Thursday, April 28, 2011

These Crazy Schemes & Plans

I wrote this essay last October, either on or around October 29, the day my mother died in 2002. I tend to write in wild spurts every October, when she is on my mind more than ever. At the time, I didn't feel like sharing it here, but today, rereading it, I changed my mind. Because maybe, if you're reading this, and you're missing your mom too, it will give you some comfort. I hope.

In the weeks leading up to my mother’s death, I thought incessantly about how I would react in the event of her death. Probably because of my complete denial that she would, in fact, actually die, the scenarios in my brain were mostly ridiculous, and highly unlikely. In one, I would dye my hair jet black and get incredibly skinny. I envisioned myself sitting in the middle of my dorm’s quad, dressed all in black, smoking clove cigarettes and writing poetry while wearing oversized sunglasses. I would talk to no one. When I would go to class, if a professor called on me, I would answer in short, brilliant retorts that would somehow hint at my inner sorrow and turmoil. But I would never, ever speak directly about it.

Other scenarios involved such wild schemes as dropping out of school, driving out to California, and getting lots of tattoos. Whatever it would be, it would have to be dramatic. I could finally do something unexpected, something against what was expected of me! If my mother died, I thought, there was absolutely no way I could not react with extreme behaviors.

Of course, none of these scenarios actually took place. Instead, I kept going to class. I ate dinner every night at the dorm food court with my roommate Diana. I watched movies with my boyfriend. Every weekend, I would drink until I couldn’t feel anything anymore. And every night, I dreamed that my mother was still alive. When I woke up in the morning, I had to remind myself that she was not. My mother was dead. So I would slide off of my top bunk each morning, grab my shower caddy, and sob in the shower stall.

I did not get any tattoos. I didn’t dye my hair black. I lost eight pounds, then gained about 20. I waited until the last possible minute to tell new friends that my mother was dead, talking only about my father when the subject of “parents” was approached. I frequently wanted to speak up in my English classes, but as soon as I started to raise my hand, my cheeks would flush, and my heart would pound so rapidly, I felt like I might throw up. So I said nothing, and left class each week hating myself.

Every time I’d walk past a girl on campus talking on her cell phone, and hear—“Hi, Mom,”—my heart actually hurt inside of my chest. I blinked back tears and remembered. Only a month earlier, I had walked across campus, yapping on my cell phone to my mother, telling her everything—the books we were reading in African American lit, how I hated my 8 a.m. calculus class, how my roommate Diana and I were quickly becoming friends. In return, my mom kept asking me if I was eating vegetables. (I wasn’t.)

I was so young then! Just a month earlier, I had been a teenager, 18-years-old, starting her first year at school. Now, my mother was gone, and I was old. I had never felt so alone. I gripped my phone in my hand as I walked across campus, and wished someone knew how much courage it took. Just to walk across campus. Because if I called home, she would not be there.

Sadness is My Boyfriend (Oh Lykke, You're My Girl)

Okay, so I know it's getting to the point where I might as well make the tagline for this blog, "in which Alison babbles about her love for The National and Lykke Li to no end," but... I love this too much. I must share!

Lykke Li - Sadness is a Blessing (Director Tarik Saleh) from Lykke Li on Vimeo.

I. LOVE. LYKKE. LI. This is one of my favorite tracks from Wounded Rhymes, and this video is just ... be still my heart. And can we talk about her outfit? Please?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Return of Poetry Slam Tuesdays, with a Special Guest!

It's been awhile, my dears! My apologies. As a special way to return to the poetry slams, today I'm featuring a poem that my dear friend Abby was kind enough to share with me.

You might remember Abby from a poetry slam of days past. You might also remember Abby as my favorite redhead. We are kindred spirits, and she is one of the grooviest, kindest, strongest ladies I've had the pleasure of knowing. (Seriously? You don't remember? Go back and read about her. NOW.)

Without further, err, rambling, here is Abby's poem. Please, please, go check out her blog to read more of her beautiful writing. This poem was originally posted there.

I came to you
hunting for a rescue
and a sturdy wall
on which to lean
my beaten soul and mind.
You are the warm milk,
my brittle stomach,
cleansing the fear,
burying my starvation
to unreachable depths.
My shield you have become.

I came to you
as a lost girl.
You carried me
as a faithful basket
holds a joyous picnic,
carried me to womanhood
with kindness and beauty,
lust and fascination,
patience and duty.
Every bit of love that leaks
from your simple lips
is echoed to a perfect match
in my eyes.
My heart burns full
for yours is full.
I am quite found
because you are never lost.
And you are now whole
for I gave you me
and made it so.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday Mix Tapes: No Future Shock

I have a bit of an obsession with TVOTR right now. It's getting out of hand.

You should probably watch the entire Nine Types of Light film, which includes the above video.

Can't wait to see them at Pitchfork! Can't wait to see Tunde Adebimpe's beard. Just can't wait.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Rather Be Breathless Than Blank

And I sprinted through those underground tunnels
Ran up the stairs past the people, stagnant,
On the escalator to my right

Only to get stopped at the elevator
And arrive at the same time:

They, calm and blank-faced;
Me, breathless,
& angry
about it all.

But then I looked in the mirror
(one I was holding, this time,
Not him, Not them, Me!):

I saw my pink cheeks

The flash in my eyes

And I know
I'd rather run to my destination
Than stand still, letting something else power my way up.

At least I ran.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Change is Gonna Come

Winters in Chicago are long, and they’re rough. By the time spring finally starts to roll around, it’s like Chicago explodes. Where the hell did all these people come from, I ask myself each year. Were they hibernating for the last five months? Even if it’s just a tease, like today, when the sun is shining and bars start opening their patios—although really it’s only 54 degrees and not warm, exactly—I feel my spirits start to lift.

The sun is shining. Warm weather is coming! Longer days and music festivals and flip flops and sundresses and vodka lemonades!

These are the kind of wild ideas that torment and tease us all until it really warms up for good. You know, in June. But there’s something about that anticipation, that wait for spring and summer, that I think makes Chicago summers feel, well, just fucking magical. Believe me, I know. Last summer was during my brief stint back in Indiana, and having to stick out a winter in Chi without the gift of summer was akin to getting grounded the week before spring break, and sitting at your grandmother’s house while all your friends went to the beach and partied without you.

I was thinking about this as I sat in my favorite coffee shop working today. The door was propped open and the sun shone bright into the doorway, the breeze blowing in almost warmly, but not quite. It felt like spring. It almost looked like spring. But across the street, the trees and plants were still bare and brown.

Sometimes it feels like winter is never going to come to an end. Every year, I have to question: Okay, when exactly will there be green leaves on the trees again? When can I finally not be bundled up every time I step out of my apartment? But then, like magic, one day I walk outside and they’ve just appeared. And suddenly, it’s spring.

It’s hard to keep faith that change is coming sometimes. Last year at this time, I was about to start packing up my apartment to move back in with my dad. I’d been waiting tables, interning, and job searching for two years, and nothing had happened. I felt like I was driving repeatedly into a brick wall, then getting out of the car, and banging my head into the wall for good measure. I felt defeated. I was broke, and knew I had to go home. While I tried to put up a brave face, and I reminded myself over and over that not all people were fortunate enough to have a parent who would invite them to move back in, rent free, at the age of 26, I still felt like a big, fat, fucking failure. The first week back in my childhood bedroom, I laid awake in bed each night, my heart racing, wondering if I’d still be sleeping there in a year. In five years? IN TEN?

In Blossom.

temperature’s rising, but the buds still refuse to grow
“he loves me, he loves me not,” played out on broken twigs
with no petals to be found

if I wanted to play that game I’d be sitting on a heap
of sticks by now
can’t just sit and wait for that shit to grow

before I might kick it, paw at the dirt
trying to force something there that is not

the difference is now, I know
just cause the bloom ain’t out don’t mean it’s not there
you feel it, you’re at the root
maybe the trees are still bare, but come spring,
and the green returns

so maybe I water it, ease the growth on its way
like a house plant
but even that’s still got to grow on its own

why stress over it anyway?
the beauty is, it’s coming, it’s growing
a little faith is all you really need
the seasons continue to change

quit playing with sticks
there’s beauty in dirt
without it, where would the flowers bloom

no need to force it
one day you’ll look up
and realize you’re covered in petals

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Somewhere Within the Shadows (Fuck Yeah, Blacksad!)

Have you heard of Blacksad? Me either, until earlier this week. And then last night, when I DEVOURED it, until I passed out, book in hand.

Blacksad. is. the. SHIT.

"I don't read comics," you might say.

"Shut up," I say. "Me either." (With the exception of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, and my other new comic I have soon to read, Hothead Paisan, Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist. Hmm...common theme? All of these comics were gifts. Weird other common theme.)

John Blacksad—who happens to be a big, black cat in a suit—is part private investigator, part tortured soul, and complete bad ass. (For some reason when I was reading it last night, the character reminded me of Don Draper. Except Don Draper is played by Jon Hamm. And Jon Hamm is not a cat. But he is a goof!)

Anyway, Blacksad, the collective creation of former Disney artist Juanjo Guarnido and writer Juan Díaz Canales, is a film-noir style comic set in the late 1950s. All of the characters are anthropomorphic animals. (I'm only telling you that cause I wanted to type anthropomorphic.)

And I'm not going to tell you anything else. Get yourself a six pack and go read it! I promise, you're in for a good time.

Here's a quick little teaser, which really tells you nothing, other than that Blacksad is a pimp.

No, I'm not really reading it en francais. But it'd be a lot cooler if I was.