28 November 2007

If I Could Make This Shit Up, I'd Be on Strike in Hollywood.

I had an interview scheduled at a local, unnamed college this afternoon. Or, at least, I used to. I spent the whole morning getting ready. I flossed. I put on a slip. I put on pantyhose, for crying out loud. (The last time I wore pantyhose was at the funeral of a 95-year-old priest. I went bare-legged to my own wedding.) I gathered my portfolio, plundering scattered files and ideas of half-formed lesson plans in an attempt to wow the interviewer's socks off. (At least we could be bare-legged together.) I ate a healthy lunch. I brushed my teeth again, to remove any trace of cranberry mayo. I packed my briefcase, silenced my cell phone, and left early to drive to campus.

Where I was met by several sheriff's deputies and the plentitude of flashing lights that usually indicates major delays on the Turnpike. But this was not an overturned tractor-trailer or a car fire. This, apparently, was an (unspecified) threat that had closed the campus all day.

Is it me, or is this the second time in eight months that I've been escorted off a small-town community college campus because of a bomb threat? I'm starting to wonder if maybe I should take this personally.

24 November 2007

Calling Olson, Calling Memphis

Sadly, I am not in possession of a misspent youth, but I did misspend a good portion of my early twenties to make up for it. Let's see:

College in Greenwich Village dreaming of black Doc Martens and blacker eyeliner. This was before the days when goth was popular with the under-15 set, back when it actually said something. Back in the days when you had to shop at hole-in-the-wall thrift shops down past Bleecker Street because there was no Hot Topic to make it trendy. My army coat was from East Germany, and my pea coat was vintage US Navy, not Old Navy, and had some guy's name stenciled on the neck label.

Flannel over tank tops and t-shirts. Not because of Kurt Cobain, but because of the dust and factory-height windows in the scene shop, which made heating impossible.

Tattoos and random body piercings. Yup, but this wasn't until I was 25. Again, this was when it still pissed people off. Annoyingly enough, my mom thought my first tattoo was cool.

Ditching out after college graduation and fleeing to the Pacific Northwest to become a poet. I picked Spokane partly because it was as far away as I could get from both New York City and my parents without leaving the country or getting wet.

Knowing several different ways to smoke weed without the use of rolling papers. To quote Carolyn Kizer, "After Spokane, what horrors lurk in hell?" I didn't really understand this quote about my beloved adopted city until the eighty-seventh snowstorm one December (with winter not safely ending until April) when the only thing open was the Rosauer's on 14th and Monroe, and the furnace quit.

Crossing the country in a 1965 VW bus with everything I owned, and my cat. It only took about ten travel days, plus four hours for a blown tire outside of Missoula, a tow for a fan-belt replacement that wouldn't stay replaced in Butte, three days waiting for generator parts in Livingston, Montana (which explained the whole fan-belt issue), and two days waiting for a master cylinder rebuild in Bloomington, Indiana, which is where we ended up when the brakes failed and we couldn't stop in Martinsville.

Rolling Rock, cough syrup, antidepressants, thyroid replacement hormone, pot brownies. Never eat the small brownies. They're small for a reason. That reason involves not leaving your body.

Psycho boyfriends. More than my fair share. I still can't convince my parents that this was as much about me as it was about them. Also, it should probably be disturbing that many of them had the same two first names.

Social disorder. No, not the kind in the DSM-IV. The kind that involves nearly getting arrested for all the right reasons while wearing a bag over your head to protest torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners. Except that was technically in my thirties.

Protests and general rabble-rousing. Well, this has actually increased as I've aged. I think I've finally gotten past my fear of being wrong, or being heard and misunderstood, or (worse yet) heard and understood. More importantly, I think I've finally realised that this angst? This tightening feeling in my ribcage? Is put to much better use when it's not all about me. That my adolescence was only part normal desire to rebel, to break on through, to lash out, to brood--and part serious clinical depression and odd behavioural traits that may or may not contribute to a diagnosis.

Because, frankly, that's what I lost those high school teenage years to. Not general stupidity, or partying or bad choices or melodrama or general operator error. But black, stifling, unabated mental illness. And I wish to God that one of us--even me--had seen it for what it was, and stayed at me until I got treatment sooner. My parents blame themselves, I know. But it wasn't their fault. They were the ones I was trying hardest of all to fool.

19 November 2007

The Only Reason This Is Even Remotely Funny

I admit it. I fucked up. Somewhere along the line, I made a colossal math booboo and didn't buy enough yarn for the cardigan I'm (finally) knitting myself after all these years of knitting stuff for other people. No problem, right? Just pop into my beloved Twist in New Hope and ask the lovely Mrs. Debby Brady to please please pretty please stop laughing at me long enough to check with her stockist to see if there's more of this yummy yarn. I really only need about two skeins' worth, because I'm partway up the sleeves, which are the last things you do.

Well, after in fact enduring a whole lot of jokes from Debby and Steve about "Sleeves--make two!" and how I'm going to have to give this sweater to the guy from The Fugitive, she did just that. I got a phone message this afternoon that says the stockist doesn't have any either, and when she does, it will be a different dye lot. This, of course, means that when it arrives, there's a pretty good chance it will be an entirely different colour. Not what you're really looking for in a project you hope to wear in public. So this means that unless by some miracle one of the two other yarn stores in a gajillion-mile radius happens to have some Rowan #536 in dye lot 2616 languishing about the store waiting for me, my best bet is the internet.

Here's where it gets funny, if only just. It was only by visiting Rowan's company site that I discovered just what it is I've been knitting. This lovely, yummy, tweed-flecked rust colour, so innocuously labeled "#536" on the label? Is named "torrid." And I need two balls of it.

Try typing that into a search engine.

17 November 2007


I carry everything I used to be. It forms my skeleton. I carry each lumpen, misshaped pearl of mistake or grief or guilt or insult. Someone will be able to identify my body by them when I die. I carry the memory of our first kiss, just as tightly as I carry the rush of blood through my veins, a hot sound like a whisper. I carry all the songs we have sung, deep in my body; I carry the stars. I carry your memory with me like an old quilt, like a sack of stones to weigh me down, like an old limp from a broken bone that did not heal straight, like silence. I carry your past, too. I carried it that long night when you could not stand it, and I could never bear to put it down. When you are thirsty, I carry water.

I Carry Your Heart

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

e e cummings

Michael Hedges, in a live performance:

05 November 2007


We've been talking a lot about money in a couple of my classes the past few weeks, and we're only just getting started. First of all, I've always found the concept weird. Maybe that's because I'm an artist, a poet, and the idea of spending umpteen hours a week doing something in which I am uninterested at best so that I can earn what are essentially numbers on a piece of paper just seems so....irrelevant much of the time. I participate in direct deposit whenever and wherever it is offered to me, so most months I don't even see a paycheck. Or cash, considering I have a bank card. It's all done on computers. And the transactions have gotten so convoluted that they no longer make any sense to me.

I'm not suggesting by any means that a subsistence living is better, or that direct trade in goods would solve everything (for one thing, I'm not sure I'd want to be the guy whose value is computed in eggplants, or bathroom cleanser, or--god forbid--gym socks). So on a certain level I understand the need for currency, the need to give everyone equal access to things, by giving them instead access to what those things represent, which is of course, "value."

And that's another fucked up concept. Value. Consider: I get paid less than most janitors. For spending three hours per day in a car, four hours per day in front of a classroom, at least one to two hours per day prepping for being in front of the classroom (and that's a rough average that also covers weekends and vacations) and at least another fifteen hours per week grading papers. Usually more. And I love what I do. Except for the commuting part, which frankly I could do without, although it does give me an excuse twice daily to not be grading papers at that moment. (There have been times when traffic is so bad going in towards the Lincoln Tunnel that I've actually been able to grade papers while commuting, but that's neither here nor there.)

In a nutshell, in a perfect world, I teach people to tell the world what they feel and think about things. I teach them to look, to listen, to react in a thoughtful way rather than just a kneejerk reaction that's probably been trained into them by others. With a little luck, I teach them to read, and I teach them to write. And for this, to do this sixty hours per week at three different schools, I am compensated at a rate that puts me below the local poverty line. It puts me right in the same economic class as many of the students I teach, in fact. The ones who can't get ahead. The ones who are searching for jobs that will allow them to leave the ghetto and make something of themselves, and have realized that education is really the only way to do this. I have the education. I have twice the education many of them will ever have. And were I not living in my parents' house at the moment, I'd be living in the ghetto with them. I can't get ahead, either. Education and the economy are funny things. The current administration pretends to have acknowledged the irrevocable link between them, by instituting No Child Left Behind, but that's frankly just a publicity stunt that's doing more damage than it is good. Anybody who works directly in schools knows that. Twenty years after the Jersey City Public School system was taken over by the state, it was given back this summer. I guess they couldn't figure out what the hell to do with it, either.

So how do we determine how much value something has? How do we assign a price tag? Why are the most crucial and worthwhile pursuits the ones that pay the least? Why are poets, teachers, inventors, artists, social workers, nurses, mothers, and midwives struggling to exist while salesmen, advertising executives, stockbrokers, TV stars, pop singers, and real estate moguls have so much money they can't even figure out how to give it away? Why is that? Why does a librarian make $12 an hour if she's lucky and lives in a mid-sized city, and a personal injury lawyer live in an opulent million dollar home? Why do some of my students have to drop my class because they have to work 50 hours a week just to be able to afford to pay the tuition to take my class? Why can't we educate the children of the world because we can't find the $8 billion it would cost to put them all in primary school, but we can spend $40 billion a year on golf?

I guess the real question is what's wrong with not just the economy of the world, but the value system? There's a person in my community who drives her Hummer H3 to the local independent organic foods co-op. What the fuck part of the equation is she not getting? And why isn't she getting it? Why do we buy half-million dollar homes for our families and then work 80 hours a week to be able to afford them, so we can't spend time with the other people who live in them with us? My husband and I often worked opposing schedules because our respective trades required it. The month after we were married, we pretty much only saw each other awake on weekends, when we were both cranky and pressured. When I lost my contract at the end of the year, I tried to cancel Christmas. My husband, hurried home by his manager who was wise enough to hear the anxiety in my voice, curled up next to me on the couch and reminded me what I had forgotten: We may never have any money, he assured me, but we will always be rich. Those twelve words are words I still cherish more than just about anything, even now that he is gone. Because, more than he knew it, more than he wanted to admit, he was right. We were rich. We had each other.

And how the hell do you put a dollar value on that?

03 November 2007

Whee, Whee, Whee, All the Way to The Running Company

Today was a very traumatic day here in Three Feathers. I went shopping for new running shoes. I mentioned at Carpool the obscenely small number of miles before the soles of my feet started hurting during the race, and was told to get different shoes pronto.

Let me start by saying, FireCat does not adjust well to change. Further, FireCat has not run in anything except New Balance since, oh, about 1999 or so. So FireCat was a little freaked out at the idea of having to make new friends for her feet. Especially once she was told that there was, sadly, no way to crossbreed the NB 767w with a marshmallow and generate the perfect shoe.

First FireCat got put into some freakizoid Nike crap that (a) were probably made by 9-year-olds in Indonesia, and (b) had a ridiculous puffy goiter right under the ball of the foot on each insole. Yeah, Morton's neuroma waitin' to happen, that. Ptui.

Then FireCat thought of her now non-imaginary marathon friend Paulette, and asked to try on a pair of Asics Gel Kayanos. Hon, you have really skinny toes, 'cause those things GOT NO TOE BOX to speak of. My God.

Next up was Adidas. Every pair of Adidas I've ever tried on has the arch support up near the big toe somewhere. This pair was no exception.

Finally they brought out the big guns. Saucony ProGrid Hurricane Eighty-Seven Names 9. Huge. Um, so much for sizing up. Tried again a half-size down. Perfect. My (scuse me) balls are happy, my heels are all snuggled up tight, and there's enough room in the toe box to have a square dance. Or even some roast beef, if you were the toe so inclined.

Do you think it's okay if I sleep in them? I have four or five miles tomorrow, and I really don't want to take them off.