Thursday, August 23, 2012

10 Random Things I Like, A Lot, That Do Not Require Any Further Explanation: Part II.

I have been going through periods of feeling out-of-sorts recently, perhaps for a variety of reasons. Reason 1) I've started exclusively "working from home" this month, only leaving the house for my volunteering gigs (and even those I'm cutting down on to work more), which has been, in fact, very awesome, emotionally and financially. At the same time, though, it allows me much more time to live inside my own head than I even normally do, and I have this issue that when I have time to live inside my own head I get kind of stuck there like a black hole. It's sort of bothersome. 2) Maybe now that the hubbub of the wedding is over, I also have more time to work through some other issues that I was able to ignore for a while and working through issues is stupid. 3) Even though I'm home way too much, I do still spend a large portion of my time working and so there's STILL not enough time to do all the things I want to do with myself and my life and then I get frustrated because I always make too many goals for myself and also I am crazy. 

Those are all reasons I only sat down and figured out right now as I typed, but, they sound pretty accurate.

Anyhoo, so after being a moody little brat all morning yesterday, I started to make a list on Twitter of things that help make me Not a Moody Little Brat most of the time, and it was nice, and it reminded me of this idea I had on here earlier in the year, to make these random lists of 10 things that I like a lot. As that is the purpose of this blog. These things don't have to be deep or important but they have to make me happy. So, I'm going to try to do this more. Here we go with Part Dos.

 1) Smartfood White Cheddar popcorn. It is the best and I have a hard time not eating an entire bag once I start. And yes, I do have to always eat the end of it like this. There is nothing wrong with it. 

2) These new shoes. I am obsessed with them. Money does buy happiness.

3) Mr. November by the National.

4) Getting advanced reader copies of books in the mail. It makes me feel very, very special.

5) This silly headband with this huge silly flower thing on it that I have literally been wearing every day like a silly person. How dare you judge the weird way I contort my hands to hold my camera.

6) Balsamic hummus from King Harvest.

7) The feeling when, after spending hours holed up in front of the computer, I blink and walk into the living room and remember that I am sharing this space with three amazing beings and every time I want to say, SQUEEEEEE and hug them forever because I LOVE THEM ALL SO MUCH OMG.

8) National parks. I think I wrote a post about this one time, but listen, I really like them and am glad they exist. Thanks, Ulysses and Teddy and folks! This one might seem random but I said it was a random list. You were in for it.

9) Tumblr. Tumblr is amazing and frequently the one thing online that makes me really, really happy. There are many, many amazing Tumblrs and it's the whole experience that makes me happy, but particularly this Tumblr right now is really amazing my brain and making all the happy parts of me full and glad.

10) Buying a tub of blue cheese crumbles at the grocery store when my brain says, "You have no specific purpose for buying these, but hells yeah, you will find some," and you do.

Friday, August 17, 2012

WFMAD: Day Seventeen

Today’s Prompt: Write down this date: August 17, 2032. How old will you be? Next, jot down five of your writing dreams. Pick the most outrageous of those five dreams and write a paragraph or two – from the perspective of August 17, 2032 – and describe how that dream came to life. Then list the three things you can do TODAY to bring yourself one step closer to that dream.

First of all, let's discuss how long it took me to calculate how far away 2032 is, and then after that, how old I will be then. Let's just say that it took more than five seconds and it should have taken less than that. 20 years, people! That's how far it is! Which means I will be 48. Which means I will be old, because that's around the age I pictured my parents being when I was a kid. Discuss: I believed my parents were in their 40s forever, like long after they weren't anymore. That's weird.

Maybe I should note that I've had some beer, but beer is never really an excuse for my horrible math skills, because they're horrible even when I'm sober. I'm supposed to tutor some college students in math next week and I'm already having panic attacks about it. Yeah, that's not going to go well.

Anyway! This is quite the self-absorbent prompt, ain't it? But most of these are. For funsies, let's live it up and be as pompous as possible! Alright! Five of my writing dreams!

2) In order to have WRITTEN THIS BOOK, I will have been able to spend many hours in coffee shops or in special rooms where I am SO ABSORBED IN THIS BOOK for AT LEAST A YEAR. Yes, this is a goal in and of itself.
3) I will have written for a prestigious online blog that is NOT AFTERELLEN! Not that AfterEllen is bad because I love them, but this will have proven that someone other than Heather Hogan and Karman Kregloe believe in me! Who are the sweetest people in the world for believing in me! I will have written for MULTIPLE prestigious online blogs! I will have been published in the Paris Fucking Review!
4) I will still be writing in this silly blog--YES, 20 YEARS FROM NOW, HAHAHA IT IS SO REALISTIC LET'S JUST KEEP GOING--but I will have so many devoted fans that I will actually make a lot of money from the blog because of advertising. Oh, I have that little advertising on the side there, now. I think so far it has earned me two cents!
5) I will have gone on a BOOK TOUR! (Back to the book.) There will be youth there! Girls! Queer kids! I'll shake their hands and give them all hugs! I'll tell them HEY KIDS! YOU CAN DO WHATEVER THE HELL YOU WANT! They will follow me on social media and they will do AMAZING THINGS and we will continue to all inspire each other until we all die full of knowledge and empathy and friends and amazingness!

Okay. So, how this will happen!

I will write something. I will submit it to somewhere that is not AfterEllen. That place will accept it. Then I will write something else and submit it somewhere else and they will accept it too! I will have multiple publications to put on my resume like a pretentious asshole!

I will have an idea for a book. I will start writing it, secretly.

I will be living in New York. I already know people in the publishing industry, so, I will wheedle my way into connections somehow. EW, GROSS. This step is the worst. BLERGH, CONNECTIONS. BLERGH, NETWORKING. I NEVER GOT A REAL JOB BECAUSE THE WORD 'NETWORKING' MAKES ME QUEASY. But anyway, I know that's the way it has to be so that's what I'll do. I'll get some names, maybe have some casual meetings with people over happy hours (blergh), but not too much blergh because I am actually really good at meeting people and happy hour is fun if you have money for happy hour, so. Anyway. I'll get advice about the biz. I'll meet people. I'll beg for an agent until I get one.

This agent will eventually lead to an editor which will help make me better than I was before! God bless all the editors!

Then I'll publish the book, duh.

At that point, I will have so many followers to my blog and my Twitter and my other Internet writings that I will be able to whine enough to convince at least all of them to buy it. And all of my family and friends will buy it, and they are the best, so. I will probably barely break even, but it will be enough for me, probably.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

WFMAD: Day Sixteen.

Today’s Prompt: As fast as you can, write a list of all the things you have learned in your life. Do NOT be philosophical or abstract. “You can’t change other people” won’t cut it for this exercise. “Don’t eat spinach at a business lunch because it’s hard to tell if it’s stuck in your teeth” does.

Okay, the "as fast as you can!" thing always put a lot of pressure on me, and this will involve using my brains so I will actually be going slower than normal, but I still like this prompt. Fun. Let's hit it: Knowledge!

In the middle of the country, I learned that if your car suddenly starts to sound like a motorcycle, it needs a new muffler. I learned that in Brazil, they speak Portuguese even though most of the rest of the continent speaks Spanish. I learned that Hawaii is way farther south than you think when you're a kid. I learned that Yellowstone is one big humongous supervolcano and if it blows up we are all pretty much toast and I have been terrified ever since. I have learned that just using water combined with vinegar is the best cleaner and saves you a bunch of money. I learned that cheap earrings break easily, but if you get to wear them once and feel really kick ass while you do, then they are normally worth it. I learned that going to concerts alone can feel awkward at first but as soon as the lights are low and the music starts you're fine. I learned that I'll never be able to make food taste like my grandparents did and like my mom did and that is just the way it is. I learned that I can place an embarrassingly small number of African nations on a map. I learned that I can never live in Texas or Oklahoma because I think I have that thing that's the opposite of claustrophobia, where too much open space freaks you out. I learned that Oregon is the country's largest exporter of blackberries and hazelnuts and for some reason I like sharing that with everyone who visits. I learned that sometimes large city parks can be much scarier to walk in alone than the middle of the woods. I learned that Chicago was home to the first skyscraper and that for the first ten years or something after the Empire State Building was built no one occupied it because no one could afford to. I learned that sometimes old radiators flood hot water in the middle of the night in old apartment buildings and you shouldn't leave pictures anywhere near them. I learned that cutting the gross fat off of chicken is easier to do when the chicken is half frozen. But it's still gross. I learned that I should not walk barefoot in Prospect Park in Brooklyn in the summertime because I will inevitably step on a bee. I learned that waking up early is often the best thing you can do in your day, even if it's the thing you want to do least at the moment. I learned that getting a dog who is already really, really old is okay and he might just live and love life way past everyone's expectations. I learned that even if you have a GPS, a paper map is still often better. I have learned that if I am better at voicing emotions instead of keeping them inside, things are normally better for everyone, but not always. I have learned that learning a language is something you have to work at everyday or else all of the knowledge disappears because our brains aren't wired to work like that when we're old.

That seems like a sort of unsatisfactory list, really. I'm sure there's a lot more that I've learned, but there's fifteen minutes worth for you.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

WFMAD: Day Fourteen.

(I'm behind. I'm going to catch up.)

Today’s Prompt: I want you to think about someone that you went to high school with. It should be someone you’d say “hi” to in the halls, but not the person with whom you shared your darkest secrets. Or any body parts. Write about what that person might be like today. Construct a family or a lack of family. A job. A house, or maybe she’s living under a bridge. Start with your memories of that person (which will be shaded by how you felt about them), but let your imagination fill in the blanks.

This one is tricky, since due to the beauty of Facebook (okay, so maybe "beauty" isn't the exact right noun to use here), I already know what most people I went to high school with are doing. Even the ones I just said hi to in the halls. (Although did I really say hi to that many people in the halls? No. I picture myself walking with my head down, just surviving the walk to the next room. Although that is probably dramatic. And I probably said hi at times.) If there are people I'm not friends with on Facebook, it's because 1) your political/societal messages have pissed me off and I've unfriended you or I've yelled at you/your friends about your political/societal messages and you unfriended me; 2) I don't remember your name or your face.

That said, there are people who I'm friends with who I still don't KNOW. I mean, I don't really KNOW any of them, any more. But the ones who don't post pictures or don't post statuses regularly, I really don't know. So. I am Facebook Friends with the person that immediately for some reason sprang to mind when I read this prompt, so I know the tiniest bit about him, as he is as an adult person now, but I still wanted to write about him more than anyone and I don't know why but there it is. So due to the Facebook Friending, there is the tiniest possibility that he could read this, which would be embarrassing, but I feel like the chances are slim. He is not the type to really troll Facebook.

It wouldn't be embarrassing because I had a crush on him or something, which I never did. We sat at the same table in our creative writing class, and he was one of those kids who was always Different. Always slightly off, slightly strange; we were both Different but different kinds of Different, but because I knew in my heart we were both Different I developed some kind of kinship with him, at least in my head. We read each other's journal prompts all year, and I feel like we had this mutual respect of each other, like we sort of knew that we each felt we were smarter than most of the people around us, like we could both call out the bullshit, but we were still kind of amused at all the people around us, anyway. He had this face like he was stoned all the time, and people used to tell me they thought I was stoned all the time, too, even though I never was, so, there was that.

He was a good guy, which I didn't really know until that creative writing class, but then I knew it for sure.

Today, he's still in the area, but closer to Philly. There are a lot of people like that--people who are still in PA, but who have slowly inched their way closer to Philly. I mean, there's New York and there's Philly, if you don't crawl your way to one or the other from my hometown, I don't really understand you. Regardless. The only thing I know for sure is that he is really active in protesting against some environmental bullshit, and all the power to him for that. Because there is a lot of environmental bullshit.

But what do you do for a job, huh, when you're not protesting? What do you do in your everyday life? I don't know.

In high school, I think your older brother was into sound engineering, and you were going to go into that, too. I just remembered--we used to switch headphones, too, while we wrote our journal entries, or at least I remember you having me to listen to your music; I can't imagine making you listen to mine since it was just lots of Counting Crows and Tori Amos and Radiohead. Although I think you liked Tori Amos. You were one of those guys who liked Tori Amos. Anyway, I think you listened to a lot of industrial stuff that I probably would've never listened to otherwise but I pretended like I could while I listened to it.

So I imagine you doing that. I remember you saying that you didn't want to go to college, which was one of the ways you were Different, because saying you're not going to college when you're in high school is like saying you're planning on getting addicted to crack and having ten babies by the time you're 25. People give you the same looks. But you said you had no need to go to college to learn skills you could just learn from your brother. 

You might, of course, be working in an office somewhere, although I really highly doubt that. But you might be doing something boring. But instead I'll imagine you in a sound booth, sitting in front of those boards full of endless levers and dials, big ass black headphones on your still thin, wimpy-ish blonde hair, still looking like you're stoned out of your head.

I imagine you have a girlfriend who is really cool. Like really nice and down to earth, pretty, someone I would like. I imagine you have beers together and have thoughtful conversations together about things. I imagine you go to lots of loud concerts but are overall still a pretty quiet person, outside and inside. Which is good. We need quiet people just as much as we need loud people.

I hope you're happy, and that life is treating you well. I probably didn't get into as much detail about your life as I was supposed to, and half of my memories about our creative writing class are probably made-up, too. But I think you'd be cool with that.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

WFMAD: Day Ten.

Today’s Prompt: You (or a character) are trapped in a looming disaster. You are given a few minutes to find and carry one thing out of your house. All of the people and animals that live with you are safe. All of your documentation; insurance paperwork, medical records, etc. have also been accounted for. What is the first thing you choose and why? You get to the front door and stop. You put down your first choice and run back and get a second item. Why? What is it? Be sure to describe both the physical details and the emotional significance of the item.

It is sort of silly that all of the things that are most important to me are in the room farthest from the door. Of course, this thought only occurs when the flames are already invading, marching and dancing around like they own the place, which of course, at this point they very much do.

I tell myself to stop and think for a second, before the smoke fills my lungs and travels through my nostrils to my brain and I pass out in a grey, sooty fog. There have only ever been two options of the things I would take with me in case of disaster. Both of them, cruelly, most vulnerable to these godforsaken flames, both of them able to hold all my thoughts and dreams and desires and then be burned up to a crisp and ash in  godforsaken seconds.

I do not take my books, or my music. Those things I can buy again. Those are not the two things.

The first, immediate choice is my words. There's a blue journal I kept in Europe: the pages are unlined and I wrote inspired, dreamy travel drunk things in various patterns and directions and loops. There's the plain CVS notebooks, each page filled with blue ink from high school, college, full of angst but also full of the times that I knew myself and loved myself best. There's a journal, the cover full of road signs, that is just for lists, and I like this one so much. There's the small, pocket-sized notebook bought last year in Brooklyn that I've been carrying around in my bag ever since until I just filled it to the last page last month; now it sits in my desk drawer, full of lists about books and the bad poetry and angry thoughts I needed to fill it with this winter.

These things together I can hold in one hand; they are not much. I can grab them, put them under my shirt, next to stomach, hug them to myself, and be fine. I would be fine, they would be fine.

At the door I stop because this is the immediate choice but it is not the best choice. I make it first because it is the selfish choice: to save myself. My instinct is to take the selfish choice first.

But I put down the notebooks and go back for the second option: the pictures. There are several boxes, each full of smaller boxes, each smaller box labeled with subject and date, each individual photo inside labeled on the back. They are heavy, bulky, but I can carry them in both my arms. On top of the boxes I'd put the plain white album from my mom, the one with the family trees in the front. I take the external hard drive, all the repetitive digital megabytes. Then there are the two black binders full of RC prints and the art folios of the fiber 11x14s. I need these too. I need all of them. I can do it. I might inhale more smoke and I might need a medic to attach one of those breathing things to my face when I get outside and collapse in the cool grass, but it's okay, it's fine, it's worth it.

The pictures are the people, the pictures are the memories that are truer than my words, less skewed and less dramatic and more real. The pictures are the real art. 

The pictures are the things that say all the things that my words can't describe.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

WFMAD: Day Eight.

(Day Seven was another write-in-private day. And yes, inevitably, at the end of the month I will post my reflections about what I realized I could say in public and what I couldn't and why and how I feel about that.)

Today’s prompt: Write a scene in a doctor’s office. It can be one from your own life. One that you imagine a relative went through. It could be a famous person, stripped down and wrapped in a paper gown, about to get The News. Try to alternate the patient’s thoughts with details from the room. Introduce other characters; nurses, other patents, medical students, the doctor, the patient’s beloved companion, the person the character sees in the mirror.

So most people bitch a lot about this awkward paper gown, but the truth is, I find something about being essentially naked in a public place, in a place I shouldn't be naked, a little exciting. Maybe exciting is the wrong word; makes me sound too much like a pervert. Although I guess if being naked in public is your thing, it's your thing. What I'm saying is, it feels almost rebellious and freeing in a way. Sure, hundreds of years of technological advances probably could have produced a better paper gown, and yeah, it's impossible to get tied all the way around your body. But I sort of like feeling the air conditioning on my bare back. I like my bare back.

This probably also makes me really insensitive since so many folks receive so much horrible news in these places, but when I have a check-up at the doctor's office, I always feel a strange sense of absolute calm. I feel calm in the waiting room; I feel even calmer in the actual exam room. I think it has to do with letting go of control. For that moment, I know that that place is exactly where I'm supposed to be, and there is nothing I have to do other than just sit there and do what they ask. There's a higher law happening here, and it's a law of science and doctors with warm smiles and soft hands. Do what you do; I'll just sit here and listen and let the white walls and bright lights dim any sense of urgency or emotion. I am a blank blob and that feels okay sometimes.

"Hey, Lara! How are you doing today?"

That's another thing. They always pretend they know you when they don't know you, unless there's something wrong with you and they really do see you all the time. But otherwise, they have so many patients a day, and you saw me a year ago, lady. You have no idea who I am! But you make me feel like you do! And I like that.

And sometimes I wonder what would happen if the things they told me weren't good, or if the trust I so faithfully gave them was ruined, and I think about how these things are handled in books and TV, and I think about how my family and friends would support me, because that's what family and friends are for, right? And I think about how Something Bad would put me into debt for all time but America is improving all the time and eventually something will get better in that department, right? But mainly I think, it will be okay. Because it is always okay. Even if I don't want things to be okay--even if sometimes I just want something fucked up to happen once in a while--things are always the same. People always smile at me; I always give the right answers; everything is always just fine. There will always be People magazines to read in waiting rooms, boring landscape paintings on the walls, pamphlets about ailments that do not ail me. And everything will always be just fine.

I am a blank blob. And that feels okay. Sometimes.

Monday, August 6, 2012

WFMAD: Days Five/Six.

(Warning: both of these are very different prompts, but I was behind in posting yesterday. Of course the "write a story from the news" prompt had to happen on the day of the Sikh temple shooting. While writing, I didn't know if writing it was disrespectful or offensive; I obviously hope not, but I didn't know how I could choose anything else.)

Today’s Prompt: Go to the Washington Post or the newspaper of your choice and choose a story from the front page that, for whatever reason, really strikes a chord in your heart. Read the story through twice, then put it away. Don’t look at it again. Write a scene connected to that article. Put your character in the middle of the action. The character can be someone who was actually mentioned in the article, or – more interesting! – make the character someone who has a strong emotional connection to the people in the article. Or insert yourself into the middle of the action and write a scene.

They say that when things like this happen, life moves in slow motion. That's how it's depicted in movies and in books. The author can describe every detail over a number of pages; the film editors slow the tape and overlay dramatic music. You see children screaming but you don't hear them; you see their crumpled angry faces but all you hear are violins. The heroes of the day sweep in to save them all.

It's a lie. There was nothing slow about it.

In the gurdwara a second before the chaos everything was normal; I was ignoring the hymns and staring across the hall at Amar, at her bright yellow shawl. I wasn't thinking about the Guru like I knew my father next to me was; I was thinking about what that shawl felt like. Would it feel scratchy against my fingers if I brushed my hand across her shoulders? I thought about how she looked in Geometry last week, her head huddled over her test, how I stared at her after I had rushed through mine, just as I was staring at her now. She had to notice. Get yourself together, Raj. You're making a fool of yourself, man. But still, I stared at the back of her head, willing her to turn just a few inches, just so I could see the silhouette of her face--a blinking eyelash, the side of her nose, the round of her chin.

And then it started, and it never stopped. I knew what was happening at once. I didn't know why it was happening, but I knew what was happening. That's another thing, people always talk about it being a scene full of confusion, but we're not idiots. We know what a gunshot sounds like. It's not someone slamming a door. It's the loudest thing you've ever heard. It's a gunshot. It's not a scene of confusion, it's a scene of survival.

Things didn't slow down; there were no violins. Instead, everything became acute, painfully. The screams were the loudest screams I've ever heard; the never-ending shots ripping my eardrums; and the colors: all the beautiful colors that fill the gurdwara, that yellow of Amar, the pinks, the reds, the blues. My mother was wearing pink today. Where is my mom? I'm on the floor, covering my head, trying to stay close to Dad, everything is fast and bizarre and loud, but I'm scanning for that pink, for that yellow, but the women seem far away, unreachable, and there is red, that red of blood that's not just plain red, it's darker, it's scarier. The floor feels cold, refreshing and almost comforting in its solidity, but I'm sweating; everyone is sweating; everyone is crying; the hall is full of salt.

The shooting goes on forever until it doesn't. It is the part afterwards that goes in slow motion, when I don't want it to; it is only then that the camera filter flicks on and the color of the air seems tinted, my hyper perception suddenly and drastically blurs, things seem hazy and unreal. It is only when I stand up, only when I realize that I am able to stand up, that the sounds fade, that the screams become a distant din, that I pretend that I must be in a movie. I am in my favorite book, I am staying up too late even though I'm exhausted. I am an actor; I am floating. It is the only option.

Today’s Prompt: For fifteen minutes – without stopping – you will write about all of the ideas and characters and feelings and memories and dreams and people that you want to write books about for the next fifty years.

I want to write a young adult novel. I want to write a young adult novel with queer characters, but I don't know if that will ever happen, because I lack the creativity to think of plots, details, things that would make it unique. The only thing I'm really good at writing about is feelings, and lord knows there's already enough feelings in young adult lit.

I want to write about my family; I want to write about my friends. I want to write about places. I want to write about how important place is, the neighborhoods and cities and towns you live in; I want to travel across the country yet once more or multiple times more and stop in coffee shops along the way and write about the place I'm at right then and have it be published by some website, have each blog entry be finished with a video of me dancing to a random song each day at rest stops, in open fields, in front of mountains. I want to write about America. Yuck, right? Who doesn't want to write about America?

I want to write things that are hopeful and full of joy because I fucking hate reading things that aren't. I am a sucker for the dark and the depressing, sure, but if there isn't any light in your story, then what's the point? What's the fucking point? Thanks for wasting my time.

I want to write about music. I want to write about music so badly, but I can't write about music objectively. Not that reading anything objective is really that interesting, anyway, but that's what people ask for, sometimes.

I want to write about my family. I already said that but I said it so quickly. I want to write about my family and my hometown. I want to write about Skip's Pond, I want to write about my grandparents, about holidays and summers and winters and gardens.

I want to write about trees.

I want to write about strangers that I want to get to know better, that I haven't met yet. I want to write about the people who came so close to my heart and then left. I want to write about the people who I observe from a distance who don't know I'm there but I am, watching like a creeper, observing and thinking.

I want to write my daydreams down, the things I spend most of my days dreaming about, the things I conjur up in my head when I run, but those are the sorts of things that I wouldn't show anybody, even though I would want to.

I want to write non-fiction if I know enough about something, but I don't know if I'd ever know enough about something to feel confident enough to write a book about it. Because Jesus, that takes a lot of confidence and a lot of knowledge. But I like the idea of researching, of sitting in libraries with big dusty books, of traveling around the world to research a setting or a character or a plot, like that author who came to my library class to tell us about going to Jordan so she could know what it felt like to ride a camel, to know the exact color of the sky in the desert and the exact color and feel and taste of the sand, before she wrote about it. I would like that. I would like to say, "I have to go to Jordan and ride a camel--you know, for research."

I want to write about Kathy, because she deserves it.

I want to write about food. I want to write about how I will never go on a diet because food is the best fucking thing ever and you shouldn't deny yourself something when it's the best thing ever. I don't want to write, like, recipes, because right, I don't know recipes. But I want to write about how it tastes and how it makes me feel and why it's important to who you are. I want to write about bodies and how you should be in love with your body and love it everyday. I want to write about how beautiful everybody's bodies are.

I don't know if I'll ever write a book, but if I did, I hope that it would be helpful and that I would be proud of it.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

WFMAD: Day Four.

Prompt: Quickly write a paragraph about what your days were like in second grade (around age 7).  Then choose a fairy tale from this list. Pull one of the elements from the fairy tale and write about how you would have reacted if it showed up in your life when you were in second grade. For example, what if your new babysitter had been Cinderella? Or the giant from Jack in the Beanstalk?

Three weeks ago at my dad's 60th birthday party at the Palmyra Township Pavilion, a woman walked in with curly bronze hair, tan skin, a bright white shirt, some type of pretty necklace, a vibrant smile and laugh. As happens at events in my hometown, there had been people walking in all afternoon who I felt I should know but who I couldn't place, each one cementing in the Block of Guilt surrounding the memories about my hometown that escape me day by day. Even my sister and brother, who are older and who have been away from the hometown for even longer, seem to magically know everyone, and when I double check with them on who someone is--including when it's someone in my own family--they give me this look like, "Come on, Jill." There is something faulty in my memory which worries me. Regardless. I had been trying to narrate who people were to Kathy all afternoon, and when this woman walked in, I said, "I know her. I should know that person. But I have no idea who it is."

Inevitably, the woman came up to me, knew my name, was excited to me. I said what I had been saying all afternoon to everyone else, a neutral yet enthusiastic "HI!," followed by a, "Hey, this is Kathy." The woman shook Kathy's hand, said, "I was Jill's second grade teacher!"

Right. That was who she was.

Immediately, memories started to come back. Mrs. Williams. Sheila Williams. Duh. I mean, who forgets their elementary school teachers? I guess I do.

Trying to recover from the guilt of not knowing her name, I pounced on the one memory that was coming back crystal clear. "Egypt! You went to Egypt and showed us pictures and it was so cool."

She let a little eye roll escape. "I never stop hearing about Egypt. Even now, parents don't stop telling me how much their kids talked about Egypt after my class. Egypt, Egypt. And most of these parents have never even taken their kids to New York City." 

It had never occurred to me that hearing parents talk to her about Egypt would be something she would get tired of. Of course, in my current adult mind, it was immediately clear. I pictured all those kids and parents constantly wanting to talk about her travels to Egypt for years, and if it were me--oy, with the Egypt already! I laughed along with her, "God, that must be annoying. Sorry to bring it up."

But as a kid, Egypt was one of those things that was like a fairy tale, a magical place full of gold and gems, an illusion that still lingers somehow and doesn't quite align with reading about Arab Spring, about the place it actually is now, about Cairo being a bustling city full of high rises and dirt like the rest of the cities of the world, the Nile being an actual river that still exists as opposed to a bright blue sliver on our Social Studies textbook page. And why? What do we even remember about it? Tut? Does anyone remember anything other than Tut? Even when I read stories about archaeology in Egypt in my National Geographics today, even when they're about the same exact stuff we learned about in second grade, it doesn't seem as exciting as it did then. The fairy tales of our memories still conflict with reality and still leave an unsatisfying disconnect somewhere in our subconscious.

This story doesn't follow the prompt, exactly, of course, because the truth is even when children's lit is the apple of my eye, when it comes to remembering what it actually felt like to be a child, myself, I'm still shit. Because my memories warp and fade to the extent where I can't even recognize my second grade teacher when I see her in the flesh, let alone remembering what I actually did that year other than learn about Egypt, let alone how it actually felt to be seven. Bringing Cinderella or Jack and the Beanstalk into my second grade life sounds fun, but is something I'm not able to create authentically yet.

But maybe a start would be to continue documenting when a memory is able to fish its way to the surface of my brain, when I'm in my hometown and see my second grade teacher and say, Hey, I remember you showed us pictures of when you went to Egypt, and when, for the briefest of seconds, I do remember being seven. It's not much, but it's something, and it normally slips away as fast as it comes, so maybe I should take those moments when I'm lucky enough to find them and hold on for all they're worth.

Friday, August 3, 2012

WFMAD: Days Two/Three.

I need to note that I have been writing my fifteen minutes a day, and enjoying it immensely--looking forward to it each day, even. However, the prompt yesterday was too personal to share with anyone, and then the prompt today built off of the prompt from yesterday. So, hell. I have a feeling this may be a theme, building each day on this, and I might spend the whole month working from this private place, which might be good for me personally but I won't be able to share it was absolutely anyone. Which is kind of a bummer. Especially because today I got to write about New York City, and I already really like writing about New York City, which might be a really obnoxious thing to say when I don't live there.

Maybe even pointing out that I wrote something that I can't share on here is obnoxious, but I just wanted to make a note that I am, in fact, doing this thing, and it is already making me happier. And anyway, I mainly wanted to note here that the writing quote she also gives you each day seemed particularly astounding today to me and I wanted to remember it. 

“Language is a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, while all the time we long to move the stars to pity."  (Gustave Flaubert)

Shit, son.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Marina & the Diamonds.

If the processing cranks of my brain were tuned just slightly differently, I think I would hate Marina and the Diamonds. She has this unique voice that's slightly different than anything I've heard before, which takes this purposely playful, coy tone that I can see being so grating and verging on obnoxious to some folks. But for some reason, it all currently fits into this certain slot in my brain just right and everything about her is perfect and I am kind of sort of a little a lot obsessed.

Her studio songs are these highly-produced, dance-y, pop-y-but-not things that are the opposite of the sad, overly-earnest folky stuff that I normally spend most of my time listening to, but they fill my blood with this urgent adrenaline and make me feel like dancing forever by myself and kicking the world's ass. There have been many moments in the last few weeks where all I want in the world is to listen to Marina & the Diamonds at top volume until she consumes everything.

If the hyper energy of the studio songs aren't your thing, though, she also has all these acoustic versions on YouTube that are stripped down to their true heartbreaking core.

Because you see, her lyrics and the show she puts on are full of all this bravado, all this confident, egomaniacal stuff. But not very-subtly layered underneath it all is this huge palpable sadness.

I think she's brave and beautiful and I love all the strength that's coupled with her femmeness, I love that silly little heart on her cheek and those purposely bold roots and dramatic curls and her dresses and pumps and painted fingernails. She's not like me at all but I feel like there are secret pockets of myself that are hidden within her, and I like secretly reveling in them, privately celebrating the bubblegum bitch within myself. When I run listening to her songs, I feel like I can run forever.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

WFMAD: Day One.

Hi! So I've secretly always wanted to do one of those writing-goals-for-a-month type challenges, but I've never felt like I could attempt NANOWRIMO. Because who has enough ideas for a novel that they could write it in a month?! Okay, apparently a lot of people. But I don't. I can't even pretend I do. But I do want to write. 

So. I've decided to take part in Laurie Halse Anderson's Write Fifteen Minutes A Day challenge. Because Laurie Halse Anderson is awesome, and because I can write for fifteen minutes a day. Right? Right. Well, I mean, I guess we'll see.

Mostly just because writing in a public sphere is how I'm now sort of used to writing, and because I think it makes me write better, I've decided to post my fifteen-minute-a-days on here. I don't really care if anyone reads them and they may be boring and I do hope to start up on more, actual blog posts this month, too, but, there you go, there's my unnecessary disclaimer. Sometimes I remember Richard Hoffman at Emerson telling us we never need disclaimers for our writing, but I'm still learning, Richard Hoffman.

Day One Prompt: What things do you allow to get in the way of your writing? Be specific, detailed, and brutally honest.

Laziness and insecurity and the right moods and time. Which I think is probably the same for a lot of people, but maybe not. I think the right mood has a lot to do with it. I have two right moods, one where I feel confident and sassy and funny and I want to tell everyone every comment I have on everything and I think everything I think is awesome. This sort of feels like an adrenaline high, and sometimes I crash from it, and then immediately feel kind of silly about all those Tweets I made while I was in that high, or something silly like that. Like, why do I think I'm funny or important enough to comment on random shit like anyone cares? And then I drop into this desire to just be quiet and humble forever.

The other right mood is hyper sentimental and melodramatic mode, which often happens either when I'm actually out living life in the big beautiful world, or when I'm sitting at my desk listening to music or looking through photos and reflecting on the life I've lived in the big beautiful world. During these moods, I am all, "I have done so many things, and I have written about so little of it, relatively, and if I don't write everything down I will certainly forget it all, but how can I write about it all, and what's the real point of writing it all, does the pursuit of constant documentation take away from the actual living?" OR, I am all, "There are still so many things I haven't done, still so many roads to travel and things to see and life is short and what if I'm not doing enough and why don't I do more and you know there are people ten years younger than you who have published really successful books and stuff right?" The former is obviously preferred to the latter, but both involve my heart feeling like it is going to bust, and I like this mood a lot because it means I am excited about life and at least attempting to have some perspective about Important Things, but there is a downside to this mood too because it tends to make me feel like I am being melodramatic. Case in point: I called it melodramatic in the first sentence of this paragraph. When really, most of the time, it's not melodramatic. Why must I refer to honesty as melodrama? Because uber cool people who are shitty at being honest would critique it as melodrama? Well, fuck that. If it's what I feel and what I want to write about, then I should own it. 

And this kind of writing is pretty much the kind I've always done, that I've scribbled in notebooks since I was a kid, so clearly there is Something about it that is important to me. It's the trying-to-be-funny thing which is relatively new as I've gotten used to writing for an audience. So if it's melodramatic, then, welp, guess that's just me, then. No use in trying to change myself now.

But when none of these moods are present? I'm pretty much useless. And then I feel pretty mopey about being useless. Which is why sometimes when I think about that ideal life of being a full-time writer, I don't know if I could do it. Because what if I wake up and I'm not in any of those moods? I'm never good at trying to force myself into a mood, of trying to force myself to have something to say. If I do, I usually just end up feeling even worse about myself. Which, I suppose, is why I've always been interested in trying something just like this.