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
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.
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?

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
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.”

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 (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.


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,