Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Seeded Soil

Some days the world seems small and unlovely. Other days it seems vast and unspeakably gorgeous.

Some days, reading Proust is a treasure. Other days it is a slog.

But I think I might just finish Cities of the Plain sooner rather than later, which will put me back on track for my Three Years of Proust project. Yay!


Kind of on that subject, I posted this on Facebook the other day.

I got lots of helpful suggestions (thank you) and I still haven't decided which book it's going to be, although I bought a number of the suggested books at my favorite used bookstore the following day. But yesterday morning, while running, I thought over this post, and wondered if it wasn't emblematic of something about reading that's been bugging me for ages.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Your Friday Yes, Sort Of: Make Your Own Holiday

I still haven't gotten my shit together well enough to make an actual video, but I really wanted to talk about this idea before Christmas. So here's a text version of Your Friday Yes. Um, on Wednesday.

This week, say yes to........MAKING YOUR OWN HOLIDAY! 

My life experiences have not lent themselves well to enjoying Thanksgiving and Christmas. Sometimes I can muster up the spirit of the occasion(s), but usually not. Usually I'm Grinching and Humbugging like crazy.

I hate flying, because it gives me migraines; I can't stand forced fun; I don't especially love turkey. I don't have a very large family, and I remember spending very few holidays with a crowd of loved ones around a big, warm table. Nothing about the holidays is particularly special to me.

I married into a crowd of loved ones around a big, warm table, a crowd that cooks well and travels better, a crowd that talks enthusiastically about their high-achieving lives and loves holidays and adores spending time together.

I was totally confused for my first few years with this family.

Later, I got more accustomed to them and their way of doing the holidays, but the truth is, my enjoyment of The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year has remained limited. For me the holidays are always wrapped in mummy layers of misery-making travel, uncomfortable clothes, feeling transcendentally stuck, money issues, problematic expectations...you get the idea. And the thing that I always tell people (who kind of raise their eyebrows at me in reply) is that when I'm out in the world during November and December I can feel the tension in the air, the thick soup of everyone else's holiday stress pressing against my corneas and eardrums and tongue, and it makes me ill.

The desire is always just to opt out. Not to buy presents for people, but to give them calls and emails and cards instead. Not to sit through large, interminable family dinners in pantyhose, but to invite over a pair or a quartet of beloveds and chill out in our pajamas and eat waffles and read books instead. Not to wax politic about Jesus and/or Santa and/or [fill in the blank], not to listen to "The Little Drummer Boy" every damn year, not to drink too much and sit in the corner with an overlarge slice of pie. No. To, instead, make my own holiday.

And this year, I did.

Or, rather, we did. Because we have flown to the east coast an average of twice a year in the three years since we moved west, and that is too much flying for my oversensitive self, Matt and I decided that in 2015 we were taking a break from coast-to-coast flying. That meant that we were probably going to spend the holidays alone. Which was sad, because we love our families very much.

But I was secretly hoping it was going to be sort of great. I didn't really want to miss a week of work, arrange for someone to check in on the apartment, or (perhaps most crucially) put on pantyhose.

I wanted to sit at home in my underwear and read books and not go out into the shrieking maw of Christmas shoppers.

And that is exactly what we did for Thanksgiving, and exactly what we plan to do for Christmas. No presents. No turkey. Our heater broke, but we bought a Vornado so we didn't have to put on sweaters and could maintain the underwear status quo.

If you are a holidays-lover, I commend you, and clasp you in my heart. Truly. I am so happy that there are people like you out there, and I'm happy for your joy. But if you, like me, kind of can't stand the holidays and wish that you could spend the 60 days from Halloween to New Year's in a medically induced coma, rather than being conscious and therefore forced to participate in HOLIDAY CHEER, GODDAMMIT, try opting out.

It might sound like it's impossible, because other people want you to do stuff, and society expects you to do stuff, and you may encounter some raised eyebrows. But so what? Society's expectations just don't matter. Your family's (or your chosen family's) love is what matters, and if that love is dependent on you stuffing yourself into pantyhose and drinking too much in a corner, it is not love that deserves reciprocation.

I feel bad that I didn't buy presents for anyone this year, but I don't think anyone feels less loved or remembered by me. (If you do, see above. It's not you, it's me.) I think people who love you want you to be happy. If you think they don't feel that way, ask them and see. Just...see what happens! Make your own holiday and see what happens. Seasonal and American pressures to conform are rarely stronger than in December, but I am here to tell you, it's possible to walk away from that. It is. If you want to make your own holiday, do it, and if you do it, tell me about it so I can cheer for you.

Take THAT, Claus

Happy Friday (sort of)! Thanks for watching (sort of)! Byyyyyyye!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


I'm writing this (on Sunday) after three or four hours of working on this story I've been trying to write all fall.

It's excruciating.

The thing I'm doing is excavating, layer by layer, some things that shaped me from middle and elementary school. I'm smashing them all together for the sake of the story, rather than setting them years apart as they happened, but even fictionalizing them is emotionally exhausting.

As I was writing I remembered the construction of the tables at which I sat in the cafeteria of my middle school - how some of the tables didn't unfold right, and that meant the stool-seats wouldn't touch the ground, so we bounced up and down on them and the whole table shook on its casters. I remembered that the caf shared space with the school's stage - the place where I, as a member of the band, performed on concert nights. It was weird to eat with the stage right there, I think now. It was up, like a normal stage, elevated four or five feet from the cafeteria floor. And most of the time the curtains were open and the stage was empty, a black curtain hung over its cinderblock back wall. I don't remember a theater program of any kind existing at that school, so I don't think the stage was used that often.

It was the same room where we had dances. The same room where I got up the courage to gently poke fun at [name changed] before I asked him out. (That, my friends, was a good love, the one I had with [name changed].) The same room where I grew to goddamn hate early-90s soft R&B hits like "I Will Always Love You" and "End of the Road". Because they were so long and it was always so awkward to "dance" to them, such as dancing was in seventh grade.


Remembering the caf this well is a big deal, because I have forgotten almost all of the day-to-day texture of my childhood. I remember the general shape of things, I remember critical incidents, and I remember people, but, for instance, I don't know at all what the inside of the apartment I lived in from 1992 to 1995 looked like. I'm pretty sure that [name changed 2]'s backyard butted against the hiking trails with trees spray-painted bright fluorescent colors for the old folks' home nearby, but it's possible those hiking trails were next to a neighborhood I lived in during high school.

And there's so much I can't resolve. My friend Delilah lived in a trailer, but she lived on the street I walked across to get to the bus stop, which makes no sense, because it was houses on that road. What kind of bike did I have in those years? I know I had one, but I don't remember it. Was it the gray ten-speed? Could I have been tall enough for that bike when I was 12? I know I was best friends with Jaison, but how was I also best friends with [name changed 3] before she dumped my ass for the popular girls? Jaison and [3] didn't have a thing to do with each other, socially.

It's baffling, memory work, for someone with a terrible memory.

Friday, December 11, 2015

It Was in the Bleak December

The word I learned (evidently not well) in Dr. Haake's class that I tried and failed to remember in order to use it for this blog post was "crots". I knew it would be a good pun to title the post "Blood Crots" but I could not remember the word in order to form the pun. Neither could a classmate. Now I will never forget it.

It means teeny little fragments of prose, like the ones in that post. Or this post, the one that follows this crot.


From the story I was working on this week: "She sobs as if sobbing is screaming."


I stopped spending approximately half of my free time on Facebook shortly after Thanksgiving. This time was equal parts socializing, reading interesting articles friends had linked, and pointless noodling. Now I look at Facebook ~once a day, not scrolling much, not clicking on much. I miss the socializing, badly, but here are the reasons I quit:
  • Politicians' faces, when even the people posting don't like the politician promoted
  • Vitriol 
  • Sarcasm 
  • Constant observation of war 
  • Constant observation of violent death 
  • Advertisement-laden new-agey bullshit standing in for sincere assistance
  • Opinionatedness when, honestly, it does not matter, because you will not change anyone's mind, and you're going to change your own mind anyway when a new research study comes out next year 
And every time I check in, on those once-a-day-or-so occasions, I see all these things before I've even spent five minutes. I feel more uneasy about Facebook and what I hope to get out of it than I ever have. Surely I can't just take off from it until the election is over? Or until ISIS is wiped out? Or until school shootings stop? Because those are all hamster wheels that do not stop turning when their inducements end. There is always more to chase.

I want to promote my writing and my thoughts on social media, but my observation of the pattern of the Internet is that all of its spaces eventually become weird and feculent flea markets rather than orderly, janitored malls. Facebook is full of what I perceive to be junk, and cutting through it is so taxing.

This is a more judgmental statement than I generally like to make on this blog. But Facebook is making me tired, when once it used to make me happy. I don't know what has changed, and I wonder if it's me, if I'm just...like...getting too old for this shit.

Oh, and the result? I feel calmer, more open, less stuffed. (Stuffed like a taxidermied animal, like an overfull diner, like the British slang.) I don't want to stop quitting Facebook. I miss it, but I miss this calm, satisfied, reflective self more. And I think I need her more than I need Facebook.


It's been three weeks now since I made a Yes video. For that I am sorry. What's holding me up has been: noticeable background noise outside my apartment (hammering, leafblowers), lighting problems, a lack of interest in putting on makeup on my days off, and too little mental space to think positively enough to speak positively into my webcam. All but one of these are insignificant problems, but they've held me up anyway, probably because of the last one on the list.

I know exactly what I'm going to say in my next video, but I didn't make it this week, either. Soon.


Latest art project: redecorating my right hand.

I mentioned the wing ring previously, but the other one is this odd hunk of iolite which appears to be a different color and clarity of purple every time I look at it. It's a fascinating gem. The story of me acquiring it might actually be a good one, but it's not crot-length.


I looked over my New Year's resolutions from last year. Virtually none of them were successes. This is not a mark of me sucking, but a mark of how different this year has been from the norm. After the summer I lowered my expectations significantly and turned my attention inward, which has been valuable but not as outwardly productive as meeting my resolutions would have been. I suspect 2016's resolutions will reflect the lowered bar, but I haven't really thought much about them yet.



Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Things I Plan to Do Starting Today

My semester is effectively over as of last night. So, a list.

1. Clean. Up. The. Apartment.
2. Subsequently, invite at least two pairs of friends over.
3. Make the greatest white chili ever.
4. Empty the bathroom closet of expired medicines and tubes of hardened unguents and bath salts never to be used.
5. Doze off on the couch while Matt plays video games.
6. Make Yes videos.
7. Start working on my New Year's resolutions.
8. Write letters by hand.
9. Revise some work I did this semester. Write out a theory of contemporary American fiction I thought of.
10. Read the following books:
           a. Big Magic - Elizabeth Gilbert
           b. Hopscotch - Julio Cortazar
           c. The Argonauts - Maggie Nelson
           d. The latest Tana French
           e. The Marlon James book that won the Booker
           f. At least one David Shields, maybe two
           g. An Elena Ferrante
           h. A book of poetry. Grace Paley?
           i. Pale Fire - Vladimir Nabokov (but I might put it off for yet another season)
           j. Cities of the Plain - Marcel Proust

Oh, it's going to be a terrific couple of months. Until I find out whether there will be school in February. I don't promise that I will do all ten things and read all ten books. But I honestly feel like now that this class is over, I'll have time to do anything, up to and including climbing Kilimanjaro.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Blood Clots

A couple of weeks ago I bought a $5 hematite bracelet from a hippie shop in Pasadena. I was drawn to it because its color, gray-black, was more appealing than any of the other colors on the t-shaped rack of beaded bracelets. The little crystals guide next to the rack said that one of hematite's main qualities was engendering balance, and immediately I was not surprised that it called to me. I am a Libra through and through.

I've worn it a bunch since then and it has never felt right on my wrist. It's felt kind of bad, in fact, as if it's actively unhelpful. Maybe I got a dud. Maybe it's not really hematite. Maybe I shouldn't trust a $5 bracelet to solve my problems.


Last night as I was driving home, a plane high overhead seemed to shine its bright center light directly through my windshield. This happened twice: two planes, one from the west and one from the north. I believe they were both landing at Van Nuys.

I worried, for a moment, about those bright lights. They looked like helicopter lights, they were so bright, and I actually checked to see if I was speeding, as if an LAPD helicopter could ever, in any rational universe, come and hover over my going-no-more-than-five-miles-over-the-limit car and bray at me through a loudspeaker to pull over, ma'am.

The light was so direct, though. You, it said. You, right there. I'm looking for you.



Joanna Newsom released a new album recently. I've only just gotten to it; I wanted to wait till I had the space to listen. And so I am. Listening. And I wish I hadn't waited.

She is a profoundly healing force for me, when I listen. Some brew of her mastery, her weirdness, her unsubstitutable femaleness, and...like...all the other stuff that gives her the nickname Crazy Harp Lady in our household just makes me feel like whatever I do, whatever I create, it's fine, totally fine, the world will want it. Because the world wants her.


I think I'm going to write a story backwards in the next two weeks. I don't know what's going to happen. I am frustrated by this subject matter - have tried it three ways, now - and I realized the other day that it's problematic because I don't really know where the tale begins. I know the consequences of the tale very, very well, but I do not know the source, because I have poor memories of childhood. Since I know the end but not the beginning, it occurred to me that writing backwards might suit the story better. We talked about this method in class not long ago; I think I need to write "ERASURE" at the top of every page to remind me.

While Joanna washed my cells I thought about a handful of the stories from my youth that I do remember well. Images that are iconic in helping me remember who my parents were (then) and how they shaped their identities for me. I wonder if I can put them all in a story that I'm also writing backwards and half-making up. Probably not. But they'll keep.

A silk skirt. Christmas lights. A small bear figurine.

I do not write enough about objects.


Did I mention this before? I might not be in school next semester. I haven't been able to sign up for the right number or type of classes. People keep pulling sad faces when I tell them this, but I'm not sad. I'm a little frustrated, because I just freakin' started the real thing after doing the preparatory thing for two freakin' years. But there are pages I want to write. There is silence I want to sit in my apartment and listen to. There are books I desperately want to read. I would not be sorry for a break, even if it mucks with my plans a little.

Ironically, though, this potentiality would give me more time to finish my MA, because I won't be so gung ho about fitting all 30 units into two years. I would get an extra semester's leeway. (This might not make sense to you, but it does to me.)

There is still hope that I'll get to do the classes I need/want. I'm balanced pleasantly between the two possibilities, waiting to see what happens with little stress or favor toward one fate or the other.


Balanced. That's what I said. The bracelet is cold and stiff.

I also bought a ring from Etsy that looks like a wing. A valkyrie wing on my fuck-you finger on my writing hand. Take that, hematite.