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.
At times, it's necessary to empty your head of all personal imagery and just let writing become the mechanical process. I've heard tell of both Ernest Hemingway and Hunter S. Thompson re-typing great novels by other writers to learn the movement of genius. I've never gone so far myself (though it intrigues me to think what I might make after such an exercise).
But last night I did a little exercise. After retyping a scene from the novel (no editing allowed in the process), I was in a very floaty, empty-headed working mode. I tend to create best with nothing current immediately on my mind. Then I did an ekphrastic experiment(ekphrasic writing is done as a direct response to another art object)--a song came on in shuffle, and while listening to it several times over I brainstormed images based on the musical features. The guitar line was lonely and wandering. The drums sounded like the slow turn of gears. Before I was sure of what was on the page in front of me, I'd written a three stanza western.
Here's the song:
It would be interesting to see what other people would write in response to the same song, though I haven't quite thought through how that might be collected.
Anyway, I plan on doing this at least once a day. It's an effective trap door out of always writing about myself, or at least an escape from the ever-larger manuscript of hospital/death poems. Maybe for National Poetry Month (April), my project will end up as thirty ekphrastic poems, each a response to one of my favorite songs.
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.
Good afternoon, Wednesday. You have so much room for improving things. Thus far, I hung a giant cork board in my bedroom, ate quite a lot of perfect toast, drank coffee without bringing on a migraine, AND I finished my first painting since September. I would show off this last accomplishment, but it is a gift for my guy and will thus not be revealed to the internet at large until after the giving. However, I can show you one of the elses I got up to earlier today:
I am trying to stave off the urge to dye the 'hawk teal without help (it is taking all of my will-power), and so I gave myself a little haircut instead. I will call this period of my life the "why the hell not" phase. It began this March, the first time I rocked the mohawk. I have generally been much happier since then.
A piece of today's soundtrack, courtesy of someone bored in a Boston office (and thus blowing up my inbox):
Then there's the ubiquitous Slug speech to get me souped for an awesome awesome day full of low-key wonderful:
And I will not apologize for my jealousy towards Nicki Minaj's pastel Cruella DeVille jam going on here:
And for my next trick, I will start a philosophical debate about Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" via Justin Timberlake on my Facebook wall. (Because when you are a loudmouth, you tend to live among many other delightful loudmouths.)
See you on the flip side of the year, loved ones. Pop champagne, kiss your boo when the ball drops, break in your new heels, eat pigs in a blanket with whole grain mustard, make a glittery mess of your (or someone else's) living room. However you decide to celebrate, know you are a small part of why I do a little happy dance in the mirror every morning upon waking.
And a final warning: 2011, I am coming for you in floral leggings and shit-kickers.
This song came on four or so times yesterday at work. (This means someone put the 80's playlist on shuffle and then promptly forgot all about it.)
And then my mind wandered away from me (I was working in the dressing rooms and had two customers over a six hour span of time) and got really sad because this scene just kept playing over and over behind my eyes.
Last Saturday I made a pilgrimage to the Boston outpost of the House of Blues to see Grinderman. Now, I will admit to being poorly acquainted with him up to this point in my life--Button and I have surely listening to plenty of the Bad Seeds while galavanting in our high school days, but fuck if I know which albums or how long ago that was--so I had to do the pretend-you-know-all-the-things-the-cool-kids-do dance for most of the evening.
But mostly, I spent the night mesmerized. I'm sure I've mentioned in the past that the physical sensation of live music makes me happier than most things in the world. Rock music especially. The vibrations in the air move my blood faster or something. The bass in my chest sounds like "home" more than the word itself. And this particular instance of live music, I could not tear my eyes away. Some people are just built to carry off a magical kind of stage presence, a conviction I've come to from my years in poetry. But it was at shows that this idea first entered my mind. Performance, though a construct, is something that at its core must be instinctual. To be seen, to see yourself being seen, and to then feed off that energy and use it to create an experience that would not have been possible otherwise is astonishing when properly executed. I suppose what I'm trying to say is that Mr. Cave was made for the stage, and I am glad to have witnessed him.
Take a look for yourself:
In my internet travels this morning, I stumbled across this blog post, chock full of pictures of the man, mostly in his younger days. This photo in particular made me very happy:
I have been cleaning my room for what feels like (and is probably close to) the past three weeks, and it looks like a more color-intensive version of the same. Books and papers everywhere, clothes falling into coffee cups, typewriters strung with paper and stories half-typed. I've cleared away the dishes, but the mess does not get much smaller for all my trying. I suppose this is the way some of us will always live. It's like the mess in my head's just overflowed in the real world. Generally, I've decided to avoid it, choosing instead to melt Rachmaninoff records all morning to make new wall art. If Nick can survive the clutter, so can I.
And then there's this, which just makes the day that much better.
The other night at dinner with the family, I made some comment regarding the fact that novelty of drinking in public had still not worn off. My cousin kindly reminded me of its illegality. I told him I did not care.
Like any diligent type-A crazy, I am working til close tonight and then running over to campus for my last Hampshire Halloween. This time of year makes me want to be witchy every chance I get, but besides wearing black boots at every opportunity and lace tablecloths as scarves on the colder days, I don't get much opportunity to be serious about it. Until today. I bought a whole host of deeply discounted Halloween make-up at CVS this morning and happily painted myself up with oily black and liquid glitter and nail polish that looks like swamp slime. "Happier than a pig in shit" is a start, but doesn't exactly touch on how many smiles I've flashed today. Mostly because I look like this:
My costume isn't so complex which is a blessing for my wallet--I owned everything but the make-up and the wings before today--and I will reluctantly admit that it was inspired by a writing session I had recently where I was listening to my favorite album by the Books and realized I needed to dress up as the angel of death.
HIPSTER SCUM. I know, I know. But the effect of the costume is that I look nothing like a hipster. In fact, I look more like I'm larping, which is somewhat embarrassing. I decided not to get dressed twice today, so I've been wearing my costume on errands and got my wings stuck in the bank doors just a small while ago. The people in line seemed horrified at the sight of me. Good thing that's what I was going for.
If you paid the $20 ticket fee for non-students (or if you happen to be a student), I'll see you on the dance floor tonight. And hopefully not impale you with my feathers.
Greetings from Ortonville, Michigan. The Lady Poets are taking a day of rest before continuing on our way to world domination (fingers crossed), and that day of rest is turning out to be glorious. First off, check out this good looking breakfast:
It goes quite well with the good looking morning we woke up to in a bed that felt like a cloud, a mattress so soft that I slept like a rock. Not that that makes much sense. Anyway. Sunshine so perfect you get drunk just looking at it:
And now, a selection of entries from the road trip log thus far, a minute-by-minute record of the strange things said, done and seen on our way to Nationals.
Bumper sticker: "Nashua belongs to Jesus Christ." Sweet life, Trashua. I thought you were the meth capital of New England...
First Amish sighting. "Are they even allowed to wear bright blue?"
Who parks this beauty at a Pennsylvania McDonalds??
"Are we still in Pennsylvania?"
"Yes, Pennsylvania has child-bearing hips."
Ohio. Also, "No Scrubs".
Ohio: where the cops are all assholes and the gas stations are too far away.
My first nuclear power plant.
Big Beaver Rd
Exit 69 A-B
And because I just said Pennsylvania way too many times, here's a song about it:
This weekend was the closest thing to a spiritual retreat I've taken in a long time. Boston, you got my head on right, and I thank you. I'll write about it once the pictures are uploaded. But in the meantime, the weekend had a dank soundtrack. The most instrumental part of restoring my mental health (besides the shoulders to cry on and poets of all stripes) was the new Big Boi album. If you haven't heard it, I am concerned for your health.
The following is today's anthem. Turn your speakers all the way up.
+ One of the last visual memories of the old tree house AKA the first half of the move documented on video. Or really, Cass and I making a final procrastination push before jumping ship from campus housing and entering the real world. We're not going to have internet in the new tree house until at least a week from now, so the second half will either be slow in coming or posted to the internets via this coffee house internet connection. If I don't find it too disgusting to be posting video blogs while sipping rooiboos.
+ Moving is tough. My whole body feels like it's made of old tires. I have at least six bruises all up and down my thighs from carrying couches up stairs. I had a sad moment when I returned the U-Haul. I liked driving that monster a little bit too much. Maybe my true car love will end up being a pick-up truck (but shhhh, don't tell Wendeline). Over the past few days, I have driven at least 500 miles all over New England gathering my belongings, biting my lip, and hefting an endless parade of boxes into my room to be unpacked and sorted into their appropriate locations. Through all of that driving, I thought a lot about how disturbed I was every time a radio DJ mentioned that a song I'd just heard was by Justin Bieber, mostly because his voice hasn't changed yet and thus he sounds like he is Miley Cyrus's new competitor for Britney reincarnated. Speaking of which, Miley's new-ish single sounds a bit too much like Britney circa the album Britney for my taste. As a home remedy for the amount of top 40 pumped into my system, I have only been spinning Sage Francis's Human The Death Dance and a lot of French shoegaze. I know it doesn't make sense, and I have no well-thought out justification for why it should.
+ I built a five shelf bookcase last night after work and an afternoon of swimming. Being able to look at all my reading material in one place makes me feel slightly more organized, even when the floor is still covered in clothes because I have yet to pick up my dresser from Wayne's garage. Furniture is a general problem right now for me. I won't feel settled until I have all my things with me (I am far too attached to worldly possessions to have ever become a nun, as I had planned in the fifth grade).
+ I have a show coming up this Tuesday in Newmarket, NH (event info here), which is a literal stone's throw from my beloved Portsmouth. I think a late night visit to the Friendly Toast will probably end up happening, and I will finally buy that t-shirt with the squirrel on it. I am avoiding thinking, talking, or pressuring myself about this show which is definitely not okay because I have half of my set list left to memorize and polish, in addition to the new chapbooks that need to be printed. But I finally brought my printer into the house from the car this morning, so I suppose we can call those baby steps. I am so excited to be performing in front of audience for an extended period of time again--I haven't had a feature since last June at Got Poetry! Live. I'm looking forward to the quiver in my stomach just before the first poem, and the drop that will come just before the last poem, when I realize that it is almost time to quit speaking. Incidentally, I'll be performing again on Thursday for a BARCC speak out organized by the Phoenix Charter Academy in Chelsea. I've been talking art and the politics of speech with just about everybody who will engage the topic and these performances will be a satisfying space to work out the energy I've had on reserve for public displays of artistic enthusiasm.
+ But the thing nagging at me the most these past few weeks isn't my apartment coming together or my show going well. It is my dad's health, as it has been for months now. Yesterday he checked back into the hospital (his language, as if it is now such a familiar action that it is on par with a hotel stay for him) because of an excess of fluid in the lung they collapse when they did his sextuple bypass. That "excess" ended up being 2.3 liters. When my sister told me, all I could see was a large bottle of RC Cola or some other such nonsense jammed up into his ribs. I have not been much for praying in my life over the past few years, but I have gotten very good at holding my breath over these things. When I was home last week and took him out to lunch for his birthday, he barely ate half of his seafood sandwich, couldn't even finish a pint of Harp. This is my father, more salt and pepper by the day, twenty pounds lighter than the last time I saw him, a network of scars, a cocktail of pills, and now all of this little bumps in the road that make recovery much slower going than anyone wants it to be. I wish there was something I could do.
Pitchfork loved this shit with all the affectation of being unimpressed it could muster, all while referring to Monae as comparable to Bowie, where Bowie is a "sci-fi magpie". EXCUSE ME, WHAT?? In light of the sidewalk dancing conversation about Spock's blood type had outside the Cantab last night, I needed you to see this bit of awesome before I drag myself out of bed, brush my teeth, and wait tables for seven hours. Dance with me first?
This is why I cannot wait tables for the rest of my life. Holidays are difficult (if not impossible) to get coverage for, so you end up biting the bullet and being the awful daughter who calls from far away and tries to mask her crying while she's on the phone with her mother but fails miserably and no one knows what to say so you hang up and cry some more and then feel like a mess for sitting in you living room cry so early in the morning. Whew. Or something like that.
So. Happy Mother's Day internet. I hope you are spending it well, hugging and drinking mimosas somewhere sunny, with family or at least thinking of them. Maybe not so down in the dumps as I am.
I sang this song in the car with Kaitlin on of the last times I was home, and it made me feel better. I am singing it now, and it's helping a little bit.
And this one I used to sing in the stairwell at AS 220 this summer, and it is like peanut butter crackers and a spiked mug of hot chocolate for me, which is to say, comfort food to curl into the couch with. Erick, who would noodle through it on his guitar, is all the way far away in Greensboro, NC indefinitely. Sometimes I wish America was smaller so that the people I love didn't have to be so off in the distance all the time.
I did some star-gazing earlier this week with a friend from work, just drove out to the middle of a field (love that you can do that here) and lay on the hood of her car listening to these dudes. Minus the Bear are far and away one of my favorite bands. Every song of theirs makes me feel like summer and highway driving and the slippage time between day and night. Composed of former members of Botch and Kill Sadie, you can almost hear the hardcore, except they're using their heads full of math and breakdowns to make ambient soundscapes with lyrics about traveling the world and having chance encounters with perfect moments. I am going to stop talking before I make everything they do sound like the plot of some terrible indie film that people like more than they should. Just listen to the song and pretend you're winding up the California coast in a zippy little convertible. It will feel better than right.
+ Finished Jenna Jameson's autobiography laying in the Friday lawn sun. It was my first day off in two weeks, so I thought it would be best to spend it with a 600 page book called How to Make Love Like a Porn Star. I was not disappointed. In fact, it was probably one of the most enjoyable things I've read all semester.
+ Daddy's having surgery tomorrow. I wonder what a ribcage looks like completely cracked open. So many poems talk about ribcage this and that, but for me, it's a very hard part of the body to picture as separate from the body itself, even if I did paint it probably hundreds of times for my high school AP studio art concentration (anatomy, in case you were curious). In fact, here's an example right now of seventeen-year-old me as melodrama queen with a silkscreen:
Yes, that is a t-shirt. And yes, I do still have the screen. I've been strongly considering resurrecting it from my grandma's basement and mass-producing the shirts to just hand out at slams. But anyway. My dad's cracked chest. I am avoiding thinking about the risks, because this is his last hope. I filed out his living will with him on Tuesday instead of my usual weekly dose of poetry. There was all this language that made me really uncomfortable, like "in case of __________ circumstances, please allow me to die". I spent a lot of the time laughing to keep from getting overwhelmed and bursting into tears. My father wants his body to go to the hospital as research material after he dies, and when it's released back to us, he wants us to take a ferry across the Hudson and clandestinely dump his ashes over the side of the boat. Even though that's completely illegal, I am sure lots of people do it.
But that's a bridge we'll cross after all others have burned sufficiently. My daddy is not going to die from a little ol' crack in his chest, nor a swollen, blocked heart. He's already died seven times, and he doesn't like it, which is why he keeps coming back. Also, he clearly has unfinished business. Like being the first legless champion of Dancing With the Stars. Or finally finishing that book he claims he's been writing since last year.
+ The job search has started up again. But not to worry--I am still very much in love with table-waiting. I'm just trying to explore my options (and make more money). Yesterday afternoon, while Cass and I gave each other pep talks about our marketability on our now-decrepit living room couch, I applied for two new jobs. The first is a part time gig as a spa receptionist, which I am sure I'll at least get an interview for because I have so many years of experience in customer service. And the other is a second waiting job. However, this one is at a swankier restaurant, one where they train you to bartend! If I get this gig, I will finally have the skills I have desired for so long, and will be hurtling on into adulthood with the chops to support myself for the rest of my life. Not that waiting isn't a job that supports me. I just feel I'd like bartending even more. Fingers crossed. Then there is always the vague possibility of the night shift at a laundromat. A shift from 2-8 AM four times a week sounds almost heavenly. No one will bother me; I can read on the job; I can write on the job; I get to guard people's laundry. Sounds ideal for someone who can never sleep in the first place. Maybe I should email about that ad too...
+ Speaking of jobs, I have been tinkering with my five year plan. Though I have been doing what I said I wouldn't (looking at graduate programs), my real dream has remained consistent. Ever since I was a little girl, I have always wanted to be a flight attendant. Back then, it probably had a lot to do with the fact that I'd never been on a plane. In fact, I did not fly anywhere until the summer before my senior year of high school. Making that trip to California, and the subsequent one several years later, planted a seed in my head about being an air hostess. I was reading all of the requirements for flight attendants on some website the other day, and most of it comes back to extensive experience in customer service and a drive to make people absolutely comfortable. Me, and also, me! When rewriting my resume for my most recent round of job applications, I realized that I have over five years of experience in customer service. People my age cannot often say that. I need to translate those skills into a semi-lucrative and enjoyable job--flying for a living seems the way to go. Especially cos you can do it PART TIME and still get free flights to anywhere your airline travels. Perfect job for a touring poet? I think yes. New possibility for the five year plan: move to a city with a flight training center (most of them are apparently in California), become a part time flight attendant, bartend for the rest of that time, make enough to live on, write poems, visit all of my far-flung friends with vouchers and a big fat smile on my well-traveled face. Yes. I can picture it in perfect focus.
+ I received communion for the first time since Christmas in the hospital on Tuesday. I'm not sure how I felt about it. Lately, I've felt compelled to pray, then stopped myself because I know that's not really what I believe. God brings such comfort to so many people I love, but for me, the comfort troubles more than it assures me. My own way of praying is to write, and that seems to helping more than anything else. A nun I trust (a comical image, to be sure, the mohawked rabble rouser conversing with a trusted nun) once told me that singing is twice praying. Is that why I've been singing so loud since all of this happened? Is that the only praying I am equipped to do? In that case, here is something I've been belting alone in the car recently.
Lollipop rock is comfort food.
+ Okay, back to hiding in my cave and waiting for the world to end (or work to start, whichever comes first).