Tuesday, December 31, 2013

All New People

That's the name of a book by Anne Lamott, I think, and also the name of Zach Braff play, according to Wikipedia. 

I don't know if I quite have the energy required to do an end of the year recap--much has happened, mostly all in the last four months, and I haven't yet settled into the groove of this new life--it still feels like I'm just visiting this place. The other day, I said something to Dan like, Well, when we get back to your house...And he said, You mean, our house? Because, oh, yes, we both live here now, in this condo in Plainsboro with the three floors and giant bedroom with a master bath--that's new to me. As is the walk in closet, as is the fridge with the automatic water, as is the back patio and the trail behind it where people are constantly running or walking or whizzing by on their bikes.

And then there's also my new job and all new people. It feels a little bit like I've been taken from my home and dropped into a foreign country where I still need to learn the language and the rhythm of the place. Now, when I go back to Philly and visit my mom (who is living in my house), that's not the same either because it has her things in it; all nice furniture and much more cooking ware than I've ever owned, and the occasional vase. So, I don't feel quite at home there either. And Philadelphia seems different to me now; I'm nostalgic for the dirty streets and the simplicity of it in some ways. I had a routine--get up, write a little, drink coffee, walk two blocks to the subway, get off at 36th street, go to the Starbucks, buy my coffee, and then in to work to make my bagel and chat with Kristina before starting work. Work, maybe go to the gym, walk home, change immediately into my pajamas, and get on the computer again, cereal for dinner, and into bed by ten to read for an hour or so.

I think the biggest difference has to do with not having nearly as much alone time as I used to. Before, except for when I was at work, I spent most of my time by myself, and would see Dan and Luke only on the weekends. Now, Dan is here when I wake up, and then I'm at work with people all day, and then I race home and have maybe twenty minutes alone before he arrives. In the evening, instead of being by myself, I'm with him (and Luke sometimes), and I actually sit down and eat dinner with most of the food groups represented. Then, after dinner, if Luke is with us, we find something to watch on TV that's geared for kids, though now that Luke's older, it's more often than not a movie that is also geared towards adults (i.e. not an animated feature), so I've seen Batman Returns quite a few times in the last four months. Luke goes to bed a little after nine, then we watch TV until about ten, and then go up to bed, where I do read still, but Dan's there too, and he needs to talk, and recap the day--but he's also sensitive about knowing that I want to read, and so tries to wind down too.

I'm not unhappy--I'm glad I moved here, I like my new job, I love our condo, I am happy to be close to Princeton and Green Street and the lovely library in town and the one in Plainsboro too, I like seeing Luke more; it's allowed us to get to know each other better and he's such a good kid. And I'm lucky to have Dan with me--he listens to what I need, and he adjusts, and no matter how tired he is, he starts dinner right away, and he takes care of me and let's me take care of him too. I hope though, that I can start to think of this place as my house too. How much longer will that take? Part of doing that is finally unpacking everything--I'm starting to see my things mixed in with his--my kitschy cat paintings and Virgin Marys, my books, my pictures among his paintings and collages. We made one together the other day, and will hang it up once it's finished. And we also bought new furniture together; that's a first for me, so the new things are not mine, or his, but ours.

We're still figuring out how to blend our lives. This past weekend, one thing we did was have Ernesto come for a visit. It was strange to see him walking around, rubbing his face on everything, and then settling in to his new cat bed. He adapted to the new life pretty quickly, but then again, a cat's brain is the size of a pea. I will try to be more like him, and just settle in.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Chased by Vampires

Why did we have to set the clocks back? This time change has negatively impacted my life in the following ways (these are the same words that are used on the show Intervention when loved ones are trying to explain how their relatives addiction to Nyquil is a problem).

Well, there's really only one thing. I don't like driving in the dark. I find myself trying to get out of work just a little bit earlier each day while there's still a tiny bit of light in the sky--mostly, it's twilight by 4:45 p.m.  I race to my car and quickly zoom out of the parking lot. As the minutes tick by, it gets darker and darker and my anxiety increase. I find myself clutching the steering wheel and glancing at the sky. My goal is to get home or even just to Scudder's Mill Road before full dark. It occurred to me the other day that I was acting like the vampires are coming, the vampires are coming! If I don't get home and board up the house before nightfall, they will surely land on my car and haul me out into one of the pockets of tree covers near the strip mall parking lots on Route 1. Because that's exactly how I feel about Jersey drivers--they do not care about you, they want you dead and out of the way so they can get home in time for Judge Judy.

I swear to God, this guy passed me on the road last night as the last dregs of light drained from the sky:



Friday, November 15, 2013

Windows of New Jersey

Remember back in the day when I used to take pictures of kitties in windows on my walk in to work? I no longer have a walk in to work. I now have to a drive (see previous post...) and though I'm getting better at it every day (until I die in a fiery and violent car crash), I don't have any windows to satisfy my voyeuristic impulses. Instead, I have windows in a condo.

Here are four of them.

This is the window in the dining room with the ornate curtains still intact. They remind of that scene in Gone with the Wind when Scarlett decides to make a fancy dress out of ruined velvet curtains. I may do the same and show up for work on Monday with gold fringe on my skirt.

Another left-behind window treatment. We probably won't keep this one either. It has suede and two large tassels that could potentially be used as ponytail extensions.

The view of the parking lot from my bedroom window.

This is the best window view in the house--this is from the second bedroom and looks out on the forestry behind the condos. Nature exists.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Driving Anxiety

I had a dream last night that I owned two polar bears and the one trick they could do was to drive a car in the snow. I believe like almost all of my dreams, this one is indicative of my fear of driving--a fear that I have to face now that I'm living in Jersey and commuting across highways to get to and from work every day. In defending my scaredy-catness to Dan, I realized that most of my fear comes from not having driven very much at all for the last 17+ years. I lived for 5 years in Chicago without a car, then 6 years in State College without a car until my last year, and then 6 more years in Philly only using the car to drive to Acme and Target, essentially stop and go city traffic where you never get up past 25 miles an hour. So, making this adjustment to one of the worst routes in the country (Route 1) in a place with many of the most aggressive drivers you'll never want to meet (Jerseyites) along a stretch of road that has numerous places where people merge from strip malls and others fly across lanes because they're lost--the transition has been an adjustment.

Here is one irrational fear I have that I can't seem to shake: what if I suddenly go blind while driving? Hear me out though---my eye doctor has warned me that my retina could detach at any moment. Couldn't that happen as I'm trying to make a sharp turn to merge from Route 1 onto Skudder's Mill Road (another race-track like part of my drive)? Also, my night vision isn't great. Also, there are numerous suicidal deer along these roads. 

Helen Keller: What if I become her?

On another note, the CD player in my car isn't working, so I've been listening to the radio in the mornings, and there's music playing on maybe every 15th station--the rest are all morning shows debating dumb stuff. But I was reminded again of the need for a word to describe a particular moment that happens when you're flipping through radio stations. It's those few seconds of a listening pause between when you hear what sounds like rock music but wait to see if it's really Christan rock. You have to strain sometimes to discern the lyrics, but then you'll get a line like a man singing, "And then the water turned to wine..." and you know to keep going.  What's a good word for that?
 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Anti-Top Knot

How apolitical, to take a position on a hair style, but I keep seeing it everywhere in Philly, these girls with their hair on top of their heads in a purposefully messy top knot. I know it's purposeful, because achieving the top knot isn't easy--it's not like you just put it in a ponytail and then go; there's actually hardware required to make it look right. You need to use these doughnut shaped, sponge-like spheres to execute properly.

Example:



To me, unless you are a ballerina and required to wear this style because you're in The Nutcracker (the one ballet I can name easily), I feel like the top-knot is a waste of time, in part because I think it's hard to pull off. Like, unless you have sharp cheekbones and a delicate nose and big eyes, you end up looking like you've just rolled off a covered wagon. Only Ma Ingalls can pull this off.



Or you might wear it another way, this super whimsical top knot where you look as though your IQ has plummeted, as if all of your brain cells have been pulled out in creating this style:


Also reminds me of this:


 Or there is the version where you make a super fat top knot, and people who see you can't stop thinking of bundt cakes or wondering if a bird or two might actually fly out at any moment.


But perhaps my main dislike of the top knot is that I can't personally pull it off at all. I've tried, and it makes me look old and school marmish, and not in a fun way. More like this: 


Friday, September 6, 2013

Never in New York

Even though I live in Philadelphia and New York is a 90 minute, cheap Bolt bus ride away (meaning that technically, I could do a day trip to Manhattan, returning in the evening), I've only been to the city maybe a little more than a handful of times in the nine-ish years that I've lived here. And I never seriously considered living in NY, even though I'm envious of people who do. Whenever I make a visit, I imagine a different life for myself, how I could have been more adventurous and moved there and lived in a roach infested studio apartment above Korean grocery store for $600 a month (or more now), but how that might have been braver or riskier and a more interesting choice. But then I remind myself that I lived in Chicago for five years. Chicago is like the country-bumpkin half sister of Manhattan--it barely counts by comparison, but it was an anonymous place and had a much more sophisticated El system than Philly does. New York just seems light years more cosmopolitan. You go into any corner grocery store and they have to have everything. They have to have bagels and lox and green grapes and orange soda in a glass bottle and bedroom slippers. In Philadelphia, you got into a bodega and can get maybe a milk that's going to expire in four hours. And the people are more interesting--they are super beautiful and possibly famous and/or they are impoverished and wearing a full suit made out of garbage bags with the twist ties in their hair. I could have moved to New York, but I thought I might end up in one of those ugly, huge, crumbling high rises whose windows don't open so you can't even jump out of them.  So, let's just make it a goal to visit more often.

Dan and I went last weekend, and here are some photos.

Bad logo by our hotel. Looks like the dog has swallowed the cat.


Dan in our hotel room at Pod. You could see the bathroom from the bed. He's in the shower in this photo.

Steps of some famous building or other.

Times Square around 6 PM.


Times Square two hours later.
In Bryan Park, people-watching. 
What happens to your bike if you leave it abandoned for more than 24 hours.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Possession

Devoured another Sara Gran book last night in one fell swoop--Come Closer. It feels almost rude to the author to read her book in one evening--really in the span of maybe 90 minutes. It was obviously a page turner and the writing was crisp and fast-paced, but still--the writer labors over her work for months and months and then the reader eats it up like a Butterfinger candy bar in one sitting. This one was about a woman becoming possessed by a demon, all set in modern day, the tone very matter of fact, but again, dark, dark, dark, and again, it didn't end well. I didn't find it to be particularly scary, but it was upsetting overall and I will never trust this writer to give me a hopeful ending. It did kind of make sense on another level; like if you watch as much Dateline with Lesley Stahl as I do--in those shows, you always have this seemingly ordinary family (and they always have these Sears-generated family portrait photos of everyone hanging out by a fake tree in matching denim to prove how suburban and normal they are), and then you'll discover that the dad who works at Best Buy is accused of murdering his wife and their three children, or that the wife hired a thug to shoot her husband in the parking garage, or that the middle child supposedly set fire to the house in the middle of the night. Then you wonder, how did this happen? How can these regular people who walk around and do regular things suddenly become murderers and arsonists? Gran's book has an answer for that in a way. Near the end, Amanda, the character who is slowly becoming possessed, starts to see that all around her are other people who have similarly been taken over by a demon--every once in a while, one of them will reveal its true face, eyes peeling back in the head, mouth become an unhinged black hole, and she'll realize that they are other ordinary people around her who are vessels for these evil spirits.

I think I'm done with her for a while, unless I can get my hands on her newest Claire de Witt detective novel. Apparently, I am possessed with the desire to read everything she writes, even though it leaves a slightly ashy taste in my mouth.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Ending Things Badly

Finished reading Dope by Sara Gran last night. It was definitely a page turner, but on the very last page, I wanted to throw the book across the room. The story is set in Manhattan in the 1950s and the female protagonist is a former junkie in her mid-thirties. The story is told in her sardonic and jaded voice, and the plot revolves around her trying to track down a missing girl, a blond Barnard College drop out who has started shooting up and gotten mixed up with a low life drug dealer/pimp. Searching for the woman takes the private eye back to her old haunts and temptations; she meets up with her ex-husband who got her hooked on drugs and he's still using, having shrunken down to a skeletal version of his younger, healthier self. Etc., etc., and I was relieved that the author didn't let the narrator give in and start using again, though she's thinking about it all the time. However...here's where I tell the ending, okay? Just skip forward to the Huffington Post blog is you don't want to know what happens. However, as the story begins to wrap up with all the mysteries solved and the lost girl found, a twist occurs--one we may have seen coming or not, but definitely an ah-ha ending that I think detracted from the whole rest of the story.

First, I don't need all of my endings to be happy ones. And this story wasn't going to end happily. The narrator didn't come into a great amount of money or suddenly get offered a job by the police force or meet the man of her dreams. She was going to keep struggling with her addiction, but she had the slight possibility for redemption because she had found this drugged up drop out, someone not totally unlike herself, a nice parallel. The book could have ended with the two of them together in this cruddy little apartment while the younger girl starts to undergo withdrawal and the narrator gets ready to wait it out. Instead, the narrator's half sister shows up at the last second, reveals that she was the real villain all along, and shoots the narrator in the stomach.  The last few paragraphs show us the narrator dying; gradually losing consciousness and returning to memories of the first time she snorted heroin. The end.

I guess maybe that happens in some Raymond Chandler hard boiled stories too, maybe. But killing off your first person narrator is the work of a trickster writer--one who pulls out the rug at the last second and goes, Gotcha! I bet you didn't think she would die, did you? It's the worst kind of implausible ending, the type new student writers pull (along with the story being all a dream or discovering the narrator is not really a person, but a rutabaga).  If the rest of your book deals in hard, gritty reality, you're not allowed to change the rules and reveal the narrator is dead all along. I mean, where is she writing this from? Is this whole thing a detailed journal entry where the last words trail off the page as she uses her dying breath to finish up the tale?

I don't like it and I don't recommend it. I checked out another one of her books and lent it to my friend Liz. She says she started it, but found it to be depressing. Maybe we need a break and I should check out Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel, which is the next book on my list.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Mom

My mom is moving to Philadelphia at the end of the September. She's been here all along, at least in pictures. Here's a sampling from around my house. The last one is her and me on Christmas. I believe I have been just given a toy blender. I'm as mystified by kitchen items now as I was at age four.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Summer Reading

My friend Liz lent me a library book that I devoured in two nights, Claire Dewitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran. It's a first person female detective novel sent in New Orleans shortly after hurricane Katrina. Funny, depressing, engaging. Go get it. My plan today is to hit the Penn library for Dope, an earlier novel.

Here is the cover:






Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Saddest Thing in the World: Old Dogs

I saw one this morning on my way to work--an old terrier of some kind with arthritic back legs and white muzzle. The day before, it was a fuzzy golden retriever named Cooper (if I must talk to the owners to be allowed to pet the dog, I try to find out the animal's  name). Lisa Marie lived with an old dog at her last place and I had to ask her almost every day if the dogs was still alive. Luckily, she moved out before the dog died and I can now pretend that Sweetie lived forever--I never have to grieve for this dog I barely knew when she dies.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Train to Trenton

On my way to see Dan and Luke and to look at more apartments. This idea of moving again is becoming more and more real and a little freaky. Boxes. I will begin to obsess about boxes. Books. I am determined to be ruthless about giving away books. As much as I might like the idea of reading it, I will never crack the spine of The Collected Letters of E.B. White. Or that biography of Sylvia Plath. Knick-knacks? I will keep moving those small items of sentimental value, like the china doll my grandma gave me, my high school yearbooks, a little wooden block from my first boyfriend.

We keep moving forward. Eddington next stop.


Friday, August 2, 2013

Four Things

1. Yesterday, I spent $19 on a magic shampoo and about the same amount on hair-shine gel from Blue Sapphire or whatever it's called--this beauty product store near where I work. I do not care, because I am not the type of person who does this often. I don't get manis or pedis or massages or body waxes, so sometimes, I spend some money on hair care. And, if you must know, I have a trip planned to the MAC store at some point in the near future.

2. Ernesto still loves his perch and uses it to escape Emma Carol, who chases after him when she gets overstimulated (which happens at least three times a day). EC can't get him when he's up there, because she has a little bit of weight problem.


3. I recently learned how to sync up my phone with Dan's i-Tunes account and so have been able to listen to tons of Bruce Springsteen. I've also come to realize (somewhat late in the game) how easy it is to download single songs myself for a mere 99 cents or $1.29. Here's the latest song I added, Rilo Kiley's "Better Son or Daughter:"  It sort of makes me want to weep every time I hear it, but I think that's good for a person.


4. Liz and LUke and JJ are coming in from Brooklyn to see me and Dan this weekend and I can't wait!!!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Other things to remember from childhood according the Lynda Barry:

Doing projects on the planets with Saturn being the hardest planet to draw.

Christmas pageants after hours at school and how totally different school seemed at nighttime.

Making clay vases in art class that tipped over under their own weight.

Book reports done the night before and trying to make the illustrations really large to take up extra space.

Playing Ghosts in the Graveyard in the dark in someone's yard.

Slumber parties.

Making long fingernails out of Scotch tape.

Candy cigarettes (do they even still make those)?

Spelling bees.

Getting in trouble at school and feeling like it's going to go on your permanent record for the rest of your life: "Frankly, we'd hire you in a second if it weren't for that nasty business about your behavior at a certain spelling bee."

Drawing princesses and trying to find ways to avoid drawing the hands and feet like perhaps having the hands clasped behind the back and the feet hidden by a giant hoop skirt.

Making dioramas out of old Payless shoe boxes.

Trying to make friends with the mean dog in the neighborhood.

Parades where the paraders throw bad candy at you, but you still feel bad if you don't get any.

Drawing pictures for the boy you like or getting pictures from the boy you like (for example, in third grade, Rawl Brown, he of the freckled nose and Tennessee accent, drew me an entire set of the members of Kiss. My favorite, of course, was Peter Chris, who wore cat make up).


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Move

I've moved about 10 to 12 times in my adult life and about three or four times as a kid. There's a part of me that loves the preparation for it--I like to get rid of things and so have satisfaction in saying good bye to random stuff like this stupid magazine rack from IKEA that I've been hauling around from place to place for too long. Like, I don't even have one magazine subscription, so what's the point? For the last 3 years, it's pretty much been a repository for yarn. Balls of yarn from my yarn-balling days, which are long gone, so we will bid farewell to those skeins too. Books...I have lots of books, including about 25 journals. I will part with books too, but that's the one area in life that I don't insist on cleaning house. If I have an emotional attachment to the book (such as my copy of A Girl of the Limberlost, which my grandma gave me when I was young. It has her slanted and neat handwriting in the cover), I keep it. However, I am starting to wonder if I need to hold on to this copy of the complete works of Shakespeare that I've had for too long. How many times have I paused, mid-step, pondering the name of the island monster in The Tempest, and feeling relief as I realize, Hey, I don't have to Google it; I can go upstairs and haul out that giant tome with the thin and rippable pages and find it myself. That has never happened, nor has it been used as a way to prove to others that I'm educated, since it's upstairs, being used as a doorstop, essentially. It goes out today.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Remember This?

My new routine includes me trying to do a few sit-ups and spaghetti-arm push ups every morning in the little tiny room/closet that houses my old journals. That's really all that it can fit--two bookshelves and a wooden Buddha statue. But it qualifies this house as a three bedroom, so that's fine with me. Better resale value. My reward for this physical toil is to read a few pages of one of the journals when I finish--usually, I find something funny that I'd forgotten, and on occasion, I find some writing that I like. This is what I found today. It's a list of ten things about being a kid that I got from reading Lynda Barry's The Greatsest of Marlys:

1. Brown paper lunch bags with your name written on them.
2. Orange marshmellow peanuts, usually given to you by old people who have had them around for decades.
3. Bangs cut too short from giving yourself a haircut with your mom's sewing scissors.
4. Ripley's Believe It or Not--how the stories were sometimes terrifying like the 700 pound woman or the man born with octopus arms. I always believed it.
5. Baby doll who pees when you squeezer her stomach.
6. Army men.
7. Loving the rooms of teenagers and feeling like you'll never ever be old enough to put up your own concert posters or make a decent collage from magazines.
8. Baton twirling.
9. Putting bottle caps on the bottom of your sneakers so they would make tapping noises when you walked and you could pretend your were a trained dancer like from All That Jazz.
10. Making turkeys out of your own hand prints for Thanksgiving place mats that your mom then had to use to decorate the table.



Monday, July 29, 2013

Beach

We drove to Longwood Beach this weekend, late in the day (after 2 PM) and so didn't get there until 3 or so, which was fine with all of us. Growing up in Florida made me in some ways beach-adverse. It was such a huge part of the culture and I never really liked what went along with it---like, I wasn't good at beach volleyball, I didn't have the proper attention to detail required to wear a bikini, and I found sitting in the sun boring. I do remember my favorite bathing suit though--it was an orange Hang Ten bikini with little white footprints across the backside as if a genie had traveled there while I was face down in the sand.

So, we only stayed for a few hours in the coolest part of the day. I read my book (Rose Madder by Stephen King---I'm on a kick with him again), Luke made a fort in the sand, and Dan dozed for a while. Here is the evidence:

Friday, July 26, 2013

Where I'm Calling From

Dan and I have been looking at apartments together around the Princeton area--mostly condos, and they're pretty much all the same. The only variable seems to be whether or not they have a basement. Otherwise, they have the same general kitchen, same tiny porch, same recessed lighting that I don't like all that much, same modern fireplace that's supposed to give it an air of sophistication, and same overpriced rent. For what we will be paying to live within a five minute drive to Princeton in a condo association, we could get an amazing row home with window boxes and a stone dog out front in Rittenhouse. But that's the way it is, so let's just accept it and be happy that most of the condos also have his and hers closets, both of which I need.

Last week, we looked at a home in Princeton for a not unreasonable price (under $2,000), and I knew as soon as we walked in that it was a no. I loved the house itself--it was an old home with wainscoting and glass doorknobs and built in bookshelves and a window seat, but it was super small (two bedrooms--one of them had an old fireplace in it and was only big enough to fit a small cot), but even more offoutting was the landlord showing us around. She would be living above us. Within ten minutes, she said three negative things about the previous tenants (wore clunky shoes, choose hideous window blinds that she asked them to remove, broke the ancient stove), and so I had that split moment where I knew we weren't interested, but didn't want to rude and just leave. Like, if I had no social graces at all, I would've walked in, watched her imitation of the grad students who previously occupied the space, and bid her farewell. Instead, I kept inching toward the door and nodding my head, thinking, I will never seen this woman again, except maybe in Small World coffee shop, where I will likely find her complaining to the barrista that her coffee is too hot. We will be looking at another house in Princeton tomorrow, though the woman already warned Dan that it's "not much to look at on the inside."  I will let you know how that goes.

We will never have this.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

More

Since I'm now obsessed with Inside Amy Schumer, I was watching her skits on YouTube last night, and saw one that was about two women on a game show. How it worked was that they would be shown a guy, he would say a few words about himself, and then both of the women would guess how the relationship would end. The one who got closest to the truth won. So, like one of them would say, "We'll go out for two  years and then one day, I'll discover that he has a secret folder on his desktop with nude photos of Daniel Radcliffe in them."

This, of course, got me thinking about all of the guys I've dated and how often I had more than an inkling that it wasn't going to work out. And I don't just mean that it wasn't going to succeed because of my own issues or because statistically, it's highly probable that it would fail (though both these are are reasonable worries), but because there was something wrong with the guy, or if not with him in particular, with the two of us together. Off the top of my head, I can list five guys I dated when I lived in State College, and how I knew, knew, knew within, oh, two hours of meeting them, that it wouldn't work out. And yet...And yet the desire to be in a couple was so so so much more powerful, that I ignored those signs and hoped against hope that I was wrong. In general, I had trouble evaluating these guys---I was way more interested in how they might feel about me (and how I might win them over) than how I felt about them. Hence:

1. Jon S. Should've been a no right away because he was uber interested in the outdoors and camping and eating beans out of tin cans in his back yard over a fire pit. I think he may have even worked at Easter Mountain. I, on the other hand, can think of no sane reason why a person would choose to sleep on the ground without shelter. We dated for two months and then he told me I wasn't outdoorsy enough. To be fair, he also owned a golden retriever named Toby, and so that fact also clouded my judgement.

2. Pete G. Sweet guy, but he wasn't over his ex-wife (who was coincidentally also named Amy). I knew this right away because as he was describing his divorce on our first date over flatbread pizza, he started to cry. Instead of saying to myself that perhaps he wasn't ready to date yet, I thought, Oh, my God, he can commit! We broke up three months later after I said, I think I love you (please notice both the qualifier and the Beatles reference), and he said, Oh, I think of you fondly.

3. Tattoo Jim. We all called him that because his body was covered in tattoos. He worked in the bike shop (of course) and was angry in this cute, emo way. I admired him because he didn't drink. We ended up making out one night (just kissing, mom) and he stayed over, and when I woke up the next morning, I saw that he had "straight edge" tattooed across his back. Just in case you don't know, this is a philosophy adopted by middle class white guys who are into music but have taken a vow never to drink, smoke, swear, or have sex prior to marriage.

4. TJG. Religious studies professor with two kids, oh, and also a wife. He converted to being Muslim in his early thirties and wore white smocks, socks with sandals, and one of those beanie hats, even in the summer. Nothing ever happened, but I carried a longtime, burning torch for him, despite the fact that he often said goodbye by flicking me the Spock hand signal that means, Live long and prosper. Did I imagine he would give up all the Muslim nonsense, leave his wife, and stop watching sci fi to be with me? Yes, I did.

5. The poets. There were a couple of those. Nice guys, for the most part, but super flaky and often into the beat poets like Kerouac, liking to see themselves as on the edge even though they were raised by dentists in the upper class Chicago suburbs.

And that's just my first year of grad school..........................Sort of. Here's the skit. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Story Ideas on the Street

I've been walking down Walnut Street from Broad Street most mornings to get to work--it's about a thirty minute walk and I listen to music and avoid the same two homeless white men with cardboard signs every day. I keep my eyes peeled for potential story ideas or oddities, and here are three I've seen in the last week or so. Not sure if I would ever really write about them, but I like the idea of getting writing prompts from what you're observing on a normal day.

This one is my favorite. The "what if" of the ad is what if this were your boyfriend and he were plastered all over town in this suggestive ad? Also, what if he were a terrible boyfriend and so you especially hated the posters for being a misrepresentation of his personality? And what if that character made it her mission to go around defacing all of the ads she could find on subways and street corners and billboards? And just as an aside, what is this even an ad FOR?

I took this on Wharton street in South Philly--a giant Virgin Mary in the window, perhaps placed there to deflect Catholic theives. But what if you were the 13 year old boy next door who develops a weird crush on the statues? Mary Gaitskill has a disturbing story about an adolescent boy's relationship with his sister's Barbie doll that one could model after.

Werner Herzog is a filmmaker who does mostly documentaries like Grizzly Man. I don't have a story idea for this one--an art student who can't even stand not to let the world know about his latest obsession? How much do you have to believe in WH to buy a can of spray paint and proclaim this on the side of the building? 
That's all I have for now, but I'll keep my eyes peeled today.

Monday, July 22, 2013

My New Favorite Show/Person

I recognize that I've let almost two whole months go by without writing here, but I do think about writing a post pretty much every day, if that counts for anything. I will try to write three posts this week, but they will be short ones.

For today, I'd like to share with you a video from Inside Amy Schumer, a show on Comedy Central that I just started watching (missed the entire season somehow). I like her stand-up, even though at first I was comparing her to Sarah Silverman--the blond version of Silverman, you know, the pretty girls who says outrageous things. But then I got past that because I think she's really funny and smart. 

Here's one of the show's kits about a courtship with a man who might seems suspiciously preoccupied with her character's perm. My favorite part is when she runs into him and the contents of her purse spill out onto the sidewalk. I hope it makes you LOL.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Another Response to the Dove Ad Campaign

Too much happened this week to detail here. Instead, please enjoy yet another response to the Dove ad campaign that I don't like. I like this parody better--it's all women who describe themselves as beautiful.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Bachelorette, Season VIXC

The newest Bachelorette started last night, and, you guessed it, the bachelorette is America's sweetheart, Desiree Holmes. I don't really know what her last name is, but she reminds me of Katie Holmes, post-Dawson's Creek, and pre-Tom Cruise brainwashing. When I say that she's America's sweetheart, I mean that she's the product chosen by NBC to be America's sweetheart; we don't really know her that well; she could be a total diva for all we know, but who cares, she lights up a room (when in candlelight) and she already has the script down ("here for the right reasons...Yes, I believe my husband is in this room...Will you accept this rose? Bounce is the quicker picker upper"). 

As usual, I only caught the last 45 minutes of the show, and so missed the hour of dudes getting out of the limos in evening gowns, trying to dazzle her, but that's okay. All of the guys look exactly alike and there are only 5 different names among them: Nick, Derrick, Zack, Mike,, and Brody. Mostly, they vie for her attention by talking about their drunk mom's, or their experiences in Iraq, or by attempting to wrestle her into the fantasy suite (that guy got sent home, you know why? Because that's not how Desiree likes to be treated, as Chris Harrison explains to everyone. She totally puts her foot down at date rape, you guys. Make a note of it).  The most interesting thing about the show when it's a bunch of guys and one woman is that they guys don't know how to act and they all end up reverting to Cro-Magnon behavior to get her attention--they rip of their shirts, they jump into the pool, they punch each other in the gut, they show off how great they are at bouncing a soccer ball off their noses like seals. It's so weird. Maybe this time at the end, they will have changed how it goes--brought it up to date, because usually, even though she chooses who she wants to be with, the guy is the one who must propose. Just let the woman propose now, okay? No one will care.

Anyway, the main point is that she sent the ER doctor home and I liked his glasses. She also sent the magician packing, and a couple of other guys with short dark hair--all of whom were periodontists. I don't know if I will be able to recap each week but I'll try.

Friday, May 24, 2013

5 Things that Happened This Week

Ginger came in for a visit to work. She's Denise's shelter dog and she's a cross between something and a Pomeranian.  I usually prefer medium to large dogs, having developed a certain disdain for yappy little dogs, but Ginger proved not to be a barker and behaved well. She also has a foxy little face and is fluffy, so it's like Denise brought a stuffed animal to work and made it come to life. She let's you carry her around as an accessory as well.





My cat has been dead for over six years now and I still miss her sometimes, like this mrning. I mean, I don't feel sad about it every day; I don't have a shrine to her. I don't keep her ashes next to my bed (though I do have them in this wooden box that's like a recipe box. The vet mailed it to me and I'm certain it contains many different lost cats, mixed together).  With cats, there are really only a handful of stories you can recall about things they did or things that happened to them---it's not like they're constantly interesting or like they can rescue you from wells. but she was my first pet. First pet at age twenty, unless you count aquarium fish, which I do not.  And she meowed constantly and was just always around in a good way.


I started reading Tana French's newest book, Broken Harbor and would like to take the next three days to finish it. It's literary detective fiction and so smart and interesting (more interesting than The Interestings, which I think I'm giving up on. I know the book will probably gain momentum, but I don't have the patience or the interest to read a book that starts slow with a bunch of awkward teens at summer camp).  I am trying very very hard not to skip ahead in this book to see what happens.
We get out of work early today because of Monday's holiday, so I'll leave for NJ on a 3-ish train. We have no plans; just the regular weekend in Princeton, where all the magical people live and where you can buy great only slightly used books at the library for $2 and where sometimes, you can pet a rare breed of dog on the street, and where there's also a store that has a fake sheep out front and I always fall for it, thinking it's a Great Pyrenees. Maybe we'll take a ride out to the Orchards, where you can buy apple cider donuts and feed the goats and where the cats run free and don't mind if you pet them.

You can see there is a theme in my life and that theme is animals.

A bunch of gals from work and I went to a free yoga class on Tuesday in a small little conference room and my self-worth was tested yet again by prolonged plank poses.  Since then, I've decided to work on my upper arm strength by doing mini-push-ups in the morning, and I mean mini--like, using about as much force as I employ to bring a glass to my lips. I also realized that, hey, my boyfriend teachers yoga. Why don't I ask him to do a class with me every time we're sitting around watching another episode of Dateline? Instead of eating marshmellow oaties, I could be working on my downward Ginger. We might not even fight about it.



You are caught up. This is all that's going on in my world, my brain, today.

Monday, May 20, 2013

3 Minute Fiction--Round 11

NPR sponsors this writing contest every few weeks, Three-Minute Fiction, where they give you a themed writing prompt and you have a week to write 600 words on it. A famous author then picks the winner and the winner gets published in The Paris Review. I've tried this contest about three times now and have never had a story picked or even featured on their website where they post some of their favorite entries. But it's still a good daily exercise. What I've done the last few times around is to write a different one each day, and then pick the one I like best to work on to submit. I did four this time, and one was a definite dud; the other three were workable. 

The prompt this time was this: Write a story in which a character finds an object that he or she has no intention of returning.

I wrote one on finding a letter on the ground, another about finding a dog, and then this one below about finding a body. The one I submitted was okay--not 100% worked out though. After the contest is over, maybe I'll post it here. 
I didn't submit the one copied below .It just seemed too far fetched, and a lot like the S. King short story, "The Body" (which later became the movie, Stand by Me), ans because I couldn't work out the ending, and finally, because it didn't quite fit the prompt. But I liked writing it in second person plural with the narrator intruding halfway through. Some of it is okay.

Boy
The abandoned house appeared just when we needed it most. We were thirteen and didn't like our parents. A cliché, of course, but each of us had good reason. Jodie’s dad was an abusive ex-Marine who made her eat soap when he thought she was exaggerating. After Karen’s's dad left, her mother ballooned up into a size too big for public viewing. Kendra's parents spent most of their time away from home with their respective lovers. The rest of us--well, who didn't have some reason to hate their parents? I can't remember who discovered that the house in the woods had a rusty back door, that we could easily slip. The rooms were empty except for odds and ends of furniture--a musty smelling paisley couch with broken springs, three straight backed kitchen chairs with missing rungs, a huge, empty traveling trunk full of quicksilver bugs. At first, we worried that someone might show up--a realtor or a care taker, but the more time we spent there, the more it started to feel like our place. Julie stole her mother's lavender scented candles to mask the smell of mold and Jeannine discovered by accident that the electricity was still turned on and so showed up one night with two table lamps that cast perfect rings on the splintery floor while we sat around, talking about boys and smoking Lisa's mom's Kool cigarettes.

I forget who found the body, but it was probably Jodi, because we didn't believe her at first (she was still prone to exaggeration despite the many lessons with Ivory soap). She said, No, you guys, I'm not kidding, come down to the basement with me, please, please. Some of us wanted to wait until daylight, and others of us thrilled at the idea of something happening, anything that would take us away from our own lives. We held each other’s shirt tails as we walked to the basement and she pointed to a corner, and we leaned in over the duffel bag she'd unzipped and saw it. His skin had dried up to the color of almonds, and stretched tight across his face, wrinkly, like an old man, but his body was small, maybe the size of a seven or eight year old. He wore an Atlanta Braves t-shirt and jeans.

Lisa, the smartest of us all, said that he’d been there for years and years, and that he’d become a mummy, like the boy king we’d read about in history.   

Julie panicked and heaved in the corner, and we glared at her. She was prone to dramatics.

We debated all that night and most of the next week what to do. Tears were shed, we got into fights, we hung up the phones on each other, but for some reason, we never told anyone about the body. We got into other things, some of us found other ways to distract ourselves. My brother got caught with LSD and our family was preoccupied by that, but it's not as if I ever forgot the boy.
Years and years later, my mother sent me a clipping from the local section of the paper, about how some other kids had found him, and immediately told. The authorities still weren't sure who he was, they just called him the Lost Boy in the Basement.
I don't talk to any of those girls now. They've vanished into their own lives. We promised we would never turn into our parents, but I suspect most of us have.

Friday, May 17, 2013

5 Things That Happened This Week

I am having a hard time getting to this blog regularly to update it, though it's nagging at me in the back of my mind. My idea for now is to keep the posts simple, so this will be about 5 things of note that happened this week. Okay? No pressure!

1. I got my hair cut all the way off on Wednesday by the amazing Leslie at DiCarlo's hair salon on Sansom and 12th Street. I liked her a lot too; and we quickly discovered that we had some geographical things in common. Both lived in Chicago, then moved to Florida, and ended up in Philadelphia. She chopped off about six inches of dead hair (I knew I was in trouble when I started obsessively biting off split ends during Commencement like a crazy person). She straightened it after the cut, but promised me it would be cute too if I didn't straighten it, and she's right--I noticed today that the ends are flipping up in such a way that makes me feel like Daisy Buchanan.



2. Dan made a kitty perch for Ernesto on Sunday and the cat has taken to it like a cat to a kitty perch.  I thought he might have some trouble leaping up onto it, but no. He just climbs over the oven (good boy!) to get to it. Emma  Carol is both too fat and too clumsy to jump on it, so this little hammock in the air is his refuge from her occasional outbursts of violence brought on by her drippy eye. Here he is now:


3. I finished two books this week, Him, Her, Him Again, and the End of Him by Patricia Marx and Saturday by Ian McEwan. The first book was funny, but I kept waiting for it to be about more than this woman's obsession with a pretentious philosopher and it never was and then (spoiler, I guess, though the title does reveal this) he is killed at the end when a bookshelf falls on him. Saturday was a more satisfying read though I confess that I skimmed in places because McEwan, well, he's one of them detail-oriented writers. Still, I did pick up Solar by him and also started reading Meg Worlitzer's The Interestings.  Is it shallow to complain that a book is sometimes just too heavy? I want to read carry it around in my purse, but damn. It makes me slump to one side. And, no, I don't want a Kindle.

4. I got "A's" in both of my Penn grad classes this week, and have also reached the class-taking portion of the degree. I'm still like fourteen years old about grades. Was biting at my cuticles when I got the emails about my final grades. It's not like anyone in the professional world ever says, Hey, can I see your report card? Still, I did a little dance.

5. Axl is visiting work today and his owner, Emilie, also made me oatmeal chocolate chip cookies fro my birthday. Update: This is me an Axl. I am forcing him to sit in my lap. You can't see it, but Emilie had him wear his special occasion bow tie. She's the  best. I am lucky to have so many thoughtful friends, human and otherwise.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Some Vine Videos

Of good and bad and indifferent quality. I'm still figuring out the process...

First, Emma Carol. Click on the little audio button in the top left if you want sound.

This is called "The Many Faces of Emma Carol," but there is really only one. The one with the constantly weepy eye.



Then, we made a Vine at a local pizza restaurant showing bunnies multiplying. It's called, "What Bunnies Do."
And finally, here's six yoga postures, done on the fly.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Dove Stands for Inner Turmoil

In case you haven't heard, there's this new Dove campaign that capitalizes on women's insecurities  about how they look while simultaneously pretending  to be trying to show women how beautiful they really are. The ad says, essentially, that most women don't see themselves as beautiful, aw, how sad, how awful that you should not believe your beautiful, because being beautiful is one of the most important attributes of a woman, Feeling beautiful (i.e. feeling desired by men) equals confidence. When really, why shouldn't feeling powerful equal being confident as it seems to be equated for men? Why should woman's confidence be based on the exterior and a man's worth on how important he is?

Do straight men think about they appear to women all the time? Do they wonder what kind of face they have--what the shape it is? Does GQ magazine give them ways to classify their bodies as pear, hourglass, apple or tube or rectangle shaped? I don't think they do, but men do come in different shapes and sizes--they're still not told to pick a dress shirt that helps make their shoulders look broader, and their waists thinner. They don't make Arrow shirts with shoulder pads in them or neck ties shaped to compensate for a perceived double chin.

And so of course I love this parody of the ad if it were geared toward men.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Middle School Journal

When I was in Florida visiting my parents last month, my mom asked me to go through some of my things from long ago; take what I wanted to keep and get rid of what was garbage. I found some things that I still can't part with--a note my friend Jen wrote on an airline sickness bag, my baptismal candle, this tiny green ceramic frog that used to mean so much to me, and then some of my old writing, such as this palm-sized notepad from 6th grade that I kept. Mostly, I wrote stories based on characters I liked from books or TV shows such as Little Women and Remington Steele. My characters were almost always adults. The women were beautiful, and the men were handsome and sometimes dastardly and they were all very very rich

I must run soon to work, but I leave you with an excerpt. This is a fan letter I wrote but never sent to Warren Beatty, probably after seeing Reds with my parents.

Dear Mr. Beaty (sic),

I got your address from my friend who knows this editor man.

My third period class put on a play that I wrote. It only lasted about twenty minutes, but it was pretty good.

The play was called Cinderfella. It was sort of a satirish thing, but Fred (the guy who was Cinderfella) did a good job. My friend Diana played the evil stempomther and I was one of the evil stepsisters, Arminta.

The thing was that I got to act, write, direct, and produce it. That was kind of neat. It makes you feel important.

I watced the awards the other night. Well, actually only some because at around eleven, I had to go to bed, so I didn't see the award you recieved, but heard about it later on the radio. You must get a great feeling of accomplishment.

Sincerely...Aimee

And then I wrote a note like "Be sure to remember that I'll never send this."

I was a fledgling feminist even then, casting against type to have Cinderella be a guy rescued by a princess, though you'll note that I didn't change the gender of the mom or stepsister.

There are pages and pages of this stuff, and most of is fiction, with lots of adverbs and lots of adjectives, as well as practice drawings I did of Garfield the cat, who was popular at the time.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

No Thanks

I don't think I'll be moving out to LA. I think all of the things that they say about LA in movies is true. Everyone is full of it, everyone is trying to get noticed, egos are on the line every second of the day, every time you walk down the street. I'm thinking about this because I have a friend at work whose aunt used to date a recognizable musician, someone from a band you've heard of and they have that one song whose chorus you sort of know. Anyway, he was once normal looking--he has a movie star cleft chin and blue eyes, but recent photos of him show that he's been through the plastic surgery machine. He has that mask-like face and perfectly straight, gleaming white row of teeth. And I can just imagine all the b.s. he hears all the time around him--"no, you look great, you look great. That new album is going to go gold!"

And I imagine that tons of people go out to LA thinking because they had the lead in their high school play in Clearwater, Florida, and they know that they've just got to meet the right people, and they'll get discovered. So, the guy filling the gas in your car is a model, the waitress with the violet eyes and delicate faux rhinestone nose piercing is definitely an actress. The kid scanning your cereal boxes at the grocery store has an audition after his shift that's going to save his life and land him a role as the mean older brother on a Disney show. And of all those people, maybe one percent will ever be in any way successful, and another 2% might make it onto a reality TV show like the dumbest one on last night Real Love--I thought for a while that it was a joke. How do these shows get made? I promise that I watched only five minutes, but it's this weird combination of The Bachelor and a game show, where the contestants appear on stage in these glass pods and are judged and have to make the case that they are on the show for the right reasons. All women, of course. Have we progressed at all when we still have these same tropes where dozens of women are presented in evening gowns and high heels and pancake make-up to dudes who must decide which ones he thinks are the hottest? No.

Anyway, this all reminds me of one of my famous stand up bits by David Cross.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

"Beware the Undertoad..."

Do you recognize the post title? Yes, that's right. It's from The World According to Garp. I haven't read it in a while but I think it's what the little boy thought everyone was saying when they really meant, Beware the undertow. Mishearing them, he had visions of this giant toad sitting at the bottom of the sea, looking up for little boy legs to gobble down.

Dreamed last night that I was rooming with four undergraduate girls who were super young and cute and partying and I came home to find that they drank all of my Kahlua and filled it back up with water. They wanted to go out again and I said I would go with them, but I wasn't dressed appropriately--wore my raggedy looking sneakers next to their cute yellow and orange delicately strapped sandals. A guy friend of mine who was going with me had an embarrassingly large spaghetti sauce stain on the front of his white pleated shirt (the shirt was just as attention getting as the stain). Then later, I was trying to get from the Jersey shore back to Philadelphia, but had to swim across an ocean of choppy gray water with shark fins breaking the surface. I made it to the other side though, remember feeling physically relieved in the dream when my feet touched the sand and I could stand up and hurry toward shore.

I attribute the dream to a couple of things related to the classes I'm taking now--one is that half of my small group team is made up of undergraduate Penn students and next to them, I often feel old and oafish; uncool, clumsy.  Then also, I have to give a presentation in my other class tonight and I don't feel prepared. I'm sure it will be fine--that class is a generous group of women--all nearer my age, but I still don't love the idea of having to offer up a PowerPoint.

My anxiety dreams are not opaque--insecurities and fears are right there like the shark fins, visible, obvious.
 

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Promise

As soon as my classes are over (at the end of April), I'll try to write posts more regularly. In the meantime, here's an essay I wrote for the latest issue of Philadelphia Stories.

I include a recent picture of the cats outside, enjoying the stirrings of spring, as compensation.



The Right Prompts

Recently, I attended the joyous funeral of my 94 year old grandmother, Lurye LaBrie, mother of ten kids all raised in the Midwest on a small farm in a tiny rural town populated by grain elevators, a town hall, and a juke-boxless tavern (not a bar, it was always called a "tavern"). I use the word joyous to describe the event because she had lived a long and prosperous life and the funeral was evidence of that--all ten children and their spouses were there, along with the twenty-nine grandchildren, and ten great grandchildren. Rather than being solemn occasion, it felt more like a celebration.

At the reception, I shared a piece of church-made sheet cake with my younger cousin, Allison, who was
complaining about her college creative writing class. "We keep getting these prompts, and then we have to write a story from them."

Thrilled at the sudden opportunity to talk about writing, I offered her some quick advice. "Well, I hope you never start a story with an alarm clock going off. "

She looked back at me blankly. "Why not?" I told her that you should begin the story with something going wrong; not just the start of an ordinary day. I borrowed one of my favorite lines from Janet Burroway, who wrote The Art of Fiction: "Only trouble is interesting."

"Mine started with her getting in the shower," she said.

"That's okay, as long as it didn't end with, It was all a dream."

"Oh, no," she said. "It ended with her realizing that she was really a dog locked in a kennel."

I swallowed the last sweet bite of cake. "What was your writing prompt?"

"The professor told us to write about a person discovering she has some kind of deformity. I made my character's deformity 'craziness.'"

My guess is that sixty to seventy percent of the class did the same. To me, this is primes example of a bad writing prompt, one that sets the students up for failure. While it does ask the student to use her imagination, it also takes away from another piece of solid writing advice: write what you know. Maybe some of the students wrote about their own real or perceived deformities--noses too big or too small, weight issues, maybe several had club foots. Still, is this something a character would discover one day? If you have a deformity, aren't you often aware of it or have you been avoiding public spaces and mirrors for decades, locked in a tower by an evil, jealous queen?

The prompt also sets the writer up for a few amateur mistakes; one being beginning the story with the aforementioned alarm clock moment; another being the O. Henry "ah-ha" reveal where the story is turned on its head; a third being the narrator telling the story from the locked ward on an asylum (or, in Allison's case, a kennel). If you are Robert Olen Butler, you can write a whole short story from the point of view of a parrot, and if you are Franz Kafka, make him a cockroach, but for most new fiction writers, it helps to first get familiar with the form before playing with it too much. Learn it first, and then unlearn it all you want.

A good writing prompt inspires you to think about an idea, situation, or character in new and unexpected ways. Some of the best first lines in short stories start with the juxtaposition between two incongruous ideas.  Take this one, from Bharati Mukherjee's "The Management of Grief" which place a stranger in what should be a familiar and private place: "A woman I don't know is boiling tea the Indian way in my kitchen, whispering and moving tactfully."

Putting unlike things together helps to create a necessary sense of tension--that idea that you're stepping immediately into a scene where something appears slightly "off," like a crooked picture on the wall. This discombobulated feeling from the very first line makes the reader want to keep reading to see if it gets straightened out.

My advice to you the next time you find yourself staring at a blank page is to find two disparate things and put them together--a happy funeral, a tragic wedding, a bloody birthday cake. Use this marriage of two unlike things to see if you can shape the idea into a good 750 word short piece.

As with any writing prompt, take only what's useful, interesting, or familiar to you. If you need to change the word "funeral" to "Miles Davis concert" or "happy" to "deep shame," then do it. You may also find that setting the story on a day something is happening will give even the most clichéd situation a sense of urgency, as in "His alarm clock went off the morning of his grandmother's funeral and he leaped from the bed with anticipation."

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Blue

We rented Blue Valentine this weekend, starring Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling. I have a soft spot in my heart for Michelle Williams as that wrong-side-of-the-tracks teenage love interest of Dawson on Dawson's Creek. I mean, I always wanted Dawson to get together with the Katie Holmes character (this was way before KH signed the 10 year, one baby marriage and publicity contract with Tom Cruise), but I liked Michelle Williams, and liked her again in Brokeback Mountain ("I can't quit you, Ennis!"--said by one of the gay cowboys in that movie). She was great in Blue Valentine; she can still look like a sixteen year old girl and then like a jaded, twenty-five year old woman. I didn't mind Ryan Gosling either, thought was more aware of him acting older in the present day parts of the movie, where they tried to ick him up by giving him a receding hair line and a beer belly and a penchant for chain smoking Marlboro Reds. If you haven't seen the movie, don't go if you're thinking of getting married or if you're thinking of getting a divorce, because the story is really about the end of a relationship, and there's also the worst part of the movie, which is where a Labrador retriever is found dead on the side of the round (hint: foreshadowing of where their love is headed). I thought they could've done a better job of presenting evidence as to why she wanted so bad to get out of the relationship. Yes, he's immature and teaches her little girl to eat oatmeal off the kitchen table,  and yes, he paints houses for living, and yes, he drinks beer at 8 AM while driving his truck to work, but he was also loving and committed and funny and talented. Dan and my favorite, favorite part of the movie was  a joke Michelle Williams character told to him after they first met on the bus. If you want, I'll tell it to you. I've been practicing. I now want to see My Weekend with Marilyn, because I heard she's great in that too.



Just found an interesting blog post about this movie and its possible gender stereotypes and misogyny. Of course, I've only scanned it briefly, but I feel like I;m ready to agree with it already.

Oh, but this reminds me of something from my feminist theater class last week. Our teacher was talking about Uta Hagen (a famous acting coach) talking about how she received her training--how she was taught that brave acting for women involved the actress showing vulnerability by being able to either (1). cry onstage; or (2). take her shirt off onstage and (3). preferably doing both at the same time. And how they were taught method-acting for scene study to get to these places, which basically asked them to channel times in their lives where they felt victimized in some way. I just thought that was interesting--that method acting for women could be read as this extra reinforcement of gender stereotypes. Someday, I'd like to write a story about my time as a theater major at Florida State or my time doing community theater after that and how much I hated feeling like I was auditioning all the time, even when I was just standing around at a theater party, holding  a plastic cup of warm beer.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Reading list

My friend at work lent me Knowing Your Value: Women, Money, and Getting What You're Worth. On the cover is the author's photo. Twenty pages in and it's a quick read, but also slightly embarrassing to be seen with-- this self-helpy volume that seems to shout out, "I read books that attempt to improve my low self-esteem!"

Whatever. You have to start somewhere.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Fashion Forward

Having some non-heated arguments with co-workers about the male gaze, spawned in part by the now old news Seth McFarland skit at the Academy Awards about all the actresses who have shown their boobs in movies. And then someone else sent me a link to a video response about all of the men who've show themselves, so to speak in movies. It was sung by a guy though, so does that count? It's called "We Saw Your Junk."


And then I recently realized that I still have this sexist speech sometimes--like today, we went to lunch at Houston Hall and there happened to be a set up for coffee. I wanted some coffee, but I knew it was for an event and so felt like I might get in trouble if I took any. Molly, on the other hand, very confidently went up and got a small cup, took her time to add sugar and creamer, and paused to take a sip, all in line of a security guard who said nothing. So, I took some too, and then later, I said to Molly, "That took balls." But...Can I find another way to say that? Like, so the implication is that what she did--this being confident and taking what she wanted--was a masculine thing to do. Courage = male. What can I say instead? She and Liz P. suggested we exchange the word "balls" with "nips." The new phrase then is, "That took nips." This is neither masculine or feminine--everyone has them (for an explanation as to why men have nipples, go here).

And then in class the other day--this feminist theater class I'm taking at Penn--one of the women mentioned that Yoko Ono is creating a line of clothes, and some of them play with the counter gaze...Dressing men in ways that emphasize their crotches in the same way that so much of women's clothing accentuates chest, hips, ass. Here's an example:

 I think it's funny. I'm ordering a pair of pants for Dan