Tuesday, June 15, 2010

New Blog

Well hello blog friends (er, crickets). I'm moving my enterprise to another forum and changing the tone a bit. Now that I'm in grad school for a Piled Higher and Deeper degree (as an academically challenged stranger on the street saw fit to categorize my life choice the other day), I'm supposed to be doing this thing they call "professionalization" which, as far as I can tell, involves learning how to beg for arts funding monies, buying student-proof clothing (nothing translucent or low-cut, nothing short, nothing you can trip over, nothing that produces arm-vag or muffin top, nothing that clings, nothing with stains, nothing with tears--even artful ones, nothing too dressy lest they think you are pretentious and talking down to them, nothing with accessories that tinkle or jingle or otherwise disturb you when you are looking out at them, those half-asleepers, listening to your own voice rattle around in your suddenly vacant head, no t-shirts), and giving yourself a "voice" in the writing community so that people can look you up when you write something they enjoyed reading.

Actually, in all seriousness, I like it when I can find a blog or a website by and for authors I like and know, and in the hopes that someday, one day, maybe in my wildest fantasies I may have a book I would like to publicize and promote, the new blog is the first step towards providing that platform. 

So without further ado, I present my new blog: which you can find on my Facebook page, under "websites." 

The new blog will be a little, uh, tamer than this one. And will mostly be stuff I've published and stuff other writers I like have published. I'm sure I won't be able to stay out of hot-head territory forever, but if there's one mantra of this new, strange life it's: don't put anything online you wouldn't want your students/committee members/future employers to stumble across.

So I guess that's it. Perhaps I'll come back here if I have something I really need to get off the old (well-covered, unstained) chest. We'll see. The future!

Friday, January 29, 2010

I Should Always Be Reading Right Now

Oh blog! Here's what's been going on: reading reading reading writing papers reading grading grading grading reading (writing) reading grading drinking.

There. You're caught up. I'm here because I was all riled up and commenting on a stranger's blog and was signed in anyway so. Hello!

I realized last year that I don't have a hobby or anything I really enjoy doing because going back to grad school has meant making my hobby my career. Which is great! But a bit one dimensional, especially here where people who are amazing writers are also amazing musicians and pie-bakers and craftsmen of various species. I think hobbies are, like, the expression of your ultimate entrepreneurial fantasy. Rock star! (that counts, right?) Bakery owner! Furniture maker! Accessories designer! Microbrewer! etc.

What I'm saying is: I got a bass for Christmas and I need to learn how to use it.

Other news: one semester left of coursework. Have assembled my illustrious committee for my reading year which will begin sometime this summer. Also on the to do list this summer: finish my short story collection and begin to shop it. It's almost there--or anyway, some iteration is almost there. It's a mess right now. I'm trying to figure out how thematically linked the pieces need to be. But that's structure stuff. That will be fun. Have an essay coming out in the Iowa Review this year which, because I am a small, small person, makes me feel better about never getting in to the Writer's Workshop. There are many other reasons to feel good about that, but every townie who's been rejected from that place feels at least a drop of bitterness about it. Also news: got a fellowship to work with the innovative publisher FC2 next (academic) year. Excited! Mom and Jim's new house, fyi, is gorgeous. Right off the Res off of Dubuque St. and most importantly off the flood plain. Thinking of roadtripping home this summer for some R&R&Writing.  

Dogs, rabbits, boyfriend: soft and fed and happy. Life: suspiciously lovely. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Writer with a Capital W?

There's this website I read sometimes called HTMLGiant. It's about writing and reading and such. Today, there's a post about a project some people have put together to investigate "process-based questions about writing habits." The questions they ask are, no doubt, intended for more well-known writers. Writers whose work you read and think to yourself: how the eff do they do that? But because I have been questioning my own identity as a writer lately, and because I am in post-workshop mode (thinking about writing; slightly too tipsy to be good at it right now), I thought I'd answer some of the questions these people have put to other writers. Let's see what happens.

Q: How do you write? That is, do you write in shorthand, longhand, or do you use a typewriter or a computer?

Computer. Since college, I cannot write longhand, although my ideas come out longhand because I'm usually away from my computer when I get them. I love the computer because it's fast enough to keep up with thought processes almost in real time. Also, I almost need a visual when writing, to get a quick sense of what I've already written and since my handwriting is awful, there is much less translating that needs to occur.

Q: Are materials important to you, or can you use practically anything?

I am not a writer-artist. Not a poet. Only a visual thinker in a diagrammatic sense. So no, materials are not important at this point in the sense that the only materials I have any deftness with are language materials.

Q: Has your approach to writing changed as new technologies have become available?

It's hard for me to think of myself as a writer, even now. I'm not sure I ever felt myself a "writer" in college or shortly thereafter when computers and laptops specifically were becoming more common. I guess having a blog has helped me plug into a writing sense of a sort, but I don't mine my blog for fiction ideas, though perhaps I should. Blogging has, I suppose, in some ways, changed my writing to feel less formal and private. For some reason, trying to write a journal or diary always felt like more of a put-on than writing a blog does. I suppose that might speak to the idea of the consumption of writing. I don't know how to write when there's no sense of consumption involved. I always assume (mostly wrongly) that there is an audience involved and when the audience is myself or an unknowable future "I" or descendent (as in private writing), I feel too self-conscious to write. It's only when there is a perceived audience, or even just the possibility of an audience that I feel freed to write. And I don't think that stems from a narcissistic place, I think it just stems from a place of wanting to communicate. Writing to communicate, but not necessarily with myself, who often bores me. I'd rather bore you with myself.

Q: And in regard to methods that change: are these structural methods? Or the ways in which you begin a project, or research it?

Oh the internet. I often write with a Google screen open. It's so easy now to access very quickly an idea or sensation or fact that might fit nicely into a story but which I have no prior knowledge of or experience with. That this information is out there, for everyone, strikes me as a pretty amazing thing. I'm writing something for a Comp Lit class now, and it involves some creative non-fiction work. Last night I was trying to remember the details of the murder of the criminology student Imette St. Guillen (but did not have her name or the name of the bar where she met her murderer) so I Googled something along the lines of "manhattan student bar murder" and very quickly found the relevant reports. I also found out that she was murdered by a bouncer after leaving the bar The Falls which was owned by the Dorrian family, also the owners of Dorrian's Red Hand, the bar where Robert Chambers and Jennifer (and just now, I had to Google the victim's last name) Levin met. Levin was later murdered in Central Park, by Chambers, after they left Dorrian's.

The fact that this is all right there when we want it still just blows my fucking mind. And I think it helps explain why a lot of contemporary writing embraces fragment and collage. There is so much information out there. We are flooded by it, constantly. Writing is a selection process that involves privileging certain aspects of that information. Which is cool.

Q: What do these first drafts look like? How detailed are they? It sounds as though they help you to find the work’s character, so that you can then “saturate” yourself with it — is that a fair way of putting it?

My drafts are slow and methodical. I can't just bust something out and go back later and revise it. Because I don't map out what I'm going to write before I write it, what follows, in my writing, from something else, usually feels more or less integral to me to the rest of the story. Like a Jenga piece. You might be able to take one out without the whole thing crashing to the ground, but you it's just as likely that the structure of the whole thing will be compromised if you do. That's on a conceptual level. On a sentence level I'm usually a mess for the first couple of drafts.

Q: Do you have a set schedule?

Going to graduate school to write has given me less general writing time than I've ever had. This works for me, in some ways, because I have to squeeze it in where I can. It almost feels like I'm doing something illicit when I write (because, really, I should be class planning or grading or reading Kant or whatever) which makes it kind of exciting. I also work well under deadlines. I worked on a piece all last summer but it didn't turn into anything until I realized I had to turn something in to my workshop in a week and a half. Writing under deadline and writing when I have no time to write (even if antithetical to my whole raison d'etre for being in grad school) helps me produce pieces that have a certain pressure or drive to them. If I'm really being honest, I probably write 0-3 hours per week, except weeks when I have writings due, and then I write 10-15 hours. But a lot of the "writing" I do is in my head, too, so if I were being all lawyerly about it, I could be billing far more hours than I spend actually typing. In fact--and I think this is true of a lot of writers--I'm never really not writing. But I'm often not typing.

Q: What kind of environment do you prefer to work in?

I thought for a long time that the kind of chair or desk I wrote in or on (or specifics like how tall the desk was) mattered. Or that a space had to have a certain balance between charming mess and pristine organization for me to be productive in it. But in grad school shit comes due and you just have to write and there's not really a lot of luxury of space or time to be hemming and hawing over what setting puts one in the mood. Especially since I moved this summer, I've had to sort of abandon the romantic idea of a perfect setting. I've even been trying to write in coffee shops and been marginally successful with that. I can write to classical music or free jazz (math and anti-math) but not to, say, indie rock, unless it's Modest Mouse, which for some reason works for me.

Q: What do you find to be the discomforts of writing? Are there aspects of writing that are unplanned or uncomfortable?

Everything about writing is uncomfortable. It is almost always the last thing I want to do but the first thing I should be doing. The trick is to get into a space that is so focused and obsessive that the idea of doing anything else, for a little while, does not even cross the mind. It's like the opposite of meditation, but within the same sort of nothing-space.

And now that I've answered these questions, which presuppose the existence of an identification as a Writer, am I any closer to being a Writer? Dunno. But I just might be tired enough to finally go to bed.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Holy Fuck It's October

What is it about falling and being in love that makes writing so difficult? Or maybe it just makes for a boring blog post. I don't know; I got nothing. The update is that I'm currently cohabitating with M and his two dogs, who have been (tentatively, safely) introduced to the rabbits, but who are not proving themselves mature or responsible enough to handle having pets yet. When the dogs are grown up enough to do a little more work around the house, or perhaps get jobs, then we may revisit the matter.

In school news: getting a PhD is fucking hard. I find myself fantasizing about reading the Twilight books under the Christmas tree at my Mom and Jim's new house this December. That is how bad it is right now. The good news is that I'm starting to make my "reading list" which is a list of approximately 150 books I will be responsible for reading next year, otherwise known as my "reading year." Which: let's face it, who can read 150 books in a year? M suggests I buy the book "How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read" and just read that instead. Brilliant, however I am suspicious that he, currently in his reading year, has not taken his own advice. The breakdown of my reading list is three categories: history, theory, and contemporary*. My history and theory lists will be canonical but largely focused on Modernism, since Modernism is rad and I'm not really convinced that we are post- it at all. My contemporary list will be canonical (or "important" as such--think David Foster Wallace) contemporary fiction. Probably circa Lolita or Beckett novels and ending with the aforementioned Twilight series. Oh to dream.

In other news, there is no other news. I realized earlier this year that I don't have a hobby, unless you count going to yoga occasionally and being annoyed by it a hobby. I watch a lot of movies, I guess. But I don't think "watching" anything is allowed to count as a hobby, besides, I guess, bird watching because of all the hiding out in bushes and whatnot.

So I may start to cultivate a hobby. I used to play piano, quite badly, and M has a keyboard in his (past)/our (present) basement. The only problem with hanging out in the basement is that there are giant spiders. There is also a suspicious, walled-off room like something out of Poe where, I'm convinced, if we broke through the concrete and started digging, we would unearth hooker bones.**

Other than being annoyed by and watching things, I don't really have any other talents or interests. This is the main problem with making something you did that was other-than-your-job into your job.

And that's it for now. Oh, I guess I should say that I'm working on an actual website (working in my head only, for now) since I've started to send out crap for publication again and it's a hallmark of a mature, responsible writer (working on that too. Kind of.) to have something "official" out there. Any host suggestions?


*It is annoying to me that contemporary, in this context, is not a noun but an adjective and thus sits all wrong with history and theory. And thus, I am a total dork.

**This is a house we rent. If it were M's actual house, there would be no doubt in my mind about the hooker bones, but that's another tale for another time.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The breeze is so busy it don't miss a tree

I guess you know it's been a long time since you posted when your Safari doesn't recognize, then fill in for you, your own blog address. And by you I mean me. And is there a word for that filling in URL thingy that happens when I type, say, "fl" and the computer adds "-eshbot.com" and then I know I've been spending too much time looking at porn this summer?

How are you? How is your new marriage/baby/divorce/book tour/as-yet unidentified medical problem/organic farm coming along?

Despite the ominous tone of my last email, I am doing quite well, and am even, for me, slightly tan. Problem with that last post is it was written during a confluence of difficult events. It was finals week and CT and I had broken up and, heartbreakingly, my grandmother died. I'm still mourning my grandmother, but the rest is water under the bridge, more or less.

I will not take this space to say much about the breakup, except that it involved me realizing that for a while I'd been trying to fit square pegs into round holes for the sake of romance, and not in a sexy way. It's good to be a writer, but it's bad when constructing a fictional narrative becomes something one attempts to do to one's life, as opposed to on a computer, in Word, usually to make a deadline. Because there are no drafts in real life and the baby jesus knows that I, for one, have never nailed it on the first try.

The good news is that, rather naturally and without much story structuring, I have met someone I am very very extremely like super taken with and he with me and we together have been adventuring about this summer, making everyone sick with our hand-holding and neck-nuzzling. (He is a writer, therefore, he shall here be called M, because if I call him W you will picture our former president and that is really not at all what he's about, except for the part where he sometimes gives me awkward backrubs when I speak to him in German.)

For instance, we took a road trip to L.A., where we ate so much good food, we probably did some brain damage in the form of mercury-and-garlic poisoning. There is very little excellent, affordable sushi here in SLC and no Cuban at all, so we ate the shit out of everything we saw and spent a bit of time lying around, moaning, clutching our torsos in pleasure and pain.

We also saw an underground stand-up comedy show featuring the stylings of one Paul Jay who was the best of the bunch and also a member of the West High Class of 1995. You might remember him as fedora-wearing, coin-flipping Paul Rhead. Which I can make jokes about on my blog because he makes them, himself, in public, to hundreds of strangers. He performs regularly in L.A. and around the west coast. I recommend, no, demand, that you see him next time you find yourself in his general vicinity.

Also in L.A. is the Museum of Jurassic Technology, which M recommended and which lived up to his praise for it. I don't want to say too much about it, because part of its charm is its mystery. But you should go there for sure. It's my favorite museum now, although to compare it to other museums is difficult but also part of the point of it. It's a paradigm-shifting place and may change forever how you think about museums.

The last significant happening on our L.A. adventure was the made-for-sitcoms accidental drug dosage, involving someone's medical marijuana prescription and a well-disguised cookie. Let's just say it made for some excellent afternoon record-and-t-shirt shopping on Melrose. That was the afternoon we discovered fried olives at a place called Burger Bar. There is maybe no more delicious stoned eating on the whole entire planet.

Even though we could not have been less hungry after many days of this sort of behavior, we stopped by In-N-Out on the way out of town because it was mandatory.

Here is some beautiful food

And the beautiful desert

And my beautiful grandma, who loved to hum "Oh What a Beautiful Morning." It always was when she was near.

Saturday, May 09, 2009


Wow, it's been so long since I posted. Mostly because the latter half of this semester has been trying at best. There have been awful bits. There have been beautiful bits. Mostly there have been bits and bits and bits; so many that I had, for a little while there, difficulty remembering myself, remembering to eat, remembering to do anything, sometimes, but sit in a dark room and breathe.

But this is okay. It has been a difficult year, to say the least. It has been a year in which I've come to know that raw pocket of living that exists between the life you think you have and the life you actually have. It has been a confusing year, a heartwrenching year, a successful year and a year full of loss and sadness. It's been a year in which I begin to learn what it is to be unsafe. In a good way, I mean.

I know how this sounds. And I'm sorry for the obscurity. For the vague and vaguely new-life-sounding abstractions. I'll be able to fill you in good and hard soon. So soon. Distance and perspective. These things are important.

But no matter what, it's been my first year of grad school (2nd run), and now it's finished. And I'm going to clean my house and treat myself to a meal I can't afford. And then, so soon, I'll let you know how it all went.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


That last post was inspired by Kate Harding's wonderful musings on her excellent blog Shapely Prose, which is a safe space monitored by Kate and her whip-smart co-bloggers. I posted there about the content of "The Ugly Truth." But it got me thinking: Why do I feel like I should only talk about this in a "safe space"? And the answer was: Because I am ashamed. Because I still think it's my fault. Because my first response to the violence directed at me was, "That was crazy, but I probably deserved it." On her blog, Kate discusses the gendered nature of violence like this (and not just the violence itself, but the victim-blaming as well) as symptomatic of a deep and enduring misogyny in our culture.

The Ugly Truth

So, the whole Chris Brown and Rihanna thing. Wow. Didn't want to comment on it, but...here I go.

I was initially flabbergasted by all of the quotes from celebots putting in their two cents about how Chris Brown is really, underneath it all, actually a nice guy, and it's not like this has happened before. It's not like he has a *history* of beating women. He just screwed up! She was probably being mouthy! I couldn't believe that people actually think this way, in this day and age. Until I remembered: up until very recently, you thought that way too, Screwsan (and just because you thought it about yourself doesn't make it any less of a shitty sentiment).

I knew a nice guy once. We dated for awhile. Then, one time, after we broke up, when I was arguing with him on his front porch, he strangled me. He'd never been abusive before. He wasn't violent to me when we were dating. It was easy for his friends to take his side--after all, he's nice and I'm...well, I'm a mouthy bitch. And even those people who stood up for me and helped calm me down didn't really see this as a domestic violence issue. Neither did I. After all, victims of domestic violence are a certain way, they live with a pattern of abuse, and it often takes them years (as made-for-TV movies starring Candace Cameron tell us) to bust out of their terror-filled lives. Those kinds of domestic violence victims and abusers are all over the media, seared into our brains. It's a horrible reality that many victims of domestic violence live this way. It's very important to educate the masses about the cycle of domestic violence so that victims of it may feel empowered enough to leave their partners before they are killed.

But this trope of domestic violence is only part of the story. Then there's all the rest of us (and by "us," I mainly mean women here), who lead "normal" terror-free lives. There's all the rest of us who have nice boyfriends, boyfriends who, you know, only screwed up once and felt really really bad and would never do it again. (Or ex-boyfriends who only screwed up once and even then, after the fact.) There's the rest of us, who will not lead violence-filled lives, but may just be touched by violence. And we will ignore it. We will internalize it. We will learn to not talk about it, because he was a nice guy and he didn't mean it and it was only once. We will blame ourselves and our bad luck at relationships and our big, bitchy mouths. We will think that because there is no "cycle of violence" present in what happened to us that there won't ever be one. We will shrug it off and tell ourselves, "It's no big deal. i walked away from it. I'm not a victim of domestic violence."

But that's not true. And that kind of thinking is dangerous. That kind of thinking gives violence a foot in the door. That kind of thinking makes polite excuses for something we can't afford to be polite about. Violence in relationships (whether they are new relationships or old relationships or over relationships), violence against women, is never ever ever okay. Even when he's famous. Even when you're famous. Even if he's never done it before. Even if he's a nice guy. Even if you're on his front porch and you are angry. It's not fucking okay. It's abuse. And it's common. And it's probably happened to someone you know.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Black Silk Boxers With Hearts

When we were 16, I gave you a pair of black silk boxers with red hearts for Valentine's Day. They frayed, looked a bit tawdry, were older than our years, silly, slightly creepy, easily stained, warm. Like us. Cheap and happy. I miss you.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Letter from Cat

I've had a lot of coffee today, which means another blog post! I kind of feel bad about not posting since November and I just had what could end up to be a really dumb idea, but I'll roll with it. This semester I'm taking a fiction workshop. Every Monday in our fiction workshop, we write "creative responses" to the book we've been assigned to read the previous week. The responses are only 1-2 pages long and they're freewriting exercises, which means I can write whatever weird and stupid crap comes into my head without having to worry about polish or revision. I thought I might start posting some of my creative responses here because a) they're short and b) that way I'll potentially be posting at least once a week again and c) the three of you who read this blog can see firsthand the sort of silly crap one produces when one is in the process of being overeducated in writing. Plus maybe the anxiety of knowing that my creative responses will be posted will make them...not better but more productive somehow? Anyway, so here's my creative response from this week. I should explain that my workshop has an experimental bent; that I've recently been playing with collage and appropriation (aka stealing and plagiarism); and that I've been obsessed, all week, with the blog True Wife Confessions. So to make my slackitude work for me, I decided to write a piece that used my favorite sentences or clauses from a number (and what a number) of TWC posts and work them into a...not really a story, but...something. The rule, more or less, was I could use no more than one sentence or clause from each post. Here's what happened:


Letter From Cat
(as excerpted from the blog True Wife Confessions)

Hey you,

These weak, underachieving drama queens are out of control. I put up with a string of asshole roommates. But you take the cake. True, you are affectionate (greatly so!), playful. I don’t dislike you, but I feel like I have way too much weight on my shoulders. I just want to be the freaking cat. I am not your friend. I do not want to sit by your bedside table and watch you fade away into your final slumber.

Living with you sucks the joy out of my soul. Your body is seriously out of proportion. You stink. Your gibberish makes my skin crawl. You do anything I ask at the snap of a finger, and you know what, it’s annoying. When I don’t feel good, you inquire as to my pooping. Just how hard is it to change the litter box?

You asshole rat-fuck gutless piece of shit bastard. Your girlfriend is a crazy ass bitch. I swear she is the ugliest human being I have ever seen in my life. One night in September, while you were sleeping, I peed on her toothbrush. I wish I could just kill her sometimes.

Your best friend…I tempted fate and decided to sit with him and watch TV. I really screwed up!!! One thing led to another, and we indulged in some very inappropriate touching. I don’t know what happened exactly. I’m glad it has stopped but I still think about it often. It makes me so sad.

I miss you so badly when we aren’t together. I’m starving for attention. I’m starving. Chopped liver? That’s what I want. Nothing more and nothing else.

I think I am starting to forgive you. You cuddle with me, rub my back. This is how you stole my heart to begin with. You were always under the surface. Yes it took a long time, but you were dedicated to pleasing me. I love you. I mean…I don’t dislike you, managing your ego. Get a job, seriously!

Here’s a confession…I hate you. I’m tired of smelling spit on your hands. I’m tired of all your excuses. Just so you know, you won’t be able to find three of your favorite sweaters ever again. When I see you I will act like everything is fine, but under my breath I will be saying have a nice day bitch. Lol.

After 45 minutes of licking, I’m going to take a nap.

Shut up shut up shut up,
The Cat


Which I think basically sums up my feelings about cats and their feelings.


Fucking Yoga (A Rant)

You know, I like the act of yoga. I do. It makes me feel better than anything in the world. Without it, I’m prone to back pain and sore joints and strained muscles, especially now that I’m a wizened old hag. Yoga keeps me off the anti-Ds. Yoga feels really good to my body. But the culture of yoga, I have to say, often annoys the living shit out of me. It’s so restrictive. Good yogis don’t eat meat, or smoke or drink or toot a line now and then because they’re out on the Lower East Side and the DJ’s really good and beautiful people are dancing and some cute boy invited them into the bathroom and gave them a bump and then made out with them all night long. You know what I mean? I’m speaking hypothetically here.

I’ve never been much of a joiner, especially not when joining means behavior modification in pursuit of a “better” self via enlightenment or spirituality or whatever, which I’ve noticed can sometimes lead to viewing those around you (beneath you, really) with pity and disapproval, because this helps you to justify the fact that your life is now bacon-and-cocaine free and maybe a little bit boring. I think this is the same reason I’ve been resistant to organized religions. I don’t do well with proscription and I’m not a very goal-oriented person. If I had any, my mantras might be something like: “Make tremendous mistakes” and “Are you going to eat that.”

I think the culture of yoga can be incredibly helpful for many people. Yoga teaches you to have compassion for yourself, which many people—say addicts, or abuse victims, or people who, for whatever reason, don’t like themselves very much—could use a lot more of. In that respect, the belief system behind yoga can be good and healthy. But the thing about yoga culture and some of the people steeped in it is I get the feeling that they never lacked a healthy amount of compassion for themselves. And now they have permission, via a faux faith-based exercise regimen (which is the way it’s often practiced in America), to think about themselves all the time.

And look I’m a no stranger to narcissism—I’m a writer. This blog is like a tribute to narcissism. But at least I don’t pretend to be doing good works while flexing my awesomely toned muscles in front of a room-sized mirror. I mean, I’m still, metaphorically flexing the muscles in the mirror, but I goddamned well know I’m not helping anyone or putting any good vibes or auras or whatever-the-fuck out into the world. And I certainly don’t talk in an irritatingly soft voice and pretend like nothing ever pisses me off. Fucking yoga instructors.

Which brings me to the real, secret, selfish reason behind today’s yoga rant: My local yoga studio has a “public-school teachers and single parents discount” that just makes them affordable. Since they have no student discount, I thought I’d take them up on the teachers’ prices because, hey, I teach in the Utah public school system. I went for a trial class but was turned down for the discount on my first visit by a yoga instructor named Jim who refused to speak above a whisper. So when I got home I emailed the owner, explaining my situation (I teach at the University of Utah and would like the teacher discount) and was turned down again:

I offer the discount to teachers to honor their work with our youth. Not so much the money or lack of it, but the stress they are under and the good job they do. This is the same reason I offer the deal to single parents.

I’d just like to draw your attention to that phrase, “honor their work with our youth,” because that phrase in particular makes me want to punch this person in her calm yoga face. If you haven’t been to a lot of yoga classes before, this might sound like a totally normal and reasonable sentence. However, “honor” is a big yoga word and for me it conjures the image of a middle-aged, social X-ray-type in two hundred dollar yoga pants bowing to herself in the mirror and reverently whispering “namaste” in order to “honor” herself. I don’t know why this bothers me so much. Maybe I’m jealous that the hot-for-50 lady is hotter than me, mediocre-for-31. Or maybe I’m jealous because she can afford $200 yoga pants and mine are Old Navy brand and six years old. Or maybe, looking at that lady, I sense she’s never lacked for being “honored” in her life. Probably something like all of the above.

So that expression, “honor,” just galls me in the first place. And then there’s the rest of the email which is galling in general because it insinuates, by negation, that the work I do is less stressful and “good.” Forget for a moment that the line between teaching college freshmen and high school upperclassmen is flimsy at best. And let’s assume that I don’t do “good” work at all, that my desire to become a college professor is completely self-absorbed and maybe I’m bad at it. Maybe I’m poisoning young minds and bodies with episodes of “Family Guy” and the occasional donut. That’s fine. I’m not a special ed resource teacher who works with behavior-disordered and mentally disturbed youth. But you know what? Not all teachers are good and deserving of awesome yoga discounts. In fact I’ve met some pretty shit ones in my day, including:

-the pretty girl who teaches kindergarten until her doctor-boyfriend becomes her doctor-husband.
-the jock who may know something about coaching football, but not much about American history.
-the Dude who loves to sub because it’s easy.
-the “Mostly, I wanted to keep having summer break” teacher (note: actually the majority of teachers, according to a recent survey I read somewhere once).
-the one who sleeps with--or gives the appearance of being willing to sleep with--students. (related, tangentially, to the arrested-development high school teacher who cannot or will not relate to adults and instead seeks to relive glory days of own youth.)

I mean, as long as we’re going to generalize about groups of people and the “good” “work” they do or don’t do!

Look, I know most teachers work like crazy and that it’s a demanding job. I’ve seen season four of the “The Wire.” Seriously though, I get it. Teaching is hard. I’m not saying teachers don’t deserve an awesome yoga discount. I’m just saying I do too. My stress levels since beginning my PhD are absolutely through the roof. Not to mention that, no matter the false distinctions this yogi’s email makes between “money” and “stress,” when one’s annual salary is $12,000 (approximately 1/3 of the beginning annual public school teacher’s salary), the two cannot be pulled apart. And although from a professional standpoint I think education reform is very important in this country, personally, I just kind of get annoyed when people say shit like “honor their work with our youth.” Think of the children! I kind of hate the children, if you want to know the truth.

(sidenote: why isn’t she offering discounts to social workers and cops, whose burnout (and suicide) rates are far higher and faster than those of teachers?)

But anyway, you know, whatevs. If this yogi had just said, like, “Sorry, I can’t offer you a discount because I can’t afford to” and stopped there—fine. I would have had some measure of respect for that. But this flimsy and illogical response to my assertion that I should, under the terms of what’s listed on the yoga studio’s website, qualify for this discount, is sheer bullhonkey. And maybe that’s what this comes down to in the end—a sort of side-stepping of reality. The reality is: there’s something on your website that says I should be able to receive a discount. Don’t hide behind the pretty, silky veil of “honoring good works” when really, you just want me to pay full price.

I’ve noticed over the years at different yoga studios around the country that there is a nearly pathological resistance to discussing money or discounts, and yet yoga is incredibly expensive and very much caters to the sensibilities and cultures of a certain class. And I do mean “caters.” I don’t for a minute take for granted that yoga instructors or studio owners are necessarily of the same class as their clients. Maybe that’s why they don’t talk about money—it’s just not something they think the upper-middle class likes to do. Maybe they’re right. Maybe instructors and studio-owners are a bit trapped by the class system in which they’ve chosen to do business, which causes people like me, who have weird class hang-ups anyway, to throw shitfits on their personal blogs. I don’t know. As usual, I don’t know anything. Except that I should probably just buy a DVD and shut the fuck up already.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day: This Time It's Personal

Work up way before the alarm clock this morning, nervous and excited. Took a picture of my living room in the early, rainy light because I needed to take a picture of something to hold this day in my brain. My brother will be in Grant Park tonight, one of 2 million strong. I've drunk the Kool Aid. I'm ready.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Governor of Alaska...

Meet the Senator from Wisconsin.

You guys have a lot to talk about, just in time for Halloween. It's witch-hunting season, after all. Good luck routing out all those anti-American Congressmen and women.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Here Then Gone

CT was here for a whole week and I forgot to take pictures. Mostly, we got up late, laid around, ate food (some good, some bad) and watched movies. It snowed here for two days over the weekend, which smooshed us into a cozy huddle that we never quite recovered from, even when the snow melted and the sun came out and it was 65 degrees in the valley where I live. There is something about snow on mountains that demands hot chocolate and fresh croissants. Luckily, both are nearby. Real, dark hot chocolate mere blocks from my house. It's going to be a lovely winter.

The thing about visits from boyfriends is that it's not always possible to enjoy them fully when they're happening. There's always anxiety about having fun and making the most of your time. This eventually turns to anxiety about the impending departure. Then there was all the work hanging over my head the whole week. I think, though, that just maybe we pulled off a couple of perfect moments right there in the middle.

He left yesterday and I cried and, still crying, sat down to finish a very difficult paper--the first official academic paper of my doctoral career and that made me cry harder. It sounds pathetic but it was closer to hilarious, me sitting there in sweat pants, red and wet in the face, leaning over my post-it covered copy of Jean Genet's Querelle to write about anal sex and blow-jobs, which yes, made me miss CT and cry some more. Hilariously pathetic perhaps.

Later, after I had collected myself and texted CT the location of the smoking lounges in the Cincy airport, I saw his shoes sitting in the bedroom, cuddled up with my things. He calls them his work shoes but really they are just his shoes. I'm not sure what he flew home in. I should probably send them back soon, but I like having them here. I've put them in the hallway with my own shoes. They look like they're waiting for him, like any minute he'll walk through the door, home from wherever he's been.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Fear and Change

McCain’s campaign sideshow has not only gone off the rails, it’s gone out of its mind. I’ve been catching up on the news from the last week (thanks, grad school) and I’m appalled, stunned and revolted by the racist epithets and death threats against Obama that are now making regular appearances at McCain-Palin events. The Nation describes a recent rally in Florida as a near race-riot, with the crowd turning on reporters. One African-American TV crew member was told to “Sit down, boy” by a white Palin supporter.

Fucking terrifying.

And McCain-Palin have not done anything to stem the tide of hate-speech from supporters.

Fucking unacceptable.

Is this what it comes down to? Pandering to the lowest common denominator? The ignorant, the racist, the—hello—possibly sociopathic?!?!?

Well, M-P, there you go. You finally found your untapped voter population. It’s not young single women, it’s not Hispanics, it’s not college students or first time voters or any of the other target groups we’ve been hearing about for the last year.

No, quite simply, its the insane, the deranged, the inhumane, the disgusting, the psychotic, the moronic, the afraid.

Is this the Republican legacy? Is this the future they see for America? If I were a Republican, I’d be tearing up my membership card right about now.

So this is what it all comes down to: Do we as a country cower in fear of and condemn the new, the unknown, the different, the foreign? Or do we step out into the world as the face of progress, invention, diplomacy, and tolerance?

Sorry, I know the political posting tends to get old, especially in a campaign year but I am absolutely beside myself. "Sit down, boy"? "Kill him"?!?! What. The. Fuck. is going on?

Monday, October 06, 2008


It occurred to me today that my pets are like 65% butt, which somehow feels appropriate since my own body feels more like 65% butt lately than not. Oh pants. When shall I ever find a pair of you that fits and flatters (for less than $100)?

Truthfully, on the grad student budget, that figure should be more like < $30. I've found a Nordstrom Rack here, which is kind of like Filene's Basement, in that there you will find drastically reduced black polyester clothing by BCBG and wonder who really, anymore, wears black polyester clothing to work? and then buy it anyway because you read in a magazine once that wrap dresses flatter every figure.

I'm taking a non-fiction workshop this semester, which has been tough. I'd like to do longer, researched, journalistic pieces but my schedule is too packed for that, so I end up writing about myself, which, as long-time readers of this blog know, is boring. It's one thing to write a kicky, 400 word blog entry about one's ass. Just you try and sustain that for 15 pages. I did. Wow. Yeah. Fiction? I miss you.

In a recent attempt to write about something other than myself, I emailed the SLC popo this weekend to see if I could do a ride-along with one of their officers then write about it. In my email to them, I used the word "infrastructure" (as in: "as a new resident of SLC, I'm interested in how the infrastructure of the city works"). Apparently in SLC, examining the "infrastructure" is synonymous with spying. I got back a polite but suspicious email implying that if I were interested in ferreting out then exposing the inner-workings and secrets of the SLC police department, I should take my business elsewhere. I emailed them back and tried to explain what I meant by "infrastructure" without making unflattering comparisons to, say, the sanitation department or mayor's office. They haven't written me back yet, but I'm pretty sure I'm now on some list that, at some point, may involve my black-balling or deportation. I'm not sure, so in the meantime I'm just trying to be an upstanding citizen. Which means taking out my trash on time instead of letting it fester in my apartment for a week. Which means this morning (trash day), dressed in my professorial best, I took the trash out before heading off to teach class. When I got to my car, I smelled something funny. Maybe funny is the wrong word...maybe...horrible? Awful? Wretchingly acrid? Something along those lines.

I was confused--I'd cleaned out my car weeks earlier. I couldn't remember leaving any kind of foodstuff moldering beneath a seat. And yet something in my car reeked like the dead. I puzzled about this all the way to the parking lot at school. Then I got out of the car with ten minutes to class and realized that I still smelled the smell. I looked down at myself--as if a little part of my brain already knew--and realized it wasn't the car that reeked, it was me. One entire be-tighted leg all the way to the skirt was dripping with garbage juice. It was chilly today and my tights were thick--the moisture hadn't seeped to my skin yet and so had gone undetected. Well. It was too late to drive home and change. I made a spectacle of myself in the girl's bathroom and tried my hardest to get rid of the stink, but there was little I could do. I will tell you something about 18 year olds: they notice everything. Faced with the choice of letting my students think I was either completely unhygienic or just plain stupid and probably incompetent to teach a class they were each paying a thousand dollars to take...well, which do you think I chose? I'm just an American, after all.

Monday, September 29, 2008

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Emptied Bank Account

Dear House Republicans,

I'd also be interested to hear what you think about fluoride in our drinking water. And them doomsday machines.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Thing That's Missing

Here I am, in Salt Lake City. The past three weeks have been grueling, to say the least. Emotionally, physically, financially, etc. The trip out was quick and smooth, but the adjustments have been difficult, though the city is beautiful. My apartment is quite lovely too, but when I moved in, I found out almost immediately that, worse than sewer rats,

I have toilet bunnies. Gross. I've put out traps and cheese but I can't seem to catch the suckers.

Though the area is lovely (I see mountains when I walk out of my front door! It's always sunny!) and the people are so nice they make Midwesterners seem like Bostonians, we've all been having some difficulties getting used to not being in Iowa. Bailey was so disconcerted with his new environment, that he promptly stopped pooping, then eating, then drinking. He was hospitalized for three days for what was basically an extended colonic. Maybe we should have moved to L.A after all.

But the danger seems to have passed for now and he is his old goatish self again. 

Here he is mid feeding-frenzy. His eyes kind of roll back in his head, like a shark's. After recent events, if Bailey could disembowel me with one bite, he probably would, and who could blame him.

While he was gone, Kevin and I passed our Bailey-less nights eating blueberries (her) and drinking beer (me) and watching Denzel Washington movies (us). Single girls in a crazy new city! It was almost like a sitcom, except instead of two hot young things in New York, it was a thirty-something grad student and her overweight rabbit in the LDS capitol. Hmm...that just made me depressed.

Kevin was thrilled at Bailey's return. She groomed the vet-smell off his head and ears and then rolled over on her back with joy. Then she humped him, which sort of killed the moment.

I have not been so lucky. My boyfriend has not been getting colonics at the animal hospital, nor humped by me. Instead he's back there in Iowa, kicking the restaurant into high gear for the start of classes, the first football game, the post-bar hours. Leaving him was really hard. We talk on the phone a lot, but you know, it's not the same. And Birdie, my stepdog, the pig on the carpet...I lay awake in the mornings thinking about them, spooned together in a big, half-empty bed, waiting for me to come home.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The One Abroad

Flood cleanup has been going well. I'll post more about that soon. Right now, I'm just excited about the press coverage of the Obama world tour. Frank Rich's excellent analysis from today's Times, "How Obama Became Acting President," is a must-read. In it he links to a photo of Barack Obama speaking to 200,000 adoring Germans. Rich's point about this being the first time many American children have seen foreign audiences waving American flags instead of burning them is a powerful one. This is the man I want repping our country to the world. And this is the man the world wants. What an exciting time.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Worse Before Better

I've buzzed my hair.

Or rather, CT has buzzed my hair. It feels great, in all senses of the phrase. It is soft on my hand. The weather here is hot and very wet. My hair is cool and dry. It makes me feel stronger. Plus, hey, free haircut! All those shiny strands that catch the light just so? Those are all grays, btw. With many more TK.

So, we moved what we could out of my mom's house and my stepdad's house yesterday by pontoon. It was very terrible to see, but also beautiful. The river raged beside us, feet away. A storm blew up. The water rose so fast. We had to leave with what we could shove quickly into garbage bags. We boated out along the treetops.

I just got back from the grocery store, which was a madhouse. I bought tuna and saltines and water. The water was difficult to navigate. What is the difference between stocking and hoarding? I mean this in a practical sense. How much water should one person buy when it is difficult to know--when the power goes out, when the water treatment plant loses its last pump--how long we will be without clean water and electricity? Am I incorrect in buying now, before these things have happened (but which, the media tells us, are likely)? How much water does one person need for a day? For a week? A month? What if my family members--who are understandably a bit slow right now, a bit shell-shocked already--don't buy enough water or food for themselves?

Well, now that I am back at the office and in front of the friendly, helping internet, I see that the Red Cross recommends storing one gallon of water per person per day. But the question remains: how many days are we looking at here?

I bought what I thought was reasonable.

I'm full up on gas, have a store of cash, waders, a poncho. As more bridges, roads and interstates close every hour, Iowa City feels more and more like a remote island. I hesitate to use the word escape, but how else to say what it feels like here? It feels like very soon escape will not be an option. But that is okay. My family is here. We are all on high ground now. I wouldn't want to escape if I could. I'm very glad to be here right now and not watching TV, helpless, in a studio apartment in New Jersey.

CT and I are going out for a ridiculous, expensive, wonderful meal tonight at my favorite restaurant. I am going to get really drunk on red wine. I am going to sleep in tomorrow.