Friday, February 27, 2009

Celebrating the Mild Disappointments of My Life

There was a time when these commercials swarmed the airwaves. Friends and couples get together for a night in, perhaps after a hard day, to reminisce over photos and relax in the gentle glow of the other's company. General Foods International Coffees makes its inevitable entrance and the dam breaks on soulful remembrances. The mere taste calls up trips to Paris and Vienna where one or both of them were transfigured by the cafes and waiters with fake names.

This is a risky business.

What if the taste calls up something totally different?

(MONICA, in her floral Jessica McClintock dress and cardigan approaches, bearing a tray full of tea cup and pot. She stirs up some Suisse Mocha from General Foods International Coffees. MARIE is looking through old photos. Everything is a little pink and soft focus.)

MARIE: These sure do bring back some memories. (Sees the tray) Ohh. What's this?

MONICA: (Offering a steaming cup of brown) Taste it.

(MONICA tastes her own cup, and with the warmth of a McDonald's heat lamp:)

MONICA: Remember that night in Mexico City?

(MARIE prepares to take a sip but something stops her as the steam wafts up her nose. Her gentle smiles transform into anxious frowns)


MONICA: (Oblivious) There was that cafe and the two guys from San Tropez? This tastes just like the - What's wrong with you?

MARIE: I-I Don't want any...

MONICA: Just try it.


MONICA: Take a sip.

MARIE: I can't.

MONICA: Can't you share this one thing with me? We were having such a good time...why do you have to ruin it? Now come on -

(MONICA pushes the cup up to MARIE's mouth. MARIE sips, then in one flinging motion bats the cup away)

MARIE: Stop it! Just stop.. I can't drink that..the taste, the TASTE. Suddenly, I feel all alone and, Oh My god....Do you remember prom night when I got ditched and it started to rain?


MONICA: Uh...Uh-huh.

MARIE: That's what this tastes like...I went into that diner and they said I couldn't wait there unless I bought something...

MONICA: Did you, uh, buy Suisse Mocha?

MARIE: Shut up! NO. I didn't. I bought a Coke. But this, THIS is what the inside of that place SMELLED LIKE. Oh, my God, in liquid form!

MONICA: I - I...

MARIE: (Trying to wipe something imaginary from off her body.) God. I feel so lonely. MAKE IT STOP. GET THIS SHIT OUT OF HERE.

(MARIE swipes the tray off the coffee table and it smashes to the ground. A beat. Both women are crying.)

This is the risk you run when peddling smell and taste as a vehicle for pleasant memory.

All this aside, the soft focus and saccharine, I still wanted my General Foods International Coffee scenario. I wanted to have traveled to Paris. I wanted to look through old photos with friends and savor precious memories. I wanted to celebrate the moments of my life.

The first time I tasted General Foods International Coffee was when my Mom purchased some over a Christmas Holiday. My sister and I laughed at the notion, but I think somewhere in both of us we wanted to replicate the scenes from TV...with a hint of irony, of course.

We boiled up some water, dumped a couple of tablespoons into our cups and sipped.

You know what this stuff tastes like? Swiss Miss.

It's all just hot chocolate with some caffeine for good measure.

There were no dreams of Swiss ski trips. No Roman Holiday fantasies. It's hot chocolate. Pure, childlike, and as American as corn shuck.

Oh, well.

It's still hot chocolate. Squirt some whipped cream on top and I'm satisfied.

And for your viewing pleasure:

These women are morons.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Random Thoughts

From the vault:

Below are some pieces of art (?) I drew a while ago.

I was telling someone recently about the Valentines I made. Absent of the actual pictures, I had to describe them. She furrowed her brow and said, "That seems very violent and anxious."

This caught me of guard. "Yeah...but it's funny," I said, " Uh, it's meant to be...y'know...funny." I think I blurped out a nervous laugh as her expression remained unchanged.


This doesn't mean I'm going to draw or create anything with any less, shall we say, sanguine. But I'm certainly not going to tell her about it.



Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Facebook says, "We may be through with the Past...

...but the Past is going to 'friend' you every chance it gets."

In the turnings and innings and outings of time, we evolve ourselves. Or perhaps a better term might be "escape".

Time was, remaining close to the original tribe was the rule and not the exception. Those who ventured out returned either broken, haunted, or not at all, so it was best to stay within the confines of the clan, no matter how torturous their company might be.

As new worlds were discovered, oceans and forests were cleared of sea monsters and werewolves, so we took the opportunity to experiment with new lives outside of the families and communities that shaped us. The Industrial Revolution steamed us into the 20th century and we migrated from rural landscapes to soot-coated cities, trading in the familiar for the uncharted. The Interstate system of the Mid-Century gave us ease to travel away from our homes, to new cities, east and west, in the hopes of finding something better, brighter.

With each step on the road to the New, we molt our former selves, reborn. We have grown ashamed of our gawky, painful youths - traveling and living away from our points of origin means a second, third or even fourth bite at the apple. No one knows us in these foreign lands. We could be anyone. Anybody. Mistakes are erased, poor choices are flung to the winds. Who knows what untapped potential lies within?

But, it's an illusion, isn't it?

Not the change itself...the lust for it.

In his book Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser points out the interstate oasis and the presence of Olive Garden or Applebee's or McDonald's at every exit. While he points out the poor food quality, he also draws a conclusion as to why we tolerate and even welcome these second rate culture bombs as they arrive on the horizon: Familiarity. Regardless of our love/hate/indifference over the actual food, it is known to us.

There is palpable tension between a search for the New and a longing for the Old. We blow in to an unknown land and, after the exhilaration has worn off, we spend busy ourselves nesting, normalizing our surroundings. If this includes making friends, we configure our new relationships in the form of old ones: He reminds me of my brother, She takes the place of my best friend from grade school. In our new lives, we replicate the rituals and ideals of the old tribes. This is natural and always in motion. We tick-tock from blazing a new path to recreating the social circles to which we are accustomed.

This is not to say that personal mutations and evolutions are impossible. They most certainly are. However, we seem driven to perpetuate a climate that brings us back to our origins, time after bloody time.

I'm sure Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, didn't have this in mind when he created his software. It's just a networking site, right?


It is a geyser of our former selves.

At first, tap tap, we open an account and the first of our 20 closest friends arrive at our virtual doorsteps, all with flowers and casseroles, it seems, ready to welcome us into the universe of cyber connection.

And then...

When I left my home at 18, I had certain hopes for escape. I was going to school in a far off land, and the idea that I would see any of my former classmates again was sort of a distant notion. I AM NEW HERE. I can now recreate my life in a way that like and there is nothing to stop me.

Illusion. Self deception.

All my youthful errors, botched relationship efforts and out and out blunders, were merely tucked away. Hidden from sight.

But now, thanks to my somewhat loose criteria for accepting friend requests, old flames, one night stands, broken friendships, are rising up to meet me at the crossroads, challenging even my own personal mythologies about my past.

Are any of the stories I tell about my childhood true? Who was I to these people? Why do they keep friending me? What do they know? Have I unwittingly lied about them? Heavens, the stuff that's on my Facebook page must be totally offensive to them.

Hook up with a guy at a bar two weeks ago? He will find you on Facebook.
Girl you tortured in High School? She will find you on Facebook.

After all my recreations, adaptations, and transformations, this is my reckoning.

Facebook beckons me to stand and be counted for my past, even if the friending is a casual "Hey, how ya doin'?" Status updates, photo and profile changes, remind me that these players exist - a component of my formation as a human being, regardless of whether I have left them behind.

I'm curious about them, so I'll probably continue to accept whatever requests come my way...I feel compelled to return to my Old Self and show my New Self the engine room.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Song for a Crappy Tuesday: February Covers Edition

As you leave the freezing house of the four sisters of February Tuesdays, it is the oldest who sees you to the door. She wobbles on her knotty joints but she insists that it is her duty to show you out.

Even though she is the oldest, she is the most youthful, with yellowy hair stringing down her back "to scare the neighbor kids into thinking she's a gorgon." She giggles at everything. It's hard to tell if it's all one big joke on her part, or if she teetering on the cliffs of true dementia.

Either way, she sure smiles a lot.

The Eldest Tuesday Sister, reaches the door and hesitates. She leans forward and wraps her arms around you - crushing the zip locked Jello left-overs foisted on you by the Middle February Tuesday Twin Sisters (they are pushy and have no compunction over dragging visitors into their squabbles. It makes for an uncomfortable lunch..which always seems to consist of pork and beans.).

"I wish you didn't have to go." She says.

You nod.

"I wish we could see you sooner." She leans back and brushes the hair from your forehead. "But some things we just have to wait for, I suppose. No helping it."

You nod again, and a wave of loss breaks over you. The last thing you want to do is make her cry, so you force a half smile and give a quick squeeze back.

In the car, you look up at the house. The Eldest Sister stands in the doorway waving. As you pull away, a loud witch's cackle rings through the air and in the rear view mirror the reflection of three little boys running away from the house flashes by.

You chuckle and gun the need to get to a gas station and fast.

Arcade Fire's "My Body is a Cage" - from their 2007 album Neon Bible - is easily one of my favorite songs of the past couple of years. Imagine my delight when I found a cover of it by Sara Lov.

Arcade Fire's version of this song, regardless of the powerful pipe organ and snare that accompany Win Butler's tortured voice, is so intimate it's almost uncomfortable. Like a soul (or whatever you want to call it) shrieking out inside the captivity of the body. It might be the result of my upbringing or my more religious proclivities that I would think the body and the soul to be so separate from one another - that the body is a prison for the greater self that resides within.

But, Christ, don't we all feel that way from time to time? As if something is calling out inside and no one can hear it?

Compare it to Sara Lov's version which, for all it quiet pianos and stringed backups, sounds more external. She, in the quiet of her suburban living room, sings in almost a lullaby...but she must be careful. Hush. No loud drums, no choirs. You'd best be quiet lest the neighbors hear your calls.

Or maybe she wants them to. The neighbors get just enough to ask, "What was that music coming from your kitchen?"

Then she can say, "What do you mean? I didn't hear anything."

***Yes, Jan, Your Kate Bush pleas have been heard...I'll have a surprise for you next week.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Do you hear what I hear?

About a year ago, Radio Lab broadcast a show entitled Musical Language discussing how the brain processes language and music along with the similarities between music and the spoken word. Dianna Deutch, the psychology professor whose work is the focus of the first segment, also works in auditory illusions and phantom words.

Phantom words occur when listening to unstructured and/or unfamiliar noise. In the absence of a familiar pattern, the brain constructs words from the sounds, even if those words don't exist in the noise. It happens all the time: whispers of a name are heard in running water, the hum of a copier murmurs "please, not me" over an over again.

In music, it's especially common when deciphering lyrics. In the days before Google, we couldn't hear a song, grab hold of a couple of words and type them into our trusty search engines to discover the actual lyrics. We cave dwellers had to press our ears to the speakers and, once the feverish wait was over (and the DJ had heard our sweaty telepathic requests) Duran Duran would play and we'd work out "The Reflex is a Lonely Mind, it's waiting by the car/The Reflex is in charge of finding treasures on the porch."

My god. What could that MEAN?

Last night, Jai Ho! (from the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack) took home the Oscar for best song and is written and performed in (mostly) Hindi. Of course, I have no way of telling what they are actually saying because, like all good Americans, I am hopelessly uni-lingual.

Be that as it may, my brain still tries to find English versions of the words it's hearing. None of them make sense, but when I'm riding the bus down Lake Shore Drive, these are the words I hear. Behold, the broken English nonsense lyrics to Jai ho!...which, for a long time, I thought was Tally Ho!

(For the record, I love this song.)

Chorus of men:
Tally Ho!
Tally Ho!
Tally Ho!
Tally Ho!

Oughta Oughta Ginger Charmin
Yanni Get away,
Does anybody need me? Is Armani getting laid?

Tally Ho!

Hottie Hottie Shin guard
Charmin Yanni get away
Does anybody need me? Is Armani getting laid?

Tally Hooooooo
(Tally Hooooooo)

Tally Hooooooo
(Tally Hooooooo)
Tally Hooooooo
(Tally Hooooooo)
Tally Hooooooo
(Tally Hooooooo)

Lucky Lucky Sexy maybe John has a boy’s head
Magic Magic Cory Lopez all to the noise eh?
Uppy Uppy move the men who look and say you like me
Any Anybody money Hindu leaves a line hey!

Never ever hint at Sean and Annie getting weighed
Does anybody need me? Is Armani getting laid?

(Tally Hooooooo)

(Tally Hooooooo)

(Tally Hooooooo)

Hey Boogie!
(Tally Hooooooo)

Walla Walla!

Uhura Tomato You badda badda boy
Oh yes the tea is for mojitos
Those are problems for the sea.

Salut! Walla Walla

Tally Hoooooooo
Tally Hoooooooo
Tally Hoooooooo

Jacelyn, Oh, Jacelyn
Yay raw dishes of head do iiiit!
Jacelyn! Jacelyn,
Oh, build it
Billy are Julie here?
Got it,
Got it
Got it
Jog to

Gotta ,
Jog to

Jogging Jogging Shin guard
Charmin Yanni get away
Does anybody need me? Is Armani getting laid?

Tally Ho!
Tally Ho!

Tally Hooooooo!
Tally Hooooooo!
Tally Hooooooo!
Tally Hooooooo!

God forsake, Oh God Forsake
Joe left better keys Hey
Gaga day, oh Gaga day, oh gaga day
Of your wife could you give it away!
Gaga day!

Is it?
Is it?
I’ll Keep,
Don’t go
Heat it.

Oughta Oughta Ginger Charmin
Yanni Get away,

Does anybody need me? Is Armani getting laid?

(Tally Hooooooo)

(Tally Hooooooo)

(Tally Hooooooo)

Hey Boogie!
(Tally Hooooooo)

Walla, Walla!


Friday, February 20, 2009

Notes to Self.

1. When the cable guy is downstairs waiting and you aren't wearing any pants, don't panic. Just put on some pants and go let him in.

2. If you are in a precarious state of mind, watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind will NOT make you feel any better.

3. Nobody else ate your granola bars. You're the only one who lives here.

4. Your experience of time is mutable and fleeting. A moment may seem like an hour and a day might pass without notice. All the more reason for you to get a clock in your apartment.

5. Cut AWAY from yourself. Not towards.

6. Its probably a good idea to close your shades at night. Or when your getting out of the shower.

7. Make sure you talk to people, if only to confirm you're still able to carry on a conversation without saying strange things like "Your experience of time is mutable and fleeting."

8. Lefty loosey, Righty tighty. Not "Why won't this open, smashy smashy."

9. We need butter.

10. Don't refer to yourself as "We".

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Random Thoughts

With little or now follow up explanation.

1. I am consistently disappointed in Blood Oranges.
2. The Giving Tree is a monstrous story.
3. Given the state of Chicago's public transportation, The CTA...I'm not sure if this is the best or worst slogan ever:

Yes. Take it, while your "Counting Down to a New Brown". In a room full of grown people who live in the same country that produces Beavis and Butthead and South Park, did NO ONE speak up? NOT A SINGLE PERSON?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I am drowning

In a sea of mid-terms. I gotta grade these papers. So I'll see you tomorrow.

Until then, my current favorite poem:

A Martian Sends a Postcard Home

Caxtons are mechanical birds with many wings
and some are treasured for their markings -

they cause the eyes to melt
or the body to shriek without pain.

I have never seen one fly, but
sometimes they perch on the hand.

Mist is when the sky is tired of flight
and rests its soft machine on ground:

then the world is dim and bookish
like engravings under tissue paper.

Rain is when the earth is television.
It has the property of making colours darker.

Model T is a room with the lock inside -
a key is turned to free the world

for movement, so quick there is a film
to watch for anything missed.

But time is tied to the wrist
or kept in a box, ticking with impatience.

In homes, a haunted apparatus sleeps,
that snores when you pick it up.

If the ghost cries, they carry it
to their lips and soothe it to sleep

with sounds. And yet they wake it up
deliberately, by tickling with a finger.

Only the young are allowed to suffer
openly. Adults go to a punishment room

with water but nothing to eat.
They lock the door and suffer the noises

alone. No one is exempt
and everyone's pain has a different smell.

At night when all the colours die,
they hide in pairs

and read about themselves -
in colour, with their eyelids shut.

-- Craig Raine 1979

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Song for a Crappy Tuesday Evening: February Covers Edition (EVEN MORE SPECIAL BIRTHDAY EDITION)

Man. I'm not sure it could get more special than today. February Covers AND a Birthday? What's interesting is how many of those dear to me have birthdays on Tuesdays this year. Makes for some fun and somewhat painful birthday wishes. God, what if my song is totally meaningless to them? What if they listen to it and don't feel the same tremors I do?

This is worse than a mix tape.

Nevertheless, I need to hurl myself forward.

Today is CP's birthday.

CP is among the women of the West Coast contingent with Tina and Jan.

The first memory I have talking to CP is from my first year of college. My recollection might be a touch cinematic - She waltzed into the foggy coffee shop Kava Kane (where we spent most of our afternoons drinking grotesque amounts of coffee and smoking the good people who owned Kava Kane ever tolerated us is beyond me), in a flurry of purple scarf and long black coat, was formally introduced and then made the brash announcement that she had never met anyone from the South who was intelligent. To this, I trumpeted my offense. (We were all given to blazing - if not a little uninformed- opinions in those days. The scene seems something akin to Sachs Cafe without all the Socialism and pamphlets.)

I had seen CP before around campus and she scared the living shit out of me - a gorgeous and and intense goth dream come true. Truth be told, I kinda hated her a little (Sorry, CP, it's true.) Who did she think she was, horning in on my friends, hanging out until all hours of the night? I'll show her.

It wasn't until several months later that she and I were left to our own devices when, hopped up on about three pots of coffee, we stayed up all night developing our own language. (I don't remember any of it, except that it was some combination of French, English, and Spanish, like Esperanto's cousin no one is allowed to talk about.)

Since then, CP has been, in many ways, the love of my life.

How do you tell someone who knows the very core of you just much they mean? How proud you are to know them, How you are better because of them, How you miss them so terribly, but still feel comforted to know that they exist somewhere on the planet.

With The Brunettes cover of "Love Song" by The Cure.

Say what you will about the Cure, this song celebrates and bemoans the ecstasy/agony of love. The Brunettes version caries with it the same tension of warmth and alienation...and with two voices. Lovely.

(I would just like to mention that it is genetically impossible for Robert Smith to sound happy. "Friday I'm in Love", The Cure's upbeat pop tune - while not entirely happy - sounds totally awkward to me. Like he's pretending to be okay so they'll let him out of the psych ward. Like a woman at the verge of tears on a blind date.)

Happy Birthday, Darling CP.

I can't find an embeddable video for Love Song from the Cure, but you can watch it here.

And Tina and Jan...I love you, too...I am better because of you...Thanks.

Monday, February 16, 2009

What has two thumbs & is trying to trade a cheap stuffed bear for a Beej?

This guy:

1. Why is that guy dressed like Kenickie?
2. I don't think he even has a girlfriend.
3. Fella, the voice in the black box isn't actually talking to YOU. Calm down.
4. Bear at office = Squealing whirlwind of single entendres.
5. Uh-oh. Is Kenickie looking at porn?, he's ordering a bear.
6. That is the worst tattoo ever.
7. Why do grown men need a bear counselor?
8. Wow, that bear counselor is wearing a lot of lip gloss.
9. That's right, buddy, do your "Goal" dance. Tonight it's a 72 second ride to Orgasmo town.
10. "I can't wait to show him MY surprise." Does anyone else think the guy might be in eminent danger?
11. Hunny. U is a nerse. I gived u bear nerse. can we do the thing now?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

Below are some Valentines I made to drop in the anonymous envelopes of love made by my second grade class. Feel free to print them out and give to someone you love...or want to break up with.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Random Thoughts

1. I keep getting lost. Ever since my move, I take wrong buses, I turn around to discover I am in a neighborhood I don't recognize.

2. Recent Chicago weather is like that popular (but unstable) girl in the 7th grade who pretends to like you so much one day and then the very next, blabs to everyone how much you smell and goes into hysterics over imagined back-stabbings.

No wonder early civilization attributed human traits to the Gods. Is there anything so volatile as a human? We might come to believe ourselves predictable, and in some regard we can hold on to previous patterns of behavior as indicators of future actions (Thank you, third-hand Dr. Phil.) But we don't really KNOW, do we?

Nope...we do. We know. But we feign ignorance in the hopes that sheer will change the circumstances.

The popular girl will never shine her affection on you for more than a day. But we douse ourselves in Designer Imposters and Drakkar Noir just in case.

The beautiful day during a Chicago Winter is just a tease, but we wear shorts for three days after, resolved that the spitting rain and 25 degree temps are part of a cold snap.

3. If I could have cats, here's what I'd name them:


If I had children, I'm not sure the names would change. Except for Courtney.

4. There was a 4. here. It has been redacted.

5. There is a smell coming from my radiator.

6. I have a tiny extra room in this studio where I sleep. The queen size bed takes up nearly every available inch so it is a literal "bed room", something I've always wanted from childhood. Also, the sheets are all white and the walls are white - at night when the orange street lights glow in the room, it's like sleeping inside a dreamsicle...a very warm dreamsicle.

Or a padded oubliette

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

You can't hear me shrieking right now

But I am...


Nightmare images. This is what things like this are. IT DOESN'T MAKE ME WANT TO USE H.R. BLOCK. It does, however, make me want to vanquish these cyclopes and cast them in to the deep pit of Tartarus.


May I add that if the Earth was populated by dopey one-eyed Gen-Xers, eyeglasses would NOT look like that. Where's the nose rest? Right now the guy's schnoz is squished beneath the frame. Major design flaw.


(Shudder) Gee.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Song for a Crappy Tuesday: February Covers Edition

In Cintra Wilson's A Massive Swelling, she discusses the white-knuckled love a teen aged girl can have for her idols. It's a potent concoction, this love: equal parts adoration, ownership, jealousy, and self-hatred.

This section of the book is dedicated in part to letters she was given by a celebrity mail routing company. New Kids on the Block can't read everything, so companies are hired to sort, read, answer, and discard fan letters sent by the Great Hormonal Unwashed. In a couple of cases the fan mail comes from the pen of women in their forties (One is more sexual in nature, offering a good time, once all these teeny bopper girls have fallen away. The second writes that she is going to leave her desperate and unhappy marriage - kids in tow - to meet Jordan Knight of NKOTB, and the two of them will ride into the sunset of her broken longings. The first one, while a little creepy, is still considered healthy...the second one, well, isn't.), but for the most part the writings arrive in exactly the form you'd think: purple ink, drenched in Love's Baby Soft, little heart stickers all over the front and inside.

These notes are considered on the healthy end of the spectrum and Wilson describes the fantasy attached to such correspondence: A 14-year-old girl speaks of her unyielding love, and when Jordan or Donnie or Justin comes to town for the concert, he will see her dancing in the sea of plebeian riff-raff, lift her up from the maddening crowd and the two of them will fly off in his helicopter while her friends baste themselves in envy for all time. (This is a paraphrase here...your should check out the book for Wilson's acidic poetry.)

(I am no stranger to this fantasy.
Although, I was never a NKOTB fan. I dreamed that members of Bauhaus would descend from on high and whisk me off to their lair of the undead. Same difference. I dare say no woman who has survived puberty's humiliating fire can claim never to have had an all encompassing - and unrequited - idee fixe.)

One of the best, and most overlooked, tributes to this love is "Superstar" by the Carpenters, from their 1971 album Carpenters. Karen Carpenter's voice coats the whole affair in her wholesome alto and, while the song itself seems benign enough, the lyrics betray a yearning for the Big Love to glance her way. The darkness really creeps in with bass note on the piano punctuating the middle of each verse.

(Also, I have a soft spot for the Carpenters since I can do a mean Karen Carpenter imitation at karaoke. I discovered this when I was in my teens, making fun of the Carpenter holiday standard "Sleigh Ride" at the dinner table. It was a hit, and I have cultivated this impression, still searching for that spontaneous laughter I got all those Christmases ago. Christ.)

The second form of teen fan letter Wilson presents, is considered "unhealthy". Written in black ink on notebook paper, the letter reveals - with striking clarity - a girl in crisis. She sits on the floor, listening to NKOTB over and over, wishing for something more, something larger, and her parents don't understand why her grades have plummeted, and no one can see her true self except that poster of Donnie Wahlberg on her wall. She wishes for death to end this craving. She has no one to turn to, save this sheet of torn notebook paper and the hope the Donnie will respond.

But he won't and her torture will continue.

So little can stop the black hole suction of a teen love turned in on itself. For those who recognize this kind of feeling, that deep well of hopeless thirst, you know there is no turning back from it. A girl must simply walk straight through, and hope to come out on the other side in a different galaxy.

About 15 years ago, the album "If I Were a Carpenter" was released featuring Carpenter covers from the likes of Cracker and the Cranberries. The jewel in the crown of this compilation is Sonic Youth's otherworldly cover of "Superstar." All that pristine longing in the original is ratcheted up to a state of tooth-grinding anxiety. In one fell swoop, the object of love becomes an object of fetish.

This is what it sounds like inside the swirling bowl of "Unhealthy Fan Letter" girl.

(And a note, if you have cats, don't play it for them. While at my parents' a few years ago, I played it on their hi-fi. The cat, Baby, freaked out and rolled on the floor, the victim of some unseen tormentor. I stopped the CD and he was fine.)

Monday, February 9, 2009


n. The experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data.

The other day, on three separate occasions, T.S. Eliot was mentioned to me. The first was early in the day, during a meeting with a particularly precocious student (Not that referencing Old Possum is an indicator of precocity. Examples abound in which a reference to T.S. Eliot is not an indicator maturity beyond one's age...for instance, right now.) when he brought up the Waste Land.

The second was at dinner. I can't remember the context but a friend brought up Eliot again, and, if memory serves, it was in regards to the Waste Land. I even noted to him, "Hey, that's the second reference to T.S. Eliot I've gotten today...huh."

The third was during a play was saw later in the evening.

Now, it could be that the world is teeming with references to T.S Eliot that I had not noticed until being primed by my student to consider them. But, and this is nothing against our bastard American culture, after having a look around, it's not like the cashier at Walgreen's is looking across the counter at me to say "I will show you fear in a handful of dust."

(Gosh. Wouldn't that be something, though? I'd probably burst into tears and rush out, abandoning my already paid for Coco Puffs

In recent weeks, this has been happening a lot. Like, all the time. It's not just the references to T.S. Eliot, it could be anything - repetition of images, thoughts, words:

1. CP brought up the movie Harold and Maude. Within 24 hours, one of my students said they had just watched Harold and Maude the previous day. Before this, I can't recall the last time anyone mentioned Harold and Maude to me.

2. While organizing my office stuff, I pulled a tiny army man from a box. My friend MJ had used it in an audition for me and then given it to me as a keepsake. It had been in this little box since the summer. At dinner that evening, she told me that she had done the same audition piece that day.

3. On my way to a party this past Friday, I was struck by the memory of someone, X., I have not thought of in a while, except in passing. It occurred to me that perhaps he'd come to this party I was headed for, but wouldn't that be silly because he lives in LA now and isn't even friends with the people who were throwing the party. (Also...that would be awful. The past I have with X. is not a pleasant one.)

At the party, sitting next to E., she received a text message from a friend stating she was coming over and bringing a few friends.

E. announced it to the room and the question came "Anyone we know?"

She said, "I don't think so. Anybody here know X.?"

Every drop of blood inside me evaporated.

(As it turns out, he didn't come. He asked to be dropped off as he had other obligations. My blood grew back.)

4. I picked up an old New Yorker yesterday. Looking at the cover, I had a flash recollection of my friend Notnits and his consistent anxiety concerning his New Yorker subscription. Last night, while purusing status updates on Facebook - his came to the top of the screen:

"Notnits will never read all these New Yorkers."

And there are plenty other instances that I can't call to mind at the moment.

This is the sort of thing religions get started on (or John Nash got carted off for), the perception of an invisible connective tissue between ourselves and the word around. Usually, we are content to let that connective tissue (if indeed it does exist) remain dormant from day to day, and whatever tugs or pushes we feel are the simple, natural result of cause and effect.

It's when that connective tissue decides to wake up and quote Prufrock that alarm sets in.

What cylinders are operating in my brain?

In my childhood, it was not uncommon for me to converse with God. I'd ask questions and (once I had offered the caveat that he answer me in plain English I could understand and none of that Burning Bush business, thank you, I don't want to be stoned as a heretic in the town square.) "he'd" answer. It was usually simple stuff, knowing better than to ask why Hilter was allowed to live. Often, within a few days, I'd get some sort of answer to my question.

The recent rash of little flares and coincidences is very similar to the "answers" I'd get as a child. Like letters from a forgotten friend at Summer Camp.

Are they answers if I never asked the questions?

These days, I have some struggles with the existence of God. Any God. I don't begrudge an atheist for his or her disbelief, and I'd also prefer it if those more religiously inclined would refrain from their attempts at conversion. Some days I go so far as declaring the God of my childhood to be dead...other days I think it's just evolved. Whatever "it" is, I'm not sure our bumbling human brains (even the scientific ones) can express its ineffable nature beyond clumsy equations and scripture. Still...the It keeps showing up and tapping me on the shoulder.

Is my brain just shooting off some electrical buckshot or should I be listening to something?

And why is it always mundane little shit...can't I know what stock to buy or who will win March Madness?

Jeez. Why are visions so useless?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Shame on the House of Python

Fuck you, guys.

I suppose the burn is on me for being surprised at all. Eventually, EVERYTHING will be recuperated by the advertising industry. Seriously, what took these guys so LONG?

Huh, fellas? What took you so fucking long to warm up to the idea the GATORADE was worth selling out the legions of fans who can quote you chapter and verse and who have held on to your sketches as the nonpareil of counterculture comedy?

What lured you in? It must have been the razor sharp writing - right?- the self aware satire and loony non sequiturs that you yourselves have made famous. Yeah?

No. No, it wasn't because the scripts for these desperate grabs at relevance read like boardroom consensus-driven pop culture barf. Maybe, I'd be somwehat forgiving if these ads were even funny. MAY. BE.

I can only console myself that perhaps the lot of your were mainlined roofies and stuffed into the trunk of an 1988 Oldsmobile Cutless Supreme, only to awaken in a warehouse days later, dehydrated, bewildered and devastated to find you had given over power of attorney to Michael Jackson.

Who among your ranks betrayed you thus?

Et Tu, Eric Idle?

The whole of you need to be strapped down, eyes propped open a la Clockwork Orange and made to watch Brazil on repeat until your wit grows back.

Or until the Rape scene from a Clockwork Orange with Alex DeLarge's rendition of Singing in the Rain is used to sell Coors Light.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

One Random Thought

Do you remember going to a friend's house to sleep over for the first time?

What was that smell? In their house?

Part human, part food. Very "other".

There is a food-ish type smell in the hallway of my new apartment building, like the days old odor of cooking with Prego.

Whenever I stand to unlock my door, I am filled with the same apprehension that accompanied spending the night at a friend's house. Half sick with excitement, half terrified of being in a strange land.

It's like a weird slumber party every night.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Don't Ef with my food.

Below is a scene written some time ago for my writing group. I sent out an assignment in which the participants had to choose two event and then write the scene that these incidents bookend. The beginning and end lists were the same.

Strangely, the ones having to do with food were the most potent - and violent.I'm not sure what it is about food and violence that seems so natural to me. Sure, we evolved, in part, based on our ability to protect our food stores (sometimes with force), but more an more food can be used to torture or shame. The brutality associated with food, both physical and emotional, is fascinating to me.

As is the brutality of teenagers.

MIKE, 14
PETE, 15

(Two boys, MIKE, 14 and PETE, 15 sit at a lunch table. They sit a few chairs apart. MIKE is considerably smaller than PETE, who is a somewhat scruffy, overdeveloped kid. They sit in the white noise of the cafeteria, a glowering silence between them, munching indistinguishable food.

MIKE watches PETE out of the corner of his eye for a beat.

Quiet between them, punctuated by the occasional group of girls laughing at which both boys bristle.

In a flash, MIKE extends his arm across the table and swipes a square brown mass from PETE’s plate. PETE lurches to his feet, sudden, wrathful.)

Give that back!


I’m gonna eat that!


(MIKE licks the top of the mass.)

You wanna eat it now?

You’re an asshole jerk face.


(PETE sits huffing at MIKE. He looks around the cafeteria ready to get up., An explosion of laughter comes from the gaggle of giggling girls and he gives up turning back around to face his tray. A beat. MIKE reaches over and plops the brown mass back on PETE’s plate.)

I don’t want it now.

(PETE lurches up again and stares down at MIKE. MIKE meets his gaze)

What? What are you gonna do?

Asshole. Jerk face.

You said that already.

Ass face.

You’re gonna say jerk hole aren’t you?

(PETE sits again. Huffs. The two sit in silence. PETE pokes at the brown square and starts picking off the area MIKE licked)

That’s disgusting.

You’re disgusting.

(A beat. PETE takes a big bite from the brownie. MIKE watches)

Fat jerk hole.

(MIKE reaches over to PETE’s plate a second time. PETE throws the brownie down and swats MIKE’s hand away. PETE jumps up and sticks his fingers in each section of food in MIKE’S tray with sudden force)

You gonna eat that!? (Press) You gonna eat that!? (Press) you gonna eat that!? (Press)

(MIKE leans back as flecks of food land on his shirt. Just as suddenly as he had gotten up, PETE sits, leaving the tray destroyed. PETE is huffing from the exertion, panting under his large frame. MIKE is silent. Pause. A giggle from the girls.)

What the crap, man? That was my lunch.

Quit messin’ with my food.

I took a brownie, you sack, you ruined my whole stupid lunch.

I said to quit messing with my food!


(A beat.)



I didn’t eat your dumbass sandwich.


I didn’t.

Mom got that special for me from Quizno’s! I was gonna bring that sandwich to school for lunch today.

I already ate my sandwich last night…I didn’t eat yours.

Yeah, well, I opened up the fridge this morning and only HALF was in there…It had big nasty ass wet bites all in it and the mayonnaise was coming out the sides…

Mike, I swear to god I didn’t eat your retarded sandwich! (Realizing) I bet Gary ate it.


I bet Gary ate it.

Gary wasn’t there last night you fat liar.

I’m serious…I got up to pee and I heard Mom calling him at around one.

Be serious.

I’m totally serious.

(A long beat)

Fuckin’ Gary. (Pause) Can I have a bite of your Salisbury steak?

(A long moment. The Girls giggle as lights fade)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Song for a Crappy Tuesday: February Covers Edition

When you take your yearly trip to visit the four sisters of February Tuesdays, take a jacket. They don't like to turn on the heat or close the windows unless it's a special occasion. But they won't ever tell you what makes a special occasion, so it's rather a crap shoot.

You grumble to yourself as you pull up to their house. The "low fuel" light has been on for a few miles, and you hoped in secret that your hatchback would run out of gas before you got there. No such luck.

Great. Now you run the risk of getting stuck in their driveway. They don't own a telephone and there is not a gas station for miles.

Approaching the door, you notice the faded Christmas wreath still dangling from one steadfast twig. It still smells of pine, but when you reach in to the hole to bang the knocker, the remaining needles cascade to the front porch. The knocker lands with a "kank" on the door.

It is the youngest Tuesday sister who greets you. She shrieks, thrilled that you have come and you really didn't have to come all this way, but we're so glad to see you, and do you have a girl/boyfriend, and you look like you gained/lost weight, and we were so thrilled/troubled to learn that you found/lost a job, what flavor jello would you like?

By this point you are in the parlor, where the other three sisters are sitting. Situated about the room are plates of jello molds in a variety of colors. Oddly shaped forms are suspended in the mounds of primary colors...they might be meat.

You take a seat, and ask for the green jello, please.

I love covers.

I am a sucker for reinterpretations of popular songs, particularly when a musician puts their own stamp on it. If it just sounds exactly like the original then why bother? (Sort of like that shot for shot remake Gus Van Sant did of Psycho. It was an interesting experiment, but, I believe, a failed one.) When a song is turned around on its head through the visor of another artist, the cover can highlight moments of rage, vulnerability, or humor that may not have been present in the original.

So, this month is dedicated to The Cover.

I am a distant fan of Metallica. Never have I purchased so much as a single from them, but I still count "Enter Sandman" off of their "Black Album" as one of my favorites.

The build at the beginning gives me chills: it starts out with a lilting guitar, offering a sort of map as to where the melody is headed , but instantly the drums take over and the guitar goes from lilting to distorted, raising tension as the progression from before becomes halting - starting over and over, never resolving itself fully. Then, like a train out of nowhere, it roars forward.

Enter Sandman also takes plays off of our fears of sleep, contrasting the violent thumping of the music with lyrics like "Off to never never land" and the prayer "Now I lay me down to sleep" in the middle. Take it from me, sleep is fraught with all kinds of torments. Enter Sandman expresses this with preternatural insight.

And now, it's twin: Enter Sandman, by Apocalyptica.

I first heard this version during the opening credits of Neil LaBute's seething horrorshow, Your Friends & Neighbors. Part of the brilliance of this cover, is the removal of all the electric guitars and still achieving an intense level of distortion on an instrument usually associated with nerdy white girls. These guys practically rip the cello open. (Never mind the excellent use of it in Your Friends & Neighbors - take a thrashing hard rock release, combine it with the cello and in one fell swoop, we see that even when confined to something more "polite", our rage still exists and it will pop a string if we're not careful.)

Score 25 for band nerds everywhere. These guys rock.


Today is D.'s birthday.

I rarely write about my relationship with him - that's not what this blog is for. However, I would be remiss if I didn't wish that fellow a Happy Birthday today.

Here are three things to know about the Big D.

1. He is among the most generous people I have ever met in my life. When he loves you (romantically or otherwise) he will give you not only the shirt of his back, but every shirt in his closet.

2. D. can be a giant asshole. At least...that's the "legend". But look beyond the legend, and the inflammatory language and hyperbolic analogies, and you will discover a man who has something to say and who is unafraid to say it. In this world that is no small thing. It takes a special kind of genius to rail out at the status quo every day, try to make sense of th world, and still maintain a semblance of sanity. I think we could always use more AWG in the world.

3. He is, and will ever be, the best dancer I know.

Happy Birthday, D. I'm glad you're a part of my world.
Add to Technorati Favorites