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.