Thursday, December 30, 2004

My ride home on a luxury liner

Meera Lee is so astonishing and beautiful. Is she not? She is, don't even argue with me. You will be outvoted. (Click above and read, per favore.)

As Meera and I parted ways after a lovely afternoon, I scooted up Mass Ave toward the 66 bus stop nearest the Harvard T station. Now, if you've ever had the misfortune of needing to catch this bus, you may know that you can see your fate for a solid three-minute walk/run before you actually reach the bus stop. You cross in front of the church and can see either many chilly people tapping feet impatiently or a big ol' bus glaring down at you and threatening to leave before you can risk your life crossing the street to get to it.

I stepped up the pace a bit once I assessed my own situation earlier today and saw that the bus was, indeed, glaring menacingly and looking a bit more like a steroidal race horse than most buses do. I rushed to the curb of the intersecting street as the bus edged away from the stop, caught by the same traffic that would kill me if I tried to cross. Dammit dammit dammit.

The light turned. The bus loomed away. I crossed slowly, dejectedly even. I idly gazed at the traffic of buses that weave and pass in that strange and unexplainable section of Cambridge, and lo, another bus reared its way toward the stop.

And, get this... it was a 66.

I had my change all ready in my hand from my fevered walk of moments before, which was lucky because I was a little stunned at my good fortune and could have forgotten to pay altogether.

The change clinks into the thinger, I briefly say "H'lo" to the driver, a white guy with a Boston accent who replied with "How ahh ya." Before I'm even in my seat the bus lurches and we're off.

The really great thing about boarding at Harvard ISN'T the waiting outside in the blistering cold wind among crazy people who drool tobacco juice on their shopping cart brimming with grimy blankets, although that's pretty sweet, too. No, oh no... the great part is that the bus comes to you fresh, bodyless, empty. Any seat could be yours, my friend. Put your feet up, stay a while... relax...

But this bus was really empty. Except for me. Running on the capable heels of the bus I had only just missed, all of the stops were vacant until we rolled across the bridge into Allston proper. This afforded some leisure time for your favorite JoBiv to sit awkwardly in a lit-up bus like a lone goldfish in an olympic-sized tank. And then he started talking.

"How do you like your limo ride so fah?"

"It's a little weird" (nervous chuckle)

He honks a few times, "Gahd there ah tons of people out right now. It's like an early rush owah."


"So ah you doin' First Night this yee-ah?"

"I dunno, prolly not."

Honk honk HONK. Awkward silence? Hard to tell...

"Um.. it's so expensive for what you get."

"Yeah, who wants to pay for a crowded bah where you still have to pay for drinks? And then to drive home... it's suicide. Not that I would drive home drunk. Not since I got this job..."

I'm not kidding. He said that. He said other things about First Night and New Yee-ah's in general, and then we finally had another passenger. And then a third. Slowly, normalcy regained, I no longer felt the burning strain of a forced conversation and he started yapping at other people. Apparently, this is how he passes his shift, with obnoxious honking and conversations chosen at random.

But really, I'd rather think that I was chosen, especially. Maybe not by him, but by some power that decided to send me a second-chance bus and set me in it like something enshrined. Garishly, of course, which is how most things are enshrined. But can you see me there, in my not-really-a-coat and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamscarf, tucking myself against a window and seemingly talking to myself, nodding and smiling queen-like for the invisible passers-by? It must have looked glorious, JoBiv ensconced in a burning chariot of fuel-efficient public transportation...

Don't worry, you, too, may get your time to shine.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


I'm back home in Brookline. I just need to catch my breath and stop seething. I will, I promise. It helps that a TON of Christmas cards from lovely people were all jammed up in my mailbox to welcome me home. Christmas cards are about all the contact I want with humanity right now.

And lunch with Meera tomorrow. She's worth the exception.

But yes, I'm screening calls. Even YOUR calls. I'm sorry, but it's necessary for the moment.

Monday, December 27, 2004

All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth

Okay, not really. I want books. I got one: The Betty Crocker Cookbook. What did y'all git?

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas from Mama Biv

"Are you sure you're not just losing hair?"


"Because it's awfully thin. You can't have pulled all of that out."

"It's not thinning. I'm thinning it."

"That solves the ol' problem of having too much hair, I guess."


"It could be falling out, maybe."

"It's not."

"Are you sure?"

Friday, December 24, 2004

Happy Holidays from Shane Tamika Colligan

23 Dec 2002
Subject: Cool Yule!

Jo Biv, my sweet monkey: I am ever so sorry for not-mailing you lo these past several months. Fortunately, the doctors have found a cure for the dreaded bastard gene and I'm being treated for it with a series of painful injections directly into the eyes. Ahhhh, what a relief it will be when I'm no longer a bastard!

I hope you are having a fantabulous Christmas and that your New Year's is also swell. I hope the fat cat brings you everything you want and that he doesn't eat all your Christmas cookies. I'm sorry that I haven't seen you in a while. A loooooong while. Oh, how I miss you!! Please come visit sometime if you have a chance. Perhaps a jaunt to Bean Town is in order soon.

Ok, gotta run. I miss you, kid! Merry Christmas! Tell the fam I said hello!!

I miss you, Jo!!

Merry Christmas. Love, Shane

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Upstairs Downstairs

I had the most astounding day two days ago. I'm still reeling a bit, to be honest. See? This is what happens when you make JoBiv leave her cozy apartment and talk with Other People. Who knows if I'll recover...

I put up on ad on cragislist to whore my childcare skills to those in need and I got two replies. The first mom, J, has a nearly-six-yr-old girl with Cerebral Palsy who needs help getting off the school bus and into the house on Thursdays. The second mom, M, has a three-month-old baby girl who needs care 3.5 days a week.

Simple. I can combine them and make me some money.

Both moms contacted me to set up meetings, which I think of as interviews. Yesterday, on the coldest day EVOR, I took my little notepad of directions and headed out into hell to meet some families.

First stop: J's apartment.

On Cypress Street, in a section of Brookline where houses are embarassingly close to the road and embarassingly un-vinyled, I find the pink house with five steep and narrow steps leading to a battered front door. I ring what I assume to be a doorbell and eventually a young woman with hair hastily pulled half-up comes rushing to the door with apologies for making me wait a bit in the cold. She lets me in, introduces herself, then to the boyfriend and the brother, and leads me to the second room in the house, Sierra's room. The lavender walls have Dora The Explorer decals on them, and a confusing set of bunk beds, a large tv, and two dressers dominate the room and further dwarf the tiniest 5 yr old I have ever seen.

"Sierra, our new friend Jo is here!"

The little girl is wedged into a corner of her room with a big Trader Joe's bag by her side. She sits on her legs with her feet pointing behind her; tightly curled, tiny feet... I think, "Does she walk? How am I going to do this?"

She turns to see the stranger in the doorway, and I see this tiny, fragile-looking elfin face, long eyelashes poking out for emphasis of cuteness. She tells me something I can't understand - clear speech problems - and Mom eventually translates.

"She's cleaning the bunny's poops."


Actually, she is delightful. I spend an hour with J and Sierra, learning all of the rules of Sierra's life. She is not allowed to sit "in a double-u" and you have to remind her "to use leftie" and she needs "stretch-time"... all of these reminders come bolting out of J's mouth every five minutes, and Sierra obeys, shifting and pulling her body with all her effort to sit cross-legged, holding a piece of paper in place with the impossibly curled "leftie" while she uses the dexterity of rightie to draw a picture. Occasionally, J pulls Sierra to sit between her legs, pushes the little girls legs out straight, pressing on the knees, flexing her feet, flexing her fingers.

Meanwhile, boyfriend Chris and brother Dan play darts - the sharp metal kind - out in the hall. Despite Dan's cuteness (he was playing guitar when I first came in) I wonder at the fact that these two are drinking Heinies at 4:30 on a Monday night while J attempts to pull dinner, Christmas, and Sierra together.

Through the course of the meeting, which I discover is a relieved hand-off rather than an interview, I find out that this bedroom used to be a living room and Sierra used to sleep with Mom, and that they need a new roommate because this woman is moving out - do I know anybody? - and Chris prefers that Sierra doesn't play in his and J's room, he likes his privacy...

I ask for a tour of the house. There's a section of hallway with photos taped in a kind of gallery, a kitchen with milkcrates used for storage and two large (I can't help but think of drinking games) tables. The roommate's room in the back of the house is crammed full of crap. She's moving in January and it looks pretty crazy.

Before I leave, Sierra wants to show me how she can write her name. She's nearly six, after all. She uses a piece of orange construction paper and a slightly darker crayon, pressing the paper in place with leftie and squiggling a large, happy S. She gets the long line for her I down and then gets distracted by her bunny, Dusty. I ask her, "where does the dot go?"


She finishes her name with some elegant "cursive" and then asks me to write my name. I say, "Mine's easy, it's just two letters. J..."

She lights up, "Like Mommy!"

Smart girl...

As I'm wrapping my scarf around my neck, she says, "I like it." J picks her up and I tell her it's an Amazing Technicolor Dreamscarf, and the things on the end are all scarflettes. It's like having lots and lots of tiny scarves. She giggles and I ask her to pick her favorite. Very carefully, as though they're fragile, she picks through the fringe and finds one with two shades of blue. She finds a red one to match Mom's sweater. She runs her fingers through the fringe like it's long, luxurious hair. I resist the urge to hug her. I'm already in love.

Second Stop: Anna's

A girl needs to eat.

Third Stop: M's condo

On the other side of Brookline, nestled cozily amongst parks and formerly shady oaks, amber light pours out of the beveled windows of solid Victorian doors. I find the address I need, walk up three gorgeous flights of stairs, and come to a friendly welcome mat and another beautiful door.

M answers, dressed in her evening relaxing clothes - knits with drawstrings - and welcomes me to her home. The place is cozy but not quite moved into, with boxes in the hall and some bare walls. The walls are dressed in dark wood framework, some of it carved, and a huge brick fireplace gives the space even more grandeur, if possible. Ruining the effect, somewhat, toys, books and cloth diapers litter the floor. With a glance I notice that they are THE toys and books to have - LaMaze, DK, etc. This is only one room, the living room, and I can see a huge dining room and a split kitchen that allows for another table.

M offers me a seat on a comfy couch, and I'm introduced to her husband, S. He totters off to make tea after commenting on the cold, and M pulls out a notepad. A notepad, I tell you!

"So," she says, "I've read over your resume," which I had sent more for effect than any serious desire to have them check it over thoroughly, "and see you've had a summer of nannying experience. Tell me what that was like."

As I talk about Baby Nora and jLiz, she takes notes, nods, and suddenly I remember that she's a family physician.

Soon she's asking me what I think my strengths and weaknesses are, where my career in childcare is headed, what do I get from the experience of caring for children... after 15 minutes of interrogation, S comes out with the tea and complains that we cannot possibly have tea at this table with the tablecloth looking as it does.

No shit, they change the tablecloth.

Sitting at the table we catch up S on my answers thus far, and he adds a comment here and there. I have the distinct feeling they've put others through a similar ringer. They ask me about where I'm from and my family, and I ask them the same questions, polite and trying to be interested. Suddenly we hear a quacking noise from a distant room. M got up to retrieve the baby, while S and I talked about art and printmaking and a couple of the beautiful pieces in the home.

The quacking came closer, and cuddled in M's arms was a tiny being in a pink terry pajama suit. Lil Pea rubbed her eyes and continued to pretend to be very upset without convincing any of us.

At this point, I knew it would be a bad idea to hold the baby. It was clearly her Hour of Evil, even though I was assured she's a very good baby. I knew that she would not like the smell or feel of my strangeness, and sure enough, once in my arms she worked up to a code yellow cry.

After switching the baby between Mom and Dad for a while and making some more pleasant small talk, I put on my coat and wrapped up, wishing the family a happy new year and saying I hoped to hear from them soon...

Fourth Stop: Home

There is a scheduling conflict between the two jobs. Lil Pea needs care 3 or 4 days a week, including Thursdays. That gig, of course, offers a lot more money. During the interview I found myself saying that I wasn't available Thursdays, and I thought to myself, "You jackass... you are JOBLESS. Make yourself available..."

But I can't. I think of Sierra gleefully crawling after her bunny and pulling on my scarflettes, and I'm already melted.

Well, I have one job. We'll just see about M and S and their sweet baby girl.

Monday, December 20, 2004

A call from Sir Spratly

Last night a most wondrous thing happened: I answered the phone.

Even more wonderful, the person calling me was my friend from St. Bona's, Jack Sprat. (Actually Mazurak, but we called him Sprat, which is much more fun to say.) The conversation began thusly:

JoBiv: Hello?
Sprat: Hello there
JoBiv: Um... hi...
Sprat: Is this JoBiv?
JoBiv: Yes...
Sprat: This is Jack
JoBiv: Sprat?
Sprat: Sprat!
JoBiv: Whoa... Hi Sprat!!
Sprat: Mambo #5 came on the radio, so I started dancing in my kitchen, slidin' around and acting like an idiot, and I thought of you and had to call you.
JoBiv: Is that a compliment?

Ahh Sprat... He always works this way. He and I became friends because we both write poetry, love jazz music, sang in choir together, and spent a lot of time in the media wing of our college, where both The BonaVenture (newspaper) and The Laurel (literary magazine) came to life through magic, caffeine-induced hysteria and tomfoolery. Jack is one of those journalists who wishes he could be a poet full time, but alas, this does not pay the bills. His poems are very good, and he always begins his explanations of them with, "I was walking out in the woods, and I was inspired by..."

It's fun to be around a person who frequently runs head-on into inspiration, and these people tend to call me when inspired by something, and the something is always amusing.
I should mention that many a late night found Jack, JoBiv, Shane and other hangers-on rubbing our eyes, eating Tim Horton's Timbits (doughnut holes), and giggling ferociously in that media wing. When Sprat was inspired by some type of music (I particularly remember the night of the Joe Williams cd), he'd bring it to my magazine office and make me listen. Not that I minded. On the night o' Joe Williams, I believe we broke out in swing dancing among the newslings. Jolly good fun.

JoBiv: Did the dancing involve jazz hands?
Sprat: It did, and sort of a nice sidestep move with a half-jazz hand flutter out to the side.
JoBiv: Holy crap, Jack. You're killing me... (giggling uncontrollably)
Sprat: I had an invisible partner at one point, too, and boy was she limber...

The last time I saw Sprat... Well, it could have been Shane's funeral, but I don't remember anyone who was there, really. So many faces. I know we talked on the phone around then, and shared some memories. The last time I remember seeing Sprat, it was the weekend of my graduation. He was a year ahead, and so I was hugely surprised to see him walking through the main doors of The Hickey Dining Hall. (No really, it's called The Hickey Dining Hall.) At the time, I remember that my parents were hovering on both sides of me, my brothers were getting drinks, we were all standing around, and I was miserable with the anxiety of graduating and the sappy sweetness of my family being so proud of me, beating all of my older brothers to a college degree. And then Sprat burst in, gave me a big hug, and told me he was there to make sure that his friend Ernest, an exhange student from... was it Singapore?... graduated and got on the plane back home before he could officially start a life of crime in the states.

Sprat: I'm in Mississippi now
JoBiv: What the hell? Closer to Alison? (girlfriend of 4 yrs)
Sprat: Yep, starting a job tomorrow at [enter some paper's name here].
JoBiv: That's craziness! I mean, good for you!
Sprat: Y'know they call Jacksonville "Jack-town," so I had to move here.

Excellent logic, Sprat. Excellent logic.

So today's neighbor blog comes from Jack's roomie from over the summer, a guy named Pat. His blog is mighty smart and humorous, and Jack has some cameos in the summer months. According to Sprat, I have to like Pat's stuff because I also have a blog (which he has never read, only hearing about it last night). Okay, and because he thinks we're both funny. I haven't been too funny lately, however I think my chat with Sprat has lightened my mood considerably. Don't you?

Sprat: I'm a little worried, because I've heard they don't like Yankees down here.
JoBiv: That's scary country, Sprat.
Sprat: I know. And it's serious bible belt country, too...
JoBiv: Did I mention the word "scary?"
Sprat: So I think I'll make up a bumper sticker or a t-shirt or something that says, "Jesus loves Yankees too."

Ahh Sir Spratly... You are brilliant.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Questions and... questions?

In a couple of weeks, I will have a job and I will no longer be theees close to a heart attack every waking moment. I know this. You would think this would cut into the heart-attack-on-every-horizon feeling. It doesn't.

I've been thinking about my brothers a lot lately, especially since my brother Tom called the other week (so mysterious!), and because I miss them more when I'm with them. When I'm actually with them, you heard me, and I will be with them shortly for the annual holiday soul massacre. Also, I've been having conversations with people who think guys are scum, even some guys who admit to their scumminess. I seem to be the only person I know who doesn't believe in guy scumminess.

This may seem odd to you, if you know how much and how easily I'm hurt by my brothers, but it has nothing to do with scumminess. I think that if they were sisters we would have the same emotional leverage with one another, and we would hurt one another unknowingly just the same way.

I'm sad about the way guys have been made to feel inferior, clumsy, and inherently scummy. Why isn't anyone else sad about this? Why is it okay that every sitcom on tv has a bumbling, clueless, under-qualified, sometimes scummy dad? Is it okay for women to believe that the men in their lives have that guy inside them at all times, and shout whenever a shadow of that cliche appears as though they have irrefutable proof? Simultaneously, this allows men to slip into the stereotype and shrug their shoulders as if to say, "you should have known. I'm a guy. I'm a scum/idiot/blunderer. Don't you watch sitcoms?"

Rise above, people!

Strange diatribe for a Sunday night, admittedly. My brain keeps moving around on me and making some things crystal clear and others very, very foggy. No answers here, folks.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

An Ode to Katya

Kate, the wonderful lunch-buddy,
Met me for yumminess at Zaftigs and even
Continued to the Booksmith and later, yes even later,
Accompanied me to The PaperSource, where I did math in my head
Successfully. This is auspicious evidence
That Kate influenced the cosmos today
And made it bearable for me, even if in doing so
She further neglected a much neglected paper
For Cathie's Crit class. Ah, Kate,
Who is lovelier than thou?

That's a poor poem, but you get the gist.

Friday, December 17, 2004

A second helping of sloth...

I didn't finagle, just so ya know.

I have not left my apartment in two days.

It occurred to me, earlier, that I have trouble recalling the details of my flight on this coming Wednesday. It's the ONLY THING I have to do, really, in the next coming weeks, and I keep forgetting it. How's that for your subconcious commandeering your waking life?

I say it's the only thing I have to do, despite my many lists. (Obsessive list making - symptom #3?) I say this because it's the only thing I have to do that affects other human beings and will make me feel horrible if I don't succeed at it. The rest of my lists can reasonably wait until after I return, but that's an unhealthy way of thinking. I shall limit it as much as possible.

I don't like this whole flying thing. I haven't spoken to another human being in person since H-Bomb said, "have a nice Christmas, Jo Anna," last night at some point. And yes, she mispronounced my name. I haven't touched another human being since I gave a bus transfer to a bus driver and his hand closed around my fingers. Creepily, I might add.

What I'm saying is that I'm a little leery of throwing myself into holiday traffic with full gusto, holding my own amongst strangers. And then sitting buttcheek to buttcheek with a stranger on the plane for hours. And flying by way of DC - so unnecessary - unloading myself into another airport full of strangers hopped up on holiday spirit or humbugs.

Dear reader, I didn't tell you that when I last went home for Baby Girl's birthday party, my Aunt Paula said, "Jo, your hair looks so different... it's sort of smooth and straighter or something."

"Yeah," I said, "It's long enough to weigh itself down."

"There's something else that's different..." she said, voice loud and nasal.

I shrugged, hoping she'd drop it. "Well I think I finally have the curls under control." (You may laugh, gentle reader.)

"I know what it is! You've had it thinned!" Then she ran her fingers through my hair and felt the back where it's thinnest, frowning at me and looking at my mom, who watched this whole interaction intently. "They did a pretty uneven job of it..."

What if I miss that flight? They wouldn't come to get me, right? What's the worst they could do?

State of the JoBiv Address

Thank you, Sarah, David, and Christi. Excellent suggestions, all.

So, you may be happy to hear that I have crossed several things off my list. F'rinstance, I took a shower. I also put other things on the list and got to cross them out immediatly upon finishing: putting up an ad offering childcare on, responding to a few ads (a mom needs help with 2 mo. old twins! goodness!), and calling around to secure enthusiastic references. jLiz has agreed, despite the fact that I pinched her baby. Not on purpose... it was the damn car seat's fault.

Today only has one major list item to overcome: Finagle a reason to leave the apartment.

Harder than it seems, lemme tell you, because I can't spend any money, even though Hoot is on sale at the Booksmith and I still need to buy jewelry supplies for christmas gifts.

Think think think...

Or rather, finagle finagle finagle...

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Postess with the Mostest

I have less to do now. I have nothing to do that will earn me money. I have resolved, however, to write here every goddamn day. Every day writing is possible, I should say, because I'm sure I'll encounter obstacles over the next few weeks.

Stefan, very kindly, tried to help me come up with Things To Do before I leave for Rochacha. If y'all have anything to add I am definitely open to suggestions.

Things To Do:

List A: Do these things today, Jo.

1. Take a shower.
2. Send an invoice for two projects completed in December
3. Get printmaking supplies for the Christmas Card Extravaganza
4. Start cutting plate for aforementioned Extravaganza
5. Get a movie or figure out similar reward for getting off your ass today.

List B: Do these things before you leave for Rochacha, Jo.

1. Visit the Career Center (without panicking or crying).
2. Feed self every day.
3. Figure out Christmas gifts for brothers' girlfriends/wives. (Well, one wife, two girlfriends.)
4. Call friends in Le Victoire and establish Escape From Alcatraz-esque plans for Christmas week.
5. Finish and mail Masshealth application.
6. Print and mail Christmas cards.

I've already bungled my plans. I came straight to the Simmons lab instead of showering, because I was already on the 66 bus and didn't think I'd leave my apartment if I let its inviting, uterine warmth envelope me.

And I can't send the invoice (though I've filled it out) until the latest editor actually manages to open the document I sent him and tell me everything's fantastic. (Which it is. I actually liked this last project.)

I like the word envelope. The envel part sounds kinda swanky and luxurious, and the ope part seems a bit comical on the end. Pop pop pop. Envellopop. Opie dope envelope. Lope... I like that word, too.

Right! Back to (fake) work!

Monday, December 13, 2004

Like the Gifts of the Magi, but not.

French people are magical.

I was thinking about how Miss Sarah and I shouldn't wash our hair every day, and how other people think that's gross, which is unfair.

And then I thought of Les French, the people who lived above me when I lived in Ireland (some of whom were Dutch, but that spoils it), and how they somehow magically broke every rule without damaging their reputations or friendships. And I pondered why. This is what I came up with.

Affront #1: They are French. (Except for the Dutch ones.)

Counteraction: They moved to Ireland, ON PURPOSE, which means they are of that select line of Frenchpeople who do not want to live in France. I call that good judgement.

Affront #2: They speak French

Counteraction: They never gave me the feeling that they believed French to be the most romantic language on earth, mostly because half of their vocabulary was vulgar.

Affront #3: Deficient laundry skills

Counteraction: Like cartoon characters, they would wear the same outfit repeatedly, which meant I could recognize them from great distances and in most stages of inebriation. Very helpful.

Affront #4: Deficient personal hygiene skills

Counteraction: They always had the coolest hair! And by the way, if you're beautiful and have an accent, you somehow never smell like ass.

See? I told you. MAGICAL.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Something fishy at Stah Mahket

I forgot to tell you that Operation Free Fish went off without a hitch.

Well, there was a little hitch, but you have to expect a hitch with 14 yr old cashiers. Not his fault, certainly. The 16 yr old manager simply didn't inform him on how to handle a free food coupon so that he could feel important when he pressed some magic button to make it all okay.

I did not, as Sus suggested, get the most expensive product Stah Mahket offers. I got fillets. Thank you, Sus.

(And thank you, Papa Warhovah.)

Friday, December 10, 2004


I am not paying attention.

I missed Susan P. Bloom's holiday booktalk. Why? Because I'm afraid of people, especially people who might be concerned about me, and therefore did not stop by her office two weeks ago when I should have stopped in to ask about her booktalk. I'm a putz.

I like using Yiddish words and phrases during Chanukah. Makes me feel slightly less goyish. Although, why shouldn't I feel like a goy?

Back to my joblivion... I'm not paying attention in general. I am getting a lot of writing work done, which is good, but I didn't really notice that today is December 10th, or a Friday, or any other number of important things. I exist somewhere in my own brain, some tiny pinpoint of a place, where there's enough insulation around me that I don't have to care about most things.

I forget, sometimes, how easy it is to become invisible. It's not a superpower, you just fold in and become unimportant until you're that pinpoint and no one can see you unless they're really looking. And not many are really looking.

But then I know how hard it will be to unfold later. I've done all this before and it's counterproductive to Life. In a weak gesture of resistance, I've tried to keep up with David, I've emailed jLiz and Christi, I even called my brothers Cripps and Smacks last weekend. PHONE calls, not telepathic calls (which don't work, turns out). Smacks called me back to say he'd call me back. Later, I mean. He didn't, though.

It's too bad he didn't. I need to know what colors his girlfriend likes so I can make her a christmas present. I haven't decided what to make for the boys' girls this year. I've screwed myself over by giving them gifts in the past. It all seems so odd when I can't do anything for the people I really love, my friends here and all over. I mean, to put so much effort into a gift for girls I see on a quarterly basis for three hours altogether... If it's any consolation to the friends I love, I put more work into the Christmas cards I send you. When will I see any of you again? I can't even fathom it - having enough money or courage. Or time.

See, now that I'm pushing at the insulation I have to think again, and thinking leads to dwelling, and dwelling leads to NOTHING GOOD AT ALL. Stop stop stop.
I want to be so small. Shrinkidink. zzzzzzip. tiny. gone.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Shine on you crazy diamond

Shane's park

Apparently, Shane has a park named after him. This park. I think it's on the college campus, but can't say for sure. Colleges do crap like this, though, so it makes sense. And I think I detect the Allegany Mountains and a cheap lookin' aluminum shed, which are likely components of a St. Bonaventure University landscape.

I'm not convinced that they had Shane's three hearts in mind when they created this park. Conspicuously missing: drinking fountain spouting cheap beer, swingset (with curly slide), full-size naked photo of Janet Reno, and Muppets. Any of 'em.

I hope you've noticed that I'm trying not to dwell on Things, but they pop up out of nowhere and bitch-slap me. Like this park... I was just loping along with my day when, POP, Uncle Chuckles sent out a mass email with this park photo. The photo was taken in September on the only sunny day western NY ever had. Truly remarkable.

And last week Katya invited me to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas with her and Anne. Did I ever tell you how Shane was obsessed with Christmas specials and had them all on tape under other titles, like "Chuck F (Uncle Chuckles) Lights the Menorah," and "Carlton A Sings the Blues?" We would order a pizza and watch Christmas specials, especially Muppety ones, perched on Shane's bed-on-bricks and turning up the volume when his nextdoor neighbor Joe D started singing along with Sinatra. Shane called it The Joe Datillo Variety Hour, or Joe D Sings Romantic Standards, or Joey D Live In Concert.

Okay, not dwelling. Moving on.

I will also try not to fill my blog with weeks of Going Home Soon Anxiety and Slowly Recovering from Trip Home Angst. I will not go on and on about how my father plans to abduct me THIS time (he's already finagled a way to get me on a plane - scary), or how my mother's voice cracks when she tells me she's really, really, REALLY looking forward to seeing me and can't I stay longer?

A few other things I am consciously not dwelling on: joblessness, increasing hairlessness, increasing fear of phones, insomnia... Lookame not dwelling! Holy cow!

Monday, December 06, 2004

Farewell to Mars


How astoundingly beautiful is this picture? It's an oxygen bubble inside a water bubble at zero gravity. This was taken on the International Space Station, and it's just about the only thing that really grabbed my attention of all my research for the Mars project.

I got a tiffy email from my editor today. She said something like, "How's that project coming? I'm just asking because our deadlines aren't as flexible as they used to be here." Haha! She should get into politics. "No, it's not ME telling you to get it in on time, it's THEM... THOSE people... the MEAN ones. Don't shoot the messenger!"

I really should get right to work on the 32-pager, but my eyes hurt, my fingers are frozen, and I'm very, very tired. Also frustrated... there's this job at Houghton that I want to apply for, but I can't find writing samples (I know, I know, but I can't share my freelance work according to my contract). I just figured out that my disk of work from the Writing class disappeared along with my purse that day on Newbury Street.

Sigh. I hope I have print copies of all that stuff. Wish me luck on my search.

Did the neighbor blog thang today, so click the subject line! This blog is so... pretty. See what you think.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

All hail the good doctor!

Dr. Blouin has started a blog, due to my nagging, and I think it's a lovely thing.

David the Great is one of my two best friends from college. (The other is Allie. She's in Chicago, according to rumor and a message on my machine.)

You may say, "Pick a college, Jo. It's gotten confusing."

I'm talking about St. Bonaventure University, the ol' Brown and White. That doesn't sound appealing, does it? I read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time a month or so ago, and the character in that book has a strong aversion to brown things. He would not like SBU. Besides the mud, there are also Franciscan Friars, who wear brown robes. The Allegany River usually looks brownish, as well.

BREAKING NEWS! David has discovered the sad fate of the sweater I lost last night.

drblouin1: i pay attention you know
JoBiv: prolly more than I ever do. thanks for that
JoBiv: frinstance, i lost a sweater yesterday
JoBiv: due to my lack of attention to details
JoBiv: genius
drblouin1: did the detail gnomes take it from you
drblouin1: they quizzed you on it and then determined you could not recognize it from tuna
drblouin1: then they absconded with it
drblouin1: didn't they
drblouin1: they always do that

Oh Doctor, you're a godsend.

Saturday, December 04, 2004


Audrey sittin' purty

I didn't think I'd ever make a statement like the following, but epiphanies, as is their nature, do take one by surprise and cause strange things to fly from one's mouth (or fingertips). And so I say the following.

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who know where to sit, and those who don't.

I have been thinking of my childhood, and how my family seemed so different from my Aunt Paula's family. I thought of family holidays, how we always got to her house early, and my brothers and I drifted around, unable to settle in one place until finding that we were forced to make room between apologetic Cousin Olga (my Russian grandmother's cousin, resembled Uncle Fester) and critical Great-Aunt Lee (who had fingernails like tetanus needles). Even while hanging out with our cousins, who sprawled across their carpet or flung a leg over the lazyboy's arm, we shifted uncomfortably on couch cushions or leaned against a wall.

Well, sure, that's someone else's house. But in my own? Every family meal caused some anxiety when it came to seating. My brother Tom seemed immune, but then again no one wanted to cause trouble because he was scary. But Cripps, Smacks, my parents and I could not find a routine. We kids did not want to sit within my Dad's reach (which is an alarmingly large area due to his freakish ape arms), and we had to allow for Cripps being a lefty. And if we could avoid it, we would try to sit in a non-Death Seat. The Death Seat forced you to get up for the things that someone else forgot to bring to the table - butter, salt, milk - and somehow also forced you to pass everything across the table between my parents, situated at the poles.

And then there were the varying qualities of the chairs to think of. One was so damaged that it acted like one of those gliding front-porch rockers, which was a pleasant sensation until my mother screeched at us to stop breaking the chair.

Cor, blimey.

This isn't a nature v. nurture discussion, however, and my point remains. We do not know where to sit. Ever. If you've been in a class with me, or to a restaurant, or in my home, or in the T station, you know this to be true of me. I hover, float, perch, but never settle. It takes me months to wear in a chair and command it to be my favorite place to sit, and then it always feels like a thing forced.

Here's the thing I've noticed, though, that makes this a true epiphany. Those who know where to sit usually get their way. The rest of us compromise. I try to pat myself on the back and admire my own compassion and hospitality, but really, I want to sit anywhere I want and magically transform my seat into a throne with my very presence.

I'm not saying that know-where-to-sitters AREN'T brimming with compassion and hospitality, but they do know how to fulfill their own needs so that they can deal with the world with some outward show of confidence. But I can't speak from that side of the fence, so this is only conjecture.

This photo of Audrey Hepburn makes me wonder about her. Do you think she knew where to sit? She seems so squarely positioned, but there's some uncertainty in her eyes. Do you see it, too?

Friday, December 03, 2004

Instant gratification

Why are Fridays so terribly hard?

My daily routine for the last two weeks forced me to stay in my apartment until after lunch so that I would not be tempted to buy lunch elsewhere. Since I also stay in bed until my roommate has safely disposed of herself, this makes for a later start than might be advisable. I figure, however, that since I am in no way a morning person I am actually preparing myself to be fully useful for the second half of the day, instead of lying to myself and saying I've done eight hours of work by 5 or 6pm. Sensible, no?

The main thing, really, is that I am oh-so-proud of myself for spending nary a dollar on lunch food for the past two weeks, which balances out the food bought for my Thanksgiving meal. Such extravagance demands some punishment in these paycheckless hours.

And so, for two weeks, I have woken up at 8am, listened to Heather prepare to leave the apartment FOR TWO FRICKIN' HOURS, rolled out of bed to shower, turned on Ellen, made breakfast, poked at my guitar and strategized things. Then at about 1pm I convince myself that I'm hungry and warm up my leftover potatoes or squash soup. Don't tell me they're probably too old to be good. I'd rather not think about microbes.

Then I put on my socks and sneakers. That takes a long time and I don't know why. It's up there with the three hardest parts of the day.

And today, all of the day's efforts were rewarded as soon as I let the arched door of the Castle Warwick close behind me.

First, I noted the clear and lovely sunshine beating its way through the nekkid trees. Lovely blue sky, as well. People looking busy up and down Beacon St. as crews washed windows, hung holiday lights on aforementioned nekkid trees, unloaded fruit for the Russian grocer, and a strange young man in a long wool coat and nice pants walked toward me with arms outstretched, a beaming smile on his face.

"JoBiv!" said he.

"Kevin Drumm!" sez I.

Imagine the slo-mo scene of lovers leaping through a field of wild flowers, hair a-flowing, violins soaring...

... except with me and Kevin Drumm, a friend from college whose hometown neighbors mine, and we're not running, and we just hug and smile at each other pleasantly and try to catch up in three minutes, knowing we won't make a date to hang out or see each other until the next chance crossing.

Drumm updated me with good news - a promotion, general busy grown-upness, demanding but satisfying job... It was a "casual Friday" and he wore Dry Clean Only slacks and a shirt that requires ironing, but, he urged me to notice, no tie or suit jacket. Oh... I see.

"How are you, JoBiv? What's new?"

This is where I'd like to make up a story.

"I'm doing ab-fab, dahling. I've just signed a recording contract with Verve and my first novel is off to the printers as we speak. I was just strolling out to meet friends for lunch on Newbury... I do adore people-watching and wearing pointy-bitch-shoes, don't you know..."

Ahem. OR:

"Oh I'm good! I've been doing this freelance writing gig and I'm kinda laid off from it..."

"You should get on unemployment... Man, during the holidays and everything..."

"Um... except it's by contract..."

"OHhh... Oh. Well, you'll find something."

"Yeah, and the great thing about freelancing is that it takes forever for the paychecks to come, so I'll actually continue to get paid for a few months! AND," trump card, wait for it, "I get to wear jeans every day, you know."

Kevin Drumm chuckles in the right places, we laugh at how grown-up he seems, how little pot he's smoking these days and how seldom he drinks. He wishes me luck, we hug again, wish each other a happy holiday...

There are worse things than getting a big friendly hug the instant you walk outside.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Speaking of coffins...

What is it with me and ellipses of late? Perhaps it's replacement therapy for CAPS for EMPHASIS.

While watchin' me some TV this morning I was a little stunned by a commercial that came on for caskets. Did you know that funeral homes cannot legally refuse to use a casket that you buy at a factory outlet? Smart consumers, belly up! I have images of a coffin section in BJ's and Sam's Clubs across the nation. Wow.

It made me think of my Grandma Fabrizio, because I remember the day my mother returned from a visit in Syracuse to tell us that Grandma had bought caskets for herself and her husband, as well as burial plots for themselves and their two daughters in the Russian Orthodox cemetery (on seriously pitiful real estate, only rivaled in piteousness by the Jewish cemetery across the road). She had also had her teal (no shit) dress sent, the one she wore to my cousin's wedding in 1988, to the cleaner's for preservation and storage, and instructed my mother on the jewelry she preferred to wear.

How old was I? I must have been 12 or so... Some other season, we somehow ended up driving around Syracuse and my parents felt like visiting some ancestors in various cemeteries. Why do people do that?

Why go for a drive
just for a drive?
Why seek comfort from

cold stone?

Don't remember the poet. Just the lines. As I was sayin', I have this memory of sitting on a little hill by a huge tree next to my brother Dan. Could it have been Dan? He never sat still. Maybe the cemetery affected him. But there we sat, in the cemetery where my father's family was buried, Peaks and Barrs - blueblood types. It was a pretty place with rolling hills and orderly, white stones. Lots of those synthetic veteran rosette ribbons poked out at funny angles like perverse flowers.

My parents stood a little bit away from us, and my Mom said, with rather a hysterical little laugh, "Well, it's settled then, I can't die!"


My dad put an arm around her and kissed her face or temple or ear...

The Russian Orthodox priest had resold my mother and aunt's plots. Someone else had been buried in them. If we had been in that cemetery I'm sure my brother and I would have leapt up to see the proof. As it was, we just sat quietly and looked at our shoes, and thought of our mother dying. She looks terrible in teal, and I wondered what she should wear. I had the sudden knowlege that it would be me, someday, instructed in what earrings she would prefer for the wake and whether they should be removed and kept as heirlooms before the burial.

She wore simple gold hoops, then. Every day. And a tiny gold charm with her monogram in a circle on a thin gold chain, and two emerald rings, simple bands with muddy stones, that my father had bought from whatever he scraped together in the years they struggled for luxuries. And there was this silky dress she had that emphasized her waist. Would anyone see her waist at the wake?

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Okay, I admit I was ill at ease with prior quiz results

Just so you know, the quiz adapts its questions to your answers as you go, which I couldn't know the first time through. I was caught on the first question, and changed my answer the second time around, getting much closer results, methinks.

You're The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe!

by C.S. Lewis

You were just looking for some decent clothes when everything changed
quite dramatically. For the better or for the worse, it is still hard to tell. Now it
seems like winter will never end and you feel cursed. Soon there will be an epic
struggle between two forces in your life and you are very concerned about a betrayal
that could turn the balance. If this makes it sound like you're re-enacting Christian
theological events, that may or may not be coincidence. When in doubt, put your trust
in zoo animals.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Is that Carrie Fisher? Anyone?

The only internet quiz any of us will ever need.

Very funny result for J to the Bivvo, considering my movie choices on Thanksgiving. I protest against the Kennedy obsession part, though. I have many obsessions, but these exclude the Kennedys. I also wish I could be more obsessed with Arthurian legend but haven't the stamina.

The quiz itself amuses. Do partake.

You're The Mists of Avalon!

by Marion Zimmer Bradley

You're obsessed with Camelot in all its forms, from Arthurian legend
to the Kennedy administration. Your favorite movie from childhood was "The Sword in
the Stone". But more than tales of wizardry and Cuban missiles, you've focused on
women. You know that they truly hold all the power. You always wished you could meet
Jackie Kennedy.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

They're up to something. We must prepare.

On Thanksgiving Day my parents sent me white roses. Nice of them. I called to thank them. Nice of me. And my mother informed me that I should watch the mail, because I would receive a large package, my Christmas Present, soon.

Did you all experience the same shudder of foreboding just now?

First issue: Christmas present. Singular. Now I'm not usually so petty come Christmas time, but this year I NEED things, because I cannot buy them for myself. I have one item of tupperware, for instance. I do not own a sharp kitchen knife. I no longer own a serviceable pair of proper winter shoes. I haven't gotten a hair cut (unless you count voluntary pulling out) since May. I'm not even talking about the things that would be just lovely to have, like subscriptions to literary magazines or copies of books I've been coveting. I NEED THINGS.

Second issue: What the hell could it be? What are they forcing on me? The imagination runs quite amok, I tell you.

I think, maybe, they could be sending me an albatross. Perhaps a dead one. That would be symbolic. And until I make my peace with them I have to wear it around my neck...

Or, possibly, it could be this rather inconveniently sized bookshelf that I left behind when I moved. Worse, this big trunk of my grandmother's, the size and weight of a full coffin.

The problem, I think, lies in the term, large package. How large is large, mother? Bigger than a bread box? Smaller, I hope, than a coffin? HAVE YOU SEEN MY APARTMENT??? Okay, it's roomier than the last one, but I still don't have room for anything large. I just upgraded to a queen-sized bed this year, which leaves me with just enough room to crack my elbow against my bedroom door when I flail out of bed in the morning.

More likely they've bought me a computer, despite my numerous protests, and I will set it up on the far side of my bed, in lieu of a desk, and I'll never have to leave my apartment EVOR again.

Fear of all fears - they've somehow managed to buy me a car and they're being cute about the "package" thing.

This afternoon I did a double-take on my way out the door. There was a package for me in the foyer. During the uninformative phone call, my mother told me she was sorry that she couldn't gift-wrap said item and I am allowed to open it before Christmas. She made it sound like it would come straight from a store or something. This package had labels with her handwriting. I took it upstairs and ripped at the paper. It was white on the outside, printed with white roses on the inside. Clever. The box was nearly weightless but there was a "Fragile" sticker on it. ("Frah-jee-lay... is that Italian, honey?") The giftbox inside was printed with a fancy country-store style insignia. "Oh god," thought I, "it's something porcelain and touching." But it was so light! Maybe it was a check! I pulled aside the clouds of white tissue paper in a frenzy, dreaming of actually Christmas shopping in STORES this year, rather than smushing together sad craft projects.

What did all of my frenzy reveal?

A bow.

A red, velveteen bow with green christmas trees silkscreened on and gold glitter here and there. It's a nice bow, as bows go. Someone had pinned a small gift card, which was inexplicably crumpled, to a christmas tree. "Put this on your gift before you open it. - Mom and Dad. Lots of love." (Yes, that was the order of the message.)

It's coming. The Present. It could be in a FedEx truck as we speak. Slowly, it approaches, biding it's time, dreaming of the day it will finally arrive in my foyer and fulfill it's sick destiny. I live in terror.

A footnote - I also live in terror as I await the day when my brother Cripps passes on this blog's address to my parents. I blame the Imholt sisters.