Sunday, August 28, 2011


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


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



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."


Friday, August 26, 2011


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


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


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


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


"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


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.


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


"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."


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

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.