Monday, July 26, 2010

Monday Mix Tapes: Give It Up

As long as you're groovin', there's always a chance somebody watching might wanna make romance.

I'm just saying.

The Art of Timing

The other day, for what might have been the first time in my life, I ran out of shampoo and conditioner at the exact same time. After I used the last of my shampoo, I grabbed the bottle of conditioner, expecting that, like usual, I would still have at least a fourth of the bottle left.

I held out my hand and squeezed the bottle. As the dollop of conditioner shot onto my palm, it made the kind of squirting noise that only happens when you’re squeezing something that’s almost empty—you know, that squirt! that tends to make people uncomfortable for some reason when you’re out to eat and the ketchup bottle does it. (I mean, is it really necessary to always make fart jokes when this happens? It makes me feel like I’m permanently in a high school cafeteria.)

I couldn’t believe it. I had used the last of my shampoo and conditioner at the exact same time. Do other people run out of these things at the same time, I wonder? Am I some kind of freak that this is an event? For me, it’s even more unlikely than it was to find a parking spot directly in front of my old apartment building in Chicago. Think about it: does anyone actually use the same amount of shampoo and conditioner each shower? I, for one, don’t keep measuring spoons in my shower. Because that would be weird.

Plus, sometimes maybe I don’t feel like conditioning. Or shampooing. Or maybe I want to use my deep conditioner that day. I don’t know. It just never happens. I stood in my shower and felt like something monumental had just occurred in my life.

After my shower, as I threw my empty Pantene bottles in the recycling bin, I felt so damn pleased with myself I wanted to celebrate. I had accomplished something. For once, I wouldn’t end up with two half-empty bottles of the same conditioner in my shower! When I normally run out of only shampoo, I still buy a bottle of shampoo and conditioner. I can’t stand to buy only the shampoo. They are a pair. A couple. Shampoo plus conditioner. You can’t just buy shampoo! It would be wrong. Who does that?

It’s amazing how rare it is to time anything perfectly in life. Even when it’s something ridiculous, like using the last of your shampoo and conditioner at the same time. I tend to find that my timing in life never makes any sense. Like right now, for example. I’m 26, and I recently moved back in with my dad. Most of my friends from college moved back in with their parents right after graduation. Now, they’re out on their own, making money and being grownups. I, on the other hand, landed a job right after college and didn’t have to do that. My timing was great right then, I had thought. I remember thinking how lucky I was that I didn’t have to move back home. I never imagined that only two years after landing the job I had agonized over for months, I would quit, move to Chicago and, slowly but surely, run completely out of money as I waited tables, interned, and hoped and waited for the full-time job that never came.

The timing of my move to Chicago was ridiculous. It was July 2008, and there really weren’t any jobs to be had. So why, why, would any reasonable adult in her right mind quit a good job with fantastic benefits? WHY? Why not at least wait until she found a job in said city before quitting the good job?

Friday, July 23, 2010

"And the world whistled in his ears."

If you need me, I'll be reading essays the rest of the summer.

Yesterday my copy of The Best American Essays of the Century arrived. I read the first two last night after work—"Corn-pone Opinions," by Mark Twain, and "Of the Coming of John," by W.E.B. DuBois.

Wow. I read the DuBois one in college when we read The Souls of Black Folk, but I don't remember it knocking me out the way it did last night. I read the final sentence again and again: "And the world whistled in his ears."

It's almost too much! Mark Twain. Bam. DuBois. BAM. Both essays are so good I just had to force myself to stop afterward and go to sleep. I had been planning to write, but I can't follow that act.

Quit reading this silly blog and go read those essays!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

In This Crazy Town (I Heart John Legend)

Have I mentioned before that I'm madly in love with John Legend?

I'm so excited for his new album with The Roots. Read this interview with him and I think you'll understand my love (as if you didn't already).

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Essayist

My used copy of Essays of E.B. White came in the mail today. I don't know that I'd agree with Amazon Marketplace that its condition is "Used - Very Good," but for $3.61, I won't complain. Oddly enough, the book smells exactly like my grandparents' house. The scent is so exact that I'm a little freaked.

Do you think my grandparents are secretly Amazon Marketplace sellers? WHERE ARE THEY HIDING THEIR COMPUTER?

Anyway, we all know E.B. White, genius creator of Charlotte's Web and The Trumpet of the Swan. But did you know that Charlotte's Web was inspired by an essay he wrote, "Death of a Pig"? Maybe you did. I, however, was clueless until earlier this week.

From The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor on July 11:

It's the birthday of the essayist and children's writer E.B. White, (books by this author) born Elwin Brooks White in Mount Vernon, New York (1899). After a young pig he was raising got sick and he failed to save its life, he wrote one of his most famous essays, "Death of a Pig." Then he wrote a children's novel in which the pig doesn't have to die: Charlotte's Web (1952). It's the story of a runt pig named Wilbur who is saved the first time by a little girl and the second time by a wise spider. It is one of the best-selling children's books of all time.

I love it! I promptly went a little cuckoo on Amazon Marketplace and ordered said book, as well as Writings from the New Yorker 1927-1976. Then I figured I might as well go ahead and get The Best American Essays of the Century. It's all to help me with my craft, right? Whatever. I'm supporting my grandparents' secret business!

In the foreword for his collection of essays, White describes "the essayist" as "philosopher, scold, jester, raconteur, confidant, pundit, devil's advocate, enthusiast"—basically, whatever the hell you want to be. You're an essayist!

I plan to devour everything Mr. White ever wrote now. No one else has put it in quite these terms for me. And after all, the book I want to write will be a collection of essays. Thanks to E.B. White, I have solid proof that my writing can be whatever I want (even if it means I'm self-absorbed):

The essayist, unlike the novelist, the poet, and the playwright, must be content in his self-imposed role of second-class citizen. A writer who has his sights trained on the Nobel Prize or other earthly triumphs had best write a novel, a poem, or a play, and leave the essayist to ramble about, content with living a free life and enjoying the satisfactions of a somewhat undisciplined existence...

I think some people find the essay the last resort of the egoist, a much too self-conscious and self-serving form for their taste; they feel that it is presumptuous of a writer to assume that his little excursions or his small observations will interest the reader. There is some justice in their complaint. I have always been aware that I am by nature self-absorbed and egoistical; to write of myself to the extent I have done indicates a too great attention to my own life, not enough to the lives of others. I have worn many shirts, and not all of them have been a good fit.
I have a blog, for chrissakes. Of course I'm self-absorbed! But apparently, so was E.B. White.

And he created Wilbur.

Friday, July 9, 2010

She's My Man! (Twitter & Jane & Scissor Sisters, OH MY)

Today I made several incredibly important discoveries, via the Interwebs. More specifically, via some tweets and twoots. I will now defend Twitter to my death, because thanks to it, I discovered the following in a matter of ten minutes.

1. The Scissor Sisters will be in Chicago September 2. (via @PasteMagazine)

2. Next, I randomly discover Jane Fonda is an active tweeter, thanks to some retweet I now can't find. (And we all know about my love for Jane, si?)

3. I promptly follow @Janefonda and fall even more in love. On July 5, she tweeted: "Scissor Sisters-amazing music. Really top notch. Great concert. Am in awe."

YES. I knew Jane was the coolest. I promise you, if Rene wasn't going to be arriving in K-hizzy in about an hour, right now I'd be doing the Jane Fonda workout while blaring Ta-Dah!

So for now, I'll just leave you with this:

Thursday, July 8, 2010

One More Time, With Feeling (Hold On!)

I have this idea that Regina Spektor and me are kindred spirits. Really, we've got to be. So often, I listen to her music and just feel ... relief.  I love how she can be optimistic, melancholy, and sweet, all in one tune. It makes me feel like it's okay that I can go through a rollercoaster of emotion in one hour. And in one day? On a day like today, I'm like an entire amusement park of feelings and thoughts.

Today is my mother's birthday, which is pretty consistently an emotional day for me. Like I wrote about last year, it's not even just this one day, necessarily. It's what I call the Fourth of July syndrome. What I said last year really is right on the money:
Right around the 4th of July every year, it hits: I miss my mom more than ever. It sneaks up on me, too, even though by this point—my seventh year without her—you’d think I’d start mentally preparing myself. But every year it’s still a sudden feeling, knocking the wind out of me when I least expect it. It’s a combination of things, I suppose.
A combination of things, for sure. Just a different combination of things each year.

For instance: On Monday, I went with my Aunt Linda and my cousin Claire to watch "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" at the Keystone Arts Cinema here in Indy. It's part of the Keystone mall, and as we were pulling in to the parking garage, I realized the last time I had been to this mall was with my mom, probably when I was 17. It's not often I go somewhere in Indianapolis and can say that. I almost didn't want to go in.

But that would have been nuts. So I went in the mall. 

The movie ended up being sold out, so we walked through the mall to check out the Anthropologie store. (We went back today and saw the movie: Fantastic. Great adaptation.) As we walked through the mall, I felt discombobulated. I felt like I'd turn to my right and my mom would be beside me, weaving in and out around the slow-walking mall pedestrians, rolling her eyes at me. I wanted to laugh. I wanted to cry. I wanted to punch someone in the face.

Once we were in the store, I lost Claire and Linda for a minute. I walked around a rack and spotted them: Mother and daughter, heads turned together like conspirators, just looking at a shirt or something. Damned if I didn't actually feel my heart fall into my gut at that sight. My mom should be here, with us! With me! I had to fight the urge to bury my face in a clothing rack and scream.

I took a deep breath and stepped away from the perfectly normal sight of my cousin and aunt talking. I could have screamed, I guess. I could have cried. But sometimes, all you can really do is take a deep breath, and go look at overpriced household and clothing items you can't afford.

In less than a minute, I was laughing about something with Claire.

That's the crazy part of the 4th of July/Missing Mom Syndrome. Yeah, it knocks the wind out of me, but then, just as quick, I'm elated. Kind of like how shopping with my mom used to make me feel—I'd be mortified by her racing around the mall like a madwoman, but then ten minutes later, I'd be laughing hysterically with her by a clothing rack. I guess it doesn't have to make sense.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

My Mother's Old Taurus

I'm driving my mother's old car every day
to this job that makes me feel 100 years old
and every day I drive past these

same cornfields back to the

same house where I used to live

when everything was different

and I was different

Back when my mom was the one
pulling in the drive in this stupid old blue Taurus
that wasn't old or stupid then,
but that was back then
in a different life

and now I'm not quite sure
how to live in this place
where most things are changed
but some stay just the same.

So I drove to Chicago in my mother's old Taurus
and I didn't feel like myself again
until I was driving toward those giant buildings.

Finally, there they were.

They were there before,
even when my mom was still the one
driving that blue Taurus to work every day,
even in that life I used to have.

They're still there now
even when I'm back here
driving past these same cornfields
to the same job
back to the same house
in my mother's old Taurus.

She is no longer here.

I've got to get a new car.