Not too focused here.

there is an interesting photograph i want to take in the bathroom at work. it’s a reflective surface and a fun angle. it’s inside of a stall, and i noticed it quite a while ago and thought it would be a great shot.

it would require me to bring my camera into a public restroom.

it would mean risking being caught carrying a camera into a public restroom.

can you imagine? just before the camera captures the shot it beeps. if someone else were in the bathroom while i stood behind the stall door, and she heard a high-frequency beep, i’d be embarrassed. because, for all she (they!?) knows i could be taking pictures of myself. 

i might have get to work extra early or stay late to get the picture.

plus? i can’t stand it when people bring irrelevant things into the bathroom. like cups. and phones. and food. it’s a public bathroom, people. i won’t even bring a cell phone into my own bathroom. it’s just gross.

***

I read a sad, sad post today. I’m going to share it with you.

Speaking of Ghosts …

Some things from my past have decided to revisit me. Not that this is any sort of problem. And these are the types of things I have only discussed with bishops and therapists. And a few nonmember or ex-member friends. Of the church.

I recall sitting on that white couch, trying to muster the courage just to blurt stuff out. My therapist was excellent. Always objective, always guiding my train of thought to some new insight. And once I said it, once it was translated to sound waves, it was much easier to work with than being nebulous electrical arcs jumping between brain cells.

That’s kind of a miracle, people. And I can call it that because it helped me heal.

Since I’ve mentioned drinking here before, I’ll use that as an example. I told my therapist about my experience with alcohol. The social appeal. The sometimes numbing effect. Then [they] asked what else I liked about it. [They] asked what my favorite drinks were. I got it all out of my system, so to speak, right there on that white couch.  [They] didn’t outright link that to the depression I’d gone through, but [they] didn’t have to.

Then there are other, older, deeper parts of my past that I discussed over the course of a couple of years. If you are not my therapist, I won’t discuss them here. If you were my bishop, I’ve already been absolved. If you are a friend somehow removed from the church, I trust you’ll keep my confidence. These events in my history are still a part of me, and they linger only obscurely, and only to remind me how far I’ve come.

I have to admit, though, when they decide to reemerge, it sure is hard keeping those ghosts at bay.

cleansing

right now i’m watching it rain. i see flashes of lightning and count in seconds for the subsequent thunder. it’s starting to come down more sideways now, and it’s coating my west bedroom window. sometimes the drops come down like a steady shower, and sometimes they come down in chunks, as if someone in the sky is throwing out buckets of water. one giant cloud covers the city, but i think if you gathered this cloud to cover the area of bryant park, it would make a pretty massive, magnificent waterfall.

i love the sound rain makes when it falls on surfaces. any surface, really. the muted thud on concrete, the slap on tree leaves, the “pings” on a tin roof. the plops into water or other more compressive substances. they call this sound white noise, like static, like ocean waves meeting the shore. i hate to call it noise, though. noise scatters my thoughts; it agitates me. noise raises my heart rate and my blood pressure. but this? the rain? it’s peaceful and calming and meditative; it seems to block out other frequencies trying to breach my mind. it helps me focus; it helps me breathe.

Sigh

I get on the elevator to my building. Two of the maintenance men join me. One starts a conversation with me, while the other one remains quiet. I’m wearing my backpack. It’s big, but it’s not full, so it’s not heavy. The maintenance man (MM) asks me if the backpack is heavy. I answer no. He said he could tell, because I’m not hunched over. Then I think why did he ask if he already knew, but I actually express that I can’t be afford to be any shorter. MM has an accent. I catch about 2/3 of what he says. He talks a good bit about tall women; he doesn’t like them too tall. I nod and ask him if being short is better. Then he says yes, short is better, that short women are easier to handle. WHAT did he just say? And his compadre is just standing there in the farthest possible corner of the six-foot-square elevator floor. But I say, oh I see. And MM declares, beautiful, beautiful and the elevator reaches my floor. He says goodbye and I turn to both of them and tell them to have a good day. As the elevator doors close and I walk to my apartment I wonder, did that man just hit on me? because if he did? I’m going to have to blog about it. Then I’m going to have to tell everyone who doesn’t have internet access about it. He didn’t seem creepy, much, but I’m glad my elevator ride is short. I’m glad the elevators have security cameras. I’m glad I have pretty good aim. You know, just in case.

***

A friend gave this to me a long time, ago; I want to say soon after high school graduation. I’m not one for knickknacks, but this is so cute, and the person who gave it to me is one of my best friends. I have a feeling it’s part of a collection of calendar tea sets, which is perfectly fine, and it makes me grateful I’m named after that month of the year. I really like my name, people.

This same friend introduced me to Tori Amos. I remember listening to Little Earthquakes around the end of our senior year. The school had the policy where you could earn exemption from final exams if attendance and grades were good enough. I was exempt from my exams, and so my last day of school was a few days before graduation, whereas others had to finish with their exams the following week. I had Tori on repeat for those days before graduation. The piano wasn’t like anything I’d ever heard. Her lyrics could be enigmatic or straightforward or chipper or sad or angry. The emotion in the album immediately appealed to me.

I remember working on my graduation speech the second to last week of school. I asked my AP English teacher to look it over. I hoped Ms. Mayer would give me some meaty feedback. I respected her; it was hard to accept she would no longer be grading my papers, and this would probably be the last bit of advice she’d ever give me. She looked over my speech, and she returned it. No corrections, no marks whatsoever. All she said was it was good. This stressed me out, because this was for a pretty big audience. Several thousand people would hear this speech, and I wanted so badly to say the right things.

On the day of graduation, I paced around my living room, going over my speech. I didn’t revise it much. I wondered if I should memorize it. Little Earthquakes played in the background, and for some reason, the words to “Happy Phantom” switched on my consciousness. The song has a bouncy, happy tone. The piano is playful and Tori’s clear voice peals along with it.  “The time is getting close/…time to be a ghost/…every day we’re getting closer/The sun is getting dim/Will we pay for who we been/…do we soon forget the things we cannot see.”

Of course there’s the main aspect of the song regarding a woman and the life she could have led so her love would remember her after she dies. But she’s a happy phantom, so why would she ever complain?

Later that evening I walked with my graduating class across the football field, second in line, and I followed Justin Avery up to the podium. I stood on a footstool, made out of three or four phone books taped together, in order to see over the lectern. I welcomed the important school board members, I greeted the Middleburg High School class of 1994. Applause. I made references to God and The Counting Crows in my speech. I got a little philosophical. I thanked my friends and family and teachers, and I didn’t cry. Much. Two minutes, and I sat down.

I doubt people mention our names at that school these days. I don’t know if anybody there would even recognize our names after fourteen years. The fact is, though, those three years at MHS were among the best of my life. Every time I see a spork I think of lunch in that cafeteria. Every time I hear Tori or Pearl Jam or the Counting Crows (among many others); or I hear mention of Toni Morrison or Ayn Rand; or see a marching band during halftime, I get to be a teenager again. My ghost roams those halls, more than content with her stint in mortality, her raw soul’s experience as a Bronco. We have no complaints.

Soundbytes, a la Gigs

 

Click on the photo to see more.

A couple weeks ago some friends and I went to a gig. It was really fun and a little bit unpredictable. We had planned to see a friend of a friend of the friends with whom I went. The venue had a lot of interesting posters with trannies on them and announcements for the gay community. Some of the other audience members were clearly men dressed as women, but they were beautiful, but not entirely convincing. My friends looked a little nervous, but a gig is a gig is a gig. I figured it’d be music. The kind of music, I couldn’t even guess, but the friend of a friend of my friends was performing, and we knew she was a singer/songwriter. The friend of a friend of my friends was only a part of the show, and I learned that the main performer threw a birthday party and invited the public to hear him and his friends sing for his birthday. The music was quite entertaining. The personalities were cool; the songs were catchy; the talent was phenomenal. Even though the first act came out wearing a straight jacket, I knew we, with our pure minds and untainted sensibilities, had nothing to worry about.

The opportunities for live music in New York City are virtually endless. If I could afford to go every night, I would go somewhere different every night. Or maybe the same place for every night of the week. I’d probably save Thursday or Saturday for The Living Room. I’ve been to the Bowery Ballroom and Arlene’s Grocery and Piano’s and CBGB’s and The Bitter End and Madison Square Garden and the Knitting Factory and the Alphabet Lounge and Caffe Vivaldi and Town Hall and the Beacon Theatre. I’ve been to the Albatross in Queens and Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn and some place I don’t remember the name of deep in Williamsburg. Then they have Central Park and Bryant Park and The River to River Festival and the Siren Music Festival at Coney Island.

And for classical music? Bryant Park and the bandshell in Central Park and Juilliard and the Metropolitan Opera House and Avery Fisher Hall and Carnegie Hall and the corner by the escalators to the 4-5-6 line in Grand Central Station, not to mention the Metropolitan Museum of Art and all the churches that host free concerts.

That doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface.

And I’m not about to hyperlink all the places I mentioned.

Over the past five years, I’ve kept my eyes and ears open. I scoured the free city newspapers. I researched online. I listened to what my friends like and noticed who those bands listened to, and then I made informed decisions according to my tastes. I’ve seen a few bands I didn’t really care for, but for the most part, I cannot get enough or over the incredible talent. I heart music, especially here because I’ve put so much effort into finding what I heart. I heart New York. I heart the life it gave me. Will I have to give it back?

100 Things about My Birthday Month of Dates

Review of the event

Today is the last day of my celebratory dating month. Here are some thoughts and observations on the experience.

1.    I went on 7 dates this month; 7 doesn’t equal 32.

2.    But 7 is considerably greater than zero.

3.    4 of those dates were to museums. Creative much?

4.    The number of museums in the city lessened the chances of my attending the same museum twice.

5.    Staying on the 6 train past the last stop is more of an adventure than I thought.

6.    I really like watching movies that prompt a lot of discussion afterward.

7.    My last date was different. It was nice.

8.    There’s a lot that has to be said for chemistry. Who knew.

9.    Guys are competitive, especially toward the end of the month. They asked what kinds of things the previous guys did with me.

10.  Sidewalk chalk really dries out my hands.

11.  Guys need to be better planners.

12.  The non-museum dates were the ones best planned.

13.  Have a place in mind where we could eat, guys; I’m not usually down with wandering until we find a place.

14.  I don’t mind walking and talking, though.

15.  I still prefer darker hair to blonds.

16.  Some guys really like to talk a lot.

17.  It’s hard to have a conversation with a guy who’s in his own head all the time.

18.  Most of the guys were very present during our dates.

19.  Most of the dates lasted 2-3 hours.

20.  Most of the conversations were really good.

21.  Guys generally function much better when food is in their tummies.

22.  I would go out with any of the guys again.

23.  The guys wouldn’t ask me out again, at least not without nudging.

24.  They were all gentlemen, letting me walk ahead of them, opening doors for me.

25.  The guys wouldn’t ask out other girls, either, at least not without the elbow-poke.

26.  Well, I could think of two who would ask other girls out. Maybe three.

27.  That’s a good thing, because goodness knows guys around here need to date more.

28.  The guys were cute.

29.  I was pleased that none of the guys were shorter than me.

30.  The guys didn’t smell bad.

31.  The guys wore clothes.

32.  The guys were smart.

33.  The guys all gave me hugs to greet me and fare me well.

34.  The guys all had quite different personalities.

35.  One was more bohemian and is interested in filmmaking and writing a comic book.

36.  One is a consultant but really loves computers.

37.  One writes musicals.

38.  One is an acoustics engineer.

39.  One will be going back to school to get his Masters in organizational psychology.

40.  One works for an airline and aspires to be a comedian.

41.  Careers having nothing to do with personalities.

42.  One is a little rough around the edges, but he flirts well and is sensitive to a conversation.

43.  One is more introspective and needs a moment to warm up to a conversation.

44.  One is more introverted but intelligent and conversation comes easily to him.

45.  One is a natural, unforced talker who can speak to just about anyone like an old friend.

46.  One is all boy who has seen the world but not much of life. He listens well, though.

47.  One is fun-loving who doesn’t initiate conversation very assertively.

48.  It’s easier to flirt with one guy at church than on an actual date.

49.  Each guy has varying amounts of arm hair.

50.  All of them have amazing eyes.

51.  Pretty good hair, too.

52.  Did I mention the planning?

53.  It was easier to talk more personally with some than others.

54.  It was easier to feel I could trust some more than others.

55.  None of them seemed to come from perfect families.

56.  Which relieved me, for some reason.

57.  I like men’s shoulders.

58.  And hands.

59.  And strong brows.

60.  And boyish ways. Sometimes.

61.  It was sometimes easier to act like a child than to start a conversation. I’m talking about me, here.

62.  It was sometimes nice to have moments of silence between us.

63.  I like talking about my favorite books, movies, and music.

64.  I like talking about writing, sometimes.

65.  I like talking to a person as if I’ve always known him.

66.  I really like when a guy takes charge. My roommate and I were watching an episode of Little House where Charles Ingalls and Jonathan Garvey and Adam were being very, very manly. Sticking up for themselves; sticking up for their families. I almost couldn’t contain myself. I was “this” close to French kissing the television.

67.  These guys could have taken a bit more charge, in some ways. They’re still boys in this regard.

68.  The guys seemed to appreciate my personality.

69.  Okay, maybe two knew how to flirt; the others, while pleasantly talkative, went nowhere into flirt territory.

70.  No one took me dancing, though one place had live music where we ate. And live music in a museum, and live music outside of museums. Way to cover bases, guys.

71.  One is from California; one is from Idaho; one is from Oklahoma; one is from Arizona; one is from Utah; one is from Pennsylvania.

72.  You see lists of six everywhere, I’ve had seven dates. That’s because one took me out twice.

73.  Twice. The documentation is in Sunday’s entry.

74.  I do not know what a second date means.

75.  Much of my dating does not get past the first date.

76.  The weather has been lovely for each of the dates.

77.  The first and last dates were guys I hadn’t spent much time with at all.

78.  All the guys love New York.

79.  All the guys have musical or artistic ability.

80.  Three would be fun to dance with.

81.  All would be nice to cuddle with.

82.  All gave really nice hugs.

83.  I didn’t find out if they could make me belly laugh.

84.  I need a guy who can make me belly laugh.

85.  I could take three rock climbing, not necessarily the same three who’d be fun to dance with.

86.  I’ve imagine what our babies would look like with each of the guys. (If any of them is reading this right now, there goes any chance of future dates.)

87.  The babies would look SO cute, by the way.

88.  I’ve learned not to be as distracted during a date – NOT to look at my watch.

89.  I really felt like myself on each of the dates.

90.  I didn’t realize I could talk so much.

91.  To GUYS.

92.  Because I have never talked much with my own father. But I talk just fine to my brother.

93.  It was really nice getting to know these guys better.

94.  It gave me some clarity as to what I should look for in a relationship.

95.  I liked that I could talk church with all of them.

96.  I liked that I wasn’t inclined to share too much information, except when a guy admitted he might be getting a bit too personal sharing parts of his life.

97.  Guys could shave, but I don’t mind a little bit of scruff, as long as it grows evenly. Patchiness is weird.

98.  Everyone’s eyebrows were nicely groomed.

99.  This is one of Becky’s most brilliant ideas. I felt like The Total Queen of the Dating Dream Realm of Fantastitude. With a real crown and everything. And a special scepter.

100.               This has been one of the funnest months of my life. Seven dates in one month: Aww yeeeaah!

 

War Songs

 

“Making Pies”

-Patty Griffin

It’s not far
I can walk
Down the block
To TableTalk
Close my eyes
Make the pies all day
Plastic cap
on my hair
I used to mind
Now I don’t care
I used to mind
Now I don’t care
Cause I’m Gray

Did I show you this picture of my nephew
Taken at his big birthday surprise
At my sister’s house last Sunday
This is Monday and we’re making pies
I’m making pies
Making pies
Pies

Thursday nights
I go and type
Down at the church
With Father Mike
It gets me out
And he ain’t hard to like
At all

Jesus stares at me
In my chair
With his big blue eyes
And his honey brown hair
And he’s looking at me
Way up there
On the wall

Did I show you this picture of my sweetheart
Taken of us before the war
Of the Greek and his Italian girl
One Sunday at the shore

We tied our ribbons to the fire escape
They were taken by the birds
Who flew home to the country
As the bombs rained on the world

5am
Here I am
Walking the block
To TableTalk
You could cry or die
Or just make pies all day
I’m making pies

 

 

“Song for Jeffrey Lucey”

-Meg Hutchinson

You would’ve made a great dad
If you’d lived that long
Your eyes are warm and kind on the evening news
There was a big celebration when you walked off that bus
With all your limbs intact we thought you’d made it back to us
And no one knew, what you’d been made to do over there

You were almost twenty-two when they shipped you out
With the sixth motor transport battalion
Operation Freedom, also known as the war
No place for a good kid just trying to pay for school

And no one knew, what you’d be made to do over there

Yellow ribbons still fluttering from the trees beside the house
Memory was a cancer that you could not live without
But you could not live with it
Oh… no you could not live with it

In the dark you held your flashlight, still listening for spiders
In the days you drank alone in your old room
Haunted always by the voices, by the jingling of the tags
Holding on to one little corner of that flag

And no one knew…

Yellow ribbons still fluttering from the trees beside the house
Made a pillow for your head and they laid you down
Oh they laid you down
Oh… oh they laid you down

And no one knew
What you’d been made to do
And all their love couldn’t keep you

 

War is an interesting animal. It carries a variety of symbols. Its images are powerful. Patty sings from the perspective of a loved one, first person. Meg takes it to the second person, as if conversing with the returned soldier who took his own life. Both artists incorporate ribbons. Reminders. Both remind us of the feelings involved, that human beings fight in wars and they confront other humans, many of them innocent. And how do people deal? How do they handle the loss, the trauma, the agony? Go and type. Make pies. Self-medicate into a funnel of depression. The woman feels helpless. Jeffrey Lucey felt helpless.

I guess you can push through the day until enough time passes and it doesn’t hurt as much. I guess you can write songs and sing sadly. I guess you can petition the military mental health organizations to improve their PTSD programs. I guess you can mourn for the little bit of yourself that has died inside when someone you love has died way too young fighting a war that seems to have no end. Pies were her end; getting to the end of each day moved her along. Jeffrey Lucey, though, he could only see one ending. It had gotten to be too much.

When I went to the Pomegranate Gallery to look at Iraqi art, my mind spun with curiosity and a strange sympathy. Almost all the art were portrayals of war and divided nations. All dark, solid, jagged lines and aggressive strokes with thick, unhampered textures. A lot of intertwined themes involving the colors of Iraq’s flag and the idea of stitching together the Sunnis and Shiites and Kurds. Walking through that gallery moved me. I couldn’t understand the history and the bloodshed and the tradition. I don’t get the oil and the power and the politics. This isn’t going to end anytime soon.

mind procession

looking back

following the trail

looking down

they keep attacking

looking out

but we bury those

looking up