Archive for September, 2005


Can someone please tell me what I was thinking yesterday morning when I put on the shirt with the frenetic, zig-zaggy, black-and-white striping?

The shirt with the trompe l’oeil-esque effect sure to bring on seizures in anyone suffering from any sort of seizure disorder?

The shirt vaguely reminiscent of those black-and-white vintage hypno-psycho gadgets one sees sadistic psychiatrists twirling with malevolent glee in John Waters films?

The shirt that I blithely (gah!) stomped around in all day long during my longest teaching day of the week?

Because okay . . . there were some Unresolved Laundry Issues in play here.

But nonetheless, what sort of Sartorial Ill Wind was blowing through my bedroom closet yesterday morning to prompt me to do such a thing?

Could I have subconsciously intended to spend the entire day subliminally broadcasting the following message about myself: I Have Finally Met My Secret Animal Totem And That Totem Is A Deranged Zebra?

Or did I really mean to say: I Am At One With My Internal Deranged Zebra?

What kind of person does a thing like that?

Wouldn’t I have been better off to have worn the Very Comfortable T-Shirt?

Wouldn’t I have been better off to have stayed at home, wherever that may be?

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I totally enjoyed my jaunt over to MSU-Moorhead to read as part of the Tom McGrath Visiting Writers Series. The students were terrific, and the reading and craft talk very generously attended. I was treated very kindly, and got to stay in a wonderful old B&B. Life was good.

Some things I learned. The twin cities of Fargo and Moorhead are smashed all into one word that you say together really fast: Fargomoorhead if you live on the Fargo side of the river, and Moorheadfargo if you live on the Moorhead side of the river. I was explaining this phenomenon to my friend P. on the phone the other night and I kept flubbing it up and saying Margo-Forehead instead, and then laughing hysterically. And then we both ket yelling MARGO-FOREHEAD(!) on the phone at each other and laughing hysterically some more. And henceforth it will now be officially known as Margo-Forehead, which kind of does have a certain ring to it, don’t you think?

Also, all night long in Margo-Forehead, the Burlington Northern rattles through town, hooking and unhooking its cars, and blowing its whistle. And if you’re late, you just blame it on the train.

Since I’ve been back, I’ve mostly just been rushing around trying to get caught up. I love how familiar and comforting my own bed feels when I come home after being away. And I love how nice it is to see my cats again, up to their same old kooky cat shenanigans. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how lucky I am, and what huge luxuries these comforts really are.

Finally, I will leave you all with The Blog Archive Meme, poached from Farkleberries:

1. Go into your archive.
2. Find your 23rd post (or closest to).
3. Find the fifth sentence (or closest to).
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.

I grew up in Wyoming with public-bathroom-phobic parents who would rather suffer a case of hemorrhoids than actually have to initiate any flesh-to-porcelain contact with a non-domestic commode.

(From a post dating back to October 22, 2002, (from my old blog stomping grounds, titled “Indoor/Outdoor Humans.”)

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In the midst of frantically scuttling about like a deranged cockroach while attempting to get ready for an out-of-town reading, I had something kind of blow up in my face this afternoon and snowball in such a way that instead of packing, which I should have been doing, I’ve been alternately obsessing on the phone, on the internets via e-mail, and assuming the foetal position and moaning softly. I think that it’s been mostly straightened out at this point (keeping fingers crossed), but I still feel a little bit disconcerted and sick to my stomach, with way too much adrenaline coursing through my system.

I have an unfortunate tendency to transmogrify into Twitchy, the Tweaked-Out Stress Whore the day before out-of-town readings. This didn’t particularly help.

However, I’m sure that I’ll feel better once I’m actually on the road tomorrow.

I’ll be at MSU-Moorhead for the next few days, doing a workshop visit, craft talk, and reading as part of the Tom McGrath Visiting Writers Series. I’ll probably be off-line for a few days, so ciao for now!

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Writing or Typing has tagged me with a Meme (in Sevens), and now I’m it. Resistance is futile. I must comply.

Seven Things I Plan To Do Before I Die:

1. Write a novel, and not a novel-in-stories, but a real novel novel.
2. Learn how to make pottery.
3. Visit the Insectarium in Montreal.
4. Visit glass-blower’s studios all around the country; interview them; make a documentary.
5. Read all of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past.
6. See the Jellies: Living Art exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
7. Buy a house not because I want the house so much, but because then I could have a dog!

Seven Things I Can Do:

1. Play the piano.
2. Type 100+ words per minute.
3. Make a Tiramisu and other utterly frivolous desserts completely devoid of nutritional value.
4. Crochet eccentric hats and afghans.
5. Very basic HTML.
6. Drive stick-shift (because let’s face it, you aren’t really driving if you aren’t driving stick shift).
7. Put together put-together furniture all by myself, even with dubiously written instructions.

Seven Things I Can’t Do:

1. Games involving flying projectile objects.
2. Blithely drink shots of tequila anymore without embarrassingly serious repercussions.
3. Tolerate discriminatory asshats and their discriminatory asshattery.
4. Indulge the arrogant delusion that I can smoke “just one cigarette” without falling off the wagon altogether and becoming a smoker again.
5. Achieve alertness immediately upon waking in the morning.
6. See past my nose without corrective eyewear.
7. Be happy without cats.

Seven Things That Attract Me to People of the Opposite Same Sex:

1. Needs her space to pursue her own quirky life and pastimes, so therefore respects my space.
2. Intelligence.
3. Terrific sense of humor.
4. Loves animals and treats them with gentlenesss and compassion.
5. Treats people with kindness and empathy.
6. Sturdy, strapping, curves, robust.
7. Willingness to indulge in obsessive sushi consumption.

Seven Things I Say Most:

1. “Sushi, anyone?”
2. “Dont make me get up!” (To the cats)
3. Any possible variation on the F-word because I love the F-word to distraction: Fuck, fucking, fucked, fucker, motherfucker, motherfucking, fucktard, fucknugget, fuckwit, fuckwitted, fuckwittage, fuckitty fuck fuck fuck.
4. “Clusterfucked” (At the end of the semester)
5. “May you be cursed with having to wear a colostomy bag!” (In the event of egregious and dangerous driving transgressions that bring forth my inner road rage. I know. That’s sort of shocking and horrible. I don’t know what gets into me.)
6. “What a poor neglected kitten you are. It’s kitten abuse!” (To the cats, in the midst of mollycoddling them on their backs and rubbing their generous tummies.)
7. “Mwah mwah, mwah mwah mwah mwah.” (To my students. In Peanuts-ese.)

Seven Celebrity Crushes:

1. Elizabeth Bishop (But not in a creepy necrophilic way or anything. I know, I know . . . she’s dead. That’s weird. Suck it up.)
2. Jeanette Winterson
3. Amy Bloom
4. Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg
5. Jean Rhys (Also dead, I know . . . I suck at this celebrity crush thing.)
6. Jeri Ryan (But only as Seven-of-Nine–none of that Boston Public or OC shit.)
7. James Gandolfini (I know. WTF. Don’t bother asking.)

Seven People I’m Tagging:

1. Excellent Danger
2. Early Hours of Sky
3. JadedJu feels my vibe, but Can.Not.Do.A.Meme (She’s MeMe snob!)

(I’m tagging you all by ESP, so see if you can feel my Top-Secret Brain Vibe Tag and respond accordingly! Should you successfully receive my Top-Secret Brain Vibe Tag, I will then reveal your identity on the list so that readers may gasp in wonder and delight at these Amazing Kreskin-esque maneuvers.)

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Maybe I am five. Or six, at most. It is summer. The Red Cross swim lessons are held at the high school. I have a navy blue swimsuit with a red stripe and an applique anchor. Very nautical. An alternating red towel and a blue towel. A bright yellow bag with brass grommets and braided handles, inside which my name is written in black magic marker. A pink swim cap with bubbles on it that makes me think of the song “Tiny Bubbles” that I once had to dance to in a ballet recital. The cap has an adjustable chin strap that stretches under my chin and snaps with a metal snap on the other side. Sometimes I like to chew on the strap of my swim cap in the car on the way to the swim lessons. It tastes like rubber bands. When my mother catches me chewing on the strap she gets mad at me.

The swim caps of this time period are outrageously ill-conceived, and oftentimes involve ululating rubber fronds of appliqued anemones or bulbous bubbles like plastic bubble wrap in the most garish colors possible: safety-cone orange, radioactive fuchsia, Travelodge blue. I don’t know what people were thinking back then.

The pool is turquoise blue. It reminds me of a clear blue cough lozenge–the aggressively minty kind that hurt a little bit when you suck on them. I remember the smell of chlorine: pungent, bleachy, stinging my eyes until they became red swollen slits. How the chlorine lingered in my pores for days, as if I were pickled in it.

The swim teacher’s name is Darryl. He has a blonde afro. He makes us do lots of bobs on the side of the pool, which seems like an essentially useless activity. He teaches us how to float. He tries to coax me into jumping into the pool, which I don’t want to. My parents have told me far too many stories about the dangers of drowning. It seems counterintuitive. He is kind. He doesn’t make me do what I don’t want to do, even though at home my mother yells at me and insists that I’m shaming my parents because I don’t want to jump into the damn pool. I fail Minnows the first time around, thus embarking on a lifelong career of Filial Disappointment. It’s an ugly scene.

There’s a fountain for rinsing out the swimsuits after the lessons. It squirts out cold water when I step on a pedal on the floor. There’s a ringer with a hand crank for squeezing out the swimsuits. They come out damp and flat. I am very, very careful not to let my fingers get too close to the ringer. I am a pathologically anxious child. In five years I will play my first solo piano recital. In five years I will take my first college class.

There is a girl named Vicky who has asthma. She is painfully thin and shivers incessantly–constantly covered in goosebumps. Her lips are always a little bit blue. There is another girl named Vicky who is loud and round. One day, she inexplicably jumps into the deep end, even though she doesn’t know how to swim yet, and she just sinks to the bottom. Darryl dives in after her, pulls her up, puts her on his back and swims her back to the shallow end. The rest of us are all a little envious, to tell the truth.

There is a lifeguard named Michelle who is in high school. She seems impossibly grown-up and sophisticated, with her blonde hair, glamorous tan, and actual breasts. Her locker is full of mysterious powders, lotions and paraphernalia: plastic razors, blowdryers and curling irons, Tickle antiperspirant, Coppertone, nail polish, and lipstick. When she showers, the entire girls’ locker room becomes awash in the scent of strawberry shampoo. She is simultaneously fascinating and anxiety-provoking, and all the boy lifeguards cluster around her like lovesick grapes.

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I’ve been rendered speechless over here at Artcihoke Heart Headquarters in the wake of the hurricane. I just haven’t felt as if there’s anything I could possibly say. As if pelting words in that direction would be like trying to throw goosedown into the wind or something. I’ve been so sad. And when I’m sad, I usually get quiet.

What I wish I could somehow find a way to say better: I’m shocked and horrified at how much human suffering has taken place, and will continue to take place, and I’m saddened by the destruction of a complex, historical, and vibrant city. I’m outraged by every possible aspect of what feels to me like a criminally negligent response on the part of the current administration. I’m sickened and frustrated (if, admittedly, not altogether surprised) by the ugly underbelly of racism that keeps surfacing over and over again. I can’t help but think of James Baldwin, during the Civil Rights era, saying that America, in order to deal with its own racism, had to be prepared to face the “corpse in the closet, the dead body floating in the unconscious of the nation.” Those words seem all too prescient to me at this moment.

Hurricane Katrina–How Writers Can Help

Dear Friends,

In addition to the important work being done by the American Red Cross and other relief agencies, there are a number of special efforts we thought writers might be particularly interested in:

The Katrina Literary Collective has been created to collect and distribute books to victims of the hurricane. For more information, contact the Amber Communications Group.

A Louisiana Disaster Relief Fund has been established to receive monetary donations to assist libraries in Southeastern Louisiana. For more info, visit the American Library Association.

The American Booksellers Association has created a Bookseller Relief Fund to assist independent booksellers affected by Hurricane Katrina.

The Southern Arts Federation has set up an Emergency Relief Fund to assist arts organizations and artists in those Gulf Communities most devastated by Katrina.

Thank you for whatever help you’re able to provide.

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