Sunday, November 27, 2011

My Confirmation Name is Procrastination

If you want to know what it's like to be me today...
1) wake up - tear off your fake eyelashes and let them fall on the floor next to your bed. Spend 15 minutes thinking about the most convenient boy that isn't your ex.
2) Take a shower. Spend most of it trying to form a list in your head of how to write a story and what a fucking horrible person you are with no work ethic ever and you are destined to die alone and in your own filth with no one knowing who you are or giving a shit.
3) clean off your desk completely and take out two bags of trash to the curb. Promise yourself you will take out more trash every time you leave the house today, which should be never again.
4) get five large black coffees from Dunkin Donuts. Save one for later in the fridge. Drink the rest as fast as you can. Add a caffeine supplement to one of them.
5) Listen to Yacht and fall in love a lot with them. Vow to go to the concert next week, even though technically you will be a dead failure by then.
6) realize you have surpassed 10,000 tweets. Say something pithy about it, but really actually feel a little weird about the fact that is a 140,000 characters you have sent into outer space. FOR FREE.
7) Tear apart this post and this post and try to map them according to Joseph Campbell and Dan Harmon. Worry that the places you are sending these stories to will think they are too scifi. Secretly agree with Margaret Atwood that you don't write science fiction, you write speculative fiction, even though the way she said it was asinine. Also secretly worry that nobody cares about the difference, if you write about robots and sentient machines and fake gods, you don't get to be taken seriously, also because you are a terrible writer and everyone knows it except you, and if you were any good wouldn't you be more popular?
8) Drink more coffee, wear a bra, try not to think about facebook or sex, even though the very act of writing creates this sludge of sexual frustration, a build up in your engine, and the more you write the sluttier you get, like an old car that needs more frequent oil changes because of the high mileage. Start to understand why the famous writers you admired never stayed in love and had penchants for prostitutes and one night stands. Cause boyfriends take up too much time, and god someday you're going to be too old for saturday nights like that and if only you were a guy it wouldn't matter that you were old and crazy you would still get laid but no you're a girl so your breasts are gonna get floppy and your skin is gonna look bad and it won't matter if you win a goddamn pulitzer. Also this is entirely your ex's fault for taking up all of your 20s, which you should have been using to find someone who would be stuck with you old too.
9) Strangle your fucking cat because she won't leave you the fuck alone. FUCK. Put her limp little body outside in the garage so the possums can eat it.

PS I love my bear. I forgot about this picture. This is from when I had to go to Austin for work during the last presidential election, and I was SO mad I couldn't be with my friends and I had to be in Texas of all fucking places. But I forgot I brought Sarah my bear with me, which is not normal for me, I can't remember why I did.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Things I am Grateful For

-coffee (always and forever coffee and lets face it, at least its not cocaine, I feel like coffee stops a lot of people from being coke heads)
-my car not breaking down as we have all been waiting for it to do all year (go South Korea!)
-living by myself
- all the concerts I went to this year, which were mostly amazing
- Other Places and Hotel Rooms and State Parks
-the secret beach (the secret to my sanity)
-getting over my Ex and being able to talk to him and be around him socially without it destroying me. (I recently had to watch a run in where someone who had only been with a friend of mine for 2 years still hates anyone who's had any contact with them 2 years after, and I'll be honest, for a while I was worried that my breakup had made me actually crazy, but apparently I don't even know what that is yet, and I'm grateful for being able to see I'm in a better place than some people)
-my very awesome friends, who are prettier and smarter and more motivated than me every day
-my very awesome fans whose gratuitous and undeserved affection reminds me to try to be prettier and smarter and more motivated
- returning to my old job and a better quality of life
-being good at something that makes me happy even when it makes me miserable, and even when it makes me miserable it still gets me laid
- the internet, especially satellite images (I get to use pictures FROM A SATELLITE IN SPACE to help me find stuff! And I'm not the military! That's amazing)
- my boobs
- my creative and supportive family (especially my sister moving back to town and becoming one of my best friends, which I don't think anyone ever thought was going to happen, least of all us)
- reading comprehension!
- historical perspective!
- not being pregnant or sick!
- being able to travel across the continent without paperwork!
- being born in the time that I was (I hate when people ask the question what time period should you have been born in. This one, motherfuckers. I like being able to vote, and date black guys, and go out publicly with my gay friends, and have birth control, and never having to get married, and email people in England ect...)
- everyone who has emailed me or told me how much they like this blog. It means a lot. Thank you. (I had a nightmare last night that I didn't get accepted to school next year because they told me my blog didn't make any money. I don't have a lot in terms of accomplishment, but thanks for reading, people)
- not being blown up for one more year.
- not being part of a native population subjected to systematic genocide or being burned alive for not believing in god.
- all the pretty trappings of my middle class 1st world life - makeup and bars and music and not getting beaten for speaking in public or hooking up with strangers.
- the existence of the Aurora Borealis and radioactive wolves.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Facebook Ads (no pithy subtitle except I'd like to note that I drank an entire glass of St. Germain straight last night and it was kinda gross)

Ad title: Free Coupons for Women!
This is the most dead on marketing for most of my female friends over 27 that I could ever think of. Target and Diet Coke. You all need to drink more water.

Ad Title: Allied Business Network, "Like" our new mascot!
I don't know what ABN does, but from their mascot I would guess they specialize in genetically crossbreeding kittens and frogs to create a Super Fuzzy Frog with the power to suck your soul out in your sleep and permanently ruin your living conditions. The important thing is that someone spent a really long time crafting a hat for a kitten.

Ad Title: Give a Pet a New Home!
That dog is obviously a Nazi, right?

Ad Title: Become a Substance Abuse Counselor!
Once upon a time, in a candy factory far far away, a baby girl was born to a young Oompa Loompa couple. The other oompa loompas could tell she was different, because of the constant judgement in her eyes and the cutting edge of her voice when she warned the other children of the dangers of eating too much sugar.
I seriously cannot figure out if that's supposed to BE the counselor in that picture, or the addict, but I assume the addict because I don't know any counselors who make enough money to afford that awesome of a dye job. Become a counselor and all the drug addicts will be really hot young slave girls who really like candy and creepy old men!

Ad Title: Become an Addiction Counselor!
All the addicts on facebook are really hot. And Rainbow Brite here is obviously addicted to being awesome. Or addicted to the taste of metal. Or addicted to hair dye fumes. I am really uncomfortable with the idea of using sex to sell counseling careers. Those are some very false expectations.

Ad Title: 5 New Things to Do in Cleveland!
1. Look for non-existent whales and/or whale boats! Name them Lawrence (done).

Ad Title: 5 New Things to Do in Cleveland!
2. Become a Demon Eagle Lady, and disembowel your enemies! Never learn how to type or fingerpaint. Be very bad at climbing over fences or caressing your loved one.

Ad Title: 5 New Things to Do in Cleveland!
Stay away from open sewers where the giant alien cat monsters lay in wait, and your Eagle Demon talons will be useless against their hypnotic Thrall Stare of Doom. Also stay away from blonde women who wear white. That is never ever a sign that they are healthy sane individuals. I was going to say except for nurses,

Friday, November 18, 2011

Before and After Shots of St. Joseph's

Hymn of the Cherumbim (Ize Cheruvimy)

I was at a party over Halloween weekend when a guy came up to me who had seen my Pechakucha Cleveland Monsters presentation, and recognized one of the Monsters as the church his family had attended, my beloved St. Joseph's. So beloved in fact that I've been mistakenly calling it St. John's this whole time, oops, thanks Internet research. He said there were some old photos of the church in it's heyday that I might want to see. I said "might" is an understatement. And so I figured you might want to see them too. The audio file above is from an album of hymns by the choir that was actually recorded in St. Joseph's.

I was at a party last night and had a conversation with a girl about family holidays. She identified herself as coming from a large Italian family, second generation, but when I said I thought that holidays in families that still had a lot of ties back to the old country were best, she got defensive and quickly pointed out that her family didn't really do anything ethnic. They instead got very dressed up for the holiday dinners, with formal place settings and pretty clothes. She said they had stopped doing all that kind of Italian stuff when her grandfather died. What I meant though was not that we all necessarily performed the old rituals, but that a certain kind of family mental structure was passed down, a pattern of thinking about holidays. Even if your grandparents were long dead and your mom no longer remembered how to speak Polish, there was a general feeling of specialness that got passed on, especially in ethnically religious families. As Catholics, we were taught that every day was some saint's holy day, and the high holy days - Christmas and Easter and Ascensions of various personages - you were supposed to behave, because you were in mass. Maybe that's it, a slight genetic memory of holidays being religious, that causes families not far removed from those days to treat them with more deference. Sure, we're all atheists now, but your mother and father remember being little and put through the motions, so their way of thinking about it is unconsciously passed down to you their child, a way of proper behavior. That's what I like the most about the ethnic holiday celebrations, the desire to act like a saint. I don't know, I was drunk when I was trying to explain this to her, and even now I don't think I'm articulating the concept quite right.

From a letter I wrote back to the guy who gave me the photos....

"The reason I like exploring and writing about places like this in the
Rust Belt is that they need new identities now that they've been
abandoned by people. It's the idea that a building is born, put
together piece by piece, and then matures and soaks in all the stories
and experiences of the people that use it. Then when it's abandoned,
it grows up into another creature, something living in the environment
like a mountain or a river, even more permanent than a tree or people,
a natural organic new landscape. So building a city is like breeding
new mountains. In the same way that we value looking at a cliff face
or a rhinoceros, we should value looking at what these places become
after we leave them. Actually, even more so, because of the people
they came from, like they are our children sort of. I had this
discussion with A. the other day, about how I don't like buildings
that are all glass because they are fragile, and won't last the way
the stone and brick ones will. He felt it was okay for a building to
be temporary and only around for it's use. I think we should build
things that last for centuries, and you know, KEEP using them, or if
they get abandoned, use them again. You would never breed children to
be pretty but breakable, you want them to be survivors."

You want them to have experience is maybe what I mean. You want them to have that slight quiet whisper of "this is how you behave on holidays." But like so many things with experience, people dogs cars, most of the time they just get thrown away. I just made you think of that Sarah McLachlan ad didn't I? Sorry. That one makes me cry every time.

This is Important and I Mean It

Click Here If You Think Censoring the Internet is the End of the Evolution of Human Culture As We Know It, or Just Really Offensive to Our Right of Free Speech
It takes 1 minute and it's easy, and frankly it's the very least you can do since I don't ask you for much very often and you read this site free all the time, right?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

So Much Guilt

I know when I'm listening to a mediocre album on repeat I shouldn't go anywhere near this blog. Particularly this album and particularly track #4 which is like the worst song ever. It's the Nickelback of this album. It should be cut out roughly with a very dull butter knife and sent back to the northern wastes to die by hypothermia or polar bear snack. But you have no idea what blog guilt feels like. It's like knowing you're lying to your best friend about sleeping with her ex. Sure you can forget about it while you're in his arms (the ex in this case being, I don't know, DOING stuff), but the minute you leave that happy warmth, you get hit with a cold icy semi-truck of Unattached Floating Unfocused Guilt. That's the kind of guilt that can get into all the little crevices, cause it isn't heavy like a weight, you know you're not doing anything REALLY wrong. It's just mildly awful and makes you a little nauseous all the time. The Carbon Monoxide of guilt.

There is so much stuff coming up these next two months though. For one, I have a shitload of stuff to get done in the next fourteen days. November 30th is officially my deadline from hell. By all rights I shouldn't be going anywhere at all for the rest of the month. But of course, it's also holiday season, so everyone and their alcoholic mother is having a party, and it's always the people who never have parties except once a year, so you sort of have to go. And since there are only 3.5 weekends in the holiday season, everyone's shit is right on top of each other. I am forced to pick and choose between friends and acquaintances ruthlessly, weighing the crowds and venues and themes against each other. Cookies and liquor always win, but then fuck, the cookie party and the liquor night are the same night. Karaoke versus Hipster Thanksgiving. Kegger versus Grilling of Lots of Meats. And I'd like to point out, I should be eating none of these things, liquor, cookies, or meats. I should be living on salad greens and very bland chicken breast. I should be living on paper and ink and nothing else. Instead I get stressed out about all these applications I have due, and I go out with Julie to Lilly's Chocolates and have that yummy marshmallow looking thing below, which is the Southern Comfort Tart and is indeed extremely comforting. Now I've got Bad Friend Guilt and Fat Girl Guilt in addition to Blogger Guilt. But wait, there's more...

Yeah, SOCIAL ACTIVISM GUILT. As in, I'm sitting over here living the pretty cozy life of the comfortably right above the poverty level single girl, which is a tenuous existence that could slip away at any moment, thrusting me back into my parents' house. And I'm actively planning to try and live a life where I will have no money, and no healthcare for the next 6 years at least, in exchange for an education and shitload of debt. So I, of all people, should be protesting with the Occupy people. But man, I got a job, I have to not get fired until I'm ready to quit. And even though I am totally behind the movement, I get confused by it as well. For instance, I actually think the nebulousness of the movement's demands are perfect, because it allows for the government to do something, anything, and they could still declare it a win. But I don't understand why they had a library. It's a protest, not a refugee camp. The protesters here in Cleveland sent out a list of stuff they needed, and it was things like peanut butter and tampons. I mean, I get why you're camping out, but you can't organize enough to send someone out for this shit? You can't leave for 15 minutes to walk to Tower City and buy tampons? There are actual homeless people in Cleveland who, if I'm going to be giving out free peanut butter and toiletries, are definitely getting first dibs on them, people. I'm all for bringing them cookies and coffee, if I had the money to do that, which I don't because I do things like buy sequined dresses. <----worst citizen ever.

When the raid happened on the Occupy Wall Street NY site, I had a weird experience that I spent all yesterday trying to tell people about. What happened is this: I usually sleep with my phone next to me, because I'm really praying to get a brain tumor by the time I'm fifty. That night, the raid happened around 1am, and my twitter feed blew up with updates from all the people I know in New York, and all the people they knew that they were passing along. My stupid cat kept waking me up all night crawling across my head. Apparently she's decided the only way to cross from one side of the bed to the other is on my pillow. So I would wake up and check my phone, read the updates about OWS, and then fall back asleep, only to have vivid third person dreams about whatever I had just read happened. The library being torn apart and thrown out. The doormen of buildings in the area being told to lock the occupants inside. The tear gassed protesters rushing to strangers homes nearby to shower. I spent the night in a half awake dreaming state of reading and then visualizing the news. When I woke up in the morning, I told Twitter about it, and it turned out several other people had the exact same experience, which feels monumental to me, feels like a real sign of the times to come when we have a chip in our heads that is streaming real time updates to us about everything all the time and even during our sleep cycles the subconscious is staying on top of Feed, so we dream the same things at the same time. Maybe that's awful and apocalyptic, but also a deep part of me, the insect part of me probably, the ant and bee and centipede part, is excited by the Prospect of the Grid. The Age of InterConnectivity. It's as if Twitter is a telegraph, and the phone is yet to be invented but we can see the shadow of it on the horizon.

So lastly, I've got Individualism versus the Comfort of the Collective Guilt. Ours is an Age of fighting against the Comfort.

No wait, lastly, I've got Tom Wolfe guilt, where I desperately want to write snarky things about organizations and projects and social media stuff that I can't shouldn't won't because I have friends involved in most of them, and maybe when I move out of town I'll get enough distance between us to kill that guilt and write some real and true stuff, but right now its all tempered by friendship, which sucks. Friendships are really killing me right now.

And let's not even talk about the upcoming avalanche of Guilt when I know I have to get rid of my cats by this Spring. I can't even begin to handle that right now.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Mirror Mirror

Mirror Mirror on the Wall, Who's the first person to take an apple down off a tree and eat it, so that the rest of the tribe could see it wasn't poisonous? And by tribe, I mean loose collection of individuals who had yet to formulate a hierarchy or belief system, except belief in finding things to eat that wouldn't kill them. So maybe there was one adventurous ancestor, let's call her the original foodie, who picked an apple fallen off its tree, lying on the ground small and wizen and brown and just at the point of rotting because everything in that world was either not ripe or rotting, a world without fridges or ice or salt or root cellars. Apples weren't as pretty back then, or as sweet. They were tart tiny almost inedible seed carriers, but our ancestors spent 90% of their daylight searching for things to eat and apples tasted way better than bark. We were like chipmunks, or squirrels. Humans, the largest squirrel. Burying things, hiding things from animals, stocking up for winter months. We needed so much fuel to run the massive computers growing in our heads, like computers that took up entire rooms of college campuses and sucked down enough electricity to power all of Minneapolis now. Minneapolis and degrees being an entire light year away, but anticipated all foreshadowed by food.

And our heroine, because the women would be the gatherers, roaming around close to home base/home cave/shelter, she found the apple, saw the bears eating it, and ate it too, and it was okay. She gestured and pointed, and everyone else started eating them too. She became an expert on finding things on the ground to eat. A leader among the tribe, because the most valuable skill was feeding people. They spread the news of eating the strange new thing to other more far away tribes over time - the banished son who couldn't find a mate traveling in the wilderness to other families buying his acceptance and life to strangers by offering them the fruit he came with, the kidnapped and bought daughter turning to the familiar foods of the home territory. The Woman was given a name, a certain grunt or moan or click that referred to her, the famous finder of food, and language was born. Eeeeeevvvvv. She gave directions to the other women, to find the trees and how to pick the good ones, and matriarchy was born. The image of her, a round fat apple woman well fed and all knowing, became a marker, and when they learned that apple trees could also grow out of trash heaps where cores had been thrown, that spot became a place to come back to Spring after Spring, Fall after Fall. Agriculture was born, staying put, cooking, villages, order and harvest and spoiled alcoholic juice.

The apple trees became a dark hidden place for young people to meet, or old people to cheat, to get tipsy on the fermented ground fruit. The heroine grew old and respected, her breasts sagging and her teeth almost gone, and one day found her mate fucking a younger girl in the orchard, in the branches and roots of her precious trees, at the very foot of the wrinkled gnarled original tree which had changed her life centuries ago and given her power, now old and ugly like her but growing the best and biggest and reddest fruit. If he left her, old and dying as she was now, she would be alone and ashamed, meatless and protectionless which is the original definition of heartbroken, when your heart actually breaks when you actually die.

Thus the Poison Apple was born and fed to pretty young things. A power born out of knowing the properties of what to eat and what not to eat, the original magic, and a hatred created from the disintegration of relevance. The Mother, who showed us the way up from the Garden, and The Witch, who knew how to kill without you being able to defend yourself. It was the Woman who created a world where food wasn't the most important thing, and opened the door to a time where she no longer was either.

The very ugliest and also best most complicated applesauce I've ever made:

one 1/2 bushel of apples. Whatever. Ida Roma. Matsu. Red Delicious.
peel, quarter
a section of ginger root about the size of the middle joint of your index finger, peeled and chopped
2 cups dark brown sugar
2 lemons worth of juice squeezed to death
several long and drunk throws of cinnamon
more salt than you really think necessary
1 package fruit pectin, thrown in at the last minute
1 package dried cranberries and 1 package dried apricots soaked in peach brandy for two hours
1 bottle cheap riesling
combine all in the largest largest stockpot your mom has in her kitchen
pour in enough water to cover the apples if there's any room left
simmer for three fucking hours

Bingo. Breakfast for days. 3 fucking quarts of it, honest. Breakfast for everyone for days. The whole stinking ungrateful tribe.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Slightly More Realistic Roleplaying Scenarios

1) Let's pretend I'm in love with someone else, and want nothing to do with you in the morning, because I hate myself for being rejected, and I just want to be fucked into mute comatose exhausted silence by someone who only sees me as an object? Let's pretend you paid for my drinks, and I drank a lot. Later I will tell the boy I have a crush on about you, not the one I'm in love with but someone else, to make it clear I'm easy.

2) Let's pretend I'm old enough to be your dad, and you have issues with all male authority figures in your life, and I really don't want to talk to you about what you're into because I think you're pretty immature and foolish and would really prefer that you don't talk at all but just be exuberantly grateful for the attention. Later you can use me as a story to turn on your much more age appropriate boyfriend.

3) Let's pretend I'm a nurse, you're a patient. You are lying in the hospital sick and weak and sort of disgusting looking, and have some sort of pain killer induced crush on me, but really I'm just going to get drunk with my girlfriends later and talk about how gross and weird your head wound is.

4) Let's pretend we're online, and in two different cities, and it's 3am and we're both mildly drunk and bored with looking at facebook, so we exchange lame generic quips about dicks and boobs, and then maybe if this happens a lot we can pretend we have crushes on each other even though you have a girlfriend and I think your updates are inarticulate and lame. Later, when I've ignored you on chat a few times, you can start "liking" everything I post but never commenting, because you want to get my attention, but aren't smart enough to think of something good to say.

5) Let's pretend we met at a party and talked about the fleeting historical era of nuclear power, what will someday be a footnotes in our history books of when we stupidly used poison as an alternate energy source, wised up to how expensive and not worth it the whole thing was about a 100 years later, but the footprints of the damage will remain for centuries to remind us how dumb we were once. Let's pretend I gave you my number afterwards, but I was drunk and not that cute, so you never called.

6) Let's pretend we only really want to fuck because I used to go out with your best friend, who you have always had a massive inferiority complex towards, or maybe you just want to know how all those particular sounds happened late at night, and we will hook up because you are selfish and I am bitter and turned on by betraying people horribly. Then afterwards we can amuse ourselves by pretending to feel guilty.

7) Let's pretend you like to think of yourself as a the main character in Bonfire of the Vanities, rich and handsome and with a genetic imperative to fuck everyone and spread your perfect seed around. And since I have a Tom Wolfe complex and like having guys spend money on me, I'll just go along with it, even though you insufferably won't stop talking about yourself, and yes I saw you swallow that pill right before dinner, and it's either heart medication or viagra and either way at least hanging out with you makes me feel young and like maybe my life isn't on the worst kind of path because at least I can pretend to be superior to you because I'm artsy and not cheating on my wife. You will have to wear a suit all the time, cause the minute I see you in a polo shirt it will create a false sense of intimacy.

8) Let's pretend I think your band is good, even though you are spectacularly mediocre, and you can pretend to read my blog, even though you only did once. We won't sleep together, we'll just hang out a lot in some sort of maybe we're flirting maybe we're not ego feeding haze, until we make out one night in the car and it gets awkward and we stop texting each other 15 times a day and maybe start hanging out with some other people.

9) Let's pretend we really honestly like each other, but have no idea how to get a functional relationship started, because we both just usually go along with whoever is persistent enough.

10) Let's pretend we're both actually on OKCupid to just make friends.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

These Are the Things I Dream About When There is Someone In My Bed

The party had quickly not gone anywhere and she had spent the last half hour frantically texting her sister to figure out what she was doing. She felt bad leaving Emily behind, but it was becoming impossible to get two seconds with her before her idiot cousin or uncle was horning in on the conversation for the sole purpose of the bottle of bourbon Beth had brought with her, a pretty dark brown bottle that was getting lighter and lighter in direct proportion to how fucking annoyed she was she had even agreed to drive this far east to hang out with Emily. She knew she should just abandoned the bottle to the greedy little grabby hands of these trashy morons, but it was specifically because of the rude and doggish way they had made sure Emily didn't have a chance to visit with her alone that she wanted to spite them, made sure that when she left, that pathetic three shots maybe was left in the bottle and the bottle was securely tucked in her coat pocket, even as the baleful alcoholic country eyes of the messy men followed her city ass out of the door. Beth knew she was a snob. She didn't care. If some men wanted to act like apes, she would treat them the same. It didn't take much to learn manners, and really all you needed was some innate feeling of self awareness and compassion, an ability to feel empathy. People who were empathetic were almost never rude on purpose. Trying to emote to these lugs would be like throwing emotional gravel at a stone wall. A stone wall that was too busy trying to get drunk and laid to even turn around until they heard a bottle open.

She said her weird uncomfortable goodbyes to Emily and walked out of their split level, stumbling over the uneven sidewalk. The air was warm for January. It wasn't only warm, it was humid. It wrapped around you like a giant hot sleepy breathy sigh, and clung to her arms. She took off her cardigan in the car and turned down the heat, the car windows fogging up and she felt like swimming? Like rolling around in solid room temperature water balloons. Like being wrapped in the outside shiny part of a sleeping bag naked, by yourself, waking up on a spring morning after it rained. It smelled like plant sex. She was grossly aware however of the open container she was now driving with, and the clock showing after midnight rather than before. Of being stuck all the way in Chesterland which was pretty much a place that didn't even exist except to get you pulled over when leaving high school friends' houses stoned at 3am, trying to navigate around deer and cops and drunk oncoming SUVS on steep needlessly picturesque turns. The possibility of cops everywhere sat on her spine hypertense and pricking. The roads were all way too dark.

She had been driving for ten minutes, very successfully she thought and oh thank god she was back with some streetlights finally (streetlights being the main sign you are back in civilization), when a large animal scampered into the road. She gasped and jerked the wheel, tried to stay on the road but the asphalt was slick with cloud sweat, and the car slid down the embankment into a field of tall grass. She was fine. The car seemed fine too, didn't hit anything at least. She got out shaken, and looked back at the road to see if she had hit the thing.

She hadn't, and the animal had paused in the pool of yellow municipal light to look back at her. It was a koala bear. No it's not, she thought, and squinted to make out if it was a dog maybe, or a raccoon. It was definitely a koala bear. It didn't even run, so she could maybe pretend she had seen something wrong later. It just sat there, being a koala bear, with fuzzy round ears, and was it snarling at her? Shit, it looked like it was snarling, there was the glinting of tiny little koala bear teeth. She had zero desire to approach it, and stood her ground until the thing that was a koala bear but could not possibly be a koala bear loped off into the dark.

The car was stuck in field mud, and she didn't want to call the cops for obvious class warfare reasons, so she called Roadside instead, and then decided to walk down the street until she saw a light on somewhere. It was nice being a girl sometimes, especially when knocking on strangers' doors at 12:45 in the morning. She started to pick her way through the broken dead grass, when she felt a different kind of pricking. The sensation that something much larger is behind you. She turned around quickly and saw a tall lean creature, something between a horse and an antelope? Maybe an elk? But with stripes like a zebra on part of it? It was standing less than five feet away from her in the grass, and looked rank dirty unkempt, as wild animals do when you finally see them in person. Insinuating worms and parasites in their breath. The air was filled with the smell of animal urine. As her eyes focused in the darkness, she saw that not only was it staring directly at her, but an entire herd of the creatures was staring at her, camouflaged in the grass, sniffing at the car snuffling around her tracks, but never losing eye contact. They were huge, monumental.

She tried to remember what Zoobooks had taught her. Looking in their eyes was a challenge and she shouldn't? But also she shouldn't show fear and stand her ground? What were you supposed to do with big dogs? Weird antelope creatures couldn't be much different from dogs, it was all pack or herd domination right? She tried to catch her breath and stand very very still. Maybe they could only see you when you moved, like a T Rex?

The leader started to moan, a low guttural mooo that very clearly meant Get the Fuck Away.
So she ran.
It was a mistake, or maybe it would have all been a mistake. Several of the antelope immediately started chasing her, and since they were goddamn mutant antelope, caught up to her fat little human worm legs easily. The large one bit her on the shoulder, and another swung its huge head like a wrecking ball into her side. She was knocked into the mud, searing pain shooting up from her lungs. The forest around her tittered with parrots, what the fuck parrots? She froze on the ground, unaware of the tears and snot that were flowing silently down her face. The antelope stood around her, the Leader pawing the ground next to her and staring down the others as if he had won her. His mouth was like a horse's, with large grumbling crumbling flat molars, thick curled lips and nostrils. She felt warm sticky blood mixing with warm sticky air on her back, and the ground was wet and sinking underneath her, it smelled like manure. She lay there for what seemed like hours days the rest of her life, mud soaking through her tights, fingers clenched into the earth, holding her breath not only to stay completely still, but because taking a breath meant that fiery unbearable pain. She felt sure she had a broken rib, and she had never broken any bones before ever, had no idea if she should move, if she was supposed to. It was so much more terrifying than she had anticipated, having a bone, a piece of your skeleton and the very thing holding you together the only thing really tying your wet sloppy mess of innards together be shattered and torn like tissue paper. She tried to remind herself, lying there in the wretched stinking mud in the dark surrounded by creatures that looked like they belonged in the Congo, not in Northeast Ohio ever for any reason but especially not in January, she tried to remember that other people had gone through worse, like being eaten alive by antelope, no..wait. She tried to remember that antelope did not usually eat people. But also koala bears do not usually snarl, and it was usually cold in winter, and where the fuck were the cops now? She tried to be reasonable, do not panic Beth, but what her brain was telling her over and over was Stay Still. You Are Dead. Stay Still. You Are Not Dead. But Stay Still. Nothing is Ever Going to Happen Again. This Is Your New Existence. She pissed herself, and the warmth running down her thighs and spreading into her tights like a sponge was a relief, to feel something new besides pain and wet mud and fear. The antelopes' noses twitched, and one nudged her thigh and licked it. The tongue was unbelievably big, an actual muscle. She cringed at the sight of those teeth. The mouths of animals were horrible.

The herd eventually lost interest, and started grazing around her, but the Leader never took his hard little eyes off her. If she even shifted her foot, he was ready to attack again, his ears twitching and that horrible ghost moan gathering in his barrel chest. Hours and hours and hours and hours later, somehow she fell asleep, or passed out. When she woke up, they were gone, and the tow truck driver was standing over her, on the phone, holding the broken brown glass remnants of the bourbon bottle that had shattered into her chest through her coat pocket.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Everything You Look At is Unfinished

She had a Little Sister the first generation they came out. Everyone who was cool had one. It kept your numbers and your pictures and told you how to get places. When she asked Little Sister a question, it gave you the simplest most factual answer possible. Where should I go for lunch Little Sister, she would speak to it. "This is the closest Mexican place." "This is the closest Cambodian place." "This is the most popular place among your social network." "This is the place your ex boyfriend is most likely to be based on charted dating habits from the last six months." "You should wear the red."

She woke up coughing blood. It was thick and dark, like it had dried and been rehydrated by the sheer exertion of coughing it up. Her head was also thick and dark, her hair felt heavy with lead and her skin glowed with raw material sweat. She had dreamed that night of being back in Phoenix, in the heat that lay on your skin like a sick and dying matted cat, and the lightning up above her in the common pool, sitting in the tepid water watching the apartment complex lights blink on and off and waiting for the lightning to hit her and set everything on fire in a short sustained chain reaction that incinerated her and all the water and all the weeds and gravel and every other identical colony of under employed over educated 21 yr olds populating that horrible dry desert outpost. When she woke up, cold and sweating underneath winter blankets, she was dying.

"Little Sister, what should I do, am I sick?"
"Your symptoms suggest the best course of action is to seek immediate treatment."

So Little Sister gave her directions to the hospital. But her car was broken, someone had stolen her alternator, wires running everywhere, and the buses never came, though she waited and Little Sister gave her the bus schedule. She tried to call a taxi, but the phone lines were dead. She went outside and looked around weakly, but there was no one on the street. She started walking. It was colder than it should have been for November, or perhaps she just always forgot what cold was like in winter.
"Little Sister, where are all the people?"
"Population of Cleveland is currently 245, 371"
"But where is everybody?"
And she coughed, and a little bit of blood landed on Little Sister, who scanned it immediately and efficiently for all known toxins, agents, poisons, bacteria, viruses, pregnancy, STDS, antibiotics, contagions.

"Big Sister, you should go to the hospital."
"I am at the hospital Little Sister, there is no one here. There are no lights on."
"You should go to the other hospital."
"Where is the other hospital, Little Sister?"
"Next closest healthcare facility is Mercy Riverside of Toledo, 116 miles, estimated travel time 1 hour, 56 minutes."

There were no dogs in the road, but she wished at that moment she had thought to get one earlier, and trained it to love and protect her.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Clarion: The Scrap Heap at the End of the Universe

It's possible we imagined it, in a mass hallucination brought on by fumes from the oil refinery. The fact that all the streets were named the same as the ones back home, and that they all looked the same, Broadway leading you into industrial areas always rusty old heaps of factories and corner stores, the rest of them named after the great tribes of the Lakes who had traded their existence to the French for beads and guns. Never assume they are going to give you the good guns. Why would they want you to have better guns than them? I'm sorry the exploration of the New World happened before mass communication, if there had been the internet maybe you all would still be alive. Maybe not.

So it's possible at some point on our drive there, the long autumn colored mid morning light falling across the highway and the corn fields, air rushing past our slightly cracked windows, it's possible that at some point we fell asleep in the sunlight and died. It's possible we were kidnapped, fed hallucinogens, reset, and released. I've often thought that a lot more of us are actually stuck in laboratories than we want to admit. Not all us. But probably a fair number. At least 30. I keep waiting for my life to turn into a story where numbers really matter, where the same set of significant amounts keep showing up again and again, a sign that there's an overriding narrative. Like, maybe there are 32 of us in sense dep tanks, and maybe we are all dreaming we are ourselves 32, and some research student somewhere picked that number because his apartment number was 32, the one he lived in with his now-ex, and the place he wishes more than anything to be back at. Whatever the reason, the city was beautiful that day, not gray and dirty as we had anticipated, but clean and bright and diversified. Poor sure, but not as poor. It wasn't a bad place, and we fell under the city's spell. Each city having a particular and unique spell, created out of rocks and raw earth from where it was born, designed by snowflake and fingerprint population mixes. Cities are playgrounds, they are boiling pots and scrap heaps and collages. They collect everything washing up in the gullies of the country, reservoirs of our lowest points and greatest activity. Marshes.

When we found the building, I drove into the wrong driveway three times, and finally just jumped a curb to park the car somewhere inconspicuous. We climbed carefully over the broken glass sticking out of window frames, and through the soon to be overgrown pool, into the dimmed recessed hallways of offices and kitchens, through the mirrored lobby and pitch black lounges. A series of conference rooms named after presidents held every bit of furniture scavenged; desks, mattresses, light poles, pastel prints of cottages, racks of white porcelain coffee cups. He found a corner stocked with blankets, saltines and mayonnaise laid out across stacked chairs, the vapid smiles of a Barely Legal laying open. I wonder sometimes if my male friends understand what alien places our individual fears come from, how girls naturally have a completely different reaction to the possibility there is a strange man hiding in the shadows of rooms, and frankly I have no idea what kind of fear hides in my friends chest. He is 9 ft tall, I wonder sometimes how he fears anything. Then again, being of a strange shape myself, I know how that alone can make you feel vulnerable over time.

The ground floor was the most interesting, full of objects and surprises. As we went further and further up, the rooms themselves were very similar. There was usually only one point of interest in each room, a pool of water, a conflagration of curtains, a spare bible. We got careless, he would wander ahead, I would lag behind in a room, we lost eye contact. Normally when that happens, I get nervous, I call out just to be sure, but it didn't seem to matter. We were lulled by the repeating pattern of the hallways and doorways, the sameness of every room. The warmth and sunniness of October's Indian Summer drifted into us from beyond the shadows.

And then suddenly, a door slammed in the stairway several floors below us.

Neither of us said anything about it, but we walked up a couple more floors and stopped. He picked up a large plastic pipe from inside one of the bathrooms and carried it with him. We walked down to the next staircase and up again. I stopped and looked down the dark shaft of the stairs, looked down just a minute, just to be sure. I felt that he had stopped above me, in sync as we were after all this time. So we stood there, together, separate, each looking for a long stare. Just as that spell was about to be broken, I saw it, a glint in one of the shadows of something moving reflective. It was 2 floors down, and could be barely made out from the bend of the stairs. I waited for it to happen again, but I felt him moving above me, and so I went too, quickly but not too quickly, into the next door the next empty hallway looking exactly the same as all the rest, where he carefully shut the door behind us and then quickly into another room, where we waited in silence, peeking through the peephole at the still quiet hallway. Minutes passed. We started to feel silly, making faces at each other, and just as I started breathing again, we heard the stairway door open. A creak like the building was cracking its knuckle in a movie theater.

It came slowly down the hallway, but it didn't stop to look in any rooms, giving each doorway only a cursory glance, as if it had assumed we had switched staircases again. We watched it walking down the hallway away from us. The thing was in the shape of man, and had the smooth practiced gait of one, but it had been living in the rot so long, patches of the fleshy shell had worn away, been eaten by moss or rusted by rain. You could see where once it had skin and clothes, and then the gleam of a lighting fixture it had used to replace a forearm, or the innards of a poached air conditioner sewn into it back. A metal scrap man. Junk Man. A walking trash bin. The rags it was wearing looked like they used to be a blue uniform, a polyester pants suit, a waiter maybe or a cook. It was a relic from a time we were both too young to remember, when mechanical men had been legal, which meant it had been a fugitive for at least 60 years, twice as long as either of us had been alive. In it's left hand, it carried a wrench. My panicked frozen mind saved itself by thinking "robots can be left handed?" and crunch crack we were both on track again, our muscles bursting into motion as soon as the Wreck went into the furthest staircase.

We ran up the rest of the stairs to the 12th floor, and from there to the roof, where we shut the trap door as securely as we could. Technically I guess, the roof was the 13th floor, the non-existent floor. We waited for it to find us and start banging on the door, braced ourselves for confrontation, but it never came. We stood there in the sky, as time ticked by, and waited. The light was warm and bright, the air crisp and cold. The colors of the trees far below us became vivid with the rich afternoon sun, and the city lay on the horizon so far away, on the other side of the forest, shining like silver, emerald and quartz.