Secret Pop

May 31, 2003

Mos Burger Reprise

I found this snippet of Mos history online. The grammar is so startlingly incorrect, it's almost an art form. Charge yourself with joy!:

Japanese man who named Satoshi Sakurada founded MOS BURGER in 1972. He was a businessman who worked at a stock office at first, but he changed his mind "If I'll continue with working, I want to do work is said, "Thank you"." So he decided on independence. He remembered he met delicious burger in Los Angeles when he was businessman and he worked in there. It was sold at Tommy's. It was popular because of thick slices of tomato and chili sauce. He studied and studied, and he opened his first store of MOS BURGER in Narimasu in Tokyo.

Nippon Beckons

Catch the latest MOS news and charge yourself with joy!!

I got a bit starry-eyed and nostalgic over my years in Japan today. I was cleaning out my drafts folder, where I save little things I mean to get back to, and I found an entry from months ago, reminding me to visit and comment on the web site for Mos Burger, a fast food favorite of mine in my Japan years. The thing that evoked the biggest smile was the marketing invitation: "Catch the latest MOS news and charge yourself with joy!!" I am delighted. Purely. If only all the world could know the pleasures of that fabled place. We always talked in high school about the fact that the burgers were mostly soy, and, yes, they don't really taste EXACTLY like hamburgers, but there was no denying our love for them despite. And washing it all down with a bright green draught of cool melon soda was a stolen bit of heaven in a primarily fish-eating world. I miss it, I miss it, I miss it!

Sometimes nostalgia is kind. Like a little vacation in your bedclothes. Other times, it is a cruel reminder of loss and failure and missed opportunities. Fortunately, nostalgia about fast food proprietors is seldom anything but the former. Even when it begets a longing for something oceans out of reach. It's okay to long for things. It keeps you alive.

May 28, 2003

The Heat of Candlefire

I had so many things I meant to catalog today. For instance, the scent list from my run this morning. It included:

fresh cut grass
dryer sheets
toasted onion
photo developing solution
hot asphalt
old lady

I actually took my camera on my run this time. I'm tired of seeing things I want to photograph and pretending I will come back later and get them. But my 24-exposure roll stopped advancing at 12, and I was dismayed. My customer service frustrations reignited themselves. I sent strongly-worded emails to those who would bilk me of my gold. I tidied up. I tinkered. I envisioned what I will hang on certain walls once I get around to the framing I need to have done. I dropped off my film. I felt hot and nervous and then cool and at ease. I sided with the wait staff when hooligan youths made a nuisance of themselves at Canter's. And I will admit that I was tempted to take that matzoh ball they left on the table, untouched. Such a waste. Such a waste. I thought about writing poetry but didn't. Instead, I watched the clock. And I put a lot out of my mind for as long as I could. And I wasn't surprised when it all popped back in.

There were so many candles lit in my apartment, I longed for air conditioning. A flame, however small, always heats things up.

May 27, 2003

The Nights Are Always So Red

I have this theory that if I keep making more of each day, at some point, a critical barrier will be breached and the world will explode. And it will all be my fault. Me and my constant desire to squeeze the last drop out of a long-dry lemon. This is one of my excuses for not pushing the limits every single moment. I'm looking out for the safety of mankind.

That being said, I spent some of my time these past few days ignoring my debt to society and instead scrambling to make the world explode with the force of my industry. Nothing bad came of it. I have been proved wrong.

I got even more birthday goodness tonight. I am a lucky duck. When I think I make my friends happy, I like everything all the more. And when someone tells me I look pretty -- even when I know it isn't true -- it seems like the bargain of kings.

Little ray of sunshine, signing off.

May 25, 2003

Sunbeams and Hedge Fences

I walked several miles of Los Angeles street, with two cameras in hand, waiting for my eye to say, "yes."

Dancing with the Dead

I'm very thirsty, and the newspaper just got delivered. That means it's tomorrow. I hate to be reminded of the phase shift in my scheduled waking hours. I don't want to hear the birds chirping just before I tuck in. Thank the gods there are no roosters in my neighborhood. Firstly, because I would have to kill them for the crowing. And secondly, because that would be a heady indicator that I live in an impoverished region where people collect their drinking water on the rusted, corrugated roofs of their shanty homes. And that's simply not the case.

I suppose I could think to myself that the fact that I don't HAVE to be up at any particular time on most days makes me superior to all those poor suckers out there who have to clock in before the boss gets wise, what with all my freedom and unstructuredness. But then there's that sad follow-up when I repeat it to myself and take note of the fact that I don't HAVE to be up, which causes one to wonder if there is any reason to be up at all. Maybe the beauty of the daily grind is that you always know someone is expecting you. Whether they like you or not. Whether they appreciate your humor or not. Whether they notice your new duds or not. If you don't show up, they wonder about you. And that's almost like knowing someone cares. When you don't have to be anywhere at any particular time, there's less reason for anyone to miss you. Not surprisingly, I go back and forth on this.

I watched a movie in a graveyard tonight, and I brought picnic fare. There's no person on the planet you'd rather have along on a picnic than me. I bring all the good stuff. Ask anyone.

May 24, 2003

There and Back: A Chinese Girl's Tale

A flat tire is no way to start a weekend. But luckily, it wasn't an omen per se. And it didn't end up keeping me from hitting the road. Twice. It was a fine night, with laughter and sangria and tapas and running into unexpected friends and getting embraces and kind words from boys on the sauce. My friend Andrew turned 21 today, and he apparently also recently realized that I'm a genuinely nice person and he's happy to know me. In addition, his Red Fox-elevated blood alcohol level seemed to have affected his coordination, as he nearly stuck his finger up my nose when he went to high-five me and he nearly punctured my sternum when he went to give me a hug. Ah, the impaired depth perception of youth.

I was taking pictures at Livewire, and a guy came up and asked me what speed of film I was using and asked if I wanted him to take a picture for me. I was just trying to snap a shot of a cool dog this girl had brought in with her. He assured me the pictures wouldn't come out and told me that he "takes pictures for a living." I thought, "You mean you're a photographer?" In my head, I said the word "photographer" in mockingly halted syllables. He didn't deter me. He introduced himself and I wondered why.

A few friends wandered in after last call. My parting hugs provoked comments of how nice I smelled. That's never a bad thing to hear.

The fellows across the street from my home kindly fixed my flat tire in just a handful of minutes and charged me a mere tenner. When I was getting ready to leave, the boss announced that it was lunch time, and I smiled at the mechanics as they made for their victuals. I pictured them breaking open sturdy metal lunchboxes and unwrapping lovingly-made sandwiches with a pickle on the side. I wondered if their thermoses might contain orange drink. But, in all likelihood, they probably went across the street for something fast and hot. It's invitingly gettable in my neighborhood. The next time I go running past the tire place (which will probably be in a matter of hours), I'll wave at the guys with thanks in my bosom, but they probably won't recognize me in my running attire, and I will feel offput by their quizzical stares. "You can't win them all," is, I believe, how the saying goes.

May 23, 2003

Negative outlook? Well, that's how I'm living.

Every minute, I'm running out of time. Doing less than I wish I had. Letting the obligations mount.

I can't help thinking, when I'm shopping at swap meets and garage sales and rooting through old photos and birthday cards and brochures, that these all belonged to someone who is now dead. "Oh, look, what a neat birthday card that never got sent by someone who is now dead." Or, "Hey, why didn't this now-dead person's family want to keep these pictures from her wedding?" Or, "I'll bet this person was planning a trip to Europe. Oh, well. He's dead now." I can't stop thinking about it. And when I buy this stuff and take it home, I touch it all gingerly, knowing it isn't really mine. The water damage, the dust, the decay -- they all belong to someone else and their trove of memories. I'm just passing through, sweeping it into a box, and then using it for something unimportant.

Someday, someone will pay too much or too little for something that was once mine but has not joined the great continuum of things that don't belong to anyone anymore. Someone may buy a box of old discarded pictures and wonder why I would ever have bothered snapping a picture of my shoe on that escalator. Someone may not think the blurry effects in my Lomo shots are especially charming. They may instead jeer at the palsied hand that held the camera. They might say, "Any fool knows you can't get natural light shots in the Haunted Mansion!" I won't be nearby to object.

I wonder where I'll be. And I wonder how I'll feel about it. I don't like being so keenly aware that I am always, always expiring. But you never know.

It's a wicked world we live in.

May 22, 2003

Are you kidding? I LOVE a wild goose chase!
I got a lot out of today, but I paid for it. Too much driving. Too much coffee. Too much vodka. Too much "vitamin water." Too much blabbermouthing. Too much everything. Not so much in the eating department, but that's for the best. I'm spent like a roll of quarters at a laundromat where the machines are all really large magnets that suck the change out of your pockets.
I saw Dennis Woodruff at Starbuck's on Melrose today. He had this air of vague celebrity. As if people were looking at him because they know who he is rather than because of the spectacle of seeing him emerge from that duct-tape-and-shag-carpet-covered car he drives around in. His woolly dog came out and absorbed some of the heat from the pavement for a while. Then he peed all over his leash and sauntered back to the shade. He was a sweet dog, but in a pitiable way. I had no desire to pet him.
However, I did see an unusual number of small, pettable dogs all over town today. Spry little miniatures in cute harnesses with surprised expressions on their moist-nosed mugs. Fidgety puppies with thick paws that foretold their gargantuan futures. Pairs of pugs on matching red leashes. They were everywhere. And I wanted to steal them all. But not in a wicked way. Just out of a wanton desire to heap affection on them. Maybe that's creepy.
I got a series of very determined and urgent catcalls from a workman on a scaffolding across the street from where I was walking. It was almost comically scripted. Like that scene in The Muppets Take Manhattan when Miss Piggy gets all the streetwise attention of those behardhatted fellows while she's spying on Kermit and Jenny. "Hey, pretty mama. Where you goin', mama? You lookin' hot today. Where you goin'?" I wanted to say, "To Whole Foods," but I thought it might exacerbate things. Perhaps even be seen as an invitation to join me. Which it wouldn't have been. Especially as I was only dropping off a box of crackers for my mother. I'm not the sort that gets her hackles up over this form of urban courtship, but I think I'm not terriby fond of being called "mama" by anyone. It has a certain '70s cachet that isn't entirely uncool, but it still implies a rudimentary age difference that I'm inclined to find insulting. On the up side of that, I got carded at Albertson's when I was buying two bottles of vanilla vodka. I'm sure the cashier didn't think I was that construction guy's mama. I like her very much.
As an unnecessary aside, I have been becoming obsessed with Whole Foods Market. It's like my new Nordstrom. I go there just to browse and find new things to try. And when the cashiers are nice to me and ask me if I like the weirdo foods I'm buying, I feel like I'm in a special little club -- albeit a club of healthful people with social consciences that govern their food preparation habits, something I would ordinarily scoff at and possibly ball up a flyer for, carelessly tossing it in to the non-recyclables bin, even when I know better. I love buying food there. Even though it's much more expensive and the selection is poorer in many categories and the packaging and marketing of their non-mainstream brands of breakfast cereals make me laugh like a fool in the aisle. I made my mom try this tofu I like to buy there, and she said, unimpressed, "I wouldn't kill anyone for it." I replied, "Well, I wouldn't either." I don't think that was the point. There are really very few meals I can list as appropriate catalysts for murder. Even the ones that border on it are nearly sure to be free of one thing, and that's tofu. It was a funny, idiomatically American thing for my mom to say, I noted. Sometimes I lose track of how thoroughly assimilated she has become. She even claims to enjoy watching Change of Heart and American Idol. What do you want to bet she was in an outrage tonight. The future of American entertainment being left in the clumsy hands of a call-in vote. Where's good old-fashioned tyranny when you need it?
Early in the morning, before I headed out to meet my friend for coffee, I was watching Follow That Bird on the television set, and I laughed and laughed. Even Chevy Chase was funny. Although, I think his performance only further proves that he can only be funny as a bumbling newscaster character. I know some of you will refer me to his Fletch years, but I actually think they've been canceled out by his more recent efforts. All the same, I laughed out loud when he mispronounced Sesame Street.
Oh, and further on the puppet tip, I also watched some of The Witches yesterday -- another credit to the Henson legacy. The only part that makes me cock a brow is the moment when the grandson turns back into a naked boy, bursting from a mouse-sized house in his grandmother's bedroom, and runs -- nude -- to the window to thank the witch who fixed him, completely oblivious to his shame. Am I the only person who thinks this is both wrong and implausible? That aside, my little sister used to love this movie. I think she's on the right track.
I don't know much about this organic dairy business, but Horizon chocolate milk is as yummy as love in my tummy. What a delicious way to close up shop for the night.
I got some additional birthday merriment tonight. I love it when celebrations stretch on and on and on.

May 20, 2003

The Luxury of a Time Machine

Sometimes I wonder how it all would have turned out. And then I realize that I spend more time wondering what things I could change in the past to rewrite my present than I spend thinking about what things I can change in my present to make good in my future. I'm not sure where I picked that up. The nonsense notion of "if only." I know with absolute certainty that if I were to be given everything I say I want more than anything in the world, I would find other things to want. That's why I keep shopping. Dreams get threadbare just like trousers do. Wishes grow weary. Nothing remains your favorite for all of time.

When I look back on the years that lie in my wake, I see the things I once wanted and I know them for the frauds they were. What ever made me want them in the first place? Maybe it's that I don't live in the presence of what I have but rather in the considered absence of what I don't. I look at my collections and I take note of what's missing. I look at everything as an act that will contribute to my completion if I can only manage to do it right. But, like puzzles and playthings and turns at the game, once completion is reached, there's nothing left to do but tear it all down and start over. Perhaps I should have spent all this time fearing completion rather than pining for it. I don't want anyone to put the finishing touches on me just yet. I'm not ready.

I still indulge myself in thoughts of going back. It's just a way to pass the time. My memory is accurate but forgiving. And it never fails to include what I was wearing.

May 19, 2003

Scream bloody murder. No one will hear you.

I enjoyed today and hated it. I am overwhelmed by things I can't completely govern. I'm frustrated with destructive habits. I'm fed up with disappointment and unengaged by the promise of being attended to. Simultaneously, I was out in the sun for hours and hours. I bought a painting of a ship. I remembered how things used to be many years ago, and I laughed at those old, old days and knew that I didn't miss them. I wore my Converse high-tops and fretted a little bit about the clown face my feet took on. I passed on lunch but agreed to dinner. My neck needed rubbing. It got some.

I feel like a pinball caught between warring flippers. Every smile is seconds from a frown. Every laugh is inches from a sigh is inches from a groan. If I could just sustain. Anything. Okay. Let me be hopelessly forlorn. I will write songs about suicide and dark remembrances that want for giving up. It made a fortune for Morrissey. Or let me be bubblegum and doughnuts with sprinkles. Colorful and candy-coated with flavor that lasts and lasts. Just let me be something. I can't bear the neverending back and forth. Love. Hate. Anger. Apathy. Bemusement. Boredom. Fear. Folly. It's like a daily multi-vitamin of neuroses that I swallow. I never take it with food, so it upsets my tummy. And I curse my various brain lobes and regions for having the ability to feel so much. I always loved Comfortably Numb.

It's a metaphor again, maybe. I'm always going back and forth. Always being shuttled to and fro. Always bowing to indecision rather than to commitment. I free myself up for the possibility of being tied down, and somehow I manage to exist in both states. How? Why? For how much longer?

This picture will give you no idea what an ordeal I experienced while driving home tonight. But that's because this picture wasn't taken today. We can still pretend I ever want to get back in my car again. I've been fooling myself for years. Truth be told, my drive home tonight nearly did me in. And not just because it took me nearly two hours to travel a handful of miles in a sea of cars that all seemed to be moving faster than me. I listened to music in the car that made me want to die. And I sang along.

Still, this picture leaves no room for argument that I had a cherry of a mouth when the shutter opened and closed. I can concede that, despite my desire to drown in something. I even managed to meet my deadlines. I waited to check the time until I was finished. The tears would certainly have queued up for a gush if it weren't for the relief of being done. I'm done. With many things.

May 18, 2003

Cruel Irony

Though I had every reason to sleep the sleep of angels, I couldn't manage to slumber longer than fifteen or twenty minutes at a time. And my dreaming mind seems to like to conjure up the down and dirty for me and then make me feel rotten about it. It's unfair in a disapprovingly parochial way, and it makes no sense that it's all happening in my ordinarily-not-nonplussed-by-such-things mind. Staying in bed at this point is just an act of rebellion. It accomplishes nothing.

Is irony ever not cruel?

Pinstripe Pants

What started with a sense of grim foreboding ended in a swell of satisfaction. I have an excellent feeling about the shows I had tonight. I am proud and relieved and curiously reinvested. Maybe it's due in part to the fact that I know where Shangri-la is.

Whatever the case, it inspired celebration, and I was inclined to go with the flow. I was hot stuff tonight. It's a feeling I do not abhor.

I wrote this rhyme with a Sharpie.

May 15, 2003

Red Light Special or Birthday Faces by Barlight

May 14, 2003

Is this mirror unflattering, or is reality too unbearable to be believed?

It's just beginning, but a birthday is afoot. And, if you must know, it's mine. I was delighted to celebrate early with more friends than I expected. I even got giftage! And several particularly canny folk noted the turning of the calendar at midnight and bid me my propers right then. I had no idea it was so late, but it wasn't dismaying when I realized it. The day was so full that it had every right to be over.

I am always a little taken aback when people remember me and are thoughtful. There's a child in me who doesn't know if she deserves it. But I once played Pin the Tail on the Donkey at a birthday party when I was still in kindergarten, and I was the birthday girl that day, and my mom made sure I won. If only we had been in Vegas and the paper cutout of a donkey had been a roulette wheel.

The night is bitter
The stars have lost their glitter
The winds grow colder
Suddenly you're older

How I love the melancholy strains of the wayward chanteuse.

I am an idealist. A romantic. And not in that charming naive way. But rather in that naive naive way. I am a fool.

But I made myself a mix CD last night, and I played it in the car early this morning while I was driving, and I was pleased. And I went shopping and bought outfits that will dress me in future fantasy days. I like aspiring to tomorrow or the day after. It reminds me that I am moving forward. Even if I occasionally get caught facing the wrong direction.

I don't fear getting older. But getting wiser could be disastrous.

May 13, 2003

Explication Zone

There's nothing so very musical about the birds that roost near my home. They really just sound like a vast sea of bathtub squeaky toys being trampled by a herd of oxen, careful to step on every one. But it's sort of nice to be up to hear them. You know what they say about a change of pace.

I had so much trouble getting to sleep. It's always when I know I have to be up. A cruel form of rebellion that only ruins my chances of being able to look rested and serene. The exhaustion almost becomes exhilarating. As if one need only feel something with particular gravity for it to suddenly become extreme. Whatever that means.

I must not notice much, if this is what stands out.

May 12, 2003

The Positive Power of Running to Gangsta Rap

I go running because I'm determined to chase out the demons. But being neighborly and guilt-ridden, once they're out, I feel compelled to invite them to stay for a drink and maybe a bite to eat. But nothing for me. I'm trying to convince myself that hunger pains are as enjoyable as a vodka buzz. It's part of my new approach to fooling myself.

I woke with no desire to wake. I would have been content and unsurprised to slog through my responsibilities and feel as if I had gotten nowhere. But the pavement beckoned. And I was a little flattered by it. So I blushed, got dressed, and got to it.

It was hot and sunny and clear out, and I had poems in my head. So I ran fast and gloried in it. Sometimes, the strides last so long it feels like flying. Thousands and thousands of things happen, and I'm always counting.

Many-Layered Cake

I barely had a bit of up before getting back to down. Something squeezed the life out of me. And no amount of creativity or sleep or spirits or play-acting could put it back. Celebration melts of a sudden into guilty feelings and rational explanations and attempts at logic that never fully take. I indicted myself for feeling envious. When someone else seems to have what I am missing, I press myself and realize that I don't know what I'm missing. I only know what I think I've lost. I only know what I think might help. And I have no courtroom-quality memory of what anything was like when it was all there. I suspect I just didn't know that I was wanting. Or I don't remember that I was. I was never satisfied or confident or sure. But it's easier to remember the scenes that didn't let on. That's why you keep the smiling pictures and put the less-smiling ones in a box somewhere that doesn't get looked at much. No one wants to remember the day they cried the most they ever cried. Even if pictures were taken.

I sit for long periods of time with the taste of madness in my mouth. I get caught trying to talk myself out of things, and then I realize that I'm talking to myself. Having it out like a crazy person. It happens during long drives. It happens during long silences. It happens at the movies. It keeps me from settling in to anything. It stokes the fires of criticism and frustration that keep me looking in the mirror and finding all that's wrong there. To the brain behind my eyes, it often looks as if everyone else has it better.

I didn't fail this weekend. But I didn't win. And I'm fearful that I might not know the difference.

I know I had it coming
I know I can't be free
But those people keep a-moving
And that's what tortures me

May 8, 2003

The Sexism of Punk Rock Concerts

The night runs long for me. I just got home from a long drive, following the NOFX concert, where I was moshed to the point of rib-cracking and where I discovered that it doesn't pay to be a girl in more venues than one might imagine. At a punk rock concert, guys will totally bruise and jostle you if you're of the fairer sex. They would never dream of leaning on some strange dude, but wear a barrette in your hair, and all of a sudden you're an ottoman. One sweaty, shirtless cretin who threw his entire weight on my shoulder and head as he got down from a ledge, responded smugly to my objections by shrugging and saying, "Sorry, but we're at a punk rock concert," as he pushed forward into the sea of fools. Stay tuned. There's a cat fight in the next scene.

Fête Sauvage

Though the details are tedious, you should know that this next episode began with me. Then, a drunk chick started something ugly with my sister, and she and I ended up practically dismantling the girl. The pushing turned into hair pulling, name-calling, and even a little inadvertent boob-grabbing. Gods! -- if I could only have gotten a punch in! I have fists to brandish and a surprising amount of ready-for-action rage. But the logistics of that kind of brawling leave little room for a well-placed wallop. Much as I wanted to sock that girl in the teeth. But I know my sister landed a few good ones. One in the eye, for certain.

My sister yanked off the girl's hairpiece (a retro, blonde fall that was set atop a sadly sparse little ponytail and a mass of bobby pins), and I literally tore her shirt to pieces. I realized as her boyfriend was pulling her away that I had my finger looped through her earring and that I was about to tear it out. I let go. I'm no barbarian.

All told, I took a stray fist in the eye, and my little sister got hit in the nose, but I'm sure we were not the worse for wear. We were the vanquishers. The scoundrelly she-devil later came up and apologized to my sister. Her boyfriend apologized, too. Perhaps out of fear that we would taunt them again with our vicious flailing, but mostly because she wanted her hairpiece back. It had long since been thrown to the moshing wolves. I picked it up off the floor in the immediate aftermath of our scuffle, and I thrust it into the air like a trophy -- like the head of the enemy or a severed ear. Then, my sister took it from me and tossed it. By the time we left -- hot, sweaty, and pumped full of the indignance of the righteous -- the blonde girl and her boyfriend were still scouring the floor for it. But I guess we're all friends now.

I have a big, raised welt of a bruise on my forehead that I don't remember getting. It's funny how certain injuries never manage to take hold in memory, while others hang on relentlessly, unwilling to ever be forgotten.

Rally Point

I can offer high marks to the bonding properties of battle. You've got my back. I've got yours. Our hearts are pounding. We're sweating and screaming. We're high-fiving our way through a wash of venom and vitriol. And after it's over, we can recount the whole experience to each other in high-pitched, triumphant exclamations.

But the high is brief. The adrenaline carries a crash component that makes it hardly worth the effort. That's why the drive home is strangely silent. The cold night air is refreshing good fortune, and the danger sign has been dimmed to darkening.

I'm very thirsty.

May 7, 2003

5. 7. 9.

Today got me all deep and dark and introspective, for some reason. It showed in my work and on my face and in my lack of desire to push myself too much. I had some very taxing, stress-filled moments today. And I was disappointed in myself for being as unfamiliar as I am with the ganglionic Los Angeles freeway system. I should know how to get where I'm going. I should. By now. I should have gone on more Ponce-de-Leon-like weekend excursions. I should have studied a map.

I'm due for a road trip. A real one. I even started buying magazines with suggestions for them. I'm in need of busting out. I want to see something I've never seen before. Or something I've seen many, many times. I just want to be out there. Stirring things up. And I want to get the most of my Moto Photo club membership.

My father is back home. I'm so glad. I'm sure he will be screening his videos and photos for us. I look forward to sitting beside him and hearing his tall tales. He smells nice.

Now, thanks to the liberation of Mexico, I know what a real punch sounds like from close-up.

May 4, 2003

It's all rather easy, once you give it a go.

I really need to learn to stop being afraid of things. There's this switch in me that gets toggled when something very important is pressing on me. This little saboteur inside me goes to work, and I start hiding from things. Deadlines. Promises. Responsibilities. Phone calls. I just duck and cover and wait for the deluge to subside. Knowing full well that it won't. Knowing that things require doing and that I will not escape this. Knowing that consequences are no illusion. And they are unavoidable. Putting it off doesn't rub it out.

And the curious thing is that, once I actually buckle down and get the thing done, it's nothing at all. Or at least it's nowhere near as gruesome as I had been planning for it to be. This has nearly always proved to be true.

I just need to figure out how not to be overwhelmed by things. I so often am. And as good for me as the humbling quotient of that is, it's also immensely disruptive to everything else going on in my life. It's responsible for this underpinning of panic and anxiety that never gets voiced. I can only dream about what manner of pleasant and productive person I would seem to my friends and family if I just got this one major character flaw licked.

I'm not making any resolutions here or anything, but I think the need for change has shown itself.

Also, I was driving the other day behind a new Volkswagen Passat with a home-fashioned bumper sticker taped to the inside of the rear windhsield that read, "George Bush does NOT speak for me." And I felt a sense of solidarity with the folks in the car. I was glad that they share my displeasure in his leadership and that they are not cowed by the bullying of artificial patriotism and McCarthy-esque implications of treason. But then they drove SO VERY SLOWLY, hindering the getting on with my life I had planned for that afternoon. So I had to resign myself to pulling around them and noting to myself that solidarity is not sameness. As much as we may share an ideology or an opinion, we are not destiny-bound to share this road.

I also noticed that cars with those miniature American flags flapping madly out of their windows tend to proceed with the utmost lack of urgency. It caused me to theorize that the flags have a palpable aerodynamic impact on the motion of the vehicle. But then I realized that this was silly. The flags alone couldn't slow the cars down to that degree. Maybe it's a combination of flag-flying and fatheadedness...

Don't despise me for saying that. I'm not against love of country. Maybe I'm just bitter because cars with those flags on them make me envy the child-of-a-diplomat's life I always wish I'd had. Let's all love our country today! And here's an idea: let's do it without pillaging our natural resources, pulverizing our civil liberties, or bankrupting ourselves in the process. You say it can't be done? Well, that's what a lot of people said just before progress happened. You don't want to get caught being a naysayer when everything we wish for comes true, do you? That would be embarrassing!

Fortune Cookie Promises

May 3, 2003

Playing It Cool

Cool Hand Luke is a splendid film. But it's telling that the eggs scene makes me envious and hungry for a plate of eggs of my own. And I don't mean eggs from my own ovaries. I just mean eggs that I can eat. I am a weirdo.

"I fights to the finich, 'cause I eats me spinach."

My eyes are bulging with the effort of today. It's good for me. I take a very temporary but very potent sort of satisfaction from accomplishing even seemingly dreary tasks, especially when they require me to solve problems and test my mettle. I am strong. I lift things without assistance. I shove them into the trunk of my car when onlookers can scarce believe that I will be able to fit everything in with me at the wheel. Hurray for me.

You should have seen me. I lifted huge things and raised them high and plunked them down in a shopping cart. I carried giant ballast-wanting boxes from my car to my apartment. I was a marvel. The superhero version of me had sinewy muscles, rippling beneath peachy, feminine flesh and a smart outfit.

I was also just slightly taken aback by the apparent resurrection of chivalry in the Target parking lot. No fewer than five fellows offered to assist me with my unwieldy purchases. I thanked them and turned them all away politely, instinctively convinced that I am stronger than they are and have no need of their help. This might be the beginning of an explanation for why I never meet anyone. I just kept hearing myself saying, "I'm fine...oh, thanks, I'm fine...I'll be fine...thanks a lot." It is perhaps the commonest phrase you can expect to hear from me. "I'm fine." Although I nearly never find this to be a proper assessment of how I ever am. Am I fine? Does it matter? Doesn't it just mean that I'm getting by? I won't die yet. Not just now. I'll make it at least to the curb whereupon I will fall out of range of your vision and you needn't trouble yourself with what becomes of me. It would only really make a difference if I dropped dead right in front of you. That might shake things up for you at least until the next time you had a coffee.

Maybe it's more hostile than that. I'm fine. I don't need you. You can't help me. Don't pretend you care about me. I know you don't. I know that "I'm fine" is what you want and expect to hear. So have at.

Or maybe it's that half of a sentence whose second half exists only in subtext. Like in Japanese. I'm fine, but...

Or maybe it means just that. I'm fine. I'm okay. There really isn't anything to worry about. I am taking in the day, and it is agreeable to me. I am looking forward to being asked how I am very soon. I am excited about being able to announce that I am, in fact, fine. How fine a thing it is to be me. If only you could know it for yourself.

I'm fine. That's all.

Timidly Timidly

My brain is on about betrayal tonight. I dread slinking off to bed and sleep. It feels like facing the music.

Certain months belong to me.

Ain't it a glorious day
Ripe as a morning in May
I feel like I could fly
Have you ever seen
The grass so green
Or a bluer sky

Crash. Bang. Boom.

I walked in the door with shoes wet from the rain outside and I stepped gingerly into the dining room, where I had left things half-cocked. Against my better judgement, I decided to press forward and set my things down in a convenient place. That's when I tripped on the lamp cord laying across my path, managing to knock the lamp over and shatter its frosted glass shade on my floor. So much for well-lit thing-making. I really liked that lamp, too.

I'm glad I can be encouraging and helpful to others. But it doesn't always give me the sense of fulfillment it once did. I'm scroogily beginning to measure my returns and noticing the low levels in several of my encouragement tanks. Crisis-level lows in some cases. Enough for alarms to be set off and alternative sources to be researched.

If someone cared enough to light a real fire under me, I'd be ever so grateful. But then sometimes I feel as if I am burning at the stake, and nothing comes of it but a lot of smoke and ash.

I miss diving into something whose completion made sense. I miss looking forward to being done. Wanting to show myself. Wanting to share it. Wanting to celebrate. I miss the days when I wasn't afraid to finish things because of the rank emptiness their completion would leave. I used to feel like I was part of something. These days, I always feel as if I am somehow just visiting. Standing in. Understudying. Holding the page for someone else. Someone who will eventually step in and resume things in their normal, intended course. I'm no missionary. I have no desire to bounce from place to place. Never encouraging roots. Never getting to know anyone. Never letting anyone know my full name. I have no desire to secret myself away once the do-gooding is done. I want to have it out in the open, and I want it to matter. And I want to not care what anyone else deems it to be. I wish I could stop measuring myself against all these alien elements. All that is beyond my control. All that taunts me from just beyond my reach. Isn't it silly to envy those who will one day have what was never yours to begin with? Isn't it ridiculous to pine for an illusion? Isn't it an enormous, gigantic, inexcusable waste of time to lay in bed with your eyes closed trying to keep in the dream when you are fully awake and already quite sure of it? When you're not even fooling yourself, what value is there in the charade?

May 1, 2003

Reflection. Refraction.

If you snuck up on me, you'd catch me writing song lyrics. Words to tunes that haven't been written. Choruses that will never be sung. I'm pretending to be strong today. I'm flexing these faint muscles and frightening away predators with my throaty growl. Certain beasts would trample me underfoot, and I won't have it. It is of the utmost importance to me to maintain my most ladylike posture. Especially in the face of adversity.

I can smell fear. It's a human, bedroomy smell.

The Balance of Power

I finally started taking care of some things I had been allowing to sit in that festering way. I felt this wave of relief come over me -- despite the fact that the problems will not be resolved for months and months to come. It's just the trick that happens when you face your fears and they don't actually destroy you.

So, for a moment, I felt mighty. And a flush came to my cheeks and an eagerness to my fingers. And I wanted to start fixing everything that's wrong. Destiny has a cotton candy quality here on the first of May. And it's almost a sort of letdown when you realize that it's not the end of the world.

The more I worry about how you perceive me, the less you perceive me as I would want you to.

For the record, I am holding up the sky with one uplifted hand. I am soft -- marshmallowy soft -- but with sharp edges, well-placed. So many things fascinate and distract me that I am dizzy and fatigued by it. I can't possibly cram it all in. My brain -- my heart -- can only hold so much. But as I feel them swelling, I approach contentment. I was always taught the pleasure and the prize of fullness. There are few things I do in the absence of regret. The self-assessment is on me like a fever. I shouldn't have. I could have done it better. I wouldn't if it had been Wednesday. But I see you being better than me, and I admire you for it. All of you. I aim for you. Aspire to you. Sit close so I can absorb you a little bit. And I wonder if I ever lay that sensation on anyone else. It seems so very me. And so very like a failing.

I am goosebumpy with excitement and the cold. But denouement and sweaters linger round the corner. It pays to savor the chill.