jeudi, décembre 09, 2004

Men's Magazines

I have finally figured out (or maybe just accepted) that I prefer men's magazines to women's magazines. The tone and intensity of the writing in men's publications is more direct and there's a lot less fluff. Now granted, I really do like the damn things "for the articles". And, okay, of course, the fashion direction is going to be off mark for me. And I am unmoved by pictures of actresses/ singers/ socialites tugging on their underwear, but other than for those three discrepencies, I prefer the men's stuff.

The viewpoint in men's publications is just so uncomplicated. Women's magazines have such torturous stuff in them: like your body? We can ruin that for you. Just bought something you feel pretty in? We'll teach you that it's now all wrong and hopelessly outdated. Content with your life? Allow us to fuck that up. Feel free to be/ look like anything you want? Step this way, because, sister, you are not allowed to feel/ look anything like free. You're too old/ fat/ intimidated for "free".

I read women's magazines and I want to kick somebody in the shins. (All except for the fashion, of course, but when it's too careful it's boring and when it's too freaky it's all concept and practically speaking, useless.) Women's magazines ruin my good mood.

I have found exceptions, of course. Years ago, I used to read Mirabella. Of course this particular glossy was aimed at women who were 45 or so and I was, what?, 14 or so? Old soul. And then it was no longer published. All good things must come to an end, huh?

I had a subscription to MODE magazine the first two years it was on stands. My inner feminist was so frickin' pleased that a women's beauty/ lifestyle publication actually was attempting to encourage woment to feel content, beautiful, etc. To this day, MODE is the only women's magazine that I have ever read that actually made me feel lovely. The rest are out to make you feel shitty so that you'll buy product. After two years of this kind of MODE-inspired happiness, I failed to renew my subscription. I'd finally faced the facts: I don't wear any of the clothes they were showing in MODE because I'm too thin. (If I take care of myself, I look like the girls in every other fashion magazine out there. But no other fashion magazine out there has ever made feel as good as MODE did. I miss MODE. I'm having a moment of silence for MODE.


Moving right along- as far as those other fashion magazines are concerned, Elle stands the test of time. Sort of. They're irreverent, which is helpful, but they still wander into insecure/ constant craving territory often enough. Plus their fashion layouts tend to give one the impression that their fashion editor is constantly on a tropical vacation. (What's up with that? And then also- what's wrong with that?) Other then having the overwhelming desire to make over E. Jean (whose attitude I adore, but whose advice I outgrew a while back), I liketh this mainstream one.

Then there's V. V makes me happy. Seriously happy. This is because V's writers are always asking people to explain their creative lives, processes, collaborations, inspirations, etc. I crave creative community- in fact it's one of my top three cravings- and V is the next best thing to being there. Plus V has a serious committment to always finding the new and the next. There's no creative glass ceiling to it and connections are NOT the only way to show up on their pages. Every once in a while I get a letter or e-mail from them regarding some contest or other they are having for cool new designs in glass or what have you and I am terribly, terribly jealous of whoever it is that could actually participate. (What do I know about glass making?) V probably sparks more stuff for me creatively than any other magazine I read. (Well, fashionwise, anyway.)

Surface isn't bad, either. It's kind of V trying too hard and without the cool creative process stuff. Surface feels kind of like Wallpaper or Veranda or some other such pretentious metro-muckity-muck mag. (Surface is still better than Wallpaper or Veranda, in my none too humble opinion.)

Nylon rates a mention, but they tend to get a hard on for a particular indie designer and get kind of stuck. Plus their "letters to the editor" are so sugary and grovelling that I feel kind of ill if I read them. Still, they did introduce me to Inner City Raiders vs. Deth Killers of Bushwick (fake motorcyle gangs whose names make me laugh and also remind me of Charles Dickens for some reason.) Click on April 2003 Nylon p. 116 to view this particular t-shirt of theirs which is lodged in my brain. (It doesn't hurt, if you were wondering. Unless I think about the fact that I should have bought it from them when they were still selling through their site. Now if I want it I'll have to track it down in North Carolina or some such ridiculous thing.)

I suppose Jane deserves an honorable mention, too. Jane probably comes closest to the tone of mens mags, however, they then proceed to step right on over the line, and brave woman that I am, I just cannot hang. However, they did pioneer the phrase "feeling a touch crimson" if anybody out there has a use for it, and also, I guess I'll be forever grateful to them for letting me in on the fact that Pamela Anderson has a real brain in her head, no augmentation required. Who knew? V.I.P. was goofy enough that I decided to like her anyway, but her Jane articles clinched it. She's nowhere near perfect, mind you, but I don't like perfect. Perfect makes me itch and want to do very bad things.

But if I have to read about politics, science, technology, cooking, wine, cigars?, travel, culture, etc., I think I'd just rather sit with the menfolk and read what they're reading. Maybe this is because in a lot of instances I think and communicate in a very strong, direct way (which is classically kind of masculine. At least the editor-in-chief types seem to think so.)

So, I like men's magazines. What does that mean? (That boy needs therapy. He's crazy in the coconut.) Who cares? Uck, this is a slow news day here. Does it show? Seriously, folks, I got nothing.

samedi, décembre 04, 2004

Happy Girl

I went out tonight smelling like Stella McCartney's mother's roses. (You heard me.) Around my neck was a bit of silk cord and austrian crystals in the form of one hard, brilliant butterfly. Adonis Rose headed up a quintet that played to celebrate my resurrection from the dead. I danced four dances- one wrong. (I hereby do solemnly swear that I will damn well learn the electric slide once and for all. Still- watch me work. I do wrong right.) I made three new friends who promise to get me into trouble. Drank two vodka tonics and two men held my elbow and pulled me close. To kiss my cheek and watch my sparkling eyes while I tried to talk in my soft girl's voice over the easy authority of trumpet, trombone and bass. I don't think it mattered what I said.

I have three new friends who promise to get me into trouble. I am gorgeous when I smile.

had the strangest dream...

Last night- or was it this morning?- I dreamed that I had a very light weight lawnmower. I was at somebody or other's house. They had one of those overgrown, supremely-useless acre-of-dumb-grass front yards surrounded by a chain link fence. Not pretty. Whatever.

The point of the dream was that I used that lawnmower (brand new, thought you'd like to know) and in no time at all made that yard look pretty damn decent. And as I cut through weeds and knotted grass, I felt satisfied.

So satisfied.

vendredi, décembre 03, 2004

No, I Understood You Just Fine

I worried about her, out painting in the cold like that. I'd hired her to paint the front door to match the neighbors' door which she'd painted last year. Pretty colors, too, just not ones I'd choose. But, I thought, the colors would be here after I'd moved away, so I decided the doors should match on this uptown double. Much more visually pleasing that way.

She arrived early in the morning and got to work, sanding first, then priming and sanding again. I ignored her but couldn't ignore my feelings of guilt about her in the cold hour after hour. Finally, I peeked out of the door and asked if she'd like some tea, some cocoa, something to warm her up. She thanked me and asked also if I had any tissues. The cold was making her nose run.

I brought a box of kleenex and a mug of hot cocoa with those too tiny to last marshmallows in it. I stood and talked politely with her for a few minutes and went back inside. When she'd finished one coat, she left it to dry overnight.

The next morning, I met her at the door again and talked longer this time. Always eager to treat a fellow human being like a human being whether they are providing a paid for service or not, I got to know her a little bit. I heard about her husband, her son in California, her cats.

She was the kind of woman I envy: suntanned, badly but comfortably dressed, wrinkled, messy and above all- at ease. I never give myself permission to look this way- to live this way. The life I am used to feels like a corset drawn too tight whenever I am around a woman who lives life this other, easy way.

She finished the door on the third day and invited me back to her house to see the antique interior colors she'd used in her own home (interiors were what she usually painted.) Right up the street was a home which, like many in this city, had a deceptively weathered exterior. Inside were three cats and beauty. The walls were a soft matte mustard/ old gold color. A picture frame in a grayed blue rested, perfectly at home against that color, at the base of the stairs.

After talking me through every room, every color, every cat (all of whom were perfectly content to welcome a stranger), we climbed her twisted stairs. The entire length of the second floor had been opened up into a master bedroom suite with sitting room and bathroom. One cat followed us in. She talked color and I looked out at the tiny balcony holding two defeated wicker armchairs covered in cushions which were not meant for rain or sun.

She sighed. I looked over at her. And eyes on my face, she sat on the bed and legs apart, leaned back onto her elbows. Still talking, still watching me, she leaned back all the way and raised her arms over her head. I talked back. And stayed where I was.

After a few minutes, she gave up and took me back downstairs.

Two days later I wrote her a thank you note for the work on the front door.

mardi, novembre 30, 2004

Gettin' Technical on a Tuesday (Stripper Shoes)

I have a few oceans which never fail to satisfy and fashion is one of them. Being truly, madly, deeply obsessed with fashion- its historical, psychological, commercial, technical and visual (among other sensual) aspects, I have to ask where "stripper shoes" (y'know those big ol' platform soled, 70's by way of 30's, dancer by way of pleaser shoes) came from, what they mean, and whether they would turn my 5' 11" self into a super hero of sorts. (No such thing as too tall, I sez. My inner drag queen looks stupid right now in her wig cap and full makeup, but she agrees wholeheartedly with me. She had on a very Hedwig blond flip thing a minute ago which was ridiculous. I'm making her change.)

Thinking of stripper shoes, my brain jumps to strip clubs, street corners, and Pamela Anderson. (Although I can also see her in Uggs taking her boys for a walk because as a dedicated Us Weekly reader, I know that although she's a star, she's just like us! Which is a huge relief to all of you, I'm sure.) My brain grabs KISS by their sequins and takes a close look at their platform boots because believeyoume, these boots have something to do with it. My brain takes a quick detour into how do those dancers not topple over on those stupid shoes? territory, jots a quick buy a pair and find out memo to me and gets back to work.

My brain remembers that high end designers send variations on this theme down the runways every now and again. A beautiful suede pair of mary janes with that recognizable "stripper shoe" sole and heel spring to mind. Miuccia Prada's fault, I think. Damn they were lovely, too. Jessica Simpson wore them like a fool when she had too much walking to do once in Atlantic City. Live and learn. The first one's free... or something like that.

John Galliano can be trusted never to stray too far from these shoes. In the last couple of seasons at Christian Dior, he's turned up versions in tortoiseshell, animal prints, metallics and killer brights. Going with his "more is more" philosophy, these have cutouts and straps and all kinds of things to keep it interesting. Gwen Steffani wore a pale aqua pair during her off-key AMA performance (the shoes are not to be blamed... I think.) I could have sworn they were Dior- or Westwood?- until I remembered a photo spread from my October Vogue Italia which shows what look to be the exact same pair by Natasha Marro at House of Harlot.

And House of Harlot is the real deal. Which brings me full circle to strip clubs and street corners. (Why deal with the designer middleman or in Vivienne Westwood's case, middlewoman?) This also brings me for that matter, to my very first fashion design professor who was I-kid-you-not from Transylvania and who dressed most exactly like a teenage goth queen, Lord love her. (She was in her late 40's, but live long and prosper, I sez, mixing things up royally.) But I am digressing again. (I do love to digress. Forgive us our digressions as we forgive those who digress against us. Amen. Now back to the shoes...)

Those gosh darn stripper shoes are from Venice by way of China (mebbe with a stop off in Greece). Back in the day (15th through 17th centuries) they were called chopines (also pattens) and were worn by wealthy Venetian women to avoid muddy streets and flaunt their social status and wealth. This was accomplished by literally towering over others (by up to 20 inches!) Also, the wobble chopines put into one's walk necessitated the assistance of a servant (one more way to show wealth) and absolutely branded the wearer a member of the leisure class (just the way long nails supposedly do or bound feet definitely did.)

They also, of course, had something to say about being financially looked after by one man, if not many. Because, of course, often enough chopines were worn by wealthy courtesans. Just to make it confusing, though, they were also worn by "respectable" women, too- wives and daughters, etc.

These days, if you want to get right down to it, they've probably been pushed into courtesan territory. When teenagers wear them, they're going for some "bad girl" mystique and are usually triumphant vinyl failures. When older girls/ women wear them-who do not use them as part of a professional uniform, as it were- they either look like tacky fools or they look pretty damn hot. (I've seen more examples of the former than I have of the latter. The latter gets done, though.) When working girls wear them, well, they own the "bad girl" market, so to speak, but mystique is rarely a part of it.

Fan dancing on the other hand... that has some mystique. And it probably requires a different pair of shoes. Now, if you'll pardon me, I have to go. My inner drag queen is about to leave the house with frosted pink lipstick and a copper colored wig. I am not about to let this happen.


Molecule of the Month (Nov)

I don't know what it is and neither do you. Honestly, I'm not trying to be an ass about it, but I really well and truly do not know what the molecule of the month is. Nor could I describe it even if I did. Chemistry is the only subject I ever came anywhere close to flunking. My brain will jump all over universes, but tiny things in odd shapes, well... it refuses to pay attention. My horizons need to be broadened. I get by with a little help from my friends. At least I used to.

This is what happens when you lose your peeps to big apartments and non-existent phone/ internet bills. Time's up on this one. November is too dumb to live. Now I dream of December- dangerous and volupte.

Wearing a couple of staples and nothing else. Somebody 'splain it to me.

mardi, novembre 16, 2004

H+P Prezents Housewarming 2004

(Look Lively!)

Okay, I'm back and I'm causing trouble. I like my idea of sending housewarming gifts to people who have moved (or moved back) or who haven't moved at all. Lately. Because, sez I, you really can't have your house too warmed. No, you cannot. So, I suggest a giftages free for all in this here blog world of ours. Obviously, Nashville must top the list because those crazy potato eating cowboys are in dire need of something (and I'm not sure what.)

The rules of the game are as follows:

Items must be mailed through normal 3-D channels (i.e. no poems or songs or pictures or gift certificates sent over the net.) Everybody needs to receive stuff in the mail from time to time, I don't care who you are. Do NOT exchange addresses over the net (i.e. on this blog.) That gives yrs faithfully the creepin' willies. The creepin' willies are to be avoided at all costs. If you're missing anybody's addy or want to send in your own, contact me at I will respond posthaste and forthwith because I like the sound of it.

There is no monetary value limit- hi or lo- on this thing. Fer instance, if somebody would like to buy me a $675 book on the life and designs of Madeleine Vionnet (by Betty Kirke), to help me resolve my deep, deep regret over not having bought the damn thing for $80 bucks or so when it first came out- well, that would be fine by me. Also, if someone were to send me a potato, I wouldn't mind that either. (Because I, unlike dem dere boys in Nashville, am not living through a mini potato famine. In fact, until Thanksgiving day, I can't even eat a potato, so as an object of lust, a potato will do nicely.)

All housewarming prezents must be announced by the prezent receiver on their own blog in a timely fashion. (What, I ask, is the fun in thinking up weird- or even nice- things to send to people if we all don't get to hear about it? Oh, dear me, I am distracted by the thought of baked goods- n'importe which kind. Thanksgiving day is going to be a food orgy, I can assure you. I had eggs and tomato for breakfast. A very good girl am I.)

Inventiveness as well as kindness are encouraged. So, if you feel someone's life will be improved by receiving a stick of Beech-Nut Chewing Gum, well, by golly, you send it. Or loose tea leaves (much more sophisticated than tea bags, for example), or fuzz from your favorite cashmere sweater, or 99 cents of iTunes shopping satisfaction (oh, wait- that might violate the "send it USPS or UPS or FedEx or DHL or something like that" rule.) You could send me home made chocolate chip cookies just to be cruel (oh, wait- that would violate the "kindness is encouraged" rule. Maybe that should be a guideline rather than a rule. I might really enjoy some cookie cruelty.) You get the idea.

Don't be disgusting. Need I say more?

This is NOT a competition ( I say slyly, knowing I am addressing a bunch of Competitive Bastards who will definitely turn it into one.) Sending the nicest or funniest or cutest or favoritist thing is NOT the object of the game. No, I say, the object of the game is to shower the people you love (or just like. As a friend. Or a brother. In the Lord.) with love. If I may be allowed to quote yet another sappy song here- nobody gets too much love anymore. We're going to do something about that.

And that thought makes me happy even though it isn't anything even remotely close to a baked good.

jeudi, novembre 11, 2004

Dans Mes Rêves

I cannot believe I’ve landed here. In this half of a house which is not even set up to receive the people who call it home. No one fits in this place. No one is well. No one is happy. No one is comforted. I feel the disappointment of a fool who knows better and still has not learned. Homecomings are usually this way. Harder, much harder than staying gone.

Every little fantasy I have carefully grown over the past few months slips away to die in the corners of this cold room. Warmth and welcome and time to be quiet and comfy with my favorite people on the planet- all of these fantasies turn into a drizzle which quenches nothing but smears all of my hopes anyway. Between my shoulder blades an ache sends up the first signaling spiral. This tension is the only thing that will survive in this place-in my body, in my head- until I can leave again.

I know better than to display my troubles in a place where everyone has more trouble than they can stand. There is no need to throw my bucket into the waterfall. Who would see it? Who would even know? I carry my own water. There is no relief. From their pain or my own. I am beginning to drown in this half of a house.

And then I hear him. He is crying up those stairs. And I am running- really running- three, even four steps at a time. Thanking God for long legs. Thanking God for the one completely beautiful part of every day here. In this place.

It is early in the evening but already nearly dark here in the Ohio winter. I do not need lights. My heart sees him through the heavy, closed door. Awoken from sleep, he is alone. And he knows it. Sadness and fear are in his voice. A voice which does not yet make words. But he is speaking to me.

And I have run to answer him.

When I push the door open, my heart stumbles. He does not know who is coming toward him in the dark. He is silent for a moment. His vulnerability in this attic room is one truth. My intentions toward him are another. I could bring anything to him now. Anyone in my place could bring anything to him now. I shake under the weight of that thought. I cannot stand that he does not have defenses against evil should it ever choose to approach him. In the dark.

I speak to him. And as soon as the sound is out of me, he laughs. Weary, nearly crying still from the tiredness of reprieve. When I stand at the side of his crib, he turns his reddened face up to me. Eyes wide, straining to see back over his shoulder in the low light from the doorway. Tears cross his cheeks like ribbons. He is giving me that smile. That laugh of real joy. Pure relief. He is not alone.

I bend my head and my neck and my back- all still aching from sadness and tension. But when I put my arms around him and lift him to me all is calm. All is bright.
I stand quietly and feel the winter world spin around me. The universe settles into order.

I lift him with one arm until his head rests of its own accord on my shoulder. One of his arms curls softly around mine. And the other falls against my chest. Without judgment. Without desire. He sighs against my neck. And rests.

From the tender bones still closing on the top of his head all the way down to the unarticulated arches of his feet, he is safe. There is nothing but warmth and welcome. Nothing but time. Time to be quiet. And comfy.

And I know with a certainty that almost snaps my heart into pieces that I would do anything for him. I place one hand on his back and move toward the door. Knowing I would give him anything I have. More than I have. I would give him anything he needs.

Everything that I know. Everything that I am. Everything that I could possibly bring to his life, I would. I would. Every good thing.

And it is my loyalty to him, my love for him, which comforts me most. He does not know that I cannot find this loyalty- this love- for myself. I am ashamed that I cannot find it. Cannot inspire it. Cannot keep it. And this loneliness- this grief- is the foundation of my daily life. There is no home. There is no home.

There is no home for me.

There is nowhere to land. No one will run to comfort me. No arms will hold me. No voice will stop my tears. I am not safe. I cannot rest. I am alone. And I am shamed by this ragged grief.

Still, as I carry his mind and his heart and his body carefully down the stairs, I am at peace. I have stopped here. With him. And my whole soul is making a promise to this little one. I feel suddenly that this promise exists in the entire universe. That this promise exists maybe even for me. And then I know.

My love is living proof.

vendredi, octobre 29, 2004

Blog Fatigue

Who knew such a thing existed? I've got a bad case of it (on top of my bad case of adrenal fatigue- good stuff.) I still like everybody plenty fine, but feel like I'm beating a dead blog here lately, so I'm going to take the blog equivalent of a nap. A short nap. (I'll read you in my sleep, though, promise.)

Lucky for you, I don't snore.

mercredi, octobre 13, 2004

I Took My Dog To The Levee

It rolls up green to a line of trees along the Mississippi close to where I live. I talked smack on my cell phone with big bro' Chez Jo and wielded the leash with the other hand. This was silly. But I've already explained why I don't think clearly enough to do things logically. Anyway, I walked my dog. He did what dogs do. And then some.

He's a rescued dog. Discovered wandering through southern Ohio- fur matted and muddy. Skinny as all hell. The woman who took him in required some real convincing when it came to letting him leave. She called him Champion. I called him Nando Vincero. The first name is from my favorite fast food place in South Africa- Nando's Chicken. A lot of chicken is eaten in Africa. Who knew?

The second name isn't really a name. It's an Italian verb, masculine, singular. (Vin-chair-oh.) I know it contextually- it's something like (I have) conquered/ overcome. It's a bit much for a 21 lb. cocker spaniel that is constantly being mistaken for a girl dog. (He's got big talent, mind you, but nobody sees that when his coat gets long.) Not his fault. The name, I mean. His owner got carried away listening to the Three Tenors.

I don't know what he's been through, but he's gentle around people and a real pain in the balls around other dogs. Well, okay, BIG dogs. I mean rottweilers and dobermans and great dane's, for fuck's sake. I joke that he's got a prison yard mentality- like he's gonna get in and beat up the biggest one there and then all of the others will think he's crazy and leave him alone. Oy vay. He has no sense.

Sometimes he's lucky and the enemy he's facing down on the poop strewn field of battle is actually not very dominant and will back down, frightened, and run away. More often, though, the big dog feels like a big dog and wants to fight. My pooch- cute and stupid- will not back down one inch. This is why I have to keep him on a leash at a dog park where all the other dogs run free. This is also why I have to circle around between him and big, barking dogs who want to take a chunk out of his hide for daring to challenge them. I circle. They circle. One day, one of these big dogs is gonna take a chunk out of my hide just for being in the way. Like I said, I don't really think clearly enough these days to do things logically. (Now who's cute and stupid?)

Never mind all that. What I really wanted to tell you about was the fact that I didn't go straight home after the visit to the park. Instead, I drove up and down Magazine Street, back and forth. And then I headed over to St. Charles to do the same thing. Looking both ways before flipping a U-ey across the streetcar tracks. And yeah, it was repetitive. But it was pretty. People with more energy than I have were out running in the neutral ground. The oak trees took up both sides of the street. Old houses never looked better. The tiniest bit of cool was in the air and the light faded like my favorite perfume.

And that's not really what I was into. I kept driving because ChezJoel mentioned he'd heard "Wonder Boy" on some university radio station recently. Because that reminded me that I love me some Tenacious D. I was driving because I wasn't done listening to the entire damn disc. That and I wasn't done with the soothing illusion that I was getting somewhere. Even though I'm tired. Even though I was just driving back and forth.

I write pretty stuff sometimes. What I like about Kyle and Jack is that they do, too, and then they turn all of that on its head and they're just foul. Foul and funny. I'm not even gonna say which tracks had me laughing out loud.

You never know who's reading this shit.

lundi, octobre 11, 2004

(Anticipating) Feeling Fine

I know I have been cranky lately while I've been sick. In fact, I reached a very low point here recently (which you couldn't know about without me describing it.) A couple of weeks ago, I hit a one year anniversary of adrenal exhaustion due to out-of-control pollen allergies. Truly, I am a person to be pitied. I moved to New Orleans- one of the premier party citays on the planet- and a month and a half after arriving was knocked flat on my ass by allergies which are off the Richter scale.

I'd never experienced anything like it before. Ever. So, yes, I have spent the past year pretty much incapacitated energy-wise. Lovely things happen to you when you become this run down: you lose the ability to concentrate, think clearly, manage your emotions, feel optimistic, feel joyful. Your appetite runs away with the spoon. You sleep and sleep and still wake up feeling like you've been hit by a Mack truck.

You visit your cute, young doctor who tells you it's all in your head. He wants to prescribe trendy antidepressants. You want to kick his tanned shins. "You're just depressed," he says kindly. "I am not depressed! I am seriously excited about my life, I just don't have the energy to live it," you retort helplessly. You suddenly understand the bullshit women have been putting up with for centuries. (OOOOH, so if you'd just cut out my uterus, I'd feel great and stop bothering you! Thanks, doc! I really AM insane! Good thing I have a rational man like you around to tell me what I'm feeling and thinking. Wshew! God's really looking out for me, isn't HE.)

You lose your temper easily. (Exhibit A above.) You exercise- which feels good- but still doesn't raise your energy level. You learn to manage your emotions. You learn to ration out the bitter grief you feel about losing month after month of your own personal, amazing existence to this idiotic exhaustion. You learn that you have to figure out how to be "happy" in a smaller and smaller corner of your world. Your expectations dwindle. You try to settle.

You can't. You weren't made to settle and you know this with your whole soul and it's breaking your heart. You begin (for the first time in your life) to think of food as medicine. You jettison all of your favorite things. Your cravings go away. If it works, you won't mind being a food monk. It doesn't work. You can tell you're better off eating healthier (duh) but your metabolism is still dragging its ass and your immune system has turned into the worst whore ever- consorting with any damn infection that's interested.

You make AIDS jokes (about yourself, obviously. There's no way in hell you'd joke about anybody else's suffering.) You make SARS jokes. Anthrax jokes? Anything to be able to laugh at how stupid it feels to be so diminished. It's not funny. But you're tired, so sometimes it's funny how not funny it is.

But... you start to write for the first time in your life. (Everybody's doin' it.) And this, it turns out, is something that a tired person can do. And this, it turns out, is something you have a gift for (to one degree or another- new and unpolished, certainly.) And this, it turns out, keeps you sane. This delivers up the same kind of joy that you find when you dance or sing or design for hours on end. And that, it turns out, is even better than nice. You don't feel "happy" . You feel thrilled.

Still, before you know it, a year of your life is gone- a year in which you couldn't get to the design work you love, the dance lessons you promised yourself, the singing you need to do to be happy, the social whirl which awaits your inner drag queen's entrance, the up-to-your-eyeballs amour fous you were going to have with this beautiful and decaying place you will only live in for a brief time- no, you can't get to any of that. You can't have that. Your mail is delivered each day to the 7th ring of hell. You can look, but you can't touch. You are reduced to longing- to pleading- for one single drop of the life you knew, the person you have known yourself to be. There is no Lazarus. Don't even ask.

Yes, that one year anniversary rolls around and you crash and feel lower than low. And remember again the heights from which you've fallen. And everything tastes like dust. And you get kind of cranky online- thinking all the while now why would I be that way with people I like? And you know the answer, but it's not a good answer (such an unsatisfying answer!) so you don't even bother to speak it. Until now.

This is current. This is work in progress. This needs to get better soon. So, I'm going to Houston, fokles, to see American doctors practicing European medicine. (Hope is a thing with feathers- and beads, probably- falling down drunk on Bourbon Street.) I can hardly see straight when I think of the time I've lost, but I'm screwing my courage to the sticking point, 'cuz I've had it with a year that has invalid-ated almost everything I am. I've had my last 'nice cry'. I'm not a girl now- I'm a fighter. That thing up there at the top of my page is aimed at me alone. I am this close to fucking fierce.

Oh, and did I mention that I never have been anything less than completely loved this whole lost time? God, it turns out, doesn't give a shit about me not being as cool as I can be, so long as we're not separated. He's so damn loyal. So, I got that going for me, which is nice. Hell, that is way nicer than nice.

I'm still tired, I can tell, 'cuz my eyes are watering. (Loyalty always gets to me.) Oh, dammit to crap. I'll say it, so you don't have to: I'm still definitely very much a girl. Happy now?

Me, too.

vendredi, octobre 08, 2004

I thought you were dead.

But you're not. You've just gone underground. A bit. When I read the part about no comments and no numbers, it felt like a new Dogme 95. Blogging in its purest form. And I thought that was beautiful. And inspired. Well, it inspired me anyway. Not that I'm going to jettison my comments. Or my statcounter. Or any of my silly baggage.

But I'm glad you're still there. When you hit your stride, dancing in the street like that, you are one of the loveliest voices I have ever heard. You with your keys and your cats and your Russian place. (Did you have the borscht? Was it the place with a black and white floor and big glass cases?)

I thought I'd roll you onto my list of ones to watch. And then I thought, naaah, this is private stuff. I'm not even sure I'm supposed to see it. But when you are so true- so faithfully human- how can I look away? C.S. Lewis said one of my favorite things ever- "We read to know we are not alone." Maybe you write for the same reason.

You do your thing. I love how not-neat it all is. And I'm glad you're there. So glad.

I'm not the only one who can't really keep it all together.

mardi, octobre 05, 2004

Please Do Not Feed The Animals

I've taken over one huge work table in the corner by windows closed against the mosquitoes which swarm in the late Florence summer. I am prepared to work all night if necessary to finish a project which just does not capture my imagination. By tomorrow morning, I need to have completely inked over 100 illustrations for original fashion designs. Children's clothing. Children's clothing made out of micro-fleece, to be exact. (Micro-fleece does capture my imagination, but not for children's clothes. I want to play with it. Inappropriately. You know- turn it into evening gowns suitable for Grace Jones in Paris. Ugly. And bravely, angrily out of style. Right now. Just because I feel like it.)

Instead, I pick up another Letraset Pantone Tria marker. Ripping off the cap covering the medium tip, I start filling in yet another huge button, on yet another goofy kid's outfit. I'm frustrated. And bored. And this is a very real kind of fashion design moment, to tell you the truth. The kind of moment, where every dumb idea I've ever cherished about being the next crazy couturier to blow away every other, long established house in the Chambre Syndicale De La Couture, is ground into a fine powder. A fine powder suitable for snorting (at) late at night when I realize that this entire industry is just a bunch of silly salmon swimming upstream to die. To die or to design Fruit of the Loom Underwear while living in a rat infested hole, excuse me, apartment, in the city that never sleeps. And yeah, I can do that and every time my soul weeps over how my mighty soufflé of a dream has fallen because the oven was too hot or some fool opened the door too soon or what have you, I can sternly remind myself that I wanted this. I wanted to take this chance.

Me and every other fool who spent too many giddy hours flipping through fashion magazines, acclimating our eyes to the outright ugliness of high fashion- the high concept art of artifice- which has never met a boundary it wouldn't cross. Our pupils dilating to see in the dark. The dark of editorial pictorials using elements of every single kind of violence, sickness and sexual deviance known to mankind. Just to shock. Just to sell.

Kicks just keep getting harder to find, I tell you. After years and years of wading through an art form which advances, lock stepped, in time with every cutting edge thing happening in music, writing, visual arts, science, culture and politics, I am quite comfortably numb. In fact, this is an art form which often anticipates and even forces changes in those other areas. I know, for instance, literally years before mainstream pornography consumers do, which kind of body they will be instructed to desire next. My chosen industry is bored, vacuous, sick, filled with longing, anger, sadness, jealousy, and fear. And then a Donna Karan comes along and does things with a great measure of sanity and joy, for woman's sake, and stranded fashion consumers feel hopeful and lovely and grounded. And they catapult her into monstrous commercial success. Still, my industry is stupid. So they don't duplicate her triumph. They continue to trade on women's weakest and worst selves.

And this is what they appeal to in fashion magazines. Most of the time. I am used to this. So used to it, in fact that I forget it's even there. Whenever I have set my magazines down on the couch at my sister's house, she rushes in to find me in the next room. She pushes Nylon, Elle and Surface into my hands and says, "I just don't want the boys to flip through them. I don't know how I'm going to explain these kinds of pictures to them when they ask about them." I feel simultaneously, that surely, this is an overreaction, and also, oh, she's right. These contain some complicated, rather adult stuff. And not happy adult stuff, either. Her boys are young- very young- and she is trying to let them take on the entire, complex matter of learning this world in a way, and in an order which, hopefully, they can handle well. They'll get to everything. Eventually. She is a good mom and she preserves childhood for her children. For the time that they need it.

But I am a grownup. And I am working on a dream which is, by now, 16 years old. To become- to learn to be- a fashion designer. Which means, that as I lay color down- blending in this (by now) second nature way, with no apparent overlaps in application, building volume and shadow and texture into this 2-D form- I push all other considerations aside. Push away my deepest longings for beauty and sensual enjoyment. What my mind may create. What my hands may touch. What my eyes may see.

I push away every desire for creative community. For approbation and understanding. For pride in the pleasure of my peers. For belonging with others who eat, sleep and breathe these problems of which fabric and how to cut it. These problems of bodies and how they're made and how they turn. The knee bone connected to the thigh bone. She moved in circles and those circles moved.

I push off every part of my own woman's heart which understands why these things must exist- why it is necessary to become fluent in the language that fabrics possess. Why we may rail against the way things are between men and women, but must never be foolish enough to ignore the way things are. Between men and women.

I refer to the reality that women are- at least in part- made for eyes. We did not make ourselves, of course, and this is something that men are often confused about. They feel fear and desire about what they see and often attribute the power of their responses to women themselves. They believe that women are consciously and capably making them fear and desire and in response to this belief and these feelings, men often pile on even more fear and desire, often with a good measure of shame and anger to boot.

All of this power, of course, attributed to women who are usually running around without even 1/5 of an appropriate understanding of the impact the "made for eyes" aspect of them will have. Has had. Does have. Even the women who make a living off of a rather cynical understanding of the "made for eyes" aspect of their existence, just don't get it. (Baby, will you eat that there snack cracker? In your special outfit? For me? Please?)

I'm not sure why it's this way, but I know that it just is. On this point, I am an old French woman shrugging her shoulders. She's seen it all and is no longer surprised. It was ever thus. Still... romance stalks around every corner. Every dream, every longing was made to be answered. Put on that dress.... and make a wish.

And I push away every fear I have. Fears of insignificance and wasted time. Of not being good enough. Of never reaching what I dream of having. What I dream of being. And I drift into this Zen state of work. For work's sake. This is enough. There is nothing more. No more fear. No more desire. Just color laid down. On the correct side of marker paper.

And music is in my ears the whole time. So, I sing. Lost in this color. Lost in this sound. Lost in this old, old room in Italy. Bebel Gilberto leads and I follow behind her, for her pretty sake, through this disc of Brazilian music. Pantone ink soaks and bleeds through my paper as I push color all the way up to the black inked edges of each shape. And easy, sinuous music rises in this small room. I push sound effortlessly off these stone walls. And they curve it back to me. We are all- paper, pen, voice, walls- very pleased. And we are lost in here. Time has run away. And left us to our own devices.

Someone is at my left shoulder and I speak- too loudly, I'm sure, because the music is still pouring into my ears- "You're back already! Did you eat?" I turn to see the smart, irritating, funny and courageous girl who was working in the same room earlier this evening. And stare in shock at someone who is very definitely not her. One of the graduate architect students from downstairs is standing beside me- too close. I flip one of the earphones aside and raise my eyebrows questioningly. He smiles and says, "We thought you guys were up here having a party and didn't invite us." I say, "Oh!" (I can't think of anything else. I am, you will remember, rising up from my drugged state of peaceful color and easy sound.) He just stands and smiles at me. Evidently, it is still my turn to speak. So I try again. "I'm sorry, I'm kind of right brained right now- the drawing, the singing." I wave distractedly at the pile of supplies on the table to my right.

Logical, conversational words are the most difficult thing to form at this moment. They are utterly beside the point where I have just been. But he wants to speak with me, so I try. "I'm sorry if I was bothering you all downstairs. Was I being too loud?" He smiles even wider, and says, "No, you sound beautiful. I can't believe you were actually singing. We all thought somebody was playing music up here." "You sure? 'Cuz if I'm bothering anybody, just tell me and I'll be quiet", I insist earnestly. He tilts his head, considering me and says, "You're not bothering anybody. Keep singing." And then he walks out the door. I yell, "Just let me know, though, if I bug you guys." I shrug and go back to work. And I go back to my singing. Because it's fun. Because it feels good. Because I'm not hurting anybody.

My friend arrives a few minutes later, having been stopped downstairs by more of these architect types who want information about the singer upstairs. We shake our heads. There is no time for this kind of foolishness. There is too much work to finish. We turn away from each other and burrow back into our own toil.

Later on, I am most of the way through my 100 illustrations. And I am most of the way through a shuffled Sarah McLachlin disc (and damn that's heavy stuff. What's sadder than sad?) I have finished

oh, but every time I'm close to you
there's too much I can't say
and you just walk away

and I forgot
to tell you
I love you
and the night's
too long
and cold here
without you
I grieve in my condition
for I cannot find the words to say I need you so.

And while the feeling of that still eddies around me, I slide into

it doesn't mean much
it doesn't mean anything at all
the life I've left behind me
is a cold room
I've crossed the last line
from where I can't return
where every step I took in faith
betrayed me
and led me from my home.

This is all touching on painful stuff- religion and deception, love and death- a grief that just won't end. But I am nearly done with my work and I can afford to send my heart up in flames before I walk home, foolish in the dark.

I catch movement out of the corner of my eye and still singing-

is misery
made beautiful
right before our eyes
will mercy be revealed
or blind us where we stand

will we burn in heaven
like we do down here

- I look toward the doorway. He is back and he's brought two friends. He points at me and I hear him say, "She's the one that sings." Another answers, "Man, I thought you were lying about her!" They watch me in my corner by the windows as if I were an exotic animal. Trapped in this little design school zoo.

And truly they are adorable boys. All looking at me. Drifting into what my voice has done to them. Eyes softening. Bodies tensing. Ready to compete with each other. Over me.

I shake my head and turn my eyes back to my page. I am older than they could ever imagine. And I have work to do.

mercredi, septembre 29, 2004

La Lectrice, Part Two

My parents caught on to my obsession, of course, when they saw me reading like a little crazy person. I’m not sure what they said to themselves or what they felt about the whole thing, but what I felt from them was their great pleasure in me and their great pride in the way I didn’t seem to be stuck in any small definitions of childhood- not, at least, where reading was concerned. I can remember them calling me over one time. They had a theory to test- a book for me to read. I looked at the page and scrunched my little girl shoulders when I told them I can’t pronounce those names. I was sincerely sorry, too- as only a child can be sorry. So, they said try the words around the names- just one page- we’ll help you pronounce the names when you get to them. So, on a Sunday afternoon, I read one page- just one page- of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. And that was enough. I waited two more years to go back and finish it.

After one very long day in second grade, though, I arrived home and pulled my father’s 11th grade literature textbook (teacher’s edition) off the shelf. I flipped (for the pictures, of course- I was just a kid) and then settled down to read a translation of Sophocles’ Antigone along with all of my da’s notes on the symbolism of light and dark. (My father’s words were scribbled and marginalized, but oddly enough, they are the ones I still remember. And, of course, now that I think about it, that's not very odd at all.)

Now I was no stranger to Greek myths- in fact, they were my favorite stories. All that sex and violence- every character flawed- every ending at least semi-tragic even if it was a happy one. They were good groceries to my young way of thinking. (Rather like the comic books I found to read on those days when hell came just this close to freezing over.) But the words in this story were different and the ideas, too. Complex and lovely. After I finished reading it, I sat still under the dining room table, that heavy book on my skinny, kicked out legs and thought and thought while the room fell into evening.

Because my father taught them, I had a thing for the classics. I plowed through the complete works of Poe, Hawthorne and Dickens in one year; along with whatever else I could get my hands on. One night I foolishly insisted that I wanted to go to the school with my parents and hang out in my father’s class room during Parent/ Teacher Conferences. I’d gone through most everything readable in that room, so, in an attempt to stave off my impending boredom, my dad rummaged for something new before he headed off to the gym to tell parents why their kids were failing his class. What he handed me was a skinny little paperback which I’d nearly devoured by the time my parents walked in to check on me during a break. “You gave her Lord of the Flies? Honey, she's in third grade!”, my mother said to my dad, shaking her head. He seemed the tiniest bit defensive, but mostly proud when he answered, “Yeah, I did. She can handle it.” Trying to keep peace, I piped in with, “It’s okay, mommy, besides I’m almost done with it. See? Only a third left.” “Yeah. Only a third left.” My dad smiled at my mother coaxingly. And she, still shaking her head, smiled back.

I suppose third grade was when I realized that no one else in my little world was doing this. It was Dickens- specifically, The Pickwick Papers- which tripped me up. I can still remember what that table felt like under my elbows as I clasped my hands together and leaned way, way forward to include all of my friends around me in what I had to say. Something about a funny part in Dickens’ first novel- I know I was très hyper talking about it. They stared back at me. And then went back to talking to each other. (Kids are very efficient communicators, aren't they?) And I understood then that they didn’t know what I was talking about and that they wouldn’t know- not any time soon. It was the first time I understood that what was in my head was other and utterly uninteresting for my peers. The realization is a bright, hard spot of loneliness in my mind even today. It has been joined by a thousand other “you think too much”s since then. I have never figured out a good response to that one. This brain does what it wants to do. And what it wants to do is dig deep and run fast. Tant pis, huh? I cannot hold it back.

Even though the minds behind all those words, all those books, were my teachers and friends- my familiars- everybody's gotta live in the here and now or become awfully lonely. (Well, maybe not. I could shut myself away again with words and become a writer, maybe, but knowing me, I'd miss the here and now. And the girl in me would become awfully lonely. Eventually, she'd say honey, take me dancing, you know?) But I guess that my early experiences being other and outside, really did shape me. So much so, that when I encounter people whose minds move at too fast a pitch (especially when their personalities have some over all kindness and a bent sense of humor thrown in) I really do feel that I cannot afford to let them go.

Don't get me wrong, I don't need people I encounter to be strong where I am strong in order to adore them and love their company. And I know that even if they can't quite match me at one point, they are very likely to surpass me at another. We've all got our strengths. (Frankly, huge chunks of this viewpoint were learned while reading all alone. Books have got some good info in 'em on human beings from time to time, I tell you.) Still, you never know when somebody's gonna feel threatened by your confidence or the ease and joy with which you do what you can do in life. You never know when somebody's gonna decide that your strength and joy is actually snobbery and that you need to be taken down a peg or two.

Don't know if you're thinking it, but I know I have thought it a trillion times- Can't we all just get all along? No, apparently, in a lot of cases, we really can't. That's a sad fact. I don't pull my punches or dumb anything down, but I've learned to dissemble when I realize I'm in the presence of a narrow mind and a pinched soul. Don't know who to feel more sorry for in that scenario- me or pinchy. I just make sure I'm not ever pinchy when I encounter somebody who blows me and what I got way on out of the water. Credit where it's due. There's enough sunshine for everybody. Whether you burn or tan is your business.

jeudi, septembre 23, 2004

Mad Lib(erties taken with Mad Libs) or

The Wages of Love
by H+P and L'O'L

Tom Waits lost his granny on 9th & Hennepin. When he got to the vigilantly vapid neighborhood dive bar he remembered in the Village, he realized what he’d done. He scratched 5 and a half day’s worth of beard on his chin, rubbed his putrescent eyes and figgered what the hell, might as well have a drink before I go looking.
That woman’s stronger’n I am
, he grimaced while throwing back a glass of eminently rectitudinous bourbon. Good for what ails ya. He sniffed and looked around the bar.

Decades worth of candlestick and the ghosts of Saturday night made the place feel like home for people with bad livers and broken hearts. On a little shelf in front of the mirror over the back of the bar were 16 shells from a thirty-ought-six. Waits shook his head and squinted his eyes and tried to think of some tawdry lyrics. Sniffed again. Forget it. Pushing both double jointed hands against the bar, he swiveled on the imperturbable stool and came face to face with a corrosive eyed woman. When she caught him looking, she smiled- all business. “Hey, baby, whatcha doin’ here?” He grunted and as he walked away, threw a, “Baby, I’m not a baby anymore,” over his shoulder.

He stood for too long right outside the door, baking in the stolid sun and a fellow with a briefcase bumped right into him. “I beg your pardon.” This was offered too staunchly for sincerity. Tom scowled and shot back, “I never talk to strangers.” The fellow looked offended and sublimated down the sidewalk. Tom shrugged his shoulders like a hardened guy and thought what you need, my fine friend, is a new haircut and a busted lip. The man didn’t hear that, though and Tom gave up and got down to business.

He found her again, standing in her red shoes by the drugstore. “Oh, you’re a sight for sore eyes. Take me home,” she said. “This is strange weather on the precocial side of the je ne sais quois.” And then, “Who are you?” Tom looked his granny straight in the eye and said, My little turtle poop, you’re whistling past the graveyard.” He nodded his head quintessentially. “Well,” she muttered, “you can’t unring a bell.” “So it goes, so it goes," he said in return and grabbing a flower from somebody’s froward yard, he handed her the last rose of summer.
In his head he sang I’ll never let go of your hand.

mardi, septembre 21, 2004

Procrastinator Slams Poetry

I have been dragging my feet on picking a champ in this poetry contest. Today I faced up to my big reason for the delay. I just can't stand to say to all a y'all crazy people that one of you is better than the others. Even if that is understood to be a matter of my subjective opinion. I feel like a silly primary school P.E. teacher who insists that "we're all winners!" and refuses to let the kids keep score during their games. I am so lame. Especially since I know there are some genuine Competitive Bastards in the bunch who live to compete. And kick ass. And be told as much.

Okay, you're probably not as emotionally delicate as my behavior would indicate I believe you are, so I'll just do it. Do it! This is gonna hurt me more than it hurts you. Or something like that.

First off, thanks, my peeps, for gracing my blog with your smooth poetry stylings. I'm gonna treasure your contributions forever. (Always stay as cool as you are and have a great summer!)
Next, I'm gonna break it down for all of you out there in the mutherland: there were a lot of things I likey-ed. A whole lotta things.

For example:

Worldgineer, I like the phrase "young girl king" so much that I am going to write it down and put it in one of those mezuzah thingeys and nail it to my doorway. (Also really liked the tiger thing the other day. That thing just came from out of the blue. That was gorgeous.)

K_sra, whatever you say that was, I really loved "and watching and waiting for all those/ damn palaces to melt". My dear, I wanna bust all your balloons. I wanna burn all of your cities to the ground. (In the Lord.) (Oh, and keep on truckin'.) (Amen.) You're glad and you know it. Clap your hands!

Brian, man, in the first place, the fact that you made your mark two times is just awesome in my book. I am so pleased that you had an awkward social (albeit drunk) moment 'cuz you thought my lines were cool enough to share with others. (And now you know they're not. You won't make that mistake again.) In the second place, I would say when you're cracking me up this much (which I sooooo appreciate), you should definitely take a free pass on using those two lines. Don't you even worry about the mess. It'll all come out in the wash.

Joel, I wasn't kidding with that ROFL business. This impish writing voice is so completely unlike the uber responsible nice guy you've always been, that it was a (pleasant) shock. Plus it made me think of Harry Potter. (My secret crush.) Maybe he'll re-enact this scene in his next film. I can dream, can't I?

Daryk, liked yours so much that I came this close to crowning you the winner. After reading this clever thing I didn't know whether to console you (or whoever that is speaking) or hand you/ whoever a box of Cottonelle Fresh Folded Wipes for that messy second stanza. (I don't think even Worldg could find the device that would make that go, err, smoothly.) Sorry about those mishaps, though.
Third stanza broke my heart. That is very boy suffering there. (I offer empathy if not complete and total understanding to whoever's doing the talking.) And maybe you/ whoever doesn't know what "the royal" means, but I am pleased to see that if you are embarrassed by it, you can shake it off. (New low on my blog, jokewise. *shakes head* Kids these days!)
Oh, and I might point, but I won't snicker.

Lydia, you win. That thing was pretty damn masterful. You landed blows like a prize fighter beating up a granny. (Even though you would never, ever beat up a granny. I mean, you wouldn't, right?) Wow, that's a really vicious image. Cover your eyes, kids. I mean it!

Anybody want a peanut?

Prizewise, Lyds, figgered I'd e-mail you the list for the types of words I need for my free-style mad libs thingey. (Oh, and I just know you're gonna love it. And even if you don't, that's okay. I'll have fun writing it and that's worth something. To me. Most of the time.) I'll stick that thing on my blog here and in the meantime, all you losers (and I say that with affection) can check out some mad libs which are probably way cooler than mine's is gonna be anyway. Damn!

dimanche, septembre 19, 2004

La Lectrice, Part One

I was no faster than the rest. No better at it. I learned exactly when they did, and in exactly the same way. I don’t know what happened after that. I have never known.

But I picked up speed when they did not. As if the pull of the words was intrinsic and all-powerful. Until, finally, my eyes absorbed print everywhere they fell. And my brain retained its comprehension of the words before my sight jumped to the next line and the next and the next. I sat for hours at a time in the tiny Reading Corner in my first grade class room. I read through the shelves of books as if that were my job, as if I were an ass-kicker, forever ruining the curve. I had none of these thoughts, of course. I had no thoughts except for the ones I found in the books. Those and the “Next!” my brain hollered every time I finished.

This happened at home, too. I read constantly- n’importe de quoi- ingredients on the Cheerios box if nothing else was available. When the bookmobile showed up every week, I read all of my books and then all of my siblings’ books long before it returned. My mother took us to the beautiful, old public library downtown and dashed my hopes when she told us we were each limited to ten books per week. So I took my ten in the first few minutes and spent the remainder of each visit feverishly trying to read through other books- books I could not bring home.

My mother, clever woman that she was (and still is), gave us quotas to fill with these ten books. A certain number had to be concerned with some scientific matter or other. A few had to be history or –and I loved this as it felt like cheating- historical fiction. There had to be some biographical or autobiographical stuff thrown into the ten someplace. And the rest were (joy to my childish soul) all fiction.

It was during this tunnel visoned time (when I was consumed with words and books and reading) that I found her. The very first one that I held up in front of my life. A hero. Now, a word on heroes (I don't use the word 'heroine' unless I'm discussing literature) - I do not collect them. Never really have. I admire incredible people but I will not allow that I am small and meant to be small and that others are great and meant to be great. I would rather scare myself silly by insisting that I accomplish incredible things. By insisting that I blow myself away with how incredible I am capable of being in this world. I don’t want to sit back and watch somebody else’s show. I want to live before I die.

But she was too amazing. What she decided to be- what she did- overwhelmed me. She was GREAT as only flawed human beings can be great. In my mind, she has never been replaced. She never will be. This first hero, found when I was six years old, was Harriet Tubman. This enslaved woman became not my North Star, but my South Star, forever shining in the wrong direction. Away from safety and into danger. Not a drinking gourd which might hold all the refreshment and calm that a battered human being might need, but a life broken and spilled out (by conscious choice and with some measure of cold-blooded ruthlessness) for people who still lived where she’d been.

And, my God, she was tough! She did not give a flying fuck (she probably was more of a lady than I am on the swearing) that lacking property, whiteness and a penis, she did not factor into any powerful men’s plans. She did not wait for legalities to catch up with ethics. Didn’t wait for others to sort through moral dilemmas. She saw people oppressed and in pain and goddamn well went for the jugular. How could I not love a woman like that? She didn’t turn her face away for one moment from the suffering of her fellow human beings. Got 300 souls out and away from mind-blowingly de-habilitating oppression. And pretty much lived her life like that. Spent all her money, every month, in the last few years before she died running a home for the elderly and homeless. Acted the whole time like she knew that in many cases, if she didn’t do something, nobody would.

She was a mess. I adore her. Where did she get the nerve?

vendredi, septembre 17, 2004

Wicked Pissah

I am so pleased that my city was ignored by Ivan. When I got back yesterday in the early evening, I went for a walk in Audubon Park. They'd put all the trash containers away in preparation for impending doom and the little rebel dog's biznasty had to be carried for a little while too long. (That was the only downside to the walk.) Other than that though, it was calm and beautiful. Tons of people out enjoying the same hot and muggy September evening in New Orleans. The radio was telling everybody which restaurants had already reopened. This last thing is what lets the denizens of this den of iniquity know that life has returned to normal. (Food is love. Don't let anybody tell you different.)

I'm choosing the champ of the poetry slam tomorrow and then I will get down to the serious business of rewards. So, there's a smidge more time if you had a half-prepped poem in your head already. I have to say I've had a lot of fun reading the stuff you all have contributed and I thanks you muchly.

mardi, septembre 14, 2004

Everything but the Girl

So, an 8 hour drive later, I am safely perched right on the funky line between Texas and Arkansas, in a town appropriately named Texarkana. (The 'ph' is silent.) My room has a fridge, an internet connection and K_sra's rebel dog.

Despite the fine company, I am tired and the cable news is freaking me out. Talking some smack about a category 3 hurricane that hit Nawlins in the mid-60's and left the entire downtown area under 7 feet of water for a few weeks. Ivan is a category four, people. We're talking destroyed property, potential loss of life, serious flooding, and contaminated water that may take a looooong time to clean up. I don't know when I will be able to go home. I don't know what will be there when I do.

And that was the trippy thing this morning. I had to look around at all my favorite stuff and separate the wheat from the chaff. The questions that needed to be answered, for me anyway, were these: What would I be okay with losing? And what loss would fill me with a tearing regret for the rest of my life?

And I know you're probably saying to me quietly inside your head, "It's just stuff, girl. People are the important thing." And if you're saying it, you're right. Of course, you're right. But if anything happens to my art and design books, art supplies, computer, all of my yummy illustrator and photoshop and pattern design software I will really feel that loss. And my dressmaking form. Damn it to crap, I do not want to have to do without her.

I wanted to be a fashion designer from the time I was thirteen. I think it was the fabrics that did me in, back in the '80's. The fabrics and the piled on jewelry, crude makeup (by today's standards), and just general over-the-top fun I found in fashion magazines. You know, back in the days of "body conscious" knits and huge, swimming, Japanese inspired clothes that didn't know what a human body looked like and never wanted to find out. The days of Amazon super models- with muscle tone and the first really famous fake breasts. (I am distracted momentarily by this thought- why is it that some parents buy fake breasts for their teenage daughters nowadays? C'est quoi le fuck?! Back to milder musings...) Whatever did it for me, I do know that my Inner Drag Queen woke up, hollered, "Honey, I'm home!", and gave me a never ending kiss. I haven't been right since. Even during the times in my life when, because I have been unhappy and have not been actively doing something about it, I have retreated into little brown sparrow mode. (Just on my way out that door, if you wondered.) Love being human. Hate to blend in.

Anyway, I ordered my dress form (with its clever collapsible shoulders) from a company in Chicago that has been making them forever and a day. This was years before I found my voice and insisted on my calling and finally fucking well went to design school. During years of hi-fi love where fashion was concerned. Years of strange experiments (the best kind) and much ruined fabric. (I am not sorry.) Years and years of grabbing like a pervert at material in department stores and boutiques and high end fabric stores. Years of scribbling words and pictures about this love of mine. This love that covers psychology and commerce and history and society and culture and art and fear and desire as well as the body of every single person reading this right now. (Most of the time.)

And when I'd finally sent in the measurements (which were a bitch to take because I still didn't know all the things you need to know to take accurate measurements correctly, easily) some guy called me from the factory and urged me to rethink the shoulders. I had, he explained, obviously made a mistake. I was confused. He sorted me out. Sort of. "According to these measurements," he said patiently, "you have a petite torso and the shoulders of a very obese woman." Oh. Right. I see. By the time I'd finished explaining to him that those were my shoulders (no matter what the standard measurement charts might say) and that there was nothing mistaken or obese about it, he was ready to take my word- and my money- for it.

And she's there in my house, all alone, waiting for Ivan to show up. Her white fabric is streaked with grime from many movers' hands. (It's my fault for forgetting to cover her up during some of these moves I've made. White just calls out for dirt, doesn't it?) And I can feel right now while I'm writing this what it's like to put my arms around her petite torso and dance with her. Even though she can't really dance. Not on that heavy metal base. But to lean her and spin her in place...

Tell me I'm silly. I am not ready to let her go.

dimanche, septembre 12, 2004

Poetry Contest

I was going to write something 11-ish yesterday and I just couldn't. (Moment of silence and all that.) Anyway, since I am feeling quite an urge to lighten up and be veddy silly- take a break from heavy stuff, you know?- I decided to hold a poetry slam. Honest + Popular style.

"What does that mean?", you may be asking yourself. And, Yourself, I tell you, I am happy to explain. Except that, never having held a poetry contest (Honest + Popular style) before, I can't really be sure what it'll be like. I'm 'bout to find out. (How bad could it be?)

Also, before you start, I should tell you that I came up with this idea once after reading poetry written by pals of mine. I do not (really) write poetry. I felt sort of bad about that. But I got over it. And having other people write poetry on my site is the way I came up with to laugh at the fact that I can't personally do it very well myself. So, this is also a way for me to get by with a little help from my friends. And now you know.

My personal fave will be rewarded with a mad libs PROSE thingey which I will compose in their honor. (After they've given me the appropriate nouns and so forth.) Sowennyway, I will give you poet types the first two lines and you can take it from there. No rules on structure. You could even combine the two lines or reverse them. Free and easy. Have fun. (I know I'm honest, but now I guess I'll find out if I'm popular. Please, please, please come to my birthday party! This dress is gonna look stupid if I'm the only kid here.)

(Ahem! Where is my dignity? Had it just a second ago.) Start here:

I used the royal 'we'
To take a standing piss

jeudi, septembre 09, 2004

First Cut

The canvas tilts beneath me and, feet secure, I lean back across the hard hull. Salt and cold splash onto my skin and warm under the sun. Even the wind on me is warm. And I am at your back. By your side. You have turned this light thing into a chariot over the water. Out here, lines in hand, you have no doubts. You have not forgotten one single thing about this love. Strength and joy radiating fiercely, you carry me along. And for that, I purely adore you.

It cannot last. Balance relinquished, I snuff my regret quickly (as I never can on land.) Picking my spot, I jump- light and precise- into the ocean. Carefully avoiding ropes and sails. No entanglements. Just the way you taught me. Just the way you liked it. Until the day you walked down those stairs and mistook me for an angel- inside and out.

But I am a real girl slowly treading these southern coastal waters. This is all I have ever been. Too good for you. Wilder than all of them. Still not bad enough. I cannot win. You are a fool. Love bleeds away into the water.

I watch as you stand on one edge and pull the mast upright. Shoulders, torso, thighs- those muscles doing what they do- and I think you are beautiful. Man in his element. I have never found anything on this planet more compelling. Leviathan stirs in the depths below me and I say, “Hush. Go back to sleep.” And to my body, “Be quiet. There is nothing to fear.” And then I am rolling up and down on this beautiful ocean.

Wet fabric clears the water. And wind, overeager with the punch line, jumps at it right away. I watch as you go- lovely, lovely. Wanted- always wanted- by those who mean you harm and ones who wish you well. (I can no longer tell where I belong.) You are shouting to me while the distance pushes us apart. I still my heart and lift my head. Perfectly quiet- to hear your words. (Woman does not live by bread alone.) I realize I am a fool to wait.

I wish it were me you were afraid to lose. I do not give a shit about your cooler full of beer.

samedi, septembre 04, 2004

Keep A Straight Face, pt. 2


I'd noticed her shoes in the morning- one brown, one navy Ferragamo bow flat. She'd laughed when she caught me looking and told me that she had mixed the pairs accidentally. I told her about the time I'd forgotten to take off my huge lion slippers one morning before heading to my 10th grade homeroom. And that's how it started- with me trading one embarrassment for another- always the consummate hostess, even if it was my first week at this place.

As she headed to her desk, I did a fast inventory of her Lafont Paris frames, long, swinging glass bead necklace and highlighted bob. (This last had been lovingly slashed all along the lower line and had me contemplating for the millionth time the sad fact that in most cases hairdressers just will not take my word for it that I want a very wild, rock and roll cut. I look too delicate- too gentil. And they, thinking they know the lady that I am better than I do, always manage to make me look as wild as a Palm Beach print. In other words, only wild- looking to the wildly ignorant.) When I looked at her body, I saw that her striped knit top and linen cigarette pants were neat and rumpled all at the same time. Which managed to make her look very french. I'd been told she was extremely eccentric, but so far, her oddness struck me as harmless and charming.

Later in the morning, she came back and leaned her skinny ass against my desk, wanting to know how I was getting along so far. She carried the lion's share of a neat little "welcome to the office" exchange and I answered on autopilot, my brain concentrating on her strong, flawless jawline. Wow, I hope my jawline looks like that when I'm her age. And then Stupid! You have to start with a jawline like that to end up that way. Ohhh. Right. Man-in-the-moon-face. Never gonna look like that without implants. Mean, mean implants. That's a negative, Ghost Rider. Huh? I blinked back into the conversation just as she'd finished saying something about the weather.

"You definitely moved to Louisiana at the hottest part of the year," she said emphatically. I shrugged and laughed. Stupid Yankee. She started up again, "When I first moved here two decades ago, I kept coming down with yeast infections." She continued, comfortably oblivious to my struggle to keep my eyebrows in place. "My doctor finally told me to stop wearing underwear during the hot months and that cleared it all up." I bit my cheek to keep from laughing and threw a panicked glance over her shoulder to the open door of the nearest partner's office only ten feet away. I knew that if I could hear everything he ever said in that room, he was definitely getting an earful right now.

"You gotta do whatcha gotta do," I said politely, noncommittally. "Well, you know," she confided, "I just got so used to it that I didn't even wear them in the winter. In fact, I haven't worn underwear for twenty years now." She nodded, rather satisfied with how that had all worked out. "You might want think about not wearing them, either," she offered now, leaning in close to my face and dropping her voice chummily. So helpful. Thanks. "You know- if you find that you're getting yeast infections, too." I smiled my best April Marie smile and reached for the ringing phone.

jeudi, août 19, 2004

Got a Devil's Haircut in My Mind

I sat in that chair and flipped him off repeatedly underneath the huge black cape I wore to keep the itchy snips off my skin and clothes. It was my fault anyway. I’d called at the last minute for cut and color only to find out that my girl was gone. The 4th one to leave the place in less than a year. I’ve managed enough businesses to know that the problem wasn’t likely to be found in the employees.

And so I sat in his chair. Dick. The salon owner himself, pinch hitting at the last moment, his brand of gossip and good times pouring over me. I felt filthy. “And you know,” his voice dropped conspiratorially, “she didn’t bother to tell me she was pregnant when I hired her.” My mirrored eyes shot open and I considered letting him in on current legal ramifications for biz owners who do not hire or who limit the employment of women just because they are expecting. I kept it to myself, though. Poor bastard was burning his bridges just fine without me. “I’m not saying that I necessarily wouldn’t have hired her, but…,” he stopped, comb in hand, and found the right words written on the ceiling. “I probably would have come to a different arrangement. Fewer hours. Something like that. I really didn’t get my money’s worth with her.” Misunderstanding my expression, he added, “You know she wasn’t even married!

My little cutie pie stylist had been with her soccer playing boyfriend since they both began high school. And they were good together. So when they accidentally got pregnant back in January, they decided they would just roll with it. They were thrilled, actually. She was only 19, and having finished up at the Aveda Institute a short while before, she was firmly ensconced in her chosen profession. Besides, her mom had her when she was the same age. Also, she told me, all of her friends already had babies. That last blew my mind, but, you know, different strokes, and etc. She felt like it really was practically past time to get this show on the road. She was sooo happy and it’s easy to be happy for someone who’s happy, you know?

And if she became a little spacey as the trimesters passed, I didn’t hassle her. Being a mom is tough work during every part of the job, in my opinion. So, big smiles, big tips, and lots of compliments. My hair looked progressively dowdier as every month went by, but what the hell. It wasn’t the first time I’d become loyal to someone who was better at being a human being than they were at doing their job. No big deal. I liked the way my priorities were set, even if my hair looked like ass.

So, when he'd finished, after drowning me in the sludge of his opinions on children, sex, his own youth, people in the community that he didn’t like, employees who’d left that he didn’t like, as well as his thoughts on the physical abuse that he felt his spoiled niece should definitely undergo, I found myself disgusted.

I looked damned good. And, of course, I'm going back.

mercredi, août 18, 2004

i surrender all, pt. 3

I graduated high school when I was sixteen. I started the year as a junior and ended up as something else. This is what my high school diploma says:
Dayspring Academy

To all to whom these presents shall come, Greetings
(my full name is printed here)
having satisfactorily completed the required Course of Study prescribed by
Morning Glory Center for Learning Enrichment and Therapy, Inc.
of the State of Indiana for graduation
is therefore awarded this


and is entitled to all honors, rights, and privileges appertaining.
In witness whereof, this diploma is issued under the authority of the
Board of Directors and upon recommendation of the Administration at Muncie, Indiana
and is presented at Ball State University this day, May 24, 1989.

Michael J. Pierce Administrator of Education
Michael H. Parker President, Board of Directors

My high school doesn’t exist anymore. And what’s more, as a “satellite student”, I never attended it for even one day. And this fact alone makes me one incredibly fucking lucky girl. You wouldn’t believe the trouble represented by this damn diploma.

I try to look at it with a stranger’s eyes and play a silly game with it: if I could excise a word or two from its language, would that somehow change the outcome of the story? For example, to start with the light stuff, “Morning Glory Center” irritates me. It’s cheesy. ‘Stop it!’ I sternly tell the writer. ‘Have some damn dignity.” Then I weigh “Learning Enrichment” against “Therapy,” or maybe that should be “Therapy, Inc.” Both sound dumber than a box of hair, but if I could rid the world of one, could I make it a better place for people I’m crazy about?

I’d guess “Learning Enrichment” is probably the lesser of two evils- people kicked ass academically at this place. That’s a good thing. They still walk around with an almost demonic confidence based on their experiences breaking all the rules of what could be achieved in a school setting. “Therapy” or “Therapy, Inc.”, though. Sheesh. I’d cross that out. The devil’s in that detail. Where’s my red pen?

mardi, août 17, 2004

Finally Found A Friend

You know how you meet people who just make you happy? People, it turns out, you also have a knack for making happy? This guy,Jaeson, is one of those. He is living proof that working for McKinsey & Company will kill your sense of humor. Once while watching the dancing bears (dancing bares, ahem, dancing girls) beside me during a Cleveland Cavs halftime, he sang this song: "There's something in my pants, that makes me want to dance." And I do think that just about sums it up.

I'd thought I'd lost track of him for good until yesterday, when another good friend (to be revealed later) sent me his current info. He's living in Guadalajara where he runs his bobbleheaded business. This man is my hero. I see his scruffy face and want to make sweet, sweet happy. I do, after all, have a knack for it.

samedi, août 14, 2004

Tiny Voices, pt. 1

It was all her idea- I think. Usually her music, definitely her ideas on how we should stand, how we should dress. Her irritation when our practices wandered all over the map. We'd completely missed the intrinsic joy- the whole damn point of making music in the first place- by the time we were teenagers. We never got past a certain point as a group. Some lovely things happened when we wandered off by ourselves, though.

The first time I carried the whole thing myself, I bombed in a big way. In front of a tired, midday chapel service crowd at my tiny, incestuous little K-12 parochial school in Oilton, OK, I flopped with gusto. My too many years of performance kept me upright even while the sacred cow of a song I'd chosen was brutally slain in front of about 100 or so pairs of bored, provincial eyes. Good times.

I got back on the horse, though, the very next week. Probably sang the very same song, which is kind of sad, but still. I'd much improved the second time around and by the end of the year, I owned something. In fact I'd done so damn well for myself, that I'd gotten noticed by somebody and a while later was asked to join a Contemporary Christian Cockamamy Something Or Other Group. And in their way, they were a big damn deal- one of the top four Cont. Christ. acts in the country at the time. As there have only ever been two (count 'em) Cont. Christ. Artistes I've ever cared for, I turned them down. I have never regretted that. Even if I could have been a contender where pious pablum was concerned. I'm with Chez J on the whole "rather have nothing than settle for less." Yep, I've got my standards. And you can figure out the rest.

jeudi, août 05, 2004


"Nothing," she concluded, "is more beautiful than a woman with a meek and submissive spirit."

I blinked. And thought, "Yeah, right."

lundi, août 02, 2004

Keep a Straight Face, pt. 1

Other students insisted that all three of them had eating disorders. They ran along the Arno River religiously every evening right before dark. They did seem to subsist on bottled water and bulk candy. And McDonald's ice cream cones. I didn't know if this really proved they were ill or if it simply indicated that they were a little nutritionally stupid. Either way, not my business. The semester already had enough problems.

What I do remember is that they had the weirdest, cutest laughs. And the little blond one would show up sleep deprived, dressed in a white skull cap with a little rainbow logo on it and a filthy hoodie. She'd have fixative and Pantone ink all over her hands on the mornings we had an assignment due. Honey, you look homeless! She'd snort and wouldn't stop her hysterical laughter for the next 45 minutes. It was after one of these distracted, slap happy deadline and critique sessions that I walked with them (the alleged eating disorder victims) to McDonald's for their favorite fix.

And I have to admit it- a taste of home is very comforting, indeed. Especially when you're in culture shock and under tremendous pressure to be creative while carrying a workload comparable to that of architecture or med school students. Even if that taste is the watery, sweet, non-dairy flavor of McD's "ice cream" in a cake cone. So, for five minutes or so, we stood by a counter alongside a front window and ate those cones in cozy silence. It's gonna be okay. You can have fries to go, if you need more.

And then I turned and looked outside. Mistake. Hey, self. Quick memo to me: never again look outside while licking an ice cream cone in Italy. When we were finished, so was he. Every single damn time we went. Like clockwork. It took the shine off the apple, lemme tell you.

i surrender all, pt. 1

clearing the air

we eat our elders
pat each others' backs
there, there, now that's a good burp!
and fall into sleep
and damned

we wake and know
that if we haven't yet
we soon will have to shit

much as they did

maybe ours won't stink!

i'm not sure it's a valid hope, butt
i know that when i remember
the past
my insides hurt
and i have to go

samedi, juillet 31, 2004

Jesus Says Buy More Shoes, pt.1

Two years ago, on my first visit to New Orleans, I saw a GORRRRgeous piece of folk art: a black Jesus was on a cross with women's shoes dripping from his nailed palms. Over his head was a banner reading, "Jesus Says Buy More Shoes." I wanted to buy it but I didn't have the balls. Instead I bought a flattened metal trash can lid reading "Not Mad, Not Sad, Be Jolly", with a self-portrait of a cigar-smoking Big Al in the middle. It's a cute cop-out. Anyhoo, all that to say, I'm going to use this skurry title to post my fashion smack talk. If you're waiting with bated breath, may I suggest a mint?