Welcome To My Bed

How I Fell Out of Love With Manhattan




Some days, I envy the kind of people who are born, go to school, raise a family, grow old and die all in the same metro area.  I used to think I'd be one of these people.  My family is from a tiny one traffic light town a stone's throw from Manhattan.  When you start out that close to what many people claim is the greatest city in the world, it doesn't seem like much improvement could be made to your location.  I came of age on NJ Transit: every weekend of early high school meant days-long sleepovers with my best friend at her family's place in Weehawken and PATH trips from Hoboken to Lower Manhattan; later, another friend and I would stash his car in the lot behind an Asian restuarant in Fort Lee and walk across the GWB, or take the tiny privately run buses from one side of the river to the other.

When I was a teenager, the world was a vast, uncharted place that I could do just fine without.  I had my future laid out right in front of me.  I want to go to Cooper Union, live in Alphabet City, take the bus home to visit my little brother with spoils from street fairs and flea markets on alternating weekends.  All of my closest friends planned to move to New York after graduation.  We spent nights in friend-of-friends apartment watching FLCL, using up endless rolls of film taking pictures of ourselves, playing a game called 'brackets' where we pitted pairs random nouns against each other head-to-head until we were only left with two options to defend.  Analog versus digital.  Britney versus Christina.  Diesel versus unleaded.  As the list narrowed, things became much more bizarre.  Hair cuts versus spare tires.  Whiskey versus toothpaste.  The Lakers versus table salt.  But never once did we pit New York against anything.  There was no contest.

When applying to colleges, I went through several rounds of rigorous extracurricular art classes trying to get my portfolio up to snuff for the review process inherent to applying to straight-up art schools.  Whenever a rep from one of the big schools came through, I would give them my work to look at, hoping to get early feedback and keep honing until I was unstoppable.  I got accepted to several school based on these reviews my junior year of high school, but I wasn't ready to accept, because none of them were in Manhattan.  (I apologize for the ill-disguised humblebrag.)  But even though I didn't take any of the offers, it woke me up to the possibility of other cities.  Baltimore.  San Franciso.  Boston.  It had never occurred to me that there were other places I might want to cut my teeth.

My last year of high school, Meredith Lippman told me she would hunt me down and kill me if I ever stopped making art.  She also told me to apply to Hampshire, a now-infamous nudge that resulted in me moving the middle of Western Massachusetts dairy farmland and finding the room I needed to breathe.  Hampshire got me hooked on slam poetry, introducing me to poets from everywhere.  I housed roughly half the people who came through for features on my living room couch.  And barely any of them were from New York.  They loved their cities as fiercely as I thought I loved Manhattan and defended them as such.  When I cycled through Gotham on my way home for holiday breaks, I realized that some of the glow was gone.  It didn't seem so special when compared to the way my new friends talked about Chicago or Denver or Madison or Portland or Vancouver.

While at Hampshire, I made near-weekly pilgrimages to Cambridge for readings at the Cantab.  The magic of a single bar basement (that admittedly spells like rat piss) overtook any remaining love I had for New York and replaced it with a deep-seated fondness of the two-hour slog down I-90, the endless open mic, and the alley behind the bar where I have had more exquisite, hysterical, illicit moments than I dare to recount to the internet.  Many more memorable nights than Manhattan had ponied up during our time together.

I moved into the living room of my sister's one bedroom Providence apartment for a summer between semesters and had more free time than I knew what to do with.  I befriended a gang of singer-songwriters and spent my evenings hanging out windows of the 3rd floor at AS 220 with a cigarette, wandering the tiny downtown laughing loud enough to wake the dead.  One of these new friends gave me knife when he heard where my apartment was.  Another introduced me to the loop pedal.  I had met the city with a severely broken heart and when I went back to my cow field the following fall, I was good as new.  The city wasn't what I was used to--a bit unfinished, busted up and dneglected anywhere beyond the mall or College Hill--but that rough charm made me feel charming too.  I hadn't even seen the change happen, but I was assertive, convinced of my worth.  Where in Manhattan I had always defered to some near-stranger to tell me what I was worth, Providence taught me that your value as a person is only what you believe it to be.  If you can sell yourself as a success story, anyone listening will nod their head in agreement.

With school winding down, the decision about where to lay down roots was present, but suddenly unanswerable.  So many places had my heart.  I stayed close to school for six months, unwilling to go back to any city at all.  As a teenager, I'd been convinced rural living would be the end of me.  But more and more, abandonning New England became the thing I feared.  Manhattan was a foreign country.  Rhinestone and neon and teeming with so much I could no longer call familiar.  I had a friend nagging me to move back so we could get some tiny space in Brooklyn and "live the dream".  After a lot of excuses, I finally just said no outright.  It was bizarre to hear the words leave my mouth.  I don't want to move to New York.  I'd outgrown the fairytale.

I always took for granted that my twenties belonged to the fat glut of light across the river from my family's house.  I spent so many years praying to the shine there.  Make me special, make me interesting, make me one of your hum.  I remember a morning when I woke up at 6 AM on the floor of a dorm at the New School and thought, yes, this, every single day--this!  Certainly, I could've been happy there.  But I also know how grounded I feel here, in Boston.  And how affectionate I feel towards Providence, and Portsmouth, and Pittsburgh, and a handful of other underrated cities that all live in my heart.  Manhattan is supposed to be the best, but for me, it hasn't be in contention for quite some time.

Hometown.


I've been in New Jersey less than 24 hours and I've seen a ska show, danced so hard to dubstep that an on-duty cop came up to my sister and I to compliment us, drove the length of Manhattan as the sky was graying with morning, and indulged in the greasy highway diner fare that simply does not properly exist in New England.  But the highlight has been the dirt.  I pulled hundreds of tiny maple seedlings from my gram's front garden.  Kneeling on ground not made of concrete.  It's been too long since I've touched growing things, though a lot of the garden has been chewed over by deer.  They ate all but three of the tulips and none of the daffodils (daffodils are poisonous).  My uncle buys special seed for the birds and squirrels.  The yard is overrun with fat red wing blackbirds, crows, cow birds, starlings, cardinals, mourning doves, blue jays.  So many things that I love I could never have in a city.  Except house music.  That new love is highly portable.


Pomp (& circumstance).

I can't sleep. I haven't had to say that aloud in a long time.

So I started thinking about my hair again. It's been an obsession lately (and always). I've dyed it twice in the past two weeks, once lighter, once darker. I am satisfied with the color now, but the length is driving me nuts. Having an inch and a half of hair is difficult. With my styling options close to zero, it seems my collection of hats is growing exponentially. Not because I want to cover my hair by any means, but because I just want something interesting to be happening on my head. Oh, how I rue the day that I shaved off my mohawk! Well, not really. I've quite enjoyed this crop. But I am ready for some different extreme. These two ladies and their fabulous coifs have been spinning through my head as of late:

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Now, Rihanna is someone that can essentially do no wrong by me. Argue her talent all you want; I'm not going to tell you what opinion to have as far as pop music goes. But for the past few years, basically ever since she cut it short, her hair has been fierce as a tiger let lose on Las Vegas. If I could have even half the pompadour she's rocking at the right of that pair of pictures, I would be beyond pleased with myself.

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If you have not heard of Janelle Monae, you have been living under a boulder of epic un-coolness. This woman can sing and dance like I have not seen in years, not to mention carry a sci-fi story of Frank Herbert-proportions on her shoulders rocking wing-tips and the freshest white shirts. I love me some Gaga, but I have half a mind to smack the entertainment industry hard in the mouth for being so moony-eyed over that New York love child of Madonna and Marilyn Manson when Janelle is leaps and bounds beyond. If we wanted to have a no-holds-barred battle between high-concept pop divas, I know Monae would win, hands down. That being said, her hair, while defying all gravity, has absolutely captured my heart.

I suppose what all of this means is that I'm currently sitting at my kitchen table in the dark, meditating on ways to make my hair grow faster. After dinner tonight, I had a brief modeling session where I showed my roommate Jericha this fantastic vintage dress I picked up mid-July. In talking about how to style it, I went off on a tangent about the plans for my future hair. She told me I was only allowed to dress pin-up if my hair got larger than life. I am inclined to agree. There is nothing that makes me happier than the idea of winged eyeliner, sky-high pumps, and even higher hair.

Except maybe this last picture:

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In other, perhaps more important, news, the website for my winter tour is up and running. I have been smiling too much and doing impromptu happy dances in the crosswalk on my way to work because of it. It was designed by the badd-ass and talented William James, a man I admire for many reasons, the least of which is that his typewriter collection rivals his pearl snap shirt collection. RESPECT!

If you're in the New York area this weekend, you should come out to the inaugural tour date, my show at Sarah Lawrence's Teahaus, sponsored by their Spoken Word Collective. I will have limited edition books and lots of words and hugs and dance magic to share. Word on the street is there's going to be an epic after-party, as it's their first feature of the semester. I am honored, and absolutely beyond excited to rock New York hard. Details here. I'd love to see your smiling face in the audience!

Last, and perhaps most importantly, today is my sister's twenty-fifth birthday. Well, more like yesterday at this advanced stage of morning. I am sending her a unicorn for good luck in the coming year, her silver anniversary of living. What a wonderful lady!

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Here we are at the Flying Rhino last fall, our favorite restaurant in Worcester. I can't wait resume our tradition of monthly dinners, this time with wine.

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Did I mention it's now nine days until my 21st birthday?! SHA-ZAMMM.

Ok. I really need to go to bed now...

"Teach me how to run hard and far from who I used to be."

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"Do you hear that Grössby? That's the sound of summer ending."


1. I haven't been here, really been present, in awhile. All of my avenues of self-reflection have been silent, and I feel that silence in a way that is terrifying. My journals go unwritten in, poems (until very recently) get brainstormed and lost to some dark corner of the forgetful half of my brain. And this poor, poor blog looks like a ghost town. For all the internet knows, I am bored and have nothing to say. The truth is, I am overwhelmed and have absolutely everything to talk about. There is just too much of it to wade through. But I'm going to try.

2. Regret seems to be the buzzword of the summer. Which sucks, considering I am that asshat who says things like, "Pssh, who regrets anything? I am always proud of everything I do." Which is not an outright lie. In the case of the past few months, I know that my doubts come from how I've spent my time. Too much whiskey (if that's possible), not enough writing. Bottom line, I'm feeling the pressure when it come to turning in a "completed" novel come December. I am well known for taking on projects bigger than the moon and pulling them off at the last possible moment, but this one seems bigger, Jupiter sized. I speak in lines from other people's poems lately, work at least six days a week, and have not sat down and finished a book since early July. I am worried about getting lost in all different kinds of shuffles. On bad days, it feels as though I already have. People are rearranging as friends leave for school again, while other return for the same reason. I know I am not standing still, but there is stasis in my bones now, where before there was entropy. I need to feel like I am moving forward. Some days I wish I was a runner, a real one, so that I could at least move myself physically out of this space.

3. I am moving out of this apartment in about a week, which is a loss of both the treehouse and my roommate. I'll be moving downtown to be closer to work, and in that way it is both exciting and practical. In another, it is completely disorienting. I cannot imagine how to make it less so, because as soon asI get settled again, I will be uprooting myself. At work today, I spent the majority of my time doing mindless organizational tasks and thinking hard about all of the things that are wrapped up in moving back to New York. Yes, I said it. I am moving back to New York. Or Jersey. City-side living. I kept having visions of goldfish and cooking dinner for my father and late night painting sessions with Maggie. I know it will be good, as well as necessary. I need to give myself permission to be excited about this. Everyone is talking about relocating to Boston post graduation, and it feels like last summer all over again, a party I am vaguely invited to but have too many reasons not to attend. I know they are all good reasons, but it's still awful to know that all of my friends will be living somewhere I am not. I suppose there are always the Chinatown buses.

4. In spite of all the gray weather and beige headspace, there is silver lining to this day. I gave a few of my chapbooks to a coworker, something I have never done before, and she came in today raving about my writing, telling me she had passed the books on to her friends. I wanted to hug her, but it seemed a somewhat inappropriate act, considering that we were standing in the middle of racks of American Apparel and she and I have never so much as gotten coffee outside of work. But still, the hug bubbled up, and stifling it almost hurt me physically.

5. Also, there was that thing that happened a few weeks ago in St. Paul. Lots of poems. Lots of crazy times. I am still trying to process all of it. The poetic essay is helping a bit, but mostly I just feel lost when looking for meaning in a hotel full of stranger who all seemed to know my name, and if not that, at least my face.

Good things come in all packages.

So many many many good things this past week, even through all of the tough stuff. I'll give you the run down quick right now, but there will be longer stories once pictures are uploaded, dates are finalized, and changes have taken place. I'm being vague. Bear with me.

+ Team practice is in full swing, and I'm not sure I've ever had a more rewarding space to grow artistically. My lady poets have given me endless happy surprises, and we've only really been at this whole process together for less than a month. Every evening we spend working together leaves me with an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. This is why I love collaboration. Besides a regular case of the sillies that infects every meeting, there is so much to look forward to for the summer because of all the poetry that's happening. We have two regional slams this month (one in Boston on the 7th, details here, and one in Providence on the 18th) and, if all goes according to plan, two team features to get us all amped and ready for St. Paul. Not that we need any help getting amped. Every time we get together to work on our poems, I am lucky enough to get goosebumps from absolutely everybody's writing on the page, as well as their performance choices. It's good to know that I will be going to my first nationals with no doubts about how proud I am. I am putting together our team chapbook, literally beaming from ear to ear.

+ I took a brief trip to New Jersey this week to see my family and was blessed to be with all of my siblings at once for the first time in months. I also had the pleasure of introducing on of my dear friends and teammates to my whole family, and the talks that ensued were so special and important for me. Going home provides a fair amount of stress in most situations, but this time I made sure to love the trip for what it was, not fault it for the hiccups. Things are not perfect with anything family-related right now, but I'm confident we'll get through this rough time. My father inspires me more and more every day with how strong he's been through this whole scary process. I just keep believing in the resilience of the heart, both his and my own, that this is just a test and a testament to how strong we will always be.

+ When in Jersey, a Manhattan/Brooklyn visit is always in order, and this trip (though only two days long) was no exception. Christina and I had quite the adventure, not arriving home until about 6 AM after much traipsing around in tiny dresses and sweating in the unbearable heat. That sounds gross. I'm sorry. It's no comfort to say there are pictures, but there are. Also, lots of stories of strange encounters with men on the sidewalk. But more about that later.

+ I have a new job. I start July 12th. I'll be working in retail, which, in pretty much any other case, I would be dubious about. However. Faces is the kind of place I'm going to fall in love with and never want to leave. Aside from the fact that waitressing has been draining my lifeblood without providing fair (or livable) compensation, my restaurant isn't exactly geared toward mohawked, rainbow-haired twenty-somethings with ambitious tattoo plans and a great deal of financial woe. In short, I'm not really the look they're going for. No matter how much I bust my ass, this will always be true. I will always be the "alternative" one. If the money was better, I'd be able to deal with this, but the money just hasn't been there because of this damned recession. So, I decided to take my love of customer service elsewhere. This elsewhere happened to be only up the block. And chock-full of rainbow-haired, tattooed twenty-somethings with big smiles, along with all kinds of quirky awesome for sale (and the best return policy I have ever heard of in my life--any time, for any reason, with or without a receipt). As my time in the restaurant winds down, I am getting really sad, but at the same time, I know that this change is definitely for the better.

+ In closing, last night was Star Trek drinking game night at Kevin's, and we had quite the time. We watched the belly dance episode from the second season, which was really a murder mystery, which somehow ended up being about metaphysics and time traveling non-humans, which is why I love Star Trek. But what I love even better is a combination of Star Trek and Ke$ha, courtesy of Christina:

Where the quiet part of my heart lives.

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The leaves in the suburbs put farm country to shame. Hadley asparagus may be delicious this time of year, but I will take rhubarb any day of the week, if only because it means I get to play with knives in the backyard, all while donning my peacock-print Tina Turner dress. And since I can't have her fabulous, giant hair at the moment, I suppose I will settle for wearing the old denim jacket I unearthed in the basement this afternoon, to be rocked a la 1984:



And just because I found this somewhat disturbing, here she is dancing seductively with a giant shoe?



If I have time to be watching all of this, it is thoroughly summer. I am in the midst of my only real vacation for the next string of months and I've already managed a close encounter with a deer on the Palisades Parkway, locking my keys in my car outside Sean's new apartment, getting lost off the BQE, a brief layover in Clinton Hill to visit the men of Black 29 Productions, the "recession special" at Gray's Papaya, a dentist appointment, and two massive loads of laundry.

Also, mostly so that my sister knows what I'm talking about when I say "those cats that wave at you in Chinese restaurants", I bought this:

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I think that I may have a super power that allows me to turn pictures the color of my hair?

I haven't named him yet. (Suggestions welcome.) He will match perfectly with all of the old furniture my grandmother has nearly been carrying to my car herself--since I've been here, I've been offered all manner of dressers, shelves, end tables, lamps, etc. from the vast stores in the basement, attic, and garage. It would seem that my family has enough furniture for three families. I can be almost certain that none of it is new. Curb shopping coupled with pack rat tendencies makes for interesting after dark navigations of the living and dining rooms. And every visit I've made for the past year, I forget they moved the location of the kitchen garbage.

And because I haven't written any solid lists in the past few weeks, here are all the things that would be in my dream apartment: a fire pole, an iron spiral staircase, floor to ceiling bookshelves, talking candlesticks/flatware/appliances that sang with me so the chores went by quicker, an endless supply of avocado salad (avocados, orange peppers, red onion), and that stained glass fake Tiffany lamp that used to hang over my Gram's kitchen table.

I love New Jersey. I refuse to speak ill of it. Cos when I'm here, even on the days when it's hotter than Tina's legs in any given mini skirt, I get grass naps and New York as my great big humid backyard.

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New year, empire state of mind.

This post is nearly a week over-due, but I am still basking in the afterglow of all the wonderful that took place between December 31st and January 2nd. I was telling my friend Brian about it last night at the Cantab and he literally said, "I don't think I've been more jealous of anyone in my life. I am restraining myself from pushing you off your chair out of spite."

Anyway, let's get into it. New year, new decade, new everything--well, not exactly. I thought I was leaving the trial and tribulation of the 365 project behind with 2009, but I just don't know when to quit and have signed on for another year. We'll see if I can make it through this second round.

I rang in the shift of time with Sean and Sophia in Manhattan and Brooklyn, my first New York New Years ever, a criminal situation since the city and I have been loving neighbors to one another my entire life. It was time to break my former tradition of quiet evenings at home with Dick Clark and cheap champagne, so I made it a saucy evening in Clinton Hill at Roger Bonair-Agard's brownstone dancing the night away with the New York all-stars. One of my favorites moments of the night--Roger's mother joining us on the dance floor and looking like she was having the time of her life. Another that I'll never forget or be able to replicate--the midnight champagne toast turning into an "Empire State of Mind" sing-along where absolutely everybody knew the words and absolutely everybody was on their feet having the best possible time.

After the party, Sean, Sophia and I hopped on the subway back to Sophia's apartment and continued our festivities more quietly, sharing a hot pretzel, going for a late night walk in the park, letting our cases of the champagne sillies get the best of us. The next morning after homemade waffles, Sean hopped on the Holtz's grand piano and played an epic medley of his old standards. Naturally, I jumped at the chance to harmonize, being that we don't get our car-radio diva sessions nearly enough.

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After the private concert, we had a hearty diner meal and a healthy gossip session (as poets tend to do whenever there are several in one place). I could help but smile, no matter where the conversation turned. It's so seldom that we get to spend any substantial amount of time with Sean. New York isn't terribly far from Massachusetts, but it's far enough to keep our lives too separate for my taste.

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But with not even twenty-four hours-worth of reunion, Sean was Boston-bound to do some more visiting, so Sophia and I took advantage of the unseasonably warm January weather and went for a walk around her neighborhood, eventually stopping in at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, one of her favorite places, to do some talking and marvel at the architecture.

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When I have my first Christmas tree, whenever that may be, I want it to be a huge nest of paper cranes like this one. I was so taken by the sight of this one in the church--like a bunch of wishes floated down from wherever just to roost in the tree. I am getting all romantic about then for literally no reason, but I love them. They literally made my day.

Sophia's parents invited me to stay for my very first Shabbat dinner, and after a glass of wine and lots of laughs and stories of the most famous Israeli poet and his attendance at dinner parties, I made my way back to Brooklyn to drop in on Evan and James for a long overdue visit. Also, Theodore was there, adorable as always, and probably twice the size he was when I last saw him in September.

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The next morning, the subways back to Manhattan were all wacky with service interrupted on at least four different lines out of Brooklyn for track repairs, but I eventually made it back to New Jersey in one piece in time for a family dinner and some more champagne to finish out the week. If I'm not careful, I'm going to start getting used to the stuff.

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I have my fingers crossed that the sun will keep shining on me as brightly as it's been since the first. I am so grateful to have kicked off this very important year with good friends and a clear head. At lunch with one of my high school English teachers on New Year's Eve, I got a compliment I wouldn't have known how to take a year ago--that I am "empty and marvelous". I am going to keep that in mind from now on, that emptiness isn't negative, just a better state from which to accept all the lemons Life juggles and then drops into your lap when you least expect them. Empty, I can easily be a pitcher of lemonade with a little elbow grease.

Stomaching my family.

1. The other day I drove into New York with Owen and my family friend Missa who is visiting from Seattle to hit up a weekly Sunday flea market on the Upper West Side. In spite of an interminable quest to locate parking (I should have known!), we had a fantastic time in the brisk but still unseasonably warm weather. I walked around all day, even after the sun started sneaking off, without a jacket. I have spent most of my time lately cocooned in ridiculous giant scarves, and it was wonderful to have them see the sun for once instead of being dwarved by the fur hood of my coat. Highlights from the blacktop shopping include a bracelet made entirely of little heads (see below, among my other daily jangles), more fur coats than I've ever seen in once place in my life, and skipping through the crosswalks with my brother. It was my first time taking him to New York without my parents, and I hope that it becomes a regular occurence, because we had an absolute blast. He's growing into a miniature adult.

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Also, there were these adorable felted slippers that were cats you put your feet in!

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2. I don't have a bedroom at my parents' house anymore (it's a long and complicated explanation, so I'll spare you), so when I visit, I stay in the attic with my sisters. It functions a lot like the dormitory in the Madeline books--twin beds all lined up and lights out by a specific time and long talks before we all eventually fall asleep. Most of the time it's delightful--I don't get to spend much time with both my sisters at once except when we're home for the holidays--but this particular break they've both been snoring up a storm. It must be how dry the heater makes the air or something. Anyway, we have cuddle piles that look like this:

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3. This year is one I'm going to treasure always as the time when I found my way back to my family without begrudging them their lack of understanding--I really am an odd duck, and to expect them to always know how to deal with that is asking too much. Since swallowing my pride several months ago, we've all gotten along so much better. I think it's a sign from the universe that we no longer get into crazy arguments at the dinner table--of what, I can't really be sure. But finally, FINALLY, coming home has shifted from a stressful activity to one that I actively look forward to and somehow manage to enjoy, even when there are hiccups.

Put your words in my mouth.

1. I have lots of things to say today, but none of them are my own. I am recording an audio anthology of poems for my father's Christmas present. He told me today that he missed reading poetry and I smiled and said nothing. He has been half blind since before I was born. He has been one cloudy detached retina and no depth perception and I want to give him back some of what he has missed, something that will also help him see me more clearly. I hope desperately that this project will be that clarity. It's a strange sensation, reading the words of my friends and other poets I admire to record them for someone who has met only one or two of the writers. It's like introducing him to a room full of people that I love, but all of those people are speaking in my voice. I wonder if he'll be able to pick my own poems out of the crowd.

2. I am back in New Jersey and feel strange, as I have come to expect. My dad listens to Rush Limbaugh every day at lunch and tries to incite me to political argument. I agree with him in oblique ways (that the government is doing things wrong--beyond that, we tend to diverge) and try to only focus on those points of intersection. I told him about a Jared Paul piece I saw this summer about being arrested for rioting when not actually rioting and he said he'd like to shake Jared's hand. I laughed internally, because I'm sure if my dad actually spoke to Jared Paul, he wouldn't have the same kind of opinion. It amazes me that we can transform people simply be speaking about them in certain ways; by withholding certain details and playing up others, the real person can be distorted into absolutely anything. That kind of power is scary and awing.

3. I am buried in spoken word mp3s. All I want to do is be among writers again. Driving across the Tappan Zee late last night, I could feel my chest tightening at the suburbia on the other side. I had to stop for cigarettes. I sat in the 7-11 parking lot almost shaking. I haven't been so overwhelmed in a long time. The feeling was especially strong because of how calming Providence is for me; every time I rediscover that city, I feel more at home. The other night Meg and I read poems to each other for hours. It was blissful. There is no one from my real life in this house. I feel like there are two different halves to the way that I function--the mask I wear in this childhood house, the straight, quirky, Catholic daughter/sister who washes dishes that aren't hers; and then there is the person I am everywhere else, that messy thing with a litany of epithets and definitions, none of which fit completely. Lady Gaga came up at breakfast (I find ways to work her into conversation at least once a day) and I was surprised to hear my father saying things about performance art and empowering women, but what was more shocking is that when speaking about the queer community, it almost fell out of my mouth that I am a member. I cartoonishly clapped a hand over my mouth before the secret fell out and ruined the perfectly normal (okay, maybe that's debatable) conversation we were having and promptly changed the subject to Rihanna and domestic violence so I could deal with an opinion I'd already scripted for myself. It seems I only shop the supermarkets that sell cans of worms.

Five things (11.13).

1. I started in on "Ted Hughes Bakes a Cake" last night while in the Cantab audience, somewhere between finishing my knitting and escaping out the back door for a quick smoke. The draft is in a weird place. Ted Hughes is currently attempting to hypnotize the oven. I'm not sure where it will go next. Probably somewhere too serious for the title, though I'm really trying to keep it as light as possible. Everyone who's heard about this project cannot contain their laughter; it comes out through spitting noises, like their mouths are deflating too quick for their lips.

2. I brought the Dickinson persona piece to workshop this afternoon and felt attacked. The majority of people thought it was too harsh an indictment of Amherst. It's defeating to have a poem I thought of as pretty solid knocked down a peg, but I'll probably just cycle it through several drafts tonight and push it through the problems. I'm trying to have a better attitude about editing, mostly as preparation for the thesis-writing I have to do starting in a rough month.

My second piece at workshop was "The Church of Tchaikovsky", a poem I wrote after a prompt my friend Erich gave me a few weeks ago (he asked me my convictions and after I answered, told me I should write about them). It was a really tough poem to get to-- I must have drafted it nearly fifteen times since I started working with the concept. There are at least four or five more poems to mine from free writes surrounding the thing that I turned in today, but the polished piece of it seemed well-received. I was proud; it's not often that I talk about my relationship to religion at all, let alone in my writing, so it was a tough thing to share in a class setting. Compared to reading in on the open mic at the Cantab last night, I'd say that class is far more nerve-wracking than being on stage, even if I am among friends in both cases. The distance probably helps.

3. As is Thursday afternoon tradition, Cass and I watched ANTM and got a little too giddy during the results portion. It was double elimination, which would narrow the playing field from four girls to the final two, a set of circumstances that some people would also see as cause for freaking out. I want to know those people, so that we can all get together and have a fondue-driven support group. Or a fashion blog knitting circle. Or something similar. Being on a campus focused on "social change", sustainability, and recreating the late 80s/early 90s via the Salvation Army bargain bin makes it very easy to deal with what I lovingly refer to my "schlub" days (the ones when I wear jeans instead of some incarnation of my fairly steady uniform of mini dresses and black tights). It also makes it incredibly difficult to not feel like a freak when I am wandering campus in five inch suede platform heels. Fashion and global-mindedness should not be mutually exclusive. Where are the other secret sequin lovers? (From the mouth of Gaga: "I'm just trying to change the world one sequin at a time.") My roommate and I can't be the only ones. Two of my friends saw me walking back from the library in some pair of pumps the other day and had a serious conversation about how they couldn't understand my impetus for such shoes. But then again, this anxiety could be its own entry, and will probably be further explored in later lists.

4. Rob "Ratpack Slim" Sturma featured in Cambridge last night, and I laughed so hard my abs were sore this morning. I'm not sure if it was the Van Halen, or the waltzing, or what-have-you, but I'm glad it happened. He just released a book with Write Bloody. The more I see of the poets in their catalog, the more I want to get all of them in a room and have a semi-trashy cocktail party with many ashtrays and spanakopita. Then, once everyone was properly liquored and trading stories, I would stealthily extract their brains one by one and secret them all into mason jars. So that I could study them. Perhaps to understand why they all find butterfly knives so aesthetically appealing. But mostly because I keep lending out their books and not getting them back from long, intolerable stretches of time.

5. I crave a conference with Sean, a trip to New York, any kind of small vacation to keep me from getting so buried in books and the mad woman-poet lives of the already-dead that I can't crawl my way out. Being back last week was a short breath, followed by a long a serious plunge under water again. I am bad at scuba diving. In fact, I've never done it before. This feels like drowning. I am taking serious advantage of winter break this year. Sophia said she would take me to her synagogue, and her writing spot. And then there's that Gaga concert. Sometimes I wonder how I manage to convince myself of my love for any other city.

Attempting homework; the ensuing distractions.

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What's that Grössby? You think the bourbon is hindering the writing process?!


I have to write a microfiction for workshop tomorrow afternoon and I'm trying to compose a piece of pseudoscience that I'll footnote with philosophy and poetry, but it's not coming as easily as I'd hoped. It's about sharks, which should make it come easily. But I got to Ampullae of Lorenzini and choked on the beauty of that name for an animal's organs and then got lost for a little too long to write anything coherent. Grössby keeps frowning disapprovingly. I want to do his cousins justice; this poem has been mentally in the works for awhile. I keep thinking about House of Leaves and how effective footnotes can be to telling alternative or, if you'll excuse the blatant (but somehow necessary) pun, marginal stories. The way that sharks are made, there must be some rhyme or reason to it. See that! It,s odd - I've been awfully reflective about otherwise trivial things lately. And then there's the fact that I cannot get a decent amount of sleep. I'm not really helping myself at the moment. This week has been so long, and I had a weekend that technically lasted until this morning.

Highlights of today: Sean on speakerphone while Sophia and I coached him on killing New York City cockroaches, the heat coming on for the first time, suddenly recognizing "Claire de Lune" and thinking about pineapple upside-down cake and the upright piano and Tabby stretched out in the sun, reading Wikipedia for a very long time, telling stories that made people laugh loudly in the crowded elevator.

Apparently there is a Lady Gaga party somewhere in the five colleges this weekend. I want one of those.

Metro-area visitation, in pictures (Part Un).

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My brother Owen, the lounge lizard I miss terribly living so far from New Jersey. He is literally glowing with awesomeness.

In spite of not missing much else besides family, I had a surprisingly good visit this week when I trekked home for my sister's graduation. The main event was tedious, as graduations typically are, but the rest of things were wonderful. There's not much to write by way of description of events, so I'm going to let the cell phone pictures do the talking.

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I missed this room, and the lady it belongs (Galen, member of the Rohrs' posse from way back in the day) was having a birthday, so naturally, we had to celebrate. For us, celebration meant driving into Brooklyn after midnight to do some Bedford bar hopping.

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The array at our first stop, The Gibson, where we did tequila shots with lemon wedges (which I actually liked better than the traditional lime), had beer adventures, were chatted up by strange men twice our age, did whiskey shots with said strange men. I performed a few poems on the sidewalk out front for Galen's friend Jesse who was drunk before we'd even gotten started on our journey. He told me that my writing was very violent, and though I'd never thought of it that way before, I now feel inclined to agree with him.

The bartender was adorable and hysterical and I feel awful because in the whirlwind of hysterics and storytelling, I forgot to leave him a tip. Ugh. In a happier (or perhaps stranger) vein, there was a three legged dog present, which made everything more special. We then moved on to the Abbey, where we were pleasantly surprised by $3 IPAs and the perfect atmosphere. SLZ and I had many an illuminating conversation over our beers.

By the time we started heading home, the sun was coming up over the FDR drive and the early bird morning commuters were speeding along on the other side. I can't remember the last time I was out so late. As a result of a combination need to pee and a desire to absorb the night from a pretty vantage point, we pulled off 9W for a pit stop at one of the many scenic overlooks.

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SLZ, Galen, and Jeff checking out Yonkers from the wall


I'm not sure if I've ever been drunk upon the sun coming up, but I couldn't help thinking that it would be impossible to wake up later that afternoon with a hangover if my "night" ended like this:

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Right now, I leave you with the view, and will return with (Part Deux) later today.

New lover.

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In my dreams of course. Yesterday I watched this documentary Kill Your Idols that was a free on demand movie from the Sundance channel, and though I've always loved and been fascinated by Gogol Bordello, I am now absolutely smitten with Eugene Hütz. The documentary was about no wave and its influence on the New York music scene since the 80's, and though I'm not sure I could regularly stomach Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, I have found a new thing I'd like to research the shit out of. Also through the documentary, I found Black Dice, which is now in heavy rotation in my iTunes. I think the cats hate me now. They keep staring over at the strange noises coming from my laptop (either Eugene yelping or bizarro feedback and electronic noises) like they'd like to murder me.

To escape their intensity, I am going to the grocery store to pick up the ingredients for falafel burgers and mock krema. Afterwards, I may or may not talk about the strange nature of graduation at my school. I am still trying to process what happened yesterday involving diplomas and Bobcat Goldthwait. And yes, you did read that correctly. Also, I think I might have a big throbbing crush on Ken Burns. He's almost too adorable in person.

City sights and sounds.

As much as New York will always be like home to me, spending the weekend in Boston proved to me that it's possible to fall in love with another city as more than a vacation spot. In all seriousness, I will be living there this summer, I don't care what kind of craziness it takes. But anyway, I wanted to take you through all of the little details that dragged me in and converted me into more of a New Englander than I ever thought I could be.

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I arrived at South Station on Friday afternoon. The weather was crisp but not too cold and I was ready for anything. When Carlos, a friend of mine from the Emerson slam team, picked me up, we decided to go for a walk on the waterfront, which ended up being a reoccurring activity for the weekend, one that I was more than down with. It reminded me of Hoboken, but cleaner and on a grander scale. But then, everything kind of reminds me of Jersey anyway, so who am I kidding.

We walked to the North End, where his apartment is. Right smack in the middle of Little Italy, amazing food at every turn. I ate so well this weekend, being back at Hampshire is depressing me even more. I want to be able to walk to so many delicious places. Friday we had Vietnamese sandwiches and went to an arts benefit night at Emerson that Carlos had to perform at.

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For a night of good home fun time, we got a couple of forties of the Champagne of Beers and watched several episodes of King of the Hill, a show I have recently fallen in love with all over again. Many laughs were had, especially my own giggling at how easily the hall window re-closes itself while I am trying to have a cigarette.

Saturday we ate breakfast (bacon, eggs, and onion all fried in the same pan, then eaten over rice), and I went to a laundromat for the first time (exciting, I know). Later we went on a long walk around the city, ending up along the water again and making our way to Newbury Street for Japanese noodle soup that can only be eaten with chopsticks. I had seaweed salad for the first time. We told origin stories and talked a lot about family and what we want to do with our time this summer. A couple beers down by the water every now and again is definitely on my list of things to do. And picnics in the park with a bottle of wine, for sure.

We then wandered through Beacon Hill, where even the 7-11 sign looks posh, and picked up a bag of Haribu Coca-Cola candies, which I had never tried before. We ate and walked some more, watched the sunset light all the buildings of the financial district up. There were moments when it was absolutely breath-taking. Back in the North End, we had Scarlett O'Hara's (cranberry juice and SoCo) and watched more King of the Hill.

Yesterday, knowing I had to leave the afternoon, a lot was left to be accomplished. I had never had a cannoli before, so the first order of business was to find a bakery that wasn't swimming in people and rectify that situation. We ate pastry while waiting for the T to Alston so that I could have Thai food for the first time. Many first this weekend.

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Lunch blew my mind, and in a food coma, we climbed the biggest city hill I've seen since San Francisco and chatted about the view at the top until we decided it was time to head back so I could pack and wait for my ride back to Amherst. I really thought my legs would be sore today from all the wandering and adventures of the weekend, but I feel great. In spite of a mysterious head cold, I am delighted in how I've been spending my time. If I didn't have so much homework on my plate for this week, in spite of reading two books over break and struggling to crack open a third. As I observed while home in Jersey, there is never enough time for anything I need to get done.

Un-discovery.

I am kind of obsessed with cardigan sweaters. I can always justify buying more of them because I wear them with basically everything. The sweaters I own that aren't cardigans are seriously under-worn, but all of them are thrifted, so I don't feel too awful about that. Anyway, in performing some maintenance on my Facebook while waiting to be called down to do my scene for the movie still being filmed in the entire downstairs of my house (they've been at it for hours), I ran across this photo from god knows how many months ago.

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And that cardigan (J. Crew via the Goodwill near the Palisades mall in New York state) has since disappeared from my life. And I want it back ASAP. Guess I'll have to go digging through the remnants in my closet when I'm home for spring break.

A proper post.

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Back in my natural habitat, the library reference desk after regular business hours.

I have been neglecting this, and I apologize for the half-assed presentation. Screen shots of the movies I've watched recently do not count as updates, but I've been overwhelmed. Now that my schedule is more or less pinned down, I feel more confident in assessing the state of my brain and its many contents. So. We'll start with the most basic and work our way towards the more complicated aspects of things.

Courses for the semester: The Idea of Europe - The Contemporary European Novel; The Personal Essay; Faulkner & Morrison; and, finger-still-crossed, Nell's Wednesday night Point of View Workshop. Twelve-ish hours of work a week, divided between different library departments. Slam team practice three times a week (Monday, Thursday, Saturday). All of this on too-little sleep and zero caffeine. I may have to un-quit coffee until I find a better way to continue functioning that doesn't involve various illegal substances. For now, my Tension Tamer tea is just not cutting it.

Anyway, moving into the realm of the larger and more possible world. I have been reading The Bluest Eye at every opportunity over the past couple of days, and I remembered that reading Toni Morrison my senior year of high school is what got me interested in writing poetry again. Odd, sort of, because she is a prose writer. Totally logical because her prose has this fantastic quality to it that begs you to read out loud, even though it will take more time/annoy your roommate/get you kicked out of the library. I mutter bits of the sentences under my breath just to hear them, and it is delicious, exactly as I remember from Song of Solomon. All of this musing belongs on Edible Words, but I'll indulge my digression because I haven't had the freedom to indulge much of anything recently. So, reading Morrison convinced my 17-year-old self to give poetry another chance. That's a statement that needs some explaining.

When I was in third grade, I wrote the first poem I can remember, about caterpillars and watermelon. I have no idea what it even looks like anymore, don't even think I still possess the notebook it was written in, but I do remember reading it at circle time, and my teacher telling me that I had done a good job. This is probably why I ended up in slam - simply because the first poetic experience I can recall being affected by was of such a public nature. I continued writing poetry on and off through early high school (delighting in the realization that all poetry did not have to rhyme, probably around age 10 or so), a practice that consumed so many notebooks I'm surprised it didn't start an environmental lobby against me. My freshman and sophomore years I wrote at least two or three poems a day and was twice published in my high school's literary journal (looking back now, the poems were awful, but I was still proud). And then I transfered, lost my footing, and decided it was time to reinvent myself. The poetry notebook got buried under staple guns and tubes of acrylic paint, and I was convinced I'd go to college for art. Then, I read Song of Solomon and the whole world came crashing down.

Returning to Toni Morrison for me has been a lot like my decision to start slamming again: I'm feeling tentative, trying to take baby steps, ending up splashing through all of my old puddles anyway (and in the most delightful of ways). When I read a good piece of writing, I am reminded of how much I have always loved words. I am really enjoying being reminded of that right now. I can only hope Faulkner will be as kind to me, because the last memory I have of him is falling asleep in my 10th grade English class while everyone talked in circles around two sentences of "A Rose For Emily". But I slept through everything in that class, good and bad.

Beyond reading, which I have been doing more than my fair share of lately, I have been doing a lot of work looking for internships for the summer. Living just outside of Manhattan when I am home from college is a convenience I don't take lightly; I plan to heavily exploit my geographical advantages and hopefully land a (paid) internship in publishing for the summer. Because if a bartender is a poet who drinks for free (I couldn't help myself), I will end up an alcoholic if I keep devoting my summers to bars. No more of such things. As an editorial intern, I would learn insider secrets about how to sell myself to agencies and publishers. This is just the kind of spy-like job I need if I ever expect to get something produced that will make it to a bookshelf. And thus, I have reached a strange impasse: I never learned how to write a resume. Weird, I know. I can compose a perfect business letter. But I have no idea how to present myself on paper. This a serious problem, because the deadlines are looming. On top of all the homework and rehearsal and attempting to remain sane taht must go on between now and May. I am praying not to drop the ball.

Nifty gifties.

I spent last night at Maggie's helping her wrap gifts for her family in Cape Cod, but mostly just drinking rum toddies and telling stories. She and her mom gave my half of my gifts, and I ended up with the coolest pair of rain boots of all time (see below).

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And an Indiana Jones calendar, because I talk about Harrison Ford quite a bit around the two of them. He is one of my only loves.

But the real gift was spending time together, as corny as it sounds. I drove Maggie to Port Authority this morning so she could hop a bus to Boston, where she'll meet up with her dad. It felt weird, standing in the interminable line to keep her company. It was the first time I had ever driven into New York on my own, but that wasn't it really. I just felt more like an adult than I ever have, giving my friend a ride to the bus station. I have to think about it some more to completely process the situation. Maybe I was just out of it. I'm going to use that excuse for not knowing what side of my sister's car contains the gas tank, and getting onto Rt. 1 & 9 instead of the turnpike after I got out of the Lincoln Tunnel. I need a nap. Tonight is midnight mass (against my will) and then late night diner with my dad, a new tradition started last Christmas eve.

Right now we're trimming the tree, which is fun mostly because I get to look at all the ornaments I made in elementary school that have my picture on them. My current haircut is eerily similar to the one I had in sixth grade.

Over the shoulder.

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In a wave of nostalgia that has suddenly overtaken me in the last half hour or so, I decided to go and dig up some things I remember fondly. Like Rohrs'. I am of the firm belief that everyone who claims to write should at some point in their lives work in a non-chain coffee shop. This belief is becoming more and more difficult for other people to execute because of the Starbucks-on-every-corner, or, in the case of New England, the Dunkin-Donuts-on-every-corner syndrome. However, I filled my requirement back in high school. I call it a requirement for two reasons - 1) because you meet tons of interesting people, and you can pick their brains and steal their quirks for future characters, and 2) because every writer should have a very healthy relationship with caffeine.

Rohrs' closed about two years ago for good, although there is still a location or two in Manhattan. This picture makes me think of it as fondly as I think of Clerks; and being from Jersey, the love/hate relationship with my job was a strong one even before I knew who Kevin Smith was. There were plenty of days when I wasn't even supposed to come in, but I usually came in anyway. Cos it meant a five hour shift with free coffee and company that was note-worthy, if nothing else.

I miss the Millenium French roast so badly. I could conceivably order it online, but I miss grinding the beans myself.

Halloweennn!

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Halloween is just around the corner, so I thought I'd whip out a picture from a World Inferno Friendship Society show about two years ago, maybe more. Because they seem Halloween appropriate. Also, Matt texted me last night just to check in, and I was looking through pictures of us and getting nostalgic just now.

I am on track with all my work, but I feel mildly ridiculous, because I lost my ticket voucher for Halloween. I've been cleaning my room mercilessly the past few days, but it still hasn't turned up. This upsets me.

Oh well. Shower, and then back to business.

Recovery!

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In spite of my eyes still being slightly bloodshot and my neck hurting every so slightly, I'm pretty sure that all that bullshit of being sick for nearly a week has subsided. It took long enough. But thank god it's over with the day I have a slam. I need to be in top form tonight.

Today is the last of September, and I am spending it cleaning my room and getting fancy. Some days, things looking good just makes everything feel like it fits better.

Last night I went to my first poetry workshop of the season, and in spite of my still-feverish delirium, I really enjoyed myself. he poem I brought was one written from a moment of intense disappointment that subsided as soon as I got it all out on paper. It has been impossible to edit for me, simply because I can't even access the part of me that had those feelings. Talking it out with other people was really helpful. And call me lame, but I love being around other poets. People my own age forcing me to be awestruck is one of the best feeling, or at least one of my favorite feelings.

In honor of today being the last day, I am going to go through my list of fall essentials and repost the ones I have yet to accomplish to their fullest potential.

-Ryan Adams's Love is Hell on vinyl.
- NYC
-photoquests when the leaves change
-new tattoo
-Hampshire Halloween

I am proud that most of my to do lists get well taken care of. But these last few need some serious attention. I have to start thinking about my Halloween costume, I have to start my application to the creative writing program (although it would help if I knew where to find an application), I have to finish cleaning my room.

Enough talk, more action would be much appreciated. I want a hotel room and some bad ideas.

Also, I quit smoking!