Wednesday, December 27, 2006

What Comes With a Fox

The last stanza of a Ted Hughes poem, "Epiphany" (after a man had given him a fox-cub in the London subway and Hughes was contemplating whether or not to take it home--he decided "no," because he was afraid that his wife, Sylvia Plath, would get mad at him):

...If I had grasped that whatever comes with a fox
Is what tests a marriage and proves it a marriage--
I would not have failed the test. Would you have failed it?
But I failed. Our marriage had failed.

While I love Sylvia Plath as the better, and much more profound, poet, Ted Hughes breaks my heart. He's the only poet that I've ever cried over when reading.

Polar Express Lesson o' Life

I've been freaking out over the past month over whether or not I should move to New York City, as I've long been talking about. Now the moment is here---I quit a job I hated and have just received a couple of thousand in "retirement" pay (which I should keep in account, if only I were an ant instead of a grasshopper)... Despite the logic, I've been praying for the past month---"God, give me a sign! I can't make up my mind!"

There's been no sign from "Our Lord" whatsoever...hah! But this Christmas weekend, I watched, 'cause of my nephew, "Polar Express" (and I hate kids' movies)----aside from the funny, cool song "Hot Chocolate," there was also the message that spoke to me: "Get on the train." You'll never know unless you get on the train. I'm scared.

And then another thing on PBS showing over the past couple of weeks: The Mormons who first came from England and then risked everything to travel across the west to Utah---they froze, they starved...

All that's going to happen to me is that my cat will be very uncomfortable during the 10 or so hours that it takes her to get situated from Austin to New York City. For me, there's "Craig's List" and there are 5 or so people I know already in NYC. I'll find a place to live, I'll find a job. Still... I'm scared... But... "GET ON THE TRAIN." Can I do it?

I see London, I see France...

My nephew Townes is now 4 years old and for the past 2 years he's really liked me best of all the family members. I can't lie...I love it! Our family usually gets together en masse (uh, that's about 5 of us) about 6 times a year (holidays and peoples' birthdays), and every single time at the holiday/birthday dinner table, Townes always says, "I want to sit next to Aunt Steffi." And everyone then has to rearrange themselves to accommodate me and Townes!

This Christmas, things were the usual at dinner. But the funniest thing of all happened at the end of the Christmas holiday, as Townes's parents (my brother and sis-in-law) were packing their presents, and kids, up to head back to Austin... They had changed their one-year-old into his PJs (so he could be deposited into bed as soon as they got home after the drive), and then were starting to change Townes...

He and I have this thing: He's shy about people seeing him in his underwear, so every time I catch him in it, I have to chant, "I see London, I see France, I see Townes's underpants!" Usually he'll giggle and go hide... But this time, oh my goodness! After he'd taken off his clothes before getting into his PJs I did my "underpants" chant; he at first giggled shyly and then (!)... stripped off his underwear and said "You don't see my underpants!" And then he ran over to me on the couch like a cackling naked-baby-maniac and ran away, then ran back, then ran away... laughing naked-baby-maniacally the whole time!

His mama finally got his PJs on him, but not before he got to show off a little bit for his auntie! ;p

Though the Christmas weekend was actually full of some annoying kid-drama (acting up/parent punishing and me having to parentally tell Townes at one point: "Don't be dramatic, just eat your dinner" and "No, honey, I don't want to play; I'm reading"), it was also quite cool to hear Townes's own mom refer to him at one point, jokingly, as my "surrogate son."

I think I'm way too self-centered to ever have a kid (I'd always be saying, "Not right now, honey, I'm reading"), but... I also like how little kids' minds work and think I'd spend lots of time talking to them once they got old enough to talk (I'm scared of babies)... For instance: This weekend, Townes was doing comparisons: "What do you like better, my shirt or your shirt?" He had a cool dragon/snake thing going on on his shirt and I only had a plain red hooded sweatshirt on, so I picked HIS shirt. Then he started looking around the room for other comparisons: "Spiderman or Black Spiderman"...until it got to "Which do you like better, a ball or...a ball?" I loved that moment, offering him, straight-faced: "A ball." He got it. ;p

Friday, December 22, 2006

Sundae Girl '75

Circa 1975 (when I was around 10) I got an incredible amount of attention for being cute and for having long blonde hair.

There was the 20-something guy at my dad's Air Force office who said--seriously--that I was the prettiest girl he'd ever seen. (Perhaps influenced by my cracking up whenever he'd turn his eyelids inside out just for me...) My grandma would always compare me favorably to her other grandkids: "Why can't you be as neat and well-behaved as Stephanie?" (Yikes! I apologize to the other grandkids.) And then there were a couple of weird incidents, typified most by this one time at a local Dairy Queen by my house: It was a block away and I was allowed, at age 10, to go there alone once a week or so, where I'd always order a cherry sundae. One time I went there, got my sundae, and was eating it at a table by myself, as I always did, trying to be mature.

A man was sitting across the room with his wife and two kids--- and then went up to the counter and insisted on buying me an ice-cream cone... Now, I was already clearly eating ice-cream and didn't need any more; I told the Dairy Queen woman who brought me the cone that I was already OK, but she explained the man across the room... I looked at him, he looked at me... I kept eating my personally purchased sundae, with the cone just sitting there on the table. (What in the hell was his wife thinking?) Finally, I finished my sundae and took the cone and left, while smiling at the man on the way out... Then threw it away on the way home 'cause it seemed so weird.

WHAT was that all about?? Well, I think I know what it was all about, but to that extent? A guy with his FAMILY with him? And when the kid already had her ice-cream?!

A lot of ten-year-olds feel awkward and gawky, but I never did at that point, thanks to the Air Force and Ice Cream men. (I definitely felt awkward and gawky in high school, and beyond, but how I was treated at age 10 has stayed with me. Age 10! Even when I'm feeling like shit nowadays, I keep hearing "That's the prettiest girl that I've ever seen.")

Sunday, December 17, 2006


"Her character was chatoyant, like a cat's eyes, candid and then suddenly bleached and desolate...."

Fuck the Ignorant Rich

Years ago I was reading Anais Nin's diaries and at one point came across (paraphrased) "Alas, I am so poor. I must go to Paris." At the time, my friend Kathy and I were laughing about what our equivalent would be: "Alas, I am so poor, I must go sit on my front porch."

Which reminded me, today, of an essay by Tad Friend in this week's "New Yorker": Something about his family being so poor, that is until his dad was offered the presidency of Swarthmore College... I'm completely stunned by the ridiculousness of this guy's definition of "poor." And this from a liberal-magazine writer. There are people out there making less than $8.00 an hour and living 4 to a two-bedroom apartment and juggling their bills every month and having to eat fast food and rice while their electricity has been turned off, you idiotic asshole complaining about your Smith-graduate mother's decorating taste in your 15-room mansion. I'm completely repulsed by the ignorance.

And then there was the reality show of a couple of years ago. About designer Tommy Hilfiger's teenaged daughter and friend. At one point all were at the daddy's estate in the Bahamas or someplace, looking over a gorgeous sunset. And Tommy's daughter opined: "We must have done something really good in a past life to deserve this." (This is why I hate Hinduism.) You didn't do anything to deserve anything, you spoiled, rich shits! Your daddy earned the money! He worked the system and he earned the money, and good for him, but don't sit there and say there's something profound and spiritual about why your family now has money!

In the past two US presidential elections (2000 and 2004), a point has been made by Democrats and Republicans alike: "This is not about class warfare." Why has a living wage for the working poor become "class warfare"? Creepy, creepy corporate propaganda.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I'm tellin' ya...

Please---I'm telling/begging everyone... just sit there and LOOK at Lindsay Lohan's face for a while. And she's 20! (To be 20 and to look like that is insane.) I can't even imagine her at 30, much less 40, and what she'll have done by then.

Pups and Kit-kats

Once when I was little, my parents had to go out of town and so they left our dachshund Fritz with my dad's brother Randy. During that time, Fritz got out and ran down the street and got nicked by a passing car. He wasn't seriously hurt, but my dad remembered it from that day on. Any time I wanted to spend time with my cousins years later, my dad would say, "Randy couldn't take care of Fritz, so he can't take care of my kids." OK. I do see that reasoning. (Years later when my dad was undergoing military psychiatric counseling, he wouldn't admit to being mean to his wife or kids, but WOULD say he was sorry for getting drunk and being mean to Fritz!)

When I was on my own, 20 or so, I never wanted a pet, because I'd never had a pet as an adult before and thought I was so angry I'd just be mean to it. My friend Kristine came across a Humane Society black cat who'd had 9 or 10 kittens. We lied and said the mama-cat was ours, and took all of the kittens home. They would have all been put to death if not for Kris. The runt of that litter, "Mr. Crusty" (because of the constant boogers around her eyes), turned out to be a girl-kitty that no-one wanted after everyone came and claimed the other kitties, and so she was mine. I renamed her "Frances." There was no way that I would have ever been mean to her. And since then I've never been scared of having pets.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Baby, I can drive my car

I just drove, incredibly drunk, to the Whataburger. (Don't worry, PC folk, I can drive quite well when drunk. It's like those pilots in the news years ago who claimed they could fly with an incredibly high alcohol content 'cause they were used to it. I believed them.) And while doing so, had a thought---if I moved to NYC, I could never drive my car again. I LOVE this car. The first car with a V6 engine that I've ever had, and I can GUN the thing and go as fast as I want. It feels GREAT to drive fast.

When I was in grad school in San Francisco for 2 years in the mid-'90s, one of the absolute WORST things about my whole experience there was having to put up with all of the riding-the-bus crap. The waiting, the obnoxious people sitting next to you...

One of the best feelings in the world is being able to get in your car and crank up your stereo and GO!! The power, the control... (Nothing Freudian there---sometimes "power and control" are just, you know, of a purely zoom-zoom V6 mechanical nature.) ;p

Crimes and Townes Van Zandt

Two days ago I lay in my bed for the entire day and didn't do anything but watch the Townes Van Zandt documentary two times in a row, and then Woody Allen's "Crimes and Misdemeanors." (I suppose that only accounts for 6 or so out of the 24 hours...Oh, quit being such an anal fuck! I had cable the rest of the time...) ;p

Van Zandt has such an Austin connection, and my 4-year-old nephew is named after him (by parents who are independent-minded but not truly free-spirited), so I was paying especial attention. While I admired his work (as presented in the film), I didn't LOVE it, and I didn't particularly like him or want to be like him, but I UNDERSTOOD him and his dilemma about wanting/needing to give up everything for his vision, just to SEE. One story told that struck home: Townes wanted to see what it felt like to fall from 4 stories up. So, while at a party, he leaned backwards over a balcony, intending to see how it felt to fall...up until the point of falling. But then he realized...he wouldn't know how it felt to fall until he actually fell. And so he let go.

I can't go that far, but I deeply admire those who can...

As for "Crimes and Misdemeanors": Much safer. Allen couches even the worst of human nature in neutral tones, as I'm sure some of the worst of human nature must be couched in. A profound movie. Allen's been making shitty movies lately, for the most part, but then again I just saw his "Match Point," which was stylishly and perfectly made. Though the theme was "Crimes" but dumbed down several notches, without the intellectual layers of the former. The point of both: Life is nothing but Dumb Luck. I agree.

Storms of Life

I'm gearing up to move to NYC in February, but right now am listening to Randy Travis' album "Storms of Life," and know somehow that I'll be back in Texas to grow old. Listening to Travis now makes me homesick, even before I've left.

I had a college friend back in the '80s, with whom I'd always argue about where to go out on weekends. I wanted the punk clubs, she wanted the country places. We usually went country. While I didn't have mind-blowing times at Austin's "Dallas" or "North Forty," I did, nonetheless, like the mix of people---to me, there's never been anything more soul-deadening than a club full of shallow 20-year-olds (even when I was 20); what was cool about the country places that I went to is that there were people in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, all hanging out, having beers and dancing and having a nice night out. When you get nothing but 20-somethings together, it becomes a cruel and creepy judgment-fest.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Listen to me, Babee...


Have you ever tried to have a serious conversation with God and actually gotten chills when you asked a question?

I think God's gone from me now, but I remember what it used to feel like when he/she used to be there... When love's there you don't appreciate it or recognize it. When it's gone, there's nothing you can do to get it back. You're left flailing around like an idiot, "But...but...I remember..." Remembrances ain't the real thing. When you're bereft of chills and insight is it 'cause you're supposedly mature enough to handle things on your own, or are you just forsaken?

God B/W I Want to Hold Your Hand

In memory of John Lennon: October 9, 1940 - December 8, 1980.

I was 15 when he died, and I'd been a Beatles fan for maybe 6 months.

Teachers at my school thought I'd be one of the ones who killed themselves at the news of Lennon's death. I thank them for their concern. They were partially right---it hurt in an awful, weird way that I'd never even come close to experiencing before. I remember, a day or two after his death, standing outside waiting for the school-bus, then getting on it and riding along, looking out of frosted bus-windows...The sky utterly, crystalline blue, and nothing around me having anything to do with me or with anything. It was sad but it was also pure. Me removed from everything around me except for how the sky looked and how the bus-windows frosted over and how someone whose voice, via his lyrics, had spoken to me truly ("God is a concept/by which we measure our pain") was now dead and I'd never hear another thing from him again.

I was 15, and that's how I wanted to communicate. I was in love with one girl in my senior year of high school who would talk to me like that. I thought college would bring on a world of people who all talked like that (hah! no one, even professors, did). And as life has gone on, I can't find anyone else who says things in a real way. My friend Kathy for a while. And then Julie, but that's it. I'm reminded of the film "The Hours," when Meryl Streep's character talks about a moment she experienced as a young woman... How utterly intense and meaningful it was...and at that time she thought it was the beginning of a whole series of moments that would only rise and peak in intensity and profundity as years went on... But as she looks back 20 years later, realizes...THAT was the peak. Nothing since had ever equalled that, and nothing probably ever would. How do you go on after that? If you'd asked me that 5 years ago, I'd have said, "You CAN'T go on!" But now, at 41, I guess the reality of it is, "You do go on. You just trudge on." Being alive is something nice, that I personally have taken for granted. I don't have any sort of true love, but I like my 4-year-old nephew a lot (he always asks that I sit right next to him at family gatherings, which makes me feel happy). I also look forward to working on my Joan Crawford website most evenings. And I like looking at Lindsay Lohan...I think that famous people hold the place for you while you're in limbo, reminding you of the real feelings that might be waiting...

Help, I need somebody,
Help, not just anybody,
Help, you know I need someone, help...

When I was younger, so much younger than today,
I never needed anybody's help in any way.
But now these days are gone, I'm not so self assured,
Now I find I've changed my mind and opened up the doors.

Help me if you can, I'm feeling down
And I do appreciate you being round.
Help me get my feet back on the ground,
Won't you please, please help me?

And now my life has changed in oh so many ways,
My independence seems to vanish in the haze.
But every now and then I feel so insecure,
I know that I just need you like I've never done before.

Help me if you can, I'm feeling down...