On the new agey scale, with zero being disbelief and 10 involving phrases like "energy vortex," horoscopes are maybe a two. Get up to the five-and-six ideas, though, and then I get giddy with anticipation. It's not that I think woo-woo stuff holds the secrets of the universe. Quite the opposite. I just think it's fascinating to see what people do in the name of exploring spirituality. I'm not a believer, yet I can't help but be intrigued by the existence of enzyme baths and salt-filled float tanks. Hey, if it works for you, then by all means enjoy your Tibetan singing bowls.
Once, for a job, I went to an open house at an expensive new agey spa. The tour was all kinds of nuts, and I loved every cuckoo minute of it. Right off the bat, my guide said that she could tell that my third eye was particularly strong — which was great news, because my first two eyes are a bit farsighted. Another woman said that I should have Milo's emotions read by an intuitive healer ($100/hour), and that doing so would explain Sergeant Shortlegs' bratty behavior. (This could be done over the phone, and I wondered how the healer would know that he was dealing with Milo. For all he knew, I could be making Minou meow into the receiver.) After touring the yoga rooms, I was advised to purchase crystals to bring the right kind of energy into my home. Then I walked over to a machine, put my hand on it as instructed, and listened to a man explain the significance of my aura's color. I am curious yellow.
Time and time again, new-age experts say that I have good energy. It's always nice to hear that, but really, what else would they say? If they thought I had bad juju, it's not like they'd tell me. "Your brittle soul drips with the stench of death" isn't exactly the sort of phrase that's likely to get people to sign up for pricey feline reiki sessions. While I do think certain people do give off (ugh, I hate this phrase but it fits) bad vibes, I don't think strangers can know whether I have good energy. After all, I'm frequently curmudgeonly. I doubt that curmudgeons can astral project.
Anyway. December. I will let you know how that engagement works out. (For what it's worth, my astrologer friend has given an in-person reading to fellow Taurus Bobby Pattinson, so you never know how the stars may align. If a conflict-free diamond is proffered, this zodiac stuff might be worth following after all.)
- Are these leather pants? Are you dressing like a dominatrix now?
- You look French! Like you just got off the boat! No, no — in a good way, like a longshoreman!
- He's wearing underpants in the lagoon.
- I can't wait for this Hells Angels look to go out of style.
- I don't like lobster claw.
- Don't try to hobble so fast.
- Milo is not going to clean the poop off his paw all by himself.
- Well, what if he wanted you to get a Brazilian? How would you like that?
- I'm not paying fifteen dollars to take a picture with a bird.
- Babies don't vomit, Annie. They spit up.
- You're right, there are beards everywhere.
- Stress can affect your enkodrane system, you know.
- Slugs don't like tin foil.
- I'm not sure that I'd be able to tell dog poop from human feces.
- Oh no, hand-blown glass dildos!
- The bluejays here are skinhead bluejays.
- Oh Annie, it looks like leprosy.
- A Nazi is not going to win a prize.
- The guys downstairs — I think they're growing some pot.
- That man must have bathed in cologne. Maybe it was a first date.
- Look, Annie, his jacket says HATE.
- I'm not drunk, I just tripped on the suitcase. Don't write that down! Ed. note: She speaks the truth.]
- The bathroom smells like cabbage. Annie! Don't you dare write that! They're going to think I took a shit unless you put that the guys below were cooking. People will think it's farts! I'd better shut up. [Ed. note: The neighbors' awful cooking smells indeed wafted up to our apartment. Any odors stemmed from them, not me or my mother.]
On Monday I was thinking about Trevor a lot, and like the psychic wonder twin he is, today he called from Michigan. He sounded good; I wish we could see each other more than a couple times a year. I tried not to let my breathing give me away, but I cried a little bit because I am so grateful for him. How many times have we carried each other? How solid our friendship is, and how easy it is to talk with him. After 13 years, he already knows my greatest fear. Time and time again, he promises me it is baseless. Sometimes I even believe him.
(She is right on both counts, for the record. Even though I would never use the word "hunk.")
"And I don't get the fuss over this Jason character and his abs," she continued. "They showed a clip of these giant wolves, and it was like Lilliput, with the wolves bigger than everyone else."
(I interrupted to tell her yes, I've seen the scene. She describes it in detail nonetheless.)
"There are all of these cartoony wolves and it looks like a Disney kids' movie. And Belle is running toward Jason and she yells, 'Run, run!' and then HE turns into a giant wolf, too. I don't get it."
(Betty has not read the Twilight novels or seen the movies. Understandably, the wolf thing makes no sense. It doesn't if you're familiar with the saga, either.)
"I don't understand why that Jason has his shirt off all the time," she went on.
(Same here. I mentioned that Sabrina and I felt uncomfortable while seeing him shirtless on screen.)
"You two! You two are old enough to have babysat him! You dirty old ladies!"
(I explained that our discomfort did not stem from lust, but that it felt weird and wrong to see a teenage boy strut around shirtless and "sexy.")
"Well, he is not cute! He looks like Howdy Doody!"
(I defended him, saying that he's only 17, give him a break, he's a kid.)
"He does look like Howdy Doody," my mother proclaimed. "He's got that pug nose and big horsey teeth! Not cute! Anyway, I think this Moon sounds like a bad movie. Buffy should take care of all of those Twilight bozos."
(On this, we agreed.)
Indeed they did, and I can still remember exactly how my friends and I danced at that show. Back then, I had a nervous adolescent crush on the reed-thin bass player, Dan. He was four years older than me, he was artsy, and he looked like he was always thinking intensely. He towered above me in too-short trousers that revealed white socks wedged into black work shoes. Pale skin, dark hair, bright eyes — pretty much the archetype of my ideal dreamboat. There's a reason the lanky bartender at Monk's Kettle has been nicknamed Fake Dan ________.
Though it should go without saying, I was not a teenage boy magnet. (See exhibit A: yours truly in a Broken Hearts Are Blue shirt.) When I dared talk with Dan, I stammered and stuttered and probably offered him some sort of unpleasantly bland vegan cookie. (To this day, pushing baked goods on people remains one of my I-will-make-you-love-me strategies.) Dan was always polite in response, and if he thought I was a weirdo, he never made me feel like one. And he could have.
Dan went out with a girl named Marie, who was the kind of unintentional queen bee who ascends to the top of a scene without trying. She was just the coolest. She had thick dark hair that was cut into a short wedge, and she might have had a star tattoo, but she definitely had a nose piercing. She wore holey wool sweaters and twill workpants, and she was unfailingly smart and friendly. She was the closest thing Kalamazoo had to a riot grrrl, as we all saw when called sexists out on their shit. She made me as nervous as Dan did, because while I knew that I had no shot with him, I desperately wanted to be her friend. She had a well-written and gut-wrenchingly honest zine called Rock Candy. It was, as she put it:
a zine about being an eighteen-year-old girl, sexual abuse survivor, and general badass, and all the hope and beauty I see in myself, my friends, and everyday life.In contrast, my zine covered misheard Jawbreaker lyrics and a trip to Target.
Anyway, Marie decided to move to Portland or Olympia or another one of those Pacific Northwest towns where they hand out tattoos upon entering city limits. I'd hear fuzzy details of her life like a game of Telephone, not knowing which stories — if any — were true. Recalling and repeating them isn't worth the effort, because the only thing worse than false gossip is ancient false gossip.
In contrast, everything I'd heard about Dan turned out to be true. Friends said that he had become an art teacher in Minnesota, that he was married with kids. I would think of him now and then when listening to BHAB or when wearing my Ordination of Aaron shirt. Then, the other day, he found me online and said hello. I was surprised because, honestly, I didn't think he'd even remembered the existence of such a dorky high schooler, much less my name. But he did, and it was nicely nostalgic to see what he's up to. His hair is a little bit gray, he's a talented artist, his wife seems like a catch, and their children are cute. Also, there is a Vespa. I don't know why, because it's not like we were close friends, but it brought me joy to know that he's built a happy life.
I still don't know what happened to Marie. In the decade-plus since I've seen her, I've often wondered what her life is like. Does she still write? Would we be friends? Who has she become? And does she know the impression she left on someone who barely knew her? Maybe someday I'll discover the answers to those and other questions; I hope her story will be a sweet one.
Labels: regression to adolescence
Lately I've been trying to get Betty to adopt a pet of some sort, a little critter to keep her company. Her beloved cat Cecil had run away earlier this year, and she still gets teary-eyed when she talks about missing him. So a few months ago, we went to the local animal shelter to look for a cat. There were some beautiful polydactyl kittens there, and I encouraged her to look past their "deformities" (her words, not mine) and give them a home. She stroked their foreheads and then burst into tears. "I'm not ready for a new kitty," she said. "I just can't do it."
Even now, she has yet to show interest in bringing a new cat home. "I will when the time is right," she insists. I don't push the issue, although I worry about her enduring a winter — the first without her husband — alone in a cold house. In an attempt to make her feel less alone, I e-mail the videos to her. She liked this one. "Thanks for sending & making my Monday start with laughter," she wrote in an e-mail this morning. So while it might be silly to make M&M videos, maybe there is a reasonable excuse behind them. Or at least a justification.
What's funny is that when I was their age (speaking of old...) a lot of hardcore kids would complain about Atom and his Package. Adam was a bespectacled guy with a sequencer who opened for punk bands, and he was entertainingly nerdy even if he wasn't a musical genius. He sang songs about battling homophobia, racist sports mascots and metric-system holdouts. Some felt he was clownish, but even if the music wasn't traditionally punk, its politics were — and the latter has a larger and longer impact culturally, so the end result is a positive one.
Fast-forward 15 years or so, and I so wish there were a legion of Atoms instead of crap bands like BotDF. This Florida trio has created a horrible genre-fusing mess that is so devoid of merit, so glorifying of all that punk stands against, that I'd like to believe it's a joke. Sadly, no. I'm never sure what to make of mall emo, because I'm not at the right age to understand its popularity; maybe if I were 18, I'd be able to get it. Then again, if I were 18, I would still see this as hate-filled ear abuse.
All music genres change over time, but the mainstreaming of subculture has essentially erased any punk politics — at least as it's consumed by your average scene kid. In a relatively short amount of time, we've gone from Girls Up Front and Men Against Sexism to boys screaming at women and treating us as sex slaves. I keep wondering why bands like Brokencyde and BotDF have legions of adoring girl fans. Why is the self-esteem of some teenage girls so low that they squeal over a pudgy, lady-hating, minivan-driving Floridian tool with Look What The Cat Dragged In—era Poison hair? Why do they want his approval?
Years ago, Jessica labeled emo as "where the girls aren't", and her criticisms were/are valid. While a lot of early-00s emo was indeed sexist, I can't recall ever hearing songs that were so blatantly misogynist. Say what you want about p.c. punk, but if a band simply called a woman a bitch, dozens of zines would be on their ass in an instant. In contrast, bands like BotDF encourage misogyny as entertainment, creating a cycle of woman-hating that I don't see going away. I keep wondering: Where is revolution girl style now?
(bonus: special pro-lady playlist!)
Today I made the mistake of heading to the Rainbow Grocery on a mostly empty stomach. Fueled by that vacancy, any food that seemed even mildly appealing went into the cart. Gianduja bar! Apple cider! Sparkling apple cider! Hard apple cider! Cheese! Honeycrisps! Fake buffalo wings! All of it and so much more went into the cart with very little concern for cost. Unfortunately, my cavalier attitude and lack of food selectivity means that I hauled home $180 worth of snacks — by far the most I've ever spent on groceries in one trip. Our pantry is now overflowing with impulse buys of little nutritional value. If armed robbers burst through the door and demanded a sandwich, I could only feebly shake a box of ginger-caramel sesame popcorn at them. (And a variety of apple ciders from which to choose.)
After dropping off the car, I had a peculiar walk home. I crutched past a mostly toothless homeless guy whose leathery, suntanned skin was more or less the same color as his shirt. He took a break from digging in a trash bin to say, "Oh, what happened to you, baby?" He didn't say it in a sleazy way at all; the "baby" was tender, not leering. "I broke my foot," I said. He gave me a sympathetic smile and said, "You've got to be more careful." I smiled, thanked him, went on my way.
In the next block, a gaggle of lesbians were congregating at the beginning my street. "Ladies, ladies," I drawled. "I'm flattered, but you can't all walk me home." (I didn't really say that.) Honestly, it was intimidating to approach them. I got a lot of standoffish gay gazes, just like I did when walking around Portland with Megan in July. Back then, I had thought that the girls mistakenly assumed I was Megan's special ladyfriend, and perhaps they were giving me jealous dagger-eyes because of that. (Can you blame them? Megan's a catch.) But as I excuse me-d through the gaggle of glaring gay girls today, I wondered if maybe I give off some sort of weird vibe that rubs people the wrong way. Something to think about. On that note, the post title is not meant to be some slur-ish thing. I was just listening to the Raincoats earlier.
Before moving to California, I'd never experienced an earthquake. Midwesterners worry about floods and tornadoes, but not earthquakes. The New Madrid fault gave off a shudder in 2008, and my parents felt it all the way in Michigan, but its quakes are infrequent. It is a largely impotent seismic villain, so nobody thinks much about it. Here in San Francisco, though, I frequently imagine potential disaster scenarios.
For instance, when I go to the dentist, I am barely in the chair before mild anxiety sets in. Initially, this is because I feel awkward having the handsome dental hygienist scrape tartar from my molars. But as he goes off to look at my x-rays, the paranoid earthquake fantasy strikes, and I imagine all the ways things could go terribly wrong. The office is in an older building, so maybe it hasn't been retrofitted, and what if the quake happens when the dentist is drilling? It would take only one twitch of the fault to make that tiny drill punch a hole through my left cheek. I'm not into body piercing.
Or! I could be at the ob/gyn for the yearly exam. Feet in stirrups, paper cloth over my legs, pap smear in progress. The doctor turns to pick up a swab, and then — get ready to rumble! The lights start swinging, the plastic-uterus visual aid falls off the table, and as my body tenses in panic, it forces the speculum to fly through the air before hitting the poor doctor in the eye. Meanwhile, the ceiling collapses, covering me with dust and debris. Soon, the local action-news reporter is live on the scene. As she describes the valiant rescue efforts going on behind her, a firefighter hears my muffled cries. "Bill, I think they've found another survivor," the reporter will shout as the rescue crew begins digging toward my weak cry for help. CNN picks up the feed, because if there's one thing cable news loves more than disaster, it's a human-interest disaster story. "We've almost got 'er," a rescue guy yells. Cheers all around! The camera zooms in just in time for viewers to watch the rescue team remove the last of the rubble, revealing my spread-eagle pose in high definition for the whole world to see. Later, I am fined by the FCC for indecent exposure.
What? It could happen.
1. On the train to work, there were about 20 kindergartners loudly chatting about their field trip. I was not thrilled by the noise until one little girl began singing "Jingle Bells" with completely (and unintentionally) wrong lyrics. "On the farm it is to ride in a one horse hope and sleigh..." Wrote that one down in the Moleskine.
2. I found out that a friend had also been dumped less than two weeks after her father's death, so we had a big empathy fest.
3. Sparkle Vamp is awkward. (Don't judge me.)
4. When I got off the train tonight, an inbound train was stopped to let someone alight, so I had to wait to cross the tracks. A toddler was looking at me through the window of the train, so I gave him an exaggerated look of delighted surprise. He grinned back so hard that his eyes practically disappeared. As the train took off, we waved to each other. I smiled my way home.
5. Graham made a video in which he visits JC's studio. They are ridiculous and funny.
San Francisco is an appropriate setting for this year. I am used to the topography of New York and Chicago, where flat streets are laid out on orderly grids. This is a city of steep hills and low valleys, of curved streets and cliffs and unsteady earth. Here, the fingers of fog reach around buildings, enveloping entire neighborhoods and fighting with the sun to see who'll dominate the day. It is the most beautiful city I've lived in, but it is also the farthest from home. I was thinking of moving next year, and who knows, maybe I will, but right now, I cannot imagine a city that could provide a better metaphorical backdrop.
(In completely unrelated and shallow news, I have finally achieved this year's sartorial goal of looking like Shane McCutcheon's shoegazer sister — a full month ahead of schedule. Unfortunately, this is not because of wardrobe changes as much as weight loss. The clothes really do hang differently. Still: win!)
Labels: san francisco
Anyway, Elliott Smith's music always feels like an appropriate soundtrack for those transitional weeks between fall and winter. It's sad-bastard music, yeah, but it isn't hopelessly sad. There's a difference between exploring melancholy and drowning in it. Today I had a Twitter reader scold me for asking what song makes them cry every time. She told me that I should be asking about happy songs and making the world a better place. Since this conversation happened through work, I couldn't say what I wanted to say: that tears aren't always borne of sadness, that even the brightest lives need to turn down their lights sometimes, and that doing so is necessary for making the world a better place. But you can't really explain that in 140 characters.
For the record, the song that makes me cry every time is not an Elliott Smith song. Today, Elliott Smith was all about triumph. But this Cash cover has turned me into a puddle ever since I saw the video a year ago. To me, the original felt comically melodramatic in its whispered self-loathing. Even as a wildly depressed teenager, I heard it and thought, "You hurt yourself to see if you still feel? Oh, come on." But the gravitas and gravel of Cash's version, recorded a year before his death, shifts the lyrics into something more meaningful. So when I cry over this song, it's not necessarily out of sadness, but of universality. I'd sing it on the way home, but if I'm going to be a neighborhood weirdo, I'd rather people not think that I like Nine Inch Nails, too.
After having my leg wrapped up for six weeks, I wanted to treat myself to some sort of sitting-in-water activity. My initial plan was to rent a car and head to Calistoga for a sybaritic weekend of hot tubs and mud baths, but it was too expensive. Remembering how Josh once raved about his time in a sensory deprivation tank, I thought, "Enh, why not?" and signed myself up for an hour in a float tank.
If you've never heard of the idea, it's pretty simple: A windowless plastic tank is filled with half a ton (literally) of epsom salt in about 10 inches of water. You float on your back in complete silence and darkness. The theory is that after about 40 minutes, your brain shifts into theta waves, and you have all kinds of clarity and creativity and breakthroughs, etc. I didn't go in expecting any of that to happen; I was curious about the experience of being completely alone, fetus-style. So here's how it went. (It is going to seem very woo-woo. Sorry. Blame California.)
If it sounds terrifying to step into an enclosed space, close a hatch, and be surrounded by darkness, that's because it is. For the first minute or two, my heart was racing and my claustrophobic ass wanted out. I thought of Buffy's resurrection and then thought, "You are not in a coffin, and you can leave if you really want to, and season six was a difficult but ultimately transformative time for Buffy anyway." That calmed me, and I focused on breathing slowly while my body slowly drifted around the tank.
Because the water is heated to 98 degrees, it's easy to lose sense of your body's boundaries. In theory, anyway. The first thing I will say is possibly TMI, but I put it out here for all the ladies who may consider floating: The salt water will sting your lady parts in ways you did not think possible. It burns, burns, burns, that ring of fire. "Oh my god," I thought. "This is what syphilis must feel like." (When I later mentioned this to the proprietor, Mr. Floaty, he gave me a sheepish look. He said that it was because ladyparts are acidic, and the water is alkaline, and the two don't get along well. He added that not all women experience the sensation, but it's actually a good thing because it means that I'm healthy. And then we both decided to stop talking about my lady parts.)
So! After my delicate bits acclimated to the water, I then felt the tension in my shoulders and the distress of my foot. "This is not comfortable," I thought, wondering if maybe I should have just gone for a massage instead. But after a few minutes, the pain left, and I had nothing physical to focus on.
I knew my body was there, of course but I couldn't tell where it ended and the water began. (At one point, I thought the tips of my fingers were in the water, but they were actually in the air.) It was like being nothing but brain — kind of like Krang from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
"Sensory deprivation tank" isn't the right word for these things, because my senses sharpened after only a few minutes. The absence of sound amplified my breath, and for the first time, I could hear subtleties in exhalation. So quiet. And then, in a bizarre moment, I thought, "What is that sound?" It wasn't coming from the outside, and then realized that I could hear my eyelids as they blinked.
You know that feeling right before falling asleep, when you close your eyes and can sort of see squiggles and flashes against black? Being in the tank was like that, but more intense. With my eyes open, I saw mostly black, but out of the corner of my right eye I felt a white glow like a flashlight shining into a dark night. I looked straight ahead and saw twisting shapes, mostly yellow-white and electric. They became jagged lines and fell into diagonal patterns that came rushing down toward me. It was scary, but I felt like I had to look. So I did, and they kept coming, and tears started sliding into the water. I wasn't thinking about anything, not even my dad, but something about the visuals made me cry.
Then a Jawbreaker song popped into my head (big surprise there) and I was back into my normal rapid-fire mind. Mr. Floaty had told me that as my mind relaxed into nothingness, it would try to snap itself back into focus. It was the mental equivalent of being at a party, having some socially awkward thing happen, and then babbling about nothing to fill up the silence. Again I focused on breathing, and my thoughts drifted away.
I know I didn't fall asleep, but I don't remember anything about being awake, either. It was like disappearing and being somewhere else, but not knowing where that place is. Right before my time was up, I drifted back into consciousness and thought, "It's probably almost over." Immediately I heard the gentle tap-tap of Mr. Floaty's hands on the outside of the tank.
I showered, paid, and decided that doing drugs must be something like that. The outside world felt different, almost dreamlike. At home, I managed to stay awake for only 30 minutes before falling into a deep afternoon nap. Later, Chris and I went out for cocoa. "You seem different," he said.
"I don't know," he said. "Just different."
Maybe, maybe not. It's not as though I had some Mulderiffic breakthrough that delivered copious amounts of insight or creativity. And I wouldn't say the experience was completely relaxing. It was so intense that I'm only beginning to process it a day later. (I am also completely aware of how oddball the whole thing must seem.) Still, it was a new and unusual experience, so I'm glad I tried it. Even if it sounds bizarre, and especially because it inadvertently inspired a Sunday filled with Johnny Cash songs.
Mai Nguyen, one of the Gobelins students who created the film, is insanely talented, and I wish I knew how to come up with something half as beautiful as her work. But I don't, so instead I'll just watch this video again and again. (Thanks, Matt.)
Labels: the france
It turns out that hobbling in a temporary cast draws people to you just as much as a regular one does, which made me fairly popular. I didn't care. I didn't even notice when I was being chatted up, and even then, any responses I gave were out of politeness and propriety rather than interest. I must not have been very good at it, because all of the people who approached me either went outside for oxygen (so they said) or were left behind after I realized the whole thing was pointless. I could see a thousand faces and think of only one.
I talked with a girl from Peru. She grew up in Lima, moved here a few years ago. Do you know the Wong supermarkets, I asked her. She did. I told her about Cecilia, whose family owns the markets. After a moment of recognition, there was nothing else to talk about. She asked my age, and I was too lazy to make her guess 31. She said I looked 25; I correctly guessed she was 24. When she found out my age, I silently laughed, because at 25, 31-year-olds seemed so much older and more mature to me. I'm not convinced that it's so. I wanted to tell her that I don't have the answers. It's nice to think that maturity comes with age, but it doesn't always. Or maybe it does, because you think about what you can and can't do, and you choose the more difficult road. I can't say. I don't want to be alone, but I want to be left alone, if that makes any sense.
I managed to get myself home by following the vertical lines of sidewalk. I feel terrible like I haven't in years, but there's something about it that feels like the right thing. Like I have to go through all of this so I can look back at it and smile and think, "Oh, those were low days." It's my first night of walking, and I made the most of it. Which is about all you can hope for right now. You settle not for second best, for fourth or fifth best because you can't have what you want. That is perfectly understandable; it is acceptable and maybe forgivable. We'll see tomorrow, when I sink myself into sensory deprivation. I will float in salted water, push my sight into darkness, hear nothing but silence, and sleep with my eyes open. (This is, of course, assuming that I wake up on time and make it to the floaty tanks in time.) As for now, I feel sick and it's all my own fault.
Labels: emo spice
Because the cast is off and I can walk again!
Well, sort of. My gait is more of an uneven duck-footed crawl — think of a sedated John Wayne wearing a lift in one shoe and you're pretty close. But still, this is better than my previous hobble style, which involved me lurching and making a dull thump each time my broken foot met the floor. Now, I have been fitted with an aluminum and velcro removable cast that makes me look like either a robot or Darth Vader. For my other foot, I have a very stylish foam lift that attaches to my shoe to make my stance more even. Yes, it is a very fashionable look. Try to conceal your envy.
People told me that the cast would smell awful when it came off, but honestly, it didn't at all. (Is it because the cast had been changed every two weeks, or because I am a delicate flower?) The considerable amount of leg hair wasn't unexpected, but I was surprised by how grotesquely parched my skin had become over the last six weeks. It was wrinkled and cracked, and you really don't want to know how much dead skin one leg can accumulate.
It is pretty amazing to see how quickly the body can restore itself. We take that for granted, but really, how wonderful is it that bones heal? The last six weeks have been long and difficult, and I'm nowhere close to walking normally yet. Already, though, it feels like things are going to get better. Tonight I got to take a real bath with both legs in the water. Adios, leg condom. Into the closet you go, unwieldy crutches. Vader-legs is on the move, and she's taking baths whenever she pleases!
Labels: i can't walk
Here's an awkward interview with Jim Jarmusch. (He looks so uncomfortable, although Mia is a good sport.) J.R., James, JimK, Vanessa, and I all look like we're about 15. And of course, there's the randomness of hearing a rat puppet ask, "Were you friends with Klaus Nomi?" If only more children's shows had music-nerd talking rodents, the world might be a more entertaining place.
I know I'm not making much sense; I'm really just rambling while ruminating. But having spent a decent amount of time among the dying this year, I can't help but think that "carpe diem" is a better credo. Not only is it more succinct, its meaning is slightly different. It's more positive, like blooming into life — whereas living like it's your last day implies that you're running from death. I keep thinking about hope and fear as motivators. Both have propelled me into action, but the decisions I have made out of fear have been the ones I've regretted. I regret the things I didn't do more than the things I did.
Three things happened this year that radically changed my perspective on the way I want to live. First, I traveled through Spain with a man I barely knew. It was a crazy idea, but instead of being typically safe and saying no to it, I said yes. And I'm so lucky that I did, because in doing what I wanted instead of what I thought would be safer, I wound up falling in love. It doesn't matter that the relationship ended. Well, it matters, but you know what I mean — I don't regret the decision. Decades from now, when spots cloud my vision and my bones are tired, I will still be glad that I took the risk, Katherine Mansfield style.
Number two! Breast lump. The moment I felt it wobble under my fingers, I knew that it definitely did not belong there. I was scared but somewhat calm about the whole thing. It's not like I could worry myself out of cancer if I'd had it. Because the lump is benign, the doctor said we'd monitor it rather than remove it. In a weird way, I'm glad it's still there, because it's a physical reminder to appreciate simply being healthy. I know that sounds corny, but it's true.
(Number 2a: Closely related to Lumpwatch 2009 is the lesson of the broken foot, which is that sometimes you have to realize you sometimes can't change a single thing about a situation. Sometimes you have to accept your fate, ask for the help you need, and get through the shit the best you can. Preferably without crutch fetishists tracking down your photos.)
Finally, the third. My father's death has had the most impact of these three things, but it is the most difficult to articulate. One thing I do know is that — oh god, this is so hippie-ish, forgive me — life is brief, and death is very real, and I want to live more courageously until my time comes. I know that sounds like some new agey shit, and maybe it is, but after he died, I felt more urgency to become a better person. No more rinky-dink procrastinating, no more excuses, no more holding myself back from fear of failure. I want to share more, to love more, to write more, to be more giving. I want to have a remarkable life and to create stronger connections, or at least die trying.
I don't have life figured out. I don't think anybody ever does. But I think this year will stand out as a turning point. I don't want this to come off as some sort of pretentious, know-it-all "Oh, I'm going through a MAGICAL SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION" thing. I readily admit that if I were a Transformer, my name would be Megaflawed, and I would clumsily shift into an Edsel or a unicycle. Still, it feels like something is happening. I feel acutely alive, and that is a very good place to be.
(I am so sorry for all of the boring me-me-me blather lately, but I am mostly stuck at home and I'm trying to attack this emotional stuff rather than bury it, and it's my website anyway. When I can walk again, expect thrilling tales of public-transit weirdos and the return of Assclown of the Week.)
I don't watch Oprah very often, but today's show is a pretty big deal in the sense that it brings a lesbian couple into millions of homes. Portia and Ellen are funny, they adore each other, and they're so well-matched. In short, they're the kind of couple almost everyone would like to be.
I'm glad that Oprah had them on, because it's the kind of show that can have a large impact. I imagine that somewhere there's a closeted gay teenager who sees more evidence that he can come out and find a community that welcomes him. Somewhere else, there's a parent who might understand her gay child a little bit better. And perhaps someone who's against gay marriage might have a seed of doubt sprout. Or maybe I just liked the show because I'm an Arrested Development fangirl, I don't know. But these two nonetheless made my day. (Also, I like Portia's dress. So sue me.)
Labels: signs of latent homosexuality
I know that you enjoy talking loudly about things such as your friend who "went to the swap meet wearing those tiny, shiny capri pants." I also know that you think Catholics don't just become Buddhists overnight. I know that you enjoy starting home improvement projects by hammering into your wall at five in the morning. I know all of these things because you guys are kind of loud.
It's OK, though. I am willing to ignore all of these things because your quirks are generally entertaining. I really do get a kick out of them, and I appreciate your good taste in cats. (That "beautiful ginger cat" is named Minou, by the way.) In general, you are the good kind of loud neighbors.
Except tonight we have a problem: You have the stereo cranked up so loud that I can hear every oom-pah of the polka compilation you're enjoying. Which would be funny, except I'm trying to have a big cry up here! It feels incongruous to sniffle and create a Kleenex mountain while some tuba is ending a song with a flatulent C-sharp. And because I try to ration my bouts of full-blown sobbing to only a few times per week, this emotional-purge time is valuable. It feels better after I let it all out. "The Beer Barrel Polka" will not do.
I would be happy to compile a mix of songs that would be suitable for your musical needs and my catharsis. (We both like New Order, so we can find a track or two that works for everyone.) Please let me know if you would be interested in my services.
Your neighbor, who is mostly joking, but really does wish you'd turn the volume down
Thank you for being nice about turning the music down when I hobbled to your apartment and knocked on your door at 2am.
Betty knows my fear of needles well, so when I mentioned the vaccine today, she congratulated me on not fainting. "Did it hurt?" she asked.
"Not too badly," I said. "I got the shot up by my shoulder."
"Oh," she said. "Well, you could have asked to be injected on your ass instead."
She said this with such no-duh cadence that I began laughing. My mother, who is always suspicious when I start laughing, demanded to know what was so funny. I explained that receiving a shot in the arm is far preferable to showing off my dupa.
Betty's reply: "You think your doctor hasn't seen an ass before? Don't be silly! There's more fat in the butt, so it won't hurt as much."
"Oh, so now you're calling me a fat-ass," I said. "Nice, Mom. Really nice."
"No, no, no," she yelped. "I just mean that sometimes it's easier to pull your pants down and get a shot in the rear."
I honestly do not see how baring one's buttocks could possibly be easier than rolling up a sleeve. Maybe if you were wearing a chainmail t-shirt, but otherwise, wouldn't it be more work (and awkwardness) to drop trou? Then I thought of the unsuspecting physician. I imagined an innocent doctor expecting to dole out a simple arm injection, only to turn around and be greeted by naked cheeks waiting expectantly to be protected from influenza.
"I think I'll stick with getting shots in the arm," I told my mother.
"Remember, the butt is always an option," she replied.
We agreed to disagree.
This is one of the saddest and most infuriating stories I have ever read. A 16-year-old girl was gang raped and beaten in Richmond. Up to 20 people watched, and nobody called the police for more than two hours. Six males — I can't call them men, and they're not really boys — were charged with assault, but police are still tracking down the rapists who fled the scene.
I have been thinking about this girl for the past week. I cannot imagine the depth of her trauma, or how she will begin to heal, or how unjust it is that her recovery will take place in a rape culture. I feel like people sometimes close their ears when they hear that phrase, and there is indeed something very Women's Studies 101 about it, but that doesn't change the reality that our culture often sexualizes violence. Blames the victim. Sidesteps the statistic that one in six American women is raped.
Today's newspaper had a photo of teenage girls carrying handmade signs of support... for the rapists. (Wrong place, wrong time!) I can't explain how upsetting it is to know that the victim's peers stood by and watched this happen, and that some of them are supporting the perpetrators. The most depressing thing of all is that as horrible as I find this story, it doesn't shock me like it should. Victim-blaming never seems to go out of style.
I think about this poor girl, and girls and women like her, and it makes me so angry that my loudest scream would just barely voice the beginnings of my rage. And I hate having to consider my safety in certain ways that men generally do not. For instance: I pay $18 for a cab ride home because I don't feel safe hobbling the two blocks from the train to my house at night. I do not invite men to my house on a first or second or even third date unless I know my roommate is home. I need more than two hands to count the number of friends who have experienced some form of sexual assault.
I hate having to live this way.
Once, when I was 17 years old, I was driving around town on a humid summer night, looking for my skater friends. I didn't find them, but in a parking lot near a bar, I saw a college-aged couple arguing. It wasn't a cute couple's tiff; even from 50 feet away, I could feel the violence about to unfold. The woman was telling the large, drunk guy to leave her alone, she wanted to go home. But he'd snatched her keys, and he blocked her from escaping by pressing her against the car. I pulled up, summoned whatever force I could in my squeaky little voice, and said, "Is there a problem here?"
He turned and said no, of course not. The woman's eyes, and all that I could see with my eyes, said otherwise. "I'm thinking maybe you should give the lady her keys," I said. "Or I'd be happy to call the police and have them help you do it." I remember my legs shaking; I remember thinking maybe I had gotten myself into something I shouldn't have.
I don't know why this man gave up, but he did, tossing the keys at the woman's feet. He called her a bitch and he called me a fucking bitch before stumbling back to the bar. The woman cried and looked ashamed and quietly thanked me. I didn't know what to say. I didn't feel heroic or anything. We each got into our cars and crossed the bridge to the south end of town.
I'm never sure what to think of that story. Part of me thinks that it was not the smartest idea to confront a visibly angry and potentially violent man. Most of me thinks that it would have been worse to do nothing. A sliver of me worries that maybe I made it worse for her later. Mostly I just feel bad about that situation, and I feel bad for the girl in Richmond, and I feel bad that these are just two of so many violent stories that should never have unfolded in the first place.
I tried, I really did. But I was raised to believe that souvenir thongs do not belong in a fine dining establishment. Plus, there were neon beer signs and a TV playing six smaller screens of athletic events at each booth. We couldn't turn it off; I felt like I was in a sporty Steak & Shake. Again, though, I hoped the food might be fantastic. It was certainly priced in a way that suggested we were on the fast train to Delicioustown. Milkshakes began at $7 and went to $10.75. A Coke was $3.25. Veggie burger, $8 plus toppings. Crazy gourmet burger, $60. (I was grossed out by this last indulgent exercise in excess to no end. Sixty dollars is more than a day's wages for many American workers.)
Long story short, the veggie burger and sweet potato fries were both mushy and not as flavorful as one would hope for. I called them geriatric burgers due to their oatmealy texture. Omnivores reported that the beef burgers were good, though, and I believe them. They should be for $12. The company and the novelty made the outing a success, but still.
Tonight, after being driven home by a remarkably bitter taxi driver, we headed to Revolution Cafe for a snack. They weren't serving food, though, so we had drinks while a man plonked around on the piano. On the way home, I picked up a hot cocoa to help my bones heal; the barista asked where I'd been lately, because he hadn't seen me around in a while. It was a little gesture that, as silly as this sounds, made me happy. It's like thinking you've been walking around unnoticed for months, only to discover that you aren't as invisible as you might think. It is so easy and kind to make someone's day like that — and it's appreciated, especially if your establishment does not offer souvenir thongs.
Labels: san francisco
Whether my poor focus was due to lack of sleep, numb fingers, or general mental fog, I cannot say. All I know is that I felt like I was dreaming, which is a terrible state to be in if you're behind the wheel of a car. I don't know what was wrong with me, but I could barely focus. This is embarrassing to admit, but I went to turn left into a one-way street and had to do an oh-shit maneuver to get out of it. Later, fter doing the blood draw (didn't faint!) I carefully looked to see if I could turn left out of the hospital. The coast seemed clear, but then a Subaru almost collided into my car. In both instances, it was as though I looked and didn't see something that was there.
As the Subaru and I pulled up to the next red light, I lowered my window to apologize. The man, a NPR-listening type, screamed at me about how I was a stupid woman driver who didn't belong on the road, on and on and on. All I could say was, "I'm sorry. It was my mistake and I'm really very sorry." I repeated this calmly and sincerely. Then, without really knowing why, I blurted, "I'm doing the best that I can." He kept exploding, so up went my window.
When the light turned green, I took a deep breath and pushed the car up to the crest of the next hill. It provided a sweeping view, and since nobody was behind me, I stayed at the stop sign a few seconds longer. The city was still yawning its way awake. It was beautiful.
A dozen years ago, I'd had problems discerning dreamed events from real ones. Dreams and reality bled into each other. I sometimes couldn't remember which conversations I'd had, and which I'd dreamed. It all happened shortly after a traumatic emotional overload, which sounds overly dramatic, but it isn't. Just trust me, okay? I've not had this problem since, but my mind is fuzzy and unfocused in a similar way. Maybe the conscious brain has some stack-overflow defense mechanism that forces it to escape into vivid dreams, or if the brain circuitry becomes so taxed that it can't handle everything at once and goes on the fritz. I'm not sure, but it is an interesting phenomenon to observe. One thing is certain: I plan to consider its meaning from taxi cabs and public transit from here on out.
Even I did not believe him.
After a few art fairs, he could predict the question by seeing the look on someone's face, and I think he grew tired of delivering the same answer. It wasn't that he was an artiste who wanted people to interpret the 2 on their own. (He loathed purple-prose artists' statements and the like.) He just didn't like unspooling the same old story. If there was indeed a lofty meaning, he hid it pretty well. Either that, or it was a long-running poop joke.
He eventually told me, and then others, what the 2 was about. He'd been honest in describing it as a visual device; as a former commercial artist, he could look at the world and know how to correct imbalance or introduce something new — at least with acrylics on masonite, anyway. When he was working on a painting and it had too much white space, or had subject matter weighing it to one side, he'd paint a 2.
But why two? Why not eight or three or any other digit? "Two is a stable number," he explained. This made no sense until he walked me through it, and this is the best I can do to remember and paraphrase his logic. It will help to look at the numerals and imagine them as though they were sitting on a line:
And now we examine each. Zero is too similar to a circle, and it rolls over anyway. One is stark and thin, and half the time it just looks like a plain vertical line. Three, five, six, eight, and nine can't stay standing on their own. Four is top-heavy and teeters; seven tips to the right and lands with a thud.
Two, though! Two is solid. It curves and bends, yet remains anchored by a steady base. Maybe its shape really is the only reason he chose to put 2 on so many paintings, but I have my doubts. I like to think that he was quietly highlighting the human quest for connection, that basic and near-universal wish to find someone who helps to keep us grounded as we live our messy lives. For who among us would not want to believe in that possibility, to hope that two is indeed the most stable of numbers?
The full moon does odd things to people. My cab driver has almost had a violent collision three times so far. Like I said, it's shaping up to be a weird night. (Just missed a fourth car. If I don't make it, play "atmosphere" at my wake.)
This is why I managed only half of a smile when a way-too-chipper man boarded the bus this morning. Boy, was he a talker. How'd you break your foot, my wife did that too, hey nice watch, on and on and on. I felt bad because he was friendly in that car-salesman way, but I was tired, and I couldn't inject my voice with enough of the polite interest that decorum silently requests.
He hopped off at Market, and an old man boarded with fishing poles and a bucket in his hands. He looked nothing like my father, but my throat tightened immediately. Even when he was alive, fishermen made me think of our countless evenings spent chasing bluegills at the lake. So there I was, smelling the faint but unmistakable odor of worms in the bucket, thinking, "For god's sake, don't cry over bait." I couldn't reasonably get up and move, because the old man had a sad and tentative look on his face, and I didn't feel like explaining my emotional drama to keep him from thinking that he was offensive somehow. He looked vulnerable and a little worn down, so I stayed and held my breath until my eyes were less wet.
A morning drunk stumbled on a few stops later, and he began roaring at the old man. Something about the fishing poles infuriated him. I was glad, then, that I hadn't moved, and I gave the old man a sympathetic smile. Furious George stayed on for only two stops, then practically fell to the sidewalk. I watched the city go by until we reached the last stop. The old man gave me a slight nod and smile, then slowly climbed off the bus. I did the same, then watched as he sank down the hill toward the bay.