Monday, December 20, 2010

The State That I Am In

Do you see the angel on stage? Well, either an angel or spontaneous combustion. The ghost of Christmas homeland.

I think the first time I actually started enjoying Christmas, you know, in an adult way (for things other than toys) was when I was still pretty small and singing in the choir at our church. I know my mother is disappointed I don’t believe in god now, she’s fairly religious. We don’t fight all the time about it, it’s just a thing. She buys masses from monks occasionally for me. I don’t get upset when she does, and I try not to laugh. I’m not laughing at her really, and not even at the sentiment, but at the fairy tale aspect of the whole thing, and I enjoyed that part of going to church immensely when I was younger. It was all stories and layer cake songs and beautiful ornate things. It was visiting a castle and being part of court. So in a way, just the original way the Catholic church succeeded with peasants, all way back when. Hey, c’mon in, leave your plain dirty banal lives for a moment and be part of something pretty. Singing in the choir, in front of the people there, was just like that. Especially on holidays, like Easter and Christmas, when the church was covered in flowers and ribbons and candles. Also, I’ve always been an attention craver, so I loved singing for mass, like the little annoying show off I was. I was going to say something else, attention -----, but I don’t think maybe I should use that word in the same paragraph as church?

So we’ll use it in this paragraph. Whore. It’s been a long time since I’ve been one of those. Not professionally of course, just in that post adolescent haze of partying. I’m not so good at it anymore, I just don’t think of my body in the same way. Not that I’m not, you know, having relations or what not. But before my body was something I just forgot about, which was fun, just running it down to the metal every time, wherever I wanted it to go. Now I’m much more aware of it. Which is fun too, but in a different more solid way. I actually live in my body now, as opposed to leasing it. I drive it like a stick shift, instead of a cheap automatic.

The connection between these two thoughts is thus: in winter all my senses seem amplified, and its been that way always. Perhaps the darkness makes me have to reach more for these sparklies and kisses and hot warm things. Maybe I’m just drunk more, or maybe I drink more because all of you do too, and that’s just a side effect, because I’m so much more willing to spend time with you in the winter. Maybe ‘cause it makes more sense to be inside bars and parties and shows when it’s cold, when it’s warm it feels treasonous to be inside at all. Either way, I’m in noticing mood. I’m in feeling mood. I want everything to look like mass, and I want everyone to…

Saturday, I went to a friends house for a turkey fry. I didn’t think to ask what that was when I was invited, and so I assumed it would be a bunch of the guys eating leftovers and drinking beer. I didn’t have time to cook anything, so I showed up with a bottle of Jameson’s, all scrubby and jeaned out from work. It turned out, when I got there, to be a family thing instead. All the boys’ mothers and fathers and cousins and brothers, co-workers and girlfriends. Plus also the boys standing outside in the snowy backyard drinking to stay warm, next to multiple turkey fryers that looked like they could launch model rockets. I hadn’t even bothered to put socks on when I left the house, running late and not caring at all, then I got there and it was all “take your shoes off please”, which just sinks my heart, having to run around barefoot with my worn out beat up non-pedicured toes, my ankles still covered in purple scars from the summer, like I once upon a time had a fetish where I liked to have cigarettes put out on my feet. So I suffered that indignity for about half a minute before I went outside with the boys, if only to have an excuse to put my boots back on. Then I specifically asked The Host Boy if I could please wear my shoes, and he said yes of course, and the rest of the evening was a smash. I learned, first of all and foremost, that foose ball is like a serious deal in Europe. I don’t know why that never occurred to me before, the connection being soccer and all, but watching Host Boy and his Greek father play with strategy and actual skill was sort of amazing. They just butchered the opposing team. Second, I learned that no matter how drunk I am, I should not try to make my poor sick weak voice sing Journey on Rock Band, unless I’m prepared to be completely hoarse by the end. Third, I learned there is not much that can stop me from singing Journey. Also, when I left, I responsibly sat in my car waiting for it to warm up, instead of just going off immediately with my windows still frosted. God, that takes forever.

Sunday morning, Andrew, my parents, and I went to the Wigilia supper at the Polish Cultural Center. Wigilia is the Polish Christmas Eve vigil, and something we do in my family every year, Christmas Eve being so much more important than Christmas Day, especially since no one but my mom goes to mass anymore. It’s a meatless dinner, all pierogis, fish, cabbage and rye bread. Fish don’t count as meat to Catholics you know. Before dinner, everyone takes a piece of wafer bread, oplatek with designs of saints stamped on them, and feeds the other people at the table a broken piece, one by one, while telling them what kind of luck you wish them for the New Year. I mistakenly grabbed a pink wafer, which I guess is the color you feed the livestock, or in our day and age, the family pets. No one said anything to me though. When we were younger, my sister and I, this part used to make us cry. Because Mom would recount why she was proud of us, which was usually surviving some awful thing like boys or unemployment or bad math grades, and then tell us what she hoped we would do in the next year, which inevitably we felt we would fail at and then have to sit through this again next year. We’re not the most physically affectionate family, so this would also be one of the few times during the year I hugged my dad or my brother, and that made us tear up too. None of it was bad, it was sweet and lovely, but it was also like going to a psychiatrist for Carrie and I, just an immediate knee jerk reaction to start crying even before we had started talking. We did it every year though, through our emotional catastrophes, and our lives got better, more successful, now we don’t have the same feelings of failure following us. How did you get such daughters, that cry for things that make no sense, and not for the things that do?

After some really excellent fish and pierogis made by old Polish women and their daughters, then coffee and poppy seed cakes, there was a nativity play by the children, tinsel halos and white robes but also the red beribboned folk dresses and vests, and it was all in Polish. When the children would sing, the whole hall would sing quietly along with them, Mom included. It almost makes me want to learn Polish. Almost, but not quite enough to tackle it, since I’m terrible with other languages, and if I can’t learn Spanish properly after six years of classes, I don’t think I have a chance with those guttural notes. It was extremely cute. I could feel the cuteness growing like fungus in my cold childless chest, and then at the end when this tiny redheaded thing did her special lines in her tiny cute Polish voice, it all just exploded. There are shards of immigrant adorableness left embedded in my lungs.

Later that night, I went to dinner with an ex for our UnAnniversary of our first date, no not that ex but the other, and we drank a lot of sake and more Jameson, and watched this movie Visioneers, which maybe it was the alcohol it can always be the alcohol, but I really liked that movie. I find myself liking comedies that other people hate, like Advertising Rules. Nobody likes that movie, but I find it the funniest shit ever. Absurdist german comedy where you don't open your mouth. I don’t want to laugh out loud all the time, mostly I just want to be enveloped in a long stylized chuckle. And that's sort of what hanging out with ex boyfriends is like. Except for the Bad One, I get along well with all my other exes, and I like the dynamic that happens afterwards, the comfortableness and bluntness. The sense of treating each other like evolved creatures.

Today, I finished my Christmas shopping online. I wanted to find something meaningful for my dad, since he’s the kind of dad who always ends up getting books and music for Christmas. But after searching through old posters and prints of striking workers and protesters, I couldn’t find anything I felt was arresting. I did remember though an old Plain Dealer edition that had a picture of Dad at some Public Power protest, and I was with him, tiny and cute, maybe on his shoulders? I can’t remember, but now I want desperately to find a way to get that picture. It’s like the picture I have of my mother and I, when she was pregnant with Carrie, that was also in the Plain Dealer at some point. Dear Plain Dealer, can you please just find these probably lost long ago prints and send them to me?

Then it was drinks at the Velvet Tango room with Sarah, and off to tango lessons in an outfit I am affectionately calling my Italian widow dress. I’ve been a little obsessed with widows lately, in the literary sense, not the real thing. That’s probably insulting to someone who is an actual widow, but I’ll risk it. I like the idea that you’re not an old maid, you’ve been accepted and taken by someone, and now they’re gone, but you still wear the “halo of one man’s approval.” You’ve been validated as something worth caring about all to yourself, and then independence comes after, and it’s not the solitary defensive independence of having to prove your value, but the independence of suddenly having to create another life. “Widow, the word consumes itself.”

I wish I could do tango every night. I like switching partners in class, and dancing with everyone. But it’s true, I also wish for a partner that was always my partner, so we could learn the cues together and I wouldn’t have to relearn them with every new man.

I’ve been forcing myself to put up pictures on face book of myself that I don’t like right away, angles of my face I’m uncomfortable with, me smiling which I think just looks weird and jack’o’lanternish, my fat little round face all squished up into shadows and lines. I’m vain enough that if I have to look at those pictures enough times, I start to like them, and therefore my face more. Sometimes I think I’m the ugliest troll, and other times I’m the prettiest girl, and so just like those decaying buildings I love so much, I’m teaching myself to like it all just the sake of existing.


  1. I gave it the ole college try, because there is nothing I like more than an internet search challenge. Unfortunately this is the best I could do:

    If you have a library card, you can search the entire archive of the Plain Dealer, as of just a couple of weeks ago, and I've been enjoying playing with that.

    Hope this doesn't freak you out too much -- I only use my internet stalking powers for good.

  2. No! That's a fantastic picture too. Wish it was clearer. Thanks!

  3. Jesus, Bridget. That last line? *swoon*

    Also, what song should Herbert learn for your youtube debut?

  4. I loved the whole thing, but the part that really struck me was the treating your body like a stick shift.

    That's perfect. Mine's a crappy fixed-gear bike.

  5. Three little old chords? Done. Phew.

  6. I'll poke around and see if the picture you're looking for is readily available. I seems like it would've been around summer 82- summer 83, there were a few rallies. Your dad sure was (is) fighting the good fight.

    These scans are obviously focused on legibility -- if we can track down the dates you might be able to get better ones of the pics from the library or the paper itself, I dunno.

  7. Yeah, I think I'll talk to him about this weekend for timeframe, I couldn't have been more than six, and then try to figure out if I still have a library card, so I can spend the rest of the new year going through there looking up people.

  8. You just made me feel all holidayish. Thank you. I love the bread tradition! I wish the Irish had something like that.

  9. We do! Corned beef and church on St. Patty's day, then drunkenly getting into fights with the people you're sleeping with. I think the Irish may win.


Who wants to fuck the Editors?