22 December 2004

On Setting a Date

I have been asked endless variations on this question since announcing my engagement Sunday evening. While I can no longer accurately and honestly respond with my original answer, the spirit of the response is the same.

My original answer, by the way, was, "All of my underwear is still in a box in a U-Haul. Give me a minute, here."

03 December 2004

The Coffee Truck

The highlight of our mornings here at Columbia University Press is an institution known as "the coffee truck" (the alternate name for which is, as Joel informs me, the roach coach.) Every morning at approximately 10:30 the coffee truck arrives and honks. Word goes 'round the office, passing from those who are close enough to windows at the parking-lot end of the building to actually hear the truck honking, through the finance department, down on through the indexers cluster by cluster: "Coffee truck.....coffee truck's here.....coffee truck....praise God..." There is a mad scrambling for coats and change-purses, and we begin our daily pilgrimage to that holiest of shrines, the coffee truck.

The coffee truck is a beautiful sight. Its shiny chrome sides gleam in the midmorning light, and some half-dozen spigots protrude from the back of the truck, dispensing coffee, hot water, decaf, coffee, coffee, and more coffee. Cradled in a trough are cartons of milk and Tupperware containers of sugar. On one side of the truck are various tasty comestibles--sandwiches, doughnuts, muffins, and of course cheese Danish. Occasionally there are also yoghurts of varying exotic fruits. Though this concept takes the phrase "highway robbery" to a new height of linguistic irony, and the caloric consequences are sometimes devastating, the coffee truck is indeed one of man's finest inventions, second only to bottled beer.

Which brings me to my point. This morning, there was talk among a certain group of indexers that there should be an afternoon counterpart to the coffee truck. (This flight into fantasy has no doubt occurred because it is currently 10:57 and so far the coffee truck has not made its appearance.) Sometime around 3:00 or 3:15 each afternoon, the afternoon counterpart should make its appearance. It will be called "The Beer Truck."

Ideally, the beer truck would have taps along its back bumper, offering a variety of domestic, import, and microbrew selections. Around the side you'd have your mixed nuts, trail mix, hot wings, cocktail offerings, olives, finger sandwiches, and scoop-your-own popcorn. One of the guys from the warehouse on the first floor has even suggested tiki torches, because by 3:30 in the winter, it's already pretty damn dark and you don't want to spill your drink (except maybe on that jerk from marketing). It was MK who came up with the coup de grace: Friday afternoon travelling beer truck treks.

On Friday afternoons, instead of parking, the beer truck would honk and make a U-turn. Employees could then log off, pack their briefcases, fetch their car keys, and join a caravan, a sort of vehicular conga line, to the destination of the week. We would follow the beer truck hither and yon, through the hills of Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow to wherever the beer truck led us. Whenever and wherever the beer truck parked, the party would begin.

For now, though, we're stuck eating our $2.00 doughnuts and drinking mediocre brown swill at a dollar per environmentally questionable styrofoam cup. (I've noticed there's no discount if you bring your own mug. Come on, even Starbucks does that.)

01 December 2004

Friedrich Schiller Ironing a Kilt

The fact that it's December hasn't occurred to me. November has been so endless that it cannot possibly be near the end of the first week of Advent. Of course, the fact that I'm living with a Jew (though only sort of, on both counts) at the moment might have something to do with it. That and my complete lack of home. Christmas=home, it always has. This year, homeless, I feel robbed of Christmas, even though Louise builds on to her Christmas village every day at the office, and bakes enough cookies to throttle us all several times over. Even though there are lights all the way down Oscawana Lake Road to the Heights, even though I'm far enough north for snow any night.

And more and more each morning, I realize I miss my boyfriend. This morning I just wanted to hold him, to wrap myself up in his warm scent and strong shoulders, even though he clamps his leg too tight over my hip when he's sleeping sometimes, not realizing of course that he could crush me if he wasn't careful.

EdTool was working fine when I came in this morning; now it's being a bastard. It's been 11:30 since about quarter after nine. Which would be fine if I didn't have to work through lunch so I can drive 95 miles to teach tonight. These next few Wednesdays are going to suck....though not as much as the next few Thursday mornings....

I'm a little insulted that Eva called to ask if we were serious about renting the house. I wanted to say, "If you had drawn up a lease, we'd have signed it already." I told her I wanted to move in as soon as the paint was dry. I mean, good god. I'm sleeping on Robin's couch. (well, he's sleeping on his couch, I'm sleeping in the bed, because that's the way Robin is) I have given up the lease on an apartment I loved, I have bought a new car, I have moved an additional 120 miles away from my partner. I am waiting for you, Eva. I have tried to be perfectly clear that we are serious, and that we were trying not to push you, but that we are anxious to move in and get on with it. Jesus.
I am nearing wit's end on how to make myself clear and make this happen. I am getting to the point again where I need answers, because this amount of uncertainty is not healthy for me.

Neither is what I'm about to say to EdTool, white-screening me again for the nth time this morning. This hour.


25 November 2004

Sneezle Weasel

That would be me. I woke up like clockwork at 6:42, waiting for my cell phone alarm to go off....which of course it did, though it shouldn't have, since I'm home and theoretically turned it off yesterday. Or not. But it's funny, how quickly my body adjusts to the idea of this as waking time. So now it's eight and I'm better than halfway into my mug of tea (tea! what a blissful thing! who thought of tea?) and kicking around the internet while blowing my runny little sinus-infested nose. If the weather would stop changing, or if I didn't have three cats and a houseful of fur that I'm packing into boxes and swirling around, this might not be so much of a problem.

I confess I still have what could aptly be described as "a shitload" of papers to grade from the midterm. But right now I'm still in overdrive mode. Mostly drive. I'm living up at Robin's during the week (how weird is that? ) so I don't have to commute hell and away from New Jersey. These first three days it was a backpack full of clothes and my journal, but Robin suggested bringing the futon and taking over his camera room. I was -- humbled. Floored, to say the least, though on reflection I shouldn't have been. Robin has always had an endless well of compassion coupled with an unerring ability to do the logical thing. The funny thing: my boyfriend is completely okay with this. It's not ideal, but you do what needs to be done. And my wiping out on 287 at six in the morning is, frankly, not what needs to be done. What needs to be done is a massive amount of painting in Eva's house (for me! for us! for my boyfriend and me.....and she even asked me what colours I liked, which was sweet and kind and thoughtful as I am remembering people know how to be....it constantly amazes me, the kindness of people) and then the migration continues, ever northward. I'm already fifteen boxes of books into it.

I should probably be making piecrust. But that can wait another few minutes.

Another interesting development is the very likelihood that I will soon be the owner of my first new car. Not dad's, my own. Even as recently as last month, I didn't think that would ever happen. On the other hand, why spend $5000 of dad's money (to be repaid, obviously) on something that will fall apart in three years, wherein my boyfriend and I will have to do this all over again, and who knows where we'll be then? It might be better, but it might be a hell of a lot worse. And a thousand dollars a year on gas--I didn't even know I spent that much, let alone that I would save that much with this hybrid.

And above all, it's cute. It's a Honda, and even though it's that strange new shade of opalescent light Honda blue, I really like it. It suits me. I felt at home. And, okay, when I went out to pat it on the flank and say goodbye, I got a surge from it--not a battery surge, or a static electricity suge......one of those surges. An "I want to be yours" surge. A surge that said to me that this car feels the same way I do.

I'm just afraid of the commitment, of falling over on my nose and taking someone else with me this time; once again having to ask my father to bail me out because he was right, I overextended. I would hate that. On the other hand, as I observed to Doug the other day, I have completely no fear like this of moving in with my boyfriend. That, at least, makes total sense to me. Well, okay, I'm terrified, let's not be ridiculous here. I'm terrified that I'll curl up like a defensive little hedgehog and stick all my quills out at him until he leaves me alone in my cage--but on the level both just above that and just below that--like a river whose warm currents swirl around a cold eddy--I am completely sure from the soles of my feet that this is the next step for us to take. True, neither of us ever dreamed that we'd be living together before marriage; it's just not the Catholic-parent thing. But this is the way our life has worked out, and--like living at Robin's--this is the best way to proceed from here. It's like the plot of a novel: it has one true path, and if you stare at it long enough, all the other ones slowly melt away until this is the only way left to you, until all other possible paths become absurdly impossible to imagine, as if this had been the road all along, this wide boulevard. Not saying, you understand, that gazing at it makes it so--I'm not quite stubborn enough (or naive enough) to believe that--but simply that after a while it becomes obvious.

The way John Keeble used to say he knew when a page of fiction or a poem was right--it used to hum purple up off the page at him. Very unlike John, on one level, but again, at another, completely John.

My boyfriend's asleep in my bed, torqued and twisted incredibly into the flannel sheets he bought me last winter. That was the most amazing thing to me, when I woke this morning in the grey light: that he should be here, real and solid and warm, after all I've been through, after all the moments dreaming of this moment, that it should become real. that were I to nudge open the door and peer inside, it would be real still. And most unbelievable of all, that it will remain real for many years to come.

05 November 2004


That was the sound my head made as I was leaving work Wednesday. To wit:

Hi Sara,
I wanted to let you know that on Monday morning one of the people I had hired didn't show up (I found an email from her that morning saying she had reconsidered). She lives a few blocks away from the Irvington office -- that'll teach me to be guided by how far or close someone lives when making difficult hiring decisions. If you are still interested in the job, please let me know. I thought you'd be terrific at the job, but worried, as I think you know, about your long commute until you got settled into your new house.
I look forward to hearing from you-

Columbia University Press

I mean, really! So I emailed her the equivalent of "is a bear Catholic" and went screaming down 413 to teach my class. Haven't really stopped spinning since. The beautiful thing is that after all the stress of the past two days, I called Eva and she's about as tickled as can be that we want to move into the house, and the roofer would have been finished today if it hadn't been so windy. So he's coming by tomorrow, and after that Eva (and presumably Diane) will sit down with us around her kitchen table and hash out the details of this thing, and then we will be able to move.

After all.

Isn't it weird? Isn't it positively lovely, how weird the universe is?

26 October 2004


Three papers left to grade for tomorrow, buahahaha.

Sorry, having a Sesame Street moment. I am looking quite forward to having all the time in the world that the Faire had been eating to concentrate on teaching. Because I know I've got a whole lot of distance to go. And I don't know where to begin. I actually commented to both Robin and Susan that what I really needed was to take a pedagogy class. (perish the thought!) Robin of course had a very rude (and very funny) comment. Also concentrating on housework might not be a bad idea either. Mostly the house I've been cleaning lately has been my boyfriend's, cos it's the one I'm in. But I do have relatively few dishes (try not to fall over).

Still recovering from Faire and the funky formal and subsequent sleep impairment patterns. I might actually be in bed at a decent hour tonight, but I hesitate to hope after last night's abysmal failure. (thanks in large part to the fact that my boyfriend failed to be smarter than his apartment.)

Nose back to grindstone now. Pointy nose. Grind grind.

08 October 2004

No Middle Grounds.

dear sara

robin sent your note to me about allegro. here's the scoop. allegro was once a private company that prided itself in the quality of its coffee under the leadership of kevin knox, a most arrogant and obnoxious know-it-all. allegro was bought out by whole foods and about a year ago kevin was finally ousted. allegro makes outrageous and false claims about what it pays to farmers and has avoided the fair trade movement like leprosy. allegro claims that it pays on average more than the international fair trade price and claims to have an audit by ernst and young to prove it. of course, in this neo-orwellian world, allegro refuses to let anyone see the audit or know what the terms of the audit were. but i am a coffee guy and i challenged starbucks publicly on the same bullshit and won, so i can tell you that allegro pays brokers and importers, not farmers, so their price claim is apples and oranges to what we in the fair trade movement pay farmers directly. they also, i believe, included their decaf prices in their calculation, and we have to add a dollar per pound to decaf (their money goes to the kraft or nestles owned swiss water plant).

basically, allegro is an ordinary business (no harm in that) pretending to be a socially responsible business (lots of harm in that), but in modern america, what else is new? sorry for the joyless note, but it's the end of the week and i get so tired of being in an industry where lying qua marketing is the coin of the realm.

be well,
dean cycon
deans beans organic coffee company

04 October 2004


I have no context for grading papers other than either pretending I'm someone else (Ralph Black, Elizabeth, a fellow grad student) or pretending I have a clue what I'm doing and winging it. And comparing them against the others, which isn't fair. I have a shitload of B, B-minus, or solid C papers. Which is discouraging, even though it shouldn't be. If they could write, they likely wouldn't be at a community college. That Matt, though. Damn. With his Calvin and Hobbes esque go-kart narrative, taking it above the level of freshman writing and talking about the freedom of flight. Compared to the vague essays about freedom. Yawn, and badly executed yawn at that.

So I have the hippie lung plague. Again. Every October, round about Fair time. This year I'm damned if I'm going to let it turn into pneumonia, though. First off, because it was a pain in my ass. Secondly, because I want to be able to leave my fucking place of employment in the next few weeks. Even though Mi-Hye is completely crazy and I won't be able to resign at the end of our asinine meeting tomorrow. The one that she insists won't take long--of course it won't take long, she's already convicted me of something she had no right to even question. Fucking freak. God.

And yes that's anxiety and exhaustion and DayQuil talking. Or, more accurately, the need to take another dose of it. Only it's the bedtime kind for me. Even though I haven't graded but two papers and commented on a third. I've at least made a dent, and those are scaring me. Because that still matters to me. I still want to do well...I can't imagine not wanting to give back to Susan, who took a chance on me. And I wonder if she regrets her decision. (Jonas is pawing to get at the medicine cabinet, stubborn little fuzzbutt) I know I'm over-reacting, and that if I go in as a colleague and ask for help and guidance and mentoring like I was supposed to get.....that I can only get better. She knows I have no experience, so why am I crucifying myself for her? Oh yeah, because Mi-Hye trained me to.

And no, for your information, we haven't heard from our respective prospective employers. He at least is on a decent level of communication with his. And Eva just got back from Israel last week, so the house is still there. But still, the waiting is making me more like my worst nightmare-vision of my mother.

I know there's a lesson here. The lesson is supposed to be that I stand with grace in the waiting, grow into a thoughtful, serene woman who can roll with the punches. A rock, my boyfriend's firm foundation. Somehow it's not working out that way.

Oh, and ladies and gentlemen, Matt Schaffer with the go-kart essay on a breakaway, he shoots, he scores! The crowd is on its feet! Yes! Yes! The Giants win the pennant! The curse is broken! 1940! 1940!

30 September 2004


I can only describe that as a migraine. Stress, sinuses, Mi-Hye being a complete asshole and calling my bluff so I have to contact the union....it all culminated in my having to call out sick because I thought my skull was going to implode.

And no Tessa didn't call. So I'm still waiting to find out about the job. Trying not to stress out about that. I need to call Eva but I hate to call her without having anything to tell her....Hi Eva, I still don't know if we can rent your house because I have to get the job I applied for, can we call you again in two weeks? Yeah, whatever.

No wonder I'm fried. But I managed to clean a corner of my dining room today, the one under the computer desk. So when I get the energy I can at least write cover letters and apply for adjunct positions at two SUNY campuses. Campi. Whatever. And I'm obviously going to have to do the comma lecture again, and the semi-colon lecture. And the don't put capital letters in the middle of sentences lecture, in some cases. I let class out early last night because I ran out of lesson plan and wasn't feeling well enough to wing it. I need to work that out. Hmmmm. I've got a stack of essays, and judging from where they started from, I want to kiss each and every one of my students. (Except Jason, who comes 20 minutes late and hasn't written a fucking word so far as I know. No draft, no final essay, no nothing. He's about to flunk.) And I feel bad because he's also the only African-American kid in the class. If I'm feeling magnanimous I might tell him that he's going to flunk if he doesn't withdraw, but I might just fail his ass. He doesn't care, doesn't respect me, doesn't respect the class, and it shows and if that's going to be his attitude I don't want him there. No, that's not it, I don't care, it's not even like you can tell he's in class. I just don't want him to waste his money, because I care about passing him about as much as he cares about passing, as far as I can tell. My concern for his classwork is in direct relation to his effort. Which was been zero.

And yet I love it. I love knowing that my assignment for essay 2 was greeted with complete and utter academic horror. Oh God, I'm going to have to think??? This is not a freebie. I'm so cruel. And yet, that's what makes them love me. I could get into this, big time.

Which means I need to get off my ass and write some cover letters. Sigh.

26 September 2004

Excerpt from an e-mail to Daniel

Mmmmm. Tea. I know you're a coffee drinker in terms of becoming functional, and I agree with you that a lot of coffee is very good on simply that drug level. But give me a huge mug of English breakfast tea in the morning, thank you. It's a strange ritual, and a solitary one. To me coffee is a social beverage almost exclusively. I rarely make it just for myself, despite the beautiful black-and-chrome vaporatore that I was given for Christmas last year, which I truly cherish, and use religiously at Robin's. Coffee from the road, the only other places I drink tea in the mornings are my mother's and Samira's...and, on occasion, the Inn.

23 September 2004

Office Hours

So. Here I am, having dutifully put in my hours this week, playing teacher by grading Lauren's extra draft of paper, and by setting up (finally) my grade book. Okay, it's actually an attendance book, but whatever. Somehow I'm thinking that even a half-cup of coffee thick with half-and-half might not have been such a good plan, considering how starving I am, and that I have to stop at Wegman's on the way home. Oops. But somehow it fit with the role I'm playing this moment, the one of College English Professor.

Today I just about asked Mi-Hye, "You're not from around here, are ya" because she decided that my patting Rob jokingly on the cheek was "inappropriate touching." Get real. He's a sacred music/organ performance major. I do the same thing to half a dozen students on a regular basis--male, female, and in between. Just because she has no sense of warmth. Good God.


These kids are so good for me. Teaching is in many ways my salvation. (especially now, while I'm in a job I so totally despise with a boss who is so obviously clueless on that many levels.)

Almost done freaking out about the interview process, but there's so much pressure (which I've placed on myself) because I feel like this is the only real job lead I've gotten for the Putnamistan area, that if I don't get this job we will lose the house and it'll be all my fault. A theory, by the way, he thoroughly poo-poohs. But his USDA thing is looking good...slowly. I hate patience. It sucks. Wah! is right, I'm going to end up a tree in my next life.

Robin said the sweetest thing yesterday. I sent him an email thanking him once again for the haven of his lake house. That I was pretty fucking stressed, and he magically opened up that possibility of brief respite, or else he somehow knew but didn't talk about it. And he sent me back a two-word email: I do... That just about undid me with love and gratitude for him.

Was going to take the weekend off from the Ren Faire, but it doesn't look like that's the plan anymore...Carolyn's coming up with her family...tra la, tra la....oh well....maybe I'll still get my ass in gear early enough Sunday to have some rest, either at home or up at the lake, which is awfully tempting....except for the drive....

Ok, now I'm stalling. This is infinitely more fun than going to the grocery store. However, there is the image of a hamster on its wheel coming to mind here......

20 September 2004


Yeah. Wow. That's a lot of damn water where the Delaware River didn't used to be. And sweet Shari lost everything, Shari who has never even uttered a loud, harsh, or unkind breath in her entire life. And now her whole world is underwater. I want to send word around to the Faire so that by next week's end every single damn drum in that shop is sold, that clothes mysteriously end up on her doorstep, that paints and drum frames and furniture arrive by the carriage-load, and that she has a crew of maintenance men and women and EMTs to shovel out her house. She's too good to have anything this terrible happen near her. And her reaction, through tears flooding her big brown beautiful eyes, and sobs that she tried not to let wrack her frail shoulders....the words...."another big change"....


So I'm off to my interview tomorrow, everyone's confident that I'll get an offer. I'm having that last minute terror so common in lesser mammals, the humanoids.

Oh yes, and the hand-fasting. But I'm too tired and cranky to talk about the wonder, and the love, and the love shared by a circle of friends.

And Robin, telling my boyfriend, "when are you coing to visit me? I'm tired of always seeing her rat ass."


That man deserves a spanking.

17 September 2004

Bendy Wendy

Chloe brought me matzo ball soup and Flexoril last night, and then did my dishes. I couldn't convince her that I was okay from the car accident, because the truth is I was stressed out and exhausted. (who, me?) I ended up going to bed at 8:30. At least, I think it was 8:30. It could have been 3:80. I hate drug hangovers.

Ever notice how full of complaining I seem to be? Maybe I should get a life. Or a vacation. Now there's a concept. A vacation that isn't consumed by one of my other two jobs. A last-ditch effort to spend time alone with myself for several days before I-don't-know-what? I've come to realize I'm fiercely afraid of losing my hard-won independence. I've come to know myself by and through it. And now I'm about to latch myself to a distinctly separate person for the remainder of my days. Am I mad?

Remarkable, the sensation of watching myself, wondering aloud if I am about to jump into something headlong, without thinking. How is observing this phenomenon unlike thinking about it? It's why I need so desperately to talk to him this weekend. For long, for real, for good. Without all the distractions that commonly occur in our conversations. Funny stories, other people in our presence because we're on the phone, movies, laundry, his inherent desire to always be multitasking. Okay, I have one too, but I'm able to turn it off and concentrate on the matter at hand for several minutes at a time before I have to get up and sort laundry.

Maybe he thinks that when I get up from the conversation we're having, I'm signaling that it's over. Even sometimes we're driving, which is often when our best conversations take place--but we're still doing something else. We're always doing something eles. We're never just talking.

We need to just talk.

I congratulated myself for waking at all today by going to Main Street Bakery and buying an orange and pecan scone. It's pretty extra-mediocre. Not much of a prize. I miss the cool green fronds of Oscawana, the lake that wraps around your ankles as you float.

13 September 2004

Insert Thesis Statement Here

Some of you may note that this in no way resembles grading 21 papers. This would, in fact, be an accurate observation. Actually I just picked one up, Nicole's pink folder, her tidy labels like her tidy hair and well' manicured fingers. sweet Nicole. she's a good kid. Like most of them--anxious to please, to do well. I'm merely appalled that these intelligent kids can't seem to write their way out of a paper bag. because let me tell you, not a single one of my students is dumb, and only a few of them are fluffy. And Nicole is my star, the one who critiques with insight and catches the drift of my analysis half a step ahead of the rest.

And there's still comma splices and mismatched verbs (pardon me, your participle is dangling) and thin imagery. And it simply stuns me. That their teachers up til college haven't done a damn thing about this. I mean, what in the name of the Great Gerbil God Ding was their sixth grade English teacher doing???

So okay. At least I have my work cut out for me, and at least I know why there are at least 84 sections of freshman comp (I was number 83) on campus and students adding into them every week. Though if I get another one they'll already technically have flunked according to my attendance policy. Which, incidentally, makes me wonder if I'll ever get an add slip for any of my students, or for that matter a drop slip from a couple of people who have yet to appear, though one of them did call before I even knew I had voice mail. Shit, that reminds me, I think I need to set up my mail box. Oh hell. Being scatterbrained is too much work.

11 September 2004

On the Transmigration of Souls

Here's my thoughts on this. Somewhat garbled, as usual.

Some of us are trying to forget. No, not the facts, not the reality. We never will forget that, it's impossible. It's ingrained in us so deeply it's become part of our bodies. For me, it's quite literal. I have crap embedded so deeply in my lungs, the EPA now tells me, that it will never come out, (Mt. Sinai keeps coming out with better and better news about how "long-term health effects are widespread among rescue workers and survivors." No shit. They needed a federal grant to study that?) For me, what I struggle to forget, especially this time of year, is the intense details of the aftermath that crippled me emotionally for so many months afterward. Every time a plane flew overhead, I ducked. I would wake in the middle of the night with the stench of the pit in my lungs. I could smell it on my sheets, in my hair, in the pages of my journal. Even now, if I concentrate, I can bring that smell back. I try not to, because it makes me sadder than words. The sadness I can handle. But it also makes me numb, comatose, anxious, weepy....all those classic PTSD symptoms that still crop up, though a little less every year.

For me, the real goal is to forget. Is for 9/11 to pass by almost unnoticed. I will always know the facts of what happened. But one day I want to be able to commemorate it with my children the way Jenny and I called her children outside and away from the horror of the television we could not turn on and Rain could not turn off downstairs in the basement.....by going outside, and picking the season's first apples from the orchard. My hope is that my children will remember and think of 9/11 the way I think of Pearl Harbor--that they know something horrible happened that day, something that changed the world forever, but that they know it as ancient history, without any bitterness towards the people who did it just because their faces looked different or they were on the other side. I hope they remember it as the moment we all stood together and said, "No more," and that the story ends very differently--that the end result was the same, that the world was changed forever, but without knowing that countless thousands more had to die before the change. I want the candles Jenny lit last night to be the last candles we had to light because of this. I want them to know their Uncle Danny, instead of having to light a candle for him in a park someday. I want my beautiful, blond, American student Jennifer Shecht to not dread the whole month of September because she happens to be Muslim, a choice she made because of the man she loved, not because she thinks Christian God is the enemy. I don't want to wake up three, four, a dozen times every night when the weather is perfect like this, wondering if the terror is real again, wondering if Terry is able to sleep too, wondering if Jason and Beura and LaFaye and Gene are all lying awake across the country with me, thinking the same thoughts. I don't want Lisa Beamer's kids to grow up different, part of that special club that nobody wants to be a part of.

Most of all, I want to wake up one morning and realize it is mid-September, that it's almost MaryAnn's birthday, almost the anniversary of the first day I met the man I'm going to marry, that I have to call Chloe and Jake and Robin and wish them l'shanah tovah (forgive me, I can't even spell it in English, let alone hebrew) and there are papers to grade from my freshman comp class and it's almost time to take the kayak in off the dock for the winter and start cutting back the lavender in the garden......and that's all. I want to wake up and it's the first of October and I haven't even noticed.

That's what I want.

I need to forget the anger, anger for me is poisonous.....so hard to figure out what's "righteous" anger and what's "all about me" anger......the grief still wells up, and that's okay. i know I won't forget the grief but in time be able to deal with it. I don't want it to remain what giuliani said that day (and he was right) "that it will be more than any of us can bear."
But he was also wrong.....it was more than any one of us could bear, but I saw in the following months a city, a nation, so strong because we were one. that's something I have not seen before or since.

Last night I did what I do every year, I put on Daniel's requiem mass, which he compiled for this occasion in October 2001. It's not a public recording, he made about a dozen copies for friends. It starts out with the silence between solemnly tolling bells and the rising voices of Arvo Part, soon mingled with sirens and confusion and voices both American and Arabic and eventually the bombs we dropped in Afghanistan--all pulled from the endless news tapes he has access to at NPR--and finally rising out of that confusion is Daniel's own voice. Not the voice of his mouth, that lovely jazz announcer's smooth subtenor with strange, rich, deep undertones that I always imagined came from smoking too many cigarettes but now know he inherited from his father--but the voice of his drums. Before anything else, Daniel is a drummer. I can't always place his sources when he weaves together CDs for me, in part because he is so skillful at the art of the segue and in part because he has a personal recording library as big as most radio stations, plus access to an actual flagship radio station....but this one time I knew that it was Daniel speaking. This was his own composition. These were his own words. This all takes place within the first fifteen minutes of an hourlong recording, but this is the part that undoes me much more than the choir of voices that eventually takes over, absolving everything, or the Episcopal mass in Daniel's own church, into which he boldly brought his DAT recorder for the memorial service that weekend, more than Brother Ray singing "America" or even Phil Woods playing an unaccompanied Star Spangled Banner to close out the CD, both mournful and triumphant on his sax. This is the section that tears me apart, because this is the only time Daniel has ever come close to admitting how he feels.

Much the way I wrote feverishly in my journal for weeks and Jenny painted layer after layer of watercolour with the kids the next day, the way countless families made love desperately in the nights following and god knows how many children were conceived in that darkness, Daniel understood that no matter how feeble the gesture, no matter how small or how untrained the talent or the product (and his was neither, the man has a gift beyond words) the opposite of destruction is creation, that the only way to steer our way out of this incredible darkness was to light one match, he set himself ablaze like a beacon and stood in the blackness for us to find our way home.

10 September 2004

PMS Has Eaten My Brain

This would be the primary reason I have trouble wrapping my mind around the concept that God might be a woman. So now I'm here without glasses, office keys, allergy medicine...damn near everything except my journal. And not feeling too good about it. The weather is perfect, though, that kind of perfect weather we'd been having three years ago. The kind of perfect weather I don't trust anymore.

I don't wish to get into that kind of remembrance, though; not today. Today I want to focus on the possible.

Whatever that is.

03 September 2004


Which is something these journal entries haven't been doing. It's possible I'm having trouble with the Big Blue Button, but more likely it's that my Big Blue Toilet Seat of a computer (original iBook, you see?) is not playing well with others. Each time I try to enter my current music, everything eats itself. Deleverance, walking through the cemetery with my boyfriend gone. Early morning thoughts on why John Kerry may have been a confused and angry young man when he came back from Vietnam, but at least he showed up, and since when isn't a politician capable of personal and emotional growth, he's still infinitely better than He Whose Initial Must Not Be Mentioned--gone. Coffee bitter and frothed with milk in Robin's backyard, sun burning my legs already--gone. Rootless rambling, also gone.

It got really annoying after a while. So I stopped thinking of important things to say. Then I went from having one job to having four (three plus Robin's) and that was the end of everything including enough sleep to remain coherent, personable, and functional at work for a week at a time. Even three vacation days didn't do much good, since I had to write a syllabus. Not my intent, not exactly relaxing either. Still, the work was done and I'm glad for it. This is obviously going to take a certain amount of discomfort and monumental effort. But I felt, even in front of the class on my first night, that it will certainly be worth it.

08 August 2004


I'm in love with the house. Or, more accurately, we're in love with the house. And the lake, and the landlady, and Robin and Juno and the sunlight on the rocky patch of garden, and....just about everything except the peachy-off-terracotta shade of the bathroom walls and the fact that I, a relatively competent human-being and outdoorsman (gender-nonspecificity is key, here) of 31 years although apparently a mediocre water-skier at best, just about damn near died of hypothermia last night. In the middle of fucking civilization! In a house, in fact. I was not amused.

The good news is, I lived to feel like a complete dork, no matter what Robin says. A word of advice, here, if I may break the fourth wall and address the unseen audience, a writerly convention which bugs thoroughly the snot out of me at most times. Do not, under any circumstances, fall prey to hypothermia. At all. Ever. It's a really lame way to spend an evening, plus the men in your life will divide up your supper portion of amazingly succulent charcoal-grilled ribs and feed what little they can't eat to your dog. I can't believe I missed ribs. So mad. Instead I got to lie on Robin's bed, shiver uncontrollably, ride out a fever of 102+, hallucinate a little bit, take a bath, drink peppermint tea, and threaten to vomit a couple of times. They tell me that once the bath was drawn I became much more fun; possibly also they were feeling less like they were going to have to explain my demise to my boss tomorrow. ("Well, everything was fine until we started watching the documentary on Liberia, then she just got up and her head started spinning around on her neck....")

So the upshot of all this was I got to take a five-hour nap today, another supreme late-summer day. I also didn't get any coffee for breakfast. (he got his delivered bedside, the way I used to.)

Still, it was a wonderful day. Even being so horribly ill I was grateful. Grateful that the two men who are closest to me (who aren't named "dad") were there to take care of me, grateful that they knew what to do and were fairly amusing doing it ("Room service!" Robin yodeled cheerfully as they brought the sheets up out of the dryer to make up the bed.) and afterwards told me not to feel like a dork. Advice I, of course, listened to as always.

But can I tell you how much I want this house to become a reality? So much so I'm afraid to want it. Afraid when I told my boyfriend how much. Attachment is not my friend. Grrr. Attachment pretends to be my friend but then leaves giant abrasions when I have to drag myself away time and time again. Clinging ivy. He simply won't let himself focus on anything except the orthopod.

My, isn't this turning into a self-indulgent little bit of multimedia? Tomorrow on "No this is not a french melodrama or a Jefferson Airplane song"

I must go back to bed. How much energy it takes, to not freeze to death.

06 August 2004

The Fire Cat

I remember the terror I felt when I adopted Pickles. Our first night alone together, even though (or perhaps because) I loved her so desperately and knew we wanted to be together, I wondered if I could care for her. My plants, at that time, were another thing entirely. I didn't worry about Sigfried. I'd managed not to kill him so far (I wonder if he is alive today, the victim of an unfortunate plant-napping by an unscrupulous Gonzaga law student named Tom) but he was a plant. This was a living animal, which somehow to me was more important at that point. I imagine, in a lot of ways, it still is, which makes me neither a good Wiccan nor a good Buddhist. Nor, come to think of it, a good Christian, since I am concerned so much about nonhuman life forms. I am a good steward in a nontraditional sense, I spose.

But anyway Dave Dubuque went to the Third and Maple Safeway and bought her two tupperware dishes (which I still have, I use one of them for watercolours) and some kitty litter, which I put in the bottom bit of a paper bag overnight until I bought a proper litter pan. She seemed to know what one was, as cats instinctively do, but furthermore she seemed anxious to wait until the litter arrived, anxious somehow to please me. Those were her first round-eyed minutes, before she slitted her eyes in the attitude that was Pickles to all who knew her.

Pickles outside was a scared creature, worried and hollow-voiced, afraid of abandonment, which is I suppose why our bond was immediately so strong. And there she was, loped blackly up to my apartment ahead of me, knowing instinctively which door was mine, and investigating in her saucy way. Talking the whole time. And I thought, "My god. I'm in charge of the well-being of another life." This of course lasted about the length of the night. By morning she was hungry again, demanding food and petting and more nickels and wadded-up scraps of paper to chase across the vast hardwood floors of that Riverside Avenue apartment, the one with the french doors and the bay window that looked into an alleyway. The one I never fully moved into, thinking always I'd get a bed and stop sleeping on the futon couch. (The most comfortable bed I've ever had, to this day, living now on its last legs at Erik's in Seattle.) In that quirky Pickles way she had, scooping the food out of the dish kibble by kibble with her paw, so her whiskers wouldn't hit the side of the dish. I'd wake up every morning to find she'd pulled the dish all the way across the kitchen, and every morning I'd carry it back across to live next to the water bowl. It never occurred to me to get a different dish, until I moved back in with mom and dad and mom simply brought down the earthenware dishes I still use for Jonas and the girls, announcing she was tired of stepping on it. That's what you get for waking at five when it's still dark, even in June.

05 August 2004

Save Me a Chowning's, Honey, I'm Coming Home

I suppose I can make it ten more days until vacation without killing anybody. Only you're apparently not supposed to joke about that anymore, especially online. Especially when you hang out with Robin Romano (however cranky he happens to be right now, not that I blame him) and people like Tom Ridge hate you. Probably personally. But my point wasn't going to be about the Patriot Act or the First Amendment or whatever. Even though I think it's appalling that not only can children and teenagers not tell the different between reality with consequences and a video game with a reset button, so they shoot each other or carry swords to school....but also that adults can't tell the difference between terrorism and satire.

Although it's a very salient point to make.

No, my point was going to be something else altogether, until I got sidetracked.

04 August 2004

Stupid Fucker, Mad as Hell

At least I'm sitting down now. If I knew they were coming, rather than having them foisted on me by someone else's selfish and utter lack of planning, I wouldn't mind crazy days. It beats sitting around updating my blog.....at least I haven't had a chance to freak about my interview yet. We talked some more about Putnamistan. "Christ, I'd love to live up there" was the last thing I expected to hear from him at the moment, given his recent behaviour surrounding the matter. I'm trying to keep all options open, so that I may receive whatever the universe has in mind for me. Shutting my mind has never worked real well.

But I told my sister a couple of days ago that it distressed me to realise that I was content to think I didn't deserve Oscawana, that a blue heron at sunrise was something I thought I should save for special occasions. When really it is not only a way I could choose to live, it is my birthright.

So this morning I planted zinnias, after a subtle hint from the purple goddess of computers, and we shall see what happens from here. I'd like to be able to leave here, but an adjunct position won't allow that. Not right away. So we shall see.

I wonder what my theories on teaching are???

30 July 2004

Fried Eggs

Juno woke me before seven again, only this time I tried to steal another half hour of precious comfort, probably because it was grey and rainy. I should have known better. 82 pounds of frantic dog vs. one hundred and.....um.....a sleeping woman is no match. So out we went. I can't say I was grateful, that the sunrise through the haze did anything (or even that it was visible, off under the clouds as it was) or that my soul was turned. But we went.

I feel so disconnected here. It's not just the job, it's the very New Jerseyness of it all. I have no place to plug in that part of me. The canal, Herrontown Woods, none of it is big enough, or close enough, or real enough. That, more than anything else, is what draws me to the lake (the lake.....those words used to mean something else entirely, a different set of comforts, a different definition of home. Still they ring true, but it's not what comes first to mind.) More than the thought of Robin, of Juno, of whatever fractured dream I finally am beginning to leave behind. It's the possibility of being whole, the thought of waking to herons more than once in a summer, the promise of quietude and solemnity and the cocoon of my own sacred space not ending when I turn the doorknob. He has to know that, he has to see it on my face when I'm on the water in late afternoon. Does he think it's something else? Does he fear I'm thinking of the past? It's so hard to reach him right now, both of us just so freaked out about our own personal shit that we're not really connecting the way we usually do.

So, home again. The lake, the pines, and always the great greyblue ache of sky. Maybe that is the call. Maybe I am meant to listen, one small note at a time.

29 July 2004

I Wish I Knew What I Was Doing Here

Also that I felt comfortable with the font. Ah, well. More will come with the late-night wbgo oil, oui? Or so they tell me. Actually this is something I've been contemplating for a while. Trying to let Daniel tease me into. Or, okay, making him design me one. But the boy doesn't have time to--well, you know.

I also wish I weren't so torn about the possibility of moving. It's everything I've been dreaming about for the past three years. And therein lies the problem. Dreams do change, don't they....mine's just gotten into a little clearer focus.

Damn. I meant to listen to John Kerry's acceptance speech. Actually, I'm supposed to be up at the lake hosting a bunch of strangers listening to John Kerry's speech, but Robin's on the Cape, the boyfriend's working, and I'm.....well, here. With the dog. Thinking, like her, that sprawling out on a cool expanse of floor might not be a bad idea. Too much time on the road lately, and Robin off to Darfur. Scares the bejesus out of me, I'll tell you what.

Work tomorrow. Grrrr. Have I mentioned that yet? I mean, really.