Friday, May 27, 2011


Shrieking, It's all I can seem to think about these days. All I can think about writing, anyway. Stop being so melodramatic, won't you? Yes, paying the rent is hard, and finding housemates is stressful, and working is tiring and not working is exhausting, and getting out of bed is nearly-impossible and seeing those who've lost full facilities of their legs makes half your brain shriek at the other half “GET UP! YOU'VE ONLY GOT YOUR ONE LIFETIME! USE THAT BODY, FOR GODNESS SAKE! BREATHE INTO IT WHILE YOU STILL CAN!” while the other half of your brain yawns and kicks lazily at its skull-mate who, not wanting to think about anything, wills itself into a deeper sleep.

So, when I think about it, it makes sense that shrieking is on the brain. What else do we really ever do? Does anything ever do? We see things that scare us, causing us to shriek and run the other direction. We see things we love and we run towards them, also shrieking. And so often, those things are one in the same and we shriek with the confusion and pain of trying to run in two directions at once. Cats shriek silently at the injustice of being too well-loved in their homes, and rats shriek with glee at gnawing through yet another new bag of all-purpose flower. We shriek with surprise at actually having caught the ball (finally) and then with pain as we realize that our finger's been good and sprained. We shriek with our ineptitude and our genius, and with our accidental and meticulously planned luck or success or ending up in precisely the wrong place and finding it to be so much better than the place we'd wanted to go. Flowers shriek into bloom and leaves shriek gently as they drift to the ground and are snatched up by squirrels and birds who shriek at their luck.

Oh, yes, forest animals and shrieking, very original. I'm off to drink a beer, but you continue on with your woodland shrieking.


A winter full of heartbreak and soaring victories. A dear friend loses a child; life stops, and we pretend it resumes. It doesn't. The no-pressure co-ed basketball team I've joined suddenly For real. Like, I didn't spend each day leading up to the game in an increasingly excruciating amount of anxiety. Of what? Well, of playing basketball. Of not being perfect? Of not being good? I'm not sure.

And summer approaches. The prospect of a summer spent in tipis and phosphorescence and preteens and the ridiculous application of makeup before heading to the lodge for breakfast when it's really time to GO and the I knows with the rolling of eyes. The memory sends shivers down my spine and I wonder, do I really want to do this again? It's hard to say. But then I look at my whirring mind through the worried eyes halting and fluttering in the mirror and I realize that even if I don't want it, I certainly need it. And I do want it, really. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

What's True

A tricky balance must be struck between self-care and self harm; go too far in one direction, either really, and you may end up on the I'll-never-drink-again end of a Sunday morning. There's the dangerous capacity to get it very wrong, and I think that the only way to get it right is to get it wrong enough times that you end up trained like one of those poor mice who veer away from the red button whenever they get too close because the memory of the shock it gives them sends them into apoplectic anxiety.

And then we're there, we're the lab rats, and all our rationalizations for why the testing is unavoidable go out the window. Or maybe the feelings on rats' rights remain the same, but there's a horror in finding that we've treated and trained ourselves with the same maniacal habituation. When did this become a good idea? When did we come this point of self-manipulation? Maybe it's irrelevant; the trick is to find an illusion of semi-stability so that we may continue on in our lives "taking care" of ourselves, loving and hating ourselves alternately and simultaneously, occasionally taking responsibility for the agency we have in our own lives, occasionally throwing our hands up in the air and asking God what the f*#@ he's thinking.

Things that are Good for You:
Soft Light
Playing with Children
Doing Scary Things
Dressing Up and Wearing Costumes
Eggnog (non-dairy version does not apply, sorry vegans)
Wool (especially the soft kind)
Kisses (butterfly, bunny, etc.)


The end of an era has come upon myself and my immediate family- our second and final cat, born and adopted 17 years ago, was put to sleep in what feels like the death of something soft and safe and constant. Which it was.

There's a moment when an animal is put to sleep- it happens so fast. There's life, and then there's not. And once it's gone, everything looks exactly the same, but totally different. How is that so? And what is it that we lose? Where does it go? And without the answers to these questions, I can't help but think, what do we think we are doing?

And I know- a cat is a cat. He was no more or less than himself, and tempers may flare at the audacity of lamenting the death of so feline a friend. Still though, everything I wrote is true. I think. And in my estimation, to compare one loss to another is unproductive.

And I keep seeing him out of the corner of my eye.


Out of the quiet and hollowness comes, from time to time, a billowing cloud of steam and sound which reminds you that you're not alone. You are filled, as if you're under the rainbow parachute, and it's also inside you, and the warm noise of music and conversation wafting over your everything reminds you that it's safe to be.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

anywhere but here

Hello? Yes, I'd like to inquire about an application for employment...

Oh, hi. Actually, we're really overstaffed at the moment, but we'll keep your application on file until we're hiring again. Good luck!

Hello. No we're not hiring at the moment. You could try our store on Broadway.

What's your name? Oh, yes, I remember seeing your application. No, we're not hiring, but if we were, you would certainly not be a candidate. No, I can tell just from your voice that you are cut from a cloth of inferior moral and intellectual fibre. No, you're not eligible. Good luck. Oh, no, I wasn't serious, I was being sarcastic. Goodbye.


There has never been a place as cold as where I am right now. Never in the history of the universe. I am absolutely certain of this. Any comments to the contrary will be flagged and commentator will be hunted down by the blog-police (a lesser-known branch of the Culturally Hip-ish/Almost Cutely Nerdy Policing branch of the United Colonies of the Internet, also the organization trying to change the structure of the haiku from 5-7-5 to 6-7-8. Something about logical crescendos and whatnot). This is what they will do to you.

I'm so glad to be back in my new home. It's great. I have no more bottom due to the fact that it has been frozen off, but that's not much of a change- just ask anyone. It would be like if my ability to spell correctly was frozen off, i.e. I would not be able to spell. Still. Also, I had a phenomenal dream in which all of my teeth started falling out. One of the two beaver ones up top, and about every other on on the bottom right side. And then they just kept falling out, or breaking off in shards. I kept having to spit out the chalky paste of saliva mixed with tooth bits. It was wretched.*

But I awoke, teeth in tact, and proceeded to go through my list of things to consider:
Hypothermia self-rescue tactics
Dead babies
New babies
Flu and head colds
Grey market tactics for making money that wouldn't technically be legal
Morals and where the outer limits of mine might lie
Dead babies

I am so cold. And was so looking forward to being back. And, truthfully, found my trip back to be quite enjoyable. Walking through the San Francisco airport with time to spare, I stopped to look at an art project consisting of seals designed for each of San Francisco's sister cities, projected onto the floor of the airport. Kind of cool, heartening that there still is some money going into the arts in California. Though I suppose it's telling that it is being displayed in the airport, to make sure that visitors know that we support our artists; the rest of us, well, we know better.

I read the description of the project: "Each crest is designed with a background of the topographical map of the city's airport.." and my eyes welled up.

Wait, what? What is happening? Maps? Topography? Cities in Asia with which I have very little connection? Which of these was the element which was causing me to take this unexpected detour into the land of the deeply-unbalanced, leaving me teary-eyed and dangerously close to tear-stained, staring at some artist's representation of Manila and Shanghai? This is inappropriate madness for which I will not stand. Dazed, I walked away from the informational board. Maybe time for a snack or some tastefully designed San Francisco merchandise. Yes, I think so.

*I suppose I'd be in good company though, that of other phenomenally-excellent twenty-somethings endowed somewhat meagerly in the tooth-department.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What to Do when You End up on Someone's Celebrity Dinner Party List when You're Living out of a Cardbord Box

I'm sorry, I'm sick. And it's OK, really, it's just that when I'm sick, my tolerance for...stuff... goes from here (tolerably high) to here (down low-low).

And the thing is, this qualification for your wookie-like sociability might get you off the hook if you weren't sick, like, all the frickin' time.
Yeah, we know, why don't you get over it already? sounds in echoing harmony from inside your head, and outside your head, but the echoes from outside probably come from inside but who cares because it doesn't matter what they say because you know what a horrid beast you are. You're with yourself all the time, for crying out loud.

It's that moment of wondering when anything at all will work at all, or if you might not be better served to call it a day and head for Antarctica because, while it might be uncomfortably cold there, you could live out your wretched days (may they be short) in peace and solitude without disturbing anybody or -thing due to the miraculous sound-proofing qualities of ice caves.

And then you turn to some soothing activity, and find it inexplicably transformed into "the next calculus" and your mind goes blank with rage and you find yourself standing over the splintered remains of a tenor ukulele. This is what The Who must've felt like; I totally understand. Except that their smashing guitars-thing was related to being bad-asses, golden gods of the world of rock n' roll, not screw-ups. Oh, just...dammit.


I'm in Seattle now, and there are waves of ohmygodthisissoexcitingicoulddoANYTHING. Often though, those moments are overshadowed by the more sustained feelings of whatthef*&#amiDOINGhere which send me the bathroom holding back my hair, coming out 10 minutes later looking sheepish and hoping that the TV was on a little louder than I know it really was.

Maybe I should just go for it. Do art, make prints and journals and sell them and play with kids and use my extra time to intern teaching creative writing to under-served urban communities. And become a vegan.

But I really like real ice cream. And brie. And doesn't the success of any artist ride first and foremost on the artist's ability to let go of their art, and in that release risk the implication that their art is good enough?

So maybe just switch from milk to soy milk. Mostly. And veggie-sausages seem an all-too-easy option, especially given my current employment status of...not. But what about that? The employment part? More than that employment part, the doinglivingbeing part?

There's this thing that happens to me sometimes, where I go to do something, but can't. It's not that I can't, rather it's that I can't decide the order in which to complete that activities or actions surrounding the thing I want to do. So I just end up standing there frozen, going over scenarios in which I complete the tasks in different orders, weighing the merits of, for example, putting the tea water on before going pee, because then the will start to heat up while I'm in the bathroom, but before I put the water on I need to wash the tea pot, which means that I wouldn't be going pee until after I've scrubbed out tea pot, filled it up, and put it on the stove, and I really have to go pee... And all the time, I'm standing there in the hall between the kitchen and the bathroom until someone comes up to me and asks if everything is OK, and when I try to explain the predicament it crumbles in my mouth and I end up spewing sawdust all over the hallway. Then there's a mess, but before I clean it up I have to go to the bathroom, so the decision's made.

And that's where I am, standing in the hall, trying to decide whether to pee first or put on the water. Friends seem to have gotten used to my camping out there in the hallway and greet me cheerily on their way to work and school and bowling and grocery shopping. There's a shadow of doubt that clouds my equating temporarily which seems to suggest that all this is in preparation for that and shouldn't I be doing things like grocery shopping?



If life is inherently risky, there are certain risks that feel bigger, more do-or-die. And what is it that we're so very frightened of? A broken heart? The prospect of returning in shambles? (Again?) That's all fair. But what of the notion that nothing worth having comes without struggle and risk? Are we looking down the barrel of a life lived without risk at the expense of all joy? What does it mean to find yourself in a moment of little faith, when everything fades to shades of gray?

Thank god and goodness for the things we can, with unabashed joy, pride, and assurance, declare to be ours and our loves.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

City Love

Have you been writing? No. Why not? I don't know. I guess nothing has felt important enough to write about... (Reader peruses previous posts. Essays? Monster bathrooms? Really??)

So, yeah. Seems silly. I suppose my life has been as full of essays and monster bathrooms (or the post-collegiate equivalents) as it was. So what's the difference? Sharing my thoughts suddenly feels so self-indulgent. I wonder why. How would I know though, really?


This has been a summer full of new things: new friends, living in tipis, living with 14-year-old girls, living without internet, singing and playing, square-dancing, peanut butter eating, double-layering of long-underwear (well, to be honest, that one's not new), paddling, planning on moving

So now I'm home, drinking coffee, going through cigar boxes full of detritus my once-younger self determined to be worthy of saving; a letter "From the desk of Sir Chloe and Sir Alex" which we must've written when we were about 8 years old, among other things. I saved that one, but a lot of things got the boot. Not unlovingly, thoughtfully certainly, but they were booted all the same. Movie stubs and photos- most of them didn't make the cut.
As I've been pal-ing around, living a life appropriate to my newly adopted title, "Lady of Leisure", I've been looking around Oakland, loving it.

There's something about this city that makes me feel like I'm standing smack in the middle of a torrential downpour of rain. Stuck without a raincoat, I'm soaked to the bone in seconds. What can you do but embrace the flood and remember when you were younger how you used to take the long way back from the bathroom it was raining so that you could be in the rain for as long as possible? In a way, I am hesitant to call it mine because I feel like there's so much of it that I don't know. But then again, I've lived here my entire life, and what more license I possibly need? Except, maybe, owning the Oakland Raiders.

There's this thing about Oakland- it gets a bad rap. This summer, a new acquaintance of mine asked me if Oakland is totally "ghetto". I kicked him in the shins and asked if he always gets kicked in the shins. A city is so much more than we give it credit for, has so much more life to it than of often consider. It lives through us, and we live through it, so how could we think for one second that where we live doesn't matter? Or that our lives and our selves are separate from the cities where we live and make ourselves? What arrogance.


Last night I found myself on the streets of San Francisco for the first time since I became this version of myself, after spending the summer outdoors under sun and stars, spending really good time with my best friend from high school, playing music, regrouping and reorienting and redirecting. I was there to hear the author Jonathan Safran Foer, speak. Genius.

Afterward, I stepped into the nighttime and was enveloped in cool, living, air. I was struck with a sense of freshness and electricity, and it occurred to me that I will miss this air, and this city. I wonder if I will find this elsewhere, this air and feeling and home.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Unfurling Sounds too Noble

Hello, I love you, won't you tell me your name?

Maybe it's all of the goodbyes I've had to say recently. To people, and to the bits and pieces that have made up my life for the past two years or so. Or the rush of anticipation, the explosion of celebration, and the uncertainty left in its wake.

Or maybe it's all of the thank you letters I've been writing to people I could never really thank enough, so all I can offer are a few flimsy words which I hope they can look beyond to see what I really mean.

Then again, maybe it's because I'm at a juncture in my life where I have the opportunity to take the biggest risks of my life. Or not. Though risks are inherent to living, so to say that we choose to live without risk is something of a contradiction.

Or maybe it's something as simple as the fact that I found a gnarly bug crawling on my face in my sleep last night, which initially worked itself into my dream, and then I woke up. When I turned on the light and saw my bedfellow, an exclamation of immense impropriety rang through the house and I briefly considered cutting off my face. Still not off the table. (Pause for 5th shower of the morning)

Let's change the subject now, shall we? (Kind of like a dentist asking questions to someone whose mouth she's got jacked open. Don't you think?) I'm reading a book, although I'm afraid to pick it up again, because it pulls me towards an unknown that I'm scared of. It's called Travels with Charlie by John Steinbeck. In the very first pages, he writes about the people who come to see him and his truck before he sets off across the country.

I saw in their eyes something I had to see over and over in every part of the nation-a burning desire to go, to move, to get under way, anyplace, away from Here. They spoke quietly of how they wanted to go someday, to move about, free and unanchored, not toward something but away from something...Nearly every American hungers to move.

I wonder if that's an American thing. I certainly feel it- it's the reason that this book scares me. I wonder, though, if it's a human thing. Or maybe not. It might just be a certain-type-of-human thing. If you've got it, I don't think it ever goes away. Steinbeck writes about a young boy who asks to join him on his journey;

He had the dream I've had all my life, and there is no cure.

This "thing" makes us very fragile. Because setting off into the unknown is terrifying. People are meant to be with people, to love and communicate and keep each other warm at night. It's the only way we can live, it literally keeps our brains alive. But it brings us to the point where deep sadness and irrepressible joy meet. It's not an easy place to be, an exquisite place.

It's terrifying, but in a good way. It's a place of possibility, of floating, of joyous desperation and reaching out for something, anything, but not just anything, to hang on to, to attach to, to love and be loved by. A feeling that might be characterized by the desperate need to love someone or something new, with the reciprocation of love being the only prerequisite.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Love in the Time of the Internet Cellular Phone

P: Are you finished with your essay yet?
A: No.
P: How much more do you have to do?
A: 10 pages.
P: You haven't done anything?
(Eyes go wide, eyebrows settle themselves in deep furrows just above, as though settling in before a storm, green and red sparks fly from the corners of eyelids because complimentary colors are always more catchy, majestic curls of smoke creep out of nostrils and diffuse into the air)
A: NO. I've done a lot. I just haven't written anything yet.
(Ninja stars are produced with rapid speed and hurled with breathtaking accuracy leaving the offender pinned to the wall with the knowledge that the students might have ended an all-too-irreverent life with the flick of her wrist. Lesson learned.)


When it's my turn at the counter, I fumble over words which should be so straight-forward.
Um, here, uh...I checked out these books, and I would just stick them in the slot, but this one is disintegrating, and I'm afraid it would fall apart in the, but, the other ones are fine. I can just...or maybe it would be easier...oh, you want my ID? OK, um, one...OK, here it is...
She takes my ID, and my disintegrating book. She smiles and says:
It's ironic that the title of this book is "Structuralism".
I laugh in a voice too loud for the library, Yeah! Funny. Haha. Yeah...

I step out of the library into the cool, dark, soft night. Squatting on her haunches, her back is lit from the lights inside, leaving her face in shadow. Phone pressed to her ear, book in her hand, she declaims in a hushed voice:

...the past flashes like lightening over the gloomy abyss of the future and everything around me collapses...

God I'm going to miss this place.