Sunday, June 30, 2013

Daytime Nighttime Suffering

(Paul McCartney, 1979)

What does she get for all the love she gave you
There on the ladder of regrets?

Tug of War (whole album)

Since I first bought "Tug of War" in 1982 (when I was a senior in high school), it has constantly been one of my favorite albums to listen to (wow...I've been listening to a particular album FOR 30 YEARS!). Kind of odd, since about half the songs are filler (but filler so well done that it doesn't at all detract from the other half of the REALLY GOOD songs; that's the thing about McCartney: he's not always stretching himself, but he's almost always good and listenable even when being lazy).

It's the first album that McCartney released after the 1980 death of John Lennon, and "Here Today" is specifically about John. (My favorite song sequence on the album is this 4-song run: Here Today, Ballroom Dancing, The Pound Is Sinking, Wanderlust.)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What a day!

Between this and Senator Wendy Davis's filibustering heroics last night before the Texas legislature...What a sane, happy day! :) 

(RE Davis: This is the second time I've missed a major news event out of the capitol building in Austin while I lived here -- the first was back in 2000, the awaiting of the Bush/Gore election results.)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

On Depression (and Lawson and Brosh)

After not having a lick of work for the past 5 weeks (and not speaking to S for the same amount of time), I was again sinking into the murky emotional mess I'd not been in since 2 summers ago. I'm still not speaking with S, but at least this week I got a work assignment that will last 'til the end of August, thus alleviating the financial fears that were starting to overwhelm me (though I still have a few thousand in the bank saved up from the big freelance work year in 2012, the money was dwindling, with nothing else coming in; having stuff coming in again is a great mental relief).

And--oh, the irony--now that I'm back at work, I STILL have plenty of time to kill! But this time while getting paid (and with permission from my boss to surf in down-time). So I was catching up on one of my favorite blogs (actually, it's the ONLY blog I read regularly)--"The Bloggess" by Jenny Lawson. Someone needs to hire this woman to write a sit-com. For instance (and this isn't even near her best stuff, just stuff easy to find from the past week):

Conversations with Victor (June 23):
me:  I think if I found myself in a scary movie I’d go hang out at a retirement home. Elderly people almost never get targeted by movie-based serial killers. And even if the ghost/axe murderer/whatever showed up at the old-folks-home I’d still be way faster than most of the non-ambulatory people. Plus, they’ve already lived their lives so when they selflessly said, “JUST GO ON WITHOUT ME, I’M SLOWING YOU DOWN” I could totally desert them without having too much survivor’s guilt.

Victor:  Huh.

me: And if I got tired of running I could just steal one of those electric wheelchairs and then I wouldn’t lose my breath and also I wouldn’t trip, which is basically how everyone dies in horror films.

Victor: You’d be fucked if there were stairs though.

me: I’m not sure I’d want to survive if running up a bunch of stairs was involved. I think if I had to run up a ton of stairs I’d probably just say “Fuck it” and just wait for the serial killer.

Victor:  Wow.  That’s…incredibly lazy.

me:  And retirement homes probably have lots of morphine around, so if I thought I was going to get murdered I could just get really high and then I probably wouldn’t even feel being stabbed. Some ghost could crawl out of the tv and scary-shuffle toward me and instead of being terrified I’d just be like “Oh my God…I am SO HIGH.”

Victor: I think you’ve thought too much about this.

me: It’s called “emergency preparedness,” Victor.
And then there's her 6/17 meditation on Flag Day and the painting "The Birth of Old Glory." Etc. etc. She makes me laugh at lot. But, as I've learned from reading her for about a year now, she also suffers from severe depression. Recently, too. Here's a 6/13 entry:

I'm coming out of this. Eventually.

And in a 5/9 entry, Lawson writes: 

Three things that made a week full of rotten wood and crying in the closet turn around completely for me:
...3. Finding out that my fucking amazing friend, Allie Brosh, is back from the dark side. She’s one of the people in my life that truly gets what it’s like to be trapped in a full-on, completely-detached-from-reality depression and survive, plus she did it for about 87 years (in depression years) and that gives me such hope that even when it feels like my mind will never snap back…it always will. Probably. Now stop whatever you are doing and go read her blog.

So of course I had to do so. Brosh's "Depression Part Two" cartoon-essay was insightful and subtle and profound (truly pure, original writing/drawing and thinking). "Yes, YES, that's EXACTLY how I've felt!" I was saying to myself through maybe 2/3 of it. But then I also WASN'T saying that for the other 1/3. Parts like this:

"It's weird for people who still have feelings to be around depressed people. They try to help you have feelings again so things can go back to normal, and it's frustrating for them when that doesn't happen. From their perspective, it seems like there has got to be some untapped source of happiness within you that you've simply lost track of, and if you could just see how beautiful things are... [A cartoon interspersed here of an inane blonde, chatty friend on a couch saying: "You should do yoga while watching the sunrise. It's literally impossible to feel negative and sad while appreciating the wonder of the universe."] But people want to help. So they try harder to make you feel hopeful and positive about the situation. You explain it again, hoping they'll try a less hope-centric approach, but re-explaining your total inability to experience joy inevitably sounds kind of negative; like maybe you WANT to be depressed. The positivity starts coming out in a spray — a giant, desperate happiness sprinkler pointed directly at your face...."

Maybe passages like that bugged me because I could see myself as the inane friend as well as the depressed person. In my own case, I HAVE no "inane friend" trying to get me out of any funk. I wish I did. Nobody cares or notices if I'm in a deeply low state. In my own case, I have to do any sort of pumping up for myself. Yes, finding that "untapped source of happiness within" that I've "simply lost track of." Like re-connecting with a Joan Crawford performance that I used to love 20 years ago but hadn't watched since and discovering 2 or 3 new things about her. Like re-reading Anne Sexton's poems or bios and discovering 2 or 3 new things about her. Like seeing an online photo of Tennessee Williams in his 50s riding a bicycle with a big grin on his face and thinking, "I think I know his major work on the surface, but...what in the world is it about him that makes him look that cute and happy here?" and then trying to figure it out...

One other "trick" I did during a long-term horrible spell back in the early '90s was...picking up every penny I saw on the ground and taking them home to put in a jar. Little stupid, useless, foot-crunched bits of hope. Another "trick" I did, while living in Weehawken during the tail-end of my big, rapidly failing "NYC Adventure" after Gracie had died and I couldn't find work: Walking the 4 minutes to the Hudson and looking at the outrageous beauty and glamour of the New York City skyline from across the river. And being wowed by it every time, to the point of TALKING to it (a skyline!): "GodDAMN, you are beautiful! Thank you, God, for letting me see this." (I talked like this in the fall to the TREES up north, too; oh, and occasionally to the snow, and to the blocks of ice floating on the Hudson!) :)

So, yeah, to answer Brosh's mockery of whatever "untapped source of happiness": I refuse to believe that any person has NO internal "source of happiness" that they can tap into when things are at their worst. Of COURSE things are often awful in a person's life. Of COURSE there's often a chemical, metabolic imbalance that contributes to the depression. Of COURSE people often self-medicate (often with a psychiatrist's prescriptions), which makes interactions with others worse, not better. Trust me, I know first-hand. But I also found the below from Brosh's essay to be, almost simply, somewhat of a failure of perspective: a failure to acknowledge ageing and decline, a failure to acknowledge change:

"But as I grew older, it became harder and harder to access that expansive imaginary space that made my toys fun. I remember looking at them and feeling sort of frustrated and confused that things weren't the same. I played out all the same story lines that had been fun before, but the meaning had disappeared. Horse's Big Space Adventure transformed into holding a plastic horse in the air, hoping it would somehow be enjoyable for me. Prehistoric Crazy-Bus Death Ride was just smashing a toy bus full of dinosaurs into the wall while feeling sort of bored and unfulfilled. I could no longer connect to my toys in a way that allowed me to participate in the experience. Depression feels almost exactly like that, except about everything."

I, too, used to feel wonderment when I played with my toys as a child. I also used to feel wonderment at Santa Claus, at the Easter Bunny, at the Tooth Fairy. I'm not being facetious or sarcastic. These things were all extremely magical and pleasure-inducing while they lasted. But they don't last. What do you do then, when you're 7 or 8? Similarly, later in life... What do you do when a relationship fails (either outright, or a fading away because of disenchantment? notice the "enchant/chant" root). Or worse, what do you do when, while still either in your Santa or your "my prince will come" phase, a person with more power than you is abusive? "It can't be. It can't be. I want my toys. I want my Santa. I want my Daddy/Mommy. I want my Prince(ss) Charming."

I've just now reached middle age, but I imagine my next refrain will be: "I want my eyesight! I want my health." And, when I'm finally old: "I want my life!" My point being: "You lose things constantly, and you always have and you always will. Starting, perhaps, with the magical feeling you had while playing with your toys, Allie Brosh! You -- we all -- pretty much have to just get used to it and work around it. For real."

I wanted to end my spiel right there, but something else about both Jenny Lawson and Allie Brosh occurs to me: They both -- according to their own blogs -- have very little to do all day other than peter around on the Internet. Neither work. (Lawson has a husband who pays her bills; Brosh has a longtime boyfriend she lives with, though I'm not sure if he supports her or if she has family money.) I wonder if this kind of self-enforced personal helplessness contributes to their depression. Myself -- I absolutely HATE having to rely on anyone else to support me. (Which contributes to my own depression when I'm not bringing in any money; which led me to a near-breakdown when I was forced to live with my mother for 3 months in 2010.) But that's such a surface thing with me that I know exactly what's going on mentally and why I'm upset. These two, on the other hand, seem to have gone straight from their childhood families to an equally financially helpless situation with their mates (a la women's forced situations for centuries up 'til 1960s Women's Lib and the media gave everyday women a viable option as to what was "acceptable" in everyday life).

While on the Internet surface Lawson and Brosh are brave and wonderful (on the Internet, anyone can be brave and wonderful if they choose that persona), in reality, they're obviously, and painfully, mentally trapped in some way that they're not admitting in their blog posts. (Their posting patterns: "All's fine and dandy! Look how meaningfully and hilariously I interact with my great family and great mate!" And then, all of a sudden... whoosh! They're lying in the closet or on the couch for a week or month, unable to move. Then they DESCRIBE not being able to function...but they fail to explore WHY or HOW they got to that point. Not being able to relate to their toys like they used to? Cute. But that ain't it.)

Advice from JC

"I found that as I resented his attentions to other women, we quarreled about
other things -- never about the true source of my irritation. I couldn't say to
him, 'I'm jealous and I don't want you seeing other women, even though we don't
have an exclusive arrangement.' I couldn't lose my pride to that extent. It
would have been mortifying, humiliating. And it wouldn't have done me any good
because I think any attempt to cage him would have made him feel trapped, and he
would have flown away. He was all grown up and set in his ways.

So, instead, I began to speak sharply to him over something petty that didn't
matter and did not make for a good romantic relationship. Sharp words and
nagging are very bad for sex. I'd caused him to move further away in our
relationship. I don't wonder. I'm surprised he didn't run for cover sooner. I'm
surprised I didn't, but I knew that [     ] didn't grow on trees."

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Devil Drives

In 1987, when I was 22, I bought the above poster (which still hangs on my wall today, at 47) and wrote the below poem for her. For 26 years, this stranger has meant something to me.


The darkness drives me far from where I must be
my knuckles bare in bone-white urgency
clutching the stringent moonlit wheel
that turns, without swerving toward mercy

the sweat-stained fools of late
sip their beer and bet on
who I might be

(There are roads running earthwise
undestined for divergence
stopped stone-cold in tracks that
vanish at some point.

Such things I cannot flee:
the vortex forcing me
toward life without lights
my name on each marquee
the search for an existence
that didn't need to be proven.)

This haunted sky, the moon
I will outlast.

Just ask the garden that once bloomed upright
near my back door, cut by my cold hand
and carted away in night's deadness
by babies oblivious to the pain of thorns.

Ask it what prevails, the bloom or bane
of shears and let the silence be your reply, something
to live with, or not.

Bloody, I await what budding may arise,
fulfilled by a fury purely mine.

That is enough.

There is no leaving me.


The Pill (and other Female Fightin' Songs)

Says someone on YouTube: "This song says more about women's liberation than anything written by Germaine Greer and others." I completely agree.

I was 10 when this song was released in 1975, and even as a kid, I remember everyone in rural Texas talking and talking and talking about it. As they did about the big televised tennis match in '73 between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King. Both a way to introduce feminism to the masses in a good-natured way.

A few years earlier, Loretta had also proved her mettle (and controversy) with other female fightin' songs like "You Ain't Woman Enough to Take My Man" ('66), "Don't Come Home a-Drinkin'" ('67), and "Fist City" ('68).

Nothing I Can Do About It Now

I've got a long list of real good reasons  
For all the things I've done  
I've got a picture in the back of my mind  
Of what I've lost and what I've won
I've survived every situation 

Knowing when to freeze and when to run  
And regret is just a memory written on my brow  
And there's nothing I can do about it now
I've got a wild and a restless spirit 

I held my price through every deal 
I've seen the fire of a woman scorned 
Turn her heart of gold to steel
I've got the song of the voice inside me  

Set to the rhythm of the wheel  
And I've been dreaming like a child since the cradle broke the bow  
And there's nothing I can do about it now
Running through the changes, going through the stages 

Coming round the corners in my life  
Leaving doubt to fate, staying out too late  
Waiting for the moon to say goodnight
And I could cry for the time I've wasted  

But that's a waste of time and tears  
And I know just what I'd change if went back in time somehow  
But there's nothing I can do about it now
Running through the changes going through the stages  

Coming round the corners in my life 
Leaving doubt to fate, staying out too late  
Waiting for the moon to say goodnight
And I could cry for the time I've wasted  

But that's a waste of time and tears  
And I know just what I'd change if went back in time somehow  
But there's nothing I can do about it now  

I'm forgiving everything that forgiveness will allow  
And there's nothing I can do about it now

Your Cold, Cold Heart

I tried so hard my dear to show that you're my every dream
Yet you're afraid each thing I do is just some evil scheme
A memory from your lonesome past keeps us so far apart
Why can't I free your doubtful mind and melt your cold cold heart

Another love before my time made your heart sad and blue
And so my heart is paying now for things I didn't do
In anger unkind words are said that make the teardrops start
Why can't I free your doubtful mind and melt your cold cold heart

You'll never know how much it hurts to see you sit and cry
You know you need and want my love yet you're afraid to try
Why do you run and hide from lies, to try it just ain't smart
Why can't I free your doubtful mind and melt your cold cold heart

There was a time when I believed that you belonged to me
But now I know your heart is shackled to a memory
The more I learn to care for you, the more we drift apart
Why can't I free your doubtful mind and melt your cold cold heart

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Salad Days

Amazing how a phone-call from a temp-agency offering you $11.53 an hour (with the possibility of -- gasp! -- a permanent job at $24,000 per year) can get you out of your funk.

Good lord, my hopes have sunk low. Thank god I still had some pride left -- I said I would do the temp thing for a month or two, but could not accept a $24,000-a-year permanent salary. (I did NOT shriek: "I'm not 22! I have a Master's degree! I used to earn DOUBLE THAT, you sad-sack motherfuckers!")  And I still have to INTERVIEW for this ridiculously-below-me thing later this week.

A fucking joke. But, yeah, being offered SOMETHING did get me out of my funk. Thanks also to the exciting Spurs/Heat Game 6 tonight. I was so energized, I finally packed away my winter sweaters. Oh, and earlier tried to get a salad from the organic place that opened last year just a block away: At the counter, they didn't understand the concept of my wanting a salad. (Despite their "garden" outside, with the show-offy sunflowers and playground for kids of the smug... turned out they were not raising any greens for salads. Except sometimes. Silly me. AKA: WHERE THE FUCK ARE THE DELIS AROUND THIS NEIGHBORHOOD? Is a simple salad, a sandwich, a slice of pizza too much to ask for without any sort of angst? Please.)

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Thousand Miles from Nowhere

p.s. Just Sunday set a personal record for not showering or brushing my teeth or leaving my apartment: 4 days in a row! Woooo! The one embarrassing thing was when a mailman knocked on the door on Saturday to deliver a UPS package too big for the mailbox (my super-exciting $28 dual-clothes hamper from online -- one side for hand-washing, one side for machine!): My hair looked greasy-crazy; my clothes had stains on them; I'm sure I smelled.

I thought the Summer o' 2011 was bad. What's going on now is really bad. (And so soon? I'd thought such bad patches were cyclical. 2011 was about as bad as I thought it could get. I didn't think I'd have to dig down again mentally so soon. I was running on the rims already: The only human "communication" from the television and online; the only physical contact from my hairdresser and the pedicure ladies every six weeks.)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Universe

According to physicists, the universe is composed of:

4.9% ordinary matter (i.e., you and me and the earth, sun, galaxies, etc. Anything that's actually THERE in physical form.)
26.8% dark matter
68.3% dark energy

95.1% of what's out there is NOT physical...  Early people and then societies starting coming up with explanations for what they FELT but couldn't see. And so we got all sorts of deity-systems, up to the present-day "God" (systemized to the umpteenth degree). And we also got all sorts of individual sensing, ranging from seers and shamans, to Freud (whose teachings also quickly became a system), to schizophrenics who think helicopters and/or computers are following them and reading their thoughts.

I don't think the latter are crazy so much as simplistic/dumb, as evidenced by the fact that the technology supposedly "following them" corresponds exactly with the technology of the exact time they're living in -- you'd think if schizophrenics had inside access to the "mind" of the universe, helicopters wouldn't play such a prominent role! I, though, don't blame individual schizophrenics much: If the Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Jews, et al, couldn't, as a whole, get their deity-concept to work logically, no one expects random individuals to do so. It's hard, yo.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Joan Crawford watercolors by K Godfrey

Cost of Living

Just finished reading "Digressions on Some Poems by Frank O'Hara" by his one-time lover/10-year roommate Joe LeSueur. One thing that stood out to me, as always in memoirs about life in NYC in the '50s/'60s, was the rent they paid for a small 2-bedroom apartment on the Lower East Side in 1955: $50 per month. Whenever I see a crazily low price like that, I always tell myself: "Oh, that must be the equivalent of $2000 nowadays." Not so. There's a neat site out there -- the US Inflation Calculator -- that will let you plug in prices from 1913 on to determine what that price would be today. If you paid $50 for an apartment in NYC in 1955, that price today would be...$433.83. (And that's with an inflation rate of 767.7% since 1955.)

Of course, Lower East Side 2-bedrooms ARE going for at least $2000 these days. Which just kills me. If such apartments were indeed $433 (the 1955 equivalent) today, then, yeah, creative people with lowly jobs at bookstores and libraries and restaurants and such (i.e., anything not corporate or government-funded) could still afford to live there. As is, a whole class of people is being denied the wonders of New York. (Me included!) Before I moved there in 2007, I'd heard people bitchin' about, "Oh, it's so expensive!" At the time, I thought ignorantly, "Well, you must have not WANTED it enough!" Or, "Oh, you must have expensive tastes!"

When I was there, I oh-so-WANTED to stay... But at a rent of $1550 (in Weehawken, NJ, across the Hudson, not even any part of Manhattan!), the money I was making at midnight shifts of proofreading -- even at $20 an hour -- wouldn't allow it. Even 50-hour weeks at a minimum-wage bookstore or waitress job (or even stocking groceries) wouldn't have come close to allowing it.

$433.83 a month would have allowed it. It's a shame what's happened. Unless your parents live in the area (whether Queens or further upstate or Long Island, etc.) and you live with them or they're subsidizing you, you can't afford to be a person just starting out there.

p.s. Austin's now a hot place to live, and the rents reflect it. I'm currently paying $650 for a 400-sq-ft one-room apartment in a central location. For fun, I also plugged into the Inflation Calculator the monthly price I paid for the same-size apartment (though a garage apartment in an even more desirable neighborhood) back in 1989: $250. Today's price adjusted for inflation would be $468.81. Unless I break down and get a government/corporate job that I don't particularly want to get, I'm going to also be priced out of not just my dream-location of NYC but also the town I've lived primarily in for the past 30 years. (Not to mention the fact: Who really wants to live in a one-room apartment once you're past the age of 30??)

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Spread + My Favorite Things

From the Outkast album "The Love Below" (the Andre 3000 half):

Spread: My first thought was that this sounded like a Julie London song (written by Burt Bacharach) on crack...maybe it's the hard-core xylophones combined with the hard-core nasty.

My Favorite Things: Coltrane's version ('61) of the Broadway-show version ('59), on speed. In a good way.

The whole album's not quite like these two ("My Favorite Things" is definitely showing off, speed-wise, and it's immediately followed by the gentle acoustic-guitar "Take Off Your Cool" to wind things down a bit), but there's a unifying flow that includes these. The whole thing interesting/surprising to listen to.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

We are all in the gutter...

"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." -- Oscar Wilde


Your horoscope for June 7, 2013
You may get the feeling that someone is trying to rain on your parade, STEPHANIE. It is important for you not to forget who you are at this time. Don't be surprised if you tend to feel a negative pull from someone or something. If this is true, simply step away from the person or situation. It is not your personal responsibility to make everyone happy. Don't bring yourself down as you try to bring others out of the gutter.


Heavy, heavy dream Thursday morning:  The poet Anne Sexton and I were lying on our stomachs on the floor, faces very close to each other, clasping one hand, and talking about where we were going to live. She said that she needed 2 bedrooms "for the grandkids." At first I wondered about an apartment that big, but then I realized: "Why don't you just keep your home in Newton? It's plenty big enough for everybody."

We agreed and then got up from each other. I walked about 10 feet away and then had a horrible thought and looked back at her (dreading to look back): I saw her spirit form going back into her dead body. I woke up then with a start. And spent the next 2 hours or so trying to get back to sleep so I could reach her again. Which I deep-down knew was impossible. She was gone.


Is Sandra gone, dead already? Is she capable of getting out of the Jim (never loved her) / Rod (never loved him) / Daddy (wannabe-playa at the expense of his family) emotional gutter?

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

This Is How You Lose Her

Epigraph (by Sandra Cisneros) for Junot Diaz's short-story collection "This Is How You Lose Her":

Okay, we didn't work, and all
memories to tell you the truth aren't good.
But sometimes there were good times.
Love was good. I loved your crooked sleep
beside me and never dreamed afraid.

There should be stars for great wars
like ours.

I've been out of the loop when it comes to contemporary literature for some time now, aside from being extremely wowed by the occasional New Yorker story (like "Black Box" from Jennifer Egan and George Saunders' "Semplica Girl Diaries"). Junot Diaz's story "The Cheater's Guide to Love" also appeared in the New Yorker last year and I was similarly impressed. But also kind of wary of HIM: A bit too much hype for his "street cred" --- aka, he's a Dominican (that's what passes for "street cred" among New Yorker editors and publicity folks; the guy went to Rutgers and got an MFA from Cornell, for pete's sake); oh, and -- wooo! -- he talks about sex and uses Spanish words in his stories!

I could not give one shit about Diaz's "diversity" (and I also think it completely ridiculous that he received a $500,000 MacArthur "genius grant" in 2012 based only on 2 short-story collections and 1 novel in 16 years); but the story "Cheater's Guide to Love" literally made my heart ache, in a GOOD way. In sections titled from "Year O" to "Year 5," he documents a playa's painful semi-recuperation from a broken relationship. I have nothing at all in common with the narrator's outer characteristics/circumstances of the breakup (established on the first page: the guy, in love with his girlfriend, nevertheless has sex with numerous other women during the span of their 6-year relationship and gets busted when the girlfriend reads the inbox of his e-mail)... but I definitely knew what it was like to be both mentally and physically nauseous with the knowledge that YOU HAVE SOMEHOW FUCKED UP TERRIBLY. I loved the year-by-year breakdown, trying to read clues to various situations of my own from the narrator's progress, or lack of. The ex doesn't physically reappear in the story after "Year O" but she's a mental character until the end--I liked that refusal to give in to any sort of (especially reader) sentiment. The narrator's mental/physical journey after such a huge psychic loss was what was so interesting to me.

The last lines of the story:
...and then one June night you scribble the ex's name and: The half-life of love is forever.
You bust out a couple more things. Then you put your head down.
The next day you look at the new pages. For once you don't want to burn them or give up writing forever.
It's a start, you say to the room.
That's about it. In the months that follow you bend to the work, because it feels like hope, like grace -- and because you know in your lying cheater's heart that sometimes a start is all we ever get.

"Cheater's Guide" appears at the end of Diaz's latest story collection, "This Is How You Lose Her," which came out last year (and which I just finished reading from the library). I wasn't AS blown away with the "wonderment of life" or anything after reading the other stories in the collection, but I did LIKE them a lot. Because the narrator's voice in the stories is so deceptively easy and vernacular, I was initially fooled into thinking that the stories themselves were also rather simple... Not so. There's an intimacy and subtlety in both the physical and mental details of the characters' lives that's profound and beautiful.

And, more shallowly, having lived in Central Jersey for 2 years and being very acquainted with the folks who live/shop/travel along Bergenline bordering Union City (especially after taking a Bergenline bus to work in North Jersey every day for 6 months, an hour each way -- and shopping there on weekends at the multitude of dollar/cheap-clothing stores since I was so poor), I was also excited to completely get references like: "...She's a Bergenline original: short with a big mouth and big hips and dark curly hair you could lose a hand in. Her father's a baker, her mother sells kids' clothes door to door. She might be nobody's pendeja but she's also a forgiving soul." Many of the local references Diaz mentions, I was going mentally: "Hey, I KNOW that place!"

(Funny that a middle-aged white woman from Texas probably knows the area around Bergenline 10 times better than most life-long Manhattanites just across the river!)  Any story that I write, though, might also mention ironically the official city-signs dotting Bergenline every few blocks: "Celebrating Diversity" -- the faces that I saw there were 98% Hispanic.

Kathy Griffin on Jodi Arias

From her special last night. ("Now that we're no longer a couple, you know what would be fun......if you got in the shower and we TAKE SOME PICTURES!")

Bic for Her

"Oh my god, we've been using man-pens all these years!"

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Johnny Guitar, 1954

Bad Run (aka "I'm an idiot")

A bad emotional run for the past two weeks.

On a day-to-day basis, I'm always mentally torn between "tell the truth" and "well, sometimes if you tell the truth, things get ugly -- especially for yourself -- and so just shut up!" (But then I hate bullshit, so I can't stop piping up.)

The bad run started on a Friday two weeks ago, on the last day of my last temp job:

FRIDAY, MAY 17: Went to a close-by Tex-Mex restaurant for lunch, which had usually been a perfectly pleasant/fast place to eat. The waitress this time was harried. Which, of course, I'd normally have patience for. EXCEPT: There were 4 groups in her section; two of the "groups" were single guys who had come in AFTER me. Those guy-tables had their chips/salsa re-filled constantly... I ran out of chips and salsa and I couldn't catch the girl's eye to get more, all the while watching tables around me being fully serviced! At the end of the meal, I asked for a couple of to-go containers and my check... The same type of thing: No containers and check forthcoming, while the waitress was very attentive to the guys in her section. I finally had to get up and go to the main counter and ASK for my check.

SATURDAY, MAY 18: Time for a pedi. Showed up late, around noon, so I knew there'd be waiting time. The weird thing, though: The second I walked in the door, I spotted "the Sylvia Plath woman" (that I've written about here before, from my bus) sitting in a chair... Of course (!) I got seated right next to her. But then my chair, with its poking-out massage implements, hurt my back, and the wait-time with my feet actually in the swirling water went on for another 45 minutes past the first 30 minutes in the non-water waiting area... and being right next to the Sylvia Plath woman was freaky... I got up, wet feet and all, and sloshed out in my flip-flops.

SUNDAY, MAY 19: At a birthday cookout for my 11-year-old nephew's birthday, got into an argument with my sister-in-law about Ted Hughes. She'd recently seen the old movie "Sylvia" and, from it -- and it alone -- deduced that Hughes was a scumbag and that anyone who felt any sympathy for him whatsoever was also a scumbag. (My arguments that I'd studied Plath/Hughes for 30 years/had read every bio about them and so knew a bit more about their situation than she did, and that Hughes had sent me a card praising my poetry, held no sway with her!)

MONDAY, MAY 20: Got the June 1 bill for my apartment rent. A brand-new addition of $8 for "gas" to the bill. (The apartment is electric.) Last month, such a charge had shown up for the first time; when I talked to management about it, the new girl in the front office said it was a billing mistake. This time, though, when I again went in to ask about the charge, the same girl said: "We already contacted you about that..." (They had not!) And another huge argument ensued.

MONDAY NIGHT, MAY 20: Called Sandra. She -- completely immersed in a battle with random stewardesses, et al, for her long-time (now decrepit) lover's money -- completely blew me off. Just now stopped and re-read the above, realized that my irritations were just that -- irritations. Sandra's worry was a bit more serious: While I might think her relationship with her sugar-daddy stupid and phony (she'd been seeing the man for 14 years, had always declined to marry him, had refused to sleep with him for the past several years), it was, nonetheless, a mainstay of her life for the past 14 years: Yeah, he was paying her rent (which I often mocked -- I, on principle, despise anyone who lives off another), but he was also a genuine emotional base for her. And now he's dying. The concern about the stewardesses, et al, is stupid to ME, but -- in the midst of some very real monetary negotiations going on among the man's associates (family, friends, lovers) -- it's not so lightweight to HER. In fact, it's a darn serious matter.

Was I just complaining above about chips and salsa? about a pedi? about a poet's reputation? about an $8 gas bill?

What a complete, simplistic fool I am.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

In the early '40s...

...this Great-Big-Movie-Star for the past 20 years stopped playing Dumb Sexual Schoolgirl for the camera and started confronting it instead: