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!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Day I Became Middle Aged

Word of the Day : March 22, 2016

hie (verb)

1 : to go quickly : hasten
2 : to cause (oneself) to go quickly

It happens every time I have a day off: I make plans and spend the morning of those plans wishing I hadn't. My days off are few and far between and lately I have never waned in my sole desire to sit quietly and do something passive like watch a film or read a book. But I have not arranged my life this way (still kicking myself about that) and I have obligations and work to do otherwise. So with the morning of a day off stretched out ahead of me in an opaque fog, I measure my time in coffee cups and give it to the end of one for staring off into space, thinking about this or that. I do that every day but workdays and appointments mean I hie through the process so that it feels like one moment I am taking a hot sip, thinking about the dream I had and the next I am running to catch the bus at a pace that sets the day. On days when there is no timetable, it is entirely possible for me to sit and stare, undisturbed, knowing how guilty I'll feel about it around 4 p.m. when the light outside is changing and I haven't typed a word. Today is just such a day and, would you lookit is 5 p.m.

Pretty much every day.
I blame the weekend. When comparing my one day weekend on Sunday to the weekends of the past few months, I'd stick it firmly in the "eventful" column. (Other columns include "boring", "family", "boring family", "productive", "sexy", and "forgotten" case you were wondering.) I actually had plans on top of being at work and so time was a mini tornado and by Monday I was a row of exposed house foundations, shredded bits of wood piled jaggedly around exposed bathroom fixtures and abandoned dolls. I might be exaggerating. But only a little. I felt incredibly old and feeble by the end of it all.

It's just that I got on an escalator on Sunday morning, freshly deposited from the 7 train at the 34th Street Hudson Yards terminal which was just opened six months ago but today looks like it was built in 1967 with a design that was meant to look like the future back then. And I was adrift in a reverie about this, about how city buildings can never look modern and even when it seems like they try to make them modern or at the very least semi-contemporary, they still somehow manage to leave an air of "this needs to be updated" everywhere which seems to me like it has to be intentional because how could a brand new train station already feel so old and in need of repair. And maybe I was cranky because I had gotten home too late the night before when, against my better judgement, I convinced my friend Lauren that it would be fun to go dancing after we had spent "An Evening with Noel Fielding".

Should have just ended the night on a high note.
And I was thinking about how it WAS fun to be out and theory. But in practicality, I was being flirted with by people inappropriately younger than me and dancing to songs that were "classics" to about 90% of the room and as a result of this realization, maybe I had had a touch too much vodka. And then I thought about how booze doesn't do anything for me anymore other than make everything seem a lot bleaker the next morning and how I kind of just want to give it up altogether because I may have finally reached the point of it just not being worth the money or the calories or the, I don't know, wanting to die the next day. That death wish mood is likely why when, midway up that escalator, which really should have been a funicular at this point, I felt three solid drops of something wet from the ceiling above me and said aloud to no one in particular, "This is what we pay taxes for??" forever adding about 15 years to my current age.

I hied into middle age during that escalator ride. Those three mystery liquid drops from the ceiling of a six month old train station on a day when it wasn't raining served as my baptism and for the last two days, I have been feeling comfortable, not giving a good goddamned about what strangers think or say and I've been okay with staying home and doing a crossword puzzle and reading my book.

Unfortunately, I don't qualify yet for reduced subway fare.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Thoughts and Purchases

Here's some stuff I "did" today.

I had today off and I didn't leave the apartment until 5 p.m. I had every intention of trekking into Manhattan to check out the library at Poets House, to savor the air of downtown, to ram unintentionally into tourists and see something gross on the subway. But it never happened. I spent the morning being my own assistant, planning my springtime tune ups with brand new doctors and a brand new insurance card. And by the time I finished the pathetic toss up of limbs I call exercise, it was already late afternoon and the day had flown away from me and took all my vim with it. Vimless, I experienced existence as something totally pointless so I did what I usually do when that thuggish part of my brain threatens a hijack: I went for a walk. After passing by hundreds of people either talking to someone else through their earbuds or talking to themselves through a diseased brain, I found myself in search of some retail therapy. And I ended up wandering into my favorite boutique store in Astoria, the one with the salesgirl who once told me I had curves meant for red dresses which was the best line I'd ever heard from someone trying to earn commission. I saw the one article of clothing I had tried on with optimism a few weeks ago that seemed to have a will of its own, a bratty obstinate will: it just wouldn't zip up, no matter how I pleaded. This time it was marked down and hung there on the sale rack, the last of its kind like some stylish, contrite, dodo bird. So I said, aloud, "fuck it" and tried it on (because I often don't know when to give up) and, in a rather surprising turn of events, it fit. I surmise that not drinking to excess for a few consecutive weeks in a row helped that along. So I bought it and was given a cookie by the salesgirl (who I might marry one day...she calls me pretty and gives me cookies, what more does a woman need?) and I came straight back here to sit in the quiet living room and stare off into space for a little while.

I felt happy-ish about my purchase but sad that I couldn't seem to make any eye contact with anyone on the sidewalk. I miss eye contact. It is damn near impossible to get even when you are on a subway facing each other. Everyone is so shifty. Or maybe it's me.

I've made progress in the book I'm reading about the death of American presidents. Seems appropriate reading since the current election feels like a death of sorts. I just read about William Howard Taft who is, sadly, known as the "fat" president. I mean, he was fat, there was no question. But he was also an accomplished guy. He was an emotional eater (I feel you, Tafty) and he had a sense of humor about his weight but it got to him. That story about the bathtub wasn't even true! No historian has been able to find evidence that he ever got stuck in a bathtub. Just one more stupid urban legend about a fat person and how people just can't believe that fat people aren't walking around all the time thinking about and doing fat things. He probably did some mad shady stuff during his presidency, like all of 'em but on the legacy of just being the fat guy, I feel bad for him.

I really can't believe it is almost 10 p.m. and tomorrow I'll wake up and have a million things to do and be pining for the day I just wasted in thoughts and purchases. I really should take up a hobby. Like mastering the art of blinking contests. With myself.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Guts of a Beggar

Earlier today, as sometimes happens with me, I was thinking about one of my dead crushes: Buster Keaton. (Keaton died in 1966, a terrible, terrible year of loss for me, despite the fact that I was not born until 10 years later....Frank O'Hara also died that year). It wasn't a random thought (though I do sometimes randomly think about silent film stars); it came from a gchat conversation I was having with my friend Lauren. We were discussing her natural optimism and my natural pessimism and how she thinks the universe has meaning and so do our lives whereas I think the universe is basically indifferent and that our lives have no meaning (in the very large and grand sense of the word). And I don't honestly see that as something negative because it doesn't affect the way I live my life. I still pursue happiness and practice things I am passionate about. I still give and love and laugh and all the platitudes that people hang on their living room walls and tag each other in Facebook memes about. I just always know in the back of my mind that ultimately, as soon as the last person I knew in my life dies or loses his/her memory, I will be confined to oblivion, as will we all. But I'm not really that disturbed by it because I will be dead and I'll care less about someone reading something I wrote than I will about...well, anything, because I'll be dead, whatever that will end up meaning. And that's the human experience and all the good stuff that happens in between birth and the moment of death is the only thing that truly counts.

Anyway, we were discussing all this, as one does on a slow Wednesday morning, and as I was explaining what my views were, I started to remember a Buster Keaton film I saw a few years ago called "College". It can be seen here on YouTube in case you are interested. It runs at a whopping one hour and four minutes. It features the inimitable Keaton as a newly graduated high school student getting involved in hilarity and falling for a girl who he thinks is out of his reach. It is funny and cute and romantic and all the things I love about silent comedies and in particular about Buster Keaton (who I also consider foine) and you spend the majority of the hour feeling good and laughing and being involved in what's in front of you. So, spoiler alert, he gets the girl. And in the last minute of the film, maybe less, you see them walk out of a church after getting married, sitting together in their living room with small kids in the background, then growing old in the same chairs (as he hilariously looks at her, annoyed) and the final scene of the film is a shot of their headstones, side by side. Even as I type this I am laughing because this is one of the funniest sequences in any film I've ever seen, and it is mostly due to its total unexpectedness. The entire film is a slapstick comedy and a romance and you are feeling good and happy by the end. Then in the very last frames of the film, you are reminded...oh RIGHT! THIS is how it all ends! It is totally unexpected but also, universally expected: everyone dies at the end. (Another fantastic example of this kind of hilarity/brilliance is Atwood's Happy Endings) "College" isn't even one of Keaton's most critically acclaimed films but had he never made anything else, I'd love him for that alone. And also for his face. Anyway, that's kind of a perfect example of my philosophy about life and its meaning and/or lack of purpose...kind of like this whole post.

Side note: who knows where the title of the post comes from? Let's hang out.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Memory 1: Benediction and a Broom

One writing project I have for March is to write about a memory a day: Memories for March. I'll share some of them here because if a memory is written about and no one reads it, does your blog get any traffic? A question for the ages.

Once upon a time I did not have a cell phone. It was the 90s, I think. The memories tend to get hazy as the years go on. For example, the very last memory I can conjure at this moment that involves me NOT having a cell phone is when I visited my old roommates in London in the spring of 1999 and I had to borrow my friend Katie's mobile phone version -0.1 to let her know when we could meet up after spending the day wandering through Hyde Park. It was awkward and heavy to carry but I enjoyed the ironic freedom of being able to be found and met without worrying about loose change for the pay phone.

So, when I got back from that trip, I realized that "everyone" in NYC was getting one and my curiosity won out over my troglodytism (patent pending on that word) and I got a very, very small flip phone since back in the aughts, we were determined to have small cell phones. If you don't remember that, then we can't date because you are too young for me. But today's memory is not about that. We'll have to discuss our relationship another time.

Anyway, it was an exciting time for me...I was 23, I was living in Manhattan on a bookseller's salary and I was now able to use my teeny phone to call roughly half of my friends who also had teeny phones and tell them to order me a margarita at Tio Pepe's on West 4th because it was two for one night and I was on my way.

During this time, one of my friends, Bridgit, had been living in Brooklyn, studying for her PhD in Queens and, just for giggles, joining choral groups that gave concerts in Manhattan at places like Lincoln Center.

She would always give me tickets and invite me to see these concerts and the first time her group sang at Alice Tully Hall, I felt like I should rent a fur coat and a silver cigarette holder. Lincoln Center, fuck, the entire Upper West Side lived in my mind as a place for 1930s rich people to drink champagne. Needless to say, I was excited to attend. It was a packed house and we had nosebleed seats, optimal for people watching and seeing the stage. I didn't see any fur coats or meet anyone named Chauncey or Bitsy. As it turns out, regular people attended shows at Lincoln Center, too. Because of Bridgit, I felt like I was “with the band.” 

Choral music lends an air of the sacred to any space (I wonder if any choruses have ever recorded anything in a subway station…those could use some benediction. And a broom.) I tend to feel like composers and performers open the door to the other side and that music is just a brief glimpse we are allowed before the door shuts in our stupid faces. The atmosphere was reverent and solemn and it put me in a state of reverie. I wish I could remember what was being performed that night but alas, it was 16 years ago. I distinctly remember it had a gorgeous adagio section and the reason I remember this is because it felt as though all the air was sucked from the room and the audience sat still and attention in awe of the sweet sounds from the stage. Oh, and also, my fucking cell phone went off at that very moment.

The phone was on a setting that when it was receiving an incoming call, the ringing would begin faintly, in long drawn out beeps and gradually get louder and louder, like a petulant child being ignored by its parent. It would only stop beeping if I manually opened the phone. TECHNOLOGY. Because I was so involved with listening to the music, it took me a solid minute to realize that it wasn't some other moron who neglected to silence their phone. No, the CALL WAS COMING FROM INSIDE THE BAG...AT MY FEET.

Here I was inside this historical musical landmark at Lincoln Center, frantically searching for my complaining, miniature phone in the cavern of my purse as it got louder and louder by the second. 
My mortification was tangible. The other audience members were petrifying me in place like a hundred Medusas. At last, I found the phone at the very bottom of my bag (of course) and silenced it. I contemplated throwing it to the ground and stomping it to death, envisioning three cheers for how wonderful I was for destroying the enemy but instead I whispered a lame "sorry", only to be shushed Tammy and Chadley, cousins to Chauncey and Bitsy. 

The me of right now wishes I could go back, take my own hand and whisper to myself of back then that, a scant 16 years later, people will talk openly about their yeast infections on the subway in detail within earshot of dozens of strangers and in the grand scheme of things, the outsized ringing of this phone at this time, was as small in relevance as it was in size. But, I can’t do that. I simply have to live with the memory of my cell phone beep echoing through the past.  

I am only able to relax into a performance if I treat it like I'm on the ascension part of a roller coaster ride wherein I obsessively check if my seat belt is tightly fastened and the shoulder straps are locked into place. I will take my cell phone out over and over until the lights are dimmed to assure myself that it never happens again. People might think me strange, but as god as my witness, I will never interrupt a performance with my phone again. 

I have to cut this memory post short now because I have to call my OBGYN while on the subway. Bye!