Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Challenge

Mad Haiku, of Mad Haiku fame has challenged me to complete the following "name three" questionnaire. In light of the fact that a couple of people in my little blog circle have recently composed the "100 things about me" list, I present to you this somewhat shorter version thereof.

Three screen names you have had:

Three things you like about yourself:
My obsession with helping people
My brain (however small and unwrinkly, she's fun at parties)
My ability to keep laughing

Three things you don't like about yourself:
My obsession with helping people
My pomposity (occasional but very ugly)
My laziness

Three things that scare you:
The sensation of falling
The sneaking feeling that I will never live up to my potential
Fish brushing up against me when I swim in the ocean

Three of your everyday essentials:
Talking with my husband

Three things you are wearing right now:
Pajama pants
Tiny silver hoop earrings (thought I'd say undies, didn't ya?)

Three of your favorite songs:
"D'yer Mak'er" by Led Zeppelin
"Add It Up" by the Violent Femmes
"I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" by U2

Three new things you want to try in the next twelve months:
Living in the same house (country, zip code, neighborhood) with my husband
Writing a novel
Tai Chi

Three things I want in a relationship:

Three things you can't do without:
My husband (do we see a pattern? I admit I'm rather fond of him...)
My family (I don't consider moving to a different country doing without them. Haven't you people heard of a telephone?)
Pen and paper (I count this as one because, well, I just have to)

Three places you want to go on vacation:
Vienna (again)

Three things you just can't do:
Write decent rhymes into my poetry
Drink scotch (blech!)

Three kids' names:
Milos (my kids have to have Serbian names)
Magnolia (this one came to me in a weirdass dream, but I'm never going to use it. Mostly because it's not Serbian, and well, it's just a weird name for a kid.)

Three things you want to do before you die:
Finish writing a novel
Have kids
See my brother talk to my dad (civilly)

Three celebrity crushes:
Adrien Brody
Johnny Depp
James Dean

Three people I nominate to complete this exercise:
JumpUpMy of JumpUpMy.com
Cadiz12 of Do They Read Obituaries In Hell?
Omar of OmarPhillips.net

Of course, you're not actually obligated to complete this task, but it doesn't take as much effort as the "100 things" list, so, you know, bonus.

Whores, Hot Pants, and Hooter's

I went to Hooter's for the first time on Saturday. I went with a bunch of women, that plus the fact that I was wearing my ultra-comfy Rockport sandals, I'm sure all the men thought we were lesbians.

Jump and I went with my aunt, my mother, and the granddaughter of my aunt's co-worker. It was the teenage girl's decision to go, actually. She's being raised by her father, who is a softball coach, this I think, is the main reason she's used to going.

I wasn't offended by the scantily-clad waitresses, but I was uncomfortable for them. Even if I had a Hooter's waitress physique, I don't think I would ever wear anything approaching their uniform of bright orange short-shorts and low-cut tank tops.

How weird it must be to have sweaty, drunk men wearing wing-sauce paw all over you for tips. The food is honestly nothing to write home about, so the big-screen TVs fixed on ESPN and the girls with their asses half-hanging out of their shorts must be the major appeal. Oh, and the beer.

Don't get me wrong, I don't care if my husband wants to go to a Hooter's. This does not bother me, but like the strip club, I'd rather not join him. I can drink beer and eat better wings at a bar where whoever happens to be serving me wears normal clothing.

Our waitress was a sweet girl and really good at her job. She got all the orders right, brought our food out with alacrity, and was very polite and helpful. I honestly got the impression that she was delighted to serve a tableful of women who would most likely not grab her ass.

When my mother apologized for creating a bit of a mess with her crab legs, I commented that she likely wasn't as messy as a table of guys eating wings. Our server answered in the affirmative. "This is nothing compared to all-you-can-eat wing night when a Tennessee game is on," she reassured my mother.

I saw a man come up to his waitress and give her a hug, "I'm leaving now, hold up the fort til next time," he told her, staring blatantly at her chest as he pulled away. She accepted the embrace grudgingly, as if she knew it was part of her job, as if boob stares = better tips. I know these girls must make a killing tip-wise, because they looked just as bored to be at their jobs as I am at mine.

It kind of put things in perspective for me. I may hate my job and have to talk to crazy and/or bloody people all the time, but at least I don't have to touch them. I may have to let them use my pen, but I don't have to be all, "Y'all come back now, y'hear?!"

I don't really blame these women for wanting to make the kind of cash I'm sure that they do, however, I wonder if the job turned out to be more than they bargained for. Knowing that men staring lasciviously at your body is part of your job description must be pretty hard to take. I'm sure some of the girls enjoy the attention, but most of them just looked weary to me.

As a woman, you know, going into almost any work situation that you will get some male attention, asked-for or not. Anywhere you go, you think about what you're wearing, whether it's too revealing, too tight, or unflattering. You know that men will be looking at you, judging you by what you wear, and deciding whether or not you're worth the effort for a possible sexual connection.

You also know that women will be looking at you, judging you by what you wear, and deciding whether or not you're a slut. This is what people do. As a woman, it's part of leaving the house. Many men give the females in their lives a lot of crap for taking so long to get ready, but they don't have to confront the same social stigmas that we do. Not on a permanent basis, anyway.

Men don't have to worry that their hemline is too short, their blouse too low, or their jeans too tight. A lot of women choose not to worry about this either, and a lot of women say they don't worry about it when they do. We are always viewed as sexual objects, appealing or not. I don't know if men have to deal with this on a daily basis, but it seems like they don't.

I'm not calling for a revolution here. I'm not saying all women should start wearing baggy, shapeless clothing to deter people from acknowledging their sexuality. I would merely like to point out that it's something women have to think about. We are forced to. I'm not saying it's wrong or evil. It's just the way things are.

I like to wear flattering clothing, I really do. I like to feel like I look nice, but I'm always thinking in the back of my head, "Is this too slutty?"

Thursday, May 26, 2005

In Case You Missed It

Balance, like beauty and so many other things, is in the eye of the beholder. There is no way that any of us can step outside ourselves and view the world through any but our own filters.

What does upset me is that anyone thinks that balance means an equal number of minutes for two sides of any issue. Those reports constitute either shouting at the deaf or preaching to the converted.

Instead of balance, why not research? Why not de-bunking, as was done after the presidential "debates" last fall? Dig into the claims made by everyone, regardless of which side they are on. Don't just give the cheerleaders for either side an opportunity to spout the party line.

So saith my pop. Ten seconds have been deducted from his obligatory 15 minutes of fame. Well, they did edit him a bit, but it was pretty darn cool to hear my old man on the radio. His reaction? "Gee, I sound like your Uncle Joe." Uncle Joe being his youngest brother, who until his radio station recently changed its programming to all-Spanish, had a morning talk show in a medium-tiny town northeast of here.

So, how has fame changed my father? Not much. We still had our regular Thursday morning breakfast at Shoney's.

What was my mother's reaction to her former spouse's new-found celebrity? "Well, at least his accent didn't sound that heavy." Which I take to mean, "at least he didn't sound like a drooling yokel." So anyway, Mom gave it two thumbs up.

As far as the content, I must say that I agree with him. What we experience in our lives and the way in which we experience it is greatly determined by our general outlook. If you're depressed, it colors everything else going on in your life. This easily translates into the way we view political or social issues.

Our personality consists of basic attitudes that cause us to interpret everyday experiences and ideas in very specific ways. I'm a generally cynical person, who wants to be proven wrong. Therefore, I think NPR does lean significantly to the left, but I'm happy when it doesn't, although I must admit I'm pretty liberal. I like happy surprises. I like saying to myself, "See?! They don't have their own political agenda! It just seems that way." Then I remember that public radio subsists on listener donations, and most of the people who listen to public radio are nerdy liberal types. They almost have to pander to their audience. They can't afford to be unbiased. Although, I still love to listen.

I guess I just take everything I hear with a grain of salt. I remember where I heard it, and when I relate news stories back to people, I ask if they think that's really the way things are. Inevitably, that person will have a different take on the issue.

That's what's cool about humans, though. We're not homogenous, though we sometimes seem to be. Just because we're similar doesn't mean we're identical. I wish the media would reflect that more.

More Precious Than Rubies

You may or may not have noticed the new link I placed under the one to my husband's blog. Jump is my absolute bestest gal pal. We've known each other since we were 12 or 13-so long I can't even remember exactly how old we were when we met. We lived near each other most of our lives. We went to the same summer camp, went to her prom together when her date flaked out, went to the same college (for awhile), and even lived in the same apartment there. We've been a witness to each other's lives for over a decade.

Jump taught me to love my southern heritage rather than be ashamed of it. She taught me how to cook. She introduced me to George Dickel and Southern Culture on the Skids.

Together, we endured the hell that is high school for smart, chubby girls. We've hated our bodies, loved our minds, bitched about our boyfriends, drunk too much booze, danced our asses off, knocked our heroes off their throwns (and put some of them back up there), skipped classes, smoked too many cigarettes, and one time, made her dog vomit an entire bag of Hershey's kisses in our bathtub using only hydrogen peroxide and a leash.

She was there when I became an adult, because we grew up together. In college, some 500 miles away from home, we were the only people we knew from East Tennessee. We were the only ones who could truly appreciate the irony of the Sunsphere, the gritty beauty of the Old City, the pompous backgammon players at Cup O' Joe, the deeply mourned Terrace Theater, and the importance of listening to bad music at the Mercury.

In the band at summer camp, we sang, "Son of a Preacher Man" together, because my voice sounds much better when she sings over me. We almost wet ourselves listening to the poetry teacher read Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" on a chilly July night, huddled together on dew-drenched grass next to a dark forest that crackled with the saw-song of cicadas. We learned to dance together. We learned to not eat the chicken and dumplins in the cafeteria. At camp, we found that any dance worth going to must feature the following songs: "Walking on Sunshine," the Violent Femmes' "Waitin' for the Bus," Prince's "Kiss," and James Brown's "Sex Machine."

Now, both married, both graduated, we still love to hang because we can finish each other's sentences. Because we immediately know whether or not the other will like a particular movie, song, book, tv show, or mixed drink. She has helped me hobble through the last year without my husband by taking me out to dinner and the movies. And I must say, a huge thanks to her man for letting me spend the night in their guest room all the time in a weird facsimile of our childhood sleepovers. They deserve a lot of credit for helping to ease my time away from Lunger.

I could relate a thousand different instances from our thirteen year friendship that proves not all true love has to be romantic. My relationship with Jump is the longest one I've ever had with someone I'm not related to.

I'd say that's something worth blogging about.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Blatant Advertisement

First, let me apologize for my lengthy absence. I spent last weekend out of town and work has been really busy. In other words, I haven't had time to blog. A real post is in the works, but I just had to give this quick shout-out to my dad.

My dad is going to be on NPR! No, seriously. He'll be on the national broadcast of Morning Edition between 5:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. on Thursday (the 26th, tomorrow, whatever).

He wrote NPR a letter about balanced reporting, and they asked him to read it at the local public radio station so they could record it and put it on the air. So, if you listen to NPR at all, or even if you don't, tune in tomorrow.

Ok, end of blatant advertisement.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

100 Years of Crock Pot

On my last post, my father commented that he would gladly send me care packages of cornmeal and bacon grease when I moved up north. God bless that man. This, of course, reminds me of all the dinners he cooked for me as a child.

Growing up, at least since I was about 12, it was just Dad and me. Mom was around a lot, but she lived across town. I saw her most afternoons and on the weekends, but Dad was mostly responsible for feeding me.

To this day, his cornbread is still the best in the world, according to my taste buds. Though, I must give a major shout-out to Mom's pancakes, which are also the best in the world. I know Lunger will back me up on that one.

He made a lot of cornbread, and he also made almost all other accompanying, dinner-related dishes in the crock pot. He made so many dinners in the crock pot, that he brought it to an art form. I could have ice cream or cookies for breakfast, but when I came home from school, we ate some sort of slow-cooked meal.

He prepared all the standard crock pot meals: chili, stew, and soup. But he also made a lot of plain old meat, like barbeque pork chops. His foremost medium, however, was chicken.

Barbeque chicken, garlic chicken, ranch-flavored chicken, and the very memorable "Chicken Italiano," as he so aptly named it. "Chicken Italiano" consisted, basically, of chicken breast and tomato sauce. If you think this tasted good, you are sadly mistaken.

For some reason, this particular concoction did not work out. The chicken was so dry as to be crunchy, and the outside was a charred, tomatoey brown. We ordered Chinese that night.

He also liked to make Rice-A-Roni, especially the red beans and rice kind to go with our barbeque chicken. Another favorite was microwaved frozen broccoli with cheddar cheese melted on top. And salad, of course.

Don't get me wrong, Dad tried really hard. He told me many times that it was important to our relationship, as parent and child, to eat dinner together every night. He liked to relate all sorts of child psychology factoids to me. With Dad, it was never a matter of him simply implementing a parenting skill, he liked to explain the theory behind it too.

He also told me that the average person needs at least five hugs a day to remain emotionally balanced. I don't know if he made this up or read it somewhere. The latter is more likely because he was and still is, a voracious reader. Where he got this information is irrelevent. Sometimes he would just look at me and say, "I don't think either one of us has met our hug quota for the day."

He's a pretty cerebral guy, but he's also a great dad. I always know that he loves me. He always makes sure that I know I'm special. Both my parents make sure I know these things. They've been divorced a long time, and even though their parenting styles differ considerably, this is the one thing they have in common: they love me and my brother fiercely.

This is what I think about when I remember I'm moving to a different country. I will miss them so much. I keep telling myself that I'll see them much more than a lot of grown-ups see their parents. But I know I'll always need them, no matter how old I am, no matter how far away I live. I try to make sure they know that. I hope they know I love them as much as they love me.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

14 Reasons Canada is Weird...or Cool

In honor of Saturday the 14th and in light of the fact that Friday the 13th is now over, and I presumably have the time to post without all the freaks traipsing into work, I present 14 reasons that Canada is weird, or cool, depending on your perspective.

  1. The Metric System. They buy their gas by the liter, which seems cheap, until you remember that liters are considerably smaller than gallons. They also list the speed limit in kilometers per hour, which, again, seems really fast until you realize that kilometers are somewhat shorter than miles.
  2. Temperature. It's freaking cold there, man. Yeah, I know I'm from the south, so my psychological temperature guage is kind of skewed, but dang! Oh, and it's cold in Celsius.
  3. Poutine. Yeah, it's French. It's also a dish you can get at the Swiss Chalet or Harvey's Hamburgers. Poutine is french fries covered in that brown, KFC-esque gravy and cheese curd. Not cheese, cheese curd. Heck, I love gravy just as much as the next good ol' gal, but I like white gravy, milk gravy. What they do to french fries up there is bordering on the criminal.
  4. Barbeque. As in cooked outside on a grill. What is up with this? The last time I checked, barbeque was pulled pork with sauce. Barbeque sauce. By the way, they don't have any real barbeque. Apparently the average Canadian is leary of pork. Canadians: be not afraid. The pig is your friend. He is juicy and good. Especially when slathered in barbeque sauce on a bun with cole slaw.
  5. Cornbread. Meaning they don't have any. Well, they do sell it at some bakeries. But that's just it: it's bread made with cornmeal baked in a regular pan. This is an affront to my entire culture. Cornbread is to be baked in a cast iron skillet which has been seasoned. Seasoned meaning slathered in bacon fat many, many times, sometimes over years.
  6. The Beer Store. They have an entire store dedicated to beer. God bless their wintery little hearts. Both beer and liquor are regulated by the government, so you can only buy them at THE BEER STORE, or in Ontario, at the LCBO (liquor board of Ontario). I mean, it's pretty darn cool that in Tennessee we can just go to the gas station and pick up a six-pack, but the selection, oh yes. The selection.
  7. Fries Supreme. This is something you can only get at the Taco Bells in Canada. It's like a nachos supreme but on FRIES. See? The cold weather is worth it.
  8. Theatre, Colour, Behaviour, Labour, etc. Canadians use British spellings for words. Most people would not have a problem, or rather, a handicap with this. However, since language is kind of my specialty it tends to throw me off.
  9. Aboot and Beyond. My husband claims that no one says "aboot." But, I have heard his friends use this particular form of about many times. I think he simply cannot detect it, having lived there all of his life. Further, dorks are "birds," whiners are "sucks," and idiots are "knobs." Personally, I think Canadians have an oral fixation.
  10. "Eh?" Canadians are famous for this the world over. I find it to be useful, mostly because it's a shortened version of "y'know?" It's so pithy, so sleek, so compact. I put it in the same category as "y'all," though many people may find this blasphemous.
  11. Canadian Dollars. Not only is my American dollar worth more there, but Canadian money itself is just cute. Firstly, it's all different colors. There's purple, red, blue, and the traditional green bills. How nifty is that? Just like Monopoly! And, they have nature scenes on their bills, like beavers chewing on logs and Canada geese flying in formation. It's all so adorably cuddly in a way that American money never could be. Plus, Queen Elizabeth II is all over their cash. From a purely feminist perspective, I think that's super neat-o.
  12. No Smoking. Dude! I know non-smokers will be instantly happy about this, but it kind of chaps my ass. There's no smoking in restaurants. Not even bars. What the crap?! When I'm drinking my "rye and coke" I want a fricking cigarette, goshdarnit.
  13. Cigarettes, in General. Ok, I actually think this is kind of amusing. Their cigarette packs are covered in these huge, color pictures of rotten lungs and hearts and deformed fetuses and stuff. All right, maybe I do have a sick sense of humor, and everyone knows I like horror novels, but really, that just makes me giggle, like, a lot: "Don't smoke, it'll char all your meat!" And, their packs have 25 cigarettes instead of 20, which is rad, but does not make up for the fact that they cost like $9.00 Canadian a pack. Ouch, my wallet hurts more than my lungs.
  14. Moose. Besides the fact that stuffed moose are completely cute, the real things are all impressive and majestic. Plus, they're mean as hell. People where I live complain about hitting deer with their cars, but that damage does not in any way compare with the utter annhilation that happens to your car when you hit a moose. Seriously, if you don't duck, you'll probably be decapitated. Which, again appeals to my fascination with all things morbid and disgusting.

Well, I hope you've all enjoyed this break from our regular programming. Next time I promise to write without the aid of a numbered list. I might even use paragraphs and stuff. Shudder to think. I'm mostly in love with the idea that I'll be some kind of pseudo American ex-patriate. I'm so punk rock.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

You're Not the Boss of Me

I've never been a girly-girl. I don't think anyone could ever accuse me of that. I played a lot of sports as a kid. I even stuck with soccer for 12 years. I don't often wear dresses. I don't usually wear makeup. I don't like bows in my hair. If given a choice between playing poker with my husband or watching a Meg Ryan movie with his friends' wives, I'd choose the former.

However, I know guys need their man-time. I get it. I know I'm not welcome at poker night, which is kind of cool because I don't really know how to play. Besides, they usually end up arguing over poker-related minutiae, which is a one-way ticket to Snoresville for me. I like hanging with the guys, but up to a point.

With the prospect of being Susie Homemaker for the next few months looming over my head, I'm chewing my nails a bit more than usual. It's so old-fashioned, so feminine, so not me. Plus, I like having a job. Not necessarily working, mind you, but making my own money. My parents taught me that I have to take care of myself because no one else is going to do it for me.

Now, I have to let my husband take care of me. That's an almost foreign concept for me. Let someone else pay for my stuff. Heck, it's not even my stuff any more. It's our stuff. Lunger will buy the stuff and I will cook it, clean it, and iron it. Weird. Just, weird.

I'm so used to being self-sufficient. I can easily entertain myself. I happily go to the movies by myself. I gladly eat in restaurants alone. What is it like to truly have someone with you, all the time?

I had roommates in college, but it's not quite the same, is it? Living with a spouse is a horse of a different color. I had another taste of it last weekend, when I visited my husband in Canada.

May 6th was his slava, or Saint George's Day. The celebration consists mostly of having a ton of friends over to eat a gargantuan amount of food. Cabbage rolls, roasted lamb, roasted pork, schnitzels (chicken and veal), mashed potatoes, potato salad, salad salad, cookies, cakes, soup, etc. and so on. There were just over 20 people there, so there weren't exactly enough seats. My husband and I served instead of sitting.

Growing up in my house, it was every man for himself. If we wanted something to eat or drink, we raided the fridge. If we had people over, the meal was served buffet-style.

This all leads to the concept of the woman as homemaker for me. Gender roles are more clearly, traditionally defined in my husband's family. I always thought I would hate a setup like this. As if this sort of partioned lifestyle was archaic and unequal. That's not really the case.

Housework is shared because Lunger's parents both have jobs outside the home. That's how it will be when I work, eventually. If I'm not working, I think it's only fair that I take care of the everday household maintenance. It's not something I'm used to doing, but that doesn't make it sexist.

Basically, what I'm getting at here is that I have to redefine myself again. This time, as a wife. That doesn't mean aprons, high heels, and hair-curlers. It means I have to think and act as a couple. I've been married for two years, but we haven't worked on the everyday living stuff because we've been in different countries.

After this weekend, I'm starting to see that I like filling some of those traditional feminine roles. I like serving guests. It makes me feel useful, like I'm taking care of people. And God knows, I like to do that. Just call me Miss Fix-It. Doing things for people is nice, even if you're just mixing them a Crown and Coke.

I see this new person emerging from the old, selfish, child-me. It's like I've said subconsciously to myself, "Ok it's your turn to be the grownup." That doesn't mean I'm not hip, though, darn it. I still like to listen to the White Stripes full blast while I clean things.

And I'll never give up my funky thrift store t-shirts and my Vans with the pink elephants on them, even when I do have kids. So there.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Midol-Induced Introspection

So, I'm sitting here eating my Darth Vader M&M's and trying to come up with some sort of direction or topic for this blog. I often have a problem coming up with topics because I do basically nothing but work. Honestly, I'm almost as sick of writing about work as I am of actually working. The most eventful thing that happened to me last month were those Jehovah's Witnesses. I remember having a social life at one point, I really do.

However, as I get older I become less willing to go out. If I go out and drink, someone has to drive me home. Live music is not as fun as it used to be because I have depleted my tolerance for loud, stinky, sweaty evenings. Mostly, I prefer to go hang out at my friend's house in the country, get t-rashed, as we like to call it, and smoke tons of cigarettes, which is what we used to do when we shared an apartment in Memphis.

In high school, I used to go out all the time. My friends and I would pile into someone's crappy, hand-me-down car and go to coffee shops on the university strip where we would drink an absurd amount of caffeine and try to look as cool as the college kids.

Ah, those were the days. The artsy-fartsy days, that is. I shunned football games, dances, and anything else that a normal teenager might do. I tried desperately to hide my naive, upper-middle-class, pampered-ass mentality behind a thin veil of thrift shop clothes, acrylic paint, and countless sheaves of scribbled-on notebook paper.

Maybe I'm being too hard on myself. I was a deeply unhappy person, whether because of raging hormones or a chemical imbalance, I'll never know. I just remember a lot of pain. I was isolated, surly, stand-offish, and snide. I suppose most people are as teenagers.

Where other kids my age were cliquey and petulant, I was too, even though I thought I wasn't. My rag-tag group of art-fag friends was just as hard to permeate as any "popular" group. I never deliberately shunned people because I didn't think they were "cool" enough for me. It was more like I felt comfortable with four or five people, and I thought everyone else was probably out to get me, or would think I was lame.

I've never been the center of any group. I'm usually the sidekick to some emotionally screwed individual with a lot of charisma. My sarcastic commentary, die-hard loyalty, and sense of righteous indignation endows said person with an aura of command that they usually don't deserve. This was completely the case in high school.

C introduced me to a lot of stuff I would've never been interested in otherwise: collage, making my own clothes, P.J. Harvey, letters as art, spontaneous gift-giving, body piercing, purple hair, and bing cherries. There were a lot of positive things about my friendship with her. There was also plenty of negative personal drama. I don't regret knowing her. Even more, I don't regret that she cast me off after our first semester of college. I never thought I'd say that, but if I was still friends with her, I never would've grown up.

They say you can't catch mental illness, but in a way you can. The people that surround you influence the way you think. She opened my mind in some directions and closed it down to others. Left to my own devices, I've come to understand the world more fully without her. The people you share life with, not just spouses or other family, shape your experiences. Eventually your life takes on the shape of those people.

My husband says his life is better because of the people with whom he's chosen to share it. He says it's his only talent. If you ask me, it's the most important.

I'm more picky about my friends now, though more understanding. I judge them based on actions rather than background, musical taste, reading habits, or personal rhetoric. I'm more concerned with what people do than what they say. And when I say judge, I mean whether I want to associate with them, not whether they're going to hell.

Having bad friends has taught me how to be a better friend and a better person. I think that's what people mean when they say they have no regrets. I don't regret anything I've done wrong, because I think I've learned something from my every one of my mistakes.

I'm still a stupid kid, but at least I know it.

Friday, April 29, 2005

The Results Are In

The results of the Big Yellow Controversy are in. Half of you made a write-in vote for Big Bird as a hermaphroditic and/or transsexual freak. Thanks guys.

The other half think Big Bird is a guy, except for my father, who thinks that Big Bird's gender is irrelevent in the grand scheme of things. Trust my old man to put an existential spin on Sesame Street. When phoned for comment, Lunger replied that his mommy says Big Bird is a girl, so there you have it:

Big Bird is a girl.

Since, according to Lunger, his mommy knows everything. You can't provide more concrete evidence than that.

Work has been nuts tonight. As in full of them. Rather like a pecan cluster. Every new ambulance brought us another psych evaluation. One nursing home sent us an almost-90-year-old man with Alzheimer's who groped a fellow patient. Ok, we already know he's out of it, what's to evaluate? If he's still frisky enough to grope at almost-90, I say good on him!

I've come to realize that whatever vestige of sympathy I used to have for the human race, which honestly wasn't a lot, has been sucked out of my very being by this job. I have to leave this hospital before I become an even more pitiless hag. I mean, I've always imagined myself as a pitiless hag in my old age. Think Wheezer from Steel Magnolias. However, I never imagined that I would be quite so pitiless at the age of 25.

Today, I told a woman that I didn't know whether or not her fiance was still breathing when I escorted her to a private consultation room, even though I knew he'd coded twice already. This is where HIPAA is a mixed blessing. Since I'm not allowed to tell people whether or not a patient is dead, I don't have to tell people that a patient is dead.

My job is often far removed from the drama of a code, but I usually have to seat the patient's family in the consultation room. Sometimes I get them coffee, and often I am forced to lie to them.

Sitting in the tiny discharge office in a hallway between the consultation room and the nurse's station, the light kept going on and off because of the stupid "energy saving" light switch. Since it's activated by a motion sensor, every time it goes off, I have to wave my arm to make it come back on.

Filling out a crossword puzzle on Yahoo!, I could hear her fiance screaming in between the CPR sessions when he flatlined. I've never heard a code do that. He was fighting really hard.

Thirty minutes later, I saw the doctor and nursing supervisor make their way to the consultation room, and I knew he was gone. He was only 40. His fiance told me that she'd just mailed out their wedding invitations. They were going to take their vows in June. On her way out the door, she asked one of the nurses to keep him warm for her.

Maybe it was just the Xanax talking, but I don't think the truth of his death had permeated her cerebrum yet. I make jokes about people shoving things inside their anal cavities and the stupid lines people feed me about their real or imagined injuries, but I don't always talk about the horrific stuff. I use my sense of humor as a coping mechanism.

So, I could tell you that what she said made me think of William Faulkner's short story, "A Rose for Emily," the one where the old southern lady sleeps next to the corpse of her murdered lover for 40 years. At least, that's what I said to the nurse who told me that story. Or, I could just be honest with myself and admit that I feel for that woman.

When I think about it, I'm not really much different from her. I try to keep everything warm and light so I don't have to think about all the child abuse, self mutilation, pain, and suffering I witness at work. The only difference is, I know these events have permeated my brain. I just don't know if they'll ever escape.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Big Yellow Controversy

Continuing the Sesame Street theme begun in yesterday's post, I now present a question to you, my esteemed audience. Lunger and I have debated this particular topic on and off for the last two weeks. The argument usually boils down to my, "YES, he is!" and Lunger's "NO, she isn't!" So, here goes:

Is Big Bird male or female?

Lunger, of course, believes that Big Bird is female. He argued thusly: Big Bird has pink striped tights; Big Bird has purple eyelids; Big Bird has big, poufy girl-hair; and the very compelling, "she just sounds like a girl."

My argument consists of the following evidence: Big Bird's voice is done by a guy; usually, Muppets have bows on their heads to indicate whether or not they're girls if it is not immediately obvious; all the websites on which I could find information about Big Bird use the article "he" in sentences about Big Bird; and my equally compelling, "NO, he just sounds like a guy!"

Lunger contends that I have tainted some very important childhood memories with visions of gender-swapping, sex changes, and ambiguous sexuality in general. So you see, this issue ranks high on my list of things to resolve. I'd like to have a vote. Please weigh-in on the comments section. Include any reasons for your opinion, or factual information that pertains to the gender of the tallest six year old in the world. This could save Lunger's childhood or destroy it. If you believe in fairies, clap your hands! Um. Nevermind. Just vote, ok?

Monday, April 25, 2005

Cheese, Cookie Monster, and Jesus

I took a sort of happenstance hiatus from the blog because my husband came down to visit me this weekend. Sounds really weird, but as some of you may know, he lives in Canada and I live in the States. We're currently working on Canuckifying me. Good ole "Lunger" visiting me makes me happy in a jump-up-and-down-clapping-my-hands kind of way. I guess what I'm saying is, I actually had better things to do than surf the net with one hand and pick my nose with the other for the last few days.

Last week was sort of weird, anyway. Nobody came in to work with funny things up their bums, although we did see one of our regulars, a sweet transvestite boy who seems to have a problem with chest pain, but never forgets to wear his earrings and eye shadow to the hospital. On Monday morning, I received a strange box in the mail. The return address read such-and-such hospital, which is where I work. It looked like one of those boxes that new checks come in, so I was a little excited.

Alas, there was no money. The box was full of cheese. Yes, you read correctly, cheese. Two blocks of cheddar cheese, one yellow and one white, fit securely in the deceptively nondescript cardboard box. My first thought: "why?" Luckily, I didn't have to wait long for the answer to that question. Nestled between the two logs of cheese was a note.

It was a nice, if generic, note from the CAO of the hospital thanking me for my "stellar*" service during the last two months while we moved the hospital into the new facility. It was printed on one of those glossy pieces of paper one always finds in credit card offers, stamped with fake signatures. I might've thought this a nice gesture, but everyone at the hospital got the same note, same cheese.

Why did he give us all cheese? It's very good cheese, don't get me wrong. Lunger can attest to this. However, all Monday night and Tuesday morning I fielded calls from fellow employees wanting to know if I got cheese too.

Psycho redneck girl called first, "D'yall get cheeese?? Reckon what fer?" Several theories were offered throughout the course of my shift. One girl I work with suggested that the CAO wants us to take less bathroom breaks. Her boyfriend, who also works with us, conjectured that the CAO probably made some under-the-counter, back-scratching deal involving free colonoscopies with the cheese manufacturer and got the logs o'cheese for free. This, I think, is the most likely explanation. He wanted to give us something fairly cheap, but somewhat healthy. You don't even have to refrigerate it until it's opened! Good call, Mr. CAO.

Anyway, after cheese night, I came home and started to unwind for a good day's rest. I was sitting outside smoking a cigarette in my reindeer pajamas and Cookie Monster slippers whilst reading one of those trashy vampire novels I can't seem to put down, when who should come trotting down the hill but a pack of young men in suits and ties.

At first I thought they were Mormons, but they didn't have bikes and they weren't wearing badges that said, "Elder So-and-so." My best friend in high school was Mormon, and so was one of my college roommates, therefore I've become fairly adept at recognizing young Mormons on their mission. Unfortunately they were Jehovah's Witnesses.

Don't get me wrong, I don't care how you worship God. Do whatever you want. It's none of my business. But there I am, having a cigarette and reading a book, in my pajamas, for crying out loud. Which is, I guess, why they told me that Jesus's message is not obsolete, handed me a Watchtower and scampered away. Poor kids. I wasn't going to be mean. Maybe bored, but not evil. Oh well, maybe Jehovah's Witnesses think Cookie Monster is Satan's avatar.

*ed. note: has anyone ever used the word, "stellar," in a sentence without the slightest note of irony?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Shits 'n' Giggles

It seems that my posts often tend toward the serious, so I thought I'd liven things up a bit. I work at an Emergency Room, so a lot of weird stuff goes down. However, I can't really discuss most things that go on at work in a public forum, because of the HIPAA privacy laws. But this is a list of some of the more ridiculous things patients have said to me at work:

  • "Do you have a price list?"
  • "Will you come pick me up?"
  • "What number do I call for an ambulance?"
  • "Can I have a slice of your pizza?"
  • "No, no. My friend accidentally stabbed me."
  • "I am the Lesbian Jesus!"

Sometimes patients do some strange things too. Here is another sampling of bizarre patient behavior:

  • A patient pretends to pass out and have a seizure, then pees on himself to lend further credibility to his "fit."
  • A patient with kidney stones tears one of our phone books in half to emphasize the amount of pain he is feeling.
  • A patient cusses out the greeter because she got a prescription for Ultram, rather than Percoset, and demands to talk to the nursing supervisor. She takes down the greeter's name and vows to have her fired. The next week, the same patient reappears and tells the same greeter that she likes her because the greeter is the only person at our facility who is nice to her.
  • A patient calls 911 at 3:00 a.m. in the morning to request an ambulance ride to the emergency room because he has a painful urinary tract infection. Later, he tells one of our doctors that his penis hurts because he has been masturbating too often.

Finally, our patients are a colorful and lively bunch of folks. Some of them have very interesting personal lives. To illustrate, here is a short, and by no means exhaustive, list of things people have stuck up their bums:

  • Lotion Cap
  • Dildo
  • Two-liter Coke bottle
  • Table Leg
  • Drill bit

God, I love my job.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Now I Get All "We-Are-The-Worldy"

I've been thinking about the word, "avatar" a lot recently. I've always sort of known what it meant in the way that most people know what "irony" is (except for maybe Alanis Morissette). So, I looked up "avatar" in the enormous, two-volume dictionary my husband gave to me for Christmas.

Basically, an avatar is the incarnation of an idea. Interestingly, Hindu mythology birthed the word avatar. It's associated with the god, Vishnu, who is the second part of a triad that forms the one supreme god, Brahma. More specifically, Vishnu personifies the "preservation" power attributed to Brahma (the other two are creation and destruction). In this mythology, "avatar" refers directly to an incarnation of Vishnu.

According to myth, there have been nine avatars. Vishnu appeared as an animal in his first seven incarnations. Krishna, this badass invincible warrior guy, was the first human avatar. Some consider Buddha to be the ninth avatar of Vishnu, while the tenth avatar, Kalki, has yet to appear.

Ok, fine, who gives a crap, you might say. But this is what's interesting about an avatar: he embodies preservation. That is, this avatar is always saving the world from the big bad. You know, punishing evildoers, protecting the righteous. What really got me was this: Kalki, the next avatar, is supposed to rid the world of vice and restore us all to purity. Sound familiar?

The more I learn about world religions, the more similar they seem. I know my husband will hate this, but I find this sort of thing endlessly fascinating. Not because I'm religion-shopping, even though I spent most of my adolescence doing just that, but because it amazes me how similar everyone really is.

We're all waiting for the same thing: salvation.

I don't care if you believe in a higher power or not. I think the urge to do so is innate. Everyone hungers for a guiding presence. We want someone or something to show us the way. Religion does this for a lot of people, regardless of what brand it is. Others tend to migrate toward more secular paths. We're all followers of some kind or other. Even whacko cult leaders answer to something outside themselves.

Humans are amazing, creative beings, but we're not totally original. We see echoes of ourselves in dogs, cats, chimpanzees, salamanders, and even plants. Most importantly, we see ourselves in other people. Some guy living in a hovel in India loves his kids the same way my mom loves me. The similarities, the connections are what's most important in this world, not the differences.

Which is what, I suppose, an avatar should make you think about.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Slay Your Inner Demons with a Pair of Nunchucks

Four cups of coffee and two doughnuts later, I am very sorry indeed. Let's just say I can barely control my fingers enough to type, and I don't think I will ever sleep again.

I just bought season one of HBO's Carnivale. I'm sure I'm a bit late catching that train, but I am absolutely loving this show. It's like Twin Peaks with a slightly more discernable plotline. Maybe I'm reading a bit too much into this, but I'm totally mesmerized by the opening credits. Tarot cards emblazoned with religious images mutate into camera footage and photographs of the depression era. I can't help but notice that the Tower morphs into the White House. If I correctly recall the Tower's meaning from my brief stint as a phone psychic (yeah, it is a sham, more on that later), it represents a series of cataclysmic events. This, of course, echoes the events of that era and the events depicted in the show. I also find it somewhat amusing that Franklin Roosevelt turns into the Judgement card which is fitted between the Sun and Moon cards. You gotta love the layers.

I'm totally obsessed with movies and various other media saturated with the theme of good vs. evil. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Wars, and books like the Harry Potter series all fall into this category for me. I think the whole good vs. evil thing is a fantastic metaphor for humanity's inner struggle. After all, life is made of choices, both good and bad, and we're always battling with ourselves to do right or wrong. Naturally, the choices we're presented with are never so cut and dry. Life deals us some pretty convoluted situations.

My father is entranced by the concept of moral ambiguity. He thinks that life itself is so confusing that this theme is the most realistic and therefore artistic (think Sideways). I like to go a step further. Yes, life is confusing, but you have to make a choice based on all that ambiguous information. We may never know the ultimate result of our choices. We may not even understand which choice we made, but we make a thousand seemingly insignificant decisions every day.

Which brings me back to good vs. evil. As far as people go, no one is purely good, and no one is purely bad. Thus, the everday battle consists of people trying to be mostly good or mostly bad. As someone said, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions," and a lot of us try pretty darn hard to be good. The ultimate battle is you vs. yourself: to be naughty or not to be naughty (this is the part where you cringe because I mercilessly ripped Hamlet to further prove a point I've already beaten you over the head with). My point is, our own inner conflict is the ultimate battle.

Monsters and mythical creatures like vampires, werewolves, banshees, and fairies all represent some dark thing about ourselves that we battle against. Lust, violence, and grief are all instinctive emotions that we feel we must suppress. These feelings can be fictionally depicted as beings with their own volition. Heroes can fight them in hand-to-hand, kung fu action scenes with big-ass swords and pointy, wooden stakes. How freaking rad is that?

I think that coffee made me a little too excited.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Dear Diary

I started trying to write a diary in the first grade. It was red and locked with a key. I think it may have even had Snoopy on the front. Of course, I couldn't make coherent paragraphs yet, so I drew pictures to further communicate my ideas. There are only a few entries, but as I recall, they consisted mostly of mundane things. In one entry in particular I explained that we had fish for lunch and drew myself eating a trapezoidal plank of mystery meat. I also wrote about the kid who sat next to me. His name was Brad and I seemed to think he was funny. I remember him telling me that he was allergic to milkshakes. I brought this up to him, some years later, in the seventh grade. He thought it was funny too, but admitted that he couldn't remember ever being lactose intolerant.

In the second grade I graduated to a Cabbage Patch Kids notebook. There was no lock on this one. Obviously, I had begun to live dangerously. Somewhat more adept at creating a coherent sequence of sentences, though by no means a master, I continued to sketch pictures to emphasize certain points. However, I branched out even further that year. I wrote my first poem, which had something to do with flowers. I also wrote a play about a princess and attempted to recruit classmates as actors. This didn't go over as well as I thought it might, considering my teacher had several conferences with my parents in which she expressed some concern that I preferred to hold auditions during class time, rather than working on assignments. Naturally, I loathed her, though that word wasn't yet a part of my vocabulary.

Third grade proved a pivotal one for my writing career, as I moved on to short stories. My style had naturally improved and I sounded less like a dyslexic robot. Compound sentences entered my repertoire, and my audience was understandably impressed. I distinctly remember writing a story about a door-to-door snowshoe salesman. In it, he explained that he found selling his wares more difficult in the summer time, as people had little need of snowshoes during that season. I think it was actually my father who suggested that the town should endure a heat wave that caused the corn in the fields to get so hot that they popped their skins and created a blizzard of fluffy, drifted popcorn. Naturally, snowshoe sales rose sharply that summer.

I've blocked out much of fourth grade, considering it was one of the most hellish years of my academic career. I focused on my drawing skills that year and don't recall writing anything of great significance. However, in fifth grade I got a typewriter. I think I began two books that year. Of course, they took too long to write, and I abandoned them after a couple of months. Despite my discouragement, I had found my medium: novels.

Throughout my three years of middle school I began and abandoned roughly twelve books. I remember most of the general ideas. I spent most of my time on characterization, but also developed my sense of setting. Therein lay my weakness. I could come up with a million characters with tons of cool names and attributes and place them in the most interesting situations, but once I put them there, I didn't really know what to do with them.

In high school, I dug into poetry. Now able to comprehend poetry more easily, I also found I could write it. Here, I didn't have to come up with characters or plots. I could develop one idea through suggestion. Sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch became the sole means of my expression. I could hint at a thousand different scenarios with a few short lines. My obsession with this form continued into college, but I've moved away from it in the last few years. In fact, I'd moved away from writing anything for myself. I've poured all of my creativity into essays and research papers for the last three years.

Now, I'm back where I started. With no outlet for the ceaseless voices in my head (yes, I know they're all me), I've made myself an electronic quasi-diary. Not only is there no lock, but it's out there for everyone to see. I've never considered myself an exhibitionist, per se, more like a compulsive scribbler. However, there's something oddly comforting about the fact that I know I have a very small audience. They're the same audience I've always had, my friends and family, but they could grow. No, I don't mean procreation. I mean, someone else, someone I've never met could read this and find something comforting or funny or, God forbid, educational. I suppose that's why any person blogs. They may want attention for its own sake, but I think they're also looking for some kind of connection. For some people this medium may be the only thing that actively ties them to the rest of the human race, and I find that comforting too.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Squint Your Eyes

Yesterday was my brother's birthday. He's 36, which is quite a bit older than me, I'll have you know. Yes, we do have the same parents. Mom calls me her "bonus baby." I guess I was a bit of a surprise. Despite the large difference in age, I usually feel like the older sibling.

Actually, he's a typical older brother in the I'll-kick-your-ass-if-you-touch-my-baby-sister kind of way. He was the popular, athletic one, and I was the bookish, anti-social one. He's still partying like it's 1999. In fact, it's hard to imagine my brother without a Miller Lite in his hand. He was a professional bartender, despite a marriage, a mortgage, and two kids, until last year. Ever the "cool guy", my brother sounds like Pauly Shore when he talks: "Whaaaas uuuup buuuddy!" Seriously. He calls me racetrack. I don't know why. He's actually developing a receding hairline because he never removes his baseball cap. And I swear to god his eyes used to be blue, but I couldn't tell you for sure because I haven't seen him without sunglasses in over a decade. He was the oh-so-cool jock who never would've talked to me in high school but would've rolled my yard with toilet paper. Luckily, I was in the first grade when he graduated, so it's not like we had to endure adolescence together.

Growing up, I think I went to every single one of his ball games. Actually, I think I was born during half-time at a pee-wee football game. As an infant I gave everyone else's little sister something to do on the sidelines besides shake a pom-pon. I think the first sounds I remember are shoes squeaking against glossy wood floors, a rubber ball smacking frantically across a court, and the hoarse yells of sweaty, jumping fans. I learned to tie my white Nikes with the blue swoosh sitting on the hard, wooden bleachers at the top of my brother's high school gymnasium. To this day, the smell of popcorn reminds me of a basketball game, not the movies. And the taste of Gatorade always carries a patina of wet mud and torn grass on a soccer pitch.

My first crush was a soccer player on my brother's team. I was three and he was fourteen. Toby had that kind of golden hair that, when wet from sweat, becomes a dark, translucent red. His eyes were a large, round blue, and he had those blonde eyelashes that are almost transparent. He smelled like sweaty socks and freshly mown grass. And, he would always give me a ride on his shoulders, whenever I asked. Mom likes to tease me about him now, though I barely remember him. She says he was very sweet, but not so bright.

It seems I've always had a penchant for older men. The summer I was five, I went to this summer camp my preschool offered. It was actually a small, private school, so there were kids as old as sixteen there. Case was one of the older boys, about thirteen, and I was attached to his hind leg. I always remember him looking like Corey Haim in that movie about the nerdy kid, Lucas. He had that messy, brown hair and those cute dorky glasses. Plus, he always had sickly brown bruises on his arms and legs, not so much from playing outside, as from his two older brothers beating the crap out of him. I think his dad was in the military because he always wore pea-green undershirts with his hand-me-down jeans and grubby white sneakers. I don't really remember his face, but I thought he was so damn cool because he played baseball in this vacant lot a block down from the school. I always wanted to play with the big boys too. That sounded so wrong, but you know what I mean. I was a tomboy. My brother used to tease me about Case because I talked about him so much.

One day, I followed him to the grassy lot because I wanted to play ball too. All the other guys groaned and said I was too little. The counselor who chaperoned the group excursion let me swing the bat a couple of times, but mostly I just watched, sitting cross-legged on the spiky, bleached grass. I cheered for Case like I cheered for my brother, clapping and yelling his name when he batted well enough to run for a base.

"Why do you have to follow him around like a little puppy dog?" some kid asked me, voice rankled with scorn. Recall the fact that I am five years old and therefore think puppies are neat-o. This comment confused me. However, I was old enough to recognize the disgust in his voice. Case's cheeks burned scarlet, but not from his recent exertion on the ball field.
"Shut up!" he told the other boy. I looked away, lagged behind as we walked back to school.

The next day, Case and his brothers got into a knock-down, drag-out fight at school. Afterward, he sat on a bench in the hallway outside the kitchen. From the cafeteria, I peeked over the bottom half of the dutch door to watch. I heard the incoherent murmurs of adult voices, and I could see Case. The left side of his face was darkly bruised, and blood dried to his nose and upper lip. His pea-green shirt was torn, and he gripped his knees with both hands. He glanced toward the kitchen, saw my eyes over the top of the door and looked away. I never saw him again and I never let any other boy know I liked him again.

I didn't understand then, but I've always been attracted to anger. I've always been a miss fix-it. Give me your trouble-makers, your tortured artists, and your depressives yearning for therapy, or at least someone to listen. I guess I see something familiar in them. I've always felt an affinity with anyone who feels pain. Maybe that's a human thing, not just a me thing. At least, I'd like to think it is. I see someone in trouble, I want to help. I don't know if my parents taught me that, or if it's some innate urge of my own.

I'm a problem-solver, at least for the people who want their problems solved. My brother has a lot of problems. He's a functional wreck, though. He gets up and goes to work everyday and does his job well. He's honestly a great dad, which has always mystified me. When it comes to him, I want to fix his relationship with our father, though now it seems hopeless. I also want to make sure he doesn't kill himself in a car accident after he's been out drinking all night. But how do you care for someone who, for all intents and purposes, is an adult already? Maybe he has enough people to worry about him, but that's what I think about on his 36th birthday. Despite all that, I love him like I couldn't love anyone else on this planet. There's something about being raised by the same parents, even if their parenting style changed over the years. I understand his actions implicitly. When he does something stupid, I know why because I would do that same stupid thing for the same reasons. A sibling is a skewed mirror of yourself, a foil, a complement. My brother is the answer to the ultimate "what if" in my life.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Soap Opera, Schmoap Opera

People always ask me about the picture of my feet. It started out as a joke. Evidence, really, to prove that I actually own a pair of orange and white checkered socks (go Vols! *cough*). Next, they're naturally drawn to ask about my ratty-ass shoes. I've had those since the eighth grade. Seriously. They've got a hole in the sole, but I still love them. I wrote poetry all over them when I was fifteen. Not my poetry. It's Lewis Carroll. The first/last stanza from "Jabberwocky:"

Twas brillig in the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe
All mimsy were the borogroves
And the mome raths outgrabe

No, I don't know what it means either, but it sounds pretty. The whole poem is a fantasy epic in short form nonsense. You gotta love Lewis Carroll, weird pedophilic tendencies notwithstanding. He fell in love with the real Alice when she was about eight or nine. There's no report that he molested her, but he asked her to marry him at least twice after she was "of age." Eventually, she joined a convent. Became a total religious nut.

Man, I love the Victorians. And the Romantics, actually. People seem to think they're quite different, but they're not, really. Victorians are just disappointed Romantics. Well, they're kind of disappointed in general. Repressed. In the most desperate ways, which makes for a lot of interesting poetry. They're sort of thirsting for this romantic fantasyland of love, earth, singing birdies, dark shadows, and ghosts, but they find everything is grey. There's not much light or dark, which depresses them equally. Oh, and they desperately want a God from Whom they feel hopelessly disconnected. We, I mean contemporary people, actually have a lot in common with them. Not that I'm an expert.

I just love Gerard Manley Hopkins. Oh, and Michael Field. Not so much because Field wrote fantastic poetry, but because he was actually two women. Lesbian lovers who were also aunt and niece. How messed is that? Robert Browning called them his "Greek ladies." Apparently they were very attached to their dog, whose name I can't recall. They wrote tons of poetry about him. And after the dog died, they went back to the Anglican church and repented of their sinful lifestyle, though they continued to live together. Seriously, you gotta love the Victorians. Days of Our Lives be damned.

You Can Pick Your Friends...

My husband thinks "Roots" is an angry poem. I don't think of it that way. I remember writing it. In fact, I remember writing every single one of my poems: where I was, what I was feeling, what sparked the thought. I wrote "Roots" eight years ago. It was the latter half of my junior year of high school. I remember because there are some lines I cut out of the beginning of that poem. Lines that, when I looked back at the poem some years later, seemed blatantly out of place.

It was a week night. I remember I was up late because I'd worked that night. By the way, the number of grocery stores staffed almost completely by high school students is staggering. I was trying to finish my ecology homework, which was putting me to sleep. I took ecology because I'm terrible with math and I didn't think I could survive physics. I know I was doing ecology because one of the lines I cut said something like, "my undone ecology homework looks up at me, blinking, blinking," or some nutty stuff like that.

I think I'd been collaging too, because there were National Geographics all over the floor around me. I always used National Geographics in collage. They have the best pictures. What got me started thinking about this poem was a map of Jerusalem. It was folded up, sitting next to my foot. You know, one of those maps they insert into the magazine when it has some relevance to a story? I remember the map because of another line I took out. Something about, "the Bird schmoozing with his sax, a map of Jerusalem at my foot." I used to always listen to Charlie Parker when I did my homework in high school. Anyway, I started to think about Jerusalem, and how the three major western religions claim ownership of that holy city. Then, how we're all connected, all "standing on the shoulders of giants." How, if you really think about it, all the religions are connected in some way because they all share oral traditions and themes like rebirth. This naturally led me to think about my ancestors.

Well, maybe not my ancestors, per se, but my family. The older people. The ones who helped shape both my genetic makeup and my personality. Especially my father's family. I have less contact with them, but I was feeling pretty lazy, and feeling guilty about being lazy. My dad's family, and by them I mean my grandfather's brothers and sisters, are not the most productive bunch. But mostly, I thought about Daddy Hoot, who was my great grandfather.

My father adored Daddy Hoot. Mostly, I think, because Daddy Hoot was the exact opposite of my grandfather. Daddy Hoot was laid back, he drank (maybe a bit too much), and he was very earthy. I mean directly connected. The man worked as a gravedigger. However, my grandfather was very cold, ethereal, more concerned with the spirit. Anyway, my dad spent summers with Daddy Hoot and my great grandmother.

Dad and his younger brother loved digging graves with Daddy Hoot. They ran around barefoot, didn't take baths, rode on the tractor, and helped their Uncle Bit on the farm. It was your typical CountryTime Lemonade commercial.

I mean, they weren't exactly lazy. They had a little subsistence farm going on, but Daddy Hoot was always doing a different odd job. When he got paid, he'd go on a two- or three-day bender until he turned up at home one day filthy, hungover, and with very little cash left. It's not hard to see why my grandfather turned out the way he did.

I guess, in that moment, putting off my homework and feeling guilty about it, I felt pretty connected to my irresponsible great grandfather. I'm a procrastinator, an idler, a forgetter. If there's any anger in that poem, it's directed at me. But at the same time, that poem is a celebration of my heritage. I mean, all those images remind me of the south: the food, the river, the blackberries. I've always felt a visceral connection to this land, and I think I expressed that fairly well. You can be angry at something you love, but that doesn't mean you don't appreciate it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

More Self-Absorbed Blather

As an addendum to my earlier post regarding roots, here's one of my poems, same name.

Lazy, lazy bones
shiftless and ungainly
rough-hewn, sparsely-stitched
virtueless gifts
handed down
from my very drunk
and very Irish
who dug their existence
out of the slick and gritty
clay heart of the Tennessee mountains,
who wrenched themselves
from poverty to trash
in five generations.
Proud and shameless
gleefully adorning their
dirty laundry in the hot,
breathless mouth of summer.
Faces brown with earth and sun
bellies lily white
at the green nape of the river.
Poor and plain
ignorant and content
pinto beans and cornbread.
The dark purple juice
of a million wild blackberries,
streaming down the chins
of my kith and kin.


Roots and Wings

I started a post about work, but decided it was best to think about other things. Otherwise, my brain might implode. However, since I am presently at work, this will be difficult.

People keep interrupting me! Can't they see that I'm trying to goof off here? I will not post about work, will not. If I post about work, I end up sounding alternately like a mewling harpy or a heartless mercenary. Nice, eh?

Dude. I'm even starting to write Canadian. July 1st, I will be out of here. No more embarassing co-workers or oxycontin-seeking time-wasters. Yeah, my neck hurts too. Unfortunately I don't have TennCare and am not "allergic" to percoset. Happy thoughts, happy thoughts.

So, my husband is Canadian, and I'm moving there. Canadians are like Yankees with manners. Sorry northerners, but y'all are pretty rude. I can't get decent service north of the Mason-Dixon, even at freaking Cracker Barrell. That's not to say all Yankees are rude, but there sure are a lot of them.

I know, I know, what about our rednecks. Well, yeah. They used to bother me, and some of them still do. But more of them are bathing now, and some of them painted the cars on blocks. So, you know, progress. Plus, come on folks, this is my home. I can't help but love it. Even if some of my neighbors are a little eccentric.

Unfortunately, I grew up in the "ritzy" end of town, please note here that my neighborhood was built way before the west end was "ritzy," but you get the general idea. Therefore, I did not live in a trailer, own six hound dogs, have a brother/uncle named Cletus, or have scabies for friends. As you can imagine, my life was very unfulfilling until I went to college.

In college, I lived with a Bassett Hound, which is like an apartment-sized, low-rider hound dog, used coffee filters for toilet paper, and, of course, ate Ramen noodles for three meals a day. So it was almost like embracing my heritage. Really, though, there's a lot of cool stuff about Tennessee.

First of all, the Smoky Mountains are gorgeous, and I fortunately live about 45 minutes from them. Despite the fact that SEC College Football is more popular than the Baptist churches on Sunday, the college's mere presence makes for some cool nightlife. Plus, bluegrass music, James Agee, Cormac McCarthy, barbeque (no barbeque in Canada, wtf!?), the blues, rustic cabins, tobacco and therefore smoking sections aplenty (possibly the only upside to RJ Reynolds), and last but not least, the immortal David Keith.

So, as you can see, the Big Orange valley kicks a little bit of ass. Plus, when I visit up north, I'm like a celebrity: "Pleeease tell us what a corn pone is again." Actually, my husband's friends make fun of him for adopting the incredibly versatile "y'all." But they do enjoy my folksy euphemisms, such as: "He don't know his ass from apple butter!" and the ever-popular, "She's been rode hard and put up wet." I think it's possible to both embrace the 21st century and appreciate my heritage. Who was it that said you can have both roots and wings?

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Perchance to Think

I have this thing, or tendency, you might say, to watch the same movie over and over again. Really, it's an almost obsessive tendency. For an entire year I was stuck on episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (no laughing, it was a cool show, darn it). I owned some of the DVD sets, but operated mostly from re-runs that I taped from television. For three months, I couldn't go to sleep unless "Hush" was playing (the Emmy-nominated episode where nobody speaks for, like, 40 minutes?).

As far as I can tell, it started when I was about 11. I had to watch The Princess Bride before I could sleep at night. I stayed up until midnight and snuck back into the den when my dad went to bed. That is, until he caught me. I slept badly for a week, then got over it. When I wasn't watching it, I replayed it in my mind, especially when I was bored at school. Then I was obsessed with The Committments, then A Room With a View, then Lady Jane, then The Neverending Story, on and on, ad nauseum, ad infinitum.

I can safely say that I've seen these movies and many others at least thirty times. So, I've been doing this for almost fifteen years, and I often wonder why. What do these films have in common? Mostly, they're set in another country, another era, or a fantasy world.

At first, I think my obsession was a diversion from an unhappy home. I mean, let's psych 101 this. I began thirsting for fantasy worlds when my mom moved out of the house. Then, as an escape from school. Now, I think I do it to keep my mind off the fact that my husband lives in a different country. When we're together, I don't watch the same movie again and again.

Despite the slightly manic quality this habit contributes to my personality, I think it also feeds back into my need to tell stories. Sometimes the movies aren't enough, and I have to make my own worlds. I'm compelled to do so. "Use the force, Luke." No, really. That's how I feel when I write fiction or poetry. If you've ever felt a surge of inspiration you know what I mean. I could just crawl inside my own world and never come out.

Maybe it is just a coping tool, but is that wrong? I remove myself to a better place, a creative place. I've built a cathedral inside my own mind. Somewhere I read that people in concentration camps and refugees often do the same thing. Not that my life is that bad, I'm just a refugee from reality. But who says my highly-developed inner-life isn't real? If I make something from it, something beautiful, or touching, or thought-provoking, doesn't that contribute to what we, as a collective, cognitive race would call "reality?" Well, Descartes might agree with me. I don't know about anyone else, but that won't really stop me. I'll just continue to think and therefore be.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Nostalgia, you say?

Nostalgia is Onion-Flavored
Road trips meant Funyuns
onion-powdered O's
crunching like the popping of rice
crispies in dad's old Mazda pickup
white with maroon stripe
that chortled through small East Tennessee towns

the first house dad remembers
white clapboard and blue shutters
the first church Grandad started
(the second, the third)
where the boy with one blue eye, one brown
fell off his roof-
into soft green tufts of grass and dandelions-
and lived.
where dad found his class ring
weeks after, thrown by a jealous girlfriend,
the emerald glass scratched,
obscured high school letters.

We munched and licked fingers
washed down with Mountain Dew
the Eagles crackled through speakers
the green and his years swished by open, breathing windows
while mountains towered leaf-topped, hung with clouds.
Yellow food, yellow drink, yellow
sun peaked through the hills
glinted off my fifth grade metal smile.

I think I wrote this for a creative writing class my sophomore year of college, but mostly this poem reminds me of my childhood and my dad. When I was a kid, he took me on these short day-trips to all these tiny towns around East Tennessee where he grew up. My grandfather was a Baptist preacher, and they moved around a lot. My dad's family would move to a new town, set up a church, and when they finally got it going, they would move on again.

In particular, I remember visiting this very tiny town called Flag Pond. I always thought it was the smallest town I'd ever been to, and I doubt you could find it on a map. My father showed me the house his family lived in while there and pointed out the small crick in back of the house, where, Dad explained, Grandad baptized him. For a long time, I imagined this scene, my dad in a white, kid-sized choir robe and my grandad in his shirtsleeves, dipping my father's small body beneath the water.

Of course, I doubt if my father's family had money for anything as fancy as a choir robe, but the image sticks with me. Besides the choir robe fantasy, another memory always comes to mind when I read this poem. When we pulled into Flag Pond, Dad parked his truck in a dirt lot across the street from a small church. As we walked across the two-lane highway, baking in the sun, he explained that my grandfather started this church. It was a Sunday, and all the churchgoers hung in small groups outside the meeting house, chatting, while kids chased each other on a grassy knoll near the treeline.

Dad walked up to a lady I'd never met before and asked if she remembered him. She stared at him for some seconds before admitting that he looked a little familiar. When he explained who his father was, she was delighted and hugged him excitedly. A few years older than my father, she had been his babysitter, and she told us that she now lived in the house where his family had. She gave us a tour of the sanctuary and gushed endlessly about what a great man my grandfather was.

Come to think of it, my grandfather died the year before I wrote this poem. He had always been a detached relative. I only saw him a couple of times a year, usually at Thanksgiving. My father always described him as cold and stern. Grandad barely acknowledged me except for the hug hello and the hug goodbye. Yet, to this woman, he was a great man. In fact, she called him her savior (small "s" here), because he introduced her to Jesus, because he baptized her. Grandad gave meaning and purpose to the lives of so many people, yet he seemed unable to truly connect with those who were closest to him. I couldn't understand this as a child. I was just afraid of him.

However, a couple of months ago, I visited his grave for the first time since his funeral. And I wept. I wept because I never really got to know the great man who brought love, acceptance, and hope to so many. I wept because I knew he loved me, but he couldn't show me. Not because he was emotionally crippled or had a bad childhood, but because he loved people by bringing them to Christ. And I never let him do that for me.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

18 Minutes of Blog

So, I have 18 minutes until I can leave work, and I have nothing to do. Nothing. Of course, you might say, "Heck! I wish I had nothing to do!" However, I must inform you that this is entirely untrue. Since graduating college back in December I have been plagued with boredom, lethargy, and a general sense of malaise. Yes, I have a job, and no, it is not the job of my dreams. Far from it, in fact. My job has nothing whatsoever to do with my college training. Oh, besides the fact that it involves reading and writing.

You see, I work in an emergency room. Not the exciting kind, either. Think Scrubs rather than ER. No, I am not a nurse. Or a doctor. Though, that would be cool if I had any kind of retention for scientific or mathematical information. Alas, I am but one of the thousands of English majors doomed to roam the earth, cold and alone. Not to mention jobless, or at least subject to mundane secretarial duties. This basically describes what I do in the ER. Paperwork. The nurses and doctors care for you, and I make sure you or someone, i.e. your insurance company, pays for it. Thank you, privatized healthcare.

Anyway, I've decided to devote my remaining time, length unknown, in this somewhat entertaining, if unfulfilling job to learning new skills! Yes, new skills. Right. Which ones? I've made a list, you see, including but not limited to the following: Judo, copywriting/editing, HTML and other web-publising thingies, web writing (like with words, not codes), and ninja sword-fighting (do ninjas fight with swords?). Well maybe not that last one, but ninjas are cool! At least, I like that word. So, do you know anyone who needs a technical writer/editor with no professional experience? Please post in comments section.

p.s. this blog-posting spellchecker sucks.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Name

Before you ask, "girlspit" does not indicate some XXX, sexbot persona I created so that I could indulge in various forms of cyber-debauchery. Besides the fact that I think it just sounds neat, I ripped it from the title of a poem by Lisa Coffman (just to give credit where credit is due). The name and the poem's main idea incorporate a sense of matter-of-fact femininity. By this, I mean that the person Coffman describes exudes the confidence of one who is absolutely comfortable in her own skin. Don't misunderstand me. I am not always comfortable with myself every second of every day, but I have come to both know and accept myself as a matter of course. I am what I am, in the immortal words of Popeye the Sailor-Man.

With that taken care of, what, you may ask, is a cuspidor? Well, it's a fancy-shmancy, old-timey name for a spittoon. I chose this because the name of my web-site is "The Spittoon," and I'd like to differentiate between the two. Oh, and "The Spittoon" was apparently taken. As was the very simple "Cuspidor, " but those people haven't posted in years. So, I can lull myself into a deluded sense of originality. Beyond that, a cuspidor is, simply put, a spit receptacle. Here, I intend to use it as a place to unload my blather. What better name, I ask you?

With no further ado, Coffman's poem in all its simple beauty.


She presses her dark lips
in a pleased way, as if she has said
the word whiskey again, or tucked
into a corner of her mouth a grass blade
which she briefly squatted and chose
before standing, and with a slap
to her back pockets, slouched
into the length of herself.

It's the hook-thinness of her smile
that draws something like the beaded
metallic chain of a lamp
down my spine and stomach, toward the pucker
her smile has pushed to its corner--
the flutter of that cheek
working down on itself, working spit
and finding its own taste sweet.
The flower floats all night in a glass,
the kitchen lit in other places by the moon.

Lisa Coffman