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.