Tuesday, May 27, 2003

My life is a Twenty-footer

My father carefully backed up my little Toyota in the driveway, waited for my signal, and then rammed the right front bumper into a tree stump four or five times.

"Is it straight yet?"
"How about now?"
"Two or three more times should do it, Dad. You've got to hit the tree just a little harder."

A lady walking her dog in the street stopped to stare at us. The upper middle class neighborhood in Nashville where mom and dad moved a couple of years ago is unused to my father's type of car repair habits, such as ramming fenders into trees to straighten them, or his wont of staying up until 2 in the morning with a 12-pack and a can of industrial solvent, stripping the paint off another muscle car. He had two teenage boys helping him this last time, and when they would forget his warnings about the strength of the solvent, there would be swearing an a quick run to the water jug to wash the acids off themselves before any scarring could occur. I offered the teens long sleeve shirts, but they declined; they were far too "manly" to worry about chemical burns.

As you may have guessed, I was in Nashville briefly last week. I was also in a wreck, but dad was able to make my car a "20-footer:" again; that is to say, from 20 feet away it looks OK. In the dark. With my glasses off. The right headlight is now mismatched, and held on by an unholy mix of JV weld and duct tape. It works because the wires are spliced together, and the fender is back to something like a straight shape after our session with the tree.

I returned to Georgia with my teen-age sister on hand. She's going to help me move into my new place, and I'm helping her in other small ways. So far all we've managed to figure out about each other is that we're evenly matched in darts, and that I can be rather mean sometimes. This last bit of information was not new to either of us. Neither was the fact that we're both dirt poor. She may come live with me at some point in the future. We both find this a terrifying and thrilling prospect. It would alter both our lives substantially. The next two weeks is sort of a dry run, an exploration of possibilities.

Just before I went to Nashville, I went to the ocean, and fished with my Grandfather. It was all predators and no prey; we caught sharks and stingrays and I learned that we shouldn't catch blue crab at all this year, they were expecting the numbers to be down again. The numbers are down again. That phrase covers a lot in my life right now.

I hung out with Abby. I saw Skeet, and he had the best haircut I've seen on him in years; I missed out on seeing Cairy because there wasn't time. I negotiated future roommate-ness with Ron and Dinan. Christi and I ran around a bit, called on Winn. I dropped in on Kati & Michael for about 20 minutes. And that's all the people I had time to see. I miss my peeps. Soon though, they'll have a comfy and interesting place to visit. I'm working on my house of comfy pillows and good things to eat. Whew. Gonna make my deadline, just barely.

I think when I move I'll start a new title/subject index over on pitas. Yeah. Rock on with new organizational skills!

Monday, May 26, 2003

by Joe Henry

What does this look like to you?
A mark so fine, you barely see.
You have one just like it, too—
A twisting vine,
A mark so fine;
Cause I love you with all I am
And you love me because you are
As fearless as a twisting vine,
A mark so fine
But still a scar

Fear plays dumb then eats the soul
Like a vagabond with a fishing pole
He whistles but he cannot sing,
It’s an awful tune
But very soon
I find that I am whistling, too
And your window is like a star
That I sit beneath like a vagabond
Who wears his fear
Just like a scar

The blade of our outrageous fortune
Like a parade, it cuts a path,
Light shows on our foolish way
And darkness on
our aftermath;
If I love you to save myself
And you love me because we are
So fool to think that our parade
Could leave a path
But not a scar

And I love you with all I am
And you love me with what you are—
As pretty as a twisting vine,
A mark so fine
But still a scar.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

A Recent List of Bad Decisions

1 I drove to Brunswick to visit my Grandparents even though I'm darn near broke. The trip was Okay, but my cousin ended up not driving down to meet me (she got food poisoning), and without any siblings around, the focus ended up being on recent family stresses. The trip is 6 hours each way, and for stretches and stretches on interstate there is nothing to do except count armadillo corpses.

2 I spent exactly 24 hours back in Atlanta, following job leads and chasing an apartment lease.

3 Then I drove to Nashville.

4 Where I got into a car wreck on the corner of Hillsboro Road and Hobbs.

5 It was my fault; I was turning from a no turn lane.

6 Then I got drunk with Christi and Dinan and acted stupid enough to make them both mad at me.

7 My parents have let two new small dogs into the family to replace Juanita, who was hit by a car. One of the dogs chews on things and bites the children, and so lives in the backyard on a dog run. The other dog is a baby Chihuahua, who cries if it's not held all the time and has to pee roughly every 20 minutes.

8 I haven't called Cairy or Skeet, and I swore I'd call them as soon as I got to Nashville again. I have to leave Saturday, and I have no idea how I'll see either of them in that time frame, meaning I am, roughly, a big fat liar.

9 I'm not e-mailing anyone.

10 I'm not returning calls.

11 I'm overnighting all my savings to a woman in Atlanta for an apartment I should have more money for.

12 Did I mention this woman has no idea how to be a landlord, but I'm renting from her anyway?

13 I can't remember if I paid my insurance company, and I need to fix my car. So I'm going to do this at home with my dad's equipment.

14 Nothing is as it should be.

15 I'm probably going to end up taking care of at least one of my sisters pretty soon.

16 I still don't have a job.

17 I'm going to put all the new utilities in my name.

18 I'm still going to start a small press, and I'm thinking about calling it "Bad Decisions Press".

19 I plan on it consistently losing money.

20 I haven't been asking for the right kind of hugs.


What Flavour Are You? I taste like Peanut Butter.I taste like Peanut Butter.

I am one of the most blendable flavours; I go with sweet, I go with sour, I go with bland, I go with anything. I am practical and good company, but have something of a tendency to hang around when I'm not wanted, unaware that my presence is not welcome. What Flavour Are You?

22 I posted this list to my blog, where everyone can read it.

Monday, May 12, 2003

aiming for centered

Aiming for Centered

Friday I stood in the center of the atom, and Ford took my picture. Neither of us knew for sure which element the atom sculpture outside the museum in Oak Ridge was supposed to represent, we just knew that standing with your hand on the nucleus with your feet between orbits was a cool thing to do, and that we had our traditions to keep. I climb works of art, and tend to jamb myself in awkward public places. Ford takes pictures. It might not be an exaggeration to say our entire friendship might have its basis on this symbiotic relationship.

We had lunch. We hugged. I stood in the center of an atom, tried to climb metal towers, pretended to beat up an inflatable T-Rex. Ford looked tried but happy. I suppose I did too.

I then drove an hour up above Knoxville to Devonstock. I was so tired from the week before that I mistook her grandmother's house for Devon's trailer, and slept for an hour in Devon's Grandmother's driveway before waking up and realizing that the other guest's cars were parked in the small grassy acreage next door. At least I got a nap.

I felt like I accomplished a lot at Devon's. I talked to Erin about the really big project I want to put together with her starting in late June. Erin took a look at my project structure and hopefully she talked a little with Dustin and Kati about what it's like to work with me. I got to talk to Kati and Dust and Erin about the small work we're doing together now. And I got to hang with everyone I wanted too. I even met new and interesting people like Heidi and Adam.

There was a moment where we ended up at this blue hole, one of those mountain swimming spots that's round and perfectly clear way up somewhere that I'd never drive myself -

Which is the point of knowing my kind of friends, having them drive me places I'd never go myself, making me stretch and twist and learn what's uncomfortable, but important and different -

Anyway, there was this moment, where we got to the blue hole, and I had been all worked up because Devon said we could swim. But when we got there, the water was ice cold like it is at 40 or 50 feet when you go diving. And I was like, I don't care, I want to swim so I'll swim, and I know I'll look like an asshole, it'll look like bravado, but goddamnit I need to be weightless, I need to be in the water. And I did, I went in were it was cold cold cold cold cold and I gasped and jumped and everyone stared except for Aisling who laughed. And I talked Erin into the water. And when she went down and shot back up she yelled and beat her chest rapid and high just like a gorilla. I think Dustin got it all in frame, on his camera. And then I got naked in the parking lot because I didn't want to change out of the cold clothes in the outhouse, which was by all reports rather nasty.

So Devonstock was nice. Even the part where I cried on Kati and Dustin, and fought with Dustin, and came no where near to getting my way about anything, which is good for me.

Because sometimes I get my way too much. And the other point of having friends is that they're there to tell you when you're acting like an asshole. Dustin and I have done that for each other a few times lately.

I drove back to Atlanta early Sunday morning, and there was a day with Ron and Dinan looking for a place to live. It was frustrating for all of us. We're spoiled to apartment complexes where you just walk up with money and they have a vacancy right away, and that's not what we're in for right now. We're trying to rent a house, and to make it even more difficult, we're 3 people with radically different styles of communication. So there's tension, and I think it's going to work out but there's no way to say for sure until we start moving our stuff into a place.

I hope, I hope, I hope.

Monday, May 05, 2003

Coping with Natural Forces

Last week I went through an earthquake, a tornado, and thick blankets of fog.

The earthquake woke me up Monday at 5 in morning. It was weird, because I actually woke up and thought “It’s an earthquake” but then thought “This is Georgia, it’s a semi in the neighborhood.” As I drifted back to sleep, I wondered why anyone would drive tractor-trailers through my neighborhood at the crack of dawn. I was so preoccupied with other recent events that the fact an actual earthquake shook me awake didn’t even register surprise the next day.

I drove through the tornado – actually, the hailstorm surrounding the tornado – Friday night. I had to get to Nashville to pick up my sister, and the hail was big enough that there are little dents on the top of my car now. The second half of the trip on the way back to Atlanta was slow, as a blanket of fog sat on Georgia so thick that I could hardly see 20 yards in front of me with the headlights on.

I drove 11 hours in 20, to Nashville, back from Nashville, after a few hours rest then to Augusta. There was a wedding. My aunt asked me if I planned on getting married at 40 or 50. I talked about the weather.

Today is the last day at the archive from hell. It took me 6 months to get this job, and I’m leaving it voluntarily after just 4 months. It’s no one’s fault, really; this place had never had an archivist before, and my position was poorly defined at best. I had no management, and I disliked my lone co-worker enough to quit before I had another position secured. I need the money, it’s true, but I just couldn’t force myself to cope anymore.

I have a hard time dealing with crazy people. Just Sunday an unstable relative accused me of going into her room, a place I haven’t put my big toe into since the last time she whacked out on me 6 months ago. Rather than cussing at the unstable person, I just grabbed my keys and left, drove off, told everyone goodbye and left. I was angry and confused and tired, and had reached my limit for dealing for the weekend.

When I got back to my house, I told my cousins why I had left the rest of the family in such a rush. And Audrey got justifiably irritated with me.

“You’ve got to learn to deal with this kind of thing, Elizabeth. You need to stay and tell people to go to hell. You need to resolve things rather than just leaving mad. If you just keep running every time someone goes nuts on you, you’ll just keep coming home like this, all angry and tense. You’ve got to get some resolution. What are you afraid of? That they’re going to get physical on you? All that kind of person does is stalk off and sulk, leaving you alone. Instead you leave, which is just what they wanted. You’re letting them get their way.”

It’s true. I am letting crazy people get the better of me. And maybe I am afraid they’ll get physical on me. I don’t know how to deal with grown-ups who just make shit up. I don’t know how to deal with much of anything lately – and there’s a lot to deal with.

My cat is probably dying. I spent $150 at the vet last week trying to find out why he throws up a clear fluid. The blood tests say his hormone levels are elevated, but without a lot more treatment – and money – I won’t know why.

My middle sister has some of the ten million problems that come with being 15, problems bad enough to win her an entire summer in isolation with my grandfather. It’s the only way we could figure out how to keep her away from trouble.

My youngest sister is coming to town soon, and expects me to have a fabulous apartment.

Ron and Dinan expect me to have a fabulous apartment.

My plan says I need to have a fabulous apartment.

I have about half the money I thought I’d have, and no job.

Tomorrow I plan on curling up into a tight little ball in my room, and thinking as hard as I can about how to make things work out according to my plans. Then I’m going to clean, work on various projects, and register with a temp agency.

And spend a lot of time with my cat.

Friday I’ll see Ford in Oak Ridge, and then a lot of my friends way up in the mountains. Sunday and Monday I’ll hang out with Ron and Dinan. Monday is Audrey’s birthday. Friday is my Aunt Laura’s.

This whole month makes me want to throw up a mysterious clear liquid, just like my cat. And we’re only 5 days into May.

At least I'm on a creative tear; check out my half-assed blog on my newest project over here

Thursday, May 01, 2003

I’ve always prided myself on my practicality and dependability. I wrote about that over here, back in January. I am, I know, a pragmatist to the core.

That being said, I feel like I’m letting a lot of people down lately, including myself.

I lost my watch when I moved to Atlanta. It was a Dr. Suess watch, one fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish, that I got around my 21st birthday. I wore that watch pretty much everyday for almost 6 years, except for that year I switched to a watch that had fork and knife hands to remind me to eat my last year at MTSU (I was really busy that year, and sometimes I need a reminder).

So, I lost my watch 9 months ago.

So the idea of tracking minutes on my wrist was lost to me. I still keep charts of the days, weeks and months though. Or I try too. For the first time in years, I double booked myself for a weekend, because I talked to a friend without my planner handy. I told my cousin Audrey that we’d visit our grandmother together, and I also told Ron and Dinan we’d look for an apartment.

This is getting resolved. But it doesn’t change the fact that lately I feel…like a total flake.

When I did I become un-dependable? When did I start losing track on my money, my time, my emotions? When did I get interested in tarot cards? When did it become important that my friends know about my personal crisis, which I’d rather keep quiet because I’d rather not have any personal crisis?

Dinan let me have it a few weeks ago on the telephone because she said I had gotten into the habit of not telling her and Ron things. So today I let her in on a lot, and went ahead and told Dust and Christi and Kati too, because I realized they’d be just as angry. There are all the friends of mine who will be mad I’m not telling them about it all, when the truth is just that I don’t want to talk about it, it’s nothing personal. And I have to have another family meeting with my cousins, and I have to decide what I want to tell my aunt and uncle.

But the problem with disclosure is just this: it makes me look unstable. I like looking stable because I want to be stable. I want to be dependable, reliable; I want to be a rock. I want the shifting tide of life to break against me and around me. I want to get a job and have that same job for years and years. I want to move into a house and not move again for years and years. I want to have things be quiet and sure and steady.

I still want to have adventures, of course; I can’t live without going on adventures. But I want to plan my adventures. I want to have enough money when I get there so that I don’t look like a total ass. I want to start keeping an 18-month wall calendar with plans clearly marked there upon for all to see, at a glance, what’s going to happen.

But I am not a rock. I am some free floating piece of greenery pushed back and forth by the tide (hormones, economy, love, obligation, guilt, addiction, reserve, creativity, antipathy, politics, pop culture, religion, manipulation, control, release, research, win, loose, past, future, memory, anticipation, I miss you, I miss you, I miss you, should I stay or should I go? Atlanta, Morgantown, Nashville, Augusta, Brunswick, Boston, traffic safety, airline security, depression, elation, rigid, flexible, hot, frigid, bothered, complacent, endorphins, seratonin, testosterone, progesterone, estrogen, sweat, blood, fever, synapse spark, hypothalamus, your skin, smell, taste, see, but I can’t hear properly when my eyes are otherwise distracted)

And the thing about the tide no one remembers is that it’s caused by the earth’s rotation and the gravity pull of the moon. It’s just the world we live in, and you have to learn to accept that. There’s no ordering back the sea.

But I did go and buy a new watch today. I will start tracking the hours again, and then the minutes. And I will get a new place to live, and I will make that 18-month wall calendar. I will try to put down roots and grow a new calm bed of ocean greenery that sways with the tide but remains a safe haven for other ocean creatures. I will no longer be free floating, but the first sprout of a dark green sea-grown forest, silky-smooth, an aquatic haven of kelp.

And I will be dependable.