(this is annie)

"Hey, Annie."

People kept saying hello to me yesterday. Even firefighters waved and yelled, "Hi, Annie!" It was easy to stay in character.


While writing a prescription on Wednesday, the podiatrist asked for my full name. After I told her, she said, "That's a beautiful name." It is, but it has always felt too regal for me. Besides, the meaning of Anne is grace, and I'm quite clumsy. If there were a name that meant "competent for the most part," my parents should have chosen that one. But they didn't.

Earlier this year, after going through considerable tumult, JC said that he didn't just want to get better; he wanted to reach a state of grace. For him, that quest has involved (among other things) devoting more time to painting and going on obscenely long runs along Lake Michigan. That made me think about the beauty of feeling completely present in a moment. When I played soccer in high school, there were times when I just knew the ball was going to come my way, and I was going to handle it beautifully. I could visualize it all before it happened. And when it did, it felt as though there'd been no other possibility. It all happened as naturally as breathing. My mind would clear, my fingertips would feel electric, and I would move fluidly — as though guided into a near future that was waiting for me to catch up to it.

That's what grace means to me: Not just knowing in your head, but having every nerve in your body feel that where you are is exactly where you need to be. Over the years, I have spent so much time struggling to change the immutable, or wallowing in pools of perceived helplessness. I look back and realize how much it would have helped to surrender. To shift my perspective and accept a given situation rather than try to produce an impossible alternative. Few regrets, but, you know, I was a dumbass from time to time.

Words fail me when I try to describe how difficult the past two months have been. (The autumn of my discontent?) In a surprising way, though, it all feels right. I mean, yes, I'd much rather be able to walk on two legs to my father and tell him stories about Spain. But that's impossible. This mourning has to happen, and it will hurt. I don't want to bury the pain; I don't want to run away from it or sneak around it. I want to walk straight into it to get through it. And I'll do all of this on crutches, because, to steal from Eleanor Roosevelt, you must do the thing you think you cannot do.

The Jayce wrote this to me yesterday:

Pain, unfortunately, is an excellent catalyst for growth and change, the same way fires are essential to the long-term health of the forest as a whole.

That, too, is grace. So it's time to try to live up to the name my parents gave me. Set the ground ablaze. Let flames lick every tree. Fall into the embers, inhale the ashes. And then wait for the first green shoot that will inevitably push its way through dirt to reach the sun.


Go turn a deeper blue

James was my first friend at Time Out. He was (and still is) a walking encyclopedia of soul, country and blues; he was always introducing me, directly or inadvertently, to something I'd never heard before, some slice of trivia that led me off on a night of music-dork research. At our holiday party, we sang a duet of "Paint it Black." It was great, mostly because James's excellent singing voice balanced out my squawks, but also because it was the only time I'd ever found joy in that song. He came out to say hello the other night — hard to believe it was less than a week ago — and we remembered that unparalleled karaoke adventure. Good times.


The other night, Miles said something that, like so many of the things he's said over the years, was direct and true. I'm too nice, he said. Initially I protested, and I whipped out a few tales that proved him wrong, but in a lot of ways he's right. I genuinely want to believe the best about people, to trust in the truth of their words and to find goodness in their hearts. It isn't my nature to assume the best — one of the things I first think when I see a man alone at night is, "If this guy forces himself on me, where do I run?*" — but I have a deep and desperate desire to have faith in people nonetheless.

The problem, and the part that incorporates Miles' comment, is that I often can't believe it when someone's being a royal shit. It just doesn't make sense to me, and because of my stupid empathy, it's easy to understand why that person is that way. It's not that I excuse horrible behavior, but I often can tell where it's coming from. So it's easier to not take it personally, though I still wind up holding residual hurt. (With great emo power comes great emo, um, emoness.)

By the way, I'm not trying to make it seem like I'm some superbly well-adjusted individual who never hurts anybody's feelings. My faults are numerous and my words sometimes come out as jagged daggers. The point is, I've always been particularly sensitive — to light, sound, scent, and yes, to emotion.

Anyway. I have often chosen to believe in the good because I so much wanted something glimmering and beautiful to be there, rather than noticing that that shiny thing was actually mercury. So I'm saving my "nice" for only those who deserve it. On the surface, this sounds like a bitter defeat, but it's actually a positive step. It means simultaneously smiling and staring someone down, hoping for kindness and truth but not falling for a mirage of those things. For some reason, this shift feels like the beginning of being better to the right people. It feels good, like stretching after a long plane ride. (Remind me of this perspective if it all blows up in my face.)

* This is, I'm embarrassed to admit, the reason that I do not leave the house at night alone these days. With only one good leg, I feel vulnerable, and not in the way my therapist encourages me to be. (Unless she's hoping I get mugged or assaulted, which I seriously doubt.)

(PS) I just realized this looks awful on Safari. Sorry. I use Firefox and write shit code.


In October-coloured weather

Super 8 movies have always had a unique allure. They're so beautifully slowed-down and sun-dappled, immediately delivering the blurred warmth that otherwise comes as time soften memories. My family never had a video camera, but we took pictures; the late-'70s light washes everything in tan, and I imagine that's what it must have looked like back then.

When I found out that my dad was terminally ill (odd phrase, that) I kicked myself for not having my video-ready digital camera with me. Since then I have leaped into small puddles of panic, drowning in the possibility that I may someday forget his movement, his laugh, the sound of his voice. I can still see and hear everything if I close my eyes, but what if that changes? What if I forget some nuance of his gestures or tilt his cadence a half-step? I am petrified, heart pounding like a child bolting awake from blood-drenched nightmares, that I will somehow lose my father more than I already have. And if that happens, even if I misremember only a sliver of him, I fail both of us.

On Sunday, Betty brought me his old Nikon. Even though I have no idea how to take pictures with it, it's enough that it was his. It's still attached to the avocado-and-tan camera strap that I remember resting on top of his dark blue sweater in London. Inside, there's film of moments captured years ago, long forgotten and only possibly preserved. Someday, when I'm ready, I will have it processed and be the first to see a sliver of time through his eyes. For now, it sits on top of my dresser, its unfocused lens guarding me while I seek my father in my sleep.


This is not what I had hoped for

Chris and I met for breakfast at my favorite place, but because of limpystyle 2009, we were unable to sit at the counter. Still, our matching breakfasts were delicious, and after we devoured as much as we could, I hobbled uphill to the hospital. If all went well, today would be the day the cast came off!

Technically, it was. It was also the day that a new one went on. Never-ending and nonstop fun.

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This morning, I looked left and turned right. Going uphill seemed potentially daunting, especially after a weekend of luxuriously slinking into taxis, so I decided to take a different way to work. At the train station, I turned a corner and nearly collided into a man in crutches. We gave each other the sympathetic once-over and started laughing at our sad predicaments. He'd ripped a ligament and was due to de-crutch next week; we compared crutch tips. (zing!) When we hobbled out of the elevator to the lower level, we walked toward a bespectacled white boy who was about to sing to commuters. Funny sight, but he had the last laugh when he began singing the hell out of the Temptations. I caught his eye and he returned my smile while crooning on: "I know you wanna leave me..." That swirl of life, of strangers' lives intersecting for a few flawless moments, made the day begin so beautifully.

The day might have ended even better if my devious love-connection plan had been implemented. Danny and I went to see Dead Man's Bones, who were fantastically weird and theatrical. All of the singers made me feel a mixture of admiration and inadequacy; their voices were like butter whereas mine is like expired VeganRella. The set was peculiar — Danny said the only word for the night was "queer," not meaning it in the gay way — but kinda inspiring in its odd beauty. Anyway, I'd hoped that Ryan Gosling was a secret broken-bones admirer, and that if only he were to see the crutches, he'd want to sign my cast, if you know what I mean. But at the end of the show, it seemed better to leave during the encore (all the better to catch a cab) and pretend that our love did not blossom simply because I had to jet early.

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Into you from the plane

Sabrina and I are like Salt n Pepa because when it came to this weekend, we pushed it real good. And by "it" I mean "our collective ability to pack a week's worth of adventure into a three-day weekend."

One of the few disappointments was the lack of Jesse time. He wasn't feeling well (h1n1?) So Team Awesome did not get to start our new autobiographical hardcore band, FAILstorm. But otherwise, last night was pretty much perfect. JC was brilliant at his salon series, and from there it was off to the old stomping grounds of the Rainbo. Kenny couldn't have played better songs (Wire, Magazine, Joy Division, The Jam, etc.) and while that shouldn't really matter, it felt like a tiny welcome-back thing. Also, and more importantly, my friends spoil me with their goodness. I am fortunate. Sometimes there are things better left preserved among the people who were there, and so I am filing last night away on the shelves of my memory. It was a wonderful night, and we have the photobooth strips to prove it.

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Home run

It's funny how a place that was once your home can feel so foreign, so unknown. Sabrina and I were in the back of a taxi on Irving Park, and I tried to point out JC's studio but I couldn't find it. It wasn't until we arrived that he reminded me that it wasn't actually on Irving. Forgetful mistakes like this keep throwing me off, but then other things are comfortingly unchanged. Things like seeing your best friend from grade school and jumping back like no time had passed. And I thought of Karinsa last night as we walked down Fullerton and sat down at the Whirlaway, where we had her goodbye party. Inside, it was the same as it ever was -- drinks $5 and delivered with a smile -- and it felt good to have consistency in a time that has felt anything but.

It's funny to be at JC's and have almost everything feel the same. The house has the same warm scent, and the plant that he took for me when I moved out west has grown and thrived. As has he. I couldn't be prouder of him, or more grateful for his friendship.

This city is a patchwork of memories both faded and vivid. And while it's true that you can never relive the past, it's nice to know you can go home again.

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Slayer Presents: Spagoing 101

The cats and I can't sleep. That's not true. The boys can sleep, but because of my insomnia — which kicked in right as I was preparing to go to bed — I sit on the couch next to them and loop MBV and Wire on repeat. Living the dream!

Earlier today, I had to tape some video. Appearing on camera doesn't stress me out too much, mostly because I've never really dreamed about being on the teevee or anything like that. What concerns me is my inability to gauge how much makeup is necessary to keep my ghostly pallor from throwing off the camera's white balance. Whenever makeup artists have dolled me up for the screen, I've looked like an oompa loompa in the mirror, but the camera tones it down to make me look human. When I am responsible for my makeup application, I wind up applying three times as much as I would on any given day, only to look like Casper because it's still not enough face paint.

Today, after saying that I needed more eyeliner, LF helped me come up with bouncy, happy lines to say to the camera. I suggested some wry murderous puns, which would not have fit with the subject at hand. "My heart is blackened and sooty," I joked in asking for his advice. "I'm not sure dark humor will translate." Similarly, my attempt to do a voiceover Slayer-style (reign-in-blood Slayer, not Buffy) was deemed inappropriate for a script about makeup — though hilarious, we agreed. Up with dark humor, we said. (I would watch a show about death metal makeovers, anyway. It sounds amusing.)

I know this is scintillating stuff, but I knew if I wrote about these highlights of my day, it would put me to sleep. And on that note, our work here is done.


Today I missed Chicago. Not the city per se, particularly because its temperature has already dipped below 40 degrees, but I miss how it felt to be part of a community. I want to walk to the Rainbo and randomly run into Jonathan Van Hotness. I want to know what Miles thinks of the Smith Westerns' T-Rex-iness, especially considering his unparalleled Marc Bolan Halloween costume from years back. I miss witnessing Atom's nervous energy at Atomix and the way Lake Michigan looks at sunset and bumping into Keara and hanging with Itha and Weeks. Those things and more.

And so, with a suitcase to pack and a couple thousand miles ahead, it is exciting to think of going home — at least for a little while. Lately I've needed comfort and familiarity, and both are within reaching distance. Twenty-four hours from now, when I am falling asleep on a couch while listening to the El's muted rumble, it will feel good to be back. (I hope.)

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Pop Group Pop Group Dance Dance

If I were French, beautiful, and given a decent budget with which to shoot my pop group's video... I'd probably blow it all on a trip to Thailand, too. (I would also name my Phoenix-y band something other than Pony Pony Run Run, but maybe that's a lost-in-translation sort of thing.) This video makes me want to travel again, preferably to somewhere warm, and soon.

(And TJ, no hidden meanings. I just liked the song.)


I stayed at work late last night, mostly to avoid the crowded rush hour trains, but also because I knew I'd just go home and sit in bed. (Or on the couch. Same thing.) The thought of spending an hour traveling just to do that was exhausting (consider all the crutching it would require, the fear of hobbling home alone down dark streets). Tossing financial prudence to the side, I wedged myself into the back seat of a cab and sighed.

The driver wore a hearing aid and looked like a middle-aged version of Phil. It was like being carted around by the future of my past. He wasn't chatty, and I wasn't feeling talkative, either, so the silence worked. Instead, I rolled down the window and took in the mild evening breeze. The preceding day, Louis and I had been talking about the air quality in our respective countries. He said that he doesn't realize his lungs haven't expanded until he's in the rainforest, and then they're surprisingly fuller. You'd choke on our air, I said.

When the taxi finally pulled up to my house, I had a bit of difficulty removing my crutches from the back seat. The car behind me honked, which mildly irritated me, because I'm moving as fast as I can, buddy. I decided to let the driver pass, but he waved me forward. I gave the thank-you smile and swung myself past the front bumper.

"Hey Annie," the driver said as I passed. I squinted, recognized him and laughed. The honk hadn't been a "hurry it up, gimpy" honk, but a hello honk from Fake Paul Weller. A serendipitous meeting. While he parked the car, I looked up at the stars and hummed the Keyboard Cat song. We then went down the hill for a pre-birthday snack, took a few pictures, talked about lost loves, and successfully kept me away from a place I didn't feel like going home to right away.

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Special promotional section!

Some time ago, Mr. Bitner sent out a call for entries for a book he was editing. Bitner is one of the more inspiring characters I know, simply because he's always working on smart new projects. (Plus, we have this thing where we start each e-mail or phone call by saying each other's last name, which I enjoy.) Anyway, the book, Cassette From My Ex, will be out next week. My friends Vincent and Jen each have a piece in the book, as do I. It's a collection of stories of mix tapes from erstwhile loves, and if you are into music and/or tales of lost love, it should hold some appeal.

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I apologize for the abundance of dreams and other similarly self-focused subjects lately. Part of it is due to me working through some heavy losses, and part of it is because my immobility keeps me from regaling you with tales of the city. Sadly, unless you are fascinated by the sleeping patterns of the dwarf cat, you're stuck with what's in my head. And it's my website, anyway, so if I record nocturnal turnings, it's more for me to analyze. If you are just dying to know about last night's anxiety dream that violently threw me out of slumber, here you go.

I dreamed that I was camping in a forest past the mountains, but somehow people thought it was a party, so they kept showing up. They were largely horrible guests, complaining about the food and forgetting who I was. I excused myself and went off to catch oversized, iridescent dragonflies. Scott, who was my initial camping partner, was sitting by a puddle making something with his hands. He smiled at me, similarly relieved to be away from the party. But when I turned to tell him about how awful this one guy was, he wasn't there anymore, and I was alone by a lake.

I felt my teeth tighten, as though they were being pushed together. I worried about my right incisor cracking, so I wiggled it in hopes of adjusting it. Instead, it became loose, and I decided to pull it out. It did so easily and painlessly, but then I realized I needed help, and I was alone. I turned to Sabrina (I know nobody was there a second ago, but it's dream logic) and said, "I look like Jed Clampett." She laughed and said we'd find a dentist. "It's Sunday," I said. "Nobody will be open." But I followed her to a train anyway, where we rode past a horseless ranch. I could taste blood on my tongue, and when I looked down, my hands were overflowing with lost teeth and delicate bones. In the inky night sky by my parents' house, the moon was enormous, spinning in a downward curve and back up again; when it came close to reaching us, it looked like a globe. Sabrina had never seen anything like it, but I said, "It's a waxing moon."

Then Sabrina was reading the newspaper, where she saw an ad for a McMansion for sale in San Diego. It was $99,000 and she couldn't get over how cheap that was. I questioned the integrity of its countertops and was sure it was a scam. At that point I began to worry intensely about my missing tooth, and I wished I hadn't pulled it. I was still holding the teeth and bones in my hands when I saw that Scott was driving behind us. He was wearing an army-green parka. "Why is he here? He has nothing to do with this," I said. I didn't want him to see me without my tooth. "He knows what to do," Sabrina explained. He entered the car, said he could fix my tooth, and told me to let him hold me. "Why are you here?" I asked. "My teeth are not your problem." I looked into his hands, where shark teeth were mixed among my teeth and bones. His face was close to mine and I was scared he was going to drop me. He didn't, and I was peaceful for a moment despite knowing he'd do nothing for my teeth. Then I perked up as we approached a corner building. It looked like something you'd see in Wilmette. I assumed the dentist must be inside.

Suddenly, I threw my teeth aside and jumped out of the car for a very good reason: I saw my father walking past a floor-to-ceiling window. I rushed inside, turned the corner, and found him. He was very wobbly, thinner than usual, a bit younger, but not weak. He'd just been released from somewhere, but I wasn't sure where. I was so happy to see him, even though it seemed like he was walking drunkenly. "I can smell it from ten feet away," Betty hissed. Sure enough, he was completely blotto in an almost cartoonish way. I walked him to a chair and propped him up. He was wearing a Valentino shirt. I adjusted his shirt and said, "You don't need to be like this."

"Yesh I do," he slurred. "You don't undershtand."

"No," I said. "You can stop. You did it before, you can do it again."

"I don't know," he kept saying. I held him, looked around, and nobody was there. And... scene!

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After remembering Karinsa's old site, I re-watched High Fidelity this weekend. It's sad to think about how the internet has changed the way we consume music. When I moved to Chicago, I hit up Reckless Records so often that I could probably draw both of the North Side stores' layout from memory. (Well, the old Lakeview store; I haven't been to the new location.) I remember rushing in on Tuesdays for the new releases, lazily browsing used records on weekends despite not owning a turntable, feeling proud when the magazine rack held an article I'd written. Things are different now, even when you visit a record store, and I'm glad I got to experience that.

High Fidelity captured the record-nerd archetype perfectly, and it was so Chicago. Charlie's apartment was a few blocks south of my last one, the Music Box was beautiful, and once, Karinsa and I were rewarded at Simon's with unexpected movie fun. Our bartender was the guy who had a couple of lines in High Fidelity. Karinsa and I got such a kick out of Beta Band Bartender, as we called him, largely because we are Nick Hornby fans. At the time, I was still crushed out on John Cusack, too. (Much later, I'd meet him and deem his pompous posturing a huge turnoff.)

When I watched the film this weekend, I viewed it with a different perspective. And I thought about how certain songs are stitched into not just memory, but the way I experience an emotion. Today, without planning to, I jumped back a decade or two by pawing through some classics (End on End) and guilty pleasures (grim chuckle when iTunes queued up "Young Loud and Scotty"). It made me think back on this year, on photo booths in Chicago, and on summer nights driving down dusty roads in Michigan. I know I'm dancing about architecture here, but I'm not sure I would feel as thoroughly in silence.

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Damb, as fwmj would say

I knew Ben was the mod-est boy that side of the Mississippi, and I knew he spun soul like nobody else, but the boy can sing, too.


Karinsa used to have a Nick Hornby tribute diary, and it was always fun to read. So in the interest of continuing her legacy, and in furthering my Buffy love, I present the show's top five episodes that have been on my mind lately. They will make no sense to you if you are not into the show, obviously, and yes, I am fully aware that it is silly to identify with a show this much.

5. Chosen — Between the 30 Republican senators who say "up with gang rape" and this girl and this bigot, it has not been a great week for womanhood. I am imagining these jerks as Caleb, and visualizing Buffy putting an end to this mishigas.

4. Once More With Feeling — One of the most brilliant things I've ever seen on television. Spike's "If my heart could beat, it would break my chest" is one of the best lines from the series, and what about alienated, numb Buffy! The hardest thing in this world is to live in it. (It is impressively easy, however, to hear Anthony Stewart Head sing. Voice like butter!)

3. The Prom —  Anyone who doesn't get misty-eyed when Angel shows up at prom (to the Sundays!) has carpet on his heart. And poor Buffy, so forlorn while Angel does the "noble" thing. (I would like to point out that when all is said and done, Angel winds up wanting her cookies anyway.)

2. Lovers Walk — Angel reads Sartre, Spike is love's bitch, and Sid Vicious makes a cameo. (Aurally, at least.) In typical Whedonian fashion, everyone suffers, and there's no tidy ending to make the episode end on an up note. It's not simple, and it's all believable.

1. The Body — Quiet and real. I don't think I can watch this episode for a while, but I keep thinking of how Buffy finds Joyce and says, "Mom. Mom? Mommy?" In our last days together, I similarly switched from Dad to Daddy. The death of a parent is particularly difficult because it forces you to be an adult at a time when you want nothing more than to be comforted like a child.


For five days a week, I sit in bed and have little to look at but the house across the street. Ideally, I'd feel like Debra Kerr in An Affair to Remember. Realistically, I'm sitting next to a short-legged cat who, despite his own charms, is no Cary Grant. Two days a week, I make the trek to the office. On the plus side, that allows me to talk with people and see things other than the house across the street. On the minus side:

Yesterday it took 70 minutes to get to work. Seventy minutes. The lengthy commute was mostly due to the difficulty of walking two blocks to the train. It was drizzling and my backpack was unusually heavy, which made me have to stop to catch my breath every five feet. Then I had a hard time getting on the train, and after I did, some guy with a mustache accidentally kicked my feet. (Maybe he knew about my anti-mustache activism and wanted me to pay for it, who knows.)

As I ascended the stairs from the subway, I thought, "Oh, it's been at least a month since I've written to Dad. I should really send him a postcard." It wasn't until about five seconds later, while considering where to pick one up, that I remembered. There are so many habits to change and no more letters to mail.

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How to take a shower on one leg

Sabrina was about to come over for our weekly Top Model viewing (complete with photo shoot), but before she did so, I needed to bathe. Bathing with a broken foot is far from a graceful process. First, you have to view the bathroom the way pigeon-toed octogenarians view sidewalks in January: slippery surfaces everywhere, high likelihood of falling. Fortunately, we have a ballet barre installed in our bathroom along with enormous mirrors. (It's very "The Lady of Shanghai goes to the Joffrey.") So after resting my crutches against the wall, I pull myself along the barre to sit on the closed seat of the toilet. Lookin' good already!

After running the bath, I disrobe and put on the leg condom. Because I am concerned about getting the cast wet, I stuff the top of it with towels and then tape the whole thing shut. Now, at that point, it's best to sink into the tub reeee-alll slow-like, swinging the prophylactic leg over the side to keep it away from the evil, evil water. The position looks just as dignified and classy as you'd imagine. (Please don't imagine.) Then you take your bath like anyone else, except you worry about falling flat on your face when getting out of the tub.

Showering is more difficult, and it makes me feel less secure. I worry that the water will trickle down into the leg condom, impregnating my cast with whatever disaster water brings to bandaged appendages. Therefore, showers are to be taken only when time prohibits the safer and more luxurious bath option. Today was one of those days, so I donned the leg condom and got to work. I stood like a flamingo with one leg sticking out of the shower stall, anchoring myself with one hand and using the other to soap up. The contortions must have looked like bad interpretive dance, but I managed to shampoo and condition my hair well, so there. It wasn't until I soaped up that I looked down and realized that in putting the leg condom on with focused intensity, I'd forgotten to remove my underpants. Yes, I am 31 years old and I apparently do not know how to take a shower.


If you enter my room, you will probably think that you've stumbled upon the lair of either a madman or someone who's trying to learn English as a second language. This is because I have taken to sticking handwritten notes to my walls. My room is littered with scrap-paper commandments affixed with waterproof medical tape. It looks great and not at all weird or pathetic.

Since I feel supremely dorky about this self-helpy plan, I've written the signs not in a soothingly Oprah-ish voice but in that of a benevolent drill sergeant. Instead of happy affirmations like Take each day at a time, you lovely flower! I have notes that gently flagellate with an overabundance of exclamation points: Clean your room or you'll feel like a slob! No hopping -- use the crutches! Don't be lazy, work from the couch! No pity parties!" It's like having a bitchy cheerleader as a life coach.

Messages have a way of setting in when you hear them repeated loudly and long enough, so my hope is that these signs will push me into positive action. The problem is that in trying to steer myself, I sometimes need a compass. But all I have are pens on paper and goofy signs on my wall.


Casting call

Tonight I crutched my way down to the Latin American Club, where the ceilings are high and the drinks are stronger than you'd expect for $5.50. (Since I drink rarely, I enjoy good value for my dollar.) Dorothy was in town for Jauntsetter, and she and Eric had been out together already. They were there when I arrived, but I got held up at the door by the ID checker. He was very chatty — "Oh, how'd you hurt your leg?" and so forth — to the extent that I was about to ask him if he needed to see my driver's license. But as it turns out, dude wasn't checking IDs at all! Sneaky. "Well, I don't know you and you don't know me, but that cast is really cute," he said before leaving the bar. Immediately, unfairly, I thought, "Oh no, you're part of that online community of cast fetishists!" Then, to make matters worse, Eric called me out by my full name, which means that Fake ID Checker knows who I am. Latin American Club guy, if you are reading this, I am sorry if I was weirded out, but I thought you were looking at my cast in that way. I thought you might be a crutch-loving man who furtively snaps photos for online forums. (Fora? Enh.)

When I asked JC how he thinks I should handle my stress in a healthy way, he laughed and said, "I don't know how to do it in a healthy way, but my advice is to get rip-roaring drunk and spend the next day on the couch with pizza and movies." I try to not be self-destructive, and I generally succeed, but I'll be damned if a drink didn't take the edge off. If anybody has suggestions that are better than his, I'm all ears. And if not, at least it's almost time to dream. Happy birthday, Dad. I miss you.

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A few weeks ago, my friend Ryan (formerly known as Foxy McFoxerson) blew through town with his new band, Amazing Baby. The name made me think of an evil infant genius bent on world domination, but with time, I've chosen to think of it being a play on Telly Savalas's catchphrase. Amazing, baby. Amazing! I wasn't able to go to the show — which was disappointing, because Ryan is one of my favorite musicians to watch, all grins and cymbal crashes — but I checked things out online. This is before he joined the band.

I like how dreamlike yet driving the sound is, and I am happy for and proud of Ryan, but honestly, I feel like after just watching this video, I would test positive for multiple narcotics.



As previously established, I am a bit of a hypochondriac. I like to think of my overanalysis of the smallest things as a charming personality quirk, because that makes me seem less loony when I do things like call Betty and blurt, "I think my foot is going to fall off."

It might! I know this because my toes have been cold and a bit tingly all weekend. (Never mind the fact that my healthy foot is also cold.) The Google tells me that this could be a sign of acute compartment syndrome, and as we all know, the internet never lies. The more I read, the more convinced I was that I was going to have to have my foot removed — maybe even the leg! ACS is serious; if you don't get it treated right away, your nerves can be permanently damaged. Since I enjoy being a biped, I phoned my doctor, who asked if I was in severe pain. Discomfort, yes; severe pain, no. Then it isn't ACS, she said, but I should come in tomorrow anyway since it sounds like I need a new cast. Despite this reassurance, I can't shake the feeling that I'm going to wake up tomorrow with my foot looking like the Cryptkeeper's.

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Well, this is just great. Last night during Self-Pitying Insomniafest 2009, I was organizing files when I noticed that two pictures on my Flickr stream were getting a lot of visitors. Both of them were of me in my cast. I looked at the referrers, and one was from a forum where people who are in casts can swap tips and experiences. "Oh, that's nice," I thought. "I'm sure they are just getting a kick out of the photo of me grinning maniacally while holding knives like a slasher." (You think I'm joking, but I'm not. It is a very clever and not at all ridiculous concept shot. I suffer for my art!)

I finally found sleep. I dreamed that Minou's photo was on the Flickr blog, giving ol' Mr. Tubbs the confidence boost that Milo had enjoyed during his moment of Flickr celebrity. In the dream, I thought, "Check the referrers!"

So this morning, after doing the normal wake-up things (stare out window, scan floor for hairballs), I saw that the views on the broken-me photos had jumped another 200 or so each overnight. That was odd; do that many people want to discuss their broken limbs? So I looked at the referrers again, and there was another site. I followed the link, and it's a forum for people whose fetishes are casts and crutches. Of course. Somewhere, there is a greasy German guy pleasuring himself to a photo of me on my crutches. Wunderbar! I'd let my leg hair grow in like a thick rug just to deglamorize the cast, but somewhere there is another forum for leg-hair fetishists anyway.

(The photos are now private, but who am I kidding? They've already been saved to hard drives. Ugh.)

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Party of one

C stopped by last night with food, and we had an oddly enjoyable meal of tamales, rose tea, and ice cream. Weird, but it worked. Out of habit I said something about my parents using a present-tense verb: "My parents are..." I had to stop myself and replace it with "My mother is." It's a correction I hadn't had to make until that point. I can tell people that my father died, and I can do it without crying. It's these little unexpected reminders that make me choke up. Betty said that while slicing into an acorn squash, she saw a heart shape inside, and she broke down. The smallest signs of absence cut randomly, deeply.

Yesterday morning, I was talking with Meg and I felt my eyes well up with tears. I am trying so hard, I told her, to keep everything together. For the most part, I do. I am trying to be strong and I am trying to have the whole "this too shall pass" attitude. But sometimes I can no longer muffle the voice inside me that wants to say — no, shout — that it doesn't seem fair to have so much loss, sadness and stress stuffed into such a short period of time. For the most part, I've been focusing on the positive days to come, but not tonight! Tonight I am allowing myself to have a full-blown pity party complete with "feeling sorry for self" activities. Back to stiff upper lip and rebuilding tomorrow, because I am not proud of wanting to have a pity party.


The dreamboat from the hills*

I've been putting four things on repeat lately: Otis Redding, Girls, Sunny Day Real Estate, and Jawbreaker. (Mostly Jawbreaker — no surprise there.) Today I found this gem and immediately became obsessed with this guy who calls himself The Pyles.

This machine kills folkies? Iron Maiden shirt with that hat? That voice? The balance of earnest singing and the sense that he's holding back a big laugh? It's not big, but it is clever. And his original stuff is great. If I were 23, I'd have been in hugely crushed-out trouble — and that's saying something, considering the presence of both cigarette and mustache. Such a happy find.


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At 11:14 today, I remembered that I had a doctor's appointment at 11:30. That sort of time crunch would normally send me into a frenzy, but it's almost as though my mind has no room for that, and I simply shift into quiet, purposeful action mode. You just do what needs to be done, and in this situation, I needed to zip across town quickly. Hence the flagging of a cab, my third of the week.

The driver was young, maybe a couple of years younger than me, but then again, maybe not. He had soft eyes, a baby face disguised by whiskers, and a hint of sadness in his smile. I thought he looked like someone who might patch the elbows of his wool sweaters. Like everybody, he asked how I landed in the cast. I told him and we exchanged stories of bicycle danger and inattentive drivers. He had a good disposition.

It was a beautiful, sunny day and I watched the city go by. I was a little bit unfocused because I'd been thinking that the sky looked like it did when my father died. The driver took a phone call, telling someone that he'd pick her (him?) up after he dropped off his passenger, and what should we have for supper tonight? (He decided on burgers on the grill, which seemed to please him. He seemed happy to have a simple dinner to plan.)

He hung up the phone, we crossed the street where I had my accident, and out of the silence, he said, "I'm a junkie." Just like that, I'm a junkie.

I didn't know what to say. "I'm a heroin addict," he continued. No drama in his voice, just a matter-of-fact admission. "I was off it but my girlfriend dumped me. And I relapsed, and now I'm on methadone."

"I'm sorry," I said. "I can't imagine how difficult that must be." Because, well, I can't. I am the squarest quadrilateral; almost everything I know about heroin comes from books, documentaries, and Lou Reed. So I told him about a childhood friend who'd developed a heroin addiction.

"His family tried to help him for years," I said. He didn't kick it the first time he tried, or the second, or the third.

"I'm lucky to have good people in my life," the driver said. "But nobody can help someone who doesn't want to help himself."

The taxi chugged up a hill, and then we were almost to the hospital. "I don't know why I'm telling you this," he said quietly. I didn't either, but it felt OK. I told him that I hoped he was able to stay clean. "I hope so, too," he said.

I smiled. "I get to hope that you do it," I said. "But you have to know that you can do it." He smiled, laughed.

The fare came to $10.30; I gave him $14. "You know," I said as I reached for my crutches, "That friend I mentioned? He's been off heroin for about seven years now. And he's married, and he has a job he loves, and he's happy and healthy."


"Yeah. And I'm really sorry about having your heart broken, but I think that you will find someone who's better for you. Eventually."

He raised an eyebrow. "You think so, huh?"

"Well, you have to think so," I said. "Either that, or you can always get a cat." He laughed again.

"Good luck," I said.

"You too," he said. I shut the door and watched the cab slink down to Duboce and Scott. After my appointment, I took in some sunshine in the park and thought about our unusually naked conversation. Sometimes it's easier to tell secrets to strangers than to the people closest to you. Sometimes you have to reach out because you need to be held, if only for a few moments. Tonight I am thinking of the fragility of stability, the strength to be spun from the tiniest thread of hope, and how we propel ourselves forward simply because we must.

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I am having a hard time getting out of bed today, partly due to energy levels and partly because the fiberglass of the cast is stuck to my sheets. And I want a pain au chocolat from Tartine, but I think it would take so long to get there that I'd be very late for work. This is (very) mildly depressing, but it's enough to trick me into thinking that only the power of chocolate and croissant can get me going today. (I'm good at coming up with excuses.)

Last night I dreamed that I was in Chicago, but the El tracks looked more like the above-ground stops in Queens. I bought an enormous recipe book that was as tall as I was. I also bought some gifts for the Jayce as a "thanks for letting me crash here" gesture, but when I left the store, I somehow left with many more items than I'd paid for — thousands of dollars of off-white rarities. There was a performance of some sort and my family was there. Scott was tinkering on some project in a concrete-walled room without a ceiling, and he missed it. I gave the giant recipe book to Betty, who loved it. But it was't Betty, it was a more prim and monied version of her, and it wasn't quiet right. I tried to draw a map of Wicker Park for some middle-aged women, but I forgot where Wabansia went, and I couldn't draw Milwaukee at the proper angle. Ivo brought me a sandwich and said it would be OK, but he stuck me with the bill. I woke with this song's line about dreaming in my head:

Annnnd now I really need to peel myself out of bed and make the BEAUTY MAGIC happen. Yesterday my job involved wearing black lipstick on camera. I don't know why I volunteered to do that, but I should look amusingly foolish.

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Good old Minoudles

I fell asleep with a struggle, was wide-eyed before dawn, and I have a long walk ahead of me this morning. (That's not a metaphor. It's my first day back at work in almost a month, and if my calculations are correct, it should take me just under 30 minutes to walk to the train stop three blocks away.) The one sign that today might be a good day: Minou let me hold him as we watched the sun rise together. Oh, and it looks like I won't have to use my AK.

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My father died penniless — well, almost. We kept a $10 bill in the drawer of his nursing-home nightstand, because he became anxious without a little cash on hand. But aside from that, he had no money. (I don't care.) I've been thinking about the intangible things my father gave me, the inheritance I've already been carrying around.

The nose: I have my mother's eyes and my father's nose. It's crooked and a little too large for my face. Hypothetically I've thought, "If you were able to change it, would you?" I wouldn't. I always knew that at some point, it would be one of the few parts of my dad that I'd have left.

The sense of humor: He was always telling jokes, always making people laugh. I'm far more serious than he was, but I like to think I picked up some of his wit. The older I get, the better I am at laughing.

Stubbornness: My father could be incredibly obstinate, often for no apparent reason. I am similarly stubborn. JC says I stand on ceremony, and Scott said something about me holding to my convictions too tightly, so I think it is safe to say that it's my way or the highway. Not a good thing to inherit. Working on this.

Certain tastes: My father liked to eat some crazy shit: scrapple, shit on a shingle, liver. (Liver!) I forgo those but share his love of chocolate malts, pecans, chocolate chip cookies, hard-boiled eggs in salad, olives, Ovaltine.

Laziness: I love my dad, but he was not an industrious man. If he loved doing something, he was happy to throw himself into it head-first. But he avoided household chores and often cut corners. I am not dirty or an ultra-sloth, but spending an afternoon cleaning the oven is not my first priority.

Creativity: My father was a painter, and family ties aside, I like his work very much. Unfortunately, though I was surrounded by paint and markers, I have none of his artistic talent. I can draw bunnies and Milo, and that's about it. But I did develop the need to express myself one way or another, and although I am not the great writer I once thought I could be, I have this bizarre need to record, to write, to capture. So there's that.

Forgiveness: I didn't realize this until the last couple of years, but my father taught me to forgive. As far as I know, the only person he didn't forgive is the man who broken into our house when I was young; a decade after that, I'd find out that he'd told my father what he wanted to do to me. I don't think my dad ever let go of that one, but I never remember him holding grudges. So his ability to forgive is something I try to cultivate in myself.


So for the past few months, I have been trying to figure out if Robot Boy was my boyfriend. I am neurotic (you don't say) and although I know it's very seventh-grade of me, I kinda need to label a relationship after a while. I assume that unless we say "OK, I am dating only you," then we are free to date other people. In fact, unless told otherwise, I assume the other person is dating other people. And that makes me think, "Uh oh, I should be dating other people, too! Cannot put all dating eggs in one basket!"

(I told you I was neurotic.)

So when Robot Boy introduced me to someone as his friend back in August, I quietly slipped into the Tomlin Freakout — the inevitable panic that stops emotional attachment before it gets too deep. Being a former English major, I overanalyze vocabulary choices with the best of them. Naturally, I assumed that he must think of me as just a platonic friend and I should really diversify my dating portfolio and boy was I dumb to think he liked me in the same way, I bet he's dating that redhead too, and I had better retreat, RETREAT! I managed to regain enough sanity to talk myself down from the freakout, and we talked about my unnecessary parsing, but still, I spent the next couple of months wondering why he wouldn't just say he was my boyfriend. It's junior-high, I know. I am not proud of it. It's just that in my experience, people who say "Aw, let's not label ourselves" wind up being the ones who are shtupping some 22-year-old girl while you're at home naively baking them romantic cupcakes or whatever. So you see why I like a little reassurance, don't you?

Long story short, I recently explained that I needed more definition, which is the adult way of saying, "I just want to be called your girlfriend, even though I am embarrassed to admit that." Robot Boy said, duh, of course you're my girl, silly. And then we broke up! It was a Bizarro World breakup, one of those "Hey, we're in love with each other, so let's call the whole thing off!" events that, in a movie, would have Jennifer Garner doing madcap cute-crazy things to get her ex back. I thought about doing something sweepingly romantic, except I'm heavier on the crazy than the cute. So instead I allowed myself a week to wallow, and now, in an effort to stop pining, I am writing lists of things that weren't great about Robot Boy. The problem is that he is a good man who is proving difficult to vilify. I have a hard time coming up with real flaws, so the list is filled with trivialities like "doesn't like my shoes" and "does not discourage redhead from blatantly sexual flirting" and "has facial hair." (In my defense, my shoes are stylish, and he does seem to enjoy the attention, and, well, longtime readers know how I feel about facial hair.)

Betty was saddened to hear about these recent developments; I think she had visions of tiny Robot Boys and Robot Girls running around someday. "That was not great timing on his part," she said. "Of course, maybe he'd been wanting to break up with you for a while, but he didn't want to dump you while you were worried about Dad dying." Leave it to my mother to introduce more conspiracy theories into my head. I have spent the hours since lying in bed, amplifying coincidences into evidence to support this idea. The cycle of neuroses has been recharged!

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Operation: Cliff Clavin

Our mail carrier is pretty lazy. Whenever we have a package, he doesn't ring our bell; he just leaves one of those salmon-colored "Pick up your package!" notes. I know this because I was home all day and the buzzer never buzzed, yet Adam kindly delivered one of those slips with some cards and bills. So today I borrowed Meg's boss's enormous SUV and careened throughout the Mission to make it to the post office.

Everybody likes to ask how I wound up on crutches. Everybody! I don't mind telling the story, though I feel it loses drama without the back story. So I told the postal worker the tragic tale of mashed metatarsal, and he delivered my package with a smile. It was from Scott. The only problem: I hadn't thought about how I'd transport the parcel, considering my arms were occupied with the crutches. Crap.

The man in line behind me offered to carry the box, and while I normally like to do everything myself — proving that I have not yet grown emotionally beyond nursery school — I had no choice but to accept. So Raul the Argentinian and I walked down the street, him holding our parcels and me realizing that I should really offer him a ride. So I did.

It took three days to find a parking spot, and when I did, I realized that I was back at square one, without Raul to help. But I had only two blocks to walk, and I figured a way to hold the box between my arm and the right-hand crutch. It was awkward, but if I went slowly, I could make it work. I shuffled down the street and noticed a man and his toddler coming down from one of the beautiful Victorians. He, too, offered to help. He had a very slight, definitely European accent, and when a "bahwhay" came out of his mouth, I realized that once again I'd been saved by the French. It's comforting to know that people are kind enough to help. Restores my faith in humanity and so forth.


Cabin fever gripped me this afternoon, making me vow that come hell or high water, I was going to leave the house today. (Hell would be easier than a flood; that leg condom is difficult to maneuver, and the cast is not allowed to get wet.) So after finishing work, I peeled the bathrobe off and donned a dress. A side note: Wearing a cast means that the only pants you can reasonably wear are JNCOs. As I am unwilling to seek out the fashion castaways of '90s skater boys, this means it's all dresses, all the time.

In my dress and one moccasin, I successfully descended the stairs. Twenty minutes later, I'd walked the two and a half blocks to the video store. I was winded, so I took a break at Ritual. My podiatrist said I need to drink milk, a disgusting practice I've refused to do since leaving home, so I figured hot cocoa counts. I wrote, I finished my drink, and took five minutes to reach the overpriced grocery place across the street. There, I realized that, duh, I can't crutch and carry a basket at the same time. So I wound up shuffling along, using my right crutch to advance the basket a foot at a time. Two people helped me, which was nice. And then I took another 15 minutes to walk home.

My whole point in all of this is that if ever there were a chance to be a missed connection, this is it. I'd certainly leave one for a cute-enough girl in a dress on crutches. People like people who are a bit broken, like taking care of a baby bird who's fallen from its nest. But when I fired up ol' Craigslist, there was nary a note. There's one for some other girl who crashed her bike on Sunday, but nothing for me — yet. But it's gonna happen! I can feel it. "You were limping along in a stained dress," it'll read. "The way your asthmatic lungs heaved as you attempted the most rudimentary tasks was so alluring." Will keep you posted on inevitable developments.

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Time to invest in a Littermaid?

I was cleaning the cat litter box, once again marveling at my cats' predilection to create fetid evil out of innocent kibble, and out of nowhere I began to miss my father. I managed to finish the job, and then I completely lost my ability to do anything except sob. I'm trying to let myself feel what I need to feel (hence all of the writing, here and in paper journal) but it's impossible to predict these emotional shifts. Sometimes I can tell people about him without crying, and sometimes, well, I begin crying while holding a bag of cat shit.

I know it's good that my dad didn't suffer, that his death came relatively quickly, and so forth. People keep telling me these things, and I understand that they mean well, but it doesn't make him any less absent. It doesn't make me miss him any less. I feel myself regress to my youth, and in this moment, with the panicked one-note desperation of a child, I want nothing other than to have my father here again.


You know why some old people are cranky as a bear with a sore paw? Because getting around with limited mobility is a pain in the ass! You'd be grumpy, too, if it took 10 minutes to hobble to the bathroom and take a leak. I'm not even that busted up, yet the smallest tasks become enormous chores when you're on crutches. (If I manage to shave my legs even once over the next six weeks, it will be a miracle.)

It's not all bad, though. Generally speaking, people are nice to you if you are hobbling around on these blasted things. I find that it helps to put on your most pathetic face, especially when approaching entryways. People will hold the doors open for you, and taxi drivers will get out of the car to help you sit in the backseat. It's like everyone in the world is trying to date you, except you don't have to worry that they're going to cop a feel. And my friends have been very kind; Sabrina has even offered to create a crutch cozy so that I can look stylish while flailing about.

Today I went to the podiatrist to get the results of my MRI. Nothing beyond the break, fortunately, and on went the cast. Because I cannot be easygoing about anything, I worried that I was holding my foot incorrectly, which would eventually lead to the cast being removed to reveal a deformed foot. Time will tell. The cast is heavy, and it cannot get wet, which is why today, I came home with this:

That's right, I bought a giant condom for my leg. As I told Meg, I think it really lends a sense of dignity to things.

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    it's anniet at gmail.


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