year-old) gives you such specific insight into how, exactly, your perspective has changed.

For example, when I first watched this movie I considered the main characters Adults and people whose lives, therefore, had nothing to do with mine. Whereas this time around I saw them as my peers and was jealous of their beautiful apartments, their apparent prosperity, and their seemingly endless career opportunities.

The biggest difference, though, was that while to 17-year-old me the romantic logic seemed perfectly sound, this time it rang false—the idea that once you find the person for you, everything, eventually, slides into place, and you don't even fight about what movie to watch on Saturday night, because no one fights about that (if you don't get the reference you'll have to watch the movie).

This kind of thing has become more irritating to me lately, probably because in the last few years I've lost much of my romantic idealism. These days I still think that when you find that person you're meant to be with you fall in love and it is magical, and that maybe life even pauses there for a moment, but eventually it continues with all its regular ups and downs, and in this next phase sometimes it brings you together and sometimes it pulls you apart. And this doesn't make the relationship not worth having. It just makes it real, and the point becomes finding the richness in this. It makes me think of the quote I recently read at my cousin's wedding, from Anne Morrow Lindbergh's A Gift of the Sea:

When you love someone, you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is an impossibility. It is even a lie to pretend to. And yet this is exactly what most of us demand. . . We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity - in freedom, in the sense that the dancers are free, barely touching as they pass, but partners in the same pattern.

But movies, and most of our cultural outlets, for that matter, so rarely reference this. I wish they did. Because the distance between the reality of love and the dream of it causes so much of the misery in the first place. Also, as someone more interested in the reality of things, it would simply be nice to have more cultural cliches to turn to for advice.

Dec 7, 2009

Expect the unexpected

Speaking of the Pen 15 club, there is now a pen 15 blog, and this is where I discovered the amazing Attack Attack - Stick Stickly video. I mean, these guys are committed. And if you start out thinking the video is maybe not quite enough on its own, just wait until 2:45, when things take a very unexpected turn.

Lou Dobbs Last Night

In my dream last night Lou Dobbs told me he thought I was pretty. Not sure what to make of this.

Dec 6, 2009

The stuff of lyrical genius

Do you remember back when the fact that dog was god spelled backward was creative fodder? Ditto the fact that homeless people asked for "change"? This featured prominently in a number of my poems back around 1993. But maybe it was just me.

Dec 5, 2009

On marriage

Irritating (at least to the non-engaged): The trailer for Leap Year
Synopsis: If you're 30 and in a 4+year relationship and you're not engaged, you're probably pathetic. However, if you're lucky you'll run into a handsome Welshman. Because you're an idiot, you won't realize until the last minute that obviously your 4+year relationship sucks. Once you do, you and the Welshman will live happily ever after.

Thought-provoking: This New York Times article about marriage.
Synopsis: Actually, you and the Welshman might not live happily ever after because it turns out our collective ideas about marriage ≠ actual marriage. Instead of a blissful partnership, ten years in, you and the Welshman will probably decide (if you're not already divorced) that marriage requires compromise, work, and acceptance, along with (according to the writer of the article, at least) a strong dose of denial. If you're lucky, you'll still basically like each other. Also, don't bother trying to work on things, because marriage is sort of like a seesaw, and making one thing better only makes another thing worse (the better the sex, the worse the bickering, the better the communication, the worse the jealousy, and so on).
Bonus: Some sexy sex tips from seventh century physician Li T'ung-hsuan Tzu.

Inspiring: This speech about gay marriage to the New York Senate.
Synopsis: By the way, if the Welshman was actually a Welshlady, you guys wouldn't even have the privilege of figuring out what marriage is like. At least not in New York. And ensuring this as a legal right should not be a religious issue, because churches can continue to marry (and not marry) whomever they choose. It is simply a matter of discrimination. Also, this lady rocks.

The paranormal (mostly)

Things I believe in, at least a little bit, for no good reason:
ghosts
aliens
psychic abilities
past lives
angels
astrology

There are some things along these lines I do not believe in, though, for equally no reason. Such as vampires, Ouija boards, and soul mates. About witchcraft I remain undecided.

New word

Commucism
com·mu·cism
n.

A system of belief in which a person's racist fears and/or discomfort with the unfamiliar are sublimated into the highly more socially acceptable fear of Communism.

This country is currently being swept by a wave of commucism.

Dec 3, 2009

Demian & Sinclair, Nyack, NY, 1998

After high school I took a year "off." Although I think that expression is pretty silly. I mean, "off" from what? Anyway, for a few months during the winter of that year I lived with my mom and worked at a cafe in the kind of quaint little suburban town that city bikers flock to in droves on the weekends. I had immensely bad judgment at the time, by the way, even for an 18-year-old. I was drinking about 10 shots of espresso a day, rarely sleeping, and dating this kid who wore some of the biggest raver pants in the history of ravers. One time he gave me a ring of hickies on my neck so terrible it looked like I'd been attacked by a flock of vampires. In the back of my car, too, where we occasionally slept the entire night. I did things like this back then. I had to wear a scarf for days. I didn't even really like him, but he was persistent and my level of self-care was at a life low.

The word among the kids in town was that the place I worked was a mafia joint, and it did fit the profile. It rarely made any money, for one thing, yet remained open. Also, the owners were large, silent Italian men who spent almost all their time in a locked office in the basement, except for when they would emerge to throw a huge trash bag filled with God knows what into the dumpster in the back. And then they brought their "cousin" over from Sicily to manage the place. His name was Giovanni, I think, and he was a slight, pale, bossy man to whom I took an immediate dislike.

I spent most of my shifts perfecting my tri-colored espresso drink skills, consuming these drinks, doodling on my order pad (one particularly elaborate one read, "Smile: You know one day they will be sorry," which says a little about my frame of mind), writing alternately gloomy or hilarious notes to my two best friends (depending on where I was in my caffeine/cigarette cycle), or giving eyes to the guy who worked at the gas station across the street. In retrospect he was extremely creepy, but I had a crush on him, and occasionally he would drive me around and get me stoned. He was older. You understand. Apparently I also spent a good deal of time staring morosely into space, because there was this one couple who came in sometimes and always told me I looked just like the girl in that Manet painting, "A Bar at the Folies-Bergere."

Sometimes, if I got really bored, I would also wipe off the counter, and this is what I was doing one particularly slow day when Giovanni or whatever his name was came over to me. "This is good, you are cleaning," he told me. His English was a bit rough. "This is all women good for." And suddenly, without knowing what I was doing, I took my nasty dishrag and flicked it in his face.

The lack of thought that preceded this action was overwhelmed by the great rush of thinking that followed it. Was he going to hit me? Fire me on the spot? Send a hit man to my mother's house? But he did none of these things. Instead, he turned even paler than he already was and then walked stiffly to the bathroom. He was in there for a long time, and when he came out, he never spoke of it, at least not to me.

So many bullets, so little time

This is from the first time I ever went to a shooting range. My friend TaraShea took me when I was visiting her in Seattle. Osama was sold out (not that we necessarily would have got him anyway):But we killed that blue man good.

Dec 2, 2009

The spiritual bath

My friend was in a library in St. Louis when he was accosted by a self-professed psychic (wearing socks under flip-flops, which is already the worst). First, she told him he had never really loved anyone, and then she said he needed to forgive his father, who had in fact recently passed away. And then, of course, she said what he really needed to do was to break down his emotional walls by going to bed with her.

Somewhere in the middle of this they went outside, because my friend wanted to smoke a cigarette, and as he leaned against the wall of the library the lady started rubbing her hand against his stomach. This left him somewhat trapped, at least as he described it, between the wall and the woman. Meanwhile, cops kept walking by and not noticing the looks my friend was giving them, even though he is the kind of guy who generally gets cops' attention (black, tall, leather jacket with a skull on the back, dreadlocks). I think the whole thing sort of threw him, and he's also the kind of guy who doesn't often get thrown. "I mean, I know I could use a fucking spiritual bath," he told me later. "But how do you do that anyway?" I wish I knew.

Dec 1, 2009

Also, re: dogs

My mom took care of Mirabelle for the holidays. For the dog she got these:
And for the cat she got this:
Success!

Re: Dogs taking after their owners

After a walk, my dog always bounds into the house with the same misdirected enthusiasm I bring to checking my email. What is she expecting? What email am I hoping to receive?

Unfathomable experiences

Things my 13-year-old self could not fathom experiencing, and that I therefore assumed I would never experience at all:
falling in love
having sex
caring about my weight

I have experienced all these things, though, which gives me hope about some of the experiences I currently find unfathomable:
getting a job
having children
getting married