Secret Pop

Sep 29, 2020

Why Not Two

I'm watching the first Presidential Debate in the year 2020.

In 2016, the first Presidental Debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was held on September 26. It was not a great night for me. I had had a terrible weekend at the end of a difficult month. My then boyfriend came over to watch the debates with me. He wasn't nice. And a few days later, he wasn't my boyfriend anymore. Back then, while I wasn't pleased at how that outcome, I was hopeful about the presidency of Hillary Clinton.

And I guess we all know how that turned out.

And the ensuing four years have been – to put it mildly – fraught. And so, tonight, I'm at my parents' house. And it feels like a great deal more is at stake. And a great deal more is at the breaking point. And a great deal more is a little more than I can take.

Anyway, I'm exhausted. And I know I'm not the only one. We've been on quite an odyssey, haven't we?

Fresh Afire

About ten years ago (!!!), I realized I had missed a bunch of Google Domain alerts in an email address I was bad at checking, and I had lost access to the account that allowed me to manage the custom domain I had created for my blog. For some reason, this just plain undid me. Even as I'm typing this, it sounds like I was a moron. And maybe I was. Maybe I just didn't try hard enough to find a solution. I recall trying to use another route and being told there wasn't one. I told myself I would just migrate everything to WordPress and took one and half to two steps in that direction before giving in to my old friend lazy. I remember spending many hours trying to figure out how to get access back, being thwarted by a very contentious tech support person who may or not have been just some rando offering advice but not actually being affiliate with Google, and eventually settling for using the blogspot URL as an interim solution. And then that became the solution. A solution that was also a reminder of impotence and defeat and surrender. And somehow the failure to get things working the way I wanted them -- combined with a lengthy season of irritants and misery -- essentially defanged my passion for sharing longform thoughts on a platform without bluechecks.

You can see that I posted a few times, here and there. But the most recent post before this one is from 2017, when I was actually sitting in an armchair by the fire, trying to read something while listening to music, but getting ripped back into a tide nostalgia by a track from The English Patient. I reference it in the post as if it's a poetic possibility, but that is actually quite literally what happened. 2017 is a long time ago. And I have posted a great deal on Twitter since that time, but I haven't flexed these muscles there. Haven't even tried.

There's a metaphor in there somewhere. Something about wanting something so badly that compromise feels like apostasy, and giving up is so abhorrent that it chooses to be colored as opting out as a disguise for defeat. But always forgetting that there are myriad things to want, and fixation is for dummies. And if you return to the problem, oh, say, ten years later, it might be a simple cut and paste fix on a control panel you've had access to the whole time. But don't tell children that. It will diminish their capacity for grit.

I don't know that it means anything that I'm even typing this now, and it's appearing on the custom domain I so fervently sought to restore. But there are so few triumphs these days that being able to say I got my custom domain working again is a little bit of good, and I'll take it.

Feb 23, 2017

I Will Always Go Back to that Church

I love The English Patient. But even if you don't like the movie, there's one track in Gabriel Yared's score called "I Will Always Go Back to that Church." It's the scene when Kip sets the candles out for Hana and then raises her up in a rope harness, so she can view the paintings on the church walls up close. It's so beautiful and delicate and hopeful and sweet. I get a little sad when I listen to it, because it reminds me of a stretch of time when I pretty much listened to 5 tracks from that soundtrack on repeat and nothing else, often while sitting in the bathtub. I was living in my parents' house in Rancho Penasquitos while they lived in Italy, basically occupying the master bedroom like a studio apartment. I was 25 and alone in a quiet suburb, freshly extricated from a yuck relationship and not really sure how to fill my time. The nights were quiet, and the house was big. I used to bivouac in that room, bringing up as much as I could plan for so as not to have to go down to the kitchen for anything. I read there, wrote there, doodled in notebooks. I only went downstairs to cook or to play my violin, which I was less inclined to do, as the front sitting room felt so exposed, with French doors and cathedral windows, and I hated that my neighbors might think I was showing off.

I have these banal fantasies, like sitting in an armchair reading beside a fire with gentle music playing. I imagine I will have great thoughts or have something magical revealed to me. But when I actually try to create these moments, it seldom works out that way. I can't get the Bluetooth speaker to work. Or my dog decides she doesn't like me sitting in that chair. Or I try to read but find I have too many intrusive thoughts swirling around in my head. My brain is full of words and maybe at least reasonably populated with inspiration, but I have problems with patience. Focus. I give in to distraction. If I'm honest, I seek it out. I welcome it, and then blame it after the fact.

I would probably have said that the thing you notice when you plant yourself in a nostalgic moment -- when you transport yourself back to a time that was plagued with its own nostalgia -- is that you feel like the same person, but the things you worry about have changed. But I don't even know if that's true anymore. I don't know if I ever experienced the abandon of youth. My nostalgia doesn't transport me to a particularly happy or certain time. I was younger, obviously. But it feels as if I have always been old. Even as a child. Even as a responsible, dependable, shame-prone child who was terrified of being found out to not know the answer to every question and who was certain no other children knew how she was feeling or would like her if they did.

I have never felt young. And now that I am older, I sort of wish I had.

Mar 25, 2014

Drop the Pilot

Hey, how about that! A title that's a Joan Armatrading reference. If that means anything to you, we could probably hang.

So, for the record, I watched the pilots of Believe, Resurrection, and Crisis last night while I was working. Believe had some well-directed action/accident scenes, unsurprisingly. I think that's Cuaron's special gift. But there's a fluffy quality to the acting and much of the action. When a lady assassin breaks someone's neck, it's got to at least look like it's hard work. And that's all I will say on that matter. Crisis has piqued my interest, although I'm a little wary of super organized evil plots with sprawling, henchmen-abundant organizational charts, because I often don't believe (a) all these people would follow an evil mastermind (see my thoughts on Skyfall, which I may not have posted on the Internet, so hopefully, you can refer back to a conversation I had with you personally in which I would have gone on and on about this) or (b) everything that has to work in order for the plan to come together actually will. I mean, I very frequently have to delete and repost tweets because of typos. How likely is it that these henchmen at the makeshift mission control are going to enter all the satellite coordinates correctly on the first try?

Resurrection feels like the one with the most potential to me, despite its absolute reliance on a supernatural plot point, which often deflects my interest. But in this show, they directly take on that issue, so it feels like my skepticism serves the story. From the very beginning -- maybe even from the promos before the pilot aired -- the story was like a grappling hook flung up over the walls of (my) human emotion. I got teary-eyed very early on, and I'm sure if I'd been watching with someone else, it would have led to a drawn-out philosophical chat. I give tons of credit to the excellent cast. It's just a lot of great performers fully delivering. And I don't think it hurts that they are experienced television actors. Omar Epps and Kurtwood Smith, especially. Frances Fisher is wonderful, as always. And I just like Tamlyn Tomita, so there's that.

I don't know if I will keep up with all of them. I try to get on board early, to avoid the confusing chaos of coming into a show (like Lost) a couple of seasons in, after allowing the rest of America to be my beta site. But there's bound to be attrition. With Hannibal and Mad Men and Game of Thrones all seeking my attention next month, it's likely that I won't be able to stick it out for the long network season haul. But at the same time, I crave the occasional network series that really hits it out of the park, because I'm being driven positively batty by these cruelly short cable series seasons. Am I right? Of course I am.

#SpayDay

I posted this on Facebook earlier today, but it occurred to me that a post of this many characters is such a rarity from me, I might as well make it official.

Maggie's getting spayed today. I just dropped her off at the vet, where she was so happy to see her doctor, she pulled out of her collar and went running down the hall to pee on her foot.

I have a wealth of very vivid memories of the day I brought my Audrey to the vet back in 2011 and how I said goodbye to her and told her to be a good girl. And how she didn't make it.

I know Maggie's going to be fine, but it's a weird feeling. I let her sit on my lap in the car because I wanted all the cuddle time I could get. I just remember feeling like I should have cuddled Audrey more that morning. Instead, I let her sleep in while I took a conference call, and I have always regretted that wasted opportunity.

Here's a photo of Audrey, enjoying the sunshine on the window seat in my parents' bedroom. She was a sweet, sweet angel, and she brought so much joy into my life at a time when it seemed that was too much to ask for.



Update: Maggie's out of surgery and fine. She'll be able to come home in a few hours. Expecting a lot of over-the-cone side eye in the coming days.

Mar 16, 2014

Our kids will be different kids than the other kids we know.



Maggie is the friendliest dog in the world. She seriously loves everyone, wants to meet and play with everyone, and will possibly get so excited to see you that she will pee a little on your shoes. And that's just how she is with people. Here's a picture of her being like that with a praying mantis.



And she's like that with dogs, too. All dogs. Every dog she sees, she wants to run over and make friends. Here's Maggie on our walk today, trying to scale a wall to get closer to a chihuahua.



The thing about having a dog this friendly is that nearly no dog and nearly no other person in the world is as friendly as she is. And that means I am witness to her experiencing rejection a lot. And, because I'm me, I project a lot of feelings onto that.

I've had this sort of protective mama bear love for my niece and nephew, when I watched their wide-eyed optimism toddle itself out onto a playground where older kids couldn't be bothered to give them a turn or invite them to play. I realize it doesn't actually hurt them as much as it hurts me. A two year-old will get past that. I realize it's character-building and boundary-erecting and civilization-sustaining. Of course I realize that. That's why I don't run over and hit another child in the head with a rock when they won't let my niece climb up the ladder to the slide. Duh.

I don't have any little people of my own to care for, but I do have this amazing little Shiba Inu. And, while it sometimes makes me feel bad if Maggie runs over to make friends with a new dog and that dog tries to bite her face off, I also love other dogs so much that I would never be unkind to one. I speak warmly to them and tell Maggie it's okay and try to keep her at a safe distance. And as we continue on our way, I tell Maggie what a good girl she is and look forward to saying hi to the next doggie we happen upon. Because that's all you can do. You can just go about your business and expect the next thing to be something good. Even if you're me.

The Shiba Inu has a reputation for being unfriendly to other dogs, not good with young children, and generally aloof with people other than its owners. But I have a magical mutant Shiba who is exactly the opposite of all of that. She loves other dogs. She is patient and tolerant and playful with young children. And she loves EVERYONE IN THE WORLD and generally shows them more affection than she shows me. My mail carrier stops her truck to say hello to Maggie, who tries to get in the truck and go home with her. People who are thinking about getting dogs will tell me how they want one just like her. She's like the Shiba Inu Ambassador, waving at the throng from a slow-moving convertible, sash and all.

I don't pretend that I'm not prone to being competitive or that it would be unthinkable for me to believe my dog is the best one because I need to win at everything, but the reality is I have a very, very special little dog. And I know every parent thinks their child is advanced and exceptional and that it would be statistically impossible for all of them to be right, but I will say this with great certainty: if you get to meet Maggie, it will make your day, and -- without having to bribe her with treats or snacks -- she will make you feel like the most special, most loved, most captivating person in the world. If it was an at all scaleable business model, her friendmaking would make a millionaire of me.

Jan 25, 2014

Pas de Deux

I do a lot of thinking when I run. It's a product of listening to playlists that get played again and again. Maybe I wouldn't take notice of a song, but when I listen to it again and again, run after run, it comes to be the push-button activation of a memory. Every time I run, I'm a girl who is both happy to be running and sad to be thinking of so many previous runs when timely hopes and misspent dreams consumed my attentions and wasted my time.

It's hard not to take note of how the actors change. A song I listened to at one point, where it would have been my voice uttering those lyrics, I can listen to years later and wryly recognize that the sentiments belong to someone else this time. What he did to me, I did to you. What I did to you, you do to the next one. I'm both guiltless and guilty, disappointed and disappointing, true and false.

It's not as smooth a reverie anymore. These days, I run with my dog (Maggie), and that means I'm getting jerked to a sudden halt from time to time when she discovers a leaf on which she must wee or a family of deer at which she must peer. And I run these days in a neighborhood where one must be more vigilant about avoiding being run over. You can't just lose yourself the way I did when most of my run was just on one side or the other of Olympic Boulevard.

If I let the time pass without thinking, I flagellate myself over the lazy waste of brain minutes (a measure of both time and power that only exists in my universe). But if I indulge myself in the traditional deep, thoughtful dive into how everything is now compared to yesterday or the day before that or the thousands of days before that, I have to shake my head a bit at how samey it all is. We waste so much time trying to get back things that slipped through our undergrasping fingers while simultaneously wasting so much time trying to never relive the scenes we've already lived over and over again. On some mountaintop, someone can see the ineffective calculations we're employing and can shake his or her head over our inability to pick up on a world of embarrassingly obvious signals. It's hard not to be resentful of this self-important lookie loo, acting as if it's all so plain and easy. As if making your way through a maze is exactly as easy as guiding someone through one when you can see the whole thing from an aerial view.

I keep thinking at some point I'll actually write a book. It would make my mom happy. But my wisdom is too personal. Too specific. Unless everything really is as generic as all the love songs would have us believe. The idea that everything is universal and experienced by everyone is humbling. When you're in it, the idea that anything you're feeling is common is beyond you. But when you look back on it, you can't help but see how ordinary every feeling you've ever had was. And that is more likely to feel like crap than to be of comfort. Depending on how strongly you feel about your own unique value to the weaving of history's great tapestry.

Jan 19, 2014

Remodeling

I'm pleased to report that I'm not beginning this post by referencing a Radiolab episode or a TED Radio Hour segment. It seems like a lot of my recent inspiration has happened while driving back to my parents' house from Beulah's, and it's usually a weekend, and I'm usually listening to NPR. It's not a big mystery. But I've managed to not go anywhere this weekend, so my inspirations have by necessity had to be a bit more internal. And by internal, I guess I mean I have to find inspiration in the routine of keeping my dog appeased and usually putting together some kind of furniture.

I've been on a sprawling home reset jag in recent months. And little by little, I'm beginning to feel like I can be proud of my home. There's something still to be done in nearly every room. And there are ideas I'd like to undertake when time and finances and energy allow. But I turned the workshop in the garage into a workout room, with a very fancy treadmill and a TV and floor mats and everything. And, for the first time since I moved in, I completely emptied out the little Harry Potter closet (that's what realtors now call these impractical spaces beneath a staircase to make you feel like your awkward closet is fanciful and great) downstairs and completely cleaned it and reorganized everything. The guest bedroom downstairs really looks like a proper guest bedroom. There's even a headboard. And I have a proper art room now, with a bunch of excruciating-to-assemble Martha Stewart craft furniture, and it gets wonderful light and has a lovely view of the fountain and the front yard and the family of deer that often galivants in the creek across the street. So once I unpack all those boxes of art supplies and implements and the crates of paper ephemera that I love to sift through and cut up and incorporate into rather slapdash little art projects, maybe I can recapture something of the feeling I had when I would make art every day in my dining room on Alcott Street.

It's stupid that I would want to recapture any of that, except for its past-ness, since I began my art journaling in what turned out to be a very sad and defeating and painful summer in the middle of a sad and defeating and painful year. But our resplendent human nature enables us to just filter all the shit out and zero in on a feeling, and occasionally I opt for the feeling that isn't a persona-dismembering crapfest. Not everything is a choice. I don't believe, for instance, that being gay is a choice. Or being organized. But I often suspect that being miserable is. Of course, for me being miserable can also be incredibly productive-making, so I'm reluctant to shut it down altogether. Feeling a little lost is how I have almost always gotten from place to place.

You probably know that the term "remodeling," while commonly used to refer to renovations people make in a living or working space, also refers to the natural process that happens when a broken bone heals. Broken bones heal, but the remodeling is visible. It tells the forensic scientist trying to identify your murdered remains that you once broke your arm, and that helps them figure out whether you mattered to anyone. I just didn't want you to think that my thoughts today were without layers.

Anyway, I'm sorry if you wish that had been about something I heard on NPR.

Dec 21, 2013

The music. There it is. The music.

On my way to Beulah's house today, I had some time to kill, so I took the longer route. A jaunt into Carmel Mountain Ranch, passing my parents' old house, where I lived right after college, and then the nearby neighborhood where I had an apartment for a few years. Some things have changed, certainly. But it's largely the same. And it all ends up being -- to me at least -- mostly a series of markers of points in my past where I felt either wonderful or terrible. I've decided it's the amplitude. The peak-to-peak. It's not how happy you ever were or how sad. It's the difference between how happy and how sad you were. (Way to make everything about math, Mary.) This is the geography of the times in my adult life when I was the very most happy and the very most sad. So the distance from peak to peak is the greatest. I've certainly had other periods of great sadness. Perhaps even deeper than any of the San Diego days. But during those seasons, the happy highs weren't as high. And I'm certain I must have had happier times, as well. But the saddest points in those spells were never so low. It's the times when the extremes were the furthest from each other that leave the most lasting and colorful bruises.

I'm beginning to think that the reason I thought I was so happy back then is that I knew who I was. I wasn't anything so amazing, and I'm certainly prouder of my accomplishments since. But at that time, I wasn't wracked with angst over what was to become of me. I am loathe to admit it, but I think the drearily commonplace reason for that is that I belonged to someone.

We're watching Toy Story 2, which I have seen easily 40 times in the past month, on account of we watched all of the Toy Story movies repeatedly on in-room pay-per-view when Beulah and Stellan and I were vacationing at the Kahala last month. It's a long story. Well, no. That's pretty much the whole story. Anyway, it was very expensive.

So, we're watching Toy Story 2 now, as Beulah is making Beef Stroganoff and Stellan is nibbling on cucumbers, and the only reason it matters is that this whole ongoing theme of the toys having no purpose unless there's someone to own them, well, it always hits a little close to home. There was an après break-up period when I couldn't even watch the Jessie reminiscence montage with the Sarah McLachlan song, lest I burst into sobs or write another check to the ASPCA. Some of us are just like those toys, waiting for someone to choose us -- to love us and play with us and write their name on the bottom of our shoe. I presume some of us are like that. Otherwise I feel especially pathetic and lame writing about it.

Side note: Having something to look forward to -- and having some sense of what that something would be -- was also an intoxicating elixir. Whenever it was present. There's something about knowing what to expect that makes one feel vaguely godlike. Where uncertainty may invigorate and entice certain people, for me it is as salt on a slug.

Don't misunderstand me. It's not about being in a relationship. Although it often seems like that's the answer. It's actually about having someone to answer to. I would point at this if asked for the greatest flaw in my personality matrix. I'm very good at doing things for others. I'm actually exceptional at it. But I'm terrible about doing things just for me, unless there's at least ancillarily a way I can attribute it to pleasing someone else. In the past few years, I have really made an effort to step out on my own. That's probably where the confusion comes from. The more I strive to not be accountable to anyone, the less I know what to do with myself. I'm the bird that doesn't go anywhere when you leave the cage door ajar.

Sometimes it feels as if there's something I've lost and need to get back. And I'm a bit out of sorts at the prospect that this is just how it's going to feel for the rest of forever.

Sep 22, 2013

The Neverending Mixtape

I began writing this post on May 18, 2010. It was just a couple of song lyrics I never got around to explaining. But here's the story.

In 2010, my birthday fell on a Friday. I gathered my friends at the Seven Grand for an evening of making this face.
IMG_4824
Also this face.
IMG_4832
Also this face.
Glazed doughnut!
And of course this one.
IMG_4817
And this one.
IMG_4810
I had fun that night. Even when we had to drive all around Downtown trying to find the forgotten spot where Jessie had parked her car. I had fun even though the weeks leading up to that night had been filled with confusion and consternation. And the night before had been filled with being broken up with by phone over a problem that wasn't actually the problem. In such cases, the problem at issue is seldom the actual problem. Even then, I knew that. Instinctively. Anyway, that night, I put all of that out of my head and had my birthday, because it was my birthday and fuck all that other nonsense. And I was wearing that vintage dress I had bought at Shake Rag, and Beulah even had fun running the pool table for a while.

The rest of that weekend, Beulah stuck around and kept me company. We went to see Iron Man 2. We went to some of our favorite places. One of which is Happy Six in West L.A. And while we were shopping for the cute there, I heard an Owl City song for the first time. And even though it sounded kind of stupid and poppy, there was a line that stuck out to me and made me want to sit by myself somewhere where no one would see how ashamed I was of being sad over the stupid loss of something that never was.

I spend my coldest nights alone, awake and thinking of the weekend we were in love.

Later that summer, I put that song on a mixtape. That day, I bought a silver jacket. Here is a picture of half of it.

IMG_4907

I took this picture on another day that ended in sadness and shame. This time involving a meet-up at Swingers that should never have happened. I did get my Breaking Bad DVDs back that night, though. So.

Around that time, I came across a Psapp song that also ended up on a mixtape, on account of this:

Don't make me a chapter. I want to be the whole of your book.

And then I heard Orange Shirt by Discovery, and it was these lyrics that mattered:

Sleep on the train to Tokyo. Google yourself when you get home.
All this love that you're keeping. And me I've got a crush.


I put that song on a mixtape, too. Jessie was in my car when we were driving to the City Attorney's office the week after my birthday to deal with other nonsense, and when it started playing, she said, "What's this?" And it sounded like what she meant to say was, "What the fuck is this?" But I don't know. I sometimes think some of my friends think I'm so square, they don't believe it if I mention any singer outside of Fred Waring.

And then there's the Gomez song that came about as close to being one of those "this is our song" songs as it could have. And then there's that Yeah Yeah Yeahs song. The playlist is long. And now that playlists are no longer limited by the amount of tape on the spools, I just append and append. The songs keep getting written. And the lyrics keep making me want to make ill-advised phone calls and just play songs into people's voice mails in a very postmodern-Say Anything kind of way. There's that Shiny Toy Guns song. And that Salem Al Fakir song. And that Manchester Orchestra/Grouplove song that Beulah got me hooked on. There are all of these songs that I really like but prefer to skip when they come up in the mix. Because it's all well and good to feel something, but I'd like to be just a tiny bit in control, please, okay?

Anyway, if I can admit to once having my heart broken by an Owl City lyric, well, there's a lot more you can do is all I'm saying. On our deathbeds, we will curse the many things we were ruled by. I guarantee it.

It's very, very late in New York City, where I am sitting up very, very awake in my hotel room, allowing this old iPod to play playlists from years ago. If you need an explanation, that is why.

Sep 15, 2013

The Remembering Self

I learn a lot when I'm driving.

I was driving back from Beulah's house a couple of weeks ago and I caught an episode of the TED Radio Hour about memory. There was one segment in particular that poked at me with special persistence. It was the segment featuring Daniel Kahneman called "How Do Experiences Become Memories?" The idea is -- and I'm paraphrasing here -- that a wonderful experience can be ruined if it ends badly, because the way things end is more significant or more intrinsically valuable when we form our personal stories. Because our memories of our experiences are more meaningful than the experiences themselves, and also because if something ends badly, it's more important to remember that fact than to traipse down memory lane, lingering on the parts of the experience that were idyllic. If idyllic ends in shit, it's the shit that counts.

It was posited that this is part of a species survival mechanism. That we have limited space in our brains, so nature wires us to remember the important takeaways -- and if something was terrible, it's important that we remember that fact so that we can protect ourselves from that same terribleness in the future. By the same token, if something painful ends in joy, the joy is the part that sticks. Take childbirth. Women often say you forget the pain. Labor ends in the arrival of a wonderful little gift, so that's the part of the experience the brain places in the time capsule. This certainly makes strategic sense in terms of survival of the species, because if women always remembered the pain, it's far more likely they wouldn't sign up for it again.

I am blessed and cursed with a very good memory. It seems my brain works the way that is most effective in forming memories in that I visualize everything. I remember the way things looked. I remember the weather. I remember what I wore. But it's fair to say that I also -- pretty much without fail -- remember how things ended. And usually in painful detail. And the problem with that is that that pain is very portable, and I take it with me wherever I go.

I have allowed a lot of experiences to be ruled by the memories of their failings and their endings, and I have experienced a lot of endings that ruined the experiences that preceded them. I guess there was some comfort in hearing that this is the way the human brain works and not some sabotaging tactic of my cruel inner self. But still.

The biggest problem with this process is the statistical reality that, if you live long enough, the majority of your brain space might be occupied by memories of unpleasant things that, by design, eclipse any of the pleasantness that may have surrounded them. Growing older is so much more complex and nuanced than Aspercreme commercials would have you believe.

I used to live in my memories. They were my fuel. An often bitter, poisonous fuel. Sometimes, I am actually nostalgic for times when I was living in the melancholy throes of nostalgia. I treasured memories of sadness because they were so much more powerful than any other kind. Now, that's a snake eating it's own horrible tail. For instance, I used to listen to a cassette we bought when these two guys from Canada came to sing at our church. And I remember the night that we saw them perform, one of the women in our church passed away. They announced it at the end of the concert. And my 4th grade heart went out to her two young children, who had come over to swim in our pool while their mom was in hospital. And every time I listened to that cassette, I would remember feeling sad that night and feeling my heart going out, and it was a feeling I went back to again and again.

But this is more about the parts we remember than it is about my specific habit of forcing myself to relive pain. And thinking about what we remember and what it means and how it shapes what we do next happened to be especially relevant to me the day I heard the piece. As it continues to be.

The TED Radio Hour piece I referenced can be found here: http://www.npr.org/2013/05/09/182667116/memory-games

Jun 1, 2013

Syzygy

When three objects are in alignment, one of them is going to be eclipsed. When you let something come between you and wherever it is you're looking, you cease to be able to see all that's there.

There are many, many lessons to be learned from astronomy.

I recently tweeted a more succinct version of this, but this was the thought in its entirety.

May 25, 2013

Ever long is the looking back

Memorial Day weekends have not been particularly winning for me in the past few years. There were moments of painful meanness and inscrutability. There were beginnings of things that turned out to be irreparably damaging. There were ugly exchanges and unfair recriminations. Accusations of every sort (mostly the undeserved sort). And when I take stock of all that, it's hard not to think there's something seasonal about all this sturm und drang.

At the same time, it's my habit -- and perhaps not the healthiest one -- to look for patterns and to follow paths of reasoning, and maybe I defeat myself with this thinking. Maybe there is no magic equation that will spare me the various hurts and harms that happen in something that feels like it could look like a pattern -- if you squint a bit.

But it happens at the end of my birthday month, and it feels like a seasonal gateway that everyone looks forward to. I mean, barbecues. Am I right? And also, in my case, usually some time by the pool and usually a little too much sun and usually too much contemplation and too many songs that make me think about things I'd be better off not thinking about.

The thing I realize most pointedly this weekend is that I have a habit of looking back on things through a filter that sometimes diminishes context. I think about happy times or hopeful interludes, and it's only if I think too long on them that my brain will fill in the blanks, and my sentimentality will be offset by the ballast of things that were less happy, less hopeful. The ballast of truth. Every time it happens, I can't help but feel as if my brain is slapping my hand. It's a lesson I never seem to learn.

People will tell you that the past is your enemy and that thinking about things that hurt you keeps you anchored to that hurt. They're not entirely wrong. But the past is also where all of your most painful lessons live, and forgetting them sends you barreling into your future unarmed. We craft our personal carapaces over time. And there is a difference between that shell and the notion of baggage. There is a difference between hurt that we are unwilling to let go of and the outerwear we don to keep off the rain. Who on earth would fault you for wearing a raincoat when the rain is coming down?

I've learned important lessons from every loss. Even if I haven't always heeded those lessons in the subsequent go round. It's frustrating, sure. If I look back over my years of posts -- many of which were greatly informed by this topic -- it seems I learn at a glacial pace. If at all. I'm a smart girl. Anyone will tell you that. But you'd have to be pretty smart to be dumber than me. And that's the gospel truth.

May 16, 2013

Into Darkness We Go, For No Apparent Reason

I saw Star Trek Into Darkness last night. If you know me at all, you know that I'm a Star Trek fan, and I can be a bit of a pain in the ass when it comes to movies. So it won't surprise you to learn that I won't be adding this title to any list of favorites. But let me begin by saying that it's not the actors' fault. I love Chris Pine as Kirk, even though he seems to only ever get the shit kicked out of him and has none of the wry confidence of Shatner. I love Zachary Quinto as Spock, even though the friendship between him and Kirk is only apparent in that the dialogue says so. I even love Karl Urban as McCoy, even though he has never played the practical, emotional role he is meant to to be relevant in the friendship triad between him, Kirk, and Spock. But since we're given no reason to believe there is any friendship there in the first place, this issue is moot.

And, yes, it's important that the franchise is finally being given budgets that allow for the kind of epic sci-fi storytelling that fans have craved for decades. But there's the rub. Even with a very respectable budget and a fine cast and a fan following that is willing to accept less in hopes of getting more -- even with all these things, the failing of this movie is in the hopelessly terrible storytelling. Despite its urgency to stick its head up its own ass, this movie can't even figure out which hole that is. It is a mess. A mess that I will refrain from going into, because you will have things spoiled for you. And even though once you know what those things are you will want to kick something, I afford you the right to be disappointed on your own terms.

I will also say that -- for his years of mantra-like insistence that he never liked Star Trek -- J.J. Abrams signed off on an embarrassing amount of fan-targeted hand-jobbery, all of which still misses the point. The way I described it last night was that it's as if there is a deck of Star Trek flash cards that was used to populate the film with references and species and memorable quotations in a completely context-free and haphazard manner, to the point where, if you actually know the context that is being ignored or care about the story that is being co-opted, it's difficult to not be offended.

I will clarify that I don't think J.J. Abrams needed to be a Trek fan. I don't dislike him for not knowing the series. Nicholas Meyer wasn't a Trek fan, and his was the finest of the franchise features. It's not the fandom that matters. It's the desire to make a movie that doesn't suck. Whatever his intentions may have been, the movie J.J. Abrams made is a pastiche of formidable elements that does not coalesce into anything significant. And that would be easier to excuse if he hadn't had at his disposal all of the necessary resources to make something great.

If you know me, let's talk about this in greater detail over drinks, because you won't want to talk to me about this without them.

May 13, 2013

Sunday Wormhole

"Sometimes we think we want to hear something. And it's only afterwards when it's too late that we realize we wished we'd heard it under entirely different circumstances." Or perhaps not at all. At least that would be my edit to the statement made by Tyrion Lannister on last week's Game of Thrones. I've not yet gotten to watch this week's. As has been the case for four or five weeks running now, I never seem to be home to watch my various Sunday programs. I end up watching them sometimes days later. Sometimes weeks.

I think of Sunday as the seam of a circle. The beginning and the ending of a cycle we just repeat until -- eventually -- we don't. Not everyone's weeks are templatized. Mine certainly didn't used to be. But even when I had a great deal of freedom and a work life that never began or ended on any particular schedule, Sunday was often a pivot. A way of at least marking that something is over and something is next.

When I was in school and later working a very regular office job, Sunday began with the sad, looming dread of unavoidable Monday with its alarm clock demands and its homework deliverables. The entire day was clouded with it. It cast a pall over anything that Sunday might have been, just knowing that eventually it wouldn't be Sunday any longer. Sunday was the day-long buffer you had to recover from whatever trouble you'd got into on Saturday. And if you hadn't managed to find any Saturday adventures, well, then Sunday was an accusing reminder of what a wasteful sin you'd committed. I always loathed that Sunday anxiety. And even when I've -- at certain times in my life -- managed to free myself from it, I realize that a great many of my friends are servants to that persistent Sunday master, and that has its impact on the making of plans.

And Sunday nights have been fertile ground for programs I've loved over the years. Programs I've watched with people I've cared about. Programs I've rushed home to see. Programs I've recorded ON MAGNETIC TAPE. Programs that have been my companions through periods in my life that have been by turns nice and not so very. I can always tell when I'm in that place. That stuck-in-my-thoughts-and-ruminating-on-the past place. Every line of dialogue is a gateway to a feeling and every song lyric has the potential to be an extinction-level event, emotionally speaking.

So maybe it's a mercy that I seldom let those former Sunday appointments happen on actual Sundays these days. Maybe it's my subconscious way of keeping my calendar so unpredictable that my brain lacks the time to puzzle through the various problems a lifetime of Sundays can create.


May 11, 2013

Reset to Pilot

Back when I was a freelancer working from home, I used to leave the TV on USA Network or TNT pretty much all day. They would play various procedurals and one-hour series, usually in blocks of two or three episodes back to back. And they would play the episodes in order. So if you watched frequently enough and for long enough, you would watch a series in its entirety, in order. Then, at some point, you would go from the last episode of a series -- where the characters have developed and the cast has really found a pace -- to the first episode of that same series. It's jarring. The pilot episode of a show that gets any amount of wind at its back is always just a shade of what the show becomes. The show runners haven't yet decided the fates of these characters, and the actors haven't made the characters their own. The voices are even different sometimes. Watch season one of The Simpsons, if you don't believe me.

So, one minute you're appreciating the subtle relationships and interpersonal nuances of a show you've come to know, and the next minute you're watching two cops rolling their eyes that THIS is going to be their new partner, and no one yet knows about whose mom was raped and whose wife is fed up with cop hours or who's had an affair with the captain. And if you like the show -- or if, like me, you can't be bothered to change the channel unless a basketball game or a wrestling event suddenly interrupts the procedural parade -- you'll get to watch those relationships develop with a certain prescience. You know what the future holds for these hardworking groundpounders. You see it as clearly as if it were synopsized in your cable guide or written in a script you are holding in your lap. You are a god of television.

It might make you wish you could reset to one in real life. Even if you had to just relive all those episodes without ever being able to alter the script. It might make you want that. For a minute. At least you would know why everything goes the way it does. At least there would be some context. At least you would be able to resign yourself to your fate without having to go to some church.


May 7, 2013

Every Story Has Its Sequel

I saw Iron Man 2 the day after my birthday in 2010 with my sister and her boyfriend. I was not completely occupying my mind that night. The night before, I'd had a birthday party at Seven Grand, and many friends were there to make my evening lovely. And the night before that, I was excused from the dating situation I'd been in. So that was a bit of a drag. And maybe my mind was stuck on that more than it was on the movie, but I recall being not-entirely-bowled-over by the film. I remember complaining that it felt very loose. Almost improvised. I also remember laughing at Sam Rockwell's orange hands.

Well, I went to see Iron Man 3 this evening. And it was enjoyable enough. There is a certain simplicity to the Marvel storytelling method. It's all varying degrees of our hero saying, "I didn't ask for this." And the success or less-than-success of each of the films is largely predicated upon how well that problem is managed. How much we care about whom our hero loves, how much we yearn for the resolution of his crises, how much we will tolerate button lines involving puns or clunky plays on words -- all of these fluctuate based on how well the unfair-yoke-of-super is painted for us. I agree with my friend Jennie, with whom I saw the movie, that they did it best with the Cap. Maybe it's the fact that that story happens in the past, which allows for a certain license with the cartooniness, but I cared for Steve Rogers' plight, and I had easy sympathy for his disappointments. Maybe that's because he's the least-complaining Avenger. A chip on even the broadest of shoulders is such a turn-off.

The trailer playlist was as follows: Hangover 3. Star Trek Into Darkness. The Lone Ranger. Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Thor: The Dark World. I had lots of thoughts about those, too, but I've stopped carrying my little Moleskine notebook, in which I used to scribble all my thoughts in the dark without fear of bothering other moviegoers. These days, I mostly make notes on my phone. And that just doesn't work in the cinema. And, after all, most of what I would have written would have been some form of verbal eye-rolling. And maybe a note about how the second film in any given series seems to be required to be about something dark or harrowing. I can provide a list of examples beyond the three in this paragraph if that helps.

In any case, I saw the film, and I'm pleased I did. It's been hard to go to the movies lately, and it's been a great while since the Grove was my regular haunt. A lot has changed. Every moment that passes, I'm learning to adapt.

Incidentally, on Friday, I arrived at the Disneyland Hotel just in time to receive a call from the Glendale Police Department letting me know that my home was in a mandatory evacuation area due to a fire that had kicked up very close by. The amazing thing is that -- whether I believed my house would be destroyed or not -- I knew there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn't even go back to try and grab the important things. And in a way that was freeing. I just floated on an adrenalized cloud of suppressed panic and fake fortitude and enjoyed the weekend I'd planned to enjoy as best I could. Said weekend included Club 33, 1901, and Bats Day at Disneyland. It hardly seems acceptable to complain. And the wrap-up last night was just an unstoppable juggernaut of serendipity, where everything fell into place except my quest for a turkey leg. And turkey legs are readily available at Vons.

Apr 29, 2013

From Apotheosis to Apostasy

There's something about belief that isn't quite properly summed up for me in the actual word. I have believed a great many things. I have believed in a great many things. I have believed in a great many people. I have believed those people. And I have had my beliefs betray me.

Pain and disappointment do leave scar tissue. They leave behind a tougher substrate that is less penetrable, less flexible. I catch myself wanting to undo or not acknowledge these things. I want to pretend that I'm still a wide-eyed child without all of those cautionary impulses overriding my more naïve instincts. I vacillate on which of these is my better self.

My work life has begun to present certain repetitions. I'm at a rehearsal right now that makes me feel as if I'm sitting in the theater of the Guggenheim two months ago. It's the same voices and the same work. I was looking forward to different things back then. I was operating under different rules. Snow has been replaced with jacket weather. But today, the feel of it approximates the other.

I wish it wasn't necessary to feel badly about having believed. But being wrong is so distasteful, I have to think of it as my having been right about how wrong I was.

Something gets lost in the translation from pure truth to the code language of my online self-expression. Everything I'm saying is obscured by everything I'm not saying.

In a vast field of order, anomalies are the only thing you see.

Apr 23, 2013

"Waiter, three whiskeys."

The very first night I slept in my house, I had been moving all day, and I was thrilled to be able to take my first shower, and before actually climbing into bed, I went downstairs in search of a pair of slippers, because the floors were kind of gritty from the move. But before I could make my way to my slippers, I found that the downstairs shower had overflowed and the bathroom, the hallway, and two of the bedrooms had an inch of water on the floor. Well, that was an adventurous first night.

I've spent the past few days in an especially gorgeous San Francisco. Anxious to get back home, realizing that I was only able to half deal with the second downstairs flood I discovered in my house just before I left. I'd left area rugs drying outside. Perhaps someone stole them. Perhaps a family of raccoons spent the weekend shitting on them. Perhaps perhaps perhaps.

There's something familiar about this brand of uncertainty. A return to a once nearly constant state of not knowing what new frustration was going to reveal itself, what new discovery was going to emerge to ruin my day. So recently I've been walking around with a kind of blinders on. If I'm going to be destroyed, I'd rather not see it coming.

But I'm home now. And the rugs are still here. And my DVR successfully captured the shows I couldn't watch while I was away. So whatever other disasters may befall me, for tonight, I'm just fine. Wanting things to be fair and lovely is just the curse I was born to.

"One whiskey. One wine. You are with the tourists."

Apr 15, 2013

The secret to running is to just keep going

These are not new realizations. I've been learning the same lessons over and over for as long as I can remember, sad as that sounds. But these days, it feels more like a veneer. I'm not feeling the actual pain of remembering when I heard that song playing, while I was trying to get it together in the bathroom of a speakeasy and all I could feel was dread and hurt and anger and sorrow. I'm not feeling that pain. I'm just remembering feeling that pain because that song is now playing on a commercial. I remember how provocative that song was, but I no longer feel the actual provocation.

I woke up on a Monday morning a few weeks ago -- it was the day after St. Patrick's Day, if you must know -- and I told my little sister that it was as if a weight had been lifted. I was suddenly -- at last -- convinced that things were going to be better. And I felt good that day. And things were better. For a little while. But then they got unpleasant again. And it felt as if everything had melted down to a murky liquid that was draining away, and my hope that things might not be unbearable circled the drain with it.

I woke up today -- a Monday -- and it was like it was that other Monday. Like a weight had been lifted. Like I was waking up for the first time in the absence of crippling dread. I could suddenly appreciate the gloomy weather and get some work done and tidy up my office and maybe even see myself, at some future date, no longer really feeling those tender remnants of bruises past.

Then I was at my computer, and I saw that bombs had gone off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, and it made me feel all the things that tragic things do. I think it was best summed up by Alex Blagg in this tweet, which I saw this evening and recognized to be spot on. These things steal focus, as they should. But no one knows how long we're supposed to engage these coping mechanisms or when we're supposed to leave it to the people who handle these things for a living and just hope it all pans out.

My little sister and I talked about an article she shared with me from the Chicago Tribune. We mourned runners who literally lost their legs, knowing that some of them had probably waited their whole lives to cross that finish line. It seemed so cruel. It's hard not to let one's imagination spiral out of control in the face of these morbid descriptors. There was a point, during the Sandy Hook nightmare, when I had to just stop listening, because I wouldn't be able to get those thoughts out of my head, and those thoughts were so awful.

We keep experiencing these horrible assaults on our humanity, and most of us survive them. And in my moviegoer's mind, I imagine that a runner who lost a leg today will end up recovering and taking on the Boston Marathon again, and it will be a triumph of the spirit and a symbol that we can't be snuffed out like some single-wick candle. People survive. Amazingly, sometimes. People survive things I feel quite certain I could never survive myself. I always say I'll be one of the first to go in any kind of apocalypse. Zombies. Pandemic. Asteroid. You name it. I'm not the surviving type. Especially if you give me half a minute to think about what the world will be like without plumbing and refrigeration. So I have plenty of room in my heart to hold admiration for others who can hack it. I have sometimes wondered if I could get through tribulations so trivial I'm embarrassed to describe them. Of course, at the time, it was everything. And anyone who told me otherwise was my sworn enemy.

Anyway, I guess my point is time passes, and things get better. Even if you try to keep them from doing so.

Apr 8, 2013

Lies

I've saved a lot up. And I'm so much out of the habit of writing that the easiest way to poke a hole in the inspiration sac and encourage something to leak out is to go back through the various half-written bits and the jotted-down notes and the song lyrics I must have found very meaningful at the time and hope something is still relevant or that I remember what I was originally trying to say. It hasn't been a terribly fruitful pursuit so far.

But it is also a sort of emotional archaeology. Which maybe has some kind of value, I guess. I hope.

You can go back through old photos -- it's even easier now that you can just keep scrolling downward, as opposed to having to open a shoebox or scour an old hard drive -- and the same kind of thing happens. Well, it happens to me anyway. Photos in my various online albums are like the rings of a tree. Little clusters of the time when my hair was that color or when I was on that beach or with that guy. I can look back to a specific date with surgical precision and rocket speed just by looking for a specific outfit. Because I always remember what I was wearing.

I got a stone where my heart should be
And nothing I do will make you love me

Apr 7, 2013

It ends with a reference to Memento.

I dreamed that I was out on an expedition, exploring the ocean with my friend Kim. We were swimming amongst mostly undersea mountains -- literally MOUNTAINS -- of guano, and I couldn't believe how deep we swam or how long I could hold my breath. At one point, it felt as if I had fallen asleep while diving ever downward. And when I came awake (in my dream), I had a sudden concern that I wouldn't get back to the surface in time to breathe, and I might end up drowning in water that was clearly at least partially made up of dissolved bat shit.

But my lungs held, and the resurfacing was like something out of a movie. Just a lot of glorious sunlight reflecting on rippling sea and that feeling in the legs that I suspect mermaids get. But not in the legs, obviously.

When we were back on dry land, we went back to our hotel, which was apparently in Japan. And Kim knew instinctively to light a pilot in every single plumbing fixture and appliance, while I mused about whether this was efficient.

I've learned and unlearned and relearned and re-unlearned the same lessons so many times over that I'm thinking of tattooing instructions on my body so I won't forget. Sometimes it helps to write things down.

You see one crowded, polluted, stinking town...

There's something about Comic-Con. Something that populism does. A kind of infiltration of cleverness and irony into what would otherwise be sincere and earnest. It's as if regular folks -- you know, the kind that tease the truly nerdy and ostracize them from their cliques -- can't allow themselves to unironically attach their passions to something fantastical. They can't BELIEVE in superheroes or apocalyptic mega-monster threats. But if you mash up something they can't believe in with something that a jock or a prom queen can relate to, all of a sudden, those jocks and prom queens are Comic-Con fans, and they're putting vinyl character decals on the rear windscreens of their SUVs. And they're standing behind me snarkily commenting on everything with haughty scholarliness and a certain air of entitlement and understanding. As if steampunk came to us by way of the New York Yankees and a Sergio Mendes song. And frankly maybe it did. What do I know. I almost never wear brown.

I guess I'm talking about the t-shirts with a hipster mustachioed Captain America or Hello Kitty as Cthulhu. You know: the shirts your mom would wear. And wearing them would make her feel like she relates to you*.

I love cute. I love super. I love sci-fi. I love robots. I love anime. I love cartoons. I love video games. But I think I prefer them in their separate rooms. And maybe part of it is that when my tastes in entertainment might have caused me to be an outsider, I chose that path brazenly. I watched Star Trek in high school. I read science fiction with a vengeance. I never ever had a poster of a TV actor in my locker. I never wrote popular guys' last names after my first name on my Pee-Chee folders. I owned my otherness. And maybe on some level, I felt superior because I had chosen something different and unexpected.

But now that it is all broad and mainstream and populist, where is the hard-won badge of geek honor? Everyone goes to Comic-Con now. And everyone watches superhero movies. And everyone dresses their toddlers up as Wolverine.

The true test of course is how a Comic-Con attendee reacts to die-hard expressions of true genre fandom even when it's empirically distasteful. It's one thing to take a picture of the mercenary booth babe dressed as Catwoman who probably has no idea whether she is modeling Eartha Kitt or Julie Newmar. But what do you mutter under your breath when you see an extremely large sweaty man dressed as Ultra Magnus and you can't help but note that through the damp white spandex you can see more ingrown hairs than you knew a human chest could host? Do you applaud his commitment? Or do you wince and wonder aloud about his Type II diabetes? [Side note: I saw the guy in this not-at-all hypothetical costume every year for a long time. And I have long suspected that the curtailment of that faithful yearly sighting can only have been brought about by death itself. Or the inability to afford a Hoveround.] Anyway, the point is, popularity has an uncanny habit of ruining things, and it sometimes saddens me.

We all get this. We all have a little over-precious possessiveness about a band only we know or a show only we watch. Or a convention only we -- among our friends -- ever used to attend. There's badge value in "first." Especially when the thing becomes extremely popular and mainstream, and suddenly no one remembers that you were on board in early days. No one rewards you for liking that song before it ended up in a Target commercial. Once it's in everyone's playlists, it doesn'y belong to you anymore. Once it's in everyone's playlists, frankly, it's probably not going to be in yours for much longer. Right?

Anyway, I'm grateful for Comic-Con. I truly am. But I miss the days when it was an exclusive-if-somewhat-foot-smelling club that I could attend without ever feeling unwelcome or ineffectual. I miss the days when I didn't feel the need to take umbrage when overhearing someone who is not a Comic-Con familiar explaining what Comic-Con is but clearly does not get it at all.

It's strange to feel superior to people because you have what you perceive to be a more authentic connection to geeky stuff. Ironic, even. There was a time when one might not volunteer the admission that one had played role-playing games. Or that one had been vexed on account of not knowing HOW Psylocke got Jean Grey's telekinetic powers. One might have kept such things under wraps. But today, when virtually everyone flies their geek flag proudly -- ersatz though it may be -- it's hard not to be iconoclastic about it all. I mean, how will children of the future know the character-building pain of being an outsider if everything geeky is cool? Well, I guess there will always be acne.

I began writing this a short time after Comic-Con 2012. And if I even go this year -- which depends mostly on whether I can get a hotel room for the love of Pete -- I'm sure I will have even more of these thoughts crystallized. The noteworthy thing is that I'm still planning to go. I invite you to wish me luck, snob that I clearly am.



*It should be noted that the "you" in this scenario is actually me. And my mom would never wear a t-shirt of any kind and has no desire to relate to me. She is perfectly comfortable giving me advice from Judge Judy and second-guessing my menu choices.

Sep 20, 2012

Your Cake and Eat It, Too

Your Cake and Eat It, Too

"Your cake and eat it, too." I had cause to use this phrase to describe something recently, and it occurred to me what an inane idiom it is. If I'm going to have cake, of course I'd like to eat it, too. And yet whenever someone accuses you of wanting to have your cake and eat it, too, the implication is that you breached a covenant of the social compact. You're greedy. You decided you're entitled to a different set of circumstances than everyone else. And what's more, you are an anomaly. NO ONE ELSE wants to have their cake and also eat it. We're ALL perfectly comfortable with one thing or the other. I will have my cake, or I will eat my cake. But as God is my witness, I WILL NOT DO BOTH.

You'll pardon me while I sway a little further in the literal direction, but I don't actually like cake much. So I'm neither inclined to have it nor eat it particularly often. And if this is a metaphor, I guess that says something about whether I take more than what's coming to me or believe I deserve special accommodation, and I would say that metaphor has some truth to it. I am so tightly wound around the pillar of fairness it's crippling at times. I expect it, strive for it, and believe in its possibility, despite the countless times so far I've been served a slice of cake that had the words "Life Isn't Fair" scripted on its icing in a bright sugary extrusion of curly cursive.

Things are not generally fair. Fairness is not the stuff of storytelling. Or when it is, the stories are decidedly jejune. And we don't generally root just for what's fair. We root for what's heroic. Who even gets out of bed in the morning for fair. Well, me, I guess. And even so, I seldom get it. But it's possible my insistence on wanting what's fair originates somewhere in this murky soup of cinematic upbringing that has been my second life. A black hat/white hat world where we see both sides. We see what happens in secret. We know when someone is lying And we all know exactly the same things.

My parents loved Taken. It's actually hilarious to watch them eat it up, because in that film -- spoiler alert -- everybody gets what's coming to them. To an absurd degree. To a laughable, comical, absurd degree. And they loved it. Watching Taken was not especially my favorite thing. But watching my parents watch Taken -- that was the stuff of dreams.

The trick with movies is that we all generally root for the same person. We root for the figure we're supposed to root for. It's disruptive when a filmmaker tells us a story where the good guy doesn't prevail. It's a breach of trust. Or it's a tragedy. Or it's German. It's part of what sucked about the Prequels. It's why it's no fun to watch Law and Order episodes where Jack McCoy learns that the system isn't perfect or where juries decide it's acceptable for someone to get away with murder. That's called jury nullification, by the way. Even unsatisfying moments in procedural television can be comfortingly educational.

But the point is life isn't like that. The point is you don't get the admiration of the audience for being forgiving or for being heroic or for letting people get away with murder. The point is that metaphoric cake I'm having but not eating, or eating but not having, or neither having nor eating should actually say, "Life Is Not the Movies." The endings are not always happy. The good guy does not always win. You don't get to see what people say about you at your funeral. To paraphrase the Rolling Stones and later Devo: Satisfaction is a Western construct. Would anyone care for cake?

Sep 15, 2012

The Beginnings of the Ends of Things

The Beginnings of the Ends of Things

I don't know how I got so rusty, but the habit of writing things I think in anything but the briefest of bursts has fallen away from me with disturbing completeness. And here I am, ineptly marshalling all those unexcised words -- the things I'm always thinking, the conversations I'm always having, like a practice game of chess where you play both sides of the board and can only ever win and lose at the same time.

It's September. It used to be November for me. November was the month of melancholy. All my memories of loss and disappointment seemed to crowd around the eleventh month on calendar pages of the past. But today, it's September. And today, I'm realizing that if you live long enough, and ill-advisedly allow yourself to get your hopes up enough, you'll be disappointed plenty in all of the various months, and disaffectedness will not be necessarily seasonal. It's a law of averages thing.

It's September. But the melancholy mood lacks the clear causality of melancholy moods past. It isn't just one thing anymore. In a way, I covet those days when things were so seemingly clear and dire. Maybe clarity is a luxury of the naïve. Things are not clear. They are infinitely cloudy. Infinitely complex. The solutions are infinite. And possibly unknowable.

When we write, we either want to be saying something very timely or something timeless. When we publish our thoughts, we want to be the first to have the idea in a moment of great meaning, or we want to coin the idioms that will pepper the English of others long into the future. Well, some of us want these things. There are also plenty of people publishing today who are content to string a few words together. There are people today who are content to seek the attention of strangers just to say they're going to bed now. I hope it's fair to say that we are in danger of evolving past artistry altogether. But then, the value of a moment or a thought or a poignant turn of phrase is not uniform. And the only hope of not flailing to death in frustration is to try and regularly talk to at least one or two other people who see the same value that you do, however high or low it is. A shared sense of what is and isn't good, what is and isn't important. It's the only thing that matters.

There are a slew of draft posts pending in my blog account. They date back years. But the new thing that makes them update to today's date each time you open them makes me fear I'll destroy my own history just by trying to consider it. Sometimes I need to know when I felt that way as much as I need to know what I felt. It's a context thing. And another argument in favor of just writing shit down in a notebook like I used to.

Aug 15, 2010

What is funny? or Please be advised, this is not going to be.

What is funny?

A long time ago, I took a class at San Diego Mesa College called "A Literary Approach to Film," taught by Andrew Makarushka. He was a really entertaining teacher. I remember him reminding me of George Carlin, and I remember him telling us he used to have a radio show (with Gabriel Wisdom, if you're from San Diego or interested in finance). We watched and discussed a lot of great films. And he gave me passes to see Joe Versus the Volcano. And I never forgot his name nor how to spell it.

That is not the purpose of this post.

Earlier today, I followed a link from a tweet by Paul Sabourin of @paulandstorm and read Robert Mankoff's New Yorker article about the #kanyenewyorkertweets meme, of which Paul Sabourin is the originator. Wow. Complicated sentence.

Anyway. Every now and then, I'll be talking to someone who shares my interest in and -- gross and unironic as it sounds to say -- passion for comedy, and I'll mention this class I took and one session when we discussed comedy. I'll cite the discussion of the levels of laughter, but I'll usually forget all but the first and the last. I'll mention that we watched The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Prizzi's Honor and Modern Romance, and then I'm off to Tangent Town.

Fortunately, I took notes in my tiny handwriting in my somewhat tiny Japanese looseleaf notebook, which you can see above. And this afternoon, I took the notebook out of a filing cabinet, and typed the notes in a Tumblr (this one), and here they are for you and everyone, so we need never speak again.

Comedy

In 1896, the Lumière brothers made a film of a man watering a lawn. In 1911, Mack Sennett wandered onto the set of a D.W. Griffith picture and ended up studying under the tutelage of Griffith himself, the inventor of film language. Sennett then decided to use the techniques he learned to create a world that was zany and skewed instead of realistic. That was the birth of the Keystone Cops and a world in which all social problems could be solved with "a kick in the rump."

Comedy vs. Humor

Comedy is based on human foibles. Humor is based on content and is therefore timely, e.g., Mort Sahl's Kennedy jokes. Comedy, by comparison, is timeless, e.g., Aristophanes' The Hypocrite. Molière's comedy The Misanthrope is still successful and funny. Whereas Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland's satire is lost, but the comedy remains. Humor changes quickly with the times and can become dated (political cartoons).

What is funny?

This is a difficult problem because laughter resides in the viewer rather than in the event. Laughter is unique to a given event, and its perception in the moment by the viewer. Laughter is evoked by situations having both comedy and tragedy. Aristotle said that the comic element is something ugly or distorted but not painful. Humans are the only animal to have this ability/propensity (i.e., laughter). There is a sadistic element to it, but a person amused by an accident is one who is afraid of it. He experiences satisfaction and glee in seeing humiliating misfortune happen to a proxy victim. Laughter's friend is cruelty, and its enemy is compassion.

The 3 Comic Elements

1. the ludicrous (out of proportion/exaggerated)
2. the incongruous (depends on discovery if mismatched characters in a normal setting or vice versa)
3. the unexpected ([a] unforeseen by viewer or [b] unforeseen by proxy victim)

The 6 Levels of Laughter

1. obscenity and/or vulgarity (basest level)
2. physical mishap
3. plot device (e.g., Cyrano de Bergerac's nose -- denotes expectation of humor)
4. verbal wit (sophisticated level -- "De rien. Il n'y a pas de quoi.")
5. situation or high comedy (depends on incongruity of characters)
6. satire (incongruity of ideas, audacious, most intellectually demanding, most risky)

So those are my notes. You already saw a picture of them. Can you believe my tiny handwriting? It's pretty unbelievable.

I don't know if this directly addresses the Kanye/New Yorker discussion, but inspiration is its own excuse. And that even sounds a little like an iterative expansion of Paul Sabourin's thesis: The context is the joke. Which maybe belongs in these notes somewhere.

May 31, 2010

This might not last forever.

I recently rediscovered Lisa Germano's Excerpts From a Love Circus while making a mixtape. There were songs of hers I wanted to include. I included them. But not until I was on a revision of so high a number that you might wonder if I'm expecting to be paid for my product. I'm not.

I used to listen to the album end to end, over and over, all the time, during my first year in Los Angeles. I found meaning in nearly every song. Personal personal things. It was both comforting to hear someone else sing them and also sort of deflating being reminded that nothing I felt was really mine. Disappointment is so tragically ordinary. Everyone feels sad. Everyone gets hurt. Everyone feels cheated, let down, dashed. At one time or another, everyone feels like the world is sitting on their chest and they can neither breathe nor cry out. A night terror.

If you listen to an album enough and then don't listen to it for a long time and then listen to it a lot again, it's likely that it will change. It's likely that you will have changed. You might have changed so much that you don't even hear music in the same way.

That's how it is for me with this album. It's like I've taped over the previous feelings. Drawn over the previous faces. Only hints of the former remain. And even that is more a product of my propensity to remember who I was at the time than what any of it felt like. I remember what was happening around the music. I remember what I was wearing. But I don't completely remember the scorn that I was responding to. That has faded to nothing. It has lost its potency. It's a bottle of soda left open. The peppery sting of the fizz is all gone.

Oh, it's possible that you in your lifetime have never made an actual mixtape. I mean with magnetic tape on a deck that records analog sound. But I made many of those tapes. And if you did, you may recall that sometimes -- when you recorded over a tape more than once -- there would be ghosts. Faraway remnants of songs you meant to erase. This happened to me a lot, because I would work very hard to never have a tape cut off in the middle of a song, but I also didn't want there to be an excess of blank space at the end of a side. So, in some cases after finding that a track didn't quite fit, I would find another song that did. Maybe some short instrumental piece. Or If You Were Here by Thompson Twins. (Two minutes and fifty-six seconds was just right more often than you'd think.) And there might be only a second or two of empty space before the tape ran clear. And in those seconds, you might hear one of these ghosts. Maybe Depeche Mode. Something from Black Celebration. But it would sound like they were playing in an empty pool in the empty gymnasium of an empty school hundreds of miles away.

This Lisa Germano album has similar artifacts for me. Faint ghosts of what I used to feel when I heard those descending notes on what I think is a hammered dulcimer but could also be an auto-harp. Who I thought of as "hero" when she sang, "So what if your hero sells its soul." Who was doing the carrying in the lyric, "You can carry a lie till it makes you fall down." It's like a revival of a play with a mostly new cast. It's not an issue of which version you like better. But there's an argument to be made that a remake occasionally gets the casting more right than anyone expected. And sometimes it's not about which version was more apt. It's just an issue of running into it at a time when it means something to you. I guess that's the issue with most things.

The mistake is listening to anything alone and expecting that anyone is sharing it with you. Even if you put a song on a mixtape. Or a mix CD, as is now the way we do. We listen in different ways. Some people never give a song a chance. Some people don't care about lyrics. Some people don't like to listen to anything from beginning to end. I've spent my life so far gradually learning that what I call one thing is something else to everyone but me. And that there's no crime in that. Letting go the desire to control every aspect of the experience is a gift. But gifts are something I often have difficulty accepting. It takes a certain amount of back and forth.

The world revolves around you. But it revolves around me, too. So how could we see the same one?

May 30, 2010

A Headache Not Worth Having

I used to write more things down. I used to have dreams all the time and remember them. I used to stop mid-sentence and scramble to find a pen. Maybe it's something about all of this micro-blogging. I think of something and just spit it right out. There's never a chance to let the words linger a bit. See where they go. See if anything comes of them. There's no mellowing period. The immediacy overtakes the art. I've even learned to forgive myself if a tweet contains a typo. It's usually an iPhone typing gaff. And if I don't catch it before two other things have been posted, I commit it to history and accept that there will always be evidence that I might not know the difference between "if" and "of." That is an evolutionary shift.

Not so with this blog of mine. Even today, if I happen across a post from years ago where "going" is spelled "giong," I fix it and republish on the spot. Preserving quality for a posterity that is ironically bound to be less expansive and perhaps less attentive than the ones who read what I tweet. Although one could argue that having a great deal of attention for a second or two at a time does not constitute occupying a place of great meaning in people's lives. It's the ones who sit and listen for a while. The ones who wish there was more. Those are the ears worth whispering into. Those are the ones who will hear now and yesterday and sometime later today and be able to tie it all together, context being a precious, precious thing that nearly never accompanies a status update. Those are the ones who would notice if you were tweeting in a series. They wouldn't require the two of three.

But notebook time was a different time. The notebook was a staging area for something more complete. And I would review what I'd written without waiting so long that my handwriting became illegible to me. And I would fill the notebooks up before they began to disintegrate in my handbag. The notebook was a place I would remind myself to make more of things later. And, in general, I would follow through. That is becoming less the case.

These end up being ways for me to feel the vitality in me ebbing. If I sit with a pen poised over a blank notebook page, I might wait for hours and find that nothing seems worth saying. When I was in high school, and we were required to sit and write in a journal for a half-hour period every day for one semester, I often filled those pages up with song lyrics. Because I couldn't think of anything else to say. All my angsty teenage musings and I couldn't make sentences of them. But I could remember the lyrics to songs I liked. And I usually liked them either because they made me feel forlorn and romantic or because they said things that sounded dirty to me. So those are the words I wrote. No one was ever going to read them. It was more an exercise in penmanship than in anything else.

And in some ways, it's a kind of code. A way to say, "I'm feeling something," without having to say what it is. And if anyone gets wise, you can just point out that it's a song and that you didn't write it, and there ends accountability. Anyone who presses you further either doesn't understand social cues or really, really cares about you.

The notebook I carry still contains sporadic history. There's the bit I wrote when I was waiting for that guy, the first time we went out and he was a little late. There's the thing my friend said that made me want to launch a line of greeting cards. There's the mini-diary I kept the first time I flew to New York for my current job and everything seemed so pre-perfect.

I've managed to sunburn my front half pretty well. Tomorrow I will set out in search of balance. And the outcome will be damage in symmetry, but damage just the same.

Apr 6, 2010

The silence was mandatory. And, in retrospect, advisable.

Blogger's recent location-change requirement for FTP subscribers, despite the offering of some lickety-split-sounding migration tool, actually ended up preventing the use of my blog for all this time. And maybe that was for the best. I don't remember feeling as if I had so much to say, but who knows what I might have blurted out. Instead the past month has been somewhat like one of those dreams where the murderer is coming for you and you want to scream but you can't. In this case, the murderer was Blogger, and the silent scream was WordPress, because that fucker hasn't been any help either.

Anyway, cheers. I'm back on again. For whatever it's worth.

Mar 7, 2010

This blog's root location has moved to http://monoblog.maryforrest.com/. You can make a note of that. Or not.

For feed subscribers, please update your feed subscriptions to
http://monoblog.maryforrest.com/feeds/posts/default.

Definity

Sometimes when I lie very still, I can't feel my arms or legs or any part of my body. I can't even feel my teeth. With my eyes closed, I'm floating in the vacuum of space, slightly surprised I'm able to breathe.

Upon waking this morning, after seeing Alice in Wonderland the night before, I realized I had been dreaming in that theme. I was trembling and you held me, but I was tall and you were small, and there was no magic cake in sight.

I also realized that there are birds that sound like rain. The dogs always sound like dogs, but the birds -- the birds can sing a variety of songs.

Mar 3, 2010

The Disingenuousness of Polite Encouragement

Last summer, my neighbor told me she would be gone for a week. She was going camping with her daughter. I said, "Oh, that sounds fun!" But I didn't mean it. Not truthfully. To be terribly honest, it doesn't sound like anything but the opposite of fun to me. But it's not my job to burst my neighbor's bubble. She doesn't need to know that I'm afraid of possums and raccoons. She doesn't care that I don't know what poison ivy looks like. She was probably only telling me so she could blame me if her place got robbed. And I was just being polite in the way that we are polite to each other in our fraudulent little society of liars. And if you think I'm wrong, please cite the last time you said, "You look AMAZING!" to someone and meant it.

Maybe if a camping trip was planned by someone who really knows how to camp and is really good at it, I'd end up not loathing it. Maybe if the centerpiece of the camping trip was a two-night stay at a five star hotel.

But if you left it to me to plan a camping trip, I would just come up with ways to make it feel like it wasn't a camping trip at all. Because I can't think of anything less appealing than being outside all the time and learning why everything is all wet in the morning and not knowing who has recently peed on the spot where you are now about to pitch a tent.

I can make pancakes and steak on a Coleman stove. And I can remember to buy all the right booze. There is virtually no end to the number of travel size shampoo bottles I can offer you, and I buy only the most luxurious t.p. You want me as your supply officer. But you don't want me as your captain where camping is concerned. And you don't want me in your tent. Unless you like the delicate art of complaint. And let's face it, if you're inviting me somewhere, you probably do.

Feb 14, 2010

Year of the Eye of the Tiger

Today was my first visit to San Diego in 2010. A longer absence than usual. Truncated by the same reason as nearly always. In a recent email, my mother invited me to come to a Chinese New Year dinner with the family, and she adorably and somewhat passive-aggressively said: "We have not seen you for so long. Your dad and I like to have you here as long as we can. I hope we are also your Valentine. :)" This is the form of guilt I find most irresistible.

Usually, Chinese New Year's most noteworthy impact on my life is a slight urge to go to the post office and buy year-of-the-whatever stamps. Back in 2004, I was on this mail art kick, which I unashamedly attribute to watching How to Draw a Bunny and getting all caught up in the genius of Ray Johnson. In addition to buying a photocopier and a lifetime's worth of art supplies, I bought far too many year of the monkey stamps as a means of supporting my plans to send random letters and little arty things I made to various people I knew. I did it for a while. Sent letters around the world and across the country. Sent a bunch to my sister. It never really kicked off a movement, as I might have hoped. I think the only person in the lot who sent me something in the mail was my friend Geoffrey, love that he is. In the end, I was left with a lot of extra stamps. And I seem to have misplaced the little address book I was keeping. So the mailing of stuff won't reinstate itself without at least a little bit of leg work.

So this year, I don't really care that it's the year of the tiger especially, but I do care that it's something new. Time is linear, but the way we experience it is largely cyclical. And these occasional markers are as good an excuse as any to kick yourself in the pants and say, "Hey, how about doing things a little differently this time?" You don't get to unlive or undo. But you can certainly start over. As many times as you like, really. Maybe you can even get it perfect eventually. As long as part of what you change is the way you define perfect, and as long as you learn not to throw away too too much when you're doing your spring cleaning.

I'm not drinking glasses of whole eggs for breakfast. That would just be taking things too far.

Gong xi fa cai, people. Possibility is as much about what won't happen as it is about what will. But in either case, it all begins with the walnut shrimp.

Feb 7, 2010

Towards the Memory of a Better Prom

I did not have one of those longstanding boyfriend-girlfriend things in high school. A lot of people I knew did. And at the time, I probably envied them. But through the filter of my more experienced recollection, I look back on those scenes and assume that I wasn't feeling especially left out. Even though they were 15 maybe 16 years-old, my classmates in relationships became like old married couples. The girls became practical, dour. And they expected things. The boys had to think ahead to bring a second jacket, in case girlfriend required first jacket over the shoulders of her cheer sweater. The boys had to be careful not to talk to other girls. Not to look at other girls. The girls had to be careful not to tell their blabber-prone friend the details of their various dissatisfactions. I remember seeing them talking to each other at their lockers, these coupled up ones. It never looked fun. It often looked angst-ridden. And at the time -- as I was listening to The Smiths and The Cure and David Sylvian -- maybe it was the angst I envied. But I think about it now, and I have to wrinkle my nose. I had my crushes to depress over. But I didn't have this boyfriend-girlfriend thing. This "let's hold hands even though neither of us seems to like doing that" thing. This "I'll just wait in your car while you're at football practice" thing. At the time, having someone expect you to be waiting outside for them at the end of the day seemed like something I would have wanted. Looking back, though, I'm relieved I never narrowed the field in that way. (At least not until the absolutely very end of my senior year. And at that point, half the time we weren't in school anyway.) I compare it in my brain to going exploring and stopping at the first place you see that seems different and just staying there. You don't know you're just steps away from the unattended entrance of the world's coolest abandoned amusement park. You don't know that you could walk five minutes and see an original Van Gogh. You don't know there are restaurants that don't have microwaves in them. How could you know? You've settled in right here. In this little alcove that inadvertently provides shelter in the event of rain but doesn't appear to have been designed for that purpose.

In some ways, I think growing up is just the act of revising your wants. All those things you thought you needed. All those things you knew you had to have. Looking back at them from years away almost demands the making of excuses. I don't know that many people who can talk about those tender, temerity-filled teenage years and say, "This is who/what I loved," without having to immediately offer, "Let me explain..." Life mostly ends up being the many ways you push yourself towards the things you convince yourself must happen. You rewrite the musts over and over. But the pushing itself is written in indelible ink.

Jan 23, 2010

Keeping Things Whole

A while back, I watched Waking the Baby Mammoth, in which paleontologists study the remains of the most perfectly preserved woolly mammoth ever found. And as I watched them take her apart, I realized that I hated watching them do it. It might be the same thing that makes it hard for me to cut up a book for a collage if the book is perfect or part of a set. I treasure the completeness and know that once you've started cutting, the wholeness can never be restored. "Whole" is an absolute. Once it is diminished, it is no longer. Once you've taken something away, "whole" requires an adverb.

I've spent a lot of/too much time in my life thinking about the irretrievable messing up of a perfect thing. Things that go on your permanent record. Things you do that make it so you can never say "never have I ever" anymore. (Drink.) It's misplaced concern, I'll grant you. But it is a thing I think. Sometimes it works better for me when something brand new or perfect gets marred in some way very soon after it comes to me. It takes the pressure off. Next time I buy a new car, I should knick the bumper on something right away. That way I can loathe its imperfection but no longer feel a prisoner of my desperate desire to prevent it.

Maybe second chances are folly. We like to pretend we can put things behind us or unfeel things we've felt. Maybe after a severe brain injury. But in the absence of that...I guess I don't know.

I forget very little. And frankly it's only a strength when it's valuable to remember something. But in a way, it's like paying for storage month after month for a thing that you'll only take out once or twice ever again. Just to look at it. Never to use it. Never to put it to work earning back all that rent you paid. I would forget many things, if I could. I would put a lot of things out of my mind and never give them an opportunity to transport me anywhere. Especially not back to a place of insecurity or hurt. I'd like it to be more like in Dickens. Where, having been transported, you can just stand off to the side and watch yourself objectively and maybe not actually BE in the moment all over again. Where's the fun in that. Those ghosts never take you back to any places you want to go. Scrooge doesn't proudly survey his favorite orgasm in any of the versions I've seen. And I feel like I've seen all of them.

The sun's back out. The sky is a solid crayon color of blue. Sometimes it feels like the world joins me in my desire to have something to look forward to.

Jan 13, 2010

Inert(ia)

I was looking back at the earliest of my blog entries. They go back to September of 2001, right before I got a new job and moved from San Diego to Los Angeles and told myself I was starting over, when really I was just starting.

From my corner office on the 6th floor of the City National Bank building on Wilshire and Fairfax, I had a pretty enviable view of Century City in one direction and the Hollywood Hills in the other. And whenever I thought, "I should write something," I'd usually just have to look through the glass to find something to say. Homeless guy this. The clouds that. A doubledecker bus filled with Austin Powers lookalikes. It wrote itself. I guess having an office with a window that looks out on the rest of the office instead of a bustling, piss-soaked sidewalk is as viable an excuse as any to explain away the dearth of inspiration I have been feeling.

I've had phases. Sometimes I would write about what I was doing and say nothing about how I felt. Then I would write about what I felt and say nothing about what I was doing. Maybe this is the phase where I'm doing nothing and feeling nothing and the obvious result is a reduced urgency to tip tap type it out. In the marketing and public relations world, there are various positions taken on what constitutes an announceable event. You don't want to overreport. You don't want to be one of those companies that issues a press release to say how much you love summer or to remind people that "lunch" is a fun word. But you also don't want to keep too quiet. Lest people forget you. Or assume you're working on something you're ashamed to talk about. It's hard to imagine what that could be in these modern times. Porn is utterly mainstream. Dropping out for a year to live on your disability settlement is like a generational rite of passage. Even prison has become commonplace and banal enough to not keep you from getting to second base with a lady if you meet her at a bar in Silverlake. It might even be a selling point. The shame of just not having anything interesting to say is on a separate scale. A more shameful scale. And a far less rebloggable one.

These days, I have my best ideas on the treadmill or in a movie theater or while driving. And I command myself to remember and write them down. At which time I often find I'm lacking a pen. That can be as literal or as figurative as you like. It's true in both directions.

Jan 7, 2010

It comes in waves.

I saw three white balloons drifting up into the nighttime. Past the moon. In front of the stars. I don't know who let them go, but I felt sorry for their goodbye.

Jan 4, 2010

She said "yes."

I had a dream the other night, but enough nights ago that we can accurately say "the other year." I was in Culver City. I kept having the answers to geeky questions, and I kept not getting credit for it. And there was this pall of injustice and urgency hanging over it all. Everyone was getting something they wanted. I was just watching it happen. And despite my frustration and an overwhelming feeling of being left behind, I kept it all to myself and offered my congratulations. A bystander, making notes in a journal, saving the commentary for later, when -- after rigorous editing -- it might be palatable to judging eyes without revealing the subdermal layer of "it's not fair."

Say what you will about Jung and Freud, but some dreams are so easy to interpret, you might as well have read their transcript in a fortune cookie. And if anyone ends up turning two-line dream synopses into a fortune cookie's insides, I expect a healthy share of the profits.

Jan 3, 2010

Kisslock

The moon came down to meet me. Like the inside of a cooked egg. The part of the yolk, both yellow and grey. You have to be careful not to overcook eggs, you know. But I won't decline a cooked egg, under any circumstances. I'm very forgiving that way.

I looked at the moon the way I always look at the moon, when I see it. Expectantly. Hopefully. Once a great source of inspiration. It's so easy to write lyrical little turns of phrase about things that are persistently, prettily present. That's why thousands of years of writers have written about the moon. Many of them calling it "she." And why they write about stars and the sun and mountains that haven't yet come down. It's easy to treat them like gods. They're always there. But me? I wrinkle my nose at things that promise permanence. Even pens.

But I keep seeing the moon from the same angle, from the same point of the compass, from the same street. With the same dog leash in hand. Passing the same neighbors. The ones who always seem to be frying onions. The ones who have everything but curtains covering their windows. The ones who turned that little shoebox of a house into such an adorable little opposite-of-an-eyesore.

And now I look at the moon and it's all so very the same. A postulate. How I long to see something new. Even when I am looking at something that can't possibly be. It's all so very the same that I find I often don't even look anymore. I feel my poetic leanings crusting over, as if I'm one of those storybook work-a-days who tunes out the world and never realizes they're riding on a subway train made of gold. Oh, there's a fable to be written about me and my kind. Tin joints covered with that reddish, brittle coating that comes from the rain and the salt air and a terrific flood of weeping. Oil can. Oil can.

I lay my fingers across the keyboard, and there's this paralysis. Do I not know what to say? Do I not want to say what I'm thinking? Am I actually thinking anything? Maybe that's the primal arrogance of me. Believing I should have something to say, whether I seem to or not. And that was just the primal self-deprecation of me, in case you didn't notice. I'm very good at making sure no one thinks I really believe I'm worth listening to. Just in case.

I may actually be making a formal sport of saying nothing in five hundred words or less.