Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Addendum: 1992.

You may remember that in my Best of the 90s posts, I briefly mentioned writing a tome entitled Richard Troll as a young child. You may not remember this, because let's be honest, these posts are always real long. But at the end of my 1990 post, I said: I think I spent most of my down time collecting trolls, and then writing stories about said trolls. My sister then filled in the important details, as she often does, by reminding me that the stories were about ONE troll, and his name was Richard.

You may also have seen on Facebook or Twitter over the last few days that for Christmas this year, my mom made a book full of photocopies of embarrassing writing from my entire childhood. Some of these gems (embarrassments) are excerpts from Richard Troll. To spread the joy, I decided to share some of my literary genius with you.

Spelling errors included for authenticity. Text in big font because that is how we all wrote in second grade.


(Back story for this first paragraph, which is from a chapter called "Neil's Farm"--Richard Troll went to Neil's Farm and was scared by/attacked by a "big pussy cat." It is slightly unclear what exactly happened with the big pussy cat, but Richard came home and was not happy about it.)

For now on we shal go to the bar. "The children are to young to dringk." said my mother. So I will go myself. For now on I went to that bar every night. Now I was smart. I found my friends thier. They said Hey, want to play some pool and I said Hey, Hey is for horses. Then when I got home I toled my mother what I did. Son, you have grone up. Then can I play my Boys II Men tape Mom. Yes son Yes. I love you mommy. Thank you so much. Your friends should know that hey is for horses.
I went downstairs to tell my mommy that I wanted 11 people at my party and I wanted to go to the bar to play pool. I said I would mak a list of all the people I wanted for my party.

The third person Richard Troll invited to his party.

After the party mom took me to the mall. I bout a new suit. My mommy bout new earings. We each got 1 big pen that looks like a jet. In 14 years I will be 40. I am going to do a lot of stuff because my mommy is nice wen anyone turns 26 and 40. Those are her favorite numbers. The next day I went in a hot air balloon. It was so much fun. I can't wait till I turn 40. I got a day off of work sence it was my birthday. But next week I will go back to the office. My favorite present was 1 bowtie and if you put a badery in it it glows up. I got lots of GI Joes. At the bar we played pool and I won. I love this birthday.

(Chapter 16) 

[My dad] is very nice. He has pink hair. Pink hair in this family is crazy, so that means that he is crazy and boy he is. My mother on the other hand has blue hair and is very comb like me and Mickey. She likes to knit and is very nice. My mom is eighty two. My dad is eighty four. My moms first name is Catherin. Her nickname is Bunky. My dad's first name is Ed. His nickname is Mr. Ed. Trolls always have nicknames. My nickname is Rich. And of course the kid's names nicknames are B.B., C+C, and Mick. Troubles nickname is Trouble. Let's get back to my parents. Sorry about that long talk about nicknames, but this was the only time I could tell you.

I will tell you what my parents look like. My father, pink hair, white scarf around neck, purple sunglasses, fat, and very strong. My mom is beautiful but my dad is ugly. All my dad does is roll and drives around in his car. But my mom gets around and has a real job. She makes troll underwear. Hey, don't lagh. You need them.

(Chapter 17: All About the Family) 

First, I'll start with Micky. He has blue hair and is like me. He is the smartest one in the family. Micky has been troll napped! If you see a little baby troll with blue hair, report it to Richard and Troubles troll. 5 pounds of hair reward.


This masterpiece brought to you by this girl right here:

You are welcome.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Happy Xmas (War is Over)

While All I Want for Christmas Is You will always make me the Christmas-happiest (and yes, I am purposely staying entirely ignorant of anything related to this song and Justin Bieber, just because I dislike the audacity of messing with perfection), Happy Xmas (War is Over) makes me the Christmas-my-guts-are-all-tangled-up-in-my-throat-iest. Right from the get go--and let's discuss how much I love how this song just STARTS--as soon as he sings, "And so this is Christmas," I am already fighting off the tears before he even asks what we've done. (I don't know, John.)

This may be blasphemous to say, and maybe it's just the sentimentality of Christmas, but there is something about this song that I find even more moving than John Lennon's biggest contribution to humanity, which we can just say rhymes with Shmishmagine. Don't get me wrong, I am not downplaying Smishmagine, but, I don't know. I can't describe the depths to which this song slays me.

I have a pretty strict No-Christmas-merriment-until-after-Thanksgiving rule, and so when they started playing some Christmas music at work sometime in that weird marketing season between Halloween and Thanksgiving where we all wander around stores scratching our heads, I tried to block most of it out, until I heard this. And all of a sudden all I wanted to do was be wrapped up in an afghan beneath the Christmas tree at my mom's house, and I wanted to run around in circles yelling NO, NO, THE FEELINGS! IT IS TOO EARLY FOR THE FEELINGS!

There are so many good things about this song but my favorite is my favorite part of all Christmas-related things: the feeling it expresses has nothing to do with Jesus whatsoever, but is about the general feeling of, for one moment of the year, a camaraderie of mankind, a general feeling of just wanting to Be Good To Each Other. The rich and the poor ones, the old and the young.  It's gratitude and warmth and strength. It is cliche, but it is good. 

I mean it's not all red suits and candy canes; John's cynicism is still there throughout the whole thing, but in the end it's all about the chorus of children singing at the end, at least allowing ourselves to pretend that we could stop all the fight, just for a short while. This is why I will never understand people who hate this season and go on about commercialism and yadda yadda yadda. Dude. We are all aware of the commercialism. Nobody thinks that's what it's all about. 

& the simplicity of this line: "War is over if you want it." Seriously. This song just makes me lose it.

While I generally view this as a song that shouldn't be covered, people just keep wanting to do it anyway. The only one I find acceptable is Melissa Etheridge's. There is one by Celine Dion that I dislike so much that it makes me inexplicably upset even just thinking about it--SHE DOESN'T EVEN HAVE CHILDREN (OR ANYONE) SINGING THE WAR IS OVER CHANT AT THE END, WHAT IS SHE PLAYING AT? Kathy likes to bring up this Celine Dion version sometimes because she thinks it's funny that I get so mad just thinking about it, but it is NOT FUNNY.

PS. You probably shouldn't watch the John Lennon video; it'll make you want to slit your wrists. Happy Christmas!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Best of the 90s: 1992.

Guys. Do you know how many amazing songs were popular in 1992? Lots. This is going to be hard. But I will power through. Life is tough, but it's worth it for the 90s, you know?

(Warning: If you listen to all these songs--AND WHY WOULDN'T YOU?--just know that for whatever reason the Dailymotion vids are a lot louder than all the Youtube ones. Just to save your speakers a little.)

Jill's Top 10 Songs of 1992


All I Want, Toad the Wet Sprocket

HOLY LORD I LOVE THE CRAP OUT OF THIS SONG. It is also one of the most perfect 90s songs of all time. I can picture Angela Chase walking down the halls of her high school as I listen to it. Yeah, even though Angela Chase still didn't exist for two years. YOU GET IT. Angela Chase has always existed. Perhaps more appropriately, I can picture this song being played during a montage of Brian talking to and/or gazing at Angela during various points of awkward longing, ending with those few times when she awarded him with a laugh or an adorable crooked smile. Someone on Tumblr or Youtube has probably done it. At least I hope so. Don't let me down, Internet.

I had a cassette of Fear, the album this was on which featured one of the most terrifying album covers of all time, and I listened to a whole lot as a tyke. And let me tell you, it was not exactly an upper of a record. As were most of the records I listened to as a tyke. (Case in point: the cheery I Will Not Take These Things for Granted. Although I guess the lyrics are kinda sorta uplifting. Anyway, whatever.) So basically All I Want is as happy as Toad the Wet Sprocket gets, and it's worth it. 

Also talk about a killer first line: Nothing's so loud as hearing when we lie. Boo-yah, KILLED IT. The whole song is chock-full of winning sentimental zingers, such as:

Nothing's so cold as closing the heart when all we need is to free the soul
But we wouldn't be that brave I know

But why am I even telling you this? You know you know all these lines by heart, too. Oh, Toad.

 Black or White, Michael Jackson

I know the only Michael Jackson songs which are really cool to like are the badass 80s ones, but I can't deny it: I LOVE HIS CHEESY EARLY 90S HITS WITH ALL OF MY DEAR LITTLE HEART. I must have professed my deep love of Man in the Mirror on here somewhere, I must have. But I love me some Black or White too. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. I mean the number of cultural stereotypes portrayed in the video! Countless! The breakdown in the bridge while the world implodes behind him! Macaulay Culkin rapping on a stoop! Also, lions! And those visual effects at the end that blew all of our early-90s-minds! HE'S NOT GOING TO SPEND HIS LIFE BEING A COLOR.


My Lovin (Never Gonna Get It), En Vogue

I have to admit that there was an INTENSE EN VOGUE BATTLE IN MY HEAD over whether to choose this song or Free Your Mind for my Top 10, both of which were included in the Top 100 Songs From 1992 list I found, albeit this one was much higher on the list. While I love Free Your Mind in an intense way--PREJUDICE. WANNA TALK ABOUT IT?--Kathy helped me decide on My Lovin (Never Gonna Get It), because a song with parentheses in the title always wins. Am I right, or am I right? Also helpful in this decision were those slinky silvery dresses they're wearing in this video that just barely cover their hoohas. En Vogue has legs forever, gentlemen, but guess what? You're never, never gonna get it.

Also, the breakdown at 3:05--I know it's a breakdown because a gentleman announcer tells me so--is SO. GOOD.

Smells Like Teen Spirit, Nirvana

So the problem with making these lists is debating with myself about whether or not to include the REALLY OBVIOUS HITS. And this is the most obvious of them all. But...I can't not include it. Not just because it was so important, because it is so GOOD. It is still so good. It will always be so good. Even if it led to Kurt Cobain's demise, it will always be so good. I am not eloquent enough to write adequate words about Smells Like Teen Spirit, so instead I will tell you this silly story:

Last summer during my last graduate education class ever, my friend Abe walked in and I spent the entire first half of class staring at him and his green striped sweater and wondering what it reminded me of. My brain alerted me to this sweater as soon as I saw him: ALERT, ALERT! YOU RECOGNIZE THIS SWEATER. YOU WILL STARE AT ABE IN THIS SWEATER UNTIL YOU FIGURE IT OUT! < /robotic brain alert voice >

Finally, after at least an hour of not paying attention to the importance of research in education, I got it. When we had a break, I walked over to him and said, "ABE. I HAVE BEEN STARING AT YOUR SWEATER ALL CLASS BECAUSE I KNEW I RECOGNIZED IT FROM SOMEWHERE AND I THINK I'VE FINALLY FIGURED IT OUT."
Abe: Really? What is it?
Abe: Really? That is amazing. You should go Google that shit and show me.

Of course he probably didn't say "shit" because he is a really good Christian, but I did go to the computer lab during break and Google it, and print it out, and show him. At which point he maybe seemed a little perturbed that I had actually done all that, but he was pretty excited about it up until then. It wasn't the exact same sweater, but it was close.

And so, in conclusion, Smells Like Teen Spirit never leaves you.


Under the Bridge, Red Hot Chili Peppers

You see what I mean about there being so many songs from this year that almost seem too obvious to mention but I can't help myself because of their epic-ness? Guys, when the high-pitched background singers come in a little past the three-minute mark and Anthony Kiedis runs in slow motion, even though I never have any idea what they're actually singing (and is it actually just Anthony Kiedis singing these parts? Who knows, doesn't matter), I will never NOT get chills. I will love this song forever and ever. I think it is one of the loveliest, loneliest love letters to a city ever concocted, and if there is something I love, it is love letters to a place. If I could hug a lyric, I would hug "Sometimes I feel like my only friend is the city I live in." I would also cuddle with, "Lonely as I am, together we cry." (Although I always heard this lyric as "glide," which I think is better than cry. Regardless.) Be still my wanderlust heart.

Tennessee, Arrested Development 

Take it away, socially-conscious, history-examining, intellectual-glasses-wearing hip hop. This is a great song. I actually don't have much else to say about it. It's just good.

What About Your Friends, TLC

1992 was, gloriously, a big TLC year and it was hard to choose which hit to pick, but I feel pretty confident with my decision. I simply cannot get over the fashion in this video. If you click on one video to watch in this long entry, do this one. Do it for the condoms. How many condoms are even hanging off of their various outfits in this video? Lots, that's how many. Do it for the spray-painted all-white-jeans combo. Do it for the clown-esque oversized unbuttoned pants with suspenders. Do it for the poofy hats. These bitches were the dykiest, most bad-ass ladies of the 90s, and I feel like a lot of their dykey bad-ass-ness was lost on me when I was 9. So thank goodness I'm writing this blog entry now and can re-live it. Also, Left-Eye's raps in this one? Forget it.

One, U2

So Bono so often seems like a douche these days--I KNOW YOU'RE SAVING THE WORLD BUT TAKE OFF YOUR GLASSES PLEASE--that it's almost hard for me to include U2, but come on. This song. You know you love it. It's impossible not to love it. It is pure, pretty, definitive gold. We're one, but we're not the same. We get to carry each other. Did I ask too much? More than a lot? You gave me nothing, now it's all I got. We're one, but we're not the same. Well, we hurt each other, and we'll do it again.

And I can't be holding on to what you got when all you got is hurt.

Rhythm is a Dancer, Snap!

Another song that was popular in 1992 that almost made it onto my list was The Cure's Friday, I'm In Love. And so you might be thinking, wait. You're not including The Cure, but you're including Snap? And the answer is, HELLS YEAH I AM. Because let's be honest, I listened to a lot more Snap than I did The Cure in 1992, and you probably did too. Rhythm is a dancer! Yeah, that doesn't even really make sense! You can feel it everywhere, though. Sometimes in the air.

End of the Road, Boyz II Men 

This was actually the #1 song of 1992 (according to Billboard), but I almost didn't include it because I already gave Boyz II Men love for Motownphilly in 1991. And then I listened to the song again and realized, WHAT WAS I THINKING? THERE IS NEVER TOO MUCH BOYZ II MEN LOVE. NEVER. Also, this video features matching flannel coats, so there's that. And ugh, the boyz are in SO MUCH PAIN, GUYS. THEY ARE SO VULNERABLE. GIRL, THEY'RE THERE FOR YOU. THEY KNEW ABOUT WHEN YOU RAN OUT WITH THAT OTHER FELLA. THEY DON'T CARE. (Wait. They should care about that, right?) JUST COME BACK TO THEM. THEIR HEART HURTS, THEY FEEL PAIN TOO. PLEASE. IT'S UNNATURAL. And if you don't feel an irresistible urge to sing along to the chorus--ESPECIALLY AT THE END WITH THE HAND CLAPS--and sway along, and perhaps hit your cane on the ground a few times, I DON'T WANT TO KNOW YOU.

1992 was also the year that Wayne's World brought Bohemian Rhapsody back to glory, and that Slash played his guitar outside that church in the desert while Axel Rose got married in the rain and then his wife died or something in November Rain. But what to even say about those? 

1992 on film:

A Few Good Men

So if for some sad reason you haven't caught this movie on TV lately during one of the 210912382312312897 times it's been replayed on TV, and you've forgotten how good it is, just watch this trailer. JUST WATCH IT. There are so many reasons this movie is one of the most perfect films ever made that I can't even handle it. (And I actually can't really handle watching this movie too much because thinking too much about Santiago's death makes me squirm.) It is Tom Cruise at his best, and Demi Moore at her best, and Nicholson at his best in terms of bad-ass-ness. What is so good about this movie is that there's no perfect ending, no winning conclusion to the case, no heroes streaming out of the courtroom to reporters and cheering crowds. It is heart-wrenching and complex and the perfect high-drama courtroom film.

A League of Their Own

I have to note that the depths to which Kathy loves and knows this movie are so extreme that it's hard for me to think about it without thinking about her quoting every single line from it, at random points, throughout life. Really, instead of including the trailer, I should have just posted this:

This truly is my life. One day Kathy and Allie are going to write a post about A League of Their Own for Naked by Porpoise, and I will try my best to remember to come back to this post and link it because anything they say will be better than what I say. The only thing I will say is that Marla Hooch is forever my favorite.

The Mighty Ducks
Oh, Disney in the 90s, I heart you so much. I also hardly know what to say about this one, other than this 30 second trailer is perfection and pretty much says it all. Anything that mentions a "hot-shot lawyer" learning that "winning isn't everything"? I am there, Mr. Trailer Narrator. I am there.

Jill in 1992
In 1992, when I wasn't listening to Snap! on my way to girl scouts meetings at the Palmyra Township Building, I finished second grade and started third grade. This I believe was The Year I Was the Biggest Teacher's Pet In the World. I can't even remember my third grade teacher's name (oops, horrible memory), and I swear I didn't even do anything to warrant it, but she LOVED ME. She was also the head of technology in our elementary school or something and had control over the computer labs and would randomly tell me to go play on the computers if I wanted while everyone else in my class did work. This was perhaps a combination of her liking me because I was painfully quiet and shy, and a teacher-sixth-sense of knowing I was going to become a Mega Computer Nerd. It went like this:

Teacher Lady: "Alright everybody, get ready for your spelling test. Oh, Jill, you can go down to the computer lab and play Oregon Trail for an hour if you want."
Jill: "Huh? Okay." *shrugs*

It happened all the time and never made sense. Shockingly, no one ever beat me up.

Friday, December 2, 2011

November Goals: Review.

At the beginning of November, I wrote a jumble of things that I wanted to do during the month. Here is my corresponding jumble of a review.

I was healthier in November but still not totally healthy. I did not run, because let's be honest, it's cold outside and I do not actually like running that much, I just like to believe I do. I ate fast food relatively less but still didn't eat enough fruits & vegetables. I did, however, start biking more again. I also had my lazy periods of driving, because, like, there's heat and I can sit down and I can listen to Florence (& Christmas music). But whenever I do get the cajones to bundle up and get on my bike, I am always grateful for it. Biking makes me feel like a stronger person, in a variety of ways.

I did not really wake up earlier.

I did write a little more this month, in the sense that I wrote something which may or may not be published somewhere soon, and I wrote a hilarious guest post on Kathy & Matie's new blog, and I babbled here. But I did not write any more TypeTriggers, and I did not submit anything to Gigantic Sequins. So half yay, half boo.

I did not really spend more time with my pictures. I am sad about this. Truth: I will never have enough time to spend with my pictures as I want to, and I will always be sad about it.

Uh, I did NOT finish Coin Laundry, my one accountable goal. Even though I SWEAR I am really loving it so far. Curses!

I did not contact UW about their MLS program but I found out more about it; still contemplating things. I started to freak out about money a little less because I was able to actually pay some bills. And this is an amazing feeling, for serious. If you have never experienced the joy of a quiet phone when credit cards and collectors stop calling you, you have never been as poor as me. But when it comes to thinking about wedding stuff, yes, indeed, still freaking out.

I did not keep the house cleaner. I did not start reading newspapers again.

I did NOT talk to people I love enough; I did not talk to my parents enough. This is actually my biggest regret this month.

I did not write about Florence, but I love that "write about Florence" was one of my GOALS. I am in love with my own melodramatic mind. However, I am actually just about to attempt to do that, for this, and I'm pretty pumped about it.

November was actually a pretty great month. I only had one mini-breakdown, had some really cool career type things happen, am feeling really good about myself at the moment, and am looking ahead to a really awesome 2012. Go me.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Some old graphics and I'm done.

 All Ryan Adams, All the Time

Over the past couple weeks, I have been engaging in the sickest forms of nostalgia.

Healthy Forms of Nostalgia:
- Looking at old pictures
- Laughing with friends and family about old times
- Listening to music you used to like.

Sick Forms of Nostalgia:
- Looking at bad poetry you wrote in middle school
- Looking at bad fanfiction you wrote in middle school
- Looking at anything you wrote before last week.

Things That Are Probably Healthier Than the Above:
- Eating five pints of Ben & Jerry's
- Sleeping all day
- Drugs and alcohol.

Okay, I may exaggerate a bit. A bit of narcissism (okay, self-reflection) is healthy for anyone; but past "a bit," it quickly devolves into an unhealthy spiral.

This trend of mine started for a variety of reasons, and if you follow me on Twitter, you know that I've been vomiting this nostalgia all over the place because it makes me feel so embarrassed and anxious I have to get it out somewhere and Twitter has been my current venting platform. Sorry, Twitter. In the past, it's been Livejournal, HTML typed into endless Notepad files, all the way back to Angelfire and Geocities. Jill: Vomiting Her Neuroses to the Internet since 1997. 

Hella Cute on the Empire State Building; real into Abandoned Pools.

I thought sharing some of this stuff would be funny, but I'm increasingly realizing it's not. I don't even feel comfortable sharing most of it with Kathy. Things I usually talked about in all of these forms of writing: Beauty! Passion! Love! Loneliness! Beauty! "My words"! It is like an overdamatic reading of a Chicken Soup for the Lonely Girl in a Small Town Soul, or a neverending Jewel album from 1997.

The only productive end to this sick habit I've immersed myself in is possibly having an empathetic moment for the youth I want to work with and help in my professional life; a potent reminder of how selfish, philosophical, and intense we are when we are young. Mostly selfish.

This isn't a bad thing, and by "selfish" I don't mean uncaring about your fellow human beings--contrary to popular opinion, even when being incredibly cruel, it's my belief that teens are probably more hyper-aware of the humanity around them than anyone else. They have a special ability to see everyone's beauty AND everyone's bullshit, a talent that often fades with age. The selfish part just comes in by being so wrapped up in your own shit that your brain almost doesn't have room for anything else.

Overanalyzing the Definition of Home, Over and Over

But I'm not 14 anymore--okay, or anywhere between the ages of 14 to 22--so there's no reason to keep dragging myself around in this. Sometimes I thought the things I wrote were hilarious (to me), but mostly they just made me feel weird. While I'll always be the person who wrote those things, I'm also not, anymore. I can grow some balls and put away the floppy disks and not open those weird folders on my ancient computer anymore, at least for now.

The only thing I kind of enjoy looking at are old crappy graphics I used to make; sometimes they were for webpages, sometimes they were just another form of angsty expression. By "graphics," I mean, taking pictures of myself and/or places and putting lyrics on them. Most of these are embarrassing too, but are in general somewhat more socially acceptable.

 Prom Dresses in Bingham Park

So anyway, to document these two weird weeks of awful nostalgia, here's some of these gems, accompanied by the related musical inspiration. (Only because it took some serious musical memory tweaking to remember what half of these lyrics were from, and so I have to share my sense of accomplishment. Don't worry, they're all really mopey and sad.) And then I'm done. Hear that, self? For Christ's sake, brain, get over yourself.

 The Epitome of My Hanson Fandom

High School.

How I Dressed Pretty Much Everyday / Oh, I Also Talked About Souls a Lot

I Actually Made Like 10 Graphics From This Song, Which I Definitely Didn't Know Was About One Night Stands

Screencapturing of iTunes For the Win

Yeah, done. Like that dude says to Keira Knightley after he pours out his heart outside her flat in Love Actually (even though he's actually supposed to be in love with the dude): "Enough. Enough now." 

Dear former self: It gets better. But do know that I still love you, embarrassing or not, anyway. Love, Me now, and Me always.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Random hits from the playlist at work.

I am often surprised at how much I want to talk about the music at work. This may be because it's the only thing really worth talking about from my work. Or maybe it's because Starbucks music (sometimes) actually speaks my brain and soul. BUT OMG HOW EMBARRASSING IS ADMITTING THAT?! CORPORATE COFFE MUSIC BRAIN. Blech. Or maybe it's because I often compose blog entries in my head to myself when I'm at work to keep myself entertained and when I hear the same songs ten times in a night they sneak their way in? Anyway.

The most important musical event of my life recently has been Ceremonials, but to talk about that would involve serious and honest emotional thought. But the music that's been playing at work recently literally seems like it was ripped from my Napster and/or my Kazaa from my freshman year of college. And talking about that is just funny, so I'm going to do that.

Seriously. It is like, hit after random hit, someone stole my computer from the 8th floor of the LB. I didn't make many true friends freshman year of college, so to fill my time when it was too cold to wander aimlessly around the city, I downloaded a LOT of songs. Here are some quick examples, playing now at a Starbucks near you.

Greek Song, Rufus Wainwright. I always loved this song just because I really loved singing the line, "When I get back, I will dream in Barnes and Nobles." Geez, writing this has really made aware of my corporate whoredom.

Central Reservation, Beth Orton. I was sitting alone in my dorm room downloading Beth Orton songs, and it would still be like, two years until Kathy made me realize I was a lesbian. Shocking, really. Napster had known for months.

Birds Fly, Icicle Works. Uh, okay, this is just random. But I swear it's playing at work, and I swear it was on my Napster. I just really like this song, okay? It's weird. I think I first heard of it when it was mentioned in a Hanson fanfic, true story. Oh my god, everything in my life is imploding in on itself.

Delicate, Damien Rice. Oh bloody hell, Damien Rice. There are actually a few Damien Rice tunes on the rotation at work, which is fine because I listened to O like it was crack the first two years of college. And by crack, I mean the kind of crack that makes you want to curl into a little ball and never move, just feel sad about everything forever. A few years later, when I somehow felt I was cool enough to talk about music with Keegan, who likes cool music, I downplayed my love of Damien Rice because Keegan thought he was over dramatic. But I'm not cool anymore and I'm not fooling myself; I will always be blindly in love with the over dramatic. So make those strings swell, Damien! WHY'D YOU SING HALLELUJAH IF IT MEANS NOTHING TO YOU?! RIGHT?!?! WHY'D YOU SING WITH ME AT ALL, JERKFACE?! OMG WHY ARE YOU SO MEAN LET'S GO TO IRELAND AND SIT BY THE OCEAN DAMIEN.

Okay, and then there's this collection of tunes that actually weren't on my Napster/Kazaa freshman year in Boston, but are in a distinct category of Female Songstress Emotional Times.

Keep Breathing, Ingrid Michaelson. Oh dear, oh dear, you are a pretty one Ingrid, let me weep as I make pumpkin spice lattes, thanks a lot.

On the Radio, Regina Spektor. So this is a happy sounding song; let's be honest, it's probably one of Regina's most upbeat. But I like it and the lyrics so much that sometimes it makes me teary anyway. What? I don't know. I also have a hard time not singing along to the "on the RAD-EE-OH! (oh oh!)" joyful sounding refrain at the end of the song, so I normally sing it under my breath. "Here's your chai! (OH OH!)" Also, YOU SHOULD WATCH THIS VIDEO BECAUSE IT IS TRULY AWESOME. Oh, creative people on the Internets, after I get over my feelings of inadequacy you first make me feel, you then make me feel so happy about the world!

Breathe Me, Sia. OH REALLY STARBUCKS? REALLY? JUST STOP IT. Remember that time Kathy and I played this as we drove away from Boston on our way to Oregon on the Masspike and we cried and cried as we drove under that weird Shaws that hangs over the highway and thought about all the awesome people and times and memories we were leaving? I do. And maybe you do too because we talk about it a lot. Also, the official video is truly remarkably cool so you should watch it, I just can't embed it.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

J & K Do Portland Food Carts: Months 7-10-ish?

Remember that time I wrote monthly posts about food carts? Right, you might not, since the last time I did it was in July. Oopsies. I just re-read that post and found it to be pretty funny and thought to myself, "Man, I don't know why I'm not the most popular blog on the Internet, after Hyperbole and a Half because I could never be as good as that, even though I never promote myself other than to my family and friends on Facebook?," which is a thought I have sometimes.

Anyway, we have still been going to food carts but in a much more sporadic manner because there were some months we couldn't afford it, and other months where we still couldn't afford it but said, "Oh wells!" and went to carts anyway, but none of it felt organized enough to do blog posts about. And yes, to us,  even though street food is supposed to be something poor-ish people do, being able to afford food carts feels like sometimes rich people do. I.e., hipsters who somehow have more money than us, and/or freelance bloggers who know the secrets to getting paid to visit food carts, which are secrets I do not know.

Anyway, here's a quick summary of the random food carts we've visited in the past few months.

#1: Azula Tequila Mexican Taqueria. In our favorite A La Carts pod off of SE 50th and Division, we went here with my dad and Cheryl when they visited way back this summer. I'm pretty sure my dad and Cheryl got tacos, and Kathy and I both got this smothered chorizo enchilada thing. The exact details are hazy. In any case, this was definitely yummy, and there were major pluses to this cart in general: 1) They served you the food in these fancy fiesta-ware-esque plates, which is pretty high-class for a food cart. 2) The workers were super duper nice. 3) They had many plastic bottles of their own house-made salsas, which from what I can tell is basically a necessity for any true taqueria, but still is always exciting to me. 4) The best part of all is that the food was truly cheap. For truly large portions of food, as you can see. While I can't remember exactly, I'm sure this dish was $5 or less. In other words, what I believe true street food prices should be like.

While I really enjoyed this place and would definitely return in a heartbeat, I still feel like I have yet to discover a Mexican/taqueria cart in Portland that really makes my heartstrings explode with love. In other words, I feel like I will be constantly searching in vain for my West Coast Anna's Taqueria. Sigh. It's never going to happen. And now I'm just going to be pining for Anna's all day. Dammit.

Anyway. < /taqueria angst > Next, we went on our first adventure to the new-ish cart pod along Division and 32nd, near the famed Pok Pok (which I obviously have not been to since I feel it's too fancy and I'm often scared of new things), D-Street Noshery

This was actually a little bit of a disappointing adventure, but this might also have been because we were both in horrible moods when we went. In other words, I think I was being a bit of a bitch. The exact details are hazy. What I learned from this adventure is that, when one is in a slightly bitchy mood, great food can really make you feel better, but mediocre food can just make you even more pissed off. Or, if you don't place as much emotional attachment to food as I apparently do, you'll probably be alright either way.

Kathy's Choice: A special of the day from Herb's Mac and Cheese which featured tomatoes, bacon, garlic, and blue cheese.

Now, these are all things that I LOVE, and so it sounds like it would be amazing. However--even though I only had a few bites of it--I remember being slightly disappointed. I think because 1) While I love both garlic and blue cheese, they are both really intense flavors, and there was a LOT of garlic on top, and I feel like having two such intense flavors at once almost cancel each other out, or allows you to not fully appreciate each one as you should. 2) All the toppings were just plopped on and baked on top. Now, I understand you are fully able to mix it into the mac yourself. I know I'm lazy, but I understand that. But at the same time--I feel like the mac would have a more consistent mixing and blending of the flavors into every morsel of pasta if it all actually marinated and bubbled together, toppings and mac as one.

That said, I feel like mac & cheese places are the New Thing, and since I love mac & cheese so much, I feel I have to be a little critical of them. Because let's be honest--most of the things I eat when I eat out are things I can't make myself at home. Which is why I'm paying a lot of money for it, right? But I can make a damn good mac & cheese at home, as I proved when I made that mac for the Mac & Cheese Off last year. (Note to self: make that again.) So if I'm spending extra money to buy mac & cheese out, it better be damn good and something I know I couldn't perfect myself (like the macs I highlighted in this entry. No way can I make any mac like Montage can).

That said, I'm looking forward to trying more of these new trendy mac places. In particular, for months I've been meaning to visit Baked!, a take-out establishment on Alberta which isn't exactly a cart but doesn't have an actual restaurant/eating area of their own yet which still makes it the kind of supporting-small-business-upstarts type of thing that I like feeling with (most) food carts.

[Little rant: I said (most) because with the popularity of cart culture in Portland, I've seen it happen where already established, popular brick-and-mortar restaurants open up food carts around town. And while it might be kind of neat to have your favorite restaurant suddenly be mobile, I think the true food cart experience should be unique opportunities for poor-to-middle-class folks to really start up something new, something small but rewarding and exciting, on their own, closer to the American dream than most other things. Wait, have I ranted about this before in my food cart posts? Maybe. The exact details are hazy. HOWEVER, the addendum to this rant is that it's also frequently the case that a food cart is so popular that the owners are able to open up their own brick-and-mortar stores (most notable case, Pine State Biscuits--my first EVER entry on this here ol' blog), and to keep their original roots they usually still keep their food carts operating as well. This I deem completely acceptable.]

Anyway, Baked! was started by an Emerson grad, and while I don't think I really know him I will always feel a fondness for and allegiance to Emerson grads. And I'm a fan of theirs on Facebook so I always read posts about their weekly specials and they always make me SO HUNGRY. And then upset I don't live closer to Alberta. And then upset about the fact that even if I lived closer to Alberta I couldn't afford to get the weekly mac specials every week, or eat at any of the numerous eating establishments on Alberta, and it's a whole vicious Facebook-food-money-self-pity cycle. But, still--I'll get there sometime.

Wow, that was a lot of mac talk.

My Choice: I got arepas with chorizo and plantains from Fuego de Lotus, a Venezuelan cart. I decided to get it because I thought it'd be good to branch out and get something new/feel cultural, and I'd never even heard of arepas before. Arepas are basically Venezuelan corn cakes often served with meat, apparently something like a poor man's (wheatless) bread. And hello, I love chorizo, and hello, who doesn't love plantains?! DON'T TELL ME IF YOU DON'T LIKE PLANTAINS BECAUSE I WILL IGNORE YOU.

While this was all yummy food, I have to admit that I wasn't quite sure the best way to eat it. Also, while I understand that chorizo is one of the greasiest things one can put down their gullet, normally I cook it as part of a dish so the grease just kind of all blends in and gives a rich flavor to things. But when you're just eating a big bunch of chorizo in a bowl, the grease all pools in a neon puddle at the bottom and makes one feel kind of gross. So overall, I would definitely try arepas again, but I'd maybe give this a B-.

However, any and all ambivalent feelings went away when we also visited the Pie Spot. Yeah, we really went all out at this pod. First of all, Pie Spot for sure wins for Cutest Food Cart Ever. Like, look at it! I couldn't even get all the cuteness in one picture! And all the adorable and delicious looking pastries are piled on cute plates! Gah!

The main thing Pie Spot serves are uber-mini pies they charmingly call pie holes. We got the chocolate hazlenut one. We shared it because we had already spent too much money on mac and arepas and the pie holes are maybe a little more expensive than I would prefer. However, they are SO GOOD. AND SO WORTH IT. AND IT WAS SO HARD SHARING JUST ONE. I AM ALSO REALLY HUNGRY WHILE I'M WRITING THIS WHOLE THING AND I WANT TO EAT THIS PIE HOLE AGAIN RIGHT NOW AND ALSO ALL THE OTHER FLAVORS OKAY THANK YOU.

This cart pod is also home to Slice, the delicious pizza that was our one real win experience from the food cart festival we went to earlier this year. We didn't get any because we wanted to try new things, but if I went back to the pod, Slice and Pie Spot would be an amazing and beautiful combination.

Since our D-Street Noshery experience, which I've just surprisingly written a book about, we've eaten at a couple other places but I wasn't on top of things enough to get pictures of them. Most recently, we got a couple of subs/hoagies/heros (depending on what you want to call them in your geographical location) from Shut Up and Eat, again in the A La Carts pod on 50th. This cart has some good press and for good reason; it advertises its menu as "Italian comfort food" and there's something about the place, the food, and the workers that has a real genuine vibe to it. I also absolutely love the name. It all just feels real East Coast-y, which always makes me happy. They also list in giant letters on their menuboard what farms all of their meat/ingredients come from, which is pretty Portland typical these days, but is still great.

Kathy got the Broad Street Bomber, which is basically a cheesesteak, and I got a chicken parmesan sub. Which, due to Tom Haverford I literally feel I will no longer be able to call anything other than chicky chicky parm parm. And this chicky chicky parm parm was great. The sandwiches are huge and definitely share-able, or good for two meals, which makes them especially worth the money (they are generally in the $7-$10 price range per sandwich).

This was fun to write even though it made me really hungry/angsty, because anytime I am hungry I am angsty. But still, hopefully this will inspire me to get this monthly blog tradition back into shape. And then maybe someone will pay me to write about them! OK, probably not.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

November Goals.

Normally throughout the month I find myself noting in my brain ideas for goals I want to do for the following month. However, this month I seemed to lack the mental capacity to do this, or create any kind of neat list as usual. So instead I will give you a jumbled paragraph. Yay!

I want to be healthier. My eating habits were so atrocious this month and I hardly exercised at all, including riding my bike. I feel fat and unhealthy and gross. I want to start running again, I think it will help me with some of my anxiety I've been having. I want to eat more fruits and vegetables. I want to eat fast food less. I want to bike more. I want to get up earlier. I got up way early one morning last week because I was too anxious to sleep and ended up doing more before 8AM than I normally do in a day. I want to do that more. I want to read more. Like, schedule out time in my days to do it. I want to write more. I remembered one night this month that I kind of like TypeTrigger. I want to submit something to Gigantic Sequins. I want to spend more time with my pictures. This might be my only accountable goal, for Kathy and Matie: I want to finish reading Coin Laundry. I want to stop doubting myself. I want to apply for as many library and/or education jobs as I can. I want to actually contact UW's MLS program. I want to transcribe more. I want to not freak out about money so much. I want to keep the house cleaner. I want to start reading newspapers again. I want to talk to people I don't talk to enough that I love. I want to talk to my parents on a more consistent basis. I want to start organizing my life in my planner more. I want to be a better girlfriend. I want to use the car as little as possible. I want to listen to Florence every second of the day, but I already do that. I want to write about Florence. I want to get my shit together and be okay with myself.

Want, want, want! Buddha would be so disappointed.

In reality, I actually think I'm at a really good and important place in life. I'm feeling hopeful about you, November.

Friday, November 4, 2011

October Goals: Review.

So remember that time I made goals for October, and I ended my list by saying: "This is going to be a good month"? I also said things like "October is the bestest month!"? Well then. Note to self: never jinx myself like that again. October, in fact, ended up being messy and weird. Accordingly, most of my goals were shoved to the very back of my brain. But for tradition's sake, let's see what kind of a shitstorm this goals review will be anyway.

+ Get rid of our Bank of America bank accounts and open local ones, probably at Rivermark. Bye bye, big corporate banks! I may not be able to occupy the streets, but I can take my money away from yo' ass!
Half way. We did both sign up for checking accounts at Rivermark, yay! But I'm still waiting to get my debit card and official account information in the mail, and until I do I can't completely unravel my life from Bank of America. But this whole thing has made me realize how entangled I am in them. Blergh.

+ Pay off my bills. I got behind again this month. :\ Which always just makes them harder to pay off. :\
I did, just barely.

+ Once they're paid off: get my film pictures from our East Coast trip developed.
Not in the budget, but I want to so bad. The next time I have anything extra, this will be first on my list. Film pictures from New York, come to meeeeee.

+ To renew my education spirit, I want to finally subscribe to Rethinking Schools and VOYA.
Again, not in the budget. Looking over this list makes me realize how rah-rah I was feeling at the beginning of the month about education stuff, since I'd just gone to that social justice conference in Seattle. It's a good reminder though, because I go from rah-rah to blah-blah and completely doubting my ability to be a teacher really quickly. So anytime there's that obnoxious rah-rah in me I should take advantage of it. Whenever I do subscribe to these organizations, maybe they will help.

+ Also, so I can make my own opinion once and for all, finally see Waiting for Superman.
Yeah, no.

+ Another hopeful indulgence once bills are paid: get a tune-up for my bike, as well as getting mudflaps installed.
Hahahaha! Apparently I thought I was going to be rich this month somehow! I am hilarious.

+ More nerdy education/library stuff: start reading some books for upcoming winter Mock Newbery and Mock Printz Award workshops! I want to participate in both workshops and actually read all the books for each this year.
OK, yes! One success! I officially signed up for both workshops and read one of the Printz ones (Jasper Jones--it was intense!), started two of the Newbery ones, and put holds on all the other books from the library. Somewhat disturbingly, these holds have been fulfilled really quickly and I now have a huge stack of  pretty shiny books, the sight of which makes me want to hyperventilate a bit, and/or want to quit every thing I'm doing so I can sit home and read all of them.

+ Email my advisor about library practicums. Email University of Washington about MLS.
These might have been my most important goals on here, and all they were were sending EMAILS. And I failed. What is wrong with me.

+ Espanol! I'm going to get back on that train, people! Goals: finish current chapter in Harry, finish up to Chapter 30 in workbook.
I did read quite a few pages in Harry, but nothing to brag about.

+ If time allows, go on at least one hike with Kathy.
At first I was going to say no, but then I remembered that we went on a walk at Promised Land (did you know almost everything by my hometown is named after biblical references? Now you do) with my brother and his wife when we were in Pennsylvania. And it was a pretty lengthy walk, so let's call it a hike.

Kathy and Egypt Lake.

+ Also, make the time to go to at least one pumpkin festival. Pumpkin festivals in October = essential.
We also somehow made this happen. Yay! It was somewhat late in the season after all the good pumpkins were already taken and we went on an overcast Wednesday and so there was hardly anyone there, which was kind of nice. We got cider and bought local honey and walked around and it was real nice.

I love you, you weirdly shaped and dirty pumpkins!

+ Be able to put my entire transcription work check this month to a wedding fund.
No. Every cent of it went to bills. I'm actually really upset about this and thinking about how I'm going to pay for our wedding makes me really anxious. But if I talked more about it this would become a "Things That Make Jill Anxious" blog, which is much less fun, so let's not.

+ Start keeping track of all of my expenses on that really boring spreadsheet I used to have, again.
Hells no. I kept all my receipts for everything in hope of doing this, so now I have a bunch of receipts all over my desk and in all my bags. Does this count?

+ Make four new meals.
Four? Really? Wow, I was dreaming big 30 days ago. I somehow made three though, and I felt damn proud of that!

#1. Peanut soba stir fry. This turned out okay--better than the picture probably looks. I tend to like any peanut sauce anything, because it tastes like peanut butter and peanut butter is delicious. And the vegetables I put in were yummy, especially the cauliflower, because cauliflower is delicious. But the soba noodles I got were just so whole-wheat-y, you know? And I can't get down with those really intense  cardboard-y good-for-you noodles. I'm all, give me my unhealthy white flour so I can die earlier, bitch! They definitely didn't look like hers, so there must be some other kind of soba noodle I can find. 

#2. Spinach artichoke pasta. OH MY GOD THIS WAS SO GOOD. It's basically just like spinach artichoke dip turned into a pasta dish. OH MY GOD IT WAS SO GOOD. I WANT IT IN MY MOUTH AGAIN RIGHT NOW. I think what helped make it so delicious were the marinated artichoke hearts I bought which were delicious unto themselves. I WANT TO MAKE THIS AND THE SKILLET LASAGNA FROM LAST MONTH OVER AND OVER AGAIN AND EAT THEM EVERYDAY. These are also probably two of the unhealthiest dishes I have ever made, so, that's probably why.

#3. Cuban chorizo stew. A lot of the times I've made stew or soup-ish type things in the past they've always tasted a little bland or not as good as I would have hoped, but this stew had a really really good, substantial flavor that I loved. Maybe it was the chorizo, since chorizo makes everything better, although I really only used a small amount in here. Maybe I just really really love black beans. This also made a ton and I was able to have leftovers for many meals without getting tired of it.

So this month wasn't full of all bad things. This might come as a shock, but I can be a little dramatic sometimes. But overall October, I won't miss you. Until next year, because normally you really are the bestest.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Two LGBT short story collections for youth you should probably read.

Awhile ago, I mentioned in a post here that what I really want to be doing with my life is working with books. You might have missed this since it was nonchalantly squeezed into a longer post, but here I am to repeat it. Since I'm at somewhat of a weird life stage at the moment, figuring out what I want my life to actually mean has been forefront in my brain and I know books need to be a part of it.

Specifically, books for youth/talking about books with youth is what I want to be doing. I've settled on using the term "books for youth" at least on this blog, because while this is actually a huge and varied category, I feel like saying "kids' books" is almost demeaning for the quality of most of these books, and "young adult lit" seems to evoke nothing but poorly written, sexy books about vampires and/or blonde twins at Sweet Valley High. That said, I try to not be snobby about books, because if a teenage girl wants to spend every night reading about sexy vampires, MORE POWER TO HER. She is a girl who loves reading, and no matter what she's reading about, I love her for it. 

But I feel the term "youth" evokes more positive feelings of exuberance and strength than the unfortunately negative emotions "children" and "teen" often conjure (immaturity, silly in their abundance of emotions, etc). So I'm going with youth.

I've developed a three-pronged strategy for things I can do right now to help me toward my ultimate goal of being a youth librarian somehow someway (in addition to the things I'm already doing, like still volunteering at and accumulating way too many books from Title Wave):
  1. Start volunteering with Books2U, a really remarkable program started by former educators through the amazing Multnomah County Library that brings high-interest reading materials to low-income schools, mainly in East Portland and beyond. (Relatedly, people in Portland, you should probably read this excellent article about East Portland from the Willamette Weekly from a couple weeks back.) I feel like every single thing about this program is so important and good. I went in to talk with the director of the program the other day and left with two bags FULL OF BOOKS to start reading for future booktalking. It felt like Christmas!
  2. Take part in all three mock youth-award conferences put on by various library associations this winter: the Mock Newbery (for excellence in children's books), the Mock Printz (young adults), and the Mock Caldecott (picture books). I participated in the Mock Printz last year (which I don't think has an official OLA website, and appears to be reserved for people in-the-know, which I am not, but luckily I know one person who actually is in-the-know--thanks, Danielle! It also interestingly seems to be the only one that's free?) but I was a lazy participant and only read like three of the books on the list. This year I am committing myself to reading all of the books on all of the lists! I am already stressed out!
  3. Write more about books on here.
I'm excited about the contrast of #1 and #2 because #1 will get me better acquainted with books that kids actually like and that can be really important for varying reading abilities and interests, whereas #2 will make me aware of the most current high-quality books that, like, youth librarians like. (Speaking of awards and youth lit though, this is some serious shady balls, National Book Award.)

And I want to write more about them because 1) I need practice doing it, and 2) I feel like the world needs to know about how awesome books for youth in fact are right now. And not just because some shady authors think you can make more money doing it (I hated these authors so much after the first three paragraphs that I couldn't read the rest of the interview), and not because of the somewhat confusing upcoming Diablo Cody movie that I keep hearing is about a young adult author but doesn't seem to have anything to do with writing. But, because most of these books are really good.

And in fact, I think a whole lot of the world does know this. But a portion of the rest of the world, a portion that may be the most important--people who work with youth, coupled with people who work with books--still don't really know, and it's too bad.

While I love books for youth as a general whole, I also have a specific interest in books for LGBT youth, as I've mentioned here before. Since I honestly believe they can, you know, save lives, and stuff. So enough with my chit chat, GEEZ. This may honestly be one of my longest always-overly-long intros ever. But here we go. Here are two books of short stories for LGBT youth, one written over 15 years ago, and one that came out in 2009.

Am I Blue? came out in 1995 and was groundbreaking in that it was the first short story anthology for LGBT youth. Like, ever. There had been the rare youth LGBT book published prior to it (Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden, about lesbian teenagers, came out in 1982), but this was the first book that addressed the true breadth of issues that these youth might deal with.

I read a tattered used copy of it years ago, and the story the sticks most in my mind is the title story, by Bruce Coville. It features a fabulous, campy fairy godfather, who is like A REAL FAIRY IF YOU KNOW WHATIMEAN. Having such flamboyant characters in gay books/movies/TV can be a bit of a contentious issue, with some people claiming it solidifies a stereotype. But in my view, if you're a queen, you should be proud that you're a queen, and as a gay person even if you're NOT a queen, you should still feel proud that there ARE queens in your community. Because seriously, they are hella fun people, and everyone else should be jealous. Gay art needs to express all portraits of who we are, from the flamboyant to the straight laced.

So back to the point--there is this FABULOUS godfather, who floats down to Earth to help out a teen who's dealing with his own confusing questioning as well as some good old fashioned gay-bashing. Oh, and that fairy godfather? Died in a gaybashing. So there's something you didn't see in Will & Grace. Now, I love what this fairy godfather does for this boy so much I have to explain it, even if it might be a little spoiler-ish. To comfort the dear young boy, the godfather makes gaydar literal: he allows him to see everyone in the world in their true shades of gayness by coloring everyone blue according to their varying levels of gayness. Some aren't blue at all, sure. Some are (shockingly, to the boy) as bright "as a blueberry," and then others have just a hint of blue, some varying shade in between.

The reason I love this story so much is that it almost perfectly captures what my own view on sexuality is. When I try to articulate my thoughts on things, I'm always just tempted to say, "Well, have you read this short story Am I Blue?"

While I don't remember the rest of the stories in as great detail, what I do remember is the amazing variety of them all: stories about coming out, but also stories about being straight but having gay parents, a gay sibling. Stories about not knowing exactly what you are. Historical stories, science fiction stories. Stories about school, stories about different cultures, stories about disease, happy and sad stories.

Those who are against separating gay fiction as being "gay fiction" instead of just "fiction" would roll their eyes at this. Yeah, of course there's a lot of variety because there's a lot of variety in life. Gays are just people and of course there are a lot of different stories to tell, as there would be in any short story collection. But I think many of these stories are so specifically important for specifically gay circumstances that they ARE important to put into a gay anthology. Are they important to put into just a regular ol' anthology too? Of course. But if there's one or two gay stories inside of a hundred other straight stories, how are kids realistically supposed to find them? We do need our own books, sometimes.

Also, this is going to sound crazy I know, but some people in the media continue to relate homosexuality and queerness with one thing and one thing only: sex. So displaying the breadth and depth of issues around it all, explaining how big and wide this identity can be beyond what happens under the sheets, is in fact important, especially for kids who are trying to figure it all out. So it's an "issue" book. So what.

There have blessedly been many queer short story anthologies for youth since Am I Blue? but this one was one of the most notable in recent years. There are a lot of the same authors that carry over from Am I Blue? to How Beautiful the Ordinary, put together by the really awesome Michael Cart (his introduction is perfect): Francesca Lia Block, Jacqueline Woodson, William Sleator, Gregory Maguire (the Wicked guy). But the places some of these stories go really shows how far we've come in 15 years. 

Mainly, I mean the somewhat graphic yet eloquently told story of First Time by Julie Anne Peters. Right, so remember how I just mentioned sex isn't everything? Well, sex is still important, and this story made me go, "Geez, whoa!" and have to fan myself a little. And then I thought, "Well, this'll make the censors march in." And then I thought, "Holy crap, how awesome is it that this lesbian sex scene exists for teens to read about? Like, not just in some bad fan fiction they can find online (not that I'm necessarily knocking that either) but in a well-written, well put-together short story collection?" This shit is important.

There were some stories in this collection I wasn't as head-over-heels for, but there were some real standouts that made me love it: mainly the opening and closing stories. The opening story by David Levithan is in my opinion the best thing he's written yet. In A Word from the Nearly Distant Past, I have to spoil it a little because it is so cool: it is a little confusing figuring out what's happening at first, and then I understood. It's the voices of ghosts of men who died from AIDS in the 80's imploring (from heaven) the gays who are still alive how happy they should be, and how happy they are too as they've watched how things are changing. Like, whoa. I actually don't think I just explained that well at all, but it's powerful.

Gregory Maguire's piece, The Silk Road Runs Through Tupperneck, N.H. is the last in the book and by far the longest story and it drew me in completely. In fact I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a short story more. It deals with Faroukh, an Iranian-American boy who's taking a college credit music course at a small college in New Hampshire, and his fierce infatuation with that Jordan Catalano-esque aloof beautiful boy in class who everyone's infatuated with, Blaise d'Anjou (I know, what a name, right?). There were many things that drew me in about this story: 1) It's such a good and classic summer fling type of story, always full of so much longing and life, 2) It made me feel like I was in college, a feeling I always enjoy, and 3) It made me feel like I was in New England, another feeling I always enjoy. And the electricity between these young men--yowza.

However, the whole time I was inwardly groaning a little, because it's all narrated by an older Faroukh as a flashback type of deal. And it's like, I'm loving this all so much but it's so obviously leading up to it being a "that one summer I was gay, that was so fun before I grew up" cliche nostalgia gay story line. And I didn't want to meet Faroukh or Blaise's wives or know about their straight depressed adult lives or have one of them die or something else. But then--I was so happy. And I was actually surprised. And I won't spoil it completely, but I'll tell you, the ending is good.

One of my other favorite things about story collections these days is that there has to be at least one or two comics/graphic elements included. There are two included in this one, and I absolutely love love loved Ariel Schrag's Dyke March, which pretty much is self-explanatory--it tells the story of one girl's night during the dyke march in San Francisco--because it was just so simply perfect. It was refreshing to see in a collection like this because it was just real, and funny, and good.

Other queer lit books for youth I've talked about before:
Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher [BRIAN KATCHER COMMENTED ON THIS (and I'm pretty sure it was legit) AND IT WAS THE HIGHLIGHT OF MY BLOG LIFE]
Debbie Harry Sings in French by Meagan Brothers
Freak Show by James St. James

Monday, October 24, 2011

People Are Awesome: Part I.

As most of you know, my aunt passed away this month. We just recently returned from traveling for the funeral, and since then I've been working a lot, Kathy quit her job, oh, and we're constantly trying to figure out how to afford our life. You know, whatever, just STUFF HAS BEEN HAPPENING. However, it occurred to me this weekend that in the midst of everything this month, we have been blessed by some really awesome people being in our lives who are being especially awesome. 

While death in general always forces you to appreciate the art of being alive as a whole, one of the best things (if you could say that) about celebrating my aunt's life was fully realizing and appreciating how many lives she touched and made better. And I think just her memory will continue to make lives better.

Sometimes, particularly at times like these, I start thinking about all the people I know and how we are all connected in so many different ways and the breadth and depth of it all is just startling. And a whole bunch of other cheesy stuff I don't know how to say. And while people can really suck, I often feel overwhelmed at how wonderful people can actually be.

I also sometimes feel this way when I am drunk and/or listening to really good music, whatever makes me abnormally honest and perceptive. I think about all the people who will be at our wedding and I feel so overwhelmed I want to cry and cry and cry with gratitude. Being drunk is generally a better time to feel these types of emotions than when dealing with death, but either way, it is important. I feel that I am not articulating any of this right. If I had an editor, he/she would tell me to scrap all of this.

To get to the point, events of this month have suddenly made me want to start a new tradition of pointing out and documenting particular people who are being particularly awesome at a particular moment in time to me. Every list will be an incomplete list, and each list will actually be almost more for me than necessarily for the people I call out, but they deserve to be called out regardless.

1. Kim & Cliff. Let me tell you about Kim & Cliff. Our friends from undergrad in Boston (Kim + Kathy = roomates for life), they also lived in Oregon briefly when we moved here and then moved away for a few years and then just moved back. Wait, was that confusing? Just go with it. Anyway, they actually don't live in Portland but in Eugene, which is an hour and a half/two-ish hours away. However, they came up  literally only hours after I talked to them about my aunt, and offered to stay for five days at our house taking care of our animals while we were away. The best part about friends like this is there's not even a moment's hesitation. Like just bam, we are going to help you 'cause that's how we do. Like I said: people are good. And on top of that, they had their amazing dog Rudy (LOOK AT HIMMMM) staying here as well and  they helped train our own chronically dog-phobic dog more than anything we have accomplished in three years. What? And then they came up AGAIN just a few days later to go to a party with us. They are pretty much the nicest people in the universe.

2. Various members of my family. In particular, my brother and his wife spent way too many hours in the car to pick us up from and take us to various airports. These treks included driving through various boroughs of New York City, New Jersey, and rush hour in Washington, DC. Bleck. But again, they never complained once about any of it. They also introduced Kathy to her first ever Wegmans experience, so that's pretty special.

And then let's talk about how my mom is pretty much single-handedly remodeling  her huge house by herself. As in, oh yeah, I just redid all of the ceiling tiles by myself and am scraping off wallpaper and moving furniture and making blueprints even though I work 40+ hours a week and take like four different dance classes, whatever.

Also, even though my dad never really talks about himself like ever, he has been Doing A Lot of Stuff, and while he talked about my aunt being selfless in his eulogy he is pretty selfless himself and one of the least judgmental people I've ever known, and I wish I could help him more somehow. He always knows the right things to say, and he is just an overall good guy. You know?

And Sara is real happy because she's a-gonna get married, and that makes me happy, and Dave hugs so hard, and they're both just so smart all the time. I'll probably never know as much stuff as they do but I'm okay with that, and I'm glad they do.

And last but not least, my smart and hilarious cousins Jen and Jodi, along with my amazing grandmother, dealt with everything with a special brand of grace, humor, and strength that I would like to achieve some day. They are all so special.

3. Ashley. We had only met Ashley like two or three times in our lives a year or two ago but already felt like she was One of Us from pretty much the first moment, well because she is. It was one of these first few times of hanging out with her at Sarah's house in Oregon City, I think it was, that we were like, "Wait. This is only the third time we've actually hung out? That doesn't make sense, cauuuuuse I think we've been friends for years." Even though she lives in Seattle we've gotten to see her a few times this month and I mainly wanted to include her because I have to explain how this lady greets you the first time she sees you, whether it's from across the room in a restaurant or as soon as she opens her door to meet your tired faces. It sounds like this:

"AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!" This is accompanied by lots of jumping up and down and hugging and continued screaming. Every. Single. Time. It is the best way to be greeted, ever, and it also makes all and any bad feelings go away, immediately, and somehow, magically, everything is fun.

We have a few other friends who were the original friends of Ashley and they scream-greet in the same way (Meredith and Zoe I'm looking at you) and if we are all together the screaming is obnoxiously unstoppable and amazingly glorious. However, Ashley is particularly good at it. I feel bad for people who have not experienced an Ashley greeting in their lives.

4. Matie. So Matie is really more of Kathy's friend than mine, but let's be honest, I wouldn't really have any friends if it weren't for Kathy, so, it's all the same. Or something. Also, I know I just joked about how little we knew Ashley before we were friends4life, but let me tell you a story. We have known Matie for less than a month--or I have anyway--and she is flying out from New York to visit us over New Year's Eve. And okay, maybe she just wants a vacation and maybe she just wants to visit Portland because who wouldn't, it is awesome, but I'm preferring to think that somebody likes us so much after pretty much just meeting us that they are spending lots of money to come see us. Because that is a better story. This is particularly nice because 1) I love visitors with a fiery passion, 2) This will be the first year ever in the history of life that we won't be on the East Coast/with family for Christmas, so it'll be great to have something to still look forward to over the holidays. In fact, I am pretty much ready to go get our Christmas tree and just have it all happen right now! I think the Christmas lights in this picture are influencing this feeling. By the way Matie, I stole this picture from your Facebook, hope that's cool. I didn't know which picture you would prefer so I felt a lot of pressure, but this one shows your hair real good. 3) New friends are awesome, and as I just mentioned, Matie has amazing hair. It is almost as amazing as our friend Grey's hair, but my love for Grey's hair is so strong it may be hard to beat. However, maybe they can meet when Matie visits and then they could have a hair-off. Although I'm not quite sure what this would entail.

I also want to include Florence (+ the Machine) on this list, but she is not actually my friend, although I feel like she is. But she has been a big part of this October. So thanks anyway, Florence!

This is probably the best idea for a blog post I've ever had. I'm already excited about writing Part II and then part III and IV and until I don't know my Roman numerals anymore. I can't tell you who'll be on those lists, but I bet you they'll probably be awesome.