Thursday, September 29, 2005

I found myself ducking out of the office this afternoon to head downtown and fight the winds. When I was in college and the mean reds had me I would wait until dark and then slip down to the seawall by the Castillo de San Marcos and try to stand against the winds. Now that I am an urban adventurer I tend to fight my reds in the streets, up and down city blocks.
Plans of all sorts have fallen through for the night. My original Thursday plan was to go see Clap Your Hands Say Yeah at the Croc., but I tossed that plan in favor of a girl's night. Only the other day my girl became homesick or boyfriendsick or both and headed to Pennsylvania to rejoin her other half. Sadly, the CYHSY show had sold out. And now I am at home with Neil Gaiman and Minus the Bear and tea, and that's fine, but the only way to get from there to here was to go downtown and put myself in my place.

As I was fighting the wind and trying to lick the rain off my nose I realized that a man had fallen in step with me. We reached the same bus stop and ducked under the same awning, and so I looked up and smiled. The folds around his eyes gave him a concerned air, and in a moment of paranoia I wondered if my edges were showing. He smiled back, and commented on how much of a struggle it had been to make it down the street. I agreed--the winds were heavy and I am light, and as a result I had gone a half step backward for each one forward. (This is pretty much par for the course, these days.) After a little more small talk he introduced himself, reached out to shake my hand, and that was when I realized that he was only in possession of three fingers. His middle and pinkie digits were missing, and as his hand closed over mine I tried to tell the difference. But the pressure of his thumb on my palm was firm and reassuring, and I looked back up at his crinkled eyes and smiled. He smiled back and nodded, and in that moment in the wind we understood each other.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

There was once that you told me about how you hated to hear what other people dreamed about. That night I dreamt that you were roller skating through the dreams of others, hands over your ears, singing songs from Sesame Street. I can only guess at what that means--or, I could if I wanted to--but when I told you the next day you put your hands over your ears again.

I am a shy girl around the people I actually want to talk to. This works out nicely in my professional life where I can be charming and get things done, but after hours I spend a lot of time looking at the ground.

My way home at night is always a little bit treacherous, always a bit of dodging between pools of darkness and hoping that no one is already sleeping in them. It is some amount of hoping that no one wants to make an after-dark snack out of a small girl. My grandmother would scold me if she knew about the places I wander at night.
But it is at night that I glance through windows, look briefly at the scenes behind the glass. I like looking at people as vignettes. But the best part of my walks are the times that I skirt around what are very likely first kisses. They make my sentimental heart go all pitter-patter, and in my head I cheer for the potential for a lifetime of fluttery moments.

And then the lights of my city come into view through houses and across trees, and it is often all I can do not to skip the rest of the way home.

Monday, September 26, 2005

When Ryan was very small, his main concern was sharing with whomever he could get to stand still whatever it was he had in his hand. When he was overtired he would get hot to the touch, a sleepy littleboy furnace.
Eric wanted to make sure that everyone was covered with his blankie if they were sitting on the couch. When he was very sleepy he would suck on the fingers of his right hand backwards.
When I am overtired, I rub my forehead. It pushes back some of the pressure between my skin and my brain.

Being a good sibling does not run in my family, if my father's stories of adolescent knife fights and broken limbs are even partially true. Our family was always more a game of psychic dodgeball than it was anything resembling what was on tv. Maybe that's why I've never really watched it.

I have been on auto-jitter lately, imagining palmetto bugs out of the corner of my eye. On top of that, I have been cultivating a talent at putting myself in awkward situations. Somehow my better judgment has gone on vacation.

My mother called a few days ago to let me know that my cousin, a year older than me, is now pregnant with her fourth child. There is also some story about her ex-husband's girlfriend coming to beat her up while she was pregnant with the last one, but my attention drifted.
She does not, she assures me, want me to worry about catching up. Which is good because the thought had never crossed my mind. I find myself comparing our timelines, my mother's and mine, tracking where she was in her various marriages and the raising of myself when she was my age. I think, "At this time twenty-three years ago, she was two years away from her first divorce." And I realize that twenty-three years ago isn't really that far away, and that my imaginary parallel mom is shortly going to face the betrayal and the lunacy that would shape the rest of her life.
It's really then that I come to admire my mother. All of my own serious wounds have been from my family, who are people that you can't really trust to be on your side anyway. None of them have--yet--come from someone I have chosen to be around.

I apologize. I promise to be big-eyed and full of wonder again soon. It is shaping up to be a lovely fall and there are such good things coming. I have a terrible habit of dwelling on what I can't fix.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

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Steph and I spent the afternoon in Fremont, wandering and drinking beer, and I'm hard pressed to to think of a better way to have spent my Saturday.

Right before the Pale Pacific set, we decided that nachos would be the thing to keep our buzz from overtaking us. But lordy, there were a lot of nachos, and so I was standing in the crowd holding my leftovers when a guy walked past and asked where I got them from. I offered him my leftovers and he accepted. A little while later he wandered back past again with an almost empty plate. No waste here.

The line for the port-a-potties (not Honeybuckets this time) was mostly women because there was a trough for the men somewhere else. But there was a man in line in front of me, and he ducked into an opening door in front of the woman who was meant to go into it. An angry buzz broke out in the line and another woman stepped forward and shook the toilet that he was in.
The moral here is don't get in between women who have to pee and their receptacles.

A relatively unrelated addition to this post, which didn't really fit over there:

The reasons I've seen The Saturday Knights twice in the last month are:
1. Their EP is all red velvet inside.
2. They look like they're having so much fun.
3. They've actually got a guy playing guitar and occasionally keyboards rather than samples of such.
4. It's almost impossible not to start dancing.
5. A cowbell and a tambourine? Do I need anything more in a band?

The reasons I've seen The Pale Pacific twice in the last month are:
1. We keep ending up in the same place.
2. They occasionally get so distracted rocking out that they run into each other, which just cracks me up.
3. Billy Joel cover.
4. "I'm going to stop talking now. I'm so awkward."
5. Super cute. The bass player is my favorite, but they're all really fun to look at.
At around 6 am, just when it's starting to think about getting light outside, the Space Needle comes into high relief. It looks painted on, like someone has propped up a neoned poster outside my window.

Hey, you guys in Texas? Cat, Craig, and Bill? Please stay safe.

Yesterday we did happy hour at Hooters. Everyone kept their hands on their wings. Additionally, the tag on my favorite shirt says: "Things we like: 1. frisbee 2. bloodhounds 3. mittens 4. 5. the sun 6. nate 7. rubber cement 8. burritos 9. O.D.B."
These are things I like too.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Very late last night I was up, notsleeping, wrapped in my fuzzy robe and wearing my nerdy glasses on the porch. I had spent the evening listlessly sifting through books, picking up and putting down Anais Nin, Truman Capote, collections of stories about the connections between writers and the kindnesses of strangers. There aren't any recent nights that need thinking over. I haven't done anything very special or met anyone new and interesting lately. I am stagnant, and unsure how to stir myself out of this little rut.

From somewhere across the street I could hear an open window playing an old "Sea and Cake" album.

One afternoon in Hangzhou, we hauled ourselves all the way across the West Lake and collapsed into a tea room. After we had sipped our tea and let our heart rates return to normal, after we had played a dozen games of cards, the talk turned to poetry. Rich translated for me a Rilke poem from memory. And I loved, right then, that we had brought this German poet with us to China, that there is nowhere in the world that poetry feels irrelevant. I spoke of Corso, grew flushed again over his 'Leaky Lifeboat Boys' and his perfect love poem 'For Lisa, 2'--a poem that I have scratched into the backs of my eyelids for whenever Sunday morning becomes too much.
Walking back out into the ancient world, I understood why Chinese poets always talk of nature.

I have been Nancy Drew lately, only a sandwich and a "jinkies!" away from a Scooby Doo episode. And I have been reading everything I can find about vitrification, the process of changing things into glass. I tend to think of most days as an act of putting small fires out with my hands. Because sure, I could put the fire out and everything could be alright. But if I delay, if I forget or fail to be brave, then I could burn myself and turn my fingerprints to glass. And I fear what might happen to a girl with glass fingerprints.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

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We took Mike's girlfriend's fancy car out at lunch today, and wound up at a teriyaki place down on Rainier that had bible quotes all over the walls, handwritten in colored felt pen. Underneath this sign was a box for you to put your wishes in.

Ryan came over a while ago to borrow my fencing foil, and then I walked down the street with my bright red pigtails to buy some milk. In the corner store, I overheard the following:

"Well, I thought I whatever with her. But she had this thing she did. And I just, man, I couldn't handle it."

"What sort of thing?"

"Dude, she'd bite her toenails. And it was just fuckin disgusting, you know?"

"Couldn't you have asked her to do it in another room?"

"What? Who's side are you on?"

" offense, man, but that girl was hot. And you're kinda ugly, know what I'm saying? So what's a little toenail biting when the girl is hot?"

And to that, I say ew.

(Still. Not. Sparkly. Distinctly grouchy. Hoping that making cookies and watching The Princess Bride will make the whole world better again.)

Monday, September 19, 2005

My new favorite entomologist told me yesterday all about some bugs that split right down the middle, one half male and one half female. (This is called bilateral gynandromorphism, if you're playing along on the home version.) This is especially interesting in butterfly species where the two sexes have different colors--one wing will be, say, bright blue, and the opposite one will be white.
A girl standing by broke in during this explanation, asking hesitantly, "Does this mean that they, you know...mate with themselves?"

Being on the UW campus still stings a bit. I miss being a student. I'll go to grad school eventually, but no one ever said that I was very good with rejection. Especially not rejection twice. And especially not academic rejection twice. Couldn't they have just said yes and insulted my hair instead?

Today is talk like a pirate day. Y'all better have gone 'yarrrr' at least once or you're disowned.

Today's children's book was the French version of Everyone Poops, called, "De la petite taupe qui voulait savoir qui lui avait fait sur la tete." In this story, a small mole--la petite taupe--goes on an adventure to find out who has, quite literally, done on her head (fait sur la tete).
French kids stories are always so much better than American ones.
Cecile reads these stories to me, and I try and figure out what they're saying. Then I read them back to her, working on pronunciation. I tend to get really excited when I actually understand, and my coffee guy just shakes his head. We're like the kooky neighbors in a middling sitcom.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

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I know that I've been neglecting you lately, but I haven't been feeling very sparkly. And sparkly is sort of my trademark.

At the bug festival today, a woman and I stepped up to the collection of a boy who looked to be twelve or thirteen. "Do you do your own mounting?" the lady asked him. The collection was very professionally done, very impressive. "Yes." "And how long have you been collecting?" He looked at us seriously from under lowered eyebrows, as though he was used to getting this question and being unsatisfied with the response. "About nine years." The woman and I exchanged glances but passed on adding further insult to any past injuries. She asked him where he had found a certain very large moth.

My friend Paul just stopped by on his way home to Yakima to drop off some new headphones, marking the end (I hope) of the month of birthday celebrations. The festivities were many and varied and climaxed Thursday night with an evening of ill-advised debauchery that resulted in several peculiar bruises and a few hours worth of blank spots in my memory. (A? Any idea what I might have done to obtain a bruise in the middle right side of my chest?) It's only a few times a year that I am that girl, and I only remember afterwards just why that is.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

My favorite junk mail is the stuff addressed to “The Family” at my address. I always bring it inside and show it to my plants. “Should we get cable, guys? Is it time for life insurance?”

I walked through Belltown last night in the dark and the rain to hang out with the photographers. That is how I like Belltown the best—a little dimmer than the rest of the city, with people huddled in doorways and the lights above empty storefronts reflecting off the damp street. We had challenged ourselves to make self-portraits, and I was mulling because I had overthought the idea and so gone nowhere. Overthinking and going nowhere are both things that I do well.)
Waiting for the light across the street from Uptown, an ambulance drove down the street and the sound of a dog howling followed the noise of the sirens down the block. I shivered. Urban dogs prefer to bark instead of howl, and so howling dogs will always keep a sort of horror-movie cachet for me. I am on the lookout for axe murderers when howling dogs are around.

Anyway, the question that had me stuck was the line-or potential lack thereof-between a self-portrait and a picture of myself. (Admittedly, I haven't been sleeping again, have instead been out playing pinball or having quesadillas or wearing pirate shirts or in all ways abusing parentheses right and left.) Is there a difference between the two? I have my thesis about the whole thing, my map of ideas, but I'm having trouble finding the line between this slight personal theoretical gap and my ongoing, boring existential crisis. I feel that there ought to be a difference, a feeling borne of all my years studying art history. Shouldn't a self-portrait reveal some sort of truth? What truth is there to be found in one more picture of my big Muppet head?
None, is my answer so far. I just can't see the point of trying to shoot my elbow in a light that makes me say, “There it is, my self-portrait.” I can't see myself in knees or hands or shadows. But the trouble is that all of my lines are overlapping and I can't tell what I should really be dwelling on and what I should be napping through. And it is entirely possible that all I need is an ice-cream sundae and a hug, and I'll be happily snapping pictures of my toes.
I don't know which way what goes, internet, but it's got me frustrated.

Monday, September 12, 2005

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If I have been calling you 'darling' lately, it's because I have been pretending to be Audrey Hepburn for the last week.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Two of my favorites:

Getting ready to go out for the evening after a day of staying in. Radio up, singing along, piles of discarded outfits on the floor and jewelry on the bathroom counter. Feeling fabulous before I leave is far more important than actually looking fabulous once I get there.

When I wake up and don't remember, for a moment, who or where or what I am. My head feels like a house with all the windows open and it's only then that I can be whomever I want. Eventually, of course, I remember, and that tends to be a bit of a disappointment.

Last nights bands were: The Saturday Knights, The Pale Pacific, Ian Knapp, Tom Brosseau, and 50 Foot Wave. Bonus points to The Pale Pacific for rocking a Billy Joel cover, Tom Brosseau for having a Johnny Cash sing along, and 50 Foot Wave for, you know, Kristin Hersh.

Friday, September 09, 2005

The way to get honey out of a honeysuckle flower was to very, very gently pull the middle part of the flower out through the stem. If your touch was light enough a small bead of honey would form, briefly, on the very bottom of the stem. You would have to change tactics immediately and very quickly dart the tip of your tongue forwards to taste the honey; if you were too slow in getting there it would slip itself back into the stem and then you'd have to suck it out, which always ended up tasting like bitter pollen.
I could spend hours laying under the honeysuckle bushes, trying to coax out the sweetness, half a brain on the lookout for fire ants.

This cold is probably what I get for standing in the rain to watch the Posies on Sunday, in which case it was completely worth it. I have this sudden urge to find someone with a boat and stage a Viking raid on Mercer Island. Anyone have a horned hat?
A late night phone call last night involved three dirty jokes and a, "the trouble with you is that you don't know how to sell yourself." I tried to ask where and how, but he was already off on a reunion in Florida that will not happen because I will not go back there. My strangest phone calls always come from the East Coast in the middle of the night.

The doodle bugs, they lived in inverted cone-shaped homes in the sand. An unwary ant would teeter at the edge of the cone and fall in, and the sand that was disturbed by all of its little tiny legs would alert the doodle bug to the presence of lunch. It was only then that he would pop out with his teeny pinchers snapping and haul that ant down under the earth. It was possible to dig out the doodle bug, but the better way was to lay next to his home and try to touch the sand just enough with a blade of grass or a finger tip. If you were both very careful and very lucky, he would mistake your grass or finger for a tasty bug. It took a light touch to coax him into the light.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

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Thanks to everyone who came out last night! You guys totally made my year. I felt like such a rockstar. (That flickr tag also has pictures from my spring party attached to it, just so's you know.)

I'm home sick from work today, trying to stave off this cold I've been getting by drinking all of the orange juice in my apartment and making soup. I just haven't the time to be sick right now.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The freckles on my left shoulder are darker and larger than the ones on my right, leftover sun damage from driving to and from school my junior and senior years of high school--mornings and afternoons with my arm out the window, singing along to the radio at the top of my voice. My hair was long then, halfway down my back, brown and curly, and always stuffed into a clip.
This time of year, the freckles on my nose and cheeks refuse to be completely dimmed with makeup. I've got tan lines that I know are there even if you can't tell. I'm slowly growing out of the clothes that I've had since middle school; not taller but rounder. The old game of fitting two hands around my waist isn't so much possible anymore. And that's all fine. My seventh grade fashion sense left much to be desired and people don't often hassle me to eat anymore.

For a long time people described me as their friend samantha who was little. Being smaller than everyone else was my social identity, and as an awkward and obsessive teenager I worried about who I would be if I wasn't the smallest anymore. It's only recently that I've realized that I have other distinguishing characteristics, that I have freckles and scars and friends who don't need labels. I'm still the smallest, but I find that I just don't care anymore.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Ok, let's talk a little bit about Bumbershoot, seeing as how it was my first one and all. (Even though I was a bad first timer and decided to skip Smoosh, the Blue Scholars, and New York Dolls on Friday in favor of shopping and Audrey Hepburn movies.)

Saturday: I showed up in time to catch the end of Vamola, where Cat was waving palm fronds around in front of some dancers and a volcano. We wandered a bit and then caught a few songs of The Academy Is--which we left almost immediately. Cat went back to wave palm fronds some more and I looked around for my friend Chris, who was working somewhere on the grounds. I never found him.
After the palm fronds we debated going to see IQU, but the line was just too long and so instead we poked around a bit before heading over to Visqueen. I love Visqueen, and I really love how they all dress like third grade math teachers. Next was the 826 benefit, and then we left to go to Bill's Off Broadway for pizza and singing happy birthday. I blew out the candle on the table.

Sunday: The whole point in going to Bumbershoot on Sunday was to see Math and Physics Club. They've been one of my favorite bands ever since "Weekends Away" came out at the beginning of the year. I carefully stepped on the toes of the man standing next to me whenever he talked too loud, and MAPC made me smile. My enormous crush on James was strengthened.
I debated sticking around for Headphones, but instead headed over to see Lauren Weedman perform her one-woman show, "Wreckage." She was really amazing, playing characters and switching from funny to sad on a dime. Since it was raining I stuck around for Open Circle's "Are We Scared."
A snack, and then the Posies! I caught the first few songs and then headed over to check out Pretty Girls Make Graves. But the line was so long that I went back, in time to see Ken Stringfellow wearing little else than a clear plastic garbage bag. Awesome. Afterwards, I met Cat and Caroline for the Carolines and Key Note Speaker, as well as a bit of chatting with fellows out to make nice with Cat, and a bit of checking out the sound guy.

Monday: I met Cat and Caroline way, way too early in order to catch The Decemberists. Astonishingly, they played the whole of "The Tain". I nearly beat up a girl to steal her "Pirates arrrr cool" tshirt. (I found it tonight and bought it!) They get an A+ for performance. I just love them.
We couldn't take the Dashboard Confessional crowd, so instead we wandered over for Los Amigos Invisibles. They were "superfunky"--they told us so themselves. A bit of a dance party was refreshing, because after all there is nothing like breaking it down in the sun in Seattle, unsound shin and all. We then meandered over for Earlimart, who were probably pretty good, but not good enough to make a dent on all the superfantastic things I had already seen for the weekend. So we went back outside and got in line for Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, about five minutes before the large part of the Flogging Molly crowd showed up and things got insane. Ted Leo was good, although the bass was overpowering for the first couple of songs and the vocals were too low.
I debated sticking around for Tegan and Sara, but by then my kidneys were tired of being elbowed and instead I came home.

Thanks for letting me get that out of my system, guys. In all, I'd give the whole Bumbershoot experience an A-.
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I always know that I've been going out too much when I'm not disappointed that my plans have fallen through for an evening. I had intended to be out with a stranger, but in with myself sounds so much better.

We took apart Mike's laptop at the office today, and by we I mean Mike. He knows better than to let me near delicate electronics with a screwdriver. I am always awed by the insides of computers--they always look impossible to me. Like science fiction.

I have recently come into possession of the complete poems of e e cummings, because people out there still believe in encouraging my consuming love of language, regardless of how ridiculous it tends to make me look. And so I have a sudden free evening to cover myself in thousands of words, and to remind myself of things that are delicate and beautiful. This will be nice, because I have been feeling a little tarnished lately, a little too far away from the better versions of myself. But like he says himself, "Miracles are to come. With you I leave a remembrance of miracles: they are by somebody who can love and who shall be continually reborn, a human being."

I hope to see lots of you tomorrow evening.

Monday, September 05, 2005

And so my first Bumbershoot weekend was largely a success.

Ever since I came back from China I've had this really sharp ache in my shin after a moderate amount of walking. I'm pretty sure my leg is structurally unsound.

Math and Physics Club yesterday were splendid. That makes it twice in as many months that I've seen them and I may be turning into a groupie. It was my solo Bumbershoot day, which meant that I found all sorts of characters. I got cruised by some fellow in the army (just a tip from me to you: the way to make friends with this girl is not to start a conversation by making fun of my boyfriend the Space Needle) and chatted with a guy carrying a vacuum around.
Later, at the EMP Liquid Lounge, Cat got me a birthday shoutout by Key Note Speaker, a band I'd like to see again when my friend isn't getting picked up by another out of state boy.

You guys? The tambourine? I'm serious.

Also yesterday was Open Circle Theatre's "Are We Scared Yet? An Experiment in Child's Play," which was bizarre and splendid and lovely. It's at their theatre for another week, and I'd recommend it if you're as entertained as I am by the strange things kids think up.

And today! The Decemberists with Cat and Caroline. They put on such a good show. Afterwards we found ourselves in a Latin American dance party. You know, like you do.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

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Thanks everyone for all the birthday wishes and phone calls and text messages and posts and assorted miscellany. (Michael, what on earth am I supposed to do with a penis shaped money clip?)

Steph and Ryan win the prize for several things, not least of which was surprising the heck out of me by showing up at my door this morning with a new stereo. Thanks, guys!

Also? After Visqueen yesterday Cat, Jeff, and I headed to the 826 benefit with Dave Eggers, Sarah Vowell, Mike Doughty, Lemony Snickett and Death Cab for Cutie, cleverly disguised as the Transatlantic Orchestra. And I have to tell you that the most astonishing thing I've ever seen is Mike Doughty on stage with Death Cab for Cutie and Lemony Snickett on the accordion, playing "Hungry Like the Wolf." I'm still swooning.

Today there will be Math and Physics Club, which is just icing on what has turned out to be a splendid birthday weekend.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Today is my birthday, and I am still always nine years old.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Ok, Seattle, I have decided to go ahead and have a birthday, um, thing. You know. One of those. So if you find yourself with a little bit of free time on Wednesday the 7th, come down to the Zoo Tavern on Eastlake after 8:30ish. I'll be there, drinking away my astonishment at having made it through this last year. There will be hugging.
I'm not saying that I'm going to cry if you forget me, but I am strongly implying it.

(Also, have you noticed the sky today? It's astonishing--I want to run away with it to the south of France.)