Jan 31, 2010

A welcome change

I am currently in the midst of a spate of self-esteem boosting dreams. In the first one I had, someone I was working for decided she liked me so much that I knew for certain she would most definitely hire me on permanently. In another, I was in a writing club where we all read our pieces aloud. After I finished reading mine the ladies were all very appreciative (they were all ladies). "You see," one said, speaking to the group, "just because something has been rejected a dozen times doesn't mean it's bad."

Jan 30, 2010

The egomania of my fears

I have a secret fear that an email I'm nervous about writing, the kind of thing that sits on my to do list for days even though it should only take five minutes, would not be received in the manner of most emails, that is, quickly skimmed over, but would be pored over with the same level of attention that I pored over it. And then (I assume this must the natural endpoint of this fear), would one day be printed out and presented to me (or, even worse, to strangers) as physical evidence of my awkwardness, lack of grace, and/or insensitivity.

The egomania of my hurts

That I am capable of taking even a brisk wind as a personal affront, at least when I'm walking into it, says a little about all the things I must take personally that really have nothing to do with me at all.

Jan 29, 2010

Memory erases and rearranges at will

It was in the summer, at least I think it was the summer, ten years ago, and my friend Nancy and I had decided to go to Cuba. We flew in via the Bahamas, and I remember the way the plane was so old that the air conditioning created intermittent brief misty rainstorms, and that the exit signs were in Russian. I also remember the ease with which I passed through Cuban customs, and the strange feeling it gave me to do something I knew to be illegal in my own country and find it completely legal somewhere else, almost like walking through a wall.

Then I pull a complete blank until the moment Nancy and I arrived at the guesthouse where we had arranged to sleep that night. I have no idea how we got there, or what anything looked like on the way. Which is strange because Cuba is the kind of place that leaves a strong impression, at least on Americans, at least it did on me. But that night, I just remember arriving at this crumbly house in a crowded part of Havana, and the metal gate we opened to get into the front yard, and the house being very dark inside.

Once we got into our room, and I have no idea how we knew which was to be our room, I remember being very tired, but also really, really needing to pee. Which was a problem, because I didn't know where the bathroom was, and it was late, and I didn't want to go around knocking on strangers' doors on the off chance that I would happen upon it. So after deliberating for a long while about what to do, I finally crept downstairs, out the door and into the well-kept front yard, and with a distinct mix of anxiety and relief, I peed in the bushes.

This image appeared abruptly in my mind a few days ago, with no apparent prompting. It is interesting to me mostly for the strange way so much around it is blank, the way it sits suspended between so many unremembered moments. I have a terrible memory, riddled with gaps, so having something from the past emerge unbidden like that, even something mundane and sort of odd, still feels to me like a small sort of victory.

Jan 28, 2010

Freudian misread

While skimming through wedding venue descriptions today (for work), I came across the following blurb for an event space:

"Impeccable attention to detail, the finest cuisine and classic service sets the stage for the most sought after of social experiments."

I nodded sagely to myself, because, yes! I do think of weddings as a sort of social experiment. But then I realized, with disappointment, that the blurb actually reads, ". . . sets the stage for the most sought after social experiences."

The photo above, by the way, comes from this website, which is entertaining but also sometimes frightening. I am particularly partial to the miniature bride series.

Jan 27, 2010

This urge is hard to resist

An unexpected result of having a southern boyfriend with a very lovely family is that now, whenever I reach someone on the phone who has a southern accent, no matter what the context, I have a sudden urge to start chatting.

Jan 26, 2010

People don't kill cars, cars kill cars

Of all the many differences I've noticed between Northampton and New York City, the most striking one concerns the relationship between pedestrians and automobiles. In Northampton, you see, if a pedestrian so much as sticks half a foot onto a crosswalk, cars in all directions must immediately come to an abrupt halt and stay halted until that person has completely crossed the street. And until the pedestrian right behind that person has fully crossed. Oh, and that other group that just ran into some friends in the middle of the street and are going to pause right there and have a little conversation. All this time, all cars in all directions must be at complete stops, and if they are not they are liable to get a humongous ticket.

Whereas in New York, of course, cars drive around like hunted rats, and no one ever expects a vehicle to do anything but strange and erratic things all the time. So pedestrians tend to look both ways and listen for speeding cabs screeching around corners before deciding to jaywalk.

The New York way, in my opinion, is in keeping with the natural order of the universe. Because cars can actually kill people! And while cars can kill other cars, a car can run a person right over and just keep going. People do this all the time! (I am not condoning this, just stating facts). My point is that we are supposed to be terrified of cars, and you are best off remaining this way even if you ascribe to the Northampton logic that pedestrians' rights should trump those of car drivers', particularly because cars use this thing called oil which has screwed up the world in a million zillion ways (I assume this is the logic, although I'm not entirely sure).

Speaking of which, one time Matt saw this crazy lady on the street in Northampton taking cans out of the recycling bin, one by one, and chucking them into a garbage can right next to it. I am not condoning this, either! I think recycling is important. I even think composting is important. But, sometimes, when I've spent too much time in Northampton, I can start to understand where she's coming from.

Jan 24, 2010

At the corner of Prince and Crosby

I used to go to fancy restaurants all the time, back when I was working at one and making about three times as much as I make now. These days I do so rarely, but last Friday my mom took me to dinner at a place I couldn't normally afford, which made the meal particularly memorable.

I ordered a quail that looked very much like an actual animal, all splayed out and belly-up on my plate, but tasted good just the same. And then I ran into a friend of mine who was working there, someone I had actually just been wishing to be back in touch with, and he brought us a serving of ham on the house, asking, "Do you eat ham?" And I do and the ham was the most delicious ham I'd ever had. But this is not about me feeling bad about not being a vegetarian, even though I do feel that way sometimes. All night I felt unusually happy and, even more than that, unusually grateful for all the specific good luck that had brought me to this particular restaurant, enjoying a meal I couldn't afford, with a mother I can actually talk to, and a friend I wanted to reconnect with, and this new feeling of hope about my life and where it was going.

This is about what happened after dinner, when we went outside and I realized that right across the street was the loading dock I had sat on just three weeks ago, crying and trying to hide my face in the shadows of my hat. It was at the end of a particularly hard day, which had been hard for no particular reason, but which had left me feeling like I had ended up back just where I was when I left New York three years ago, so depressed and sick that the only thing I could think to do was try a change of place, and even then that didn't help, at least not for a while.

Whenever I feel one way, especially a bad way, I am particularly prone to believing I will always feel that way, and that assumption was especially hard to escape that night a few weeks ago, finding myself in a place I'd been so many times before. I have cried on so many sidewalks in New York, even in that kind of uncontrollable sobbing way that makes strangers stop and ask you if they can help, and this did help, actually, even though I never asked them to do anything.

Which meant that there was something equally strong about finding myself in the exact same location, just a few weeks later, feeling so different. And while of course I have experienced the impermanence of emotions a million times over (just as I have also experienced the way certain emotions dig themselves in deep and stay for years), there was something about the exactness of the comparison that made this idea slide inside me in a slightly different way. Even though I know I may very well forget it again by tomorrow.

A few minutes later, walking down the steps into the subway, I saw a man speaking intently to an empty light fixture. I had such a strong urge to take him by the shoulder and shake him gently, to lead him away and to tell him, "There is no one there to talk to!" and ask him if he wanted to talk to me instead. I didn't do this, though. It is always so hard to know what is the right thing. But I recognized this feeling. I have felt it so many times about so many people I know. I'm sure so many of them, too, have felt it so many times about me.

Oh Yoko*

This photo, which simultaneously manages to exemplify a number of my current life goals (positivity, happy plants, etc.), comes from my friend TaraShea's blog, which you can find here. We lived together in St. Louis a few years ago, in an apartment that had a sort of shabby chic charm, I guess you could say, common to many apartments in crumbly brick neighborhoods that have been outfitted exclusively with strangely colored furniture from the Goodwill. Her current place is clearly a bit nicer.

* Because a stand-alone "yes" always makes me think of John Lennon coming across Ono's work in a gallery somewhere, climbing to the top of that ladder, and deciding to leave the Beatles for Yoko forever.

Jan 23, 2010

The slimy/sexy paradox

Why is it so sexy to be slimy? I wouldn't be too interested in touching people all covered in slime, but the naked, slimy Eva Mendes who keeps showing up in Calvin Klein ads slithering around with her clothes off? Damn. I can't deny she looks good.

Photo of the day

For work today, I came across this photo of wedding planner Preston Bailey, whose website, by the way, sort of blew my mind. Especially the Before & After section. Look at this craziness:
It's like Avatar: The Wedding! And look what the space looked like beforehand:
How is this even possible? Basically, one is to believe that Bailey created some sort of purple supernova out of three purple benches and a white dome. And while I do have some ethical concerns about weddings that must cost more than the GDP of some small nations, I'm still genuinely glad to know there are people with imaginations vast enough to do this, to transform something ordinary into something wildly unordinary, even if it's in service of a tradition that becomes stranger to me by the day. (And yes, I know white domes and purple benches are not so ordinary after all, but on the website there really are some pictures of supremely ordinary spaces getting completely purged of ordinariness.)

Also, it seems perfectly appropriate that Bailey would arrange it all from the back seat of what is probably some sort of epically expensive car, accompanied by a flower petal poodle staring disinterestedly out the window.

I should mention it's possible I just liked that first photo because it involved a dog. My other favorite wedding planner site of the day involved numerous pictures of the wedding planner's dog, which struck me as entertainingly odd until I realized if I was a wedding planner (and if I was I would aspire to be just like Preston Bailey), I too would fill my website with pictures of me and Mirabelle.

Jan 22, 2010

My favorite cell phone tower

Did they really think that sticking a bunch of fake branches on something twice as tall as any surrounding vegetation would make it blend in? Honestly, though, sometimes I feel just like this cell phone tower.

Jan 21, 2010

Aspirational goals

So. I totally lied when I said I had quit drinking coffee (see January 12). Even just mostly. And I still find myself hesitating all the time. Which is to say that while I do return my bottles and I have learned how to use a curling iron, everything else is basically exactly the same.

Jan 20, 2010

Cloture THIS

Election fail:

I foresee a new and prolonged period of cynicism in my future. But I do really love the fail blog. It brought me the following video, after all, which at least goes a little way toward portraying how I'm feeling right now:

Jan 19, 2010

Pickup truck politics

When I was in high school, my parents always told me that if I ever didn't have a way home, or shouldn't take the ride offered, or had gotten too incapacitated to drive myself, that they would come pick me up. I never took them up on this, even though there were more than a few times when I probably should have, especially that one time my friend and I missed the last bus and spent the whole night wandering around New York getting kicked out of various 24-hour Dunkin Donuts along with all the other vagrants. If I had taken them up on this offer, however, I imagine they would have felt about me a little bit the way I am feeling toward Martha Coakley—willing to do my best to bail her out, but also really, really pissed.

Late bloomers

After 12 years of cooking, I have finally baked something that looked at least slightly like the picture. A little bit, right? (My version is the second one, but I imagine you knew that already.) This reminds me of the way it took me about ten years to be able to care for a plant without killing it. Because while it feels good to not be murdering plants and recipes right and left, it also makes me wonder, just a little, why it took me so long.

Jan 18, 2010

Sometimes we all revert to being 16

Matt and Molly are driving home from the grocery store in Matt's jeep. It has just started snowing and Matt jerks the wheel a few times, trying to get the jeep to slide. [Eds. note (for mom)—they are going fairly slowly.] As they turn onto their street, the jeep briefly slides toward a parked car before straightening out.

Molly: Can you stop doing that? It sort of makes my stomach hurt.
Matt: . . .
Molly: If you'd hit that car I wouldn't have felt sorry for you.
Matt: Maybe a little?
Molly: Nope. Not even a little. At least if you're going to make donuts, do them in a parking lot.
Matt: . . .
They pass by their house and keep going.
Molly: Where are you going?
Matt: The parking lot.

Globalization

Remember that Katy Perry song? My favorite is the guitar player.

(This is from my brilliant friend Caroline, by the way, whose Internet tendencies consistently enrich my life.)

Jan 17, 2010

Speaking of cults

It wasn't really a cult, by the way, the thing I grew up in, although sometimes it's easier to explain it that way. Mostly because often, when I try to describe it to someone—"Well, I grew up in this spiritual community and everyone meditated a lot and went to these meetings and tried to practice the teachings of this Armenian mystic," and so on—the person I'm talking to eventually stops me to say, "So, basically you're saying you grew up in a cult." And at least if I start there, instead of taking what I'm saying and trying to simplify it, they are often more willing to take what I'm saying and then let me complexify it. (I know, I know, complexify is not a word, but shouldn't it be?)

In any case, it is always exciting to meet someone else who also grew up in a non-traditional sort of spiritual community, which just happened last night. It's a little like telling someone actually you have vivid past life memories (I imagine), and having them whisper back, "Me too." You suddenly realize you have a lot to talk about.

I really hate the word panties

A few things I remember being said in the last few days, taken completely out of context.

On meeting new friends:
K., introducing me to someone: This is Molly...
Someone: Hi (to me). (And then to K.) How do you guys know each other?
K.: Well, (thinking), she and D. grew up in the same cult.

On wedding magazines:
Me, on the phone in the office, realizing I'm about to say a collection of words I never thought would come out of my mouth together: But do you also carry the matching sea breeze panties with the rhinestone detail? And are those still $45?

Jan 15, 2010

Weddingsweddingsweddingsweddingsweddings

At first, after about three hours of clicking through wedding dresses, I started finding myself thinking things like, "Only $3,000 for a custom-made gown?" Which is particularly weird because I don't think I've ever even used the word gown before. But another three hours later, the elaborate customs surrounding weddings in this country had started to seem as foreign to me as that of something I might have heard regarding 13th century Mongols. The same way a word repeated over and over eventually flattens out and loses all its meaning, this is what is happening between me and weddings.

Jan 14, 2010

A pivotal moment in my maturation

The day I realized that this picture, which sat in the bathroom of my mother's house throughout my childhood, and still sits there, in fact,
was not a painting of a cat-faced man jumping around on a horse, but of a kissing couple leaping over the moon.

Jan 13, 2010

The daily grind*

Sitting in front of a computer for eight hours sucks something out of me. I'm not sure what it is, but hopefully at some point in the future it will be able to be measured and also, ideally, automatically replenished when I leave work.

*It's basically totally unfair of me to talk about this since I'm currently only working three days a week.

Impressionability

Hearing about a friend's physical problems often leaves me experiencing symptoms. And they are real, these symptoms (this interests me), or at least they feel real, and have sometimes continued on for years. It's as though experiences leave particularly deep imprints on me, and unfortunately, while I feel the good things just as strongly, the bad ones stay with me much longer. I'm sure it is no coincidence that the first time I wake up from a dream screaming is after reading a book in which the protagonist regularly does the same.

Jan 12, 2010

Recent comings and goings

New activities in my life:
Returning bottles and cans to the redemption center
Curling my hair with a curling iron (!)

Activities I've now left behind:
Drinking coffee (mostly)
Hesitation (it's a work in progress)

Jan 11, 2010

Cross-country skiing

I don't think I've ever worn so many clothes. Literally. There was something pretty freeing about being warm when I knew it was actually very, very cold. It was almost like being able to breath underwater, although not quite as amazing, partly because wearing 14 articles of clothing left my motion slightly restricted. Maybe it's more like breathing underwater with snorkeling gear. Still, it was fun, and falling was no problem at all, except for the getting up.

Jan 10, 2010

My general well-being

The fact is that reading Mary Karr's memoir Lit, a book filled with a large amount of obvious suffering, evokes in me no small amount of jealousy. At a few points I have been so jealous that I've actually considered throwing the book away, in some misguided desire to punish it (the book), in spite of the fact that I got it out of the library. Just because the writing is so beautiful, and Karr has done so well by it. All of which does not reflect well, I don't think, on my general well-being.

Jan 9, 2010

The constant supply of information all around you

Matt and I are driving somewhere early in the morning, and NPR is on. For no particular reason we begin mindlessly discussing whether the woman being interviewed, someone important in the justice department, is a lesbian.

Matt, as an aside: Well the interviewer is a lesbian.

Me: How do you know that?

Matt: Don’t you listen to NPR?

Me: Sometimes.

Matt: Don’t you realize there is a constant supply of information just sitting in the air all around you? [He’s getting increasingly excited] And all you have to do to access it is turn on the radio??

Me: I guess I never thought of it that way.

The program ends. Matt checks the clock.

Matt: Oh, now John Montanari comes on.

John Montanari comes on. Matt turns the radio off.

Matt: I hate John Montanari.

Matt’s obsession with talk radio, which starts with NPR but ends deep in the Air America cannon, continues to fascinate me.

Jan 8, 2010

From my spam folder

Hello, my gentleman!

May be you'll try to win my heart?
I am an honest, kind, active, fun-loving, cheerful, sociable, musically-gifted and ambitious girl with a good taste and sense of humor. I like traveling, hiking, cooking, making a cozy home, growing flowers, swimming, picnics, barbeque parties, photography, concerts, pets (especially dogs). I am set on finding a reliable lifetime partner for relations.

Embraces
Ludmila

From what I can tell Ludmila and I might actually be quite compatible. She sounds nice, right? Maybe a little more wholesome than I am, but nothing we couldn't work with. Except for the fact that she thinks I am a man.

Jan 7, 2010

At the new art museum in western Virginia


"Well now," the man said, his thumbs in his pockets. "That's one big ass frame." Which was, basically, exactly what I'd been thinking. Also, when I have children I intend for it to be just like this:

Jan 6, 2010

I remember life before the Internet

I am currently in a temporary new living situation where three days a week I stay with one of my closest friends from college and her fiance, who live in Cobble Hill and actually have a guest room, a sure sign of adulthood. They also have a stocked liquor cabinet, which I also view as very adult. Matt and I, on the other hand, buy alcohol on an as-needed basis, and whatever we have in the house generally disappears within a few days.

Tonight, in the course of the evening, my friend and I somehow ended up talking about this couple we knew in college. To say we knew them, actually, is a little bit of a stretch, at least on my part, but one thing I share with this friend is an insatiable interest in people we don't really know. We were big into spying in college. On occasion would conducted actual missions to spy on people we didn't know, which sounds strange, and actually probably was very strange, but was also really fun at the time.

Anyway, we googled the couple, obviously, and discovered not only a video of the girl's ACTUAL PROPOSAL by some blond dude, but also a video of the guy she dated in college speaking fluent Mandarin (I'm guessing) and hawking Playboy snowboards in Beijing (at least as far as I could tell from the video, no word of which I could understand). This just, I don't know, sometimes the Internet really blows me away.

Jan 5, 2010

Re: ghosts

At some point, most people I know who went to a liberal arts school on the East Coast ended up in an abandoned insane asylum. There's so many of them in that area, and besides, visiting them provided an experience that was slightly edgy/darkly beautiful/sociologically interesting/illegal but not in a you'll-probably-go-to-jail way, an irresistible combination for most college kids I knew, particularly those taking Intro to Photography.

Anyway, a photographer named Christopher Payne recently came out with a photography book about these asylums (the picture above is from it). The photos look beautiful, but I wonder what it was like to spend so much time in those places. I have been to two asylums, and I found both fairly terrifying, with the electroshock signs on the walls, and the rooms filled with only orange socks or children's books, and the gurneys lined up in the huge walk-in freezers. But what was scariest was just how the places felt, all potent and dead and sad. It was one of the few times that I really thought maybe ghosts were real. Or, at the very least, maybe people really do leave some sort of impression of themselves behind when they die.

Jan 4, 2010

How to bend time

On the way back from Virginia, Matt drove most of the way, until, finally, when I asked if he wanted me to drive, he said yes. The thing is that he hates how slow I drive. Generally, when I'm not thinking about it, I find stasis at around five miles below the speed limit. So when, at some point, I asked him to get me some food, or something like that, he said he would, but only if I would go at 70 miles per hour for five minutes.

I did, for about three minutes, until I veered a little too close to a barrier, hit a tiny patch of gravel, thought I was even closer to the barrier than I actually was, veered to the left away from the barrier, saw car coming up, veered back right, and suddenly felt the car swerving completely out of control.

"Stop overcompensating!" Matt yelled, not because he was angry but because in situations like that it suddenly becomes hard to hear, and then he grabbed the steering wheel and held it still with one hand and the car straightened out. We were fine. But it was so strange, in the moment before we were fine, how time both sped up and slowed down all at once.

Jan 3, 2010

18ºF outside

Sometimes Mirabelle and I really do sit around in front of the fire just talking about how much we love each other.

On bleakness

Went to see The Road last night and for real, that shit is bleak. Do not see that movie if you are horrified by most things that normal people are horrified by (cannibalism, severed limbs, arrows graphically removed from legs, very little point to living). Read the book instead. I read it last summer, on a beach of all places, and while it left me feeling bleak (and made everything about where I was feel very ominous) the movie left me with bleak feelings AND horrifying images. I happen to think that if the earth really did die things would probably be quite a bit like they are in the book, so I didn't mind thinking about this. But I could do without some of the movie's images, which are now roaming freely around my head, just waiting to present themselves at an inopportune moment and terrify me all over again. Images seem to have the unique power to do this, just the way smells can provoke memories so vividly.

On another note, I was really psyched, for once, to be the person at a scary movie consoling others. It was strangely empowering.

Back to the first idea. Last thing I said before falling asleep last night: "I hope the world doesn't die." First thing I said after waking up this morning: "I hope the world doesn't die." In between I went to the bar and had an incredibly involved debate about Santa. Don't ask.

Jan 2, 2010

Maybe it really is time to move back to NY

On New Year's Eve I took a 7:30 am train from New York to Connecticut. Right after it left the station the conductor came through my car and announced that the train might be delayed by traffic. But isn't this the whole reason people take trains? Because it means you don't have to deal with traffic?

Speaking of which, on December 27th an arsonist lit 18 fires in the small Massachusetts college town where I've been living, all within a half mile of my house. One of them killed two people. But isn't this the whole reason people move to small college towns? Because it means you don't have to worry about violent crime?

Although I guess it's true that I neither took the train in order to avoid traffic, nor moved here in order to avoid violent crime.

Jan 1, 2010

In honor of the end of the decade

A summary of the rest of my twenties:

25 – Got mysteriously ill. Went to a million doctors, all of whom told me I was actually completely healthy, except for one who, who said offhand that maybe I had lupus. Started journalism school.

26 - Spent a lot of time in projects, squats, and porn theaters. Slept little. Lived alone for the first time and had a neighbor who banged on my wall with a sledgehammer (this is what it sounded like, at least) between midnight and 3 am, at least three times a week. Moved to Wyoming to intern at a newspaper. Most of all, remember the pig wrestling at the county fair and the gruesome accidents on the police scanner in the newsroom. Mysterious illness gradually faded.

27 –Worked at alt weekly in St. Louis. Got screamed at by an extremely angry burlesque dancer and an extremely angry MMA-promoter, both for stories published on the same day. Lived with a craigslist roommate who I immediately knew would be a lifelong friend. Had no heat and could see our breath in our apartment. Heated ourselves with whiskey. Drank way, way too much. Moved to Malibu that summer and lived in my grandmother’s empty house with Matt. Ate hundreds of oranges. Felt completely lost.

28 –Got a job at a parenting magazine. Opened and taped shut many boxes filled with layettes, diaper bags, and organic stuffed animals. Decided maybe parenting was overrated. Lived in renovated barn in Western Massachusetts with my boyfriend and still felt lost but slightly less so.

29 – Parenting magazine closed. Got a dog. Enjoyed renovated barn, boyfriend, dog, and unemployment check. Still a bit lost. But happy (mostly) for the first time in 15 years.