Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The first family Thanksgiving in 5 years

Fun things first:

The weekend after the holiday, The Husband and I drove up to Knoxville so that he could be introduced to the East Tennesseeans: Dust, Alestar, Devon & Aisling. We also saw Ford in Oak Ridge, which is consistantly rewarding.

We had dinner with Dust in Old City, which was so abandoned it might have had tumbleweeds blowing through it. This made me sad, because in the early nineties Old City was...well, what an urban center should be. Full of people and parties and clever things to buy. A decade after I first saw the Old City it is nearly abandoned by crowds.

Devon, Alestar, Ais and Ais' dad went with us to a big arcadein West Knoxville where I managed to pull a Darth Vader key ring out of a machine for The Husband. Ais' dad kicked my ass in air hockey hard enough to remind me that I'm only good at air hockey because I play people who aren't that great at air hockey. Alestar, per usual, said a few things I should pay attention to. Ais took home a light up spinning top, and I cashed in my tickets for wooden beads from China with chinese charaters stamped on them. I don't know what they say.

Knoxville was Knoxville; which is to say I like it there but it made both The Husband and I miss Atlanta terribly. And truly, whomever laid out the traffic plans there should be held accountable.

As in other years, the weekend after Thanksgiving was fun and relaxed.

The small handful of peeps that have been reading my blog for over four years now know that I like to spend Thanksgiving alone. Thanksgiving is a very personal holiday for me; I enjoy the lack of (too) rampant commercialism, and I like how the streets clear out. I usually enjoy a couple of days of quiet reflection around Thanksgiving, reading and playing with art projects.

All that personal time is gone. I'll never get Thanksgiving alone again. I'm married to an only child now, and it would hurt his parent's feelings not to be home. My parent's recent divorce requires extra effort from my sisters and myself to define ourselves as a unit. Holidays were something I could once easily ignore by working through them. Now I am obliged to work *at* them.

Thankgiving dinner with The Husband's family and mine blended together went very well. The party the Husband and I attended afterwards went even better. Tony and Andrew threw a Thanksgiving party and many friends were there; I saw Sue and Paula and a few other people I enjoy.

Later people from Andrew and Tony's party and I took food to the policemen on duty in Berry Hill. It was Andrew or Tony's idea, but I felt like I needed to help. The policemen in Nashville have had horrible behavior the past year, and I thought they could use some positive attention. Acting out is no way to get noticed.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Bruises, Fire, and Family

I've been too depressed to write in my blog since the election. Instead of blogging I've ended up writing long letters to friends, rambling about the impact of my recent marriage on my views of gender and procreation and the future of mankind. It's navel gazing, all of it. Half the nation hates the other half.

I spent election night itself wandering in and out of bars around the neighborhood with Therm and a friend of hers. We started off at Manuel's, a historic liberal hangout. I wanted to start there because I knew, deep down inside, I knew there would be no regime change. I had let myself believe a little in the lie that it could happen because there did seem to be the possibility. We drifted from Manuel's to poker night down at the Yatch Club and finally to Vertigo. I came home to The Republican around 9:30, only a little drunk.

I needed that drunk to sleep, and it didn't help as much as I'd hoped. My husband woke up through the night anxiously checking the internet. The next day I closed my eyes to all media. The next few days I had a headache that wouldn't quit. I have only been cheered up a little by the purple map, showing how our country is not truly divided into red and blue but rather a shading of both those colors. Of course, right now the whole of America looks just like it feels: just like one big bruise.

The Sunday night after the election I woke to the smell of smoke and the sight of burning ash raining outside of my window. We have an arsonist here in my part of Atlanta, and a couple of weeks ago this person set a vacant building across from mine on fire. At first I was worried it was my apartment building, but no, it was a vacant crappy lot across the street. The noise from the firemen, police choppers, and the fire itself was amazingly loud. The building on fire was gutted. This is the fourth or fifth big hit by the arsonist in the past few months. They have not caught the arsonist, and I worry about leaving my cats over the holidays.

I drove the new husband to Augusta yesterday to meet with some of my father's family - the ones I could track down. Dad's family has never been what you would call close-knit, and now with my parents divorce I'm not that hopeful about seeing too many of them. They never called me when things were great, so I don't think they're likely to start holding family events now that things have become even more decentralized. I went to the Flea market and saw my Granny and my cousin Steven; I drove across the river and saw Keith and Nick and their mom. Then we drove home.

I wish I had big descriptive adventures to pass on. I wish I felt more motivated to write about how scary the fire was, or how the flea market in Augusta never seems to change. I wish I could find the time to tell you about the museum exhibit at the Bremen, or Halloween in Little 5. But there's no time and I lack the passion, this month. My job wears me out; talk of politics makes me want to hide under the bed; the holidays are coming, and I'd rather they not come at all. Call or write and cheer me up.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Progress in the new life

Progress in my new life; voting ahead of time

Upon passing people in the halls at work, or in phone conversations or IM, everyone has the same question for me:

"So how's married life?"

As if in getting married I threw away all my old clothes, books, and apartment, and embarked on some brave new adventure. This is not so. It is true enough that all my old routines have been broken; that I have to constantly streatch my brain around the fact that things have indeed changed quite throughly at my apartment and that somehow more is expected of me by other people. But I'm still Elizabeth. I still have a difficult job, and I still read my comics every week. I still worry about my sisters and I still hate dress shoes and I still plan things at least six months in advance. I still have a nervous stomach and I still daydream a great deal too much. I still live in Atlanta, and I still love it here.

I did change my last name. I had not planned to, but The Republican's last name is rather rare and my old one rather common. The uniqueness of the name appealed to me, and I knew this change would please his parents, who are older and conservative and far too interested in me. I like them very much, but am also looking forward to the day when I am not so novel and interesting to them.

The truth is that I enjoyed my somewhat solitary life, punctuated by a party every other month or so where I could be hyper-social for a few days before retreating again to my room to read quietly, or to long walks where I could think quietly. I've been quite the party girl lately, and it wears a bit thin on the nerves.

This morning was the pinnacle, I think, of my nerves just being frayed and shot. I woke up and found I could not go to work; there was a family emergency that needed my attention most all morning. Work, of course, really shouldn't have been called off but there wasn't much I could do but resolve the issue that would have affected my life much more than a day of missed work. I hadn't much sleep the night before from a combination of visiting my Grandfather and quarreling with someone I care for a great deal. I spent the morning nervous and tired. By one o'clock all the drama had resolved itself but I felt the day had enough challenges already; there was nothing to do but go ahead and say the day was shot and attempt to vote.

Georgia has early voting all this week before the formal election in order to accomodate the record number of voters this year. I only had a two-hour wait down by 5 Points and The Underground. I went with a book in hand, as both Winn and others I knew had waited in line about 3 hours each earlier in the week. The line to vote wound out the side of the Fulton county building, up to the second floor and then to the fourth; the line wrapped around hallways and the entire space was packed with polite, patient, intense people determined to cast their Very Important Ballots. It is not only a hotly contested Presidential election, but here in Georgia we must also decide if gays should be constitutionally barred from marriage. I voted not to amend the constitution, and not to keep the current President. For good measure, I have been quietly distributing a radical political zine in favor of deposing Bush.

Pity The Republican; he has had to abandon his roots and vote Libertarian. He was disconsolate but resigned about his first formal defection from the Republican party line, but could not bring himself to vote for Kerry, whom we both agree is up to his neck in political shit. I feel a little dirty myself, as I have always previously voted Green. So we make a pair, both of us unsatisfied with our political options but at least feeling good about not voting for the current power while still managing to vote at all. Atlanta is one of the easier places in America to vote, as Mr. King once lived here, and Mr. Carter still maintains a residence in town.

I do not think we will know who the president is by Wednesday of next week. I can only hope that whatever the events are, they will not be too upsetting nor too dramatic, but I fear they may be, if not in Atlanta than in other towns.

Friday, October 15, 2004

October falls right into my lap

October blew in sooner than I expected, bringing with it cooler weather, my 28th birthday, and a host of party planning expectations. It's dark now when I go to work, and often windy as well. Atlanta's trees have begun to shed their leaves, and the homeless people look more tired and hungry.

I had a pretty fabulous birthday. Ford sent me a package of goodies, and The Republican bought me my first new pair of glasses in nearly four years. Dust called, and Kati and many others besides. There were comics and Indian food and snuggles a-plenty. I changed my name at the Social Security and DMV offices with a minimum of red tape hassle. Life is good.

This weekend my mother's family has set up a reception north of the city for me. The Republican's mother has planned us one the first weekend in November, and then there's one between Christmas and New Year's for the friends in Nashville. Plus, I've plans to hang out in Knoxville over Thanksgiving weekend. So I'll see all y'all soon.

The Republican has been caring for me while I have a cold; he rubs my back and brings me herbal tea and generally does things that nobody else would. It is nice to have him here, proof against the winter, insulation against the lonely wind.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

The Best Blog in Atlanta

Creative Loafing recently voted this blog one of the best in Atlanta for 2004. I'm going to pretend I deserve this honor by allowing my ego to become inflated enough to interview myself. Also, doing this will make the losers feel better about losing, and allow me to post something less depressing than my last two posts, which, let's face it, were just a little bit down.

So, in light of the recent award, I humbly offer you this FAQ. If you know me, entertain yourself by picturing the archivist "work" me in glasses, khakis, and a button up blue shirt interviewing the "party" me, in contacts and jeans, and a button up blue shirt while you read this. If you don't know me, pretend that last sentance didn't make me sound a little flakey.

Q: So, did you nominate yourself, or what?

A: No, I didn't even know this award existed. I read the print version of Creative Loafing (CL) once a week usually, but last week I was out of town. When I came back, there was a note on my guest book from someone in Canada who mentioned they'd seen me in CL. I don't know the editors, nor anyone who works for CL. Honestly, I was thrilled, shocked, and surprised.

Q: That's a lot of adjectives.

A: Yes, yes it is. I feel that this award is sort of a default in a way because I have the mad grammar skillz, while so many of my compatriot bloggers have a problem distinguishing the plural from possessive form of "it is".

Q: But don't you often put up posts with spelling and capatlization errors?

A: Bite me.

Q: In its recommendation, CL called you "sweet". How do you feel about this assessment?

A: Well, I think maybe my blog comes across as sweet because I'm generally a happy person, but obviously my blog leads to the perception that I'm also light hearted. I plan on making sure that from now on I swear and discuss adult vices a little more. Maybe I'll wear my black leather pants while I type.

Q: So, the editors of CL like you! Do you think you can give up your day job now and indulge in your fantasy of being a professional writer?

A: Oh, hell no. CL already has two hip, alternative women columnists who observe wry things about living in Atlanta. I really doubt they need another. Besides, writers get paid, like…

Q: Like archivists?

A: Yes, and you're breaking from format.

Q: How mortified were you when you realized that hundreds of people had visited your web site expecting stories of Atlanta and by happenstance saw stories of Nashville instead that week?

A: Completely mortified. Again, if I had know they were issuing an award, I would have come up with something snappier and more ironic for random passers-by to read.

Q: So do you plan on altering your format now?

A: Hells, no. What do you think won me this award?

Q: So I heard that this other blog really won.

A: No, that was the popular pick. You're thinking of the guy who made cupcakes like Janet Jackson's boobs, got reviewed by the AJC and now is enrolled in a prestigious creative writing program. I was the critic's pick. Well, me and this one druggie guy. I bet the popluar pick gets his ass kissed by The New Yorker or Gourmet in a couple of years. Me, I get to know the editors thought I was better. It's like winning "Miss Congeniality".

Q: So you're loved by "the man". Will you get a tattoo now to re-establish you street cred?

A: I wish. My street cred is only that I live in Inman Park, and so in this blog I can say things like: There's a giant goddamn tree that Hurricane Ivan blew down in the park. When the hell is city going to come and bust that thing up?

Q: Good Swearing! Shake that sweetness!

A: I try.

Q: So what did you get for winning? Cash money? Prizes? A CL hoodie?

A: Nope. All I get is their paper for free every week, which is what I do anyway. As a side benefit though, I heard all the other bloggers in Atlanta now how to address me as "Queen of the Universe", but only in writing; in person I will prefer "Your Highness". Or they can salute, if they have food in their mouths.

Q: You don't mean that, do you?

A: No. In truth all we did was write Suzanne Van *******, who was in charge of the Cityscape section, a nice thank-you note.

Q: Is that the royal we?

A: No, you idiot, we're the same damn person. It is first person plural omniscient.

Q: Eager to show off that English BA, aren't we?

A: Yes, goddmanit, since all it's ever done was win us this award. Recognize!

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Holy Shit, I'm famous.

Thanks, Creative Loafing. I heart you back.

Now back to your regualrly scheduled navel gazing.

My Own Natural Bridge

The Republican and I were standing in the middle of Christi's new living room, getting married, when I noticed there was something wrong with his voice. I looked up into his eyes - I had been trying not to look at him, not to look at anything because formal ceremonies freak me out - but I looked up into his eyes just then and he almost lost it. He was Southern Man-Crying. All choked up, struggling to speak, no tears but clogged nose. So I said: "Don't cry! Don't cry, motherfucker, because then I'll cry."

And everyone cracked up. I'm so romantic. Christi took a break from her role as clergy and retrieved tissues while I, The Republican, Tony and Andrew were consumed by humor and a tidal wave of emotion I should have been more prepared for. I didn't expect to be so affected by the marriage ceremony. I did cry. The Republican blew his nose several times. We laughed. I think Andrew cried a little too.

After the ceremony Christi fed us all homemade apple pie, and Tony insisted on taking us all out to dinner. Then The Republican and I curled up under an old quilt loaned to us by Andrew, and that was it, folks, I was happily married.

Three days later I was driving to Harrisonburg, Virginia on my own. Just because I'm married doesn't mean that the world stopped. I just means that my home life has changed. I still have to work, and I'm still me. It's only that everything about my home life has changed, once again. I'm moving more towards being stable soon though. I hope.

I was driving up the interstate from Roanoke to Harrisonburg to work, and I noticed that this interstate that I was on repeatedly crossed Highway 11 , the metaphorical Road to Devon. Off of Highway 11 in Virginia is The Natural Bridge, a phenomenon that sparked one of Devon's best short stories. I thought a lot about Devon and Erin and Dust a lot on this trip. My old Scribbling Mob friends, they're mostly still single, or still in the same romantic cycles they were five years ago. I have broken free. I am still part of them, but I have taken this act, marriage, and separated myself a bit from their lot.

Harrisonburg is in north-west Virginia, and I thought that because of this, I might be able to meet Dust for a meal or talk or something. On the map, it only looked as though Morgantown were a couple of hours away, but on further investigation I found that the drive from Morgantown to Harrisonburg is over four hours. The map is flat, but Appalachia is not. Huge mountains lay between us, impossible to cross as we both had deadlines in the work we were meant to accomplish. Like everything between Dust and I, our timing was off, and the obstacles were just too big. Dust and I are still friends, but there will always be this between us: not enough time, and too many mountains.

I enjoyed visiting Harrisonburg, even if the quilt museum was closed on Tuesday and Wednesdays, precluding me from a visit. I flew back to Atlanta Wednesday night happy to see my new husband again, but with a heart full of lead for another reason. Wednesday morning, Dust and Jill's dad died.

I never met Mr. Collins in person, but I felt like I knew him after all the stories I'd heard. Mr. Collins was an alcoholic, just like my dad. Many of my friends have alcoholic fathers; having an alcoholic dad grants you an automatic pass into the secret club of the cynical, the clubhouse of black humor. Mr. Collins was a man that everyone remembered well. His funeral was large and attended by nearly everyone he'd ever met in his life, and they all sang his praises. I sent flowers, only to have everyone wonder who sent them at first. My last name has changed.

I didn't go to the funeral. It would have been the wrong place at the wrong time, my attempt to comfort friends would have only drawn attention away from their grief. I sat on the edge of my bed holding The Republican's hand that Friday morning and choked back tears. I didn't cry. Truthfully I am done crying this year. But I sat and had my moment of profound grief, another emotional wave to surf in a month where everything seems significant. Random acts of geography have displaced me from my life. I have crossed my own natural bridge and forgotten to bring a map. But really, I've been off map since I left grad school.

The Republican and I had a lovely weekend together, and then I was away from home again for another week; now I am home for the rest of the year, still working and still off map. I find that I don't worry so much, with The Republican around. He is reassuring, if just as lost as I am. It's nice to hear two footfalls for every one that I take, and it's nice, sometimes, to know that for once, I have changed something as permanently as I can. I am married. I crossed my natural bridge and burned some others behind it.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Three Neighborhoods in Nashville

The 5th set of Nashville Stories

1 2 3
4 5 6
7 8 9
10 11 12

Unlucky Thirteen
When my parents first moved to Nashville, it was the early 80's, and we lived in a pink rental house on Acklen Avenue between the United Methodist Church and Dragon Park. I loved this house; it was small, even to a child, but the sidewalks were where I first rode a big wheel. The park down the street was fabulous and new. The day care at United Methodist was progressive and exciting, and I was forming bright new memories: my first bee sting, drawing hopscotch, learning to work a water hose, a cat ate my parakeet, the host of imaginary friends under my bed, the first Christmas I can remember, Dr. Who on TV, with Godzilla, and Siskel and Ebert.

We were robbed twice while living in this house, and moved to White Oaks Apartments in Hermitage before I started school the next year. I was disappointed to leave the pink house, but accepted it; after all, we moved once a year every year when I was young. A move was nothing that needed explaining to me at that time.

But 20 years later, my mom told me why we left.

The whole neighborhood was one of musicians and their families, and that is why my parents had moved there. One day, while all the men were away on tour, a rapist pushed down a friend of my mother's as she was bringing groceries into a neighboring house, and attacked her in front of her young daughter. The women of the neighborhood were afraid, my mother even more so after she received a threatening phone call late one night. She was alone, in her early twenties, and watching another friend's young daughter and me. The rape had the effect of uniting the women in the neighborhood; another musician's wife came and sat with my mother all night, baseball bat in hand. They were braced for the worst. The police said they could do nothing but drive by every once in a while; they couldn't sit on the street all night protecting the women, whose husbands were off playing in various parts of the country.

The next day, my mother arranged for all our belongings to be put into storage, left Nashville for the remainder of the tour season. She returned to Georgia with me, and I never questioned why; I was used to traveling, and happy to see my cousins again. Mom did not return to Nashville until my father was off the road and she had secured another apartment.

Years later mom and dad moved into their dream house in Hillsboro, less than 3 miles from the rental house that had been their first home in Nashville. The pink house isn't on Acklen anymore. After the burglaries and rape, the neighborhood had acquired a bad reputation, and a handful of the houses, including the one where the attack took place and our pink house, were razed in favor of some rather ugly apartment buildings that clash with the nice small craftsman style houses still there.

The Republican and I, soon to be married, are often taken around the Brentwood area when I'm there to visit his mother. This is the expensive part of town, where houses are large and meant to impress, where pedestrianism is frowned upon, and indeed, seen only in maids, landscapers, and the homeless. I have recently met the maid that works for my fiancé's family, and I am probably more comfortable around her than most other people in Brentwood. Her mother worked for The Republican's family before her. I don't want her to work for me. I'd rather clean the house with this woman, talk to her about what my husband-to-be was like as a child. I bet she knows all the best gossip. I bet she has oral history to impart. I want to sit and laugh with her, I want to share recipes and dish the dirt.

I don't do any of those things with the maid (yet). Instead, I have been to the jewelers with Mrs. The Republican, my future mother-in-law. We have been to lunch. She has apologized for teaching her son nothing of cleaning and cooking, and less about women. I do like her; she is loud and talkative and excited that her only child is marrying. She and I are physical opposites, and I worry about standing next to her. I in my 6 foot 200 lb. hulking frame of coarse blue-collar manners stand in direct contrast to Mrs. The Republican's tiny 5-foot petite frame, all clad in Ralph Lauren and tasteful cosmetics.

Future-mom-in-law is insistent that she can find me clothes and wants to buy my trousseau. I have tried to convey how impossible this will be, but she remains undeterred. I will take Sara, my now 17-year-old sister, with me when we go shopping next weekend. Sara first tried to demand payment for this favor, but settled for blackmailing me into a visit to a local art gallery she wants to visit. Both Sara and I agree we are terrified of the impending shopping trip, where I will be outfitted in expensive Republican style weather I like it or not, lest I offend someone who is trying to welcome me into a very different sort of family.

The Republicans live in an upscale neighborhood in Brentwood where a friend of mine used to do landscaping. As a teenager, I babysat a few streets away for a family that went to Hawaii once a year and bought their children whatever their little hearts desired. Issues of class, education, and behavior constantly form an internal monologue I have to ignore when in Nashville now. I will probably struggle with these issues for the rest of my life. I may marry into The Republicans, but I will never be one of them. I am perversely happy about being part of The Academia, which allows me to stand astride two classes like a seasick court jester, free to laugh at both the haves and the have nots while trying not to vomit from nervousness.

Since the divorce has gotten underway, my mother and sisters have rented an apartment in an historic building near the state capitol. Their neighbor is an elderly Tennessee political figure of some note, a man known for his top hats and a run at the governor's office a few years ago when no democrat was willing to even try to move the Republican party out of power.

This apartment building is exactly where I would live in Nashville if I ever lost my mind and moved back. It is furnished with things almost ugly enough to be cool, and is within walking distance of loads of fun things. Predictably my teen sister loves it and my youngest sister, Abby, is not as happy. There is no yard, and no other children her age nearby. While she is happy to have moved and enjoys her new school, downtown Nashville offers little by way of entertainment for an 11 year old. Because of the divorce, my Grandmother has temporarily moved in with my mother and sisters to help out for a bit.

Too often Abby ends up inside with my grandmother, and I thought that sounded fun until I remembered that Grandma is fifteen years older than when she played with me at that age. I was stricken by how old my grandmother now is when visiting she and Abby last. When I was 11, Grandma and I went to museums; we played board games and walked around historic districts. I thought Abby and Grandma would be going to Fort Nashboro or buying memberships to the Frist. Not so. A walk even up a few stairs leaves Grandma now winded, age and weight having caught up with her at last. I worry about them both, because I love them.

Downtown Nashville is not an area kind to the very young or elderly. I am approached by aggressive beggars each time I visit, and downtown lacks basic amenities like grocery stores or pharmacies. There are no cab stands or trendy shopping districts except for the short strip for tourists unlucky enough to arrive in town 10 years too late to visit the music business. Restaurants close at 5 or 6, when the workers leave the state buildings for the day. There are no green parks for playing, and even if there were Grandma and Abby wouldn't feel safe. In short, downtown Nashville is not like Atlanta or even Knoxville. Downtown Nashville lacks a community of families, although it seems to be populated now by young single people more and more. Perhaps families will arrive in a few years, if the single people don't move out when they decide to breed.

But for now Abby and Grandma sit in the shadow of a state capitol run by people who detest cities and love suburbs. I sit in Atlanta, and I worry.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Hey, Don't Worry

Hey, don’t worry.

I used to secretly despise my friends who wouldn’t update their blog for a month or more. How dare they? Didn’t they know I needed to read about their lives? And here I am, a month out of turn.

I’ll be back. It’s just that right now everything is terribly complicated.

My routines are nothing but shreds in the winds. Blogging regularly, using my lj, and other internet habits are a dream that will not be realized fully again until mid September, at the earliest. Then I will be back, I promise, for those of you who have wondered what the hell happened and where the hell I’ve been.

Some points of interest along the way to rebooting my life, as observed outside the starboard window:

1) Isolated thunderstorms, both real and metaphorical, are expected to continue off and on for the next week and a half.

2) The storms promise to give way to 4 months of parties, and you, beautiful, are invited to as many as you’d like – starting labor day weekend, and continuing into the new year.

3) Some of these parties will involve the celebration of my marriage. Some of these parties will involve the celebration of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Some of these will be fairly circumspect family affairs. At any you attend, please feel free to throw your head back and howl at the moon, so long as you do this in an honest expression of feral feeling, and not in a drunk, late 70’s kind of way meant to reference the classic rock hit “Werewolves of Thunder”.That is strictly prohibited.

4) Dates for some of these events have yet to be set; please inquire as to those which you may like to attend. Cities will include Atlanta, Nashville, Knoxville, Augusta, and The Campground Which Must Not Be Named.

5) I am still collecting Nashville stories like your pet collects burrs from the yard. Expect them soon.

6) My job, when it isn’t making me want to cry or vomit from stress, has actually settled down a bit. I think.

7) Adventures were had in Boston. I don’t have time to write about that now.

8) I have to stop. I love you but I have to stop. I don’t have the time to write this now.

9) I have been blogging for four years now, on average once a week. And it seems to me that every now and again I say: "Things are just so hard now, but once this bit is over my life will be easier. I mean, things can never be this hard again."

10) But things are just difficult, and there's no way around that, except to expect less of myself.

11) I'm almost there. Just a bit farther...

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Mayo in my bra, spasms in my back, exhaustion in my heart

I got mayonnaise in my favorite bra Sunday night. I was rushing through the Atlanta airport after being suitably harassed by security for daring to have the nerve to buy tickets from two different airlines for a trip (thus making it look like I had two one way tickets, when really what I was doing was saving fifty bucks) when I realized I hadn't eaten that day. So I stopped at Popeye's and ordered a meal that came with cole slaw. But I didn't have time to eat the slaw before boarding the plane, so I put the sealed container in my luggage. Upon opening this bag a few hours later in Orlando, I found my favorite bra filled with mayo. I had to throw the slaw away, because at that point it had separated into its components of cabbage and mayo, and was no longer appetizing.

Washing mayo out of a bra, by the way, is very difficult.

I worked in Orlando Monday though Wednesday evening. I got home late last night and fell into bed after another frustrating call to The Republican, where we sighed at each other and cursed the rough economy for keeping us apart. The Republican had spent that evening playing monopoly with my sisters and talking to my mom and grandmother. He's awesome like that. He's becoming a part of my family. This is a very brave thing to do.

I woke up this morning and called into work late, which is how I have time to write this blog entry. I was thinking about all the work I have to do by 6 tomorrow, and my back did something it likes to do about once a year. The muscles seized up on me and tried to jump off my back. I think my back muscles try to abandon me when the going gets rough because they feel neglected. Anyway, there I was, gasping in the shower, muscles spasming from stress and overwork, when I realized I was stressed out because I hadn't had time to write for myself very much lately. My body was telling me to blog. So here I am, getting ever later for work.

Tomorrow I will have dinner with Audrey, and Saturday morning I will fly to Boston for what promises to be a very interesting week. I will miss my cats terribly, but Audrey will take care of them for me, and if not her, then somebody, by golly. I wish cats traveled better, but they don't.

I will probably post on the old blog next week. I will hang out with Aral and Baub and Maria any many of my excellent northern peeps. I will be very, very busy for the rest of the forseeable future. Until mid December at least. Wish me luck on keeping my back muscles in place!

Monday, July 19, 2004

Eight short scenes from three very busy weeks
Around midnight on the fourth of July, I hugged the Republican as much of my family yelled and clapped around me.  The Republican had smuggled us fireworks for the 4th of July.  My aunt and I had chipped in each a conservative amount of money, but along with the normal selection of rockets, roman candles, and sparklers we had hoped for, my sweetie brought us the largest firework any of us had ever seen.  Easily eighteen inches in circumference and standing 6 to 8 inches high, we waited all night to light it.  Doug, Laura, Audrey, Jamie and all the little children were excited.  My sister and her friend Sophie eyed my future husband in a different light after seeing the firepower he invested in.  And when it came time to light the giant red round symbol of freedom made in a China, the firework shot colored lights of multiple effects for 2 or 3 minutes straight.  The colored sights did not go up into the air but lent great excitement by displaying right in front of us.  Everyone agreed it was the best firework they had ever seen.
My mother watched the fireworks from behind the glass front door of my uncle’s house.  She has always disliked the loud noises and smells of gunpowder on the holidays.  Ellie May joined her inside as well, but they did enjoy the sights from the reassuring distance my uncle’s house provided.  Earlier that day she had taken myself and my sister Sara aside and had the long talk with us about our parent’s divorce.  My parent’s 29th anniversary would have been July 4th, 2004, except they were late in getting to the courthouse all those years ago and were married on July 6th instead.  This lateness in dealing with legal obligations was the hallmark of their 30 years together.  They will be much happier apart.
After the fourth, I ended up on a red-eye to the Bahamas, a trip scheduled as part of my work.  This would have been much more enjoyable if I hadn’t spent the previous 36 hours entertaining my fiancĂ© and family.  At 2 am in the Atlanta airport, I call my father.  By 11 am I find myself in the British Colonial Hilton, where kind hotel staff let me into my room early because I am so exhausted.  Surrounded by marble and expensive furnishings, overlooking the bright blue Caribbean, I sleep.  When I awake, I find I am missing a crucial computer part, which I chase until later in the evening when I attend a reception where I meet many lawyers and two attorneys general.  There are a great deal of free drinks but little food, and after an hour and a half I escape back to the hotel where I spend the rest of the night working on my presentation for the next day.  I leave the Bahamas immediately after my obligations are done.  No swimming.  No sand and saltwater.  My dry bathing suit gave me the evil eye as I unpacked the next day, returning to sleep off travel at 3 in the morning.  Audrey took me in again as I fell exhausted into the spare room futon. 
My sisters both end up at my uncle’s house the next day, which I took off from work.  Abby, as the youngest, is most affected by our parent’s divorce.  I try to stay close to her, to spend time with her, but I too often find myself at a loss for the right words.  I was never eleven.  When I was eleven, I was really fifteen, reading book after book without pause, the summer between fifth and sixth grade- well, I was younger than her.  I went to 4-H camp, learned leather stamping and to shoot better with a rifle and bow.  But that was just two weeks out of many.  The rest of the summer when I was Abby’s age was spent with E. Nesbit, Charles Dickens, Judy Bloom, and Isaac Asimov.   I do not know how to talk to an eleven year old, because I never talked to other eleven year olds when I was that age myself.  When I was eleven, my Grandmother took me to the pool a lot, and museums and historical houses.  Abby does that with my Grandmother now, but they do not get along as well as she and I did.  Grandma is older, and Abby is less interested in architecture and local history than I was.
My sixteen year old sister has found the most massive blackberry patch behind my uncle’s house.  Sara declares that heaven is a blackberry patch without the pickers or pests.  Heaven is a blackberry patch where you can pick all day and there are no snakes or bears or biting flies or mosquitoes.  The bushes will have no thorns.  I am not inclined to disagree with her.  The blackberries behind my uncle’s house are not there by accident; years ago he and my grandfather tore the beginnings of the bushes out from Grandpa’s old business, and Doug chucked them in holes back behind his property line in the woods.  Then he forgot about them for a few years, and they grew into thickets so ripe and full of berries that Sara and I have to use machetes to get to some of them, and we pick for two hours.  We pick so many berries that juice runs out the bottom of our gallon zip lock bags, berries at the bottom pressed from the weight of berries at the top.   Sara makes a cobbler and Abby makes a cobbler and there are still berries left over, dark and soft and sweet, eaten at my aunt’s table with vanilla ice cream, my sisters, my cousins, my aunt and uncle.
Tony and Andrew and Sara and I hang out downtown on a Saturday.  The meeting is too short to be satisfying, but it is good to see them again.  I miss them, and things are different somehow since The Republican and I have announced our engagement. All of us look healthier than we’ve been for awhile, but Andrew comments on how happy Sara looks.  Sara stays with me for one more week before my uncle drives her and Abby back to Nashville.  We debate on her leaving.  Once she is gone my apartment feels strangely foreign to me, and her unattended art supplies leave unfinished work lying about.  I can’t complete my sister’s paintings for her.  There are things she must do for herself.  Still, it was nice having her around to go to films and art stores with.  It is nice to be friends with her as well as sisters.  I hope Abby and I are this way eventually as well.  A week after their visit, Tony and Andrew consent to being the legal witnesses on my marriage certificate.
Bunny Psycho Kitty looks out from underneath my bed every day when I come home now.  She has come to live with me again, unable once more to cope with my aunt’s toddlers or outdoor living.  It will take her almost a week to gain good indoor toilet habits again.  Bunny needs time, her own space, her own litter box and bowls. Titania is undeniably pissed at me for bringing another cat home, and cuddles with me no more than she has to, even when I buy her a toy squirrel stuffed with catnip.
I have to call Underdown and apologize Saturday because The Republican and I were sickeningly sweet the night before.  He and I went to a party with Underdown and other friends, and we did not pay enough attention to other people.  We are the couple everyone hates.  Even I can’t stand us.  We’re a collection of heavy sighs and barely-hidden make out touches.  I don’t want to be that way, but it’s how we are right now.  I maintain the excuse that his skin contains some sort of addictive, mind altering drug, and that I must have contact with it as much as possible right now.  He maintains that I am pretty.  I maintain that he is insane.  Before marrying, we must 1) consult the lawyer people 2) finish our marriage counseling book and 3) get a license.  I leave him at home Saturday night, and we go to separate parties so that we don’t gross more of our friends out than is absolutely necessary.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Procrastination Mantra

Moving, engagement, and family drama have succeeded in making me so distracted at work that I have problems completing tasks. It’s my own fault, and I need to find a way to make myself more focused. I’m considering going back on coffee. We’ll see next week if that works. What really works, of course, is having a little writing time like this to myself before starting in on more formal writing. But blogging is banned at work, and I often stare at the screen stymied, ideas blocked at the bottleneck of my mind.

As I write this, my sister Sara and I are sitting at a table together in my new apartment. She’s learning calligraphy from a book, and getting quite good at it, I think. She’s using an old pen set of mine with three nibs for the plastic pen and two automatic ink cartridges. She’s starting out with blue ink and I won’t let her start the red until she’s used up the blue. I plan on showing her how to make excellent fake blood splatters with the red ink in a few days, by blowing the red ink through a straw. I am writing this blog entry to procrastinate again instead of finishing up some reports for work. It’s Sunday, and in 12 hours I need to be at work with something resembling a full first draft of a rather complicated project. I’m stuck on it out of fear of criticism, I suppose.

We’re both inside at the table because it’s raining. It’s been raining for two weeks in Atlanta now. There’s a little muddy creek in the back parking lot of our apartment building. Other friends have written to me about flooded basements, and I feel lucky to live on high land. I should feel lucky that the rain has made this June a little cooler than most in Atlanta, since I still ride the train and walk to work every day. I am concerned about getting to work sweat-free in August.

In a few days Underdown will visit again, and bring with her Sara’s PS2, which will serve as our DVD player, sound system, and video arcade. As soon as Underdown leaves, Sara’s friend Sophie will be here to visit her for a few days, and then The Republican will come for the weekend. After that I’m off to the Bahamas for a short business trip I can’t really afford to go on. More on that soon.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Too much, too fast, all at once

A week ago Sunday

I brought The Republican warm chocolate chip cookies in bed. My room was filled with light and both our smells. We decided to get married. He touched the scars on my back softly, looking at where the moles once were, before I had them taken off. Before he left, I kissed him on the forehead, and was surprised at the salty taste. I told my room mates I was getting married, but after that focused on work.

Last Monday

Lugging my laptop to work hurt my back a little. Work was entirely too busy; I panicked a little at everything that must be done before the end of the month. My sister Sara was a day late returning from Bonnaroo, and until she shows up at lunchtime my parents were on the phone with me, panicked. After work, I picked up the keys to my new apartment; and walked around in my new space a little, delighted with myself. The new place is clean and cool and comfortable. I call The Republican to crow about my new apartment, and he asks : Has my mother called you yet? What? Says I. The Republican's mother does call. She talks to me for an hour and a half. She tells me she is so happy he and I are to be married, and offers to book our honeymoon. I let her. In December, we're going to Key West. I dislike Florida intensely, but it makes my future mom in law happy, so I just sort of roll with it.

Last Tuesday

I talk to my mother. She cries and tells me how happy she is. I give her The Republican's contact information as well as his mom's. I e-mail him and ask him if my mother has called yet, a petty but satisfying act of revenge. He continued to profess to love me anyway. Work is again hectic, and it rains so hard I have to take a cab home, and cannot begin moving that night.


I make a test registry at Amazon.com. I attend many meetings at work. At the comic book store, they forget to drop two of my favorites in my hold box. I move just a few things into my new apartment. Everyone wants to talk to me on the phone about my engagement. I am glad we've planned not to have a wedding.


I get a distress call from my sisters. If all had gone according to plan, they would have been in Georgia on the 14th, but all is awry. I get very worried about them. I work late. I begin moving larger things into the new place. My bedroom at the old place begins to devolve into piles of dirty clothes and misplaced objects. There's no internet service at home again, because Comcast sucks. I feel adrift.


I am far to distracted at work to get much done. Everyone still wants to talk to me, and I continue to worry about my sisters until The Republican pitches in on a rental car. I leave work half an hour early, and find myself in the grocery store overspending out of nervousness. I pile food into the new apartment before leaving for Nashville. The house is a wreck, I've got biils to pay, an apartment to move, and still I fly up I24. There I abruptly push The Republican into my car to meet my parents. All this guy has ever done is be nice to me and love me, and I throw him into a house with my mom and dad, where, during conversation, my mother is sure to mention that mental illness and addiction run in the family. I make jokes. They interrogate him. We leave near midnight, with a promise to pick up the kids tomorrow. Back at The Republican's apartment we curl around each other and take a good long while to unwind after such a stressful week. He's going to add ten years to my life, just understanding that someone has to calm me down sometimes. Without him, I'd be a shaking wreck.


I take Sara to the museum. Then I ride out to meet The Republican at a small party, before turning back to pick up Abby and Sara. The ride back to Atlanta is long, and we are not surprised to find out it is nearly the longest day of the year. I take them to eat Indian food. They sleep in my bed, in the wrecked house. I feel guilty about the incredible mess.


Sara is very ill with a summer cold, and Abby is ill with the world. We all eat out and run errands until Audrey calls us up to Acworth. I drive the girls there already exhausted. They've worn me out. Colin is cute. We look at recent vacation photos before I leave Abby with my cousins, a little guilty that I can't care for her myself, but I can't. There's too much going on, all at once. Sara and I stay up too late moving, and go to sleep grumpy.


I have to return the rental car a day late. I've spent too much money. I can't find my car keys. I left my house keys in Acworth with Abby, and Audrey will have to mail them to me. My room is a disaster zone, and Sara will have to help me clean up the house. I'm sure I've abused my girlfriend privelages with The Republican. We've got to move, I've got reports for work to finish, and none of my good clothes are clean. I can't call in sick today, because there are meetings. I'm going to be late for work by typing this.

But I needed to get everything all out there.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Transit of Venus

Transit of Venus

0 days, 0 hours, 0 minutes

I had been waiting for the transit of Venus for 18 months, but when it came time to watch the star I was born under cross the face of the sun for the first time in 132 years, there was nothing to see. It was raining in Atlanta, and while friends of mine dreamed strange and complicated things hundreds of miles away from me, I slept only in fits and starts, waking at 3a.m. to listen to the rain, my cat’s demands for attention, and the sound of my own heart. There was no sunrise to watch Tuesday morning.

I resolved some issues with my work environment Monday, and that had settled my stomach a bit, along with the security check I had done on my new building, the one where I’ll be living alone for the first time. There are keypad locks on the front of the apartment complex. Lots of other single women live there, many of whom have large friendly dogs. My windows are on the second story, and there’s a modern fire escape that gives me a back exit but which would be difficult for a thief to enter. Hardening my resolve to live alone was my younger roomie’s free use of my cookie dough, and the sudden interruption of water service to the rental house, probably due to the landlord’s inattention again. I really do have a genetic predisposition to having my utilities disconnected. At least in the new place it will probably only be my fault.

Audrey and I had our once-a-month lunch Tuesday afternoon, and I was happy that Jamie came with her and Colin this time. Work was incredibly busy that day, and after a night of little sleep I needed a long lunch of solid food and coffee to keep me going. After they left, I grinned for the rest of the day, because I realized that although I was exhausted, I was happy. I was tired physically from lack of sleep, tired mentally from all the stress surrounding my work and living situations, tired emotionally from relationship and family drama.

You know what makes this all okay? That I can sit and laugh and eat with friends – Audrey and Jamie, Kati on the phone reassuring me, Underdown, sick with strep throat needing the company of my voice, Dust needing distraction from his own problems. Winn and I laughing about fandom, Tony and Aral and everyone else planning the yearly big end of summer party. It’s going to be OK. It’s going to be alright. I can do this, this horrible and beautiful thing called being in charge of my own life.

I watched the transit of Venus on the internet just before going to bed Tuesday night. Someone with a telescope in Germany had made a Quick-Time movie of the different stages of progress of the transit, and so I watched Venus move across the face of the sun from half a world away as a recording. It was beautiful, just a simple black dot on the bright round ball that gives us light and life every day. Venus tracked across the sun in front of Earth yesterday, and it will do this again in 12 years, just to show me how small an entire planet is in the face of the sun. My problems are so tiny, and the source of warmth and light is so large.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Quilts have magical protective qualities

Quilts have magical protective qualities

I told The Republican about the magical protective qualities of quilts last weekend. I had to tell him something, because as he brought up planning for the future I pulled the quilt on my bed over my head.

We sat there for a few seconds after that, me under the quilt and he, I suppose, trying to figure out how he had ended up with this crazy person beside him. Then he stuck his head under the quilt next to mine, and stared at me.

"Okay", I said, "Okay, now we can talk about planning, as long as we have quilt protection."

I know that's not the best example of rational, adult, behavior but I'm having to act a little silly to cope with the fact that The Republican can't be scared off. I've tried everything, from Family Drama to job panics to boarderline irrational demands. He just won't be deterred from his resolution to stay with me. The normal cycle of a long term relationships has previously followed these stages with me:

1) Fall hopelessly in love

2) Due to returned affections, fall even more hopelessly in love

3) One of us will begin planning the rest of their lives around the other

4) Communications breakdown

5) Someone does the leaving, which is more of a formality after the communications breakdown

To top all of that off, I haven't had a relationship survive the summer season in nearly seven years. So I'm understandably a bit nervous.

And then there's my job.

And my family problems.

And the money thing, which I've never been good at.

And I just signed for a new apartment yesterday.

Have I mentioned that my job is very stressful?

All of this adds up to me wretching in the bathroom repeatedly sometimes, twisted over in agony, guts in knots any boy scout would envy. I eat crackers. I eat pretzles. I eat tums. Herbal tea usually will calm me down. My body hates my job but would hate unemployment more. I have to be able to take care of myself. I've done a year of this. I can do one more. And having made it through two years, then I can make it through four.

Kati last week made it through the Chicago marathon, finished the race far from first but managed to make it all the way through. Although I could never run that far, I feel as if I'm in my own personal marathon right now. Currently I'm at that stage where your body wants to eat its own muscle, where the lights and whirls of protien starvation try to knock you down. This is the stage of the race where your body works against your goals. I will not be knocked down. I will finish this race even though it hurts. I will do this wrapped in quilts at night, just in case.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

This blog

This blog

I'm having trouble making myself write in this blog lately. I've posted a little over once a week both here and over on einboston for almost four years now. But lately it's been a struggle; not just because livejournal has come around with more interesting ideas, either. It's because, well, I have a full social life now, which leaves little time for writing.

I still need to write. I compose beautiful blog updates in my head all the time, when I'm on the train or on one of the mind-clearing walks I need daily to feel healthy. But my blogging was born of loneliness and lack of time. I started blogging in Boston because I found myself hundreds of miles away from everyone in a place so culturally different that I woke up everyday awed. Blogging not only let me keep up with my friends while I worked three jobs and attended grad school, blogging kept me sane. Writing about my experiences helped me process the sights and sounds and activities I never dreamed of.

Since I've found myself living in Atlanta, I feel that the quality of my blogging has declined. There's a good reason for the decline of quality; I'm surrounded by friends and family and things to do, and so I haven't got as much time to think about my writing as I once did. I'm writing this now while The Republican is washing up; once he's out, we're off into Little 5 where we'll laugh and read the Sunday paper and gossip about friends and probably play some pinball. I also need to call Aral about DragonCon; check on my sister's plans for the summer, and plan my next move.

Everything moves so fast at home, and I'm not allowed to blog at my current job like I have at past places of employ. I'm thinking of giving it up when this blog reaches the two year mark, the fourth anniversary of my internet presence. This makes me an internet Methuselah, so I shouldn't feel too bad about it. But I do. Blogging has been important to me since I started on a lark back in 2000. I looked forward every week to posting. I still do; it's just that too often I'm too exhausted to do this anymore.

In August I'm returning to Boston for a week of work and play. I'll try to update as frequently as I can between now and then. Probably while I'm back in Boston I'll switch over to the old page to record my (ambiguously) triumphant return. Then once I'm back I'll put down a few final thoughts and shut this puppy down.

It's been a fun trip, mi amigas, and it's not over yet, but I can see the end of the tunnel now.
Because the landlord is selling the house, I have to move at the end of June. With all the rental difficulties I've had living in Atlanta, people might wonder why I'm so dead-set on staying here. When I first meet people from rural areas of the south and I tell them I live in downtown Atlanta, their eyes get wide. "Ooooh." they say, knowing that I must be wicked or gay or just plain odd to want to live here. They don't say those things to my face though. What they talk about is usually the horrific traffic, or our crippled public services (water, library, or police force).

The people who fear and loathe Atlanta just don't know the city like I do. Or maybe they do know the city but fear its racial problems or pollution. It takes a certain sensibility to live in the Dirtiest South, I admit. But for those great doubters, I will now offer up my top 5 reasons to live in Atlanta:

1) The neighborhoods.

Honestly, I talk more to my neighbors here in the city than I ever did in the suburbs. People in Atlanta are generally friendly! I love the neighborhoods of ATL, many of which are named after their own park system (Inman Park, Candler Park, Piedmont Park, Ansley Park etc.). I also love how each of the parks reflect the sensibility of that neighborhood. Inman Park, for instance, is rarely mowed, alllowing the wildflowers to run riot, and contains the old staircases of houses long town down embedded into weedy slopes. Piedmont Park is always carefully trimmed, best dressed to show the city how much it wants to be the center of attention. Ansley park has a lot of landscaping, formal flower beds. Other neighborhoods include Midtown, East Point, West Side, College Park and oh, the list goes on and on. And in your neighborhood there are people just like you, and lots of dogs that get walked, and a barrista who knows your name and how you take your coffee (half soy milk, have coffee of the day, with a shot of chocolate).

2) Public Transportation

Sure, it's old, and sure, it needs more money. But I don't have to own a car. Can you say that about your Southern city? Nope! We're the *only* Southern city with true mass transit. Bite me.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Hot water again

Hot water again

I shouldn't be typing this right now; my Great Aunt Beth and my Grandmother are in town, and they, along with my aunt Laura, are headed to my house from Cobb County *right now*. I should be cleaning and getting dressed and...I thought I had this weekend to myself, but instead I've got family to see. And I'm happy to see them! Aunt Beth comes around from Texas but once a year. Golly, do I need some down time soon though. And I'm not sure when the down time might happen...The summer looms hot and long, filled with obligation, sweat, tears and work. It's 90 degrees here already, and the weather calls for locusts.

Christi Underdown was here the past week, attending a class I taught in town on book repair. We had a good time, I made her sleep a lot, and golly, if I ever think I'm overcomitted, I someone should just point me in Underdown's direction and say, "No, honey, SHE'S overcommitted. You're just really, really busy."

Other than the class we just hung out and ate good food. At Cafe Intermezzo, I laughed at her when the hairs on her arm stood up after a bite of Cheesecake and she laughed at me when my drink caused my face to go red. WE stayed up waaay too late on a worknight the last night she was here, talking about life and love and houses. After Christi left, there was nothing to my week but work and sleep.

My flakey landlord put us without hot water for a week. WHile Skeet was here, the gas company cut off the gas because even though we, the renters, had paid our landlord, he had forgotten to pay the gas bill on time. So they axed the gas, and I couldn't cook, and I couldn't take a shower without losing a year off my life. And what was worse is that I had guests all that time! Skeet was here and then Underdown was here and the hot water didn't come back on until after all my guests had left. I'm sooooo ready to move. And I've made the decision to get an apartment by myself for the first time. And I'm scared that I can't afford it, and I'm scared to live by myself, and it's out of the frying pan and into the fire...you know, as long as the gas is on, anyway.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Skeet is here

Skeet is here.

Have I ever mentioned that I have the best group of friends in the whole world? I do. I know that no one believes me when I say that, but it's true.

Skeet is here visiting for a week. I'm working, and so he's on his own during the day, but I think he's enjoying that; Skeet works in Nashville as a waiter and lives in a big house full of people, and I think he's rarely alone in his everyday life. He's going to museums and seeing things he's always wanted to see - dinosaurs and mummies and sculptures.

We've known each other for nearly 15 years now, and this is the most time we've hung out together in almost ten years. We're having a marvelous time, walking around the city and trying to figure out what I should do with my life. Skeet is the perfect friend to have around for that kind of decision making, because he knows the truth about me: I generally do whatever the hell I want. Skeet's the same way.

Somehow, without meaning too, I've come to another big crossroads, a place where I have to make a ton of decisions about where I'm going to live and how I'm going to live. I love my life right now, living in Little 5, but I worry about my job, and of course my love life is frighteningly stable lately. The Rebuplican is getting ready for even more commitment, or maybe he's just going to step up his level of gift-giving. It's all very confusing. The Republican and I are starting to plan around each other, and it makes me a little queasy, because of course I'm worried about making plans around another person. I'm not used to the men in my life being stable.

Except, of course, for the guys I knew in High School, like Skeet and Cairy and Virgil, who are all terribly stable. They're still basically who they've always been, and somehow I'm lucky enough to still be in contact and in good graces with all of them. When I think about the types of men I've had in my life, I know I'm lucky not to have turned into a total man-bashing bitch. If you've ever wondered why I keep dating, how I stay attracted to men, take a look at the guys I knew in High School and know: I never stopped looking for men just like these.

I came home from work Monday just bawling my eyes out, crying and sobbing because I feel like I'm a bad worker. I've never had a job before that made me feel so bad so often. I'm used to being the *best* worker, the worker that the boss brags on, the top seller in my store, the one you want at the front desk to greet people, the kid everyone knows is going to shine the brightest. But at this job I just can't seem to get things right lately, and it's killing me. I want to do a good job, and I worry that I may never get things right, even though my employer seems confident that eventually I will. It's such a huge workload and so intimidating that it amkees me emotional in uncharacteristic ways. People who know me know, I'm not a crier. I didn't even cry at Steel Magnolias.

Skeet was here, and he was the best while I used up a whole box of kleenex and then wore the box as a festive hat. We made stupid jokes about my next career selling tissue box hats, and then went out and played pin ball. And the next night, after I went out on the porch and talked to The Republican at some length, I came back in and apologized for being an inconsiderate host, but Skeet pretended to cry.

"No! It's my night to cry!" He said.

"Oh, Ok then, I'll take tomorrow and you can have Thursday...If we're crying in shifts."

"Thursday's no good for me."

"Well, maybe we could double up tomorrow, both of us could watch Angel and cry."

"Yeah, because they're canceling the series."

"Ok, so we both cry Wednesday at Angel and then take Thursday off, and Friday we can get drunk and cry because we're getting old."

"I was just thinking we should get drunk and cry Friday! That would be perfect! It'll make the drive back Saturday just right!"

"And then we can cry Saturday because it's the last day of your vacation."


Big hugs.

Friday, April 30, 2004

Getting Over It

Getting Over It

Erin is very proud of herself for not having resorted to any lists lately. Since I normally do long narratives, I don't feel guilty about resorting to a bulleted list right now. I'm sick, folks, I got the upper respiratory infection of the overworked. I like to call it the Christi Underdown Overcommitted Crud. Not to worry; I have sulfa drugs I got from a doctor's appointment today. Thank goodness I scheduled that Doc appointment two months ago, otherwise I couldn't have found the time to attend to myself.

Why? I'm having too much fun again. Consider:

1) I got sick three weeks ago.

2) But then I had to eat shrimp and hang with many peeps that I love.

3) Then I had a nearly three day road trip with the supervisor, working.

4) Then Ford was here to visit, whom I love.

5) We saw 2 museums and 3 restaurants while she was here. Our goal was 3 museums and 5 restaurants. But then we were relaxing, you know?

6) We also walked through a bit of the Inman Park Festival.

7) Suddenly Sunday morning, when we were only into hour 2 of brunch (merely halfway, amateur eaters!) The Republican, Tony, and a friend of their knocked on the door.

8) So of course then we had a little party.

9) We discussed how dairy makes snot a lot, right after we consumed good amount of Italian food.

10) Then it was time for me to work like a madwoman again. I flew to KY.

11) Where I held and purused a direct facsimile of the Book of Kells.

12) Where I also saw an albino squirrel

13) And taught a class, even though I was quite ill.

14) Then, after paying $25 to hop a direct flight that would get me home earlier, I found myself locked out of my house

15) For an hour and a half. Luckily the neighbors let me in to pee.

16) Had to be up early the next morning for an important meeting

17) Which was canceled.

18) Ran around like half dead chicken putting out fires, realizing a huge project is due Tuesday.

19) Haven't had time to work on this project in weeks.

20) Went home around 1 and slept, and slept and slept

21) Up this morning, went to Doctor

22) Going camping despite illness. When I say "camping", what I mean is : spending weekend in tent reading comics curled next to The Republican. May possibly contain some nudity in sunlight.

23) My neighborhood smells like clover flowers. I have a good life.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Shrimp are Still Beautiful

My Grandfather and his girlfriend, Alberta, rolled into town in their giant camper last weekend. I was ready for some family time and rented a car to go and meet them, taking time to visit with cousins first and staying with my aunt and uncle in their open, comfortable house.

Work has been so exhausting lately on every level. There's so much to do, so many different type-A personalities to think about, so much to learn every day. My one year evaluation is coming up. My landlord has decided to change the rental agreement. I've started having anxiety dreams again, and I'm considering going on medication for my worry level, because even a year into my new career path I worry about being unemployed again.

I was ready to be hugged. I was ready for the long table filled with family and huge steaming bowls of shrimp boiled with onions and Grandpa goodness. I was ready to see my cousins. They're all so awesome, from Audrey and Jamie, who are my age, down to Ellie who is now three. Ellie's current favorite word is vagina, proving to me what I have always suspected since I first met the kid - we're on the same wavelength. Ruel is into biting people, and Colin proudly peed in the sandbox. And I laughed my ass off at all these things. My cousin Connie just returned from a teaching internship in South Africa, where she saw and tasted things I probably never will. She's ready to start grad school, and I remember how much I loved grad school. How could that have been over two years ago now? My aunt and uncle both took time to tell me how happy they were to have me spend the night at their house. I felt very loved.

On a whim I drove up to Nashville after that huge shrimp dinner, crashed Kati's welcome home party, hugged her and kissed Underdown and slept next to The Republican. The next morning I took my youngest sister out for some individual attention. We bought shirts at Bongo Java, and talked about the social politics of twelve year old girls, which are vicious. I hugged her and told her that she was one of the neatest people I've ever known, and always has been from the minute she was born and I held her after mom and dad did. It's hard for me to watch Abby, who has always been self-confident and original, who fought for her right to wear wigs to second grade, become unsteady and unsure of herself because of peer disapproval. I'm watching one of my favorite people approach the politics of Junior High with impending dread. I think she'll make it through OK. I'm going to reassure her a lot. But Jesus Christ, Sixth Grade...

I remember once Aral and I had a discussion about leg shaving. And basically I realized I shave my legs because I'm afraid the girls I knew in Junior High will come back and make fun of me if I don't. Thank goodness I grew up, that I now have unlearned all the lessons Junior High tried to teach me.

My life really is wonderful , you know? I live in the part of town I love best, and I'm considering getting an apartment on my own. I'm making money and although the job is stressful, it stretches my mental muscles constantly, challenging me and forcing me to learn again and again. I have a boyfriend who sent me a dozen red roses Tuesday for no reason other than that he was thinking of me. I am loved, I can buy whatever I need from the grocery store, I can drink coffee and read comics on a Friday night with impunity.

Of course, I worry too much that I'll lose all this somehow.

This week I worked so hard and so much, spending two nights away from home with my immediate supervisor. The next two weeks will be no better, and I'm thankful that I had the foresight to schedule some vacation time, next Friday and Monday. I'll go camping over May Day weekend with The Republican. I can think of nothing better than stretching on the warm green grass next to him, under the sun, eating strawberries and laughing about any goddamn thing.

All of that fun? It's made possible by my incredibly stressful job. I have to learn to celebrate that hard work, because as much as it wears me out psychologically, I'm definitely enjoying the benefits I get just by keeping on with it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Too much of a good thing

Last Saturday I attended a very large, very wild sort of festival. Among the attractions was a make-up artist who used an airbrush machine to body paint people. His work was amazing, and The Republican couldn’t resist the temptation to get covered in a way that would let him walk around with less clothes on. I watched with frank admiration as the airbrush artist covered him with green and brown vines that wound around his torso and back, climbing up to the sides of his face and highlighting his eyes. After the vines were sprayed on, leaves were painted and outlined, making my boyfriend a living celebration of spring. There was one last go-over with the airbrush equipment then, adding highlights and sheen to the leaves. To cap off the whole thing, The Republican was then showered with copper-gold glitter.

I know this all sounds terribly feminine, but the artwork didn’t present itself that way at all. In the end he was just…well, I guess manly is a weird word to use when talking about a make-up treatment, but the vines and leaves had a way of making him look stronger. The artist knew his work, and without seeming too the lines of greenery highlighted the lean muscle and sinew beneath The Republican’s skin. Only pictures would do the art, and the man, justice. As we walked around for the rest of the day, people took his picture. The airbrush artist did a lot of good work that day; the festival was full of girls in different colored flames, complicated Celtic designs, waves of color and patterns that didn’t rub off as easily as you’d expect. Soap got rid of everything fairly quickly though.

Of course, I sneezed glitter for the next three days. Good God, that stuff is pernicious. Still, I wouldn’t have traded seeing him look like that under the warm April sun for anything in the world.

I had a few people over to my house for breakfast the next day. We had all stayed up too late and partied too hard the day before. I had the unfortunate experience of sleeping on what had to be the hardest floor in the world after deciding not to go home the previous evening. Sunday was spent sore and sleeping, Monday much the same way only with the dull horror of a stressful workday mixed in. I’m not 19 anymore. I still love the big parties, the loud crowd, and it’s hard for me to leave when I know I ought too. But I’ve got to quit that kind of thing. It’s taking me longer and longer to recover, physically, from too much fun.

It’s not that I was drinking or smoking last weekend. In fact, I made myself the designated driver this time around. It’s just that I get tired more easily, and my body is less forgiving when I eat crap all day and sleep under a blanket on some random floor. These things used not to bother me, but here it’s Wednesday, I think *maybe* by tomorrow I might feel right again. And good god, my room at home is a mess because I didn’t have time this weekend to clean. I’m getting old, I’m getting boring, and I know it. Half the joy of seeing The Republican in glitter was having him on my arm, and knowing that at nearly 30 he could still draw looks of envy from other people in the crowd.

So this weekend I’ll be with family, and next weekend Ford will visit, and both of these weekends will be full of a quieter kind of joy. After that I’m going to another big festival/party, camping on May Day weekend. And I will take better care of myself next time. Although it’s hard not to get caught up in the moment when there’s glitter, and music, and the world is so full of the wonderful press of life and living.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Artists and the price of things

Following the burst of creative energy I had last week, I decided that making hemp necklaces again would be fun and entertaining. I missed my old living room set-up in Murfreesboro, where I had two big drawers full of arts and crafts next to the TV to busy myself with when I was indoors. I wanted that again; drawers full of odd things to create little gifts for my friends with. I got a ball of hemp twine from the grocer’s, but was at a loss to find beads. Surely, I thought, in my neighborhood full of head shops and alternative establishments, I could find craft supplies.

I stopped first at 42 degrees, an art glass shop near the grocer’s. The front of this store is full of vases and ornaments and sculptures of hand-blown glass, beautiful things to see. The middle of the store contains supplies for glass artisans. The back of the store, in front of which a sign prohibiting anyone under 18, is full of head gear. The shop owner was happy I came in looking for beads, and showed me around the jewelry counter in the middle of the store. There in cases were hand-made bracelets, earrings, and pendants, many by local artists. On one end of the counter was a rack much like an abacus full of glass beads. The rods of each rack came off and I was shown the most beautiful beads on a piece of black velvet. Each one had its own pattern, and the smallest were about half an inch in diameter. The rods on the abacus set-up were numbered, and they belonged to local artists. The least expensive beads were $6.50, $12 a pair. I felt compelled to support this type of artwork and despite knowing better bought a few, which were each wrapped and put in a small box. But I couldn’t make whole necklaces out of these without going bankrupt, so I still needed beads.

Another store that I thought would sell beads didn’t but sent me on to a storefront down Euclid I’d never been into before. I thought the place next to where I go for used paperbacks was another head shop (my neighborhood now has 4 in 2 blocks), but instead the grimy storefront turned out to be full of cheap imported accessories, including one wall of nothing but beads for craft work. The store owner there told me she went to Indonesia herself to buy the beads, and would be returning there for more supplies soon. Strung on cords of grass or string about half a meter long and looped like necklaces were rough beads of glass, wood, bone, all different shades and colors. The ropes of beads were priced as a whole, but if you don’t want the whole rope the store owner would half it for you. The cheapest strands were around $6, the most expensive $32. Because I wanted variety, I got three half-strands of very plain glass beads and one half-strand of glass beads that had stripes in them. Patterns cost more than plain, and a lot of the pricing seemed rather arbitrary to me, probably based on popularity of pattern rather than quality of work.

While I was checking out, some copper bracelets and necklaces by the register caught my eye. I recognized the bracelets because I’d seen them being made just a few weekends before. A homeless man with a pair of pliers and a pile of copper wiring he’d ripped out of some old house had sat on the corner outside of Little 5 and had made the jewelry out of nothing, it seemed. Watching the homeless man with the thick copper wire had been a crowd of 20-somethings like me, transfixed. It was like watching someone make balloon animals. None of us knew copper wiring could do the things that man did with it, and so quickly! Someone had actually said “He should do parties!”

Some of these pieces were far more elaborate than the ones he made that night, but his work was unmistakable. I had to ask the shop owner. “Did you buy these from that homeless guy in the park?”

“Who, Copper John?”

“I don’t know his name. I saw him making bracelets a few weekends ago..”

“Yeah, that’s him. He’s in jail again right now. He’s a thief, watch out.”

“Is he just a crack addict, or what?”


“Well, that’s too bad.”

“He doesn’t think so. I buy whatever he makes but doesn’t sell in a night, and he gets his mail here.”

I took a close look at Copper John’s work, displayed on black velvet jewelry cushions in this grubby import shop. Loops and swirls and other things tightly bound together to form patterns any designer would envy – Copper John had made pieces that, if I hadn’t known they were the work of a crack addict on a street corner out of stolen wiring – might have commanded high prices in a store like 42 degrees. Copper John’s pieces ran from $12 to $24 retail. I think on the street corner he was asking 10 to 20. I suspect the shop owner pays much less, but then she probably buys many pieces at a time, besides keeping Copper John’s mail for him.

Despite the fact that I admire his work, I passed on the copper pieces. I thought about it though, as I walked home with a bag full of beads that had cost me just as much as the smaller box I’d gotten at the start of the day. As I put all the beads on the coffee table that afternoon to take a look before planning my craft work, I had to take a minute to think about their production. The beads from Indonesia were rough glass. As I pulled them off their stands, some were fused together and some had rough edges. Although color from batch to batch was uniform, the beads were cut at all different sizes, and to my dismay one lot had an inner diameter that varied widely. By contrast the beads from local artists sat smooth, beautiful, little works of art polished and sickenly expensive compared to their imported counterparts. I imagined my imported beads being made on some foreign beach as quickly as possible by women and children who had lots of burns from the process. I thought about my American beads being individually fussed over by some guy in a house near mine. I thought about Copper John on the street corner, and someone in an old rental unit wondering why their air conditioning didn’t work after a long winter, only to discover the wiring had been removed.

What is the fair price for handcrafts? These are shiny things that catch our eyes, but serve very little purpose. I never sell mine, but give them away. How is it so much less expensive for one store owner to fly halfway around the world for beads, and accessories when such a superior product is made locally? Sometimes I think that the more I know about art, the less I understand.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Progenative Force

It seems I can't help but create things these days. On weekends I tend plants growing out of hand. I bake outrageously complex meals for myself and my roomies, experimental recipes for brownies, breads, chicken, and cakes, all from scratch using a variety of new kitchen tools I got for Christmas or borrow from the roomie's odd collection. I write long twisted letters revealing too much to friends, decorated with images from Comics Preview magazine and using other photocopied works of art, newspaper clippings, and hand-drawn doodles. A few weekends ago I spontaneously decided to make a stuffed animal, a little white cat out of fleece for Titania to help her feel less lonely while I'm at work. I desperately want some hemp thread so I can start making necklaces again for myself and friends. Knitting has become wildly popular among my peer group, and I've considered taking it up; after all I already have the needles, as they're a common tool used in book repair. I've been repairing a lot of my books, too.

Help help, I'm bleeding arts & crafts.

The worst of all this preoccupation with handiwork is that I know I'm doing it to avoid writing. While I have managed to turn out two short articles for a political 'zine in Chicago this month, it seemed that my out-of-control creative force only applied to writing once I found out that this 'zine was hopelessly stalled, and that Kati feared for it ever seeing press. Freed up by the thought of being part of another stymied project, I typed away with glee, composing a satirical conversation between Karl Rove and Nixon, and completing a brief biographical rundown of another Republican administrator. Reading about the 9-11 hearings this past week made my efforts feel doubly redundant; now not only did I write these pieces for a zine which may never get published, everyone knows these guys are bastards.

While every plant and meal I touch exceeds expectations, every literary project I involve myself into seems destined to go bitter and fail. The project I am closest to completing sits on my hard drive, mocking me. In order to finish it I'd need a week off of work, a co-conspirator, and at least a grand. I have the leave from work, it's true, but the idea of me pulling together a grand and not using it on my sisters or ever-growing debt is just laughable. The other literary projects I have, while much easier to complete, just languish like forgotten ferns. If I watered the comic book projects with Alestar or myself, I know they'd live again. But they stare at me from my subconscious mockingly. The projects know I've given up on being a writer.

It would be easier to learn how to knit. I could knit while I watched TV. Or I could buy some hemp and glass beads and once again turn out presents for friends that I'd see around their necks for years. Step aside, guys, I've got cookies to bake. Even writing for work seems a chore, the words that should flow easily from me are constricted, too tight, unacceptable for one reason or another, not what the company magazine really needs. The resulting pieces, which, it's true, reach thousands of readers, feel alien to me; informational quasi-advertisements for services available to libraries and archives from the government funding. And to think, I once thrilled feminist horror fans with that short story about puppet miscarriages.

I want to finish the ghost story I started a year and a half ago. I have a clear picture in my head of how the resulting short graphic novel would look, and I think I'm going to approach my filmmaker roomie about working on it with me. He's a photographer, and I think that between the two of us we could really do some innovative image work, twisting digital images to tell the story. But I am afraid of starting another project, with the last one languishing in my picture drive, giggling at my attempts to create again. I am often worn out by my professional work, and I feel deeply conflicted about what the last, unfinished project says about me as an artist and a person. It's like the last project accomplished what I'd really been looking for in my art and writing from nearly 30 years. The last project held a mirror up to me and showed me parts of myself I can't always see, and truthfully it wasn't a flattering reflection as a whole.

Through my own art, I was able to understand more about myself than other people do. And what I discovered has nearly halted my ability to express myself on a higher artistic level. Everything in my life was affected by that last big project - friendship collapsed and were built up around it. My romantic life revolutionized itself. My opinions about family members changed. Everything moved and tilted because at last, I was really making art. And now I find it hard to want to do that again.

Does anyone want a nice scarf?

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

More than I need

Of the nearly four dozen sunflowers I planted two weeks ago, every goddamn one came up and turned into a seedling. This means I have nearly 48 sunflower plants, each well over four inches tall, all of whom would like the chance to grow between six and ten feet tall. It seems to be the same with every plant I touch lately. I have marigolds and catnip coming out my ears, and then the neighbor gave me a bunch of ferns. The only plant untouched by my radioactive green thumb are my dill seeds. Only three plants resulted from that pack.

So if you want a giant sunflower, let me know. Currently I'm trying to kill the buggers by transplanting them to spots in the yard where they are wildly unlikely to grow. And yet the buggers keep thriving. They're more than I need, but I suppose the birds and squirrels will come to love me in a few months.

Spring is in high gear here. There are flowers everywhere in the park and my neighborhood, the cat is shedding like a goddamn deamon, and The Republican and took some time to cast eyes at each other last week. We had dinner at the local pub, walked through the warm night and ate ice cream, and I revealed my mad pinball skills to him. I tried to get him to play but he said he'd rather just watch me. Later we sat on my back porch and argued weather the one celestial light to be seen above us was a satellite, star, or planet. Then we kissed a rather lot.

I also got the run-arounds and hung out with Underdown and Dust a bit. Underdown and I had so much to say that even as we left each other she was walking backward talking as she got into her car. We don't see each other enough. I'm happy that we have both a camping trip and a working visit planned in May. Dust and I were out of phase with one another, talking about the same thing on different planes. Which is OK sometimes - sometimes you just need to see your friends, and weather or not you do anything consequential isn't important. Sometimes you just have to be near them for a bit, to get your head back around who you are in relation to them again.

As Spring comes on I find I am resentful as ever at having to dress up for work. I visited Underdown at her workplace, and there she was in this fabulous archive, hoodie and jeans, fraying braid, absolutely comfortable. At the office where I work now they're very concerned with image, and so even though we are librarians and archivists we must adhere to an arcane dress code which isn't written down but relies solely on the opinion of each department's supervisor. My supervisor wants me ironed, has deep-sixed combat boots, and will comment on anything from hemlines on pants to dress socks. I am very pliable on all her suggestions, as I'd like to keep my job, but I draw the line at dress socks. All my socks are white, so they match each other. I used to actually pair up all my socks in the drawer after I washed them until someone pointed out to me that matching up white socks was a pointless endeavor. Since then I have quite happily chucked them all in a drawer and pulled out socks as needed, always confident that they match. Not that it mattered since I wore combat boots all the time, but knowing the socks matched was something. Until I met Kati, who, as far as I know, has never worn matched socks in her life and continues to be a successful professional woman.

Dressing up just seems so unnecessary to me. No one becomes a librarian or archivist for the pay, or for the stunning fashion. In fact, a major draw to the field was people's lack of concern for appearance. The best librarian at the top of his field that I have ever known wore a blue denim workshirt nearly every day. When we had tours come through, he'd bother to wear a tie. Sometimes. This was quite inspiring to me, and I always hoped I'd one day have his ease in the profession, his confidence in what he does. But alas, all good things come to an end, and I now get fashion lectures despite the fact that most women in our field have never ironed a skirt in their life.

The horn-rimmed glasses, the comfortable shoes, the slightly stained blouse - yes, I'd love to be a typical archivist sometimes. Dress clothes are just more than I need in my life. I have too much of everything suddenly right now, and I'm still learning how to handle it. I do love my job. I do love my boyfriend. I do love my plants. I do want a few more things. But I worry it's all more than I need. I've been getting by on so little for so long now the tide of work and love and abundance is a lot to handle.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Cigarettes: A Love Story

or, how much I love that which I cannot have.

So beautiful and slim and full of desire is a cigarette. I never had one until at age 18 I fell for a boy in an MTSU dorm named Alan who smoked Sampoerna cloves. Every time I kissed him he tasted wonderful, sweet and smoky and spicy. It was around this same time that I began to drink. I think it was Alan who gave me my first clove, but it might as well have been Tracey Grandmaison, or any of those other people whom I've lost touch with over the years. In any event, we all smoked cloves, because it was the early 90's, and we were all very alternative, and when you ran with an alternative crowd in the 90's smoking cloves was still a Very Hip Thing To Do. By the late 90's smoking cloves was a little embarrassing, because a lot of uncool teens had picked it up. By then you were hip if you knew about bendes, these flavored things you smoked that were from India. I think they're still around. I never tried them. When I do still smoke, I sneak furtive cloves, a little embarrassed because they're so out of style. But I can't help it. I love clove cigarettes.

I was hooked on regular cigarettes very briefly in the summer I had my first apartment. Tracey knew these people who were looking for a roomie, and even though I knew none of them I signed on the lease. My roomies all smoked like chimneys. Jeremy and Rodney were amateur drag queens, and I think Rodney in particular lived off of diet coke and Winston Light 100's. I did have, officially, one other roomie, an anorexic/bulimic borderline transgender lesbian named Hope. She signed the lease and slept in the apartment maybe twice, although I did come home one afternoon in June to find her binging on all my groceries. I was the token straight. Both Jeremy and I were still in our teens, and became good friends for a short time before I moved back into the dorms and Jeremy left college altogether. I heard he was in Nashville some years ago, but never managed to find him again.

Which is all too bad, because we did a killer lip-sync version of "Sunset Boulevard", with Jeremy as Norma and me as Joe. But that's another story.

Anyhow, that summer I learned to love cigarettes. I bummed them all the time, paying back the roomies with food. And then came the fateful day when I went with one of the guys to the Discount Tobacco Outlet to buy cartons, and I thought, "Hey, I might as well start picking up my own." But I didn't. Probably because right then I happened to look up and see a woman 9 months pregnant buying her family's stock of cartons to take home. Here this heavily pregnant redneck woman was, just loaded down with four or five different jumbo cartons of discount cigarettes. Her toddler son was playing with packs in a dump bin near the register, running his little hands through the multi-colored off brands. In proud Southern tradition, he was shirtless, shoeless, and a little grubby.

I put my thought of smoking regularly away. And I've managed to resist since then. Mostly. Except -

God, I love a cigarette. When I'm stressed and wound up, it's just soothing. I tend to keep a secret pack of cloves in the fridge or freezer and pull one out from time to time. I smoke them so infrequently that to keep the pack anywhere but the fridge would just mean most of them would go stale, unsmokable after the third or fourth cancer-causing stick. I'll smoke when I'm drinking sometimes too, and in grad school it wasn't unusual to see me standing with the smokers on a fine night when I was skinned again, waiting on a check, trying to figure out how to juggle 3 jobs and the education I loved so much. Some times there was nothing finer in Boston than sitting on my fire escape and blowing smoke into the wind while I wrote. Other times - the last semester times especially - I would deny myself the pleasure in order to try to keep from becoming addicted again. I'd pace my little hallway between the bathroom and the common room, sweating, *wanting* a cigarette so badly my mouth tasted like ashes anyway, but refusing to go buy a pack. Smoking stains your teeth, smoking hurts your throat, smoking is bad for your skin, but oh, just one taste. Please. But no.

When I moved back south the temptation was especially strong in the first few months. Some of my relatives smoke, and in a show of solidarity I'd join in. I was stressed and unemployed and living with my cousins. So I smoked once or twice a week, so what? It's expensive, that's what. And eventually my drive to live on my own was greater than my need to buy cigarettes. I avoided the habit again.

Now I work at a job where smoking would actually be a positive career move of sorts. My division boss is a smoker, and when she breaks she smokes with another division boss. Recently my supervisor seems to have relapsed into smoking as well, the result of family stress or as a shrewd career move I'll never ask her. But there's definitely a smoker's club where I work, and yeah, friends up north, it's all women. Sometimes my work is so stressful I want to smoke too. But I still don't. If I can make it through grad school and family crisis without becoming a habitual smoker, I can make it through anything.

But do love a cigarette. A black-wrappered clove. I love to roll the smoke around my mouth and feel the rush after a few puffs. The settling effect it has on me. I love the way cloves taste, like my first college boyfriend, like I'm still 18 and skinny and a little invincible. And I want one right now. I'll always want a cigarette just a little bit. A delicious, nerve claming cigarette. I haven't had one in months and months and oh, how I'll always love them, and hide them, and covet them from others.

But really, they're not meant for me.