Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Surrey with the Fringe on Top


Chicks and ducks and geese better scurry...I took approximately ten forms of public transportation today including the subway, the R 5 regional rail, the #47 bus (twice), the feet, the Pony Express, and the rickshaw. Consequently, I opted not to take the Greyhound to New York as planned, though I will have to catch it in the a.m. in order to get to downtown Manhattan for the AWP Conference plus lunch with Joe, whom I never thought I would see again. Bet he wears his khaki coat. There will be a Penn State reunion this week--hoping to see Jeff and Carla and Matt Siegel and Hoffer and Matt Perez and Adam and Dave and last but not least, Luke, Liz, Snake and Tessa (though Tessa is last on my list of individuals to see).
Had my philosophy and pop culture class last night; I think I'm going to really like it though I did space out a bit when we were discussing philosophy and style. I'd like to write one of my papers on the philosophy of the show, Intervention, how they subscribe to the idea that addiction can in some ways be traced to a problem in childhood (divorce, rape, a bad coach, homosexuality amid a Midwestern Christian family), how the addiction can only be helped through a recovery program, how the family is scripted to say things like "Your addiction has effected me negatively in the following ways...", how addiction is a disease and not a life-style, how the loved one can only be helped by being confronted directly through this "intervention" process, how they lie to the participants to get their story, how the family is often culpable in enabling the addict by giving them money or shelter, how it is often an emotionally manipulative show, how not every piece ends happily, how they use music to create even more pathos. The episode I watched last night was about Emily, an anorexic and there was this really great moment at the end where she was at the recovery program and said, I see now how I need to change. It's like this light bulb went off. Then a black screen comes up, the part where they tell us how Emily is doing and it says "Emily lost an additional 7 pounds after entering the program...She then agreed to be fed by a tube. She is now in another recovery facility in Anchorage, Alaska."

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Play's the Thing

I don't know what the hell I've been doing with my time, but I seem to be too busy to post. I had my first grad play writing class on Saturday and almost didn't go...Did I really want to commit to 15 weeks of getting up early on the weekend? But then I realized that that was being colossally lazy and I went in. I'm glad I did because the teacher arrived about five minutes late and the first thing he said when he walked into the class was "Well, I'm filled with hatred." I liked him immediately. He's a big man who tells good stories and is captivating in the way only some theatre people are; listening to him talk is like listening to a good episode of This American Life. He had stories about Madonna and Sean Penn (Sean Penn had a role in Earthworms, a play the teacher wrote) about going to Yale Drama School at the time Meryl Streep and Sigorney Weaver were also there, but it wasn't like he was name-dropping. The class is small, about 8 of us and only two of us gals. The other woman writes and performs her work and one of the guys owns a theatre company (I think he might have said that it's a puppet theatre company but I am trying to block that out). Another guy with a seriously annoying laugh has had many of his plays produced, about 50 by his count and our teacher has had his work play on Broadway. Oh, and there's a cute (possibly straight?) guy in the class too who reminds me of this guy I liked in high school who played in a Christian rock band. Unfortunately, I think he's also about the same age; he looks like the ink is not yet dry on his high school diploma.

It's the first time in awhile that I've felt intimidated by other writers. Our homework for next Sat. is to write a scene based on something we know. Not a confessional, but a few pages that are true our experience of life in some way, though it can be fictionalized. Lisa Marie and I went for coffee on Sunday and I tried to write this thing about an awkward 11 year old giving a presentation on Lillian Gish, but it wasn't really coming together. So yesterday I started something else about a man and a woman meeting up at a hotel restaurant. The opening is a little weak, but I like a few of the lines further on. I think it's evident early on that it's not a date, but the first meeting up of a half-brother and a half-sister. Right now, it's called "Nice Meeting You Again for the First Time." A few lines from it:

Woman: How old are you?

Man: Twenty-one.

Woman: You’re legal, that’s good. I don’t mean…Like, obviously, I don’t mean that I would be attracted to you, but like if I saw you in a bar or something, I wouldn’t think you were terrible looking.

Man: Thanks. Um…(Takes out another photo). Here’s him at home. That’s our backyard.

Woman: Oh, a yard gnome. That’s nice.

Man: Here’s my mom.

Woman: She looks like a nice person. She has nice teeth.

Man: Yeah.

Woman: I do know other adjectives besides “nice.” I don’t know why I keep saying “nice.”

Man: And this is our dog, Cracker.

Woman: A German Shepherd! How nice! How old is he?

Man: He’s…he died about ten years ago.

Woman: Oh, that’s terrible! What happened to him?

Man: He got hit by a truck. We got another dog though.

Woman: That’s good.

Man: But that one got shot by the neighbor for getting into the chickens. Farm dogs don’t live that long.

Woman: I didn’t know that. That’s interesting. In a bad way, I mean, but it’s still interesting to hear.

(Long pause).

I'll have to read it all out loud when I finish but I'm just relieved to have something on the page, especially since I'm going to New York for a few days before all this and will need to have it mostly done before then. The best thing too is that our teacher said that he can't possibly get into class by 9 a.m. He asked us if it would be okay for us to meet from 10 to 1 instead. Of course, we were all like, ABSOLUTELY!
Here I am with Owen. Because he is so busy, every picture of him is blurry. I uploaded more photos from my trip to my Flicka/Flicker page or whatever it's called, if you're interested.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Wait, Did Something Happen to Heath Ledger?

Wait, is there a war in Iraq? Who cares about that; what does Mary Kate Ashley Brittany Olsen have to do with the death of this actor?

The reading went really well last night. They had it in Foster Auditorium in the Paterno Library and so the seats were arranged like theater in the round and it was a good turn-out, mostly because some students were required to attend. But Julie and Danny and Sherri and Sheila and Adam and Matt and Mary and Penny showed up so that was nice. Charlotte Holmes took me and to dinner at the Indian Pavilion and two grad students attended; both were great though it sounds like the MFA students of today aren't as big of alcoholics/drug addicts as we had in my day. Charlotte remembered everybody and remembered all the drama--the affairs, the broken windows, the blood-letting. Going to dinner was a good distraction from the nervousness so that by the time I got there, I was feeling okay, not too jittery. Charlotte gave a nice introduction and then I went up and read the first piece, "Words to Live By" and that seemed to go well and so I gave an introduction to the second piece, explaining how when I lived in Chicago, I basically spent most of my time wondering how I would be killed which is why I wrote, "Six Different Ways to Die in the Windy City!" I'm not sure I like that piece so much; it's kind of dull. Next was the story "Look at the Sky and Tell Me What You See" which has a line in it that reads "Fuck me. Fuck me now." I was a little leery about reading that, but it's a really conversational-sounding story told in the first-person and the voice is strong so it reads well, though it's not the deepest of tales. I was going to end there, but then the people in the audience asked me to read more so I read a few pages of "Wanted," ending at the part where she sees what might be the guy standing outside her building. Then I stopped. They clapped and I asked if there were any questions and one guy raised his hand and said, "Could you read more?" I said that I had paid him to ask that. Couple of other general questions like what my writing process is like and what writers I emulate, but nothing that was too difficult to respond to.

Afterwards, people bought the book and I got to sign a bunch of them and meet students who were shy and great. Mary said that she could hear me reading on This American Life, but I don't know how you get to do that. Do people send in tapes of their work? Don't know. Anyway, I'm relieved that it's over so I don't have to feel stressed about it, and I'm glad I didn't embarrass myself.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Happy Valley is Exactly That


I have made it to State College for my reading tonight and even managed to practice the stories I think I want to read; had to be sure I wasn't going on too long or cutting it too short either. I know I will be nervous, but I'm trying not to be pre-nervous. Going to dinner at the Indian Pavillion with a former professor and two grad students at 5:30 and will not drink ten glasses of wine beforehand, though I may have some after. In choosing the pieces to read, I am worried that they are too similar; all these quirky girls with problems connecting to others. Sometimes, I hear from other people that the stories are sad, but I don't see them that way. Well, that' s not totally true b/c there are a lot of stories where someone dies or leaves permanently, but...that seems realistic.

I'm staying at the Nittany Lion Inn in a room with a king-sized bed and two bottles of Aqua Fina and an ironing board and those little plastic bottles of cheap shampoo. Julie took me to lunch at the Penn Stater and later, she'll bring Owen over so I can check him out up close to determine if he truly is as cute as his baby pictures represent him to be. Then she can help me decide what to wear. I had a minor panic attack yesterday b/c nothing that I tried on seemed to work, but I'm going to let Julie decide which outfit is better. She has instructed me to look hot but not slutty. How does one do this? Leave off the fishnets? And what does one do about the beret?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Okay, I'm Officially Sick of Being Upbeat in the Face of Adversity

For just a little while, my computer was dead due to a water spill facilitated by Ernesto. Then, it corrected itself. But later, Ernesto and Emma C. got into a fight and Ernesto jumped onto my keyboard and fucked something up so now my Windows won't stop cascading vertically. So, I am typing this while watching my letters unfold vertically. It's giving me a headache, but I cannot figure out how to fix it. Secondly, I sent what I thought was a witty, friendly and funny email to someone and he misread it completely and created more anxiety in my life, worrying that I would show up somewhere with a SWAT team at the ready. I feel like I keep making the same mistakes; I am continually a little too open even though the reaction I get is often this sort of skepticism. Maybe I am not meant to be a professional. Maybe I should take up a job as a mime or talk show host; no, I probably wouldn't do well as a talk show host either because I'd ask Tom Cruise why he didn't just come out of the closet already. I don't know where I fit. The things that my friends and family like most about me are the very same things that get me in trouble on a day to day basis, but I don't want to change who I am. I will never ever never be a type A personality and I'm tired of trying to appear as though I can achieve that. I want something really good to happen. I need for something really good to happen. I don't need anyone to give me a ton of money, but I would like it if my value as a human being could be confirmed in a concrete way. I hate that I still want the approval of people I don't respect. Does that ever end? I had a dream last night that I was back in my old neighborhood, living at my friend Wallis' house and I was waiting for her mom to come home and tell me what to do next, even though I knew that her mom wouldn't be able to help because she was a drunk. So, what does that mean that in my dreams, I have reverted back to being 12 years old? Please, please tell me that I have evolved a little more since then or am I truly that same insecure and frightened girl in Coke bottle glasses and home-ade dresses? Yes, I guess I am. Label this post as self-pitying. I am trying hard not to be that way and not to act like a victim. That's not who I want to be.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

You've Lost That Loving Feeling

So, Top Gun was on last night (I imagine it plays virtually every day on some channel or another) and even though I was tired after having been to an art opening and a party in Germantown (I am quite popular), I had to stay up to watch the whole thing. I kept saying, Okay, I'll go to bed after Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis make out...Okay, I'll go to bed after Meg Ryan shows up...After Goose dies...I finally made it upstairs after the credits ran at 2 a.m. The best is the volleyball scene where Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer and that other dude who was in Roxanne are shirtless but then Goose has on a tee shirt and Bermuda shorts. That's got to have hurt his pride somewhat. Is this film an underground classic in the male gay culture? It should be, since every other scene has these dudes walking around in white towels for no real reason. And let's face it, Kelly McGillis isn't the most feminine of women. She could definitely be a guy in drag.

In grad school, my friend Danielle and I started writing a screenplay that "flipped the switch" on these type of Ur-masculine movies. It was the same story line essentially, except the gender roles were reversed. The first scene opens with this woman getting ready to leave for work. She's a rancher who has to track down all these wild horses or something. In the background, you see this naked hot guy in bed with the sheets draped around his waist, asking her when she'll be back. She's very cavalier about the whole thing and throws him a banana. The next scene takes place in a male strip club where she's meeting her friend for lunch and beers. While they're talking, you see these peripheral men in G-strings dancing around though they don't have any lines or interact with the central characters in any way. We soon learn that the woman has a chip on her shoulder because her dead mother supposedly failed in some way and so she's always trying to make up for that and prove how great she is but in the process, she puts her other fellow ranchers in harms way. I think we also wrote that she was visibly pregnant but that plot point was never addressed or mentioned in any way. Silly. I wish I could find the script though, because it was fun to write.

I'll try to write again later--I'm at ING right now because Ernesto spilled a glass of water on my laptop and it's not working. I'm hoping it just needs to dry out or something.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Wrapping Your Heart in Blue Saran Wrap in Order to Deflect Criticism

That is what I have been advised to do. I will try it--in my head only, but if that doesn't work this time, I'll see what happens when I create an actual chest guard out of aluminum foil and packing tape. Per a magazine article about something else, I started making a list this morning of 100 things I want to do in the next couple of years; huge, impossible goals and manageable ones. I've found that none of them so far include high risk activities like bungee jumping or sky-diving or swimming with boa constrictors (I only made it to 30 before having to leave for work). Of course, I'm scared to do any of those things, yes, but I also don't have an overwhelming desire to say I've done them or to actually do them. Maybe I should? I also don't have a desire to travel to third world countries, though I should probably want to do that too. And I'm not much of a tropical beach person either. Like, Hawaii, Maui, Bali or an of the other "i-ending" vacation spots don't appeal to me. Maybe that's because I grew up mostly in Florida and worked at a beach shop and never overcame my fear of sharks because of Jaws. I also don't want to climb a mountain or hike for 40 days and 40 nights or shoot anything and stuff it and I don't mind if I never ride a camel, though that might be interesting. My stuff is more nerdy and less adventurous like finishing certain books or seeing Jane Austen's country house or writing a novel. Traveling back in time would also make my list, but I don't know how practical that is, despite our leaps in technology.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Morbid

I have been trying to use my digital camera more; I carry it with me wherever I go, but mostly that just means it gets gum and Liberty Bell stamps stuck to it from floating around in my purse. But I did take this picture of a neighborhood cemetery today. It's weird to see your name on a tombstone, but it will happen one day. Though I prefer to be cremated. I still have Gretel's ashes in a wooden box that resembles a recipe holder. I don't have to scatter her ashes, do I? I want to keep them. Even though I suspect that what I really have is an olio of a Dalmatian named Spot and three cats named Blackie. I doubt they incinerate each animal individually.

Spent a couple of hours at the 10th Street laundromat and was relieved to find that it wasn't too competitive today. I did five loads of laundry. Why so much? I just washed my clothes like a month ago. Eavesdropped on a Spanish conversation between a man and a woman who didn't know each other. The man just kept asking her questions. I'm not sure if I understood correctly, but the gist seemed to be that she didn't work currently and that she's four months pregnant. In case you are thinking I'm being stereotypical, here's what he said, "Something, something trabaja?" "No, no trabajo. Something, something. Un bambino." "Y?" "Quatro meses." "O que bueno." I love doing my laundry and folding the clothes and then putting them away. It feels like I've accomplished something.

I would just like to know if Mitt Romney had a stroke. He must have. Otherwise, why would he talk like he has a mouthful of cotton?

Good Golly, Miss Molly

As promised, I would like to say a few words about last Saturday night when we gals (I hate the word "gals") went out to Smith's to belatedly celebrate Molly's birthday. I was very excited because: 1. I don't get out much; 2. Stephanie agreed to come in from K of Prussia to attend; 3. Molly invited her sister and I was dying to meet her. She works in children's oncology at HUP and I was really interested to talk to her about her job and also to see what she was like. Molly is one of my favorite people and when you have a favorite person, it's quite possible that her/his relative might also be someone you can add to your favorite list. Unfortunately, though her sister (Jennifer?) came from work and was therefore wearing scrubs (how cool is that? I had a dream last night that I was allowed to wear scrubs to work. I also dreamt that I lived in this house that got robbed and I was offended b/c they didn't even attempt to steal my TV), I didn't get much of a chance to talk to her because a bunch of other people showed up right around that time and we were tragically separated for the rest of the night.
Molly looked lovely in a flowered blouse and matching jewelry. She ordered a mojito, a drink that consists of a little alcohol and about two cups of mint. It's quite difficult to drink and it can leave green mint on your teeth and so you have to be very sophisticated to order it. Stephanie and I ordered wine. I had warned Lisa Marie earlier that it was likely I would have to be poured into to a taxi at the end of the evening b/c I had only eaten a Clif bar that day (I am not developing any kind of eating disorder, don't worry, I just lost track of time from being downtown). Anyway, the evening was enjoyable and in typical fashion, I ended up chatting with a bunch of strangers and saying inappropriate things. I met this one guy who was kind of a giant and started playing "Would You Rather" with him, but his WYR's were much tamer than mine. We also got to know the bartender, Steve, who was attractive in the dark and greasy bartender way except for his ears stuck out (which actually made him more dear). He had a live in girlfriend and a baby but told me that if he didn't he would take me home. Then, he winked. I moved on. I cannot stand a wink.

Celia and her roommate showed up and so did Lyndsey and her boyfriend and so it was a regular Temple reunion. Celia is also good at ordering drinks--she gets real drinks. She asked for a ginger ale and Jack and I asked for one too but then couldn't drink it. All in all, I think we had fun and almost picked up some men and we didn't lose our wallets or phones or anything else and so the evening was a success.
Here is a picture of Emma Carol killing a stuffed mouse. She is excellent at it.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Emma Carol Has Been "Let Go"

No severance pay (unless you count half a bag of One cat food and some Meow Mix treats), no warning, and no hope for future employment. She has been returned. I went over to P & C's house on Tuesday night to retrieve her, expecting a welcome reunion, but instead, I got a disinterested flick of the tail. She then spent the rest of the evening in Padhraig's lap, her head buried in his elbow in disbelief of the betrayal. Back to the house of cats where she is not the sole animal (though she is still the queen bee). She did not catch one mouse but instead clawed up the wicker carpet and spread fur all over the Ikea chair. She did sniff at the holes where the mices disappeared, but that's really it. Useless.


Friday, January 4, 2008

Cockroaches are People Too

I checked out this book from the new releases in the library by Marion Copeland called Cockroach. It's a nonfictional account of the cockroach--its history, the reasons for the species survival, its place in literature, why it has a bad rap, etc. The book contains numerous great illustrations, both painting and photographs. I have been reading it while on the bike at the gym and even though I am starting to empathize more with the roach, I find myself feeling itchy while reading, like little buggy-bugs are scampering up the back of my neck. What is it with the general ick about these bugs? They don't bite, they don't sting, they're not strictly carnivores or even predators of any kind, they don't behave badly to one another, they don't carry diseases, and they don't like people and will run away (can speed off into corners at a rate equivalent to a person running 90 m.p.h.). People like me who have lived in Florida have more reason to ick-out at cockroaches because they are huge there and they FLY. Sometimes, they get confused and fly at you instead of away from you. I've had one fall down my shirt while I was out riding my bike to school once--it dropped out of a palm tree and down my blouse. Needless to say, I toppled over. I also had one crawl across my face in the middle of the night and then scamper under my pillow (they eat hair). But still, I don't feel the same way about spiders or crickets. I don't mind spiders that much and they do bite and can even be deadly. But cockroaches are just...There's nothing cute about a cockroach. Maybe if they were a different color? Less oily? Less leggy?

I signed up for a novel writing class this weekend; this non credit course that meets on Mondays from 7:30-9:30. Doesn't start until the end of January, and I'm still hoping that the playwriting grad class goes, but there remain only 3 of us registered. I thought the other day that it would be fun to have a narrator who taught urban legends at a university. Stephanie has been reading my book and she said she hated "Snowball" because it was so sad and made her cry. I take that as a compliment. Let us write a novel together, everyone.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Emma Carol Has a Job!

She has been loaned out to Padhraig and Carrie to try to catch the mice/squirrels scrambling inside their walls. She hated being in the carrier, and was a little spastic when I first let her out into the new place, but then she seemed okay. Padhraig later text-messaged me to let me know that she did a little poo in her litter box. Hooray! I fear she may be too fat to catch mice, but what a triumph if she would. I warned Carrie not to fall too deeply in love with her as she must be returned to me at some point. Henri seems very happy to have her gone, and Ernesto appears non-plussed.

Liz and Luke were up this past weekend for New Year's and we had fun though we didn't do much of anything, except spend 12 hours at IKEA, eat ginger cookies, play Sims and watch Intervention. We had Indian food at Padhraig and Carrie's on New Year's Eve along with LM and John and then set out to a party in Fishtown where everyone was very nice and very young. The guy who threw the party owns the two houses right next to each other. They had a bonfire going and let off fireworks at midnight which startled LM and Liz. Also, a spontaneous drum circle erupted and I momentarily traveled back in time to college and the boys I knew in theatre school who liked to drop acid and play drums at a moments notice. One girl wore a pig hat and someone said, Watch the piggie dance! as she made her way around the yard. People were starting to groove in the front room when we left. We are old.

I feel like today is going to be inexplicably long.