Monday, January 30, 2012

Winter Skin Issues

My Brightest Diamond, "High Low Middle" by asthmatickitty

Working late at night, cooped up in the second bedroom of my apartment hunched over my computer, thinking what an archaic term "computer" was, I dreamed of being outside in the sunshine. The next day I had to work as well, but on actually work stuff, not the really important work. It was dark all day anyway, also snowing thick and sticky. I still went out, had to get out and get my blood moving again. The problem with living by yourself for a long time is it gets easier and easier to slip into the deep murky vapors of your own head. What used to take months to induce a state of desperate boredom now happens in days. I need to see my thoughts reflected off of other people. So whatever, the fucking point is I really really really wanted to be outside during the day, even if it was the dead dog end of January.

 So I made plans with two people I didn't know very well but have wanted to get to know better, which is the most entertaining way to do brunch, I like that in-between stage. Where you know each well enough to be pretty comfortable, but there's still an element of mild surprise sometimes. I was feeling pretty good, dehydrated and sleepwalking as I was, because it turns out that Saturday's desperate drinking had worked. I felt the emotional poison draining out of me the minute I stepped outside on my porch to meet them. It's important when you feel a bubble of hate and bitterness swelling inside you to lance it, drain out the black fluid, before it gets established enough to grow a shell. The blackness was clear though, gone, and it was wonderful outside, to feel the sunny winter air and smell the snow. This whole weekend the weather was swinging back and forth, making out with itself in between styrofoam snow, horrible knife cold rain, and beautiful blue sunny skies with crispy cold 60 mph winds. The weather was proud of itself. I was pretty proud of it too.

We were leaving the diner, and the coffee was starting to enter my veins like a slow drip, when the temperature suddenly dropped. The shock of it was sharp, and my skin jumped, detached all at one in a piece, and ran away. It looked like a ghost, sort of there but with no substance, as it disappeared down the street. The sun in front of it (her?) shown through like I used to hold a pen light against the bottom of my thumb to see the nails light up.

If you think you get nervous hanging out with new people when wrapped up in nice warm skin, try entirely universally naked. I still had my dress on of course, only wicked girls let their clothes get away from them. But it's not attractive to see the arteries and muscles in your forearms either, or and especially the large beating one on your neck just underneath your ear. It certainly doesn't help with convincing new people you're not a weirdo. Plus now I was super cold. The small hard pellets of snow were falling faster now, and the wind stung every inch of me. I felt more exposed than I had ever been before, save that one weekend.

We tracked my runaway skin, easy enough since it had no real muscle and there were little drops of residual blood left on the snow, though no actual footprints so we had to look closely and squint as the afternoon light dimmed and disappeared in the whitening sky. It led us through the closed up storefronts and bare tree boulevards, till finally the trail brought us to a low dark building. The boys helped pry open the door, which my skin had thoughtfully stuck shut with a large metal shred under the bottom. It's my skin after all, it understands tricks. I stood there as they fought with the door, shivering so hard I expected at any moment to vibrate at exactly the wrong sequence, causing me to fall out of the universe completely. When they got it open, I jumped right inside just to get out of the wind. It took my eyes a minute to adjust to the darkness. One of the boys closed the doors against the storm, and there we were.

The floor was covered with rotting ceiling wood and melted carpet mold. We stumbled through the dark hallways, sunshine spilling from the holes in the roof, falling on the floor in concentrated spots. A pile of cinderblocks in the corner. Monitors disintegrating on wet wooden desks. So many things run away. And at the end of the longest hallway, in a cavernous rotunda with the sunshine coming through the peaked broken roof glass in a bright circle at the middle of the room. It felt like church. And there was my skin. It was paler than I remembered it, and obviously tired. It looked at us in panic, and I saw the rest of the objects sitting all around us. All the things left behind in the winters - gloves and spare times, sidewalk rubble and shopping carts. They surrounded us menacingly, defensive, attacking. I moved closer, and gave a quick call. My skin ran over just as fast, and hopped right back on me. We stood there a moment, the two of us, feeling the elation at being connected again.

The boys and I left immediately. I could feel the calculators and bath towels, the running shoes and air conditioners pressing in the darkness against our retreat. If I am in the backseat of a car, I cannot stop looking at my self in the rearview mirror. It's terrible but true, and oh so much more true this particular ride home, as I stared at the color of my eyes, and the tone of my cheeks, and ran my fingers over my ears over and over again, to seal it up again tight.

Friday, January 27, 2012

In Which I Tell You What Is Wrong With that Missed Connection You Posted on Craigslist

  parma mcdonalds - m4w - 43 (pearl rd) blonde girl with two younger girls...we connected eyes when u walked in...i was with my young daughter. not bold enough to have walked up and introduce myself... 

No one should ever hit on anyone in a McDonalds ever. Aside from the fact that you were both bringing small children in there, which you should never do because its kinda the moral equivalent of taking them to a bar and feeding them Schnapps, ASIDE from that, there is absolutely nothing sexy about a McDonalds. Groceries stores - okay sure, there's this whole pursuit thing, a meandering eye contact thing. But nobody makes eye contact at McDonalds unless they are a serial killer. The shame of being there should push any self confidence you have in your own sexy time abilities out in the street to be run over repeatedly by people you know driving by and seeing your car in the McDonalds parking lot. The shame is so overwhelming, I actually blushed the last time I went through the drive-thru to get a sausage biscuit. Which was yesterday. Because I had to wake up early to go to the office and I was starving and also I was mad I had to drive anywhere. See, McDonalds is like smoking or drinking, it's a vice. But no one is ever going to look down the counter at you and think "I really respect that he ordered a 10 piece instead of a 20 piece and it makes me want to fuck him."

  Monsters Game "Waitress" Thursday Night - m4w - 26 (The Q) You were the beverage girl and were amazingly beautiful. I think you caught me looking at you and I gave a smile as you turned away. Hope you see this and what section were we in so I know if's not a fake. 

The first part of this is fine. You identify where, when, and you compliment her. Fine. The problem starts in that second line there "I gave a smile as you turned away". No mention of holding eye contact, her smiling back. As far as we can tell, basically what happened is this girl didn't notice you at all. But then you set the expectation that this girl who works at this huge sports Arena, and probably served "beverages" to at least 2,000 drunk leering men, she is supposed to remember what section you were in. Or who you were. I sort of get it, you're assuming it's the only section she worked, so you'll know it's her, and not one of the other hot 23 yr old bartenders working there. Cause lord forbid one of those OTHER girls contacts you.

Parking Garage - m4w - 25 (Downtown ) I saw you in the parking garage. You had blonde hair, and looked like you wrote something in the back windshield from all the steam that was inside the car. You were parked on the 7th floor and just had this look in your eye like you wanted it. I should have made my move then, but I wanted to wait for Thursday. I hope you find me

....before I find you. I find this one horrible and creepy and wonder if possibly I should call the police to prevent a rape? No, I'm serious.

 Just don't ever write anything like this ever.

  Young sample woman Heinens Lander Circle - m4w - 53 (Pepper Pike) You gave me a sample of a special kind of orange at Heinen's this you remember me? 

You are 53 years old. I would have thought that would be enough times to grow some balls. But I'm guessing you weren't at liberty to speak to Young Sample Woman at the time, because you were with your wife, or daughter who was actually older than YSW, or girlfriend that you cheated on your second wife with. My out of town readers are not going to be able to properly conjure up the right image from the word combinations of Heinens and Pepper Pike, but have you ever had to deal with a small to mid sized business owner who an ex-salesman and owns 2 Audis and a Tahoe? Remember how he was the most ego driven paranoid insecure blowhard prick you ever met? That's who I picture this guy to be.

 What the hell is a "special" kind of orange? Valencia? Clementine? Tangerine? I thought we had most of the orange categories set.

  Marc's Kamms Corner - m4w - 38 (Cleveland) Hope you read these! You were in Marc's at Kamms corner today and we kept running into each other in every aisle. You were in pink pants and had a gentleman with you(I think maybe your dad). We exchanged smiles and eye contact, and even a few words, including talking of alcohol I thought you were really cute and should have asked you for your number, but wasn't sure if the guy with you was WITH you. If you see this and are interested, send me an email and tell me what I was wearing. 

A bunny suit? I don't know how else you would expect some random girl in a low budget grocery store to remember what you were wearing. Don't guys realize that most of their clothes look exactly the same? This is coincidentally the same grocery store I use, so believe me when I tell you that finding yourself talking about alcohol abuse with a complete stranger is not that far fetched.

I wonder if she were to write back, and it said "hey, I don't remember what you were wearing exactly, but you seemed nice. Let's talk!", he would reply "nope sorry, that can't be you. The girl I met would remember my shirt."

  Stephanie - Ride Home Early Rainy May Morning - m4w - 29 (Middleburg Heights - Holland Road) Looking for Stephanie, the girl I gave a ride home back at the end of May. It was late night / early morning and she was walking home during one of those few major downpours we had. You kept worrying about getting my car wet. Don't worry it dried out just fine. You were tall, slim and athletic with long slightly curly or wavy brunette hair. You were wearing red Ohio State shorts or possibly cut off sweat pants and black high heel sandals. Your legs looked amazing and you had a beautiful smile. I was brave enough to offer you a ride, but still too shy to make much conversation with you. Wish I could have got your number or email address or something. I am not sure where you were coming from, but I assumed maybe a bar or a party. You said you were walking because you didn't want to get a ride from some drunk guy. I was driving home from work and still think about you sometimes on my way home. I have been hoping to maybe run into you again some day, but obviously that hasn't happened yet. If by some miracle you do see this you should know my name, what I was driving and where I work. I know it was a while ago and I probably didn't make much of an impression on you so I'll settle for 1 of the 3 :) 

I just want to recap this scenario here. It's early morning, let's say 3 or 4 or 5am. It's raining and dark. This girl is walking down Holland Rd in Middleburg Heights (which if I remember correctly is mostly residential, but if I'm wrong, either way picture the most suburban street you can think of), wearing red jersey cut offs with the OSU logo on her ass, and black high heels. She stops and accepts a ride from a complete stranger in the middle of the night, because she is drunk and didn't want to go home with one of the other drunk guys whose company she just left.

 Let me tell you dude, in that scenario, you did exactly the right thing not asking for her information or giving her yours. Her father would be really happy about both those things. But otherwise, I hope this works out for you.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The 5 Most Appropriate Ways for Gossip Girl to End

Listen, if you don't know what Gossip Girl is, I can't help you. I don't know why or how, but this season is either the last or second to last one. I think it's the baby/wedding story arc that's throwing it into the final maneuvers. When you start marrying main characters off to the Prince of Monaco, what else is left really? Well, here's what I suggest.

1) I've argued for a while that what's going on in Gossip Girl is that Leighton Meester's character is actually stuck in a sensory dep tank deep within occupied territory, where the rebels are forcing her to live through manufactured nightmares in which she thinks she is Blair Waldorf. I don't know why they are doing this - maybe she is a new hybrid being and they are mining her adrenalin and tears for the recreational drugs of the new Manhattan's Elite.

2) Blair is actually a planted sleeper agent for an unknown dark force trying to assassinate the Prince of Monaco. On their wedding night, she plants a biological weapon in their suite, and flies out of the country as zombie apocalypse breaks out. Later, in the spin off, she redeems herself as a hostile but warmhearted leader of the Survivors.

3) In this season, Nate (who for no good reason just became the editor of a paper, at like 22) decided to start a war with Veronica Mars/Gossip Girl (I just learned today that Kristen Bell is the voiceover, XOXO wrongdoers), but then got immediately manipulated back into place by her. So obviously the next step is that  with Gossip Girl is under attack, she turns out to be a serial killer and starts quietly killing off all the main characters, episode by episode, as Blair and Chuck race to stop her before their numbers are up. Nate should be first, and it should involve a sex scandal with Drake (erotic asphyxiation I think) This would be great especially because nobody knows more about these dolls than the person who's been stalking them for 10 years. Maybe they could bring in the Mentalist to help catch her, thus giving me such a trash tv orgasm, I can never ever watch tv again.

4) Serena is a killer robot, planted by Cylons to infiltrate Earth's defense systems. No, not really. But she does become a tennis superstar, and then gets accidentally sold into the Ukrainian sex slave market. The end. Everybody hates Serena and when she's gone, they all live happily ever after. Last episode, we see the show end from the perspective of a small teen blonde girl in Louisana who is just crying and crying and crying in her shabby small bedroom plastered with posters of the cast members. She has 12 hairbows in her hair.

5) Jenny comes permanently back to town after being banished by Blair to Hudson (that actually happened), and becomes a reality show star. She spends every episode walking in some point in the middle of the show and randomly cursing or fighting or freaking out with whoever is available. These temper tantrums should have nothing to do with the actual show, it will be like a recurring joke we're all in on. But then at the season finale, she commits suicide, and everyone else has a revelation about the wanton wastefulness of their own lives. We then get an epilogue where we find out that each character has gone off to do something really awesome - like building schools in Africa, or studying global warming. Blair becomes a Doctor of Feminism, and writes a best selling book that changes how the country sees preteen girls. Chuck moves to Cleveland revitalizes the Slavic Village neighborhood. Serena gets fat and joins a knitting circle, where she finally finds happiness with a bearded bikester. The entire last episode is soundtracked by Fleet Foxes.

Update - #6 Jenny is often referred to as Raccoon Eyes, because of her generous use of eyeliner. In the last episode, she is played by an actual raccoon. Nobody notices. Turns out she's been a real raccoon this whole time. Plus, urban wildlife awareness!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

In Defense of Craigslist Missed Connections and Not Having Enough to Say About Anything Else

Sometimes when I'm stuck for having anything to say, and updating this blog that really I love a lot but don't pay enough attention to (like every important relationship in my life) sometimes the best thing is to resort to diary mode. Just list off everything, and see what's left, I guess. I'm feeling very uninspired, like I blew my load last week. Friday night I went to the Cleveland Heights library, and did a little reading, that last post. When I got out of the library, it was a full blown snowstorm. My plan had been to next go to the Cinematheque to see Tarkovsky's The Mirror. But the snow was really building up fast, and I hate being on the East Side during bad weather, it makes me feel extra vulnerable all far away from home. So I skipped the movie and drove back West to my friend's birthday party. Frank was turning 30, and having an "adult" party, which is the kind where everyone looks sorta nice, and we all drink wine and there is calm pretty Grateful Dead on in the background, and there is a cupcake tower that someone at the party worked really hard on. I did not have a cupcake, but I did cheat and have a glass of wine, since it was a wine party after all. I saw a few people that I already knew but hadn't really had a chance to talk to for any length of time. One guy told me about how he had met this girl he was dating through a Craigslist Missed Connection she had posted about him six months ago. That's the first time I've heard that, but it made Slightly Tipsy From One Glass Me extra happy. I've been playing with this new twitter account where I make fun of OK Cupid, and the side effect of this is I've been working myself deeper and deeper into the dating bitterness hole, because you know that's where the funny lives. But it's also where the "oh god I'm going to be alone forever because everyone is a dick" cloud lives.

 I love Missed Connections, it's so rampant with Regret and Misogyny, and Sleaziness. All the ones posted by guys are either "you were so hot I didn't have the guts to talk to you, I'm a soft little man who probably doesn't have a shot with you at all which is why I knew better than to talk to you and get rejected in the first place but maybe the fates will bring us together cause I totally believe in fate." OR it's "I HATE YOU, YOU FUCKING BITCH, BUT ALSO PLEASE COME BACK TO ME CAUSE I'M LOST WITHOUT YOU, ALSO FUCK YOU BITCH." Then, buried in between this ever burning tire fire of poison, are the actual missed connections. By like, normal sane people. Who don't sound like they've been on a Miller High Life bender for two months. In general I feel pretty conflicted about Missed Connections. I don't really respect you for not having the guts and confidence to talk to someone right there in the situation (and the guys who are just begging and cursing for their women back are probably the worst kind of men) but I also think the idea of seeing a complete stranger and having them stuck in your mind is romantic. I used to always tell myself that if I thought of a way things might work out, like I imagined an outcome for any night or date or situation, for sure whatever I conceived of would not happen (it's the opposite of Visualize Your Result. If I Visualize a Result, I have just killed it dead). So when I fantasize about having someone ask me out on Missed Connections, I already know it will never happen, because I've just jinxed myself. But I still read them every day because I think the number of people who find soulmates at gas stations and grocery stores is extraordinary.

Saturday I worked, and that sucked because my computer was being an asshole. After work, Austin and I went to Luna Bakery, to pick up something to bring to a potluck, and I bought a lot of expensive cookies. We picked up Jere who I hadn't seen in so long, so many fucking weeks and it's all my fault but seriously Fuck You Cleveland Heights for Everything. All of us went to the monthly Whiskey and Cigars night, which this month was Bitters and Snuff. I wasn't drinking, so I bought two Starbucks coffees, three shots each, and drank those all night. I met two new very nice girls, one of whom was wearing a large silver locket that she decided she needed to fill with something, and I wanted to cut out a bunch of single words on paper squares, and make it something like Refrigerator Poetry, only Locket Poetry. It all got somehow derailed in the party flow, but I hope she does that anyway. By the time I was supposed to drive my drunk friends home, I was so caffeinated I might as well have been drunk. There was Bohemian Rhapsody singing in the car.

Sunday I woke up and tried to do some work, but my work computer hated me even more so that was a bust. I met Austin, Jay, and Denise at the coffeeshop, and then we went down to Edgewater to snow paint. The dollar spray bottles I bought were crappy, so the results weren't the prettiest, but it just needs more planning. Heavier stencils that won't blow away in the wind, and order some food dyes online, because the grocery store only had food coloring in gel form, which is some bullshit. I want the tiny little plastic bottles of my youth. I was supposed to have a photography lesson afterwards, but the guy canceled cause it was cold? Instead I went home and took seven bags of trash out to the curb. I have no idea how I ended up with seven fucking bags. I mean, okay, two were cat litter, one was christmas packaging I still hadn't thrown out, two were me cleaning out my fridge and kitchen cabinets, one was just Dunkin Donuts cups. I'm only barely exaggerating about that last one. I've been drinking a LOT of coffee. I think I may start inventorying my trash, to see where it all comes from. Like, keep a list by the bin, and write down what I'm throwing out. After lugging out all that proof of my wasteful degenerate lifestyle, I met up with Corrigan for dinner at XYZ, which was slightly weird because we were at a bar but both of us had quit drinking for the moment, and I was eating fruit and he was eating broccoli and if you know either of us you know that's weird. Later we went to see Perren in Texas Chainsaw Musical at Blank Canvas Theater, in the large and always kind of intimidating W. 78th street studios building. The play itself was the thing, there was lots of arterial splattering and mugging for the audience, and Perren is awesome as the extremely sympathetic Leatherface. Corrigan and I wandered around during intermission, and he accidentally wandered where he shouldn't have, and got yelled at by the backstage manager. He is always getting yelled at for something.

Monday morning I met Haley at the coffeeshop, with the intention of a workdate, but it ended up with us playing Sorry. Haley had to go to work, and Amy showed up, and we played some more Sorry. Then I left and went to a matinee showing of The Artist. I love seeing movies by myself, just sitting there waiting and then being alone and private and wrapped up the whole time. That film was amazing, it was witty and cute and moving and beautiful. I would watch it again and again. The way they used sound was perfect, and John Goodman SHOULD have been a silent film star, it's what his face was MADE for. After the movie, I met up with a lot of very cute successful girls at Velvet Tango Room, and we had a Girl Table. I drank fragrant and complex things. We left and went to Johnny Mangos for chicken fried rice, then Genna and I tried to have our own little adventure, and finally after leaving her I ended up at the corner store in Tremont buying cigarettes. Adam showed up, so we drove to Edison's and sang more Bohemian Rhapsody. Saw Nate and Tara again at Edison's, found a new favorite song, drank some gingerale and grenadine, then meandered home. When I got home there was a package of cognac filled chocolates from somewhere in Europe waiting for me. They were much better than the absinthe ones she had sent me before. I heated up my leftover rice, tried to read some more of this very scholarly book about Perspective, and fell asleep not angry, not sad, not anything at all but tired. And happy. Always happy. How did I become such a happy person?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

I Hate Every Title I Come Up With For This

I read this last night at an event. Or rather, I made everyone else read it out loud, paragraph by paragraph, and that was fantastic. I might make that my thing, making audience members read for me, I'm terrible at reading my own stuff and it's pretty fantastic to hear your words in other people's mouths.

I am incapable of change.
I long for it. I look around at my house, my car, my job, at my body in the bathroom mirror getting out of the shower and I want it all to be different. But when I concentrate hard, when I try to gather up motivations, to suction out the fog in my head and replace it with cold hard strategy, those motivations and strategies and plans are slowly eaten away by my brain’s naturally produced poison of staying put. They are eroded until there is nothing left but a lacey shadow on my brain of what I intended to do. An xray memory. A blot on an otherwise smooth surface.

I live in a city that is as poisoned as my brain.
I drive to work in the early morning hours, when the molecules of the City are still and quiet, and the only movements are the sparse cars gliding along grey empty highways, and the buzzing from street lamps and gas station signs. I drive past monstrous hunks of architecture that have been killed in the battle between industry and flight, the remains of wealth and power. These rotting buildings are the physical incarnations of my shadows, proof positive that no willpower can exist for very long in the Wasteland. Nobody knocks them down. Nobody fixes them. Nobody remembers what they used to be for. We hardly see them anymore, they lay invisible in the background of our lives, full of power but cold and dead.

This is what I think about as I’m at the gas station, the sun rising behind the Citgo sign, (listening to the man on his cellphone at the pump next to me who apparently doesn’t care if we blow up) - Before we had horizons and linear perspective, art had hierachy, an aristocracy. A character’s size was based on his or her’s importance to the story of the painting. This was called vertical perspective. It was left behind in the dust of the modern centuries, because it was illogical, and the concept of abstract art wasn’t due to be reborn on the scene for another hundred thousand million light years. The Horizon was invented and stabilized and everyone started using it, not just sailors on their little toy wooden boats, but writers and artists and soldiers. Like when people who weren’t lawyers first started using cell phones. The Horizon was at one point a modern technological miracle. A shining beacon of what humanity could accomplish - the Horizon!

It comes first from the Horizon. I am driving to work one morning, listening to the same CD I’ve had in the car for a year, when on the edge of my vision I catch a light. Not a flickering street light, or rushing lights of another car, but a gleaming glow coming from the mouth of the river, on the horizon of the large cold block of grey that is the Lake. It is pulsing a silent gold, which reflects on my windshield and shines against the concrete walls of the old City. This light, coming from an unknown awe inspiring enigmatic far far away point on the Horizon, gets stronger and stronger throughout the day. It turns the winter sky pink and silver. It transforms the dirty windows of the warehouses to twinkling prisms.

By the time we are all driving home, during what would normally be a pitch black rush hour, the entire City is lit up like a spotlight. But this light does not just reflect, it sticks, like gold dust settling on the streets. Our car tires turn up storms of sparkles like snow. It settles on our hair and eyelashes and clothes as glitter. It absorbs into the asphalt and turns the soot covered bricks, black with a century of manufacturing coughs, into jewels and shingles into irridescent shells. Those old dinosaur buildings, they become living breathing animals, snuggled in their nests.

The best part though is what happens when you breathe in the gold light. First you choke a little, with the tingling of it down your throat. Then you feel a warmth settle in your chest, as if you had just sipped a glass of bronzed whiskey. Next you feel it spreading through your veins, and up into your head. You want to lie down in grass and stare spinning at the sky, only it’s January in Cleveland so there is no grass. Instead you sit in your car with the heat blasting, and close your eyes, feel the light reaching up your spine behind your eyeballs, and into your corneas, and out through your lashes. I hadn’t realized how slow my heart was beating before, but I notice now in retrospect, as my heart beats faster and faster.

I am dizzy with a kind of universal caffeine. I open my eyes, and everything seems cleaner. The snow is whiter and the brown sludgey ice around the edges is gone. The sky is no longer grey, but shades of mauve and cream and violet. The siding on the houses is newer, the cars nicer, the people better dressed. The City has been gilded through and through. Everyone is happier. I am happier. All my memories are scrubbed clean. I barely remember my disgust with the never ending sameness, instead that familiarity seems to be a power, something that makes me strong, knowing where everything comes from and everything goes. Being “stuck here” is suddenly “ideal cost of living” “affordable amenities” “friends and family.”

There are lots of words thrown around the next few months, and I hear them all the time, online and on the radio, from the mouths of my friends. Revitilization. Civic Rebirth. Renaissance. There are not more jobs suddenly, people are no less poor and miserable, everyone is still bored. But now that the light has made everything seem prettier, nobody seems to mind those other things as much. The mysterious dust is gone, has absorbed into the groundwater and steel, but the euphoria remains. I know deep inside my head, beyond the reach of the Light, that this is not a Golden Age. This is the last huzzah before the end. This is the revenge of all those rotting brick husk buildings, the forgotten schools and masonic temples, the sprawling abandoned factories, they are gasping out their last boomtown breaths. But I just can’t bring myself to protest.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Why Are We Such Big Fans of Children Having to Kill Each Other?

Yes, I know all the Christmas lights are supposed to be down by now, but for some reason, I feel like this giant mansion done up for the holidays as a reindeer nursery/prison is appropriate for this topic.

 I finally started reading Hunger Games. For those of you who aren't 30 yr old librarians or friends with said librarians, Hunger Games is a very popular YA book which takes place in a dystopian future. The United States has been replaced with 12 Quarantined Districts and a Capitol City. Every year, the Capitol exacts a tribute from each District of one girl and one boy, who are shipped off to participate in a survivalist game where they must hunt each other in the wilderness, last one standing wins. It's a trilogy, and I've only read the first one so far, but there's lots of starvation, sickness, arrows, pus, ect. It's bloody and sad, and it's exactly the sort of book I would have loved in middle school.

 As soon as the trailer for the upcoming HG movie came out, which every single one of my librarian friends posted and reposted enthusiastically, it begged comparison to another (sort of) well known movie about kids killing each other - Battle Royale. This movie is also based off a book, but I haven't read it yet. As soon as I'm done with HG, I will. It's long overdue in fact, because I am a huge fan of Battle Royale the movie. Huge. I keep a copy of the DVD in my car so if I'm ever over a friend's house and we want to watch a movie, I can volunteer it. It is one of my favorite movies ever, if not THE favorite. The plot of BR is that in an effort to quell school uprisings, the Japanese government randomly picks a class by lottery every year, and the entire class is shipped to an evacuated abandoned island, where they are fitted with explosive collars and also told to slaughter each other mercilessly until only one is left, or they all die. They are extremely similar plots, if not precisely the same. Even the way the Games are run, with broadcast announcements of daily death counts and random backpacks full of unknown supplies, is the same (except in Hunger Games the kids don't know most of the other kids, but in Battle Royale they are all fellow students, which in my mind makes it superior). In both worlds, the rest of the populations watches gleefully and celebrates the Games. It turns out I don't care about any copying, I'm thrilled in fact by details I run across that are identical.

 I'm just going to throw in this fun fact: Two of my other favorite books are Lord of the Flies and Enders Game.

 So question that I face is this - Why am I so entertained by kids hunting each other down like prey?

There are two possibilities:

  1) I Love Kids

 There are lots of other movies that explore the Reality Death Match idea - Mad Max and Running Man for instance. But not with children. I don't connect to those movies the same way, turns out I care very little about adults having to kill each other ( they do it all the time anyway). One of the main differences is that it's harder to forgive adults. In both Games, the villains, the really bad kids who are bullies and actually good at killing, are older children. They are the larger ones physically, sure, but they are also the ones closest to being real grown ups. They have lost their innocence and are well on their way to being the enemy. Adults are always the enemy. An adult who is not the enemy is an exception to the rule. So they have to die horrible deaths because they must be punished for being old.

 In YA books, the runt is always the best one. Think Boxcar Children and 5 Little Peppers, Little Women. Smallest means sweetest, nicest, kindest, bravest. Unfortunately, it also means you are probably going to get sick or die, depends when the book was written, but whatever. When we read over and over again as kids that we the children, we the littlest, were better people than all those nasty warmongering perverted greedy uncaring adults? That was absolutely true. That doesn't change. Children are always much more flexible, curious, resourceful, and unthinkingly loving....

  2) I Hate Kids

....because they haven't had to do anything their whole lives but absorb. The minute they get any real power ,like a weapon or a conch shell, they reveal themselves to be just a petty, vicious and selfish as any adult. Worse even, because they haven't got any concept of the world besides Self , they are incapable of empathy. Children as villains and murderers just helps confirm what we suspect about all the adults around us too, that they would totally eat us before the rescue dogs got there, assholes. Children are the most simplified purest version of the human spirit, and that very essence of humanity it turns out is blood and psychopathy. Yes, all of you fuckers kill each other off please. Interestingly enough, in both of these death matches, neither of the heroines really has to kill that many of the other kids, because the rest of them are all so busy immediately massacring each other from the get go. While that's a good narrative device to keep the list of supporting characters low, it's also a very direct illustration of survival of the fittest. And the message in both Hunger Games and Battle Royale is Fittest = Most Compassionate (Because Everyone Else is a Monster).

 And then maybe also here is the real answer. Most of the literature I read as a child was full of blood, hunting and survival. Kids getting smallpox on the prairie, kids running away from evil wizards and witches, kids being locked in attics and bedrooms by old ladies, kids dying from horrible diseases, kids being trapped on other planets with giant alien brains, kids having to live in a fucking boxcar where they beg for scraps from strangers. Everything was trying to kill you, and if it wasn't actively trying to put an enchanted spear through you, it was manipulating you and starving you. I feel like that kind of visceral life or death desperation is really absent in a lot of adult fiction. Probably cause we all started having sex, and then immediately love mattered more. Also, you know, we're supposed to be smarter as adults, more thoughtful, more tolerant, and therefore "understand" the villains. When you grow up, it's not supposed to be all primal fear, it's supposed to be intellectual and civilized. Which as adults we learn pretty quickly is the ultimate farce. A shell which hides real evil and obscures real truth.

 So it's good we still write books for kids that teach them how to defend themselves when Civilized Intellectualism tries to round them all up and kill them.

Edit: So German Shepherd puppies have two "fear" stages, one when they are a couple weeks old, and one later at a couple months old. During these times, they are naturally more skittish, sensitive to sounds, cowardly basically. It's supposed to imprint them with bravery, make them chemically face up to exaggerated fear so they will be used to it when they are older. THAT's what childrens books do.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

My thoughts on this whole Boosterism Debacle I Just Witnessed

I just came from a thing at the hipster hot dog bar set up by Ohio City Writers, a new group that I'm excited to see start holding events in town. Mostly because I've never been in a room with so many writers before, and I even got a card from someone offering some freelance work, and it's nice to get that sense of community without having to subject myself to an open mic in Willoughby. Tonight was a panel pitched as a discussion of the prickly topic of writing about Cleveland, which is another way to say "hey, let's get some pro-Booster people versus some anti-Booster people in the same room and have them duke it out." There are plenty of vocal Cleveland cheerleaders out there, and plenty of people who get annoyed by the cheerleaders. This is situation that lots of small to mid-size cities face, a turf war of social media. I even talked to people in Huntington WV once who had Booster- Anti Booster opinions, they exist even there Folks, in a town that is mostly known for a mediocre college and the time their entire football team died on a bus.

 The discussion itself was too loose, it quickly devolved into a back and forth between those who wanted to scream how great Cleveland is to everyone and those who want everyone to calm the fuck down and look at the facts and stop being so happy. Because here's the thing about trying to argue with people who are bristling with enthusiastic emotion, you can't. They want you to yell back, they want to get into a fight about it. Like an avid sports fan, all they want is a chance to beat you  up over the very wrongness of your own emotion which is contrary to theirs.

 It turns out that I feel the same way about the Boosters that I do about God. As in, maybe they exist, maybe they don't, it doesn't affect my life one way or the other, so who cares? That's oversimplifying it, but I wonder if maybe the better discussion should have been, why do we care if Cleveland Cheerleaders exist or what they do? The whole thing is too personal, too entrenched in individual insults and negative experiences. The Boosters are mad because they think everyone should agree with them, and the anti-Boosters are mad because they feel like anytime they try to say anything realistic about Cleveland, they are subjected to very over the top criticism for their negativity. They are told if they don't like it, they should move. In fact I heard "Leave, get out, move" shouted several times at panelists tonight. Which, no matter what it was in response to, was ridiculous and stupid. All the panelists, without exception, were people who contribute positively to Cleveland culture, and if that's who you are looking to run out of town just because they want you to acknowledge the actual poverty level in your city, your idea of how to help Cleveland grow is fucked.

 The kernel of the problem here, I think, is perception. Ohio City, Tremont, Downtown, they all have these tightly knit communities of social media savvy 30 yr olds with expendable income and iphones, and what that has led to is a type of civic blindness. In fact, I'm going to go ahead and contribute all the fault for this rift to Facebook. We are overexposed to each other. Before FB and twitter and everyone in the world having a blog, there were still people who worked hard on making Cleveland a better place, and some of them were annoyingly positive at parties when you ran into them there, but like any social circle, you picked and chose who you were going to interact with and the serious people kept to themselves and their projects, and the Boosters worked for their marketing firms or CDCs, and people talked about each other individually behind their backs like always, but that was it. Now we, but especially nonprofit or social networkers, we are all over each other. We are friends with all the same people. When any one positive or negative press item comes out about Cleveland, we get to see it retweeted and reposted a thousand times in front of us, replete with every person in the world's comment about it. Events, outrages, opinions are all spouted off like second nature, having an opinion is like breathing to us.

 On one hand, the Boosters have understood this better than the rest of us. In their social media based world, it is important to stay on message, that's how all good and effective propaganda works. You pick the message, in this case how awesome Cleveland is, and you pound it into people's brains ad nauseum until it becomes unacceptable to believe anything else. The Boosters, by and large, are marketing people. They have a product, and they are pushing it. It's not frank intellectual discussion, it's not nuanced civic strategy. It is just straight up emotional reaction, and they want you to have it. The world has over and over again proved the effectiveness of propaganda. Most recently, let's all think back to a certain recent Presidential election that had those Hope posters plastered on every rusty bridge and alley from coast to coast. Hope is not the way you run a government, but it is a way to get people emotionally involved. It breeds a feeling of us versus them, of camaraderie. It is true that lots of Clevelanders feel stupid telling people out of town where they are from. It can't hurt to seed some civic pride. We're a fucked up city, but lots of cities are, and the Boosters' main mission is to convince other young people with expendable income to either move here or stay here because really it isn't so bad. And for that particular population, it really isn't so bad. Speaking from that class level, it's pretty okay here.

( However, when you decide to bully people on their own blogs about their suspected lack of devotion to your message because they point out other people live here too, or when you yell at someone to leave town? That's trolling. )

 Which brings us to the anti-Boosters. Most of the people I know who are staunchly against the Boosters are very smart educated individuals, who sincerely want to make Cleveland a better place. None of these people have given up, because the ones who have really given up don't go to panel discussions about this sort of thing. They just feel that the best way to improve our city is to face the facts, and acknowledge that the population of the city is much more than a select minority of middle class single folk. Cleveland is a very poor town with a horrible school system. It is known across the country for being ground zero of the national foreclosure crisis. Environmentally, decades of industry and a fear of more jobs leaving has left us dirty and gross. Lots of people who live here devote their careers to trying to fix these problems. They deal with the disturbing reality of what living in the Rustbelt means every day, that it is an ongoing struggle to provide education and paychecks and housing to a population which has been steadily leaving for greener pastures or staying put and getting poorer and poorer. So when they face these realities every day in addition to their own personal struggle to pay their bills and be happy, and then are bombarded online with "Cleveland is Amazing and Awesome and Wonderful" sentiments, there is bound to be bitterness. It makes them feel that everyone else is out of touch, that if all these Boosters were really aware of how fucked up everything was, if they had to be on food stamps and couldn't get a job without a car because the bus lines don't run out regularly to the suburbs, then their enthusiasm would wane immediately. In other words, covering a beat up Chevy Van with pretty paint isn't going to make it a Rolls Royce. You can't reinvent a city just by making a very small middle class population believe it's going to be okay.

 That is a little bit of a killjoy attitude, but I share it. Cause yeah, I'm tired of seeing all this Cleveland fluff on my facebook wall too.

I wonder if the real problem the Anti-Boosters have with the Boosters is that they see all this energy and enthusiasm, and they want to direct it towards another purpose? In which case, don't you understand that all that energy and enthusiasm self-perpetuates BECAUSE they aren't dealing with the rest of Cleveland's issues? You can't redirect that, it only exists because it is centered around a very simple and easily followed concept. You bring heating bills and taxes into the mix, that souffle is going to fall flat. To write a blog post about heating costs rising requires more research than regurgitating the press release for a new restaurant. That's mostly why I don't write those kind of posts myself. It is much easier and way more fun to be a cheerleader than it is to be an activist.

 The whole thing reminds me very much of the fighting words that came out between the Detroit Boosters and the Ruin Porn photographers. Boosters in Detroit were claiming that photographers were only showing the bad decaying side of Detroit, and photographers were shrugging and responding with "But it IS there. We didn't PUT it there. If you don't like it, get RID of it." Honestly, that should probably be the response of the Anti-Boosters. "Hey, we didn't create these problems, if you don't like us talking about them, then fix them." And then to promptly ignore them. Take them off your facebook list. Take them off your twitter. Because this isn't a "we have to win them over" disagreement. It doesn't matter. At all. If the Boosters convince a couple people to move here, or stay here, good, that's more tax money. You don't have to be friends with them. And if it is all a waste of their time, then it was their time wasted. Who cares? If a few of them are going to be rude and pushy and leave insulting stupid comments on the internet, well, it's not like we're strangers to that. Don't you have tea party relatives that you've blocked on FB? They don't have the market cornered on internet bullying. But we need to stop treating this like an actual civic issue, cause it's not. It is, at it's very root, just cheerleaders versus nerds, and it's about hurt feelings and being shouted over when you are trying to make a point, or being insulted by being told your way is wrong. Also, the rest of the school is wondering what the big deal is.

 Here are my conclusions:

 1) If you don't like the Boosters, stay away from them. They are not actually preventing you from doing anything, or affecting your life in any meaningful way unless you let them. Just because the people who agree with you don't use Facebook as much doesn't mean you are alone.

2) If you are a Booster, stop trying to get validation of your own righteousness. Yours is not a movement that is going to convert anyone already entrenched in this fight, you should only focus on new converts. Unless you really want to just battle.

 3) If Boosters or Anti-Boosters won't stay away from you, ignore them. There are not as many of them out there as Facebook would have you believe, and the majority of this city (the majority which doesn't have the kind of money to go out drinking every other night on the W.25th strip or even own a smartphone) well, they don't even know that this discussion exists at all. If you care about people listening to you, make your focus the people who aren't involved at all.

 4) Working on trying to import a solid middle class to certain urban neighborhoods is not a bad thing. It's good to have people live here who are happy. Happiness and optimism, sense of community, these are important necessary things. But good luck trying to get any of them to stay once they start popping out kids, is all I'm saying.

5) For god sakes, everyone stop taking this personally. It is so meaningless to actual change, the real pity is we waste our time talking about this rather than actual development issues. Don't let the other faction (who is still on your general side) control the conversation. They aren't the law. They can't stop you from talking about things just because they disapprove of them. You just keep doing what you're doing, and they will keep doing their thing, and we will all continue to go to different parties.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

January in Cleveland

There is, or there was, or there will be a full moon, I can't keep track, but the moon has been huge and sitting heavy on the clouds. The lake tides have been unnaturally high all week. That's not actual, that's a metaphor. People have been tapping on the glass. Also a metaphor.

So of course we tapped back, and they tapped back, and it became a game, and then a code, and then we all went outside. I'm not good with codes. I need things spelled out, in black and white large clear font, with footnotes. I have just started wandering around blissfully self involved, ignoring the tapping, letting others figure it all out. There are all sorts of emotions swimming behind my eyes, and I don't give a crap. I spend my mornings wishing for bread to dip into tea, that's how weird things have been lately. It's probably because I've started reading again, it makes me a weirdo.

In celebration, January became a month of sobriety and sunshine. It's not January I'm worried about, it's all those other months waiting in the wings. February. March. They are using January to soften us up. We melted like margarine at first but I want to be wrapped up and protected now, I want to sleep in warm places, with warm things. This weather sets off sprinkled pricklings in my spine of storms to come. It is beautiful and calm and threatening. How unprepared I am, to be put away for winter.

Between the sunshine and the deadlines and the full moon, I feel like this year is going to take forever and a week. We were all quiet that day, and I think we were all tired.

Monday, January 9, 2012

I'm too old for multiple choice

Please indicate your topic by checking the appropriate button below.

I wonder if I can write about how the Internet is our new God, and how we must all respect the growing power of the Digital Squid, which seeks to integrate all of our spirits into one Great Loving Open Community of Electronic Identity.  We will only be Electrons! Resist the Protons!  Or maybe I'll write about the last person to disappoint me, which led to me desperately trying to get out of town before I have to start plucking grey hairs from my eyebrows and therefore applying to school like a goddamn 19 yr old. Surprise Twist! It was me!

I should probably just write about Gabrielle Gifford.  I want to marry an astronaut too. Also write a book. Dear school, how will you assist me with writing a book and marrying an astronaut and also being a pretty smart blonde?

What if I've never been inspired by anything ever?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Open Letter to Newly Born Ivy Blue Carter

First of all, you should realize that your birth is the first time I have legitimately been interested in a celebrity baby story. I mean, I haven't been collecting pictures of your pregnant mom or anything, but if there were any two people on the planet I feel should breed extensively, it's your very talented very smart very hot parents.  2nd choice would be Alison Brie and Ryan Gosling. I already have a comeback planned for when people start griping tomorrow about all the internet chatter about you. It's not so much a verbal comeback as it is me just plastering their FB page with pictures of the fucking royal wedding.

I'm sorry, I shouldn't swear in front of five minute year olds.
But I assume you won't be reading this till you're 2 or 3, when you development the fine motor controls to use your 17 iPads.

You are going to find that it's easy to make friends, but hard to make friends who aren't just using you to meet your parents. I'd like to point out now that I would never be a faker like that.

For instance
Two important things to remember:

1) You will find as you enter puberty, 12 or 13, that you will begin to develop special powers. You will be able to run a little faster, see a little farther, learn ninja skills within a few months, control the weather with your thoughts. These are normal changes, but your Canadian schoolmates may not see it that way, so try to be discreet (did you know that your parents were secretly Canadians? I don't have any hard proof of this, yet. But it seems pretty obvious now that I've thought of it.) Unfortunately, there is a strong possibility you will not be able to touch boys without sucking their lifeforce from them. Though this will seem for a long time to be a terrible curse, rest assured you will a)be way hotter than them, b) be able to have them killed, and c) have a greater destiny.

2) Which is world saving. Dear Ivy Blue, it's pretty obvious to everyone that you are the Next Messiah, and while that will be cool for a minute when you're Princess of New York and all surrounding states, it's going to require some serious sacrifice on behalf of the world, because without you, we are doomed. There are prophecies alluding to this buried in your father's early lyrics, and it will be important to memorize these early, perhaps giving impromptu public performances, just to make sure it really sticks. No one knows what form this coming apocalypse will take (I personally think Korean Dubstep), but when it does come, you will feel the pricking in your bones and ready or not, our fate will be in your hands.

If it is lizards, you will probably have to marry one, just to, you know, secure the alliance.

3) Your archnemesis is Willow Smith. Be aware of her hair, and what it is doing at all times.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Gary Indiana Part 2: Blood and Magnets

It's so important to feel safely enclosed when you are expressing private thoughts. Isn't that why we all want our own bedrooms? Our own offices and cars too. Maybe our aversion to communal living and this insecurity, that people around us might read our thoughts if they can see our face, is what led to capitalism? It's almost certainly what led to churches, right? Rather than ceremonies in open fields. A church is simultaneously the least private and most private place you can go. It exudes this very specific feeling of personal awe, the design of it's rooms and alcoves is meant to calm the eyes with the sedative of respect.

While we're talking about Gary hate (oh Gary least beloved of all and subjected to the kind of bullying and intimidation that even Cleveland has trouble conceiving of), Gary just got a new mayor. And there's lots of talk, very resigned and condescending talk, about how it's a hopeless cause, Gary the city. That may be true. Gary may never again be a viable and healthy city. It may have just lost too much, bled out, and there's not enough left to support any kind of growth. So why does it have to grow? Why can't it just shrink? Who says it's required that you somehow maintain the same importance always? Nothing can maintain a peak forever, and so maybe Gary should shrink to a village, a township, a suburb. Sadly, this new mayor will probably knock this church down, since it's right in the middle of downtown. She should, I suppose. What, you ask me, would you want them to do with it? Well, I don't know. I guess if it was an ideal world and everyone had large civic budgets and unlimited land use, I would say turn these places into parks. Clean them up, knock down the dangerous sections, and make it a public place people could wander through, maybe sit down at a table and hang out.

Driving back home, Amanda said something to me about how it used to be a human body started decaying 3-4 days after dying, but now thanks to all the preservatives we eat, our bodies start decaying somewhere around Day 100. I have no idea if that's true and I don't feel like googling it to find out, I'll leave that to you Internet, to fact check that before you start throwing it around willie nillie. But for buildings, the opposite has been true, they decay faster and faster now. So maybe we eat too many preservatives and it causes us to feel a squirrelly cracked out need to tear down and build new new new things. We itch with the desire for change. I guess what I'm saying is we live too long and so things around us die quicker.

We don't always need to be cities ourselves. Sometimes we have to admit defeat and build ourselves up again as villages. If we do it right, then someday we might be small cities again, medium cities, the places in between coasts. If we're really smart, we might even be able to peak again, and people will write about our comebacks. But the important thing is recognizing exactly what size we are capable of being at this moment.

Blood is on my mind. I'm going to tell you right now, this is gross what I'm going to say here. But it's true and it sticks in my gullet. Periods are of course very important to all girls, they are a very spiritual thing, even if you only believe in your own spirit. So I have this cat who goes nuts for the smell of my blood. That sounds creepier than it is, probably cause actually it's pretty creepy. Anytime I am on my period, this cat tries to get at my used pads in the trash. This is also the cat who earlier this year wanted to eat the peeled skin from my sunburn. I promise she is a very sweet animal, but it's true, we are living with tiny little monsters who would eat us if only they had ended up being the larger creatures. We try so hard to forget that, feeding them dry nuggets of cereal and turning them into surrogate children, but the truth remains, they have teeth and claws and they like the smell of blood. So then the question is, what kind of creature does that make us, the owners and masters of these millions of little monsters, but also the people who built churches?

Perhaps my cat is trying to ingest me in order to get some power back from me, an ancient predator magic? We used to do that, eat lion hearts ect. I guess then we built churches and started only symbolically eating the flesh of the unknown.

 This place reminded me very much of my cat's blood thirst, and of my own. I wanted to eat meat immediately after being here. I wanted to bleed and ingest and fuck and kill and love, all in a very quiet calm determined way. We weren't even here that long, it was too cold and the light was fading fast into the lake. But the emotional jolt still hit me like a powerful drug.  I can feel it even more looking at the photos. I guess in the end if we made a park of this place, it might be dangerous. A lot of people prayed against evil things here.

 What was it Jere said once, about how totemic caves were to women? Women and churches are caves. They provide shelter and mystery and darkness and emergence.

There is a certain guy who every time I see him, my period starts. This is entirely coincidental, just timing. It's a funny thing to think about though, that my body might recognize a powerful hormonal want, and respond accordingly. But I wonder also if maybe this place did it to me. To test this theory, I would need someone to pay for me to travel around the world, visiting all the most powerful holy places, temples and caves and ley line convergences. If we did this right, I might bleed forever, my body in shock from the deluge of universal energy, the Body and the Blood of the Magnet.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Gary, Indiana Part 1: Good Lord, Why Would You Go There?

Gary, Indiana is unloved. I couldn't find anyone who wanted to go with me, even photographers who had never been. I made plans with three different people, they all canceled on me, and in the end my generous sister went out in the cold with me, because the number one rule is never ever ever go in someplace alone. It was especially nice of her, because she had been the one with me the first time I went to Gary, two years ago. And because she doesn't give a shit about this sort of stuff.

I have never felt more like my hobby was weird. In Cleveland, it's almost passe to take pictures of urban decay. They are hanging in every coffeeshop. When I tell people I like to go urban exploring, it's almost like admitting I take pictures of graffiti for art class. In Chicago though, it was more like telling people I masturbated to feet. Their reaction was mostly "well okay sure I know this exists, after all I know everything  that exists, but really you ought to keep that shit to yourself and not ask people to participate."

Like every enthusiast ever, it boggles my mind that it's so hard to find people who don't care about walking in mud and rotted carpeting in the freezing cold.

"But Gary's so EASY," I would tell them, "You just WALK in, and its is beautiful!"
"I'm going to go to SAIC instead."
"I'm too hungover, let's get brunch instead"
"Gary smells."
"Nobody should ever go to Gary."

Carey made a good point about asking Chicago people to ogle Gary's decay. She said people from Cleveland, these ruins were all around us, it was part of our daily landscape and therefore belonged to us. But these Chicago kids, they didn't live around ruin. They lived around little one way streets with old money town houses, H&M ads, and starbucks on every corner. Most of them came from solidly middle class families, with solidly middle class money. Gary was the poor side of Chicago, and if you came from the upper middle class predominantly white North side, it must feel very much like coming down from the tower to see how the poor people live. The sense of white privilege must hurt them like an inconvenient bee sting.

I don't really think that's why my friends wouldn't come, but it's a good point. Also, maybe it's true. I'm probably one of 5 people in the world that sincerely loves Gary, Indiana, for all it's parts. I like the ugly old convention center, and the fact that the KFC is the place to be downtown, that the highway exit is right at the entrance to the steel mill because there's no reason to go anywhere else. If cities were cats, I would be the girl who takes in every three legged one eyed stray that comes her way. These places, the church, the train station, the abandoned water front and the punched in brick tenement houses, these are places of history, actual touristy ruins, but we don't keep ruins in America, we let them fall and then bury them. We will never have permanent Coliseums, only certain periods when you could maybe see an old Church before they knocked it down for condos, so take pictures while you can because everyone will forget it ever existed in 10 years. Gary is about as Italian countryside as you can get in this country, in that no one ever knocks anything down because no one has the money for it and people have more pressing issues.  Also, though, I guess in the same way, there are dorks who go to visit the Coliseum and then the rest of the people who would rather go  hang out in the rest of the city with pretty people.

I'm sentimental about this right now because I just drove by the White Elephant building on W. 65th by the K-Mart, and it was knocked down.

The other point Carey made was that I couldn't force people to have a good time doing what I like, especially when it's peculiar.  I feel like I collect bugs now. Really large awesome bugs. I guess both hobbies celebrate death and preservation, huh?

New Years Eve, 2011/12 Chicago

"This is how time and space work, you assholes" - Carey

I think the very point of New Years Weekend, the day before, the day of, and the day after, is sentimentality and selfishness and selfish self awareness. Everybody, every body, should be allowed to be as crazy as it chooses on those days. That means actual crazy too, not just long running jags of mixed drinks and fried food. If you need to have a public breakdown, if you need to cry for reasons known only to you, or get irrationally angry, or never leave the house, all those things are cool. Get it all out. Puncture your wounds, and let the anxieties bleed into carpet or your friend's couch. If we all give each other this freedom, then we are all forgiven too. Because the flip side of this agreement is that once you are done, you spend the rest of your time understanding and tolerating the crazies of everyone who had to deal with you too. And these things are set off like a chain reaction, one head exploding causes another causes another. So kindness, absolute generosity of spirit is required right after or right before you plummet to the depths, and that is strenuous, like a kind of exercising, a workout of your sanity. People who are like this all year round, they are the easiest to deal with on New Years, because they have been working out, they are elastic and flexible and strong. People think that having a breakdown is a sign of weakness, but in fact everyone has breakdowns, having a quick recovery time is the strength. The kind of people who keep that shit bottled up are the ones who cause the worst fires on nostalgic holidays, because asking them to look into their past is forcing them back through a nightmare land of evils they never bothered to deal with. They haven't named them and memorized their details, and said their names over and over again like a chanting old woman on the bus, an hour just tasting the consonants until you can repeat the catalog of your personal failings and regrets as well as the alphabet. That's how you accumulate power, you make spells out of your problems, you say them and make them exist, then the sunshine reduces them to drippy little rain puddles, maybe leaving a stain or watermark but certainly drying out the main infestation, the meat of the mold.

"I forgot I *liked* people." - Amanda

 Having said this, I prefer also to run away for the holiday. New Years is my 2nd most important most favorite holiday, after of course my birthday, and it's convenient that they happen half a year away from each other, it evens out nicely in terms of breaks. It's best, for me at least, to go out of town to a brand new place and hang out with people I don't know well or at all. I love my friends back home very much (no, not at all), but don't you think it just sounds lucky? To welcome a new year with new things? Someone might point out there's an inherent risk your holiday may suck, but I think experiences sucking, excepting bodily harm or crime against, is mostly up to your own frame of mind. I don't like what's happening to my skin or hair, but the very best part of getting old has certainly turned out to be a greater control of my own enjoyment. That may have just been a fancy way of saying I'm getting more delusional. But how would I know?

 If you stay home for New Years, you know what happens? There are twenty parties, 14 events, 5 personal crises, and no matter what you choose or even if you try to fit more than one appearance in, you are either driving when you shouldn't be or someone feels put out. When you go out of town, you can just be like, hey, there are no dramatic considerations here, let's do whatever you my host want to do. Even if you just stay in their living room the whole time, you still went out for New Years. Think about that.

"Chicago, where good men come to do bad things" - me

 This weekend I went to Chicago with a bunch of girls. There was some drama in the beginning, from various quarters. Everyone gets forgiven for their craziness though, remember, so people survived mostly intact and ended up where they wanted to be. The weekend blew it's crazy wad early, it was pretty and clear the rest of the time. I stayed with my sister's friend, who was as delightful as Elly had been when I met her last year, and Nellie had really nice friends (maybe I should only stay with people with similar names on NYE too? Like the next year I'll stay with someone named Adele). New Years Eve itself is a blur of costume clothing, bright pink rum punch, muppets, and an awkward dance hour. I felt at the time I was pretty sober, but later found out I had actually been so drunk, I just felt sober. I threw up at 5am in her bathroom, and worried about waking her up, but the next morning we had all vomited except Carey, which is the opposite of how it usually is. My own friends who stayed with different people, were gone for a little while and then we connected the last night and went to a good comedy show (Entertaining Julia, every Sunday, recommended), and I discovered ginger bourbon the weekend of my vowing to not drink so much anymore. Jason and Judie met me for brunch one day, since they were also visiting other people. I drove around a lot on my own and even got lost but managed to work the city grid and get home without calling anyone. Walking on the street, I fell down, but you know, the way I always fall which is on both knees like I'm being forced into prayer position by the Inquisition, and I skinned the fuck out of both my knees but luckily my leggings were black so no one could see the blood until I went to bed and peeled the scabbed fabric and skin apart. Carey and I took an unintentional day trip, first to Gary and then to find Pullman, and I accidentally got a tour of Chicago's entire South Side, which meant we had some good time to talk, if maybe a bit more than we needed. The trip home was full of blizzards, so my friends and I stress ate at every rest stop and made each other laugh, so that even though the trip took an extra two hours because of snow it was a good trip home. Then a little bit of car tire drama when we got home, but it all worked out and people got back to their respective lives.

 So right? A calm collected relaxed safe weekend where I did new things and met new people. How blessed would I be if just all of 2012 could be like that?