Sunday, May 29, 2011


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

I know
of waiting

what the horizon
safe keeps behind
its ear

of love, yes

-Warren Falcon

Saturday, May 28, 2011


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


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.


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


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


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


Wednesday, May 18, 2011


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


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


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


"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.