Monday, January 28, 2013

The Magic House

I have been in Magic Houses before. Mostly dead ones, like the one above, but even dead ones have that leftover scent of sincerity that sticks to the skin of trespassers, where you become more yourself just by the act of going through the doorway. There are studies that say walking through doorways causes you to forget what you were doing in the room before. This works regardless of whether the doorway is real or not, the studies used video games for part of the testing, which is a little frightening to think about, if you're a player of video games, how many doorways you've forced yourself through. What they theorize is that the brain uses doorways as a way to purge unnecessary information - whatever we were doing is no longer as high priority as what we are doing now. Each time you walk through a doorway, you are involuntarily leaving a small unknown part of yourself behind.

 Some people would see this as an excuse to design houses with no doorways. I see it as a reason to have as many doorways as possible. I bet Jerusalem is full of doorways.

 (Maybe it also means if, occasionally, you get the Pharisee's Song from Jesus Christ Superstar stuck in your head on repeat, you should find the nearest house built before 1940. All the houses I have ever lived in have been built before 1940. Think how many memories I've shed, like an overactive architectural metabolism.)

To get to the magic house Saturday night, we had to wait till Sunday morning. Sweetgrass didn't get off work till after midnight, then we had to pick up Mountain Goat and her prince, by the time we navigated the dark highways of North Carolina it was definitely and for sure the witching hour. The witching hour is not a made up thing. Well, it's sort of a made up thing, but then it's definitely the kind of made up thing that applies to woods after midnight, which after a few turns is where we ended up - bumping along down dirt roads, trying to read mailbox numbers, until we found the right dark dirt road, with tiny little lanterns lying along the edges of the tracks every few feet, small glow in the dark breadcrumbs. Even still, the lights led us to a few dead ends, a few more where the fuck are we's, before we turned up the right path. The trees broke and we found ourselves in the middle of a beautiful landscape of little hills, brightly lit up windows from tall darkened buildings, trampolines and paths through bushes, and a huge bonfire around which the surviving party guests were gathered in the biting January night air, the full moon gasping above us. And off, behind all of this, the big main house, gold light blazing from it's layers of windows, down the cobblestone driveway and up the garden stone path.

According to the friend who invited us, the owner had built it all himself. The entire compound was constructed of old thrown away things - dock wood and pvc pipes, boat keels, driftwood, salvaged stained glass. It was beautiful, in the way that Southern artists have of deliberately cluttering their spaces in soft things - soft light, soft wood, soft lovely thoughts.  In the Erie Wasteland, a place like this would have been built of rusty steel, concrete, bricks. North Carolina is not made of steel though, it's made of wood - their industries were furniture and lumber, their ruins are rotted living things, houses that have become forests, not hollowed out warehouse shells lying intact in ash. It's a little more gross, frankly, that everything rots here. I like the inanimate stones of my post industrial childhood, they seem cleaner and less full of bugs. I prefer sitting on their year round coldness, versus sitting on driftwood that might have lice. I'm a Yankee through and through, I'll probably for sure get asbestos poisoning. But I appreciate that the ruin is not as poisonous or permanent here - Nature purges too here, takes it all back, whatever the scavengers don't get to first. And I like touching old wood, it feels like old rail ties, it buzzes with past electricity.

Nothing was rotting in this house anyway, it was glowing and shiny with safeness, and there were lots of doorways. The inside of the big house was a museum, in every corner there was new painting to see, a new detail, a new angle of the ceiling to see, shoes and staircases and lights. Books. The guy who owned it had small children, and that's what this place was, this was their place, they were marked all over it even in their absence. His spell for them was painted outside and inside, it was a Never Never House, a jigsaw, a visual and literal playground. I stood outside on the main porch  smoking, drinking my keg beer, thinking that this was one way to do it - to build piece by piece an entire legacy estate, a place on the river where the kids would grow up and then come back to, and raise their children.  It didn't just feel like magic, it had been deliberately made to look like magic, to always look odd and singular and extraordinary. It was a movie set. It made me feel like I would do anything for someone who had built something like this. It's a power of people, creating things.

I think it must make everyone feel that way, just a little, because everyone in that house became just a little bit lovelier, a little more awake, a little more desiring to be entertaining.  That's how you know the spell is actually there, working behind the scenes of the beer and smoke, everyone tries to be themselves. Sweetgrass picked up a book from the coffee table, and in the first sentence she read, there was our conversation from last night, "Bridget, just read the first few sentences, that's exactly what you were talking about." The house made her eager to talk in its thrall. The sentence was about how when we fall in love, we are recognizing part of our original selves in another person. That was the opposite of what I had meant the night before, I was trying to say that we had no original self but millions of possibilities and past personalities, and we could fall in love a million matching times depending on where and when and who we are - therefore the idea of true love not being a lacking limiting thing but an endless always right around the corner thing, as long as we recognize what we become every time we walk through a doorway.

When I first walked into the house, there was an old white haired lady cleaning up in the kitchen. She immediately recruited me and the other girls into helping to clean up the food from the party, which we did without question even though we had just gotten there. So that says something about us. We all assumed she was a lady of the household, having no idea who actually lived there or who this Gatsby like builder was. She did not. She had merely assumed a position of authority being the oldest woman there - to clean up and be useful, though at the moment she was effectively doing neither. But the girls, we just stepped right in. I find that so comical, a group of girls dressed nice for a party. As if there was anything else you could do, please, if you walked into a house and found a woman cleaning the kitchen. Its physically painful to not try and help.  Later in the night, she played the grand piano drunkenly, an appropriate green light shining behind her. Later still she came stumbling out to the dying bonfire, and seeing the confusion and courtesy  in our eyes, started crying to Sweetgrass and I about the awfulness of her life - her daughter headed to prison, taking custody of her grandson, over and over again how her son was going to hate her forever for it. I had promised someone else I wouldn't let her fall in the fire, so I couldn't leave her side but then her hand was grasping at my hoodie, her watery eyes pulling my face closer to hers, begging to be told she had done the right thing. Then she wanted to be walked home, through the woods, to wherever her house was. She had a flashlight, but that would surely stay with her when she got home, and probably she would try to get me too, to smoke a cigarette, have a drink. There was no way I was doing it. I was not trying to walk back through woods I didn't know in the middle of the night after dropping a drunk lady off god knows where. The Builder was there now, at the fire with a pretty little hipster girl. I asked him, I made my helplessness clear, maybe. Finally he tried to walk her home, but there was no getting her through the intricate little paths of the property, and five minutes later she was back falling in front of the fire, looking for her cigarettes. I ran away, I didn't know what else to do. No, I knew sort of what to do. I just didn't want to do it. I had a sinking feeling walking back from the fire to the house that I had let it down, but walking in the front door, saw the cute farmer coming towards me, and was reminded magic isn't built from weakness.

The "DJ" of the party kept trying to play R&B for a roomful of drunk tiny white girls who wanted to dance. We stood in the corner and talked about politics.
I told my friend to have compassion for ignorance and evil actions, even when it was willful ignorance.
"People get paranoid because they feel the new tech leaving them behind, and they know the world they leave their children in will be completely different than the one they have planned for. We all know we're going to die, but we want to know what the world will look like after we die, and we used to have traditions we could believe in to use to understand the future, but now those traditions are gone. We have no idea what our children will even believe in. This brings with it a sense of apocalyptic doom, a quality of foreboding, and it causes people to manifest their fears as the end of the world, in extremist politics and religions, to believe in the fear mongering because it helps them express their own private fear of mortality." By the end of my logic, I halfway believed it myself.

By then the DJ had gotten it together, and all the girls - Lashes and Mountain Goat and Sweetgrass, the girl in the scarf, they were all dancing. It was 4am, and I had nothing left in me but to watch. I didn't want to make them leave ad go home, but I wanted to find a doggy bed somewhere in a corner of the room with the fireplace and the piano, and fall asleep on the floor in the green light, and also a few hours in that place had rendered me incapable of any more small talk. 12 hours earlier, at work, I had been in the same spot, a pressing need to be alone with my thoughts that had to be forced aside to smile at coworkers and customers. I thought about how in just a few hours I'd be headed to work again, and then to movie night, all the homework I had due Tuesday, and I had to work again all day Monday, which meant not going to open mic Monday night and staying up late to finish that suspense scene........there are not enough hours in the day to fulfill my "priorities" when sometimes you can't actually get to the magic places till after midnight. The doorway just isn't there.

At one point out by the fire I tried to ask about our host, and my friend shook me off with a look under his breath. After that I was too intimidated to be too curious, which only increased the fantastical things going through my head as I looked above me to catch the eaves of roofs, or the sharp shadows of trees against the  lit up windows of the carport that looked like a greenhouse, sitting back on the other side of the yard white and phosphorescent. I always manage to be in the vicinity of Gatsbys. Did the book make me that way? Or do I love the book because I can recognize parts of it? I'm a little afraid to reread Fitzgerald right now because of the whole Southern thing, and the whole rich thing of Wilmington.

Monday, January 21, 2013

And Then That Fateful Night, We Had You in Our Sights

This is the best weather I have ever experienced for any length of time. There's something very particular about warm sunny days in winter that is not the same at all as mild summer days. The quality of sunshine is different, it's angled from a foreign point in space that our orientations aren't used to. I'm starting to understand why so many people say they moved here first and then their families came down. No one really expects it's going to be like this, and someone has to be the brave explorer and send notes back to the home bases. I could think of worse things than my family being here with me. 

That's a pattern in urban and state migration I hadn't thought of - all the sons and daughters venturing forth to new places, and the slow ooze of the rest of the genetic pool in that direction as well, like a slow viscosity oil drip. Moving is still a very momentous thing, you know. I think sometimes culture has reached a point of encouraging us not to move just to try and maintain control of populations, keeping infrastructure up to date and stuff like that. I guess empires always have tried to do that, population is power. But it does seem down to a precise science these days, think of how many people you know wouldn't even think about moving to another country, or domain. 

Did you know you can apply to work in Antarctica? For like, the summer season. There's a city there, a city like we used to call cities in Alaska, or even further back, a city in California, Montana, Nevada, Utah. My thoughts are very America centric these days, It's so big guys, it's just huge. It's a huge beautiful amazing continent. And then I think about how much variety there must be in the world, if we have so many giant places like America - China, India, The Congo, Siberia, Greenland.
Thank god for National Geographic when I was younger. That magazine, that whole thing, is a gift to us. Zoobooks too.  Actual zoos to, much as I hate to say that, I think they're so important to creating the kind of people we want. 

Anyway, you can apply for jobs in Antarctica, like retail jobs, baristas, servers, maintenance, that sort of shit. It's hard not to remember that maintenance always gets it in the alien movies, and I'm thinking specifically of Jurassic Park and Alien V Predator. So there is that risk. But otherwise, it's not so risky for all the other stuff - dying of exposure etc. It would just be very uncomfortable. But so would going to Mars. Maybe bravery is just your tolerance for prolonged discomfort. 

I'm having weird moments of self-awareness. Such as when I notice how much I'm referencing "self-awareness" these days. I've gotten disturbingly comfortable at asking people to do things. Girls aren't supposed to be like that, I think. But I've lost patience for the formal dancing of being friends. I've met enough people that I didn't have to do that with at all, that the rest of you are just going to have to keep up. I have a whole town to meet after all. 

I think about that too, how I had a chance for real anonymity and hermitage when I moved here, even if just for a little bit, just to try it out. And I didn't even pause to think about it, I just jumped right into it. It's not too late, I could still do it, just slip out. People move around here so much, if I just disappeared, it wouldn't be that noticeable of a circumstance. I'd send a few emails every once in a while, and just come back when I felt like it. Should I do it? I think I'd get really depressed. The history of my family, and I don't know, maybe everyone's family, is just finding that coping mechanism, that thing that really stops the depression or the anxiety from happening. I'm the lucky one there, I think all my coping mechanisms turned out to be nice things - being social, being charming, being artistic. It's easier to be weird in those circles. Carey's found theirs too I think. I don't know if Nick has, I think he has to get done with school and move somewhere to find it. He took the longer path cause of school right away, whereas Carey and I waited till we were older. But he seemed really happy in Spain, and I think he'll end up the most well traveled of any of us eventually. Maybe he already is. Good for him. Uncle John did that too, but Nick is so much nicer than him, and kind. I like both of my siblings very much, it makes me wish that our parents were going to live much longer so we could all hang out as individual adults more. That's the downside of waiting longer to grow up. 

Last night, I was standing on Princess St. downtown, in a doorway outside Movie Night. I was wearing my very ratty sequin tunic, the one that is falling apart and therefore the best one to wear. I was smoking a cigarette and looking at my phone. A guy walked, shuffled, very slowly down the sidewalk past me. The whole time I was thinking "please don't talk to me, please don't even ask me for a cigarette, not now." And he didn't, he just walked past me. But then he stopped, backed up, and stood in front of me, looking at me for a second. Then he smiled and kept walking. I laughed almost immediately, and then stopped, hoping my laugh didn't somehow make him think he should come back. So I went inside immediately, which I hadn't Hewanted to do either. On the way up the stairs, I remembered him in my brain - he was younger, wearing a hat and scarf bright with some sports logo. His coat was an olive green winter coat. He was holding some square white thing in his hands, papers? with black writing? I can't remember, I was trying so hard to not make eye contact. He might not have been homeless at all, he might have just been really really drunk, but in that case he should know that he looks homeless when he gets drunk. He also might have been crazy, like mentally ill. Or all three, who knows. It was his walk that made me think of all that, it was lopsided and zombie like. 

But I guess maybe I'm glad he found me amusing. Unless I now end up in one of those zines that someone mentioned, making fun of downtown. Which I hope is a real thing that I can go find and read, please. 

I'm supposed to start telling you that you should get 
The Little Book of Sexts for someone for Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Low Tide in January

The best thing about the ocean beach is it's size. There can be so many people on the beach, an entire population even, and yet you can stay hundreds of feet away from them, never cross paths or make eye contact at all. 

There are shells everywhere. They are a whole color in the landscape themselves.

I love that everyone I talk to, when they talk about going to the beach winter or summer, mentions how they have to put their feet in the water at least once. Like it's a blessing, a ritual important to the event of "going to the beach." I used to feel this way about Lake Erie, and my friends would complain about how it was too cold. Here, complaining about the cold is not a thing. The water is freezing, so what, you still go in it, duh. If you didn't, the sea gods would get angry.

This is a mailbox, in the middle of the corner where the ocean meets the sound. There's a notebook in it, and people write in it, whatever they want. There's a lot of inspirational, I'm grateful for my life shit. Because the ocean makes me feel that way too, I understand. 

But this is the proper way to sign the Atlantic Ocean Guestbook. I like that it was a girl who wrote this.

The tide was low, like a dirty club song. We walked down into the marshes with bare feet, and the sand was green and heavy, with the water shining in deep purples and browns. There were the tracks of bird twosteps and foxtrots everywhere. Dog tracks. Names of couples written in the sand from earlier in the day.

And then off in the distance were the dredgers. This is obviously my favorite photo of the lot. Dark heavy machines chugging away at the edge of the continent, fighting the shift of land masses. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

I'm not the kind of girl to get mixed up with you, Socially Acceptable Boundaries and Definitions

It's exactly 75 degrees today, sunny and breezy and freshly cleaned from rain. It is Spring outside, basically. I banish you from my lexicon, Winter. Never again. Well, until I freak out about wanting to live under the Northern Lights because I think space dust is going to soak into my trepanned skull and make me smarter than the average ape, because if I do get dementia as an elderly woman, that is totally the direction it's gonna take, right? And I guess then I'll be too old and not have enough blood in my body to feel cold. Isn't that what should happen to our bodies - we dry out and cease feeling hot or cold, just wet or dry and light or heavy? Isn't that biology?

 Anyway, it makes me listen to dance music. Because even though it's January, the warmth is waking up every other sense of mine, and I just want to smell and hear and touch everything. I'm queasy and uneasy with anticipation, I'm living in the moment of a musical buildup, before the bass drops. Waiting for it. Not in an anxious way, more like a little kid dancing around because she thinks she might get a puppy way. Oh my god, what's going to happen next? And after that? And what's going on then? Holy shit, it's so fucking warm. I just want to be happy all the time. I want exactly what I want and nothing else but also everything else I don't know I want too.

 Warm weather makes your biological systems electric. People make mistakes.

Beauty is a big deal in this town. Every one is expected to be glowing with health, because of, you know, the beach and the film stuff, also the military and all the college kids. I read an article in some psychology magazine about the "Mormon Glow" which is what Mormons call it when they can identify someone else as a fellow soldier of God just by looking at them. These Canadian researchers ran a study where they made undergraduates look at headshots, and 60% of the time they were able to identify the Mormons just by looking at them, which is almost 50/50 and therefore not a real thing at all, but they theorized that the Glow was in fact just because the Mormons didn't drink coffee or alcohol, or smoke, or stay up way too late eating failed pot brownies and getting three hours of sleep on a broken couch somewhere then running to work too early in the morning without getting a chance to shower meaning that your clothes smell like campfire and your hair resembles a slightly greasy porcupine who has been lightly sauteed in canola like limp broccoli crowns. Apparently that doesn't happen to Mormons. More's the shame.

 Think how much of our understanding of behavioral science has comes from what undergraduates will do for weed money.

 One reason everyone in this town is "glowing" is a lot of them have too much money for their own good. This town is secretly super rich. It's not so secretly divided into harsh and exacting class lines. Wandering in between and among those lines without knowing exactly where they are yet is like walking blindfolded in a very low English garden maze, like I can feel the hedges brushes my thighs barely, but I haven't quite figured out the shape or direction of any of it yet. I'm just sorta walking into stuff. Deeply running racist and classist stuff. It's more textural than visual here.

 I think I'm beautiful, even though I'm not rich. I mean, I hate myself, but overall I like looking at myself, and I think most of the time other people do to. All I'm expecting really is pleasant, I can supplement the rest. I don't understand how women can be so judgmental of other womens' shapes when a good majority of us spend our time looking at and forgiving the various silly and sundry shapes of men. So maybe so many years of tolerating strange skinny parts and flabby hirsute parts in favor of personality and attention and affectation, maybe I just can't judge women any more harshly. I find all my friends to be the most attractive people I could possibly know. But then the flipside of such supposedly non-shallow thinking is that I find bad or obnoxious people to be ridiculously ugly, and then when my beautiful friends sleep with them, I can't even hide my disgust or pretend empathy. I can't forgive them for being shallow when on a purely physical level I find that man wretched and hideous, because he told me how much he likes Coldplay.

I think my point is beauty is based on class. Not grace, but social level of functioning. As in, I will never be as sexy as the yoga ladies with their ten dollar a day smoothie habits, but they will never be as a beautiful as my friends because they think Coldplay is art. No wait, that's not my point. My point is koi fish are greedy grasping things, but they've been bred to be the perfect colors and shapes, and therefore they remain popular although they fulfill no useful niche in any ecosystem. Nope, that's not it either. ladies and koi fish are the same thing and I'm probably more like a smelt or sheepshead, an ugly fresh water pest fish that gets eaten in localvore restaurants but gets tossed by less menu minded fishermen. Maybe I'm actually a magic flounder and when you catch me I grant wishes, but subvert them to assist the rise of the matriarchy. A classy flounder.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


It was pointed out to me once (okay, more than once) that I speak in extremes. I couch my likes and dislikes in hyperbolic caricatures - "The West Side is TOTALLY the best side", "What kind of soul-less asshole votes against that?" "Who the fuck doesn't like baklava?"

Well, first of all, probably people with nut allergies. I guess. 

One of these statements I've been making a lot lately is "I hate birds".
That isn't strictly true. Like most alien non-mammalian species, I have a large amount of respect for birds as creatures. Their bodies are complicated and delicate, miracles of engineering. They understand secrets of magnetism, navigation, and gravity that I will never comprehend. But they are scary. They don't have boobs. They don't have the same affinity for affectionate nuzzling. I don't think their brains manufacture the same chemicals needed to produce empathy, because they don't carry their young inside of them (I have zero scientific knowledge to back that up).  And if they were bigger than us, which I'm halfway convinced somewhere down deep in their cells they remember being, they would kill us all indiscriminately.

Birds are like spiders - I think they are awesome as long as they stay out of my bedroom and my bathroom. And don't try to touch me.

In my defense, let's look at these disturbing facts I read about seagulls just now on wikipedia. 

1. "Gulls have prophylactic unhinging jaws which allow them to consume large prey."

2. "many gull colonies display mobbing behaviour, attacking and harassing would-be predators and other intruders."

3. "Certain species (e.g. the Herring Gull) have exhibited tool use behaviour, using pieces of bread as bait with which to catch goldfish, for example"

4. "Others rely on kleptoparasitism to get their food." (I'm going to start labeling the girls who get guys to buy their friends drinks and therefore drinks for them too as Kleptoparasites.)

5.  "Gulls have been observed preying on live whales, landing on the whale as it surfaces to peck out pieces of flesh."

On Monday, Faith and I went out to throw food at various groups of animals around town. One of those stops was Greenfield Lake, which apparently has alligators, but also paddleboats. The two seem mutually exclusive, but sure, whatever Wilmington. 
And of course, Greenfield Lake, being the "metropark" downtown is also where a lot of homeless people sleep. So, I don't know, alligators and homeless people - whole new conundrum of homelessness I hadn't considered. 

There are huge amounts of birds down here this time of year. That makes sense, migration patterns and all. I don't know if these geese were yankees or good ol' boys, because like both of those maligned populations, geese don't really migrate as much as they used to. They mostly stay where the food is. At least, that's what I learned from the Tri-C campus back home. 

The minute Faith started throwing crackers into the water, the geese and the seagulls all came flocking. The geese were calmer, more sedate. The seagulls were monsters, as gulls usually are. We played the game where we tried to throw the crackers closer to the geese so they could get them first. One particularly slow goose with a white face couldn't react quick enough, and, finally tired of being swarmed by seagulls, swam off. It's the only time I've seen a goose give up. So we followed him and before the swarm figured it out, managed to get him a few. Cause if we're going to corrupt ecosystems, we're going to corrupt them entirely, goddamnit. 

We threw crackers up above the water, and the gulls caught them mid air. 

As we started to walk away, the geese proved themselves the most intrepid of urban scavengers, and followed us. Got out of the water, onto the sidewalk, and walked after us. It was, as every encounter with geese turns out, mildly terrifying. We walked a little faster, and a little farther away from the water. When we walked back later in their direction, they remembered us, and started to come forward. 

It does lend poignancy to the Ugly Duckling story - because birds are the worst bullies. No courtesy, none at all. Like they are blackout drunk all the time. 

Alternate conclusion: We were nice to the geese, but made the gulls work for it. The gulls let us alone in the end, the geese did not. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Here are the Newest 17 Ways to Get Into a Girl's Heart

1. Look like Jesus.

2. Offhandedly mention Belize.

3. Wink. Often.

4. When you pass her something, pass it with your whole hand.

5. Sit across the room and ignore her.

6. Stand with her while she waits for a cab.

7. Have a really really cool dog that reminds her of the childhood dog she had before her mother made up that ridiculous lie about the dog being stolen from the backyard.

8. Be dismissive of scavenger species.

9. Have a one syllable last name.

10. Know a medium amount about shipwrecks.

11. Tell her she looks cute in jeans, even though jeans are the worst possible article of clothing for her to wear and she knows it and you know it.

12. Hate eggplant.

13. Genuinely be a socially inept dork, and yet project an air of being way too cool to hang out with her.

14. Be too cool to hang out with her.

15. Introduce her to your sister, watch them become friends.

16. Respond to her facebook status by calling her.

17. Live in another city.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Early Morning Thoughts - No Pretend Structure - We're Making These Bonds Up in Our Heads

I've noticed that people here are a little more eccentric than usual.
Don't get me wrong, the extent of Rustbelt Eccentricity is wide and disturbing and frequent.
So I guess that part doesn't really change. But just like learning any kind of different culture, one grows up accustomed to a certain kind of crazy and being exposed to a subtle shift in the whole mentality of a geographical place, a location that is already different in water and soil and air and trees and industry and traffic patterns, well it's difficult to adjust without being dismissive.
I like it, it's engaging, and you're playing at it all the time.

I've gone to bed so early this week. I wake up at 6 for work, and unless there's an actual reason for me to go out, plans, then I'm in bed by 11. Which is as ridiculous of a number as 6 for me.

When I went to bed last night, it was cold cold. It was close to freezing. That was at like 12. I woke up at 5, mere hours later, and it was balmy and warm outside. Here are two strange things: 1) Being this close to the ocean the weather is SO much more active and changeable. Like, people talk about the randomness of Cleveland weather, but Ocean weather is more so. I guess that makes sense - Erie is a big lake, but it's not a vast continent of water. So that's sort of exciting. The second thing is that nobody has any sense of direction here. They get turned around in town. Multiple times, I've been the one who knows where we're going, and I've only been here, what? 6 months? I keep calling it three months because I got in the habit of it, when having to over and over explain my new existence in the place, like, why are you here? How long have you been here? Where are you from? There's so many new people here all the time, it's this odd little portal where these strange characters just wash up, stay for a few years, and float away like so much jetsam. Then there's the ones who get stuck on something, and live in the crevices, like a particularly active piece of coral, or an angler fish.

I think it's funny that before I moved here I assumed the biggest cultural adjustment would be the whole Southern thing, but no, it turns out it's the Ocean thing. It's living in an ocean port, in a place that's very sub tropical at times, but has that light grey Northern paper flutteriness of sky every once in a while. It crinkles like notebook paper I mean, and rips like it, and makes the sounds. I think this summer I want to focus on that aspect - on historical museums and shipwrecks etc. Then next year I can try and absorb the whole active military thing. That's a logical progression. Maybe I can learn to make biscuits the year after that, we'll see.

Did you know Mexico has a Grand Warlock? I think it's crazy that the less and less I buy into magic, the more people around me seem to approach me with it for sale. But when I'm most vulnerable to the idea of it, they avoid my earnestness like a bad scent. Maybe when I'm willing to listen is when I'm also asking the most questions, as opposed to me not caring and therefore silently being courteous and nodding my head and trying to freeze out the conversation. The older I get, the harder it's going to be to mask my feelings, I can see that. Also I was looking at the photo I posted of my mom with the calf, in the last post, and I can totally feel myself becoming her, like, knowing that is what I'm going to look like. Which is fine, my mom is a pretty woman, and actually I look more like my dad, so it won't be quite the same. But close enough. That calf is almost full grown now, he's being sent out for processing soon. That feels simultaneously like the most foreign and the most Ohioan thing I could say.

My mom has always had a very weird relationship with the use and death of animals. She doesn't believe in keeping around animals that cause discomfort in your life. Part of me is upset with this, especially since it's led to some particularly cold disposal of elderly pets, but part of me respects it a lot. Because annoying animals are fucking annoying and I am a superior predator so I should be allowed to not have to deal with them. Both Lou, who is Lebanese, and Jeremiah, who is Egyptian, have very dismissive superior feelings to household pets. This led me for a bit to consider that pets was just not quite so much a Middle Eastern thing. But it seems like Turkey would have a lot of dogs, right? It just strikes me as a place where people breed grand and striking animals, probably because in my head I'm mixing it up with CS Lewis's Calormen. There were cats in that book, but mostly horses and lions.

Last night this guy at work tried to explain some model map of reality, all I really absorbed were the four quadrants - The Interior Individual, the Interior Collective, the Exterior Individual, the Exterior Collective. I said I didn't believe in the Interior Collective. I don't think we actually share any experiences actually with other people. I think we believe we do, but nobody is every experiencing the same thing as anybody else. Nobody sees the color blue the same as you, for example. It isn't even remotely the same color for anybody twice. Your mind is so particular to you. So yeah, no Interior Collective. I know we'd all like to think it exists, its the basis of religion after all, and patriotism. But sorry.

The Interior Collective is just like how I feel about astrology. I like talking about, it's useful as a description, it's fun as a game, but it's all a fairy tale. There's a collection of stories I really love called the Oxford Book of Modern Fairy Tales. I think Allison got it for me as a present one year, and it's one of the short story collections you find yourself referring to all the time - like the big orange scifi collection I won in 8th grade, or The Norton Collection of Short Stories which I refer to like a thousand times of day in my head. Short stories affect me more, maybe that means I'm incapable of nuance, or I have ADHD, all things are possible. But also maybe I just absorb information in short quick punctuation points. I mean it's not like novels don't affect me too, but those affects are harder to apply to real life situations sometimes, because a fiction novel is so much it's own entire reality. Shorts are more like those transparent light filters they use in theater lights, filters that you can hold over your own episode to see it a different way.

Anyway in this collection of fairy tales, there's a reinterpretation of a fairy tale I used to read all the time in my Yellow Fairy Book by Andrew Lang. I can't stress enough the influence of those colored fairy tale books in my life. I love them more than almost anything else from my childhood, more than Sarah my Bear even. The story is the Glass Mountain, and in the new version a man is scaling a glass sky scraper while the crowd gawks below. In the old version, when I read it as a little girl, I could hear the sound of the sharp hooks on the glass, the screech and cut. When I think of an eagle attacking a man, I picture the eagle in the story, and the Prince who lets himself get kidnapped. I like it that's a fairly common idea, the man tricking the eagle into taking him to the top of the mountain. Eagle's nest are very much magical places, high in the mountains, in the realms where men will die a lot, where trolls and witches and ghasts live. Cliff ghasts is a type of monster I'm electing for permanent cultural recognition. They are the golden sleek killers turned rotting mangled scavenging evil.

I talked about that last night, how the problem with people who have pets that aren't cats or dogs, is I don't trust them. I don't understand not having a superior predator as a companion. I mean, not superior to us, but cats and dogs are at least highly successful, intelligent, adaptable creatures that also reproduce the same way as us, and therefore are capable of having any kind of emotional bond with us. Birds and lizards, they don't even have the neural connections capable of creating empathy. Because they lay eggs. Their bodies don't produce the right chemicals for bonding, there's no reason for it. So there is no affection, no sense of closeness. Birds have a flock mentality, that's a different alien kind of bonding I guess. Lizards don't even have that. Lizards just want to eat. Both of them remind me of the trash left over from dinosaurs, the shrinking slipping away genetic refuse of past rulers. I want to kick them usually. I mean, I wouldn't really do it, I don't like creating pain, but if it was necessary, I wouldn't feel guilty about it later.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2012: The Year of The Goodbye and the Move

In ten years, when I am on my first major book tour, or giving a lecture, teaching a class, something like that - at some point when I'm older, I will have the opportunity to tell the story of how I self-published my first book. About how I wrote it the summer I was working from home, in my parents' living room, after I had moved out of my own place and given away my cats to prepare to move to North Carolina to go back to school at 33. And I met this guy on OK Cupid like three months before I was leaving, and spent every day with him from that moment on - him coming over in the morning for coffee, picking me up for lunch breaks, coming to get me after work. Maybe at this point I'll mention the Ex and the weird sadness of that, but probably not unless this is a story I'm telling while drinking, or I'm talking to the Prince about it. But the end part of that whole story, past New York and Erie and Sandusky, is Wilmington and me being unemployed for three months, just sitting for 14 hours at a stretch, trying to write and write and write. The first wonderful three months of meeting friends and having no job, just school where we talked about writing, and then coming home to write some more, then going out, going to bed, sleeping late, writing some more. It's as probably close to idyllic as I'm ever allowed to get.

So when I'm telling this story to impressionable youngsters, what I'll point out, what the punchline will be, is that when I published my first book, I was so poor I couldn't even afford my own copy until two months after it had been released. That sums up 2012 about as well as anything else - being destitute and elated at the same time. Being desperate for a lot of different things. Needy as fuck, not just needy to other people but horrendously needy from myself - there were so many things I demanded of myself this year. Not all of them worked as well as the others.

This New Years Eve, I worked all day at the register. I wore my tiara. Most of the men gave me strange looks, most of the women loved it and wanted to touch it. I got home early, and fell asleep. When I woke up, I was an hour late to meet my friends and my foot hurt, so instead of wearing sequins and giving a shit, I bundled up in a sweater dress, and rode my bike downtown, which meant lugging my messenger bag into the crowded bars, being THAT girl. The slovenly looking one. With the big bag and the sweaty hair. The girl who doesn't give a fuck anymore.

See, I've lost my power here. Maybe I lost my power before I got here, all I know is I had it back in Cleveland, and then I didn't have it here. I think I thought for a minute that the Prince had taken it from me. Then I blamed my emotional distress and general physical shock adjusting to the Completely Insanely Different Lifestyle of Hardships I had just elected myself to. I had (have, haven't given it up completely) a theory about how in the Midwest  people were more used to girls (moms, sisters, wives) that looked like me, the ubitiqous Polish Irish brunette girl with the birthing hips. Here they're used to Scottish girls who have grown up on the beach - all sunburned and freckled and Southerned out. If I was the type to find blonde people attractive at all, there would be a lot of hot people here. No offense blonde people. But, and here is part of the problem I identified finally this week - I had gotten used to being able to identify attraction easily in Cleveland men. I was honed into it, I could see it the minute any guy found something I said or did desirable, it was as tangible and thick as slicing a piece of cold tofu. Here though, the only people I've had that particular sensation with are all people who are already in relationships, married or otherwise. Every one, which isn't many, but is enough to be sinkingly depressing - the realization that it's not only location but age. I don't know what the hell I'm doing with the men here. I don't understand them. I can hardly talk to them without feeling weirdly ashamed of myself. Even the ones I like a lot.

This is the year I went from being the most comfortable to being the least comfortable.

Anyway, I got drunk with some people who liked me, and we watched New Years Eve from a rooftop Downtown. I could see the lights from the battleship on the river, and the other rooftop parties around us, the drunk girls stumbling in their heels on the cobblestones, and cops breaking up fights on the sidewalk, or trotting by clacking on horses. They lit off chinese lanterns, the big ones. One fell directly onto the roof below, and I stared at it burning there for a while to make sure it didn't set the building on fire. Afterwards, when we got too stumbly to be on the roof anymore, the girl in the red pants and I went to the bar across the street. Another guy asked me the next day where I disappeared to at that point. it was that after 1am grey area where groups separate and single girls get lost - the answer I was at the bar with the comics, and then I was walking to the next party with this guy who was on the phone with his girlfriend desperately trying to convince he wasn't cheating on her, and then I was at Steve's begging people not to get into fights with my eyes, and then finally I was in a cab on my way home at 7am - my bike and my self doubt locked up on Front St. I won't tell you all the other things that happened in that timeline - it was a very long night and the only person who will ever know what really happened is me- but if someone had been watching me in that cab, they would have seen it on my face, the marked difference, the expression that one gets when they remember who controls getting what they want, namely only themselves.

I guess the thing with making big changes in your life is that first you have to gut yourself, throw away a lot of crap, and then there's this transition time of being empty and feeling unmoored....filling yourself back up with things is a lot slower of a process, it's like building a muscle, especially when you're consciously trying to be choosier about it.

I wish you understood that one of the reasons I continuously ask for validation as a writer is because I'm worried that the minute other people stop relating to and liking what I write, is the minute I know I'm dreadfully crazy. The possibility I am just an insane ugly old batshit lady who is delusionally unaware of her own mode of existence, that's on the edge of my mind every day. I don't think there's any way to cure that, if that is the case, there's no fixing it at this point. It would be nice if someday 100% of me could believe that wasn't true. But until then, I'll tolerate it by believing that not everyone manages to have the kind of New Year's Eves I do. As long as time and cultural progression are worth marking and celebrating, I'm saner than most.

Traditionally, I post my favorite photos I've taken this year. My poor camera hasn't been taken out a lot here, I think I'm still getting to know the landscape - it's all so weird I can't see the flaws in the wall yet, the fingerholds in the images. But here you go, here's 2012 from the beginning.  Happy 2013. This year is going to be strange.