Saturday, December 28, 2002

Season for lists

Stuff I learned this year
a list for the season of lists

1) I belong in Atlanta.

2) Interpersonal relationships are the most important thing in life. Yes, your friends are more important than your career; in fact,you are more likely to have a successful career because of friendships rather than hard work.

3) The cycle of poverty is much more difficult to break than most people suspect.

4) Success is a tricky word. I used to think success meant financial stability. After this year, I think success means just getting to live your life the way you want. In this light, a homeless junkie is just as successful as Bill Gates. So success isn't so important to me any more - I would never live like Bill Gates.

5) The idea that higher education leads to more money is a myth. The truth is, the statistic that says you will earn more over your lifetime if you have a degree is a flawed statistic. The results are skewed because it has always been that traditionally, people who could afford college started out with more money than the rest of us, and that's really why they'll earn more over their lifetimes. Sure, education can give you a little leg up - but not to the great heights we've been told. This myth of more money earning power is sold to us by university business offices, which are out to make more money for the university.

5a) The pursuit of education for the love of learning is a noble cause. The only reason anyone should go to school after age 16 is to pursue knowledge you can only get at school, like how to deal with asshole professors or how to live off ramen noodles and hummus. These really are life skills - I'm not being snarky!

6) Tea time with friends is a most pleasant thing. Whatever I'm doing, I'd almost always rather be somewhere drinking something hot, eating dessert, and talking to someone I love.

7) The empire is falling, but that's OK; once Rome fell, the Romans didn't dissapear. They just became Italians.

7a) I believe in WW3. I used to think this was nuts, now I wonder if it hasn't all ready started.

8) Family therapy is a very helpful thing, even if you have to go all by yourself.

9) It's just as wrong to make a child your goal in life as it is to make a husband your goal in life. Other people are not your goals to be reached. I still want children of my own, but I'm a lot less rushed and under the gun about it. Yeah, I'm getting older, and yes, I'd really like to be pregnant one day (as I've always said, as soon as I'm not so damned poor). But once I realized the inherent vice of making another human being a goal to be attained, I realized I had to shift my naturally ambitious nature to quest for a more appropriate goal than motherhood of someone who had no say in the matter.

10) I want a house more than anything else in the world. I want a house by the time I'm 30. Ambitious, I know, but what did you expect after number 9?

11) Hello, my name is Elizabeth, and I only date men if there's no possible way I could ever be entirely happy with them.

11a) Just because I recognize a negative pattern doesn't mean I have any plans to change my behavior right away. In fact, I have no idea how to stop this behavior, or even if I should make an effort to correct what most people would regard as a serious problem.

12) It's really important that I make a stable place for my teen age sister to crash land when she needs to.

13) I'm incredibly glad my family here in Atlanta has given me this opportunity to learn from them. I learn so much every single day from Audrey, Jamie, Colin, Laura, Doug, Ellie and Ruel, the Nortons, the Gordons, the Naspinskis, and all the other people I come into contact with. It's pretty amazing, and I hope one day I can make them understand how important all this has been to me. I missed out on these lessons of family behavior for a lot of reasons, and I can't believe how long I lived not knowing some of the incredibly subtle interactions that have to occur in order for a family and society to run smoothly.

13a) I'd never have just one kid. I understand my parents didn't have a lot of money, but wow - it's so important to have siblings, and an extended family network. I got my sisters late enough to have a very different relationship with them than most people have with their siblings.

13b) When I say family network, I'd like people to note I'm not actually related to many of the people listed in 12. A family network can totally consist of a lot of people who come together to support one another.

13c) So I really do consider my family not just to be my mom, dad, and sisters in Nashville, but most of the people who were at my graduation party in Murfreesboro, or my birthday party in Morristown. Sure, some of the relationships are more distant than others, but let's face it - we all network and support each other to an incredible degree.

14) Because we support each other, we rock.

happy New Year. The next one just has to be better than the one before it.

Friday, December 20, 2002

The Blue Collar High

The Blue Collar High

There is no place I'd rather be during the holiday season other than Atlanta.

The days fluctuate between the high thirties and the mid fifties, temperature wise. One day a couple of weeks ago, it rained terribly cold and hard, so my fellow Georgians sensibly shut down their schools, drove home from work, and stayed with their families just in case the roads might ice up. I was grinning like an idiot all through the bad storm, because really the day was just like typical New England weather. It was windy and gray and the rain had little particles of ice in it. During the "bad weather", the thermometer never dropped below 20 degrees. Ah, my homeland. I really haven't worn sweaters more than a few times so far this winter - you can get by with long sleeve shirts and a good jacket most of the time here. Hats and gloves are needed on the colder days, but you won't need them every day until we're well into January.

Also, I hadn't realized up in Boston how much I missed Southern suburban lawn displays at Christmastime. Flashing lights, inflatable snowmen, deer with animatronics motion. Down the street from my cousin's house, Santa busily brings Peace on Earth to everyone every night. Nativity scenes here are strangely elaborate, often giving the infant Jesus the benefit of a wishing well or brightly wrapped modern presents in addition to the visiting Shepard and wise men. The louder, the brighter, the more inventive the lawn art, the more I get a kick out of it.

I guess what I'm trying to say here is that this holiday season rocks. I'm working again, and I'm truly where I want to be right now. It's not cold, and I feel like - well, like the atheist in me is comfortable here, even amidst all the religious stuff. I suppose in Nashville there was always such a churchy note to the season I got my fun squished, and in Boston I disliked how the town got half-empty between semesters. Atlanta, like with most other things, is just right.

My cousins have set up a rock-on live Christmas tree in their house. It's classic - tiny colored bulbs, toy ornaments and candy canes. Every time I get near it I just go nuts. It's perfect. It's beautiful.

I've been working 12 hour nights, starting with a four hour shift at the theater box office and then trotting across the street to do an eight hour overnight shift at Target. I'm so glad to be working again that I honestly don't mind the long hours, and the constant sleep deprivation kind of gets me high! After the first three nights I had eight separate entirely amazing personal revelations. It was like working all those hours set explosions off in my head, and a chain reaction of new thoughts flooded my head in a bizarre euphoric blast. Only time will tell if these new ideas are going to stick around and alter my personality or if I'll reject all the changes to my personal philosophies once I've had some time to really sleep.

Crazy. Working long nights is like being buzzed - in a way I've never been before - and it really has affected me, maybe permanently. Why wasn't this ever mentioned in DARE? After 1 a.m. I have bloody brilliant thoughts for a couple of hours - my mind races while my body keeps moving. Around 4 a.m. I hit what's called "flow state", and my mind shuts down everything but surface thought and my body moves almost on its own accord. As I shift boxes and display merchadise, I catch the wave of sweet endorphins that almost turn me on. As I type this at 8 a.m., I'm actually a little hyper, but making a ton of mistakes spellcheck will have to clean up. I'm also a little incoherent. I hope this all makes sense...happy holidays, everybody. I'm drunk on the blue collar high.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Elizabeth Revisited

Revisiting Me

I have three jobs again. Target, a movie theater, and babysitting in order to get rides to and from both those places, and

I'm back to myself again. The old me.

Working like hell, keeping my eye on my goals and

to hell with everything else.

It feels good to slip back into this rythm

the heavy bass of blue collar work

side by side with a dozen others just like me

twenty-somethings who work like dogs, swear like pirates, and party like deamons when given the chance.

My throat is allready sore

with an infection I picked up at the store

but I'll work through it anyway, and spend my day off sleeping.

My body is a service industry machine

pain means nothing to me

all that matters is the tommorrow I promised myself

and this time I mean it

when I say that things are gonna change

if I just stick to my plans.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

House doesn't always mean a place

House doesn't always mean a place.

Last Sunday, sometime around 4am, I stood with my friend Cairy on a balcony that looked over a mass of 200 odd half naked souls dancing to heavy electronic bass. The people seethed and bounced and collided with the beat, and I was mesmerized. It had been so very, very long since I had seen that kind of mass - longer since I had been part of it.

"That's what techno music was really made for" I commented, my eyes glazed over in wonder and delight. I just wanted to watch.

"It's house, not techno," Cairy said. He was stagger leaning on me, the result of having drunk near inhuman amounts of alcohol. Words were fighting their way out of his mouth. "We have…we have to go down there."

"No way." We were actually trying to meet Skeet at the door, where he was waiting for us. We had been in the club for over five hours, watching the floorshow, drinking and laughing in a section away from the dance floor. We had lost Skeet in the crowd, and Cairy was so drunk he could barely stand upright, never mind dance.

"I have to get down there." He was beyond arguing with, and I had to admit I needed to get down there too. We went down the staircase and just…walked…stumbled…bounced a little across a portion of the sea of dancers and back. We didn't fit in on the floor - we were dressed for the chilly club, not for dancing, and so looked like two lost bikers in the middle of a few hundred of Atlanta's half naked beautiful people.

And while we were down on the floor you could feel the energy and the rhythm, not just from the music but generated by the people, having fun and not giving a damn about anything else in the world except this dance floor, right here, right now. We walked off the floor with other people's sweat on us, glowing much like…well, like when you're in that other situation that covers you with someone else's sweat. But we two had only been walking across a floor. It was beyond description by mere words.

When Cairy and I found Skeet again at the door, he looked like some strange elf staggering around our world quite by mistake. Even in the winter, the water hangs in the air here at all hours of the night. I was so tired nothing seemed real.

I'm glad Cairy and Skeet came into town. We really did have a lovely time.

And they helped me find pieces of myself I'd been missing for a while.

We found the neighborhood where I'm going to live as soon as I move back into town. This is also the neighborhood where I plan on living the rest of my life, if it's at all possible. The guys and I went out and found Little 5 Points again. Little 5 Points in Atlanta is a lot like the Village in Nashville or Allston in Boston. It's the funky-cool neighborhood of bungalow style houses built before World War 2, situated comfortably close to a healthy grocer's, a comic book shop, and a post office. These are the things in combination that make a place suitable for Elizabeth habitation.

There's also a lovely park nearby Little 5, and plenty of public transportation. So I've found my ideal spot for nesting - now all I need is a mere $300,000 in order to buy my house. Well, of course I'll rent there first. There were little signs in all the shop windows declaring Little 5 points a hate-free zone. I kept grinning and asking people how much they paid in rent as we walked around. I was flooded with lots of good feelings about the place.

Later, after Little 5 points and drinking like a fish and dancing into the dawn and laughing my ass off at Cairy and Skeet, who've been making me laugh since I was 14 years old - after that -

I started working towards the new plan, with a little help from my new job.

90 days - car (March)

180 days - 2 bedroom apartment (June)

300 days - Party at my place (end of August, beginning of September)

House - a music, a place, my new obsessive goal.

Thursday, November 28, 2002

It's all about food.

It's All About Food
The Longest Entry I'll ever write, with tons of links.

I got a job at Target. If all goes well, I start Monday.

It's Thanksgiving, and I'm in hiding.

I had planned to spend the holiday up in the mountains with Dustin, not because that's really where I wanted to be, but because he asked me to come visit and I judged that town would be the most out of the way I could get. The idea of spending a holiday weekend reading comic books tucked in somewhere warm and unbothered by much appealed to me at first, but the more I thought about the visit the more I realized I might get in the way of other events just under the surface up there in Morristown. It was better that I was left without a ride, with no way up into Appalachia this week.

My two weeks of oddness earlier in the month in Nashville put that town out of the question, not that I wanted to spend the holiday there anyway.

I had thought about going to Augusta to eat with some of my father's family, but I've had little contact with them since I moved back South.

I suppose I could have managed Brunswick if I really wanted too, but my Grandparents aren't very happy with me at the moment. I was the one who got the education, who was supposed to inspire everyone else to go to college. Instead I've moved back home and got a job in retail again - and they're at a loss with me suddenly. I've disproved their dearest-held beliefs about how blue-collar Americans are supposed to get ahead. This makes them rather cross with me.

I've been invited to eat in my aunt and uncle's neighborhood, and the idea is tempting. Instead I'm using them as a front. I've told everyone that's where I'm going, but I have no intention of actually attending. Hopefully everyone will assume I've eaten dinner with someone else, and I'm not going to disabuse them of the notion. I like Thanksgiving, but I just don't feel like the bother this year. I hate lying about where I'm going, but if people found out that I was *gasp* skipping a holiday, they'd freak out. Honestly, it's not depression, just that this feast would seem like an anticlimax after all the other good food I've had this year.

I've had Thanksgiving over and over again this year out of season, meals that make the Turkey and gathering today seem redundant. How could anything I had today compare with other meals I've eaten, the food that's passed over my tongue from friends and family at moments when they couldn't understand how important the meal was to me? No one understands how important the little feasts were to me, because I almost never get around to writing about them. I have a passion for food. Maybe I can explain it better by making a list.

Meals that I was thankful for in the past year:


Aral made Pad Thai for Tasha and I , or maybe it was Gretchen who was with us. Aral's cooking always knocked my socks off, and I probably would have lived my entire life without knowing good Pad Thai without her. She made everything herself but the noodles, and I could smell the cooking through the whole building when I came home in the afternoon. Noodles, bean sprouts, peanuts, cilantro, limes. Garlic in there somewhere, with fried tofu and ginger and soy sauce. The tastes so foreign and delicious jumped all over my tongue, made me eat almost more than I could bear, and yet were kinder to the stomach than many things less tasty. I would sit on the uncomfortable chair so that Aral and her guest had the couch, and we'd drink beers and concentrate on the very fine food while the guest talked about whatever. The living room was lavender and blue and teal, and Mr. Puck would hunt our water glasses. It took Aral all day to make her Pad Thai and when I left Boston, I left her my Wok because I couldn't bear to think of trying to cook in it after she had made her Pad Thai with what I now regarded as a holy instrument. Before I left, she taught me how to make fried tofu, but it's not even close to the same.


I had taken that job at Dunkin Donuts on the side - mostly because in addition to cash, the place provided me with a free meal a shift, croissant sandwiches I made myself with double helpings of bacon and ham. But that's not what I really remember February for.
I was dating James, and he took me to China town for my first Dim Sum. The foods were off a cart and at table manners of those around us quite different from anything I'd ever witnessed before. I had a fried scallop something, lighter than anything people from the South could fry, amazing. I was the only white person in the restaurant for a while. Later James took me to a bakery and I had lotus pastry for the first time, and when I asked how they made the filling, James said "They take pollen and do to it what bees do" I almost said "THEY PUKE IT UP!?!", but luckily I realized he meant that they sugar it. Close call, and you'll note that my reaction did not make me stop eating the pastry - lotus has become one of my favorite fillings.


Dustin and I spend one very odd night chasing affordable Middle Eastern cuisine around Boston with our electric-colored hair. We wind up at a place near Simmons, a place I also took Sara when she had been in town a few months before, a place I had eaten with Jennifer, with Ford, with Ryan, years ago. I marvel at how time laps one happening onto another, layering them so with memory quite accidentally as I eat what I always have, pork cured with apple cider vinegar, wrapped in flat bread with vegetables and a sauce. I have to pick out the raw tomatoes. It's called Schwarma, and it reminds me of other things when it's passing through my mouth. The meat is spicy sour chewy delicious. Outside it's cold and Dustin and I walk back through the night and it's odd to have his shape beside me, walking home this way as I always do, but not alone. Later in the trip I'll accidentally rub pepper oil into one of my eyes while trying to make what turns out to be an abysmal chilies rejenos. Well, what else can you expect from March?


Marching in DC, with very little sleep and nothing on my stomach but Luna bars and soda. Later my friends devour my emergency stash of protein I take on trips, eating my tuna and power bars and candy with nuts in it, but I'm so happy to see them I don't care. Sunday morning Kati, Dust, Michael, Will and I are in a car - wait, no that can't be right - how would we have all fit? Anyway, we ended up somewhere out in the Virginia countryside at an Asian bakery that morning. We have doughnuts and cookies of a superior quality, and I get a little bag of sesame seed balls filled with lotus. I give one to Kati and she says "that's altogether unlike anything else I've ever tasted" she likes it. I'm surrounded by friends and the smell of fresh bread. There are hugs and little cookies shaped like men. This is a feast too, just as good as any other. Later that day there's a much more formal Dim Sum in DC than in Boston. Mat, Emily, Devon and Erin are there, and the company is the feast here, much more important than the food. I haven't the heart to tell them about my bakery experience, I randomly still dream of the sesame balls.


Tea with Kati and Michael is better than the food at the Harvard faculty club. I also recall that we went to the Brown Sugar Café, which knocked their socks off.


I eat piles of food at my Grandfather's, but the best of all these things is the fried brim. You put the tail in your mouth to get the bones off, and the meat is so soft and flaky white and everything that is good and fresh and healthy in the world. My Grandmother takes me to Archie's, where I have eaten many times since I was very tiny. Archie's menu says: We are good. We are polite. But we are not fast. Also on this trip, Underdown takes me to Waffle House, and I swipe the menu for Aral, to show her I'm not making up the $0.99 egg sandwiches. Cairy and Michael and Molly with me, out drinking and restaurant hopping.


I eat the fabulous produce my Grandfather gave me, and then I exist on hummus and crackers, emptying my cabinets slowly and methodically. There's tea with Josh, and a walk where we poke at a dead squirrel with a stick. I boil peanuts in ninety-degree heat, and squish their delectable salty-warmness against the roof of my mouth like little pieces of heaven. It makes me feel like I'm eating the food of my childhood so I can crawl back into that skin again. I make one pie after another in my unemployed state, and Aral and I compete with our cooking to heights unimagined by folk with jobs. We get drunk and high on our states of laziness, and no one comes to call.


The world breaks open - and - dinner with Josh, dinner with Jennifer. Aral's unbirthday feast of Indian food with Sarah from Seattle, which gives me a proper goodbye to my favorite restaurant in that town. In Atlanta, a welcome back dinner of shrimp and everything else, perfect, unreachable by other mere things people dare to call "meals". Grilled foods again in my diet, because cooking is too hot to be done inside. Dragon Con stuck on at the end, a haze of alcohol and sweets and friends all around me again, surprised faces and hugs and party, party, party. Goddamn.


Nashville, where my father buys me barbecue, proper barbecue for me means pulled pork on a bun, smokey juicy sweet with cole slaw, bought from a dingy little grocer's deli. Cola, dill pickle flavored potato chips. I teach my sisters how to shop at the health food store, and I realize Sara is following me down this path of food association, eating her pomegranates and humus and odd foods for fun, taking a joy in rolling odd fruits and foreign delights around on her tongue as if they were gold. Well, maybe it’s genetic. Right before I leave there's La Siesta with Cairy.


A meal with Dustin's family where everything seems surreal to me, American cuisine viewed in fractal form from a month spent eating standing up in my parent's kitchen. Back in Georgia, I make too many cakes again, too many pies. This is the Southern response to grief, cooking, and I can't seem to stop myself. There's a real feast again though, at my Aunt and Uncle's neighbor's, where there's a pork roast so tender it falls apart in its own juices. There's cornbread and collard greens and creamed sweet white corn and lima beans. We eat all this in large shallow bowls where the juices can properly run together. There's red wine to go with all this and I nearly fall over, it's so good. It's one of the top meals of the year, and the house is full of children and family and everything seems right with the world for a few hours.


Now, at the end of the year, all these meals seem to mix together in my mind. If I could construct my own Thanksgiving table, it would have things from all these meals. A heaping wok of Pad Thai would sit quite happily next to the peach buns I had last week with Winn, and barbecue from my father could be eaten with the mango Lahssi Sarah from Seattle had in Boston. Tea from Cambridge with brim caught in a South Georgia creek , pork collards with Quesadillas, Schwarma with banana pudding and my mother's favorite brand of strawberry Popsicles. Fried okra and nan and pinwheel and doughnuts and the French Onion soup my aunt made all the way from scratch. Lemon pepper chicken with broccoli like I make for myself, and pork chops smothered in onions and peppers. Aral's fried tofu and Andrew's party treats. Thai and Mexican and Indian and Southern and Processed American with Italian pasta and French pastry. I am Thankful for all the things I have received this year, yes I am. I am even more thankful for the people I shared these meals with. Happy Holidays, everybody.

Thanksgiving 2000

Thanksgiving 2001

Sunday, November 24, 2002

Pastry & parties

Pastry and Parties cure many things

Last week, after I found out there would be no pay for a week and a half of hard labor, after I realized how bad things really were in Nashville, after I gave up on a lot of stuff I kept hoping would happen, after I popped some blood vessels in my right eye from stress, after I had recycled the sand in the sandblaster so many times that it was like working with confectioner's sugar - after all that -

I went out and had two days of incredible fun.

Thursday after noon I dropped what I was doing and called Dinan, who is also unemployed, broke, and verging on despair. We decided to have a good day, and walked from her house on Belmont down to the Village, where we got us some fancy-schmancy bakery lunch at Provance, our favorite place in Nashville. I had a squash tart with little leaves cut from pastry dough on the top. Dinan had a pasta dish and we both drank expensive hot tea and laughed and carried on because we crack each other up. We loafed around a shop or two and then sat down at Fido's coffee shop to read the Scene and wait for Winn to pick us up for a party.

By then it was already after 7, and the party was already going at Underdown's. A lot of my favorite people were there - Kati, Michael, Andrew, just to name a few - but the house was full, from top to bottom. I got hugged a lot. A lot of people said, "What happened to your eye!?!" and I laughed and told them it was stress, but I think people thought I was lying because I was in such a good mood. I wished Cairy and Skeet were there, but it was already getting late in the evening.

The party went on for a few hours, and a pagan circle was held to which Dinan and I were the atheist observers. Later, there was Waffle House and more laughing and Kati was practically glowing, she was so happy. And we were all - it was one of those nights - well, that defy proper description, I suppose. I was happy again. After a month of nearly having no hope at all -

Friday I slept past noon and then Dinan and I drove around Williamson County listening to mix CD's and looking at the countryside. It was winter suddenly. We made fun of the horrible McMansions going up everywhere and made fun of stupid landscaping decisions. Then we went to Lowe's and looked at Hardware, but didn't buy anything. Some girls go out for shoes, Dinan and I go out for lighting fixtures.

Later we picked up Ron and rented a subtitled French action movie and I stayed up way late. I woke up and read trashy science fiction and then researched a little about the Knights Templar, as they had been mentioned in the movie the night before. It was Saturday, and Winn took me out for a Chinese lunch, where I saw foods again I hadn't seen since Boston or DC. Pastries filled with lotus, Dim Sum. We both admitted we liked each other more than we should. The sun was shining. I managed to get back to Atlanta Saturday night, and I have an interview with Target Monday morning. It's OK. It's all right. Things will work out. For the life of me, I can't remember why I was pushing so hard. Stress does terrible things to your body. I'm nearly better now.

I apologise for the run-on sentences and fragmented thoughts. I should be collected again in a week or so.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Death of a Season

A wake for my white collar dreams

This November, as the year begins to pass on, I'd like to write a few words in honor of my philosophies that died this year. If you'd rather read something more entertaining, I wrote a few nice stories here.

And now, an eulogy:

After 18 months of searching, I've come to the conclusion that it's unlikely I'll ever get a job as an Archivist. I liked the idea of being an archivist. I enjoyed the jobs I had in the field, and always got good remarks from my supervisors. But it's been a year and a half now, and I need to accept that this career probably isn't going to happen for me, no matter how much I want it too. It doesn't matter that I trained at Harvard, or that I love the work, or that I applied myself in my studies. I can't force anyone to hire me, because that's not the way the world works. I'll probably continue, off and on, to apply for positions that interest me in archives. But I've come to terms with the fact that this dream is dead.

My logic for years went along these lines: if I work hard, and sacrifice everything for a higher education, why, I can have a nice white collar career. When I get out of grad school, I'll have a guy waiting for me and we'll be able to get a house and surely, all those things I've ever wanted - bills paid on time, a freezer full of extra groceries always full, hard wood floors, a washer and dryer, cars that always start in the driveway, clothes that fit whenever I want them and kids - yeah, just getting an education was going to make all that happen.

Of course, I've had my degree for a year now, and I'm as broke as I've ever been. I gave up any conventional ideas of romance and family years ago, and so I don't really miss that part of the dream at all - but I thought, if you got an education, your life (or at least the bill paying part of your life) was supposed to get better. It hasn't. I'll never regret all the years I spent chasing my dream, or the fantastic adventures it lead me into. This dream was worth every ounce of sacrifice, if not every penny.

As I mourn this dream, I think about all the Dickens novels I read as a little girl. Somehow all those orphaned boys managed to make the transition from blue collar to white collar, and in retrospect I see that it was because they were taken in by wealthy patrons. For some stupid American reason, I thought sacrifice and hard work pushed people ahead. Well, I guess there's a reason people still read Dickens, and no one I know has ever picked up a volume of Horatio Alger.

This dream is dead, and I'm symbolically burying it in the backyard of my parent's house in Nashville under the elevated garden I'm putting up this week. I hope dead dreams make good fertilizer for bulbs - maybe the Irises this spring will be more spectacular than any others.

My new dreams are a lot more practical than my old one. I dream of a small house in Atlanta, made in the old craftsman style, a bungalow. I dream of just one full refrigerator, a car that runs well enough that I can repair it without much pain, and healthy, happy children that know I'll pay the bills on time when I can. This is the new dream. My dreams are always only the best I can hope for.

When this year is over in five weeks, I'll start pursuing the new dream as hard as I can. I'll get on as a manager at Target or somewhere, and go back to retail, and be happy about it because it's what will get me where I want to go in life. I'll put my old college ID's in a photo album, and never mention them again. I'll accept what I can't change, because one something is dead, it's gone, and there's no asking for it back. My library days are over, and I understand that. My academic career is over, and I understand that too. It's time to hold the funeral now, and then back to living my life. No regrets, no use crying over what I can't have.

When I started this journal, when it came time for me to leave Boston, I realised that the only constant in life is change, and I keep thinking about how true that is. The only constant is change. All that matters is whose hands you hold as the world spins around you, ever shifting, taking you places you'd never thought would be so beautiful to see and know.

Sunday, November 17, 2002

Another 3 stories about Nashville

The man in charge of Vanderbilt University's almost $2 billion endowment was paid more than anyone else at a private college or university in 2000-2001, according to a survey being released today.

-"VU portfolio officer tops pay list", The Tennessean 11/17/2002, b1

Another 3 stories about Nashville.

Mars Music has begun the process of closing for good. Mars was the extension of Wal-Mart marketing into the realm of music supply, a warehouse type of store filled with every kind of complex sound machines down to the most ordinary of High School band equipment. Mars is going out of business owing everyone in the supply side tens of thousands of dollars. Worse, in their liquidation they are underpricing the smaller music stores dramatically, ensuring that their competitors have the worst sort of Christmas season possible.

They don't owe my family any money, but owe people who work with us money. As the biggest music store goes out of business nationwide, they cause big ripples in an all ready suffering small economy. I can't think of anyone who plays music professionally in the United States who won't be touched by Mars going under in some small way. Of course people who couldn't afford equipment before will be able to get it on the cheap as Mars dumps all its inventory in the market. I try to think about all this positively, but then I think of all the people this is going to hurt this season, and how Nashville is continuing to hurt. They say this winter will be cold, and all I can think of is the page of the OED where all the meanings of that one simple word - cold - are laid out before me, a blanket of small white specks like snow peaking through the even, mechanical type.

I came up to Nashville for a week - just one week, I told myself - to work for my father. Things are horrible lately, with Mars closing and the economy so bad. Dad has bought a 1966 GTO, and if we can finish restoring it by summer there will be a big payoff to help the family through the recession. So while dad was at the shop this week I learned how to sandblast, and worked on the chassis in the driveway, plastic around me and my little sister's turtle shaped sandbox between my legs to catch the rust and dirt that blew.

Since someone would be home to watch the workmen, it was decided that we could hire to independent contractors to finish off the bathroom in my parent's new-old house. The room needed new wallboard and a ceiling. The two workmen were, because this is Nashville, also musicians, and my father was able to pay them partially with store credit. I was to simply keep tabs on the workmen, to pop in and out of the house as I took breaks from sandblasting, to check their progress and to make sure they didn't rob us. I thought I did a pretty good job the first day, until I was cleaning up the garage that evening and found where they'd been using cocaine. When my back was turned from the garage, sandblasting - they were behind me, maybe four feet from me, doing lines from a small folded piece of red paper I found on the workbench. Having gotten high, the workmen had forgotten to hide their evidence.

My moral dilemma: do I tell them to go away with the bathroom half done, or never mention their drug use and get a finished bathroom? Well, we need the bathroom...the men came back the next day and I locked the garage from their use. When they left, my father and I found they'd scratched up the vintage tub we had just got refinished a month ago. Dad deducted the cost of fixing the tub from their pay, but I was just exasperated. Of course they scratched up that tub because they were working high. Finding your contractor's cocaine is Nashville. I'll never know why anyone other than the stupid super rich would ever touch the stuff. It can't be worth the cost - either in the price of the drug or what it does for you. They lost almost a day's pay due to a mistake they made because of cocaine, while they were working to get more money to buy cocaine. Besides, it's just so tacky.

When I was a very little girl, and I had just moved to Nashville, someone very smart went and built Dragon Park in a section of town called Hillsboro village. Dragon Park is a playground where a sea serpent made of concrete arches out over the ground in three loops with a long curving tail. The Dragon is perhaps 50 yards long (without straightening his loops out) and long ago tire swings hung under his two main arches, and a water fountain sprouted from part of his tail. Now the swings are gone and the fountain no longer works. The serpent is mostly covered in blue tile, but what really makes the dragon beautiful is that the children of Nashville were allowed to make mosaic pictures on its hide. I remember that each age group had a different theme they were supposed to make their pictures match. Older children did figures from fairy tales, mythology, and American history. My age group, the youngest, was asked to do sea forms, and I have a star fish immortalized on that mosaic dragon where the three bears march forever alongside knights, cowboys, and the odd depiction of George Washington staring out at a mermaid's breasts.

I went to see the Dragon with Christi and Sara this week. Their company cheered me, as did the company of Winn, Kati, Dinan, and the few others I've been lucky to see on a week where I've worked my body hard enough to make my shoulders ache by supper time. Friday was the most fun; Tony and Andrew and I went to see Harry Potter for free at a theater well known to us, and entered perhaps ten minutes before the anxious lines of waiting children, got the best seats, and hashed out the themes of the film for hours into the night. We laughed and gossiped at our favorite Mexican restaurant, and while I was with my friends I felt that the world was a beautiful place indeed, despite the coming winter.

read the first three Nashville stories

Saturday, November 02, 2002

Instructions for a Bad Mood

Instructions for a Bad Mood
written especially with the perpetually happy in mind

Working up a really bad mood takes some effort. Now many people think that one has to be born with a talent for being grumpy, and to these people I would say that while being born a screaming, sleepless baby certainly helps those of us in the business of being in a bad mood, everyone has within them the capacity to get into a really dark funk and stay there for as long as they'd like. For the really cheerful people out there who have often lamented their optimism in a gratingly chipper voice, I offer the following helpful instructions on how to work yourselves to a really dark state of despair:

1. Think about dreams deferred. The best way to get moody to is ruminate on life plans you've had but never fulfilled. While some big dreams - like becoming a mouseketeer, or the next Jacques Cousteau, or perhaps even that dream you had as a four year old of growing up to be Superman or a Kangaroo are clearly unattainable - the secret to really getting down is to think about the realistic dreams you had but couldn't fulfill because of circumstance or chance. Perhaps you wanted a college degree, but family problems kept you from completing your studies. Perhaps you'd like to travel more, but simply can't afford it. Maybe you wanted to be a fireman, but were rejected because of poor eyesight, weight, or illiteracy. It doesn't matter what failed dream you pick, so long as you really dwell on it. Ruminate on that dead dream. Bathe in its failure. This is the most basic form of self pity, and it's great for building the base of a serious funk.

2. Remember the significant other who let you down. Most bad mood rookies will take this to mean the lover who dumped you, but seriously grumpy people will know that this piece of advice is handy for more than just your post-breakup funks. This rule is exceptional when applied to family members, teachers, coaches, camp counselors...anyone, really, who promised you something that couldn't, or just wouldn't, remember to do. If you're into seriously advanced grumpiness, you can even apply this rule to the bus driver who was late that day it rained. Or that day when it was really hot, or heck, that day when you were not really inconvenienced. The point is, the bus driver was late. Get grumpy!

3. Criticize Yourself. Now some people think that the key to a really bad mood is to place blame upon others, but the pros know that the real blame for everything rests squarely on their own shoulders. Blaming other people for the woe in your life merely leads to a good mood again, because you can claim that nothing is your fault, and that you're simply a victim. Throw that victim talk into the trash can! The reason you don't get what you want out of life is all your own fault. The layoffs at your plant? It was all you, man. All 7,000 jobs. If only you had filed your paperwork faster, they would have never moved the plant to Mexico. Also, the dog was hit by a car because you owned the dog. And yes, you do know all about your parent's divorce, you homewrecker.

4. Think about the state of the nation. Bush is president. Think about that. George Bush Junior is President of the United State of America. It's permissible to cry. Then watch cable news networks all day. When you've seen the cycle repeat itself twice on one network, switch to another. With the current upswing in unemployment and crime, there's constant fodder on television for moodiness. Even if they're covering completely different stories, you should be good and grumpy after hitting just three stations, although if you're in a hurry, about 30 minutes of Fox news will make you pretty darn irate.

5. Compare yourself to others unfavorably. This works best if you have over-achieving relatives who are distant, so you only know about their successes without actually knowing about their very human downfalls. A great way to use this method for getting down is to read some of those really obnoxious holiday newsletters people put out with only the most positive things in them. If you can sustain the illusion that somewhere out there people are living a carefree, productive life while you languish in the hard work and drudgery of cleaning dishes everyday, you'll work yourself into a really fine bad mood. Sometimes sit coms are great for this, because people on TV always have spotless floors are are almost never seen scrubbing the toilet, as we all know everyone must do.

6. Be Creative. If you're still in a good mood after trying all five of the tips listed above, try to think of other things that get you down. You can result to the old standbys of Israel or Ireland if you're into "the whole world is shit" kind of funks, or if you're more of a local kind of person, and wish to concentrate on how bad your particular town might be, I would suggest thinking about the state of public education in order to get into "I hate this place" kind of evil feeling. To each very grumpy person his own brand of bad mood.

Now, as Oscar the Grouch would say, SCRAM!

Monday, October 28, 2002

Wonder Woman holds her breath.

Wonder Woman can hold her breath for a really long time.

Last weekend I attended a Halloween party thrown by my cousins Audrey and Jamie, whom I rent with just outside of Atlanta. They sent their small son, Colin, off to his grandmother's for the night and we totally did the house up in with streamers and fake blood and cardboard skeletons, witches and vampires. I made two cakes, both of them pumpkin-shaped: one chocolate, one of them a white cake with orange food coloring striping the layers. Around two dozen people were in attendance, and the costumes were pretty darn fabulous. I was Wonder Woman; Audrey was bad bunny Foo Foo, and Jamie was the good fairy, in mock drag, the funniest thing at the party.

I didn't know the party was going to happen here until a few days beforehand, so I hadn't time to invite anyone I might know from Tennessee - just as well, as it would have kept me from socializing with new people. But it was very much a party full of my cousin's friends, no one I knew very well at all. Audrey and Jamie are just a few years younger than me, and from a different social grouping. Being around their friends is incredibly good for me, because I have all those MTSU prejudices still ground into me. It's good for me to know that frat guys are OK, that the girls I naturally assume would hate me - girls who wear make up every day, girls who are high maintence and dress in nothing but name brands - are often quite nice.

In the time I've been back in the South, I've learned a lot of things other people take for granted. I'm learning how to be part of my extended family on an everyday basis. I'm learning to let myself be taken care of. I'm learning how not to criticize myself into the ground. Of course I thought my Wonder Woman costume was totally crappy. Of course half a dozen people stopped to compliment me on it, and ask me if I had done everything myself. One girl was actively a little jealous - she wanted to be Wonder Woman, but unable to find a costume, she switched to something else store bought. Being happy as the character in your homemade costume is better than being sad you had to go as your second choice.

Still, I'm ridiculously happy when I do get to see my own friends. Christi stopped by Sunday evening, and she was everything I miss about her. She was fresh off a weekend in the country at some Pagan gathering, wearing an old poet's shirt beneath overalls that weren't too clean. Her hair was under a bandanna, and little medallions hung around her neck. I hugged her with everything I had in me. I'm enjoying the new people I meet here in Atlanta - socially things are much easier here in the South than they were in New England - but I know exactly who I am still. I love the space here with my family, but I itch for my own type of place again, full of oddness and its own eccentricities. I would become a Pagan just to hang out at some of the gatherings they have in Atlanta, but of course I will always have the problem of disbelief with me. Sometimes I think Atheists are just born, that we have an incapacity for faith in the supernatural. Oh well.

There's still no word but delay from the CDC, where I interviewed three weeks ago. There is no word from the dozen retail applications I sent out, no word from the local public library system. There is word from Nashville, of course I could go work for my father's business again, and I probably will next week. I'm putting it off though, on pins and needles, just wanting any word from Atlanta at all. Anything. I want to make my way here, but the worst job market in 25 years refuses to co-operate.

So I'm waiting, here in Atlanta. I spend my week days in a perpetual state of anticipation, my heart pounding every time the phone rings, disappointed every single time it's another telemarketer or smiling when it's another friend calling with support. I hit bottom last week when the CDC said they were delaying their decision for another 7 days at least. I don't even care if I get the job there anymore; I just want to know what their decision will be. I spent Thursday papering the strip malls with applications. When a coffee house form simply asked for my name, number, and availability, and left the bottom half of the form empty with the instruction to be creative, I sat and wrote them a series of seven haiku on why they should hire me.

Maybe I'll know where my life is headed tomorrow. I surely don't know where I'm going today.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Things that I am.

Things that I am.

Most people who keep up a presence on the web have one of those "About Me" pages attached to their site. I've been posting to the internet regularly for over two years now, and I still don't have a page like that, nor do I feel the need to make one. I'm fully aware that most of the people who hit this site know me, and I'm more comfortable letting people who don't know me learn about my life through what I write.

But I love reading other people's personal information pages. What better form of voyeurism could there be? 'About me' pages tell you how a person really sees themselves, or at least their internet perception of themselves. The reason I still don't have a page like that, truthfully, is that in addition to thinking that not many people would read it, I'm lazy in my web design, and the whole point of this blog is to show how quickly my life changes from one day to the next. I'm a different person than I was two years ago, or even yesterday.

I love even the variation in the "about the author" sections of online diaries and blogs. These five are entirely different ,and their setup says as much about the person as what's in them.

Of course, Callie just has all those words on her main page to let you know who she is, but she might as well use her wishlist to tell you all about herself. Check her wishlist, and it's all there, just like when you read someone's bookshelf in their house. Up until a few weeks ago, I was way too shy to make a wishlist. Then I did, but was too embarrassed to mail it to anybody. Well, part of having an internet blog is learning to share parts of yourself you normally don't show. So there.

More I feel like sharing today, in the spirit of About Me pages:

I'm an atheist, but I don't claim to understand the universe.

I have a thing for vocabulary.

I have a lot of adventures. I don't understand how people can live boring lives when the world is so large and full of interesting things.

I believe in the ACLU, and I'm a little afraid of people who don't understand why the ACLU is necessary.

I have an offbeat sense of humor, and I'm prone to inappropriate laughter.

I am anti-war.

Once upon a time I lived in a land far away.

I love being in crowds.

I love my family, and I really like watching the children I'm related to. They're a lot of fun.

I've made peace with my inner geek, and sometimes even revel in my nerdlyness.

I once thought about becoming an anarchist, but only because they're the most organized group of dissenters around.

I once had a supervisor write on my work evaluation: "Elizabeth has a highly developed sense of irony."

Of course, I gave up on the anarchists, because I can't commit to any one line of political philosophy. I suppose this is the same as with most Americans, only I'm more aware of my own contradictions.

I have problems committing to anything except that which I am solely responsible for. I won't even commit to reading the same comic books from month to month, because I'd be letting someone down if I didn't pick them up on time.

This often leads to complications in my romantic life.

But I'm OK with that. Except when I'm not.

I have amazing friends.

I like baking cakes and pies for loved ones probably as much as I enjoy eating them.

I have a Master's of Science. That doesn't mean I get to use it as often as I'd like.

Despite my age and education level, there's nothing I enjoy more than a good afternoon with some Juvenile Literature, like E. L. Koingsberg or Robert Cormier or even the mice of Redwall. I hope I never grow out of that.

I am an adult, though.

I admit to reveling in my vices. Once Aral and I tried to count up how many rules of society we broke in one week, and we found that we covered most of the Christian Commandments and the seven deadly sins on a fairly regular basis. We able to accomplish most of this without actually leaving our apartment, or even really changing our daily routines.

I think that's enough disclosure.

I nominate Dust as ruler of the About Me web pages, because his personal stuff comes in five or six different well organized parts, each with its own design.

See, because we're on the internet, I can make up my own awards whenever I want. And even make a button to go with them, as if that meant anything. Man, I LOVE the Internet sometimes.

Sunday, October 20, 2002

because I was an arrow

Because I was an arrow

I keep remembering how Kati and I sat on the damp brown earth outside the storytelling tents in Jonesborough, Tennessee, back at the storytelling festival. I want to write about the restored buildings and the town and how I feel about the Smithsonian satellite museum program, but for some reason these words are stuck deep down inside me and won't quite come out. Lots of other stuff happened just before and after the storytelling festival that somehow seems to have jumped line in front of that account - other stories want to be written, other things want to be said. I've posted several times now since my birthday, and the Jonesborough story still won't come out at all. It doesn't seem fair that I'm slighting one of the most beautiful parts of the mountains I've ever seen - the hills around it were so green, the people there seemed so happy to be part of the oral tradition. And yet the story of storytelling won't work itself out to me.

Other things want to be written.

I've been writing a lot the past two weeks, which is good after a long drought of words. I'm working on a scary story for Halloween, and some personal stuff I won't be sad if I don't finish. My romantic life, dormant so long in New England, has exploded here again in the South, and along with a healthy interest in romance comes all the problems associated with the oldest of conflicts.

But these problems at least give me enough internal pressure to write fiction again. Pressure in this way is at least productive, which is good, because of course my job searching has been anything but productive lately. I spend most of my days here in Atlanta of late simply lounging around the house and occasionally watching the toddlers that I'm glad are part of my life. I wait for the phone to ring with a job offer or with an invitation to another interview that just won't come.

There are plenty of things I could write about this week - for instance, how autumn is here at last, in Atlanta, reminding me of the New England Summer. I could write about how Laura and Audrey and I all dyed our hair last weekend for fun, or about how half my Uncle Doug's neighborhood is getting laid off by Delta airlines. The kids are an endless source of cute little kid stories, but I'm not going to write about any of that today. I've got phrases for fiction that are rolling around my head begging to be let out, and I have to go and let them run.

I can't write descriptive stories this week. This week I'm all kinds of fragments of fiction. That's not always such a bad thing, and in fact I welcome the onslaught of original prose again. Because I was an arrow - little things like that phrase tumble through my mind, and I finally am comfortable enough again to let these thoughts out onto paper.

Friday, October 11, 2002


Morristown Inspiration

On the night of my birthday, Kati, Dust and I turned our heads upwards to the warm mountain sky - and for the first time in three years, I saw the stars in all their glory, all of them without interference from civilizing electric light, an uninterrupted blanket of infinite possibilities unconceivable distances from the parking lot where I stood with my friends.

Dust hummed an old cartoon song, We're all tiny little specks, about the size of Mickey Rooney…and Kati chuckled. When we parked the car at Panther Creek State Park, we had been surrounded by wild deer; a heard was off in the field just near us, and one straggler was not much more than a hundred yards from the car.

We were in Morristown.

I had just spent four weeks in Nashville. After one week in Nashville, I'm ready to leave. After two weeks in Nashville, I have trouble sleeping. After three weeks on this trip, I had dropped 15 pounds. After four weeks, I was little better than a feral child, and so, for once, I was eager to run with my friends into the mountains, far away from the kind of urban environment I love best. I spent my birthday - my whole birthday, from midnight on Friday until the next mindnight doing whatever the hell I damn well pleased without regards to the consequences. Of course there have been repercussions for that. But while it lasted, it was pretty fabulous. I'll be cleaning up the mess I made for a while - apologizing to Alestar for knocking on Tennessee too much, for instance - but on that day, for some reason, I had absolutely no impulse control.

Every once in a while, I suppose it has to happen.

After Kati, Dust and I were shoo'ed out of the state park with all those stars, Dust took us on a car tour of Morristown. We saw both High Schools, and the Rose Center where they celebrate the heritage of the area, and then I asked to see the spot where Dust almost died as a teen LARP'ing. He pulled a fake gun on a cop. Ask him about it sometime.

The place where Dust almost died is downtown Morristown, and it's beautiful and eerie and empty on the first Saturday night in October. I fell in love with the place, hard, which is sad because I don't know if I'll ever see it again. It's a main drag like lots of others built in Mountain towns back when trains still carried people. A wide avenue opens up into lots of brick storefronts, some with facades, a couple with turrets. Glass fronts are on some buildings, and all have upper floors where the shopkeepers once lived. Victorian brick structures here been restored, and lack the crumbling look and cracked paint of their sister towns nearer to Chattanooga, or in the forgotten pockets of West Virginia. Old fronts once kept up by 5 and dimes and stores that sold fedoras are now occupied by lawyers, who are proud to have such big fine offices. As much as I dislike lawyers, I was glad to see these nice old spaces still in use.

But the best thing about Morristown is the elevated walkways.

They have sidewalks not only along the ground (as proper main streets always do) but also one story up. Dust said it was an idea to encourage more shops - old Victorian buildings with their second stories vacant were unattractive, and the city thought that with the double decker sidewalks they could encourage double decker businesses. It was a hip idea, and made the place look pretty damn cool. I fantasized about street festivals with people dancing on the upper walkways.

But the upper deck was full of nothing but ghost stores, deadly empty, as Kati and I saw them that night.

I wanted to buy all the old storefronts, and I became rabidly envious of Devon and Dust for getting to grow up in this place. The night was warm, and a lonely musician beat drums wildly outside a restaurant calling to customers who never came. It was just the three of us, the drummer, and the warm night wind on the streets of Morristown. The place reminded me of an empty movie lot. Kati thought it would be an awesome place to shoot a pic she and Michael had been talking about. Dust reminded her that Sam Rami shot "The Evil Dead" in Morristown, and told us that pictures of all the cast were in a local restaurant. Because downtown Morristown is small, he was able to point to the place as he told us.

Kati and I fantasized about winning the lottery and setting up a publishing house in one vacant building, and a Powell's style bookstore in another, and here would be our coffee house, and here our kick butt toy store, and right next to that an awesome non-profit community action center…

We took one final look down to center of town on an upper railing before we left the main drag to go eat at Waffle House. And during that one last look - which certainly couldn't have lasted more than a minute - a hundred different story ideas flashed through my mind. Thousands of alternate lives, alternate endings, tens of people I made up on the spot came to me. I nearly fell off the railing smiling. There's something in Morristown. The spirit of muse. Or maybe, after four weeks in Nashville, I was cracking up from all the stress. Or maybe, since this was my first full night of escape, my creativity switches were getting flipped back on.

Who knows? Morristown. Morristown. Under the moon, under the stars, on my birthday. I never thought I could like someplace so small. Only maturity kept me from stripping, running naked through it, and howling at the moon. Maybe it's a good thing I was never a child there, after all.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

For Aral

Important Enough, Aral

I usually don't use my blog to express a lot of personal feelings. In this journal, and in the one I kept for two years in Boston, I mainly recount events that happen in my life, and how I felt about those events. On rare occasions I would just let loose and bitch when things got tough, but I always tried to contain those rants within a story. I didn't start out my blogging activities in the traditional blog sense. I started out using this format to catalog the letters I was sending home to people I loved far away. I wanted to let my friends know I hadn't forgotten them, and that they could check up on me whenever I wanted too.

But of course, the internet has this effect on people of drawing them into a larger community. And so my blog changed slowly over time from an account of someone in grad school in Boston to the account of my personal self. While I still tried to document my adventures and everyday life in the city of my dreams, I soon ended up posting haiku, the details of my never-ending quest for stability, and more and more personal facts.

It happens.

But that's not my point today. My point is that this entry is for Aral.

See, I started out blogging about events rather than about myself because Aral and I are a lot alike. We're totally bent on this idea of self-sufficiency, because that's what we think it takes to be a kick-ass person. We're total type-A personalities who've accomplished a lot in our lives. And when we were room mates, we'd totally spot each other on it. Like when we made a 'zine and I thought it wasn't good enough (because nothing I do is ever good enough in my eyes), Aral would be there to say "just calm the fuck down, Elizabeth, it's beautiful". And when she'd be going way, waaay overboard to help somebody who didn't deserve that kind of attention, I'd look right at her and say "You don't have to do that. You're not obligated to help this person."

But of course, I'd still think that my work wasn't good enough, and Aral would lend another helping hand to someone who'd step on her feelings again. Because that's who we are. Over achievers. Type A's. Kick-Ass womyn who think we can always do better than we did. We're driven to an excess of success - actually, an excess of everything. We not only pride ourselves on being more accomplished, but in cooking better, reading more, and when we have our vices we enjoy them in a big way. We are glittering, shooting stars that hope our shining brightness keeps everyone from looking at us too hard - because if you do look too hard, well, we're afraid you'll see the flaws we know are there.

We are the type of people who walk a tightrope of our own expectations. When we don't meet our own high standards, we fall - but usually we can catch ourselves - by the skin of our fingertips -

We both attacked grad school with a blinding intensity that made our classmates scratch their heads. I completed a two year program in 18 months, and Aral's thesis was original, insightful, and above and beyond anything anyone else in her program was onto at that time.

I'm running about 5 months ahead of Aral on the post-grad school curve because I finished sooner, have been looking for a job longer. We completed our education in the second worst economy in American history, and so grad school hasn't been the magic ticket to self-suffiecncy that we thought it would be. We've both flipped out. And we both have a tough time asking for help. But she knows help is out there - it's just probably not in Boston. That's the thing about the city of my dreams that I had to come to terms with. No matter how much I loved the place, I'm not a New Englander. My friends and family don't live there. So when I fell, there weren't always enough people to pick me back up.

But of course, my friends and family were with me the whole time, online, on the phone, in letters and sometimes even in person. I was welcomed back in a big circle of support and love that had at times been so intense I'd hide from it. I don't like being taken care of. I want to take care of other people, because that's the personality Aral and I both have - we're caretakers.

But it's OK to be taken care of sometimes. Hell, it's nice, even when it's frustrating. I love you, Aral. I know you know that. I just wish I could help - because like you, I want to take care of things. But I can't take care of anybody right now. I'm learning how to let other people take care of me. Of course, I'm going to learn how to do that better than anybody else. I will overachieve at this as well, I will become a bright and glittering star at learning how to be loved in this way, in letting people help me.

It's probably one of the hardest lessons I've ever had to learn. But the truth is, I'm still a Kick-Ass womyn. I'm still someone everyone should watch out for, I'm still myself. I still want to be that shining star high above everyone's heads on the tightrope. But you know, the whole time I was up there, doing acrobatics no one else would dare? My own brightness blinded me to the net that was ready and waiting, and caught me when I finally fell.

Oh, god, I'm turning into a Hallmark card. Screw what I just said Aral, and go by yourself a big bottle of cheap red wine. Then call, if you can afford it. And if nothing works out by December, maybe we can get an apartment together here in Atlanta. It'll have kick ass air-conditioning, half the rent you're paying now, and Mr. Puck can hunt your water glasses again.

And just in case some of my other friends are reading this, look in here for the Thank-You. Because if I haven't said it before, I meant too. I'm not good at being taken care of, and I know it - gaah, I'm bad at this...

Monday, October 07, 2002

Home Again

I'm 26, but really 30

Last weekend I escaped Nashville, driving with first with Christi and then with Kati way up into the Southern Mountains, past the nuclear plants and Knoxville and into that part of Appalachia that is one small town after another crumbling since the railroad stopped carrying people. It was my birthday, it was my escape from four weeks of work I needed but hated, it was time to lay around with friends and go to the Jonesborough storytelling festival.

I had a lot of fun.

Dust was back at his parents to see us for the weekend too. He's been away at WVU dedicating his life to art, and that can get pretty lonely. But Friday night and Saturday morning he had me, Kati, Devon, Aisling and Alestar all around him. We were all sitting on the couch Saturday morning when he just looked around and said "I feel loved".

I felt loved too. I had the most rock on birthday weekend. Dinan and Ron gave me a super fancy chocolate cake in Nashville before I left, and Christi passed me a candle, a necklace, and a little box with mother of pearl in it from Mexico. I had lunch with Cairy and spoke briefly with Jette. Dust gave me mix CD's and Kati drove me home to Atlanta, staying over night, watching an indy movie and writing poetry with me. I was hugged whenever I asked for it. We talked about gender and comic books and food and relationships and the growing unrest. We listened to odd music.

I had made the decision to turn 30 this year instead of 26, because this year has been so ass anyway I might as well have my midlife crisis now, and get it over with. Plus, I can turn 26 a few years from now instead of 30. So much happened on October 5th, the actual day of my birthday, that I think I'll break it up into two posts - this one and one about Jonesborough and Morristown. The towns deserve better treatment than I can give them today - I'm preparing for an interview tomorrow so I'm wound up and busy.

I will now say something nice and true about everyone I saw this weekend:

After spending almost four days straight with Kati, I was still in awe of her.

Michael is one of the best husbands I've ever encountered. There should be a medal given to people who are talented in the art of marriage.

Christi is absolutely in charge of her own happiness, and I love that.

Dust is loved because he makes himself loveable. And making yourself loveable can be pretty darn hard sometimes.

Alestar fascinates me, and, let's face it, she kicks ass.

Devon always looks likes she's dancing no matter how she moves.

Dustin's family is incredible - quite possibly the most functional group of related persons I've ever met.

I'm glad to be home. I can't explain how nice it was to come back to Atlanta again. This new interview is going to totally be mine. I will dance on it. I will impress the hell out of people. I will kick professional ass. I can do that now. I'm 30.

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Girly Chess

Girly Chess

Abigail wrote and performed the following song for Sara and I Monday night:

you're boring
y'all are boring
y'all are boring
y'all are boring
{end chorus}

so very, very boring
when someone made up the word boring
they were thinking of you
and chess

chess is boring
and so are you
you're so very, very boring
y'all are boring, boring, boring
and stupid too
because you play chess
and chess is stupid and boring

{repeat chorus}

Ah, my youngest sister, the burgeoning 3-minute artist. After about 4 renditions of this song, Sara and I locked her inside the house so we could finish our game of chess, which Abby had been diligently trying to disrupt as we played on the side porch.

My teenage sister, Sara, has always been a girly-girl, but when I taught her chess at age 9, she took right to it and has never stopped secretly loving the game. Because I was the neighborhood babysitter around our old house, I taught most of the kids chess and she had plenty of others to play it with. Now that she's moved, there's no one else her age that knows how that she'd socialize with. High School is just sort of like that; I'm sure that once she gets into college she can reveal herself as a chess player once again without fear of recrimination.

Of course we don't play chess with a timer, or with any strategy books. We play what could only be called Girly Chess, on a tiny pink and black marble board I bought in Mexico years ago. The pastel pink & black marble pieces were never terribly well made, and after years of rough treatment by children's hands have now been replaced with little pieces Sara and I made out of Sculpy clay. We have taken to making chess pieces for fun because there's so much room for interpretation on those six different forms of Rook, Knight, Bishop, Royalty and Pawns. Our Girly Chess pieces are filled with glitter, and come in lots of different colors. Sara's are especially cute without remorse.

In Girly Chess, we openly mock each other, but allow take-backs of moves. It's common while one person is deliberating to play with the pieces you've captured in a taunting manner. For example, if you have both the knights, you could make them kiss each other and sort of prance them around on your side of the board, while saying loudly "Oh, look how happy the horses are to be together again! Why, they're playing in the grass over here, so very happy not to have to be on the board any more!"

The point of Girly Chess is not only to capture the king, but to really grind in the capture of other pieces as well, so that halfway through both of you are laughing so hard you can hardly play. Girly Chess is about being a cunning trickster, a bluffer, a Coyote out to take down your opponent's court and make them love you for it. Sara and I are evenly matched on the board, but Abby's yet to grow the patience for it.

Monday, September 30, 2002


That Dog Won't Hunt

My youngest sister, Abigail, came into possession of a small dog recently. She got the pet from a local no-kill shelter, and regards this dog not only as her baby, but her most treasured fashion accessory. The dog immediately acquired a purple collar with rhinestones, which Abby attached to a purple leash that matched her outfit for the day. The family christened the dog Juanita Holmes, in honor of her formerly homeless status.

Juanita is a Fiest. That's a small squirrel hunting dog; she was dropped at the shelter because she wouldn't hunt. My other sister, Sara, and I are also convinced that Juanita is the most mentally handicapped dog we've ever met.

I should state here that I've never been a big fan of small dogs. I like dogs; I've had several rather awesome dogs in my past, including an Australian Shepard named Belle who lived for over twelve years and was one of the neighborhood's most beloved pets. Belle was so smart that she actually taught herself how to open doorknobs, by leaning her weight on them and rubbing her head against the knob until it turned. Of course, if the door opened inward, she couldn't make it happen, but it was still a pretty big accomplishment for a dog.

Juanita though, is a whole different type of dog. She's an indoor lap thing of very little brain. Because she tried to eat the toilet paper in the bathroom when we weren't home, Dad and I built her a dog run in the back yard. It's the best dog run possible, with a lead that puts her all over the back yard, is inside a fence that protects her from bigger animals, and has a spacious doghouse at one end filled with toys and blankets. But despite being outside in the doggie lap of luxury, if Juanita isn't inside the house, right up under you, she cries. Her crying is a high pitched whine that can be heard for blocks.

Juanita has also failed to grasp simple rules of physics; despite being 6 months old, she still runs and slides out of control on the wood floor inside the house, causing her to smack into walls and doors with some force - three weeks after being with us. She chews on everything, and has put a hole in the couch, destroyed a plastic lawn chair, and will chew on your hands while you pet her. She will strain the limits of her leash so violently that she'll walk on her hind legs to get to something, making horrible choking noises (and no, we don't use a choke chain on her). But the worst thing is that she pees in the house without remorse.

We've a bell on the inside side door of the house that the cat uses to signal us that it wants outside. The cat hits the bell, and someone opens the door for her. The dog learned about the bell after a couple of weeks, but only rings it when she wants to chase squirrels or small children. Often, after being outside on a leash or the dog run for over an hour, she'll pee in the hallway minutes after entering the house.

I don't call her Juanita. I call her "little Miss Pees in the Hall". Sometimes I think the dog is mocking me while I clean up after it. She peed again in the dining room just two hours after I mopped it with disinfectant.

Sunday, after some particularly bad behavior, Sara and I went to put her on the dog run, and while doing so attempted to lay hands on the dog and faith heal it.

"Lord", we both intoned "Drive the deamons out of this dog! Be Gone, Legion!"

Juanita just drooled and chewed on Sara's hands. Despite being an atheist, I am convinced this dog is Of The Devil. So far it's managed to pee on every bed except the top bunk bed. And what really makes me sad is that every time I visit Nashville, I'll have to put up with this dog for the next fifteen years.

Saturday, September 28, 2002

Randomly Still in Nashville.

Sometimes I just can't believe the unstable, constantly shifting thing my life has become in the past 9 months. Despite all plans to the contrary, I now find myself in Nashville for the fourth week in a row - tending a small dog I despise, shipping a historic guitar to Hong Kong, and dating a member of Nashville's landed gentry quite by accident.

It's like the hand of fate enjoys slapping me around or something.

Up until last December, I led a quite orderly, planned life. I was a student who often had up to three part time jobs all at once. I kept a planner with events scheduled a year or more in advance. My rise from a disgruntled mall worker in semi-rural Tennessee to a grad student in Boston working for Harvard was the result of living a rather carefully controlled life according to long term goals and lots of hard work.

Then I finished school, and found I had no goals left to reach (other than at some point in the future becoming a mother). I also had no full time job, no money, and had graduated in the worst economic decline in 25 years. I decided that given my options, I would deliberately go on about being aimless for a while. I dyed my hair blue, and spent the summer with my roommate Aral eating pie, collecting unemployment, and getting inebriated on the roof of our neuvo-brownstone.

Things have just spun all out of control since last winter. And while I'm now making a good deal of money and still trying to set myself up for good in Atlanta, I have no good idea from one day to the next how things are going to go. And it's dawned on me: I hate being aimless. Screw this. I have an interview with the CDC in a week and a half, and I'm actually starting to get excited about working for the Federal Government. I need order. I need structure. I need my books in order on my shelves. I want a long term plan.

Which is exactly why Nashville is so bad for me. Nashville is all these shifting layers of things - on one street, you're in the city, but two blocks over you're in the country. Nashville is rich, Nashville is poor, and I'm pretty sure that short blonde woman jogging down the street the other day with two armed guards was Tipper Gore. Last Sunday's paper had a whole editorial page dedicated to why people in Tennessee don't care about education - and no one protested, they all just shrugged their shoulders in agreement. The treasures of the city's formerly healthy music business slide through my hands into boxes marked for other countries, and our house sits next to one where Waylon Jennings used to live - the street that dead ends in front of us is Amanda. No one here listens to that stuff, not even me. I am poor enough to drift here for just one more week - being an undertaker for Music City pays and pays and pays.

There isn't enough money or liquor in the world though, that could keep me here past this Friday though. No Sir. No way, no how. It's my birthday weekend, and Friday I'm riding up to the Jonesboro storytelling festival, to laugh and eat and drink with Kati, Christi, and Dust. I will see all the stars from a mountain is Mosheim. I will hug an old teacher. I will refrain from mocking the Pagans, and with any luck, I'll make it through this birthday - nine months after my graduation, with my life nothing like I thought it would be. Nine months - it's like I've given birth to an entire year of wandering. I always thought I'd graduate and start to get all domestic, or maybe get my novel published, or at least fall in love. But nothing ever happens the way you want it too.

I started a casual dating relationship with a friend of Tony and Andrew's. Neither of us expects it to develop into anything - once you get past your early twenties, you can almost tell right from the beginning if something's serious or not, and this is nothing, just two people who can have intelligent discussion, flirt, and hang out with each other. He's got perfect grammar, his paperbacks are in alphabetical order by author, he's 27 and went to Montgomery Bell Academy here in town - where the rich kids go. I've never known an MBA boy before - that crowd tends to stick to its own. The guy I'm dating is part of Nashville I've always been aware of, but never actually experienced.

This guy rates about a 7.5 to an 8.2 on the scale of Joshyness, my own personal scale of men. I developed this scale using the standard of Josh, a guy I relentlessly crushed on without ever dating. See, Josh was a 10 on this scale because I never saw his apartment, never got him naked, never heard about his deep neuroses. He remained a perfect and unattainable goal - distant and beautiful and brilliant always. I never had to fight with him about whose turn it was to call. We never had a huge argument. Actually, men in my life lose a point on the Joshyness scale just for failing to know more than one language or not having traveled outside the US enough. And I'm OK with that. The scale is irrational, arbitrary, and constantly changing. It reminds me of how uncertain romantic relationships are. I look at those around me in long term relationships and notice what a constant struggle even the most permanent of bonds can be, and count myself lucky to date anyone at all. As adults, it's just lucky to run into someone who's on the same wavelength as you every once in a while. So the two of us like to hang out. It's too bad he's a Nashvillian through and through, and I'm destined for Atlanta, beautiful, steamy, and much more structured.

Dating is random. Nashville is random. I'm random. This post was random. I'm sorry.

Saturday, September 21, 2002

"the past is the past, the dead are the dead"

-partial inscription on the monument to The Battle of Nashville, located on the corner of Battlefield and Granny White Pike, Nashville, TN

Three Short Stories about Nashville, with an Addendum.


Once, in a rare Nashville snowstorm back in the 80's, a group of my father's friends went sledding drunk. This is a great Middle Tennessee tradition, sledding drunk and walking about at night - it snows enough to sled so infrequently that when the city is covered by the white stuff more than five inches thick, everything shuts down and everyone parties. The guys were road musicians, restless in winter, all around their late 20's. One of them, S., got it in his mind to climb the monument to the Battle of Nashville. It was on top of the hill everyone was sledding down on, and very, very cool. The monolith has the spirit of youth, a young man clothed only by a strategically placed sash, holding back two heavily muscled charging horses - the steeds of war. On top of the monolith is a male angel all robed - a concession in this city to God, who has to be over everything, even the spirit of youth and the steeds of war.

Anyway, S. was going to climb the statue, but he was drunk, and when he got halfway up, he found out the brass horses were covered in ice, unlike the rest of the white marble monument. S slipped and fell - but instead of falling all ten or twelve feet to the ground and bouncing harmlessly like drunken musicians normally do, he got caught - right between the legs! His friends tried to get him down, but he was seriously injured and seriously stuck - hanging by his crotch, the horses of war finally getting their revenge on the spirit of youth. This was a few years before 911 emergency services, so the fact that a fire truck and an ambulance came was a big deal, and drew a crowd, even in the middle of the night. S was seriously hurt, in pride and in body - but a few years later he did have a little girl, so I suppose he was all right after all.

Last week I followed the directions of two friends out to a gutted house near Hillsboro, so that I could be introduced the the Vampire court of NashVegas. It wasn't scary at all - after all, Live Action Role Playing, in the hands of adults, is usually more like a party than a game. But I was impressed by the formality of the court, and in order to stay and have fun, I took on an alternate personality of my own. Having watched far too much Sopranos in the past week, I became a burned out drug dealer with an itchy trigger finger who was new in town - it was best to play a newbie on the scene just so my character could make it through the night alive. I became a Caitiff, a clanless, so I wouldn't be a threat to anybody, and acted rather slow, keeping an unlit cigarette in my mouth to keep myself from slipping out of character. I found it was fun to pretend I had a gun in my waistband, and that helped me hold myself differently. After hanging out in the main parlor of the Victorian style Vampire club for an hour or so, the doorman, Kai, a Caitiff unusual for his high status, tapped me on the shoulder and took me into the back room, where I was formally introduced to the Prince.

The Vampire Prince of Nashville is a Russian, and in a darkened room he sat with his two high sheriffs, a favored childe, the court gossip, and the Seneschal - the second to the throne. The Prince himself was in an expensive suit, and could have passed for any CEO around town. His sheriffs looked uncomfortable in their suits, huge men that in real life could pass for any redneck bar bouncers. His childe was your typical young businessman in waiting, the kind of guy your mom would want you to bring home. The court gossip was a young woman in a reserved ball gown, and the Seneschal was actually my friend Tony in drag, playing a french fop named Guillome.

Kai presented myself and another newcomer (actually a known player with a new character) to the Prince, and I was told I'd be tolerated at the court. I kept my head down, my answers short, and my character survived the evening - providing me with some of the best people watching I've had in the past two weeks. Nashvillians that are normally DJ's, state workers, bank tellers, mall workers - the house was full of these, vamped out for Saturday night. Women in ball gowns, in black plastic, in goth kid rave gear. Men in business suits, men who could pass for your Sunday School teacher, men in glittery club gear. Smiles filled with fangs, laughs with pointy teeth. Kai, the Caitiff who spoke with me, was the only one in stereotypical "kid vampire" gear - and his character took the time to hang with mine, to explain the subtleties of the court's interactions. I witnessed one big LARP fight outside, and at the end of the night, in front of an assembled court, someone had their right hand cut off - and stored in a jar, so he couldn't regenerate it until he had fallen back into favor.


Sunday I was working with my father, and I found the LARP expierence very valuable. We had gotten a call from a former road manager who had some stuff to sell - that day, for cash. Dad never goes on such buys alone, and though I didn't tell him, I found it valuable to pretend, once again, that I had a gun. We met the seller in the parking lot of my dad's business, and he was there not only with an amp, but with meorabilia from one of my favorite early 90's grunge bands to sell. I immeadiately felt crappy - there's only one reason a guy like that needs cash, right away, on a weekend night and is willing to sell his favorite stuff for. I noticed him eyeing me skittishly, and I realised that by the way I held myself and smiled that he thought I really did have a gun! I wasn't holding my hands in any particular way, but it was all about my stance and my bearing, shadowing dad - usually I just stand far back and wait to be told what to lift or check.

The guy handed us a gold album, signed by a big artist - not one of his guys, but a limited run piece from a heavy metal band he must have worshipped growing up. He also had some band posters from back in the day, and I was further saddened. In 1993 he had been with one of my favorite bands, and now he was handing over stuff for quick cash on a Sunday night in Nashville. Dad was fair with him, and I know he'll be back - he's on the long slow slide away from everything, and I don't know what'll stop it. This was the first time I'd seent his sort of behavior from the musicains that I loved in High School, the Seattle crew - mostly because they stick to the West Coast and all. In the past few years I've grown used to selling off pieces of Music City that represent parts of my youth, but this was something different, something a little closer to my heart, something from my own personal love of art. And I'm selling it on e-bay.


I'm in Nashville this week when I thought I'd be in Atlanta. I'm going back home soon enough though. Christi and Kati and I went to Fido's the other night, the coffee shop that was Jones Pet Store when I was growing up, and after that Kati and I roamed around Dragon Park till a cop kicked us out. The park was very comforting to the both of us, and together we crawled into the huge cement pipe I used to hang out in as a kid. We talked and I shared my 6-year-old self's safe place with her, my concrete pipe that I loved, protected by my dragon, the big ceramic sculptue nearby. I needed the comfort of both my friends and my safe place this week, hell, this month, as I still find myself jobless, rootless, and far too dependant on others. Things are odd, and I need to leave this town soon, despite the money I'm making.

Thursday, September 19, 2002

Last Week in Nashville.

After photographing about 100 toy trains for sale on e-bay, I took up PA'ing for my father's business again while in town. It's actually somewhat interesting work - he repairs and restores vintage amplifiers and studio equipment here in town. Today we visited the home of a songwriter client who's rather successful, and I got to see one of those cool Blue Dog paintings up close for the first time. My duties as a personal assistant to my father mainly consist of keeping an updated list of clients and jobs handy, answering the phone, lifting heavy equipment, and photographing equipment, and organising my father's extreamly unorganised office. We drive around Nashville visiting studios and go to dad's shop where musicians come to hang out and peek at the flow of equipment leaving town. My father's shop sells pieces of the former Music City to Europe, guitars to collectors who will never play them, and recording equipment once worth tens of thousands of dollars for a tenth of the price for home studios.

Everyone talks about how slow things have been here in Nashville, and Gaylord entertainment is regularly villified by the clients we encounter. There is a general feeling by the men of my father's generation that they were the last guys to make their living in Nashville from the biz - and I think I probably agree with them. This place quit being Music City at least five years ago, and the usual boom and bust of Country Music, so dependably popular every 10 years or so, was marked this cycle by a hit country album that had nothing to do with the city, and wasn't even played on the radio. The Cohen brothers were really on to something with their soundtrack that showed everyone how far Nashville had drifted beyond musical credibility. Like all the old Opryland themepark rides, the music of music city got boxed up and shipped out for good some time ago - it's still around, but it doesn't belong to Nashville anymore.

Things I had forgotten about Nashville came flooding back to me this week - my two years in Boston had robbed me of some things I can't believe I would forget about the city I spent so much time in as a kid.

Things That Are Nashville:

All the shops in the Village close at 5 or 6

The sewers overflow every time it rains (and you can smell them)

If the turn signal's on, it was on when they bought the car

Never give the drummer speed

Don't look older men in the eye, you're a lady

Electrons always want to go to ground - even if they have to go through you

Public nudity is fun

Fat Mo's


People who walk on the road even if there just happens to be a sidewalk

Chess played by bikers on the porch of Bongo Java

Snotty Vandy boys drinking coffee in front of Fido's (snearing about stupidsoutherners)

Veggie Subs from Pizza Perfect

Gross-out "he died for you" tee shirts

Open, fairly public drug use

Hookers being rounded up (again)/famous brothels being cleaned up (again)

The bargain bin where Christian Rock goes to die

Fried Green Tomatoes at The Cooker

"fixin' to"

Fried Chicken and Barbeque Sandwiches sold in gas stations

Muscian's Hours - 11ish to 7ish

Also, President Bush came to Nashville last week, and most of my friends went. I had to work, and was quite bummed about not getting to protest here in the middle of the GOP bible belt. Ah, well, such is life. Dinan, Dinan's mom, Kati, and Callie were there for me. Of course the local news only interviewed one of the 10 Arab-Americans there to protest the whole Israel/Palestine situation, and completely ignored the 200 or so average Tennesseans milling around, angry about our leadership in general. Poo on television news. Well, me protesting in Tennessee would have completely mortified my mother anyway.