Sunday, November 20, 2011

Book Report

The Satanic Verses
Salman Rushdie


I have a very dirty secret involving why it took me so long to read this book. Is it because I have a hard time with Rushdie's prose? Oh my no - it goes down like a rainbow flavored snow cone dolloped with an odd dash of spices guaranteed to keep you hooked all the way to the last drop. Is it because I had issues understanding the various parables and the confoundry of a guy thinking he is the Angel Gibreel, while maybe actually being the angel Gibreel. Nah-uh, fantasy intersects with reality more than most people are comfortable believing. Did I find his female characters unappealing? Nope, Rushdie comes up with some of the strongest, most complex and real female characters out there (Alleluia Cone immediately comes to mind, with her fallen arches, and conflicting obsessions).

My dirty secret is that I have been using this book as a polling point for Thursday nights at a local neighborhood eatery. Because I have never had a night there when I was reading it, and someone did not have something to say about it.

The hilarious thing is that everyone who had something to say about it, had not actually read the book. They just know about the fatwah.

"Oh, is that the book where he had to go into hiding after it was published?"

"Yeah, do you know why that is?"

And therein lies my guilt, as I began examining the various ideas of just why that is from my friendly neighborhood barflies. This is what they came up with:

Rushdie likes men.

Nope, way too many hot chick notches under his belt.

Rushdie was calling for the assassination of the ayatollah of Iran.

Nope, it ended up being the other way around.

Rushdie discovered a new section of the Koran where women had equal rights.

Kind of ... but not really.

I held a vast sense of superiority over these people, being as I was actually reading the book. But when I turned the last page and closed it, I realized I really had no idea either.

So, I had to wikipedia it. And the answer was so obvious, I completely missed it. Apparently some Muslims take their religion super seriously. So much for my literary acumen. Ah well.

It was not an effort wasted. Although not as fluid and nonstop as Midnight's Children, The Satanic Verses still offered up a vareity of gems, anecdotes, fables, legends and occasionally Shakespearean-styled comedies of errors (with Shakespeare nicely credited for that effort). I must read that I'm glad I must did read.

Now, onto something new to poll the Thursday night crew with.

Song

"And if you think I've gone too long
Listen, the sky will sing this song
As it burns up all the memories
That flow, like water, out of me"

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Song

"Je ne veux pas travailler
Je ne veux pas dejeuner
Je veux seulement oublier,
Et puis, je fume."

[I don't want to work / I don't want to lunch / I want only to forget/ and then I smoke].

Monday, September 26, 2011

Book Report

Look Homeward, Angel
Thomas Wolfe


Very rarely do I hit a wall with a book that makes me think I will never finish it. I inherited this book from my parents, who inherited it from my Nana. It has been sitting on my nightstand for over half a year, where it rests while I turn to other reads for a break. It is currently in seven different pieces. Last Sunday, as I was reading it in my favorite breakfast spot, a page actually tore loose and landed smack in the middle of my oatmeal. Pieces of the binding, resembling dead moth parts seem to magically litter my floor. "I thought," groaned my dad as he handed it over, "I would never finish this stupid book."

"Is it worth reading?"

"Yep."

In short, the book had become - to echo a brilliant review on goodreads that made me keep going like a marathoner on the 23rd mile - the goddamn bane of my existence. It was also one of the most beautiful things I've ever read. As I finally set it down for good I actually found myself sighing poignantly, then looking around pretty embarrassed.

Plot? Thomas Wolfe doesn't need a plot. He just needs a good dysfunctional drunk North Carolina family, a misunderstood genius, southern whores, slightly crazed boarders, tobacco and lots of racial epithets. He needs his hero to wander around a graveyard spilling out gushes of morbid soliloquy strewn with masses of descript mountain evenings and overtones of escapism. He needs the harsh realities of loving your family so passionately you slowly kill them, in a way that manages to be so macabre it's funny. Plot, pshaw. Thomas Wolfe is a poet, pure and simple.

For example:

"And left alone to sleep within a shuttered room, with the thick sunlight printed in bars upon the floor, unfathomable loneliness and sadness crept through him: he saw his life down the solemn vista of a forest aisle, and he knew he would always be the sad one: caged in that little round of skull, imprisoned in that beating and most secret heart, his life must always walk down lonely passages. Lost. He understood that men were forever strangers to one another, that no one ever comes really to know any one, that imprisoned in the dark womb of our mother, we come to life without having seen her face, that we are given to her arms a stranger, and that, caught in that insoluble prison of being, we escape it never, no matter what arms may clasp us, what mouth may kiss us, what heart may warm us. Never, never, never, never, never."

Yep, existentialism just had an orgasm. A self-indulgent one, but still.

I really have no desire to find out what happens to Eugene Gant after this novel. I mean, I could, since there is a sequel, but he's not a particularly likeable fella. I like the thought of him exiting stage left, looking back longingly at mistakes he would never have been able to correct. If he turns around - well, then the whole title stops making sense.

Keep it around. It grows on you. You'll never look at October leaves shaking on the trees the same.

Five stars, disbelievingly.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Book Report

The Virgin Suicides
Jeffrey Eugenides


Reading Eugenides is like being trapped in someone's nightmare. Someone's nightmare that is so aesthetically pleasing you don't want to leave. And he definitely knows the formula to keep you locked in.

Centering around the tragic mystery of the suicides of five sisters, one would expect that Euginedes gives us resolutions and answers, but none fit, making it all the more tragic. Expecting the usual macabre plot devices, you continue turning the pages, rushing through the onslaught of hormonal luminescence that engulfs the entire narrative. Were teenage girls ever so obsessively idolized while their physical flaws so excessively studied? Do men really lack the capacity to understand the harsh realities of "trapped beaver" (my favorite phrase in the book)? Is self-destruction always contagious? At what point is escape impossible? Eugenides makes the Lisbon story resemble an nostalgic ghost tale, stringing us along with its horrible beauty and scaring us silly while we want to listen to more.

Haunting. And, like its characters, finishing too soon.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Song

I have a terrible habit of telling people my heart is full when I've had a few, when I should really just say "this has been great." I blame this song.

"Loafing oafs in all-night chemists
Underact - express depression
Ah, but Bunnie I loved you
I was tired again
I've tried again, and

Now my heart is full
Now my heart is full
And I just can't explain
So I won't even try to"

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Poem

Wives say to me
With their jeweled hands
On top of mine
That there will be space
If I just wait

And I study my naked hands
Beneath theirs
On the countertop between us
And say:

Here, there is already space
Like a wave
That borrows your balance
So you can see what lies
On the shore beneath

Suspending organs,
like flotsam floating
Spreading them out
onto other things that sparkle
Expensively

EEG

Stats

Every once in awhile, this blog sends me a report telling me what people googled that landed them here.

Today: "female desperation" and "getting messy wearing satin nightgown."

God.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Song

"Is that all there is?
If that's all there is, my friends,
Then let's keep dancing ..."





Lake

In the continuance of missing North Carolina, I am having a cheap beer this evening after ducking out of a social engagement, which I decided was not going to be that engaging. I need some quiet these days, work is overstimulating and requires all my analytical skills. Pushing those analytical skills further to navigate a crowd at a concert on a night where I have to stay sober to get back to the overstimulating work tomorrow seem doable until I started to randomly itch all over and realized I was probably allergic to that task.

Hurricane Irene, lend us some rain, baby. For the ground is dry, and we itch with crankiness.

In my party fridge, alongside a sad defunct plastic case of baby spinach, sits a lone PBR left over from a tubing trip a couple of months ago. Allowing myself this one little recompense, it occurs to me that whenever I accidentally get a mouthful of Hyco Lake, it tastes a little bit like this. Light, warm and cheap. It probably also tastes like a lot of strangers' urine. There, I had to go and ruin the whole poetic PBR analogy.

Our neighbor at Hyco never used his shower. He kept stacks of Ivory soap bars on the deck next to cooler perpetually full of Miller Lite. Mornings and evenings he took his baths in the water. "I'd come up and kiss you sweetheart," he would yell from below as I pulled into the long treacherous drive after 14 hours behind the wheel, "but I'm buck naked."

During dry summers, what looked like soap scum appeared for miles around the lake marking the water level.

The swimmer is now dead and gone, but I am told the soap scum remains as a fitting tribute. I am missing it and the source this year, having been denied a few days back in our wilderness. It's not like me to miss North Carolina so much. I blame being in a city for too long. Despite its green spaces, New Orleans can be stifling in August with the heat and people. I feel heavy, drowsy and clumsy and have a strange longing to actually walk up a hill. The one thing New Orleans lacks to make me happy.

Maybe I am thinking of North Carolina as Irene hits its shores. Today I read a news article where a sheriff in Morehead City made a point to advertise the number of body bags he had ordered to all the residents who were insisting on staying. Unlike many Katrina victims, these people actually have places to go but North Carolinians have a stubborn love of their property.

"We may have to drag your dead body out of the yard when all's said and done," said the sheriff.

"Well," they probably think, "at least it's our yard."

Roncesvalles, May 2004

Somewhere along the long trail over the Pyrenees from St Jean Pied de Port, I lost all of the electrolytes in my body. They trickled out slowly through my sweat and in my well meaning way I drank two gallons of water, which only made the situation worse. In denial, I went to stand at the pilgrim's mass and promptly passed out into the arms of the Welshman next to me. I had officially made my first Camino friend.

Afterwards, we ate trout and drank dark rich wine for five euros. He told me where he was from. It took a long time to say it. I made him write it down. The slip of paper was too small to fit all of the consonants. We laughed.

"Did you see Roland's battlefield?" he asked me.

"Where was it?"

"The trailer park."

"Ah." It makes sense. In America there's a plaque for every little thing, every little step. "So-and-so slept here." And yet, on the battleground of Roncevalles, a trailer park. Europe can mix history and the present like beer and liquor. Hundreds can have died awful medieval deaths right where you sleep. I think of my own tiny place above graves, a stone's throw away from Staromestka. Executions, demonstrations, burnings, Franz Kafka's father's shop, the Jakubska church with the arm of a Saint that is most probably a very large and now inedible sausage. The road to Santiago runs down my own street in the CR, but perhaps this isn't as symbolic as I want it to be. All roads run into each other eventually unless there is water between. And even then ...

The aubergue at Roncesvalles sleeps two hundred people and the bunk beds are shoved together so you spend the night next to a stranger. My first shower on the camino is cold, but a shower seems like an enormous luxury after a college full of long and smelly hikes. I have Danko's sleeping bag with me, probably too heavy for the summer, but it smells like pepper and lavender, the smell of our place. Fearing the curse of more snoring Germans before a 35 mile hike the next day I shove earplugs so far into my ears that I awake gasping with pain to pull them out again. The sudden roar of sleepers in the large space is deafening and disorienting. I walk outside, into my first 3am in Spain to look at the stars.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Backup

As I'm getting older, I'm losing my guy friends by the dozens. This is irritating because I have always been more comfortable hanging around men (less talk of feelings, more wit battles) than women. My closest girl friends tend to be women who "act like men" - no matter how backwards and ignorant that sounds. Yes, you can be as girly as you want, but if you shy away from sharp observations and harsh truths, I am going to have a hard time trusting you. The extra vagina in the mix just adds to the problem. Because my menstrual cycle just really wants to fit in, and I get tired of ovulating with all of my friends at once.

I am not losing my guy friends to disease. Rather I am losing them to other women, and such is life. (For the most part), I like my guy friends' wives and sometimes I even like their kids. But because I grew up in a family where infidelity was all too often a reality, I am careful about being out with married guy friends alone lest it hurt their wives or make them worry. Sadly, even when things are totally innocent and you're just swapping great public fart stories, there's now a family factor in there and, despite my at times unconventional outlook on love, I am rather conventional in my outlook on marriage and what it means when two people promise to love each other forever EXCLUSIVELY. So the karma fairies don't get me if I ever decide to walk down the aisle.

But this post isn't really about grieving the loss of male friends to marriage and their happily ever after lives. And I certainly am not discounting my female friends who have brought me safely through many a rough patch in the last year.

Rather this post is about the backup. I think everyone has them - the friend that desperation might one day make you think "Hey, sex with them might not be that bad and I already know their irritating habits." And so, maybe one night you both have a few and decide that if and when you are both old (40) and still single, you might think of actually falling in love with each other. Which is fine. Like a benzo, it calms down the worry over the future so you can get on with your life actually meeting and liking other people whose dark pasts are a complete mystery and will hopefully remain that way.

However, there is one requirement for the backup situation and it is that THE FEELING MUST BE MUTUAL. You must mutually be on each other's backup lists. There needs to be an understanding, in writing if need be.

I have a reason for this. It is most disconcerting to realize that you are on someone's backup list, that you would never in a million years agree to back up into.

In fact, downright insulting in some instances. Let me elaborate:

Despite the narcissistic tone of this blog, I am, as it were, actually a pretty decent catch. I am also single at the moment. This is a feat accomplished by few of my caliber, and usually I am proud of it because I can honestly say I would be a miserable cow had I married anyone I had ever dated and I think it took me some guts to realize that and walk away before I took the step of telling everyone my marital issues over facebook stati.

However, in the past year, I've had several people from various social circles sort of "check in" with me. Which would normally be fine and a little flattering, whether or not I liked them back. But these people do it in such a way that it's obvious they are putting some energy into trying to keep me there, rather than asking me out right now. Almost like I'm a sure bet or something.

Fair enough, we've all had delusions of grandeur. But these are also people that I would never in a trillion years even think about dating. In fact more than 80% of them are people I would be terrified to have to spend time with alone. Their crime: disregarding the mutuality of back-upedness by having the gumption to think that I would be right there waiting for them, when I find them about as attractive as a mole on a walrus's backside.

That high level of conceit coming from that low level of male really irks me because I don't have any way of dealing with it constructively. I am perceptive to the point of paranoia. I can read between the lines of these kinds of communications really well. But I am not sure what to do about them. If they were an explicit, "hey, let's hang out sometime" from a guy who I've never gone out with - easy to deal with. Say "sure, one of these days" and then don't and usually they get the picture and probably move on to someone else.

But these irritating fellas don't do that. They write me messages that border on stalkerish, with an apparent assumption that we'll be together when they get around to it. And I've left flummoxed as to how to approach this. I can't say in response to their assumptive cheese, "hey, I don't want to date you, EVER" because then they get a pass and can say "I never asked you out. Whoa." And you're thinking, "yes, you did, because I just forwarded your message to ten of my vagina friends who all independently confirmed that you think you actually have a sporting chance of locking me into a relationship whenever you feel like it."

Now that I am writing about this ("I write to find out what I'm thinking about"), I realize the part that really bothers me is I have a hard enough time finding someone I actually like enough to have sitting in my first chair, and yet there are these bastards out there who actually think they get to have me in their second chair, apparently without any concern as to whether or not I am interested in sitting in it.

Or on a deeper level it's about American society where fat jerks on TV always have the hot smart wives and a lot of these men bugging me seem to have the same mentality. That they are entitled to just keep a thumb on something, and the something doesn't mind being thumbed no matter how undeserving the, uh, thumber.

So, I just don't respond, which never seems to discourage this behavior, and at times makes it worse. (One, for example, always starts off his emails to me with "haven't talked to you in awhile." That is true, because I blocked you on facebook and never write back. Hint much?) And lately it's been happening so often (I guess their marital pool is thinning too) that I am thinking I need a good game plan to convey the fact they are pompous douchebags that make me uncomfortable with this unflattering display of territory marking.

Looking for suggestions, penis and vagina alike.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Song(s)

The Poe album "Haunted" carried me through a long dreary winter in Prague. With headphones from a CD walkman pressed close to my ears, occasionally I would burst out singing the sad sick lyrics and then look apologetically over at my over-accomplished boyfriend, hunched over at his desk learning his fifth language.

"Sorry, Danielicko."

He would grin and stretch out his pale athletic frame and then sing the lyric back to me.

"Ja vim, zlaticku. You're haunted. You're wild."

"And a sweet Spanish doll?"

"You are not Spanish."

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Song

"Nakedness (nakedness)
A flying lesson
Tattered dress
Sunburned chest
You will pay for your excessive charm
With a boy who knows
less than he thinks
Drinks up his expensive drinks
Be careful with the details of the war"

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Nightgown

Yesterday was the Hash House Harrier's Red Dress Run. It was obviously good times, because how can it not be when you have a city full of men wearing dresses that evokes "Lady in Red" sweating in the brutal August heat doing anything but running?

I actually intended to run. Instead, I found myself perched on a bar stool most of the afternoon in a short satin nighty. At some point in the evening, the fact I was wearing a red satin nightgown in public that came from France's version of Target began to hit home. It was a curious phenomenon - the drunker I got the more self-conscious I got. So by the time I finally made it in my door I was tearing that sucker off like a mad woman chanting "freedom," to myself and hightailing it to a shower to wash away my daring.

I have to say, I am starting to realize that at heart I am a very shy person. Part of my love for New Orleans comes more from watching than actually participating in the realm of craziness around me. Although participation is sometimes mandatory.

This morning I woke up to a barrage of emails from people that I apparently drunkenly wrote sentimental emails to last night. So, back to the "you are not allowed to leave your bed after you take Ambien" rule. I often wonder where those thoughts come from, who wrote them, and how they managed to do it with minimum typos.

Besides ridiculous facebook postings that may have either been cries for help or obtuse expressions of giddiness, I realized I actually emailed a friend who died four years ago. This wincing silliness, combined with a fuzzy Sunday has brought my cheerful mood from yesterday down somewhat. So, I find myself again instituting the "this week will be different" mentality, while puttering about doing useful things like studying forehead wrinkles, attempting to work and continuing to question the unquestionable while once again avoiding phone calls from my mother.

There's also writing this very pointless blog entry of course.

But seriously, regrettable contacts aside, the world was madcap and beautiful yesterday. I got a chance to meet new people and hang out in the lovely company of people I already knew. I learned that the Erin Rose has a 48 ounce martini glass like those fancy schmoes in DC. I got some good tips on how to roll with the punches as a young lawyer, and when to throw some. I got some fun anecdotes from a girl with discerning satirical taste. A frat boy bought me a drink because I said I liked his Duke shirt - giving me some hope for people who attend my alma mater these days. I saw an astonishing number of tattoos, still small in comparison to an astonishing number of bad life choices.

Sometimes I think living in New Orleans may have the unintended effect of making me feel nice and vanilla, and that's actually not such a bad thing.

But this morning, I am missing tobacco fields and the early morning hum of fisherman on the lake below. I am missing my mother's 3000 calories breakfasts, and my father's impressions. I am missing my sister's loud and commanding laugh, and the banjo twang of the Piedmont accent. I am missing vinegar sauce and swimming pools and baptist revivals and NASCAR.

I think the time might be ripe for a trip home to Sweet Carolina.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Book Report

The Kalevala
A Bunch of anonymous Finnish types

This is a thought-provoking piece of majestic work. Thought-provoking because as I read it, an insane amount of questions kept coming to mind which I will try (completely incompletely) to compile here, although not with the mastery of Elias Lonnrot.

Like many of my recent reads, my decision to read the Kalevala was based on a cheap History Channel documentary on the life of JRR Tolkien and some random you-tubing of the gorgeous little ditties sung by really old men and Finnish schoolchildren.





So gorgeous in fact, even "viking metal bands" have gotten into the act. Because if you can't rape and pillage with a measure of approval these days, the next best thing is interpreting traditional songs with synth instruments. Obviously.



So, without further ado, three important lessons that I learned from The Kalevala:

Lesson 1: The Kalevala has fuck-all to do with Lord of the Rings. (In fact Lord of the Rings is actually better.)

Yes, yes, I know. Tolkien studied Finnish - an impressive feat because it holds the records for the most possible cases in a language. Which makes it, like Navajo, a perfect spy language to use in America where people already have issues distinguishing between "your" and "you're."

Ahem. This will not be the first pretentious aside.

But as far as anything resembling LOTR, I guess you could compare The Kalevala's main protagonist, Vainamoinen ("V," because I am lazy), to Gandalf. Except you cannot, because the only thing they have in common is a long white beard and magical powers. However, V's magical powers - like pretty much all of the magical characters - comes from "singing" his spells. In fact, all the magical battles sound a lot like American Idol with people in fur and armor. V also spent a lot of time (unsuccessfully) looking for a bride, while Gandalf had more important things to do, like saving Middle Earth. Finally, and this was really the winning blow, V neither smoked a pipe or appeared to have a sense of humor. Which made caring about whether he lived or died sort of a tossup for me.

And then there are other differences, like the Kalevala's lack of a coherent plot. Which has led me to conclude that if someone says to you, "Oh! You should read The Kalevala, it's just like Lord of the Rings!" they have not actually read the Kalevala and should be shunned for their dishonesty. Getting through an unannotated 666 pages of Finnish epic is not a light task, and saying something like that is like telling someone you ran a marathon when you can barely survive a 5K.

But you'll be glad you did, because then you can learn a lot about life choices. For example:

Lesson 2: Never get romantically involved with a man from Finland.

He will fuck you up.

I know that technically my chances of having sex with a Finnish guy are probably slim in New Orleans, and I know that wife-beating was probably completely legit until the '60s, but it's a little terrifying when it's apparently part of a national identity. But, to be fair, it's not like this text was without its romantic moments. For example, Ilmarinen a blacksmith-god type goes to build the Sampo (more on this in a second) as part of a mission to woo and win the fair girl of North.

Actually, he didn't do this on purpose - ol' V sent him because he couldn't do it himself. But he does all these wonderful tasks, forges the Sampo, and what does the fair girl of the North say then?

Well, apparently the whole duirnal cycle of Northland depends on her, so she says a lovely little, "thanks, but no thanks." Ilmarinen takes it on the chin, goes home and obsesses for six years, then returns to compete for her hand with crafty ol' V again. Except the fair maid of the North has in the meantime realized her biological clock is ticking, or maybe she's tired of her witch of a mother, but either way she helps him out in a bunch of other crazy tasks, and when her mother tells her to give a beer to the one she prefers, Ilmarinen gets that frothy mug.

Aw.

That's when things start getting a little iffy.

Everyone's having a great time at the wedding, and then the bride gets ready to leave with her well-deserving groomsmen. And all of the sudden, she's like "Holy shit, I am leaving the home of my father's father's fathers." So, of course, to cheer her up, the wedding party tells her the following (in song, of course):

"Your in-laws are going to suck. They will scold you, starve you, beat you, spit on you, make you do all the household chores. No one will ever love you like the family you are now leaving behind. Especially not that dastardly bridegroom who's going to start chasing tail as soon as he can. And eventually, you're going to get tossed from the house and go to other people's weddings as an old crone in the corner and sing about it."

The circle of life.

But, there's hope. The kid on the ground tells the maid not to listen, because she picked a good man (more on THAT in a second). And for good measure, an old man advises Ilmarinen not to beat her right away if she's bad, but if it does come to blows:

"Always warm up her shoulders
soften her buttocks -
don't chastise her eyes
and don't box her ears: a lump
would come up on the eyebrow
a blueberry on the eye.
Brother-in-law would ask about it
father-in-law would wonder
the village ploughmen would see
the village women would laugh[.]"

That's right. Beat her, but leave no evidence. What will the neighbors think?

To his credit, maybe Ilmarinen is a good husband who rarely leaves visible bruises. But probably not. When we again meet the fair presumably-no-longer-a-maid of the North, she's turned into a real bitch. In fact she's so awful, she taunts the mentally handicapped serf, Kullervo, to such an extreme that he kills her with a wolf and a bear disguised as cows. Then he goes and has sex with his sister.

You can't make this shit up. Okay, apparently Fins can.

So, Ilmarinen does the logical thing. He grieves awhile (aw, again), makes a woman out of gold who is unsatisfactory (ie, it might hurt to beat or have relations with her), and then decides to kidnap his dead wife's younger sister. Who is really not thrilled and actually dares to say so. At which point he turns her into a seagull. Then decides to go back and steal the Sampo from his mother-in-law, because you need to kick an old woman when she's down.

I haven't even bothered to go into the other dude, "wanton Lemmenkainen." He's pretty much a Snoop Dogg song. Good luck with that, hos.

Lesson Three: You really don't need to know what a Sampo is to enjoy this thing.

And they're sure as hell not going to tell you. Use your imagination, or drink a lot of beer (just skip over the twenty something pages of ingredients, because it will make you rethink the beer decision).

Three and a half (with half a star thrown in for my obvious cultural misunderstanding.)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Song

"But oh I sing
No way to change what's been said and done
I've set my own course and I'll try to carry on
So back and forth I go on this Baltic sea
Waiting for a whale to come and rescue me hey, hey
and I hear them sing:
oh let's all toast to the ones we love
to old friends and to Viking blood."

Quotable

My own heart let me have more have pity on; let
Me live to my sad self hereafter kind,
Charitable; not live this tormented mind
With this tormented mind tormenting yet.
I cast for comfort I can no more get
By groping round my comfortless, than blind
Eyes in their dark can day or thirst can find
Thirst ’s all-in-all in all a world of wet.

Soul, self; come, poor Jackself, I do advise
You, jaded, let be; call off thoughts awhile
Elsewhere; leave comfort root-room; let joy size
At God knows when to God knows what; whose smile
’s not wrung, see you; unforeseen times rather—as skies
Betweenpie mountains—lights a lovely mile.

-Gerard Manly Hopkins, "My Own Heart Let Me Have More Pity On"

Book Report

Cloudsplitter
Russell Banks

I got into an argument not too long ago on a third date with a guy. (I mention the number of dates because the third was a new personal best. Usually I start being annoyingly opinionated right away.) As literary arguments went, it was fairly civil - the topic being who, in recent reading memory can write the best run-on sentences.

Obviously, I am nominating Russell Banks - who I think trumps his Thomas Mann. Simply for the fact that Banks' run-on sentences send you gliding through a dreamy earthy passage as you tear through the life and times of John Brown and suddenly you realize you have ripped through almost 800 pages in under a week of bedtime readings and find yourself missing the ride.

I think Mann loses because I start getting confused after about ten words of his run-on sentences, and I can only thank God that I am not German, which I suspect might make reading him all the more painful - what with the uber long words and all.

Anyway, despite his issues with commas, Banks has written no less than an eyeopening and lush look at John Brown, what made him tick, his fallacies, his strengths, and of course raises the ultimate question : why did that guy keep having all those babies? Like, give a bitch a break.

Okay, no. The bigger question being: "martyr of the Republic or Nat Turner?" Interestingly, I read The Confessions of Nat Turner some time back, and I'm glad that I now have these two books to juxtapose. History was definitely kinder to John Brown, but should it have been? Should we condone hacking up your neighbors with broadswords in front of their families because they don't like abolition? No, neighbors should only be hacked with broadswords if they are coming after you with a weapon - or playing trance music too loud all night.

Seriously, thud thud is annoying.

(The segues are completely intentional. It's pretty much like preparing you to read this book.)

I tend to read a lot in bars, and I was really impressed by the number of people - oddly all men - who seemed to know who John Brown was. I myself only know of him because I am lame, and like Ken Burns' The Civil War which really made him out to be some sort of lost hero. I think Banks also follows that trail, pulling out Brown's fear of failure and need to be great and questionably turning it into justice and reason. Brown's son, the narrator, cannot tell the difference, and eventually we cannot either.

Also, life was really hard back then and Banks does a darn fine job of making us feel like we are back in it. The long descriptions of all the work to do even made my muscles ache as I was comfortably reclining and eating up this book. I remember one time it made me feel so bad I actually got out of bed and unloaded my dishwasher.

My one bone to pick with the book is how abruptly it ended. It just kept getting better and better, particularly as the group moves toward Harpers' Ferry and the events there, but then I started to get troubled by the scarcity of pages, and it was justified. Like a rolling river dammed, 783 pages later the run-on simply stops. Although I knew it was the end, I kind of in denial and thought about asking Amazon for another copy to truly verify that was it. But I'm sure the feeling of unfinished business was intentional, forcing us to speculate what lay in store for the narrator without being certain of the decision that it seemed painfully obvious he was going to make.

Still, powerful. Four out of five.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Pictured

Really in love with Bluntcard.com right now. It has become an obsession, finding just that right card for all the people in my life. (Because I am tech-tarded and need a tutor on how to make my very own).

Along the way, I've found quite a few very relevant to my own life at the moment. Thus, I hereby send them to the world in a virtual scented envelope:







Quotable

If you were coming in the Fall,
I'd brush the Summer by
With half a smile, and half a spurn,
As Housewives do, a Fly.

If I could see you in a year,
I'd wind the months in balls—
And put them each in separate Drawers,
For fear the numbers fuse—

If only Centuries, delayed,
I'd count them on my Hand,
Subtracting, till my fingers dropped
Into Van Dieman's Land.

If certain, when this life was out—
That your's and mine, should be—
I'd toss it yonder, like a Rind,
And take Eternity—

But now, uncertain of the length
Of this, that is between,
It goads me, like the Goblin Bee—
That will not state—its sting.

-Emily Dickinson

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Endorphins (IV)

This past Sunday I ran the Spillway Classic Run, a three miler set in the swampy terrain around Norco.

This is basically what it looks like:



The mud factor this year was am 8.5 out of 10, which made for childish delights (my toes are squishy), to slight anxiety over injury (um, I don't have any grip on my shoes anymore and I almost lost one in that calf-high mudpit back there), to all out ecstacy (I placed in the top 30% without getting a single leech on me).

And boy do I know how to leechproof dress. Did I mention under that 13-year-old super Chi Omega t-shirt lies a supermodel?



At the very end, about 100 yards from the finish line I had the choice between waist high pool of water or bridge. I chose water, and I chose well.



I wish that my motivations to do this run had something to do with training for a marathon. Despite my belief that nothing is more irritating than hearing about training for a marathon, I have decided that I may very well run one. However, in order not to be a hypocrite I plan on posting a single sentence one day saying "I ran a marathon." The barren strength of this statement should be enough. Besides, if I ever did really run a marathon I probably wouldn't have the energy to type much more than that. Or even breathe, for that matter.

Instead my motivations went something like this, in order of thought process:

1. Very toned men running
2. Very toned men covered with mud while running
3. Very toned men covered with mud washing themselves off under a fireman's hose.
4. Me drinking beer while watching this happen.

So, in short maybe running is giving me an outlet for my libido while providing it with more food.

Also, they use this as the starting gun.



While I've always liked running, this is one of the first times in my life where I have started infiltrating the dark terrain of the runners' racing world. It is a strange place, full of odd lingo regarding pacing, chaffing, and swallowing gel out of plastic packages. The upside is that in New Orleans there are very few serious runners, and usually they're too far ahead of the pack to intimidate the rest of us.

Like this guy. Definitely not intimidated.



The day's lesson was learned. To go undercover I really need to start wearing more sexy sporty clothing, or at least remember when you put your arm behind you while someone is taking your picture, it makes your arm look really really short.



Seriously, arms like an alligator's, but I finished that damn race smiling.

Reunions

This morning I stepped in the parking garage elevator with a small girl wearing a flowered dress and a Jackie Kennedy bouffant. This evening we stepped in the elevator at the same time again. She looked at me, me at her, and without a word she pushed the button for my floor.

This evening I went for a walk past the house of the man who may or may not have been attempting suicide a couple of days ago. A shaven and sober version of him is on the porch strumming a steel guitar. "Hey lady," he says with a very different tone. I smile like I've never seen him before in my life and walk on.

My life in New Orleans is like this at the moment, maybe because of a resolution to step out of my shell a little bit and join the mortals. And what I'm finding, down here in mortal land, is that for some reason you are drawn back into beginnings and endings and their reverse with the people all around you. Which is teaching me there is no real closure with the people who drift in and out of my life.

Only uncertain reunion times.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Emergency

While I encounter many things on my morning walks with the implacable Nita, today I was not expecting to be involved in what may possibly have been the poorest suicide attempt ever known to man. Or perhaps, nothing.

There I was, maybe 20 yards from my house, wondering why a grown woman spent the previous evening in a black cocktail dress waving around a wand made of joined straws and flowers pluck from my uber fancy cocktails trying to "Accio" everything in sight, and regretting the number of the cocktails I had, when a voice called "lady!".

I stopped and looked around.

"Up here!"

I look up and standing on the lower railing of a second story balcony was a very pale bearded man.

"I need you to call the fire department! Now!" He puts a foot on the middle railing and looks like he's going to climb over.

"Whoa. Are you okay? Calm down."

"No, I need you to call the fire department or I'm going to have to come down!" More climbing motion.

"Okay," I say, trying desperately to remember stuff that people say in movies to jumpers. "Okay, I am going to go do that right now. I am going to run get my phone and call the fire department. And I want you to promise me you'll stay right there until I come back."

"JUST CALL THEM!"

I run to my house dragging a very confused puppy behind me, slipping on the wet flowers of the shedding crepe myrtle on the drive. And I am thinking of how ridiculously unhelpful I am in situations where people or animals are in pain. And I am thinking of a frog that got partially mashed under a sleeping bag that I had to kill with a rock on a camping trip because it was suffering, of fish that swallow hooks that we can't catch-and-release and heartbroken friends that I hover helplessly about, of victims of tragedies too terrible to comprehend that I spend hours thinking of the right thing to say without being able to accept that there is never a right thing to say.

And I can't find my phone. I'm tearing through the house in a panic when I locate it and as I head to the stairs my eyes are full of tears and I run to the end of the driveway sure that there is already a crippled body waiting for me that I will not be able to touch.

And the fire truck is already there. And the man is there, on the ground perfectly fine. So, there being nothing more to do, I caught my dog who was following me confusedly dragging her leash and continued on our walk.

"What's going on?" asks a woman a couple of blocks down that I pass quite often.

"I have no idea."

And I do not.

When I returned, the fire truck was gone. And a sullen little gloom sat upon me. I remember more than a year ago dealing with a man who had taken a bunch of drugs, then a bike ride to Borders in the middle of a hot summer day, and had ended this glorious spree prostrate on the sidewalk not far from where a stranger who seemed intent on throwing himself from balcony told me to call New Orleans' finest. The confusion, the frustration, the repugnance, the worry ... and the knowledge that the sky will fall at any moment.

Or am I being a Chicken Little?

Song(s)

A near and dear friend of mine, whose musical taste I consider as discerning as my own, recently admitted that she has never heard Nick Cave. Happily, this rainy afternoon, as I finished catching up on Harry Potter in preparation for seeing the finale tomorrow, I got to inform her that - in fact - she had. This lovely song from Abattoir Blues.



Just in the way we will never be able to truly place ourselves in the minds and shoes of others, it is hard to imagine the soundtracks that set the background for their complicated and almost always completely irresolvable plots. I know, for me, this particular singer has been a part of mine for so long that it is hard to think of the perhaps brighter days when I did not know him. For almost 15 years now, he trickles in. And is probably somewhat responsible for my odd habit of deciding to chain smoke and look thoughtful like a heroine in a French novel while swaying like a manic cobra.

Thus, for those who need an intro, an incomplete guide for what Nick Cave song best fits your particular existential crisis - sadly often to the tune of gothic romance. I recommend accompanying this with some Marlboro Reds and your collection of so-so wines.

"Goddammit, will you never learn anything?"



"I am madly in love with you. And it scares the fuck out of me."



"If you can't trust your lover, who can you trust?"



"If only closure was as easy as having a penknife handy."



"And in the end, even my nurse can't keep me under control."



"Can we just be in love with each other without the territorial battles and boundary disputes?"



"Sadness runs in currents through generations. Also Nick Cave can admit he looks like a gay businessman dancing in a disco."



"The Kool-Aid Man is inherently evil."



"Sometimes you just need to be able to not feel a thing. And I'm pretty sure I have Seasonal Affective Disorder."



"In the end, nothing is better than a cuddle. Especially from the divine."

Monday, July 11, 2011

Book Report

Middlemarch
George Eliot

George Eliot and I have the same birthday, which explains why we are both so long-winded.

*Spoiler alert*

Yeah, I actually finished this tome about 2 months ago but honestly felt like I really needed to think about a way to write a report to do it justice. Or maybe not the book justice because it was unevenly sharp and poignant, coupled with incredibly dull and mundane. More like my reaction to this book justice. Really, just how many times in a book is one allowed to go "pallid"? Jesus Christ.

Dorothea was annoying. Rosamund was a bitch. Will was kind of sissy. The real treat for me were the minor characters, who seemed more real.

And yeah, I was totally thrilled when Dorothea's husband kicked it.

If you want a storyline, go straight to the Epilogue, which manages to happily cover about twenty years in the space of five pages.

If you want a lot of rumination on unrequited love and forbidden feelings for a few years that goes on for hundreds of pages, have at it. There are some gems or wisdom and wry humor in it that did make me fold a corner of the page with some vague intention of quoting it at some point. But in my opinion, the best summary I have of this book was that, when asked by a stranger at a bar what I was reading, I honestly could not remember without looking at the cover. Yes, it took this speedreader that long to slough through it. Do I regret it? No ... but that may only be because I can finally check that off my book bucket list.

Phew.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Bull

At 8:30am yesterday I was running while laughing hysterically down the street, splashing beer all over my brilliant white gear, trailing a bright red sash and getting intermittently smacked on the ass by large women on roller skates with whiffle bats.

In other words, it was San Fermin in NOLA.

"I am the artful dodger!" I yell gleefully at a particularly hefty rollerbull after performing some Matrix-like move to escape her flying weapon. "I heard that!" she responds, and I am rewarded for my smart mouth by being chased down the street where I hurl shrieking in that gleeful not quite terror you would have as a child playing tag.

And yeah, she totally got me. I would've lasted about twenty seconds doing the real thing.

"What time is it?" asks a friend about an hour later. We are sitting in the shade on a sidewalk where we have collapsed following impromptu Salsa lessons with our souvenir Pamplona-themed cups strewn emptied around our feet. No one is feeling like pointing out the cultural confusion.

"Uhh ... noon? No, it is 9:30. AM."

"Ah. Hey, can you take a picture of me with that guy dressed like Spiderman?"

And I remember why I love New Orleans. And I now know why when, a few months ago I was thinking of leaving it forever, something stopped me. A little voice asking for a chance, and reminding me maybe I should meet it halfway.

"Let us remember how light our hearts can be," it said.

And I acquiesced.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Song

Because this evening I am a lil' tipsy. And this is just the song for it.

"You used to say your heart felt like a stone
Now everything you ever wanted is your own
Still cold like the stars
That's just the way you are
Still cold like the stars."

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Song

So, NPR is the bane of my existence these days. I wake up to it at 5:30 as a starting point to stumble into some workout gear so I can get tortured for an hour. (What? You think this body makes itself? Ho, no. I am now the squat master.)

Usually at that point in the morning, it is a women with a crisp British accent detailing the latest fun in the Middle East, but on the way back the more colorful stories emerge. A bar near DuPont Circle is now offering an $80 48-ounce martini. You can request a ladle. Seersucker suit day is still going strong. Weiner's weiner got the best of him. My mind is already overbrimming with useless information, now the useful stuff is headed for the hills as I consider downloading another podcast.

Thankfully NPR did me a favor the other night and interviewed Alina Simone, my new obsession.

Here's a nice little ditty from her new one:



And here's a ditty from her old one in which she is covering Russian punk artists. I still think Russian is one of the most beautiful languages ever to spring from the throats of human beings. Which reminds me I need to get back to the books, or Rosetta Stone. Or maybe go on a date with that Russian guy with the dog who lives around the corner. It was very encouraging when he said: "Your Russian is off to a good start and would allow you to either buy a home in Romania or order off the menu in a Chinese restaurant in Tajikistan."

Ahem, song.



And here's the original, also awesome.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Poem

In those days, I know, I was shallow.

I thought of little more than
Liquor and words,
And how the sky
Would be made of us one day.

And when I whispered to you
That I was strong,
I knew that you believed it
Even when I did not.

Then it was enough, silly afternoons
With me reading aloud
Under the shade of trees
My voice in character, my thoughts scattered.

Perhaps I should have kept them
Safe in the space between your shoulder blades.
Except when you whispered your strength back,
I knew you were a liar too.

These things are done.

The trees are distant, the shade is gone.
My voice is home, safe with my thoughts.
And my strength no longer depends
On trying desperately to believe in yours.

EEG

Quotable

"Don't be reckless with other people's hearts.
Don't put up with people that are reckless with yours."

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Endorphins(III)

Sweat Factor at 9am = High





Reward level: Decadent



For the next six weeks to improve my running and reduce my coveting of burlesque dancers' bodies, I have decided (along with apparently 10,000 other Groupon junkies) to get up at 5am and head to boot camp. I am really not sure how I feel about this idea, because it conjures up ideas of having a large marine step on my stomach while doing "six inches" much the way my high school soccer coach was fond of doing. But I think for six weeks, a little bit of discipline can't kill me.

I loaded up on three huge bags of epsom salts and some ibuprofen.

Ready, sir!

Open

Last night I went to see a wondrous woman whose acquaintance I had the pleasure of making last fall over a cigarette and a bitch about how weddings no longer guarantee single men and hot nights like they did in our twenties. Her show was rawly funny, honest, vulnerable, emotionally hard and then, before it all feel to weepy regretful pieces, resolved. Highly recommended. If she's in your town sometime soon, go and see her. There, Desiree, free plug. I am a woman with taste. People listen to me. if they have been drinking and are lonely. You're set.

Anyway, her show got me thinking about "the list" - you know the one. The one of the men you've let into your bed, and on much much rarer occasions into your head and heart as well. I have not even thought about making a list in a long time - largely because the last time I attempted it, I tried to do it chronologically and kept forgetting people. "Oh yeah!" I'd say, and draw a little arrow with their name in where they fit. And then, in wonderment at my own amnesia, "Hunh."

The hard part about the list is how many people on it really turned out to be a waste. Like you should have been out doing better things, letting perchance do its perchancing its way into happier motifs than "live and learn" - or in my case "you really should be learning at some point in this process, you know."

Frankly, the list, whether or not I actually write it on paper, hurts. It hurts because it has taught me to be cold and hard and resentful. As it grows, so do my own problems with letting people into bed, head or heart. And on Sunday evenings like now, when I am preparing for a hard week ahead, I long for people far away, or dead to me and after that longing, I long that I could simply erase them from the list and maybe relearn a few things after reliving.

Of course, it doesn't fall out that way, but I suppose you can decide to start over at one point, from scratch if you're really determined to do so.

Following the "Adult Petting Zoo" extravaganza last night, which involved a lot of free beer, foot long hotdogs, hilarious insights into the takeover of preganacy and a burlesque number that left hanging the haunting question "did she just pull her beads from her ...?", a friend and I decided to visit the "Before I Die in NOLA" wall, a project that was pointed out by this funny fella a few days ago. Sadly, it was really dark, we were pretty drunk, and equipped with shitty camera phones that just did not do the collective of one sentenced bucket lists written on an abandoned building justice. So bear with this rendition.

This is what the wall looks like at 2 in the morning when the humidity factor is high.



Here is a sampling of some of the entries. Turn your brightness way up.



The concept is that the wall is written in chalk, and erased so more people can add to it the next day. However, one real desire deserved a permanent stamp:



While my friend bent the rules a little by chalking up a bulletpoint list, I thought about this one strong desire - Before I die I want to LOVE.

I have loved. It's hurt me, but I'm still here ready to give it. And the living and learning aren't so bad either.

Behind LOVE I write "without a waiver."

Universe, I'm open.

Come and get me.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Husband

An inspirational post from this dude got me to do two very unusual things today. One of which got me very excited. The other, not so much.

1. Joined the postcrossing project. And will hopefully be patient enough to wait in line for international stamps.

-and-

2. Checked out if there are any mail-order husband websites. The results were disappointing, and not just because none of them seem to be Russian.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Endorphins (II)

Test today.

Guy on bike when I am walking Nita this evening : "I like your tits!"

Why, thank you. I like them too.

Yeah, I think I'll keep on doing this.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Endorphins

Until recently, and a new resolution to get up early and run, I had forgotten two things.

1. Summer New Orleans mornings with the mist clearing under the rising sun as you run through a park are breathtaking, and don't make you feel guilty you spend the rest of the day avoiding the relentless humidity as much as possible; and

2. Running is like Pringles. Once you pop, you can't stop.

That is, for the endorphins. Not the trans fats.

I know a lot of people blog about running, and I know that most of the posts about running are the most boring fucking things you have ever read. The logs of miles, the dietary concerns, the pre-race prep, the right running shoes ... blah. I mean, all I really want to know is whether you shat yourself during that marathon. And for the record, that is like the ONLY thing keeping me from running one. The only.

Anyway, I highly doubt that this blog entry is going to be much different. The real reason I run (because I am already on the right side of the BMI, so suck it) is for the E. E for endorphins. And the more I can run, the higher the E. In fact, I am able to guage my running performance (and how much more I need to perform) based on answering the question "does this piss me off?"

It is kinda hot.

Meh, it's summer.

This woman in front of me is driving really slow.

I'm in no hurry to get to work.

Louisiana Department of Transportation sent me my registration seven weeks late and forgot to include the decal and I had to spend 20 minutes on the phone getting them to fix it.

These things happen. The woman was really nice. I bet she has a tough job.

I'm going to have to work this weekend.

I'm glad I have a job that lets me afford to do fun things.

Your unleashed pug dog ran across the street to come after my dog, and I rescued it by grabbing it before a car hit it. When you finally retrieved your dog from me, instead of "thank you" you said "just keep going" as somehow the whole situation was my fault.

I called you a dickhead and said I was fine where I was. Because that's not even a real dog.

So, assessment = add 1/2 mile to daily run. Or add evening run before walking dog.

Running in NOLA has its big payoffs, and that's alcohol. While the Hash House Harrier's Red Dress Run is always a big hit, the HHH themselves aren't as prominent as in other cities where I knew them. That's because there are plenty of people here who like to get weird, drunk, wear costumes, and could care less about all that mapping lingo.

A couple of friends and I ran in the New Orleans Track Club's Free for All Wednesday last week. Despite the simmering pavement, and no rain for days, you make it through for one thing - that cold cold free beer at the end. Since I mostly run not to murder other people, the calories in the cold beer do not affect me. In fact, I like to think of beer as internal epsom salts, soothing my muscles and my mind as I marvel at just how unattractive I am as a sweaty person.

It's pretty bad. But not bad enough to have the jello shots they broke out on top of the beer (because you haven't seen anything until you've seen a post-race yuppie mom with a push stroller filling up her purse with those, oblivious to her toddler trying to do the same.)

So, now we have begun a tradition of a Saturday morning run with its own reward. Last week was the tracks then Cafe Rani for strawberry and cucumber mojitos. This week, track and a loop, then bloody marys at the Avenue Pub. My "mapmyrun.com" page is starting to looking like a bar crawl.

Beats the hell out of those stupid gel things.

PS - If I am ever lame enough to post a picture of me post-running, it will be after the Spillway Run on July 3. Three miles through muddy ditches, and then firemen hose you off while you drink. It's like an awesome version of World War I.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

History

I have been digging into my grandfather's military history in the last year, which has left me with friends scattered all over the country, vivid nightmares, depressions and elations, coming from a slow understanding of his struggle to love all he could as he came unraveled under years of thorazine and shock treatments. It has been a dark and somewhat obsessive hobby, and I hide it from most people I know like a dirty habit.

But it has given me the zygote of a book, which makes me hopeful I'll finally do that one of these days. It is going slowly because the plot keeps thickening with the more characters coming out of the woodwork and fragments not quite fitting, but giving my imagination a real sporting chance. And it's kind of a break from the narcissism and the law practice, which is refreshing.

And it will be much much better than this blog, so obviously you will all be reading it.

I am astonished and grateful for these strangers who've been injecting me with facts I would never have known. Many have been keeping me inspired on a larger scale as I lick wounds that are becoming smaller and smaller in the distant roar of B24s.

A happy surprise tonight was contact from the son of one of my grandfather's best friends. During the war, this friend's bomber's left engine got shot out, and my grandfather, a hundred miles ahead and without regard for his own safety or the squadron leaders' orders, sent all of his fighter planes back to guard the injured plane across the continent and into the safety of England.

My grandfather never told us that. We read it in a letter from the son's father that we uncovered. We cried.

While tracking down the family, I discovered that one of the sons (the one who contacted me) is, in fact, quite a gifted poet. If I ever do make it all the way through that book, I am going to ask him to use this poem for a prologue.

Photo of War - 5

Hold Fast
the greatest
among us

he knows
only war which
makes him great
in one thing
alone

I know
of waiting

what the horizon
safe keeps behind
its ear

of love, yes

-Warren Falcon

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Declutter

Continuing with the trend of being hit on by policemen, today one actually asked me what I was planning on doing with a very large roll of bubble wrap I was pulling off the shelf at Home Depot. I felt like telling him "wrapping up the bodies of creepy cops in my basement," but he would never have bought it. Because New Orleans does not have basements.

Instead, I said "I just like to pop this stuff." And scurried away like the frivolous bit of awkwardness I transform into when encountering strangers of any shape. The fact this stranger was carrying a weapon and inquiring into my storage habits was even more disconcerting.

But, bubble wrap being proof, spring cleaning is in full swing. I woke up one morning about a week ago determined to get rid of 39% of my stuff - a reasonable percentage. I have become obsessed with clean lines, clean surfaces, and no reminders of things that have made me unhappy.

My mother has come into town for the occasion. ("Why did you run away from that cop like that, Erin? He seemed really nice.."). Spring cleaning with my mother is interesting namely because she really deserves a special spot on that show Hoarders. In fact, a good deal of the time is spent with her trying to convince me to keep things I may need "one day." I guess for when I time travel back into the '90s.

"Mom," I say in the middle of shoving things I have never used nor want to ever see again in boxes, "would you like this pedometer? The gym I no longer belong to gave it to me, and I never used it. See? Original wrapping?"

"Oh, I have like three of those things." (five minutes later) "Where did you put that pedometer? I could use that."

The big drama came with the hanging of some blinds to replace the awful grandmothery curtains in my dining room that were left here by the seller. Hanging blinds in New Orleans historic homes are a nightmare because the window frames are sinking as unevenly as the swampland beneath us. Following exactly an hour and a half, and six different sets of blinds, the Home Depot girl allegedly cut the two sets I needed to size. Well, one set, yes. The other - a little too short on both ends, so if you just tugged on it a little, it would come crashing down heavily.

"We have to take these back," says my mother who, normally calm under the most trying of circumstances, is frustrated almost to tears by the work of crooked framing, the bright sun through my ancient thin window panes and the fact that while she has been slaving away, I've been entertaining myself by trying to talk my depressed aunt into riding the wave or taking her xanax or learning Basque. Admittedly, of us two, I was probably having a better time.

I make kissing noises into the phone, hang up and sigh. I don't want to go through the whole Home Depot thing again. The people on power trips inquiring into my bubble wrapping needs, the people trying to help me find refrigerator filters, my overwhelming desire to suddenly run down the long aisles yelling for someone to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

Actually, it was more like I felt bad for the girl who tried so hard to get it right. Also, she talked to her pen. Like a person who happened to be named "Pinky."

"These blinds are going to kill you," my mother says dramatically. And on cue, the blinds again fall to earth. She looks at me nervously.

"I'm just going to stuff the gaps with something white and firm and that should brace it and hold them up."

"Oh good, you've got some cotton balls?"

"Um, not exactly. But I think I have something."

20 minutes later and the blinds are no longer threatening to be homicidal. I am studying my wineglass, delighted in my ability to be thrifty, nifty and get out of returning to the hell that is a home improvement store.

"Tampons! Who knew?" my mom says, reluctant admiration sneaking through her voice.

I smile and twirl my wine glass on the table of my barren and beautiful home, almost like a real grownup.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Smoke

After over 16 years of my most faithful companion, I have decided that now is the time to quit smoking. I am also, just like that relationship you can't seem to let go of, having a really hard time with this. It has gone beyond a simple grit-my-teeth-and-bear-it sensation lasting a few minutes, to an agony of loss seeming to last the entire time that I am awake.

To pat myself on the back, it has been an entire week since I smoked my final Red in my driveway while waiting to be picked up for a beach trip with a pack of violently adverse non-smokers. But to play the devil's advocate, I did have access to a lot of secondhand smoke at the music fest we attended, so I wasn't exactly left stranded.

It's only now, in the fresh air, when I realize that in my seriousness, I did not actually hide a pack in my house and even let my boss smoke my emergency one from my desk drawer, that I realize I am more than slightly grieving my smoking.

That's right, grieving.

I have been prepping for this for awhile, reading everything I can get my nicotine fingers on, but I wasn't quite ready for this one. Or for the overwhelming wave of justification that's hitting me.

Sure, smoking gives you cancer, but people can kill you just as easily and generally do not hit my dopamine centers in precisely the right fashion. Sure smoking ages your skin, that's what Vitamin B and expensive face cream is for. Sure smoking makes you old, but no one's winning the race to younger. And I've got no retirement savings anyway.

Truth be told, the part of smoking I am missing right now is the moment of quiet contemplation that I have when sitting on my stoop watching the sky and the trail of smoke coming from my lungs trying to join the universe. I use this place as a solace to take a break from work, sort out hard emotions, or watch my dog frisk about in her feverish fashion. I know the right thing to do is to find a new ritual, but my problem with rituals is that I do not know how to make them automatic and pleasurable, the way smoking is to me.

I also do not meet as many people being a non-smoker. In fact, in the history of my friendships, quite a few have been scored huddling in a corner or a smoker's section or bumming cigarettes. It's like a secret society. When I used to travel, I would never have two things : a watch and a lighter. The absence of both forced interaction with strangers, an opening to a conversation, a glimpse into another. Or at the very least taught me to ask for the time and a light in various languages.

And let's not get started on getting fat. When you smoke, and you are hungry, you just smoke a cigarette. Now I have to actually be one of those people who complains that they need to eat something.

Sorting this out, I'm not really sure what the benefits are at the moment. I've noticed smoking can make me edgy - but so does everything these days when I feel like I'm poised on the cliff of some very big decisions and very worried about making the wrong ones. My mother's already assured me that her genes are far too superior for the C-word, and frankly, everyone in her blood strain with this lovely habit seems to be backing her theory up. My skin is often complimented, my health is good. I can run a 5K, and my limping the next day is due more to the fact I didn't bother to prepare for it than dying lung tissue.

In fact, after exercise is pretty much the best time to have a cigarette ever. Lungs are completely open. Yum. In fact, I sometimes have used an after-run cigarette as an incentive to run in the first place.

In short, I can't think of one bloody reason to keep up this non-smoking nonsense right now. I'm constantly tired, wish everybody would drop dead in a million pieces, and have a lingering feeling akin to watching my dad bury my beloved pet guinea pig in second grade.

I think maybe I just don't want to be a quitter anymore.

Quotable

To D—, Dead By Her Own Hand

My dear, I wonder if before the end
You ever thought about a children’s game -
I’m sure you must have played it too—in which
You ran along a narrow garden wall
Pretending it to be a mountain ledge
So steep a snowy darkness fell away
On either side to deeps invisible;
And when you felt your balance being lost
You jumped because you feared to fall, and thought
For only an instant: That was when I died.

That was a life ago. And now you’ve gone,
Who would no longer play the grown-ups’ game
Where balanced on the ledge above the dark,
You go on running and you don’t look down,
Nor ever jump because you fear to fall.

-Howard Nemerov

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Song

Because today was a shitty one. But laying on the floor with my arms stretched over my head listening to this old fave after running out my frustrations is finally making my heart a little less full. It still may fall victim to Ammut - but ultimately I'm aiming for featherweight.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Song(s)

Just returned sunburned and exhausted from Alabama, where a friend venturing into thirty-land convinced us to attend Hang Out Fest. Although I've always liked the Flaming Lips, I had yet to actually see them in concert until this past weekend. Unfortunately, due mostly to my fear of crowds and disdain for girls in midriffs trying to bring back hula-hooping, I was really a bit too far out to truly enjoy Wayne Coyne's antics. I'm crossing my fingers for Voodoo Fest where my I'm-really-too-awesome-to-be-hanging-out-with-these-twenty-something-pleebs has decided to just buck it up and get a bit closer. Fratties, be damned.

Okay, part of that ambition was my friend's story about a girl offing her bunny costume to cling tentacly to Coyne until Security managed to pull her off. I am just the sort of sick puppy that would like to see that in person. Just like I am also the sick puppy who finds his habit of twittering nude photos of his wife when he's jet-lagged with lame "fuck yeah" comments kind of endearing.

The man is strangely magnetic, even when he's pointing out the obvious.


The Flaming Lips - Do You Realize?? by Warner-Music

Or when he's breaking your heart.



Or when you figure out that he must've been spying on your fantasy life as a child.



Or the one as an adult.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pictured

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Writer

I love when my mother is trying to come up with alternate careers for me, which has largely been stirred these days by thoughts I am having of going back to school to get my MSW to spend all day listening to people's stories and trying to make them come up with something useful at the end of it all. Or to keep them from doing desperate horrible things. As I've spent the good part of my 32 years doing both, becoming a therapist seems to be a good fit.

For my mother, this new adventure and its attendant new potential load of student loans for me is annoying. In my family, career flakiness is hereditary, passed down the paternal line and the fine exemplar of my father who has been (in order) a football player, a steel worker, a bouncer, a big time executive, an Australian, a radio newsman at a country western station, a carpenter, a big time executive (round two), followed by current career objective: fireman.

My resume is not as impressive, filled mostly with waitressing and teaching jobs, and that magical year I spent sticking needles into people, carving up various body parts, and culturing pretty much anything that can come out of a person. And of course, my current post as "attorney-at-law," which has always made me wonder what else people are attorneys AT.

Admittedly, there are days when my paralegal doesn't catch me standing at my window swaying with the rhythm of the hawk flying free outside while reciting that bird prayer from Forrest Gump. Generally those are days when I'm turned loose on a brief, which is the part of law I adore. The writing.

"Ah!" says my mother with a hand clap I can even hear over the phone. "That's it! You can be a writer!"

Perhaps the dreamer in me grows thinner each day, but whenever someone tells me they are a writer, I want immediate proof. Like a publication. On real paper. That other people see. In that sense, I have written things on pieces of paper that other people see, but I am talking about things people enjoy reading to escape from their lives for a while, not to give them acute gastritis.

The truth is - yes - like 25% of people my age, I would love to be a REAL writer. In fact, an essayist, humorist, historical fiction philosophical kind (narrowing the percentage to 13.5%). The truth also is, like in so many other areas of my life, I absolutely lack motivation to put pen to paper if there isn't a regular paycheck or some sense of notoriety involved.

I have also noticed that I really want to be a writer after I finish a wonderful novel. ( Like Midnight's Children. Salman, you hottie you. No wonder you land models.) This is pretty much like going to see a movie and deciding to become an actress. Because your inspiration is the result, but it's not a guarantee to last beyond the realization you need talent, drive and an ability to withstand the incessant nagging of a personal trainer. In the end, you realize you just want to live in the movie. Like you realize you want to live in the book. It is almost as if by writing the book, I think that I will get to permanently check out of reality. And there are much less strenuous ways to do that - some even unconsciously easy.

You also realize, particularly if you read blogs or even comments on facebook posts, that there are lots of people out there who want to be writers who are actually better at it and more dedicated. I am nothing if not a graceful loser in the game of life.

"Aw," I shrug. "they should have it. Where did I put that financial aid application?"

Monday, May 9, 2011

Widow

About three years ago, I changed my facebook relationship status to "widowed." There was a brief, and stupid, interlude of "in a relationship," but then it was back to being widowed. Which makes perfect logical sense in a way. I mean, being in a relationship doesn't mean you stop being widowed. "Widowed" has the potentially enviable attribute of being a concurrent relationship status. You continue to be widowed (once, even more!), even if you marry like five more people. You always have a dead husband.

Except, I don't. I've never even had a living husband.

So why the blatant lie on a social networking site?

First of all, it is useful. The widowed status popped up around the time all of these peeps I went to high school with and hardly knew "friended" me. Not having been the social network cruiser I so obviously am, they all immediately wrote me annoying messages about being happily married and popping out kids and wanted to know just how many kids I had popped out. Because, it's America, and thus, always a fucking competition.

The "widowed" immediately put a stop to that. Instead of ebullient emails nosing into my reproductive life, people simply quietly friended me and went about their business playing Mafia Wars. After all, no one really wants to know THAT kind of info. It's kind of a downer after just wanting to brag to yet another victim that your kid has been accorded academically gifted status.

A few friends who know and love me got it and laughed. I am sure being widowed is no fun, unless your husband was a real douche and you managed to secretly poison him and don't feel the slightest twinge of guilt about it. But that is how I roll. Incorporating the misery of others into my own personal sick way of not having to explain while I still haven't found Mr. Really-For-Real-Right.

I did, however, recently get a comment from a friend who wondered why I didn't invite her to the wedding. Since I know she was kidding (hopefully) I told her I would definitely be inviting her to a wedding where I will be marrying a husband who is not in my imagination - dead. Because now my imagination has just gone and invented a perfect man who died at sea. That's right, at sea. I didn't even get to bury him. Instead I wander the coast, chucking forlorn regrets sealed in green bottles into the foam, hoping in the great beyond he knows how much I ...

Yeah, unhealthy.

The "widowed" status has taken an unexpected turn since friending some guys I've recently gone out with. I seriously think a couple have actually thought that I have been hiding something very important from them, and they are correct in the sense it might be my difficulty in separating reality from fantasy. But really, if someone doesn't get that (and my sick sense of humor) or doesn't bother at least asking about it, that relationship is headed nowhere but a therapist's office.

Thus, while I am not always okay with being single, being "widowed" fits me just fine.

He was too perfect for this earth anyway. Don't even try.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Song

And now for something completely different ...

Not that you didn't love all that self-indulgent melancholy girl rock, of course. Yeah, that's what I thought. Don't worry, falling into dirty chick funk will happen again. Stay Tuned.

In the meantime, one of the songs that never fails to get me up and going. I should probably use it to wake up to in the morning, except that I really love it, and don't want to ruin it by having to hear it in incremental bursts as I hit snooze repeatedly.

This is also a favorite for several reasons, which I have deemed nothing short of a sign. First, because it took about three full-plays of this album to dig a jeep out of a river in Kakadu Park, where we decided to head a little bit too soon after the Wet. I remember being horribly irritated at Gary, the British prat who got us stuck in there, and would spend the rest of our camping trip committing the equally unpardonable sin of getting shotgun all the time because he got "car sick." Um, shotgun is mine, beeotch.

Second, because I forgave ol' Gary when he turned out to also have magnificent balance for dancing on tables in Darwin under the influence of many pitchers of XXXX. Also to this song.

Finally, as our story draws to its close, and in an ironic twist of fate, Gary would also be riding shotgun when we hit a kangaroo on a 2-day drive from Alice Springs to Sydney and got pretty banged up. Unscathed from my backseat ride, I had a plane to catch and so the last time I saw Gary - fully bandaged from waist-up - the TV in his hospital room started playing this song as I walked in to say goodbye.

So what? It was a popular song in Australia in 2002. Sure, that's it. But when I hear it, I wonder how something can make me want to dig with a bucket, shimmy my hips like a drunk Turkish woman on a very unsturdy table and feel the heavy irritation of having to say goodbye to people while wanting to strike a pose and say "Superstylin'." My one regret of saying goodbye to Gary was that I did not do the latter. He would've appreciated the gesture, I think.

Here's to you, Gary. Next time, let the lady sit in front.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Lines

"He Died with a Felafel in His Hand" is one of my all time faves. It's one of those movies where you dissolve in giggles just reading the dialogue, much less actually seeing it. But among all the vulgar giggles are some truly poignant stellar moments. One for your enjoyment, the story of an astronaut's dead wife, brought back to life from his memory.

Hey, it's pretty.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Lurv

Desperate times lead to desperate measures ... ploys ... even, strategeries for impulsive women. And that is how I came to create an online profile on a Catholic dating site.

Stop, let me rewind to Easter morning. Easter morning was one of those mornings where I awoke in a state of absolute panic at my quiet place, my half-empty bed, and the realization that no matter how much PABA I'm taking and how gifted my stylist, the grays on my head are breeding faster than lab mice.

Sunday morning and it all hit. I am going to die alone.

Okay, we are all going to die alone, fine. But I mean really alone. Or maybe with a hospice nurse, or, even better, a physician who will let me have a Brompton cocktail if I'm lucky. And nothing more to say for myself than a lot of weird random stories that I will only share with a few near and dear peeps who I will have outlived. Maybe their children will come visit, although as my cantankerousness increases with every waking moment, probably not. And I will have little to lure them with besides my student loan debt. And denture tricks.

It was an unpleasant, shaky, shuddering feeling and there was nothing to do but hit St. Mary's with the cheerful Father Gene* and just pray pray pray for it all to go away. Unfortunately, the maxim regarding Catholics who only go to church on Christmas and Easter proved to be true even here, and by the time I got through the doors, it was standing room only at the back. There I stood, in a crumpled t-shirt and jeans, next to a woman who I'm pretty sure - given her loud choral performance and jazz hands during "Lamb of God" - was none other than Carol Channing living out her last days in St. Alphonsus Parish.

And then I saw them. Babies. Babies, slightly more than babies and other assorted children all edgy for the Easter Egg hunt. Pewsful full of pedo-cuteness. And I found myself looking at them much in the way of the women who steal infants from maternity wards. Except with slightly better hair.

And then I started studying the couples who held these little creatures, and it hit me, like a thief in the night (har), what was missing. I needed to meet and marry a Catholic man.

I began to study the crowd around me in the back of the church, all of whom seemed to be single thirty-somethings who, like me, didn't feel like fighting the Easter throng for a seat. "Huh," I thought. "Not bad. Not bad at all." However, already knowing how awkward I am wishing for people to have peace be with them (as if peace is so easily commanded), I didn't even want to take the chance of further loosening my tongue with a "peace be with you, and hey, are you, like, seeing anyone?".

My eyes strayed to the bulletin crumpling in my suddenly sweaty palms. Ripping it open, I was disappointed to find that, despite my previous mocking of the event, there was no Wednesday night singles mixer scheduled for the upcoming week. "Could it be," I wondered, "that maybe it's because they've already all met each other and have started breeding ever more babies to stick in a baptismal font?" Dear God, no. No, no, no.

I'm not going to pretend for a moment I have never done the online dating thing. I have. There, I confess. (Mass after-effect.) But my forays into online dating have always turned into twisted bizarre novel-like stories, worthy of only sharing with a select few who adore satire. But still, how to handle this needing-a-Catholic-man issue?

I thought about friends who had dipped into the specialized online dating services. One had joined J-date, where the only person who expressed any interest was a 52-year-old man from Idaho. Who, when she politely declined meeting him, told her to "stop kidding herself." However, that ended happily when she met and is now engaged to a very lovely Jewish boy a year later. My most recently engaged friend, of the Indian ilk, met her man on Idate. And countless others who met on eharmony, which I think is probably run by the Mormon mafia. Okay, no, but it has decidedly family values bent, and after okcupid - where men have said such charming things like 'what's your stance on blowjobs?' - such a change might be welcome.

And so I looked up catholic match.com.

The first thing the website emphasizes is how love for God is first, and love for each other is second. This is obviously going to come in handy whenever I do something stupid that will completely jeopardize our relationship.

"I did it because I love God," I will say. "I love him so much I don't even know or understand why I did that. I just know it was what he wanted."

Second bonus, unlike other sites, I got to check out the goods without creating a profile. First off, nice. Clean cut boys without drunken photos. I bet some of them even went to Jesuit. (Oh god, I can't believe after six years of rolling my eyes when a guy mentions they went to school at Jesuit like it makes them kings of New Orleans, I actually thought about it in a good light. But still.) Better yet, I got to check out the competition too. No airbrushed boobie shots, just normal looking women. I've got a shot here, I think.

So, I decided to create a profile. Catholic match.com spares you the drama of having to come up with a clever catchy but not-too-over-the-top-cheesy profile name. Nope, it's simply your first name and a number. Like you're in prison. First step to altar accomplished.

Now, the tricky part. The dreaded profile questions. I blew through physical description with all A's, wavering only at whether my eyes are green or blue (I actually don't know, they change all the time, like when my other personalities kick in). But then, unlike plain vanilla match.com, it started getting difficult.

Tattoos?

Um, yeah.

Body piercings?

Do ears count? I'm going with no.

So far so good so far so ...

"Do you subscribe to the following Catholic beliefs?"

"1. Transubstantiation."

Um, well, I don't really know. Pass? Okay, no. I don't like to think that partaking of communion wine makes me a vampire. So, sue me.

"2. No contraception."

Wow, seriously? On a dating site? I'm going with no.

"3. No abortion."

BIG no.

"4. The pope is infallible."

Does ANY Catholic still believe this?

"5. No premarital sex."

See answer to #2.

"6. Immaculate conception."

Actually, virgin birth IS possible according to my sixth grade health care teacher who once lasciviously described a situation where two people were heavily petting whilst naked and somehow his little swimmers made it up there without her being un-immaculated. That's bull. False.

"7. Only men can be priests."

And just see what a mess they've made of it. NO.

So, there you go. Zero for seven of the church's tenants. At this point, I'm wondering why I even bother going to Mass. Couldn't they have at least brought in the Holy Spirit? Or love, peace, or brotherhood? I could've easily gone for that.

Biting my lip and sighing, I began the grand tradition of online dating misrepresentation and changed my answers to "Yes" for numbers one and six. "I'll explain later," I think. "Like, after the wedding." While I was on a roll, I listed my favorite sacrementals as holy water, candles and rosaries - which sounded very sexy, I thought, particularly when combined with my favorite prayer "The Act of Contrition."

Next?

"Do you intend to pursue a vocation (priest or nun)?"

{Record scratch}

Why on earth this question emerged so late in the game is beyond me. Perhaps it was a recruiting attempt, and can catholic match.com be blamed? The very idea of dating these days has often sent me into wondering if I weren't better off thumping the fat knuckles of preteens and getting free meals.

Don't worry catholic mathc.com, I'll be back in five years when it's all gone down the tubes.

Then game time. A personal description. I have often prided myself on the wit and art I can summon to impress perfect strangers into buying me dinner via my inspired dating prose. However, given the context, somehow my efforts this time just fell flat.

"Am currently looking for someone to spend some time with that is also in the Catholic church and shares my faith and values. I am a young professional not originally from the New Orleans area. I attend mass at St Mary's Assumption on Sunday mornings."

Great, after that masterpiece, I am going to have to get professionally airbrushed, if and when I actually put a face to this hot mess.

But now I can look around. And dontchya know it, I almost immediately find an eligible young buck and my jaw drops. Cute, and reading all of his likes is like reading my own, right down to "Lives of the Saints" the imperfect yet endearing Nancy Lemann novel that led me to this crazy city in the first place. Best of all, a self-mocking lawyer ("All I've learned is that you can only practice law, but I'm never moving out of Louisiana. No more bar exams!"). Exactly! Exactly, Mr. Right-I-Will-Bear-You-Tall-Easter-Clothes-Wearing-Children!

In my excitement I have to go for it. I have to email this guy. The combination of "The Sun Also Rises," "The Decemberists," and "pub visits" - while maybe not incredibly original - are quite enough in my new frame of mind. Sure, he says he believes in the seven thingamabobs, but he's probably just misrepresenting a little too.

And then catholic match.com informs me that to e-mail him, I have to actually subscribe and pay a fee. Apparently my occasional crumpled notes in the weekly basket are not going to count as a subsidy in my newfound role as burgeoning Catholic wife.

Or maybe it's a sign to stop and think about this for a minute.

[my own addition to Catholic beliefs]

"8. Do you believe in signs?"

Yes. Yes, fervently.

I'll pay the fee as soon as I get my professional photo on.

Peace be with you, Mr. Lawyer guy. In the meantime, please change your answer to number five.

*For reasons that are probably obvious to my tiny readership, I will not link out on this blog to my church's website. If they are savvy enough to have a website, they will undoubtedly be able to find where hits are coming from and uncover my not-so-Catholic secrets. So do yourself a favor. Google "St. Mary's Assumption New Orleans" and check out Father Gene's bio. The picture of a young Father Gene cuddling a hamster with the caption "love of all things great and small" will just make you smile your face off.