Monday, December 30, 2019

My 2019 In a Meme

Well, well, well. Here's my blog, mostly alive and neglected. No time like the end of a year to randomly post in here...

1. What did you do in 2019 that you'd never done before?
Damn. Ok, Though I'd been to Scotland before, I'd never been to Hogmanay. I'm glad I did it but won't do it again. Had TWO of my poems featured in a reading series, led a panel discussion about writers of color in Queens, had two essays published, hired (and fired) employees, had major surgery, spent a LOT of time in Brooklyn, visited Toledo, Segovia, took up swimming first with lessons and then swimming regularly at a lap pool at the Y for the last three months of the year, was in the same room with Margaret Atwood and Wallace Shawn (and managed to NOT say "Inconceivable!"), became an aunt for the second time, successfully set up a library in a new space in a new community and didn't destroy the whole endeavor with crippling self doubt. Woop woop!

2. Did you keep your New Year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I made a resolution to lose weight last year and I got very, very sick so I lost 54 pounds. I don't consider this a success but before I got sick I had lost like, 20 pounds so that was good!
In 2020, I'm going to apply for grants, residencies, submit more work and follow through with taking my own work seriously. Mayhaps reviving this blog? I can make no promises on that one. I have also made a resolution to buy no new clothes AT ALL this year and to wear what I already own and weed out a lot of clothes. I've become a bit of a clothes hoarder and I need to work on that.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

My brother and sister-in-law welcomed Daphne Jane into this crazy world. 

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No and I count my blessings every day.
5. What countries did you visit?

Scotland and Spain.

6. What would you like to have in 2020 that you lacked in 2019?
The time-turning necklace Hermione has so I can do all the things, all the time.

7. What date from 2019 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

October 1st, the day I had major surgery. December 18th, the day we impeached the president. 

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Opening that library, goddamnit! Everything associated with my job felt like an accomplishment to me so I'm glad to put a pin in 2019 at this point in time.

9. What was your biggest failure?

For the 43rd year in a row, I was not Miss America.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Yes. A major, life-altering illness. I have a rare, incurable (but symptom-manageable) disease called achalasia. I am the 1 in 100,000 it affects so...lucky me? 

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Second-hand and thrifted clothing. 

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Greta Thurnberg.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, most of the House Republicans, Louis CK, Piers Morgan, Roseanne Barr

14. Where did most of your money go?

I'mma go with clothing on this one.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Books. Traveling. Living in NYC.

16. What song will always remind you of 2019?

"You Missed My Heart" by Mark Kozelek, "Modern Girl" by Sleater-Kinney, all of Billie Eilish, all of Phoebe Bridgers

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

happier or sadder? happier
thinner or fatter? thinner
richer or poorer? richer

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?

Reading. My book count went way, way, way down from previous years. I attribute this to being ill. And busy. Almost unbearably busy.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?


20. Did you fall in love in 2019?

I fell in love with a lot of things and people this year. Romantically, platonically, in theory, in practice...I'm full of love.

21. How many one-night stands?


22. What was your favorite TV program?

Fleabag, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Schitt's Creek, Fosse, His Dark Materials

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

No. Hate is still a waste of time.

24. What was the best book you read?

"Girl, Woman, Other" by Bernadine Evaristo, "Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead" by Olga Tockarczuk, "On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous" by Ocean Vuong, "A Fortune for Your Disaster" by Hanif Abdurraqib, "The Great Believers" by Rebecca Makkai

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Apparently, young women are making the music of my heart. Billie Eilish and Phoebe Bridgers both have given me my favorite music this year.

26. What did you want and get?
A writing retreat. I had to jam it in between the busiest time of my professional life and the holidays but by god I did it. Three uninterrupted days. 

27. What was your favorite film of this year?

Oh man, I have not seen even a fraction of the amount of movies I used to watch. I didn't see "Call Me By Your Name" until this year but it was my favorite.

28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

43 I AM SO OLD....time keeps creeping, through the neighborhood...
I went to work where my coworkers gave me some champagne, then saw a play..."Sea Wall/A Life" with Jake Gyllenhaal. It was a good bday.

29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Normally I answer this by saying "nothing." But this year, I'd have loved not being sick. 

30. What kept you sane?

Working. I worked a ridiculous amount of time this year. (That's the same every year.) Swimming kept me sane as well. And writing.

31. What political issue stirred you the most?
Impeaching the damn president. Children locked up in prisons after being torn from their parents.

32. Who did you miss?

Old friends who live far away!

33. Who was the best new person you met?

I meet pretty remarkable people every year.

34. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2019:
Value your health, treat your body with love and respect. Also, mute work email when you are not at work.

35. What was your dirty secret this year?

I'd tell you, but I'd have to kill you.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Nothing Special Happening

You wait for a bit of news with most of your body tied to a plank of splintering anxiety, rigid with most of the pain concentrated in your neck and lower back. Your brain is a pile of cold, wet spaghetti. You spend the days preceding the arrival of the news in an odd semblance of routine, rinsing and repeating and polishing up the bits of every day appearances that fall here and there. But all the while there is a light and misty fog that settles over every interaction and action and everything seems distant and undefined. And you'll get intermittent spells of panic that come on like a thunderstorm in August, your thoughts kicking up the debris that you spent most of your energy trying to hide in corners and whipping it all into a frenzy of what if life changes and it is always going to be just like this all the time... never knowing, never resting, always worried, always afraid, always anticipating. 

Then you finally, finally get to the day of the news and you raise your eyes while you still hold your breath and you can see the unbelievable clarity of blue sky beyond the ceiling of the fluorescent lights in the doctor's office, the clouds parting in majesty, the whole world hearing what she just said, what you just heard. Because the news is good. The news is so fucking good you want to put it on a plate and eat all of it with your hands and lick it from your fingertips. You want to hit the rewind button and replay it over and over again.

That's the best (and most convoluted/mixed metaphor) way to explain what it's like to hear that your loved one no longer has cancer. And that happened today. And I'm sitting in my living room on a Tuesday night with nothing special happening and I've never been more grateful for that nothing special. I want to bottle this nothing and keep it close by on a shelf, on display. I need to remember that I own this memory of nothing special happening and it being the most wonderful, awe inspiring feeling possible.

I'm currently in search of a way to pay the blessings forward and I'm taking suggestions. Is there something I can help you with, friend?

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

It's Been a Minute

...or a year. Yes I realize I haven't been on here in over a year. There are a variety of reasons why, none of which seem particularly necessary to explain just now even as I sit here at my desk, thinking of something to say. I reread my previous post, dated June of 2017, wherein I said, yet again, that it had been a minute. And then it was a year's worth of minutes (525,600 plus six weeks worth of minutes) and my life got even busier than it normally gets and if you and I know each other in real life, is really quite impressive.

The truth is, I don't have time to update this blog. I don't have enough hours in the day to do all the things I want to do but sometime last spring I was feeling blue and I realized that I was quickly falling into my own private Idaho trap of working too much and not writing enough. And I missed jotting down whatever was going on and talking to you about it. I missed my own random recapping of things because as stupid as it is, it makes me laugh and good god I am usually flailing around in search of things to make me laugh.

And if I've learned anything from being in my forties, it is this: you have to make room for the things you love doing because if you don't, then your life will become a series of Things You Have to Do combined with Things That Are Done to You and almost nothing else. If you aren't one of the Chosen creatives who get to do what they love for a living, you have to shove the things you love to do in between all the other stuff, like its the empty middle seat on a rush hour subway.

Otherwise, you'll find yourself wandering the West Village one afternoon on your lunch break and you'll pass by that corner on 6th Ave and 8th st. where you got your first job in a bookstore in Manhattan at age 23. And that building will be an emptied out husk of what it was all those decades ago and you'll have a sharp memory of yourself, then, sitting in the basement of that building on another break, imagining what life would be like when you were older and more established. How you'd trade in your long commute up to your shared apartment in Washington Heights for two leisurely hours in the morning before your steady job with decent hours and how you'd write for one and read for the other and make time to explore your magical city. And the you of today will stand there, across from that building and sigh from the deepest part of your belly and head back to work, resolved to get some time, even if you had to press the mute button on the rest of world for just a moment in order to get it.

You don't want that to happen do you?

So that's what I'm currently doing. I'm eating watermelon on this as-hot-as-the-inside-of-a-person's-mouth August day and I'm writing about writing (or not writing) as a challenge to myself, training wheels for spending the rest of my middle age building my adulthood from the ground up, shifting things around and making room for the things that I enjoy doing.

 I might need pliers.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


Word of the Day : June 21, 2017


noun | doo-EN-day

: the power to attract through personal magnetism and charm

Oh hey. It's been a minute over here. Just about two months to be inexact. I'm able to say with certainty that I don't remember much of the month of May...I kind of hacked my way through 31 days with a dull machete. What I'm less certain of is whether I wanted to kill my darlings or just declutter them. In looking at the physical state of my bedroom, the unflappable barometer of my state of mind in years past, I see that I definitely did not declutter them. And that I could use a soul cleanse. And a vacuum.

May brought me some good things without me having to try very hard: a new group of creative friends, the chance to meet Matthew Weiner, hearing Father John Misty back dip his way through his oeuvre, watching Glenn Close get ready for her close up. And it also brought me some health problems and seemingly endless visits to specialists I didn't even know existed. Most of those issues either resolved themselves or my brain decided to sign a peace accord with them. The end result is that now, when my heart skips a beat or two, I can pretend I'm crushing on someone as opposed to wondering if I told my loved ones where to find my life insurance paperwork.

And then I blinked and it was June and I've done little but work. I've been eating cherries for two weeks and I had a coquito from a street cart and still didn't realize the time of year. I woke up feeling like I should be paying more attention. So that's what imma do.

Later this week, the wind blows me back via Chicago for a library conference. I have been going through my usual preparations: musing over the crying shame of travel toothpaste pricing, trying on every article of clothing I own in the process of packing while trying to look professional and non-sweaty enough to do business with, checking and rechecking and rechecking the departure time of my flight from JFK like it was the lap bar on a roller coaster in ascent, girding my brain in preparation to be outgoing and social and other things that are anathema to my personality. It's been exhausting. And I haven't left yet!

Part of my preparations involve creating new business cards for myself. These conferences present every opportunity for amassing a collection of tiny squares of glossy cardstock bearing name, rank and serial number of fellow professionals. There's so many people to see. So many people you can check up on and add to your collection. And so I feel pressed to do my part, when in reality I would just like to write the word DUENDE on a card and have it be activated by the receiver upon reading, leaving them with the impression that I was magnetic and charming while I just stand there and eat an hors d'ouerve. Instead, I spent a good two of the wee hours of the morning choosing a background and grappling with a font and a title for myself that included the roughly 1.5 million things I do for a living and for labors of love. I still await their two day delivery because it wouldn't be me if I didn't do menial tasks in a manic (internally, of course) frenzy. Considering the responsibility they carry as tiny for your consideration tokens from a stranger meant to remind you of your brief time together, it merits some thought, I suppose. Just ask Patrick Bateman.

And speaking of tokens of time together, on my way into Manhattan for a movie yesterday, I rode the long train tracks from Elmhurst to midtown in relative silence and seated across a man who made eye contact with me exactly once. At the end of 30 minutes or so, it was his stop and before exiting the train he stood in front of me, not saying a word but gave me his card. On it was the name of a construction business with the name and number crossed out and his name "Joseph" and his phone number written with a thick sharpie over it. I don't know if Joseph didn't have a card of his own or if he just wanted to give me his number and had nothing else to write on but, and I'm positive this says more about me than anything I could tell you in person, the only reaction I had was that he should have used a red sharpie and he should have gone with Helvetica.

And just because this song is in my head now, here it is for your head, now.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Way Home

I've been off caffeine for nigh on six weeks. As many of you may or may not have experienced firsthand, the withdrawal and subsequent life without caffeine can attest, the world is weird without caffeine. At first the world is unbearable without it, then comes the bizarre. In fact, I imagine that I have approached the last few weeks, with all its absurdity, sorrow, and seasonal changeover with a look and attitude of moderate nonplus. And more than dozens of times I've thought, "This would be a good time for coffee." I had a dream about coffee the other night. It was served to me with lots of cream and sugar, a way I would never drink it in waking life (black and strong for me, please.) In the dream I drank and drank from a seemingly bottomless cup while the person who sat across from me laughed like a loon. I think it might be the opening scene of my afterlife, whenever that movie begins production. But I learn to cope every day. I have also not had an alcoholic drink in about six weeks, not counting a few sips here and there to try a few gorgeous cocktails in New Orleans or at Fatty's that friends and family indulge in. Lest you think me on a quest for some kind of small town nobility via teetotaler status, let me disavow that with a quickness. I long to drink even one full drink. I'm not noble. I'm just sick and need to figure out what is up before I start putting literal poison into my brain and enjoying life again.

Speaking of enjoying life, I asked myself to be included in my own life this year as a resolution and NYC has so far provided a bounty. I've been scheduling so much to do (maybe a little too much) but I've even rekindled my love for riding the subway to work. I've opened my eyes again and, to quote a favorite band of my youth...the subway, she is a porno.

The other morning on my way to work I had my headphones in and I was observing the scenic view outside the underground R train (have you seen what they are doing with darkness these days??) when a young man saddled up next to me and started talking. I didn't hear him but was feeling a bit listless so I took out my earbuds and what followed was a convoluted conversation involving him asking for directions to Astoria Blvd, a location that lay in the opposite direction. When I explained this to him he said,

"I'm trying not to go backward in my life. I just want to go forward."

Having expressed a similar sentiment myself, I told him that it was admirable, but it just wouldn't help him get to where he needed to at that moment and that sometimes it is good to take a break from hovering over the toilet bowl of anxiety and take care of practical, real life concerns. Like getting off the subway and getting home. To which he countered,

"I'm kinda drunk right now. No, I'm really drunk right now. Have you ever been this drunk? If I stay on this train, will I go to Spain? I've always wanted to go to Spain. What's your name?"

I told him. He was affronted. "Do you want to know my name or no?" Why so so many people in New York ask questions as ultimatums? Do you want this or NO? Would you like to get a coffee with me or NO? Like the alternative to your choices are always given up front. It puts pressure on me to choose the positive, not the "or no." I think that's just me.

"Sure, what's your name?"

"Sundeep." He pointed upwards, "Like, sun." And then he pointed downwards. "Like, deep. Sundeep. You're cute."

"Thanks, Sundeep. You need water. And to get off this train and go in the opposite direction."

"Yeah, ok. But I need to get to Astoria Blvd."

Before it became a scene from Joseph Heller's Catch-22, (Help the drunkard-dear?) it was blessedly time for me to get of the train. I'll never know if Sundeep made his way back to Astoria Blvd, rode that train to JFK and got a plane ride to Spain, or just passed out and traversed Queens that day. But I did get to remind myself the merits of going back in an old direction sometimes. Sometimes, it is the only way home.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A Broken Gyroscope?

Opening the window for a new entry on the cracked earth of this blog puts me on edge. But just now as I was debating which one of my jobs I should be working on, which recent memory I should be specifically avoiding, how best to circle the drain of my writing aspirations...I find myself returning to this space, like a splintered boomerang. No, I mean like a bruised homing pigeon. An off-kilter gyroscope?

Life has been unspooling at regular length and speed, it is only that my perception is hyper focused on the task at hand. And by task at hand, I mean whatever is going on at the very moment directly in front of me. I have terrible eyesight and without glasses or contacts, I am forced to press my face directly in front of whatever I wish to see clearly. That's how I'm approaching everything in life right now: bringing it all close to my face and observing everything I need to before things become illegible, blurred out, or disappear completely.

Because things have been disappearing. My dear friend and cat Greta Girl Marie died on Friday after a long battle with liver lymphoma. Over the last eight months or so, I kept repeating in my head that I was borrowing too much time. That when it came time to give it all back, it was going to slice me clean through. After Thelma died suddenly, and after the sorrow that felt like it would break me completely last fall, I was hanging on to every second with that cat, willing my brain to take over and understand that it could happen any moment. I thought maybe I could feel better equipped to let go. I was wrong. It wasn't any easier.

I've been trying to apply that focus to remembering all the unfettered joy, the unironic purity that can only come from bonding with an animal that was mine for too short awhile. Like when Greta girl found the tiniest corner on top of the fridge in my Patchogue apartment when I first brought her home and sat there silently as I combed everywhere to look for her. Or how it never mattered what the object was, but if it was lying flat on the floor, she'd sit atop it. Purses, half folded boxes, bills, freshly laundered shirts. It was her world; I just lived in it.

There are few places sadder than the emergency room of an animal hospital. I could live the rest of my life happy if I knew I'd never have to sit in one of those windowless rooms, a beloved friend cradled in my arms right before she disappears to the other side of whatever this shitpile of a world is.

It hasn't been a full week yet but I have lived lifetimes every day since. Sometimes, my empty house is an afterthought, sometimes the main event. I had insured them both and I just now got the final emails for claims (euthanasia is covered by insurance...we are much nicer to our pets than we are to ourselves it would seem) and because my heart shakes and pounds and skips and is now literally, physically dysfunctional, it palpated when I read the emails. I actually heard it jolt out of rhythm as though it were afraid I had fallen asleep to missing her and I needed reminding. Well, disembodied heart, I don't need reminding.

Greta Marie 2008- 4/7/2017

In the next life, my friend...

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Art of Hand Hovering

I sometimes wish we still used quills and dippable ink because then at the very least, during long dark weeks of the soul, when I have an army of thoughts performing training maneuvers through the muddy trenches in the folds of my brain, preventing any real work from getting done, I could work out my arm muscles during my fits and starts. Instead I have a blinking cursor and the flashing light to contend with and I've perfected the art of hand hovering over my keyboard. I can hand hover like a mutha.

It's been so easy for me to jump headfirst into the news and, by extension, further away from the light. I do this even though I'm positive what awaits at the start of each foray into the endless amount of information coming out of the government these days is just an empty pool, like in that anti-drug PSA from the 80s.

I'm basically her every morning. All Andie MacDowell-sh and disoriented. Except I'm sober. And I've never looked that good in a swimsuit. Still, I persist in being informed. I do wonder most days, however, where the line between being informed and being obsessive lies. I'll either eventually find it, or I'll dive headfirst into a neck break. Only time will tell. (Btw, I just got distracted by news for about 20 minutes while writing this post....Magic 8-ball says: Outlook not good.)

I'm positive I've been doing other things with my life. I mean none of them are writing. I'm in the middle of reading Catch-22 for the first time and while I was writing my own satire, I inadvertently channeled this book. The sections of this novel that talk about paperwork and the endless, useless absurdity of it all are very there in what I've been working on for a few years now. Considering libraries and armies are both bureaucracies, I'm not surprised by it. I'm actually a little bummed that there is no way I could ever be as funny as Heller about it. But I am heartened by the fact that the absurdity of bureaucracy remains, even after all this time. I'm also reminded that whenever I read about or think about bureaucracy, my mind conjures up the same image: a large, grey, concrete building with tiny windows and no front facing entrance. It's always winter in that image. Is that weird?

Anyway, I've been blessed with a forthcoming three day weekend. I'm trying to plan my time so that not one moment is wasted, not one moment lacks potential for the large boot of inspiration to kick me out of this news/current affair blender cycle. I feel pulpy and raw and I miss poetry and lyrics and music.

Maybe by the end of the weekend I'll have something to blog about. But I just got a notification on my phone from the NYT. So, maybe not.