Saturday, December 31, 2011

NYE Contemplations: In 2012, Time to Treat Writing Like a Job.

So: Amanda Hocking. I'm about six months late on this one—seriously, have you heard of this woman?—but I was reading about 20 young up-and-coming professionals during my (admittedly clichĂ©) NYE afternoon of writing down my goals for the coming year, and I am astounded.

Amanda Hocking has already grossed approximately $2 million from self-publishing her 10 novels on Amazon. And now, she has a multimillion dollar, multiple book deal with St. Martin's Press. She is 26.

What stands out the most to me about her story was one line in the NYT profile about her, remarking on the turning point in her writing career and success (emphasis is mine):

It was January 2009, and Hocking started treating writing as a job. Before, it was “something I always did . . . like playing video games.” After, she wrote even when she didn’t feel like it. Over the next year, she wrote “at least five or six new novels.”
I have definitely been guilty of treating my writing as merely something I do. So in 2012, my main goal is to start treating writing like a job. (And in case I'm being confusing, yes, I do still have a full-time job as a copywriter. I'm talking about my writing.)

Maybe I should give Ms. Hocking a call. Maybe I should seriously think about writing YA fiction. Or maybe, I should just shut up and write.

What are your goals for 2012? 

Happy New Year's Eve, everyone! Make some merry, and please, don't drink and drive!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

End of Year Mix Tapes Special Edition: My Top 20 Tracks of 2011

Are you guys as excited about this as I am? I mean, suure, you can go check out Pitchfork's staff picks of the top 100 tracks of 2011, but that doesn't answer the pressing question:

What was Alison(composes) listening to all year?

So finally, rightnow, I have your answer! These are the tunes that got me through a year of riding the blue line to and from work, the tracks that inspired white girl dances in the kitchen, made me pound the steering wheel of my Ford Focus in glee as I scurried around Logan Square, and even the ones that made my sad bastard heart overflow with a bittersweet happiness as I hit replay again and again.

I was gonna wait until NYE to post this, but chances are I'm not going to fall in love with 20 new tracks in the next nine days. So, without further ado...

20. The Roots (featuring Phonte & Dice Raw) — "One Time"
Partly because I'm always late for the bus, partly because I love Phonte, and largely because: "Stick to the script, fuck your improv."



19. tUnE-yArDs — "Bizness"
Because I really needed a song in my life that gave me a valid excuse to paint my face and run around wailing, "WHAT'S THE BIZNESS, YEAH?" I made it to Pitchfork just in time to see Merrill Garbus delight a crowd of teeny-boppers covered in bright paint and dirt, and I loved every minute of it.



18. Kanye West & Jay-Z — "Otis"
"Sounds so soulful, don't you agree?" At first listen, I sorta hated what they were doing to one of my all-time favorite songs—that would be "Try a little tenderness" kids—but then I just couldn't help it. It was so gotdam catchy! "Guess I got my swagger back!" Etc! Etc! Otis!



17. Dum Dum Girls — "Coming Down"
It's the type of song I wish I'd had when I was an angsty teen. But whatever, I had Fiona, Poe, and Mazzy Star back then. (Dare I mention the obvious Mazzy Star comparisons?) I just love hearing Dee Dee moan, "I think I'm coming down..." repeatedly. Yeah.



16. Fleet Foxes — "Helplessness Blues"
"I was raised up believing I was somehow unique..." and from then on, you actually feel the helplessness blues, but at the same time, you're so damn happy that it doesn't really matter. At least, that's how this song makes me feel. You tell me:



15. Frank Ocean — "Novacane"
The man says it himself: "This is some visionary shit."



14. BeyoncĂ© — "Countdown"
Look, I tried to fight it. When I first heard "4" I thought it was good, but a little bleh. I was bored with the arguments about whether Bey Bey singing about girls running the world was an empowerment anthem or actually the opposite, and I didn't really like that song much anyway. Whatever. But I just can't lie: I fucking love this song. And the way she curls up her lip right as she sings, "if you leave me you're outta your mind." Believe that!



13. The Rapture — "How Deep Is Your Love?"
Just try not to immediately start bouncing around to this. And then scream: "HOW DEEP IS YOUR LOVE?" It's deep, guys, it's deep.



12. St. Vincent — "Champagne Year"
I just love when Annie sings, "I make a living telling people what they want to hear/it's not a killing, but it's enough to keep the cobwebs clear." I may or may not have written a poem about this album. "It's not a perfect plan, but it's the one we got."



11. Adele — "Don't You Remember"
As you'll see, Miss Adele makes it on this list twice. I know, I know, but it's accurate. I would be scared to know how many times I listened to this song this year. I'd be even more scared to know if the upstairs neighbors heard me belting out off-key in the shower, "I know I have a fickle heart, and a bitterness, and a wandering eye and a heaviness in my head" — but I really don't care. What I do wanna know is, why don't you remember?



10. Feist — "How Come You Never Go There"
I love Leslie, and I knew she wouldn't disappoint with her new album this year. Particularly when her first single had her sweetly singing about how "you carry on as though I don't love you" — I would never, Leslie! (Whoa, whoa, whoa)



9. Little Dragon — "Ritual Union"
What an opening track to an album. I loved it immediately. (Which of course you already know all about, since I blogged about my obsession back in August.) This song doesn't just make you wanna dance, it makes you wanna full out wiggle your body like a madwoman. Or is that only me?



8. Alabama Shakes — "Hold On"
So what if two weeks ago I had never heard of the Alabama Shakes? So. What. I know them now, and holy shit:



7. The Black Keys — "Lonely Boy"
I almost hate to knock this all the way back to the #7 slot, BECAUSE OF ITS AWESOMENESS, but alas, El Camino came out quite late in the year, and I had many months of listening to other 2011 tracks repeatedly. However, late in the year or no, this might be my favorite music video since, um, EVER. The happiness! It's almost too much to bear:



6. The National — "Think You Can Wait"
Obviously. There were a few weeks where I listened to this song at least twice a day. It was getting sick, me sitting at my cubicle with Matt Berninger pleading with me, "I'm out of my mind...think you can wait?" Fuuuuck. And surprise! I blogged about this one too, back in May, right at the peak of my obsession and realizing that I likely was, in fact, out of my mind right along with Matt.

"I'll try, but I couldn't be better..." It kills me. It just kills me.



5. James Blake — "Limit to Your Love"
Out of my devout loyalty to Leslie Feist's original, I tried my damnedest not to fall in love with this version. That lasted about 10 minutes. At Pitchfork, as the bass shook the entire park, I leaned against a tree as this played, and had it not been for the wasted, chubby hipster in tight jean shorts slow dancing in front of me, or the fact that I was at an outdoor music festival, I might have wept.



4. Lykke Li — "Get Some"
Duh. My Lykke love is more than well-documented. But this! "I'm your prostitute. You gon get some." Well, shit, Lykke.



3. Lana Del Rey — "Video Games"
Do I have to preface this one with anything? I mean, I wrote a poem inspired by this track, for chrissakes. "Born to Die" might have beat out this one for my favorite track of hers, cause "I like my girls insane," but I have to stay true to why I first fell in love. Oh, and in case you hadn't heard, Lana Del Rey is pretty.



2. Adele - "Rolling in the Deep"
My GOD, Adele. "21" has proven to be one of my favorite albums, like, ever. You know, me and the rest of the world. This is why:



1. TV on the Radio — "Will Do"
Is it because I love Tunde Adebimpe so dearly? Is it because deep down, I'm secretly a romantic? I don't know. All I know is, Tunde crooning about unrequited love makes my heart fucking hurt, and considering I listened to this track, and this album, even more than Adele this year (if you can believe it) it has more than earned the coveted spot at the top of my 2011 list. There's more I could say, but I won't, other than: "Oh my reddest rose! Caldera! Set it off!"

Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday Mix Tapes: Makin' Merry

Just in case you guys didn't get the memo: It's the most wonderful time of year again!



I want my Ninja Turtles, I want my bike, I want my Sega Genesis, I want my Nintendo...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Shameless Self-Promotion: I'm in Bitch Magazine!

Ok, guys, I can't hold out any longer. Obviously, you've already picked up your copies of this issue of Bitch, or better yet, had yours mailed to you, right?

If so, then you know why I was even happier than usual to open my mailbox and see it nestled inside.

BECAUSE I'M IN IT. That's right! I'M IN IT.

Flip open to page 22 and there you'll see it: my dream come true. My byline in my favorite magazine!

It's just a wee little article that's in The Bitch List section. But it's something! To add to my excitement over writing a piece—albeit teeny tiny—for Bitch, it was promoting what happens to be my friend and co-worker Krista's blog, Effing Dykes.

Not that she really needed promotion, cause her blog's awesomeness speaks for itself—it won Best LGBT Weblog in this year's Bloggies—but I was so excited to write about it. When I first discovered Effing Dykes, after Krista nonchalantly mentioned during a coffee break that she had a blog ("Oh, me too!" I squealed, completely clueless that I was talking to a famous blogger), I spent an entire Saturday afternoon gleefully reading the entirety of the blog's archive.

It's hilarious. And basically, Krista's awesomeness shines through in every post. If you're a lady who likes other ladies, and apparently you've been under a rock because you're reading this and not Effing Dykes, let me just say this to you:

 YOU'RE WELCOME.


In one of my favorite posts, which I referenced in my Bitch article, ahem, may I just say that when she's talking about all the "Brandi Carlile concert t-shirts" at the office, that would be regarding yours truly. Who knew I was so mysterious? Hee hee. Oh, wait. I'm not.

Last weekend, I stood in Barnes & Noble and grinned at the copies of Bitch. I may or may not have also been slightly caressing the copy at the top of the stack. Not creepy at all.

Why are you still here? Go pick up your copy of Bitch! Then go read Effing Dykes! NOW!

Romantic Despair

Good lord, Thurston. (Can I call you Thurston?)



I was not at all prepared for this shot to the heart on my morning commute.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Poetry Slam Tuesdays: The Best of All My Days (O You)

ANIMALS
by Frank O'Hara

Have you forgotten what we were like then
when we were still first rate
and the day came fat with an apple in its mouth

it's no use worrying about Time
but we did have a few tricks up our sleeves
and turned some sharp corners

the whole pasture looked like our meal
we didn't need speedometers
we could manage cocktails out of ice and water

I wouldn't want to be faster
or greener than now if you were with me O you
were the best of all my days

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Dive Right In

[via bon-aventures]

My mother would enter a pool in one of two ways:

By creeping slowly, one step at a time, into the shallow end, splashing water on herself, rubbing her arms, and making these embarrassing “Shoo! Whoo!” noises until finally, after what seemed like hours, plunging her whole body underwater.

Or, she’d walk to the deep end, stand at the edge, and dive right in. She’d then swim the length of the pool.

She looked so powerful. Like she could rule the world. I loved when she’d dive right in when we were in a crowded hotel pool—as always, she was completely oblivious and unconcerned with her surroundings, or if anyone was watching. Not that she was an expert diver or swimmer. It was the freedom in it: she plunged in and swam.

I never understood why she didn’t just dive in every time. What I also didn’t understand, but now do, is that there was a freedom in both ways of entering the pool. And the beauty of both was: the utter lack of self-consciousness in the acts. Sometimes she wanted to gradually move into the pool. Sometimes she wanted to dive. Who cares if anyone’s watching?

I didn’t go to a pool once this past summer. I went to the beach with my friends Lauren and Rachel on the 4th of July, though. We all shared a blanket, ate fruit, and drank sangria out of the plastic flag cups that my mom had bought years ago. Although we had spent what seemed like hours searching for parking, then getting snacks, then walking to the beach, by the time we were on the blanket it didn’t matter. I wondered why I didn’t go to the beach every weekend and sprawl out on a blanket.

After awhile, of course, it reached the point of uncomfortably hot. Did I walk to the water with Rachel, or with Lauren? I don’t remember, but what I do remember is this:

When I walked to the edge of the water, it was freezing, but I kept walking, step by step. I started splashing the water on my thighs, on my stomach, and rubbing my arms. As I did, I went, “Whoo! Ohfuckitscold! Shoo!” Or something like that.

I didn’t get it until just now.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

When My Brother & I Discuss Hip Hop

This is pretty typical:





You should probably also know that there was a reference to "hip hopsters" in that conversation. Also, it most certainly won't amp up either of our cred. Marco just spent Thanksgiving with the Hamm family. He knows what he's dealing with now. In fact, I almost didn't post this at all, over embarrassment—embarrassment that I misspelled Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Yeah.

Oh, and we're talking about Childish Gambino, in case you missed it on NPR, geeks.

The Comfort of Cats


I think one of the reasons I gladly accept being a cat lady is because of the ridiculous joy my cats bring to my life. I know, I know, you're thinking: What a weirdo! You're blogging about your cats?

Damn right I am. Here's why, and why I wanna talk about Miss Layla (pictured above) in particular. She's one of my two cats. (Only two. I swear.)

Back in the day, six years ago, when I'd graduated from college and was about to start real adulthood, I decided the thing to do, obviously, was to get a cat.

I would no longer have roommates. I would be a grown up. I had visions of blissful Sunday afternoons spent curled up in my old hand-me-down chair I'd had since high school, reading a book, drinking tea, with a beautiful long-haired feline perched on my lap, purring.

Not long after I expressed this desire to my Aunt Linda, who had so many barn cats running around the yard that they were impossible to count, she and my cousin Claire told me they'd found my cat. I was in Italy at an internet cafe when I got the picture from Claire of my new kitty. Her name was Mufasa. I beamed. She was beautiful! Perfect!

When I returned home a month later, I eagerly went to the farmhouse to collect Mufasa. But, surprise! Linda had also brought in another kitten, a particularly sick, teeny one, and nursed her back to health. Knowing me, she was rightly convinced that I would gladly take two cats instead of one, especially because this one and Mufasa had bonded. When I first saw the cats, they were curled up, playing on the floor together.

It never crossed my mind to say no. I promptly named her Layla, and took her and Mufasa home. Well, actually, Linda brought them to my Bloomington apartment a short time later, but...details, details. Whatever. The point is, I now had two cats.

I realize that I'm talking about cats, here, so I'll try not to get too weird. Now, I don't play favorites with my children. I love them both. But Layla is this crazy, unique little being. She high fives. She wags her tail like a dog. She has scar tissue on both of her eyes, and she sneezes constantly.

Over the years, Layla's had her share of health problems, the worst being the first year I had her, when I had to give her a course of five different antibiotics. This meant that, twice a day, I had to take my finger and push a pill down her throat. Five times. I became adept at this, and thought with pride that maybe I did have some of my Grandma Hamm's chops. For instance, when I'd go to the barn to collect eggs with Grandma Hamm, she'd just shove her hand under a nesting hen without flinching, and place the eggs in her bucket. Grandma would scoff at my mother's obvious terror of the geese and chickens, and if I showed the least bit of fear while we were collecting eggs, she'd make me follow suit, to my terror. I know that's really not a big deal to all you farm folks, but ask my oldest brother sometime about how this same woman also picked up a possum by the tail. She was a hard ass.

"What are you scared of?" Grandma Hamm would say, as I watched her with big eyes, or flinched as all the animals came running as we threw out the corn.

I mention this, because it's something I say lately to Layla, who has become a bit of a scaredy cat. Yes: 1) I talk to Layla; 2) I just called her a scaredy cat.

One minute, she'll be sitting on my lap, purring. The next, her nails will clamp onto my thigh, and then she'll bolt. I don't know what's scaring her. I try to comfort her as best I can. Because, after all, that's what she does for me.

I'd only had the cats for a few weeks when, one day, I came back to my apartment after a bad day at work, flopped on my stomach on the bed, and started to cry. No more than a minute later, I felt Layla pressing her little paws against my back, one at a time. (I knew it was Layla because Mufasa was perched near my head, staring at me in her cat way.) Layla laid down and started rubbing her little cat face against the back of my neck, purring loudly. I felt better instantly.

I know it's scoffed at, this idea of cat ladies and their blogs, but I'll succumb to the stereotype for today. Because even when Layla claws the shit out of me when she gets scared by something invisible to me, I know that she'll also high five me later, wag her tail, and tilt her head up at me as she sits on my lap, purring and content.

Not long ago, I was really anxious about Layla's odd behavior. But then, right when I needed her the most, she was there. I wrote about it in my journal the next day:
Last night she slept with me, curled up in the crook of my arm like old times.


I held on to her, tight. And laid my face against her fur, feeling the consistent purr, and the comfort of each little cat breath she took.
Look, it's really not even just about the cats. It's about comfort. Recently, I wondered what my friends without pets do for tiny comforts such as these. I wonder how lonely certain nights in my apartment in Bloomington, or Chicago, might have been, had I not had these two furry things to care for and love.



What gives you comfort?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pearls & Spikes

It was time to go, almost
I circled the jewelry stand slowly
Clutching a black lace shirt
And a creamy, soft Obey tee
M was sitting by the books
Waiting and silent

I stared at the jewelry.
Gently fingering the long earrings,
The delicate pieces
Waiting for something to jump out
To speak to me

Any of it might have been fine
But I felt the need for something
Specific,
Something to be mine
Then there it was:

A chunky mix of delicate and sharp
Pearls & spikes
Circle & dagger

I ran my fingers across the white balls
The black spikes
Maybe I was in a bit of a daze
The cashier with the long, messy locks
Came over to ask if he could help
He had one perfect curl
Resting against his neck tattoo.
The rest was a tangled and beautiful wreck.
I looked up at him but was quiet,
With a ‘thank you, I’m fine’

I pictured the necklace, resting heavy,
But not too heavy,
On my collarbone

Glanced over my shoulder
And M was still there,
Sitting, silent
The white ear buds dangled
From his ears
A sharp contrast from the black
Of his hat, of his jacket

I ran my fingers across the soft white pearls,
Again, the sharp black spike
Pulled the necklace off the stand
Quickly, I walked back to the shirts
Placed the Obey tee back on the pile

The necklace was it.
It was specific, if only to me.
Mine.
I only found the pearls fine
Mixed in with the spikes.
Together, it was beautiful.
Without them, it would have been just another necklace.

Monday, November 21, 2011

In Which I Embark On a Series of Essays

In another take on a writing/blogging experiment, I've decided, right now, at this very moment, to start an essay series on this blog. Just kidding. I actually put quite a bit of thought into this. 

So, since you're all DYING to know, here's the deal:

Rather than randomly posting my essays here and there as I have previously, I'd like to start using this blog more productively in the hope that I can ultimately piece these writings together as a collection. 

It's tentatively called: A Walking Contradiction.  And here is the first essay. 


A Walking Contradiction

 I. Kickball Days

When I was a kid, my closet was a crazy mishmash of hand-me-downs from my brother and new, “girly” clothes, typically from Kids-R-Us. I loved everything about Kids-R-Us—the shopping carts with colorful balls that slid back and forth across the handle, the “Girls” section, everything.

8th birthday, 1992
Maybe what I loved most about going to that store was that whatever outfit I found, it was all mine—the flowers, prints, purples, or otherwise girly aspects of it marked it as something special and new, that was mine, and only mine.

But this is contradictory, because I loved my hand-me-downs just as much, and wore them like a uniform as I played kickball with my classmates at recess. I played “like a boy” because unlike many of the girls who would sometimes join in, I did not wince as the ball came rolling toward me, nor whiff it and giggle; rather, I would kick it soundly, run as hard and madly as I could, and when on defense, throw it fiercely at a running player. I would do this, with my boy tennis shoes strapped to my feet, as I always favored the blacks and reds of the boy’s shoes over the annoying pinks and glitters marking all the girl’s shoes.

Even then, during those playground days, I was overcome by intense pride and shifting loyalties. When another girl would inadvertently prove the boys supposedly right, that “we,” the girls, weren’t good at sports, thanks to a high-pitched squeal as she missed the ball with a poorly placed kick from a pink-shoelaced foot, I would shudder with embarrassment and annoyance, but also yell at any boy that poked fun. I’d think how I’d dispel their notions with my next kick or great catch. Worse, though—or more confusing, perhaps—was my occasional anger when another girl, more like me, stepped up to the plate. I felt an unmistakable but disconcerting fury, rather than allegiance, to my fellow tomboys.

Damn right, World Cup 94 shirt
These confusing feelings, though nonsensical in many ways, aligned perfectly with the clothes in my closet. I wanted to be both things at once—the girl wearing purple prints with boy’s tennis shoes—and could not understand why no one else seemed to be like me. Instead, there seemed to be definite, concrete lines. Either I was supposed to be a girly girl who whiffed her kicks, or I had to be just like the boys. I felt myself pulled in both directions. By 5th grade, I felt unbearably left out that I was not only unable, but I was completely uninterested in, doing flips on the bars with the other girls, but at the same time, I felt a secret, but immense pride at being the only girl on the basketball court at recess. I missed out on the female bonding, but it was worth it, once I was standing in the line from recess back to class, sweating, beaming, and high-fiving my equally sweaty teammates, the boys.

But then came junior high. I didn’t want to admit that it was no longer simply “okay” to be the tomboy, the only girl on the court with a bunch of boys. Suddenly, everything had changed, and I didn’t like it one bit. The boy who had always been my indoor recess buddy and nemesis in checkers was now calling me the President of the Itty Bitty Titty Committee. And the boy I’d once traded Kirby Puckett cards with and fought viciously against in tetherball tournaments would no longer look me in the eye.


What happened? I thought. When did it all change?

 1997
Everyone was “going with” someone but me, and I felt like a freak. I was awkward, with thick hair that earned me the unfortunate nickname of “Bush,” paired with equally thick eyebrows. Suddenly, the boys no longer thought I was cool for having the newest Adidas or a new Umbro t-shirt. In fact, they barely talked to me at all, and usually it was to talk to my pretty, blonde friend instead.

I continued to be the prude of the group who had never made out with a boy or had a boyfriend. I hated how everyone referred to it as "Frenching" and "going with"—how do you French? where was everyone going?— and above all, I dreaded going to slumber parties where the other girls would share all their boy stories. Just as I could never do a roundoff or a backflip, I had no boy stories that didn’t involve tagging along with my older brother and his friends, and therefore nothing to contribute.

I was deemed safe, still just the tomboy kid sister whose boobs hadn’t come in yet, and maybe never would.

But then they came in. And everything was different, yet again. I lost my role as President of the Itty Bitty Titty Committee. (Yeah. Shut it, junior high boys!) The older girls who had once looked at me indifferently now eyed me as if I'd done something wrong. The boys who had once not looked at me at all now looked at me all the time.

I don’t know how I looked back at everyone, but I imagine it was a mishmash of wide-eyed stares and squinty, defensive glares. The only time it didn’t matter was when I was safely in a classroom seat, because though I might suddenly have boobs and yet still be awkward, I was also a smart kid, a straight-A student. But in the hallway, cafeteria, or bathroom, it was a different story, and I was terrified. I think I dreaded passing by the pretty older girls even more than the football players who’d whistle or yell as I walked through the gym. I couldn’t figure it out: Was I supposed to be a pretty girl, a smart girl, or a tomboy? Was I allowed to be all of these things?

All the pretty girls flirted easily with the boys, giggling and joking with them. I was alternately terrified of, and in utter disdain for, the boys though. When they’d whistle, I’d feel my body tense and my face flush, like in the old days on the playground when a girl would miss a kick and the boys would laugh it off as typical girl behavior. It didn’t feel like a compliment. It felt like an insult. So I looked straight ahead, head held high, and ignored them.

Again, the confusion. So I was pretty, then? But I couldn’t be, because the pretty girls felt like a breed I didn’t belong to. I hated and was fascinated by my new breasts and I hated and envied the cheerleaders and I just flat out hated the boys.

Suddenly, like loathing being unable to easily fit in with the other girls yet loving being the lone female on the court, like rocking both my Sambas and a pink flowered bag, my breasts had become both a source of power and my own worst enemy.

Kickball days were over.

    ***********************************************

Stay tuned for Part II, where I’ll probably talk more about boobs! Actually, I'm probably going to talk a little about boobs, and a lot about high school, and friends, and gossip.

Monday Mix Tapes: No Restitution! La Da Da!

If I just read the lyrics:
And I think I'm going crazy, Yes I think I'm going crazy
Because I've known, all along

there's no restitution for what we've done
No resolution and I
I just can't take it anymore
I'd think, fuck, that must be an incredibly depressing song—and of course I'd be delighted to hear the melancholy doom and gloom of it all—but I think it's safe to say Mayer Hawthorne puts a pretty whimsical spin on the notion of going crazy over the lack of restitution, the absence of a resolution. 

Check out my favorite geek:



And so I think I'll do the same. You know, be whimsical about the arbitrariness of ... it all. Cause really, there often is no restitution, and "I just can't fake it anymore."

California might be sinking.

If it is, why do you stick around?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Poetry Slam Tuesdays: Digressions

I was going to transcribe a Frank O'Hara poem for today's poetry slam,
but really, it's tonight, and tonight is almost tomorrow,
& I just wrote my last Groupon for the day
in bed with a heating pad
listening to Tori Amos, and only Tori,
for the first time in months & months.
I'm wearing my Sly shirt & forgot to take off
the wristband from Lauren's show
& I was going to type out O'Hara's DIGRESSION ON NUMBER I, 1948,
mostly because it starts with the line,
"I am ill today but I am not too ill/I am not ill at all"
which sums up everything & nothing
of my own day,
because I am ill today but not too ill,
& I might not be ill at all, really,
plus I'm not sure if I even get his second stanza
& as I started typing it I felt like a fraud
because I didn't know what a "complicated Metzinger"
was in the slightest
& right as I thought that, the book fell shut
& I reopened it to the wrong page,
instead to his poem
YOU ARE GORGEOUS AND I'M COMING
and I couldn't help but smile,
because I get that, if only that:

"yes it may be that dark and purifying wave, the death of boredom
nearing the heights themselves may destroy in the pure air
to be further complicated, confused, empty but refilling, exposed to light"


This isn't about you, so you probably won't care.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Saturn Returns!

Am I the only one who didn’t know about Saturn returns?

Hmm, interesting… for the next three years, I will answer any question as to how I’m doing with some remark about my “Saturn return.”
“How are you?”
me: “Oh, you know, with this return of Saturn happening, I’m just a little overcome with crossing into the new threshold of maturity.”
IT’S GONNA BE AWESOME.

But seriously, I stumbled across a mention of this in an article this morning and was intrigued. Here’s what I’ve discovered, via my “extensive” five minutes of research.

Apparently this hasn’t really hit me full force yet, since I’m 27, but oh, it’s coming.

Via astrology.com (hey, it’s better than Wikipedia, right!?):
Each twenty-nine years naturally presents us with the challenge to rise to new levels of awareness, or face the consequences of having failed to gain the wisdom required so to do. When Saturn in the heavens returns to the zodiacal degree where he was placed in your birth chart, you are said to be experiencing what astrologers call your Saturn Return – one of the most important times of your life. It only happens once every 29 years, so at around age 28-30, 57-59 and (if you live long enough) 86-88 you have a Saturn Return. This signifies a time of transformation, an emotional transition from one life-phase to the next.

The first Saturn return (around age 28-30) marks the transition from the Phase of Youth to the Phase of Maturity; the second from the Phase of Maturity to the Phase of Wisdom. The last one, if reached, seems usually to mark the transition either to the next world or else back to a second childhood!

As the Saturn return approaches, often our lives seem to speed up, as if hurrying to clear out old baggage from the past, to lighten the load for the next stage. Important things that either finalize old issues, or prepare the ground for new developments tend to occur with increasing frequency. For those who are unprepared, this is often a time of severe suffering, as we struggle to understand the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that seem to be aimed squarely at our hearts. Indeed, relationships and major life-decisions are all too often the focal points for this clearing out of karmic baggage.
It certainly makes sense, and might also explain the strange sort of hysteria that often surrounds a 30th birthday. They’re not worried about getting “old”! They’re simply transitioning from the Phase of Youth to the Phase of Maturity!

And yet none of this explains at all my love for No Doubt’s album, “Return of Saturn” at the age of 15. Other than No Doubt was the coolest.

I mean, am I the only one that remembers this?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Tiny World, The Typewriter

My current literary fascination: Joan Didion.

I recently ordered her collection, We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live, and I plan to finish that before embarking on either her newest memoir, Blue Nights, or The Year of Magical Thinking. So, basically, my fascination is brand new, and at this point I've only read a few of her pieces. But it only takes a sentence for Joan Didion to capture me completely. The opening of this New York Magazine article is dead-on:

Reading Joan Didion on any subject is like tiptoeing across a just-frozen pond filled with beautiful sharks. You look down and pray the ice will hold.

Here's an interview with Joan Didion from the 70s. She talks about how at the typewriter, she is in total control:



I don't have a typewriter, but I do have a shiny new Macbook Pro.

Monday, November 7, 2011

'You Fit Me Better Than My Favorite Sweater,' Also, Lana Del Rey is, Like, a Total Babe

Sorry, guys, I just couldn't help it. Surprise! It's Lana Del Rey.



Also, I don't know if you've heard, but, she's like, really pretty. And, umm, apparently this is controversial? Cause, umm, it might ruin her indie cred?

Google image "indie darling" ... let me guess, the results are horribly hideous people? Oh, it's just a lot of pictures of Zooey Deschanel? Weird. Yeah, indie kids HATE pretty girls. Everyone does.

Anyway, whatever! I'm crushing on her. Cause she's hot. her music makes my heart soar.

Monday Mix Tapes: Frank & His 'Otherworldly Falsetto'



Listen to it, here.

It's pretty much amazing, and via Pretty Much Amazing.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Why Is a Quarrel Like a Bargain?



 "You interest me, strangely. I accept your invitation."

 HA! I think this dancing solves once and for all the question of who was the best Batman.

I kid, I kid. (Or do I?)

Testing, Testing...

AHHH! What happened here?


Did that thought just cross your mind? Or was it more along the lines of, Oooh, this finally looks like a blog in the year 2011, not 2001?

Blogger just launched its new dynamic views, which, ahem, is what's happening here, right now. One great thing I personally enjoy about this—something I've been loving about Tumblr—is the "infinite scrolling" aspect. No more "Older Posts" links. No more clunky navigation. Just...scroll. What worries me, though, is that users won't link through to read full posts with this setup. (Read more about the Dynamic Views here.)

But, perhaps, perhaps, perhaps...I am not giving my faithful readers enough credit. What do you think?

Do you like? Do you hate?

Tell me stuff. Tweet at me! Send me comments! (Unless you're the troll who put the nasty comment on my "That's Enough, John Mayer" post, that is. Comments that involve calling me names don't stay up here. Duh. Play nice!)

So, like I said, this is just a test.

CAN ANYBODY HEAR ME?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ne Me Quitte Pas!

Hey Rainbow Groupies!

It's not annoying at all when I title a post in French for absolutely no reason, right? That's what I thought!

In case you've been wondering, I have not left you. I'll never quit you!

But, alas, the source of my power, AKA my beautiful Macbook, has passed. It is no longer among us. It is, comment dit-on en francais, DEAD. (Mort!) And by dead I do mean I spilled an entire glass of water on it a couple of weeks ago. And, because I am not getting paid to blog, I get paid to write about other stuff, it has been difficult to keep up when I don't have my faithful companion waiting for me at home.

But never fear! My shiny new Macbook Pro will be a part of my life by tomorrow at the end of the business day.

In the meantime, I've been remembering how to write with a pen, scrawling the makings of an essay in my journal. If I can read my own handwriting and then finish it, of course it will make an appearance here. Get excited: It's about kickball. And puberty! Neat!

Until all this magic happens, here are two incredibly different songs called "Ne Me Quitte Pas," by two incredibly different but equally awesome chanteuses.





Ne me quitte pas, mon cheres!

hugs and bad excuses to poorly speak French,
Alison[composes]

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Nightly Ritual

When I was young, I used to love watching my mother perform her nightly ritual. I say 'ritual' because to merely say 'getting ready for bed' or 'washing her face' would not do the act justice. In the bathroom—the big bathroom, as I thought of it, having my own, private, 'small' bathroom off my bedroom—she would meticulously perform the task each night. Often, I would chatter to her as she did this, her hair pushed off her face by a thin cloth headband she kept in the sink drawer. Often, as I talked to, and watched my mother transform from the made up—but never overly made up—teacher to the paler, shinier, more vulnerable nighttime version of herself, I would play with all of her mysterious, grownup, womanly tools. She was a Clinique fanatic, and never missed a night of their famous 3-step facial system. Using a washcloth, she would take the small, unscented yellow bar and lather her face, followed by the pink astringent, rubbed across her face with a cotton ball. As she would sweep the cotton ball across her face, often she'd raise her eyebrows in a funny, completely unpretentious manner, and I'd wonder at how her skin shined in the bathroom light. Next came the moisturizer. Just as with her morning foundation, she would apply the yellow liquid to her face by patting it on her face in small, strategically placed dots, then slowly, surely, blend it all in.

Over the years, and based on what Clinique samples she'd get with her regular purchases of reddish brown lipstick, mascara, and her skincare products, she would work in other aspects to the nightly routine: an eye cream; an exfoliating scrub. Like with the rest of her seemingly magical, quintessentially "grownup" tools placed in her plastic container that she'd pull from the bathroom closet and place on the lefthand side of the sink, closest to the toilet, my perch, I'd study them when she wasn't using them, wondering. I'd pick them up, gingerly, and twist off the caps just as carefully.

I don't know what I was expecting, or just what I was thinking as I toyed with all the skincare products. I wish I could remember every conversation we had in those moments. Later, when I was a teenager, and she and I were both using self-tanning lotions (it was the new thing to do at the time) she'd call me in to help her rub the self-tanner on her back. It was another addition to the nightly ritual. In those days, her nighttime self was made more vulnerable by the addition of the oxygen cannule. The thin, plastic tubes wrapped around the backs of her ears, a very different sort of "grownup" wonder.

I never thought to question my mother's preference for, and loyalty to, Clinique products. It seemed natural, an obvious reality: She planned her "necessary" purchases around the Clinique "Bonus" times, which I loved as I got older, because it meant I would get whatever she didn't need or use. My first experiences with makeup were Clinique eye shadows, eye pencils, and my favorite, their "Almost Lipstick" in Black Honey. Imitating my mother, I'd lean forward slightly at the mirror and apply: a sweep across the right half of my upper lip, then left; a careful sweep across the bottom lip; press lips together; then take my pinky and wipe away any excess.

Not surprisingly, I, too, was using the Clinique 3-step system from a young age, diligently washing my face with that yellow bar each night and placing it back in the pale green case. I'd run my fingers across the words, "Clinique" inscribed on the case, and even though the pink astringent burned my face, wanting to be like my mom, I'd dab it on the cotton ball and sweep it across my face, cringing. But my favorite part was the moisturizer. Wide-eyed at my own reflection, I would pat the yellow liquid on my face in small, strategically placed dots, then slowly, surely, blend it all in.

As a teenager, I quit using the yellow soap and switched to a creamy face wash, but the yellow moisturizer and pink astringent always stayed in the bathroom cabinet. When I left for college, my mom made sure I was stocked with numerous sample bottles of the moisturizer, eye makeup remover, and Clinique eye shadows and lipsticks. But after she died, I couldn't bear to dab those yellow dots across my face. I switched to Ponds moisturizer, which I still use to this day. My college roommate used the Clinique moisturizer, though, and I'd often catch myself staring at in a daze. I'd go home for the weekends and open the bathroom closet. For years, the plastic container filled with all those products was still there. Waiting. I hated it and was comforted by it all at once. Why couldn't Dad bear to get rid of it? Why couldn't I bear to use the Clinique moisturizer, but I still used the eye shadows, eye makeup remover, and lipsticks?

I wasn't sure, but I had a feeling.

Over the years I've still stayed stocked with Clinique products and makeup bags, all thanks to my Aunt Kerry. She doesn't really wear makeup, and I've never actually asked, but she must also use the skincare products and take advantage of the "Bonus" time. Nearly every time I visit my grandma's house, she'll say, "I have some Clinique stuff for you that Kerry sent home with us." I act nonchalant about it, but I absolutely love opening the brightly colored makeup bags and peeking inside to see what I'll find. I haven't had to buy eye makeup remover in a decade. It's always in the bag—eye makeup remover, a lipstick, and sometimes eye shadow or mascara.

Every time I get those Clinique samples, I find myself grinning, once again the little girl watching her mother wash her face. I open the lipsticks, slowly, waiting to see what shade "Perfect Grape" or "Spiced Apple" really is. When I pull the Perfect Grape lipstick out of my Clinique makeup bag, in the car, I pull down the mirror, lean forward slightly and apply: a sweep across the right half of my upper lip, then left; a careful sweep across the bottom lip; press lips together; then take my pinky and wipe away any excess.

My mother would probably be horrified if she knew how many times I've fallen asleep, mascara still on an unwashed face. Lately, I've been rather horrified about it, too, and have been thinking more and more about my skin care regime. A few weeks ago I went to Target and bought a special astringent and night face cream. It wasn't Clinique, but it was still adding to the nightly ritual. At night, after I wash my face, I slowly twist off the cap of the bottle of the astringent, place the cotton ball to the top, and turn it over. As I sweep the cotton ball across my face, which looks shinier, younger, and fresher than in the daytime, I raise my eyebrows slightly and smile. Often, my cat Mufasa perches on the toilet and stares at me as I do this.

This week, I bought Clinique products for the first time. I considered going to Macy's, so I could buy them from the Clinique counter, a place I had visited so many times as a girl with my mother. I couldn't quite bear that idea. Instead, I ordered the products online: an eye cream, and two lipsticks. One of the lipsticks is new, a product my mother never got to see. But the other is still the same—Almost Lipstick in Black Honey.

The packaging is exactly as I remembered it.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday Mix Tape Poetry Smash: Annie's Strange Mercy



I wonder if he remembers that morning, after I changed my mind (for the hundredth time)
he sat on the kitchen floor & I sank in his chair
the new St. Vincent album kept playing & playing
and it was infuriating because it felt like a film
except I hated all of my lines & there was nothing beautiful about any of it
and he had just downloaded the album
It felt like a small, quiet act of hope, & maybe victory, & maybe a bit of pleading:
Stay, won't you?
Yet at the time I couldn't, no matter how much
it was a perfect soundtrack to our shitty movie
I was the dilettante & he was the surgeon
Or no, wait, I just messed it all up
Cause I was the one dissecting, and picking, at
Every little thing, opening us up for painful adjustments
Why, why was I so cruel? Why was it all so cruel?
No, I don't know what.
But you roughed me up. I roughed you up.
I didn't have any good news, I didn't know how to help you sleep
We had nothing close to the makings of a perfect plan

"Slow down, dilettante.
Hang on."

I finally listened to the album again. It was nothing like I had remembered.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

It Was, And Is, Indian Summer.

At this time last year, I had just moved back to Chicago. Everything was different then. Everything is the same. I am different now. I am the same.

It was beautiful Indian summer weather that week, just as it's been this week in Chicago. The Sunday afternoon after we had moved in, I sat on the back deck and wrote for hours. And since everything is the same, but completely different now, I thought I'd share a poem I wrote that day.



INDIAN SUMMER

It is maybe the 10th of October. 
It is possibly my new sister-in-law's 
birthday. If it is, in fact, the 10th of October
and my memory serves me right.

I am definitely sitting on my new porch,
drinking the last Stella, with my dirty feet
propped on Patricia. My bike,
that is. I am listening to this Regina Spektor
song and wondering what to write.

It is Indian summer.

I told everyone and no one 
about my return to Chicago.
Because I am in love and terrified
of everything, it is hard to explain.
I am never quite sure what is right.

It is the most impossibly beautiful weather
you might possibly imagine in Chicago.
Nowadays I will see a friend every time 
I step out my door.
But what is there to write!

It is Indian summer.

It is now this Dirty Projectors song
I'm listening to. She sings about
geranium kisses and failure.
I'm not sure if I understand,
but it feels right.

I know I am often a difficult and 
infuriating friend. It is too 
difficult pleasing everyone all 
the time. This I write.

It is Indian summer. 

I think that it is possibly 
the 10th of October. It is definitely
a beautiful day in Logan Square,
and the planes cross the nearly
cloudless sky. This is right!




Monday, October 10, 2011

Monday Mix Tapes: MmmHmm



After listening to this six times in a row (which I may or may not have just done), you should watch Flying Lotus and Thundercat talk about Kenny G, face tattoos, and Craigslist.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Delumptious Fizzy Frobscottle! 'The BFG' Is Gonna Be a Movie!

"What is this please, Your Majester?"

That's right! The BFG, otherwise known as one of the most brilliant pieces of children's literature EVER CREATED by the mastermind Roald Dahl, is set to be adapted to a movie by E.T. screenwriter Melissa Mathison.

This could either be one of the best things that's ever happened, or a huge, bitter disappointment.

I mean, not like my expectations are high or anything.


Hat tip to my brother for delivering this epic news, via twittles, yesterday.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday Mix Tapes: It's Now or Never

"I feel different today. I don't know what else to say."




I listened to this song on the train this morning. And then I listened to it again. And then I listened to it one more time.

Once, someone taught me how to hear the poetry in hip hop. I was mad that I hadn't heard it for myself. But now I'm only mad that I was too scared just to listen.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

It's Never Over, R.E.M. (And I Feel Fine!)


Somewhere, my 12-year-old self is weeping. Michael Stipe and friends have announced that the party is over.

R.E.M. is breaking up.

From the band's site:
"To our Fans and Friends: As R.E.M., and as lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band. We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished. To anyone who ever felt touched by our music, our deepest thanks for listening." R.E.M.
They've been making music for 31 years together. 31! I haven't even been alive that long. I'm not really sad. What's there to be sad about, anyway? I think it was probably time. And obviously, I know best.

But seriously, you might recall my love for R.E.M. Oh, what? You haven't read the entire archive of this blog? Shame on you! Yeah. I loved—love— R.E.M. Read about that right here.

So, seeing as how I've already said too much, and I haven't said enough, let's listen to some R.E.M.!

Perhaps, at their most beautiful?






And where would I be without the Automatic for the People album?

 

 "I want you to remember..."


Okay, let's all put on some flannel, some Doc Martens, listen to "Strange Currencies", and talk about our feelings!

"I'd be foolish not to say":

Don't worry,  R.E.M.; it's never gonna be over between us. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Morning Walk

I turned my heel walking to work this morning. I'm wearing these new boots, and they don't even have a high heel—just a slight one. But they're slightly loose around the ankle, and as I was walking too fast, my heel turned, and I lost my balance.

I didn't fall; I wasn't hurt; no one saw. Still, my face flushed with embarrassment and my heart sank a little bit. It's so ridiculous. It wasn't a big deal at all.

But to me, it just felt like another small example of how I fail at all these simple things so many other adults seem to intuitively grasp. You know, like walking. Why am I so hard on myself? I regained my balance, took a deep, slightly shaky breath, and grabbed the railing as I walked up the stairs.

The season is changing, and the air has that crisp, cool feel once again. It's my favorite time of year, but it also makes me feel homesick as well. Not even homesick, exactly, but more like longing for something lost, a place that no longer really exists.

This morning, before I turned my heel, and before I let my confidence shatter over something so small and so silly, I sat on the train next to this woman reading The New York Times. She held the paper, and even her head, exactly the way my mother did when she read the paper at the kitchen table. I had my New Yorker out to read, but I just let it sit on my lap, strangely contented by this complete stranger who looked nothing like my mother, but read the paper in the exact same way.

I felt a little sad as I got off at Clark and Lake and started walking to the office. There's a small part of me that keeps telling myself, "Someday, you won't miss her so much," but there's another part that holds on to the feeling, tight, because it's all I have of her now. I clutched my phone in my hands and wished away the desperate part of me that so badly wanted to call my mother, and that's when, lost in my thoughts, I turned my heel and almost fell down.

I know I won't stop missing her. It's constant, and expected, like the inevitable turn of the season. Today, I guess, it's just like that crisp, cool feel of the beginnings of fall—you feel a chill that you haven't in some time, but it's not entirely unpleasant. And just as I start to feel like I'm a little too cold, I turn the corner, the sun hits my face, and I'm warm again.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Farewell, Old Friend: My Tribute to Borders

The last two Fridays, I’ve attempted to go to Borders. Both times, I’ve walked in, walked in one, big circle, and walked right out. Each time, as I’ve stepped out the door and back onto State Street, I’ve felt vaguely guilty, like I’ve shoplifted without getting caught. (I’ve also gone to the Jamba Juice next door both times, but that’s probably irrelevant.)

Borders is closing
. Large signs are everywhere:

“EVERYTHING MUST GO!” “80% Off Mysteries!” “90% Off Science Fiction!” “ENTIRE STORE UP TO 90% OFF”


At the Chicago State Street Borders, the one I’ve attempted to visit the last two Fridays, the checkout line weaved all the way to the back of the store on the first floor. Where I once navigated the tables stacked with new fiction, bestsellers, and my personal favorite, the one piled with books marked, “buy one, get the second half off,” I now was mumbling “excuse me’” and navigating around bored-looking customers clutching handfuls of books.

It was too hot in there. All the beautiful books, once in orderly, organized sections, were now in chaos. There was Manga in the African American section! MANGA! Things weren’t alphabetized! SAT guide books were in the mystery section!

I couldn’t even bear to see what was happening in the poetry section.

90% off? I’m a sucker for a book on sale, but forgetaboutit.

The thing is, I’m devastated. Bookstores (and Borders in particular, and in particular this Borders) have always been my “happy” place. Let me put it this way: You know when you see those little kids trailing behind their mom at the mall, dragging their feet and looking like someone just killed their puppy, and then all of a sudden she exclaims, “We’re going to the TOY STORE next!” and BAM! They have now just won a golden fucking ticket! They are the chosen ones! They’re going to see Willy Wonka!

Yeah. I was not one of those kids. My “toy store” was … the bookstore. It didn’t matter how long mom had made us follow her around the borrrrrrring department stores all afternoon. Nothing mattered, because we had now stepped into the happy place. The bookstore. Mom would leave me alone while I perused the magical worlds of Roald Dahl, or sometimes Sweet Valley, or the Green Gables, wherever. Usually, she’d return with her own stack of books in her hand, and if there was ever a perfect time to con her into buying something, it’d be talking her into letting me get one more book than she had originally said.

I’d take the books out of the bag immediately once we got to the car. Nothing, and I mean nothing, felt more glorious than holding a new book in my hands.

This is probably the part where you call me out on being a huge geek. That’s fine. I am a huge geek.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

No One Can Get to You Here

Hey Rainbow Groupies! It's a beautiful, sunny Sunday in Chi city, and seeing as how it's Labor Day weekend, and Obama's talking to us about jobs (or the lack thereof), I thought it was a good time to take another blast from the past.

I wrote this essay a little more than a year ago, right after moving back home to my dad's house. Nothing will kill a lady's self-esteem (and bank account) like not being able to find a job, and at the time when I wrote this, I was feeling pretty damn defeated. But at the same time, I was still clutching the last strings of hope. Barely, just barely. I also laid awake at night in my childhood bedroom, heart racing, worrying that I'd still be there when I was 40.

Maybe I'm still struggling to really be a "grownup," but I made it back to Chicago, and drove a new car here. I felt like total, complete shit when I got rejected from that job (and countless others). But the thing is, if I had gotten that job, I'd never have made it back to Chicago. Who knows what might have happened?

It's tough out there. But if I can do it, YOU can do it. uggh, that was cheesy, but whatever. I meant it from the bottom of my little heart.

So! Read this essay! (After the jump.)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday Mix Tapes: Little Dragon Love

It's happening: I'm obsessed with Little Dragon's new album. It all started with the NPR First Listen. And you know how I love my NPR music.

The obsession crept in, slowly, but surely.

Could it be my innate love of Swedish bands? (For evidence, see here. And here. And here. Okay, so mostly I just love Lykke Li, whatever.)

In the last week, I've listened to the album on my commute to work, even when it turns to background music as I'm reading on the train (and I'm currently reading One Hundred Years of Solitude, le sigh); I listen to it while I write G-team deals; I listen while I walk back to the train at the end of the day. 

So yeah, I'm obsessed. Because of this:



And this:



Listening to all this got me thinking about the first time I heard Little Dragon several years ago, when my friend Logan put the song "Scribbled Paper" on one of our mixtapes. It was love at first listen.

I'll leave you with another love of mine from that album:


Thursday, August 25, 2011

The One I Searched to Find

At my grandma’s house
was a jar of marbles

I remember this well;
I remember it like this:

We never really played with them, exactly

Instead, just dump them out of the jar

I’d pick out my favorite one
roll it around the palm of my hand
Unsure what to do with it,
only knowing it was beautiful,
just so,
blue and crystalline
with that one dull
imperfection
at its center.

Always, I’d find it,
from the pile of marbles
tumbled out of the jar
to the floor
And each time I felt it,
cool and comforting
in the palm of my hand

It was such relief:

Like I was shocked to find it again
even though each time
I knew, it was there,
waiting,
right where we’d placed it,
back in the jar.

There was something about finding it
from the jumble of all the others—
they all seemed so dull, so plain,
in comparison
that finding it was utter delight.
It wasn’t that it was so much
more beautiful, really,
it was just that it felt like a secret.

Like everyone else only saw
the beautiful blue,
the way the light shone through
when I held it at just the right angle,
the swirls and twists of color,

and then that bit of brown
right in the center
made it a little less perfect
than the pure blue one
in the jar

But to me, it was mine,
the one I always searched to find

and it wasn’t that the brown spot
was an imperfection
it just made the blue
all the more beautiful.

I'd hold it in my hand,
quietly,
until the time came
and all the marbles
were placed carefully
back in the jar.

Every time I forgot about it
as soon as it was back
in the mix
trapped amid the others

But as soon as we'd reopen the jar
and the marbles would tumble out
I'd remember
and search, and search,

Until, at last!
The delight
of feeling its cool, small comfort
in the palm of my hand

if only for a second

it was worth it,
just finding it,
just knowing it was there all along.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Bridesmaid Panic Attack

Once upon a time, or in reality, five years ago, I had a borderline panic attack at a David's Bridal. The next day, I wrote about it.

I've been looking back through a lot of my old writings lately, thinking more about my plans for my book (you know, that one I talk about all the time), and although I'd like to say I would write this essay better now, I decided to share it here exactly as I wrote it that day five years ago.

Mostly because I hope, if you're reading this, and you're in the middle of this place I was in five years ago, missing someone you've lost, feeling alternately terrified and pissed off, to know this: It does get better. I promise. I also hope you have someone like my aunt to come rescue you.

with the beautiful bride
And the other good news—I managed to find a dress that fit.

But I still fucking hate David's Bridal.

Read the essay after the jump.

Poetry Slam Tuesdays: You Already Have Wings

I just realized that I've never posted a Rumi poem for the poetry slams, and that had to be rectified immediately.

Hopefully, you'll quickly see why. Happy Tuesday.

SUBLIME GENEROSITY
by Rumi

I was dead, then alive.
Weeping, then laughing.

The power of love came into me,
and I became fierce like a lion,
then tender like the evening star.

He said, "You’re not mad enough.
You don’t belong in this house."

I went wild and had to be tied up.
He said, "Still not wild enough
to stay with us!"

I broke through another layer
into joyfulness.

He said, "Its not enough."
I died.

He said, "You're a clever little man,
full of fantasy and doubting."

I plucked out my feathers and became a fool.
He said, "Now you are the candle
for this assembly."

But I’m no candle. Look!
I’m scattered smoke

He said, "You are the Sheikh, the guide."
But I’m not a teacher. I have no power.

He said, "You already have wings.
I cannot give you wings."

But I wanted his wings.
I felt like some flightless chicken.

Then new events said to me,
"Don’t move. A sublime generosity is
coming towards you."

And old love said, "Stay with me."

I said, "I will."

You are the fountain of the sun’s light.
I am a willow shadow on the ground.
You make my raggedness silky.

The soul at dawn is like darkened water
that slowly begins to say Thank you, thank you.

Then at sunset, again, Venus gradually
Changes into the moon and then the whole nightsky.

This comes of smiling back
at your smile.

The chess master says nothing,
other than moving the silent chess piece.

That I am part of the ploys
of this game makes me
amazingly happy.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Only In Dreams: Facing Harsh Realities

Dreams present to us parts of reality and of the psyche that we often overlook or don’t wish to see. They are concerned with the growth of the soul. The word for “dream” in Hebrew — chalom — is derived from the verb meaning “to be made healthy or strong.” Dreams tell us that we live up to a mere fraction of our potential and that there are great treasures to be found in the unknown portion of our being. If we heed our dreams, they can help us develop new attitudes toward ourselves and others. They can deepen our spiritual impulses, expand our emotional lives, and produce all manner of changes in our careers and relationships. Marc Ian Barasch, from an interview with The Sun

I wonder about this, the notion that dreams present aspects “of the psyche that we often overlook or don’t wish to see” — because not only do I find that this is often true, I find that my dreams present these things, whether mundane or serious, through exactly the messenger I’ve been dying to see and communicate with for all of my adult life.

My mother.

She’s been talking to me, via my dreams, on a regular basis since she died almost nine years ago. As I’ve written about before, these dreams are not always pleasant. In fact, for many months right after her death, the dreams were flat out nightmares. Night after night, I’d step into a room to face my mother, who had turned into a demonic presence with oxygen cords wrapped around her. And in one way or the other, this demonic presence who was and was not my mother would gleefully tell me that my mother was dead.

If I were telling a story, this might be the part where I’d wake up in a cold sweat, with a loud gasp. But in truth, I’d just slowly, painfully open my eyes, and stare at the bright blue sheets on the bunk bed of my college dorm room — the same sheets my mother and I had picked out together not more than two months earlier — and I’d feel a sharp, painful stab in my chest. Instead of having that moment where you wake up and think with a sigh of relief, “It was only a dream,” I’d wake up and be forced to remind myself, “That was not just a dream.” She was really gone.

I’d slide off the bed and begin the reality of my day.

It wasn’t fun. It was grief. The first inklings of accepting my loss wanted to attack me through my subconscious, it seemed. But even those nightmares, while unpleasant, heartbreaking, and downright terrifying at times, reminded me of the harsh reality I had to face:

My mother was gone, and she wasn’t going to reappear when I woke up. She was dead.

Because my heartbroken, panic-stricken 18-year-old-self did not want to face my new reality, I tried to escape these dreams. During the week, I’d read my books for my African American lit course until my eyes burned and I knew I could fall asleep as soon as I turned off the reading lamp. And every weekend, though perhaps not consciously, I would turn off the dreams in a different way — by shutting off my emotions with a quiet, but clear “Fuck you” through booze, ensuring that by the time my head hit a pillow, if I had any dreams that night, I wouldn’t recall them.

The dreams were persistent, though. Some nights we’d argue: I’d yell at her to take off her oxygen mask, because she didn’t need it anymore. She’d refuse. Other nights, I’d recite French presentations to her and she’d smile at me, tapping her feet as if I were singing, with the stupid oxygen tank tucked neatly under her knees, just as she’d put it when we were in the car together.

My favorite nights, she’d comfort me. Both hands placed on my cheeks, she’d look at me and say:

I didn’t leave you. Don’t cry. I didn’t leave you.

When I’d wake up, the bright blue sheets tangled around my legs, I’d initially feel comforted by the soft, cool fabric. But then I would remember. I’d kick the sheets off that now felt like sandpaper and stare at the white concrete walls of my dorm room, feeling angrier and more alone than ever.

I can’t remember when the nightly dreams stopped. Instead, it slowly transitioned to semi-frequent dreams, or what I now like to think of as visits, from my mother. At first it felt like torture, like every night she came back to life and then died all over again in the morning.
Of course, that was just my mind playing tricks on me. These days, I thrive on the dreams in which my mother makes an appearance. It’s like she’s acting in a brief, but much anticipated cameo role in my life. I love the new discovery I made through reading this interview — that chalom, the word for dream in Hebrew, is derived from the verb meaning “to be made healthy or strong” — because seeing her in dreams reminds me of my inner strength. So even if it’s not really her, exactly, in my dreams, it doesn’t matter.

Sometimes, we still argue, but I think that’s important. Because who better than your mother to remind you that you need to live up to your full potential, to develop new attitudes, and to expand your emotional life?

That’s exactly what she did for me when she was alive. So why not now?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Poetry Slam Tuesdays: Not Yet, But I Intend to Start Today

What the Doctor Said
By Raymond Carver

He said it doesn't look good
he said it looks bad in fact real bad
he said I counted thirty-two of them on one lung before
I quit counting them
I said I'm glad I wouldn't want to know
about any more being there than that
he said are you a religious man do you kneel down
in forest groves and let yourself ask for help
when you come to a waterfall
mist blowing against your face and arms
do you stop and ask for understanding at those moments
I said not yet but I intend to start today
he said I'm real sorry he said
I wish I had some other kind of news to give you
I said Amen and he said something else
I didn't catch and not knowing what else to do
and not wanting him to have to repeat it
and me to have to fully digest it
I just looked at him
for a minute and he looked back it was then
I jumped up and shook hands with this man who'd just given me
something no one else on earth had ever given me
I may have even thanked him habit being so strong

Monday, August 15, 2011

Monday Mix Tapes: How Come You Never Go There?

I know my love for Feist is about as well-documented here as my love for The National, but:

YOU GUYS!

This song!



You carry on as though I don't love you...


Speaking of love, I'd also like to give a little Monday Mix Tapes shout out to my lovely friend Miss Lauren Lo, who has been busy creating some great music with Bob Nanna as part of their newest music project, Jack & Ace. They just released two new songs today, and even if they weren't my friends, and great people, I'd still be promoting this. Cause I like it.

Take a listen. Today's songs might break your heart a little bit, so then go back and listen to this summery jam afterward.