Saturday, April 30, 2011

Linda Gray Sexton's "Half in Love"

It's late, and I'm not up for an in-depth, thoughtful review, but here's the core of the thing:

From the LGS memoir (p. 145, chatting with a lesbian while in a psych ward after a suicide attempt):

"Are you a cutter?" she asked, gesturing to the soft gauze bandages on my wrists.

"A cutter?" I was mystified, and drew hard on my cigarette, down until the ember glowed.

"You cut yourself?"

As I thought about her question I realized that there must be a whole group of people who cut themselves all the time, maybe not for suicide, but just to cut.


It gets boring. Here, on the other hand, is The Mother, on "Cutting":

My tongue is slit.
It cannot eat.
Even if I were a king,
with a whole tongue,
I would be put to death with a shovel.

See the difference?

We read Anne Sexton because of her intimate connection to the Otherworld. That's what the brilliant poets and painters are for. To reveal something profoundly bizarre and scary to us, something that we're too afraid to explore for ourselves. Once these seers have channelled it, it's slightly watered down and safe for us general readers to perhaps attempt to be in touch with -- but that otherworldly contact is usually ONLY via their channelling.

The Daughter, Linda Gray Sexton, isn't a poet or scary visionary like her mother. She's an emotionally hurt, upper-middle-class girl who had a painful upbringing as the daughter of a Scary Mother and can't get over her fixation with her mother.

LGS has a general talent for writing. This book is a well-written and thoughtful account of a middle-class woman's half-hearted attempts at trying to kill herself and then being committed a few times to a very liberal sanitarium. She later feels guilty for her kids' sake; she's depressed that her husband of 25 years left her; and then she later finds love with a man named Brad.

It's all relatively polite. Lots of lying around in darkened bedrooms, "forced" to order take-out for the teenaged kids instead of making the 19-year-olds' dinner. (Then paragraphs of bemoaning being a Bad Mom. She later gets together with the Step-Mom. All is OK. Who the hell cares?)

Today, as at the time, we read Anne Sexton's poetry for the beautiful, tight language combined with the magical and mystical. And, today, many of us read her daughter solely for insight into Anne Sexton. This book is about the daughter; no insight into Anne Sexton. Not to be mean, but... who cares about the kid? As a person, of course there's care from family and friends. But I'm just saying: There's magical and there's not. We care in 2011 about the poet Anne Sexton because she was a profound, mystical poet. All honor to that. And thanks to any of her kids for helping promote that. But... Being born from Genius doesn't automatically make you great yourself. See Julian Lennon.

TRESemme Mucho

Several years ago, where I used to work, one of my bosses -- a woman nearing 60 with a face of experience -- said to me, re foundation makeup: "You know, up until recently I used to buy the expensive stuff, always thinking it would make me look just like the ads; but then I finally realized that was never going to happen! So now I just pick up whatever in the drugstore."

At the time, I remember laughing. Partially in agreement at the silliness of being sucked in by obviously manipulative ads. But... partially in pity: She'd given up the Hope Ghost! When you're, say, 40 or under, you still halfway in the back of your wishful-thinking mind think, "Yes, I could indeed look something like that" when looking at the models in makeup ads. But at some point, you just have to admit it -- you don't look anything like that. You most likely didn't even when you were 15, and you certainly don't now. Buying that model's brand of makeup isn't going to help anything. Ouch! Harsh middle-aged lesson!

I've had a similar ongoing "No Santa" slow breakthrough in recent years re hair-care products. For probably two decades now, I've been buying expensive $10 shampoo and $16 leave-in conditioner. Over the past two years, though, my hair just continues to look worse and worse. I've got to admit it: I'm in my mid-40s; my hair's just thinning out. Face it. All the expensive hair products in the world don't seem to be working any magic.

That said, though, I did have a brief respite from my obviously waning youth: Earlier this week, I had gone swimming at my mom's and needed to shower and wash my hair at her place before I went somewhere else straight from there. She's always been a cheapie, so at her house I had to use the Garnier Fructese (sp??) or whatever on-sale stuff she had supplied herself with. (Despite my recent dissatisfaction with my own products, I was still none too happy with being forced to use her supermarket stuff!)

Well, here's the thing: My hair looked really good after using her cheapo products! So I'm now going to do an experiment for the next few weeks. Setting my pride aside ("I may be only working sporadically and not have any clothes, but I won't scrimp on my grooming products, by george!"), I went out and bought, from the supermarket, a big gallon-or-something jug of TRESemme "Climate Protection" shampoo for $4.03, along with the accompanying hair gel. We'll just see how this goes! :)

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Wedding

30 years ago, when I was not-yet 15, I set my alarm for 4am to get up early enough to watch Princess Di and Prince Charles get married. For this royal wedding, I just stayed up. In '81, I was more interested in the celebrity-value of the young Diana. This time, I paid more attention to the beauty of the ceremony. The Bishop of London's sermon, I thought, was particularly moving.

The Bishop of London's Sermon (transcript from the BBC website)

29th April 2011

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” So said St Catherine of Siena whose festival day it is today. Marriage is intended to be a way in which man and woman help each other to become what God meant each one to be, their deepest and truest selves.

Many are full of fear for the future of the prospects of our world but the message of the celebrations in this country and far beyond its shores is the right one – this is a joyful day! It is good that people in every continent are able to share in these celebrations because this is, as every wedding day should be, a day of hope.

In a sense every wedding is a royal wedding with the bride and the groom as king and queen of creation, making a new life together so that life can flow through them into the future.

William and Catherine, you have chosen to be married in the sight of a generous God who so loved the world that he gave himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ.

And in the Spirit of this generous God, husband and wife are to give themselves to each another.

A spiritual life grows as love finds its centre beyond ourselves. Faithful and committed relationships offer a door into the mystery of spiritual life in which we discover this; the more we give of self, the richer we become in soul; the more we go beyond ourselves in love, the more we become our true selves and our spiritual beauty is more fully revealed. In marriage we are seeking to bring one another into fuller life.

It is of course very hard to wean ourselves away from self-centredness. And people can dream of doing such a thing but the hope should be fulfilled it is necessary a solemn decision that, whatever the difficulties, we are committed to the way of generous love.

You have both made your decision today – “I will” – and by making this new relationship, you have aligned yourselves with what we believe is the way in which life is spiritually evolving, and which will lead to a creative future for the human race.

We stand looking forward to a century which is full of promise and full of peril. Human beings are confronting the question of how to use wisely a power that has been given to us through the discoveries of the last century. We shall not be converted to the promise of the future by more knowledge, but rather by an increase of loving wisdom and reverence, for life, for the earth and for one another.

Marriage should transform, as husband and wife make one another their work of art. It is possible to transform as long as we do not harbour ambitions to reform our partner. There must be no coercion if the Spirit is to flow; each must give the other space and freedom. Chaucer, the London poet, sums it up in a pithy phrase:

“Whan maistrie [mastery] comth, the God of Love anon,

Beteth his wynges, and farewell, he is gon.”

As the reality of God has faded from so many lives in the West, there has been a corresponding inflation of expectations that personal relations alone will supply meaning and happiness in life. This is to load our partner with too great a burden. We are all incomplete: we all need the love which is secure, rather than oppressive, we need mutual forgiveness, to thrive.

As we move towards our partner in love, following the example of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is quickened within us and can increasingly fill our lives with light. This leads to a family life which offers the best conditions in which the next generation can practise and exchange those gifts which can overcome fear and division and incubate the coming world of the Spirit, whose fruits are love and joy and peace.

I pray that all of us present and the many millions watching this ceremony and sharing in your joy today, will do everything in our power to support and uphold you in your new life. And I pray that God will bless you in the way of life that you have chosen, that way which is expressed in the prayer that you have composed together in preparation for this day:

God our Father, we thank you for our families; for the love that we share and for the joy of our marriage.

In the busyness of each day keep our eyes fixed on what is real and important in life and help us to be generous with our time and love and energy.

Strengthened by our union help us to serve and comfort those who suffer. We ask this in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Amen.


But, sermons aside, of course I also just like how pretty Kate is, and seeing the nun in her Reeboks and the little girl with her mean face! :)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Trouble with Trump?

I like the guy a lot today, and have since the '80s, when I first became aware of him because of the relatively-silly issue of the NYC skating rink not being finished after 6 years, which Trump, once he got involved, subsequently got finished in 4 months.

Here's what happened with the skating rink: "The rink was closed in 1980 for an announced 2-1/2 years of renovations. When the work was not completed by 1986, Donald Trump persuaded Mayor Ed Koch to let him complete the work and he completed the renovations in four months to have it open by the end of the year. Koch initially objected to the proposal but public pressure prompted him to reverse his position.

Wollman Rink is currently operated by the Trump organization, and is today known as the Trump Wollman Skating Rink."

After Trump stepped in to get things done, I was a complete fan of his efficiency. Since then, the man has been bankrupt and not bankrupt, but every time I've seen him speak to the media, I've liked him.

Today: The birther thang: Jesus. Trump sounded completely stupid when he said, re Obama's birth announcement in his local paper, that poor people don't take out "ads" in local papers when their children are born. Mr. Trump, coming from a less privileged class than yours, let me share: Small local papers are desperate for filler. They ALWAYS print birth announcements. My own birth was announced in the Iowa Park, Texas, paper in 1965. No one paid for that, I promise! :)

That said, President Obama did indeed just release his birth certificate for the first time today -- thanks completely to Trump's agitation. My opinion? I'd always assumed that Obama was born in Hawaii. The birth announcement in the local paper solidified that for me. (Not that I'd even thought about it until birthers brought it up.)

After birthers DID bring it up, though, the left-wing went ballistic with accusations of racism: "No President has ever had to deal with this kind of accusation -- what, is it because he's black?" No, um, I think it's because his father was a native of another country, Kenya. I don't know -- has any U.S. president ever had a foreign-born parent? Obama's father was a Kenyan. A Muslim Kenyan who was a visitor to the States as a student. I don't think it's "racist" to initially question whether the only President who has a foreign-born parent is indeed an American citizen. (NOTE: I said "initially": President Obama should have released his official birth certificate years ago, and then all of this Trump brouhaha would have been avoided.)

Stupid birther stuff aside, what I like about Trump is his bringing up of some major economic issues: Our country's outsourcing of jobs, and our sucking up, trade-wise, to China. I haven't heard ANYBODY mention this except Trump. As someone in the publishing industry, I've been a direct victim over the past few years of the trend to outsource publishing work to foreign countries -- the work is done cheaply, but then it comes back shittily done and has to be re-done by Americans. If it's happened to me, then it's happened to a million other Americans. That Trump mentions this is a god-send -- It's EXTREMELY important to the lives of millions of Americans. As is the concept of not giving China trade deals and tax breaks to the detriment of ordinary Americans. (International companies, on the other hand? They're all about China and cheap labor and outsourcing and making any sort of buck. They don't give a shit about American workers. If Trump is for real about criticizing those companies and their practices, then I'm ALL for him. Obama-the-so-called-liberal, on the other hand, hasn't done a THING to help American workers. He's rescued big banks and big corporations, but he hasn't done a thing to help regular people.)

p.s. Trump's mention in his press conference today RE how Obama got accepted to Harvard: Obama himself wrote in one of his two books (I've read both, but can't remember right now in which one that he mentioned his grade deficiencies) that his grades at Columbia University were bad. How then DID he subsequently get into Harvard Law? Probably, honestly, 'cause he was black. How did he get elected President? Probably, honestly, 'cause he was black. He didn't have the qualifications, but he sounded great when he spoke. And it was time to make a statement. And so now here he is. (As the now-dead Geraldine Ferraro mentioned during the 2008 campaign, a white man with Obama's lack of qualifications would never have been considered for the presidency.)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My Teenage Heart / Inside a Broken Dream

In 8th grade (age 13), our English teacher asked us to turn in a poem. I wrote out the Bay City Rollers' "Inside a Broken Dream," which I'd just discovered the summer of '78 before in Germany, from their "It's a Game" album:

Turn the pages of a broken dream
Smiling faces, have they ever seen
Empty hallways, will they ever end
The fool again

Masquerading in a hyper dream
(It's a sad affair)
Fading shadows talk of their machine
(Is it really there)
Through the haze another cigarette
So much to say, and to forget

Inside a broken dream I cry
(we don't think he can take it)
Is love the reason why?
Inside an empty room I stare
(we don't think he can make it)
At love that is not there

Life begins with your head in the dark
(looking out, looking in)
The chord of life reveals the final spark
(Now we can begin)
Takes you nowhere then nowhere takes you back again


Sunday, April 24, 2011

When I stay up 'til 7am...

...that means no one's putting me to bed early. No one should ever have to go to bed before they're actually tired.

From The Asteroids' Heineken ad


Facebook, Facebook:

"Clothes ironed for church, angel food cake in the oven for Easter breakfast, can't wait to praise the Lord with song and bell choir tomorrow at church. Thank you Jesus for being my Savior. Happy Easter everyone!"

And then the response to the above: "Can't wait to call you at midnight!! The Lord is Risen!!!! Blasting out to Glorious Day by casting crowns!! Praise God the Lord is Risen!!"

OK, so while looking forward to blasting out!!/casting crowns!! sounds a lot more exciting than the depressive/depressing bemoaning of a lost small-town love circa 1984... In reality, do all of you cultist Christians REALLY believe that Jesus was a Party Boy? Really? Jesus Christ, from everything that you've read about him, might REALLY like the idea of this kind of WOO-WOO "clothes-ironed" celebration of his made-up rising from the grave (most likely, the man's body was stolen by grave-robbers)? Jesus H. Christ.

His teachings and his death had nothing to do with ironed clothes or "angel-food" (get it?) cake or bell choirs... GODdammit, you cultist simpletons. You might as well just be following David Koresh or somebody. (Which you'd have done in a second if Koresh had had more than a handful of followers. You follow the dead Christ because that's what the majority of your fellow Americans do in the time that you were born. It has nothing to do with Jesus himself, whose words you've almost probably never actually read unless they happened to have been chanted monolithically during repetitive church services.)

Why does everything have to be such a shallow scam? Jesus was completely true to his beliefs, and he died a horrible death for them. Jesus Christ's life was HARD. Until you've dared to be an outcast like he was, then don't pretend to know and/or worship him just by ironing your clothes and baking a cake in honor of his fake rising.

The Power of Positive Thinking

It works as a party trick, but it doesn't on a deep level.

With Easter coming tomorrow (today), I was just thinking back to, oh,'84, or so... Home from college for the long Easter weekend and with nothing to do, I'd shown up uninvited Saturday at a high-school play acted in by my "estranged best friend"'s new best friend. My "friend" and I hadn't had a fight or anything, but she'd been telling me in letters about this great new girl at school... So I showed up at the play ("Man in the Moon Marigolds"); my friend freaked out and ignored me at first, then finally invited me to join her and HER friend and cast members for pizza. AWKWARD. Since I was still hanging around, she politely invited me and her friend over to her house. Her friend soon had to go home. G. and I sat and talked stiffly for about another hour or so. Finally, out of pure politeness, she asked if I wanted to spend the night. The vibes were so non-existent, I said no and left. Once home, though, stayed up 'til dawn, wrote a pretty Easter poem that attempted to rearrange the awkward vibes of the night before. Part of it I still remember by heart:

Sunday morning silver floods the room
with all the goodness I can muster
and I say goodbye to past infractions, impurities,
the vapid ash of what has cornered my faith.

I thought at the time that I could, by channeling, somehow magically reconfigure and/or charm the lost relationship into something special again. I could not. I had pretty thoughts in my head and pretty words on paper, but the thing itself had already disappeared. (I was soul-sick over that girl up until '88 or so. Her loss clouded what should have been fun years at college.)

So that's my Easter memory at the moment. But thinking about that also made me think of the "philosophy" of "the power of positive thinking." I most recently employed said philosophy while in New York/Weehawken; I was truly grateful for being there, for the beauty and good vibes of the place. I said so all the time (both out loud and to myself and to "God"). And I tried and tried and tried to stay there, up until the very last second. According to the positive thinking creed, and combined with personal effort, that should have been enough! Nope.

Along those lines, here's another similar trick I tried a few times that DID work as far as actually changing my mood (not my circumstances, just my mood):

(1) When I was six, I had a babysitter on some days; she and I were both told that I could not go across a busy street to the playground by myself; she had to go with me. One day, I asked her if I could go by myself. She said yes, and I did. When I came home, my parents were already there for some reason, along with the babysitter. Where had I been? At the playground. By yourself? Yes. We told you not to go without ---; why did you disobey us? [While the babysitter had indeed told me to go ahead, I didn't tell my parents this. Not to protect her, but because, perversely, I was kind of curious to see what was going to happen.] I dunno. [I got a spanking, the very idea of which usually terrified me as a kid, but in this case it didn't because I was in a weird "Hmmm...let's see what will happen" state of mind. I for some reason was completely disassociated from that punishment.]

(2) When I was in junior high, my parents were being punitive (as was their wont). Whatever minor thing I'd done, I was being sent to bed early. Usually, the norm was that I'd argue and moan and stomp off to bed at the last minute before the "deadline," feeling hated and hateful, just bad vibes all around. This time, though, I -- an hour ahead of the early bedtime -- drew a warm bath, soaked leisurely, got in my pajamas, went out to bid them a pleasant guten nacht before walking calmly to my room and turning out the lights. The looks on their faces! I didn't do all that to mess with them, but, again, had just intentionally experimented with being in a particular state of mind...

(3) While at grad school in SF in the mid-90s, missing a married man I'd been seeing in Austin who was barely/very rarely communicating with me, I was walking across campus feeling horribly lost and lonely, and then thought I'd pull the trick again, imagining that I was just now seeing him walking up to me... The flood of serotonin, or whatever pleasure-inducing internal chemical it was, was bizarrely effective; my mood changed immediately.

Knowing that I can conjure up such good feelings, why then don't I try to do so more often? Eh, because it's fake. In the above cases, I hated my parents, I didn't like the absent lover for leading me on. I'm kind of a purist, and I'm not one in general for pretending to feel things that I don't feel. Doing The Trick felt/feels somehow like cheating. Denying the reality of the situation.

On the other hand, wishing desperately for the love of my high-school friend and for NYC/Weehawken was The Real Thing. The poems and prayers, however agitated, were deep and true. And, ultimately, much less effective!

While neither The Real nor The Trick ever actually get me the outcome I want, at least with The Trick, I feel momentarily better!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Lament (I and II)

Both for S. on Friday. With respect for her feelings, but not for the worthless dick who inspired them.

Lament (I) by Anne Sexton

Someone is dead.
Even the trees know it,
those poor old dancers who come on lewdly,
all pea-green scarfs and spine pole.
I think...
I think I could have stopped it,
if I'd been firm as a nurse
or noticed the neck of the driver
as he cheated the crosstown lights;
or later in the evening,
if I'd held my napkin over my mouth.
I think I could...
if I'd been different, or wise, or calm,
I think I could have charmed the table,
the stained dish or the hand of the dealer.
But it's done.
It's all used up.
There's no doubt about the trees
spreading their thin feet into the dry grass.
A Canada goose rides up,
spread out like a gray suede shirt,
honking his nose into the March wind.
In the entryway a cat breathes calmly
into her watery blue fur.
The supper dishes are over and the sun
unaccustomed to anything else
goes all the way down.


Lament (II) by Rainer Maria Rilke

Everything is far
and long gone by.
I think that the star
glittering above me
has been dead for a million years.
I think there were tears
in the car I heard pass
and something terrible was said.
A clock has stopped striking in the house
across the road...
When did it start?...
I would like to step out of my heart
and go walking beneath the enormous sky.
I would like to pray.
And surely of all the stars that perished
long ago,
one still exists.
I think that I know
which one it is --
which one, at the end of its beam in the sky,
stands like a white city...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Beatles at Shea Stadium, 1965

From the clip's interviews with sincere teens at the show:
"The Beatles bring joy to the world."
"We forget our cares when we hear Beatle records."

Exactly! I don't know how to explain it, but the Beatles just give off VERY good vibes. In their early years, their joy is contagious. In their later, sadder years, even when they're exploring dark stuff, they EXPLORE it... they never lose themselves in hate and fear -- they (John particularly) delve into it, but they don't ever give in to it...

"Baby's in Black" lyrics for S.

Oh dear, what can I do?
Baby's in black and I'm feeling blue,
Tell me, oh what can I do?

She thinks of him and so she dresses in black,
And though he'll never come back, she's dressed in black.

Oh dear, what can I do?
Baby's in black and I'm feeling blue,
Tell me, oh what can I do?

I think of her, but she thinks only of him,
And though it's only a whim, she thinks of him.
Oh how long will it take,
Till she sees the mistake she has made?

Oh dear, what can I do?
Baby's in black and I'm feeling blue,
Tell me, oh what can I do?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Please Mr. Postman

OK, for real, I was fully expecting at least one of the three possible freelance checks to arrive today (Monday). Which meant one main thing to me: I could at last buy CIGARETTES!

When I woke up Sunday, I had no beer and only 7 cigs to last me 'til Monday. With that in mind, I did only productive things all day -- finally doing my own taxes (as opposed to begging my mom for help with them) and walking them to the mailbox down the street so they'd go out by deadline Monday; washing all dishes; hand-washing bras and shirts; finally reading the Stieg Larsson book that's been hanging around for two weeks. Since the majority of the day/night, after the stress of the taxes, was spent in bed reading (rather than on the Internet, which always gets me hyped up), I didn't really crave cigs THAT much and so was able to ration without going absolutely nuts. Plus, I had the end in sight: Monday, and the mail with check(s) would come, and then all would be well.

I woke up Monday at 9:30 a.m. with 2 cigs and a huge knot in my stomach. I had one of the cigs after breakfast while waiting for a phone interview at 10 a.m. The sick stomach was not only nerves about the lack of cigs and the impending interview but also nerves that my phone service might have been cut off over the weekend for overdue payment. (I'd gotten 3 or 4 reminder-calls from the company in the past week. I had no idea when they'd finally pull the plug. Just my luck that it would be before the phone interview! And how would I explain THAT to the interviewer?) 10 a.m. on the dot: Nothing. 10:01,10:02,10:03--RINNGGGGGGGG! WHEW! :)

When the interview was over @ 10:30, I showered and dressed, in anticipation of finding checks in my mailbox and immediately going to the bank to get cash and then going to the store. By then it was 11 a.m. The mail here usually comes anywhere between 11 and 11:45. I didn't want to go down right at 11, since if the mailbox were empty, I'd be upset, even if it was empty only because it was too early. Wait. Wait. Wait. Finally at 11:26 I couldn't stand it any more. I had to check. When I went down the stairs, the USPS car was parked in the parking lot, with the mailman in it. I went to my mailbox: NOTHING.

I felt sick to my stomach as I trudged back upstairs. I sat on my bed pondering the one last cigarette: What in the world to do? Call my mother and ask to borrow $10? No way in hell. After her huge nice gesture of buying me groceries and lending me rent money last week, there was NO WAY I could ask for anything else from her so soon. (I think I need to wait another year or so before I dare ask for another favor.) Pawn something? The only thing of value I have to pawn is my dead aunt's diamond ring that my mother had given me. Huh? I was REALLY considering pawning an heirloom ring just to get cigarettes??

After even briefly considering pawning the ring, I got very mad at myself and started working desperately to get into a non-addict frame of mind: "If the checks aren't here today, they'll be here tomorrow. Just one more day. Just stay in bed again and read. Lie there and watch TV. Don't get on the Internet. Be calm. You've got food to eat. You don't need cigarettes. Didn't you feel better health-wise when you got up today after not drinking or smoking much the day before? Yes, you did. It's better for you not to smoke. Maybe this'll be the impetus to stop smoking for good since you'll know you can go without. You didn't have that many yesterday anyway. Remember that time in 1992 when you didn't smoke for 2 days? That wasn't so horrible. Think of all the money you'll save. Deep breaths. Come on, now. Be cool. You're just going to read a lot today, that's all. Read and eat. It'll be fine."

One last flicker of hope: Had the mailman been sitting there PRE-mail or POST-mail? PRE or POST? PRE or POST???!!!!!!!! I sat there staring at the clock. When should I go back down and check one last time? And what about the one last cigarette? Should I save it for some point in the next 24 hours or just go ahead and have it now, and then be completely cold turkey 'til Tuesday? I smoked it and then sat and watched and watched the clock.

At 11:42 a.m., I ventured back out. The mailman was still there; out of car this time, and from the second floor I could hear him clanking around the group mailboxes. (That's a good sign. That's a good sign. That's a good sign.) I stood leaning over the railing, waiting for him to leave... Clank, clank, clank. Clank. I smiled and awkwardly nodded "Hi" to various neighbors coming in and out of their apartments while I was leaning over the railing. (Some said "Hi" back, some just looked at me funny for standing there.) Mr. Postman finished up and got in his car. And then sat there fiddling with his...GPS, I think it was. OK, I'm not going down to check until he leaves. Sit. Sit. Sit. (Leave please, mister. Leave, leave. LEAVE GODDAMMIT!)

He finally pulled off. I went down. Absolutely sick to my stomach. Opened the box... Checks. Plural CHECKS. THREE CHECKS. THREE CHECKS FOR A TOTAL OF $1600. $1600 meaning only two things: Bank and smokes, bank and smokes, bank and smokes.

All the way to the bank, still not allowing myself to relax, a drumbeat of unnecessary nutty: "What if the two dollar bills that I saved for my bus fare on this happy day are counterfeit and they won't go through the fare machine? What if the bank is closed for some random holiday? What if the teller won't give me any cash back from my deposit and I can't buy anything 'til Tuesday?"

Um, the bus took my dollars, the bank gave me cash. :) What a day, what a stupid 12-hour day in the fuckin' life:

I am completely drained, both emotionally and psychically. All over a $6 pack of smokes! As of 11 a.m. this morning, I did not have $6 to my name. How Dully Precarious. (The evil twin of Truly Scrumptious.)

Sunday, April 17, 2011


baroque [Fr, orig., "irregular"]

This is the "baroquest" I've been since 1996! When I got up today, I had exactly $2.58 in the bank and $10 in my wallet, plus a margarine container of pennies, nickels, and dimes. Oh, and a laundry-quarters "stash" of...$1.

I've got two freelance checks overdue. Each should have arrived last week, but for the fuck-ups of the companies. (I was so frustrated and mad about one delay that I finally actually cc'd the president of one company with my e-mail tirade. While I'd been getting the runaround from a lowly staff member, the president himself apologized profusely and took the blame and said he'd have the check mailed out last Thursday. That's the sign of leadership -- he didn't bullshit, he just thanked me for my "being a member of the team," said he was sorry, and said that he'd take care of the matter immediately. As opposed to the lower-level people trying to cover their asses. That said, no one there will probably ever offer me work again, but at this point, I honestly don't give a shit.)

I'm so sick of being a victim of pure incompetence. For some reason, I kept thinking of the scene in "Terms of Endearment" when Shirley MacLaine loses it when the nurse is late giving her daughter her pain medication. Paraphrasing: "All she had to do was wait until 1pm! It's 15 minutes after 1! Where are her pills?! GIVE MY DAUGHTER HER PILLS!!!!" I felt that I'd had to wait the 60 days for the check. Then I was told it was the Friday AFTER the 60 days. I was still patient at that point. But then this past Wednesday I got the message that, oops, the check wasn't mailed out Friday the 8th as it should have been. THAT is when I went all Shirley MacLaine on everyone's ass.

All that said: I jumped out of bed Saturday morn, yes more-than-half expecting to have two different checks in my mailbox (aside from the above, there was another check from another company also nearly a week late) and worrying primarily about how quickly I could get to the bank before it closed at 1pm... ZIP. Mailbox empty.

My dilemma: I had 4 cigarettes left, and 4 beers. Hardly enough to get me through the rest of the weekend before Monday's mail! So I counted out the 10 dollar bills in my wallet. Set aside 2 of them to pay the bus fare to the bank on Monday (when I'm ASSUMING one or two checks will arrive). Raided my 4-quarter laundry stash, and the margarine container of change (putting the dimes and nickels from the latter in a plastic baggie for neatness' sake). Ultimately scrounged up an even $13 to spend on beer and smokes. At the corner store, had to ask the counter-guy beforehand exactly how much a 6-pack of Bud and one pack of cigs would be: $12.99. Yes! My $13 covered it!

Jesus Christ. What am I, 19 years old? Apparently I am, financially! Unable to even come up with timely rent at a one-room place where mainly 19-year-olds (and older slackers) live, and scrounging for change to buy beer and cigs to make my Saturday night! While the checks-delay wasn't my fault, I feel that being so reliant on the arrival of $1000 IS my fault. A 45-year-old shouldn't be so beholden to random companies (and have so nothing in savings) that their incompetence creates such personal havoc.

I need to get my act together, obviously. I'm not 19 any more. While neither parent rescued me financially when I actually was 19, I cannot, at 45, now try to re-enact a 19-year-old self begging for my mother's help. Lost psychically as I may now feel, the fact remains: I'm a grown 45-year-old woman who should be paying her own way. BUCK UP (so to speak!).

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Something Funny for S. (recognize that guy?)

from Robert Lowell's "Skunk Hour " (1959)

...One dark night,
my Tudor Ford climbed the hill's skull;
I watched for love-cars. Lights turned down,
they lay together, hull to hull,
where the graveyard shelves on the town....
My mind's not right.

A car radio bleats,
"Love, O careless Love...." I hear
my ill-spirit sob in each blood cell,
as if my hand were at its throat....
I myself am hell;
nobody's here---

only skunks, that search
in the moonlight for a bite to eat.
They march on their soles up Main Street:
white stripes, moonstruck eyes' red fire
under the chalk-dry and spar spire
of the Trinitarian Church.

I stand on top
of our back steps and breathe the rich air ---
a mother skunk with her column of kittens swills the garbage pail.
She jabs her wedge-head in a cup
of sour cream, drops her ostrich tail,
and will not scare.


I've been reading the 1994 Lowell biography by Paul Mariani. I never liked Lowell much as a person to begin with, and much less after reading the facts (my poem):

He smashes his first wife's face, twice,
drowns their three orange kittens goodbye...

Lowell's "Life Studies" (where "Skunk Hour" is from) is a touchstone for Plath, Sexton, the poetry world in general. And so I re-read it just to get back in touch with what was going on in 1959, pre Everything. There's a lot of extraneous shit in the book, a lot of at-the-time AND latter-day hype, for both the book and the author. But "Life Studies" in general and "Skunk Hour" in particular is TRULY pure and new, a real breakthrough in intimate, psychologically profound language.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Michael Lohan on the Dr. Drew Show

Dr. Drew Pinsky had Michael Lohan on his new show tonight. In which Pinsky said that the now-sober Lohan was a "great role model" and that ex-wife Dina was just "angry." Drew also stuck up for Michael Lohan's recent uninvited visit to his daughter Lindsay's house. After watching the show, I was shocked at Pinsky's utter ignorance. Here's what I posted on his CNN website just now:

I'm disgusted with Pinsky's enabling of Michael Lohan's stalking. If his daughter did not invite him to her house, then why is it OK for him to come over and knock on her doors and peer through her windows? After my parents divorced when I was 12, my father would often drive the 40 miles from his apartment over to the house and do just that: Park up the street, sneak in the back yard, and peer through windows to see what we, the family, were doing in there. It was horrifying and life-scarring to hear that tap at the door after midnight.

Pinsky also said that Michael Lohan was a "great role model" and that he should "reach out to Dina." That's sick. The VERY last thing that abused women, and abused children, who have finally gotten over their emotional connection with their abusers want is to "make nice" with their abusers, just because the abusers want to feel better by saying "sorry."

Almost universally, even after they've gotten sober, the abusers still exhibit the nasty personality traits that the substances only exacerbated: In Michael Lohan's case, he obviously has a control issue. Once he was kicked out of the family, he simply cannot let his attempts at control go. Michael Lohan: Leave your ex-wife alone. Leave your children alone. Pinsky, stop encouraging him. It's obvious that his former wife and children want to leave that ugly part of their lives behind them. Let them move on. Let Michael Lohan move on.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Sic Transit Gloria

Somewhere along the hairpins and curves
No last-minute swerve toward mercy

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

This is one of the best movies I've ever seen! Weird and interesting. Here's one scene in the film that I've always remembered. (The dad's kids have been kidnapped by an evil child-hating monarch, and the dad and girlfriend Truly infiltrate the kingdom to try to rescue the kids...) I can't get over how extremely creative this is!

Friday, April 08, 2011

In praise of Duty

Good lord, but I'm grateful for my mother! There is often tension between us when we attempt to communicate about normal, everyday things, but when it gets down to serious matters, she's always there for me.

I think that's somewhat of a Germanic thing: the Sense of Duty. Not a lot of warmth and affection, but rock-solid help when it's needed. Not excessive help, mind you (and an ongoing expectation since childhood that you will not ask for help unless it's absolutely necessary), but help when truly needed. She must've sent me $3000 during my 3 years in NYC/Weehawken, as I struggled to find work there. And she paid my first month's rent/deposit when I got the apartment that I'm in now after moving back to Austin. (Great stress when she refused to co-sign since I didn't have a regular 9-5 job at the time and the apartment managers wanted some proof of income... Admittedly, I hated her for that, since it wasn't clear that I could get ANY apartment without a job or a co-signer...)

Over the past few days, with the eviction threatened by my apartment managers after my freelance paychecks were delayed, I've been a complete nervous wreck, constantly worrying about which check was going to arrive when, what the managers would say or do if I didn't get everything to them by next Tuesday (knowing that all the money arriving by then was just NOT going to happen). I hate asking for help, but today I broke down and asked my mom if she would lend me $200... I started a long explanation: "One check for $450 is going to arrive next Tuesday, but the other one I expected is not coming on time, and the apartment is starting eviction proceedings two weeks after the 10th if all the money's not in, and..."

She just stopped me and asked how much I needed to pay EVERYTHING due right now. And did I need groceries. (I did. Her only caveat: "I'm not paying for any beer, any cigarettes, or any cosmetics!" Deal!) :) She then drove with me to the manager's office and paid what I owed, then took me to the supermarket.

Good lord, what a HUGE psychological weight lifted. Some breathing room. I was in such a negative state. Though I have another project I'm working on now, I neglected it over the past two days, thinking, "What does it matter? I won't get paid for it until Christmas anyway..." (Actually much sooner than Christmas -- the apparently standard 60 days -- but it didn't feel like that. I felt like I was just spinning my wheels uselessly and wanted to give up.)

She IS getting paid EVERYTHING back (except the groceries, her treat) by May 1! I really DO have 5 checks coming in in the next 5 weeks! So I'm not a total bum. But I feel like one when I have to ask for favors. I'm so grateful to her, though, for being nice about this, and for giving me some much-needed psychological relief for the next 2 weeks while I wait for what I've actually earned to start trickling in.

Something to be said for Sense of Duty and Character, those usually much-under-appreciated stalwart traits. Not glamorous like "Love," but they're also sure, not fickle. What remains when all else is gone.


Addendum: Funny, I just got my e-mail horoscope from, about "modest" people (I'm decidedly, sometimes ashamedly, not one; my mother is):

Your horoscope for April 9, 2011
Modernism isn't always what we believe it is, STEPHANIE. It often happens that it is the people who are rather modest, who don't give a thought to trying to "be modern," who force the most progress in the world. They simply go through life doing as they see fit. On the other hand, notice to what extent the modern world sometimes resembles the past. It would benefit you to think about this today.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Anne Sexton, 1974, on the husband she'd just divorced after 25 years

"I had a pal; I had my freedom; I had, oh, you could name so many things. I had the father that never loved me, loving me. I didn't have children (it was a while before we had children, because we had eloped at nineteen). We were children together, playing house. What else could you say?"


And then this earlier excerpt from a poem:

"I am surprised to see
that the ocean is still going on.
Now I am going back
and I have ripped my hand
from your hand as I said I would
and I have made it this far
as I said I would
and I am on the top deck now
holding my wallet, my cigarettes
and my car keys
at 2 o'clock on a Tuesday
in August of 1960."

Money Honey

Geez, but lack of is a complete drain.

I've been living sparsely for the past month, highly anticipating the day when my first check from the huge February freelance project would arrive. Contract said "60 days 'til check" (I counted the days: April 5 was "60."). Well, turned out it was 60 days, then the first Friday after the 60 days, then the time it would take to cut and mail the check after that Friday, blah-blah-blah. It's just mind-deadening. In the meantime, my cheap apartment says they'll start the eviction process if I can't come up with rent by April 15th. This after I've paid my rent religiously on the 1st of every month for the past 9 months. I've NEVER been late until now.

Why is everything such a goddamn corporate hassle? (1) Pay me the goddamn money I'm owed within (not AFTER) the 60 days written in the contract. (Why 60 days anyway? Regular employees get paid every week, bi-weekly, or monthly.) And, (2) If I've paid rent on time for 9 months straight, why pull the "eviction card" on me when there's the first glitch? And when I've immediately come to you explaining the situation (rather than just silently not paying until notices started stacking up). Give me a fucking break.

Jesus Christ, the stress.

Ironically, I've been busy as hell work-wise for the past week (for a different company)... Pay date? 60 days from whenever!

I used to condemn women for seeking out Sugar Daddies... I'm starting to see why that's an attractive option!

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Citizenship Test


In March, Newsweek/The Daily Beast published a 20-question test taken from the actual citizenship test given to foreigners wanting to become US citizens. Getting 60% right is passing.

In a survey, 38% of (native-born) Americans FAILED the test.

Me, I got 100% right! The only one I was hesitant about was the Amendment question. (Call me crazy, but I "visualized" the exact answer to that one.) My mom read the test to me out of Newsweek at her house; while I was whooping and hollering afterwards about getting every damn thing correct, she said, "OK, OK! We all know you're smart." Me: "If only EMPLOYERS knew that!" :)

Book Smart

Last night I had a dream that I was back shelving books at the university library that I used to work at. When I woke up today, I really felt like going to the library! And so I did (the city one, though). It was the perfect thing to do on a Saturday with no money.

The main branch is located downtown. The bus there stops right across the street from my apartment; it takes about 15 minutes to get downtown, plus a 5-minute walk once I arrive. Perfect! It's funny, I was never really aware of downtown Austin in the DAYTIME when I lived here for over 20 years before. Going out at night, yes, but not in the day. (My former workplaces were either the university or driving 20 miles North or South. There was never really any reason to go downtown in the daytime.) It's really pretty around Congress Ave. Lots of shops, outdoor cafes, benches everywhere, people roaming about.

As for the main library: Before this spring, I think I'd been there maybe ONCE since 1983! Up until 2000, when I quit, I always had access to the university library (which has something like 6 million books -- one of the biggest in the country). And from 2000 to 2007, when I moved to NYC, I don't know WHAT I was doing for reading material... probably just buying from Amazon and eBay. That's a pretty long stretch of not going to a library! (In NYC and then Weehawken, I did have library cards for both, but checked out maybe 10 books in 3 years. Too busy sightseeing, looking for work, and crying, I suppose!)

Anyway, I'm now in love with the main Austin library! As mentioned, the bus trip and scenery are both pleasant. And the atmosphere in there is a nice one: It's quiet, stuff is shelved where it's supposed to be, the staff has been uniformly nice and helpful. (I also get a weird sense of calm when I watch the shelvers there... If you're not anal like me, then you will never know how good it feels to get those books re-shelved in the proper place! I'm actually considering applying for a part-time job there, under 10 hours a week -- shelving might bring peace, but only when done in small increments. After that, it gets mind-numbingly dull and you have to keep stopping to read to break up the tedium.)

I feel content the whole time I'm there -- plus, at the end, I come home with a treasure-trove of stuff... FOR FREE! It's like shopping, when you feel like you're selecting things that are somehow the Very Essence of You, but... FOR FREE!

After reading lots of Anne Sexton-stuff lately, and a bio of Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell kept coming up. (His "Life Studies" initially influenced Sexton, and he was a longtime friend of Bishop's.) While I'd read "Life Studies" maybe 25 years ago, it was time to re-read, plus learn more about his life (the only things I already knew were that he came from a good family, held the workshop where Plath and Sexton met, and had multiple manic-depressive episodes). And then I've been hearing a lot about recently deceased author Stieg Larsson lately (but have never read him), so got "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and a new bio. The one Joan Crawford bio I've never read, by Charlotte Chandler, came out a couple of years ago -- from the reviews, it sounded run-of-the-mill, so I never bothered buying it... but, thanks to the library, I can now READ it! Oh, and then there's Liz-and-Dick! (Note from the photo which book of all of these I immediately started reading once I got home!) :)

Friday, April 01, 2011

I know all this and more

Take your hat off, boy, when you're talking to me.

This old man I've talked about
Broke his own heart,
Poured it in the ground.
Big red tree grew up and out,
Throws up its leaves,
Spins round and round.
I know all this and more.
So take your hat off
When you're talking to me
And be there when I feed the tree.

This little squirrel I used to be
Slammed her bike down the stairs.
They put silver where her teeth had been.
Baby silvertooth, she grins and grins.
I know all this and more.
So take your hat off boy
When you're talking to me...

This old man I used to be
Spins around, around, around the tree.
Silver baby come to me.
I'll only hurt you in my dreams...

---Belly, "Feed the Tree" (1993)


One day, I want this image, life-size, in the entranceway of my home:

"Welcome, motherfuckers!"
"Here there be dragons."
"Enter at your own risk."
"Arbeit macht frei."

Your pick!