Friday, April 29, 2005

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This is the newest member of my family, for the moment alternately called Owen and Dick Turpin until I can hit on a suitable name. I've been talking about switching for a while, and decided that now was the time to go. So far so good, aside from some minor troubles with getting files off the old one. Stubborn thing.

Mike went with me to get it yesterday during lunch, because he's the closest accessible technosexual--his office is right across from my cube. I don't know quite how annoyed I'm supposed to be that whenever I find myself in public with a male friend, people automatically assume that we're together. I do know that telling Mike to help me along getting the thing set up was a bit much.

I woke up this morning with an angry porcupine in my throat and chills that made my skin hurt. But I am a trooper, or a masochist, and so I shuffled myself into the office anyway. A couple of hours later, I conceded defeat, came home, put on the warmest clothes I could find, and fell asleep for the next three and a half hours.
That was the best I've felt all day. I took a nice long bath, filling the tub up with enough bubbles that I almost expected my mom to call from Florida to yell at me for overfilling. The water wasn't ever hot enough to make my skin stop wanting to crawl off, and I think I'm officially sick. And craving apple juice.
My shower curtain rod is crooked.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

A voicemail message from my mother this afternoon says, "By the way, your grandmother got hit by lightning yesterday and I have gout."
And you wonder where I got my penchant for dramatic and slightly inaccurate turns of phrases from. (Grandma's house got struck by lightning, not my grandma. It fried some of her electronic equipment but otherwise things are fine. Almost getting hit by lightning runs in my family.)

Years ago, my friends were in the habit of actively trying to hook me up with single boys. They have of recent years (thankfully) fallen out of this habit, but back when it was the thing to do they would always start their laundry list of good qualities with the words, "I know this guy, he's really strange, you have to meet him."
I was alternately amused and really irritated by this particular way of putting things. Was it a comment on me myself or just my taste in men? Eventually I decided that I really didn't care, and I moved on.
Except that recently I've realized that this sentence is making a sort of inverted comeback. When my coworkers ask me what the men I've been dating lately are like, I notice that one of the first things out of my mouth is, "He's a great guy. A little odd, though." And when I say this they look at me like I'm intentionally being thickheaded, and they reply, "Well, yes. That's how you like them, isn't it?"
And thinking about it today, I guess it sort of is.

Monday, April 25, 2005

At the very beginning of our senior year of high school, Amanda, Jimmie, and I were walking down the hall and carrying on a conversation. This was before Amanda became The Peach People, before I became Bovine Woman (hey! there's a story you'll not be hearing!), before almost everything. We were walking towards class and chatting, and then suddenly I was walking alone and chatting because Jimmie had pulled Amanda between the lockers, in a very teen movie sort of way, to ask her out. I knew what had to be happening--the whole school knew it was coming--and so I continued to class. When Amanda arrived she was as fluttery as I've ever seen her, and it was that day that I started talking about their wedding.

Many of you have heard this story before, and in a month I'll be on my way back to Florida for that wedding. It has been a whole lot of years in the making, but I don't think anyone has ever expected that things would turn out otherwise.

Not too long after they got together, Jimmie wrote Amanda some sort of missive spelling out his feelings for her. She sent it in an email to me--there are some things no girl can keep secret, especially not at eighteen--and I have kept it all of these years. I've found myself the keeper of these sorts of things often, and I still have several such declarations that have outlasted the relationships they were made in. I doubt that Amanda even remembers sending it to me, but I'll keep it. I won't bring it out for the wedding, because if I tried she'd fly all the way to Seattle just to kick me in the head, but I'll hold onto it because I have this poem in my head for the future. And in this scene I see myself visiting their kids, good old Aunt Samantha, and sharing it with them in secret. Just so that there's always proof of how much these two have always loved each other.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

I met a man in the market today who told me all about his trip hitchhiking across the country in the sixties. It sounded a little like he was making up the story as he went along, but since he seemed pretty convinced, I wasn't going to argue. His eyes stayed unfocused above my right ear the whole time.

A little bit later, I shared my cookie with a boy named Alfred. He was six and visiting Seattle with his mom and dad and aunt and uncle. He was bored, but he thought that my cookie (oatmeal raisin from Three Girls Bakery) was pretty good. He asked if I could do a magic trick, and wandered away when I said that I couldn't.

Down at the waterfront, an elderly lady stopped to comment on my bright coral shirt. I made a small joke, my usual 'you can see me from outerspace' line, but evidently bright colors are no joking matter. She warned me at least twice to enjoy wearing them now because soon enough I'll be too old for them. I'm pretty sure she thought I was approximately fifteen.

Another man on the bus ride home asked what I was thinking about. I just smiled at him, and he sighed and said, "Ah, must be a young man. When a girl smiles like that, there's always a young man on her brain." I'm sure I blushed--I'm always blushing, and I'm not certain how to stop--and told him that I'd been reflecting on how I've noticed recently that exceptionally self-confident men have a way of looking at you as though you're a new species that they've just discovered. It is, I explained, disconcerting. "Do you want them to stop?" he asked me. "Well, no, but I do want to have some way of reacting that doesn't involve blushing, stammering, looking away, or fumbling with my hands." He leaned forward and looked me right in the eye. "That," he said firmly, "is exactly the reaction that they are going for." He chuckled dryly, and I noticed that he smelled a little of liquor. "You listen to me, young lady. I know. I was once a chaser of girls myself."

Thursday, April 21, 2005

"Who are you hoping to run into? Donatello? Leonardo? ...Raphael?"
"Um. Those? Are the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."
"Oh. Oh yeah, I guess they are."
"I don't give my phone number to Ninja Turtles. I don't care if they are heroes on the half shell. What sort of girl do you take me for?"

For a few years my father drove a motorcycle that I remember as red but which was probably black. My stepmother eventually made him get rid of it because she's not a fan of motorcycles, and the thing is neither am I. But I can't seem to get away from them--even my mother rides them now, and the last boy I went out with was in the process of buying one when we fell out of the habit of, um, dating. I do not like them, and will not like them, as there are too many pictures pinned to the back of my head. I have been to too many funerals of boys I once knew.
I am, on the other hand, a big fan of motorcycle helmets. I remember taking possession of my father's helmet whenever I could find it, carrying it around the house with me until someone took it away. I'd snatch it as soon as he took it off and hide my hands in the heat inside. I am certain that it was red, and I'd lay down on the floor with my head inside it, face mask closed, breathing in the smell of my dad in the dark.
That helmet always smelled like shampoo and Drakkar Noir and sweat. And it is still through that helmet that I think of my father most fondly.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Also, it looks as though I'm having a party on the 7th of May. Not invited? Want to be? Let me know.
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The town the I grew up in smelled of the Gulf of Mexico, of warm oranges burst open on sidewalks, of suntan lotion and wet bathing suits and fast food chains. It smelled like steamy wet dirt and car exhaust and old people. It never smelled like home.
The town I went to college in smelled of sulpher water and late night palm trees. It smelled like butane and history and superstition, like sheets of paper torn in half. Like surfboards and cheap alcohol. Almost like home.

I wandered downtown today from the post office on Broadway, carrying in one hand a package from the clever pretty kids written all over in Chinese characters. I had left work a little early with a coworker to catch a ride up to the hill, and the sun was whispering in my ear like a new best friend. (I am seriously one lucky punk to have the coworkers that I have. They're amazing.) My brain, as I moseyed, was elsewhere. I dreamt last night that you were standing behind me fastening my dress while I spoke on the telephone, but when I woke up I couldn't remember who you were. I still can't, and it was this I was thinking of when I stopped walking and focused on the scent of this town. It smells like slightly damp grass and smiles from strangers, like the breeze right before sunset, like a little bit of self-righteousness. It smells like open water and pastries and pink colored cocktails, like the color green.
I took off my jacket during my walk, and officially earned myself my first sunburn of the year. If you need to find me anytime during the next few months, you can follow the smell of coconut and bananas, SPF'd 45.

Monday, April 18, 2005

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Yes, that tulip bud is staring at you.

It has recently been blood-giving time at my place of employment, a time of year that makes me feel terribly guilty. I've never been able to give blood. I wouldn't meet the minimum weight requirement soaking wet with my heaviest shoes on, and even if I did my blood is lacking in iron and tends toward the sentimental. So every time I pass the tables inviting the passers-by to sign up and donate I shrug sheepishly and avert my eyes.

A coworker brought me a bag of clothes and shoes that are too small for her. Other women tend to see me as a doll for grownups, and they're always trying to dress me up. Included therein is a smoking pair of dangerous black heels. I won't be able to wear them often--I do too much walking--but when I do wear them it will be completely worth it.

Also, it appears that this is an even better year than last year for being my ex-something (boyfriend, one night stand, long distance correspondent) if you want to get married or have kids. Just as a warning to those of you who are reading this and are an ex-something.
I guess the logical conclusion of that ought to be an invitation to become an ex-something if you're looking to get married or have a kid. There's still a few months where we could do something and then stop, with a few left over to acquire someone to marry or have a child with.
There is honestly absolutely no bitterness here, just a little bit of 'huh, well isn't that interesting.' I wish them all the happiness they deserve, and even more than that for some of them. Better them than me--my apartment is far too small for either husband or children.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

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The best possible way to have spent yesterday was squelching around in a muddy field of tulips with Cat and Caroline, frozen fingers clamped around my camera, fighting with the wind for control over a red and white umbrella. And before the flowers, girlyness and pirate shirts. Afterwards, creme brulee, fondue, and Axe.

I watch myself in my rearview mirror and wonder what exactly it is that I think I'm doing. But then I realize that what I'm doing is fumbling.

I promise to stop dwelling on this soon (or, at least, to stop talking about it), but I cannot believe I managed to forget my own phone number just when I needed to remember it most. Dear Boy, please return for dancing on Thursday. I promise I'll fix it.

Cat and I are starting to recognize the regulars at Neighbors, which almost certainly makes us regulars ourselves.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

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"I told you so" is never the way to go, not even when it feels like it should get to be.

I saw her on my walk through Belltown tonight. The little girl was blonde, and her hair was so thin that her scalp shone through it, seashell pink. She had big green eyes and a Barbie in each hand, and I could tell from the cut of her cheekbones and the lines of her neck that someday the boys will be wild about her. Her shoes were shiny and yellow, and she was huddled up against a brick wall, crying.
I stopped. How could I not? From across the street she had already broken my heart, standing there so perfect and alone on the sidewalk. When I asked what was wrong, she sniffed with all of the power of her little nose and told me she was cold.
I dropped my bag on the pavement, fondue pot and fixings clattering too loudly inside it, and threw my coat around her shoulders. She sniffed again, softer this time, one big leftover tear shining in each eye. I asked what she was doing out there in the cold, and that was when she told me that she lived in this building, had dropped a Barbie outside on the way in, and her mommy had let her run back out and get it. She was supposed to buzz up to her apartment like a big girl, she said, but was not tall enough to reach the buttons on the call box.
A sob shook her all the way through at this point, and she launched herself at me for a hug. When I cuddled her to me, I could feel her whole body shaking from the cold, her little bird bones clattering against each other. I hugged her close and we took a few deep breaths together, and she held my hand while I pressed the buttons for her apartment. I watched outside until she got into the elevator, where she turned and waved and then disappeared.

I've been trying not to think of what may have happened to her if I had not happened along, but the thoughts creep in and they hurt my soul. I hate to think that something that wonderful and pure will be stained someday. I hope that she went upstairs and had hot chocolate and a warm bath, and I hope that by tomorrow she will have forgotten being trapped outside in the cold.
I hope that she doesn't mind that I took a little of her light with me, caught in the fibers of my jacket and the backs of my eyes.

Monday, April 11, 2005

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My French lessons have been pretty hit or miss the last couple of weeks, and I imagine they'll continue to be so for at least several more, as Cecile could really go into labor at any moment. I should be taking advantage of this and, I don't know, memorizing vocabulary words or something, but I'm not. Perhaps I'll make myself some flashcards and badger you all into quizzing me whenever I see you.

One of the many things I learned this weekend is that red shoes are appropriate for every occasion, including going away parties for people I don't know and dancing until late with friends. A very pretty boy asked Cat if I was her girlfriend, and another pretty one slid his hand into that place on my side reserved for the hands of boys and spoke in my ear. I blame it all on the red shoes.

I had to perform emergency surgery on my myrtle tree tonight, which sadly needs to be repotted in a bigger pot. The clouds are doing lovely things right now, and I want to give them all names and social security numbers, and invite them over for dinner.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

The thing is that not all rectangles are squares, you know?

And I wonder sometimes what happened to all the late nights talking dirty to the potted plants, to the little girl that would leave plastic bags and plates and bowls full of baked goods on doorsteps, ringing doorbells and running away. I find that most days now I can resist those urges that encourage me to bite my friends on their arms and shoulders, to put m&m's in my belly button, to put my hands over my eyes and insist until I cry or you give in that you can't see me.

I have erased many, many things from my dance card. And there's a whole stack of stories that I can't figure out, all the ones that haven't ever left the present tense.

I would love nothing more than to be able to stop talking to you for days or weeks. But these sentences get stuck inside my head like song lyrics and I find that I can't stop pacing around my apartment until I get them out. Somehow the rattle of the typewriter isn't the noise that I need to drown out all of those words ricocheting inside my skull and all I can do to make myself rest is to give them to you. And there are mornings when I wake up and know that what would be best would be to move to Nebraska and start a dairy farm and never read another book again.

The thing to remember about the relationship between me and spring is that it never delivers on its promise, either.

Friday, April 08, 2005

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Did you all notice the lovely spring day today? I always told you I was magic. I hope you took full advantage of it. Me, I jumped in all the leftover puddles, and I may or may not have charged face first into the breezes on my way home.

I learned today about the demon in the veins of a friend. I don't think he wanted to tell me--I don't think he wanted to tell anyone--but sometimes we don't get to choose who we confide in any more than we get to choose who confides in us. If I am to be perfectly honest, I'd have to tell you that it isn't a secret I'd have chosen to pick up. I'm not sure how to learn not to search for dying inside his face, how to learn not to want to make him soup every time he coughs or hold his hand when he sneezes. And learn how not to do those things is just what I'll have to do. The rest of his friends and family will know soon enough. And then he'll need someone to be his friend not because of his illness or even in spite of it, but because it doesn't figure into the equation at all.
I will be that friend if it is possible for any person to do so.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

I can see you there, Spring, hiding beneath all of this mist and this chilly
bluster. You can't fool me. I've been walking through the rains and listening to the flowers and chatting with the bugs, and all I'm hearing is the end result of these April showers.
I've been spending whatever amounts of free time I have lately sitting at my
little blue table, watching the hazy grey sheets on Lake Union and drinking tea, making up stories about all of you. I do love the rains, and the weather of my city in all of its moods. But I am impatient (this comes as no surprise) for daylight that lasts until bedtime, and irresponsible road trips, and cold beer on hot days. I am impatient for dancing too late, for petting puppies, for talking about books until my tongue goes numb.
Any of these things could be happening right now. And to be perfectly honest, most of them are-my recent trip to the maudlin side of things notwithstanding. I have been having a whole lot of fun. But something about spring makes my palms itchy, makes me want to grab you by the shoulders and memorize the shades of your skin and the whorls of your fingerprints. It makes me want to be bold and shy, saucy and innocent: to go out and paint the town all night and to stay home and reorganize my closets.
So you just hurry up and get here, Spring. I have a lot of adventuring to do.
I've meant to mention this to you all for days, and now it's First Thursday and almost too late. But.

Art Squad Presents ......

Le Piéton Super
Photography and Paintings by
Joy Andrews
Lee Dicks Clark
Caroline Colón
Sally Moore
Donna Whitsett

Music by

619 Western Ave. in Pioneer Square
5th floor, North Studio

I'll be there around 8:00ish. Anyone wanna meet me there?

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

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My invitation to the Peach People's wedding came in today's mail, addressed in the perfect copper-plate handwriting that I've been making jokes about since we were freshmen in high school. The inside envelope? Addressed to "Spamella," a nickname no one has called me by, fortunately, for years.
It has always impressed me what an easy decision marriage was for these two. It wasn't ever even really a decision, just a logical conclusion--an assumed eventual step, from the day they finally started dating. Any yet I'm still stunned that things have gotten to this point.

I have a loaf of zucchini bread for my office baking right now, and it smells delightful in here. I used to be a baker of birthday cakes, although it's a habit I've fallen out of in recent years. The next time I'm home for an evening I'll make another batch of Bitchin Potato Leek Soup, which also makes my apartment smell just yummy.
You can always tell I really like you if I'm cooking for you.

I walked home in the rain today, which is something that people who live in rainy climates rarely do. But I did not move to Seattle to stay out of the rain and if you drove past me today I probably grinned like a fool at you. My leather jacket gave off a slight animal tang that mixed with the damp grass smells and the Lake Union smells.
I wish they could make the scent of my walk to and from work into a perfume.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Dear Bell Jar,

Hi there. It's been a while, my old friend, and yet I am honestly amazed at how it feels like no time at all has passed since we saw each other last. I've had a few visits with your cousins in recent months, but during a bout of vicious wallowing Saturday night I realized that you'd come to town again. You've got me firmly by the shoulders, and though I'd really like to kick you in the shins and run away I know from experience that you'll just kick back even harder.
Now that I know it's you I see that it's probably likely that you've been standing behind me for weeks now, wearing a mask and waiting to jump out and yell 'Boo!' You know that I've been drinking too much and reading too little lately, and you've been giggling up your sleeve at how I've been feeling rejected and inappropriate and so, so stupid. You think it's funny because you think it's your doing, but I've got news for you.
I'm on to your game. You and I, we've gone around and around like this for many years. We've called each other names and we've beaten each other up and I have done ridiculous things in your name. You've caught onto my neck with your fingernails and I've let you stay there because if nothing else you were a feeling that was familiar. But no more of this. You can stay as long as you like, because I know I can't get rid of you that easily, but I don't have to pretend to listen anymore.
Oh sure, I know that until you leave I'll have more hours and days where I feel useless and unattractive and dumber than most rocks. I'm not going to fool myself into believing that I'm cleverer than you. But I can fill my time in ways that you can't understand. I can wall myself in with work, and with friends, and with long walks around my city. I can hunker down and wait for you to get bored and go.
Because the thing is, I'll always win in the end.


Sunday, April 03, 2005

Normally I'm not a big fan of memes, but honestly, when am I going to pass up a chance to talk about books? Besides, it was Ryan that poked me with it, and although I don't know him I just love the way he writes and the way he talks about his son.
Also, he said complimentary things about me, and flattery'll get you everywhere in this house.


1. You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?
Possibly I'd be Fahrenheit 451, as it would be a shame for it to be consigned to the flames. But. More likely than not I'd be Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse. These days, it's almost a forgotten work, and it's a little sniffed at by Hesse scholars, but it so beautifully captures the disconnect between the needs of the body and the needs of the spirit. It explains the ache that happens in the space right below your heart.

2. Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

I'm totally in love with Andy in Generation X. But really, I find myself having crushes on authors. There could be an argument there about the authors as seen through their books being fictional characters, but honestly, I just don't have the energy right now.

3. The last book you bought is:

Anne Sexton's letters. You can tell by her poetry what sort of woman she'd be in her letters, but the fact that she is scatterbrained and needy and wants passionately just to live brings things home a little more.

The last book you read:

The Orestes Plays of Aeschylus. The translation I have is from the sixties and a little shaky, but the Orestia are proof that words can live longer than anything else. Written in the early 400's BC, they're still vibrant and valid today.

What are you currently reading?

Anne Sexton's letters. Still butting my way through Remembrance of Things Past, which is proving to be such a worthwhile experience the further along I get, and I can't wait to get through it and try it again in the new translation.

5. Five books you would take to a deserted island:

Criminy. This question hurts my soul.

1. Mindfield by Gregory Corso. The work of the streetwise angel poet will follow me to my grave. He is the lover and the clown, the best friend and the distant stranger. He's like a radio station tuned to the soul. I could no more survive on a deserted island without this poetry than I could with both hands tied behind my back.

2. Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges. I could read the same Borges story every day for a month and be reading a different story each time. My poor brain is always going, but after a Borges it's quiet and tuckered out. His absolute skill with language makes me humble.

3. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I love these characters. I love how they are listlessly self-destructive and I love how they don't ever seem to notice that where they end up and where they started out from are exactly the same place. I hate that this is now an Oprah book and that people are asking book club questions about it. It should be kept under glass unless it's being read, and it should only ever be bound in scarlet and gold.

4. The Gay Science by Friedrich Nietzsche. I know that Nietzsche has a bad rap and all, but I read this for the first time when I was fifteen and it held my hand the way a philosophy book only can at the very beginning and the very end of a person's life. It remains, for me, the best of his work.

5. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I believe in the goodness of people. I know that there are always bad people, and that good people will do bad things, but I believe in the light. And I believe in this book--that it's one of the stones holding up this haphazard American culture.

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons) and why?

1. Sarah. We got the same English degree from the same teachers at the same time, and we've known each other half of our lives, but I'll bet our literary souls live in different houses.
2. Dylan. Because of our mutual love of Flannery O'Connor.
3. Cat, who has spent a lot of time on airplanes reading lately.

Friday, April 01, 2005

The thing about your ways and my ways being so alike is that we like to pretend we don't know it. But I've seen that face you make when you'd like to smack me in the mouth. I've seen that face a million times, and I've made it a million too. You and I, looking at each other, are like a particularly vile version of a mirror.
You don't write your letters, you grind them out as though you were armed with a mortar and pestle instead of a pen and paper. I scratch mine into flesh with heated needles. But the end result, it's the same every time.

I told you about one of the times he punched me in the mouth, about how I couldn't even hate him for the act itself, because at least he'd finally done what he'd been threatening for so long. I didn't respect him for it, never that, but I was relieved that the wall had finally broken and we could stop pretending that violence wasn't actually the answer. You asked how I didn't hate him for it, and you smiled with that knife in your eyes when I told you that there are some actions beyond hate.

If the doorbell were to ring right now, and you were on the other side, would I gasp like a fish for words, eyes wide, mouth open? I would. I would curse and founder and wholly lose my cool. That would be what you were expecting, and you would be amused, and you would offer whatever you held in your hands like a consolation prize, pretending like you hadn't planned it this way all along. You're tricky and clever, but I know your ways because they're my ways too.
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We are slaves to the groove.

80's Night at Neighbors last night was what every 80's night should be--a bunch of strangers/new best friends squished together, drenched in sweat, and rocking out.
Steph, Cat, and I combined our girl's night out with Andrew's 30th birthday dance party (because this wouldn't be Seattle if we didn't run into people we knew), and had a blast. And we're making this into a tradition, so you're all invited to join us next Thursday. Come on! Don't be a stick in the mud! This is much better exercise than going to the gym.

Also of note:

Performance Anxiety
a group show by Seattle Photo Meetup members
Friday April 1st, 6-10pm
4911 Aurora Ave N (1 block south of the zoo)