Welcome To My Bed

Endless Midnight Oil: Artistic Overdrive and The Dual-Wicked Candle



I had a conversation with a far-flung friend recently where we lamented being twenty-somethings.  A compelling conversation, I know, but just walk with me here for a minute.  After the "I hate my boring job" gripes and the "there's not enough time to make art" train of thought, we came back around to a happy place.  "Just sleep less," he said.  "You have a voice that needs to be heard."  I can't begin to explain how much I need our talk to end that way.

In the past few weeks, my writing here has been overwhelmingly negative.  I won't apologize for that so much as offer a bit of background.  When I go a long time without a serious outpouring of internal monologue, things can get a bit overwrought.  But, in service of being truthful, my life is fantastic right now.  My job may be a bit mind-numbing, but it gives me eight hours of auto-pilot where I can be chasing down ideas for the next poem, essay, or painting, so that when i get home after work, I am primed and ready to produce.  I have a cozy apartment where there is more than enough space for all of my projects.  I have a partner in crime whom I can bounce drafts off of at all hours.  My best friend lives a ten minute bus ride away.  I paint and write every evening until I fall into bed.  It is glorious to be so tired from so many good things.

I'm pretty sure the reason that I worked shitty customer service jobs for so long is the toll it would take on my body.  Even if I hated the workplace I was in, it was easy to feel like I'd actually accomplished something at the end of a shift because I could feel the strain in my body.  I would be sore from standing at a register, taking Christmas ornaments for eight hours.  My feet would ache due to the fact that I'd been running entrees non-stop through dinner service.  There were measurable, physical responses to how I'd spent my time in a given day.  While the exhaustion was intellectually satisfying, it was also defeating my ability to create.  How can a person come home from working a job that requires you to be on your feet and on the move, only to expend more physical and mental energy on what actually matters?  When I worked this more physically demanding jobs, I was terrible at staying awake an hour past arriving home for the night, and an hour is not nearly enough time to make real progress on a creative progress.

Trading my standing shifts for a cubicle and endlessly ringing phone has been a rocky transition.  I get restless staring at computer screen for eight straight hours.  But there are serious benefits to work that does not drain finite energy reserves.  I do not have to be creative at work.  I have to be personable and repetitive.  My time on the phone is essentially scripted.  I write emails on auto-pilot.  I know what is expected of me, and I accomplish my daily to-do lists.  It is a very simple existence.  Initially, this black and white environment had me thrashing around like a shark in the shallow.  I felt like I couldn't breathe.  Did they really think I was enjoying my work?  But art crept in around the edges of the day.  Writing on my luxurious hour-long lunches (having designated break time is still something I am giddy about); reading submissions for Side B in between answering email inqueries; writing to far-flung friends when the phones are silent.  I found so many small moments in my day where it was not only okay to do what I wanted to, but encouraged, that I still consistently feel like I'm getting away with something when I get up to take a stroll around the office.

Since changing workplaces (and moving to Somerville in general), I've had a lot more brain space to accomplish all the things I've planned out for years and never been able to find the structure in my day to facilitate.  I have a routine, and it is glorious.  I sleep less, and it doesn't affect my job performance; in fact, being tired enforces my auto-pilot at work.  The less I think about what is going on, the easier it is to lose myself in the repetition of my job, and then before I know it, it's five o'clock and I'm on my way back up the hill to my apartment.  I've put together a manuscript, painted a series to show publicly next month, built a soon-to-launch personal website, started writing non-fiction again.  Even though I spend more hours per day at my job, I feel like I have more time to do what I want.

There's an episode of Wilfred where (SPOILER ALERT) everyone's favorite Australian man in a dog suit loses his sense of smell, thus losing his sense of purpose.  At my minimum wage jobs, I had lost my sense of smell.  (I've not been unemployed since I was 14.)  I worked so much, and so consistently, alongside my actual life, that it became easiest to hide behind my exhaustion in lieu of making the strides towards things I actually wanted to achieve.  Sure, I finished college a semester early while working full time, but I also didn't try nearly as hard as I could have.  I may have muddled through last years tumultuous time in Providence, but I was angry and lonely all the time; I did very little writing and almost no painting, even though I had more free time than I knew what to do with.  I panicked when I started my current job because it was so unlike anything I've ever done for work before, but it really has been the best thing for me.  My nose is back.  I can sniff out opportunities to push myself a little further along like a motherfucker; I am surefooted, burning the midnight oil, experiencing more excitement and success than I knew I was allowed to.  The tedium is glorious for all the hours it affords me to do exactly what it is I love, and do it full force.

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.

What I think about when it is summer in March.

The birds woke me up before the sun did.  My street has this strange way about, like a radio dial is being turned and turned, never resting on a station for more than a moment.  I've gotten excellent at recognizing songs in a single heart beat.  I am also terrific at sleeping through all that white noise.  But the birds.  They are a new addition to the soundscape.  My neighbors let their children out into the yard long before the school bus and they play like dogs, yapping and fighting and speaking nonsense.  In a month, I'll be gone from here.  New apartment.  New, strange heat to take in through the open window.

3 Sorority Girls Walk Into My Cafe --or-- Rape Culture As Reported By Undeclared Feminists

I will start off by stating, unequivocally, that I am deeply prejudiced.  I immediately dislike people involved in Greek life on their campus of choice.  To me, frat-related social activities are about as appetizing (and as bland, and as devoid of value) as Kraft Mac&Cheez.  When someone within earshot mentions an affiliation with such activities, I shut off my ears so as to spare my gag reflex.  I'm not proud of this.  I'm sure plenty of nice people pledge.  It'd just not my cup of tea.

That being said, I was at work yesterday, and three preppy, willowy blondes wandered into the cafe for coffee.  They were perfectly harmless, discussing Jell-O shots and "the sloppy girls" and campus scandal. And then the campus scandal portion of the conversation took a turn from who's-hooking-up-with-whom towards the college's cover-up of a sports-team-related rape.

I didn't hear what school they went to.  Unfortunately, the details they discussed were generic enough to belong to any school that's had such a scandal.  And that's where my heart broke.  Right at the word 'generic'.  The fact that these types of situations are generic at a college level is disgusting and horrifying.  In this particular case, the rape allegations involve the basketball team.  The girls chatted about how predatory the players were when they saw them at bars near campus--how they'd sit back from everyone else and prey upon the freshman girls, specifically choosing those inexperienced and drunk enough to be manipulated.  Now, I obviously haven't seen this behavior firsthand (the closest thing my college had to sport or frat culture was an Ultimate Frisbee team called The Red Scare), but I felt like I knew what they were going to say before they even said it.  It's been in the news so much.  Promising college athlete accused of assault or rape, denies allegations or calls the girl a slut or blames her for being drunk or some combination of all of the above.  College stands by the player, not the victim.  The media twists everything.  Lives are ruined.  The end.

I expected their conversation to veer back towards the frivolous, but it remained in a place of outrage at their school.  According to one girl, their school went nine years without passing along charges of assault or rape handled by campus police to the proper officials in local law enforcement.  Even though it is their on-the-books policy to do so.  Even though it is their moral obligation to do so.  And after 9 years, somebody finally noticed this institutionalization of rape and reported it.  I wonder what kind of reprimand the school received for this transgression of human rights.  The girls spent a good deal of the following conversation making conjectures about how it might feel to be a young woman who reported her assault or rape and have the school officials take down her statement and promise to take action only to sweep the entire thing under the rug.

I had to do everything in my power not to jump into the conversation at several points.  But let me jump in now, after the fact, and say how all of this made me feel about the attitude that colleges routinely take when it comes to assault.  The horror of this, as I stated earlier, is how generic the girls' talk of a basketball team with a rape scandal is.  As woman move towards greater social equality (we've actually statistically surpassed men in terms of college enrollment), these all-too-routine exhibitions of rage, sexual aggression, and moral lapse followed by aggressive institutional cover-up appear in the discourse more and more.  And it isn't just assault of women.  Think about Joe Paterno's disgraceful actions.  Colleges are too afraid of PR nightmares to protect their communities properly.  I am sick over this.

Sexual violence is not about sex, but power.  This kind of behavior is not even invisible in this case, but rather seen, acknowledged, and actively made to disappear.  I wonder if those responsible for the nine years of non-report at this particular school have wives or daughters, or, even more chilling to think, are women themselves.  By doing nothing about assault and rape, the school is essentially condoning it.

Eavesdropping on the three girls was an essential slap in the face for me.  Women are women, regardless of who they associate with or how they choose to conduct themselves.  It is an ugly impulse to write off members of my gender for their social choices when we have the exact same concerns.  It an ugly standard that our chief concern must be rape.  Another of the girls told a story of walking across campus alone at night that contained all of the reasons why my mother hates that I walk home alone from work at night.  Who knows if these girls would call themselves feminists.  But clearly, you don't have to self-identify as a feminist the feel like a victim of rape culture.  And you certainly don't have to be a feminist to expect to feel like you are entitled to protection of your personal safety.

Like a favorite sweater.

The sun is warmer here. Is that possible? As of Saturday, I've returned to the (main) city of my heart. The new apartment is coming together syrup slow, but that makes it all the more delicious. Tonight, we assemble our library. Just the thought of a wall of books makes my whole body smile.

I don't have much to say today. There is still so much sorting out to do--our study is all full of the un-emptied boxes, my room is one giant clothes pile--so sorting thoughts is the last thing I have time for. But I do have pictures of the past few adventures to share.

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Button and I got tattooed at Screamin Ink by the too-modest, truly amazing Jeremy Miller.

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The O'Neills, a la Gaga at her Newark tour stop. It was my brother's first concert.

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I have so much work left to do in order to make my room livable, but when I can see the floor, I will show you the new bed that makes me feel like a queen and sleep like a lion. I've been having such fantastic, strange dreams here.

"Baby, there's a shark in the water."

The last time I posted was a little over a month ago. A little over a month from now, I will be moving into a new apartment--back to the city of my heart--for a new start.

This condition makes for a strange progression of days. Since we last spoke, I've set foot on the ground in Maine, been to a casino for the first time to see the middleweight champ defend his title, gotten my first-ever acceptance letter from a poetry journal, and chosen a new place to rest my head.

I imagine that when my sister Kaitlin and I move in together again, there will be a lot of the following:



Which is to say, shenanigans, song-and-dance, Peter Pan-related merriment.

And we'll probably belt this out together at the top of our lungs while waltzing through the pocket doors between our two living rooms, the windows swollen with afternoon sun and a view of that fat dome on Federal Hill:



I wrote a poem about my mother riding a stuffed horse in her dreams first thing this morning. I wear my happy teeth every day now.

What I think about when I am a month late on resolutions.

I am safely back from tour, getting buried in snow (again) but nestled into my beloved, frigid New England. This a quiet, Ryan Adams b-side kind of day. The sky and the snow are the same shade of nothing. I have spent most of this day reading a novel in verse about Los Angeles werewolves and answering emails. It feels good to stop spinning my wheels for a few days. The engine was beginning to smoke. When the year changed over weeks ago, I was too busy smiling to make any resolutions. I've never found them very useful, though I've always been vigilant about keeping a little list for myself. I leafed back through my journal this morning and that yearly list was nowhere to be found. So here's the short version: submit to journals (no matter how quickly my heart thwacks into my tonsils at the prospect), settle back into the city of my heart, fine tune the novella and let it loose on the world, never fall asleep without reading at least ten pages. Small steps lead to the largest movements. This year is a big one already. I have seen so many cities I never dreamed of seeing, loved so many people I never thought I would hold so close to me. I am full, if struggling. That must be what it's like to be alive.

Perpetual motion machines.

Hello from our last morning in DC! Our time here has been both relaxing and exciting. Sam, Mckendy and I went to see the slam at Graffiti DC and got a feature by Rudy Francisco (this year's Individual World Poetry Slam champ) thrown in, all for the price of FREE.

Yesterday we went on a sight-seeing adventure on the National Mall, which involved hot pretzels, atrocious coffee, bitter wind, and a chill sesh with honest Abe. Sam got a proof of his first-ever book with a spine. I got my final evaluation for college. We have a workshop/interview/show in Richmond tonight, leaving only two more future cities for us on the road trip leg of this tour. But fear not! There are still a handful of shows in New England that will commence upon our return (one of them in Providence, the city of my heart, the day after the big ol' V-Day). The month of February will be far from a return to normalcy. I'll most likely make some drastic change to my hair--it's getting overdue for one at this point--and the Ribcage Kids will tear it up.

Speaking of which. Below, you can view the first video of me performing since the Providence Grand Slam in '09. I'm pretty proud of this one. It sold books and all that good stuff.

Dance party + destruction.

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blissed out after a pint, a pinot grigio, a bourbon, a surfer on acid, a tequila shot, a vodka soda and a whiskey soda...all the major food groups present and accounted for


Not October yet, but it's still Octoberfest. I got to smell the ocean last night, to eat serious amounts of shellfish with good wine followed by good bourbon and questionable dancing at the piano bar and then sweatier questionable dancing at the sports bar. Fist pumping may or may not have taken place. (You can take the girl out of Jersey...)

There have been so many tequila shots this past week. However, I am proud to announce that I kicked my hangover's ass this morning swimming laps in the hotel pool. What a beautiful way to wake up in the city of my heart. The wind picked up while we lay in the grass this afternoon. I felt every muscle in my body, all of me covered in goosebumps and sore from the movement of the past few days. If I can be sure of anything, it is that I feel most at home in a place that was only mine four months out of a year that's already past. Maybe I can't fall in love with anyone because I am too deeply in love with a place. Just the thought of the skyline has me second-guessing quite a few of my plans for the immediate future but we'll talk more on that in the next few days.

All in all, I wouldn't have had it go any other way.

From here, the stars look like flashbulbs.

First, some cell phone camera remnants from the tri-county fair:

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And second, there are so many exciting nights coming up this month that I can hardly contain myself. (No, really, I've quite literally been skipping through the streets and singing to myself at the top of my lungs with such abandon that everyone in Northampton must think I'm either crazy or endlessly obnoxious.) Next week, I get to go back to my homeland for a brief stint, during which I will buy a bed frame, introduce one of my new roommates to my family for the first time, and perform my first poetry feature for a college at Sarah Lawrence (details here). The following Wednesday is my long-anticipated 21st birthday--at long last, I will drink in public without fearing legal action, and it will be at the bar where my heart lives, the Cantab. As if those two wonderfuls weren't overwhelming enough, my sister is throwing me a fantastic birthday celebration at CGH followed by drinks and a coat of red paint for the streets of Providence. Then all of my near and dears will sleep in a giant bed with me at the Marriott. And maybe, if I play my cards right, that weekend will also include my favorite falafel joint ever.

September has long been my favorite month, but this one will most definitely be the best yet. And don't worry. I'm sure there will be whiskey. And pictures. Lots of embarrassing pictures.

You're so high//why can't you fly?

1. It feels good to be solidly back in action the Western Mass way. My head is still spinning from all the pinball-bouncing around I do on a regular basis. However, now that I am standing in the same state for longer than a few hours at a time, there has been an avalanche of responsibility. (Agh! Who wants that?!)

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Clarabelle and I have been slaving away for the better part of today on my retrospective essay (the first three typewritten pages of which can be found above; please excuse excessive typos). It should be easy. For the most part, it is easy. Think about my courses in chronological order. Check. Write about what I learned in said courses. Check. Write about real world experiences and their relevance to class learning, also vice versa. Check. Maintain a plausible through-line pertaining to the learning contract I wrote with myself last fall. Check. The tedious part of this whole process is that it's going to end up being about twenty pages of wind-baggery about my "becoming a writer". Is there some bar mitzvah-type ceremony for this coming-of-age process?? Any way I can get fat checks from distant relatives? No? Cos it seems to me like I am doing an awful lot of "entering a new phase of my life" in this essay. I don't want to get carried away and new-agey with the narrative, but it keeps wandering away from me into touchy-feely territory. I'm not sure if I should just go with it or not.

2. Being a restless spirit, but really because I left my journal in Providence and as a result had no place to record the deep dark secrets rattling around my head, I decided late last night that I was going to move all my furniture before going to sleep. It has worked out quite well. My new desk nook is nothing if not conducive to writing this essay. Except the moment my fingers got tired of typewriter keys, I hopped in bed with my lap top and ended up here. Kind of like how the last time I attempted real work (in this particular case, it was cleaning out the unfinished half of the basement), I ended up on my computer. Although in this case it was a little different, because there were odd costume-type items lying about.

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introducing Owen to the Beastie Boys




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I had a near-overwhelming inclination to play dress-up last night instead of changing my sheets and organizing my desk after the move, but I restrained myself by mentally arguing that I had nothing interesting to wear. Yeah, right. However, as I told Cassandra when she noted that she had dressed more outrageously than I had the past two days running, I am still recovering from pretending to be normal while in New Jersey. It is going to take at least another week for me to fully retire the real-world-uniform of t-shirts and jeans.

3. I've been taking a chill pill as of late in terms of music. Not that I'm completely divorced from pop radio land as of yet(though I'm not sure I can even call it that, being as I have no access to any radio), but I've been giving my spandex and sequins daydream dance sequences a rest in favor of a heavy dose of mellow-me-out.

Current favorites:





Still looking for a rock album that will knock my socks off. I don't know how much longer I can hide in the recesses of my pre-existing iTunes library before going Completely mad, although I'm fairly certain it is analogous to the length of time I can spend continuously typing out this essay until my head spins off into the stratosphere.

Coasting.

1. Saw this video today around lunch time on MTVU while making myself a salad (ground turkey cooked in Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce, sliced strawberries, cheddar cheese, lettuce, bacon ranch dressing; it sounds wacky but tasted heavenly) and decided to adopt it as my new theme song since all I'm doing lately is coasting from city to city, departing and arriving whenever it feels right.



2. This tendency towards drifting has taken me from Amherst to Boston and then down to Providence over the past three days. Those three cities seem to be the triangle of home base, rotating in and out of favor at random intervals. I sat talking with Erick at Coffee Exchange for the better part of this afternoon about the triangle, making plans for art and living spaces, talking shop about poetry and sculpture, discussing the best trees we've met and so on. I've come to realize that what the triangle cities have in common are the types of people that live in them--the kinds I stay up until four in the morning talking to, ones who let me live on their couches or nest in their guest beds whenever need be. Fitz and I spent Wednesday trading stories about beloved books; my sister, her roommate Leanne, and I went to Kartabar on Thayer street for dinner last night and laughed raucously while recounting our New Year's Eves; and then today Erick and I had our afternoon of caffeine and a bunch of pizza at Nice Slice. I feel very good about this triumvirate of beloved locations. Home has turned into a state of happiness that can exist in lots of places, and that's a comfort, especially since I've been concerned about belonging somewhere specific for the past few months. Maybe I can just belong everywhere and have that be alright.

3. I am taking a mini blogging hiatus (probably two or three days-worth) in favor of organizing a few things (read: searching for a new/supplementary form of income, making a reading list, traveling to visit friends, etc.). Thanks in advance for the breathing room. I promise to return well-rested and with oxygen-induced euphoria.

"We all go to schools for people who don't like colleges."

1.
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This is the face of general anesthetic. And suddenly missing teeth. If you look closely, you can see the gauze I have to keep tight in my jaw (hint: it is much whiter than my actual teeth). Also, if my face was turned the other way, you'd see the pillow marks on it from passing out as soon as I got back from the oral surgeon. I stayed up late last night showing Matty slam videos and making plans to start a band (for real, this is going to happen, I am finally going to sing in a band and it is going to be EPIC), and while I'd like to blame my nap on that late bedtime, I'm pretty sure it had more to do with the combined effects of the IV in my arm, the nitrous/oxygen mix strapped onto my nose, and whatever else it was they used to put me under and into a dream state I couldn't describe to you if I tried. I blame the strange dreams on the fact that Alanis Morissette was playing as I drifted off into what I imagine this inside of the Barney bag must look like.

2. On Monday, I spent the afternoon reuniting with Meg and Erick on Thayer (Meglet and I had a low-key soup night on Sunday that quickly turned giggle-fit/poetry reading and stayed that way, much to my delight; my favorite moment of the night came during an epic conversation about Amanda Palmer in which Meg stated, "I've definitely written a poem about Amanda Palmer's thighs..." and then trailed off wistfully) for extra-cripsy pizza at Nice Slice and then a long discussion of respect and art at Tealuxe.

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She's so magic, her scarf is invisible!


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The conversation was the kind of satisfying where you're all jumping in and chomping at the bit to make your points, but nobody ever feels cut off in a rude way (or at least I didn't). But there was more than a fair share of digressions as well, with everything from the traditional Santa foil the Krampus coming up, as well as the monetary value of mental labor, Jesus' status as radical Jew, someone wanting to Falcon punch a cat, and the terrible existential question of what one is meant tod in their early twenties. I left the tea bar hours later with so many ideas to write about and so much fire in me that I decided I needed to drive back to Jersey almost directly in order to make some art in the basement. I haven't had an itch to do some painting like that in years. So I hopped on the highway after saying my see-you-laters and looking hopefully forward to a good, productive holiday and my return to Providence to do some more triangle tea table discussions about how to create and maintain healthy communities without stepping on toes or stagnating. And sometimes you have to stand on chairs to be among the people again, simple as that.

But the most important thing to take away from the tea house symposium on the ins and outs of art and academics is this, in reference to Erick's always rosy cheeks-- "he not a player, he just blush a lot."

3.
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This is one of the many reasons I love my brother: when we get together, we do silly dances in front of the living room mirror, and sometimes he wears a ceramic duck on his head? It's better not to ask about such things, because they only really make sense at the time. For example, last night at dinner, he yelled at his own reflection in the window, saying, "SILENCE YOU, Doppleganger!" I wish I had his non sequiturs around all the time--I feel so at ease when we skulk around the house together making up stories and songs and having wild rumpuses. I need more wild rumpuses. They are becoming less and less acceptable for me as I get older, and I am clinging to them for dear life. Yesterday I was stomping around the house in gold tights, lace trim bike shorts, a David Bowie t-shirt, and a turban made from an orange beach sarong I wore to death in middle school--my mother made a face at me asked if I was going to change before I went to the supermarket, but I just told her that if people wanted to stare, that was their prerogative. I wish I had a picture to show for it, but since it was nothing particularly remarkable in comparison with my day-to-day outfits, I neglected to document it. People did stare, but I am happy in my skin, even if it's too shiny for some people to understand.

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.

Snow day.

1. This is how I feel about how close Christmas is:

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So much to do, and I feel like none of it's getting done. I sometimes think I look like an elf, but I have roughly zero elf characteristics because Christmas is the holiday I worst at preparing for, and elves are bred for such purposes.

2. This is how I feel about being stuck inside for most of the day because PVD is non-functional:

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Good thing I'm going out momentarily to fetch some soup for Meg and do some much needed catching up. I have missed that girl. It's been since August, for God's sake. C'mon snow, don't screw this one up for me.

3. Just found out that the artist I named and somewhat modeled one of my novel's characters after died this July, apparently from a drug overdose. I remember reading about him in New York magazine sometime recently after I had transferred to public high school. I was sitting in the library, avoiding my homework, and I picked up the issue without even thinking. The story really struck me though, and the guy became something of an impetus for me to write a piece of short fiction that ended up winning me an award and getting me into college. I know very little about this person other than what that article said, and I have never even seen any of his art. He was only 27. I haven't had time to work on the novel in a bit, but now I feel oddly compelled to jump back in after finding this out via Wikipedia as a result of a conversation with a friend about making art nests and possibly starting a treehouse artist collective called the Boredom Assassins. Today has been a weird day. Fingers crossed that it's gonna get wackier (in the best of ways).

You can take the Jersey girl out of the mall...

1. After my final visit to the Cantab of 2009 and a brief layover in Boston, I am back in Providence. I drove directly to meet Kaitlin at work, where I fiddled around in my journal for a bit and talked to her students about the Bodies Revealed exhibit (I still haven't gone; maybe I'll stop at Foxwoods on my way to Jersey...). Post-Met (and crab rangoons, and chicken soup with lots of celery, and the obligatory Gaga sing-along), we went to the mall for some Christmas-type things and a quick browse through Nordstrom.

2. I have never been a huge proponent of high-end retailers. It cannot possibly cost what they charge for what they are selling you. And in spite of the questionable music choices and Twilight quotes frosted onto the dressing room mirrors (SERIOUSLY??!), Nordstrom somehow managed to pleasantly surprise me. Even if it was in the juniors department. And the surprises came in between me picking up various articles to remark on either their level of heinous or the fact that I could produce the same quality item by myself with my modest sewing machine and some fancy zippers. Clearly this realization calls for a fashion show, and since you could not be there, I bring you dressing room cellphone pictures:

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This is my favorite of the bunch, and I may just have to go back to the mall tomorrow and buy it because I cannot for the life of me locate it on the website. Kait convinced me not to buy it A) because I am nearly too broke to function and need to be able to pay for gas to get back to Jersey next week, and B) because the top was slightly uneven. Now that I'm home from the store, I am second-guessing this decision. I may have to go back to the mall in the morning and buy it anyway, against my better judgment. And behold, my hair is red. And not under a hat. But this only happens while indoors, considering the literally-below-freezing temperatures currently besieging the Northeast.

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Don't ask why Nordstrom is selling summer dresses in the dead of December. I have no explanation for you. Kait frowned at this one but also said, "That is totally you," a remark that roughly translates to, "I would never try that on in a million years, but you look great in it."

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Is it wrong to want to stomp around in combat boots and party dresses at all times? Am I committing some terrible fashion crime by accessorizing every pantsless ensemble I attempt with tights that have holes the size of Nigeria? I hope not. I love both of those things supremely and above all other fashion-related things. Jade complimented my boots last night and I got giddy about it--I justified buying them by telling myself they would be for snow, but I have been wearing them almost relentlessly since August and silently hoping for them to segue into my wardrobe as a staple equally beloved by myself and the world at large; now I have conversational proof that at least one other person can sympathize.

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And then there was this disaster. Key West couch fabric in slinky polyester--oh, someone restrain me-circa-2005. Thankfully I have semi-outgrown my adoration of hideous-upholstery-patterned dresses. There had to be one thumbs-down, and I picked this sucker up as a joke, so I'm glad it took the title.

3. Another highlight of our mall trip was an abundance of creepy dolls. Check it:

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Kait recognized the second doll from the left--we definitely have her hiding in some dark attic crawlspace corner, waiting to fall out and scare an innocent bystander half to death. Why they have this terrifying picture framed in the Nordstrom dressing room is beyond me.

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This otherwise visually awesome window display of cardboard cut-outs assembled collage-style around the actual merchandise contained a strange doll-like girl. She was waving in a way that made me feel guilty for not stopping into the store for a half-second. Like she thought I was walking past her only because I needed to buy her a lollipop from somewhere just across the way, and I'd be right back, absolute promise. I guess being a writer, it makes sense that inanimate objects instantly have backstory as soon as I look at them, but when cardboard little girls make me feel guilty, I might be edging into dangerous territory.

And an honorable mention for the mannequin with completely useless movable toes.

4. Cassandra and I, being the best (and I guess worst) roommates ever, just had a 45 minute phone conference lamenting that we are in different states for the second day running, a condition that will not subside until after the last calendar page drops. Unless New Year's in New York is actually going to happen, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed and my mouth shut about that business so as not to jinx it. At any rate, one of the topics of conversation was what our super powers would be if we were just super versions of ourselves. Basing these powers on facts (and stereotypes) from our home states, hers was super strength (because she is from New Hampshire, home to granite, among mountain-y things) and mine was being able to locate malls from any location. I argued that my shopping sense was too lame to be a primary power but couldn't come up with another desirable power based on Jersey besides being resistant to toxic waste. Maybe my super self was the victim of a HAZMAT incident, transforming her into...into...well, shit. I really am at a loss here. When we iron out the kinks, we're going to try to rope Sophia into participating in this project and then make a comic/zine together. Stay tuned for further adventures of the Lady Poets!

5. In closing, I saw a pair of acid green mini cowboy boots in the Nordstrom shoe department and nearly had an stroke. Not that I don't already have seven pairs of boots. And then walking past H&M, I saw they were having a 70% off sale on outwear and there was a fabulous faux fur coat that I am sure I would have left with if Kait hadn't dragged me kicking and screaming away from the store. And the gold sequin mini-skirt on the mannequin by the door.

But seriously. I think I may have a problem. Hi, my name is Emily and I am window-shop-a-holic? Do they have a group for that??

Sneak preview (just to in case you were wondering).

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A very brief glimpse of a maybe-kinda-sorta approximation of the new hair. Apparently the library has way better lighting than my house--I tried to take a picture of myself last night because a friend was badgering me about what the color looked like, but there was literally not a place in the house where I could get a good shot. Granted, I'm using the webcam on my Macbook, so I shouldn't expect dazzling results, but still. Ugh.

I just want to live inside this edition of the Times. Let's make a newspaper fort and never do homework again! (Or I could just grudgingly finish/turn in my portfolios--like I know I will--and drive to North Providence tomorrow afternoon for a wino night.)

In closing, YAY for visual echoes (and also redheads).

Methods of coping.

I will admit, I am very homesick. Not for Jersey, though that would follow logic, and I do miss the place in some ways. The home I miss is Providence. The Broad Street apartment that Kait and I will never live in together again. It's odd to think of it that way, a space we once had some ownership of is now a space we can no longer access. This homesickness is something I have tried to remedy by several means, the first of which was a camping trip the Wednesday after my birthday and although it did not entail me going to Rhode Island, I got to build several fires (see example below) and hang out with my sister.

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But tonight, the homesickness will get some satisfaction, for I am driving out for a brief visit. Kaitlin and I are going to go to dinner, probably drink a substantial amount of wine and reminisce about our summer of sometimes wild antics, but mostly just serious couch time for GH and whatever else was on the DVR at the time. And next weekend, I'll be visiting the place I should be homesick for, hopefully sneaking a Brooklyn visit in among all of the errands that must be run. All bases covered, all systems go.

Last looks.

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So it's done now. I had my last cigarette on our porch the other night, and now that I'm back in Jersey for a brief family visit type layover situation, it is truly done. I sat in the sun all day and read, the way I wanted my afternoons to be back in May. The Rhode Island rainy season definitely conspired against me there, but I'm attempting to make up for lost time now.

I'm currently burying myself in non-fiction and self-help books as a detox in preparation for the most serious undertaking of my academic life, also known as Writing A Novella. Today I read The Last Lecture in one glorious golden afternoon sitting, and tonight I am tucking in to Julia Child's My Life in France, which is already witty and wonderful. But in the background, I am making my preparations for said novella, which at the moment means paring down and building up my Netflix queue with every vampire movie and documentary I can find. Suggestions are more than welcome. I've already added the bulk of this list, but I'm still trolling for more titles to contribute to my full immersion into the genre. This is going to be the best year ever, when watching True Blood will count as research, when I get to dissect the theoretical implications of manipulating the politics of fictive worlds. Yes, yes, and double yes!

And apparently there is History Channel special on Dracula playing in the living room right now, so you know where I'll be.