This blog is welcome to anyone and everyone, regardless of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, or political affiliation. Unless you don't like writing short stories or smelling bear. Or if you voted for the other guy. Also, I don't really like it when you leave up the toilet seat, so could you stop doing that? Muchas, muchas gracias.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Long, Pointless Story About Unpleasant Encounters That Takes Place On A Sunday Which, For Some Reason, I Remember As A Decidedly Pleasant Day

On Sunday the bus was so crowded that I had to stand pressed against strangers. Each of us vied for space on the overhead pole that passengers grab to avoid falling. The bus windows were all steamed up. Everyone wore too many layers.

The bus lurched to a stop and while I fought to steady myself, three young men boarded. Most adults are careful to leave a certain amount of space, but the guy who wedged in next to me must have been from one of those rude, crowded countries where surgeons still smoke on the job. Every time his hand bumped up against mine on the pole I moved back a little, and that's how, inch-by-inch, I managed to slide my hands through several colonies of deadly bacterium. I eventually wound up in the rear stairwell, the germiest spot on the bus, because every passenger, whose hands have been god-knows-where, touches the bus pole as they pass it. So I was in the stairwell, thinking about germs, when for the benefit of his friends, my companion launched into a story.

The story was about a homeless man he'd seen standing on a street corner. At the man's feet was an old black lab, its head on its paws. The homeless man was holding some kind of melon. Shifting the melon in his arms, the homeless man called, "Lucy!" and the old dog got up on its feet and wagged its tail, looking up at the man in (I imagined) that friendly, inquisitive way so particular to old Labs. The man lifted the melon high and then heaved it down, breaking it over the dog's head. "And you should have seen the look on that dog's face," my companion said to his friends, shifting his hand tighter against mine, and they had a good laugh.

"That," I said, "is a horrible story." The bus came to a stop and I exited, wiping my hands on my jeans.

* * *

Since it was Sunday and since I had some time to kill, I decided to get lunch at the first restaurant I found, regardless of how unpleasant the food might seem. That's how I happened on this tiny eatery. Or rather, it looked tiny from the outside because the storefront was narrow, with a low awning above it. But on the inside the place was vast, with tables set up way in the back, each separated from the others by woven grass screens so the whole joint seemed like an enormous room, accommodating a number of smaller rooms.

According to the menu, which had a map of Ethiopia on it (a roundish, landlocked country with a point protruding on its Eastern border) the food was from, Guess Where?! So I opened up the menu and then realized I didn't know what to ask for. I finally chose a combination dish, and in under five minutes, two plates of food arrived. One was draped with a large, spongy crepe heaped with several goopy piles of stew. On the other plate rested a plain crepe, folded into quarters like a napkin.

"Do you know how to eat this?" the waiter said, and that's when I noticed I didn't have silverware.

I said, "well, I'm not sure," because though I figured I knew what to do, you never can be sure about anything.

"You rip off a piece of the bread," he said, indicating the folded-up pancake, "and you make a big mess." Then he produced a fork, wrapped in a paper towel, and he laid it gently at the far end of my table. "We don't use this," he said. Which, I wasn't about to eat with a fork like some kind of paranoid and judgmental American — though to be fair, I kept thinking about my hands, all germy from the bus pole, due to the young men from their crowded little country of rude hand-contact.

And in that moment-of-weighing-things-out I was reminded of this horrible date I once went on. We were to meet at this restaurant in sixteenth street. "It's great," my date said, "and only six bucks for a meal. One plate is enough for two people, so we can split it." On the night of our date I was ten minutes late because I'd had trouble parking, and when I arrived he was already seated. On the table was a big plate of dips and salads, a basket of pita bread, and a dispenser of paper napkins. I sat down and said hi, and we talked for a bit, and then my date tucked a napkin under his chin, which I took as a signal to begin eating. I was starving from the stress of finding a parking spot, and I was just about to reach for the bread when he said, "I don't know about you, but before I eat I always thoroughly wash my hands." Then he gave me very precise instructions on how to wash carefully — not just my palms, but between my fingers, paying special attention to the cuticle area.

Now, in the Ethiopian place I'd just found, thinking back on this date that had begun and ended so badly, I left my food and headed way to the back of the deep restaurant, past the Ethiopian family who I guess owned the place — a small child, a teenager, a middle-aged couple, and an old man, all sitting around a table — and I found the ladies' room. But when I pushed open the door, sitting on the toilet was an old Ethiopian woman, dressed all in white with a white headdress, her head in her hands. "Sorry!" I said, and I backed up and shut the door before she lifted her head and saw me.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

It's Easy To Like The Ones Who Bring Out The Best In Us

I had my improv class today, and it's funny how just by staring into someone else's eyes while you and that other person take turns making up a story — by listening intently and building on what the other says — you can suddenly experience a strong liking for that person, and then it's easier to remember their name.

In my class we're doing all kinds of exercises that are meant to get us to respond quickly, without first judging ourselves or worrying that our responses won't sound clever. Which doesn't prevent me from getting nervous sometimes. Wouldn't it be easier to remain in the background, smirking cleverly to myself to disguise the fact that I'm really quite dull?

Today those feelings didn't bother me too much, but I think they were bothering my partner. I guess he can't hear himself and has no idea how clever he is. Or maybe he's getting an idea of it by listening to me build on his ideas, just as he builds on mine, so what we're really hearing is our ideas becoming stories we tell for each other as much as to each other.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


you're reading this right now, aren't you?!? I see you! I see you reading my blog, David!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

My Stupid Femininity

Last night after work my housemate and I went to Zam Zam's, and we started talking about dating. Each of us has been doing lots of it, but neither of us can find someone who seems like they're going to stick, though we've been trying to keep the best ones around as friends. My housemate's experience is, I think, typical for men: most of the women he dates eventually wind up wanting something serious and long-term. And though he likes — and is even attracted to — these women, knowing what they want and yet understanding that he'll never really fall for them makes him run the other way. Which, sometimes I wonder if men and women are suited to each other at all.

But that's not the real problem. The real problem is that some of us will never have a romantic partner, just as some of us will never win the lottery or find buried treasure or lose an eye. Yet so many people (my mother, for instance) believe the worst thing that could ever happen to a person is to never get married or find a long-term love. Unfortunately I was raised by her, and in her presence I can't help but feel pretty awful, unlucky, and loser-ish about not having stirred up feelings of romantic love and longing in another human being. But maybe if we could come to accept that love doesn't happen to and for everyone, if despite this we were able to keep busy and maintain lots of friendships, a life alone wouldn't seem so stark. I dunno.

I remember when I was maybe nine and kids at school would pick on me. My dad would always explain that they were just jealous. The thing was, I had a boy's haircut and too many freckles and I wore dumb frilly homemade dresses with matching underwear. I couldn't catch a baseball or ride a skateboard or think of anything clever and mean to say to the clever, mean kids. Jealous of me?! No chance! So during recess I hid out in a tractor tire and made up stories about my fantasy wedding, where someone would love me so much that I'd be able to live in the world without this constant awareness that I wasn't adequately demonstrating my own value. Because here was the horrible truth of it: if value was a purely subjective quality, and if I wasn't valued, there was always the possibility that I had no value in the first place. Not if I wasn't loved deeply by another.

What a mess!

Anyway, today I had my first improv class, and by the end of it I felt okay with being me. Mostly, anyway. The other students are nice people, and I remember almost everyone's name, and I laughed a lot, too.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Calming & Centering Via Inner Rage

Isn't exercising supposed to make one more calm and more . . . uh . . . centered? Because on Monday I started exercising hardcore, and I don't think it's made me any nicer. In fact, I think I'm more of a jerk.

This one yoga teacher of mine likes to begin each class with a "lesson" that she revisits thematically during the class. I suspect that she just barely remembers this theme until the very end of the class, when the friggin' lesson has to come back full circle, to sort of reinforce it, and it's ALWAYS about evolution (which she pronounces with a long e). So at the beginning of a recent class she asked us to close our eyes and "envision" the "evolution" of a caterpillar from its larval stage through its chrysalis stage and on to its butterfly stage, because, she said, this was such an amazing metaphor for yoga! And I realized that I was probably cracking my molars with all the jaw-clenching I was doing. And you'll NEVER GUESS what we were told at the end of the class!!! Then, in her special 4th-of-July-class, she asked us to "envision" the "evolution" of a firecracker and to dwell on the moment of "ignition," and I had the same molar-thingie. By the end of the class we were fizzling out, but no worries! The cycle of igniting, exploding, and fizzling continues throughout the celebration of life! Later, when when we were were supposed to be "present" in the "moment" with all of its "juicyness," I snorted. I am a spiritless creep.

And it's not just yoga. No form of exercise seems to mellow me out. A friend of mine mentioned that he's started running, and I have this (I hope healthy) competitive side, so I started running in the mornings, up and down the Panhandle. I'd hoped the exercise would calm me down enough to face the Department of Motor Vehicles - since I've moved into this house, I've been parking my car more than a mile away, just to avoid the process of getting my new parking sticker. I hate going to the DMV so very very very much, and I like to think that my hate of it is special, that it runs much deeper than most peoples'. But I thought that after a morning run through the Panhandle, I'd be calm and centered and all right with the DMV.

Not so. I arrived early so I could be one of the first in line and manage not to feel the rage that boils up inside of me when I have to wait in line for something I'm required to get but that I do not really want. And then finally, when the DMV opened up, I was moved to the back of the line for not standing in correct line-formation against the brick wall of the building. Beginning with those at the front of the line, a woman with a clipboard asked each of us a series of questions and then handed out the appropriate forms. When my turn finally came up, I was told that I'd been in the wrong line entirely, and I had to walk to the other side of the building and go to the end of another line. It went on and on like that for three hours, and by that point I was pinching my forehead and crying. I got on the phone and listened to the recording on the DMV hold line as it reassured me over and over again that my call was so very important to it. Like a crazy person, I spoke back to the recording using the noun, adjective, and verb forms of the word "fuck" in a variety of combinations.

This Image Is Not Related In Any Way To My Post, But It's From A Book I Liked When I Was A Kid. My, There Is A Lot Of Nudity In This Illustration!

Anyhoo, my thighs hurt, and today I skipped running & simply did a little yoga. While we were in some kind of twist, this new teacher told us to enjoy the "corset-y feeling of domination," which, okay, at least she has some style. I'll try running again tomorrow, though this time, maybe I'll wait until after work. I'm looking forward to Saturday (why? It's a secret!). On Sunday, I'm attending my first improv class. Alles gut.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Literary Makeovers

Very early this morning, when I was in bed, my night-owl roommate sent me a link to a blog called Literary Makeovers!!! It appears the blog's author read this article about how Wordsworth Editions, a publisher that does inexpensive reprints of classic books, decided to photoshop Jan Austen's portrait to make her less dowdy.

Here's the original portrait of Jane Austen:

Here's the Wordsworth Editions portrait-of-Jane-with-makeup-and-hair-extensions:

And here's the final makeover, by the author of Literary Makeovers!!!:



today is the end of my three-day weekend, and between my two jobs and my improv class, I'm going to be busy. Then there's writing, yoga, cooking, and dancing ungracefully in my new room.

I'm getting older, and I have wasted too much time and too many efforts. I've accomplished so much, but sometimes just coping doesn't seem like much at all. In fact, it seems like nothing.

At this point I'd be satisfied with a comfortable chair for sitting and writing stories (almost bought one yesterday), a good book to read, some clean socks, and a four-day work week. I'm a happy, dull person, and I'm terrified I don't have stories in me.