Thursday, September 30, 2010

Diary for the Week

I just read this piece in written in diary form--"the week in the life of..." I don't think I could write something like that. I've recently noticed that I am a creature of habit. I am happy doing the exact same thing, the exact same way, every day. And then I think of that quote " a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." I even think of this quote on a regular basis, to remind myself how small-minded it is to be habitual.

Every single day of my diary would be this, at least during the week:


7:10 AM
Press the snooze button exactly three times.

7:25 AM
Get up. Make coffee. Feed cats. Listen to NPR on the radio and turn it off in disgust whenever they quote a tea-party person.

8:05 AM
Walk to the Walnut stop, taking pictures of cats and judging people I pass by while at the same time hoping they're not judging me.

9 AM
Buy coffee from Barnes & Noble coffee shop. Thank the girl profusely for giving me a $2.25 coffee for just $2, as she does every single day b/c I request extra room for milk.

9:10 AM-5 PM
Work in some form or another.

5 PM
Trolley to gym (or not)

Around 7-9 PM
Arrive home, feed cats, immediately change into pajamas, play Spider Solitaire on the laptop and listen to NPR.

10 PM
Go to bed and read for an hour or so, as cats fight for space on the bed and periodically hiss at each other.

11 PM
Sleep. Dream about having to babysit cats, getting in trouble at work, or returning to high school having missed the first 3 weeks of class.


Really, that is what it's like.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Leigh Ann and I were talking today about being dorky kids. She reminded me of the story I once told her from when I was little and I used to wear red tights on my head because I thought that they looked like braids. I really wanted long hair, and preferably hair like Laura Ingalls (this was a common theme in my childhood--wanting to be Laura Ingalls), so I thought that tights made a foolproof substitution until my hair (always cut pretty short) grew. I reasoned that the seam down the center looked like a hair part. I tied bows toward the end, just above the feet.

Here is what I looked like:

Pretty smart, huh?

Demonic Squirrels

On thing I love about the campus is the plethora of squirrels squirreling around. They hop in and out of the garbage cans lining the walk, they scramble up trees, and, if you're eating anything, they run up to you and put their little paws on your bare legs. I like to tsk-tsk at them to get them to come over to me even when I don't have food. And then sometimes, you see them burying the things they've found, as this one is doing here.

And it turns out that what he's trying to bury is a full-sized Milky Way bar or at least a Milky Way wrapper. Looks too, like he just finished having a cigarette.

And then one thing I like about Princeton is that almost every week, Dan's landlord manages to find something large to throw out on the curb--a toilet, a refrigerator, 25 year old divorce papers, ripped out cabinets, and this chair.

How artful. I will call these two in the series Chair with Tree Growing Out of It, I and II.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

My Future

A couple of weeks ago, my awesome realtor, Jeanne, introduced me to another woman she sold a house to one block over. The woman's name is Peggy, she bought her first house last year at age 80, and Jeanne mentioned that she had a few cats. I was thinking this meant that she had like 8 cats. But when we got into the house, I counted first 10 and then thirteen cats (one was on the fridge, one was under the couch, and another was a different black cat from the original one I saw. All told, there ended up being 4 black cats). During the tour of the house, more cats were revealed--five or six in the basement, four or five more in the upstairs bedrooms, and the miscellaneous cat here and there. But the house was in order, she had litter boxes, water bowls, and food dishes on each floor. Still, it was a lot of cats. I couldn't decide if she was living my dream come true or my nightmare.

Here are some of them after I gave them catnip and they all converged on the living room floor.

And who knew there was a single persons site for cat lovers. Guess what it's called? GET IT????

Art Show

This weekend, Dan hosted an art show at his house in the country. His sister, her kids, his mom, the landlady, his neighbor, and a couple of other friends. The landlady is this older woman from Texas who talks about her divorce as if it happened two weeks ago instead of 25 years ago. She got the house in the settlement.

In any case, here is part of what was on display. First, my work. My medium is thick Crayola markers.

This was the sign on the front door. Please note how cleverly I created a visual image to go with the letter in each word.

Luke drew the portrait on the left. On the right is one called Uncle Todd.

Not two of my favorites. Luke named both of these. The one to the right is Mrs. Timberlake.

Princess Vacant and Baby Margaret.

Scary twins and a cat that Luke named L. Barny.

I like these two: Priscilla, Accident-Prone and Bill.

Kay Banana was the first one I did in this series. Below her is "The Shut-in."

And then these are Luke's creations. He had a whole section called "Zoology." He mostly draws animals.

He has a cartoon book he uses and he copies from it.

Dan and I both like Luke's use of negative space here.

It's flattering that he copies my ideas and then makes them better. Look how the elephant breaks up the "e" and the "a."

More sketches.
And these are Dan's drawings that he does with his eyes closed, using meditative breathing.

Finally, meeting Bob and Shirley, the newest editions to their household. They may eat one another, but that will just be an important life lesson for Luke about the inevitability of death.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Maybe It Was All a Dream...

We're going over Alice Munro's short story, "Free Radicals," in class tonight. To prepare, I've been reading other people's comments about the story; what they think it's about, what it means, if the main character is who she says she is...One of the more iffy comments suggested that maybe the whole story was all a dream...She just feel asleep and dreamed of a man coming to her house, threatening to hurt her, admitting he'd murdered his family, and then stealing the car. All a dream. It is my hope that Alice Munro would never write such a story, and I don't think she did in this case either. It's one of the more frustrating things about listening to other people's critiques sometimes; they can't understand the writer's choices and so invent their own possibilities. Someone else said that she had clearly just pieced together and older story and a newer one and forgotten to edit out the inconsistencies. As if: (a). She would consider doing this without carefully checking her changes; (b). The fiction editors at The New Yorker magazine (where it was originally published) would somehow miss this, but Missy, a commenter from Arizona, would catch the discrepancies. I guess I'm a little worried because I don't quite know how to talk about this story. I feel like I could read a lot of the pieces we go over again and again and still not get it right.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Donate Your Organs, For Free!

The teacher chose the story about organ donation for my research project. I'm okay with that. I need to find my journals from when I was working at the organ transplant place (we'll call it Present of Life from now on or POL). I have some very specific memories of that place, mainly that we talked about who died over the weekend every Monday morning and that I saw a severed head in a cooler once on a work field trip to visit the Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation. I will not be donating my body to science.

About my previous post on scleroderma, my mother informs me:

Aim, my cousin Sister Martin Clare, had scleroderma, and might have died of it, but she was killed in a tractor accident on one of very few visits to her parents' home. Her brother, my cousin Paul Koenig, was driving the tractor, when she got caught by her veil in one of the big wheels on the back of the tractor. We went to her funeral in Concordia, Kansas; I rode with Dave in Grandpa LaBrie's car. She had taken her final vows, was very committed to her vocation, and was a lab tech, I believe. I can still see her face in the coffin. Does this pique your interest?

I should write a short story that's just about ways to die on a farm. There seem to be many, many of them. Smothered in a corn silo, shot during hunting season, drowned in a pond, eaten up by a egg conveyor belt (I made that last one up).

But that's enough about death for today. Here is a picture of a dead kitten (not really). This is Maru.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Research Topics Are Due

We have to turn in our research ideas tonight and I suspect we will go around the room again and each person will talk about his/her project and that will be not so much fun, and I don't want to go because I don't really have three concrete ideas, not to mention not having three ideas for how to pursue it. How do you do that with a short story? It's not really a natural process, at least not for me.

Someone in our first Philadelphia Stories fiction writing class said that she is obsessed with twins. Another person added that people who are left handed had a twin in the womb who died. I find that hard to believe, but awesome if it's true. I have my three research topics, but am not super interested in any of them--like, somewhat interested, but I don't know that I want to read books and books about the topics. I remember that my friend in Chicago, Annie, had a thing about scleroderma (that's the disease where your skin and organs starts hardening until you suffocate. I think). I like to read stories about animals, I guess. Maybe I could copy the premise of Love in Infant Monkeys, by Lydia Millet. It's a collection of short stories where each one centers tangentially around animals and famous people. Here's the blurb from the website about the book:

Lions, rabbits, monkeys, pheasants all have shared the spotlight and tabloid headlines with famous men and women. Sharon Stone's husband's run-in with a Komodo dragon, Thomas Edison's filming of an elephant's electrocution and David Hasselhoff's dogwalker all find a home in Love in Infant Monkeys. At the rare intersections of wilderness and celebrity, Lydia Millet hilariously tweaks these unholy communions to run a stake through the heart of our fascination with pop icons and the culture of human self-worship.

It's even better than it sounds. But okay, I'll go with what I have: multiple sclerosis, the childhoods of the Mendendez Brothers, and organ donation.

Friday, September 17, 2010

King Tut in Hat

I forgot to mention that little dogs can also be included in the cats-in-hats competition. Why not? This dog below is smaller than many cats we've already seen. This is Tut, who was born of a bastard Jack Russell slut of a dog from Philadelphia. He is ten years old, mostly blind, and the only child of Jim and Lisbeth ________. He will likely outlive them. His interests include walking, biting children in the park, riding on the neck of Jim, intruding on social gatherings, pooping in inappropriate places (and never being punished), and squeaky toys.

Here he is on a pillow in the living room of the home I've never been to because Lisbeth is a hoarder and they also never have toilet paper.

Looking dapper on the patio, currently under redesign by the Amish.

Note foggy eyes.
Full body shot. The reason he is named Tut (as in King Tut) is because of the black triangle on his tail, which reminded the nine year old neighbor girl of the pyramids. Huh?

First-Ever "Caption That Photo" Contest

I ran into Leigh Ann on the bus this morning and we were looking at the photo below, which I took after she and I spotted this man sprawled on the lawn of the campus. She suggested I add it to my blog and call for captions. The winning caption will receive a FREE cat-related item.

Here is the photo. Please click on it for a larger view, so you can see what you're dealing with. Send all captions through the comment section of this blog.

And then, here are the rest of your Friday photos, taken on my morning walks to Walnut Street. First, a tuxedo cat.

Then a scared-y orange cat. I just like how round his eyes are.

Window display at a funky shop on 13th and Pine-ish.

Not sure what this t-shirt means, but I like the color.

Wanting out.

Another startled cat.
Cute bike.

Not sure what this cat is looking at. I like the curtains behind him which is embroidered with flies.

And here is Luke last weekend. Notice missing tooth.

We took him to this farm and forced him to do chores like gather chicken eggs. He and the other kids were obsessed with these fruits they found on the ground. They kept calling them monster fruits, but I am guessing there is another name for them.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My Mother Likes Baseball

Here is an email I got from my mom last night with the subject header: "How About Them Rays?"

"Dan is right. If their records run this close the last 20 games, including tonight, they will both be in the playoffs. Whichever has the best record will automatically win the division, which is the toughest in the majors. That's what the Rays did in 2008, going from worst to first. Next year will not be so good as they are going to cut the payroll big time. And that means no more Carl Crawford or Carlos Pena. Crawford has the potential to sign a 140 million dollar contract for maybe seven years (20 million a year, not a lump), and that would probably be with the effing Yankees who buy whoever they want. I could go on and on in this vein, but if you have read this far, I will consider myself lucky. I hope your class tonight is inspiring and totally worthwhile. You are there as I write."

She grew up with 7 brothers and I think this is partially why she's a sports fan, but maybe it's also because Florida loves their teams. Anyway, I think it's cool that she's so into it and knows so much about it, whereas I am clueless.

Class last night was good--none of my fears came true (see previous post), and we were let out early instead of late. The only thing I'm worried about is that we have to pick a topic to research for our final project, which can be creative or non-creative. I'd like to write a short story, but it's not typically part of my process to get involved in a story via research. It seems like an odd way to write; like, to force your research into the story. I guess if I tried to write a story set in the Old West of Nebraska, I could research that time/place and add those details to my story, but why? Or I could try to write a story based on a true crime happening like Joyce Carol Oates sometimes, but I don't know yet have a particular tale in mind and again, seems odd to intertwine the truth with fiction in this false way. I guess it's because I don't tend to write heavily plotted stories. Most are based on character or situation, and not anything particularly sensational, like a murder. Other ideas: the history of fruit juice as told by a fruit fly, What if Freud met the Virgin Mary?, Terriers:Fact or Fiction? See, many of my classmates already have research project ideas, ones that are very specific and interesting. I haven't yet found anything. I could write about organ donation. Or something related to Occam's Razor. A mystery where a vital organ is stolen and the most obvious person took it. Please help.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


So, the first class starts tonight at 5:30. Here are my fears: (1). I will be one of three students; (2). We will be asked to do a free write and then to read it out loud. It's not that I don't like free-writing, necessarily, it's just that it seems like a huge time suck and I'm not really interested in hearing what other people write off-the -cuff. Plus, I get embarrassed if mine isn't very good; (3). The teacher will be mean and hostile; (4). We will be asked to do trust falls; (5). I will be the oldest person in the room by far; (5). The rest of the class will be awkward 19 year old's; (6). The class will go over time; (7). The teacher will praise genre fiction.

In other news, I went with Leigh Ann to the ER this morning because her eye was swollen shut and she had bad depth perception. We weren't in there very long, but we did get to watch a large man in a wheelchair dry and wet heave into a plastic canister several times while the rest of the waiting room winced and looked away. And then we got in to see the nurse practitioner and she saw LA's eye and said, That is disgusting! She mentioned how disgusting it was no fewer than a dozen times, really. She was nice except for that and also said, Good girl, when Leigh Ann blinked correctly. I was a little envious that she didn't call me a good girl.

And here is a link to the latest column I wrote for Philadelphia Stories. It's called "Good Beginnings."

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Photos

This bicycle, besides being built for hauling stuff, also has a sticker that reads "I heart rogue taxidermy."

Here is a smooshed tabby face. I worried at first that maybe one of his eyes was missing.


The screened in cat.
Free range cat on garbage day.

Oh, I just like this balcony and the floors because it's this splash of European-ness in the middle of the city.

Another cool bike--this one is a Schwinn.

If I took myself seriously as a photographer and were like 14 years old, I would call this photo "Childhood Lost" or "The End of Childish Dreams," or "They Make Pink Legos??"

I may have taken a picture of this before--I'm not sure. I just like it.

And here is a link to The Daily Show's piece about the Florida pastor who wanted to burn the Koran (thanks to Leigh Ann who thinks it's funny but won't post it on her blog because she doesn't want to be too political):