Secret Pop

Nov 30, 2003

The Keeping State
A lot of what I tell myself can't possibly help. This sort of pessimistic certainty that whatever is good right now will surely end at any moment. Probably tomorrow. Or maybe within the hour. I am vigilantly fearful of what lies ahead. No matter how much I am able to put behind me. It's like skimming the ocean's surface in a little skiff. And you can cover great distances, but no matter how far you go, there is exactly that much still out there to cross. Perhaps a problem of the circular nature of things. I don't really think about getting through things. I think more of staying ahead of them. For now. Knowing -- KNOWING that I will be plunged back into it eventually. That it is only a matter of time. That I can relearn many things, but my sentimental self is an indelible word written on a page that cannot be removed. I will always always go back. It's the only thing I know.
And even as going back is a part of going forward, it's hard not to fear the cycle. I have seen enough things again and again to know that I've been round this way before. And that sounds like going in circles. Somehow, I've come to see that circle as an adversary. A bitchy reminder that nothing can be gotten away from or gotten past. It may not all be within so small a radius that you can wrap your arms around it and draw it close, but it's out there. And it's coming around again.
Normally, I suppose I would feel pride in the fact that certain things have continued in my life. That I have a prolonged tenure in anything at all. That I've stuck with it. Become a veteran. Gotten to the point where it was all second nature. I used to keep track of the duration and announce it to myself with pride. But sometimes that turns around on you. Sometimes, you end up saying, "How could it have been that long? Why am I still here? What have I been doing for all this time?" Some of the time, you can feel great that you're the longest-standing member of whatever club it happens to be, but then before you know it, you're the oldest senator in congress and people are just clapping you on the back for managing to stay alive that long. Sometimes you're happy that you've got seniority. But, for me, some of the time, there is a sort of implied dissatisfaction in it. More and more I realize that I cannot flourish in the absence of challenges. Not tribulations necessarily, but the sparking action of ideas and problems on my flinty brain. The easier it is, the less interesting it becomes, the less interesting I become, the less vital it all seems, the closer to the end I feel, the closer to the end I am. If it gets to be routine, if it gets to be a breeze, I feel like I'm wasting my time. I need to be working at something meaningful just to stay alive, for Pete's sake. I used to think that I would be happy being independently wealthy with no demands being placed on me, but this is simple fiction. I need the struggle. Which is why the ease of massive riches that I haven't worked for could never be a reward for me. Unless the whole of my wealth was kept in small coins and I was required to carry it around with me, loose, in whatever pockets and handfuls and shopping bags I had handy. That might be challenging. And therefore worth it.
The process of effacement is no simple thing. For the moment, that is challenge enough. But it is the assurance that I can scrub and scrub and still not get rid of the traces of all that hurts or aches or torments -- that is what makes the trying hard. It's hard to keep at it when you know you can't win. You've got to find a way to tell yourself that another outcome is possible. Even though they say that's what insane people do.
My shows at the comedy theater were great fun. I have had a nice streak of satisfying stage time in recent months. And I've also had the opportunity to feel close to my friends there. And to be grateful to realize that I have been missed by them. When distances intervene -- either made of time or space -- it's easy to believe that you are no longer cared for or thought of. Assurances to the contrary, however tiny, are like butterfly kisses in Technicolor.
Anyhow, I was glad to play and it had the feeling of a homecoming. And I am fond of that.
The Red Bull high faded long ago. I have been fighting the slouchy fatigue since partway through the second show. But I try to remember how good it feels to know that you have persevered. It might suck while you're at it. But the view from the future looking back is glorious. It's conquest and might and fortitude. And it's better than being vanquished by someone as pansy-like as "the Sandman." Please. He's no match for the adrenaline reservoir cultivated by a guilt-ridden childhood and the resulting fear of dying alone. I can take him like I took him all through high school and college: handily and with limited midday napping.
I just want to be able to rest at last. I'm fully prepared to get right back up and throw myself headlong into the fray. But a rest would be so welcome. A blank slate. A little downtime. The freedom to have a good idea. The ability to sleep without dreams that get remembered. The ability to wake up ready for something new. I could so use a bit of that. Tonight, we received the word insouciant in a game, and -- though I could spell it perfectly -- I couldn't quite remember what it meant. There is a nearly sweet irony to that.

Nov 29, 2003

Where Troubles Melt Like Lemon Drops

I don't know if I will remember today intact. Something about it felt disjointed and surreal. Just a series of moments strung together. Plans looming. Catching up afoot. The occasional misty moment. The hot, dry Santa Ana winds blew soot and ash all over yesterday. In the morning, before turkeys were carved, my father was out hosing down our cars and the stone walk up to the house. He said the skies looked the way they had a couple of weeks ago when so much of the county was on fire (and not in a disco way). It was still grimy and grey this morning when I headed out into the unseasonal warmth of the morning.

Although, I don't know that it's unseasonal actually. There seem to be Santa Anas at this time of year more often than not. I remember a November long ago when I was sitting on a bench at Mesa College, waiting for my Japanese class to start. I was wearing all black and reading Stephen King's The Stand. And it was way hot. And I remember thinking, "Christ! It's November. What gives?" Back then, the term "Santa Ana conditions" didn't really mean anything to me. Not so today. I've been in Southern California long enough to have learned. In a way, I wonder if that's good. I had a very transient childhood, with my family hopping from continent to continent every couple of years or so. And as I grew older, I found that periodic wanderlust to be inescapable. These days, if I don't actually up and move to a new city, the best I can do is maybe rearrange my bedroom furniture. But it's hardly the same. I am often convinced that a change would do me good.

It was too warm for my tastes last Thanksgiving, as well. I remember wanting to make a fire in the fireplace but finding it stifling even with the windows cracked, what with the cooking and the drinking we were doing. It's peculiar. I can remember last Thanksgiving so vividly I can nearly not believe that it was a year ago. It's in my head and in my mouth and in my memory like it happened only moments ago. I remember preparing that last dish and scrambling to create extra table space with a few TV trays. I remember what I was wearing (as I always do) and what it felt like to hover over that stove all day. I remember washing dishes while Martín, sitting on a stepping stool in the doorway of the kitchen, kept me company and helped me choose what containers to put lefotvers in. I was surprised to be less exhausted than I would have expected. The preceding days -- and the day itself -- had been so taxing and arduous. But I put all the food away and settled on the couch to watch Eddie Izzard with Kevin, who had not yet seen the DVD. That makes two Thanksgivings I've not managed to have a midday nap. Crimes!

Too too warm. I want to throw on a scarf and mittens and take wintry photos, but it would be a ruse with sweaty underpinnings. I may have to wait for February.

It might as well have been last year today. Standing at the Cingular store, waiting for assistance, it might just as easily have been that day in December right before Christmas last year when my phone display stopped working and I had to get a replacement. It was the same sort of temperature. The same sort of light. The same swarthy guy who couldn't grow a very convincing beard helping me. But as much as it was like other days I've had, it was also unlike any I can recall. I had a couple of important talks with my dad. And I took stock of how quiet and empty the house is now that Beulah and Justin and Tasha have made a new home elsewhere. Sometimes you get used to having certain things happen. It's hard to unlearn the habits.

I had a lovely salad lunch with Jenny at La Vache. Then I met Karen and her friends Reyna and Jan, and we made a grand effort to make something of the San Diego scene but were met with adversity much of the time. Jan wanted house music. We never really found it for him. The bounce staff at On Broadway was ruder than can be excused. And the demographics of the Downtown clubs left a bit to be desired. But Jan and I gabbed about physics and grad school and films and politics and the way things are in his native Germany and whether Jews are liberal or conservative by and large. And Karen complimented my dance moves, which was outright flattery considering what a hot hot hot dancer she is. And my outfit received raves on block after block. I will certainly take it out for a stroll on another night. If only for research purposes. I even batted my lashes for the door staff at the Bitter End and saved us a steep cover, something I nearly never do. Feminine wiles must be used carefully and with reverence for the cosmically inestimable powers they embody. Sometimes a gal just doesn't know what she can do. And that smacks of danger.

Jan and Reyna are going skydiving in the morning. I remember a time when that was an adventure on a list of those I intended to have.

When I hear songs these days, I make an effort to think of what they meant to me when I first heard them. Where I was. What my life held. I noticed that I have a tendency to commute my sentimental attachment to things across time and space and assign great significance to things that never existed together in the same moment. And there's no need for that. There is enough opportunity for sweet remembrance in the moments themselves. I'm sure of this.

Down in the basement, listening to the rain
Thinking things over, I think it over again
I think it over again

She slips into the night, and she is gone
Gone to settle the score, gone into the town
Rain shining in her eyes

I'm riding it down
Listening to the rain
She'll be here soon
I lie back and drift away

A thought to pass the time
To occupy my mind, while I'm waiting for her

I'm feeling so alive, feeling so real
On a stormy night, the rain is coming down
Rain like never before
I've got some records on, some bottles of wine
On a stormy night, the rain is lashing down
And I'm waiting for her

Reyna was astute enough to tape Justin Timberlake's NBC special tonight. I was not. I caught a few minutes of it while we were waiting for our cab. I don't know what it is about that boy, but I think it's worth looking into.

Last night, I fell asleep with the South Park movie playing, and I dreamed I was in an eating contest in an office I was working in. The things we were to eat were largely the contents of our desk drawers. In my case, it was a lot of M&M's and Reese's Peanut Butter Cup minis. And some books.

Nov 28, 2003

Give Thanks

My mother has the best self-image of anyone I know. No one pays her more compliments than she does, and they are well-deserved. When I was finishing getting dressed and she was flitting from station to station of her Thanksgiving dinner preparations like a bee attending to a field of flora, she was assessing each thing that was in progress and exclaiming, "Perfect!...Perfect!...Perfect!" She presented an extraordinarily beautiful meal, and no one knew it better than she did. I admire her for that. And also chuckle with affectionate amusement.

At the table, we did that sort of forced tradition of going round and having each person cite the the things for which they are giving thanks, and that was a tender thing. I found myself censoring my words, not wanting to flood myself with emotion. I realized that we are predisposed to listing the perfunctory things: family, health, the weather, a job, a car that runs, the successes we've had. When it was my dad's turn he reminded us that we should also be thankful for the failures, for the things that made the year difficult. He cited the biblical admonition that we should give thanks in all things. And in my head, I noted that, when it was my turn, I had had to stop myself from saying, "I am thankful for the chance for a better tomorrow." Maybe I didn't say it because it sounded like an ad from the American Plastics Council. But really, I didn't say it because I didn't want to fog up and get misty-eyed, knowing in my quiet interior that this year has held a great deal of disappointment and suffering and that I am fully prepared to be grateful for it because I know that the tempering pays off. It would have sounded cheap. And I would have been uncomfortable with the sincerity, so I probably would have followed it up with some crap joke to deflect the urgency of my loved ones' attention. That's what happens when things get a little too real.

I was tired for most of the day. And the vagueness of scheduled interludes made it impossible for me to take the typical post-turkey nap. And I had a few invitations to "stop by" at various spots. And I saw that they were all accepted and fulfilled.

When I stopped by the after-dinner wind-down of my friends from the comedy theater, I felt delighted when people laughed at nearly everything I said. It was an effortless sort of reminder that maybe I'm good at this after all. A very young, very cute Navy dude got a little too much Crown Royal under his skin and spent a portion of the evening trying to woo me with endearingly clumsy banter and a bizarre display of one-armed push-ups. He expressed disappointment when I was leaving, and I deferred to my need for sleep. He whispered in my ear in a slow, slurred fashion, "You can sleep...when you're dead." I said, "That's true. And a little bit creepy when whispered like that." I had just met him, and he did spend a few sentences talking about the types of rifle he shoots, after all.

Lia called as I was leaving and invited me to stop by a surprisingly well-attended Nunu's for a late drink with friends I've mostly met. I was momentarily indecisive, but I resolved to have only one and was true to my word. I told the people at our table about my mother's self-confident exclamations earlier in the day, and a few of those in attendance said that I come across as very confident and self-assured, too, and it was said in an entirely complimentary way. I agreed that this is true of me in certain situations. And I realized that I have it in me to be in better command of my faculties than I sometimes am. That I am indeed a competent and confident girl in many situations, but that I sometimes allow things to get the best of me. That in certain settings, I melt into a sort of quivering, amorphous soup of insecurity and uncertainty, desiring nothing more than the assurance that I needn't be so afraid. The contrast is stark, and not very many people have a chance to witness it.

So now, before I get any closer to next year's table, I think I can acknowledge that I am grateful for revelations. Even those that I didn't seek. Even those that I would prefer not to face. I am thankful to have the chance to learn something and change things and fix my missteps. I am thankful that sometimes it actually is like a Choose Your Own Adventure, which -- with the artful use of Post-It Notes -- can nearly always be steered full throttle into the happy ending slip. I am thankful that I can choose at all.

Nov 27, 2003

China White

When I got out of the shower, I was having a laugh with my mom. She looked down and noticed that my toenails are painted white. She made a face like a kewpie doll and cocked her head to one side and said, "Special toe." Then she went back to her cooking.

Quelle the After Party

In my experience, the eve of Thanksgiving is either a stress-filled, last-minute prep time for me in the kitchen or a sad testament to the absence of real nightlife in the city that I happen to be in, but Jivewire at the Casbah was going off, even though I didn't get there until well after midnight. I ran into some friends and some strangers. A girl asked me for some gum and whispered to me on the sly that she was planning to make out with a boy tonight. I wished her well and assured her that my spearmint Orbit gum is the very best possible thing for that exact scenario. And she favored me with her friendship by saying, "You should make out with that guy behind you."

Coincidentally, I ended up at an after party at the home of the guy who was behind me. But not before watching a lot of dancefloor oddities. A couple doing tandem (shabby) robot. A guy doing a sort of swim-slash-bunny hop thing. Friends of mine getting busy to the beat. My drinks were steep and strong. Whiskey with a whisper of seven. Those bartenders did me no favors. I was just planning to catch up with a friend before the holiday got underway. Little did I know.

The after party took some time to get its sea legs. But I sampled a number of conversations and learned that I really have difficulty receiving compliments. Gary, a guy I've met before on a number of occasions at a number of different bars and parties, said very little to me other than, "You're gorgeous," over and over again and always with a hint of flattering disbelief. Each time I caught my reflection, I disagreed with him, but I can't help but be grateful for the repeated attempts to break down the walls of my stolid self-deprecation.

I met a girl I had only ever seen on Friendster and told her that I had thought she was really pretty and wanted to write on that sole basis but was fearful of coming across like a weirdo. She soothed my fears and agreed in advance of my asking to become part of my network. Victory served neat.

Kiley is moving back to New Orleans. I had never met her before, but I admired her red jacket.

I drove down from L.A. tonight and didn't reach San Diego until after 10 P.M. Before stopping by Beulah and Justin's new apartment for an hour or so, I was at my parents' long enough to hear my mom tell me how she essentially stole a turkey from Henry's. Apparently, she went to get her turkey and learned too late that, without a reservation in advance, she would only be able to purchase a frozen turkey. They were all out of fresh turkeys except for those that had been presold. Well, she knew that a frozen turkey would not thaw in time, so it was paramount that she acquire a fresh turkey, as was her original intention. Therefore, when the butcher was busy with something else and foolishly turned his back on her, she stealthfully lifted a twenty-three pounder from the top of the display and tucked it into her cart and made for the registers. I gasped and asked if she considered that she was ruining the Thanksgiving of the Benson family or the Rodriguez family or whatever large clan had required that large a bird. And she shrugged and shook her head and said, "Nah. They had more." She was convinced that the butcher had only denied her for spite, I guess. Twenty-three pounds was a bit more than she had wanted and would require her to be up at 4 A.M. to put the bird in the oven. That's why I had to shamefully affirm that I just got home when she spoke to me through my bedroom door a moment ago. I had no intention of being out so late. But that seems to be a frequent condition.

So many things were different today. Too many to enumerate. Less remorse. More hope. The ability to sing along to the songs. The urge to groove to the beat. I didn't feel gorgeous exactly, but I felt pretty. And I felt a bit guilty when a guy touched my arm to get my attention and asked me to dance and I said, "I'm taking a picture." I was taking a picture, in point of fact, but I guess that sounded like "no" to him. Oh, well. The turkey will still taste like turkey to him. I'm certain of that.

Nov 24, 2003

"I've got a feeling."

I was adrift at the PFT, tonight. A little too much wine. A little too much Monday. Very little appetite. Painful twisting posture, straining to see the stage antics. When they all got together to sing the Beatles -- even Robyn Hitchcock, Brian Unger, and Jack Black -- I was happy to hear it but not entirely there. Although special thanks go out to the cute guy in front of Damiano's who checked me out from head to toe and back again. Somehow, it does wonders for the self-esteem to be sized up like so much meat.

Everybody had a hard year
Everybody had a good time
Everybody had a wet dream
Everybody saw the sun shine
Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah

Check...check...check...and check. Feel like asking about number three? I knew you would. My eyes hurt. From all the things that eyes do. I don't know if I have ever been so tired. Is it so great an effort to be whatever it is that I am? I haven't trained for this. And yet, I have.

Everybody had a good year
Everybody let their hair down
Everybody pulled their socks up
Everybody put their foot down
Oh yeah

I really want to let loose and tear it all apart. Without fear of the sweat. I want to do all that is impractical and out of character. I want to open up. I want to vomit up all the fear and guilt and self-restraint. I want to purge my ears of the voices that only cause me to feel like less than I am. I want to take it all with me. I want to quit faking it all the damned time.

All these years I've been wandering around
wondering how come nobody told me
All that I was looking for was somebody
who looked like you

My mother called this evening to check in on me and to tell me that -- apparently as a result of having watched something on the Ellen DeGeneres Show -- she thought I should get into comedy after all. Stand-up. She was giving me her blessing to tell stories about how funny she is. In fact, something she said on the phone made me laugh, and she advised me to write it down. And she reminded me that many people think I'm funny, bless her heart. I said she would rue this day. That if I ever took my life to the stage, everyone in my family would be injured and mortified. But apparently success acts as a lure, like the glistening of gemstones in a pirate's cove. Or the Holy Grail in that crevice as the earth is cracking up and you can She's willing to risk it. For the 401(k).

"Forever long is the looking back."

I read through my posts from last November just now. And I realize that this month, more than any other, has a tendency to be a time of reflection for me. A time of taking stock of what I've gained and what I've lost. And all the Novembers that have gone before. Cool weather. Fireplace smells. Coats I haven't worn in ages. The search for knee socks. The measure of melancholy. I know this weather. This scent. The way the light fades. This is my starting and stopping place. Every calendar finds it so.

Wise Bryn gave me reason to think about the time I spend in useless recriminations over things I cannot change. He reminded me that there is not necessarily a great difference between the road that lies ahead and the one that lies behind except that the one ahead offers the possibility of a new outcome. What is behind you is set in stone. Not negotiable. And you can't change it or affect it or dissuade it. You cannot make it anything other than what it was. No matter how deep your analysis. No matter how fiery your desire. No matter how bitter your dislike for it. No matter how ardently you may wish it. But the road ahead -- while uncertain -- holds the promise of possibility. The chance that you can get it right this time. Or at least not quite so wrong.

I wanted to wake myself up out of the funk that has been on me for so long. Most of this year. Maybe most of the last one as well. I wanted to burst out of the carbonite (or whatever) and be free and alive. Regain my sight. Master myself anew. This is not the November of the year before or of the year before that or of the year before that. This is now, and I am here, and all that I have and all that I can do is powerless in the past. I have been imprisoned in it and I have no wish for that to be the whole of my legacy. I would like to write that myself, thank you. With all the unfairness in things that have been said of me or histories that have been rewritten by friends and lovers and family members, I joked with Bryn that I hope your spirit doesn't linger long enough after you die to hear your eulogy, because I know I'm going to get the supreme postmortem jack.

Bryn was kind enough to give me a new credo of my own. A two-word sword with which to lop off the heads of my assailants. I am trying to put it into practice every moment of every day. And to cultivate power in it. I am also trying to see my history for what it was. Rather than what it could have been.

I am vulnerable at times like this. Soft and pliable. Weak, maybe. But I like to think it is what makes me sweet and tender and kind. It is the hardening I fear. The calcification. The thickening of the shell. I like turtles just fine, but my very soft skin has become one of my most prized attributes, and I support the perpetuation of that.

Everything dies at this time of year. And then new things are born. And people put inedible Indian corn on their tables as decoration, but what's that about? I am thinking about going back to school. Thinking about taking on new tasks. Trying new things. I am planning to not be so bored all the time. I am stronger than the mountains underfoot. Greater than the looming sky. It's about time I had my might challenged. I had almost forgotten that I even had these secret powers.

For the record, I was very proud of what I wrote before I tried to post it the first time, but the post attempt timed out and the melody was lost. I have pieced the shards together, but the cracks are still visible, and the glue probably has debris stuck in it. And some of my hair. Know that you have been cheated and that Blogger is to blame.

Dark but for the Embers

I don't know that you ever get the chance to know or see or set things right. All those orbs spinning out there. Independently. All those scenes playing themselves out with or without you. What you see. What you know. What you don't. You might pay closer attention to the bits that linger. You might close the book. You might get under the rug and see what keeps making it uneven just there. There's so much to attend to. And you can't be in all those places at once. In all those worlds. In all those scenes.

When I was a little girl, I used to imagine that things were happening on TV or in the movies that I couldn't see. When they cut away to a new scene, I imagined that something else was still going on in the scene we just left. Those players were still living out their destinies. The toys were all playing together when I left the room. I think the same thing about the times when I'm sleeping and some other portion of the world is alive and bustling. I think about it when I know that a party still happens even if I don't show up. All of this continuing. This going on. It happens with or without you. And you can only know what you choose to. Only hear what you listen for. Only see what lies in the direction you are facing, give or take a few obstructions. There's a tremendous sense of it all being out of your control. All that goes on that you cannot know or participate in or influence. All that happens and never touches you. All that you will never consider. The answers you won't think to look for. The questions you won't think to ask. Each day -- each choice -- is an exclusion. And it is the heart of a child that sulks to know that you can't do all of it all of the time and at once. It's a child who doesn't understand why you can't have everything you've ever wanted. It's a grown-up who knows that you can't have all that you have wanted because there just isn't space for keeping it.

The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had.

Nov 22, 2003

Sucking on a Penny with Wind in the Ears
There are times when life tastes like something metal to me. When blinking is an effort. When everything feels heavy. When there's a great deal to do but no energy -- no power -- to do any of it. My mother is a very nuts and bolts person. I'm sure if I were saying this to her, she would say, "Metallic taste? Maybe you have diabetes." Or something like that. And she would shove three or four bottles of different kinds of vitamins and homeopathic remedies into my hands and tell me to let her know when I've finished them. She comes from a medical family. Her father was a doctor. Her mother a pharmacist. I don't know if that makes it make more sense or less.
I rode and adored the new Winnie the Pooh attraction at Disneyland, and I am eager to say I liked it. Maybe even better than the Country Bear Jamboree. I miss those dudes, but a ride just feels like more to do than sitting there, listening to machines sing and being made to smile because it's delightful when you can hear the clacking sound made by their blinking eyes and flapping jaws. And the visual design of the Pooh affair was like being in a life-sized Viewmaster slide. Everything so brilliantly colored and three-dimensional but in a sort of two-dimensional way. At one point, I thought of my friend Julie who is terrified of bees. She doesn't even like pictures of them. Like when a car manufacturer put a billboard of a sporty new coupe (was it Audi?) in yellow and black on a billboard with a giant bee in the photo (obviously appealing to the swelling apiarian car-buyer demographic in the Hollywood area), she thought twice about driving east on Melrose until it had been taken out of rotation. For the Pooh deal, you ride around in a little beehive with a bee on the back of it. I'll bet she would have objected. I wonder if she would have been upset by the bees that were also half elephant. This was all my way of mentioning that today might well have qualified as "blustery."
I keep feeling like I'm coming down with something. My immune system throws a tantrum when I keep getting plunged into varying climates. Too hot for this jacket. Too cold for that top. Hey, what's that water doing all over my face and lap? If my hands and feet are very cold for very long, I start to feel it in my throat. And I prepare for the worst by not doing anything about it. This is science.
I can hear the trees rustling. And a healthy plant with vine-like tendencies outside my kitchen window must be the source of that hollowish tapping sound I keep hearing. I put an extra blanket on my bed today. But I doubt that will do much to keep me from being startled by the random sounds of things knocking against my windows and walls.
Tonight, late, I had to drive far away to do a banking errand. As I passed the 710 South, I thought about veering off onto it and going back to the Queen Mary. I stayed there a couple of weeks ago while attending All Tomorrow's Parties, and I remember thinking that I would like to go back and take that voyage again. There is something comforting about close quarters. Something private and individual and safe. A long way back, I wrote something about liking the idea of compartmentalized things. I maintain this course. Having a small space to yourself makes it all the more apparent that the space is yours. It's claimable. Defensible. It's territory you can manage. All the better if you can keep one hand on the doorknob while still reclined in your bed. I stayed at an inn called, I think, the Hilltop one night when I was on my way out of Ithaca and home for the winter break. My plane tickets were bought well in advance for economic reasons, and as a result, I was stuck in town until the day after the dorms closed, so I had to find a way to keep myself busy for one night, before taking a bus to Syracuse and a plane home from there. The Hilltop was close to campus and small and quaint. A single-family home that had been converted. I tried to save on cab fare by walking my bags across campus. But I had two very large heavy ones and the process was essentially me carrying one bag ten or fifteen feet and then setting it down and going back for the other one. I don't have to tell you this is an idiotic solution. I gave up halfway and called a cab and spent the money (I think it was four dollars or so) in the end. And cursed myself for having not just done it to begin with and spared myself the exhaustion and humiliation of inching my way across the Arts Quad like that. But that four bucks was nearly all I had. And I ended up only being able to afford something gross out of a vending machine at the bus station the next day as a result. Anyway, when I got into my room at the Hilltop, it was shockingly cozy. The bed took up nearly all the floorspace in the room. The sink was on the wall right next to the bed. And the toilet and bath were in a tiny little closet. I think I had to stack my bags up on a chair in the corner. There was nearly no floor. And for some reason, at one point, I had to answer the door and I did so while still sitting on the bed. I just reached out for the knob and opened it. It was a teensy weensy room. But I remember feeling so relieved and safe and comfortable there. I hated the idea of having to schlepp off in the morning to the bus station with my gargantuan sacks of clothing and the opposite of necessities. I would have wanted to stay there for my entire break, and I would have locked the door and not been bothered by anyone. Even though the television only got a few channels and I could hear the other guests the whole time.
So, I wouldn't have minded shrugging off my cares and high-stepping it over to the Queen Mary for a surprise night of away-from-home. But I knew it wasn't a practical whim. I would like to go back someday and have a proper time of it. With room service and fancy dining and less of the concertgoing riffraff sharing the decks. Maybe I'll get invited back for a trade show or to chaperone someone's prom. A girl can hope.
When life tastes this way, it's hard to swallow.

Nov 21, 2003

It's a world of laughter, a world of tears.

I had one of those involuntary Christmas moods thrust upon me today. It was nice.

Nov 18, 2003

Weight and Worry

What a dagblasted day. I was bringing home things from my storage room in San Diego. Things I bought years ago to sell on eBay but didn't manage to sell before they were taking up too much space and had to be put away. And it's all been sitting there for so long now that it's hardly worth keeping any of it. But I figured I'd go have a peek. And I loaded up my mom's truck with boxes to take home, knowing full well I'd have to sort through it somehow to fit it all into my much less spacious sedan. I ended up stuffing what I could into garbage bags and stuffing those bags into my car, leaning against the outswell in my trunk, shoving with all my might, pressing till I was nearly horizontal with the ground, feet shuffling in that walking-in-place motion you do when you're trying to get more leverage. Pushing with one arm and having a lump poke out somewhere else that I would try and jab back in with my knee. It was like trying to stuff a huge water balloon into a tiny hole. Punch, punch, punch. Eventually, I got the trunk closed. And then I filled up the back seat and the front passenger seat. And still there were three or four boxes that had to be left for next time. I was exhausted before I even got underway.

And then I sat in an hour and a half of crawling traffic between Las Pulgas and the border checkpoint on I-5, because there had been a fairly monstrous accident. There were really just shards of car left to ogle by the time it was my turn. Another case of a zippy little coupe managing to take that scene in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation too seriously and misjudgng the amount of space under a large truck. Smasharoo.

I got back much later than I had planned, and I still had to go to the art supply to buy a lightbox and a lamp and some posterboard to try and fashion out a makeshift product photo studio so I can make one of my mom's clients happy. But not before going for a manicure/pedicure with Hillary and getting out of her cute new Saab only to lose my footing on the neighbor's shrubbery and fall wetly on my bottom in the cold, damp grass. I think I unearthed one of the mostly decorative retaining pieces, as well, but my awkward shame kept me from going back to reset it. I just waved at Hillary and trudged into the apartment feeling like I did when somoene first made fun of me for riding to school on a bike with training wheels. I was in kindergarten, but it was apparently not the thing to do even then. And finding out is the worst. A moment before someone laughs at you, you are cool and proud and graceful astride your wheeled steed. And then suddenly, you're an idiot, serenaded by jeers as you pick your bike up out of a ditch. They pulled it out of the bike rack and threw it in the ditch to let you know where you stood. (Reminder: you were five years-old, the savages.) And now you know. It all happens in a moment. Like falling on your ass on the neighbor's lawn in the glow of a good friend's headlights.

Cool is fleeting. Shame, by contrast, has remarkable powers of persistence.

Sweet at the Bottom

I got up early and had coffee with my dad. And we talked for hours. And sometimes I felt smart. And sometimes I felt wise. And sometimes I felt anxious. But I have to get on the road, so I wriggled out of an uncomfortable topic just as it was gathering steam. And he hugged me and told me he loved me, and it made me cry.

Score in the Barter

Hillary was able to use my Junior Senior tickets, and she was super swell enough to buy me what is described to be a really rockin' shirt. I'm sorry I missed the show. Doubly so because Ima Robot opened. Triply so because my rehearsal tonight was not entirely necessary for me and, while the day was not a bust, it was hardly an essay in fulfillment.

The house smells of Mongolian barbecue, which I had to cook for myself. My mom tricked me. But after cooking my portion and some for my dad and some for Justin, the air was choked with hot pepper and char and all sorts of delicious pungence. We coughed and blinked our eyes in delight.

I think I write more when I'm away from home because there's nearly nothing else for me to do. Luxuriating in a bath and standing watch at the hearth can only murder so much time. I'm going away now. But it's very possible that I'll be back.

Nov 17, 2003

Crackling Luxury

My dad built me a fire. With wood that burns better than the crap I get at Ralph's. I'm beginning to suspect the stuff I buy is just dried up sugar cane or old boxes mashed together very tightly. But my dad's fire burns like a dream. And the long, bowed logs crack open, their bellies spilling forth undulating tongues of flame. The glow of the fiery center pulsing. The ash molten. I sat and watched the fire with the dog in my lap. Until she got restless. Then I just stayed. No fire should have to die alone.

I wonder if I will ever be able to see flames and embers and glowing bits of wood without thinking of the Pirates of the Caribbean. Strange that the fake would evoke the real in that way. The fire my dad made for me tonight was like an homage to the Pirates. It's nearly down to nothing now. With renegade sparks swirling out of the embers from time to time. Like the lightning bugs I used to catch as a little girl in Virginia. Their light didn't last.

Injury to Insult

Last night, before I turned in, I used my knee to teach an unwitting endtable a lesson. I'm at my parents' house, and the terrain is slightly less familiar than my usual digs. I noticed this new decor addition the last time I was down or maybe the time before that. It's half of a pair. I remember not liking them right off. But when I felt the collision and subsequent pain in my knee as I was interrupted mid-stride, I suddenly felt this eruption of hatred for that endtable. As if it was responsible for all my misery. What formidable powers of transference the surprise and shock of pain can have. For a moment, I forgot everything and wanted nothing more than to inflict the whole of my rage on that stupid table (it doesn't match anything in the living room anyway). Set it on fire. Smash it to pieces. Drop something impossibly heavy on top of it from high up. But then, in as short a time, I awakened from my pain fury and just felt angry at myself for my vulnerabilities and my clumsiness. And I had that sardonic feeling of "it figures" to go with my sad sack demeanor.

So when I tried to fall asleep to show after show ending with The Critic, I blamed the throbbing in my knee and how cold my feet were. And when I eventually found only fitful sleep, peppered with dreams of being pregnant and embarrassed about inexplicable bursts of emotion and other dreams of a less fecund or nurturing nature that were more vivid than they need have been, I remembered the knee and the bruise forming on it, and it was easy to place decisive blame.

This morning, while I was awake but not wanting to be, I heard my father tell Justin that it was a beautiful day. Secretly, I didn't want it to be. I wanted the sky to be torn open and gushing torrents of angry rain. But I'm also grateful as I have things to do that are best done in the dry. It would be nice to just have some sort of rain box. A window to peer into where the world is always wet and the umbrellas and upturned collars obscure the faces of strangers rushing by. I love the scene in Mary Poppins where the jolly foursome dives into the sidewalk painting. Even the part when the rain turns it all to smudgy nothingness. I'm used to the rain. No matter how long I languish under the arid Southern California sky. I grew up with a great deal of rain. In a way, it trains you to traipse through sunny days with every expectation that they are a temporary respite. I wonder if a tropical youth begets cynicism. Or if it's all the other factors.

I am looking forward to playing my violin tonight in an orchestra setting again. I miss the posture of it, painful as it becomes. I miss the discipline of the meter and the abandon of surrendering to the baton. I miss being part of something bigger than me.

I'm also going to miss Junior Senior, even though I bought tickets ages ago and had no intention of failing to arrive with merch money in hand. But, as I've learned time and time again, being in two places at once is much more difficult than it looks. Being in one place is hard enough.


I was watching the end part of a documentary about Andy Warhol the other day, having just come in from the grocery store. And I remember there being a part where someone said, of the fact that Andy used to carry a tape recorder with him everywhere apparently, that people who record things are, in their own way, trying to cheat death. As long as this is not forgotten. As long as someone knows this happened. That sort of thing. Creation of a legacy just in case the rest of the world can't be troubled to assign you one.

Maybe I subscribe to this more than I would want to admit. The scrambling to do something meaningful. The eagerly seeking out experiences and circumstances that create magic and memories. Because I believe I am a product of the mark I leave rather than the other way round. I am only what others believe me to be. So it is ever so important to give them reason to believe I am wonderful. Or at least unusual. It's all well and good to be happy with yourself and to have no need of others. But in the end, there's really a lot to be said for the reward of love and appreciation. Admiration. Affection. It's like being told that you are worth these things. I don't think everyone in the United Kingdom is necessarily less for not having been knighted, but those upon whose shoulders that sword has rested must have that one extra reason to smile. It's nice to be told you're good. It's nice not needing to be told. But it's nice to be told just the same.

I fear I would manage to miss the knighting altogether and find a way to get stabbed by the sword or to fall on it. Credit to the realm or no.

Incidentally, it was unendingly beautiful today. The perfect sort of weather for me. Sunny out but crisp and chilly. Jacket weather, if you require. It was cool and smelled of last night's fireplaces. It's my favorite thing. I breathed deeply with fists thrust into coat pockets and tried to make the sense of it last longer than was possible.

Nov 14, 2003

Shaking of the Weary Head

It's too late for me to be wondering why I let it get this late. I put too much in and took too much out. And I allowed sudden bursts of productive commitment to cheat me out of physical comfort. There is always -- it seems -- a price to be paid. And it is always always too much.

Bluer Lights, Greener Pastures

Oh, how I toil. And the deeper I dig, the less inspiring it all gets. Maybe that's what happens when you find yourself at the bottom of a hole. If it started raining right now, I'd surely drown.

I see burnout on the horizon.

Nov 13, 2003

Snowball Fights and Gang Colors

They were driving snowplows through the streets of Watts this morning. And there were kids throwing snowballs at each other on the news. There is something very surreal about Southern California recently. With the fires and the floods and the snow. I wonder if the world's about to end.

Nov 12, 2003

Staving Off the Blues

I almost wished the rain had kept up. I would have put a log on the fire and been grateful to get in from out of the cold and wet. Instead, it's just another night. The roads don't smell that rainsoaked way. And I carried my umbrella for nothing. Just flash flood advisories and puddling up in the gutters. But no real excuse for feeling the grey and the cold in the deep parts of your person. I felt better in some ways today. Not quite as deteriorated from the crippling work schedule and the sleep deprivation and the continuing allergic epic. But not quite halycon. And also somehow paralyzed and unable to shake the desire to go somewhere far away and never come back.

I sometimes liken the disquiet of the creative spirit to the prodding of demanding ghosts. Whispers that keep me from being happy with things. That keep me from ever being done. It's like the work keeps me from disappearing, and I'm afraid of it ever actually ending. I will always be the girl with the painting that was never finished. The poem with only one stanza completed. The manuscript with nothing but a title and a list of character names. There's a scene in Tampopo wherein the mother of this family is dying, and her husband is rushing home to be there because he knows there isn't much time. He sees her succumbing and he yells at her to get up and cook the dinner. So she mutely rises from her bed and begins to make fried rice. And once she has served her husband and children, she dies. It's like that. I'm just playing it so I've always got that one last meal to cook. And it's very likely that it would be fried rice.

The rain rain rain came down down down. Redux.

It's splishy splashy out there on the roads today. I had to drive 70 miles round trip in it. My car is a spotty mess. And then I waited in a perilously long line at the post office, where every person who comes in seems to have a reason why they think they shouldn't have to wait in the line.

And here's the weather report. Soak it up.

Postlude to the Toss and Turn

I had something to say involving the word "tree." But it slipped away. And I was through punching my pillows in pursuit of comfort. Today will be a fool's errand.

Go for Broke

I need a Dramamine for the ups and downs. I need some hope to cling to. I need a job and a promise and a formula for faking it that can never be found out. I need time to recount all the things I've missed. I have been on an extended field trip to the bad place. It's time to come home. There's nothing to buy here.

Nov 11, 2003

You can lead a horse to water.

I wouldn't want to take a tally, but it seems that I don't get my way much of the time. I don't really insist on it, either, so there's really only me to blame. I keep my wishes a secret. I disguise my disappointment. I silence my displeasure. I prefer to vote the secret ballot if anyone else might mind. I never volunteer to take the wheel. I defer to the volition of others. And sometimes I sit in the backseat stewing in my regret. But I'm beginning to wonder if it all isn't just some elaborate blame-avoidance maneuver. I never say when. So it's never my fault when there's too much or too little. I seldom help myself to anything without first being invited. When I was a child, my mother didn't allow me to call adults by their first names, even when they asked me to. I don't even understand the sorts of politeness I've got stamped on me. But I would have wagered that a gal who bends so easily to the will of all wouldn't so often find herself outside the favor of the every. And then I remember that I have no head for odds, as we never gambled in my house.

Maybe YOU can lead a horse to water. I can't even get near 'em on account of allergies. Say nothing of the drinking bit.

Nov 10, 2003

Encouragement for the Record and Two-Minute Noodles

I have a friend in Australia called Simon. Each time he writes me, he makes me laugh and laugh, pause for a moment, and wonder if people in other countries are just plain better than me. He said something nice to me recently. I was bemoaning my being a giant leeching failure, and he said, I think "dynamo of awesomeness" is a better description of you at this point. It was the nicest thing that was said to me that whole week. Later, he said, on the continuing topic of my financial destitution, I also spend too fast, which is why I have no money either. We could start a social club where we all meet for 2-minute noodles and cask wine, go shopping at The Smith Family shop then take the bus home... And if I were to be very, very diligent and open up all of his previous emails and ICQs and Friendster posts, I would be able to concatenate a long list of sentences that made me smile either affectionately or admiringly.

I don't know what the value of writing things down is, but I save it all meticulously. Sometimes I read through old letters and emails and I find things so whimsical or so beautiful or so melancholy or so pathetic. It's hard to have a feeling about something you've read and not tell someone else about it or write it down somewhere. It's almost as if the sensation won't have existed if you don't atleast capture its shadow. And the myth of Peter Pan makes me long for the childhood I never really had.

Nov 6, 2003

The Deeper the Depths

I went to see The Matrix Revolutions tonight at Grauman's Chinese Theater. I had only just watched the DVD of The Matrix Reloaded on Monday, so it seemed a small luxury not to have to wait to see how it ends. I have a lot of comments and criticisms, but I'm not in the mood to list them. I've been working for days, it seems, on one of those neverending projects. Fully fingering the weight of the creative void. Killing time in shirking mode. Avoiding the unavoidable. Procrastinating with a vengeance. And then getting dumped headlong into the mire of having to get it done in less time than it takes. I have made sleep precious. I have missed reruns of The West Wing on Bravo. I have buckled down.

I had intended to post a slideshow of my Halloween experiences. There is still some programming to finish. And here I sit, nearly a week hence. Resenting the silence and the forgetting that took place in it. I might have had mountainous things to utter. Instead, I groaned and struggled and strained my eyes and taxed my posture. I've got to get me one of those Aeron chairs. I was spoiled by one in my days. And I've never really gotten over it. Nevertheless, the slideshow will one day come to pass. Or I will grow bored and disillusioned and just post photos. One way or another, the world will see the wig I wore.

In the shower this morning -- or maybe it was in that space just before I drifted off to sleep -- I had a phrase repeating in my imaginary mouth. Something about being jealously ambitious towards a scarce affection. It was vague and out of reach. But it sounds like me. I'm always measuring what isn't there. The way you make space for the sofa you are going to buy. I measure the void to be prepared when something comes along to fill it. At least I will know how much will fit. In a way, perhaps this is my own cautious optimism. I suppose you have to believe in the possibility of fulfillment to always be taking stock of the need for it.

It's been good and chilly. I've had to use the heat. It makes my home smell a certain way. It creates reiminiscences. I am always being shadowed by persistent ghosts. But never moreso than in the early part of winter. Maybe it's something about the way the light changes. You can see them better. Their edges linger. I haven't lit a fire in the hearth yet this season, but I know to expect a flood of recollection to consume me when I do.

I just signed a new lease. It is both reassuring and unsettling to know I will be here for a while. I know better than to count on things. But it has been so very costly living in limbo for this past year. Two years maybe. Three even. Long enough.