Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My Vogue Interview

I'll freely admit that it was my girl-crush on Rachel McAdams that prompted me to buy this month's copy of Vogue.
I was always pretty neutral on the subject of Ms. McAdams until I read an article a few months ago that followed her to a book-club meeting in Toronto. I'm helpless against avid readers. Even female ones. In this article I learned that she chooses public healthcare over privatized (in Canada--where there's such an option) and I think that's just plain cool.

The format for the Vogue article was inspired by the Keel's Simple Diary that I want/ McAdams writes in every night before bed. Being the copy cat that I am, I'm going to borrow the format that Vogue borrowed from Keel's. It seems fair enough, right?

Your Day Began: (Only choose one)
( ) Tapping the snooze alarm more than twice
(X) With a healthy on-the-go breakfast.
( ) Scrambling to get to work on time.
Most days that feature impending work, I'll hit the snooze alarm for over an hour--trying my damnedest to put it off. But let's be honest, that always, always leads to the third option far more often than I would like to admit. But this morning, I got out of bed an hour and a half early, had a shower, dried my hair, applied make up (!) and took a banana and a bag of almonds on a walk with me to the deli. I was so proud of myself and vowed to have a day full of healthy, clean eating. That plan worked out alright until I suffered a mind-stabbing headache and used three glasses of Pepsi to squelch it. It worked, but think of all the sugar intake.

You are Seeking: (Only choose one)
(X) The most perfect bag
( ) Bread baking skills
( ) Mr. Right
SWF seeking messenger bag with modern, adult flair. Grey is preferable but will work with other colors. I'm on the fence regarding my baking career. To continue, to abandon. That's the question. I know that I could get better if I tried a whole lot more but, to be completely honest and a little bit lazy, it's just messy. And I can't get bread to have that nice, chewy texture. It's always mealy and never raises enough. And Mr. Right... not even a question.

Your Perfect Day in: (describe)
1983: Most of this year was spent in utero, on my head. It makes me dizzy to remember it.

1995: Let's see, what was going on in '95? My class went on a field trip to the Wichita Zoo and at a rest stop there were pictures of Timothy McVeigh, who was still on the loose. Way to freak out a group of 6th graders, eh? Million Man March launches on Washington. My teacher, Mrs. Poole, called off class for an entire day in October so we could learn the OJ Simpson verdict. Then we had a lesson on the difference between "guilty", "not-guilty", and "innocent."
My perfect day revolved around taking spelling tests (which I never, ever failed), and studying geodes and then walking home and playing in our play house until the sun went down and mom called us in for spaghetti.

2002: I graduated... we spent a lot of time renovating our house and watching HGTV. The best days involved sleeping in very late, driving--anywhere that I possibly could and watching Friends on Thursday nights. I would rearrange plans to watch that show.

Your Perfect Day, Today: (describe)
Early to bed, early to rise. That's how I like to roll these days. Wake up early, go to the library, hit the coffee shop for hours of comfy reading and writing. In a perfect world (which is what I'm describing here), I'd walk over to Amic's for couscous and sangria and then hang out with Genesis and Amos. This will all happen in 63 degree weather.

That Special Someone:
( ) What special someone?
( ) Which special someone?
(X) No comment.
The other day at work, I announced that Valentine's Day is my favorite holiday. It's true, it is. I like Valentine's Day more than I like Christmas. That topic is for another blog on another day. But my friend, Sarah, said "Well, but you've never wanted a boyfriend." Initially, I felt like that was a strong over-idealization but I think that really is what it's about. There hasn't ever really been a time in my life when I wanted a boyfriend for the sake of having one. Back in the day it came down to the fact that I didn't think anyone would want me, anyway, so I didn't even consider a boyfriend an option (that's sad, sure, but in retrospect it really saved me from a lot of mess and complication). These days I really do believe that I'm quite the catch. I'm no Rachel McAdams but, really, who is? I've spent the past six or so years getting to know myself on purpose. In that, I've learned that I can carve out my own identity and that in doing so I'll find more fulfillment than I could ever get from another person. Subsequently, I know that I have a hell of a lot more to offer than a person who is looking for an identity anywhere else. Therefore, I'm not bitter about my lack of lackey. I'm happy to have Valentines Day and a day specifically designed to love. And, sure, it's true, you can love any day of the year but how great is it that we get a whole one devoted to it? I think wearing black on V Day and hating it because of one's lack of snuggle buddy is pretty much the most selfish way to spend a day devoted to love--but again this isn't the place for that. This is just the place to say that while I would love some lilies delivered to my house--I know myself and I like myself and I'm more than happy to continue to do so unless and until someone else wants to do the same next to me.

To Embrace Change Means:
Supporting Obama? Haha. I kid, I kid (not that it would hurt). Change in my life has always been signified by a serious hair change. Cut. Color. Parting it down the middle... My current change is the absense of change. Sounds silly? I've been coloring my hair since 8th grade and right now it's the same hair I was born with. And it's beautiful.

If Life's a Party, You Can Be Found: (make a list)
Sitting at the dining room table or on a couch visiting with whoever seems to be in the vicinity.
Topping out at 3/4 of a beer.
Over grazing the vegetable platter.

What Your Fans Say:
Well, that's what the comment section is for.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

My first book to be crossed off The Great Book List of 2010 was a good one for me, I think.*

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (1999) by David Foster Wallace was a unique collection of complex and oftentimes endearing, sometimes bizarre, short stories. This was the first I've ever read of Wallace's. I can tell that I'll become friends with many more of his works.

I think I was most impressed by Wallace's striking writing style and impeccable humor--like every story was a project. For example, the very first story of the book, A Radically Condensed History of Postindustrial Life, is about two and a half pages long but happens to be collectively contained in one sentence. It is in no way fluid and is told in a back-tracking, distracted voice. One sentence tells the career history of a man who may or may not be lounging on the deck of a pool.

My personal favorite stories, Adult World (I) and (II), enter into a marriage that is learning to become itself. It's about a wife who's finding out about herself and her husband via painstakingly realistic insecurities. As with every other story in the collection, the struggle manifests itself in the bedroom--in this particular story, most of the wife's hesitation and angst is centered right there on the head of the husband's pink, raw penis. Wallace found a way to climb right into the mind of a woman pretty clearly. Being a woman, myself, I felt like this character was written more or less flawlessly. Perhaps mind-boggling insecurity isn't something saved for females, alone. She and I share the gift of the over-think. It started with the imagination of a marital problem which then led to imagining the source of the issue (which of course had everything to do with herself and nothing to do with him) and eventually leading her to resolving the conflict at hand. In realistic fashion, it takes the wife to places (mentally and physically) that we all know that she'd rather not go. In regards to story telling, though, Wallace never ceased to deliver. In Adult World (I), he tackled the story in a stark, traditional if not businesslike manner that presents the characters, tension and struggle in no uncertain terms. He continues the story in Adult World (II) in a completely different manner. The hurried resolution is written in hastily scrawled notes and outlines (and personal notes to self) that, one would assume, the writer would go back to, fill in the blanks, wash over with a broad brush of continuity and we'd all get along just fine and never even notice the process. But we're left with a huge, satisfying comedic mess that we're happy to pick through.

But on to the brief interviews. Included in the 23 chapters are four entitled Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. These are, as shrouded in thin mystery, exactly what they sound like. Sound bites and stories as told by men in an interview. For the most part, we never know what was asked by the interviewer, all we are privy to is the response from the "hideous" man. Much like overhearing a phone conversation. There is pause for a question and then the man goes on to speak in his own tongue to tell his own story. I found myself constantly impressed with Wallace's choice to speak on behalf of these gentlemen in, generally, a very distant manner. As if releasing one's own demons was on par with filling out a loan application.

We meet a lot of men. One man shouts the same uncontrollable, absurd phrase every time he orgasms. It's embarrassing enough that he truly believes that no one could love him despite it. Another man discusses meeting a woman in an airport who had been truly scorned by a lover. He does what he can to describe to us how his heart went out to her, his genuine pity and desire to comfort her. It is eluded, later, that he has sex with her despite thel sincerity.

A lot of men, yes, but not one of them hideous. Not to me. But, then again, it's hard for me to hold anything against an honest person--even when faced with the most heinous admission. People can be their own worst critics, it seems, especially regarding such untouchable subjects. These men are never truly hideous, rather, they approach themselves with a certain measure of shame. As do us all at one point or another. Addiction. Loneliness. Desperation. Narcissism. I have a theory that we all struggle with at least one of these at any given time.

What is it about the sex? Why am I (I suppose that I can only speak on my own behalf--though I assume this could easily be yours) so very drawn to it in my literature and shouldn't I be repulsed or defend my taste and decency? I don't think so. There is the novelty, of course. There is the obvious taboo. But there's got to be more to it. As a writer, you're hard pressed to find a scenario as revealing and honest as a moment such as this--a confession, an omission, even a lie. Once the pants are gone, regardless of the task at hand and regardless of the lies that may be told or the lighting or distractions, there is at least one honest glimpse into the character. A guy who can only be turned on by a partner wearing shoes (absent mother), a woman who can only come on top (control issues)--and then there's the really kinky stuff that (while I won't get into it here) is much easier to diagnose. I dare you to write a quality sex scene that doesn't have to do with something much, much deeper. It can not be done.

Wallace used sex and confessions, footnotes and sidebars as an introduction to self-honesty. I was highly impressed with what he could do with the words he chose for this collection and I'm curious to see how John Krasinski chose to adapt it for screen in the very near future.

*I apologize if it made you blush that I used the following words: "pink", "come", "penis", "masturbate"**, "top", and "narcissism".
**"Masturbate" was actually edited out, but the sentiment remains.

Friday, January 15, 2010

I love this--prompted by a typo.

The Kiss
By Stephen Dunn

She pressed her lips to mind.
— A typo

How many years I must have yearned
for someone's lips against mind.
Pheromones, newly born, were floating
between us. There was hardly any air.

She kissed me again, reaching that place
that sends messages to toes and fingertips,
then all the way to something like home.
Some music was playing on its own.

Nothing like a woman who knows
to kiss the right thing at the right time,
then kisses the things she's missed.
How had I ever settled for less?

I was thinking this is intelligence,
this is the wisest tongue
since the Oracle got into a Greek's ear,
speaking sense. It's the Good,

defining itself. I was out of my mind.
She was in. We married as soon as we could.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Dear John

I've lived in this upstairs apartment for years--so long that rumors don't even remember how I came to be here. I mostly just sat here in this corner, facing the front door hoping that someone would want me. They sat me here, they danced around and had friends over. They fought despite my presence. Eventually they all left, cycling in and out in twelve-month intervals. Signing new leases and leaving me here to watch them. They all came, they all ignored me and they all left.

And then you showed up. You in your fresh faced enthusiasm and a need for a place of your own. You weren't like the others. You didn't like me much in the begining, but I was used to that and I didn't even feel it. But one day you looked at me and you took me as your own.

Remember that first night? We listened to Jay-Z, an interesting musical choice for such an
occasion. You undressed me of all of my hardware. You bathed me and smoothed my edges. You made me soft and receptive. You touched me and I finally felt like someone could see me for what I could be. Someone loved me. Someone wasn't afraid of my size or my age or my uselessness. You changed me. You changed me from an ordinary china hutch into a statement piece. A bookshelf.

That's why it pains me to write this letter. You see, I've sat up here in this apartment for years, unseen by anyone even those who lived here and now it's time for me to go. You've changed me--do you understand? You've changed me into something better and bigger than this triplex. I need a renovated loft, can't you see?

God, I wish I could take you with me but this is something I have to do on my own. I'm sure you'll understand one day. I've stacked all of the books into neat little piles on your dining room table (I kept Waiting for Godot, I'm just about finished with that and then perhaps I'll mail it to you--we'll work something out) but by the time you read this letter, I'll be gone.

(your beloved china hutch turned bookshelf)

You return home from work to find a Dear John letter on your kitchen table. Oddly enough, it's from one of your favorite pieces of furniture. What does the letter say?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

"You don't have a clue what it is like to be next to you. I'm here to tell you that it is good."

This is something new for me.
I haven't journaled in a very long time (journaling being a daily, free-writing sort of situation as opposed to the theme-centered blogging--which I also do not to with strict regularity) and I have never done it in the mornings. When journaling is a habit of mine, it's most often a night-time recollection of my thoughts and feelings about my day. It can be so good to lie in bed at night and write, "today was the perfect day." Which I have done more often than I would have ever expected.
But AM journaling is a whole other scenario. It seems like it takes on a much more intentional and hopeful idea about the day.

Good January Morning.

I woke up a little over an hour ago and snoozed my alarm twice. This wasn't really because I didn't want to get up, it was mostly an experiment. I have a new cell phone that I use as an alarm clock. My new phone has this fancy feature that allows me to snooze just by waving my hand back and forth over the face of it. Very fancy stuff, my friend. I've never really been one to care about gadgets and features but when they're basically handed to me for agreeing to do something that I wanted to do in the first place--I'll take the free, cool upgrade. Anyway, I snoozed it twice and then found it hard to get out of bed anyway, because waking up to Metric is hard to do. I wanted to lay in my bed and jam in my jammies.

I came out of my cove, pet my cat and fed him. And today, the first day since Tuesday, he ate and so far, the first time since Tuesday, he hasn't vomited. Maybe we're coming out of this illness. I can tell that while it's been mutually miserable, it's been mutually beneficial. He seems to need me and I seem to have more patience and love for him. He's just a little kitty. And since my sister has more or less moved out of the house, both of us are quite lonely. He spends 40 hours a week here by himself and when I get home we both appreciate a good snuggle or fight. They say that pet-owners will live longer than those who live all by themselves (I will take this to also mean non-plant owners). After this week with Hammond, thinking that I'd lost him that one time, I can say that I realize that I do need him and I like him a lot. We're both learning to live with one another.

He sat on his perch while my body took me through a series of stretches, bends and twists. He tilted his head, confused as I stood there, body limp, rolling my head from shoulder to shoulder. It was good. I rarely do anything specifically for the benefit of my body. I rarely even acknowledge my body except when it is in the way--which is often, or when it is broken--which is rare. If I were my body, I would have gone on strike a long time ago. All that walking it does. All that one foot in front of the other business and not one ounce of appreciation. Not one intentional stretch. Not one thank you. Just potato chips. But the potato chips are for the feelings. Ice cream and coffee--for the feelings. Chicken and dark leafy greens (which are also delicious), now that's how I say thank you to my legs for carrying me around. They do work so hard and they do get very little credit. I will take this time to publicly declare my affection and appreciation for my legs. My tummy and I have an abusive relationship. It works so hard for me and until now, I have only hated him in return. Though he never gives up. Tonight I will thank my tummy with whole grain pasta and tomatoes. Fiber and lycopene.

And now I will finish my morning while getting dressed and singing whatever song comes up on my iTunes. This will most likely include a dance.

Happy, hopeful morning.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Year's Determination

It is 8:30 am on January 1. The first day of the decade. The first day of the decade. The next time a new decade comes around, I will be a completely different woman. I'll be 36 and I'll still get a little bit excited/ nostalgic when Sunny Came Home comes on the radio, but that's probably all I really know for sure.

Who am I going to see every day, this time next decade? With whom will I feel comfortable sharing my coffee cup and social networking passwords? Who's not going to be around anymore? Where will I wake up? Everything's going to be brand new. I could be a mother. I could be married. I could have a real job. I could be writing for real. I could live on the North West Coast. I could be working at a library. I could continue writing only for my own personal pleasure. I could still be a single, wonderful aunt (though, at some point in the next ten years, I do see myself growing weary of waking up alone). I will never have more than one cat at a time. Call that a lifetime resolution if you will.

The last few weeks of 2009 were not the greatest of my life. It's too bad that it had to end with that flavor. It makes it feel like 2009 was a personal bust, but I'm sure that it wasn't. So this wasn't my year, that's fine. Sometimes the fact that I survived it is enough for me. Some magnificent things happened for a lot of people that I love a whole, whole bunch. Jamie and JD had (hands down) the most fantastic wedding that I have ever been to and then quickly began their exciting life on the other side of the planet. Jocelyn was born and she was perfect and healthy and is absolutely adorable (what a relief). Steven made it out of Olathe and into a seriously cool city. Gina started dating this guy who is head over heels in love with her. Both of my brothers got their spouses knocked up. This is exciting stuff and it really makes me happy to be in the background of the photographs.

But in all honesty, I would really like to make something great happen for me in 2010. Something big and noteworthy would be nice but I feel like even getting little things under control would really help to move things in that direction.

-Can you believe that I'm 26 years old and I don't have a savings account? I've never had one and it's super embarrassing. This year, I'm getting one and I'm going to add to it with some regularity. Resolution Number One: Get a savings account. I feel like this would bring some relief.

-The other day, a guy came into the deli and I fell in love with him pretty quickly. He was cute and my type and all of that, sure. But he was also courteous enough to come in after our lunch rush had subsided. We had a conversation about what sort of caffeine-free concoction I could create and what he would find palatable. Eventually these two came together and I made him a drink that he liked. He was so kind and seemed to be very excited to be meeting me and anyone else that he came across in the deli that day. He was apologetic about the trash that his visit brought about and when Marge and Norma came in, he lept up from his table and ran to get the door for them. That really was the kicker for me. Marge and Norma come in every day at 3:00 and they both have walkers which makes coming and going quite difficult. Norma gets a sugar cookie, they share it, and Marge gets coffee that she never pays for. Of course I treat them differently than I do other customers. Their combined age is probably 180 and they are frail little persons. Guy wasn't particularly charming--he was just kind and aware of and appreciative and I want to be that kind of a person. I want to see them coming from the other side of the door and I want to be there to greet them. And I want to inspire other people to be that way, too. Resolution Number Two: Become aware of my surroundings and the people I meet. I feel like this would bring some wonder.

-Where I work, a whole sandwich costs me about fifty cents more than a half a sandwich. Logic would state that the whole sandwich is a much better deal so that's what I always get. In recent weeks, however, I've grown aware of the fact that while it's a better deal, mathematically speaking, it's not what I need to make it through the rest of the day. Portion control should probably be limited to needs rather than good deals. A human body needs protein, fiber, and various vitamins to function in a productive manner. A human psyche needs ice cream and oatmeal raisin cookies to function in a productive manner. If the psyche is going to find some resolve, it's going to have to compromise with the body and they're going to have to work together. Resolution Number Three: Work on the relationship between body and mind by being mindful of what enters the body. I feel like this would bring some self-awareness.

-In the same vein of self-awareness, I think it's important to spend time alone with ourselves. Look at yourself by yourself with yourself and be made aware of the mind, spirit, body--the trinity of being a being. To quote my friend Jason (who has inadvertently helped to shape my world view along with contributions from other authors, artists and personal persons), " By waking up one hour earlier you can date yourself even before your day begins. For example, you could spend 20 minutes calming the mind in meditation, 20 minutes stretching or running or twisting or jumping, and 20 minutes reading or writing -- funneling your thoughts into soulful action." Resolution Number Four: To wake up an hour earlier (which I usually do, that hour is just usually spent lying in bed, dreading leaving it) and spend meditative time in relaxation and self awareness. Mind. Body. Soul. One. I feel like this will benefit everyone in my community.

They are small, but they are attainable. And with the exception of Resolution Number Two, they are measurable. This will make a difference in the long run--and there will be a very long run. Here's to 2020!