Archive for November, 2008

Sawtelle Meadows

November 29, 2008

 

She died on Tuesday. They buried her that Friday, lying on her side, sprinkled with dandelions, chicory and sundrops, just as she had asked. It was only a week before, she said, “Mommy, when I am in my coffin, I want it to be like when I slept that one summer in the grass, out by Sawtelle Meadows, near Henry’s Lake.” The flowers were so fragrant and the mountain watched in the distance, still and high like God.  Her tiny titanium lungs rattled with every  exhale and seemed to crush under the weight of her inhale. “Shhh,” her mother said, stroking her delicate child’s hand, “you have a long way to go before you sleep with the flowers.”

 

 

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Not So Black Friday

November 29, 2008

I went to the bookstore late this afternoon, hoping for a miracle of human kindness. I bought a copy of my favorite magazine, PRINT. I roamed around the aisles looking for gifts. Perused the science, history and art sections. But nothing struck me as out of the ordinary.  To kill some time I people watched in the cafe while sipping a latte, tagging random customers with health statistics I read earlier in Time Magazine:

Girl in the cookbook section: one of the 67% of Americans that are either fat or obese.

Fortysomething scruffy man with white beard perusing art books; drawing his wife’s attention to erotic art: one of the 27% of Americans whose blood pressure is too high.

Hipster lurking around the self-help section: one of 96% of the population that can’t recall the last time they had a salad…

There were no crowds. I was disappointed. I expected to wait in line. To suffer. I wanted a small taste of suffering. I wanted to struggle through a crowd so that I could say to someone, “Why are we here? This is insane.” I wanted to make that connection with people. Like what happens during a natural disaster. The way everyone pulls together when the floods ruin homes and uproot trees. But that didn’t happen. I was the first in line and the check-out girl rang me up fast and pleasant. I was gone in minutes. Thanks for shopping at Borders. No high-strung, beaten-down nastiness.  In fact, she gave me a coupon. And said, “come back soon.” That pissed me off. So I went to Cosi to struggle over there but the place was empty. I bought a greasy flat bread sandwich, chips, a soda and left. 

Even the roads were wide open. 

I went home and built a fire. Cleaned. And put on the soundtrack to the Darjeeling Limited.

I sat in front of the fire eating my sandwich, flipping through PRINT, thinking.

I thought about how important Black Friday is for the purpose of well-being; how necessary the insanity of shopping for Christmas gifts one day out of the year, pushing and shoving obnoxious people out of the way to get the sale items, and fighting to be the first in line  is to the core of human nature. Days like this that only come once a year are supposed to awaken in us that sense of primitive, collective struggle. That feeling that “we’re all in this together.” No matter how lame or ridiculous the reason is for coming together (shopping) it’s still an important event that our psyche requires. The struggle, no matter how trivial, answers a primitive need to war with people and to make peace in difficult times. With that gone– with everyone home on their laptops, or ordering through catalogues– we become sadly isolated. Further disconnected.

I thought that maybe after forty years of specious commercialism people wizened up, staying home, saving money and not falling victim to some primordial, reptilian brain calling. But that didn’t make much sense. I myself consciously went and sought out the drama. 

My final thought was a simple assumption: because we’ve been dealing with such national tragedy anyway (global warming, the economy) people don’t need Black Friday anymore. Black Friday served a great purpose for inciting extremism when nothing else in the country was going on. I mean, this year, only one “Wal-Mart worker dies after shoppers knock him down.” Only one! That’s huge progress. Usually a dozen or so die from being trampled by shoppers.

But Black Friday serves little purpose now. Who needs to be trampled at Wal-Mart when you’ve already been beaten down by the stock market? Who needs to stand in line and make friends over bargain books when people’s sons and daughters are overseas at war? Now that I think about it, I don’t know what I was thinking. 

When I finished reading my $20 copy of PRINT, I threw it in the fire.

Who needs commercialism and advertising when you’ve got a head full of free ideas and a warm home?

I carry within me

November 28, 2008

I carry within me a thousand souls.

Not just yours.

Pondering aloneness…

November 27, 2008

Just Add Water!

This is Gary. He’s my date tonight, and I plan to bring him to Tim and Kathy’s for Thanksgiving. He’s alright just the way he is. I don’t even think I’ll add water. Size is intimidating. 

So, as I ponder the infinite aloneness of my life over the past couple months, I have to say it hasn’t been as bad as I feared. There is literally NO ONE in my life for the first time in a very long time. And so, aloneness is a relatively new and unusual sensation. One that I am trying to get to know, so to speak.

I decided to embrace my single life and get to know it just as I would a new guy. Only this time, no need to worry about shaving my legs, waxing my eyebrows, or wearing anything remotely alluring, save my Cheetah undies which, I still find hard to believe were so under appreciated.

I have to dig deep to figure out what single women “do.” I haven’t been truly single since before my marriage (1996). And at forty, going out to Shampoo or Transit Nightclub is not really an option unless I’m looking for a twenty-year-old with a fake I.D. and a pocket full of MDMA.

Hey kids, meet Curtis. Mommy picked him up last night at the club.

Not gonna happen.

My first stop was the bookstore. Might as well get in all those books I blew off the past few years. And aside from books that personally interest me, I think, let’s buy something on being single. Bad choice.   I find, “Better Single Than Sorry” and “The Single Girl’s Manifesta,” both of which are pink. Then there’s “Flying Solo” (also pink) and “Single: The Art of Being Satisfied, Fulfilled and Independent.” Why these books all have pink covers with hot girls carrying shopping bags around is a mystery to me– As if pink and shopping were icons of singledom. What about fat, ugly girls that are single? Ones that only wear black or can’t afford to buy things other than baby clothes at the Good Will because their baby daddy is a dead-beat? Where are the books about being single for them? 

OK, so…anyway…

Then I decided to watch re-runs of Sex in the City as well as the Sex in the City movie. Corny as hell, and yet, I couldn’t help but wonder how many lives have been changed due to the fact that those girls make being single look so appealing and fashionable (Oh! Ok…now I get why single and shopping go together…I merely have to remember Carrie and her Manolo Blahniks). Thing is, those bitches don’t DO anything but BE single. They meet and talk about men that they’re not dating. They go to parties, shop and redecorate their apartments. Surely there’s more to being single than writing a column about it!

So let’s see…what’s left? Books, DVD rentals…? According to the rules of western society, right about now I should be heading to a museum. 

And that’s it. Those are my options. Books. Watching old movies. Going to a museum. 

Well, fuck that. 

How about writing. Raking leaves. Rock climbing. Running. Masturbating. Painting. Volunteer work. Charity. Meditation. Cycling. Going back to grad school. Road trips with the kids. Getting back to the Painted Bride Quarterly. Submitting my short stories to lit mags. Drinking Spanish wine. And laughing. Laughing over dumb shit like Gary. Who, by the way, “never looks at your credit card bills…”

I definitely think the image of being a single woman needs to be expanded to include more than the picture of a rundown chick, curled up on her sofa in ugly PJs watching some dumbass love story in black and white. Yet, I don’t believe it should go to the opposite extreme where single girls are all portrayed as Stepford Wives (before they married, of course). Haven’t we advanced enough to change those dull, extremist, unrealistic stereotypes? I mean, heck. Sarah Palin almost became vice-president. 

Hm. And on that scary note. Maybe it’s best we wait a little longer for true progress….

At any rate, I’m the type of person that meets people relatively easily. I’m friendly, outgoing, cute and all that other fun stuff that makes it easy to meet guys. Thing is, I might never be single again. This might be my one shot. I might never know what it’s like to really dig being totally selfish, doing my own thing or having the solitude and peace that comes with true and deep aloneness.

Relationships place demands upon people. And it’s not that I can’t make sacrifices or don’t particularly like demands. I’m ok with those things. I inherently like being part of a couple. Despite oftentimes losing myself in the act of coupling, which sometimes takes a lot out of me (As I’m sure it does everyone). Thing is,  the old, outmoded idea of clinging to a man or depending on one seems to me now (at this point in my life) horribly unappealing that I find more value in waiting than dashing into something just for the sake of not being alone. 

Anyway…all my pondering led me to realize that there’s nothing more I should be doing than what I am already doing. And that what I’m doing ain’t so bad. Even if it means not going to museums or buying up half the King of Prussia mall, or bringing Gary to dinner tonight. And speaking of Gary…despite the fact that “he’s polite” and “never chews with his mouth open” he is pink

Oh well. I may simply have to overlook certain things.

why we write

November 26, 2008

the_ways_of_love_by_pavlova

“The majority of us lead quiet, unheralded lives as we pass through this world. There will most likely be no ticker-tape parades for us, no monuments created in our honor. But that does not lessen our possible impact, for there are scores of people waiting for someone just like us to come along; people who will appreciate our compassion, our unique talents. Someone who will live a happier life merely because we took the time to share what we had to give. Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have a potential to turn a life around. It’s overwhelming to consider the continuous opportunities there are to make our love felt.” 

— –Leo Buscaglia

Moral Dreaming

November 25, 2008

Last night I dreamed of Mr. X and finally let him get close enough to touch me in a rather lascivious way. No details. But by my standards, it was the closest thing to a wet dream I’ve had since I was 25.  Thing is, even in my dreams I am averse to his advances and ultimately, pushed him away in my dreamy reverie saying “maybe another time.”

Dreamus interruptus.

In real life, Mr. X is married. Three beautiful children and a lovely wife of eight years. I’ve known him for five and in between my boyfriends, without fail, he propositions me. He would flat out deny this of course. As would I in mixed company. But that’s neither here nor there. In my book, “It would just be one little quickie while the kids are in school” is kind of a proposition. 

The true philanderer reading would hope that this post takes a more liberal turn. Sorry to disappoint. But it won’t.

The truth is, I can’t stand the idea of married men chasing after women. Period. Sure, I am liberal. I have wider boundaries than most. Much wider that at times I often scare myself. But there’s a moralistic side to my nature that screams for rightness and goodness. Don’t fucking cheat on your wife. Don’t be so fucking self-absorbed that you have to stab that women whom you loved once, who is very possibly the mother of your children, in the back. In the heart. In the gut. Don’t do it. 

Heck, I understand misdemeanors. Things sometimes just happen. People are ultimately weak. But I don’t get the YEARS a man devotes to affairs and shameless flirting all the while REMAINING in the marriage. If you want out so bad, get out. 

And it’s not that I don’t appreciate the flirtation and advances. Oh, I do. And I will flirt back. But there’s an imaginary line that I will not cross. And I’m quite proud of that line. See? There it is. The line. Don’t cross it.

Anyway, this wasn’t meant to be an I’ll chop your balls off feminist rant. Really. That’s not me. If anything, I tend to feel sorry for men like that. Just not sorry enough to become anything more than a wet dream.

consequences

November 24, 2008

Are there any by these words?

disclaimer

November 23, 2008

Any similarity to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

Vulgar Love

November 23, 2008

Taken from a larger body of work regarding S. 

Love

 

We do it lying on our backs, you and I, looking up at the ceiling.

Our parts connecting like a chain link. 

We do missionary. You above me, staring down.

Me, buried in the tattoos on your right arm. 

Buried between the pin-up and the devil with a cigarette.

The eight ball at my nose. The dice at my eyes. 

We talk dirty. The usual. “You’re a bad little party girl, huh?

Fucking all your friends behind my back…”

We pretend to be who we are not; imaginary and polyamorous.

Nurse. Submissive. Dominant. School girl. Secretary. Whore.

We use props. Blindfolds. Rope. Clipboard. Food. Hosiery.

Vibrator. Gloves. Clamps. Boots. Wig. 

You ask me to tuck away my need for something deep and save it for another time.

And quiet my regret that this is all we’ve got. 

Dirtying ourselves up with emptiness and release

In the garden of eden, sugar factory, swivel chair, bed, on the tube to Morden…

Yet, somewhere in between you always say, “I love you.” 

Kindly

As if you knew that seeing God were not enough.


 

 

 

My son is a dreamer; deal with it

November 21, 2008

 

My boys’ conferences were yesterday and I was already preparing for a hard time from Dani’s teacher. It’s not that I dislike her. It’s that she just doesn’t  understand that her job is not about creating perfect kids, it’s about teaching. 

Dani will not conform. He plays around, is easily distracted, draws cartoon characters all day long, never knows where he is in the lesson, and can’t sit still. Classic A.D.D if you ask me. But it’s more than that and I think that this is where schools go terribly wrong. If the kid isn’t society’s definition of PERFECT, then he needs a label. A new label. He needs to be redefined to fit another perfect model. The perfect model of A.D.D. perhaps, or worse. Schools are horrible proponents of stripping children of their identities so that they may be taught in a specific way. And if they cannot be taught, they then become candidates for “behavioral modification” or drugs. 

So she says to me, as if I didn’t already know, “Dani’s not stupid, y’know. He’s very bright. He just doesn’t pay attention.” And if he paid attention, he’d be perfect. Right? And you’re job would be a hell of a lot easier.

So, I say to her, “from the time we had our last conference, I have reinstated the math tutor, I have reprimanded him, taken away the computer and all other electronics, I have hugged him when he gets an A, and sat with him nightly over homework to help fend off the Ds and Fs. I have preached the importance of paying attention and getting good grades and have admonished him for telling “lies” and trying to avoid work. On your part, you have made sure he takes all the right books home and you’ve gotten on him for not following along in class. I agree. He can be lazy. He is scatter-brained and he doesn’t have the capacity to remember what you asked of him two seconds ago. 

“But let me ask you, after all that effort on our parts to make him a better student and he is STILL the same, what then is the lesson here? Is it that WE are to blame for not getting on him enough? Is it that HE is to blame for being so lazy and not paying attention to US? Or is it something else? Might it be that no matter what, he is simply Dani and that it is his nature to not conform to our way of doing things? There’s only so much effort you can put into forcing the left-hander to write with his right hand.”

She wasn’t convinced. 

I told her about randomness and the theory written up in Leonard Mlodinow’s The Drunkard’s Walk, How Randomness Rules Our Lives. How the psychologist, Daniel Kahneman, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics, lectured to a group of pilots, years ago, on positive reinforcement and how it is supposedly applied to making better students. He initially said that positive reinforcement causes people to achieve and become better at certain tasks, but negative reinforcement does not. But when Kahneman mentioned this during the lecture some of the flight instructors said that it wasn’t true and contradicted their experience.

“‘I often praised people warmly for beautifully executed maneuvers, and the next time they do worse,” the flight instructor said. ‘And I’ve screamed at people for badly executed maneuvers and by and large the next time they improve.”

Kahneman took this contradiction and realized that it was, indeed, true. That the reason for it could be attributed to something known as “regression toward the mean.” That is, “in any series of random events an extraordinary event is most likely to be followed, due purely by chance, by a more ordinary one.” When we reinforce a good behavior or reprimand a bad one, it appears that our criticism or reinforcement is causing the behavior of the student to change. But in actuality, it is not. The student exhibits his own level of experience and knowledge at the rate he, personally, has the capacity to or, in my son’s case, the willingness. Of course, positive versus negative reinforcement will have an effect on the student’s emotional well-being, but not his ability to perform tasks or skills. 

 

In Dani’s defense, he is simply a Dreamer.  He’s dreaming up fight scenes, and animation moves, and traveling to Japan to save the kingdom. Obviously inappropriate behavior during class. And quite frankly, it bothers the hell out of me when I ask him to clean up his room or do the dishes only to have to remind him a MILLION times. And don’t think I don’t feel pain for him that he can’t understand how to divide fractions. But on the flip side, he is creating amazing things. He has self-taught himself a computer animation program and is making actual cartoons. His vision, skill and love of drawing is amazing. And his stories of adventure are characteristic of a soon-to-be writer or artist. 

What’s more, he has a huge capacity to learn. When he wants. He’s merely opposed to it as it is offered in this particular setting. 

He is ten years old. He is beautiful inside and out. He is creative. He is a dreamer.  And in my book, he is allowed to be all those things. I understand that schools must set a standard of behavior so that teaching and learning can occur. And I do understand that if Dani wants to go on to college some day or get along in the world, he will eventually have to play by others’ rules. But any teacher that is going to tell me that “he’s not stupid” as part of her description of him, is not someone with any sensitivity or knowledge as to who children are and what they’re all about, inherently.

Perhaps, I am just a disgruntled mother.

I secretly wanted to say, “Well, Mrs. M., it’s not that you’re stupid, but I just don’t think you’re cut out for this job.”