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Archive for May, 2003

RAN OFF TO CANADA

In an attempt to be a classier blogger . . . the kind that accounts for his/her whereabouts, I feel compelled to make the following Public Service Statement:

(1) I am running away to Canada tomorrow . . . southern Alberta, to be precise.

(2) I’m not coming back for a whole, entire week.

(3) I plan on being up to no good, whatsoever.

That is all.

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CHOCOLATE MARTINIS

Ever had a chocolate martini? Their chocolatiness does not seem to interfere in any way with their alcohol content which is, well . . . disconcerting. I’m just not sure how I feel about that.

Do you ever wonder why the chain of Happy Chef restaurants isn’t called the Disgruntled Fry Cook? Wouldn’t it be more honest? (And let’s face it, we’re talking about a chain of family-style restaurants probably not too dissimilar from Bob Evans here . . . isn’t the term “Chef” in and of itself a bit euphemistically self-aggrandizing in the first place?) And isn’t it kind of interesting to think about what it would be like to wake up one morning and find that everything was renamed, like a photographic negative, according to its antonym? Safeway grocery stores would be HazMatPaths, and Piggly Wiggly stores would be what . . . Kosher Woshers? Or think about all those ubiquitous names for Chinese restaurants. The Great Wall would be The Insignificant Breezeway, or Number One Best Chinese Restaurant would be Suck-Ass Worst Caucasian Food Trough Ever.

Well . . . maybe.

Apropos of nothing, I feel compelled to state that nothing chaps my ass more than grading papers only to discover that a small clusterfuck of them have been plagiarized verbatim off the internet. I mean do I look like a Total Fucking Moron, or what? (And okay, well . . . honestly, it kind of hurts my feelings, too.)

I am writing this from the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Columbus, Ohio. And I can’t seem to get to sleep. And I have to be over at the Ohio Arts Council at 8:30 a.m. to sit on the literature advisory panel for the next two days. And I can’t seem to get to sleep. Fuckitty fuck fuck fuck!!!

It’s always dislocating to be in Columbus . . . I lived here for four years in the not-so-distant past. So it feels like home, but not-home.

The thing is . . . it just seems unnatural for martinis to involve Chocolatey Goodness of any sort, don’t you think?

Furthermore, in Jeannette Winterson’s novel, Written on the Body, the narrator says that “Wallowing is like sex for depressives.” My question is . . . so what’s the foreplay, then?

And finally, you know those women security guards with the metal-detecting wands at the airport? Okay, admittedly, some of them are just plain scary . . . sometimes scary, and with Dental Issues to boot . . . but every once in awhile there’ll be that totally hot security checkpoint lady . . . you know, totally hot in an Edie Falco in Oz kind of way? When that happens, is it wrong to deliberately exit the secured area in order to, say, get another cup of coffee, and then come back through again twice?

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SEX

SEX

The very first time I have sex I sneak out over the lunch hour with the first chair cellist in the high school orchestra. The cellist’s mother works during the day, and their house is across the street from the high school. I am fifteen. I have been reading way too much Sylvia Plath. I am particularly impressed with the scene in The Bell Jar where Esther Greenwood decides to liberate herself from the stifling oppression of her own virginity, then systematically and rather cold-bloodedly singles out Irwin, the math major, to be her first sexual partner. It hurts. I find it to be a singularly unimpressive and disappointing experience overall. What’s more, the cellist is a jackass and kind of a creep, really, in rainbow-colored suspenders and plaid flannel shirts (it’s the early 80’s) and a mullett-y sort of a hairdo. It’s not that I’m altogether unaware of this jackassish quality, but the fact that my parents can’t stand the cellist hugely compensates for the jackassish-ness. Several days after the deed, the cellist goes all Oral Roberts on me, and informs me that we have committed a sin, and, furthermore, if there should have been any screw-up with the condom and I become pregnant, he fully intends to run away and join the military. It is definitely a less-than-ideal sexual experience. At the same time, it is, at least, satisfyingly squalid. I am a suicidal fifteen, and squalor is inordinately appealing to me.

The strangest sex I ever have is with the lead singer in a punk rock band. They are the last punk rock band in town, or so they say, and sometimes, if they’ve had too much to drink, they punch each other out on stage. This is always very strange, because offstage, all the band members tend to be rather mild-mannered. The punk rocker is small and jittery and wiry, like a jockey, with red hair and freckles, and when he takes his tee-shirt off during the set and wraps it about his head like a turban, it means he loves me. I am twenty-two, I smoke way too much pot, and I’m a graduate student in a rather stodgy, Ivory Tower degree program in musicology. I find that the incongruity between my professional life and my private life, my daytime life and my nighttime life, is hugely exhilarating. We play elaborate games. We get kicked out of restaurants. He lets me handcuff him to the bed and likes to be spanked. Viciously.

The worst sex I ever have is the sex that should never have happened. I am nine, and the doctor’s son who lives down the block cuts off my bicycle and grabs the handlebars and won’t let go. He is seventeen or eighteen. He tells me he has a gun in the pocket of his windbreaker. He has his hand in his windbreaker pocket, and there is something shaped like a gun that he points at me through the nylon. He says he will shoot me unless I do what he says. He makes me sit down in the shadow of the porch steps of the nearest house. He makes me pull down my pants. The things he does to me I have no names for yet. I come home crying and when I tell my parents what happened they drag me over to the doctor’s house, and the doctor’s son is called down into the living room. I have to sit in the same room as the doctor’s son and the doctor and my parents make me repeat the things he did to me that I have no names for yet. I have to go to a psychiatrist and repeat to her the things the doctor’s son did to me that I have no names for yet. I describe the doctor’s son down to the color of the stripes on his windbreaker and the shape of the pedals on his bike, and explain that the doctor’s son was the same person who told me he had a gun. The psychiatrist says that I am obviously a very bright child, but that I am confused about the doctor’s son, and that it must have been somebody else. I am not confused. I am not mistaken. My parents are angry. They say that the psychiatrist was obviously a colleague of the doctor. My mother says that I was stupid. She says that I should have made him take the gun out of his windbreaker pocket and show it to me first. Then she tells me that I must never ever tell anyone about what happened. She says that girls are like submarines. When a girl has been “sunk” all the boys will talk about how easy she was to “sink” and nobody will ever respect her. She makes me feel as if I have done something horribly wrong.

The strangest place I ever have sex is with a jazz musician in the men’s bathroom of Morrison Hall. I am thin, and wild, and wear my hair in a Louise Brooks bob. This is what we do together. We find strange places on campus to get high and have sex. Although the jazz musician is the same age or older than I am, I am almost, but not technically, his teacher. I am a graduate assistant for one of the music theory classes that he’s taking, but he’s not in my actual section. I enjoy the sexual tension and slight taboo of sitting near him in the lecture hall. I sit in the row with all the other graduate assistants — most of whom seem well-rested at 9:00 in the morning with decidedly un-messy lives, unlike me — and he sits in the row behind me. There are fabulous parties at the jazz musician’s house . . . they call themselves the Jazz Vandals. They brew their own beer and bake huge pans of pot brownies.

Eventually I swear off musicians. And controlled substances.

The most illicit sex I have is with one of my professors. He is married. He is twenty years older than I am. His voice is soft and thick like honey. It is, in hindsight, the most predictable of cliches, but I am twenty-five, and somehow I think that I am different, that my situation is the exception to something. It is, in hindsight, perhaps one of the ways that I avoid having to deal with a real relationship, though, and perhaps also one of the ways that I avoid having to deal with my frighteningly intense attraction to other women. There is very little actual sex, in point of fact, which is probably for the best . . . mostly clandestine meetings for coffee, or hand-holding over chablis, secret murmured conversations, and dark kisses in parking lots.

Sometimes I tell lies.

Or then again, perhaps the most illicit sex is the time I carry on an affair simultaneously with two poets in the same workshop. The poets do not seem to know that this is going on, even though the three of us frequently go out drinking and dancing together. I have sworn them each to secrecy. The thing is, separately, each of the poets is not enough. Both of them are necessary to keep the balance . . . combined, they make the perfect/ideal poet. The poems in the workshop that semester are incestuous and strange.

Eventually I swear off poets.

And eventually I swear off men altogether.

The first time I kiss a woman it rocks me all the way down to my knees. Later, when I am alone, I burst into tears. I think about it over and over again. I want to go around singing that stupid song that was on MTV for awhile, “I Kissed A Girl.” I lock myself in the bathroom and think about it some more, and touch myself. The first time I have sex with a woman I am terrified that I won’t know what to do. I think that I will do to her all the things that I like to have done to me, for starters, and that perhaps she can tell me all the rest. Her skin is so unbelievably smooth, her breasts so soft, and she is wet and plush-velvety, and red, and deep. Her clitoris rises toward my mouth like a sweet, dark fig. It is the best sex. Ever.

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HAIRBALL FORMULA, MY ASS

I would like to briefly touch upon the topic of Cat Puke. Because it is all very well and fine to go out and purchase the special hairball formula of what-is-already-grossly-overpriced cat food for the cats, in the hopes that one might be rewarded with getting to spend less time handling and disposing of what is inevitably bound to be either (1) a warm and squishy suspicious-looking tube-like thingy (provided that the hairball has been horked up in your presence and is still quite fresh); or (2) a cold and squishy suspicious-looking tube-like thingy (horked up for you to stumble upon — sometimes literally, and always when your shoes are off — after coming home from a long day at work). Regardless of temperature, the Found Object that is the Cat Hairball is, at best, mildly off-putting. The hairball formula cat food seemed like a splendid solution. Particularly since most standard hairball remedies all require wrestling down a usually unavailable and pissed-off cat, then squirting the hairball remedy into said cat’s clenched-shut mouth with a medicine dropper, much in the same way that you would have to administer an antibiotic regime . . . not to mention the fact that all the hairball remedies seem to come in bizarre and inappropriate flavors such Carob. Or Bubble Gum. I mean, please. It defies all logic. It’s like the human equivalent of Liver-Flavored Kaopectate or Tuna-Juice Ice Cream. Some things are just Plain Wrong.

Here’s the thing, though. The cats seem to love the hairball formula cat food. In fact, they love it so much that they Hoover it right down with much noisy grunting and crunching. In fact, they love it so much and Hoover it down so quickly that they inevitably end up throwing up because they ate too fast. Exactly what, I would like to know, is the point of getting hairball formula cat food if the cats end up blowing chunks all hither and yon in a matter of minutes after having eaten it? The hairballs, at least, are somewhat self-contained, unlike outright puke, which goes everywhere all willy-nilly in sheer anarchy. And I don’t know . . . the vegetable fiber that’s supposed to miraculously prevent the hairballs also seems to miraculously lube up the cat innards, thus rendering a sort of a rocket-launched, projectile style of barfing.

And since we’re on the topic, have you ever noticed that each cat has its own distinct style of regurgitation? There’s the Wide Radius Dribbler, for example — wherein a little bit of preliminary spit-up is deposited here, some more preliminary spit-up a few feet to the left, then maybe a teaspoon of puke here, and another teaspoon over there, etc. Or then there’s the Aerial Drop — involving perching on the edge of a counter or table (but most preferably a mantel, if available) and matter-of-factly dropping a load of vomit on the floor from a height. (The vomit hits the floor in a cacophonous splatter, and the cat can admire its handiwork from above.) The absolute worst, though, is the Hot Lunch Program — which hinges on the philosophy that one cat’s puke is another cat’s Tasty Soft Food Treat. (And by all indications, it’s apparently best to get it while it’s still fresh off the griddle . . . hence the name Hot Lunch Program).

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POCK-MARKED GIRL BABY

I had a feeling today would be the day, and sure enough, the envelope was waiting there in my mailbox when I came home from the office. It felt sort of thick and solid, which seemed like a promising sign. “Ding” letters usually only entail one sheet of paper, but really . . . one can never tell for sure with these sorts of things.

I pinched the envelope for a bit to contemplate its relative heft and to wonder what it was going to say inside, then put it on the kitchen table, took off my coat, and went to the bathroom. My heart was pounding and I really felt as if I wanted to throw up.

I thought about how I didn’t want to open the envelope, because even though I’d deliberately tried not to get my hopes up, it had been hard not to fantasize about the possibility. I decided to assume that it was a “ding” letter and to remind myself how good I’ve had it lately, and how I’ve been luckier than any person has a right to be. I reminded myself that I already won a prize this year (which is so lucky — like winning-the-lottery lucky) and that as a result my second book’s coming out, for which I signed the contract just today. I reminded myself how happy I was to be teaching, especially after having spent three years in an inner ring of hell overlooked by Dante known as Corporate Legal Secretarial Hell. I reminded myself that I have kind, laid-back, occasionally-funny-as-hell colleagues who, in a field which is occasionally guilty of vicious departmental politics and petty back-stabbing, weren’t out to get me. I reminded myself of my plans to go up early for promotion to Assistant Professor next year. I reminded myself of all the really terrific students I work with, and how I was looking forward to teaching the graduate poetry writing seminar in the fall. Okay, I said to myself, it’s a “ding” letter in here. I’ll just say that it’s a “ding” letter. And that’s okay, because things are basically really good for me right now. I’ll open the envelope, get dinged, and then just get on with it. Then I wondered for awhile if the past tense of ding is “dinged” or “dung,” and thought that it would be somewhat appropriate if it were “dung” because “ding” letters make you feel like shit. And then I thought about how some species of dung beetles roll up feces into an enormous ball of shit that they then wield in front of them as defensive armor against predators. Not a bad plan at all, I thought.

And then I finally tore open the envelope and it gave birth to a Pock-Marked Girl Baby! Her weight is $44K, her exact time of birth is One Whole Year Off From Teaching/Working To Do Nothing Else But Write, and her name is Bush Artist Fellowship. Un. Fucking. Believable.

It’s seven hours later, and my heart is still pounding, and I’m in shock! I periodically get up to do the Happy Dance. The Happy Dance entails kicking up my heels behind me one by one and slapping them vigorously with the palm of my hands, a la Abbott and Costello. (I can’t believe I just admitted that I do that.) It pretty much defines me as being the Biggest Gork In The Whole Wide World, and even the cats look on with quizzical expressions as if they’re embarrassed for me.

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