Friday, October 29, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Grand Pumpkin's Revenge

Seeing as how Rene spent all evening carving a pretty badass pumpkin, I figured it was about time I got in the Halloween spirit as well, the only way I know how:

The Simpsons.

The Grand Pumpkin is real! (And he's a racist.)
Milhouse: "Actually, it's made FROM pumpkins."


"You ROAST the unborn?!"

Coffee Shop Liberation

Felt like moving this from my journal to the interwebs. Don't be scared. Okay, be a little scared.

Coffee Shop Liberation

written October 21, 2010

They are playing Cat Power in this coffee shop. Or this cafe, whatever. The table I chose—because the sun was streaming through the window on it—is too bright for me to open my laptop. Irony, perhaps. I probably should be using my computer to apply for those jobs I don’t really want. I probably should be organizing my finances that don’t really exist.

I could probably just move to a different table.

A couple tables away there is this boy, I mean, a man, reading a book. He has been here even longer than me, and I have been here long enough. Long enough to read almost an entire New Yorker, for the sun to move across the sky (and across my table), and long enough for my tea to go from smoking hot to nothing.

When I got here, and stepped in line, I saw that man who is now sitting near me, reading. (What IS he reading?) He looked at me and blinked, harshly, like my face stung him. It was so intense, I had the crazy notion to apologize. For my face.

I have been here long enough to write three letters, and to realize maybe that’s a strange thing to do, write correspondence at a coffee shop. Everyone has computers in front of them, but what are they really doing? I am writing in a journal, and that cannot be hidden. Nor could I hide sealing, and stamping, envelopes, at this table with the sun glaring on my face, exposing my every ill-placed hair, every line, every freckle.

Earlier, a man at the table next to me was making one phone call after another, talking loudly in Spanish, completely oblivious of everyone around him. He was so oblivious, in fact, that the barista had yelled out that his hot cider was ready so many times, she was about to give it away for free to someone else. Finally, she spotted him, and brought it over to the table. He barely hesitated in his conversation, nodded at the woman, and kept talking. I found him to be completely obnoxious. But I envied him, in a way. It must be nice, being so unaware of the people around you. At least three times, he started a new phone conversation with, "Hola, mi amor." Was he calling the same woman over and over? Was he a pimp? I hoped he had unlimited daytime minutes.

WHY am I so worried about what everyone else thinks? Every day I fret about all these different things, and it is so silly and infuriating. From strangers to my family, I worry what they think. My mother never gave a damn what anyone else thought. That used to infuriate me. Now I am jealous. I worry how to order my tea. I worry about what my grandma thinks about my move back to Chicago. I worry about reading my New Yorkers in public when I should be on my computer.

I worry, I worry.

So, to get over myself, I am sitting in the sunniest fucking spot in this coffee shop, doing exactly what I want to be doing. It is liberating. Even though, quite possibly, no one else in the world, and more specifically, this coffee shop, notices or cares.

Only the Lord Knows, & He Ain't You

Mavis Staples is the shit. Jeff Tweedy produced her new album,"You Are Not Alone," which I clearly need to purchase, as soon as I can afford to buy things. Okay, fine, I'll just watch these YouTube videos.

Can you believe this woman is 71? She's so fierce: "Only the Lord knows, and he ain't you." Sing it, Mavis.

And her cover of this Creedence song is incredible. (Don't make me say fierce again.)

Obviously, I heard about her new album from my New Yorkers, my connection to the outside world. Because I read each issue at least a week late, lately, I'm a week behind on current events as well. Maybe I'll be a grownup again soon, and like, watch the news.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Poetry Slam Tuesdays: An Obnoxious Thought

I love Bukowski, but really, who would want to be such an asshole? Must have been nice.

well, that's just the way it is ...
sometimes when everything seems at
its worst
when all conspires
and gnaws
and the hours, days, weeks
seem wasted—
stretched there upon my bed
in the dark
looking upward at the ceiling
I get what many will consider an
obnoxious thought:
it's still nice to be

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday Mix Tapes: I've Said Too Much, I Haven't Said Enough

Around the time my prepubescent self was falling in love with Bob Marley and buying the K's Choice album at Karma, I was also really, really into R.E.M. 

Specifically, I loved Michael Stipe. I thought he was fascinating and beautiful in this strange, sad way that I couldn't quite understand or pinpoint why. (Now, keep in mind, I was about 11 or 12.) I mean, do you remember the "Losing My Religion" music video? I didn't know what the hell was going on, but boy, did I love it. Observe Michael Stipe's button down! The rolled up sleeves! His strange little dance!

And then this song came on MTV. It made me feel better about things I didn't even really know I was upset about yet, if that makes any sense at all. So, obviously I added the album, "Automatic for the People" to my small R.E.M. collection, which included Life's Rich Pageant (cause I was the coolest dork in K-hizzy, and so "goddamn young!").

I listened to it over and over again.

During all this listening to that neon yellow cd, I fell head over heels in love with the track, "Nightswimming." I thought—and still think—the piano in this song was painfully beautiful. It made me regret quitting my piano lessons (which I had recently done). It still makes me regret quitting piano. But then again, I really wasn't any good at playing anything other than songs from the "Easy Piano" Little Mermaid soundtrack, so it's probably time to quit being nostalgic about Alison, the pianist who might have been.

But back to R.E.M., and my love.

"I want to turn you on, turn you up, figure you out, I want to take you on":

 "I could be your Frankenstein":

I tell you what, I was a real woman-child, a sad tomato.

And even though my enthusiasm for R.E.M. has obviously waned over the years—I didn't even realize they were releasing a new album until I started writing this post—any time I hear some of those old songs, "I am smitten." Still, Michael Stipe. Even still.

Now I've said too much. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Poetry Slam Thursday: Some Sort of Hippie Shit

Eeek! I missed Poetry Slam Tuesday! I'm so sorry, my darlings!

Here, to make it better (or worse), is a poem I wrote two Sundays ago.

My Mother Wore Black

when she married my father.
Black, with red roses—some
"hippie shit" as my brother
Tom would say.

I look at this picture of them,
with their wide smiles
and 70s haircuts,
and I think that
they were very much in love.

Everyone says I look like my mother,
but I see this and I'm starting
to think, no,
I look like my father.

But then I see the crinkles
around his eyes, from that
big smile that hits his cheeks,
and he looks just like Jay.

So maybe I sort of look like
both of them,
and maybe
I'm also just me.

All I really know
is that my mother wore black
when she married my father

and it is some sort of "hippie
shit" that I would most
definitely do.

And since my mother wore black
I feel O.K., knowing that
maybe I look a little
like both of them,
and that maybe I do
know my mother

as well as I hope I do.

Purveyors of Synthetic Sunshine

This week, thanks to many hours spent in local coffee shops and on my sofa, I have almost caught up on my New Yorkers (a nearly impossible feat!) and read God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, by the late, great Kurt Vonnegut. It was one of his I'd never read but had ridiculously high expectations of, going in. And God bless you, Mr. Vonnegut! You did not let me down.

I started reading it last Saturday, and had it sitting in front of me while I was talking to my new boss. He picked it up, looked at me, and said, "So, you're in school?"

"Nope," I said. "Just reading. You know, for fun."

"Ahh, you're one of those."

Yes, yes I am. 

I will now take Mr. Vonnegut's genius completely out of context for your enjoyment, and I promise, it will still be be completely genius and wonderful. For instance (and yes, the emphasis on his glorious words is mine):

"In Milford, Eliot told the writers that he wished they would learn more about sex and economics and style ... And it occurred to him that a really good science-fiction book had never been written about money. 'Just think of the wild ways money is passed around on Earth!' he said. 'You don't have to go to the Planet Tralfamadore in Anti-Matter Galaxy 508 G to find weird creatures with unbelievable powers. Look at the powers of an Earthling millionaire! Look at me! I was born naked, just like you, but my God, friends and neighbors, I have thousands of dollars a day to spend!' He paused to make a very impressive demonstration of his magical powers, writing a smeary check for two hundred dollars for every person there. 'There's fantasy for you,' he said."

And then of course, we can't forget Eliot's father, Senator Rosewater, who says in his "fairly famous speech on the Golden Age of Rome":

"And what did the terrible, black-spirited, non-fun-loving conservatives of those happy days have to say? Well, there weren't many of them left. They were dying off in ridiculed age. And their children had been turned against them by the liberals, by the purveyors of synthetic sunshine and moonshine, by the something for nothing political strip-teasers, by the people who loved everybody, including the barbarians, by people who loved the barbarians so much they wanted to open all the gates, have all the soldiers lay down their weapons down, and let the barbarians come in!"
So, if you don't have the guts or desire to be a purveyor of synthetic sunshine and moonshine, if you don't want to put your weapons down and let the barbarians come in, at least remember Eliot Rosewater's one rule: "God damn it, you've got to be kind."

And god damn it, go read some Kurt Vonnegut. Raise your tennis rackets like magic wands, like Eliot, and tell the babies, "Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter."

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Important Introductions

The other day my main squeeze Rene and I were having a PB&J at the Boiler Room, and for whatever reason, they were about to start playing an episode of the Muppet Show featuring Linda Ronstadt. Why, I have no idea, but I kinda love it. That, and my slice of pizza.

I squealed in excitement. Rene looked at me like I'm a muppet and says, "Who's Linda Ronstadt?"


Rene, meet Linda.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Poetry Slam Tuesdays: "Let's talk of Paris."

In Paris with You
By James Fenton

Don't talk to me of love. I've had an earful
And I get tearful when I've downed a drink or two.
I'm one of your talking wounded.
I'm a hostage. I'm maroonded.
But I'm in Paris with you.

Yes I'm angry at the way I've been bamboozled
And resentful at the mess I've been through.
I admit I'm on the rebound
And I don't care where are we bound.
I'm in Paris with you.

Do you mind if we do not go to the Louvre
If we say sod off to sodding Notre Dame,
If we skip the Champs Elysées
And remain here in this sleazy
Old hotel room
Doing this and that
To what and whom
Learning who you are,
Learning what I am.

Don't talk to me of love. Let's talk of Paris,
The little bit of Paris in our view.
There's that crack across the ceiling

And the hotel walls are peeling
And I'm in Paris with you.

Don't talk to me of love. Let's talk of Paris.
I'm in Paris with the slightest thing you do.
I'm in Paris with your eyes, your mouth,
I'm in Paris with... all points south.
Am I embarrassing you?
I'm in Paris with you.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Monday Mix Tapes: RIP Solomon Burke

Soul legend Solomon Burke died yesterday at the age of 70.

"Cry to Me" is one of my all-time favorite songs. And yes, I knew it from a young age because it's featured in Dirty Dancing. Duh. I also first heard "These Arms of Mine" by Otis in the same scene. But that's beside the point. We can talk about the greatness of the Dirty Dancing soundtrack at a later date.

Here we go, what I consider to be one of the sexiest, most soulful songs of all time (and not just cause Swayze gets busy to it):

May he rest in peace.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Long Conversation of Friendship

Yesterday I was reading some of Phillip Lopate's essays from his collection Against Joie de Vivre. His essay about essays, "What Happened to the Personal Essay?" grated on my nerves a bit, mostly cause he's a little too critical of my man E.B., but mostly I really admire his style. He even manages to find deeper meaning in shaving off his beard. I dig it.

The excerpts below (all emphasis is mine) are from Lopate's essay, "Modern Friendships," and it's one of those essays that I keep flipping back to and reading again. Maybe because I've been thinking about friendship a lot lately, and more specifically, how to maintain friendships. I guess I used to think it would be easier as I got older. Turns out, it's not. It can be downright tricky, as a matter of fact. Like Lopate writes, "Though it is often said that with a true friend there is no need to hold anything back ... Certain words maybe be too cruel if spoken at the wrong moment ... I also find with each friend, as they must with me, that some initial resistance, restlessness, psychic weather must be overcome before that tender ideal attentiveness may be called forth."

Here are more of Lopate's thoughts on friendship, what he describes as "a long conversation":

"Since we cannot be polygamists in our conjugal life, at least we can do so with friendship. As it happens, the harem of friends, so tantalizing a notion, often translates into feeling pulled in a dozen different directions, with the guilty sense of having disappointed everyone a little. It is also a risky, contrived enterprise to try to make one's friends behave in a friendly manner toward each other: if the effort fails one feels obliged to mediate; if it succeeds too well, one is jealous."

"When I think about the qualities that characterize the best friendships I've known, I can identify five: rapport, affection, need, habit, and forgiveness. Rapport and affection can only take you so far; they may leave you at the formal , outer gate of goodwill, which is still not friendship. A persistent need for the other's company, for their interest, approval, opinion, will get you inside the gates, especially when it is reciprocated. In the end, however, there are no substitutes for habit and forgiveness. A friendship may travel for years on cozy habit. But it is a melancholy fact that unless you are a saint you are bound to offend every friend deeply at least once in the course of time. The friends I have kept the longest are those who forgave me for wronging them, unintentionally, intentionally, or by the plain catastrophe of my personality, time and again. There can be no friendship without forgiveness." 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Return of Sunday Swayze Fest!

I realized I lost a follower today. I can only assume it's because I've failed to deliver with Swayze goodness every Sunday.

Dear Ex-Rainbow Groupie,

I'm not sure what I did wrong, but I'm sorry. Does this help?

No? How about this?

Come back.

Alison (and Swayze)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Set Me Free! What Have You Done to Me?

"Don't wanna live in my father's house no more. Don't wanna fight in a holy war,
Don't want the salesmen knocking at my door, I don't wanna live in America no more. 'Cause the tide is high, and it's rising still, and I don't wanna see it at my windowsill."

African Violet On My Windowsill

You gave me an African violet.
Two years ago, you did. And I crammed it
in the front seat of my Neon, with the rest of
my life in the back. The U-Haul followed as I
drove in the 90 degree heat up to Chicago.
Mufasa & Layla kept meowing as if
I were driving them to their deaths.
But it was only to Chicago.

I wedged the flower between my seats and I
prayed it would not tumble to the floor.
Each turn, I held my hand out to protect it,
this little thing. An African violet
potted in an old record. You put our friendship,
what was left, what could remain, in that soil.
I thought. This record someone--you?--must have
molded, and worked, into the shape
of a makeshift pot.

Each time you'd send me a new mixtape I'd
put it on the stereo as I cleaned my apartment,
alone. Then, I knew our friendship was still ours,
and ours alone. We were safe.

When I arrived at my brand new old apartment
in Chicago, I placed the African violet
on my windowsill. That night I read Love is a Mixtape
and I thought of you, and your loss. How I
wanted to take your hurt and squeeze it,
soothe it, make you not feel broken by it
anymore. If you did. But I couldn't save you
from your heartbreak any more than
you could stop me from mine, could I?

Later, much later, I loaned you the book and I
sensed your hesitation. But I know and you know that
our losses are ours alone. Still, I kept hoping you'd
read it. Now the book is gone, somewhere, left hanging
between us. Like our friendship we also can't seem to

My African violet stayed on my windowsill, and I
took comfort in it for that short time it was. Happy
you knew me well enough to understand:
It was the most completely perfect parting gift.
One day I walked in the kitchen. Both cats were
eating the African violet, gnawing and swatting at it.
I yelled in horror, and in their fright, they jumped
off the windowsill. Taking our African violet
with them.

The record bounced slightly, and soil spilled
over my kitchen floor.