Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Amtrak Ambling

ETA: I just now realized this is my FIVE YEAR anniversary of this blog! Holy crap! I'm so glad I'm still as aimless and rambling as always. If you read this or anything on here, I love you. I really do. Back to my regularly scheduled nonsense....

I took an Amtrak train to Albany last week and had the usual stream of consciousness vortex of thoughts as I sat and waited for my train. Most people call this thinking. But I have always had the impression that if I let it, my brain would just pull me under like a pernicious riptide and I’d be dragged away gasping, far from the sun drenched shore by degrees. So, I decided to write them down and share it here, hoping to come up with something worth reading. I’m not sure that I’ve done that. I’m only sure that I want to be able to take long train rides everyday because the movement of the train stills the vortex. Temporarily.

I left work that day smiling. Knowing I wouldn’t have to return to a place where I am not myself for hours at a time was relieving in the way taking a bra off at the end of the day is freedom in action and I felt loose and relaxed. I didn’t even mind that no one would return my eye contact on the subway, what with the Pokemon they were all hunting on their phones; I got to observe, unobserved. By the time I got to Penn Station, it was full blown rush hour and I coasted on a wave of worker drones, headed east or south or north to 3 bedroom ranch houses and smaller versions of themselves, to spouses or girlfriends/boyfriends and other things that seem to elude me. There were bewildered tourists with backpacks and high heeled ladies with charm bracelets and young masters of the universe shooting toward the sprawl in a strange serpentine rhythm through underground Penn Station.

I rarely take train rides longer than an hour. The last long train ride I took was in Belgium, traveling from Bruges to Ghent and from Ghent to Amsterdam. I had been hungover with a vengeance then and my brain was just looking for sleep. But my heart managed to do what it always does when a new landscape rolls out in front of me; it emitted a pinprick of hope that I'd find my own personal Jesse Wallace to take a European stroll with for hours. Christ. Films have ruined my life. I guess I enjoy train rides because they make me think of possibility, that great American fable. So, I was going to enjoy this one too (though the non-European-ness of the setting muted the Before Sunrise daydream).

Anyway, I arrived early for my train and got a seat in the waiting room. It struck me that the Amtrak wing of Penn Station is the only thing that retains its 60s mod-ish design. I don’t know how old exactly that room is but sitting there, waiting inspired a melancholy in me. I don’t know what it is about me and nostalgia for things and times I have never experienced. I feel irrational when I experience a longing for something I just missed out on but I can’t help it. Seated a few seats away was a young couple, two women who were so clearly new to each other… they seemed nervous to be together. They spoke to each other with self-consciousness, eager to learn whatever new information about each other they could. It made me lonely.

Maybe I had the 1960s on my brain because of the room but I started thinking of Mad Men. It isn’t unusual for me to think of it since I consider the show, without hyperbole, to be one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen. I thought about the episode when they address the demolition of the old Penn Station in favor of what we have today. It is my understanding that it used to be a beautiful space, on par with what Grand Central Station is now. In the episode, the character Paul Kinsey, rebellious, nearly fucks up the account. In the end, (spoiler alert), Don Draper is forced to fire the new Penn Station company from their list of clients due to lack of vision by his British overlords. I always wonder what midtown would look like now had we kept the beauty and ditched the grit.

I also started thinking about the actor who played Paul Kinsey, a man I knew in college. My college wasn’t very big and he had that mysterious Renaissance man personality to go with his looks so everyone kinda knew him. I, like virtually everyone else I knew, had a huge crush on him and we were friends towards my senior year there. He’d likely be bored to know that he's served as the archetype in many of my own stories. I’ve discovered over the years that his impression on me likely had very little to do with him; though we were friends who hung out some times, I can’t say I knew him very well. Still, I follow his career and his Twitter account and my sudden thought of him led me to just that. I discovered that he had recently proposed to his girlfriend. Good for him! I’m happy when people I used to know have happy middles (I don’t know endings yet). I also got melancholy because people move on and on and away from how I remember them and sometimes I just want things to stay as they are. The urgency of my age makes me lonely. There might be a theme here.

It wasn't long before the train was boarding and it was beautifully air conditioned and empty of hustling crowds, my first indication that I was bound for places away from the city. As I chose my seat, I remembered the last time I took an Amtrak up north to visit these same friends. On my way home from that trip, I arrived at the station to find my train, all trains headed anywhere had been cancelled due to a horrific derailment that resulted in fatalities. Going back to my thoughts about train travel, I always stupidly assumed it was the "safer" way to travel. I think for a few weeks after that incident, I read everything I could on train derailments and their frequency, mostly because that's how I face my fears...I read about them. As my thoughts veered toward catastrophe, the train blessedly pulled into the station and I released myself from the tangle of my neurons and into the hot July night air and the care of one of my oldest, dearest friends.

And there you have three hours worth of rambling, ambling thoughts. If anything, it allowed me to shut off the din of a Tuesday afternoon, one of the most ennui inspiring times of the week. So, there's always that.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Unsigned underwear

I saw The Cure recently at Madison Square Garden and it was easily one of the top 10 shows I've been fortunate enough to attend. It was my third time seeing them, the last time being literally 20 years ago on their 1996 tour. The Cure is what I like to think of as an "old friend band"... no matter how much time passes, or how many new bands or songs or albums come in between us, we just pick right back up where we left off. This most recent show was no exception.

It probably didn't hurt that the concert was at a venue where I spent a decent percentage of my teenage years and my 20s. I still remember when there used to be a bookstore right at the entrance of MSG and the time before there was a "Paramount Theater" on the second level. I have vivid memories of waiting for a Nine Inch Nails show there, decked out in the goth gear I was sporting in those days and browsing books in that store while waiting for my concert buddies. There was an older gentleman in a three piece suit who approached me then and said "I'm not being weird, but I love your look." And he just walked away and it wasn't weird. Unexpected, but not weird.
I always felt like the luckiest person alive when I was on my way to a show. I still do feel like the luckiest person alive when I'm doing that...lucky that my musical heroes are still alive and kicking and doing their thing. When I think of the afterlife, I imagine it as an outdoor concert at dusk on a perfect weather day.

The band was in top form. Robert Smith's voice hasn't changed in 30 years and I had a list of songs I wanted to hear that was 10 deep and he played all but one. The one I didn't hear was "Untitled" from Disintegration but I can't blame the band. That song is long and not the most popular from that stellar album. I love so hard that I have The Cure to make me feel like I felt a long time ago. I'm running out of things that can do that. Whenever I'm alone with you....etc. etc.

Speaking of feeling like a long time ago, it had been a few years since I saw a show at MSG. Some things remain unchanged, others are unrecognizable. I think the last time I was there was to see Arcade Fire in 2010 on my birthday and a lot has changed in six short years. Gone is the bookstore (btw, that's a good way to describe NYC in general these days: gone is the bookstore), though I suspect it left a long ass time ago. It has been replaced by some generic tourist trap called "The Pennsy" which is just a really stupid name. Gone is the film of dirt that used to cover the inside lobby of MSG...it is actually pretty clean and modern looking now. The concessions were always overpriced but they have now reached ridica levels. People still try to scam their way into seats that aren't theirs and it is pretty pathetic when they do and the seats aren't even that good. Like, if you are going to go through the trouble of lying about shit, at least make it worth everyone's while, not some perplexing lie about how you hold tickets for a pair of crappy seats. It makes me sad for you. It reminds me of this one girl I went to high school with who turned out to be a bit of a total liar. She came to school one day and told us how she had seen Stevie B perform the night before and claimed that he signed her underwear yet, when pressed, could not produce said underwear. And it just made me feel so sad for her because again, if you commit to lying, go all out. Mick Jagger signed my underwear or Bruce Springsteen did. Damn at the very least, Stevie B kissed me. Just not some freestyle singer signing your skivvies. That requires tangible proof.  You are going to have to prove you have ticket stubs for the seats you are in. Think your lies through, people. Or you know, just don't lie at all.

I was seated next to a young man who, at first, I assumed was The Cure's biggest superfan. I was wrong however and I strongly suspect he was just high on meth or its more subtle equivalent. We arrived in the middle of the opener's set, a band called the Twilight Sad (best. gothy. band. name. ever.) and they were good. The guy next to me seemed to be fiercely in to them because he was beating the shit out of his thigh in rhythm to every song they played. You really have to love something in order to beat the shit out of yourself to express it. The enthusiasm he was emitting was nothing compared to what was to come. When they finally took the stage, the band played Pictures of You and my seat neighbor fell into a paroxysm. With every new song he screamed "HOLY FUCKING SHIT" or an equivalent exaggerated exclamation. Don't get me wrong, I'm a fervent concert goer and I don't ever stand stock still or just stare at the stage with the impassive observational stare of a scientist, the band my test subject. I go to live shows to feel something and I feel it. But there is a fine line between being moved by the music and being...well, high on something. Homeboy was way over the line. My assertion was vindicated when, about 35 minutes into the three hour set, he was fast asleep in his chair like a post-tantrum toddler.

A couple arrived super late to the show and sat in the row in front of me and proceeded to check their phones every 20 seconds for the following apps: Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Their Own Selfie Collection. I definitely take photos at concerts. It is usually a maximum of two and it is always of the band. I don't want a photo of myself sitting in a chair at MSG DURING the show. That's just stupid. But these two...they were recording entire songs because they are clearly video archivists who will most certainly watch the video they took all the time as it takes up space on their phone; it was worth the sacrifice of missing the live performance in front of their faces. Again, my fellow concert goers just inspired a melancholy in me. Or maybe it was the music?

Aaaaanyway, I'll leave this entry with the two photos I took in between songs.

Also, Simon Gallup signed my underwear.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Dear Blog

Dearest Blog,

I've neglected you. There is no better or kinder way of putting it. You + Me = On the outs. But it is not me, it is definitely you. It's ok though. It really is, because sometimes it has to be you. It can't always be me.

I've come here many times over the past few weeks and I plop piles of words in different entries, as though you were a suburban lawn but nothing seems right or cool enough or, I don't know what enough. I know what you'll ask. You'll ask what the hell else have I been doing. Well, blog, that is the upside to our breaking up for a bit. I have started writing more and more and more of the things I should always have been writing and it feels like work and you know I am nothing if not a worker. I would put the feeling of accomplishment right up there with friendship and infatuation and yuca con chicaron. It is that good.

Unfortunately, you have fallen by the wayside there. I'm aware we never get close anymore lately and I'm sorry. I know you offer me the ability to communicate with the outside world, and it is always a pleasure, when I'm standing inside my three dimensional life and facing the beautiful collection of atoms and cells that makes a face, and they reference you in conversation and I know that they have been reading you and thinking of you (and by extension, me). But as my birthday imperceptibly inches toward me like a summertime slug, I feel my time expiring and I've got to work.

But I'll make an exception today because I miss you.

So what shall I regale you with today? I am working on a series of poems about homonyms, I'm going to fucking finish the same goddamned short story I've been writing for eight months and I've booked a weekend at a writer's retreat in August to finish my bitchingly difficult novel. That's what I've been spending some time doing. Not enough time, of course...let's not be foolish here. But I'm at the top of the hill at the moment and I'm just about to tumble down. Any second now...any second. I wanted to spare you having to throw yourself down with me like Buttercup to my Wesley.

I did want to share something I thought about, for the gajillionth time this morning as I walked to work:

I discovered something about myself recently. I am the type of person who will eat something she doesn't like out of sheer politeness. To wit: awhile ago I met some work colleagues at a bakery before we headed to a conference. My intention was to get a coffee and that's all; I'm not really a "sweets" person. I do like sugar but what I prefer is generally on the bland side of sweetness. My favorite dessert of all time is a vanilla soft serve cone with chocolate sprinkles. I'm dessert simple. But the people I was with had sweet teeth and insisted on buying me something to enjoy. So I just said "I'll have whatever you are having." Well, it turns out they were having cannolis and cheesecake flavored tarts. And it also turns out that, in all the endless permutations of dessert items, cannolis and cheescake are my least favorites. No, I'm understating it. I actively dislike both of those things. But what does one do when two dessert items are placed in front of one, the direct result of my inability to commit to a choice of something else? One eats it. Or I do. And then I internalize my bad feeling about not being able to choose what I want when pressed and not being honest about not liking something out of politeness and not being forthright enough to say no thank you. Do you understand what that's like, blog? I know what you are going to say. Minor, in the even slightly bigger scheme of things. And you are right, blog. It is a minor thing. However, since that morning, I've been having a long think about what else I do out of politeness and whether or not that makes me a weak person. And that's why I don't like cannolis or cheesecake: they give me identity crises.

O blog, what will we do with ourselves. It is summer. The sky is blue and I can breathe in and out with ease. I have money in my pocket (my dresses have pockets!) and books to read and I live in New York City! Did you ever think we'd make it back, blog? Because I had my doubts. But how can you doubt something so totally unpredictable as your life? More importantly, when will I learn that lesson?

I should go, dear blog. It is nearly lunchtime and the tree leaves, just visible over the lip of the library window, are waving me outside, asking me to stroll for a bit. I'll be back. I just don't know when. Maybe tomorrow, maybe at the end of summer. Remember what I just said about doubt and prediction? Jesus, you have no short term memory.

Take care of yourself. Go treat yourself to a movie and a cocktail. Maybe send a winky emoji at that guy you've been cyberstalking? Take care of you.

I'll probably talk to you tomorrow.

K, thx bai.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


The Word of the Day is:

urbane (adj)

: notably polite or polished in manner

Yesterday I had the inestimable pleasure of meeting the most urbane fifth grader I've ever met. She approached the reference desk, all big eyes and glasses, long, shiny brown hair in a messy ponytail. She was so well spoken but seemed a bit anxious when she asked if she could use the computer more than once a day. When I told her yes, she put her hand to her chest and breathed a sigh of relief, like an old, southern lady clutching a tear stained handkerchief and said "Phew. I have one more project to finish." A kid worried about finishing her homework? It was me, 30 years ago.

She then proceeded to tell me about her dance program afterschool and how she was concerned (her word) that she wouldn't do well on her finals next week. I walked away from the desk for a moment to tend to a computer issue and when I came back she said, "By the way, do you have anyone in your life to tell you that you are so, so pretty. I really mean that. You are beautiful." Speechless, I just smiled. I never know what to say when complimented, much less so earnestly. I finally just said, "You are so SWEET!" And she said, and I quote, "Nah. I just think everyone should know the truth about themselves and everyone should feel good at least once a day. The world would be a nicer place if we all believed that." !!!! I have been racking my brain trying to remember the last time I met a child who had that level of empathy, emotional intelligence and the ability to express it so eloquently! I came up with zilch. I later found out, to my heartbreak, that this little girl is currently living in a homeless shelter with her mother. It made sudden sense to me that she was so put together and wise beyond her years; some children just have to grow up faster than others.

In unrelated, other news:

Last week was eventful in that it started out with me feeling dizzy while standing in stationary positions and ended with nausea crawling slowly over my body like a summertime inchworm across a hot, metal mailbox. I had to threaten it with permanent sleep and/or some antibiotics in order to get it gone. If miracles were a thing, I would be under the distinct impression that I was pregnant. Turns out, my body is just allergic to my job. That's a self diagnosis but I have spent my entire adult life getting sick maybe once a year but since starting this most current job nine months ago (there's the preg thing again), I get sick two or three times a month. Since my life is measured on the last day of every month in one infinite Excel spreadsheet of a timecard, I've kept a tally of the days I've been sick and it ain't pretty. I'm either going to have to quit or...I think I'll just quit.

Spring has sprung and time whorls around my head with impunity and an ever growing cluster of omgsomuchshitihavetodo. I spent the winter wanting a relationship but I'm actually super maxi extreme ultra happy it didn't happen because I just have less than zero time for my first and only love: writing. There is no way I could have squeezed regular stroking (of the ego you PERVERTS) into my schedule. All in due time and things come when they are supposed to and blah blah blah.

Also, the phones at my job have been down for days. Literal days. I would say this was surprising and frustrating but that would be a lie; it has been downright par for the course at this job that things never work as they are supposed to and the silenced phones have been a welcome respite from the noise. Now I can hear all the children moaning while running in place because they have been gifted with so much energy at a time in their lives when they don't need it. So, breaking news there: Youth is Wasted on the Young.

I have some travelling to do and I'm not sorry to be away from this petri dish. Things are happening in my professional and creative life that feel on verge of gathering momentum. I hope that isn't me projecting but time will tell.

I just noticed it has been almost three weeks since my last blog update. I guess I've just been busy doing other, no less senseless things. Like, for example, I just spent way too long reading about train derailments. I find myself at the moment, unsure of how to end this blog post. I really just wanted to write something in here to get my brain thinking about writing. That's all I ever aim to do in this blog. So, um, bye, I guess.

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.