Tuesday, January 31, 2006

no more homeless!

Just a quick note to say yay I have a place to live!!

I got a great basement apartment underneath these lovely, Portland yuppies in Northeast. Near my favorite coffeeshop, good bars and friends. Today I bought a bed, faster than lightening, it was bought and delivered before 9:30am! A miracle. Thanks SK for finessing the guy into opening early for us. Beautiful. Then I went on a Marshall's shopping spree and bought an abundance of pillows and lime green sheets. Lime green! And I bought bright blue towels and now I feel like a grown-up. I haven't moved anything in yet, but I have enough junk from my life as a nomad to manage for two days until the movers come Thursday.

Oh, and I took the inaugeral shower this afternoon. The shower is GREAT!

I'm so happy.

Monday, January 30, 2006

still fucked up

Spent three short hours at CB's today packing up my stuff. She was there. She was not ok. She stayed in her room with the door shut for a long time and I was glad. But, at some point, she came out. I'd gone out to put a load of stuff in my car, and when I came back in, I found her walking down the hall. Maybe when she heard me go out the front door, she came out to see if I was leaving.

So, we stood there in the hall looking at each other for a moment, about five feet apart. She looked like shit. So skinny -- and she was *already* skinny. Even more skinny. We stood there looking at each other and she started crying. She turned and stepped back into her room, but left the door open. She sat on her bed and wept. I stood in the hall awhile, aware that the open door was an invitation for me to come in and comfort her. After a few minutes just standing in the hall, listening, I went back in my room and kept packing.

After a long while, she came back out and stood in the doorway of my room and said "Don't you care about me at all?" I said "Yes." So she said, "You're so cold, so distant. It's like you don't care at all." She stood there, her face quivering with emotion, just staring at me, waiting for me to do something. I didn't do anything, so she went on. "I just can't believe you were so quick to give up on us. Just like that," she snapped her fingers, "you were done." She was getting angry. So was I. She said "But that's what you do, that's your fucking pattern. I think you're a terrible quitter," she said. "You're a quitter and you're not strong enough to stay the stay." Stay the stay? She said "Yeah, I fucked up, I know I fucked up. But you couldn't forgive? You couldn't be there for me when I was having a dark night of the soul."

I said, "No."

I said, "I was there for you until I couldn't be there anymore."

I said, "My leaving wasn't sudden. We weren't happy since last January. This summer we took a million camping trips because the only time we were happy with each other was when we were on a trip. At the end of the summer we made all these plans about how we were gonna work on our relationship. I scheduled myself for day classes so I could be home in the evenings. We were gonna make dinner together and hang out and drink less. And then, the first two weeks of school, I'd come home after class and you weren't here. Eventually you'd call -- you'd be hanging out with people you'd just met at the coffeeshop. You weren't around..."

This is where she cut me off. "That was a long time ago!" She said. "Why are going into that stuff from so long ago??"

I said, "You told me my leaving was sudden. I'm telling you things started finally falling apart in September."

She didn't want to hear any more. She started accusing me of being selfish, of needing it *my* way or no way, of needing her to do things according to *my* needs.

I said, "Yeah. My needs count too." She was stumped. She said some more mean shit. She said "tell it to your new girlfriend, whoever she is." She walked away. She went in the living room and wept loudly while I kept packing. Eventually, she gave up, went back in her room and shut the door. I left without saying goodbye.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

fucked up

That fucking CB.

I've been walking around since last Wednesday with an unread note in my pocket from CB. I was at her house Wednesday doing some packing and the note was taped to the door of my room. I didn't want to read it, so I didn't. I just put it in my pocket for later, whenever later ended up happening...

Later happened today. I needed to call CB to talk about my move-out plans and I decided, before I called, that I should read the letter, so I did. The letter was fine. She sounded clear, good, grounded. None of the fucked up, manipulative, crazy bullshit of most of her other letters. It was a relief. Furthermore, she indicated that she was working weekends, so when I put the letter away and picked up the phone, I was expecting to leave a nice message.

Not so. She answered. This time she didn't sound so good. This time she sounded shaky and weird again. She quit her job, she eventually told me. Third job she's lost in four months. Quit two, fired from one. She started crying, telling me she missed me, missed having a best friend. "But," she said, "I know it's just your pattern, I'm not so upset about it anymore, it's all your pattern, to just leave and go to the next thing, or whatever you do." She said I duped her, I made her believe in the forever thing and she'd been stupid, she said, to fall for it, but she had. "I'm not doing the self-pity thing," she said. Bullshit.

My pattern. I started getting angry. She said "It was just so sudden. You just decided it wasn't worth even trying, even working on it." And I started to say "Listen up, things were fucked up for a long time. It only seemed sudden to you b/c you weren't fucking paying attention to me for the last 6 months and for the last 3 you were drunk every single day, all day long." I started to talk but she wasn't listening, she kept talking over me, so I shut up because I knew, I know from experience, she won't listen. She doesn't want to hear.

I'm so angry with her.

My pattern. You fucking asshole. My pattern.

Fuck you.

Nevermind *your* fuck ups. Nevermind your contribution to the failure of the relationship. All my fault. Yep. Of course.

Yeah. Whatever. Fuck you, CB. You're fucked up.

saving the best


SK is the best and I haven't been able to write a word about her in a week.

SK is a force of nature. SK is a tsunami. SK is wiping me out and laying me bare. SK is fucking awesome.

I will try to be more articulate later but for now, this is all I can say. SK is the best.

party on, party off

After bird-lady last night, I went to a party. I almost never go to parties and hate to mingle. I'm not good at it. Also, I had this terrible experience once when I lived in Columbus and went to a party with this woman Mary who I was seeing at the time. Mary worked for the Dept of Health helping people with HIV get benefits and meds, etc, and she was heavilly involved in the local HIV/AIDS activist scene, which was a pretty high-brow scene there full of rich people who had fundraisers and thought of themselves as very important people. So, here I was, this very young, very unimportant kid sort of dragged along to this party and no one would talk to me. Mary kept disappearing and I knew absolutely no one at the party other than her. I drank a lot and I kept coaching myself inside my head, I kept saying, "Ok, just go up and talk to people, it's fine. Do like they do on TV, you can do it." So I'd sidle up to a couple of people talking and stand-near them and try and mingle like I assumed mingling was supposed to work and they all flatly ignored me. If I talked, they politely acknowledged me, then turned back to each other, talking as if I wasn't there. Cluster after cluster of people brushed me off in the same way and I was near tears when Mary finally resurfaced and took me upstairs to smoke a bowl someone had left for us. I was so relieved to have her back around I almost begged her to leave but didn't. So we sat in this room upstairs and smoked a bowl while these two enormously round women lay on a bed huffing whippets and rolling around like piglets, giggling and giggling. After that, the party was less annoying, but still. I'm scarred.

So I went to this party last night for K and a few of her friends who graduated in December. It's a sort of anticlimax, b/c all the graduates who were "celebrating" at that party are all currently studying for the February bar exam and are definitely not feeling the relief and freedom that graduation usually implies. Instead they're all still frantically busy and terrified. But, a graduation party nonetheless. I expect a post-bar party next month. :-)

I'm no good at parties unless I can latch onto someone equally not good at parties. Fortunately, I fell in with this guy Ian and we had a pretty lovely time. Ian's from Texas and the more he drank, the more Texan he sounded. Funny. He graduated last year and is now a patent attorney. He's very nerdy and funny and I was very thankful for him. He spilled an enormous martini glass full of margarita all over the place and we all laughed and laughed.

Then I saw Mog, as I was heading out with Ian and some others to smoke on the porch. It was brief and I was relieved to notice that, though she was cute as ever, I didn't feel any surges of emotion or desire. I just felt glad to see her. I hugged her and excused myself to continue following Ian outside. I ended up not seeing her again, but today I think I'll go to her coffeeshop to study and we'll see how that goes. Good old Mog.

At the absolute zenith of the party, the house was packed and loud and everyone was seeming more and more drunk, I decided I was done. I dragged myself through the crowd to say goodbye to K and then snuck off into the night. Fun. It was fun.

a life of movement in stillness

I have spent a lot of time *sitting* the past few days while working furiously, feverishly on a project for bird-lady-lawyer. It is my mission to make bird-lady love me, need me and beg me to work for her this summer. I shared this aspiration with bird-lady last night and she was surprisingly agreeable. Already I think she likes me a little. And I like her more.

I met with her last night after my shift at work was over -- she reviewed my completed project, heaped criticisms upon me, then finished up with praise. I handled it in stride. I've decided to treat the experience like boot camp. I will suffer any indignity, I will wake early and stay up late to get my work done, I will run through the mud with a thousand pound pack, I will do whatever she asks, I will allow her to whip me into shape and I will not try to bluff my way through, pretending I already know everything. Such a hard impulse to fight. I will lay my ego down and take whatever she dishes out. I can do it, I'm ready.

There was an earthquake in Portland last night. I was sitting in bird-lady's little office when it happened. The whole house jiggled and one of the birds in the next room squawked and fell of its perch into the floor. Bird-lady got excited, jumped up and scrambled into the next room to pick up the bird and turn on the TV to see if it would show up on the news. While we waited for the "news" to catch up to what had just happened, bird-lady (who grew up in LA) explained the two different types of earthquakes -- the "slip-slide" kind when faults move against each other, and the subduction kind, when something comes from underneath and punches up the top layer it hits. She is very smart and I think she would talk to me about anything in depth and detail as long as I sat still and listened. I think she is lonely.

So I sat, watching the news with bird-lady, 7pm on a Saturday night, needing to eat supper, letting other plans sort of slip away, thinking "if this is the only shmoozing I have to do to get a summer job, I'm thrilled." I thought of Waspy who subjected herself to a series of humiliating, dehumanizing big-firm interviews last fall and the fall before trying to get a summer job... who subjects her naturally shy, quiet self to all manner of shmooze-fests and is miserable... I felt pretty lucky to find myself just sitting in the living room of a very nice social security lawyer who was happy to have my company there, watching the news with her, talking to her birds. Not so bad, really. And she makes me coffee when I come over. Which is nice.

As I was finally leaving, after three hours, she actually expressed just a hint of the impulse to caretake around my homelessness. She will be moving to a new, big office soon and she said "You know, it's a big office. There's a sink and stuff. You could almost... you know... camp out there if you really needed to. Bring a sleeping bag... you know..." Funny. And then, as I was leaving, she said "Oh, are you hungry? I've got brown-rice and chicken in the crock-pot," she pulled me into the kitchen and showed me the contents of a tiny crock-pot on the counter. It was sweet. I declined. But I think she likes me. That's what counts. And she's going to teach me how to be the kind of attorney I want to be and she's going to hire me and suddenly my future feels much, much more secure.

Friday, January 27, 2006

rest assured women of iraq

You're in the kind, gentle hands of the US Army.

I just read a disturbing bit on the Yahoo!News that says we're rounding up and jailing the wives of insurgents to "leverage" their husbands into surrender.

Glad we finally caught on to the practice of using women as a tool to manipulate men and win wars. One step away from raping and pillaging. At least I assume we're still one step away... though I wouldn't place bets.

Hey, next why don't we just encourage our brave soldiers to spread their "seed of liberation" amongst the women of Iraq and then we can actually, physically grow the whiter, brighter, more Westernized-Christianized American colony of our fucked up, racist, emperialist dreams! Wouldn't that be great?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

scorpionic word of the day


One entry found for diapause.
Main Entry: dia·pause
Pronunciation: 'dI-&-"poz
Function: noun
Etymology: Greek diapausis pause, from diapauein to pause, from dia- + pauein to stop
: a period of physiologically enforced dormancy between periods of activity

Thanks Merriam-Webster

This was inspired by a story I read today about a scorpion that survived for 15 months without food and water after being inadvertently plastered into a crack in a dinosaur fossil by scientists who were attempting to preserve the fossil for future study. The scientist who discovered the scorpion was chipping the plaster away from the fossil when he noticed the scorpion wiggling out of a crack. Refreshingly wonderful to hear that, in the interest of respecting the scorpion's great will to live, the scientist took the scorpion out to a field and turned it loose. Thank you, compassionate scientist.

Diapause describes the state the scorpion entered in order to survive so long without food or water. What dreams come to a scorpion while plastered into the crack of a dinosaur fossil for 15 months? What a dreaming space, a healing journey, a 15-month sleep. Diapause.

mog redeemed

In the interest of full and fair reporting, it is my pleasure to announce that Mog doesn't suck nearly as much as I originally thought. After I wrote her the "closure" message, she actually responded. She was not squirrelly and weird, like I imagined she would be. She was warm and friendly and suggested I come study in the coffeeshop where she's now working. She said "I really do want to be friends and I feel we have the basis for that."

I completely underestimated Mog. This is important for me to note, because I underestimate people a lot. And I don't like it about myself. I'm kind of ashamed of it, actually. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Mog is redeemed and I stand corrected.

I don't have the same designs on Mog that I used to have. But I do like her and I do want to be her friend. So, one of these days, I'll drag myself into her coffeeshop and see what happens.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

time to buckle down

I thought I was already buckled down, but I was wrong. I was buckled, but my belt was somewhat loose.

In the interest of not just continuing to complain about how busy I am and how sick I am of not having a place to live and how much I dread all the packing I have to do and how hard my semester is going to be and how overwhelmed I'm feeling (didn't I already complain about all this already?) -- I'm gonna keep it brief.

Yesterday, in an emotional stupor after my counseling appointment, I ended up sucked into the whirlwind of my internship -- the bird-lady-lawyer, with her rapid-fire orientation to social security law and then an enormous and taxing project dumped in my lap with, what's that?? Why it's a big, fat, court deadline. Reeling and thinking "yes, I'm supposed to give this woman ten hours of my time a week yet this project will probably take twice that," and calculating the packing and the apartment hunting and everything else that has it's own, non-court deadline (like the Feb. 1st move-out that needs to happen from CB's) -- I wanted to scream.

I told the woman, the bird-lady-lawyer, "Listen, my life is really tumultuous right now, homeless, yadda yadda. I swear I'm not the kind of person who always has some kind of drama..." And she says, smiling, in all sincerity, "Yeah, I hear you. But in practice, the court doesn't care what's happening in your life. So find a place to live. Get your shit together, and get to work."

She literally said "get your shit together and get to work."

I would've guessed that this would make me want to kick her in the teeth, but it was invigorating. I thought "Yeah! I just have to get my shit together! I have to buck up and work hard and make it happen." Imagine some inspiring, sort-of military theme music playing in the background. Or the theme from Rocky.

I just have to work my ass off.

No problem, I'll get right on it.... Tomorrow morning. Tonight, I need a beer.

imagine the relief -- a.k.a.: yay again for the supreme court!

Today the US Supreme Court stayed the execution of a man in Florida who was already strapped to the gurney with IVs in his veins!! Justice Kennedy signed the order staying the execution and accepting the man's request for review of an appeals court decision that denied him the right to challenge the method of his execution as cruel and unusual punishment. The execution is stayed at least until sometime in July which is the earliest the court can expect to render an opinion.

I am deeply opposed to the death penalty and feel excited that the Supremes have deigned to weigh in on the contentious issue. We'll see what happens.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

one long fucking day

Today I took myself off the radar... and I'm not yet committed to putting myself back on. We'll see.

Feeling overwhelmed -- synaptic overload on every level. School feels overwhelming. My prolonged homelessness feels overwhelming. Finding housing, packing up all my shit, moving, unpacking, settling in, buying a bed and other necessary home items, every fucking thing I have to do for the next month feels overwhelming. SK is overwhelming. SK is completely wonderful. My life is a tsunami and I am being swept along like debris.

I'd prefer a little more control. That's a problem. So my job is to figure out a way to be a boat instead of debris -- to have a rudder and natural buoyancy. To stay afloat and steer a little.

Today I had a wonderful appointment with my counselor. Thank god for counseling departments attached to colleges which provide "free" services to students. What a resource.

This counselor of mine -- she's surprisingly proficient. I tend to think I've already figured out all my own little psychopathologies -- patterns, coping skils, complexes, issues, whatever. I go into a counseling appointment hoping for a stamp of approval on the mental health assessment I've already created for myself and, perhaps, some kudos for being phenomenally self-aware. This counselor of mine -- she's smarter than me. Thank god.

After my last appointment she said "think about your patterns in relationships and how you feel you fuck them up" (paraphrasing, of course). My pattern -- to swing from relationship to relationship like tarzan swings vine to vine through the jungle. My pattern -- to meet my relational needs in a parasitic way by manipulating my partners and never really sharing myself. My pattern -- to leave, physically, sexually, emotionally. My pattern -- to be dishonest on some level, conscious or unconcscious.

My hugest, biggest, giantest, most enormous fear in all this? That this is my pattern, yet I can't identify it until after the fact and I am therefore precluded from breaking it. My biggest fear is that I can't ever trust myself because I do this awful, parasitic thing so unconsciously, I can convince myself that I'm not doing it even when I totally *am* doing it! That's my fear.

So this counselor of mine, who is very smart, helped me realize some things. She asked some questions I never thought to ask myself until now and suddenly, like some giant, jungle flower, this new understanding of myself exploded into bloom before me. It was dizzying. I left her office in a stupor and hardly made it through the next few hours.

It won't seem so stunning or miraculous to anyone who isn't me, but I can't leave you hanging, so here's what I realized. My big issue is that I'm not authentic in my relationships. What does that mean? It means that impression management wins out over authentic engagement at some point, ie: I become so invested in continuing to have my needs met (whatever they may be, generally the need to keep the partner around) that I give the partner whatever I think she needs, say whatever she needs to hear, etc. I manage her image of me rather than risking the loss of the relationship by really being myself.

In this way there is a split between my authentic self (who has her own needs) and this image-controlled version. This counselor of mine suggested that, perhaps from the very beginning of the relationship, the image-controlled version is managing the relationship while the authentic self is preparing the exit strategy. The partner, whoever the unlucky lady is, only sees what the image-controlled version is putting out and is ultimately surprised when I up and leave at some point. Hence the guilt, even with CB whose drinking problem would've made anyone want to leave. Drinking problem aside, I feel guilty because, on some level, I did not behave honestly. CB even called me on it, over and over, during and after our bender. She said "I just really feel that you're not being honest with me." And I swore I was being honest and I secretly thought she was nuts for even *thinking* I wasn't being honest... But she was right. She was totally right.

Next step -- why do I do this? Where does this come from? Goes back to the belonging thing I ranted about a few days ago. I don't belong. Why not? Because I never have. Why not? Because I don't want to. Why not? Because at a very early age (early = between 3-5) I recognized that I would have to take care of myself emotionally. My parents split and I had to defend myself emotionally against my dad's incessant guilt-tripping to coerce me into living with him. Then, mom rapidly remarried and had another kid. This was the key -- the thing I never considered until today. My counselor said "So they split, you lived with your mom, describe your attachment to her." ("Attachment" b/c we'd just been discussing attachment as a developmental phenomenon.) Completely unaware of what I was about to uncover, I started explaining that I was really close to my mom and that I had a great relationship with her then... but... then... I thought... yeah, but she remarried right after she divorced my dad... and then she got pregnant... I was thinking... yeah, what was my attachment to mom exactly?

The counselor said "Oh, she started a whole new family..." And then I remembered this dream I had when I was about 6 and this dream explains it all. I dreamed I was on a boat with mom, my stepdad and my brother who was just a baby. We were on a beach, leaving the shore, into the ocean, then the boat started flying up into the air over the water. It was loud and windy and tumultuous and we were very high up. Then I started falling backwards out of the boat. I was suspended there, hanging off the edge of the boat, about to fall... and all around inside the boat sat my so called family. Watching. Nobody was concerned, nobody was trying to help. They were just watching me fall.

My attachment to my mom. To my mom's new family. I was falling out of the boat.

So, back to not belonging. I didn't belong in the boat. I grew my whole identity around not belonging in the boat. I grew my whole identity around taking care of myself, being the only person I could rely on, the only person, developmentally, I was attached to. So I behave parasitically b/c I still have social and emotional needs and part of taking care of myself involves getting those needs met by relating. But deep down, I am this solitary creature and have been since I was a small child.

My counselor said that behaving inauthentically in relationship is about fear. "What's the fear?" She asked. "What's the fear that makes you feel you need to control the relationship by being inauthentic? Fear of loss? Fear of rejection?"

The fear?

The fear is: who the fuck am I if I'm not the solitary creature who takes care of herself?

Who the fuck am I if I crack open that deepest shell and let some other person have a genuine stake?

Who the fuck am I if I let someone "scoop me up," in SK's words. I am not someone who has ever been scooped up. I am not scoopable. I don't know who I would be if I let myself be scooped up. The fear is that I would cease to be the person I think I am if I became scoopable.

Who am I if I'm not this hard little coconut that can't be opened??

This relationship with myself is ultimately all I've ever had since I was a small child.

How can I give that up?

Monday, January 23, 2006

moving forward yet tugged back a bit

I called CB just now to let her know I'm coming this week to start packing, in hopes I'll actually find an apartment before February. She hurt her arm, she didn't say how, but she went to the emergency room with it and it was in a splint, in a sling. She hasn't been working. She sounds completely sober, in more ways than one. She sounds grounded, like last time we talked, like I've never heard her before.

I don't want to go back, don't want to be with her, don't want to revisit any of it, but christ. Why do I feel like somebody's reached into my chest and squeezed my heart to the point of bruising?

I think of her there -- she's packed up everything throughout the house that was mine or that we bought together. The common areas are now completely devoid of anything I own even a partial stake in. The framed picture from the day we got married, I'm sure, was the first thing to go. It had been hanging in the living room among other framed pictures of us and her kids. The wall hangings we bought in Mexico last year. My rugs. What else? My drum. My cds from the wooden shelf under the stereo. My plants?

I think of her there, not working, worrying about money, unable to find a renter for my room, hurt arm, sober. It hurts to look back. I feel guilty. Did I behave irresponsibly? Should I have anticipated that I would eventually feel the need to depart. Is it still appropriate to blame her drinking? Because, in my mind, I've gone beyond her drinking to come to realize that we were not happy for a long time, for a lot of reasons. I have moved so far away, but still. There is pain that surprises me like an abrupt slap across the cheek. I hate it. But I have to accept that it is there and remember that it doesn't necessarilly indicate the need to *do* something, anything, different.

Ironically, I came into the coffeeshop after my conversation with CB and had an email from my counselor at school, just checking in and suggesting I make a follow-up appointment. Wonderful. The universe drops these nudges all the time, if you just open your eyes, there they are.

it's difinitive: mog sucks

But I don't care anymore.

If you'll think back to last week, I announced that Mog had reared her head. In truth, I opened the door and dragged her back into the light by emailing and inviting her for a drink. Mog didn't know it, but in my mind, it was her last chance to redeem herself. If she bailed, flaked, or otherwise disappointed, I planned to wash my hands of her once and for all.

Well she started out surprisingly strong. She agreed to get a drink and engaged in the back-and-forth messaging necessary to set a time and place, which is saying alot for Mog's attention span and follow-through. We were supposed to meet tonight at eight at the Crowbar, a joint in North Portland near K's house.

Last night, after a long and lovely day hanging with S.K. then studying then watching the L word in a smoky, stinky bar, I checked my email and found a message from S.K. and a message from Mog. I looked back and forth between them and resisted the urge to check S.K.'s first because I secretly (ok, not so secretly) hoped Mog would be writing to cancel so I could hang out with S.K. tonight instead.

And she did.

She said something about being very busy and hoping I'm well and she promised to call when she has less on her plate. Right. Frankly, I just glanced at it, such was my haste to open S.K.'s message and say "Yay, Mog cancelled. Hang out with me tomorrow." Funny.

So, my hands are washed of Mog. I wrote her a message this morning designed to effect closure for me. Not sure what Mog will think of it. She'll probably think I'm nuts and that I over-think things. Maybe I do. Can't help it. I thanked her for the space she occupied in my life and acknowledged that I maintained expectations even after she tried to tell me not to. I wished her well and maybe obnoxiously "relieved" her of any obligation to try and make a plan to hang out with me. I doubt she'll write me back and, in case I happen to see her around, I think she'll probably avoid me. Just the feeling I get. Oh well.

K is having a graduation party next weekend with Mog's whole circle of friends and I'm invited. We'll see if Mog shows up. I'll keep everyone updated, I know you're all on the edge of your seats watching this ridiculous drama.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

but i *can't* just shut up

What I really want to say is that I've just had the best fucking day. That's all. The. Best. Fucking. Day.

Ok. Now. No more words for awhile. I swear.

knowing when to shut up

I am in my coffeeshop, my second home, wearing my slippers because my boots are covered in mud. I spent the afternoon hiking through one of Portland's wonderful, fern-filled, soaking wet, mossy, muddy forested parks with SK. A full, great day and I'm sitting here at 5 needing to study, spent, exhausted, sore, etc. I feel weak from more than just the hike. I also feel quite sick of my own stream of thoughts and words. To that end, I'm shutting up for a bit. More when my brain settles a little.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

some words we know...

... and yet...


stricken, struck
(used in combination) affected by something overwhelming;

** thanks to WordReference.com Dictionary


Main Entry: pa·thet·ic
Pronunciation: p&-'the-tik
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle French or Late Latin; Middle French pathetique, from Late Latin patheticus, from Greek pathEtikos capable of feeling, pathetic, from paschein (aorist pathein) to experience, suffer -- more at PATHOS
1 : having a capacity to move one to either compassionate or contemptuous pity

** thanks to Merriam-Webster Online as usual, except the losers there didn't have a definition for "smitten" at all, so I had to go elsewhere...

because i love words

I wanted to finally share this in it's entirety. This is my favorite poem by my favorite poet and the inspiration for the blog's name. Every time I read it, I am moved by something new, some new aspect. As my life changes, as I change, different elements feel more meaningful. It's a wonderful poem by a wonderful poet and I love it. Enjoy.

Stepping Backward
by Adrienne Rich

Good-by to you whom I shall see tomorrow,
Next year and when I'm fifty; still good-by.
This is the leave we never really take.
If you were dead or gone to live in China
The event might draw your stature in my mind.
I should be forced to look upon you whole
The way we look upon the things we lose.
We see each other daily and in segments;
Parting might make us meet anew, entire.

You asked me once, and I could give no answer,
How far dare we throw off the daily ruse,
Official treacheries of face and name,
Have out our true identity? I could hazard
An answer now, if you are asking still.
We are a small and lonely human race
Showing no sign of mastering solitude
Out on this stony planet that we farm.
The most that we can do for one another
Is let our blunders and our blind mischances
Argue a certain brusque abrupt compassion.
We might as well be truthful. I should say
They're luckiest who know they're not unique;
But only art or common interchange
Can teach that kindest truth. And even art
Can only hint at what disturbed a Melville
Or calmed a Mahler's frenzy; you and I
Still look from separate windows every morning
Upon the same white daylight in the square.

And when we come into each other's rooms
Once in awhile, encumbered and self-conscious,
We hover awkwardly about the threshold
And usually regret the visit later.
Perhaps the harshest fact is, only lovers--
And once in a while two with the grace of lovers--
Unlearn that clumsiness of rare intrusion
And let each other freely come and go.
Most of us shut too quickly into cupboards
The margin-scribbled books, the dried geranium,
The penny horoscope, letters never mailed.
The door may open, but the room is altered;
Not the same room we look from night and day.

It takes a late and slowly blooming wisdom
To learn that those we marked infallible
Are tragi-comic stumblers like ourselves.
The knowledge breeds reserve. We walk on tiptoe,
Demanding more than we know how to render.
Two-edged discovery hunts us finally down;
The human act will make us real again,
And then perhaps we come to know each other.

Let us return to imperfection's school.
No longer wandering after Plato's ghost,
Seeking the garden where all fruit is flawless,
We must at last renounce that ultimate blue
And take a walk in other kinds of weather.
The sourest apple makes its wry announcement
That imperfection has a certain tang.
Maybe we shouldn't turn our pockets out
To the last crumb or lingering bit of fluff,
But all we can confess of what we are
Has in it the defeat of isolation--
If not our own, then someone's, anyway.

So I come back to saying this good-by,
A sort of ceremony of my own,
This stepping backward for another glance.
Perhaps you'll say we need no ceremony,
Because we know each other, crack and flaw,
Like two irregular stones that fit together.
Yet still good-by, because we live by inches
And only sometimes see the full dimension.
Your stature's one I want to memorize--
Your whole level of being, to impose
On any other comers, man or woman.
I'd ask them that they carry what they are
With your particular bearing, as you wear
The flaws that make you both yourself and human.

Adrienne Rich

Friday, January 20, 2006

word of the night

For S.K. -- quite the inspiration.


Main Entry: 1gid·dy
Pronunciation: 'gi-dE
Function: adjective
Inflected Form(s): gid·di·er; -est
Etymology: Middle English gidy mad, foolish, from Old English gydig possessed, mad; akin to Old English god god
1 a : DIZZY b : causing dizziness (a giddy height) c : whirling rapidly
2 a : lightheartedly silly : FRIVOLOUS b : joyfully elated : EUPHORIC

(Thanks Merriam Webster)


There is nothing, in my own personal inventory of experience, quite as physiologically distressing as cold and hunger. And I'm speaking from a very limited experience of either. Think of people who are *really* cold and *really* hungry. Who never get warm. Who eat so little their bellies distend.

When you're cold and hungry you can't think straight and you feel depressed.

When I was in high school I had a terrible relationship with food. It was during a particularly fucked up period of life. Mom and my stepdad had divorced. Mom went back to school, worked full time, was never home and eventually started sleeping at her boyfriend's. My brother and I just sort of existed. Mom came around once a day for a few minutes. She picked up and dropped off clothes and make up for herself. She brought groceries. Mostly frozen meals you heat in the microwave. So different from what we'd eaten before -- mom's such a good cook, I never knew that instant potatoes or boxed macaroni existed until I was an adult. But the frozen meals...

So I basically stopped eating. I'm not sure why, exactly, I stopped. I liked to lay in bed (I slept either in my room with my door locked, a loaded rifle by my bed, because I was deeply paranoid what with mom not being home especially at night, or I slept on the couch in the living room because I was too squirrelly to be up in my room) -- I would lay there unable to sleep for a variety of reasons and I liked looking back and thinking "today I ate a handful of potato chips. Yesterday I ate a banana and a bowl of cereal. The day before... a hamburger?" I liked that I ate in four days what I might've eaten in one day, if I was in a better space.

It wasn't about weight. I didn't have much of a concept of my own size or the desire to change my body. I liked thinking "I'm not taking care of myself and there's no one around to notice." I liked to wonder how long it would take anyone to realize I wasn't eating. I liked to imagine how people in my life would feel if they knew how poorly I was taking care of myself. It was all part of this self-pitying mind-fuck I enjoyed indulging in. I was really depressed. I was a prime candidate for that obnoxious teenage girl modality: cutting on myself, suicidal ideation made public in bad poetry and cries for help, drug and alcohol abuse.

Fortunately I didn't fall down that well. Instead, I just stopped eating for awhile. Then I started again. Slowly. Mom eventually broke up with that boyfriend. She finished school, got a different job. We moved to a better apartment. Things improved incrementally until I finally went off to college and things have basically gotten more and more better ever since.

thoughts on belonging

An email from a friend has me thinking about belonging.

What does it mean culturally to belong? For me, belonging is meaningful on two levels, in the microcosm and macrocosm. Family and society. Do I belong? No. I don't think I belong.

I stopped belonging in the microcosm when my parents split. I have my own developmental theory that may not be supported by science. We'll see. My parents split when I was almost 3 and a half. I became a shuttle, bouncing independently between them. Otherwise, at that age, I think I would've continued to think of myself as a part of a unit, an inseperable part of a three-person-family. I would have belonged to that. Instead, I became, perhaps prematurely, aware of myself as a separate individual, moving between two other individuals. Then stepparents entered the picture on both sides. I lived in homes with foreign, somewhat hostile forces. My existence reminded them of a forgone era in their new partner's lives. I was the holdout, the insurgent, in newly occupied territory. I did not, so much, belong, even in the home where I lived.

I never had the chance to belong in the macrocosm for two reasons. First, the South is a strange place. Living with my mom and stepdad, we moved around a lot. We did not belong, intimately, to any southern community. Therefore, we were outsiders in every southern community. Add further distinguishing factors: mom grew up in Miami and didn't have a true southern accent. Neither did I. Ironically, as we moved incrementally further north (from Georgia to South Carolina to North Carolina, I was called a Yankee by my new classmates b/c I didn't have their accent. At that point I'd never even visited anywhere further north than Virginia and I certainly wasn't technically a Yankee, but I *was* the thing they were accusing me of being: foreign to them.

In addition, my mom and stepdad became Mormons. In the South, Mormons are few and far between and it's considered a cult, not a legitimate religion. Instead of settling into some Methodist or Baptist church and in that way ingratiating ourselves to whichever community we were living in, we were Mormons and we were that much more foreign and removed from belonging.

I no more belonged when visiting my dad's than I belonged while living at my mom's. My lack of accent made me suspect there too. And the people I met had the sense that I lived in a big city, not a rural area like their own. I was novel and strange and I infrequently appeared. Some of my cousins thought I was a snob b/c my visits were treated as special occasions by some in the family. I was welcomed like a space alien or a foreign exchange student. I did not belong.

Then I discovered I was queer. That was certainly the final nail in the coffin of my belonging. In the South, I talk funny, I look funny, I fuck funny, I do not belong. I am 31. I am better educated than almost everyone in my family. I don't have or want a husband or kids. I am as foriegn as I could ever be. In a year, I will be a lawyer. I might as well move to Pluto as far as my family is concerned. A lawyer? As far from my family as British royalty. My dad works in a factory and makes about eleven dollars and hour. I'm going to be a lawyer.

At 26 I moved to Portland. A liberal utopia where I don't look or sound or fuck so funny. I work in mental health, something I've done for about 8 years total now. I go to law school, which I love. In superficial ways, I belong in these places. I feel comfortable with homeless crazy people, with law students, in the bars of the scraggly portlanders.

But the longing to belong, the myth of belonging, the deep sense my friend's email alludes to... I can't even fathom that. I feel best in motion on some level. Maybe because I never belonged anywhere, I've lost the capacity or desire to belong. Maybe that speaks to my inability to sink deep and remain in relationships. Maybe that's why I never ultimately feel at home with another person and why I bail after a year or so. Maybe that's why I run, instead, from woman to woman, friend to friend, scraping off the icing of the relationship without bothering to touch the cake underneath.

To belong. I feel suffocated just imagining it.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

i am the bachelor

Tonight my friend Dreadlock canceled plans to get a beer after my last class, so I found myself at 8:00 driving toward K's with nothing to do. If I had a home of my own, I would relish the thought of a nice evening alone. I would've gone home and cooked because I was hungry, maybe put on a movie or played my guitar. Maybe drawn a bath and read a book.

Instead I stopped at Taco Bell and ordered two cruncy tacos with beans and no meat and one carmel apple empanada. I parked under a street light and ate in my car, too embarassed to take such junky food back to K's uber-healthy household, and also relishing some aspect of the depravity I sense in the act of hiding out in my car eating bad food. Almost a self-pity trip: look at me, poor homeless me. I mean, self-pity has it's place.

I sat there eating my tacos staring out at the blinking sign of one of Interstate's several seedy motels. I thought about my parents' divorce from a purely practical standpoint. I remember going to visit my dad in the apartment he moved into right after my mom left him. By "left" I guess I mean "kicked him out," because I remember that mom and I stayed in the house. So I wondered, as I ate my taco, how could mom afford to pay the rent after she kicked daddy out? (By the way, it is perfectly appropriate in the south to continue to say "daddy" instead of "dad" well into adulthood. So don't go thinking I've got some infantile complex or that I'm using "daddy" as some kind of pejorative.) Did he continue to pay the rent? Mom was working at McDonald's, but where was *he* working? I can't remember.

Did they wonder and worry about each other during that liminal time between being together and being completely, officially apart? Did mom think of him in his apartment all alone? Did she worry he would shoot himself again, this time with real bullets? Did she wonder what he was eating and if he was sleeping ok? What I'm wondering, I guess, is did she feel guilty at all for leaving? For being strong and taking care of herself? Because I feel guilty for leaving. (Daddy and CB both, to be technical about it.) I think about her and worry and wonder. Not as much as I used to, but still.

I sat in my car eating my tacos and wondered what she would think of me, sitting there eating tacos. If she would feel sad for me. If she would want to bring me inside and make me a meal. And now I'm just indulging in utter fantasy, because she did not mother me in that way. I felt more inclined to mother, though neither of us were equipped to receive that kind of attention gracefully. I actually wondered if she would roll her eyes and judge me for eating fast food in my car. Then I stopped thinking about it.

word of the day

You know who you are.


One entry found for Luddite.
Main Entry: Ludd·ite
Pronunciation: 'l&-"dIt
Function: noun
Etymology: perhaps from Ned Ludd, 18th century Leicestershire workman who destroyed machinery
: one of a group of early 19th century English workmen destroying laborsaving machinery as a protest; broadly : one who is opposed to especially technological change
- Luddite adjective

the risk and the rejection

Just some thoughts on risk, reaching out, rejection:

I was sort of propositioned by a friend last night -- a friend I dated briefly a few years ago, a friend I've had limited experience making out with, a friend I'm in contact with again after a long absence. We'll call her Blue (which has no significance at all, so don't y'all be trying to guess who she is.) Anyway, we've both been commiserating recently about our relationship difficulties, our lack of intimacy, our crushes, etc. And last night she sent a very sweet, daring email to ask if I'd be interested in possibly reopening the physical aspect of our friendship that hasn't been active since 2003. My answer was no.

First I have to say I'm relieved at this point to realize I'm capable of saying no. I have worried that my boundaries are so poor that I would make out with pretty much anyone who came down the pike. Thank god that's not the case. But just barely. Case in point: I felt when I saw her today after reading the email last night a sort of hypnotic desire to please by being more open, more available to her, simply b/c I know she'd like it. But I wouldn't like it. This ambiguity of desire strikes me as a little disturbing. That my desire can be so easilly influenced by someone else's.

So I started thinking about Mog and our last interaction. It was before the official Mog dump email. It was the pre-dump, the last night we hung out. She was so sweet the whole time she was preparing me for the inevitable dump. She drew me close, nestled against me, invited me to stay the night. I took all this at what I considered to be face value (ie: she was being intimate b/c she felt intimate). But what if she was only being so intimate with me b/c she sensed it's what I wanted? What if she wasn't able to be firm against the pull to please?

It's complicated. It ruins spontenaity. It breeds self-doubt and confusion. At what point is it appropriate to take the risk? To ask or to act. I sat on the couch Monday night with SK content to let that one inch vibrate between us. That was good. I was happy to leave, still humming from it. To go to sleep still humming. To wake still humming. But when to close the gap? If ever. And what if it turns out that closing the gap is unwanted? Inappropriate. Offensive. To accept rejection of affection as another part of the experience. An honest mistake, to misread signals, a small pain that pulses and lets you know you're alive. Another challenge of relating.

intellectual freedom; single vs. partnered

I had drinks with my best WASP friend last night (who I will call Waspy for the purposes of this blog and who will probably read this later and give me a hard time about it, but so what). Waspy has been married to the same man for about ten thousand years and can't remember a time when being single and free seemed like a good idea. She was an extremely supportive resource when I was "married" and struggling, but now that I've jumped ship she's not sure what to do with me. (In all fairness, she's still extremely supportive, however her frame of reference is more along the lines of "how-do-we-stick-it-out-and-make-it-work" rather than the "better-luck-next-time-see-ya" approach that I've taken.)

So, last night we were having drinks and I was telling her about my most recent C.B. conversations and my realization that I'm done regardless. I felt like a bullshitter as I started explaining my reasons for being done even "if she's better," which is debatable, anyway. My bullshit sounding reasons? 1.) After what we went through together during her bender, I feel traumatized. I don't even want to go back in the house. I don't trust her. Waspy raised an eyebrow. "Yeah, but bad things happen in all relationships. You just figure out a way to work it out and move on."

Ok. Reason 2.) I found when I was relating with C.B. that I'm really bad at advocating for myself in relationships, I tend to roll over and accept the other person's will to the exclusion of my own will and interests. "Yes, BUT", counters Waspy, "if you're not in relationships you won't be challenged to grow and learn to assert your own will and interests. And if you leave, you'll lose the things you learned in your relationship due to lack of exposure." Hmm.

Ok. Reason 3.) Intellectual freedom. She actually furrowed her brow at that one. So I tried to explain that I give all my time and energy (whatever is left after school sucks me dry) to my relationship, leaving nothing for the other things in life I feel passionate about: like reading literature and writing. My decision to step away from my primary relationship was accompanied by a decision to rededicate my life to writing, which I have done and loved almost all my life. I got my first journal when I was nine, for christ's sake! I've written, almost daily, since then. Look at this blog! Daily and voluminous are the writings, whether they're quality or not. This wasn't possible when I was in relationship.

I think our debate ended here. Not sure if Waspy conceded or if we just changed the subject. But this is something I've been thinking about a lot and would like to reflect on in more depth. Is it possible to passionately pursue your own rich, inner life while maintaining a primary relationship? I try to think about artistic, creative couples who pull it off. Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, both successful artists, Joan Didion and her late husband, both writers who lived and wrote together, from their home. Would that feel lovely or stifling to me? I don't know.

Any thoughts from the lurking gallery? I'm curious.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

the little internship that could

Today I met for the first time with the attorney I've been paired with for this semester's clinical internship in disability law. We met in her apartment, which is where she currently runs her solo Social Security appeal practice. She looks like a big old dyke and she cusses like a sailor so, naturally, I love her. She spent a little too much time engaging with her two cockatiels, but I got used to it. ("Feathers in the coffee add flavor," she said, smiling, as I watched a tiny piece of fluff drift toward my mug. The bird sat on her shoulder and preened itself while it's mate sulked in the other room.)

I left after two hours with a stack of books and notebooks about a foot high. I have a lot of catching up to do, a lot of law to learn, before I'll be ready to actually do any work. And the work she describes sounds perfect. Her practice is limited to disability appeals. She's one of two attorneys in the whole state who focus solely on appeals and she told me, not boastfully, that she's quickly becoming known as an expert. I don't think I could be paired with a better attorney, given that she's doing exactly what I want to be doing after I graduate.

In addition to loving her and loving what she does, I also learned some practical tidbits about my employment prospects post-graduation that I found, personally, thrilling. For instance, with the experience I'll gain working for her, I will qualify for an Americorps placement, which will make me eligible for loan repayment. (Aka: they pay a chunk of my student loans off for me.) I will also be qualified to work for Oregon's Legal Aid which pays pretty crappy until you consider that when you work for Legal Aid your loans go into deferrment. Suddenly $30,000 a year doesn't look so bad if I'm not expected to pay about $10,000 of that to the student loan company. Legal Aid also pays for your bar exam (those run about $500) and they'll pay for two if you don't pass the first time. Then, they pay your bar membership dues and probably your malpractice insurance too, though I'm not sure about that.

It sounded too good to be true. I said, "Ok, sure, but who says legal aid will hire me?" She said, "With all your years working in mental health, plus the exprience you'll get doing appeals with me this semester, you'll be head and shoulders above any other applicant." Sounds great to me. :-) So, Legal Aid here I come! A life as a lawyer that I can feel good about! Perfect.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

maybe i'm a sociopath

Tonight I was thinking about things from C.B.'s perspective, which can be dangerous. It's a giant mind-fuck and if I engage in it too long I end up feeling guilty and awful.

She sobered up. She got a job. She's waiting for me to come home. I *married* her, for christ's sake, for whatever that's worth considering it wasn't legal. But I meant it when I did it. I wanted to be with her, I was committed to being in a partnership, to the house and the life and the whole thing. And I just completely jumped tracks. And it's more than just her drinking. Her drinking was the catalyst, but if the drinking problem was solved, really solved for once and for all, would I go back? No. That's basically what I said on the phone tonight. I said, in better words, I'm done, I don't care what you're doing, how you're changing, none of it matters because I'm done.

And deeper, the subtext (that I feel) is: I was never the person you thought I was, I never meant any of it, I was a wolf in sheep's clothing, I've been waiting to leave you from the moment I met you. This is the baggage I bring to relationship. This is the reason the counselor I saw at the end of November said "Until I see you again, I want you to reflect on your patterns in relationship and why you feel you always fuck them up." Maybe she didn't say "fuck" but I'm paraphrasing. What is wrong with me?

Compartmentalization. It's such a blessing, the ability to cordon off different parts of your life. To leave work at work and school at school, etc. I'm great at compartmentalization. I'm the master. It helps me study the complicated, substantive law of four different, difficult subjects and take four different exams without feeling completely overwhelmed and confused. It allowed me to cry on the phone with C.B. today then hang up, blow my nose, and go to class. It allows me to function.

But... I don't know... am I too good at it? Is it pathological? Have compartmentalized C.B., filed her away and closed the drawer? Do I do that in all partnerships? Isn't it troubling that I'm 31 and have been in five (count em, FIVE) live-in relationships? Maybe it's not the compartmentalizing, maybe I'm just an emotional parasite? Maybe I don't really care about other people, maybe I just use them, cleverly manipulate them to meet my emotional needs then drop them and move on without a second thought? Fuck.

Or maybe I never really, truly share myself? Maybe I never really engage my deepest self in relationship, so it is easy to walk away. I sit with a computer in my lap seeming to pour my most intimate thoughts and feelings out into this public forum where not just strangers but people I know and care about will be able to read these things and think they know me. But really, I am just a person alone in a room with a computer. If you read this you're looking into my most intimate spaces through some kind of plexiglass window. You're not in there. Has anyone else ever been in there? Is it even possible for other people to get in there?

I have no idea. I think I need to make a follow up appointment with that counselor, maybe she knows.

another good word of the day

Thanks again to S.K. for this one -- as observed, sitting on the tables amongst the stars on the Golden Globes last night.


One entry found for jeroboam.
Main Entry: jer·o·bo·am
Pronunciation: "jer-&-'bO-&m
Function: noun
Etymology: Jeroboam I died ab 912 B.C. king of the northern kingdom of Israel
: an oversize wine bottle holding about three liters

Who knew there was a name for big wine bottles (or champagne, as the case may be...)?

the most difficult conversation yet

I called C.B. today and left a message. She returned my call about an hour ago. She sounded great. She sounded better than she's sounded since I met her. She's got a job, she's working a lot, she hasn't had a drink since December. Which made it that much more difficult to say "Yes, I really am done with our relationship." We were both crying when we got off the phone. I love her so much, but I don't want to be with her. And that's all there is to it. I'm sure I'll be reflecting on this a lot more soon... for now, class is starting...

yay supreme court!

Today the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Oregon's embattled Death With Dignity Act which, for those of you who don't know, allows for physician assisted suicide in this fine state of mine. This is a good, good decision. Maybe the last good decision they'll make before O'Connor is finally replaced by Alito. It'll all be downhill from there.

(In all fairness, it was a 6-3 spread. So even if Alito had been on the court, it wouldn't have mattered. John Roberts dissented. Fucker. I had such high hopes for him...)

mog rears her head

But will I smack it down like a whack-a-mole??

Ok, I must admit, I opened the door through which Mog's head is now peeking. So I can't fully Mog-bash. After my conversation with Big A I decided to give Mog one last chance. I don't believe in condemning someone based on someone else's opinion of them. I'd prefer to give a person the benefit of the doubt and then let her fuck up all on her own, if she's going to. So I wrote her an email and asked her to meet me for a drink on Friday. Just now I heard back: can't do it Friday. Maybe next week. So after a little more back and forth we're settled on Monday night at 8. We'll see. I'm not holding my breath. And meanwhile, I've got my own rich social life flourishing without Mog, so my investment is minimal.

For instance, I spent four hours watching the Golden Globes last night with S.K., who will read this later, so I have to be tight-lipped and coy about the whole thing. She made me soup. I was in the exact right frame of mind to have soup made for me, so it was perfect. Not to mention the soup was good and homemade. Yum. And we sat an excrutiating inch apart for the entire night. Excrutiatingly perfect. And that's all I'm saying.

Then I woke up this morning to a voice message from C.B. She actually sounded good. Relatively good, at least. I guess I'll call her today. If I can drag myself out of this bed which is very warm and cozy and equipped with wireless access. Really there's almost no reason to ever leave this bed at all... except, when it comes right down to it, I need coffee and food and a shower, in that order. And those things cannot be found in this bed. So, off I go...

Monday, January 16, 2006

much needed word of the day

Thanks to S.K. -- not crestfallen, I am now crestaplomb. Who knew?


One entry found for aplomb.
Main Entry: aplomb
Pronunciation: &-'pläm, -'pl&m
Function: noun
Etymology: French, literally, perpendicularity, from Middle French, from a plomb, literally, according to the plummet
: complete and confident composure or self-assurance : POISE
synonym see CONFIDENCE

As always, credit to Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary from which this definition was cut and pasted.

the briefest of mog updates

I had a little chat with Big A last night, hoping to get some insight into Mog's mysterious brain. Not much luck. After exchanging stories on "what went down" (ie: the Mog-dump) no new light had been shed. Big A could only roll her eyes and say that Mog is really neurotic and also pretty depressed lately. I floated my only idea for reconciliation, the best policy in most situations: honesty. I said "I want to just call her and tell her that I care about her and that I want to stay in her life in some way." Big A said, "No. Absolutely not. You can't be honest with her, it will stress her out." Honesty will stress her out?

So this is where I draw the line with Mog. If you can't handle honesty, you are not worth the trouble of lying to. Sorry Mog.

the briefest of updates

No Mog. No C.B. So it's a draw.

But an awesome night. That place was packed w/ cute women. And the show did not disappoint. Thank god for good conversations, beer buzzes and the butterflies of crushes. Life is good.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

so far such a good day

How it started: three hours of meditation at the Shambhala Center. How is it possible to remain engaged in such an intense activity for three solid hours?? I never intended to stay for the whole thing. I showed up at 9 and planned to leave after the first hour or so. And I could have. I could have slipped away during any of the walking sessions and no one would've noticed. Other people were, after all, coming and going throughout the session. I kept thinking each time I walked past the door "next time around, I'll leave." But each "next" time around, I found myself walking on, staying, not leaving. And I'm so glad I did. After two weeks with my family -- two weeks of wall to wall television, daily meat consumption, passive aggression from the much-hated stepmother, bad memories, etc -- I needed a good cleanse of some kind. I'm still feeling a little shell-shocked, but after this morning it's much more manageable.

After all that I met a friend for coffee. A friend who will very likely read this entry tomorrow from her cozy office in the building where we both work, so I can't divulge too much... Suffice it to say, good conversation and piercing eyes. Two Scorpions locked in. A very nice time.

And now looking forward to an evening at the dyke bar watching the L word (lesbian soap opera on cable for anyone who doesn't already know). Meeting some friends from school and wondering about two possibilities, one good, one bad. The bad possibility is that C.B. will show up. This dyke bar, after all, is historically her stomping ground and it would not surprise me if she turned up at some point. However, I know she's been laying low lately. Playing the hermit. And I know she recently had some bad experiences there, so it's equally likely that she won't go there again for awhile. We'll see.

The good possibility is that Mog will show up. Mog is good friends with Big A who will be there. I invited Big A with the knowledge that she might, in turn, invite Mog, but I in no way made this known. I was just aware of the possibility. I almost invited Mog myself, but I looked back at the Mog-dump email she sent me at the beginning of December and I felt a renewed annoyance with her. Stupid Mog. She's too neurotic. But she's oh-so-cute. A minor conundrum. Again, I'll just have to wait and see what happens.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

homeless equals restless

I'm back in my cold, attic room at K's, just like this time last month. Technically, even though it's really super cold up here, I *am* sleeping in a bed with a roof over my head, so I am not *really* homeless. I work with people who are *really* homeless, so I should know.

But for me, (Scorpio/Cancer, double crustacean, territorial hermit) "sleeping" somewhere isn't the same as "living" somewhere. I'm getting tired of "living" out of three bags piled on the floor, whiling away my hours in coffeeshops on free wireless, eating meals out because I don't really have a kitchen to cook in.

Meanwhile, I dread the task of packing and moving. I dread dismantling the home I shared with C.B., I dread disentangling "my" stuff from "her" stuff, especially regarding the stuff we've so long considered "ours."

I haven't seen her yet since I've been back. Her youngest son picked me up from the airport on Thursday in my car, which I'd let him use while I was gone. He's moving in with C.B. and he asked to be dropped at her house. She wasn't there when I pulled up. I risked it and ran in for a minute to grab my two-week's stack of mail. There was another of her notes in my room next to a pile of my books that she had removed from her bedroom. The note was nice, but I've learned not to trust her nice notes. I put it my pocket, regardless, and left quickly.

I need to call her, but I'm putting it off. The last few interactions have been so bad, I'm just not ready for another round. Instead, I wonder how she's doing but try not to imagine how she spends her time. It's too depressing. School will start up in two days and no longer will I have time to worry about anything but the day to day juggle of classes and homework. I think it will be a relief.

Friday, January 13, 2006

post-script concerning guns

I've noticed, looking back, that guns figure prominently in several of my recent posts. That's because I've been with my family and, for some reason, guns figure prominently with them. So, along that theme, I wanted to offer one little bizarre bit of info to top off my last mention of a gun (see paragraph six of "going faulkner"). That .22 caliber pistol my dad shot himself in the head with? I have it now.

When I was preparing to drive across the country in 2002, from Georgia to Portland, my dad was worried. He said "I've got a pistol I want to give you to keep under your seat in case anything happens." Most parents would be more worried about the loaded gun, but my dad's obviously not like most parents. He brought a gun out of his house one day and handed it to me: a funny looking, long-barreled, German pistol. A Ruger. He set up a can on the hill by his house and I took a few shots. I missed every time.

It wasn't until we were at my grandmother's later when I started to suspect that it was THE gun. We were in the room I use as a bedroom when I'm visiting. I was packing to leave and he was hanging out with me. He told me to go out in the hall to my dead grandfather's gun rack and look for a particular box of bullets on a little shelf. I found it and brought it into the room, looking it over. The box said "snake shot." He looked at it too and said "Oh, not these. These are snake shot. You need regular." He took it from me and went into the hall to find the bullets he'd meant. I stood there staring into the space where the box had just been. Snake shot. Exactly what he'd shot himself with. Probably the same box of bullets he'd used to load that exact same fucking gun 22 years earlier.

I just stored this info away in my little brain and later I called my mom and described the gun. She confirmed. It was the same gun. What a fucking lunatic. I don't think he even realizes that I know he shot himself. Frankly, I don't know how I came to know about it myself. I've just always known, I think from the time he did it. I was three. I remember when he came home from the hospital. I remember hiding with my cousin behind a couch, initially shy but then legitimately afraid of him, of his shaved head and his scalp which looked green. I remember knowing then what had happened. I don't remember ever being told.

So, now I have this gun, like some strange talisman. I don't feel like I can ever get rid of it.

going faulkner

Just a little background:

My family has occupied the same vast tract of land in North Georgia for over 100 years. My grandfather's grandfather acquired it. It starts at the top of a "mountain" and rolls down into Wolffork valley. Back in the day, my grandfather's grandfather had a wife on one side of the valley and a mistress on the other, and neither was the wiser. The mistress ended up my grandfather's grandmother. I'm happy to know my family line was the product of adultery. My grandfather's father, son of the mistress, somehow ended up with the land. After my grandfather was born, his father built a huge barn (circa 1914) and started a dairy. The dairy operated until the late 60's when it became unprofitable and my grandfather decided to close it down. The barn, gorgeous and gigantic, still looms over the landscape but no longer do cows or any other livestock call it home. Just the owls and the mice they prey on.

My grandfather married my grandmother after she'd divorced her first husband, a drunk. She had one son already, my Uncle Bill. It was the '30s and I think it was pretty unusual for a woman with a kid to divorce her husband and even more unusual for a man to marry her afterwards. My dad tried to explain to me the stigma she carried after all that. He told me it accounted for why she always had to dress so nice and carry herself so deliberately. He also said it accounted for why my grandfather was never made a deacon in his church. Stigma. Hard to imagine today.

They lived in a house by the barn, across the street from where my grandmother lives now. They had four more kids, two more boys and two girls. Then, one morning, their house burnt down. Last year my grandmother and I took a walk around the ruins of the old house which had been recently revealed when my Uncle Bill bush-hogged away all the growth that had been covering everything for years. She explained how the fire started and what they all did while I knelt down and picked through tiny piles of melted glass and twisted metal looking for something small enough to take as a keepsake. She said my grandfather had gotten up before the sun, as usual, to milk the cows. When he got up, he stoked the fire in the kitchen woodstove. My dad, who was about nine and had been sick with the flu, was sleeping on a cot in the kitchen near the stove to stay warm. Awhile after my grandfather left the house, my dad smelled smoke and woke up to the find the kitchen on fire. He ran and woke everybody up and they all got out. Within a half hour the house had burnt to the ground and they hadn't salvaged anything. All they had were the clothes on their backs. Turns out, the stove pipe had somehow come loose and fallen in, allowing flames to leap out of the stove and into the air, catching the wall behind it on fire. At least that's what I think my grandmother said. There was no time to do anything but stand there and watch the house burn down.

After that, they built a house across the street, where my grandmother now lives. The new house is a squatty, three-bedroom ranch built entirely of concrete blocks with a stucco exterior. This is a house that will never burn down. Time passed. They shut the dairy down. Vietnam came and my dad enlisted in the Airforce so he wouldn't get drafted into the Army. He was shipped off to Alaska to control air traffic. While he was gone, his two older brothers, Bill and Grover, concocted a plan to buy all the land on the barn side of the road from my grandfather and to split it between them. That land, of all my grandfather's land, was clearly the best for farming. Long flat stretches of pasture with soft, rolling hills, bordered by the Little Tennessee River on one side. The rest of the land, all on the other side of the road, ran up onto the mountain. It was steep and forested and only a small strip was good for a garden. None of it was good for pasture. When my dad came home from Alaska on a break he felt betrayed. He wanted to be a farmer, he wanted some of that land, he'd been cut out of the deal. This was, as far as I can tell, the event that has shaped his whole destiny. It set him up for a life of disappointment.

So he went back to Alaska, then ended up in Florida where he met my mom. Knowing his future of farming in Georgia was severely stunted without that land, he married my mom and, when he was done with the Airforce, he moved with her to Missouri. That didn't last long. They had fun, the winter they spent there was full of snow and sledding and romping and laughing. Mom went to Bible college and got a job as a cashier in a grocery store at union wages. My dad had dreams of becoming a rancher but couldn't find work on a ranch. According to mom, he just sat around all day, bummed out because he couldn't get steady work. Then she got knocked up and my dad decided, against mom's better judgment, to move back to Georgia to live with my grandparents. That was the beginning of the end of their marriage.

I was born. I cried all the time. Mom found herself, 20 years old with a colicky baby living in a single-wide trailer on the top of a red dirt hill in Georgia with no car and no job and no way out. She was completely miserable. She'd grown up in a suburb of Miami, hating her mother and loving horses. She married my dad to get out of her mother's house and to get one step closer to horses, to the bucolic sort of life she'd fantasized about from her stuffy suburban neighborhood. The reality did not match the fantasy. She wished they'd stayed in Missouri. For some reason my dad agreed to move off that red dirt hill (the plot of land, next door to my grandparents new block-house, that had been assigned as his) and to a nearby town. Mom worked at McDonalds and daddy had a succession of jobs which laid him off. After a couple of years mom decided to divorce him. His response was to load a .22 caliber pistol with snake shot and shoot himself in the temple. A .22 caliber pistol is weak and snake shot (dozens of tiny metal pellets packed into a small bullet) is even weaker. Questions lingered: did he really mean to kill himself or was he just trying to make mom feel guilty and stay? I believe the latter. His story? The gun went off while he was cleaning it. There is no one in my family who believes that version. I guess, at this point, it goes without saying that it didn't kill him. Instead he was left with a few tiny metal pellets dispersed through part of his brain like grapes in a jello mold. The doctors told him he had an increased risk of seizures, but after 27 sum years there haven't been any seizures so I guess he's probably ok.

Losing custody of me was the next awful thing that happened to him, in the story about himself that he tells himself. It was the event that cemented the hard luck that was simply suggested by the underhanded deal between his brothers that locked him out of the good land. After that, for my dad, it has been all down hill. He married a colossal bitch and had twins with medical problems. Isaac was born with his heart backwards and was sick all 20 years of his short life. His childhood was spent in and out of Egelston Children's Hospital in Atlanta, multiple surgeries, pacemakers, check-ups, weekly health crises, special education, evolving dilemmas, a heart transplant, surprise lymphoma and, finally, death. Alex, the other twin, was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes when he was five. And, of course, there's me.

He wanted me to live with him so badly. He used every weapon of guilt in his arsenal to convince me to tell my mom that I wanted to live with him, not her. But I was stubborn. I resisted. I got further and further away. Now I live 3300 miles away from him and if he pushes me anymore I'm afraid I'll fall off the continent. I could live in Europe. I could live in Asia. I could get further, old man. I could get further. In a few years maybe I could move to the moon.

Now my dad lives in a house on his red dirt hill that he ended up building in 1983. He and my stepmother and my brother Alex have their little triumverate of something up there on that hill. They watch a lot of t.v. and bicker a lot. Alex is 25 now and just got a bachelor's in history. He's smart and needs to get the fuck out of that house, it's like a giant coffin they'll all be buried in one of these days. Dark and dreary and oppressive. I hate that house as much as (as an extension of) my stepmother. My grandmother asked the other day what I would do if/when I inherit that house. I told her I would burn it to the ground. And I would.

every time is like the last

Home at last, safe in my litte coffeeshop on Alberta (which is as close to home as I have right now as I'm currently homeless, looking on Craigslist in a few minutes for an affordable studio that allows dogs...) I've missed this place.

Georgia is, thankfully, receding into the background like a disturbing dream. Here are the highlights/lowlights:

1.) My brother, who accompanied my dad to Atlanta to pick me up, insisted on stopping at the Barnes and Noble at the ginormous Mall of Georgia to buy me a book for x-mas, which was very sweet. I immediately grabbed "The Year of Magical Thinking" by Joan Didion, which I've been desperate to read ever since I discovered it in the New York Times Book Review a couple months ago. I read the whole, relatively short book in two evenings, and it was great and not nearly as depressing as I expected. The book chronicles the details of Didion's experience during and after the sudden, unexpected death of her husband of 40 years. I wanted to read it because, after my experience of my brother's death four years ago, I find myself extremely interested in how other people respond to the death of loved ones. Also, having just left my partner, I was curious to explore loss from a different perspective. The irony: I read the whole book in two nights sitting in a recliner in my dad's living room which is parked in the exact location where my brother died four years ago. During the last week of his life, when he was very sick and could no longer climb the stairs to the room he had shared from birth with his twin, my dad put a hospital style bed in the living room, and that is where he died. December 2nd, 2001, 6 am.

2.) My favorite aunt and uncle plus cousins came up to my grandmother's to visit while I was there. My uncle has a new, fancy camera w/ tripod and we all walked over to my dead grandfather's ancient, gigantic barn across the street so he could set his camera up for long exposures down the dark, musty hallways for shots he hoped would impress his little photography club. While he fiddled with the camera, my aunt and I explored. This barn has been a source of exploration for as long as I can remember, and I never expect to find anything new, but this time I did: Between the silos, underneath the hidden spot where owls live, we found heaps of owl refuse, full of tiny little mouse skeletons. Given my obsession with skulls, I tried to salvage at least one little mouse-skull (complete w/ one long pair of yellow front teeth) but they were too fragile and papery, they cracked and crumbled in my hands. So, no tiny mouse skulls for me...

3.) My dad is building a room onto his house. He and my stepmother have salvaged a load of hundred-year-old brick from her grandfather's old house. They've only moved a third of it, a huge stack of filthy bricks that must be cleaned before they can be laid in the room. (The bricks will go under and behind a giant, wood-burning cookstove which is sitting in another old, dilapidated family house, waiting itself to be salvaged.) I hate my stepmother. I have hated her since I was a kid and I'm pretty sure the feeling is mutual. I have never hated anyone as much as I hate my stepmother, I don't think it would even be possible at this point for me to hate someone so much. I found myself, after some alpha-female jockeying for position, sitting across from her with a pile of filthy bricks between us, scraping off old concrete and dirt with the claw-end of a hammer, holding the bricks, holding the hammer, thinking "I could swing this brick at your temple and crack your skull open, I could swing this hammer just the same." It disturbs me to know I could kill my stepmother with my bare hands, brutally. It would be a crime of passion and if the jury knew her they'd never convict me. They'd give me a medal and stage a parade in my honor and name a town holiday after me. They'd call me the dragon slayer.

4.) My grandmother is awesome and aggravating. The last night I was in town, I sat down in her living room with my laptop and headphones so that I could make a c.d. for my dad and brother while she watched t.v. next to me. She was deeply curious about the computer. She was like a little monkey who had stumbled across something foreign and shiny in the jungle. She asked a million questions. She especially wanted to know about the internet. "What is e-mail? You can do email on that thing? How do you talk to people on there? How do you find them?" She knows my cousin Alisha met the man she ended up marrying online. She's mystified by it. So, I endeavored to explain the internet to her. I felt like a time traveler or a space alien trying to explain some baffling mystery of the universe. I kept having to back further and further up to accommodate her absolute lack of knowledge. It was, in many ways, a dramatic role reversal. She had become the child and I was the wisdom-holder. After my terrible explanation of the internet, I gave her a little tour of some of my computer's programs. I couldn't get online from her house, so I couldn't show her the internet itself, but I opened a few programs and she was amazed (it plays music! movies! it has a calendar! it writes letters! it's a miracle!)

The best of all, the highlight of all highlights: I decided after a long internal debate to play something very personal for her that I knew she would really appreciate. But this requires some backstory: sometime during my x-mas era housesitting gig, alone in the house, after exams, I had a lot of time to myself, a lot of time to kill. One of the little projects I took up was learning how to use the Garageband program on my mac. Garageband lets you record and mix music tracks and make c.d.s -- it is, basically, a music studio. So, I sat down with my guitar and what passes for my voice and I fumbled my way through the program, managing to record and mix a rudimentary version of the song "You Belong to Me." (Think Patsy Cline: "See the pyraminds along the Nile/watch the sunset from a tropic isle/just remember when you're gone awhile/you belong to me.") It was all much more tedious and time-consuming than I would've guessed and by the time I was done I was totally annoyed with the whole thing. But, sitting at my grandmother's, I knew it would make her really happy to hear it. So, first I explained what it was, how the program worked, how I made it, etc. Then I sat the computer in her lap so she could hear it better, and I pressed play. I watched with apprehension as the program sprang to life and soon my jangly guitar and shaky voice were warbling out of the little speakers. My grandmother was thrilled beyond belief. She made me play it two more times for her and wanted to know if I could somehow make her a copy that she could have and listen to whenever she wanted. She spent the next half an hour beside herself, I have no idea why. She said over and over "We never see the real you, you always hide yourself. I know it. But on there (she pointed at the computer) you just open up and let yourself go." It meant a lot to her. That's the point. Sharing it with her felt weird, but I'm glad I did it. And now, if it turns out this was my last visit with her (she's 87, after all, and can't live forever) at least we had this last bonding moment, hovering over my computer, listening to a great, if poorly rendered, song.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

snapping back to life

Wow. A week is a long time. I'm currently sitting in Terminal A at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International airport where they charge a lot of money for wireless, but it's worth every penny since I'm killing two hours and I've been without internet for so long. Evidently, they're charging for internet in order to pay for the mechanical, trash-compacting garbage cans all over the place that look like robo-cop and sound like a dump truck every time somebody throws in a Starbucks cup. The kids seem to love them.

Anyway, I feel about as brain dead as I could feel after two weeks of family and terrible food. I mean, the food is tasty, but it's food I would never in a million years choose to eat in my normal life. Meat at every meal, white-flour, grease, everything fried, vegetables boiled unrecognizable. Wow. How do they stay alive so long? I guess Portland has made me a snob in more ways than one.

It'll take a few days to shake the South off me. First of all, I have to re-lose the accent. It's like slipping into an entirely different state of mind: I come down here and I become a different person, and the accent hits first. It's like all the muscles in my mouth relax and sounds come from a different place. This doesn't happen in Florida, only in Georgia with my dad's family. And it's not just the *way* I say things, it's the things I say. All the idioms and figures of speech, the dipthongs and tripthongs and all the extra words that get put in just to make a simple point. I feel like I need to drink a mouth full of something tart to tighten everything back up again, so I can crisply articulate words without rounding them all off at the edges.

I had this idea that I would write blog notes in my word processor all through my trip and then just paste them into the blog when I could, but it felt inorganic, so I dropped it. There's something about the immediacy of the way I've been doing it that works better. Not sure why. And while I'm addressing the medium, I want to say how excited I am to see comments on the blog. It thrills my little heart. Granted, at least half are from some guy advertising his horoscope website, but whatever. The rest are legit and that's pretty exciting.

Now, off to catch up on email in my last hour in the airport. And I'll write more as soon as my brain settles a bit.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

homeland security

I was born in a small town in north Georgia called Toccoa. Rural, poor, ridiculous. I have no idea what industry is there. My mom's parents moved there from Miami after I was born to be near their youngest daughter and her new baby. My grandfather got a job as a security guard in a textile mill, a thread-factory, in fact. The factory where he worked (a company called Coats and Clark) made the kind of colored thread that girls make friendship bracelets out of. Embroidery thread. So, I guess I'm from Toccoa, Georgia, home of embroidery thread. Home of friendship bracelets.

Now I am in Atlanta, at a yuppie bar with wireless internet, bidding my e-farewells before I head up to north Georgia tomorrow to visit my dad's family. I have been living out of the south for a while now and I could tell myself a story about myself -- the small town girl comes back a city-slicker, prodigal daughter... something. But it would be bullshit. Nobody would believe it and nobody would care anyway. The waitresses are watching me, waiting for me to order something besides coffee, thinking I'll be a shitty tipper. That's ok.

I have to go -- I'm two blocks away from the designating meeting place and I left my cell phone at my friend's by accident. I can't call to tell her I had to walk to a bar to find wireless. Instead, I have to migrate back to the coffeeshop where I started out and wait. She could be there any minute.

I won't be back online till I get back to Portland next Thursday. I'll miss writing.


Atlanta, Georgia. My friend, D.L., picked me up from the airport at noon and we went to lunch. D.L. and I were in undergrad together in North Carolina in the 90’s and it is my good fortune that she has chosen to settle in Atlanta, where I'm able to see her when I fly down to visit family.

We ate fabulous turkey burgers and then found a bar and had a couple of early afternoon beers. D.L. just got an incredible new job as the Executive Director of a PAC in Georgia -- something to do with Civil Liberties or Civil Rights. Something good. We laughed over beers about how, suddenly, we’re grown-ups. I’m still in school and thereby get to extend my adolescence a little longer, but because it’s *law* school, I get extra grown-up points. D.L. is really there, though. One-hundred percent grown up, at least job-wise. In fact, as we speak, she’s at a fancy cocktail party shmoozing with legislators. All part of the new job, which is to raise money for the PAC. Amazing.

After our beers we went back to her house for a “power nap” which did not involve sleeping. We lay side by side in her bed and watched VH-1’s “Top 100 Hottest Hotties” Countdown and talked about which celebrities we might like to fuck, etc. After about an hour, the alarm blared and D.L. popped out of bed and disappeared. She left the room in a t-shirt and pajama bottoms, with disheveled hair and sleepy eyes. She could’ve been the 18 year old I first met in ‘93. But, when she emerged from the bathroom a few minutes later in a hot little skirt-suit and heels, the sleepy undergrad was gone, replaced by an ultra-sexy, Fortune 500 CEO. I could hardly stand to look at her she was so powerfully gorgeous.

I stumbled over my compliments and she told me to stop making fun of her. I was babbling, I guess. Stunned the opposite of speechless. Stunned inarticulate. I decided to shut up and just appreciate her. My friend. So awesome.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

the essence of florida

I'm sitting in mom's "office" trying to make the most of my last guaranteed moments of high-speed internet for the next week. But I can't concentrate. Why? The television is blasting. Blasting. Mom's calling me. My last night at mom's and I'm sitting at the computer...

Back to the living room, in front of the t.v., with mom. Maybe I'll write from the peace and quiet of the airport tomorrow. Ciao.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


Tomorrow we drive my brother to the airport in Orlando. I'm sad that he's leaving. Then, Thursday, I'll leave too. This trip is passing fast.

My grandmother is sick. She doesn't look like herself anymore. Her cheeks are hollow and her eyes are sunken into her head. No more plump and smiling, her skin just hangs on her frame. She sits in her adjustable chair, under a blanket, with an oxygen tube strung under her nose. She's like a bookend to my dad's father who went out in a similar fashion in '98. Mom's mom. Dad's dad. Confusing, I know.

My mom's dad, the one still alive, takes such good care of her. They were sweethearts when they were 16, they met at church when they were living in Richmond, Virginia and they've been together ever since. They bicker still and she rolls her eyes at him, but he'd do anything for her and when I watch them it makes me want to cry. He tends to her every need better than any nurse, gentle and tender. Tomorrow he will help her wash her hair. He cooks, he cleans. Despite his gun fetish and the holster on his hip he's the kindest man I know.

Hard to write about without sounding overly sentimental. They're two sweet, old people sort of stumbling into the sunset together. It's quite beautiful, really, and any tears are tears of a subdued sort of joy. All of life is lovely in it's own, sweet way.

Monday, January 02, 2006

the birds in mom's backyard

Today while I was in the backyard reading, mom came out with the dog. Buddy. After a few minutes, mom said to Buddy, in a voice calibrated to cause excitement, "Buddy, do you wanna see the birds?" And Buddy started jumping and wagging and then, as if on cue, an enormous hawk wheeled across the sky and Buddy looked up at it and got even more excited.

Mom wasn't talking about that hawk, though, she was talking about the birds that hang out in the retention canal. She walked across the yard and stood gingerly on the edge and Buddy and I followed.

The canal itself is deep, but only a few inches of water stand in the bottom. Still and murky, but full of life. Ducks, ibises, herons, egrets and cranes were all in there when we peered over the edge. Amazing, the ecosystem in mom's backyard. Besides the ducks, all these long-legged water birds look positively prehistoric. You can see dinosaurs in their peircing eyes and their crook'd beaks. Incredible.

Cool enough even to amaze the dog.

sounds of insects

I've been sitting in the sun outside reading a sci-fi book called the Golden Compass. It's the first in a trilogy. My friend in Brooklyn sent them to me for Christmas, which was really sweet.

So, I've been sitting out in mom's backyard in a green, plastic chair, reading and hoping the sun will coax some color back into my cheeks which have gone sickly pale over the fall. If Florida is good for anything, it's good for a jolt to the tan in the middle of winter.

I sit out there and close my eyes and I am completely dislocated. There are dry, reedy sounding crickets, some on the ground, some in the trees. The sound comes from above and below -- long and uninterrupted, or staccato and rhythmic. So familiar, the only thing I miss from the South, the sounds. And these are just the winter sounds in Florida, a one percent share of the total. In summer? Cicadas, tree frogs, bullfrogs, a million different crickets, a million different birds. It was a constant, throbbing sound that I never thought would leave my head. As a child, I would lay in bed at night and ride those sounds and wonder if they really did come from the woods around my house or whether they were actually coming out of my body, from somewhere deep between my ears.

Now, sitting at mom's, it's hot out, humid, there's a breeze, the crickets are singing. This could be any time of my life before I left the South. I close my eyes and I don't know when or where I am. Am I twelve again, at the house in North Carolina? Am I nine, at my Dad's for the summer? Am I five, in the apartments in South Carolina? Am I in high-school? It feels the same, that visceral flash, like a time-tunnel, I'm sucked back in.

It is pleasant and disorienting. I am glad to live so far away, in an entirely new climate and geography, so that these moments are like vacations within vacations. Enjoyable because temporary. Living down here again, I'm afraid I would be bound to this permanent dislocation, paralyzed and suffocated by it.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

blowing things up

Fireworks are legal in Florida. Last night, my brother and I stood in mom's backyard, dangerously close to the retention canal, drinking Absolut Vanilla and Diet Doctor Thunder, turning and turning to look at the fireworks in all directions. Dizzying. By the end, the air was thick with sulphurous smoke and the wildlife was sufficiently traumatized. Happy New Year.