Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Duende

Word of the Day : June 21, 2017

duende 

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.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

My Brain is a Studio Apartment

I've let a lot of my creative pursuits fall by the wayside and am only now wanting to wake back up to them. It was a hard year. So hard that I still feel it sitting there in my brain and stomach, like a fading hangover. But, like an actual hangover, the only true cure is a deep, uninterrupted sleep and the only way to do THAT is to allow for time to pass and room to rest and breathe.

And I've had that. I've had weeks and weeks of that. I've excused and exempted and isolated myself from as much as possible for an extended period of time. (I'm not counting social media because, in news that will shock too many people, social media is not life or connection). I passed the point of finding myself way too comfortable here. And it has to stop.

As someone who usually spends more time inside my head than I do firmly in reality (I'm not exaggerating... I usually have one foot in a daydream at any given time), I have found that it serves creativity well. But it only works if you retreat inside to gather strength or idea or energy from it. If you are only escaping the outside, it won't work. You'll (and by that, I mean ME) only find that it feels good to escape everything and then you'll (I'll) start to question why on earth I would go back out again. Why would I leave the straightforward routine of leaving my house to go to work and come home again, travelling the in between hours in anxious anticipation of returning back to my pajama wearing, distraction seeking state as soon as humanly possible? Why would anyone? That's dangerous thinking right there but it feels comforting to even type it. And that's why I have to put a stop to it.

I can confidently say that my recent, involuntary foray into total reality during those last few months of the year left me...changed. Changed is the most diplomatic way to say "cracked in half down the middle". And so I can't say I recommend a complete return to reality at any given time. Immersion in the fiction of your choice is recommended, in doses. By me. And luckily (for me) the world is spilling over with fictions in which to lose oneself. And I'd encourage everyone to do the same. Don't be totally consumed by alternate forms of reality; this isn't a very special episode about the dangers of Virtual Reality or Dropping Acid. Just make lots and lots of room for escape. Build an extension on your house for escape because, as we learned in 2016, life turns on a dime and you might need the extra energy to cope and you'd best store up for a rainy day. Just don't live there. That's your afternoon nap place. That's your reading room. That's not the kitchen. Eventually you are going to have to find food.

So, where do I start? I'm still thinking about goals to set but I find myself stuck when I think of putting a number on anything. For the first time in forever, losing weight is not on a list of my goals. As I age, I need my psychic energy for pursuits other than counting calories. I don't have room for that anymore. I don't want to measure my life in numbers (or coffee spoons) and, here's a scientific fact(oid): your brain shrinks as you age. Mine is now a studio apartment. A lifelong apartment dweller, I have the skill set for this type of living. I mean, I can cram the hell out of a space. Still, I am usually looking around my space thinking "I should get rid of some stuff." So that's what I just now decided to do this year. I'm getting rid of unnecessary things. Literally, psychically, emotionally, and in all other ways-ly. Maybe I just answered my own question. How very zen of me.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Good, the Good, and the Good

I admit that I've spent a fair amount of the  31,536,000 seconds I was gifted this year, deeply submerged in the muck. In fairness to me (and anyone else who made it through this year with the luxury of feeling bad and then being able to dwell on that feeling) this year has been a cesspool of nonstop horrible shit happening. But, and I find I have to un-suction my rubber boot heels from the mud drenched floor of my state of mind to admit this, it wasn't 100% bad. I mean it WAS all bad if you empathize with the world at large. But I'd be remiss to not acknowledge the pinpricks of starlight in the black sky. In the spirit of not losing the memories I have from 2016 that DON'T make me wish I was in a coma achieved by eating too much ice cream, I've decided to share a list of some here. This post and the list within it will be my vial of antidote serum when life (and Facebook) sprinkles dirt in my fries. Mind altering, laced with cyanide dirt. So here are some moments worth remembering, in no particular order, from 2016:

Getting two of my poems published in June

I don't ever expect anyone to like my writing, ever. It is always a pleasant surprise when someone does and I was thrilled that two of my pieces were published. I truly appreciated that.

Seeing Hamilton in November
There was a moment, during the song "One Last Time" when Chris Jackson as George Washington was ripping his heart out through his lungs and handing it to us all in the audience, when I felt like own heart would burst and I must have reacted physically because Javier Munoz, playing Hamilton, caught my eye and smiled. It was a remarkable, subtle and quick moment that I will always remember. Also, seeing Brandon Victor Dixon stretching in the wings just before the start of the show... it just made me feel with the show. Like we were all snugly protected inside a snowglobe with a beautiful, musical tableau.

Seeing Ireland in September

A hundred and twelve things stand out about this trip: the memories with friends, the flavors, the sounds, the images. The beer, and orange spiced marmalade. The Dublin writer's artifacts preserved in glass cases, the hundred bookstores. But two things stand out above them all.

Since childhood, I have had one recurring dream: that I am inside a house that has neverending rooms, hallways, doors within rooms that lead to other rooms. Invariably in the house, I am charmed and longing to belong there forever. Yet the house, though it is always different, always belongs to someone else, either a friend or someone I just met in the dream. (I had this dream a few weeks ago and the house belonged to my uncle.) Anyway, in Kilkenny there is a restaurant called Langton's. We stopped in there for dinner and quickly realized that one front room/bar was the entrance to a series of long hallways with rooms branching off them, each one either elegantly small and intimate or ornate and ballroom-like. There seemed to be no end to the rooms within and walking through it was walking through my dream. That's a cool thing that will likely never happen to me again. But I was lucky it did, even once.

The second memory is this: Standing on the lunar landscape of the Irish coast in between destinations on a chilly September afternoon, belly full of the most delicious seafood soup I have ever eaten in a lifetime of eating soup, is a visual, aural, and sensory fingerprint on my brain. I envision the future me, maybe having lost my mind to age or sorrow or some other thing that happens to us all and closing my eyes and feeling all of it all over again. That happened this year.

Radiohead Concert at MSG in July

From the moment I first heard Radiohead in the wee hours of a lonely dorm room night in the winter of 1995, I was hooked. For life. And though I've seen Radiohead many, many times I don't think I needed to until this year. I needed that switch turned on. And the opening bars of "Let Down", the first time I've heard that song played live, did it. I was high fiving strangers and crying and it was beautiful.

Harry Potter World in June

Nancy and I sat in the shade on a bench in between rides and drank frozen Butterbeer and laughed. Is there a more fun sentence?

Maine in November

I took a girls' weekend to Camden, Maine this November and the road trip was so fun that I was able to think about everything but my sad, broken heart. There is nothing better than friends (and booze) to help you and don't let anyone tell you differently.

All year long

I am surrounded by love and support, by friendship and comfort and I would never have made it without you, you know who you all are. I get the same feeling around you as I do when I'm tucked underneath my electric blanket.

So there is always that.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Contracts

For the last week or so I've been grieving. One of my best friends left the world and took with her a cookie cuttered section of my heart. My cat Thelma died unexpectedly of kidney disease, something I had no idea she had until the last day of her life. She lived her entire life, health problem free with only one kidney. In true cat fashion, she hid any and all discomfort she ever had from me and every vet she ever saw. Feline, thy name is stoic. It has been exactly a week since I had to say goodbye and I still await her ashes to be delivered to me to punctuate the sentence. Thelma is gone

 I have taken this loss right to the center of my soul, my days unspooling and me, undone and completely bereft by nighttime. I've walked around with boulders at the bottom of my stomach and until today, dreaded any social interaction with anyone because it takes too much energy to glue my psyche together long enough to behave like I'm not made of limp, creased, damp cardboard. I knew when I brought that little cat home almost seven years ago that I was signing up for losing her. We start our lives in contract with death as a fine print agreement. And every interaction we choose from the moment we are able is checking the box over and over again: In consideration of the mutual covenants set forth herein, both parties agree to lose one another to death. I simply, humanly thought I'd have time to prepare my goodbyes. I have not one basis for this assumption and I won't make that mistake again.

I've gotten through the worst of it with the undying support of my sister who was with me in the room when I said goodbye and has not left my side since. I feel sorry for any and everyone who doesn't have a Lorraine in their lives. You should get one. I've also gotten by with the distraction of work and action films, with Radiohead and booze and ice cream and my remaining cat, Greta. With the reassurance of my trusted vet who listened to me cry over the phone and said that I made the only choice I could and with the long, human chain of friends and acquaintances who have been through all of this before and come out on the other side with just the parts of their beloved pets that are worth preserving...the love. It's part of the sales pitch that gets you to sign the contract to begin with and it is worth every single tear.

This morning I felt certain that Thelma the cat visited me. I felt the pressure of her paws land on the bed and skirt around the pillows and head to the windowsill at my head. I felt it and have chosen to believe that she stopped by to say hi and I feel better today, I am still sad, I can't deny it. But the boulders feel whittled down to large stones and I think of Thelma with more smiles than tears. I thought about what to share in here about her, for the knowledge of all the deeply unfortunate souls who never got to meet her. But I don't suppose it would mean much to learn that every night she would follow me into the bedroom and meow impatiently for me to lie down and wouldn't settle down until I did because she was impatient to plant her large little body on top of my stomach or my chest. Or that of all the bellies on all the kitties in the world, Thelma's was the fluffiest and if you ever got to pet her there, you passed the good egg test. She wouldn't let just anyone do it.

Those little things about my little friend mean the world to me and will for the rest of my life. But I guess what I want to get across here, for future me, for future contracts, in case of the likely possibility that my brain will age like shredded wheat is that I once had a cat named Thelma and she was my friend and I miss her a lot.



Thelma Marie (2008-10/11/2016)