Tuesday, November 17, 2009
“Isn’t it so cool though,” He responded thoughtfully, “To think of your body as its own little motor? To think that I’m getting around everywhere powered by my very own energy?”
Oh smelly thing, your passing poetry shook me out of my slumber! And a decade later, tearing up at the last paragraphs of Born to Run by Christopher MacDougall, I felt it again. (The book's title doesn't hurt.)
Why didn’t I read this book for the marathon? Just imagining the Tarahumara, a group of super-human runners indigenous to Mexico’s Copper Canyon, gliding over parched Chihuahua terrain would have gotten my feet moving way faster than writing my name on my shirt. Once puny school boys become ultra-marathon champions. Girls school boys on 150 miles runs with Mountain Dew and Pizza to fuel their tanks.
The booked also marked my first attempt to solicit Facebook friendship from a stranger. Jenn Sheldon, if you’re reading, I probably don’t seem any less lame, do I? I guess a blogpost doesn’t get you much closer to a person than a status update. Oh well, keep pounding that pavement, baby!
I hope you guys know, I mean I hope you REALLY know, P!nk’s not like those other girls. She’s told you so, (see “Hazard to Myself” verse three: “tired of being compared to damn Britney Spears. She’s so pretty, that just ain’t me.”) But if I may, I like to fancy myself a bit of an emotional barometer for pop cultural icons. My reactions to those who parade about the top 100 are rapt and sincere. So for the week at least, P!nk is my “it” girl.
I lay in bed on Sunday evening with the TV on, thinking I was staring down the glowing embers of a weekend. I’d hosted a house party, unclogged my drain, called the super to repair my busted fridge. What else was there for me? I thought, until P!nk’s “Behind the Music” burrowed through the haze of my nappiness.
She rescued Linda Perry from has-been obscurity! She shirked gender norms and proposed to her husband! She can do aerial ballet, and that’s really hard. I once saw a woman fall from her ribbons in the middle of a Cirque Du Soleil show.
Sure, there are plenty of teenage girls whose teachers slip them copies of The Bell Jar, who discover Ani di Franco by tuning in to their town’s college radio station. But the girls who don’t scratch beyond the surface of Mix 107.5 deserve strong female role models too. Sunday night, I watched a woman grapple with the professional goals, romantic turbulence, jealousy, neediness, and the human spirit triumphed! No fame bullshit. No agenda. She didn’t smash one reporter’s car face a single possession charge. She was just a girl tryin’ to make it this world.
Oh P!nk, empowered and vulnerable, career woman and care-giver. This week, in moments of weakness, I shall draw from your strength.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
You’re not ready! Sure, you read the books, you did the stretching, you ate for two. But somewhere in the dustiest corner of the darkest closet of the smallest apartment in the high rise of your brain, you suspect it isn’t enough. All these months of training, you’ve struggled through the messiest of relationships with your body. Some mornings, the two of you were hands missing the hi-five. Well-rested, properly fueled and loose, your legs seemed to resent your very attachment to them.
What did I do? You wonder.
You know what you did. They’re whispering below the rhythm of your heavier-than-usual STOMP STOMP STOMP.
Other mornings, it’s like your legs sent you flowers, just because.
What did I do? You wonder.
You know what you did! They’re beaming as they pull you along like you’re maneuvering ice instead of the trash and dog poop of a New York City street.
You’ve put your faith in your legs, but let’s face it: your legs are some moody little bitches.
You’re emotional. You’re a grown woman, but you find yourself calling your parents every night, walking them through the details of your smallest new physical sensation. And because they love you, they patiently pretend like they care, offering encouraging questions like “Oh? What part of the heel?”
All this dependency on your parents is stirring up other vintage habits. Admit it, you downloaded Little Earthquakes last night, didn’t you? Now you know, running through tears of nostalgia makes it pretty tough to gasp a proper breath.
You’re exhausted, but you can’t sleep.
You have to pee all the time.
Nobody knows how you feel!
You’re too antsy to keep your mind on one task for too long. But you know this: what you’re about to do is going to be a huge pain-in-the-ass. But when it’s over, you’ll have something to be proud of. Because not everyone can manage what you are your body just pulled off.
So chill out.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
So you can imagine how a body that wants to collapse into itself doesn’t really “do” dance. But it hasn’t always been that way! When I was fifteen in Argentina, where babies can shake their butts before they wipe them, my girlfriends used to drill me to whatever was on the radio. I can remember stumbling around Jesica Fernandez’ bedroom to “Laura, se te ve la tanga” (“Laura, I can see your thong”), her Hanson and Spice Girls posters flashing their condescending smirks as I struggled.
But I practiced enough to master a kind of exaggerated hip swirl, like I was hula hooping without the hoop. And with that one move in my armory, I could relax enough to show my face at the disco. I stopped responding, “I don’t speak Spanish” when anyone asked me to dance.
Comfort atrophies. It’s been seven years since I left Argentina and I can only really lose it on the dance floor when I’m more than a couple drinks in. Yesterday at the gym, I watched the same episode of “Dance Your Ass Off” twice, (why did Oxygen run the same episode twice in a row?) and somewhere during the second screening I got to envying those fatties. (Awful awful awful. I don’t know why I called them that.) But really! How unburdened these contestants were by the distance between a typical dancer’s bodies and theirs! I watched them, and then I watched them again, flaunting how there was just more of them to shake, more of them to groove. Their dance came from a hot little bulb deep in the heart. Do we all have that bulb? Can I turn it on if I find the switch?
Chubby arms and legs still lurched about my brain as I left work last night. And perhaps that’s why he meant so much to me. Passing the glass-for-walls of the Alvin Ailey Dance Studio on 55th and 9th, I stopped to watch students of an Afro-Brazilian class in full sweat. Young, toned, beautiful black women ducked and stomped powerfully across glossy wood. And among them, there he was. This small Jewish-looking man somewhere over sixty. He work black tights and a black t-shirt with the sleeves cut off. He stomped on the wrong beat, thrust his arms left as the rest of the group went right. He furrowed his brow in deep concentration. And when he reached one end of the dance floor, he turned around to do it again.
There’s nothing more stunning than effortless courage.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
The backyard is a memorial to the projects my family had only energy enough to begin. There’s the dog run to whose gate we never bothered to close. We dreamed so big for that dog run! Installed an electric wire along the top to keep the dogs from escaping. Planted a grape vine to weave within its chain links. Built a doghouse to replace our puppies’ quantity of space for quality. But the trees blocked the sun the grape vine needed to survive, and the carpet in the doghouse molded once it rained, and one day I grabbed onto the electric wire for no reason and opened my eyes to two concerned dogs trying to lick me back into consciousness.
There’s the pear tree that never grew pears because we didn’t planted another to pollinate it.
There are the thirsty patches of earth we fertilized only once in May to try to coax the grass that once grew back into existence.
That knot of branches was a rose bush my dad bought my mom for their anniversary. Dog pee is not good for rose bushes.
The sunroom is different. If the backyard is a place to transpose ideas into objects (dog runs, pear trees, roses) then the sunroom is where thoughts haven’t developed fingers enough to count as ideas. They are zygotes of ideas. They are dreams.
I want to tell you what I do in the sunroom, because I have never told anyone:
1) I play Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman”. I think I’d like to be a tragic specimen of Americana. I fantasize about the melancholy of feeling close to my trunk.
2) I put on my dad’s oversized earphones and pretend I’m an operator for the Great Western Sugar Company. I tell whoever’s on the line about allowing my children only a deck of cards to play with. I’d wager money on any of them in a hand of gin rummy.
3) I take an egg cup from the kitchen, place it on the windowsill, and pretend I’m a drunk getting loaded at a dive bar. I take deep swigs of the empty egg cup and yell clumsy-tongued, “Hit me another, Skip!”
4) I listen to the “We Are the World” record I plucked from my parents’ collection for its cartoon jacket. It makes me cry.
And so this is why I think of the sunroom. Because when it comes to alumni of those bright afternoons, Michael Jackson was my only surviving companion. Willie Loman drank himself into an early grave. The Great Western Sugar Company went broke in the '80s. And Skip just disappeared. I hope he went back to college. He was so much more than that skeezy windowsill he tended. Oh MJ, whatever you were, you kept me company when I had nothing but the particles of dust caught in sunbeams to stare at. For your companionship, for your moonwalk, for rounding up me, Lionel Richie, Cyndi Lauper, Dionne Warwick, and so many more in the sunroom to feed those hungry Ethiopians, I am grateful.
Friday, June 26, 2009
And it is beautiful. Since gold is so malleable, the bricks have to be mixed with another precious metal to hold their shape. The gold mixers, (who are they? Do they mix it up in a big vat? Do they wear chef’s hats?) generally use either bronze or silver, so that when you take a few steps back and look at all those chunks piled on top of each other, you can see how their tint varies from red to white, their quality from old to new, all sparkling even though they are kept too far deep in the earth to catch the light of anything.
One brick would change my life! And there are so many down there, over 500,000. Who would know the difference?
When I was little, my dad took my brother and me on a tour of the Denver Mint. In the gift shop afterward, my dad bought us each a coin stamped with the face of our favorite American president. My brother chose Carter. I chose Nixon.
That was right after I’d seen the Anthony Hopkins film about him. I cried so hard when Paul Sorvino, (Kissinger), exclaimed “Think of the greatness this man could have achieved if he had only been loved.”
Who could have loved Nixon enough to free his greatness from its little cage? Could Pat have scrambled his eggs with more tenderness? Could Tricia and Julie have brought him his slippers with more sincerity? No, only Nixon could have loved Nixon enough to achieve the greatness he fell short of. He didn’t, but only he could have.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Blog, I’ve been itching for an adventure. It all began a few weeks ago with a trip to Mexico. I know, blog, that should have been adventure enough! But it wasn’t, it was just a little taste. It was long sleepy days next to a pool with piña coladas and the smell of sunscreen and it was nights in the back of a cab trying to string together the Spanish that I promise I could speak once upon a time! The Spanish was a sense memory trigger for the years I spent in South America.
I moved to Formosa, Argentina as a fifteen year old who had never studied Spanish. My host family plucked me from airport, drove me to their home, stuffed my face with milanesa and empanadas, and used the little English they knew to explain to me that the bidet in the bathroom was what “you wash your ass in.” I was tired all the time, but because I was learning all the time. I didn’t have to motivate myself to hunt down extracurriculars. I just had to sit with people and try to piece together what they were saying.
We let a stray dog with mange die in our garage. It took so long, we called her Miseria and left her chicken bones that she could barely chew. We threw rocks at the big round trees lining our block so that bats would scatter like fireworks from their nests inside. The power went out every summer night and we sat on the roof staring at the water tower. I learned how to tolerate dancing till 7am. I learned how to cuss people out in Spanish. I got a really tight pair of jeans. I had lice for a year!
I rode on the back of someone’s motorcycle next to El Rio Paraguayo with the full moon so bright it felt like we were being stagelit. I caught piranhas in that river! I sat at the hospital while my friend’s little body tried to thwart the bus that had run it over. When it couldn’t, I went to my friend’s funeral and felt queasy from its crudity. Her skin puffy, her knuckled clotted with blood, her mouth stuffed with cotton, the smell of formaldehyde unmasked by the bouquets that surrounded her.
I worked at a disco!
I started a pastry peddling business out of my kitchen!
I forged signatures for my host father’s gubernatorial campaign!
I was so little, how was I so brave?
I want to get on a plane to wherever and find that feisty little fifteen-year-old me. I want to ask her if she’ll be my tour guide.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
I was a block away from work when I stumbled upon the face-off. A man waving two butcher knives above his head seemed unfazed by the fifteen policemen with pistols poised in his direction. He stomped toward the cops until one doused him with pepper spray. Without a flinch, the man switched course, almost reaching 11th Ave before he paused to study a horse drawn carriage en route to Central Park. I really thought they were going to shoot him. I kept thinking, I can’t believe I’m wearing this stupid hat right now. It’s an affront to this man’s dignity to die in front of a girl dressed like goth Princess Toadstool. A face-off on today of all days. I never wear hats.
But they didn’t shoot him. They tazed him bro, and he fell with a thud like someone dropped a bag of sand. Later I heard he was a resident of the halfway house nearby and had stopped taking his meds. It scares me that the only thing keeping some of us from slipping from the ledge of sanity can be some pill as big as a fingernail.
I’ve narrowed down my most looming fears to two: getting fat and going crazy. The first is residual from early life chubbiness. I’m pretty sure that after enough decades I’ll pee that fear right out of my system. But sometimes I think that if I had to bet on one person I know to bring a gun to work, I put my money on me. (Please don't turn me in to the feds, I'm using hyperbole to make a point.) I come from a long line of crazies who were stricken out of nowhere and for no good reason. Like when you go to bed feeling fine and wake up ready to puke your guts out. I worry that will happen to me. I worry about it often. I think I read “Lisa Bright and Dark” too early in life.
I remember going on a whitewater rafting trip as a child. After dragging the boat onto the sandy bank for lunch, our guides rounded up a group for river diving. At 8, with my swollen stomach and purple bathing suit, I peered over the edge of the rocks we'd climbed, thirty feet above the inky river, listening to a young husband try and coax his wife into jumping. “Look, that little girl isn’t scared to do it,” the man explained and nudged his chin in my direction.
In the end, the wife couldn’t be convinced. But with the river guides cheering behind me, I stepped off the ledge, listened to the world around me rush, then crack then get very quiet. I held my breath as long as I could underwater, wanting privacy to savor the satisfaction of my own courage.
Fear of craziness only makes me crazier still. Better to be brave, since I know I can be.
Friday, May 1, 2009
I remember vividly the “Mike Tyson’s Punchout” game that made its home to the left of the salad bar at the local Pizza Hut growing up. As my brother poured quarters into its little red coin slot, I watched from the table through a fog of ranch dressing. If only I’d known then what I know now the video game’s namesake, maybe I would have spent more time battling alongside my brother and less eating my way through an entire meat lovers pizza.
I was a fat little kid, that’s beside the point. So was Mike Tyson! He says so himself in James Toback’s new “Tyson” documentary, which has helped me refine in another small way why I have become so obsessed with boxing of late. I used to think I couldn’t really tell what distinguishes an incredible fighter from a good one, but watching footage of Tyson before he was Iron Mike, back when he was just starting out with Cus D’Amato, back when he was dealing eight second knock-outs in the Junior Olympics, you realize what a fierce creature he once was. I say “creature” because he was too fast to be human. Watching him shadow box around the ring as a young man makes you wonder if someone accidently knocked film reel into high speed. I’m just so moved by it. It’s the most naked kind of grace, not like dancing or gymnastics or ice skating. It’s grace without the presentation, which to me is the most enviable kind of beauty.
The movie walked me through Tyson’s failed marriage to Robin Givens, his rape conviction, his relationship with Don King, and the only thing I really knew about him before the movie, his taste for ear. But seeing him so calm and candid, angry without all the “I’ll fuck you til you love me faggot” abandon, made me able to recognize the guy behind the caricature. Even with the lisp he wasn’t a caricature. People are just really complex.
On an unrelated note, now that Souter is stepping down from the Supreme Court, I’d like you all to join me in lobbying for the appointment of my dad, Norman Dean Haglund. Judge Haglund could really teach those old bags a thing or two.
Friday, April 17, 2009
Last night, I went to The Golden Gloves Tournament at
Does that description sound glib? It shouldn’t. Boxing is fucking awesome.
I was tired and grumpy and hungry when I got to
But it’s so obvious to say that bloodlust was what yanked me out of my end-of-a-long-week fog. I’ve got all this testosterone in my bloodstream these days. I have this vivid mental picture of a bunch of tattooed testosterone particles in wifebeaters teaming up to try and chase the frail estrogen out of my system by way of my monthly cycles. I work and play sports with all these dudes. I like books about war, I’m learning the rules of baseball. Getting revved up over people trying to knock each other unconscious is just one more wrinkle in a journey that ends with me growing a full moustache.
What I didn’t expect to see was the tenderness between fighters. You rest in the middle of a round by wrapping your arms around your opponent, by leaning yourself against them so that they carry your weight for a few seconds. It sort of looks like they’re calling a truce, like they’re wondering, “What were we fighting about? I’m so tired I can’t even remember anymore.” At the end of each match, the boxers would hug each other, hug the opponent’s trainer. And that they had just been kicking ass made their embraces seem that much more tender.
If only we could cut our emotional wheels that quickly in real life. After the punches thrown, it takes so long to find our way back to each other. We return to the center of the ring by way of ginger inches. But most of the time, fighting doesn’t seem to amount to much more than a sport. Would it be great if forgiving could be done as jauntily as those boxers’ embraces? To me, anyone who can let go of shit that easily deserves to make off with some golden glove bling.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Monday, April 6, 2009
In lieu of devoting my time to an activity that could advance my career or inch me closer to feeling some sort of professional fulfillment, I’ve decided to transform my kitchen. This weekend, I dodged the book I was assigned to review for my writing class to pour over “The Art of Simple Food” by Alice Waters instead. My cookbook and I cuddled on the couch, trying to ignore that rebuffed paperback gawking at us from across the room. Oh assigned reading, you are so long and boring! Why do the things I feel like I’m supposed to do seem so far away from the things I want to do?
Now, I’m close to obsessed with idea of putting fresh, delicious fuel into my body. But my feelings about Alice Waters are complicated. I went to college with her daughter, Fanny. And while Fanny was always perfectly fine during the limited exchanges we shared, I’m so insecure. You probably know that already. In my mind, Fanny’s just another person who serves as a reminder that you can be much further along in life at age 26 than I am. And you can read all about it in the New York Times. Other classmates who make me queasy with envy? Jamie Kirchirk, Zoe Kazan, Daniel Kurtz Phelan…)
Am I a bigger person for admitting my own human weakness? I get jealous! Sometimes cripplingly so. And whether I say it in a blog entry or keep it to myself, I’m still in the exact same place…making copies…typing what people tell me to…asking myself important questions like “how much water have I had today?” “Am I sitting up straight?” Hydration and posture, the small personal struggles of my day-to-day.
I know, I know. Comparing yourself to others gets you nowhere. It’s like my mom said once: You don’t have to set the world on fire at 26. Of course, what she actually said was that you don’t have to set the world on fire at 24, because that’s when I started complaining about all this stuff. And now here I am, almost 27, wearing possibly the same outfit I was the day she first offered me that advice. At what age should you start to feel like if you haven’t torched your home planet, you might as well just throw in the towel and sign up for truck driving school?
So like I said, I’m going to transform my kitchen. I’m going to stock it with all the artillery necessary to throw together the kind of meal that makes my stomach feel warm instead of twisted. And it’s not going to be easy! Taking care of yourself hardly ever is. But imagine if you were your child instead of yourself, you’d make the extra effort, wouldn’t you?
Is this another distraction, something that I do instead of what I really want to do, because the thing I really want to do is too large and looming? Am I just cowering in the shadows that dreams cast? Maybe. But it’s a challenge. And I believe that any accomplishment begets another. They gild confidence to make it stronger and more flashy. And if it is a royal waste of time, and least it will keep me too busy to care.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
I’m tired of the emails and the texts and the phone calls. You want to know so badly, people? Alright, I’ll tell you. But you’re not gonna like it.
A little background for those of you out there who don’t know the intimate details of my day-to-day: I work for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Two weeks ago this Thursday, The Boss himself appeared as our guest. Wednesday night, I had to take a sleeping pill to knock myself out. I woke up extra early Thursday morning to curl my hair. I put on what I believe to be my most flattering dress. I ate my oatmeal with the “Live from
But what can I tell you? There were no strings to be pulled, no loopholes to weasel my way through. Bruce came and went under a veil of privacy as I watched from a monitor next to the studio. At one moment he was right around the corner, the thud of his workmen boots making their way from the greenroom to the set my only proof of his proximity.
Another detail for those of you who don’t know, I met Bruce once before. I sat next to him through an entire taping of the show. We made small talk as they loaded the audience and exchanged back-and-forths during the commercial breaks. It was really special. That night my roommate and I drank a bottle of champagne to celebrate and I tried not to fall asleep, dreading the inevitable crossing from the day I met Bruce to the day after.
Walking to work two Thursdays ago, I imagined The Boss remembering me, asking for me, how jealous it would make my co-workers! To inhabit the tiniest cell in the tiniest wrinkle of The Boss’s brain! Maybe he’d somehow catch me in action at work and be barreled over by my skills. Maybe he’d demand I come to work for him in the wilds of
But that’s the fun of it all! That’s why Thursday, after work, I didn’t really care how the day had played out. I just like dreaming about it all. Maybe you think that’s bullshit, maybe it IS! But in trying to be honest with myself, I’ve come to think that disappointment is kind of like the pop of a balloon. A disruptive, irritating burst, a stillness, and then everything resumes its rhythm.
I’m a good dreamer. I can really cook things up. But with dreaming comes the constant peril of disappointment. That’s why people like me have to be made of cork.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
I’ve been having mixed feelings about the gray streak I’m getting. When I first noticed it, I felt sentimental. My mother’s now entirely silver bob began the same way. It was like I’d uncovered a family heirloom right beneath my bangs. I mean, it’s not like I’m getting old, right? How could I be? I still get carded. I wear t-shirts I bought in high school. I played a drinking game last Saturday for Christ’s sake!
But a few nights ago, I stood in front of my mirror plucking out each gray hair, my eyes wandering from my hairline to grooves in my forehead to the puckered skin at the corners of my eyes. My face is starting to look an unmade bed, and I’m too immature to even make my bed regularly! It’s as if I suddenly realized I’m in the middle of my turn in Mario Kart before I learned how to work the joystick.
But last night I went to see my dear friend Marisa in a variety show called “The Snarks Unlimited” put on by her all-female theater company The Snarks. Definitely one of the weirdest experiences I’ve come across in
God bless these women. Ten minutes into the show, watching ladies sashay about in hats as big as tires and belt out “Yankee Doodle” I worried I’d been transported to dawning of WWI. But these women were wild, gregarious, funny! I remember taking a theater class when I was eight and being scolded for being “hammy.” Watching the show last night, I regretted pocketing that criticism. Just think of how refined my hamminess could be now if I had cultivated it when it just beginning to sprout.
(It actually reminded me to tell you of another one of my personal obsessions, the Miss Senior America competition. I’ve wanted to see and write about the pageant for years. I don’t know whether I find it inspiring or grotesque, like a really graphic picture of elephantitis you find on the internet and can’t look away from.)
Let me be clear, that’s NOT how I feel about The Snarks. Last night, I saw a group of women celebrating a strong mutual sense of self. And with this gray streak taking over my head I need to know that’s what I’m working toward, celebrating all of my beauty. It seems like we spend so much of youth letting our beauty make us miserable.
Friday, March 6, 2009
Okay, so if you’re anything like most of young people who run with my posse, you’re feeling very wronged by this recession. Sure, you late Generation Yers-early Generation Zers may have scored some pretty sweet Christmas (or Hannukah/Kwanza!) presents during the 1990s when your parents were packing their pockets with
But I digress. Young people are peeved because, relatively new to the workforce, we didn’t even get a chance to fuck up the economy before it fucked us. Not only is it difficult to land a job, especially for those without resumes padded by years of professional experience, but with Baby Boomer retirement savings devastated by the economic climate, we can’t even hit up our parents for money.
But listen, guys: forget everything that Counting Crows taught you. Stop wallowing. Let me tell you a few reasons I think this recession could be a boon for the young:
-We’re already poor. Meaning, few of us have valuable assets. I’m not saying it’s easy to scrap together the means to fix the fan belts on our ’83 Toyota Celicas, but most early-ish 20-somethings don’t own homes, have mortgages, etc., so stringing by on less isn’t a huge hit to our lifestyles.
-If you’re a young person in a big city, like say me in
-If you can land a job, it’s gonna be fun. Recessions actually generate demand in the creative economy (I also read this in the
-We can start saving now. People lost money because stocks plummeted. But that means they’re selling for cheap. Investment made now won’t lead to quick profits but putting money into an index fund, which you wouldn’t dip into anyway until long after the government has wiped away this recession (right?), could lead to some worthwhile spending change for the future. According to my brother, buy Vanguard.
What better time in your life to be poor than the time in your life when you’re already poor? I know I can only see this through the prism of my own blessed experience. I have a job. I’m not stuck with obscene student loans. But perhaps I’m revisiting what Condi said in a far less stupid context: perhaps this recession is like the Chinese character for crisis, one of both danger AND opportunity.
Monday, March 2, 2009
The envy! The rage! While adults (kinda) like me toil away at our 9-to-5’s (9-to-7:30’s)
This brings me to a very important question: Did anyone else think it was cool to pee in your snowsuit? As a child, the principle of “swimsuit, snowsuit, what’s the difference?” was carved into my understanding of the world. In recent years, I’ve started to think maybe I was a little off. This begs another question: didn’t my mother ever notice that my snowsuit was covered in pee all the time? We kept in the coat closet with all the other coats. I have four other family members; no one minded that our hall closet reeked of urine?
Sometimes I brag about the summer after sixth grade, when I survived on only Kix cereal. I think I found a new anecdote to sum up the feral playground that was my adolescence.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
I’m a serial fan. Just look at me. Today I wanted to write a posting in homage to the once-object of my affection, Conan O’Brien. Friday marked his last evening as the host of “Late Night” after a15-year run, a run I became entrenched in during the summer after my sixth grade year. From those hot summer nights watching a not-yet-fully-Conan Conan on the fuzzy TV in my kitchen, which was stuck permanently on NBC because the channel knob broke off months before, all the way through high school, my heart pounded to Late Night’s theme song. (Wasn’t it also Max Weinberg’s beats that ushered me into the era of Bruce? Is my life just a flocking from one Weinberg drum solo to another?) My adolescence was all about Conan. I even wrote him a letter asking him to my prom. When he didn’t respond, I composed an anthology of tortured-by-Conan haikus that I mailed him as well. The most poignant I turned in as an assignment for English class:
I wrote you letters
Saying “come to my school dance,”
You don’t read junk mail.
So I was going to tell you all about why I loved Conan and why you should love him too. Then I thought, anyone who’s reading this is going to think I’m a real dipshit. This is a Springsteen themed blog! And here I am, confessing that somewhere during my freshman year of college I went to the poster store and traded all my Conan prints in for Boss ones. (Metaphorically speaking, of course. I think the only poster I ever owned was a 5 ft x 6 ft Les Miserables glossy that I hung over my bed. HUGE fan of musicals. Maybe you’re starting to see why Conan snubbed my prom invite.)
Then, I watched Obama’s address to congress this evening. I thought about how by the time I got to know Barack Obama, I’d turned my “Miss Saigon” t-shirts into cleaning rags and moved out of my dorm. I see Obama through a cloud of cynicism that’s come over me with age. I’m not the little bleeding heart that got carried away with Conan and Bruce. chalked up his idealism and his demands that we share it to naivety. Those idiots in congress will drive him crazy, he’ll ditch the bipartisanship, scale back his goals, and stop reading all those letters the good people of
But watching Obama tonight with Conan and Bruce in the back of my brain made me realize what I love about these three men: they take ownership of their reality. They demonstrate that when you reject the shitty circumstances of the outside world as absolute, you defeat them. Believing in who you are, and honoring that you, casts a shadow over your obstacles, makes them perish from lack of sun. Goodness can morph into silly idealism only when you let the world talk you out of your perspective. But these men don’t. It’s not teenage hormones still lingering in my bloodstream that make me love these men. It’s my desire to emulate them. They’re great, but only as an afterthought. What they really are is good.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Tonight, as I read my old pal Gina’s posting on the traumas of Valentine’s Day, I remembered my secret. It’s a gross secret, a secret that needs out out out of my heart because it’s making all the stuff next to it go rotten. What are the words you say when you shuffle back and forth back and forth, trying to get up the nerve to jump from a cliff to the water below? Imagine I’m saying those words. Okay, here it goes: Brett, if you’re out there, remember that poem I gave you thirteen years ago almost to the day? The one I had Ms. Redford, our English teacher, deliver (that seems weird now)? The one confessing the ache in my stomach and brain and heart, all for you? Well…
I didn’t write it. I stole it. I ripped it out of Seventeen Magazine’s poetry section, typed it up on my computer, and told you it was meant for you.
The thing is, it WAS meant for you. I meant each one of those sticky, sacchariney, teenagey, words. And just because some other fan of Seventeen Magazine meant them first…and wrote them down…and published them…doesn’t make them any less customized. And how would a little seventh grade you ever find out? I took a chance that Seventeen Magazine wasn’t on your reading list. Seventh grade Brett was reading “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.” You were the king of the internet when no one knew what the fuck that was, putting on eyeliner and listening to Dead Can Dance with your new goth girlfriend. You lived in a different world from the rest of the seventh graders. How did you find the porthole? You were unhappy, but gleefully unhappy! Proud of it! Painting angst into your fingernails and dyeing it into your pretty red hair! I think it was the glee that made me do it.
With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I’ve been thinking about how people offer love. The forged poem is how I do it in the worst of times, equipped with an ejection seat. I was a chubby, stringy haired 13 year-old, how could I lure you away from your overbearing, cape-wearing, 8th grade girlfriend? She wore a vile of blood around her neck! I didn’t stand a chance. So when I confessed my love to you, I really kept it to myself. I gave you the truth with a lie baked into the middle. And while the truth made me vulnerable, the lie gave me power. Reject me if you want, I snarled to myself, you’re still the sucker who bought that stupid poem.
In The Prophet, Gibran writes:
“If in your fear you would seek only love's peace and love's pleasure, then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love's threshing-floor, into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.”
Rock on, all you peeps who hate Valentine’s Day because it’s broken your heart! You are the brave ones, the ones who exposed your heart to the elements instead of keeping it cooped up like an overprotected kid. I’m thinking that if you only give part of yourself, that part is as much as another person can come to love. How would they know to love the rest of you? They don’t even know it’s there.
This Valentine’s Day, my heart is gonna lie out naked on the metal roof. With no sunscreen. This year, I’m going for the sunburn.
* Bruce says it way better.
Friday, February 6, 2009
When I make sweeping generalizations, I don’t really mean them. For the most part. Australians are fine, I sometimes eat mayonnaise, and I’m sure some of the people who keep birds as pets are perfectly sanitary. My mind really does work to undo those knots of prejudice when it recognizes them. It wants to be open. I just say stupid things because I want to be funny.
But seriously, what the fuck is with Nigerians? In the last six months, Nigerian scams have ambushed me over Gmail, over Craigslist, and just today, over eBay! I felt so violated, making the polite offer to pay shipping for whoever wanted to take an unused iPod off my hands, only to find that the highest bidder once the auction closed wants me to mail the thing to
But guess what? Apparently these scams are rampant! People con you into mailing them stuff at your expense then cancel the money orders they’d sent you as payment! Beware eBay virgins! Oh sure, bidders will tell you they like you for your items, that they respect you as a vendor. But they’ll take your product and your free shipping and leave you battered on the side of the information superhighway.
In my anger, I had awful thoughts about what internet cafes in
But then the guilt of judging all those Nigerians who don’t run internet scandals set in. So to remind you and to remind myself of the yin to the
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Maybe it’s the 19 degree weather outside that’s making me think about the day my brother and I took this picture. Here we are 13 months ago (a zebra’s gestation period!) drinking beer at the fanciest hotel in
It was so hot that day it took us til sunset to leave my brother’s apartment, where we could walk barefoot over the cool tile floors and read our books in rooms almost too dark to see the pages and fall in and out of sleep with no one to nag that we were late for work or school or plans we’d made with friends.
We drove to the hotel at dusk out of lazy guilt, and the trees that lined the street looked ornamented with black plastic bags, like it was a trash holiday we were heading to the hotel to celebrate! On the terrace where we drank, we could look over the dirty river as the city’s sewage floated past us, camouflaged by the murkiness of the water itself. And there was the bridge too, just to our left, connecting the half of the city with a hospital to the half of the city without one. Poor city planning for the days like yesterday, when a camel got pounded by a Peugeot and bridge traffic wound its way miles down the main road for hours. On the bank of the river men unloaded a pirogue full of watermelons by passing each down a line of ten. I’d like to do that job, I think.
There’s a reason to drink beer on the hotel terrace right at dusk. At first you think those are birds cutting the sunset’s pinks and oranges with contrails of high-pitched sound. Screeching sound. But if you’re there with your brother, who could tell you where in Naimey to buy a bottle of whiskey or swim in a pool or see the street kid with elephantitis, you know better. Those are bats! The ones sleeping in the trees on our drive over, disguising themselves as third world waste. First there are not even so many as to make you notice them. Then there are more. Then so many cloak the setting sun it’s like you’re staring at a candle through a hole in your sweater. By the time they thin out, it’s dark all around. As if the bats gobbled up the sunlight like a rotting piece of fruit.
Today, even though the sky is clear and blue there are no birds on telephone wires. Dogs wear coats and shoes to pee outside. Too cold for bats today. Too cold for newborn zebras.
Monday, February 2, 2009
(Psssst. Psssst. I think I know what it was. I think it was…shhhhh…joy...shhhhh)
Friday, January 30, 2009
I’ve seen things at bars. Things that should really keep me from ordering drinks. I’ve watched bar backs transport in old trashcans the ice they use to cool your drink. I’ve stared into the pool of brown-gray water, glimpsed the pulp-covered, beer-soaked brush they use to clean the glasses. I’ve stuck my nose into a pint glass to take a gulp and thought, this smells very wrong. This smells like the underwear you wore to the gym that’s still damp in your bag days later. My own disgust should be reason enough to keep my money cozy in my wallet instead of in the hands of some unhappy bartender who acts I’m hitting on him just by ordering a drink.
But the real reason I shouldn’t be ordering my third not-delicious drink when I have to wake up at 7am is this: I’m broke. Or at least I like to say I’m broke. And it feels almost disrespectful to the friends listening to me whine to chase my money rants with another Blue Moon.
What does it really mean to be broke? I don’t think I know. I know that a couple months ago, I had what I thought to be a healthy pile of money. Then I broke the lease on my crappy apartment. Then I went on a two week trip to
But pan out a little. If the guy I was listening to the NPR this morning is right, we’re on the brink of economic collapse. And it’s reaching every community, even the college-educated, steady-jobbed, parents-to-ask-for-money-if-we’re-really-
in-trouble crowd I find myself part of. The people we hated for getting well-paid consulting jobs right out of college are losing them. The banks where we opened our first personal accounts are closing. We’re watching “Cash-for-Gold” commercials during our superbowl parties.
I’m not broke because the economy is crumbling. And right next to my dwindling checking account is a savings account managed with discipline. So why have I made a hobby out of broadcasting my financial woes? I came up with two explanations. The first is less self-damning. Maybe we’re feeling the recession like we’d feel any national tragedy, like it’s the assassination of MLK or JFK or like it’s 9/11. Maybe we’re dealing (by “we” I mean “I”) with the panic we feel from watching the news by curling up in community. If I feel broke just like you feel broke, we can comfort each other with our empty hands.
The second is embarrassing. Think of that girl whose dad died in the sixth grade, the one who lived on your block, the one you’d gone to school with since kindergarten and never invited to your birthday party. Remember those days she was out of school? You couldn’t help telling the story about the way her dog yelped you tried to make it listen to your walkman, or the confetti cake her mom made for the block party cake walk. There’s power in tragedy, and you wanted a piece of it.
So I’ve been talking about how broke I am, and whether I’m doing it because I want community for my untethered panic or because I just want attention is not the point. The point is, drink at home. You’ll be less broke than you would have been. And your glasses won’t smell like dirty underwear.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
But Obama was being sworn in as the first black president of the United States of America, in a country where only forty years before many black people couldn't vote! And I bought this shirt at an MLK party the night before, because today we live in a world where people actually throw those! And I thought the shirt would be too small but it's smokin'! What better way to celebrate the events of the political moment than to abandon the scorn I have for passionate liberals, to let go of the shame I feel about my desire to hope, and to look fucking smokin'?
I work for a political TV show, so at work, my co-workers and I gathered together and watched the events of the inauguration live. My sympathy was gratuitous. I felt sad for Bush as he walked out between rows of trumpeters to audible boos. Sure, he's done a terrible job, but he's somebody's dad, somebody's husband, loves his family. His dangerous management still stemmed from a desire to do right. I was touched by Obama's fumble at the oath (so maybe it wasn't his fault...) It's probably the heaviness of the world's demand to have you inspire them momentarily catching up with the guy.
It's not as if government hasn't been urging people to ask not what our country can do for us for years now. But at the risk of sounding trite, it's a drag to be challenged to improve, to do better, by someone who you look up to. You feel like you really have to listen. And as Obama spoke it hit me that participating in the tuning up of our very broke down country is going to mean more than buying t-shirts and casting votes and even just being nicer to each other. And I don't even know what it's going to mean! But I bet it's going to be fucking hard! Much harder than jumping into that cold shower and maneuvering a loofa when it's still dark out. More rewarding than having the person you love tell you how good you smell when you're all clean.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
I’ve always wanted to be one of those calm blue people, the kind whose stillness you can feel through the tips of their fingers when they rest their hands on your back. They’re always doing things like that, patting the top of your tangled head or giving your shoulders a little tease of a massage. When I come across those people, (Lily! Molly! Mara! Brett!) I want to fold them up and stuff them into my pocket. I want to thank them for counterbalancing all of the shit I put out into the world.
I’m the subway rider who wants you to move your fucking bag so that no part of it touches my arm. I’m the line-waiter behind you sighing and shifting while you pay with exact change. It’s terrible, I know! It’s terrible for me too! To feel like the breath I take is never deep enough and I’m spreading the tightness in my chest to strangers like it’s an STD.
Okay, here’s the point. Last night, I was riding in a cab to a panel called “How to be a Professional Writer, Create Community and Still Pay Your Rent.” Here are some of fears I was turning over in my head:
- I’m going to run into someone I know and they’re going to laugh at me for wanting to be a writer.
- I’m going to do exactly what the people on the panel tell me to do and I’m going to fail at it.
- I’m going to be inspired by what I hear and get all excited and then let it go, let it fall on its face, give up before I even tried.
Pretty big hissy fit to work yourself into just to fill a seat at the 92nd Street Y. But, and I say this with modesty, I’m impressively hissy fit, I freak out at least four times a week. Last night, though, I had a new thought. I use feeling like shit about myself as an excuse. It justifies inertia. If I beat myself down for being anxious in crowds, impatient in line, careless with time, weak against criticism, then by the end my bones are too broken to reach toward the things I am very afraid to reach for. There is comfort in telling yourself that you could be who you wanted if only you weren’t so miserable, instead of just trying and finding you’re not.
It’s novel to me, okay?! For weeks, months, years (and I’m not very old!) I’ve been thinking that I need help to feel better before I can do the things I really want to do, when really, doing the things I want to do could the help I need to make me feel better. My panic and anxiety are costumed excuses. And jacking their masks makes them so much less scary.
I’m not a calm person. I’m petulant. I’m uptight. I’m hyper. So instead of trying yoga in 2009, I’m taking up hunting. I’m gonna bust a cap in those excuses on the skyline like it’s friggin Duck Hunt. And I’m gonna write about it right here, instead of using this time to think of all the reasons I’m not organized or motivated or interesting enough to write about it. I’m writing this blog because I’m a writer.