Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Saga of 2009, Part One.

Friends! First and foremost, there are officially seven of you! Seven! As of my last post there were three followers; this is a 200% increase from last post! Or possibly infinite! Disregarding the actual mathematics, I can say only that it makes me very happy to know there are at least seven individuals in the world who care to squander their non-Facebook time on this little site o' mine (I'm gonna let it shine?). There is also a very large possibility that I have eight readers, the eighth being my father, who googled me once and found my previous blog even though I expressly did not inform him of its existence. It was weird.

Matthew and I just braved the wintry streets of Tulsa to go see The Road. Here's a tip: if it's wintry out, do not go see The Road. If you are feeling at all unhappy, do not go see The Road. If you are with a person who is not your arch nemesis, do not go see The Road (if it is your arch nemesis by all means go ahead). If you, like me, watched Children of Men and then demanded that someone in the room give you a hug promptly afterward because you felt so generally unhappy, do not go see The Road. (The hug was helpful though thanx guyz).

So now, having seen The Road, which is about the apocalypse and eating grasshoppers and running from crazy hillbilly cannibals and overall despair and bleakness and the dregs of humanity, a year-end review seems a little silly. But I'm gonna do it anyway. Because this is my blog. And I can do what I want.

Plus I mean 2009 was kind of a big deal. Behold!

After experiencing such thrilling sites as the World's Largest Totem Pole, The Big Blue Whale of Catoosa, and Pop's Soda Store Emporium Gas Station Burger Joint of Wonder, Rob concludes his first ever visit to Tulsa; his departure is saddening, but also reaffirms that my hometown is the absolute shit.

We acquire Scrabble, the cat, who spends a lot of time being adorable and kittenish and then morphing into a hellion with razor claws, which somehow find their way up my nose one night while I am trying to sleep.

I return to Blam Blamilton for the last semester ever but am too busy flailing/berserking/breakdancing in the throes of grad school applications to really take notice and/or care. The last of my nine applications goes off; at the end of the month, I'm accepted at Pittsburgh.

My birthday (the 1st!) falls on a Sunday; after considering the chaos of my 21st birthday in Berlin combined with a growing sense of unease tacked on to the awful weather of central New York in February, I decide not to throw a party for the big double-2. While I am talking on the phone with Rob the Thursday before my B-day, Winston comes by to insist I go downstairs right that second because SURPRISE they threw me a surprise birthday party! There was a cake; there was also a case race. It was an overall tremendous evening and Cameron made a B-Day Hell Mix CD (which I am listening to right now!) and I think we listened to the Fleet Foxes/All The Single Ladies mashup at least 45 times straight. Or that might have been another night. It doesn't matter.

Rob and I and a few SU folks drive from central NY to Geneseo to Chicago, allegedly to attend AWP. In reality, the conference makes me fidgety and anxious about grad school, so Rob and I ditch the whole thing and go up the Sears Tower on Valentine's Day. We sleep in Kara's closet in Hyde Park - no, actually, in a closet. I walk past the table of my future grad school and see three dudes with beards; in later months, I will learn their names. On the drive back, Sara's mother feeds us a delicious meal of chicken and itty bitty onions which she got from Top Chef. This makes Sara's mother unspeakably awesome. Also: chocolate-covered pretzel rods. With M&Ms.

Things get crazy busy and I stress out a lot and all is quiet on the grad school front for quite some time. Then the rejections start piling up. One Friday, conveniently the English department's First Friday, I am rejected from both Brown and Iowa; I proceed to join my professors in the pub for First Friday, get belligerently buzzed, and accost everyone. And by everyone I mean all of my professors.

Spring Break meant one week in Tulsa of which I don't remember anything; there may have been Scrabble (the game, not the cat). I may have lost. Poorly. The other half was spent in Rob's dorm room in Pennsylvania, where we inadvertently watched only movies featuring animated mice (The Rescuers Down Under, The Secret of Nimh) and played a lot of Super Mario 3. Actually, Vish played Super Mario 3 and I shouted things like "GET THE RED YOSHI NO DON'T LET HIM FALL NO GO GET HIM."

Back at Shamilton. A lot of things I don't want to remember occur, mainly things involving idiotic student media bureaucracy and certain individuals who once graced the uppermost spots of my hypothetical hit list (that spot now belongs permanently to Scrabble - the cat, not the game. No, seriously, she's a bitch). My list of grad school responses dwindles, slowly, and within a week I'm admitted to Montana and good ol' UniWilmi. At my senior dinner, where, unsurprisingly, we all get trashed, a certain alumnus regards my two options as such: Good skiing or good golfing? This, apparently, being how a Hamilton student should think.

At this point I have also read so much Willa Cather she is haunting me like a creepy, conservative, cranky old lady ghost.

My thesis: written. My final Willa Cather paper: fought through like a machete through a jungle. Willa Cather: back in her grave where she belongs. My spare time: spent looking at pictures of the ocean!

Senior Week is mainly Rob and I running amok, wading in Oneida Lake, then driving around all of Oneida Lake, then wondering where the last four hours went.

I graduate! Good riddance! No, not really. Well, kind of. Our last night is tearful, then smoky, then it's sun-up, then I'm driving off with my folks, to Cooperstown, where we participate in the Beverage Trail, which might as well be called Get Tipsy All Day Every Day Best Graduation Trip Ever.

After a creepy and kind of bizarre rendezvous in a Binghampton Dunkin Donuts parking lot, I send my folks back to Oklahoma and Rob drives me and all my stuff to Jersey. Here, we plot and plan and I do laundry, and then we embark on three weeks of East Coast road tripping. Our mission? To find an apartment in Wilmington, and to not kill each other. Both are successes.

Highlights include but are not limited to: the craziest mini-golf course ever outside of D.C. with Annie, the wild ponies of Assateague, Graceland in Memphis, one night of hard drinking and nostalgia in Nashville (hi Alec!), the Atlanta Aquarium, riding boats on the Outer Banks, that lake we found in Virginia, the reliably delicious Catfish Hole in Arkansas, reading the entirety of The Spell of the Sorcerer's Skull aloud to one another, and many, many others. Lowlights include but are not limited to: 200 mosquito bites in one night, the rainy weather in Maryland, the scrapple omelet I had in Ocean City (to be fair this one was my fault), rain, rain, rain, the hipsters at the Rune Stones in Georgia, the traffic in Atlanta, the heat in Memphis, oh, and trying to find an apartment and deal with the whole holy shit we're moving here business.

An eventful first six months, to say the least. The next half comes tomorrow, though it probably won't be as exciting, considering you folks already read about all of it - either way, that's all for now, my knuckles are all achey and my pillow's a-calling.

Good Night, God Bless, and Guten Appetit.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Saga of Snow-klahoma.

Please also see the following representations of the past two weeks spent here in the 918, also known as Tulsa, Oklahoma, where I once grew up: Smoke-lahoma, Broke-lahoma, Bro-klahoma, Karaok-lahoma, Folks-lahoma, Choke-lahoma, Oh No-klahoma.

There are 1, 296 miles between Tulsa and Wilmington. Probably 1,150 of those miles are on Interstate 40. Interstate 40 and I became very good pals over the twentyish hours I spent cruising across North Carolina, the southeastern corner of Virginia, the great long expanse of Tennessee, the brain-numbing deltas and cramped traffic of Arkansas, until finally, the glorious Muskogee Turnpike, where the speed limit is 75 and the state troopers busy someplace else. It was a day and a half's drive total (I spent most of the time shouting at the other cars, scolding and cursing them); my folks were expecting me in the next day (it took them 3 days to do the same route, which you could make a mathematical equation out of: half the age equals twice the speed?), so I arrived to an empty house, and for a minute I actually thought, why did I stop? I could be in Amarillo tonight. I could see the Pacific ocean by Monday morning.

Then I let Penny in the house and we fell asleep on the couch together and all was well again.

Then I did a lot of tremendously idiotic things, most of which involved vodka tonics and karaoke and that sweeping and utterly false sense of grandeur, cinematic significance, that comes of driving home alone on a Tuesday night at 3 in the morning when all the streets are empty and you definitely wouldn't pass a breathalyzer test. Fortunately these were not solitary plummets (WHAT UP BITCHES) into the realm of Going Out in Tulsa and therefore I do not regret them one mite. Though I do regret the tequila shots. And Gold Digger. You know it's bad when the emcee announces, "Look at this little white girl trying to rap. How cute." Never mind that the emcee is a scrawny white guy himself, emceeing karaoke at the only leather bar in Tulsa, a place called the Screaming Eagle. Never mind that I was there in the first place.

I am, for the record, an amazing rapper. Just not on Gold Digger.

Coming home this time around has been weirder than ever, a trapeze act of swinging from Wilmington, where I'm the youngest, where I'm inexperienced, where I feel like a kid-playing-at-adulthood a lot of the time, to Tulsa, where Jesus H Happenstance, how did we get so old? We try and remember what year it was when we stayed up all night getting lit on two shared Sam Adams in Ariel's attic bedroom during the Solstice Party, or smoking peach cigars in Woodward Park, or who was first chair in the cellos in Orchestra; all our memories one enormous cardboard box that's suddenly become very old, very heavy.

Meanwhile I'm realizing I've already undergone a semester of graduate school, and that invites a whole slew of doubts and confusions and ugly unwanted conclusions: what the hell do I think I'm doing? where is this going? In this way it is uncannily like being in Vienna - I'd sit in some ornate cafe outside the Hofburg complex and smoke Lucky Strikes and write and write and write, ignorant to the architecture, the atmosphere, wanting only to know what the fuck I was supposed to be doing. As if there is some one accountable thing, some planner, recipe, instruction book that I lost.

But the visiting writer in November illuminated a lot for me, a kindly, softspoken man who forgave my absolute incoherent nervous rambling when I met with him, and who convinced me that I am learning, I am working towards something, even if it doesn't feel like it. I asked how do you train yourself; he said it happens, or something to that effect.

In essence, he forgave me for spending 3 hours hunting down graph paper composition notebooks (another symptom of Vienna, because they don't use lined paper over there), and for scribbling dozens of insane fragments on notepads and pinning them to my bulletin board (SANDY ALLEN TALLEST WOMAN IN WORLD/ WALKING RACES/ BLACK FRIDAY?), and for driving to the beach in December for no other reason that to look at the water. Drinking too much coffee, spending all morning and some of the afternoon reading in a big armchair. Riding my bike. Wearing cardigans and purchasing tote bags
and checking out too many books from the library.

In essence, it was forgiveness for not doing what I thought I'd be doing, which is waking up early, editing, printing, mailing, submitting, discussing, researching, analyzing, pondering, epiphanizing, philosophizing, writing.

And that's why I am real keen on 2010 getting here. It's a new goddamn decade! And I am full of a hundred thousand resolutions, or even just suggestions, or even just hopes. Those are easiest, by far. And really, at the top of the list is something my father keeps telling me to do when I am scowling and cranky (usually hungry): lighten up. Don't be so hard on yourself. Rob tells me to do this too, but I've had a lot of time to perfect being self-brutalizing, if only in my head.

So! In the physical, actual world, there is a lot of snow. Tulsa, in hopes of keeping its throne in the finals for World's Worst Weather, received its first ever blizzard warning. It was a white Christmas, yes, but a snowed-in one, too, a drive-if-you-dare, a good-thing-you-have-on-Demand-TV-and-can-watch-4-hours-of-Mad-Men Christmas, too. Penny and I went on an adventure up and down the street yesterday afternoon; there are few things funnier than watching a Corgi trample through a foot of snow. We had a grand time.

I also received the most amazing gift of all: a George Foreman Lean Mean Fat Reducing Grilling Machine. This was remarkable because I had expressed want all of a week before Christmas, and usually, this means No Chance in Hell, but remarkably, Mom--or Santa!?!--pulled through. Truthfully, I'm awful glad the holidays are at last at an end. Matthew got us 4 dozen oysters for our Christmas Eve appetizer feast. Mom refused to eat any because they looked like sputum. Then she had to work on Christmas Day, so our Christmas Dinner Proper is currently cooking downstairs--at last count, Mom had used 5 sticks of butter. I love this state.

And hey! I just discovered I have all of THREE subscribers! This is monumental. One is Rob, shockingly, and one is Rob's pal Jordan, but the third is Ball of Flame Shoot Fire, this band of guys who are all right I guess (no I'm kidding they are actually great) who should a) save me a t-shirt and b) institute a holiday tradition of covering songs from Muppet Christmas Carol. Please listen to this and then tell me you are not beside yourself with unmitigated holiday joy. Then go listen to their other songs too.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Saga of Integers.

Here's a secret: I do not comprehend numbers.

Whether my absolute idiocy when it comes to all things quantitative is related or proportional to my relationship with words is completely beyond me, but I think a lot about The Phantom Tollbooth, and how I'm no Mathemagician but would happily kiss the ring of King Azaz the Unabridged. I was a D student in Calculus (though to be fair I was being taught by the football coach). I went to a college with no math requirements for a reason, and I still managed to fail the entrance Quantitative Literacy exam. My SAT/ACT/GRE scores are completely lopsided. The challenge in playing Scrabble is not in the words, but in calculating the scores. I break a sweat at the mall when I have to ring up a purchase because it involves computing tax and using a calculator. I can't do simple math without a pen and paper. I have to use the finger trick, where you put down the finger of the number you're multiplying and "read" the answer (aka for 7 x 9, you'd bend your seventh finger, leaving six on the left and three on the right, therefore 7 times 9 is 63), to figure out X x 9.

All in all, Rachel + Math = No Good.

Which makes my obsession with numbers pretty ridiculous.

The numbers that I mean, though, are the real life ones, the practical ones, the ones you can enter into a log and tally up at the end of the day. Today, for instance, I took my trusty two-wheel steed out on a spin, and the ride was great - saw some parts of Wilmington I'd never seen, wasn't hit by any cars, got to pet a dog - but the real reward was when I zoomed back through the neighborhood, dashed upstairs, got on Google and put in our home address alongside a rough estimate of where I'd turned around, and saw the result: 4.6 miles. Round trip, that's 9. 9 miles! Which is 3 more miles than my last bike ride! Which means maybe I can bike 3 additional miles on my next ride, which would put me at roughtly 11 miles, which would get me as far as the Tidal Creek Co-Op, or two downtown loops, or three trips around Greenfield Lake, etc etc etc.

Or, take goodreads for example. Goodreads, for those fortunate uninitiated, is a reading website where you can catalog and review books you've read with a handy method of digital "shelves" - and then you can find friends and compare books and read other reviews, etc. It is a dangerous and tantalizing site, and it has brought out the worst of the Number Monster in me. I'm hell-bent on reaching 100 books, so I've instated a monthly quota of 10 books, and I get mad at myself when it's the first of the month and I've only "accomplished" 8 or 9.

This also happened with, which automatically tracks your iTunes and computes statistics of total artists, total plays per artist, "favorite artists" etc. In 4 years of membership, I've logged 25,000+ tracks. 2,000 of those are exclusively Modest Mouse and The National. I've listened to "Baby We'll Be Fine" by the National 62 times, apparently. The song is 3 minutes 21 seconds long, or 201 seconds. In total, that's 12, 462 seconds of one song, or approximately 207 minutes - 3 and a half hours of one song.

Why do I think this information is vital? What part of my brain loves this stuff, then gets clammy when asked to divide 32 by 8?

And it gets worse. I'm two months away from 23 years old. I'm currently writing in my 24th journal. Only recently did I stop numbering the pages, because I was giving myself these manic quotas of needing to write x number of pages per day, and while I've managed to quit doing that, I have told myself I have to finish this journal by my 23rd birthday - but I want that more so I can have a clean start with #25, considering this journal has a six month lapse of emptiness in it and is therefore the "longest" journal I've ever kept, and the temptation to flip back and read previous pages about the Western road trip or the anxiety of senior year is almost always impossible to resist.

Even more neurotic - during one of our first weeks here, Rob and I drove past a hookah place. "We should go there sometime," he suggested. I shrugged. "Depends on the cost."


"Well, if it's $15, then we'll be there roughly an hour or two, right, and I'd rather buy three packs of cigarettes for the same cost and have those, because that'll last me two weeks."

And while Rob admitted it made sense, it kind of freaked him out that I was thinking like that. But that's the way my brain works when it comes to numbers - like last night, we went out bar-shopping (not hopping, because we don't know what bars are what yet), and we ended up in this insanely noisy basement broadcasting sports full of bitches with tramp stamps and dudes screaming "FUUUUUCK YOU" at the football game on TV, and we both got beers and the tab was 9.00.

Then we went, on a whim, to this Sofa Bar which is exactly what it sounds like - a bar full of sofas on the second floor of this bistro, where the waiters wore long aprons and there was an amazing cocktail list, but the beers, I noticed, were the same price. A Guinness was still 4.50. So I thought, "Oh, well, for the same cost, we could come here, where we can actually hear each other speak." Economically, this bar was a better choice.

This is also why I hesitate to ever go on any kind of official diet, because I know, having tried it before, I become a neurotic mess of calorie counting and nightly weigh-ins and insane ultimatums of "If I eat x and then do x and then x and x, then tomorrow I can x and x and x, but only if x x, etc." So I'm trying to avoid that at all costs while making some kind of effort to get svelter.

Overall, I think there's something a little dangerous, or at least unhealthy, in living by numbers like this - but I think I'm getting better. Statistically, at least - my bank account is growing, my Scrabble score is rising, my bike endurance is increasing, I'm writing more regularly, reading more voraciously---

Okay so I'm hopeless but at least I admit it. Ba-dum-chh?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Saga of the Hometown Rundown.

Two blog posts in as many days? This is madness! Or this is me avoiding everything I ought to be doing.

So I just changed out of the discount stretchy pants I bought during that shameful 3+ hour bonanza at Ross (see also: the previous post) because I had decided, in a strange attempt to act my actual age in a more beneficial way than drinking too much and making poor life choices (which I think it pretty standard for the 22-year-old lot), to try yoga.

Admittedly, I have a fear of yoga on the same level as my fear of poetry, both, coincidentally, products of my friendship with Grace Tiao (who may or may not be reading this? if so, HELLO and if not, SHAME ON YOU - no, I tease). Twice I stayed with Grace while visiting Boston, and once we went to this yoga session that was going on in a creepily dark public use room downstairs in her Harvard dorm. That's what I mainly remember: creepy darkness, and an intense sense of inadequacy, because here were all these lithe Harvard ladies, who are obviously way smarter than me but also apparently much more limber, and I'm breaking a sweat merely standing on one foot, and the zen-ed out yoga instructor eventually gave up on me and my rigor mortis muscles, so I just sat down and waited for the concluding Slumber Death pose, which was basically lying on the floor like a corpse, which I was really, really good at.

But it's always been an inkling at the back of my mind; I should try yoga again. And I finally made up my mind to do it, and I bought the appropriate pants, and I was all ready to get my meditative knee-bending-chi-centering-whatever on because I found a Wilmington yoga place that offered Gentle Beginner's Yoga which was as close as I could come to Fat Inflexible We Promise We Won't Laugh At You Yoga, and I set out, all full of gall and gusto!

Only to not find the place. I did find a different yoga place, but I probably would've wound up in some 150 Degree Room Temperature Stand-on-Your-Head and Chant the Bhagavad-Gita Yoga class instead. And then I would have had to retire the Yoga Pants forever.

The reason I did not find the place, and the reason for this post's title, is Wilmington's absolute lack of streetlamps. So I'm puttering down this insanely busy street, peering through the windshield wipers because it's been hurricane-rainy all day, and cars are whooshing around me and headlights are blinding me and the street is this acid-trip barrage of green lights and red lights and I just thought, "Fuck, I miss Tulsa."

So here, at last, is a Battle Royale between Wilmington and Tulsa. May the best town win.

Streetlamps and Overall Traffic
Wilmington: -1000 points. The drivers here are abominable. I've been honked at, flipped off, and glared at dirtily too many times to count. There is no such thing as a peaceful drive in Wilmington - just today I went on a little cruise, thinking I'd find some hidden gemlike nook, but I couldn't look out the window for fear that I would get t-boned. Not to mention Wilmington's street system was designed by crazy people or small children with crayons, and the roads go every which way, sometimes changing their name in the middle, sometimes just stopping out of nowhere. Meanwhile, Tulsa, which scores approximately one million bajillion points, is mapped out on a grid. It is pretty much impossible to get lost there, and the drivers are courteous, or at least not hellacious demons, which seems to be everyone behind the wheel in Wilmington, judging by their insistence on driving all of 4 inches from your back bumper. Also, streetlamps. Are streetlamps some kind of hurricane liability? Why the hell are there no streetlamps here?

Mexican Food
This one ought to be obvious - Tulsa is simply closer to Mexico. Therefore it has better Mexican food. But Wilmington does have Flaming Amy's, which has a salsa bar crafted by some salsa savant, lending itself to infinite combinations of pineapple jalapeno mixed with tomato chipoltle and how could we forget peach ginger? We can't. Tulsa has to win, if only for Taco Bueno, but it's a close call.

The Ocean
Fine. 20 points to Wilmington.

Well, I hate to break it to both of you, Tulsa and Wilmington, but you both fail pretty miserably. This one goes to Wilmington, though, for Port City Java, the local chain that has this inexplicable mid-90s alt-rock theme going on (can anyone explain that)? I.e. the shirt's say "Joe's Addiction" and you'll more than likely hear a few hits from Jagged Little Pill. But it's still a nice enough place, and within biking distance of my house here. Meanwhile, Tulsa has those overpriced, underfurnished spots usually overrun with high school students - though we did play a handful of vicious Scrabble games at the Coffee Shop on Cherry Street. But when I pay $4.50 for a chai, I want $4.50 of drink, not $1.35 of Chai and $3.15 of some ornamental fern made of foam. That's just bullshit.

Ross Stores
Tulsa has 4. Wilmington has 1. You do the math.

Pickle Selection
Tied. Pretty much the same pickle selection in both.

Used Bookstores
So I went on a quest for Lovecraft the other day, thinking that surely one of Wilmington's three used book stores would have a volume, and I was shit outta luck. There's a bookstore downtown, a little crowded alleyway of a place, that has as much charm as you could possibly pack into 30 x 90 feet, but every time I go in, I walk out empty handed. Or I walk out with a New Yorker anthology of short stories, only to have some cranky old man ring me up and express oh-so-subtly how he thinks the book is falling in to undeserving hands (he was reading the current New Yorker at the time). A colleague here recommended not to go in with anything in mind, but browsing either gives me a slight panic attack (SO MANY BOOKS AND ALL I WANT TO DO IS WRITE ONE) or empties my wallet.

But then, there is the little spot nearer to my house, which is owned by the friendliest folks in all the Eastern Seaboard. I popped my head in one night and asked when they closed - "Ten minutes ago, but come on in." And I did go in, and had a look around, but there was no Lovecraft to be had, or rather, none that I could afford that was not the Library of America edition that would give me Willa Cather Seminar flashbacks.

Meanwhile, Tulsa has Gardner's - an entire warehouse, a massive labyrinth of every genre on the planet plus comics plus movies plus CDs plus a weird corner of decorative state-themed plates, with bad carpeting and haphazard shelves but oh, my God, the books! The millions of books! And they will take your old books! And give you so much in-store credit you will never want for a used book again! And while this also happens at bookstores in Wilmington, there are no damn books that I want to buy! And I am a student of books! All I'm supposed to be doing here in the next 2 and a half years is interact with books!

Plus, Gardner's has a cafe AND a Mexican restaurant in the very same building!

I think we can all agree that the winner here is:


Now there is just enough time to squeeze in a tense game of Scrabble before the new Top Chef. Perfect.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Saga of Anyone Else.

SHAMELESS SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION: I got published again, fools! You can read it here:

(It's the one by Rachel. That's me.)

Please excuse the momentary hiatus this blog took in the past weeks; I was preoccupied with other folks, mostly my mother, whose visit to fair Wilmington resulted in around a dozen wacky anecdotes which only proves that yes, my mother is way more awesome or at least insane than yours. Here is a sampler (much like a Whitman's Sampler, and did you know that only until recently did I associate the name Whitman with poetry and not chocolate?):

October 30th, 2009, my mother, Rob and I head downtown to imbibe some mom-bought booze. Reason the First why my mom is the shit - she will happily buy your beers. Reason the Second: she will also let you smoke her cigarettes, though this is somewhat if not totally negated by the fact that she smokes Camel Crushes, not to mention the sorry fact that I, her daughter, got her smoking in the first place, but that's a whole 'nother kettle of beans. Or something.

So we go to our standby, Cape Fear Wine and Beer, which might actually be a punk bar considering they really only play Iron Maiden and nearly every patron has either a mohawk, a leather jacket, gauged ears, and/or tattoos, but it also has a pretty choice selection of libations. We drink, we smoke, Rob accidentally gets some heinous cough-syrup Austrian beer (never trust the Austrians to make good beer), and suddenly I am saddled with Designated Driver, solely because I am the least intoxicated. Mom hands me some dollar dollar bills and sends me on a pizza mission. I return, we enjoy, and then we go home and go to bed.

Or rather, we go home, and then we get stopped by the police, who have set up a checkpoint on a street with no convenient turn-offs, so that I have no choice but to halt, roll my window down, and proceed to make a fool of myself by following the Honesty is the Best Policy, even though everyone knows that rule does not apply when speaking with officers of the law, especially if you are still a little buzzed.

So I tell him the truth. Yes, we have come from downtown. Yes, we were at the bars. Yes, I have had a drink. Yes, I will step out of the car, and yes, you may see my license. No, I have never been breathalyzed before. Yes, I am absolutely terrified right now.

Officer Number One looks at Officer Number Two and then shakes his head. Then I am thinking, oh fuck, how the hell am I supposed to explain this one, who am I supposed to call considering my mother is hammered in the passenger seat oh fuck oh fuck.

"Here's your license, ma'am. You passed."

And then I get back in the car to a very solemn and shocked mother and boyfriend, and we drive home and go to bed.

This anecdote will be known from now on as The Time I Got Breathalyzed With My Mom Who Was Way Drunker Than Me.

There was also The Time My Mother Set the Crisco Can We Had Been Using as a Back Patio Ashtray On Fire, and How She Brought It in The House to Show Me, and How I Screamed "WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING TAKE THAT OUTSIDE JESUS CHRIST." There was also How My Mother Tried to Play the Word 'DRIBBLIT' in Scrabble, and How This Was Merely a Sequel to the Time She Tried to Play 'SQUIDGUT.'

We also went to Bald Head Island which was terrifically scenic despite the gray weather. Basically we spent the whole day zooming around on a golf cart, because here's the thing about Bald Head Island - there are no automobiles! This astounds me even now. I am pretty sure the year-round residents must be part of a cult. I may or may not be writing a story involving a ritzy island cult. You'll just have to wait and see.

I have also decided that my true identity is either that of a 45-year old woman or a 12-year-old boy. Evidence to the first includes the following:

a) My ability to listen to the greatest hits of Fleetwood Mac for seven hours straight when I'm working at the mall and to sing along to You Make Loving Fun every single time

b) The fact that I drive a Toyota

c) How I spent 3+ hours in Ross the other day and bought myself a new scarf and purse and then got a smoothie and felt incredibly content and accomplished

Evidence to the 12-year-old boy theory, however, is equally compelling:

a) I read H.P. Lovecraft for the first time and completely loved it, especially how he puts the most horrifying things in Italics. For example: I was speaking with the dreadful old whiskery man when I suddenly knew he was in fact a ghost alien from another dimension. I love that shit. Fully and totally.

b) I also only want to watch movies set in the future that involve robots. Fortunately I am dating a boy who has an extensive DVD collection of just such movies.

c) I wrote a story where a stripper went bowling and was then eaten by a cannibal. Wait - I mean, she was eaten by a cannibal. I then had it workshopped. Now everyone thinks I'm deranged, and my professor, the visiting writer, promptly told me there was no need for cannibals. And he was right, which was fine by me, because who the hell is going to publish a story where a stripper gets eaten by a cannibal?

Nobody, that's who.

It's 70+ degrees outside and it's November. See what I did there? Lovecraftian, that's what.

Until next time - here's hoping you all are well.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Saga of Fahrenheit.

Actually, this title was supposed to be "The Saga of Temperatures," but then I typed Fahrenheit and had a Deutschpiphany which Wikipedia then soullessly debunked. This is a key reason I take arbitrary offense to the idea of personal computers in the form of cellular phones - 24/7 access to the internet somehow saps the wonderment out of epiphanies such as the one I just had about the word "Fahrenheit" which breaks down into "Fahren" which means to go and "heit" which is one of those handy suffixes that just means "-ness" and here I am, at the mall, realizing Fahrenheit is actually "goingness" and I was blissfully diving through the implications of "goingness" when I Wikipedia'd it and found out it was named after some lousy German guy with a kooky last name.


But that serves me right for all the jokes I ever made about places being named after John _____. Like Wilmington, which was obviously founded by John Wilmington in 1877, when he crossed the ocean on a fleet of mermicorns (which are unicorns crossed with mermaids yes Meredyth if you are reading this I am still drawing those sad limbless amalgamations in the margins of my notebooks), that promptly went extinct once he disembarked at a seaside bodega selling gnarly boards and overpriced ice cream over at Wrightsville Beach. John Wilmington was smitten immediately by the pristine meteorological chaos of the place, which is why he gave it his name.

Fact: None of the above is true. Also fact: Some kindly North Carolina family is right this moment flipping through the Thomas Kinkade catalogue. Also also fact: I am a terrible employee. Also (cubed) fact: I don't really give a hoot.

Technically it's autumn, but today, as I drove the arduous mile-and-a-half to my place of work, here at the mall (did I mention I work in the mall), the temperature on Shoji's dashboard read 79. Does Central New York ever reach 79? No. Does this affect why I love it here so much? Absolutely.

I woke up with a mission: to ride my bike. I've veritably skyrocketed up the ranks of bike-riding prowess until I can now - wait for it - ride a whole hour without perishing. This is huge! Soon, maybe, I will actually be at a level of efficiency where I can go real human places on my bike, instead of winding around the neighborhood making all the traffic angry and basically behaving like I am an eight-year-old who just got her training wheels off. So I woke up, and it was a lovely day out, all blue skies and mild temperatures, and I calculate - if I drink this coffee within the next hour, I should have ample time to commandeer the neighborhood, make it home, change into my faux-gallery-owner clothes, and be at the soulsucking mall right on time.

Unless it starts dumping rain. Which it did. Which made me go: "NOOOOOOOOOOOO." A noise not dissimilar to what I do every time we find a brave cockroach, who, my mother insists, is the "outdoor kind" so he's probably just adventurous but I still kill them with vigor and relish. My mother, incidentally, was once described by my friend Ariel as thus: "She's a very sweet lady, but 'with it' are not words that come to mind when thinking of her." My mother will also be here on Wednesday. Expect eye-rolling disbelief to follow.

So Rob, from the other room, declares, "It's supposed to clear up!" Which is truth, not just optimism, and this is one of the reasons I realize my aversion to personal computers in the form of cellular phones is so arbitrary - he was reporting, live, from the satellite view of his handy-dandy Weather application, or "app" as all the hip kids are saying these days.

And lo and behold, it sure did, and I raced out of there and spent a glorious sixty minutes barreling over speed humps and running into curbs and flying down sudden unexpected hills and have I mentioned I am in love with that bike? I am. And vicariously the fellow who gave it to me who is (as we speak!) preparing a dinner that he will deliver and devour with me here at the mall. Did I mention I work in a mall?

Yes, this post is only about the weather. But the weather here is alternatingly stupendous - today, getting rained on, then getting dried off, then rained on and dried off again in the course of one bike ride - or sluggish, as when it just rains and rains and rains. But I will take rain, thank you. After all that snow, rain is magical.

Also, Rob and I have had burritos at Flaming Amy's twice in three days. I am not ashamed, for two little words:

Salsa. Bar.

Here are three more:

Peach. Ginger. Salsa.

And one last one, just to drive the point home:


This could be a goddamn haiku!

Stay tuned, friends and frenemies, for the following: my mother's visit, why visiting writers are kind of always awful and how I will someday eat that statement alongside my hefty slice of humble pie, why there is a God, the meaning of life, etc, etc. Promises.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Saga of Employment.

I am at my job right this second. I am also typing this right this second. Do a little deducing, and you should be able to see the point I'm going to make anyway.

Three big things happened when I came home from NYC: my third class started, I got a bike, and my job began. This has created an actual need of a planner to schedule the following: when I need to go to class, when I need to go to work, and when I can go bike riding, rain permitting. A brief note about my bike and bike-riding skillz - I essentially have none. I think it's been ten or maybe twelve years since I actually rode a bike with any regularity. There were the Gilded Bicycles of old AlHam, but they were always either in a creek, outside the VT, brakeless, or almost always too tall for me to ride. Rob, watching me almost topple to the ground every time I tried to mount this new bike, admitted he'd never really realized what an awful thing being short is. I think I said something like, "You're telling me, bub" and proceeded to fall over on my bike.

Regardless of my sad lack of height, this bike is the most amazing wonderful magical bike in the world. Essentially, it's a child's bike, but grown-up size, because it has fat white-wall tires and tramp-stamp decals and it's bright blue and doesn't have any gears at all. It brakes by back-pedaling, which is good for me, as I never really got the hang of hand-brakes.

The bad news is, one spin around the neighborhood and my knees feel crumbly, there's a bad taste in my throat, and I look a little like I've been stewing in a sauna for an hour. I blame the humidity, mainly, but I also blame my utter inactivity of the past, well, forever. But I still love that bike, and it's leaning against our living room wall right now, and it kind of makes it hard to concentrate on whatever movie we're watching because I keep thinking "GODDAMN THAT IS ONE SNAZZY BIKE AND IT'S MINE." Unless we are watching The Fall, which is one of my top five favorite movies of all time.

So there is the bike. There is also the job.

Somehow, with 72 hours, both Rob and I managed to find not only employment, but the most absurd kinds of employment possible - Rob is now working for a medical research group that needs him to call German people, in Germany, and ask them, in German, when they want to go on this free trip they've signed up for, so they can take this new medicine that is meant to prevent traveler's diarrhea.

Yes. Rob will be speaking in German about poop. All. Day. Long.

Meanwhile, I'm here, at the - gasp! - mall, where I tried to work once upon a time and where I actually do work, if you can call it working. No, I work, but I work on my work. That's because there is practically no work at work. By which I mean, if you're going to buy art at the mall, you're the type of person who buys art at a mall, and I can't help you in any sense. So I try to be friendly and say hello to everyone who wanders in, but most of the time they can't see me because I'm hiding behind the counter, and they just get confused at this disembodied, somewhat insistent, a little bit crazed-sounding "How you folks doing?!"

The art, though, is something to behold. Right now, I'm in view of four Thomas Kinkades in gaudy, gilded frames, some giant angular photo of a man playing a piano, two separate depictions of herons, a Van Gogh reproduction, a lifelike portrait of a wolf, James Dean's headshot, that famous poker dogs picture, and half a dozen high-res photos of UNC basketball games. Those puppies, by the way, sell like hot cakes.

Likewise, within the store's stacks and stacks of canvases, there are also the following:

A romanticized, detailed portrait of several bunnies
A lot of Jesuses of various ethnicities
Around 800,000 vaguely Italian landscapes
A portrait of a reclining Tyra Banks

My proudest moment by far was when someone came in and bought "Blowing the Wad," being a framed print of an oversized 100 dollar bill, with a hole burning through it, and two flaming dice passing over Ben Franklin's charred face. I can only imagine where it hangs now.

But a job's a job's a job and I'm pretty glad to be in one where I can get my schoolwork done and also eat bad Chinese food as much as I want, which is much more than I would like to admit. The cushiness of it all is karmic, I believe, retribution for all those years at the Writing Center and the hundreds of awful conferences - for having an on-campus job that was actually a job, not just sitting in the Emerson Gallery. Now I get to sit in the Emerson Gallery. Except everything's for sale. And I guess I ought to be selling it, but like I said - if you're gonna buy art in a mall, you're gonna buy art in a mall. And I'm gonna judge you. But not really, because if it were up to me, I'd plaster my walls with a mural depicting me, Orson Welles, and Penny all riding on a tandem bicycle, or maybe in a hot air balloon, eating ice cream and having the happiest time of our lives.

You think I tease. You keep thinking that.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Saga of Country Mouse.

Why is it called the big apple? Because it's full of worms.

So here's how it happened: rather than return to my fair alma mater, up in the boonies of central New York, and finally confront not that I've left there but that I'm never coming back, I went a few hours easterly and spent my Alumni Weekend having an alternate, more intimate reunion in a much larger, much more populous place. And if any of you class of >09 are reading this, I'm sorry I didn't see you, but I had to do what I had to do.

Had I had a car, the choice would've been easy, because all I wanted to do with my fall break was drive around the hills and look at the farms and foliage and go eat Minar and stand in Lake Oneida again, but I was doomed to be a pedestrian, so I landed in Newark, bought a MetroCard, couched myself at some friends' place in Brooklyn, and it was just like Sheep in the Big City...Comes Alive!!!

And maybe there is too much city in New York City, or maybe I am too much of a sheep, but that place and I mix about as well as mud and bread - which is odd to me, considering I spent four glad months in Vienna, but those were months with many train rides into the hills, and many walks through the Wienerwald, and pretty much daily siestas in parks. So it isn't just urban-ness I don't like - it's there, and maybe it's not just there, but Williamsburg, where hipsters are as ever-present as roaches, and I mean real, utterly absurd hipsters wearing grandma windbreakers or glasses the size of windowpanes or shaved initials in a girl's hair.
So I learned what I already knew, which was a theme of the whole episode: you can have New York. I don't really want it. Give me Seattle, give me San Francisco, give me D.C. or Chicago, but you can keep the Big Apple, blasphemous though that may seem. I will only make myself a permanent resident there if I have a trillion dollars, which seems to be about the amount you need to live a pretty normal life.

And naysayers, say what ye will about the South, but you gotta admit, the price is pretty nice. Plus we have an ocean. Did I mention the ocean? It is free to look at the ocean. It is also free to get in the ocean. And I love getting in things. Especially when it's free.

But what did you do in New York? What were the highlights? The lowlights? The midlights? Are we talking about hair or illumination?

The good things were these: I went out to Long Island for a night to stay with Winston and his band of a band, Ball of Flame Shoot Fire, who are incidentally very great and you should listen to them and buy their albums on iTunes, and it was a really nice reprieve from the chatter and roar of walking around Manhattan - I've never been so grateful to see green things, or be in a house with a yard and a driveway and a creepily pink basement. Also, they make me laugh, which is a skill, considering I have the sense of humor of about a three-year-old. Which none of them seem to mind. And we ate food and watched TV and sat around their back deck and tried to pet the stray cat that had wandered up - these being three of my favorite activities (eating, TV-watching, and stray-cat-befriending).

I also went out with my friend Katie, of the Western Road Trip fame, for a night of pierogies and lattes and IPAs, which was equally great. It was pretty refreshing to hear an opinion of post-AlHam life that wasn't at all related to ironic theme parties or over-involvement in campus organizations - for instance, did you know majoring in Creative Writing leads to not only none, but negative job opportunities? And how, at my school, no one told me that? Or that, you know, things cost money? And you will have to make your way regardless? We also discussed the following: dogs, haircuts, and blues dancing, which is apparently just dirty dancing to very sad music, which sounds right up my alley. Went to a snazzy Village banjo bar afterwards, where there were young dudes playing old-timey jazz that put me in mind of silent movies, and couples were swing dancing, and the bartender gave me a dirty look but I didn't care.

I also took a free boat ride around the Statue of Liberty. I always love being on a boat. Especially for free.

And here's the transition: My first few days, it was weirdly enjoyable to be acknowledged as a lady on the street, which is a weird and stilted way to say that some guy in Times Square who was asking for donations looked and me and said, "How 'bout you, beautiful? Can you spare some change for the homeless?" And I didn't have a cent on me, as usual, but I did smile, and apologize with a shrug, and went into the giant Toys-R-Us to look at the ferris wheel inside the store (I would've ridden it, but it was not free). Because he called me beautiful, which he probably didn't mean, but it was still nice to hear. Or a guy in a Starbucks saw my hokey Lonely Planet guide and asked where I was visiting from - perfectly harmless, probably just friendly, but look, it's nice to get flirted with. Or so I thought.

Cut to Saturday night. Here is what I consumed: dinner. (1) cherry 4-Loko. (1) Beam Cream, being Jim Beam mixed with cream soda. (1) Surfers on Acid shot, which I can't remember the ingredients of, but it certainly tasted better than my (at least 4) shots of Evan Williams. Plus around (5) beers. Then (1) communal Joose. Followed by (1) more beer, at least. You do the tallying.

Needless to say, you put all that shit in you, you start feeling pretty good. And not happy good. More like, "Oh we're at a bar in Williamsburg I should probably dance with this man" good. Who were these men? How was I dancing? I don't know. It was humiliating, and things only got worse.

The friends I was visiting were all very tall, as they have always been, so they take longer steps, so I tend to lag behind, so by the time I got to the door of the next bar, which seemed an insurmountable pilgrimage from the last one, especially when you keep stumbling into buildings, my friends were already well inside, toasting, cheersing, making equally ridiculous fools of themselves as I did. Here's another fact: it's very hard to use your hands when you're that drunk. So when the bouncer saw me battling the slits of my wallet to liberate my North Carolina driver's license as though it was a Rubik's Cube, he told me I couldn't come in. I said I just wanted to see my friends, I didn't want anymore to drink. He said he was sorry. So I hailed a cab, and somehow remembered the cross-streets of my friends' apartment, and rode through Brooklyn, embarrassed, but really too disoriented to think anything, except for when we stopped, and I tried to swipe my bank card because I didn't lose anything but all my cash and a good amount of my pride, but it was just as hard as getting my ID out, so the cab driver had to get in the back and do it for me, which I guess made him think it was okay to ask for a kiss, and tell me I was so beautiful, and I was so pale, just one kiss.

And I said no and got the hell out and walked away and called Rob and cried and cried and cried. It was 3:30 a.m.

My friends were fairly appalled when I told them what happened the next morning, but I just woke up grateful that I still had everything, that I'd made it home, and that something worse hadn't happened.

The funny part is, this mirrors entirely my 21st birthday in Berlin, when my friends and I went on a pub crawl and I ended up sick in a toilet stall, abandoned again. That time, someone had to put me into a cab for me, but when I got back, I was ecstatic - that was awesome holy shit what the fuck best birthday ever. There was nothing sexual at all about that night, and though it was terrifying at the time, it's pretty funny to talk about now. That night in Brooklyn had nothing funny at all about it.

Except for this: I spent the rest of my time there singing "One night in Brooklyn!" to myself, to the tune of "One Night in Bangkok." Which you can enjoy here. (It takes about a minute and a half to get going, so be patient.)

And there were other small good things - the Guggenheim (how much fun would it be to rollerblade through there?!) and the little kids interpreting the Kandinsky exhibit with crayons on the floor, the quiet, shady walk I took through brownstone Brooklyn en route to Nick's play, spending way too much money at Strand, lunch in the Hearst building where I saw Nina Garcia from Project Runway (we made magical eye contact), and I swear I saw Martin Short on the street. My friends were all welcoming, and for the most part, we had a pretty grand time.

But mainly I was ready to go when it came time to - so much so that I did the only selfish thing I'd done all week and bumped my flight to an earlier one rather than sit, stewing, in Newark.

And seeing Rob again was absolutely tremendous, and I was very nearly on the point of crying because I was so happy, and seeing our street again, our neighborhood - I had this sudden possession and love of everything.

My trip to New York was a forest fire, as Rob put it. Meant to obliterate everything and make it all new again - charred, but sprouting.

And as if it wasn't enough to come home to the fellow I'm in love with and sleep in our big comfy bed and read all my mail, Rob flips on the living room light and there is a bike. With a bow on it. For me. What kind of boyfriend buys his gal a bike?! Mine, apparently. And it was amazing, and I've been riding around the neighborhood every day since, and it makes me so unspeakably happy even though my knees feel like hell afterwards.

Whew. There's that, ladies and babies. I'm real glad to be here, alive and well and believe or not, absolutely content.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Saga of Miscellanies.

There's a certain late-night hysteria necessary for me to actually use this thing. During the daylight hours, I think, shouldn't I be writing something, or reading something, or doing something that will somehow scoot me just a little further towards that intangible, vague, and somewhat gooey goal of being a Real Writer? And then I find myself on the backroads of the Internet, or, more embarrassingly, the secret cul-de-sacs of facebook, or Rob and I realize we've been in the apartment for six hours and what's worse, we've been watching America's Next Top Model on Oxygen the entire time and now we're both hollering "MARJORIE HAS TO GO SHE'S TERRIBLE SHE'S SUCH A DEFEATIST." So then Rob goes out to get Cherry Limeades, and I stay in to see who won.

And that's more of an exercise (in workshops we call them "warm-ups" just like real sports people!) to make me less embarrassed by my own noise. (In workshops, they'd also cross out about half the shit I just typed.)

But first, things you must know - on the internet I believe it's called "linking" - to justify the title.

A of all, and most importantly, this album, which you should be able to preview for free in that little blue lala box: Wild Beasts!

Oh, my god. Oh my god. Oh my god! Why is this so good? How is it possible? I listen to the title track about six times a day and actually shiver, it's so good, and eerie, and insane. Every now and again an album lands in my lap and reinvigorates everything - we played "At Mount Zoomer" nearly every day on the road trip out west, so much so that I think Katie might still have nightmares that are the opening doo-doodle-oos of the first track, and this summer, I learned all the words to "Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea" because it was our daily soundtrack driving down the Eastern seaboard - but this! Wild Beasts! Amazing!

And what's more, I also got the latest Modest Mouse album and I think my 18-year-old self may actually be dead because it's dreadful.

B of all, these: and

All of it, genius. I want to write things that come from the same brain schema that made up Cat Rackham and the weird little reaper of buttercup festival, and that give you chills like a Wild Beasts song. Truthfully, that's what I want to do.

I've had a novel brewing, just barely, in my head, because there is nothing more audacious and absurd than trying to tackle a novel, and I realized today that I've been approaching it the way a kid approaches making Icky Mix: Go in the kitchen, get a bowl, and throw everything in, and hopefully what comes out is not a viscous, puce mess. I don't know the details, but I do know that the Rocka-Fire Explosion will play a major part.

C of all, the Rocka-Fire Explosion:

Fact: I know most of the words to Pop Lock and Drop It because I have watched this video that many times.
Or, conversely, there is this:

You are mesmerized. Admit it.

But in the real world, also known as when I am not on the internet, the weather has been very, very, very wet. As in today we decided to revel, or attempt to revel, in our glorious unemployment and this boon of unoccupied time, and so we were shimmying into our swimming gear when the clouds let forth a mammoth downpour. That's really how we got to watching America's Next Top Model. Fucking rain. And yes, we're both still unemployed, and I've taken to actually waking up and praying to various retail deities: "Please, lords of Petsmart, let today be the day. Glory to Toys-R-Us and RadioShak, and may the sun always shine on Michael's Crafts and Art Supplies. Hallelujah, Books-A-Million." This is not a joke. This is a fact.

Our air conditioner froze somehow. This was not nearly as alarming as the enormous roach we found, though. Or rather, that I found, and squeaked out something like "Uuunh giant buuuug uunh get it get it get it" and then Rob dutifully fetched Sergeant Swat and disposed of him. I'm just grateful it wasn't a brown recluse. Or an alligator.

Oh! And I got a story accepted, which, ironically, does scoot me a little closer to being a Real Writer. More on that to come. Reading Philip Roth and not happy about it. And I'm going to New York in less than a week, which is something exciting to come home and report on - there will be drinks, and a boat ride, and maybe some wandering, and hopefully a lot of happy times that we'll all reflect on, wistfully, someday in the future.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Saga of Inconsistent Blogging

Friends! Fear not, for I have not abandoned you! I have been reticent these past -- goodness! -- fourteen days because, lo and behold, I have been out! In the human world! Interacting! Schmoozing! Mingling! Carousing! Being a real live person!

And when I wasn't doing that, I was ensnared in very long books that I had to read very rapidly, books like Sophie's Choice, which overall just confounded me because what are passages that raunchy doing in a book that is pretty much about the Holocaust? What bizarre dichotomy is that supposed to be? Am I supposed to be simultaneously aroused and unhappy? Because that really is a poor concoction.

And when I wasn't doing that, I was here, at my desk, feeling my body heat seep into the cushion of this $7 office chair and typing away at what I guess is titled "The Great American All-You-Can-Eat Never-Ending Pie Buffet: a memoir of pies." Twenty-six pages of pie, recollected with more than just a little nostalgia. But I'm getting ahead of myself here, so I'll retreat and recharge and tell you what I came here to tell you. Go get snacks- if you're Karli, go get a pickle. (Karli remains the only individual I've ever known who actually gets pickles at movie theaters. I think she should start a club of Pickle Enthusiasts - it really is the weirdest thing for a movie concession stand to sell. Likewise, the creepiest thing someone can offer you as refreshment? Fruit leather. I've thought about this. A lot.)

Fun fact: Being a human is often a very difficult undertaking. There is no Playfair for graduate school, and while I'm grateful that I never ever have to undergo that divine, sweaty, meet-n-greet torture again, I do kind of wish there was a more direct way to, you know, meet people. I had this ridiculous American Girl book that my mother got me as a birthday gift once called, aptly, The Caring and Keeping of Friends - essentially a juvenile etiquette book, but it made friendships sound a lot like tomato plants: stubborn, needy, and frequently unfruitful.

So while there are no Orientation Groups (TOM DO YOU REMEMBER HOW WE MET ON THE FIRST DAY OF COLLEGE EVER? YOU TOTALLY DO) and no hall parties and no forced socialization via absolute isolation, there is a handy-dandy listserv that, sadly, acted as my lone fishing line out into society. So when an event is advertised, I mark it largely on my calendar, drag Rob along, and we do our best to be interesting and not painfully couple-y, which is a lot harder than you'd think. But these past two weeks have been jammed with get-togethers, in backyards and on front stoops and in local watering holes, and slowly we are accumulating phone numbers and facebook friendships and real ones, too. And, as we all know, I love gettin' digits.

But what was really most relieving, dear readers, and what I want to impart to any and all who are considering sprinting from undergrad into graduate school, especially from a place as incestuous as Hamilton, was last night, at the Fundraising Speed Dating event, which I volunteered to bartend for because I am still utterly unemployed, and I like beer, and sometimes I like people, too. So while the daters were chatting each other up and down, I'm yammering with the other gal on bar duty, who happily shares her cigarettes and opens the wine bottles. And she's pretty much everything I have trouble being--vivacious, open, outwardly friendly--but at some point during the evening she admits how hard it's been, trying to go out and be social when she has a dog and privacy at home, how really arduous friend-making can be.

And I was just all, "OMIGOD I KNOW RIGHT?" Except I meant it. And it was so, so, so relieving, knowing I was not this awkward little pigeon, cooped up all day in my apartment, utterly inept at simple chitchatting, but that everyone was just as daunted, and moreover, everyone was just as willing and ready to be friendly - it just takes a little booze to get everyone, as my folks would say, situated.

Unfortunately, my bartending stint ended in semi-disaster. I spent about two and a half hours essentially doing squats, bending from the mini-fridge to hand up Yuenglings and chilled bottles of wine-bought-by-the-crate to all those thirsty flirters, and today, my hamstrings are strung tighter than a banjo, giving me this really attractive, hobbling gait. Anticipating the oncoming pain, or at least realizing there was something unhappy going on in my knees, Rob and I spent most of our time at the following potluck sitting outside on the front stoop, where we discussed such things as: Brown Recluse spiders, my ever-expanding fear of alligators and now Brown Recluse spiders, various names for cockroaches, and Girl Talk the board game, not the downfall of Western Music as we knew it. Those spiders are fucking terrifying.

But there was also a lovely gathering at the overflowing bookstore downtown last Thursday night, a reading created just for us first-years, and hells yes I volunteered to stand in front of all those folks and almost pass out. Readings always make me anxious, but there''s few feelings more rewarding, or more satisfying, than presenting your own work in your own voice and knowing folks liked it. Case in point: when Katie and I gave our long-delayed reading for the road trip we took in Summer '08, I don't think I'd ever felt more stressed - I was too tense to even finish my buffalo fingers, and everyone knows how much I love that damn diner buffalo sauce. The anxiety only mounted as not one professor, nor two, but pretty much the entire English department filed in - maybe they had carpooled? But, of course, as anyone who was there knows, it went amazingly well, and I was too buzzed on adrenaline to sleep well that night.

This Thursday night reading was much the same - people just kept coming, pretty much the entire program, awkwardly assembled in a store that is fit to hold about eight audience members, and we had a crowd of at least thirty, maybe more. I shook like a leaf through the first two readings, and then they introduced me, and I went up, made some self-conscious remark about my height, and proceeded to knock their goddamn socks off!

No, really. I was a wreck, I couldn't breathe right, my face was turning sunburned red, but everyone was laughing and I think that's why I'm such a smart ass sometimes - because there's few things that feel better than making someone laugh, and laugh hard, and tell you how much they laughed afterwards when you're mingling out on the sidewalk, and then you all go get beers and play some darts and feel the world settle somewhat, in a good way, in a way that makes you feel less afraid of, or at least intimidated by, your own life.

And it was a brilliantly timed event, too, as I had my first deadline looming ever nearer, the dreaded Memoir draft. I'd been working on a piece that was supposed to catalogue all the times I'd been naked when you shouldn't be naked, spanning shared baths as a child to skinny dipping in high school to things that should not be discussed on the internet, but the piece had taken an intense nosedive into the realm of sadness and melodrama, all cliched body image bullshit, and I was very displeased. But then there was this reading, and I remembered, oh yeah, I can make people laugh sometimes, I can be fucking funny, and that, combined with Rob and I watching the Great American Pie Cook-Off Challenge on the Food Network (where some ass tried to turn in a watermelon pie for the citrus category), made me embark on the piece I ended up composing in a 72 hour blind frenzy of creation - an eight-part essay all about pie. We'll see how it goes over with my peers.

In the meantime, we've been keeping busy with our ambitious reading lists. Rob rode his bike 20 miles over to Fort Fisher, where I was waiting for him, and he was too dehydrated and I was too sunburned to really enjoy the beach itself, but this little Pomeranian walked by some friendly old lady decided to nestle between my ankles for a while and it made me unspeakably happy. The job situation is still bleak, but we're hoping the war will end soon, hopefully with us not on welfare.

And I promise I will type more regularly - but I warn you, now that the faucet's on, you might have trouble shutting it off. See what I did there? No? Me neither. Good night!

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Saga of Fauna and Bodies of Water.

There was a time, once, when we were in high school, before we smoked Marlboros and drank dirty Arnold Palmers (Sweet Tea vodka and lemonade? Brilliant) and were therefore obligated to invent bizarre practices to keep ourselves amused. These included but were not limited to: How Much Food Can You Sneak Into the Movie Theater (my record as of this summer - two 32 ounce drinks, a box of Junior Mints, and a fucking sandwich), How About We Go to the Movie in Our Pajamas, How About Let's Stay Home and Watch Horror Movies Until Dawn, or, my personal favorite, The Midnight Safari.

The Midnight Safari is this: Karli and I drive around in the dark and try to find animals, which, in Tulsa, is easier than you think. Cats usually dominated the list, but one thrilling night we also saw a possum, an armadillo, and a coyote that I mistook for a very small zebra - your standard Oklahoman wildlife. Below are five other instances where animals were pretty exciting, excluding the animals in our house who are always exciting:

1. My brother Matthew opened the front porch door to find half a dozen raccoons on the porch, apparently having a caucus of some kind. I told him I had summoned them and I think he may have believed me.

2. While cruising around downtown to show Rob how fancy downtown Tulsa is, we saw a camel - not in the wild, really, because there was a man holding the camel's reins, who then asked if we wanted to have a ride on the camel. We didn't.

3. Driving down 21st street, over by the poshiest shopping center in the Tulsa area, we saw a whole parade of elephants who were in town for the circus.

4. Karli and I once drove past a giraffe out in the wilds of Eastern Oklahoma while on a miniature road trip that was really just a long drive for good burgers. In retrospect I may have dreamt the giraffe part but I really hope not.

5. Bunny, the cottontail my mother rescued from the greedy clutches of our idiot dog, who miraculously survived on kitten formula and grass from our yard and who was so small you could only pet him with a single fingertip. We took him to a wildlife rehabilitation place out in the boonies, where they had a whole family of skunks, a baby bobcat, and raccoons sleeping in tiny raccoon hammocks.

Meanwhile, at Hamilton, there were deer, like the one that smashed into a dorm window one night, and the chipmunks that sometimes scampered inside as well, and the most terrifying tremendous sighting of all, the Night of the Sasquatch on Minor Field which was truthfully the most frightening thing I have ever seen. Even if it wasn't Sasquatch, it was still lumbering, two-legged, and headed for the woods, so we bolted back to the safety of our dormitories, horrified and suddenly very sober.

But Wilmington? Wilmington wins, critterwise.

Last night, after a day spent entirely in jammies, baking cookies, watching Miyazaki, and basically waiting for the holiday weekend to end so our phones could feasibly ring again with the eternally-anticipated job offer, Rob and I went out in search of a lake. I could (and maybe will?) write an entire dissertation on how Living In the World resembles Being Abroad, and there could be an entire chapter on how to keep oneself sane and active: Lesson One - Look at A Map, Find A Body of Water, and Go To It. I don't know what we expected, but this giant, meandering, swampy behemoth in the middle of downtown Wilmington was one brilliant surprise.

So we parked, after driving the whole circumference of the thing which stretched from 3rd Street to 13th and kept on going, and got out, and ambled, and there were little pagodas and half-submerged trees and stumpy little root teeth sticking up from the grass, and the trees were so very tall, moss-hung, and it was dusky out, murky and so sue me, magical. Bridges spanned the water at random intersections, and we crossed one, leaning over and counting the turtles that were bobbing around just under the surface, when suddenly, a chain-smoking clearly Carolina couple suddenly asked, "Y'all see that gator?"

Yes. An alligator. And we could just see it, just barely, a motionless bump in the water. And as it was getting dark and I am easily rattled, I learned that I am actually terrified of alligators, which was only exacerbated when we went over to a nearby floating deck where the sign clearly warned: BEWARE OF ALLIGATORS. So as we walked back to the car in the drizzle and the dark, I kept imagining an alligator waddling at incredible speeds to open its giant jaws and snap snap, my legs for dinner.

But this did not happen.

We also finally relaxed long enough to go to the beach - as we are both still unemployed and the weather's getting wetter, Rob and I spend far too long in our apartment, grazing on the contents of the fridge and dirtying dishes, reading like we have book reports due tomorrow, which is weirdly stressful. But this weekend we went out, camping chairs and tote bag in tow, and sat out on the sand for the whole of the day.

At one point, Rob went splashing into the surf and I stayed behind because the water was violent, swollen, scary to me - after 18 years in Oklahoma, 4 in Adirondack country, and half a year in landlocked Austria, I haven't really had much experience with being in the ocean - and as he was swimming or leaping or whatever you call being-in-the-ocean-without-drowning, a whole host of pelicans flew overhead. Up close, pelicans are pretty awful with their wobbly gullets and deranged eyes and incredible size, but in flight, pelicans are nothing less than amazing - they fly low, in small groups, and seeing them skimming the waves for some reason really knocks it home that I am not home at all, but living on the coast, doing this crazy thing, far far from all I've known.

So Rob is cavorting around trying to keep his trunks on in the pull of the tide, I'm burying my toes in the sand, and there are forty pelicans swooping around the sky, and suddenly they just fall - an abrupt 90 degree plummet as if they'd suddenly forgotten they had wings and were, in fact, birds, and then this enormous splash as they hit the water beak-first. Then they'd bob right back up again, sated, and float around before taking off only to fall again. It went on for half an hour at least, this falling and splashing and everyone on the beach was mesmerized by these big ugly birds just dive-bombing into the water, so many all at once, like a sudden assault of pelicans versus fish with the ocean definitely winning.

Alligators and pelicans, oh my?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Saga of Saturdays, Sundays, Tuesdays, Same Days.

Here's the thing about graduate school; it doesn't take up an awful lot of time. This is for a variety of reasons: I am in no way funded or employed by the school, so while my peers are sweating out their syllabi for their undergraduate courses and managing teaching on top of grading papers on top of being a student, I'm sitting pretty watching the library's DVDs (this weekend we had a double-feature of The Hobbit and The Shining). I am also brand new at this, so my schedule worked out that I'm not enrolled in any faculty-taught Fiction workshops, so until October, when our first visiting writer arrives to teach a workshop, I have class on Mondays and Mondays only.

So the weekend seems to start on Monday night when I crash back into our housepartment, starving from six hours of classes with one piddly fifteen-minute break in between (and a handful of raisins because we eat like small children here; our pantry is pretty much peanut butter, Nutella, and granola bars, and our fridge is mostly milk and beer), and the weekend ends the next Monday, midafternoon.

And when I wake up at 10:30 and spend the rest of the morning in my jammies, eating granola out of a soup mug and reading unassigned books and slowly warming up to the day, I think, this is awesome. But then the coffee kicks in and I realize, Fuck, this is not living, this is playing. Aren't we supposed to be grown-ups? Would grown-ups have peanut butter and jelly for dinner, with peanut butter and Nutella for dessert? Would grown-ups resolve to be the first to lay claim to the library copy of Fire Walk With Me when it's processed (whatever that means), though this might require rewatching the entirety of Twin Peaks? Would grown-ups loiter in their jammies (or less) until lunch?

The answer is: I guess so?

Which is all a long preamble to the big ish right now, what we'll call Oh Hello This Is What Living in A Shitty Economy is Like, otherwise known as A Dozen Cookies to Whoever Gives Me or Rob a Job.

Which is funny, because I applied to the Great American Cookie Company. In the mall. You know, the place where you get cookie cakes? With fun frosted messages? The quirky alternative to a regular cake?

And part of me really dies, literally rolls over on its back and puts its paws in the air and thinks, Euthanize away, the way Penny sometimes acts when it's particularly hot in the backyard, when I consider that I might voluntarily take orders from fussy mothers on what shade of blue icing I'll use on their son's birthday cookie cake (cerulean or cornflower or Carolina?), or stand in Yankee Candle gift-wrapping Apple Spice Pumpkin Explosion three-wick twelve-inch cylindricals, or next door, pestering customers about what fragrance they're looking for at Bath & Body Works, something summery? Or something seductive? How about a Fresh Cotton foot liqueur? On sale this week, this week only. There's a certain agonizing irony to writing "Published, Pushcart Prize Nominee" under Awards on an application to work in a place that sells fucking aromatic candles.

But part of me thinks, hell, this is what that silly Real Life Experience is supposed to be, right? And more importantly, that was what I leveled when Rob expressed pretty valid reservations at the idea of ignoring the plethora of opportunities in NYC, all of two hours from his house, and packing up shop to move to North Carolina, nine hours south, just to be with me. What about jobs? we both asked. This is not the time for careers, we said. This is the time for odd jobs and strange and wild misadventures that make great anecdotes at bars or dinner parties. This is the time to throw caution to the wind! To go forth, unafraid! To enjoy simple costless pleasures like the beach, and games of Scrabble, and games of Scrabble at the beach!

I'd be lying if I said we weren't feeling the strain. The aggravating part is that we're not being extravagant and yet our wallets are always skinny, because we've run out of hummus or we need a roll of duct tape or the rent's due. We stay in more than is good for us, but the cash still dribbles away. Rob had a brief and terrible opportunity at becoming an insurance salesman, but details have emerged and we're both hoping RadioShack calls back, because frankly, the boy likes things with buttons. I keep thinking RadioShack is the one where the employees wear referee shirts, but I realize now that's Foot Locker. He likes shoes, too. Who doesn't like shoes?

So, of course, I'm working on a story where the main character makes a list of things she likes in hopes of finding a job, and I've done the exact same thing, which I explained in a semi-manic, blathering way to one of my professors who saw me in the parking lot of the mall, said hello, and asked if I was shopping. I told her no, job-hunting, and that, after consideration and much list-making, I'd decided I liked cookies, candles, and soap. Hence my choices in potential employments. All the while her adorable daughter, propped on her hip, was looking at me like I was a scary-person who should not be smiled at. But I can't blame her, and I don't.

Using this method I have also applied to work in a florist's as well as the requisite bookstore. If I get desperate, which I very well might, it's back to the Mac Shack, the Macaroni Grill, where I'll at least be old enough to pour wine for the guests without fetching a legal-aged bartender and standing by unhappy and embarrassed.

We'll see how it all pans out. But really, my plan is this: Become famous. Become wealthy. Pay debt. Convince Rob to go to culinary school. Eat amazing home-cooked meals and live happy as a lark for the rest of my life. Essentially, in the immortal words of Fiddy Cent: Get rich or die tryin'.

There are also tentative plans to abandon academia and use my writing skillz to become a rap sensation, but those plans are too secret to even be mentioned here.

Rob's cooking kielbasa and I don't even know what that is but I can't wait. Bon appetit, and bon voyage, too.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Saga of What's Happening.

Hello friends.

After long and laborious deliberation, I've decided that I'm going to shout out my small adventures into the ethereal wilderness that is the internet in this vainglorious idiotic probably narcissistic (definitely poorly-articulated) blog and hope that someone hears and sends a postcard saying hello. Idiotic as that sentence was, I do love postcards, especially the ones that come on the same day as bills, because then we can spread our mail out on the dining room table and make ratios that please us: this much correspondence to this many utilities. Who loves us and who just wants our money? Who will read this blog? What will we have for dinner? Has Rob fallen in a hole on his nightly bike ride? Will my father Google me and discover this digital diary? What kind of father Googles their daughter anyway?

One of my favorite lines from a favorite poem that I'll put right here because it seems relevant:

Forgive me. I simply do not know what I am doing.

This is my second foray into blog-land, only now I am doubly self-conscious about it; last time I was a lost little American scrambling around Germany and Austria, drinking too much beer, spending too much money, and generally being confused but having an adventure so epic it plagues me to this day with memories that are so vast I sometimes wonder if they're really mine.

Actually, not much has changed. I still drink too much beer, spend too much money, and I am generally confused pretty much perpetually, only this time I'm a graduate student with loans that hover over me like one of those cartoon 16-TON anvils, rope strands unraveling, no job to speak of, no agenda from day-to-day besides keeping myself fed, and, truthfully, it's kind of awesome.

My name is Rachel, I'm 22, I live in a housepartment in a town by the ocean with Rob, the boy I picked up in Austria though he's American as baseball and cobbler combined, who may or may not have fallen in a hole on his nightly bike ride around our dreamy neighborhood, a stately place to say the least: giant old houses with wide front porches, interlocking oak trees hung with Spanish moss, railroad tracks with one lonesome train whistle, a brick-and-ivy elementary school.

I've been here in Wilmington (NC, not DE) for approximately 20 days. In that time, I've been to two disorienting Orientations, two intimidating graduate-level classes, a handful of meet-and-greets where I just got nervous and twisted my shirt hem a lot, and Wal-Mart. Around sixty times. The housepartment has gone from barren to burgeoning, my parents have come and gone, Rob's parents have come and gone, and now here we are. There's plenty to tell, and I plan on telling it, if only for the practice of words-per-minute, which I've sorely missed.

If you're out there, wave. More than likely I miss you. But things are pretty grand down here, and I hope you want to know about as much as I want to tell you about it. Yes? All right.