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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

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The Water is Wide

Okay, I confess, this whole “Ireland” thing is simply an elaborate ruse to have a reason to email Brandon Rogers, formerly of One Child Left Behind, and ask him to contribute a guest post in my absence, to which he very sweetly agreed. There isn’t anything I can say about Brandon’s writing that doesn’t come off as gushing, or that someone else hasn’t gushed before. He is the real thing, and if he doesn’t come out with a novel or book of short stories soon, there is no justice in this world. His prose has a dreamlike quality, but there isn’t anything wispy about it. It is more like a lucid dream—hyper-real, substantial. Hard to shake. His farewell post took me four days to read. I had to keep coming up to catch my breath.

The guest writers I approached all swim in cross-cultural currents, like I do. They are either married to immigrants or are ex-patriots themselves. I told them to interpret this theme as loosely as they liked. Here, without further ado, is Brandon:

Tarrytown Wedding Strangers

Tarrytown, I think, is what we have come to call
This loose incorporation of houses and overgrown trails, my foreign
bride and I;
The poison oak sprouts up high
Upon the banks so that the only way off the path is to fall,
Directly into the water, and you can tell the people who don’t care;
Their children’s shirts are stained in blackberry and madrona, and
their forearms bear
The scars of untended scratches and calloused wounds.

I would like to think that 13 years ago, when I was walking alone
Through a forest 4,000 miles away I was equally ambivalent
About the souvenirs the thorns leave when you forget
Your place, but in light of what I’ve always known
This cannot possibly be true. I will
Always re-open my histories so that they never fully heal.
I find it impossible not to re-visit these small towns.

I remember the first few days we spent together, the excitement of
changes coming near,
Understanding that happenings were coming and going, had arrived and
The way you can just sometimes tell. The ones who are meant
To be remembered, to be re-opened in albums year after year.
She had this ability to shrink from plain sight,
To fit into the quietest corner of a room. On that night,
I could easily imagine her hiding with me in the crape myrtle groves
while the storms raged about.

She has this ability to photograph what I’m thinking, so that
sometimes I don’t think
It would even matter if we spoke the same language, and I have
negatives and proofs,
Impressions of days we barely speak at all, but instead leave clues
Lying around the house that everything is alright. This is when we sink
Into the voids we fill for each other, attributing our
To cultural differences, an easy out that could easily keep us bound
together, strings
Of secrets that drive our boundless curiosity, like visible clearings
beyond the bounds

Of the brambles that simply must be explored, regardless of what the
Devil’s Club would
Inflict even through my clothes, even if I have to sometimes venture on
my own,
Even if what binds us is that neither can point to a common region on
any map called home.
In many ways, she has become the guardian missing from my childhood,
And I consequently alternate between stages of rebellion and
Times when I reject her affection and times when I crawl
Back into good graces via poorly translated terms of affection and
indigenous breakdowns.
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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

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The Parting Glass

Somebody pretty wonderful sent me something very special in the mail the other day. The shiny baubles (mine are "Earth") were accompanied by a little note that promise the wearing of them will bring all manner of good mojo my way.

In preparation for this trip, we had to write our wills and cover various other worst-case scenarios. I was in grave danger of triggering my barely dormant fear of dying and it's sub-speciality, fear of dying on a plane, when the necklace arrived.

Ten times the power of Ativan, and so much prettier. Thanks, Jen!

Some other people who are making this voyage bon:

  • my mother, who arrived Mary Poppins-like, on Sunday.

  • Jen Zug for the video chat software suggestion.

  • The guys who so speedily sent out my new webcam

  • The fabulous folks who have agreed to guest post while I am gallivanting across Ireland on a glorified pub crawl. Look for one or two of these a week until I get back to regular programming.

At the very least, I am planning to upload photos of the trip to flickr. The higher ambition is to keep some class of road diary on my poetry blog, 1,167. We'll see how the time and the technology goes.

And now, to borrow a second line from this famous Irish drinking song, good night and joy be with you all.


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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

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the E! True Hollywood Story

Actual sign posted at the Little Rock Zoo:
"Why aren't any of the Mangabeys together? There are several reasons. Holly has very bad arthritis and her backbone is fused so she can't bend her back. Moses is very rough on Holly and injured her bad enough we had to separate them. Susie (gray one on the other side of Holly) was sent here to be a friend for Holly. At first they were best buddies, but when they went into Estrus (heat) that changed. They started fighting over Moses. They injured each other enough that we had to separate them. They did not calm down while apart so our vet just put birth control implants in them. This should even out their hormones, and hopefully they won't fight anymore. We still hope to get them together and with lots of luck we hope to get Moses in with them too."

Can anyone now doubt the origin of our species?


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Monday, February 19, 2007

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I love them and everything they stand for

Sunday, February 18, 2007

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Beautiful People

There is nothing like having Morrisey moaning in an endless loop in your head to accentuate a hangover. Heaven knows I'm miserable now.

Not really. It's just an itty bitty champagne hangover (although it could be a creeping hangover, the kind where you feel progressively worse as the day goes on—those are awful). It's still not good for writing, or for operating the stove. I just now realized the burning smell was not, in fact, my smokin' prose, but a smoldering pot of oatmeal I put on some twenty minutes ago.

Hangover or not, I am a happy girl today. My mother is on her way here. I leave for Dublin with my sweetheart in just a few days. I have the world's very best friends, even if their eyes do glaze over when I say the word, "blog" (developments that seem momentous on this front carry over to my life in the round with all the impact of "huge in Japan" — you, dear readers, are my Snuffalufagus).

I know it does nothing whatsoever for my Technorati rating to tell you life is good, that the most I have to complain about is slight nausea, a few late bills, and an astonishing quantity of unfolded laundry. Bad news is better for ratings everywhere, maybe more so in this arena. The cyberbahn is lined with wrecks and rubber neckers. There's not much to slow down for here if that's your thing.

It's perfectly alright with me. I had two lovely notes from a reader this morning waiting for me when I got up, one of which went straight to my Moral Support folder (thanks, Marie!). Notes has been around for little more than a year, and although I keep expecting smelly little trolls to show up and track their shit in, they have so far kept away. My experience with all of you has been overwhelmingly positive. Your affection and support has a very real impact on me, and I include you in the people I am feeling warm and fuzzy about today (although I blame those other friends for the fuzzy part).

As Patrick often says about our boys: I do believe I got the very best ones.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

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Second Grade Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and The Brazen Hussies

I wish I had thought to take the camera with me when I dropped in on my second grader's classroom Valentine's party to say hi, after dropping off cupcakes at his brother's kindergarten room.

I have never seen anything quite like it, except perhaps in 16mm films starring Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters. The room was piled with red and pink cellophane wrappers. My son was slumped backward in his seat in a diabetic coma. His lips twitched slightly when I spoke his name. About half his classmates appeared to be catatonically tripping at their own desks. The other half were doing extreme rhythmic gymnastics from wall to wall. Their dealers, the room parents, stood around watching, paralyzed, like they had accidentally started a fire.

"Here," I said to my son, picking up a miniature bottle of spring water from a treat bag and silently blessing whichever mother had thoughtfully included it in the swag. "I think you should drink some of this."

He rallied enough to unscrew the bottle top and pour in the packet of red kool-aid mix that had come with it. Of course. Didn't see that. I eased on out the door, hoping he would hit his bottom and find a recovery program before carpool.

By dismissal time, he had metabolized enough of the sugar and dye to have re-animated. On the way home, he and his brother had this exchange, which I thought perfectly plotted where each one is situated on the romantic love interest curve.
Second grader (excitedly): At recess? A whole pack of girls TRAPPED me and wouldn't let me go and I ran under their arms and got away but one caught me and I said, you'll NEVER catch me! And then? She HIT me with her lunchbag!

Kindergartner (appalled): What? She ought to be ASHAMED of herself!

Second grader (grinning): No she shouldn't.


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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

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There is no title I can give this that doesn't invoke Sonny and Cher

This is my favorite photograph of us from the old days. It was taken in the spring of 1997. We were tanned from a string of Sunday afternoons when we would crawl out of bed, load a cooler with beer and head out to the country to meet up with our pals at a spot on the river. We'd all lounge around in bikinis and cut offs the rest of the day, laughing over our antics the night before. It was one of those blissful, always-too-short interludes where life hands you a pass and says, here, take a few weeks off from the tough stuff. Kick back.

A year later the same time, we would be shell-shocked by the sudden deaths of several friends and a terminal diagnosis for Patrick's mother. I think we conceived our first child out of response to those losses (Patrick would tell you it was out of a slightly different response, but it all boils down to the instinct for survival, doesn't it?).

It wasn't like our life together had been carefree up to that point. As I have written before, it seems like we got bumped up a challenge level when our idle internet wanderings brought us within sight of each other. When I say in my profile section that I am married to my soulmate, I mean that from the first time this man blipped across my consciousness, I knew that we were connected at a very deep level, and that there was something Large to be worked out between us, something that might take a lifetime or more. But it's not like we rode off into the sunset, happily ever after, the end. Life is a beautiful thing. It's also freaking hard sometimes.

Right now is one of those times. For reasons I won't go into, we are under a lot of stress at the moment. It is external, and it will pass, and we will be okay. I am grateful that we have a ten year history together to serve as a reference point. We've weathered tougher storms.

Some things slip away with the years. There's no getting around it. There will never be another first kiss. Our eyes don't quite devour each other in passing. In the trenches of childrearing, there aren't enough relaxed, uncluttered hours where we can just bask in each other's presence. There is compensation, in that shared history we've acquired, in the deeper familiarity, in the way our outer layers have worn down from rubbing against each other. I don't want to trade any of that back. But I love this photograph because it shows us when we were still dazzled.

I gave up on sleep at about five o'clock this morning, and came downstairs to find Patrick already at his desk. He looked up and smiled wearily. I leaned against the doorway and smiled back. We may not be the tanned, sleek couple we were ten springs ago. There weren't any stars in our tired eyes. But something shone through. And I think if you had stood there with this snapshot in your hand, you would have recognized us, all the same.


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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

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To Sir Ian, With Love

For this bit of brilliance, they should give you the Emmy, the BAFTA, the Nobel, the Golden Ticket, and the Keys to the everloving Kingdom.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

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3 X 5 Zen

My mind has just two settings. Either it is scattered in a hundred directions at once, or I have locked onto one thing with such obsessive intensity that I am genuinely surprised when I get a phone call from the school reminding me that theirs is a day program. It is a wild and willfull thing, this head of mine.

It would be romantic to compare it to a mustang or some other noble, untamed creature, but in reality it more resembles a noisy pack of beagles. If you have spent any amount of time here with my mind and its pack of thoughts, you already know what I am talking about. Sorry about the jumping up and slobbering.

Lists are my leash and my salvation. I am habitual list maker. I plot my life on 3-by-5 index cards. Lists help me center and focus. They keep me grounded in reality, reminding me about those little things — like eating or dressing — that I will bypass if I catch even a faint whiff of something more intriguing. They keep me plodding forward instead of running around aimlessly or paralyzed with indecision. The list is my mind-whisperer. It pulls me back to the present moment, tells me the next right thing.

Our trip to Ireland is less than two weeks away, I have more writing submissions floating around than I can remember, and we are currently experiencing the downside of the freewheeling, freelancing lifestyle. I wake up every morning to find my mind already spinning out of control. It's like lying down when you've had too much to drink. A hundred years ago, when that was not an unfamilar sensation for me, I had a trick of hanging my leg over the bed and putting one foot flat on the floor. Worked every time. Pulling a crisp, blank card from the stack and pressing the the black felt tip of my pen against its white surface has the same gravitational effect.

I try not to be too rigid about my lists, because I have an obstinate streak that turns mutinous in flash. Like the Pirate's Code, they are more like guidelines. Lately, more like a lottery. Which of the lucky items will get checked off today? The power is in the making of the list, not the achieving of it.

The beauty of the index card format is that it forces me to deal with today. There is no way I am going to be able to obsess into the middle of next year, or even next week, within the confines of fifteen square inches. Before I have even touched down with my pen, the parameters are set: what is most important today? What needs to happen right now? What can wait? When I allow the answers to arise from within, it becomes a kind of mediation and a spiritual chiropractic adjustment. I am only in control of so much. And that is really so little.


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Monday, February 05, 2007

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Who's that girl?

The reason I haven't posted since last week is because my girlfriend Lennie made me get a myspace page (see Mom Gone Wild link on sidebar), which sent me into a spiral of despair, confusion and possibly early menopause.

I tried telling Lennie that myspace, like fruit-shaped cereal, is for kids. But she insisted I would fit right in. I am extremely suggestible. If all my friends were jumping off a bridge, I would absolutely be right behind them. Within forty-five minutes of Georgia telling me she had strepp the other day, I felt my throat closing over. So on Thursday morning, with the schools cancelled because there had been a snowflake, I ventured in. It was extremely disorienting at first, like going to a rave, or shopping at Old Navy. Flashing lights and loud music. I groped around blindly until I found a code generator and was able to pull together a myspace page, all the while wondering, what in the hell am I doing? Like I haven't split my creative focus enough already. Such is the life of the ENFP.

For those of you who have not myspaced, it is like a Playboy playmate questionaire, or temp agency application. You are prompted to list your interests, vital statistics, inclinations and other personal details. It was a lot of pressure. I had to choose a song, a music video and a photograph. It was a little like planning my own funeral. For the video, I used our family Rock Star. I flipflopped on the theme music, settling on the Shins new single, but if I ever go back in, I will likely change it again. As for the photograph, it was challenging to find something recent that didn't scream Mom. I needed to be wearing something without mucus on it.

I settled on a photo taken last year, on the night I retired my Super Heroine Dress, my favorite and most outrageous get-up of all time. I found it in a secondhand store in 1996, and am wearing it in the above snapshot from about that time, taken in the parking lot of the blues shack where I worked (as a waitress, in case the five-inch heels mislead you into thinking I had a job as an exotic dancer — that, I did for free at the after hours club, after five or six bourbon-and-cokes). Although the Super Heroine Dress is not visible under my fringe leather coat, you can get the overall vibe. A picture of the actual dress is posted on the myspace page and here, at my friend Kathy's online gallery (I would adore a signed print of this for my wall, if anyone felt like impulsively buying me a present).

Within a few hours of creating my myspace profile, I had an offer to go have "drinks" from some Michael Scott-type who said he was coming through town on business. This caused me to play up the married-with-kids-church-lady angle that I was trying to play down in my photograph. My About Me section reads like a Mormon caught at a strip club...I am just there to save souls.

Once I had my myspace page complete, it turns out there was absolutely nothing left to do. As far as I can tell, the sole purpose of myspace is to find someone you know and send them a message that says, "Hey! You're on myspace! I'm on myspace too!" And then you do the cyber equivalent of staring into your drink, pretending to enjoy the pounding music and strobe lights. Unless I am missing something, that seems to be the extent of it. Kids today.

Well, there I was with all my mixed feelings about the Dress, and growing older, and being more and more Out of It. So I spent the weekend writing about it, thinking I would post those thoughts here. But it turned into something bigger, so I am looking for a home for it elsewhere. Also, some money would be nice. Business has been kind of slow, and I might have to locate those shoes.


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