Tuesday, October 31, 2006

rockin' halloween at work

My Halloween: bags upon bags of candy, crazy people, 80's karaoke, jack-o-lanterns, chips n salsa, dancing, dancing, dancing. All this and I'm at work, people, I'm getting paid for this. I love my job sometimes.

halloween party: cautionary tale

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!! In honor of my favorite holiday, I will be skipping my class and taking the day off work so that I can sit at home and write up-to-the-minute, breaking news coverage on this important All Hallows E'en.

Ok, that's not true. I will go to my class and I will go to work where I will somehow patch together a party out of several bags of candy and a karaoke machine I've never used before. It's gonna rock! But I will post at least one or two Halloween stories just for my own enjoyment.

Here's a little tale about a Halloween party and an all-too-authentic costume. Mwah-ha-ha-ha...

Ok, so, Chunk is this guy I work with who is, let's just say, challenged in so many ways. He's half-nerdy, half Mexican gangster (not LA gangsta, but almost mod-ish, old-school gangster), with a thick coating of punk-rocker. But there are always problems: the out-of-control dandruff problem that leaves all his black, rock-star t-shirts coated in head-snow; and his physique, which does not mix well with the low cut, punk-rock pants and heavy punk-rock belts which combine to leave us all with a nice view of Chunk's mossy, punk-rock ass-crack. Oh Chunk. He's always losing his i-pod or breaking his cell-phone or having the worst luck and the saddest fortune. Best of all, he's written a bunch of really bad fiction on the *work* computer and we (me 'n Fat Tony) have found it and read it and mocked it mercilessly. Because we are assholes. And because, really, you shouldn't leave your bad fiction on the shared drive at work.

But what about Halloween??? Ok, I'm getting there. So, Chunk, in accordance with the bad luck the god's have laid down upon him, got hit by a car Friday night. Apparently it was his fault and he got a ticket for it. Ouch. Imagine you're on a stretcher on the way to the hospital after stepping out in front a car and getting creamed, only to have a cop trot up beside you and hand you a fucking citation for being a bad pedestrian. Ouch, I say again! Ouch!

So, the good part: Chunk shows up Saturday night at Fat Tony's front porch keg 'n kostume party on crutches with a bandage around his head and his face all banged up. And the flow of inevitable reactions ensues: "Dude, that's totally realistic. Are you supposed to be somebody who got hit by a car or something?" "Uh, yeah. I got hit by car." "Awesome, great costume." "No, really, I got hit by a car." "Yeah, we get it. Nice costume." "It's NOT a FUCKING COSTUME! I got HIT by a CAR!!"

According to Fat Tony, after Chunk had that conversation with four different people he just gave up and left the party. Poor Chunk. But really... Chunk should be used to that kinda thing by now. I don't think it's unusual for him. Oh, and the caution in this cautionary tale: don't not have a sense of humor about your fucked up situation at a Halloween party where people will inevitably think your bandages and crutches are a costume. The end.

Monday, October 30, 2006

what gets me by

Contrary to popular belief, it isn't (only) internet porn that has been getting me through school alive these last three years. Nor is it this blog, even though this blog has been a real and true life-line for almost one whole year now.

No, the one website that I have relied on for quality entertainment for at least two years now has been homestarrunner.com. My first experience of homestar runner was thanks to my friend Hoot, who found the Teen Girl Squad cartoons online and showed them to me at work one night. I thought they were heee-larious. For a long time (in typical territorial, scorpio fashion) I refused to look at any of the other cartoons on the site, I just watched the TGS cartoons over and over. Finally, I explored and found the rest of the site to be just as awesome and entertaining.

Anyway, one of my favorite staples on the homestar runner site are the annual halloween cartoons they make. Once you're familiar with all the characters, its extra funny to see them dressed in their costumes each year. All week, I've been re-watching the old halloween cartoons, in anticipation of this year's. They were so great, so funny. Finally, today, the 2006 halloween cartoon came out and, I'm sad to say, it's kinda lame. Doesn't matter, it's still pretty sweet and I want the world to know that homestar runner gets me through the tough times. Thanks homestar runner!

parties can't save me

This weekend was the time for halloween parties. My friend Fat Tony had a last minute keg and costume party on his front porch. He invited me, but I declined. I wanted to see him dressed as Fidel Castro, but I didn't think I'd have the chutzpah to be sociable. Instead, SK and I had a quiet night. We ate a good meal, took a window-shopping walk around NW Spendythird and then we watched a movie at her place. Ironically, we drove past Fat Tony's on the way back to my house where we slept. His porch party looked pretty pathetic (much like this alliterative sentence). A handful of cold people sat huddled on his dirty looking porch under a bright, bare bulb, holding plastic cups of beer and smoking. I didn't see him, but I didn't have much time to look.

Then there was Leo's pumpkin carving party last night. I started at a major disadvantage, having just left a big fight with SK, who was supposed to be my date. I showed up at the party minus one girlfriend and one pumpkin and also minus my party spirit. The coolest thing that happened all night happened the second I pulled up. Right in front of my car, I saw a giant raccoon snooping around. He didn't seem to notice my idling engine, he just kept sniffing around the recycle bins, then he loped off across the street. He was *huge*! As big as a dog! I guess I've never seen a live one that close.

The party was ok. I decided not to try very hard. I opened a beer and started carving my pumpkin. Three beers later, I was sitting in the floor, deeply engrossed in a complicated etching project I'd given myself, hardly noticing the comings and goings of the people all around me. When I left, only Leo noticed. It was ok. I carved my pumpkin in the very traditional, triangle-eyes, triangle-nose, smiling-face-with-two-teeth style and he just looked so wholesome and clean-cut, I decided to give him a tiny little tear by his eye, the kind you get in prison for killing people. Then, once I'd made my wholesome pumpkin into a prison gangsta, I decided to etch a word in his back in Old English lettering, like the gangsta kids on tv have. You know. So I spent about an hour carefully carving the word "Patience" into his back. Because, as long as he's gonna sit in prison, he's gonna need a lot of patience.

Anyway, me and my gangsta pumpkin went home and sat with our own thoughts for the rest of the night. I miss having my own parties. For three years running, I've hosted my own awesome halloween parties and I am learning that those are the only kind of parties I can succesfully enjoy. I can talk to everybody because I invited them, and if I didn't invite them, I can talk to them anyway because they're in my house. I'm also able to keep busy, running around, tidying up and making sure the food's still stocked and the music's still going. In fact, I *love* having my own parties, especially at halloween. Its the one time of year I really welcome people into my space, not to mention, I love dressing up for it. I always go in boy-drag, something different every year. Three years ago I was a leather daddy, two years ago I was a dapper vampire in a top-hat and last year I was a cowboy. I make such a hot guy. (And modest.)

So, I'm a little bummed about the party scene this year. My place is too small to have a party and I don't have as many friends to invite anymore. I've painted myself into a corner, socially, these past few years and now I find myself reevaluating some things. Just me and my gangsta pumpkin, mulling over the compicated things in life. It could be worse.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

cut and paste

Seems like I've been cutting and pasting a lot lately. I guess I haven't had as much time for regular writing. Oh well. Tonight I went to my friend Leo's for a pumpkin carving party. I went alone. SK was scheduled to come with me but, alas, that didn't work out. I was sad. I went with my one, already gutted pumpkin and a six-pack of Black Butte Porter. I left with a beautifully carved jack-o-lantern and half a six-pack gurgling in my tummy. I am sleepy. I tried to have fun, I honestly did, but I'm just not able to be sociable. My life is reminding me, over and over, in as many ways as possible, that I'm an introverted loner. I wonder what my life would look and feel like if I just lived that introverted loner thing to the absolute maximum. If I really focused inwards, like there wasn't even the tiniest hint of an outside world. That's the direction my head has been pushing, what if I just went for it? Hmm. We'll see.

word of sunday night


Main Entry: in·ter·stice
Pronunciation: in-'t&r-st&s
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural in·ter·stic·es /-st&-"sEz, -st&-s&z/
Etymology: Middle English, from Latin interstitium, from inter- + -stit-, -stes standing (as in superstes standing over) -- more at SUPERSTITION
1 a : a space that intervenes between things; especially : one between closely spaced things [interstices of a wall] b : a gap or break in something generally continuous [the interstices of society] [passages of genuine literary merit in the interstices of the ludicrous...plots -- Joyce Carol Oates]
2 : a short space of time between events

I saw this word on a blog today and reminded how much I love it. Actually, I didn't see this word exactly, I saw "interstitial" but this had a better definition, being the root word and all. I love words. Thanks to Merriam Webster's Online Dictionary, as always.

word of the weekend


Pronunciation: 'sa[ng]-gw&n
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English sanguin, from Anglo-French, from Latin sanguineus, from sanguin-, sanguis
2 a : consisting of or relating to blood b : BLOODTHIRSTY, SANGUINARY c of the complexion : RUDDY
3 : having blood as the predominating bodily humor; also : having the bodily conformation and temperament held characteristic of such predominance and marked by sturdiness, high color, and cheerfulness

A New York Times article I was just reading about the upcoming election noted that Republicans weren't entirely sanguine about their chances. I couldn't think exactly what it meant, so I looked it up. Bloodred, is the first definition. Isn't that appropriate. Bloody. Red. Bloodthirsty, even. Oh, and also optimistic. I guess as optimistic as a bloodthirsty Viking, ready to pillage the village...

Saturday, October 28, 2006


I had a session with my therapist yesterday and noticed, for the first time, an interesting picture that has been hanging in her room all along. It's actually a woven cloth picture (SK would know the name for this, maybe it qualifies as a tapestry...) of a giant creature stepping out from behind a mountain. There is a little house in the bottom right corner, with a little curl of smoke rising from the chimney. There are tall mountains on either side and the night sky holds three huge stars, a la Van Gogh's Starry Night. In the top left corner is the word Jotun, which Wikipedia claims is a Norse word for giant. My therapist explained that Jotun was a kind of Germanic nature spirit, but so far my internet search hasn't turned up good info. The creature itself looks wild but wise, with a huge hooked nose and blue eyes (it could be me, actually), and a mane of bushy hair, full of twigs. I was so enchanted by the picture, I wanted to find a copy for myself, but alas, a google image search didn't turn anything up. This picture was given to my therapist probably twenty years ago when the head Process Work guru, Arny Mindell, was cleaning out his old practice room in Zurich. He asked her if she wanted it and she snatched it up with relish. If I had a digital camera, I would just take a picture of it, but I don't. It reminds me of the dreams I used to have when I was young, dreams always set in the mountains I was born in, dreams of huge creatures stepping out over the mountains. Sometimes they were monsters, once it was a giant chicken! But the dreams were always intense and magical. Looking at the picture there in her office, I felt connected to something that loves the land, but is so much larger than anything on the land. The thing that is in this world, but somehow not of it. Nice to imagine.

good to know

When you have a thorough and well-prepared outline, a good paper practically writes itself! (Why did it take me four years of undergrad and three and a half years of post-grad education to learn this???)

Friday, October 27, 2006

the power of orange striped socks

I'm going out into the world and nothing can hurt me because I'll be wearing my brand new halloween socks from SK. I was less than enthusiastic when she gave them to me yesterday because I was in a bad, bitchy sort of mood. But now I have them on and I love them. They're orange with lime green stripes and they have little skeletons and witches and pumpkins dancing all over them. I wish I had a digital camera, I'd post a picture. Have I mentioned that Halloween is my favorite holiday? Well it is.

i should practice what i preach

There I go, I write this sanctimonious post about positive thinking, then I come home after work and post a temper tantrum about my bedtime. What is wrong with me?? Here's where the bedtime temper tantrum got me: I slept almost ten hours (two hours longer than I should have), I had weird dreams, (among them, a dream about writing the paper I didn't want to have to wake up and write), now I've got a headache and I feel like I'm getting sick again! AUGH! Why didn't I use the power of positive thinking to keep this from happening!! I don't know. Now all that's left is for me to post this so he-who-shall-not-be-named can write me a comment about what a whining, narcissistic piece of shit I am, then my day will be complete. I want to go back to bed.

inexorable rolling towards an unpleasant future

It is 1am and I don't want to go to bed because if I go to bed, I'll go to sleep, and if I go to sleep, I'll wake up in the morning, and when I wake up in the morning, I'll have to start working on my paper and I DON'T WANT TO WORK ON ANY STINKING PAPERS!!! I just want to sit in my pajamas and read nice books and drink coffee and write a blog and have a nice, peaceful, solitary morning for a change. Not a morning full of stoopid school stuff to do. I WANT MY LIFE BACK! Stupid school stuff.... I'm going to bed anyway.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

the power of positive thinking

About eight years ago, I was living in Columbus, OH and working for Goodwill Columbus, a branch of Goodwill Industries. I worked for a program that provided day services for "elderly" adults (over 50) with developmental disabilities. I was a workshop instructor in a sheltered workshop. Our program was well-funded and we were well trained.

One day, we had a training. There were about sixty of us from all the different programs run under the umbrella of Goodwill Columbus, and we were all gathered into this huge and rarely used day room in our building. We sat around tables, naturally falling out into our little cliques, and a private (motivational-type) speaker held court at the front of the room. The first thing he did was ask for a volunteer who was immediately sent out of the room.

He said, "Ok, there goes Bill, out in the hall. I don't know Bill, but you all do. Think about what a great guy Bill is. Think about all the things you really like about Bill, all the times he's helped you out, all the nice things he's done, the good things you've seen him do with clients. Think about how much you like him. When Bill comes back in, I want you all to focus all that good feeling on Bill. Don't smile at him, don't say anything to him, just think those good thoughts and whatever I ask him to do, believe he'll be able to do it."

I'm sure I rolled my eyes, but I dutifully imagined good things about Bill and when Bill came back in I made an effort to focus good thoughts on him. At the front of the room, the speaker welcomed Bill back to the room and said, "This might seem strange, but just trust me and I'll explain it later." Then he posed some minor act of strength for Bill to accomplish. I think it was a resistance exercise, where Bill held his arm out and the speaker tried to push it down. Bill had to resist and, with all our good vibes flowing toward him, Bill did a stellar job. We all clapped and Bill was again sent out of the room.

This time, the speaker said, "OK, bear with me, but now I want you to forget all that good stuff about Bill. I mean, really, after all, Bill is just a jerk. He's lazy and sloppy and he's always late. Think about all the little annoying things you know about Bill, all the times he didn't help you out, all the times he was rude to you, all the nasty things you've ever heard him say. If you've never heard Bill say anything nasty, just make something up. It doesn't matter if it's true, what matters is that you think about what a jerk Bill is. He really sucks. When he comes back in, just think really hard about how much he sucks. Don't frown at him, or give him the evil eye, just think about it and when I ask him to resist this time, believe in your heart that he will fail."

Bill came back in, smiling. Bill went to the front of the room. Bill failed.

Ok, sure, there are explanations. Maybe the speaker was in collusion with Bill and Bill just played it like he'd been asked to play it. Or maybe the speaker didn't try as hard the first time, so it only looked like bill prevailed. Maybe. But I don't think so. I think we pick up on other people's feelings about us, good or bad, and I think those feelings affect us whether we realize it or not. I walked into work the other day and felt immediately uncomfortable. I felt paranoid and awkward around my coworkers, though I couldn't put my finger on why. I learned later that everybody was annoyed with me for something I did the day before, something I hadn't realized was a problem. Nobody had to say anything about it, I could just feel that something wasn't right.

Why do I pontificate on this? Lots of reasons. Partly to remind myself not to dwell on shitty thoughts about other people because those thoughts have an effect, not just on the other people, but on me too. Dwelling on shitty thoughts just amplifies the shittiness, and I don't need amplified shittiness in my life anymore than anybody else does. I also think this is a really interesting demonstration of the power of our human communality. Even when we don't identify with our group, we are still affected by it. That's a powerful concept and I want to always be aware of it. I tend to live "in my head" a lot and I often think of myself as being all alone in there. In reality, I am never alone. I am always held in the context of some human group. I would like to try and stop forgetting that. I would like other people to become aware of it too.

I also want to say that I turned on the comment moderation feature because a disgruntled reader posted me some more meanspirited comments. The anonymity (and also probably the immediacy) of the internet gives people a sense of abandon I don't think they would have in face to face discussions. I try not to write meanspirited blog posts (though I've been guilty of a few snarky moments) and I don't want my blog to be a forum for anyone else's meanspiritedness via the comment section. Respectful comments will be posted no matter how critical they might be. Nasty comments will be deleted.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Bush uses "the google." Well. Good for him. Here's a bit from a transcript of a CNBC interview with our fearless leader:

HOST: I’m curious, have you ever googled anybody? Do you use Google?

BUSH: Occasionally. One of the things I’ve used on the Google is to pull up maps. It’s very interesting to see — I’ve forgot the name of the program — but you get the satellite, and you can — like, I kinda like to look at the ranch. It reminds me of where I wanna be sometimes.

Wow. He kinda likes to look at the ranch. Of course he does. Don't worry, Georgie, they'll let you go home in a couple of years. It'll be ok.

A video of the interview is available here: http://thinkprogress.org/2006/10/23/bush-says-he-uses-the-google/

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

raise the sparks

This is evidence of why Fat Tony rocks, even though he's not my pretend boyfriend anymore. I copied and pasted this from a myspace comment he left me yesterday. This was in response to my challenge to him regarding his myspace motto "raise the sparks." I wrote him a message that said, "Do you even know what raise the sparks means??" This is his answer and he swears he didn't cut and paste it from Wikipedia...

"Yes, **** I beleive I do know what the phrase means, and I'm glad you asked. "Raise the sparks" is a rough translation of the Jewish mystic concept : Tikkun Olam. Nowadays people usually use it as a motto for social justice - the idea that all should work together to help out the poor and disenfranchised.

However in an older Kabbalistic sense "raise the sparks" refers to the idea that the cosmos was actually created when God made himself manifest ( the universe being a sort of mirror or infinite algorithm wherby the godhead may come to know itself) in the form of the Sephirot - the ten attributes of God. According to these ancient apocryphal teachings the world was created and at the exact same moment everything went haywire, the Sephirot cracked, God basically went mad and forgot who he was and so little tiny shards of "godness" are trapped everywhere in the world, hidden in people, hidden in everyday objects, scattered through everything- these are the sparks.

The idea is that through proper living, through being kind to others and ourselves and living correctly , each moment we encounter potentially contains a trapped "spark" of God and it is our job to "raise" or release that spark back into the eternal. That's what I think it means."

totally complicated concept of the morning

I was reading about sonnets the other night and ran across this word. It stuck in my head and I meant to look it up but forgot. Then I ran across it again last night at work while me and Fat Tony were surfing art websites and waiting for graveyard to show up. Here it is and here's its complicated explanation from Wikipedia:

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Synecdoche is a figure of speech that presents a kind of metaphor in which:

A part of something is used for the whole,
The whole is used for a part,
The species is used for the genus,
The genus is used for the species, or
The stuff of which something is made is used for the thing.

Synecdoche, as well as some forms of metonymy, is one of the most common ways to characterize a fictional character. Frequently, someone will be consistently described by a single body part or feature, such as the eyes, which comes to represent their person.

Also, sonnets and other forms of love poetry frequently use synecdoches to characterize the beloved in terms of individual body parts rather than a whole, coherent self. This practice is especially common in the Petrarchan sonnet, where the idealised beloved is often described part by part, from head to toe.


A part of something is used for the whole
"hands" to refer to workers, "head" for cattle, "threads" for clothing, "wheels" for car, "mouths to feed" for hungry people, "white hair" for the elderly, "The Press" for news media
The whole is used for a part
"the police" for a handful of officers, "body" for the trunk of the body, the "smiling year" for spring, "the Pentagon" for the top-ranking generals in the Pentagon building
The species is used for the genus
"cutthroat" for assassin, "kleenex" for facial tissue, "coke" for soda, "castle" for home, "bread" for food, "Judas" for traitor
The genus is used for the species
"creature" for person, "milk" for cow's milk
The material of which an object is made is used for the complete object
"willow" for cricket bat, "copper" for penny, "boards" for stage, "ivories" for piano keys, "plastic" for credit card, "the hardwood" for a gym floor

Monday, October 23, 2006

calling cam coor

Recently, my sitemeter indicates I've been getting lots of hits from people searching for Cam Coor. This, to me, seems weird, and god help them if they've been able to find the tiny blip I wrote about him which is buried in the deepest depths of the archive. I'll make it easier: if you're looking for Cam Coor, go to the May 2006 archive and scroll down to the 16th, a post titled "now what." You'll find Cam mentioned, but it won't be all that interesting.

Cam is this guy I went to high school with. He had a flat-top and a trucker moustache and I thought he was pretty hot. I mentioned him in a post this spring and suddenly people searching for him are ending up on my blog. I did a google search for him myself, out of curiousity, and saw him listed as a board member of the North Carolina Flower Growers Association, which sounds pretty nice. I did an image search too, but nothing came up. Pretty disappointing. I wanted to see if he still had that awesome moustache.

Cam, if you're out there, searching for yourself on google, and you wind up on my site, post a comment and please tell me you still wear tight jeans and have the awesome moustache. Lie to me, if you have to. It would mean a lot to me.

word of the starry night


A lodestar is a star that is used to find direction, particularly with reference to Polaris. The name is derived from lodestone, part of a compass, which generally points toward a pole star. In a figurative sense, it can mean an example or guiding principle that people want to follow.

This time I have Wikipedia to thank for the definition. Thanks Wikipedia.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank blogger for sucking so bad this weekend. Thanks blogger! You've been beside yourself with suckage lately! I guess that's why you're free. Oh well.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

rethinking things

Thanks to anyone who slogged through that last, long post about The Devil Wears Prada and my own little reminiscence about my brief stint in publishing. I had a sort of unsettled feeling as I read over it yesterday, snagging especially on the last paragraph which winds up unexpectedly and doesn't quite say what I wanted because, I suppose, I didn't really know what I wanted to say, I just knew it wasn't that, exactly.

So, after letting it knock around in my head all day yesterday, I realize that I opened a kind of 'what-if' box while exploring my reactions to that movie and I've been forced to rethink some assumptions I've been making about my life. This isn't totally new, but it is a little surprising to come now, about this subject.

What if I'd actually had some ambition when I was working in publishing? What if I'd had some confidence and determination? What if I'd stuck with it? I have several stories I tell myself about my experience in publishing that all serve to protect a particular identity I cling to, but what if that identity is bullshit? I tell myself how working in publishing was like seeing the wizard behind the curtain: disgusting, disappointing, disillusioning. I tell myself I would never have made it into editorial, it would've taken too long, been too unlikely. I tell myself I was not cut out for the industry of books, that I should have stuck only to the magic of books. I tell myself my heart was really in social services.

But what if I could've gotten over my initial disillusionment? What if I could've made it to editorial through perseverance and hard work? What if I could've found the magic in books from within the industry, as an editor? What if social services was just a much, much easier route to a kind of immediate gratification? A small pond where I could shine easilly as a big fish, getting all the heart-filling compensation with none of the hard, personal challenges and struggle? What if I made a really foolish and shortsighted mistake?

Too late to worry over the mistake of leaving publishing, but important now just to take note of the defeatism that colored that decision and watch carefully how it might be coloring everything else happening in the now. Important for me to notice the places where I refuse to really work for something that doesn't come easilly and naturally. Important to notice where I am lazy, in *all* the sneaky little places I'm lazy, and they are profligate. Important not to keep making that same old mistake in new ways every day.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

dress for success

SK and I went to the Laurelhurst last night and saw The Devil Wears Prada. The Laurelhurst is one of several brew-and-view theatres here in Portland that show second-run movies pretty cheap and make their money off beer and food, mostly pizza. I can't imagine spending ten bucks on a new release at a regular theatre, but three bucks to see something a month or so later is fine by me.

I was really surprised to find myself totally engaged in this movie. I expected it to be funny, but I didn't hope much higher. And sure, it's a hollywood movie and the "dramatic" arc is still exactly the shape tradition dictates, but I was surprised by how authentic the characters felt and, more than anything, how familiar her shitty job seemed. I never, ever had it so bad, but I got a tiny taste of it when I worked in publishing several years ago and I ended up scurrying back to social services where I belonged after only ten months.

Of course, when I describe my experience, you'll think I'm ridiculous for even beginning to compare the two. I worked for a small, literary publishing house in the South, which was owned by a huge behemoth in New York, famous for it's page-a-day calendars. My supervisor was actually a nice guy in the marketing department and I was trained by the woman I was replacing, who'd been promoted to publicity. She was gorgeous and doe-eyed, much like the Anne Hathaway who stars in Devil Wears Prada. The big boss, however, and the woman I lived in terror of, was Shannon Ravenel, the editor-in-chief of the publishing house and also its co-founder.

She was larger than life, Southern aristocracy, aging gorgeously like a piece of Greek art, poised, mannered, extremely intelligent, stylish, and a kind of hidden treasure, a literary legend hiding out in a small mill-house office in Carrborro, NC, publishing eight books a season and presiding over a staff of ten, including me, the office gopher and mail girl.

My official title was "publishing assistant," which indicated only that I was to assist everybody in every department whenever called upon to further the general goal of publishing books. Mostly I sat in my little copy room sorting mail and doing my few mail related tasks, anxiously awaiting the barrage of assignments from different departments that would always come all at once and usually involved doing things that seemed completely impossible.

My assignments often came from Craig, my actual supervisor. He would bring me some old, beat-up piece of newsprint featuring an article about some ancient baseball player from 1932 whose biography we happened to be publishing and ask me to make a "clean copy" of it for him to present at a marketing meeting. I would spend the next several hours doing ad-hoc art restoration with the copier and a jar of white out, blowing the thing up as big as I could and delicately painting out all the blemishes and smears, then blowing it back down to size and hoping for the best. This was before the days of scanners and photo-shop, or at least before those things were so commonplace.

I actually kind of enjoyed those jobs. The jobs that struck terror into my heart were the jobs assigned by Shannon herself. She would leave yellow post-its stuck to my table (it wasn't a desk really) with tersely written assignments that I would uncode and try to perform. She also used these yellow post-its to tell me when I'd screwed something up. I lived in abject terror of those post-its and worry all the way to work each morning about finding one when I walked in.

All this is really dramatic. Shannon was no Miranda Priestly. Shannon was extremely polite and quite generous. When I left, she made clear that if I ever needed a letter of recommendation, she would be happy to provide. In publishing, that's quite a big deal, however, outside publishing, I'm afraid nobody knows who she is, regardless of the fact that she's otherwise famous and has her own imprint now. No, I was not afraid of her because she was mean and scary, I was afraid of her because she was so smart and so successful and so gorgeous in her accomplishment, it was like she shone with a blinding light and looking at her was like looking at the sun. I was afraid of her because she was the most magnificent person I could imagine, and I just wanted her to like me and recognize in me some talent as demonstrated by my efficient accomplishment of all my meager office tasks.

Truthfully, I had nothing to show for myself in life yet besides a college degree from a not particularly well-regarded school and a pretty good car I'd just bought (and am still driving these nine years later, thank you very much). Besides which, I was all the things Shannon was not: I was an awkward, badly dressed, tom-boy trying desperately to pull off some gender neutral version of office casual and failing, totally failing. I was uncomfortable about my presentation (my short hair always in-between growing out and keeping cropped, never looking quite right, my clunky shoes before clunky shoes were good) and that made me uncomfortable about everything else. I watched that movie last night and was sad to sympathize so much with the fashion issue, of all things. I wonder what might have happened if I'd been able to make a similar transformation: if I'd suddenly found confidence in good clothes. Would I have suddenly hit my stride, like Andy in the movie? Would I have stepped up and delivered and earned the respect of the woman in the office I wanted so badly to please?

I don't know. Maybe. But I think I would've fallen off the radar eventually in a similar fashion. I wasn't smart enough or well-read enough to move into any kind of editorial position and I would've had to keep slogging away downstairs in publicity or marketing, at least until I'd managed to come up to speed. And even then, to be pulled into editorial would've been such an enormous leap, it may never, ever have happened. And I hated the marketing and publicity aspect of publishing, it was awful. No, I would've left publishing no matter what transformation had occurred. It had no heart in it. I love books and words too much to be in the business of selling them. But funny to notice the kind of nostalgia for publishing that movie aroused. It was good. You should see it.

Friday, October 20, 2006

eating halloween: my pumpkin experiment

Last weekend, when SK and I were driving through my little neighborhood on our way for burritos, we noticed that some people were decorating for halloween. We agreed that the decorations were kind of sweet, but SK said the thing about the pumpkins struck her as strange. "It just seems crazy," she said, "that people in this country buy *food* that will never be eaten, and carve it up and set it out on their porches just to rot!"

SK didn't grow up with halloween, so she brings fresh eyes to its traditions. I, however, *love* halloween. Halloween is my favorite holiday and I can hardly bring myself to look critically on any of its traditions, no matter how weird or wasteful. Which it is why it's sometimes good to have SK around.

Anyway, she finished up by saying, "I know the big pumpkins aren't really meant to be eaten, but the little ones are pretty good if you bake them." This lodged in my head and jumped back out again yesterday as I browsed the produce section of Wild Oats. I was drawn to a giant bin of squashes and pumpkins I had only ever thought of as "decorative" until my conversation with SK. For some reason, I couldn't bring myself to imagine cutting up and cooking one of the tiny orange pumpkins like the two I have on my desk right now . . . at least not until halloween is over. It would be like burning the Christmas tree two weeks before Christmas!

So I bought a lumpy looking white pumpkin with green stripes, about this size of a big grapefruit and brought it home to experiment. This morning, I cut the top off, like making a jack-o-lantern, and scooped out all the stuff. For just a moment, I thought cooking it was crazy and, since I'd already gone to the trouble of gutting it, I should carve in a little face and pop in a tea-light and call it good.

I resisted the urge to turn my lunch into another decoration. Instead, I filled the hole with some diced onions and minced garlic, a pat of butter, a little water and half a teaspoon of cinammon. Yum. Then I popped it in the oven and hoped for the best. I almost dropped a little daub of curry paste in, but after my curry last night and the leftovers I'll be eating with SK in a few hours, I didn't want curry overkill, though I think it might be nice to try next time.

Pretty soon the house was full of the savory smell of baking onions and garlic with a nice overlay of cinammon. I checked it a few times and eventually it was done. YUM. I just ate the whole thing and it was soooooo good. I can't believe I never even considered those little guys to be food before! Now I'm schemeing up new ideas for cooking them -- the hole in the middle lends itself well to filling with other yummy stuff for baking. I think even a homemade stuffing might be good baked inside a pumpkin, with mushrooms and celery and breadcrumbs? MMMMM. Who needs a turkey for thanksgiving when you can just stuff a pumpkin?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

status report

Life in the past few days:

1.) Work is full of liars and wanna-be suicides. Last night: slit wrists plus a handful of narcotics equals I'm calling 911 for the thousandth time from work, sending someone away on a stretcher, while someone else waits to talk to me in private, to tell me she doesn't want to live anymore because life is too miserable, and what I say to her is as good as I can expect from myself, but what I *want* to say is "Bullshit, if you didn't want to live anymore, you wouldn't be sitting here talking to me, you'd be home blowing your head off." I try and keep that kind of stuff to myself.

2.) After six short hours of sleep, I was up at 7 this morning to shower and run to school to deliver my group presentation on the English Criminal Justice system. Thirty minutes of rain and bad traffic led to three hours of my group lecturing on England. I coughed a lot and sat bundled in my scarf and jacket even though I eventually got hot. I went last and talked so fast, I ended my bit about ten minutes earlier than all my test-runs, which meant we actually finished on time.

3.) Brief interlude: ran downtown and picked up SK who had a sandwich for me. Very, very sweet. Once again, we're drifting apart, but she's still right there with the sandwiches.

4.) Over to the Ecotrust building for a three hour CLE on Medicaid. (CLE stands for "continuing legal education" -- they're classes for lawyers.) My Health and Poverty Law class attended the CLE in lieu of going to class today. It was more than dull. Our smarmy professor arrived twenty minutes late and disappeared after half an hour. Bastard. The rest of us dutifully hung around until the break at 3:40. The thing still had three hours to go. I feel sorry for all the suited zombies who had to stay.

5.) I came home. I'm taking a mental/physical health day from work, otherwise I would be there right now, serving another 4-midnight sentence. Instead, I'm here, relaxing, recovering, etc. I made an enormous pot of curried vegetables and tofu and watched the first three segments of a debate about the "Israel lobby" hosted by the London Review of Books (thanks Shelley, for turning me on to that one). Video of the debate is available on their website and it's pretty interesting. Before that I cleaned the hovel a little and walked to the store for peas to put in the curry.

6.) It's getting dark and I have that weird melancholic feeling that comes from being still after so much commotion. I should put on the radio or something. My next project is to eat Greek style fig yogurt for dessert then clean the hovel some more. This time, I go after all the paper: the recyclable newspapers scattered all over the floor and all the unopened mail. Plant care and sorting the piles of clothes are already done. After the paper's sorted, I should be set for another week or so of chaos. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

and now for something i DO like

I found the coolest website tonight. Ok, I didn't find it, Fat Tony found it. Well, he didn't find it either, he read about it in one of the local weekly papers. I read about it too, but I forgot about it immediately whereas, Fat Tony remembered it and decided to check it out.

Ok, it's really cool. It's called "We Feel Fine" and it works like this: the site automatically searches the web every so often for blogs with the words "I feel" in them, and wherever it finds "I feel" statements, it lifts the whole sentence and brings it over to wefeelfine.org where it goes into a tiny dot and floats around the screen. When you click on the dots, they open up and the statement is visible in full.

It's really hard to explain, but really cool and totally addictive. The graphics are cool and the sentences are like bizarre haikus when taken so totally out of context. Another cool thing: if the "I feel" statement is in the caption to a picture, the site captures the picture as well. (Square "dots" contain pictures.) The site also captures whatever demographic information is available, like the place, the weather, the gender and age of the author, etc. You can also link to the blogs that the sentences were lifted from.

It's a really fascinating website and some genius computer coding, I think. I mean, I don't know anything about writing code, but this seems like genius to me. I wish I was the one who thought it up. It's really, really cool. You should check it out.

P.S. I feel like using as many "I feel" statements as possible so my sentences will be lifted and by We Feel Fine and stuck into tiny floating dots. I feel like that would be pretty cool. I feel sort of giddy just imagining it. Yeah. I feel I'm going to have to get more creative if I want to keep the "I feel" thing going much longer. I'll see how I feel about it tomorrow...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

stonyplanet premier book review issue

As I mentioned in my last post, I got a book in the mail recently and I'm supposed to review it on my blog. So here we go: it gets a solid "eh."

The book is called "Mixtionary: Mixed-up modern words for the mixed-up modern world." Remember Rich Hall's "Sniglets?" These are like those, only those were pretty funny. These just feel like a cute gimmick pushed to it's furthest reaches. Combining words, like "complainer" and "maniac" to get "complainiac" is clever, but a whole book of that junk is just annoying.

Worst of all, it bills itself as "modern," but really most of the jokes are old news and based on weird gender stereotyping. There are, for example, six different made-up words about shoes, all for women who are obsessed with shoes. (E.g.: "shoeru" = shoe + guru: someone with good taste in shoes who you go to for shoe advice.) And several words describing self-involved men, men who can't commit, men who won't propose, men who don't measure up: it's like a bad Joan Rivers routine and certainly doesn't feel modern.

And as I mentioned, it feels like a gimmick stretched past capacity. As you read, you get the sense that the authors spent a lot of time smoking weed and egging each other on to come up with more. Many of them feel more than forced and some are outright cheats. "Shoeism" combines "shoe" and "ism." What? "Ism" isn't even a word, it's a suffix. You could add "ism" to practically any word and get the same result. ("Shoeism," by the way, is a religious devotion to fine footwear.)

Whatever. Anything good about this book? It's got a nice size (about the same size and shape as a c.d. case) and the colors are good (teal and mango). The drawings inside (didn't I mention that it's illustrated?) are kind of cute, especially the one on page 22 that appears to depict two little gay boys making out at Thanksgiving dinner. That was my favorite part.

Oh well. Thanks for sending me a free book, people. Sorry I didn't like it very much. Hope that doesn't effect my chances of getting more free stuff in the future...

blogging finally pays off! (sort of)

I had a message in my stonyplanet email the other day from some literary agency. No, no, it wasn't one of those legendary, blogosphere fairy-tales where the literary agents are trolling for good blogs to make books out of, or good bloggers to make book deal offers to. They just wanted to know if they could send me a copy of a book to review on my blog.

Well. Ok, so it wasn't an offer for a "book deal" in the traditional sense, but I thought it was pretty cool, so I said yes. I got home tonight, and there it was in my mail-box! Yay for me. So far, blogging has netted me (in actual, tangible items) three cool pins made by Joolie, and this little book.

And how is the little book, you ask? I'll tell you tomorrow. Right now I'm going to bed. (Hint: I read it cover to cover in ten minutes...)

Monday, October 16, 2006


Tonight at the homeless shelter where I work, we had free pizza and a storytelling party. Process Workers came with recording equipment and, after all the free pizza was eaten and gone, everyone was encouraged to tell their stories.

As a staff person, I felt a little displaced. It was nice, though. I think the clients loved it. I listened from the sidelines and eventually started occupying myself with other things. I pulled out my pile of bar application materials and started filling it all out. Very complicated. Very long.

My favorite overheard story was to do with finding elk bones in the woods and decorating a tent with them. I would love to find elk bones in the woods. Finding elk bones would be like winning the lottory. I have a thing about bones. I think it's a scorpio thing.

An old client just showed up at the door a little while ago, too late for free pizza or anything else. He's drunk as a skunk and not allowed in anyway, but I talked to him through the door. He has a giant bass drum sitting on top of his cart. He offered to sell it to me for ten bucks. I declined. His shoes are missing. I want him to go away because he's drunk and there isn't anything else we can do for him. He's just standing in the door, staring.

Fat Tony is playing guitar. Mohawk is downstairs cleaning up the clothing room. These are my coworkers. We're all a little bit burnt out. We all want to go home.

parade of horribles

I'm sick. I've been sick since last weekend. It's a totally stupid kind of sick too. It's this half-assed, lingering cold that doesn't quite have debilitating symptoms but that still makes me tired and muddled in the brain. I was thinking about it just now and here are the links:

1.) Two Friday nights ago: me 'n SK went out with Kiwi and Kiwi's friend for Mexican food. I didn't have a great time and SK got annoyed with me in the car after. Who wouldn't.

2.) Saturday morning: woke up w/ a sore throat.

3.) Saturday night: me 'n SK went to a horrible, awful performance art thing, a one-woman show. It was embarrasingly bad and then, to make it worse, we went to the afterparty (which was held at my therapist's gorgeous house) where all the artist's friends were gathered to give her lots of support and, as someone not really in this community, I found it really creepy to witness the oblivion everyone had to the art's awfulness. It was like an emperor-has-no-clothes party. I spent a lot of time avoiding people who might ask me what I'd thought of the piece. When I did talk, I was, apparently, combative. SK was annoyed with me.

4.) Sunday night: me 'n SK went to a forum on the middle east. That was pretty good, actually.

5.) Monday night: my headcold was starting to clear and I had big plans to go home after work and sleep in a little so my body might have a chance to really fight the lingering bits of cold. Instead, the brain-damaged hippie overslept again and didn't show up for his midnight shift until 2:30am. I didn't get to sleep until after 3. I slept until 11, but woke feeling shitty and homicidal towards the fucking brain damaged hippie.

6.) Tue-Thur: my headcold was now in my chest, a tinny tasting cough was keeping me company, I was holding on to a slow simmer of anger about everything you can think of, I was really cranky and I was getting these obnoxious comments from an obnoxious (hopefully former) reader of my blog, telling me, among other things, that I'm excessively introspective, immature and oblivious to the troubles of the world. Kick me while I'm down, why don't you. Maybe I *am* excessively introspective. Maybe I *am* immature. Maybe I *am*... wait a minute, I'm not oblivious to the troubles of the world, I write about the world all the time. I suspected that this reader was right about some things, but wrong about others, but more than anything, I thought he was a nasty, unhappy asshole. (He said some other nasty things, like that I'm constantly changing sexual partners, which seemed to belie some underlying misogyny. I deleted that shit.) Anyway, I added a new layer of self-loathing in the midst of this. Meanwhile, SK was encouraging me not to get so polarized about the comments. I just wanted her to agree that he was an asshole, just for a few minutes. Sometimes being polarized together isn't so bad, it's like a togetherness exercise. It's also called "supporting your girlfriend when she already feels like shit rather than challenging her to see the truth in the hurtful things some anonymous asshole is saying on your blog."

7.) After doing homework all day, I met up with some school friends for drinks. I realized I don't have much in common with any of them and don't even really enjoy their company anymore. I listened to them talk about work and plans and I felt like I just wanted law school to be over so I could go back to being a normal person. I don't know what I'm going to do with myself. I drank a hot toddie and left after 45 minutes. I did eat some really good gorgonzola cheese on crackers though. That was the highlight of my week.

8.) Saturday morning: met with my small group to discuss our group project. I hate our group project. I hate my small group. One is nice, the other two suck. I feel unprepared and unsmart, even though I have worked and worked on this project. I hate law school. I hate myself. I hate feeling sick.

9.) Saturday day and night: spent with SK, laying around. I decided to "take it easy" so my body could stop being sick. It didn't work.

10.) Sunday: woke at my place with SK. Read the New York Times, drank tea, it was nice. SK went home around 11am and I worked from then until 6pm on school stuff. I hate school. It felt like a waste of time. SK came back and we got burritos up the street. I wanted to kill the woman who takes orders because she is as dumb as a box of rocks and she makes the same mistakes every time. Every time! I feel like an asshole for being such an asshole, but I guess I'm just an asshole, la la la.

11.) Sunday night: watched a sort of sweet, sort of gay movie with SK. Had a weird fight with SK. Went to sleep confused. Woke up feeling like shit. Debating whether to skip my class this morning. Thinking I'd like to end some part of this life I'm having that is so full of mucous and bad feelings. Is partial suicide possible? It would be nice if I could do like the guy in Fight Club: put the gun in my mouth and kill only the really fucked up part of me. I'm not gonna try it, but it would be nice.

** Please note ** This has been an account of all the shitty stuff through the week. There was some nice stuff too, I just didn't include it. I was sticking to my parade of horribles theme. Hope you enjoyed it.

Friday, October 13, 2006


On the day the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to a man who has made micro-capatalists out of thousands of Bangladeshi people, I see the American capitalist machine slogging grotesquely along. A few months ago, I wrote about a wagon-load of children being pulled along towards the park by a single young man who was obviously working for the daycare provider up the street. Well. Today I saw the creepy, disturbing bookend to that sight.

I was sitting at that same table outside that same coffeeshop, which is situated on a corner across from a block dominated by an enormous Starbucks. I looked up and saw a woman pulling a wagon with two little, fuzzy-headed kids inside. A boy and a girl, no more than two years old, riding along, happy as could be. I smiled at them and looked down then snapped my head back up again. They were both sucking on green straws. Green Starbucks straws. Sure enough, they both held enormous Starbucks cups in their tiny, toddler hands.

Toddlers! Starbucks! What could you possibly give your toddler from Starbucks?? The only thing you could possibly give your toddler from Starbucks is the first in a series of lessons about the lifestyle of consumption. (I know what I'm talking about as I'm a lapsed, recovering consumerist myself and I was certainly sitting there drinking overpriced coffee myself, though I like to justify my own behavior like this: at least mine wasn't in a disposable cup, at least mine wasn't from Starbucks, at least mine didn't poison the minds of the children... etc.)

Anyway, gross. I guess its never too early to start inculcating your consumerist values into your little offspring. Look out, people, the future of the world is right now in the chubby little fist of a toddler drinking Starbucks.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

minding my p's and q's

Campus is swarming with federal marshalls today. There's a huge federal judges symposium happening and, according to Eagle Eye Goldberg, whenever federal judges appear anywhere as a group, they are guarded by federal marshalls. That seems weird to me, but what do I know? They're lingering in the halls like thugs and their tiny little badges give me the sense that they're prone to overcompensate. I wonder what it would take to get "taken down" outside my class? What wrong series of words would I have to say? What threatening gesture?

And why am I even contemplating a fray with the federal marshalls? They're not even that cute, it's not like I'd be thrilled to be tackled by them. The presence of the marshalls seems to indicate the possibility for danger. That possibility, though in reality very slim, becomes palpable around the marshalls who are hyper-alert and poised for action. I walked swiftly from the bathroom to my class a few minutes ago, and I could feel their attention on me like laser beams. All that potential in the air wants to crystallize into a random action. It's like the spirit of the violence or the conflict is swirling in the air around the marshalls, waiting to possess me. Or the energy of the potential violence is like potential energy, the energy of the heavy boulder poised at the top of the hill, straining against gravity not to begin rolling. Just the presence of the marshalls seems to create the energy, like the presence of the boulder at the top of the hill creates the pull to roll.

For today, I will not roll down the hill or around on the floor with the marshalls. I will just notice all the energy and move on.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

getting knocked around

I watched a fight at work tonight. A guy was punching a woman. The cops came, the woman didn't press charges, etc, etc. They were both drunk. One went to detox, one took a nap. But they were both back in the building within five hours like nothing ever happened. I talked to the woman after. I said, "How do you feel? How's your face?" She lifted her bangs off her forehead and turned her face from side to side so I could see. No cuts, no bruises. She smiled and rolled her eyes. He hit her hard but she seemed unphased. Of course she was phased. Everybody was phased. They just don't show it.

Tonight I wanted to hug everybody because everybody seemed so dear for some reason. I wanted to hug the drunk woman and I wanted to hug the drunk guy. I wanted to hug the client who sat alone and squeezed mayo on his cole slaw and I wanted to hug Fat Tony who told me incredible stories from his days on fire crew, about how beautiful and immense forest fires are. I wanted to hug the young mother-to-be. I wanted to hug the woman who is hardly around, but who came to check her mail and didn't have any. I wanted to hug the nurse. I wanted to hug SK. Everybody in that building gets knocked around a little bit every day. Everybody on this *planet* gets knocked around every day. And, consequently, everybody ought to get hugged a little bit every day too. To balance things out.


(Look out Rufus, here comes some more naval gazing! Quick! Stop reading! It's not too late to save yourself!)

It is 3am and I am, disastrously, jacked up on coffee. I thought I was going to be stuck at work for another graveyard shift because that damn, brain-damaged hippie didn't show up again. I held onto hope until about 1:15, then I decided to make some coffee and be prepared for the long-haul. Last time this happened I got off easy. I was working with Ball-cap, who has been there even longer than me and didn't really need me around so he let me sleep in the loft all night. Tonight, I would've been working with an on-caller who hasn't worked in our building since February. I would hardly have been able to leave her alone for five minute, much less for long enough to have a nap.

That's why I made the coffee. Three-quarters of the way through my first cup-a-joe, Brain-damaged Hippie calls up. "Hey, my alarm didn't go off, I'm sorry." Yeah, "sorry" doesn't get me in bed at a decent hour, buddy. So I arranged for his cab and poured the rest of my coffee out. Now I'm finally home, but too jittery to sleep. Last week, one of our residents set fire in a room and destroyed a toilet, then scampered out the front door and into the night while the alarms blared and the sprinklers sprinkled and the broken toilet geysered water everywhere. There was *tons* of water damage done to the building and for four days straight there have been industrial fans all over the building trying to dry things up. The fans make a racket so insistant and droning you want to scream. In fact, you *have* to scream just to be heard. Under those conditions, that place is extra exhausting.

Yet here I am, wide awake. I guess I'll have to lay there and count sheep until the coffee wears off. Maybe I'll dream about the funny cabbie who drove me home at 2:30 and spent the whole ride trying to convince me that Brain-damaged Hippie was always sleeping through his alarm because he was using speed. "He's probably coked out of his head all night," exclaimed the cabbie with a kind of creepy glee, "just to stay awake, having a jolly time, and then he goes home and crashes and can't hear his alarm clock!" Made me wonder what was keeping the cabbie up for his late-night shift. So I asked. His answer: lots of water and fresh pineapple. Yeah. Right.

Monday, October 09, 2006

finding my place

I'm just back from a "Get Ready to Graduate" program on campus. Free pizza plus advice from the registrar's office, career services and the alumni association about winding up our legal education and succesfully scooting ourselves into careers. I ate my pizza and listened, feeling like a total outsider. Network, they say. Start your job search now, they say. Go to social gatherings, they say. Learn to shmooze with lawyers, they say. Volunteer, they say. Scour your brain for possible contacts, then contact them, they say. Polish your resume, they say. This will be the most difficult, complicated job search you ever experience, they say. At least they're being honest.

I don't feel inspired by any of this, although, I'm sure I'm not alone. Nobody else in that room was probably thrilled at the thought of "marketing yourself" or mingling with lawyers at an upcoming Bar social event. ("There will be 30 other Lewis and Clark students there," warned Libby of career services, who is really awesome, "It will be very tempting just to huddle up with them. Please make it a point to talk to people you *don't* *know*")

I sat and listened with my blank stare and my blank heart and I thought back to last night. SK and I went to an open forum on the Middle East conflict sponsored by the Process Work Institute. Representatives from Palestine, Israel and a woman from an unaffiliated peace and justice organization spoke briefly about the issues from their perspectives and the floor was then opened to the audience to ask questions or share feelings. I was moved by the heartfulness of the speakers and most of the commenters and moved, of course, by the way Process Work frames and holds the issues. This framing helped the dialogue to flow and deepen rather than becoming polarized and stuck.

I have loved my law school training. I have loved the access to power my education has brought me. I have loved the way this type of rigorous study has trained my mind to think logically, to notice detail, to persist, to look at the micro and the macro at the same time, to reason. Bojack used to say in Tax Class, "No one goes to law school to become a better person," and I always disagreed in my heart, because I knew I was learning how to be a better, smarter, more thoughtful, more responsible person.

And it turns out, that better person that I've been becoming isn't done becoming yet. That better person doesn't want to stop at graduation, go to Bar socials, make connections, get a job in town at a firm, get my laptop and my Blackberry (hi Waspy), do the whole thing. It just doesn't move me. It doesn't call me. Who does it call, really? Who feels a deep, spiritual pull to work at a law firm? Probably no one.

So, as I look back and forth between the things that really pull me (like the forum last night) and the things that really don't (like the career services presentation), I have to decide whether I am a person who will move towards the pull rather than the more known, more expected career path. I have to ask what I will give up by not pursuing the career path and what I will gain by following the pull. And if I decide to follow the pull, I have to figure out *how* -- because there is no career services department and no awesome Libby to chart my course and give me advice. It's just me. And SK. Both in the same boat, really, floating on an open sea, waiting to catch sight of some guiding star so we know which way to steer. (And hoping we don't hit a giant ice-berg made of cheese because this last bit is really cheesey, but I can't help it, it's true.)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

unruly word of the day

Last night I went to a really bad performance art piece and the party after. I wanted to like the party, but it was challenging for many layers of reasons. However, I heard a great word at the party that sums up so much of my mostly suppressed energy last night and here it is. If I got one thing out the party, it was this word:


Main Entry: ob·strep·er·ous
Pronunciation: &b-'stre-p(&-)r&s, äb-
Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin obstreperus, from obstrepere to clamor against, from ob- against + strepere to make a noise
1 : marked by unruly or aggressive noisiness : CLAMOROUS (obstreperous merriment)
2 : stubbornly resistant to control : UNRULY
synonym see VOCIFEROUS
- ob·strep·er·ous·ly adverb
- ob·strep·er·ous·ness noun

Saturday, October 07, 2006

you know what they say about opinions...

So, I've been engaged over on Jack Bog's Blog in some back and forth comments regarding mental health services in Portland. The discussions have come about in the wake of an incident in which a man died in police custody under suspicious circumstances. He was unarmed, schizophrenic and according to the medical examiner's report, didn't have any drugs or alcohol in his system. He died from blunt force trauma to the chest, which occurred after cops chased him, caught him, knocked him to the ground and (according to some eye-witnesses) kicked him and tasered him. The cops pursued him because of public urination and otherwise looking shady.

The people posting comments on Jack Bog's Blog have some basic misunderstandings about how the mental health system works here in Portland and, because I work in mental health, I've been posting comments to try and explain things. The gyst of the attitude is similar to my thoughts in my Poor Joshua post of a few days ago: everyone wants to blame someone for the bad thing that happened. Understandable. However, when people are misinformed and willy-nilly pointing fingers, it doesn't help anybody and it exposes a huge flaw in our idea of citizenship (in the true sense of that word, ie: civic responsibility). People enjoy having opinions and vigorously defending them (sometimes obnoxiously airing them) but they don't always spend time informing themselves. We wind up with people who are just standing on top of problems and bleating out opinions like ignorant goats, without ever bothering to nose around inside those problems to try and understand them better.

Case in point: people want to blame, in addition to the cops, the mental health system that they believe "failed" this guy who died. How was he failed? He was failed because he hadn't been institutionalized. Why, people ask, didn't the big mental health provider "do something" (ie: hospitalize) this guy if they knew he was sick? As though its the job of the mental health providers to protect mentally ill people from the police by locking them all up in hospitals, ignoring the reality that the police are part of a community matrix which often first engages (or re-engages) mentally ill people and directs them into services if they need them. People are also ignoring the law in Oregon which establishes when a person's liberty can be taken (ie: when they can be hospitalized against their will). It is not easy to deprive someone in Oregon of their liberty and that's often a really good thing.

It is very hard for mental health professionals to put someone on a "hold" (a temporary psychiatric committment). Usually the person has to be demonstrably dangerous to himself or others before he is holdable. Then he is only holdable for a short time until a judge can hear evidence and determine whether he should be released or held longer. It is not enough for a mental health worker to recognize that a person is decompensating (that his mental health is declining along an often predictable arc), even if that worker knows that client well and knows that he will probably become dangerous once he has decompensated to a certain point. He is not holdable *until* he hits that point. Unfortunately, even though mental health providers are aware of and tracking a person's decompensation, it is often some kind of engagement with police that finally lands the person in a holdable situation. Often, public urination and indecent exposure are the types of behaviors in decompensated individuals that draw police attention. Police arrest, recognize mental illness and, if the person is then "sick" enough, he is taken to the hospital for psychiatric care.

An unarmed, mentally ill man died in police custody. We should investigate the police. We should investigate the mental health treatment he had been recieving. We should take long, close looks at the way the system actually works. We should look at budgets and ask where the money is. We should, above all, make ourselves aware of these elements of our community. If we are so excited to share our opinions with the world, we should channel some of that passion into actually learning about the problems we're opining over. What use is your uninformed opinion to the community? It is no use. Only hot air.

Friday, October 06, 2006

big harvest moon

I just read in Yahoo!News that the full moon tonight will appear to be about 12% bigger than usual because the moon is near perigree, the point on its elliptical orbit when it is closest to Earth. Lovely. So don't miss this chance to go out and see a very fat and gorgeous harvest moon. :-)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

poor joshua and why litigation can't save the world

Today in my Civil Rights Litigation class we talked about the "Poor Joshua" case (so called b/c of a comment in Justice Blackmun's dissent). Poor Joshua was a boy whose father beat him into a coma and whose mother sued the state because DHS didn't do more to protect him. Poor Joshua obviously makes a very sympathetic plaintiff, even Chief Justice Rehnquist, who wrote the majority opinion, allowed that the case inspired "natural sympathy," however, Joshua and his mother lost.

I sat back and listened as my very small class and my very animated professor debated the finer points of the opinion and I noticed something about our system that feels wrong. First, I noticed that everyone felt sympathy for Joshua and everyone was trying to wrangle with the law to get it to come out on his side. I was having the same feelings myself. However, I also noticed the limitations of the system in which all our arguments were taking shape. We all instinctively wanted to bring some culpability to the state for Joshua's injuries, but the vehicle of litigation was all wrong. It was like asking a room full of surgeons to weigh in on a possible treatment for chicken pox -- any surprise that the surgeons want to perform surgery even though that's obviously not a good solution?

If it hadn't been a *law* class, I would've asked that we all take a step back and look at the deeper issue. A parent abuses his child. Think of all the ways the state (the big village, as it were) could be involved positively and proactively to try and prevent something like the poor Joshua situation. Maybe free parenting classes, maybe community daycare, maybe Joshua's dad needed a better job, medical care of his own, substance abuse treatment, counseling, something. Or, maybe DHS by itself was perfectly situated to monitor and prevent child abuse, but maybe DHS doesn't get enough funding or training?

There's obviously a problem, but surgically removing the chicken pox is asinine and so is suing the state for damages because Joshua's dad gave him permanent brain damage. SK and I talked about America's litigiousness this summer. Those of us who were born and raised here might be surprised to know that *other* civilized, westernized countries don't use litigation like we do (like it's good for what ails you). I posited that we use litigation to make up for the lack of social welfare programs in this country. On a deep level we feel the state won't look out for us (in fact, most of us are conditioned to believe that's not the state's job), so we look out for ourselves by suing the state (or whomever else might be the best available deep pocket). Litigationism as opposed to socialism. Socialism gets stigmatized here in America, but look at the alternative we've created and tell me our way is really better. You can't.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

upanishads plus kabbalah equals love

I love the Upanishads. They come from the Vedas, which are ancient scriptures, probably first written down around the time the books of the Old Testament were being written although according to Vedic mythology they were passed down as an oral tradition for thousands of years before they were ever written. They contain a beautiful and mystical cosmology on which Hinduism is based.

Of course, you can Google Upanishads for all the technical details. I love them because I love the creation myth they contain and, if I had to nail down something of my own belief system, it would be nailed in roughly the same pattern of the Upanishads. What moves me most is that this ancient cosmology is now backed up by things we understand about modern physics and what science tells us about the origin of the universe.

Basically, according the Upanishads, Brahman is all there ever was, is and all there will ever be. "He" split himself into spirit and matter by a long, reverberating sound, OM, which is the sacred sound of creation. (I'm using the masculine pronoun out of convention and convenience, forgive me.) Thus, everything that is exists came from Brahman, is made of Brahman and will return to Brahman. This gels with science which says the universe began as a singularity (a tiny, dense mass that contained all the matter and energy crammed into the smallest amount of space possible) and that, with a very big noise, aka: a bang (like, perhaps, a sacred sound of creation), this singularity exploded and birthed the universe. All the matter and energy was present in the singularity and now all that matter and energy (which can't be added to or subtracted from) is what fills the universe. Every part of everything is made from that matter and energy and is, in that sense, eternal.

That is, of course, just a thumbnail sketch of the info in the Upanishads and my own retelling of what science has to say about it all. I wanted to convey, however, how much all this moves me and how excited, therefore, I was when I started reading this book about Kabbalah last night and realized that it contains exactly the same language concerning the unity of all existence -- that all things emanate from that unity and that all things are therefore created from it and can never exist separate from it. The Upanishads calls the all-pervading force Brahman, science calls it something like matter and energy and the Kabbalah calls it something like g-d, but does it matter? It seems so clear that they're all talking about the same thing. The unmoved mover. The uncaused cause.

Why am I studying law when I should be studying divinity? I'll tell you something, now that you ask, completely off subject but what the heck. I'm interested in the Talmud and I realize, having done some reading yesterday, that a big portion of it has to do with a complicated legal code extrapolated from and rationally ordered by interpretations of the Torah. With my head full of esoteric mysticism, I don't usually have time for a "religion" that purports to worry about the nuts and bolts details of what god's will might be concerning the goring of a man by another man's ox -- but I realized something important yesterday about religion that I'd been missing for a lot of years. While I've been busy with my head literally in the stars trying to figure out the deepest secrets of life and the universe, some folks have been caring for the divinity (ie: the people) here on Earth by carefully reasoning out moral and legal codes to help order and structure lives and communities.

Ordered and structured lives and communities, especially those ordered by religion, have always felt awful and oppressive to me and believe me, I'm not interested in signing onto any kind of old-school community just yet. However, I suddenly have a new appreciation for the thoughtfulness and care that inspired learned people and scholars to study the Torah to extract solutions to day to day problems for regular people to apply. It's really very sweet, as far as I can tell, and I like thinking about it. For now I'm going to leave aside my natural revulsion at the parts that, for instance, call for the stoning to death of an adulterous woman. Some things, with time, evolve and I imagine Talmudic law might do the same. I will focus, instead, on the scholarship and the care that inspires it. Is there a word for that? I am imagining it as a kind of deeply committed, altruistic scholarship that doesn't study for the sake of knowledge, but studies for the sake of helping other people in some way. A scholarship inspired by love and community. That's the kind of scholarship I'm interested in pursuing.

me thinks i didth protest too much

Ok, so that double shift thing wasn't so bad. I got to sleep on a couch in the loft all night, I got to see SK this morning when she came to work and since I worked graveyard last night, I won't have to work swing tonight so I'll get to spend the night with SK, which is a huge treat in the middle of the week. Yay! Also, I get a $25 bonus for working a double shift. More yay! All in all, it's a win-win.

Of course, I didn't exactly sleep *well* on that couch, but I slept better than I usually do. (Over the years, I've had many occasions to try and sleep in the loft, with varying degrees of success.) And it still sucks that the brain-damaged hippie is so irresponsible. This happens pretty frequently but we're so desperate to keep our graveyard staff nothing is ever done about it. If I was a no-call/no-show more than once or twice at the max, I'm pretty sure I'd get canned. But not this guy. The boss-man is afraid he won't be able to find a replacement and he's probably right.

If the company would just offer a pay-differential for graveyard things would be much better. As it is, there's no incentive to work that shift other than the natural desire to work at night and sleep in the day. And you know... regarding people for whom that is a "natural desire" -- they make a motley labor pool, and that's being diplomatic. We end up with brain-damaged hippies who can't hack it at regular jobs and we have no leverage when it comes time to crack down on their fuck-ups. And that's a price the whole team pays... or at least that's a price the suckers who have to stay and work a double shift pay. Suckers like me. *Sigh*

i'll have to get right with god again next year

I am stuck at my job for a double shift because the old, brain-damaged hippie who is supposed to relieve me is missing-in-action. He was supposed to be here at midnight and now it's 12:45 and not only is he not here, he's not answering his stupid phone, the dirty bastard. I guess I'll be sad if it turns out he choked to death on a sandwich or something legit, but that's pretty unlikely. I'm sure he just overslept (again, just like last week). Good for him. Old, brain damaged-hippies need their sleep, right? Unlike busy young whipper snappers like me who divide their time evenly between work and law school. We don't need sleep, we survive on sheer will and caffeine, right? WRONG! I love sleep!! I need sleep!! I don't want to be awake all fucking night you stupid hippie!!! I have class tomorrow! I have shit to do! I have a life!

Monday, October 02, 2006

word of the day from on high


Pronunciation: su-'p&r-n&l
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French supernel, from Latin supernus, from super over, above -- more at OVER
1 a : being or coming from on high b : HEAVENLY, ETHEREAL (supernal melodies) c : superlatively good (supernal trumpet playing)
2 : located in or belonging to the sky

As the sun sets, here's hoping everybody who looked within and talked to g-d for Yom Kippur has been given the OK for another year on the planet. Mazel Tov!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

the good of this day

Another gorgeous early fall day. Slipping past the last of Indian summer, the air is more crisp and more leaves are falling, but the sun is still bright and the sky is still blue. It's lovely. I spent the day in SK's new basement, putting together bookshelves while she unpacked and rearranged things. Now I am home and she is home and we are in different homes. She's napping and preparing for a meeting tonight and I'm supposed to be studying.

I don't want to study. It's the first day of October and I want to carve a pumpkin and put up the rest of my halloween decorations. Halloween is my favorite holiday and I know from many years of experience that if I don't really jump on it these first days of October, I'll lose the feeling before it ever has a chance to grab me. I'm fickle that way. I put up a couple of skeletons last night and SK (being English and not having grown up with halloween) watched in amusement.

Meanwhile it's Yom Kippur, beginning at sundown, and I suppose I should consider my past year's behavior and wonder whether I'm worthy to live another year. Or, perhaps I should remember I'm not Jewish and do something else tonight instead... like study. I'd easily rather celebrate Yom Kippur than study. But then it would be for all the wrong reasons...

Remember last spring when I was hell bent on celebrating Lent (no pun or rhyme intended)? What was that about? I'm fascinated by religious holidays. Even though I was raised Christian (Mormon for a good chunk of it), we never really had religious celebrations of holidays. Easter was more or less a holiday of candy and Christmas was a holiday of presents, even though we basically understood what those holidays were "really" about. I think I long for the deeper thing, the deeper meaning behind religious holiday rituals. So I'm curious about Yom Kippur and I suppose, while I'm at it, I should look into Ramadan. And, you know, I guess it says something about my secular upbringing that Halloween manages to be my favorite "holiday."

Though, I am scorpio, after all. The sign of death and transformation. It's only natural that my favorite holiday would be about death and dressing up in costumes. God I love Halloween. I'm gonna go buy a pumpkin, I can't take the wait and I don't want to study anyway. And if I can get it before sundown, then I can get home in time to start working on Yom Kippur too... Shalom.