Friday, June 29, 2007

I Hope Abhishta Never Finds This Blog and Finds Out How Much I Love Him

Abhishta is my friend at work who makes jokes during large staff meetings like, "I know the lights are off so you can't really see me, but I'm here." Today at lunch, he asked me why he had to sit in the corner, if it was because he is brown?I said, Yes. Because you are brown and you talk funny. Talk like a normal 'Merican, damnit! He is actually one of the most gentlemanly guys I know and I was shocked today when he used the "f" word, though it was in relation to world politics so I understand.

I have this scab on my elbow and I confess that I can't stop picking at it. I want to pull the whole thing off and see if it bleeds, though I know it will hurt. Okay, I stopped. I even put a Band Aid over it so I wouldn't be tempted.

Have still been doing the writing in the morning, though it's really only journaling, but the other day, I got this book from the library that has writing prompts in it and so I decided that I could give myself a writing assignment for the subway portion of my day, especially now that my iPod is still broken. The writing assignment for yesterday was to write three or four different introductory paragraphs to the same story with each paragraph meant to convey something else; like the beauty of summer or the nature of conceit (I don't know what that means). I wrote three different opening paragraphs for a story I'd like to write which is now called "Crushin' on Jesus." I may have mentioned it in an earlier post, though right now, it's just an idea, not much content. The central character would be this 13 year old named Joy who is raised in a non religious household but who spends time at her Catholic friend's house and develops a horrible crush on the adult Jesus. The first paragraph ended up being about the friend's household, how there was always something happening; the second was about Joy secretly joining the church choir but not wanting her mom to find out; and the third paragraph was a description of a Jesus figure in a stained glass window.

Today, the exercise is to write a poem or story that begins with something that surprised you recently. I couldn't think of anything that surprised me. Nothing much does so I wrote instead a list of things that didn't surprise me, like the imprint of a dead baby bird on the sidewalk, this urban fossil. I see a few of those per week on my way to and from work. I am not a very good poet. I use words like "heart" and "silence" and "still." I 'll see what I can come up with on the ride home.

Or a story called "Against My Better Judgment." That is the title of the story of my life.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Is my nipple showing?

A word to the wise for women: do not wear a tank top while walking around in South Philly. It does not matter if you are a no-bra-wearing granny or a flat-chested adolescent, the men in South Philly will slow down their cars to gawk and say things like "hi, mommy" when you pass them and ogle you in the subway while attempting to keep the tunnel wind from sweeping their toupees of their shiny round heads. I had a moment of utter contempt for the male species this morning but maybe I should feel sorry for them. It must suck to have every other thought in your head revolve around sex or around juxtaposing the head of some random woman on the body of a Penthouse photo you remember from seventh grade. I could be misinterpreting; the subway man, for instance, might have been staring b/c I remind him of his long dead sister. But I wanted to walk over to him and be like, Hey, you're gross! Stop thinking about your sister in that way!

In unrelated news, I woke up the other night to find I was laying on my stomach with my right leg bent up behind me as if I were at the beach. To make it even more beachy, Ernesto was sprawled out next to me as if he too were sunbathing. I don't remember what I was dreaming. Something to do with water.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Junebug Eats Buddha

This is Jodie's cat, Junebug, devouring an iconic image that is meant to represent peace among humankind. Cats don't care about that sort of thing.

I sat near a guy on the subway today who looked like he was on the nod, though I didn't see any track marks on his arms. He wore a stained white t-shirt, blue jogging pants with pockets and yellow construction boots. Can you get a creeped out vibe from someone for no real reason? Is it a valid vibe or invalid b/c you're making certain judgments and assessments that might not be rooted in fact at all. Okay, so he was sitting there staring off into space with his eyes half open like an addict. In his hand, he held a crinkled subpoena to appear in court and it said something like, "Bail is set at $XXX." Does that mean he's appearing in court to either make bail or not make bail and will be going to jail? They don't go over this kind of detail in Law & Order. He just seemed off in some way; not necessarily dangerous (he was too f-ed up to move very quickly), but not of the ordinary world. He had it enough together to get to court on the right day at the right time (on the paper, it said "Do not forget to bring this paper with you under penalty of death!"). So, maybe he was just tired from working all night and had a cold which would explain why his mouth hung open and he's going to court to defend himself for intervening on behalf of an old crippled lady. It's possible, but not likely.

My favorite cartoonist in the world is Lynda Barry because she remembers so precisely what it was like to be a kid:

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


I have to write about this--I can't hold on to this information any longer, even though it may compromise myself in some ways, but the material is too good. Okay, it's fairly normal now for people to try Internet dating. Friends don't react in the same way now about it as they might have ten years ago--they don't make a face like you just admitted you're thinking about getting another five cats or getting a bilevel cut with bangs. And anyway, you don't have to sign up for anything online if you don't want to--you can glance at people just to see who's out there. But the very best thing about it is that guys (and I'm sure women too) say some unintentionally really funny things. Irina told me about her friend in NC who got read a profile from a local that said "I dont read much butt when i do its the bible."

Some guys like to emphasize what they absolutely don't want in a partner. Here's an example that C. sent me outlining one man's criteria: "You have your life together. Know what you want in a man. If you like drama, handle it by watching Desperate Housewives or by talking to your girlfriends, just don't drag me into it."

A headline that makes you not want to read more: "Short but well worth it." Why doesn't he just write: "Small penis but I will perform oral sex" (sorry, mom).

Another headline by a man whose user name is like shizzlemynizzle (I'm not kidding): "I'm strictly into women!!!! Women who have baby daddy drama should keep it moving, please don't contact me!!"
Photos can be a problem as some men like to pose next to their cars or shirtless or holding a fish or all three at once. Okay, I have to run a work errand. More later. Please feel free to add your own.

Monday, June 25, 2007

I Killed My iPod

It wasn't intentional, but my iPod is dead. I dropped it on the floor and the front cracked and now it won't turn on. It is the saddest thing ever. I can't buy another one because they're too much money and I could only get this one b/c I had a $50 gift card so woe is me. Yesterday, I kept going back to it, thinking that maybe it would work if I pushed the button just one more time. I was like a mother bird whose dead babies no longer peep but who tries to feed them worms anyway. Or something like that. It didn't turn on. RIP. I no longer have music--actually, that's not true because I do have a small $6.99 radio Walkman and gigantic headphones. I need to walk home from TUCC today and so will bring that along. I know there are ways to fix it--just found a few online so maybe something will work and I don't have to utterly despair.

Finished What is the What? last night and sobbed and sobbed at the end (which I never do. He uses this beautiful device at the end where the narrator speaks directly to the reader, asking for you to listen, to respond). It's a great book. It's a great terrible book that makes me almost want to do something to help Sudanese refugees. I suppose I could be a mentor. I'll type up the end of the book after I return home so you can know what I mean. Will have to read Distant Star tonight since I couldn't find it this weekend.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Heart of Darkness

I have a friend who owns two kayaks and I went in one of them yesterday for the first time. I didn't just sit in it on shore, though I probably would've been happy to do that; I actually went into the Schuylkill River and paddled (with a life jacket mom, and water wings and extra oxygen tank just in case I should fall topsy-turvy into the drink). Whenever I try a new "sport" or activity of some kind, I'm hopeful that I will somehow be a genius at it--that I must have this hidden, not before discovered talent. I've never been good at sports of any kind, could even manage to miss the ball in t-ball and was frequently second to last picked on any sports team in elementary school, right before the girl with the lazy eye and gimpy arm (and on some occasions, after her). In volleyball, I would duck if the ball happened to careen my way and in basketball, I am excellent at pitching the ball directly at the rim so that it bounces off and hits me square in the forehead. I harbor many painful memories of having various sports equipment knock my glasses clean off my head (including a badminton birdie). So now, as a adult with a little more body confidence, it still seems possible that I might yet find my calling (even though I've had little success. A few years ago, Jodie and I went riding on her mother's horses in a corral and I managed to fall off the horse in slow motion as the saddle tipped sideways while the horse trotted and I got more and more perpendicular to the ground without knowing how to right myself and found myself landing gently on the ground with the horse continuing on unencumbered). But I've never tried kayaking. I didn't turn in hopeless circles in the water, but I also didn't show any particular innate ability. It's not really that hard to do--you dip the paddles one after the other on either side of the kayak and are propelled forward. In my case, I moved ahead in two inch increments, even going downstream. The Schuylkill is a very calm river (at least where we were) and you should be able to go down it in relative peace, enjoying the geese and debris gliding next to you. However, I am also not very good at relaxing and so spent most of the time thinking, Okay, how long will it take until I get under the bridge and trying different paddling techniques which resulted in me ending up like I had fallen into the water. Only one awkward moment when I found myself floating into overhanging trees and having to pull branches out of my hair while at the same time smiling to show how easy the whole thing was for me. We did about five miles in a hour and the sun was setting and almost gone by the time we made it back to the starting point. It was quiet on the river and I had this moment where I was relatively alone and thought of Conrad's book and how creepy it would be to be stuck in a strange land, going down the river and not knowing what was around the neck bend (hostile natives? The guys from Deliverance?).

(As an aside, Henri is now sitting on my lap while I type this and doesn't seem to realize that he is really too big for this. He makes it nearly impossible to reach the keyboard over his fat furriness).

I still wish I could find something that I'm really good at and that I'm able to do without constantly evaluating my ability. Table tennis? Fusball? Sky-diving? At least I tried it, right? And will try it again though not on any Class 16 rivers just yet.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

High School Musical

This is an actual picture of my high school in Dunedin, FL. It looks pretty much the same as it did 500 years ago when I was a student. The tree in the center used to be just yea high.

I recently got an email from this kid I went to middle and high school with in Dunedin; he was always one of my favorite people because he was smart and sarcastic and pro-choice at the age of 12 (even though, for a time, I was adamantly anti-choice b/c of my friend Julie K. who brought in this pamphlet "written" by an unborn fetus. I think the last line was something like "You killed me today." Very powerful stuff for a preteen). Adam may now be a Republican, but maybe not. He and every other intelligent guy in our high school had a crush on my friend Tina. She was pretty and mature and perpetually tan. Her parents were also very lax and I feel like we had a few parties in her condo that included beer. Yes, yes, it was at one of her parties that I "cheated" on one of my high school boyfriends (the tennis player with halitosis) by kissing this other guy. The bf found out and it was highly dramatic and I remember my friend Wallis was REALLY disappointed in me for kissing another guy (we later became the inspiration for the show Dawson's Creek)--oh, no, wait, that was a different guy. Yes, once I kissed a boy who built the set for our summer musical (not Best Little Whorehouse in Texas as some might think) and he was one of those shadow people in high school. Like, I'd never seen him before ever and I think he smoked cigarettes and he was kind of poor and probably lived in a shady house on the other side of the tracks, but he was also quiet and sweet. We kissed on the back of a pick-up truck. I can't remember who I was dating at the time, but Wallis gave me quite a talking to!

Anyway, hearing from Adam reminded me of a couple of things from high school--like how we had a student teacher for English once and he was this cute, curly haired guy, probably no older than 22 or 23. Jen and I used to sneak in to class earlier and set this little alarm clock forward a few minutes so we could get out early. I believe that we also tried to make the alarm go off during class, but I don't know if that ever worked. We also wrote him fake love notes and left them where he would find them during our class so we could see the expression on his face. I can't recall what exactly we wrote, but I know I made the penmanship purposefully sloppy and wrote something like, "Sorry for the handwriting. I'm writing this on the bus." We possibly included a few badly written poems. For another project, we created this fake human sized mannequin doll called Heather, dressed her in school colors and took pictures of her with everyone around the school for some slide show presentation. One of the photos was her with the principal and the voice over was like, You can't tell in this picture b/c he's behind his desk, but Principal Druthers is wearing knickers. Then we would drive around with with one of Heather's arms hanging out of the trunk. We thought we were the funniest people in the world.

I remember nothing academically about hs. I remember mostly the boys and being in drama club and in student council and some advance placement classes and having an English teacher named Mrs. Bytheway and a geography teacher named Mrs. Gustafason (this might have been in middle school). Most of the time in her class, we colored maps with colored pencils. The only thing I remember from her is the Tigris-Euphrates river. Nothing in particular about it--just the name. For my science project one year, I made dolls of all of the Greek gods. Twelve dolls with faces drawn on in marker and traditional garb. Where was the research in that? I hated science and math and geography because it didn't have much meaning to me, except for maybe biology. But anything that had to do with numbers or formulas caused me to automatically become stupid.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Let Your Kitten Be Your Guide

If anyone can help me make an eye patch for a cat, please let me know. Thank you. There will be a substantial reward.

Spent most of last night reading Jasmine for our class tomorrow and also have been trying to swim through What is the What? by Dave Eggers for my final paper. Guess what I'm learning throughout this course? Lots and lots and lots of people around the world have been murdered, raped and enslaved in the last several years. But we never hear about it here in America because MTV hasn't figured out how to make this idea of genocide into a hip new reality TV series yet. Let's send Paris Hilton to Darfur and see how she fairs. I feel like I need to adopt a child, and not in an Angelina-J way, like in a real way. Do they let single women adopt needy children? I won't even specify gender (though female is preferred or a boy who likes dolls).

Here's what I love about South Philly: There are a few different ways for me to get to the subway each morning and so I take a different route now and then and that means I get to see new window displays. Many people in South Philly like to have decorations in the windows; either religious iconography (Virgin Mary being the most popular) or other decorative, granny type stuff like ceramic clowns (scary). And sometimes, on a good day, you'll even see the Virgin Mary, her son, Jesus and a few clowns hanging out on the window ledge with them.

This morning's walk was a three Virgin Mary, two dogs petted day (both small Pomerians whose tongues were lolling out in the heat).

Saturday, June 16, 2007

More Song Associations

I have done absolutely nothing all day except listen to the radio and download music onto my iPod. I've discovered that even though I have over 400 songs on the thing, I still have more than half the space left. For some reason, I thought 2 GB only allowed you 500 songs. Oh, whoops, just looked more closely and I have 1,000 songs. What's a girl to do? I don't think I even know 1,000 songs. More like 469.

One of the groups I rediscovered today is Magnetic Fields. Their lyrics are supremely silly and no matter what they're saying, they always sound like they're singing a funeral dirge.

I asked my friend BB of Chicago if it was okay if I wrote about what songs remind me of him. He said okay, but I have to only use his initials. There are lots, because he burned me several CDs--he's one of those people who knows about cool music before it's even released. He's sent me two songs over email (Feist and Something I Can't Remember at the Moment) which is amazing to me--I am still behind the times and find it crazy that you can send songs to someone and then that someone can download it and actually listen to it. Anyway, let's see...BB is Belle and Sebastian and The Spinnanes, Death Cab for Cutie and The Shins and The Donnas though that's because I vaguely recall an argument about that particular chick band--him not liking them and me defending. And also, he will hate this, but the other song that reminds me of him is this really bad pop song, Sister Hazel's "All For You." It's a terrible song, particularly because the lyrics are something like, "It's hard to say what it is I see in you/Wonder if I'll always be with you..." but that song was popular when I lived in Chicago and saw him on a weekly basis. We always had this strange relationship--I liked him and I thought he was attracted to me, but every time I was around him, he couldn't keep still. He would jump up and show me things, his record collection, his yellow fireman's glove, his report cards from 3rd grade. We kissed once when I went back to Chicago to visit Renee and I think something odd happened, like I got a shock when we kissed, that kind of shock you get when you run on carpet in socks and then touch someone. Not a bad thing, just odd. And now we are friends.

My friend Jamie was also really influential to my musical tastes because he also had his ear to the ground and knew cool stuff before anyone else. And, he burned me a few CDs. Neutral Milk Hotel, Luna, Portishead, ani di franco. I am a lucky girl. I can pretend to be hip without doing any of the work. Jamie and I also had a strange relationship, similiar to BB though a little more intense b/c he wasn't as shy. Jamie has very blue eyes and when he looks at you with them, you sort of want to hide or else tell him everything you know. Now he's moving to Texas with his fiance and I worry he will become a Republican (no, never. He never would. He hates George Bush almost as much as I do). But ani di franco's "Untouchable Face" reminds me of him. As in "Fuck you/And your untouchable face." He was somewhat untouchable.

And okay then there's Chris, Christian, who recently emailed me to let me know that he read my blog and just did a search for his name and found nothing. Try again, Chris. Christian C. is a Southern boy I liked in grad school. I mostly hung out with him just to hear him talk with his slightly Southern lilt and to play with his black dog, Kenai (sp?). He is blind in one eye like someone else I just met, but you wouldn't know it. His eyes are brown, the color of walnuts. From him, I learned to like Yo La Tengo and Guided by Voices. We went to a Bob Dylan concert once in State College and took acid beforehand (sorry, mom, I swear, it's the only time I ever ever ever did drugs) and it didn't sit well with him. He disappeared and reappeared later, saying he had gotten sick in the bathroom. I was convinced that the acid was a bust until we went to the 7-11 by my apartment and I was fascinated by the Rolling Stones cover. I remember asking him how they managed to get the photo in 3D. He said, Uh, it's not. That's when I realized I wasn't as unaffected by the drugs as I had believed. It's because of Chris that I won the National Academy Poetry prize. His existence forced me to write poetry, even though I hadn't ever done it before. When I left SC, I gave him a copy of one of the poems I wrote about him...It had an unflattering title: "34 Reasons I Hate (him)..." But really, if you read the poem, you would discover instead 34 reasons to love him.

And Dave. Dave who I have been a very bad friend to. He called me on my birthday and I didn't call him on his, even though it was just three days after me. Oh, I loved, loved, loved Dave. We had this saying: DWD. I would say, I am DWD around you. That meant "Dumb with desire." I was. He could just be in my general vicinity and I would feel all crazy and unsettled and like climbing on a lampost. We had some great moments and some really bad moments. I remember sleeping at his house in the woods and waking up to find myself covered in ladybugs (they had an infestation problem). We drove to Chicago together and he gave me some of this strange work out fuel he was taking, some kind of over the counter speed and I remember saying, I would like to just get out of the car and run alongside it until we get there. We went to his house and the only thing I remember about it is that there were two portraits in the living room of him and his brother. Like, these paintings that were obviously done from a photograph. I think he was wearing white pants. He had an old golden retriever named Maggie and I loved him for that too. So, okay, the songs that remind me of him...David Gray's "White Ladder," Cheap Trick (he gave me their greatest hits. "I Want You to Want Me" reminds me of him). And most every Simon & Garfunkel song--"Homeward Bound" and "America."

Is it strange that I'm still friends with all of these guys? I guess not. I guess it's just that there were things I liked about them that were real, that I like all of them as people.

Oh, and Ben. Ben wrote poetry too. I still have his poems somewhere, in some brown folder. Ben was the mail boy from when I worked at DePaul. We never even went out on one date, but he was funny and smart (and is still funny and smart). I can't honestly think of any songs that remind me of him, except for maybe 'What I Like About You." I wrote a short story "Hardcore" where he was the featured boy character. I don't think he's ever read it and he probably wouldn't like it if he did, not because he was featured in a bad way, but I wrote about his sister who has brain damage. Everything is fodder for fiction, I warn you.

Pete Groff. We dated for six months and when I finally said, I love you, he said, Oh, I think of you fondly. I started crying. He is all Flaming Lips "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots." He too made me about 6 CDs with great cover art. He was a sweet, sad person who couldn't get over his ex-wife. He had two cats that he spoiled. The first time I met one of them, the black cat, she scratched my face. I never told him that. I thought it was a sign. I thought it was her saying, Get the hell out. You're not my mommy. Pete wanted to love me, but couldn't.

And Shawn wants to know what songs remind me of him. More than one. Franz Ferdinand. Elliot Smith's song, not sure of the title but the lyrics say something like "It's your heart/ not mine/that's scarred...You're just somebody that I used to know." Sad, isn't it? Also any song by TV on the Radio. And, yes, Neil Diamond's "You Don't Bring Me Flowers." And too many others to mention.

And RL--the song that reminds me of him is Bright Eyes "The First Day of My Life." Look it up. You'll like it.

"Red Rubber Ball" belongs to Christy. I forget why--I think she just really liked that song.

Oh, and Mom, one of the songs the makes me think of you is Aretha Franklin's "I Say a Little Prayer." Remember? I made you a tape once that had that song on it. Also, "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" because it reminds me of Nebraska. "When are you gonna come down...When are you going to land? I should've stayed on the farm...I should've listened to my old man."

And Becca Babbit from college, she gave me 10,000 Maniacs. She had a black dog named Oliver. Gretel hated him. We had to put her cat food on the mantel so he wouldn't eat it. But he was a good boy.

Lastly, I realized today that the Guns N' Roses is singing "Take me down to Paradise City" not "Take me down to the very last city" as I had previously thought. Is it a bad to go to sleep listening to your iPod? Cause that's what I'm going to do.

Every bad song that you know the words to can be found on 95.7

How about this one? "DAMN! Wish I was your lover!" It's impossible not to listen to this station; it's like going back in time. It makes me want to put on leg warmers and a Wham sweatshirt with the collar cut off (though I never owned one of those. I did have Stray Cats, however. And I knew this girl Tammy in middle school who at least once a week wore her Billy Squier concert shirt. She was kind of gross or at least that's how I remember her because she liked this song I considered super dirty...Can't recall the title...Is it "Stroke Me/Stroke Me?" I was really kind of a prude at that age).

Ate at that Cantina place again last night. I've got to stop taking everyone I know there and remind me not to order a pitcher of margaritas b/c it's too much, too sweet and it never gets finished and makes my throat hurt. There was chuffing everywhere. Walked over to Liz's afterwards and sat on her outdoor deck discussing Joanie's wedding and a boy with a ponytail who Liz is at least considering. I told her about a book my friend at work brought in, something like Why Men Love Bitches. It's pretty elementary advice and the underlying philosophy isn't bad because the author is basically saying, Live your own life and don't compromise your time or yourself to some guy you don't know that well. After reading about five pages, I realized that I do every single thing wrong. Almost to the letter. Like? Well, some of it isn't wrong necessarily, it's just not appropriate to the situation. For instance, you're not supposed to tell a guy that you thought he was going to call and that you're disappointed that he didn't. Check. You're not supposed to invite him over too soon. Check. You're not supposed to offer to pay for dinner. Check. You're not supposed to go out of your way to see him. Check. You're not supposed to bring him little gifts or bake him a blueberry pie or fold his laundry or change the oil in his car or give him a haircut with specially made scissors or clip his toenails or offer him a massage without reciprocation or braid his hair or clean his toilet or read him Grimm bedtime stories or dedicate your first novel to him or peroxide your hair blond after he mentions he loves Marilyn Monroe or make him a paint-by-number unicorn picture or rearrange his furniture. Checkmate. She's not saying to never ever do any of those things, but she's saying that you don't go forward full force before you know someone. She uses an example of her friend whose date took her to a boxing match where there were bikini clad women walking around. Her first point was that the woman shouldn't comment or act jealous by the guy looking at the bikini gals. Her second point was that the date should've never taken her to that place to begin with and so she should never go out with him again. I have the same problem that I have had since the days of Tammy Madden; I wait to see what the guy wants and then accomodate him. Not in every situation, but often enough. And it's not just with men, it's with most people. I need to stop every once in awhile and take stock of what I want to do or what I think. I need to learn to slap men who get fresh. Does this sound gamey? Maybe, but it's also just another way to take care of yourself. Which means I will most likely never date again. But at least I'll be a bitch!

Instead, I've decided to be a rock star. I've been listening too much to Liz Phair and now need to buy a guitar and learn how to play it and get vocal lessons (as an aside, Liz gave me a box of toys and stuff to donate and Ernesto keeps getting inside the box and falling asleep amid the teddy bears and stuffed rabbits. It is too cute to even stand).

Friday, June 15, 2007

The drama of the only child

We noticed again at lunch that all four of us (Irina, Celia, Joe and I) were raised in homes where we were the only child--no brothers or sisters to be found anywhere. The cliche is that only children are spoiled but I don't think that applies to any of us. We all had slightly to seriously dysfunctional childhoods and none of us had the Barbie dream house (well, maybe Joe did). I think being an only child makes you more imaginative--you have to be because you're alone more than most. I remember wondering why anyone ever gave me board games to play because I didn't frequently have friends over and I didn't play Sorry with my parents; I would play the games with my pretend friends and I would always win because I was controlling all of the other invisible people's moves and could see their cards, etc. It's an advantage in some ways to grow up this way because it also forces you to be more imaginative and it made me into a big reader too.

I told Celia and Irina today about how when I was little, I used to want so so so so so so so bad to be Laura Ingalls that it HURT. I felt betrayed by God for not having been born her instead of me. I wished for her same crooked teeth b/c I thought they were so glamorous. Guess what? Be careful what you wish for when you're five. I also remember asking my grandma what it was like for her to travel across the country in a covered wagon. I didn't quite understand what she didn't like the question. To me, anyone above the age of forty was from the "olden days" and had probably used a butter churn at one time or another.

My mom kept my hair pretty short. I think that once or twice, I was mistaken for a boy. So, in order to be Laura Ingalls, I sometimes wore tights on my head with bows tied near the feet. I thought they looked like braids, especially since they had a seam down the middle, just like a part. I thought my mom let me run around like that, but she just now told me that she only let me wear them in the yard/the prairie. I'm sure that it caused cars to slow down on our street, as people pondered how tragic it was to see a little retarded girl with cancer.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

There will be a brief intermission

Last writing class on Tuesday and we were given an entire hour to write which was a little scary. She gave us 3 writing ideas:

1. Can go back over your other in-class writings and underline passages or words or images you like and then try somehow to weave them together.

2. Reflect on writing itself. List some of the assumptions you have or have had about what it means to be a "real" writer. Then focus on one or two of those and examine where that assumptions stems from and decide if it still rings true.

3. Choose an image and write about it (she put down a huge stack of cards for us to browse through).

I liked #3 the best and found 5 that I liked. All were in black and white and four of the five featured animals. They were:

*A man and a woman getting married and kissing on top of a flagpole ("Flagpole Wedding," by Allan Grant, from Life magazine, 1946, see above).

*A huge fat black crow cradled in someone's outstretched hand. The quote on the card read "Seems like yesterday that I put myself in your hands." It reminded me of Jodie, in part because she wants to get a crow tattoo.

*Man and woman on a farm with the man teaching this collie mutt to jump through a hoop. The photo is the dog in mid-jump. The woman leans on the porch door with her arms crossed watching and the man wears overalls. It's a photo by Ramon Muxter called "Uncle Thurman."

*Three cats of various sizes perched on the windowsill of a falling down barn ("Indian Corn," by B.A. King).

*A German Shepherd and her three pups facing away from the camera to gaze at two clotheslines of paintings hanging in Rittenhouse Square.

I tried to reference all of the images in my free-write. I haven't reread the piece yet, but I don't think I'm going to like it because it's one of those "country" pieces, similar to the other freewrite I typed up; I'm writing about a time and a place that I don't really understand and so it sounds cliched and fake and too cute or precious. I had to sort of force it. I like the first line though:

"She was a darling, daring girl whose first word was always 'yes.'" (Like the girl in the "Flagpole Wedding" picture). Maybe I'll type up the rest later, but it isn't very good.

In other news, if you want to buy the May/June edition of Poets & Writer's you may perhaps find that I'm in it with a pic under the section called "Recent Award Winners." This is for the Katherine Anne Porter prize. The next issue will be out soon, so better run out and grab it while there's still time and I will sign it for you in blood (yours, not mine).

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

If you were a woman in college in the 40s

You were likely named:

Dorothy (the letter "D" was quite popular)

Some of the less common names were:


I know this because I am currently going through yearbooks from the 40s decade. I am happy not to have been in college at that time. The hair-dos alone would have crippled my time considerably--lots of elaborate upsweeps and bangs and sausage curls boing just so on your shoulders, and I had no idea that saddle shoes were a fashion rage for like two decades.

Now I have moved into the 1930s and many of the names are the same, though we are seeing more Ethels, Kays, Claires, and Janes, and one Cornelia, a name I used to love when I was younger. Cornelia and Cordelia. This was long before I knew anything of Shakespeare even. In the 30s, you must own bobby pins and use them to keep your hair in finger waves. Collars seem to be of utmost importance as well. The seniors in the 1936 yearbook all have small descriptions by their individual photographs, including their nicknames and a quote for each. Here's one for Claire ("C.G."): "She's a frail bodacious gal who never ails,/And never seen, unless escorted by males."

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


I miss Gretel.

Cobbling together relationships based on shared pop culture references

Someone should write an essay about how people think they fall in love these days. My guess is that it would be based in some degree (at least initially) on "getting" each other's pop culture references from their youth. Like, you could tell yourself you are in love with a guy because he quotes the same line the cute guy whispers to Molly Ringwald right before he kisses her in Sixteen Candles (or, you could hate the guy for the same reason, depending on how you feel about Brat Pack movies). Or like if someone had the same toys you did when you were a kid (like "Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em Robot." Okay, I didn't have that toy but my uncles did and so I attach nostalgia to it). And if I meet someone who can talk to me about other childhood favorites like Little House on the Prairie, Holly Hobby, or EZ Bake-Ovens, I'm a goner. But you can only go so far with, "Remember that episode of Facts of Life where Jo admitted she was a lesbian? That's when the show really jumped the shark!" Then what do you talk about? Then where do you find your connections? I have forgotten how. And what was it like in, let's say, Romeo and Juliet's time? What did they talk about? Those f-ing peasants and their annoyingly catchy dirges? I don't know anymore; it's probably my fault for previously either always having relationships with guys older than me by 8-10 years or younger than me by at least five.

Writing class tonight and it's our last one before we have a small break and then I'll come back for another month of classes. We don't have any stories/poems/essays to workshop so we're just going to write for an extended amount of time and then take a break and come back and read our work out loud to everyone which will take forever, particularly if we write for an entire hour. There's one woman in class who writes like a demon. She can have seven single spaced pages in 20 minutes. But maybe not everyone will read.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Not uplifting: Elliot Smith

Spent an hour yesterday adding more music that I don't need to my iPod, including a bevy of Elliot Smith songs. He's got a great voice and his lyrics are beautiful and he's sad and he's dead, because he stabbed himself in the chest with a steak knife while his live-in gf had locked herself in the bathroom. So, every song is tainted with this knowledge that he ends up dead. Oh, just did some Web research on him and he was born in Omaha, NE. A Cornhusker, like me. His mother's name was actually "Bunny." At one point, he smoked like $3,000 worth of crack and heroin a day but was still writing music. Then he started to clean up and went into treatment and was making another album and then he killed himself. No illegal drugs were even found in his system. Dumb.

Spent Friday night on Liz's brand new roof deck and her friends, Peaches (Drew) and Rauol (sp?) came by--they're in town to do the bike race in Manayunk today. I told them a super embarrassing story and then cringed the next morning remembering that I had related it to them. I suppose I think that if I tell whatever embarrassing story enough times, it will take the edge off, but, really, it never does. Sat., walked downtown and it was one of those days were the worst homeless people were out, passed out on ledges of buildings, begging for change outside of the subway, and in one case, sitting on a piece of newspaper outside of Burberry's with pee running down the sidewalk. Sat. night, took the R6 out to Manayunk to go to Ingrid's going away/birthday/I have a new job party. They have lots of space out back and a bunch of dogs in the neighboring yards including two old Rottweilers with waggy tails. I threw raw hot dogs at them because they are neglected. This other big guy brought out his two dogs, a fat black mix and a pointy-nosed German Shepherd who let me pet her and pull tufts and tufts of dog hair off her back. I love German Shepherds. We get each other. I don't think I could live in Manayunk--it's pretty yuppie and white and populated by people who look like they're on their way to audition for Real World, Manayunk. On the way in, I couldn't stop watching these two drunk ex-frat boys, one of whom I hated with a little more intensity than the other because he kept doing that drunk thing where he would repeat the same phrase over and over, thinking it was funny, when it never ever was and didn't improve with repetition. Hey, dude, where are my socks? I lost my socks. I lost my socks. I lost my socks. Of course, his drunk friend laughed every time which didn't discourage him. They got off at our stop and I noticed that he really did lose his socks. His ankles were even sunburned.

I have to read VS Naipaul's, A Bend in the River today. That is my plan, anyway.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Writing Class, Part 124

Our writing prompt for last night was to think of a photograph in our heads of someone from our life. We were told that we could close our eyes to think about it. I didn't. Our teacher said that we should write it directly to the person, using the "you" pronoun. She also suggested we start with "In this one, you are..." For some reason, I thought of yearbook photos:

Brokol, Penny. In this one, you are a junior. You have the same badly feathered hair as all the rest of us girls from 1986 and also a bad perm that your mother gave you one hot Sunday afternoon. You are smiling crookedly and wearing a striped shirt that falls just off your shoulders. You are trying to be a little sexy, but that's not what you're know for. You are popular for being on the Varsity tennis team, for being the president of your class, for being sweet. You are pretty in an ordinary, non-interesting way, but we are threatened none the less, my best friend, Jen and I because two of the boys we like seem to have crushes on you. In the small black and white photo, one of your eyes is slightly squinted, as though you're winking. Shannon says it looks like someone has just threatened to throw a blueberry pie at your face. From then on, we refer to you as "Pie in the Eye" though never within your hearing. Despite everything, we want you to like us.

You aren't in the next yearbook because some time over the summer before our senior year, you run out in the rain to get the mail, barefoot, and touch the metal side just as a bolt of lightning strikes the box. You fall on the driveway, your mind wiped clean of everything you have learned over the past 16 years. You will have to start from the beginning, like a baby, be taught how to hold a spoon, how to sit up, hot to walk. You have left us behind by going backwards and we will never see you again.

Jackson, William. In this one, you are twelve. Your round face covered in freckles and your smile, wide, eager to please. Even though the photo isn't in color, it's evident that your eyes are light and they are, a bright blue. You haven't caught up to the other boys in your grade. You still carry baby fat and haven't learned to suck it up the way you're supposed to. You are easy to hurt and you can be made to cry. You haven't yet discovered how to hide your reactions, how to pretend you don't care. Instead, everything you think or feel flickers across your open face. You have red hair and blush easily. You ask me once if you can borrow a pencil to take a geometry quiz. No! I hiss, looking around quickly to see if anyone has noticed. They have not, and I am saved from being associated with you.

The school portraits were taken in early September. In October, your parents ground you for bad grades, leaving you home alone while they go to JV football game. They too are trying to teach you to be tougher, to need people less. When they return home, your mother finds you in the laundry room with the side of your head missing, your dad's gun on the floor next to you. You have been thoughtful to the end, doing it the room that will be the easiest to clean up.

When the principal announces your death on the overhead speakers Monday morning, asking everyone to observe a moment of silence in your memory, Scott Roach who slumps across from me in homeroom whispers Good, I'm glad he's dead. I shiver, struck with the knowledge that people are capable of just about anything.

Kruski, Adam. In this one, you are standing in between two other members of the swim team. You are beautiful and perfect; your hair bleached blond by the sun, your skin brown and your shoulders broad and trustworthy. Most every girl in our class has a crush on you. We have all imagined being asked to go out on a Friday night with you in your blue VW bug. You do well in algebra and p.e., but not so well in English. I am the one picked to be your study partner and I am the one who gets to sit with you in your kitchen with the dishwasher churning in the background, trying to talk to you about the symbolism of gold in Silas Marner. You show off by tossing jelly beans into the air and catching them neatly in your mouth. I believe this is the sexiest thing I have ever witnessed.

That's as far as I got. Obviously, he doesn't come to much of a good end either.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Jodie and Padhraig are both gone, what is left of the world?

Jodie's visit was too brief--I feel like she was only here for about 35 seconds and then had to go. Maybe that's because we spent 3 hours of our time in Target, but that was fun. We tried on clothes and fondled sparkly things and looked at digital cameras and basically, it was just good to be with her, even though she's peer pressuring me to join facebook. She even helped me take care of my ant problem in the kitchen. The ants were basically taking over the cat food dishes and building an entire fortress in my house. Jodie sprayed them and then mopped up the floor afterwards. I think she should come live with me forever. And then Padhraig left for Notre Dame yesterday and will be gone for a month, studying whatever it is that he studies; something to do with Irish people.

Went to yoga class tonight and was proud of myself for being able to (sort of) do the sideways handstand. For some reason, I can do it better with my left arm than my right. You would think it would be the opposite because I am right-handed, but no, my right arm just folds right underneath me when I try to use it to balance my entire body weight on one arm.

I have decided that Emma Carol is really a living squeak toy. She must make a trilling sound every time she does anything. This makes her not a very good hunter, as it alerts every creature within a two foot radius that she is around.