Saturday, April 23, 2016

Underneath the Purple Rain

Where last week I languished in my bed, donning three week old pajamas, doing my best Mrs. Havisham impersonation, stricken with a depressive state of mind brought on by my eternal state of liking someone too much who didn't like me back enough (the fog on this one was blessedly short and is lifting...or I've just gotten really good at rejection), the beginning of this week found me in a flurry of creative/career/sun fueled happy busyness. I feel some wings sprouting; little, bloody nubs breaking through the skin and any day now I'm taking off, man. Or I should see a doctor.

When the week begins with a day off during a spacious, sunny Monday, it is easy to feel better. Even if you weren't feeling down already, you still just feel better. I had a floating holiday so I jumped on top of it and rode it all the way downtown to watch a film and do some gliding around. There was a new film showing at the Angelika by the same director that fed my heart through a shredder with Oslo, August 31.  His new film, Louder Than Bombs, was well acted but ultimately, didn't live up to the hype I alone created in my head. (This is a good metaphor for the pattern of my life, btw. So many things are way better in my head.) But that's not really the point. The point is, I was given the opportunity to see a film on a Monday afternoon in an empty theater! A private screening where I could chew my popcorn loudly and put my feet up, pretending the world was made up of just me and the movie. Is there anything better?

The answer is a hard maybe. I got to go to Housing Works bookstore where they had all of their poetry books on sale in honor of National Poetry Month. I walked away with three "new" books and the impetus to attend a poetry reading/open mike that a friend of mine puts together every month which was happening the next night. I kept planning to go each month and life kept interrupting my plans but not this time. I spent Tuesday evening listening to extremely talented poets read their work and I got a chance (after being convinced by the very persuasive two Summer Shandys that whispered their lemony confidences to me all the way through my bloodstream) to read two of mine, one of which I wrote five minutes prior. There were about 10 people in attendance but, just like Jeff Tweedy I shake like a toothache when I hear myself... speak in front of more than two strangers. No matter. I did it. I'm hoping that next time, the tremor in my voice will move down a level on the Richter scale.

On Wednesday, I attended a meeting in midtown where I got to hear a group of authors discuss their forthcoming books and I ran into many of my colleagues, met people who are a big deal in my field and just generally felt as though I was getting away with something. I have been taking notes on how to sustain such a feeling so am currently in the market for such situations. I then spent the afternoon headed up to Westchester County for more career reasons than are able to be disclosed and got a chance to do yet more of my favorite things which are, in no order of importance:

  • spend some time in Grand Central station
  • sit on a train and stare out the window
  • visit a new library
  • walk around a new neighborhood
Oh this week! How I wanted to take a daguerreotype of you and keep you safe in an old wooden box where I could take you out every now and then to polish you and remember you with fondness!

But then Thursday came and Prince died and it depressed me because it reminded me that this year is unspooling into a long train of loss for music and art and memory. With the death of people who have seemingly "always been there" as superstars on center stage in my memory and more on the dependable periphery of my adulthood, I feel the loss. But instead of the blood draining, carving out feeling of deeply personal loss, it is more like the feeling of malaise or existential melancholy which can sometimes be worse. It lasts longer and covers more surfaces.

I was watching Purple Rain with my sister last night and (aside from the overt, very 80s sexism in a LOT of the film), during the performances, I just felt a wave of sadness that a true original is now gone. It feels trite and cliche to even use those words to describe him, but I don't have anything better or more true. I wish I did. I wish I had words that felt just like his aching vocals during the last few verses of that title song. But I don't.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Fabric Softeners

My brain has been in the tumble dryer for the last week or so. The buzzer went off this morning and I took it out, all wrinkled and hot but smelling fresh. I like to think of my support squad, my peoples, my friends as my fabric softener sheets: they keep me from the occasional electric shock and soften me up, no matter how ardently life tries to harden me. I should get some t-shirts made up: The Fabric Softeners. The FSs. Badass.

A few weeks ago, my horoscope advised me to travel to shake off the lala land blues and I took the advice to heart. I have booked plane tickets to various destinations, part work related, part fun related and I look forward to stories and connections and meeting people. My satellite has been in orbit around one star for a bit longer than it should have and it is time for reinforcements from ground control, reminders that the universe is infinite and that I (and plenty of those fish in the sea) am/are made of the same stuff. Or something.

So, where am I going? Chicago, Orlando (which really just means Harry Potter World), Ireland and, if I can sneak it in a trip to a beach somewhere when the only thing I have to think about is pool or ocean, sleep or swim. If I'm REALLY lucky I'll find a quiet place to take a writer's retreat where the only thing I have to think about is finishing my novel. But we'll have to see about that last one. I realize that I am pushing my luck in even considering that possibility and I don't want to tempt fate. But if anyone has a spot with a desk and a chair and a kettle for boiling tea for an introverted, considerate, mostly quiet, always hungry good listener who will require one good conversation a day but can be left alone for the rest of the time, let me know. I'm in the market. Or on it.

I deleted my Facebook account for four days because the bleating sheep of my compulsions to check up on, to stare at photos of, to be in the know, to invent narratives, well they just couldn't be corralled into a manageable section of my world. But, like a bad ex-boyfriend with whom you share mutual friends, Facebook kept up with what my friends were doing and didn't call me. Still, I needed that break, however short. And I've limited my exposure to that kind of useless knowledge in a way that is pretty unprecedented for me (i.e. NOT once an hour). It wasn't exactly freeing. It was more like withdrawing. And reactivating it is a form of methadone. Or maybe it is nothing like either of those things. The point is, the only reason even a fraction of you are reading this is because you followed the link from Facebook so I offer both thanks and apologies to you for that, especially since that is all I have to share for today. Sorry. But would it kill you to share with ME once in awhile? Geez.

Monday, April 11, 2016

How to Stop Crying on a Plane at 2 a.m.

Lift the shade slowly, at a volume slightly lower than the baby in the front row, who screams every three minutes, like she's alone in understanding being hurtled through the air, armed only with a seat belt.

Squint through the rubber of your wet, disappointed eyes, like two splattered water balloons on the cracked sidewalk of your face and look!

There you are, at Orion’s crotch! And, like the last time you were eye level with someone’s crotch,
swill bottom shelf vodka across your numb tongue, then gasp at finding yourself in such places.

Lean in to the window and take a photo for yourself to scroll past in 24 hours, and for
the folks back home. Take a few. After all, it’s not every middle of the night you feel held in place by strangers and shown the stars.

Blow your nose to the ambient rhythm of jet propulsion and close the shade. Check the photos. Then sit there, suspended in white noise and the glow of your phone. Meditate for one long stretch of time on how the brilliant cluster you saw with the burning heart of you now,

will, with time, just look like pin pricks in the void.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Mile Low

I type this from a darkened hotel room in Denver. The sun outside my ninth floor window is...aggressive. Did you ever notice that? How it hovers there, burning everything? It might just be me and my frustrated, hairline fractured psyche this trip. Naturally, I'd find myself in the sunniest, healthiest, most glowing mountainous city in the country. I miss NYC and not looking anyone in the eye. I'm not anonymous enough here. Yesterday, I found myself having to network and smile and care and I just would prefer not to right now.

Forgive my morose brain. It's just that my life feels so much like a jigsaw puzzle and the pieces surreptitiously change shape as soon as I pick them up. I've got the picture on the box of what everything should look like: a bright two dimensional tableau of two bright people, mid conversation, laughing. They easily gather and collect every line of conversation that passes between them, understood and understanding, making each other laugh. Sometimes there's a goddamned rainbow in the background, I don't know. But when I spend some time searching for the right piece to put in the right place at the right time and I finally think I've got it, the picture has shifted a few inches, or what was day is now night, or in place of a man there is a shadow. And while I was busy noticing all that, the piece in my hand has morphed, or crumbled or vanished. It is exhausting.

And that's how I feel today: exhausted. Anti-sun. Hungover. Over caffeinated. Cynical. I should probably put in some effort today at the conference, to meet new faces and network for new opportunities. And I almost gathered the necessary energy to do so. I went downstairs to get some free coffee and while I stood, staring blankly at factory commissioned artwork on the wall and waiting for it to sputter into my cup, I overheard a man say "I can't wait until I get my truck back...this rental is full of girl juice." So I came back upstairs to type this from a darkened hotel room, in Denver. I've got a meeting in an hour and I'm defying my brain to not run the phrase "girl juice" like a Fox News ticker along the bottom for the rest of the day.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Jamaica Station

A recent horoscope I read quoted Rimbaud in its advice to all the people of planet Earth who happened to be born between July 22 and August 23:

I sought voyages to disperse the enchantments that had colonized my mind.

How beautiful is that? The gist of the horoscope was to take a trip because I (and all people who happened to be born between July 22 and August 23) have been living too much inside my head. No shit, Free Will Astrology. I'm an introverted writer. You want I should do standup comedy at an open mike night in the West Village? I take the point about taking a trip, though. I have been nowhere of note since last summer's trip to the Netherlands. So my original plan was to travel to Peru and back pack around for a bit, see Machu Picchu, a bit of Bolivia, learn how to spell either of those correctly on the first try. But that is going to be my 2017 trip. This year, I'm thinking Ireland and Wales...something about green cliffs and rocky coastlines, something about pastures and accents and dark beer...just seems like the right time for that. I have lately been just wanting to skip town, not tell anyone where I am or what I'm doing, and just seeing where I end up. I've never done that and, like most things I've never done, it seems so appealing, so draped in sequins and mystery. 

To disperse the enchantments that had colonized my mind.

Over the past week that has run through my head often. This week was the one year anniversary of my grandmother's death. I took the day off from work and headed home the night before to attend a mass in her honor and to visit her grave. Scheduling and train times found me waiting for 40 minutes for a train at Jamaica station, that grey behemoth of a building in the middle of the walk through/flyover/rollover neighborhood where people are perpetually just passing through, eyes down, hands gripping rolling suitcases like coal miners with dying flashlights.  It is amazing how little eye contact is exchanged in the cacophonous tangle of train tracks and platforms. I suppose more exciting or in my case at least, more familiar places await and Jamaica is just a place to get through.

I stood on the outdoor platform near the elevators and digital schedule board and watched people with stern faces or lost faces or relaxed-just-back-from-Florida sunburnt faces as they wheeled past me and my cold hands and grumbling stomach. I thought about how easy it would be to just keep walking through the little alcove where the Long Island train station becomes the AirTrain becomes JFK airport becomes the gate becomes the open air becomes destination. I had credit cards on me, I had a day off work; it could have happened.

I often feel like a walking version of unrealized potential and so I stood and waited.

I looked out on that brown and grey landscape, dotted with old looking new buildings, haphazardly placed in the middle of the long, long island just west of the Atlantic ocean and felt those colonizing enchantments leave my brain and float out above that sky line and land at the foot of the tall digital clock in the distance, a clock that stood taller than all of the surrounding buildings and kept the wrong time. It was actually an hour behind.

And I felt so ready to leave this place where I had so many times waited for trains or for people or for my life to begin or a period of my life to end. I thought about that time my ex boyfriend made me walk him to the train that would take him from Queens to Long Island (a trip I had to convince him to make every time) and, as we waited for his train (which was late and, subsequently made me late for work that day) told me he'd never read anything I wrote because it would just make him want to laugh. And even though it hurt the me of back then, the me of now laughed because I know that he was giving me a gift right there on that train platform. He was giving me a story.

My train finally arrived and I inserted myself inside the living Tetris of the train car and was on my way to erstwhile home to think about my grandmother and the many times she took the same trip in her lifetime, only she was wearing heels and was going home to a full house. I wondered if she ever thought about escaping to other places and where she might be now.

I never would have thought of the Jamaica train station as a good place to meditate but then again, every day I'm surprised at how things are never what they seem. It is Sunday now and I'm going to do some work and head off to the planetarium and hopefully get even further out of my head. I wish for similar journeys to everyone who has done me the favor of reading this far.

Monday, March 28, 2016


Forgive me for writing in what will likely sound rooted in the abstract but I had too much caffeine, too late today and I can't escape the fact that I don't know anything and that I feel too much, too soon. Usually I can ignore that and supplant it with what I want to be true. I'm a virtuoso at assumption...except when I've had too much caffeine. I'm too aware and awake to run away from the fact that I don't actually know anything at all.

You know what makes reality really quite exceptionally hard? Social media. It is a haunted labyrinth created by our collective efforts to connect and I spend the majority of my time following the digital breadcrumbs back to where I'm positive I started out, only to find myself toe to toe with the Minotaur. And then I just get depressed because I've always felt pity for the Minotaur in the same way I've always felt pity for Judas...bystanders of angry deities who would, in fact, be nothing without them. Imagine how shitty the labyrinth would have been without the Minotaur or how lame the story of Jesus would have been if Judas was all "Nah, I don't need that silver. I'm good, bro."

Look, the point is, I'm awake, alone and caffeinated and I can't stop thinking about sheer nonsense and I'm running out of internet and I have a million things to do. Here's a list of the most important ones:

1) Wake up early tomorrow to do something productive before work (to lessen the dread that settles in around 2pm)
2) Finish reading my novel
3) Finish writing my novel (maybe invert 2&3)
4) Try to be healthier (or just look like I'm healthier by losing more weight)
5) Make peace with unrequited status (maybe invert 4 &5)
6)  Listen to Abbey Road
7) Don't forget to go to the cemetery on Thursday
8) Wear a rubber band around my wrist and snap it every time I think about checking Facebook
9) Buy aloe vera for wrist
10) Learn how to fight loneliness before my work trip to Orlando in June

I think this list is realistic and fair and if I can't accomplish at least one of these, I should seriously consider either a) packing it in or b) taking a Valium and going to sleep.

Oh here's another thing to add to the list;

11) Practice saying no to espresso after dinner.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Math for Writers

I've been reading about galaxies today (because why not?) and naturally I sought out something that could whittle down a complex astronomical event into a few paragraphs: Wikipedia. I eventually ended up at the page for "Interacting galaxy" which describes what colliding galaxies are:

Colliding galaxies are common in galaxy evolution.[2] Due to the extremely tenuous distribution of matter in galaxies, these are not collisions in the normal sense of the word, but rather gravitational interaction. Colliding may lead to merging. This occurs when two galaxies collide and do not have enough momentum to continue traveling after the collision. Instead, they fall back into each other and eventually merge after many passes through each other, forming one galaxy. If one of the colliding galaxies is much larger than the other, it will remain largely intact after the merger; that is, the larger galaxy will look much the same while the smaller galaxy will be stripped apart and become part of the larger galaxy.

Because I am utterly incapable of reading about science or math without ascribing some kind of poetry, symbolism or meaning to it, I read galaxy collision as a beautiful, raging love story.  It's why the only class I ever failed in my entire life was Introduction to Astronomy. And man, did I fail that shit. Failed it with the speed and spectacle of a comet (the trajectory of which I cannot calculate). I mean sure, it was my first semester, freshman year, my first roommate was spending several nights a week hand jobbing her way through missing her boyfriend back home, and the class was Friday mornings at 9 a.m. but the main reason there is a huge F that sits atop my undergraduate transcript is that I couldn't learn about stars and their dominion without putting it all into stanzas or making it romantic.

I remember one winter, taking a road trip upstate with my friend Bridgit and one of her friends, a math genius who, at the time, was being recruited by the FBI to break codes. I was falling in and out of sleep in the backseat when I heard them discussing a math theory and, it could have been my half dream like state, but I swear it sounded like they were talking in verse. I obviously don't remember the details of the theory or the specifics of what they were saying but I have a clear memory of closing my eyes and picturing a crystalline landscape covered in cracked ice with a black, starless sky suspended just above it. Each time the math guy talked about another facet of whatever theory he was explaining, another part of the landscape would appear in the distance until I had a complete picture in my mind of some other planet in some other universe. I didn't learn a damn thing about math, though.

I always wished for a course of study called "Math for Writers" or "The Poetry of Science" or something along those lines. But I suppose there is no way to learn math or science through metaphor; I always (probably correctly) assumed that I just don't get it. I still think it would be fascinating. Or maybe just loopy. 

In keeping with understanding the universe through metaphor, here's a subcategory inspired by the same Wikipedia article that describes galactic collision: Understanding  Modern Love Through Astronomical Metaphor:

Galactic collisions are now frequently simulated on computers, which take into account realistic physics principles including the simulation of gravitational forces, gas dissipation phenomena, star formation and feedback.

Tell me that doesn't sound like online dating to you! I defy you!