Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Post-Opera

Our last report from JoBivlion hinted at an upcoming surgery. Here, in its entirety, is the drama of the event, which I like to call:

The Post-Opera

Aaaaaand... Curtain!

Act I: A Rude Awakening

Waking up from surgery sucks. I suggest you never try it. All of the doctors – the anesthesiologist, the surgeon – were careful to tell me every little thing they were doing. The put me out, then flipped me onto my stomach, performed the surgery, flipped me back and let me wake up. There’s this lapse point between the pain medication they give you during surgery and the stuff they give you once you’re awake. That part SUCKS.

And then there was: “Have you told my parents I’m okay yet? Please tell them I’m okay…” I had this vision of my mother chewing through naugahyde. “No, I know I’M okay, but do THEY know I’m okay…”

Eventually, they said they’d talked to my dad and I shut up.

Actually it was the drugs. I had this lovely self-metered morphine drip thingie which I could press once every six minutes for relief. I don’t know why they don’t make that automatic, because it took me exactly ten minutes to find out the excruciating pain resulting from missing a dose. From then on I was trained better than Pavlov’s puppy. Nary did I speak, nap, or sip for longer than five minutes for the next two days.

Act II: Enter Chorus

My mother looked about seven years older than I’d left her. Walking in with dad she was trying not to react to something. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I reassured her and Dad with smiles and weak jokes. We all strolled together (well, I rolled) to my hospital room, watched people poke me, talked about how amazing the staff had been, etc.

Eventually I was alone except for the woman in the neighboring bed. She spoke Spanish and had gray hair. That’s all I could know of her.

I drifted and woke and drifted again. The world shrank to a microcosm of my pain, my magic morphine button, tiny beeping noises and constant buzzing of electricity. And hacking coughs from the little lady, followed by, “Ay, Dios mio! Ay, Maria!”

At some point I realized my parents were in the room again. I faked sleep, too tired to acknowledge them, but then the pain grew too intolerable and I had to push my button.

Now, according to my parents, we had an hour-long, incredibly lucid and relaxed conversation about art and literature, during which I said several important things which no one recalls. I remember my parents glancing at each other in disbelief, and quietly responding with mysterious smiles. My mother later told me that she wished I was on morphine all the time: I was so at ease in myself, defenses down, pure intelligence. I think I have the key to future doctoral work.

Act III: The Great Battle Scene

Probably the ickiest bit of the post-op play comes when the nursing staff expects you to answer questions, drink, eat, and generally use your body, which feels pretty unusable. This was my least favorite part and I prefer not to dwell on it. Let’s just say that I was in such oblivion that I had no idea I’d been catheterized until a nurse brought it up.

I couldn’t eat or drink without extreme nausea. My surgery resulted in a tiny nick in my spinal cord, which would cause migraine-esque headaches if I tried to sit up. My left leg pain was gone, but in its place was this searing wrongness at the site of the incision, and constant muscle pain in my back. I was rendered helpless. It’s fortunate I couldn’t reach my hair to pull it out.

My parents hovered all day until they were forced out, and then came the long night. My neighbor, it turns out, was the cutest little lady anyone had ever seen, but she was restless and didn’t want to sit in her bed all day. She constantly bungled her escape plans by forgetting that her bed had an alarm on it. The nurses would rush in, none of them Spanish speakers, and coax her back into bed. Eventually, she won, and they rolled her out into the nurses station so she could see some action.

My night nurse was a sweet guy. He kept me company (mostly to get away from the Ay, Marias, I think) and we talked about all kinds of things – where he’d gone to school, Boston rent, my non-career. When he left to do his work I would try to sleep. The problem was, it had finally caught up with me in my short dreams that I was in the hospital. My weird memories of my last hospitalization settled over me. When my nurse came back I wanted to ask him to stay and watch me.

I got through that night somehow, not sleeping, trying hard not to think. The morning seemed blessed to me, like I’d made it through a long, deep tunnel. I hadn’t known I was fighting until the exhaustion swept over me with the sunrise.

Act IV: Our Heroine Emerges Victorious

Midmorning, my new nurse took me off the morphine drip and had me take a pill. She brought me breakfast (beef broth, yogurt, jell-o and tea) and encouraged me to try eating. I was confused and encouraged.

My parents appeared suddenly, happy to see me looking more lively, eating real food (kinda) and actually awake. By afternoon the catheter had been removed and I had to try to walk. It was bizarre, each little movement a huge effort. Getting out of bed was the worst part, but I was cheerful about it. My mother kept admonishing me to go slowly, not to hurry, stay in bed if it feels better. The nurse quietly shushed her and encouraged me.

A few hours later I was walking slow laps around the nurses station. My new nurse showed me how to manage stairs. I felt like a working prototype. It was time to go home.

Act V: The Homecoming

Somehow, I dressed and cleaned myself and got into a car and arrived (three minutes later) at my apartment. I managed the stairs with my parents’ help. My father ran out for necessities and my mother eased me into bed.

At some point I was up, staring into my bathroom mirror at my slackened, dry, discolored face. I looked like the undead. I realized then how I must have looked to my mother when I came out of surgery – much worse than this, surely.

My father drove back to Rochester. My mother set up an air mattress on my floor. We drank tea and she watched me dissolve medicine, appearing to help whenever she could. It took nearly a week for the morphine to wear off. There was one day when my roommates and my mother pronounced me living. I looked in the mirror and saw my pink lips and flushed cheeks. I ate with more vigor. I grew bored and restless. The worst was over.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Back in Action


My bro asked me to edit a bit for his family's safety from an evil witch - long story - and it took me FOREVOR.

Shall post soon, m'loves!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Surgery Eve

What I Did The Night Before Surgery, By Jo Biv

I was aaalll ready to make myself crazy, running around the apartment, picking up all the stuff that I haven't picked up (because it hurts) and distracting myself thusly. Then my roommate came home and said, "Hey, First Light is tonight."

Waah... How did I end up missing it? First Light is my favorite Brookline thingie! It's basically the official beginning of the holiday season when they turn on all the lights. Tons of local businesses sponsor performances and give away freebies.

So Amy and I ate dinner and planned our boring nights. Eventually I said, "Amy, change outta yer pj's. We're goin' to First Light."

These photos come from my marvelous phone. My favorite First Light tradition happens at Party Favors. They clear out their huge front windows and make it a cake workshop. Standing outside, you can watch the pastry chef decorating impossibly beautiful cakes. We watched him create a gorgeously ornate Christmas tree cake, and then he made a princess with a doll stuck into a big bell-shaped cake. These pictures show him whipping off the skirt. He made a dozen frosting roses, each one taking less than five seconds. It was cooool.

So then we limped home (I limped, Amy walked), and as I finished up some laundry (pj's for the hospital), Amy had started Elf in the living room. Who can clean when there's Christmas on the telly?

And now I'm watching Food Network and pulling out my hair. What a busy night!

See ya post-op.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The knife.

Soooo I don't think I told you that I can't feel or move my left foot. It's been two-ish weeks now and my doctor has been frantically shoving me to various appointments - MRI's, x-rays, orthopedic surgeons.

This morning, a verdict. I have a severely herniated disk.

Doctor: Not the worst I've seen, but certainly tied for second.
JoBiv: Um... is that some kind of honor?
Doctor: [chuckle]
JoBiv: [stare]

He's a charming, congenial, not to mention youngish and handsome kind of man and I want to like him. He gave me a slideshow of my body from various angles and cross-sections, explaining that if it were just the disk, he wouldn't suggest surgery. In my case it's nerve damage. A herniated disk heals itself; nerve damage can be permanent.

He suggested surgery for tomorrow's bill of fare.

JoBiv: (after an hour of careful Q&A replete with models, posters and various pokings) And is there a chance I could get muscle control back in my foot without surgery? With physical therapy? Anything?
Doctor: Honestly, no. You could wear a brace to support your foot so you don't drag it. I've had people decide to do that. Meanwhile, the longer you wait to get surgery, the longer it will take for you to regain that control.
JoBiv: So... [panicking] I'd have to... [panicking further]
Doctor: [incredulous] Are you crying?
JoBiv: [crying] Yeah, I guess I am.

Doctor: [hustles to find tissues while muttering self-consciously about the badly stocked exam room, places inadequately tiny box of phyllo-thin tissues beside me.]
JoBiv: Hooonk. [sniffling. breathing deeply.] So this is how I operate...
Doctor: [with clear relief, but not picking up the pun] Yes! Tell me.
JoBiv: I'm going to go home, freak out, make some phone calls and do some research on my own. Then I'll call you with the questions I come up with and we'll figure it out. There's no way I can go into surgery tomorrow.

The doctor wished me good luck with my freaking out and gave me a number to call that wouldn't lead to endless voice-prompts and myriad receptionists. I guess he means business.

And now I've done my research, I've left my messages, I've consulted friends and parents. I'm waiting for my doctor to call me back, to let me know if I should see a neurologist or a second orthopedic surgeon. And then... the knife?

Friday, November 16, 2007

R.I.P. Maurice III, IV, V

My plant has passed on. It was a lovely dracaena - three plants, actually, that came in one pot, which I transferred to a very large ceramic urn. They lived happily for a while, spiking out their happy leaves from sad apartment to sad apartment. They accepted, with aplomb, over-watering and starvation. They bent, they shriveled, they flourished, they... died.

I don't recall when I named the first Maurice, which I got from a grateful parent back when I worked at the YMCA camp. That little plant lasted through the end of college, my first rented apartment in Ithaca, a brief sojourn in Victor while I was away in Ireland (Mom sent me polaroids to assure me of his health), and the first year of grad school.

Maurice the first was tough. He died the same week Shane died. I came back from the funeral and found him crumpled, brown, and beyond rejuvenation.

Maurice the second came puny and remained puny. He liked his little life on Beacon Street, looking out the fifth floor window at the manicured patio below. He withstood a bit of Christmas decoration and several tipping accidents, but then he got bored or fried or something, and he gave up the ghost riiiight about the time I found out the Big U was semi-dumping me.

Les Maurices III, IV, V died last week, really, only I haven't gotten around to a proper burial until now. These fine fellows loved the front porch of my otherwise delapidated house on Winchester Street. It's actually a very good thing I never brought them inside, because we had some kind of larva infestation that surely would have snuck into Maurices' gorgeous green locks.
And then here, on Longwood, Les Maurices seemed happy. They gave all outward signs of health. I mean, they leaned a bit longingly toward the big front windows - the only windows that get any kind of steady natural light - but it seemed to me like a winsome, sweet leaning. Alas, when my brother's dog whined out at the world by that window, she knocked Les Maurices over, as well as a few other fragile things, and the poor dears were less anchored than I thought. Their roots torn, their summer light fading, they perished within a month of Tom's visit.

Here's the eerie thing; when I went home for Baby Girl's birthday, I found out that the same week Les Maurices passed on, so did my great-uncle Doc.


Anyway, here's to Les Maurices! All five of 'em! That's the end of dracaenae stewardship for me, my friends. It's just irresponsible to buy another, both for the plant's sake and the fragile threads of my sanity.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

dirty laundry indeed

Some day, I often think, I will cross Beacon Street with a little too much confidence and a trolley will flatten me. Smoosh. Game over. And then what’s left of me in the world?

There’s a spiffy but worn-out wardrobe, a gorgeous collection of books, one kickin’ music library, and… all this writing, doodles, paintings, letters never sent, obsessions.

Morbid, I know, to think of one’s leavings, and sometimes I’m in a self-pitying morbid mood. Other times I simply strive to comprehend what I’ve made in this world, whether any of it is worthy of existence.

I know I wrote a post once upon a time about including as much as I can on this blog. I try not to edit and I don’t go back and delete embarrassing posts. I still insist there’s some value in the awkward moments. Usually I’m able to look back on them with some self-forgiveness. It’s like the photos my mother took of me giving myself a bath in the bathroom sink when I was about four. For years I cringed when I saw that photo, and now it makes me giggle uncontrollably. I like to remember that weird little person I was and try to imagine having her thoughts again.

Still, looking at the Collected Works of Me, I find it very hard to swallow all the melancholy. Even harder to face-- all the feelings toward my family. If I catalogued myself, there would be a mighty section for family anxiety. It’s too bad, because they’re the only people who would spend the time to look through all these things if that trolley flattens me.

All this is to say, in anticipation, that I’m so sorry. I love you people. I don’t think I belong to you, but I love you so fucking much.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Parents and pain - oddly synonymous

Due to my sniveling cowardice, my parents are probably coming to my next choir concert. I could have said, “I don’t want you to come,” or something kinder riddled with lies, but I couldn’t do it. Instead, I passive-aggressively forgot to look up the date for them. That didn’t work.

I’m imagining M&P seeing me on that weekend and saying, “It looks like you’re lost weight.”

I shall say, “Why, yes I have. It seems I have a parasite. His name is Billy, and he’s quite keen on my innards.”

That would also be a lie. What I will have to tell them… what I always end up telling them, is the truth.

Mom, Dad, I was in the hospital again, this time for back and leg pain the likes of which I have never suffered before. It’s kept me from eating, sleeping, shitting, speaking, writing, working... I didn’t tell you because… Well, I’ll come back to that.

I’ve been in all kinds of pain before. I can only liken this to having a constant Charlie horse that will not loosen up. I can’t stand up straight and mostly hobble from bed to bathroom to living room. The other day I attempted a trip the bank out of pure necessity, and hurt myself badly enough to stick to my bed for the following 20 hours.

In short, I’m 84 years old without warning.

So parents, I didn’t tell you because you’d want to come help me, or drill me about every conversation with every doctor, or tell me I should sue someone, or offer some other kind of ridiculous advice that would only make me intensely angry. And if you came to help, there would be nothing you could do since you won’t drive in the city and you can’t donate a new spine and you have no money at all yourselves.

Think that’ll work on them? Me neither.

So today’s goal is to walk as far as the T, take a little trip, see how much it hurts, maybe get my paycheck from Starbucks if it seems possible. The Bucks expects me to work this weekend. I’m trying to see if that’s logical in any way. I have this sinking feeling that I already know…

Saturday, October 27, 2007

joblivion revisited

I am very small. Teeny, tiny, shrinking, minute. I come home full of the reek of the cafe, my efforts there, the people there, and I shed it all to disappear.

This is how: remove shoes, place keys on plate for keys. Put away pursey thing. Trade pants for pjs, shirt for t-shirt. Stare at the bed. Will self to find some other healthy thing to do than stare at the bed and/or get in it.

Give in. Fold self into sheets and blankets and cold and panic. Disregard outside noises as they disregard you.

There. You don't exist.

This doesn't actually work, I realize, as much as I pray and hope and will it to work. I close my eyes and wish sleep would shut my brain down. Sleep never shuts anything off for me; it recycles, rekindles, reimagines... Lately I dream of dead bodies cornering me, all of them replicas of myself. I battle them one at a time until I'm so exhausted that I have to wake up. In these dreams, each injury I inflict on the dead bodies lacerates my body as well.

I don't know why I feel like writing about that dream. I usually keep my nightmares and daymares to myself because they make me feel completely out of control and crazy. I have this weird feeling that writing about them makes them more permanent, as though I have some power over them at all (which, it turns out, I don't.) I've tried so many weird little things to keep my dreams as ephemeral as possible. Nothing really works. I might as well write about them.

Last night as I tried to relax myself for sleep after a fitful waking, I thought again of how I used to stretch my arms across the bed when I was little. I must have been tiny - I remember wanting to be able to reach both edges of the bed and not quite being able to. I wonder how, at such a young age, I'd garnered this sense of having to hold on tight to the world in my sleep, as though it would continually attempt to buck me off. These days I wonder how I can reconfigure myself to let go.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Once again, I have to admit that it will do me no good to give a play-by-play of a weekend at home. It must suffice to say that things have gotten worse. My father has dug himself into so deep a hole of self-hate that the rest of us are powerless to help. My mother has chosen to ignore all of the deep conflicts by relishing in town gossip and cattily cutting into the people she loves the most (besides my father). My brothers are, respectively, newly jobless, increasingly whiny, and voluntarily absent. My niece and nephew strain between bored negligence and hyper-vigilance.

I can't open my mouth there, for fear of hearing what I might say.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Abstractions on love and grapes

A few years back I had a friend try Concord grapes that I had bought. This friend was very surprised by the taste. She said, “Oh, it tastes like purple popsicles.”

This was remarkable to me for two reasons:

  1. Are we really at the point in our national diet that artificial flavors are our base experience, and the natural flavor is the abstraction?
  2. I’ve had a fairly earthy life so far, growing up around vineyards, farm stands, real cows, etc. I forget that these things are soooo far away from the urban childhood.

You may cut me off at the pass here and realize that I’m trying to get myself excited about going home to Le Victoire. I called my mother last night to tell her I’d be able to make it home for the Beanie’s birthday (she’s turning four.) My mother broke out in tears of joy. TEARS OF JOY, people.

She asked me, as she always does, if there’s anything I’d like to eat while I’m home. This is sweetness masking compliment-fishing. I suppose that’s okay.

Concord grapes,” I said, musing on the fact that I haven’t been able to get them in the city yet this year.

Concord grapes,” she repeated, unenthused. I think she hoped to hear, “Gee, Mom, I’ve been dying to get a taste of your spaghetti sauce.” I have, actually, but I had this nightmare vision of the hours spent rolling meatballs, the masses of Tupperware (because she always makes way too much), the days of teasing tomato stains out of linens. In our house, nothing is simple. Even spaghetti sauce comes with guilt and grief.

Concord grapes stain, too, I realize. She’ll probably go to the extreme and try to make a grape pie, which is the most tedious pastry ever invented. Ever de-seeded 200 grapes to find that you still don’t have enough to fill a pie shell? It’s a special kind of hell. You lean over the sink, back aching, eyes blurring, fingers raw, deep red stains up your arms to the elbow. It is NO FUN.

Of course, there’s a part of me that loves my mother for wanting to do these things in my honor. There’s a part of me that wants a red carpet unfurled when I go home because, goddammit, it’s hard for me. There should be some kind of reward for going through it all, right?

That sentiment doesn’t last, though, as I sit on the couch at night, up later than my parents, and they each touch my head before they go to sleep. My mother sweeps my hair behind my ear and tells me not to pull. She gets a little teary-eyed and says she loves me, she loves to see me sitting there, she loves having me home.

I think of her love for me and how she says you can’t know how a parent loves a child until you are a parent. I think how maybe all the love in my life is the purple popsicle, and her love for her children is the grape.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Coffee, pants, or coffeepants?

Yesterday I got to sleep in til about nine, which was very nice, but it was my first lie-in for about, ohh, sixhundredandthirtyseven days. I woke up tired, sat up (eventually) and contemplated the following:

Pants. To put on one's pants, one must arise from the bed. Alarming how far away one's pants are. Even more alarming how far away one's feet are. The whole ordeal is quite overwhelming.

Coffee. Perhaps if there was some brewing, one could be stirred to put on pants. Should one put on pants before coffee, or should one hope coffee-making will jettison oneself into pant-putting-on fervor?

My thoughts oscillated thusly for a long, long, embarrassingly long while.

My roommate, godluvver, said nothing while I made coffee in my undies. I tried to explain the whole feet-being-too-far-away thing. She nodded and smirked, and helped herself to coffee once I offered.

The coffee/pants conundrum solved itself later in the day while I was at work. I was ducking out of someone's way (we have a new girl who is tall and has titanium weapons-grade elbows) and I leaned against the coffee spout in such a way that I poured coffee down my own pants.

It was hot.

I yelped.

So, where before I believed that coffee and pants had a tidy sort of relationship - that is, one facilitates the getting of the other - I now understand that the two are more intimately acquainted, and their love affair is much more complex than I erstwhile believed.

And I burned my ass.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

transference in the laundry room

To fold a fitted sheet, you put your hands into two corners so the seam makes an inside-out mitt. You tuck those mitts into the other corners, then fold those two on top of two. In the end there is one gathered corner. Folding the rest is easy.

My mother taught me this. Likewise, she taught me that the print side of the flat sheet goes face down on the bed. This is so it’s pretty when you fold down a corner before bed. Printed sheets with a frilly top edge show this: the print seems to be upside down, but really it’s for the effect of the dainty sight of a perfectly turned-down bed.

She showed me how to sew buttons, how to sew patches, how to hem skirts and darn socks. In the quiet summer days when the boys were elsewhere, we did our minuet with the laundry, folding queen-sized sheets between us in the bright hot family room. We'd stir up hurricanes of dust motes and carry two chin-high piles of towels up the stairs to the second floor. I'd nestle my chin into the soft pillow cases on top, and sniff them.

Folding a queen-sized sheet in a muddy-floored laundry room with nothing but a rusty table and a collection of linty forgotten bikes... well, it leaves something to be desired. I want two more strong hands. I want a friend who knows the steps.

I think of my mother at home with her piles of towels and sheets. She must be lonely when she folds laundry without me.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Jock Incognito

Oh yeah baby, I'm a jock.

Yesterday I went kayaking on the Charles River, and I didn't flip the kayak or kill any people or wildlife or drown or nuthin!

It was FUN!

I forget how much I like flailing around in a semi-sporty way.

Sunday, September 02, 2007


Welcome to Boston, Tom. Say hello to the nice people.

"Hello, nice people."

Good lad.

Tom called me on Thursday night. The conversation went like this.

"Hey, I'm in Pee Body. Isn't that close to you?"
"Peebiddy Mass?"
"Yeah, Pee Body... I'm near Boston, right?"
"What the hell are you doing in Peebiddy?"
"I have this job driving a truck. I've been driving and I ended up in Massachusetts."
"Whoa. That's... Yeah, you're really close! How long will you be here?"

After a few confusing conversations, we decided he should come down to Boston and visit. Three days later we have conquered East Boston traffic, a serious parking problem (he has a 24-foot truck), a skunked dog, incredible poverty, a broken phone, torn contacts, and constant hunger.

AND, we've seen Boston. To be more specific, we've seen Fanueil hall, Coolidge Corner, Government Center, Harvard Square, Coolidge Corner, the freedom trail, Revere Beach, Coolidge Corner, Trader Joe's... wait, that's still Coolidge Corner. Anyway, we've done pretty much everything there is to do without spending money. We're impressive, no?

I'll tell you the real story in 2010, when I'm no longer exhausted.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I got a camera phone.

This has prompted several strange phenomena:

  1. A renewed sense of self-created loneliness upon realizing how few people call me and how few calls I can force myself to make
  2. A yearning for a real camera (which I cannot afford, nor would I have any idea on how to use one at this point)
  3. A game with Papa Biv

The game started the day after I got the phone, when I was excited and sent a photo of government center, asking my father to figure out where I was.

My father called me, sounding peeved, asking what the hell I sent him and why and he didn’t understand it. I gave a lame, giddy schpiel about how pretty Boston can be, and can he guess where that photo’s from, and blah blah.

He seemed unamused, but then again, he guessed wrong.

A week or so later, I sent this inscrutable gem.

No reply, until I called my mom a few days later and she asked about “that nice photo.”

Then today I had a date that ended… weirdly. I was left in downtown Boston during MBTA rush hour and decided to walk around. With the changing landscape I grew increasingly self-pitying and antsy and exhausted, having woken up at four for three days in a row. I headed toward Ugly, for some reason, and looked around me, trying to peer outside of myself. I counted trees, tuned in to birdsong, and watched the Fort Government Center swell and ebb in foot-traffic.

The paved, bricked, molded world was quiet. My legs ached. I was alone. The benches, I kept thinking, are so uncomfortable, but wide enough for the homeless to sleep on. I became a speck in an artless Speck that was trying to be a SPECK. I was disappearing.

My father’s voice is jubilant on my voicemail.

“Well my guess is – the picture you sent, is again, it’s from gov’t center, and it’s on the North Station side looking towards—umm the Oyster House .. and the Haymarket area, on the lefthand side of the square, um, where the ugliest iron sculpture ever created is. That’s my guess. Let me know if I’m right. Love you darlin’. Byeee.”

He’s right. But why did I send that picture?

When I was small I used to try to sleep on my stomach with my arms spread. I would reach for the ends of the mattress, and wonder about the day when they would reach – how good it would feel. I felt I couldn’t truly sleep until my hands could grip the sides.

Now I look down my arm as I lie in bed, think how long it’s gotten. I try to remember my small arms, before chicken pox scars, countless summer burns, bumps, bruises, accidents and temper tantrums. Before I was heavy enough to make much of a dent in the mattress. I wonder if I felt myself set precariously on top of it, like I was balanced on the dome of a zeppelin. Why did I need to hold on? When was I first afraid of sleep?

Monday, August 06, 2007

winds of change

When I come up from the Government Center station at 5:24 in the morning, I have to force optimism. Anyone would, I think, when greeted with a wide expanse of dusty brick nothing overseen by the harrowing jumble of dark concrete they call city hall.

I force myself to look around the corners of that building. I look around the drunk newspaper guy and the haunting scent of urine. In the corners of the world there is soft, felt blue sky and seagulls. The air moves in unpredictable ways, and every four seconds a whiff of sea air reaches me.

Some days that's enough. I stand there for a second and sniff it in and pretend that the ocean is two steps away, that I'm not really sallying forth to serve coffee to the masses. I put into my head a mantra something like "I live here. I actually live here in this city." I think of all the things I love about it, and that they're all within reach. I calm myself.

And THEN I sally forth.

What, I always wonder, propels me? Is it boredom or greed or curiosity? Maybe general embarrassment. At any rate, something is pushing me now. Maybe it's fall coming. I love that season and always feel most capable when the leaves start to turn. I'm sure it has something to do with the rhythm of school - how school was the strongest link to my teeny ego for twenty years. I feel like maybe my brain clicks on in September and all of my life hurdles bow down a bit.

I'm trying to keep this feeling under my skin as much as possible. I can do this. I can look into the world and withstand its long stare back at me. I can do this.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Borrowed Pesto

Borrow, gather, and buy fresh:

2 fat juicy cloves of young garlic. Smush 'em with the broad side of your chef's knife. It's a satisfying crunch and the whole apartment will smell good for hours.

1/2 cup romano, grated from roommate who's in Philly. Promise self to buy her a new tub. Accidentally dump a huge clump of it into your mixture. Swear loudly. Promise self to buy a new tub, and really mean it this time.

1 handful roasted, unsalted almonds from other roomie, who points out their frighteningly passe' "sell by" date but blesses your efforts all the same. (Use in place of pine nuts, because, really, where the fuzz do you find pine nuts and why would you buy them when you can only really use them for pesto and those annoying salads in which all the pine nuts end up in the bottom anyway?)

1 overzealous handful (or two) of the fresh basil that took up 1/3 of your grocery budget, but it was totally worth it. It's the good stuff - kind of pointy and peppery with notes of fennel, so might as well use it before it goes black and sticky.

1/2 to 3/4 cup grocery store olive oil. Not the virgin stuff. Not because you don't have the virgin stuff, but because virgin overpowers the zing and zang of basil and garlic sometimes and makes it taste like every other italian thing anyone has ever made instead of YOUR pesto.

1 smidge of lemon juice. But since you cut up the lemon, throw the rest in your iced tea.

Put it all in the tiny, usually useless Black and Decker MiniPro food processor your dad (er... Santa) got you for Christmas two years ago. Pulse until the acrid smell of burning plastic overcomes the nice basily garlicky goodness you gots goin' on. Stop until the smell floats away. Pulse and repeat.

Add more basil.

And more oil.

Add more basil.

Cook pasta. Immediately put 3/4 of it away in the fridge, slightly melting the cheapo fake tupperware container you put it in.

ERSTWHILE: You have done the following...

Boiled water. Poured it over a 1/2 tsp of saffron. Let it sit overnight. Baked frozen chicken with a little garlic, a little seasoning salt, and the saffron tea.

Ruined abovementioned chicken by essentially boiling it instead of baking.

Get pretty pasta plate (inherited from a dear friend's move), dump remaining pasta on the plate. Spoon out some pesto onto the spagetts and toss it around. Add another spoonful. Aaaaand... another. Put a piece of chewy saffron chicken on the plate, too, not touching the pasta. The whole idea, after all, is to have a little rest from the spiciness of the pesto and force yourself to really taste the subtle saffron flavor. Mmm. That's nice. Even if the chicken is more alike to bubble gum in texture than to any meat you've ever cooked.

Eat it.

Clean dishes. Think to self: maybe I'll share this recipe. At least arahsae will read and enjoy.

Write post. Publish.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


The spaces between my electrons
(if in fact they belong to me)
expand to allow transparency
spreading like a pulled lace
or a ride-the-whip, or sea
foam losing bubbles. We
(my atoms and I) disagree
on this point - they swear
they never liked solidity
but I abhor even more

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A fine dither

No Honey Nut O's. No Unnecessarily Sugary Maple Wheat Bites. No Oatmeal Crunchy Flakes of Happiness.

Trader Joe, this means WAR.

(On the bright side, nothing much in my life has gotten me in this much of a flurry for a while, and maybe it's about time I got hoppin' mad about SOMEthing, be it cereal or Syriana.)

Friday, June 01, 2007

Another thoroughly predictable moment in Biv Birthday History

I went home for a looong time. It was supposed to be a short stay, just for a family friend’s bridal shower, but then it was Bug’s birthday the next weekend. I altered my schedule severely so I could be there for the baby’s big One. I had to beg my brother to hold the party on Saturday so I could be there for it.

Then, on the first Saturday, while women crowded our house with linen and perfume and enflamed hair, we got a phone call from Lois. Baby Girl was supposed to be the star attraction at the shower – she’s the flower girl for the wedding – and she was conspicuously missing.

Turns out my brother Cripps had run to the doctor’s office with chest pains. He got to the hospital where they promptly shoved a tube in his chest to re-inflate a collapsed lung. A COLLAPSED LUNG!

How did it happen, the clamourers wonder… The doctors answer, “He’s tall, thin and a smoker.” No, seriously, that’s all they told us. He had numerous x-rays and tests to make sure it wasn’t something else (what else would it be? Free-floating glass shards?) and could find nothing.

I could tell you many many things about the horrors of my week home… Oh, god, many… But I will tell you this: by the end of the week my niece got in the habit of running at me like a euphoric bull and leaping into my arms so I could kiss her kiss her kiss her and tell her how beautiful she is. And Bug eased into me, from uncontrollable giggles to exhausted sweaty sleep on my shoulder.

The tale ends thusly: Cripps came home after a three-day stay in the hospital. He’s unable to lift his own children, but getting stronger. The party magically moved from Saturday to Sunday to accommodate my other brothers. I missed it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

happy birthday to me
i live in a tree
i look like a monkey with enormous breasts and a tight budget but less hair in general
and i smell like chai tea

i smell like chai tea because i have chai syrup all over me. there's some on the inner part of my elbow, some on my collar, some on my ankle... it's better than smelling like a monkey, one must assume.

tired. opening tomorrow. wakey wakey at 4am for opening. thanks for well wishes, m'loves.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

3:23 am

As expected, she remembered
What she meant to say. That movie –
The actress’s name and the color she wore;
How it meant something then.
It was too late to call and her eyelids
Were sticky with sleep, though her mind
Prickled with a sense of tulips unfolding,
Asphalt burning, waves ascending
Her grey vinyl siding

On this night in particular
The earth seemed tiny to her,
And she a speck on it, an item
Of infinite minutia, and her thought,
The blue of that actress’s dress
Against a remarkable yellow
Chandeliered wig of curls –
Even more ephemeral, so much
Tinier than any thought, ever.

But to share it would be
To foster some growth. The image would move
From her microcosm
To his – a synapse short-circuit
Across a small city
From sleepy brain to brain. That little thought
Would expand in itself, inhale
And balloon, become a much speckier
Speck. Not nearly an earthly
Feature that satellites
Could photograph from space, but
A bump, a thing, a bubble
Of electricity set out in the world
To glow a bit,
to ebb, to ash.

Her hands know, without groping,
The exact location
Of each number to press to reach him.
Her immoveable eyes need not open.
She considers this – how the dial-tone buzz
Could disturb her, wake her too much.
She is caught in the panic of power,
Knowing that sharing, inspecting
A speck causes life to restart.

She wants this creation, this
Resuscitation. They will share it
And bring it to life. They will
Have it and pull it between them.
It is only color and movement,
Memory and mastery, but her body
Curls around her need for him
To know it. Blue dress. Yellow
Hair. The actress’s name.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Cheese is good.

Ah, cheese, the greatest manmade substance on this Earth, I laud you.

Starbucks. I'm running around frantically to fill orders and keep managers happy. A mom and small girl, about four years old, stand across the counter, the mother clearly encouraging the child to choose a lunch for herself. They are wearing similar clothing - red checked shirt and red gingham sundress (although it was not sunny enough today to warrant sundressing.)

"Do you want this?" the mother asks.

"No, I do not want that," the girl answers precisely.

"I'd like you to choose something to eat," the mother says.

"I don't know how that was made. Who made that? Did they make that?" The girl looks up at her mother as though she's an idiot to think she'd put something in her mouth that was produced by Starbucks employees.

"Sweetie, it's fruit and cheese. Will you eat a little of it?" The mother's getting annoyed but knows her daughter has the upper hand.

I decide to intervene gently.

"That's very good," I say to the little girl. "The cheese is tasty." I smile.

"I'm not sure if I want that cheese," says the girl, seriously.

The mother looks apologetic. "She'll be impressive in the business world someday," she says. I laugh at the condescending grown-up joke. The little girl hides behind her mother.

"Oh sweetie," I say, "we're not laughing at you."

She whispers to her mother, "that hurt my feelings when you laughed like that."

"We're smiling," I say, "because you're so smart and charming."

She puts out a distrusting bottom lip.

The mom throws a bunch of items on the counter, all expensive and unnecessary, I ring her up, and the two wander off to find chairs.

Moments later I'm running around again, emptying trash, wiping up after spills, sneaking sips of my drink. The girl and mother sit at the tasting bar on high stools. The girl is perched high, sitting on her knees, picking judiciously at her fruit and cheese plate. Apparently my trespasses are forgiven; she smiles at me when I acknowledge them.

"I think I might like this cheese!" she proclaims, showing me a mushed wedge of brie with several tiny bites missing.

Mom smiles a knowing, grown-up to grown-up smile.

"Does it taste good to you?" I ask the little girl.

"It does!" she says, full of amazement.

"Have you tasted that kind of cheese before?"

"No," she says, looking thoughtful, "but it tastes just exactly like white american cheese."

The mother laughs, but I know better by now.

"I'm glad you like it," I tell the little girl.

She appraises me very sternly. "I just didn't know if I would."

You're forgiven, too, four-year-old. Where did this kid come from?

of cabbages and kings

Are we sick of Shane posts?

Me too. Just have him on the brain.

Had another panic attack at work and it got me on a crying jag that would not stop. I figure it has more to do with medication issues than anything else, but it's significant that it was Heart Day, and I had a strong memory of Shane.

And then a daymare.

I remembered the physical feeling of Shane running at me, leaping into my arms like a four-year-old, and then in my mind's eye and touch, I felt the back of his shirt growing wet, his skin peeling away in front and back, his heart boiling out of his body, arms loosening their grip, face resigned... fading... gone.

I think it's my peculiar morbidity that keeps Shane so alive in my sadness. I don't know how his other friends feel him and remember him, but I'm getting worn out by how I feel him.

Before I lost my mind, I used to ritualize everything, and it seemed to comfort me. If there was something to DO every time I felt a certain way, I at least knew what would happen next, even if it wasted my time, hurt me, didn't change the feeling. Things were simply more knowable, and that's always comforting.

When Shane Days came, I would find a way to push a cabbage into people's lives. I would push myself into this super-social wacky persona and shout the gospel of the cabbage to anyone who would listen. Since last February I've grown so tired. I let my memories rise and sink in me as they come. All of this life remains within the borders of my skin.

I think I'm unable to express and spread the joy of Shane because he's now linked with my own private difficulties, which are incredibly embarrassing to me. Shane relates to college, which reminds me of the brain I no longer have and the friends I've abandoned, which reminds me of how my whole life is in constant entropy, which reminds me that I'm a waste of cellular material, etc.

Shut up, JoBiv.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007


My litmag summer camp already exists, AND I'M NOT A PART OF IT!


Sunday, April 01, 2007


I think I have other posts about the phenomenon of self-forgetfulness. Nontheless, I write this one.

I was in NYC this weekend, which was scary and fun and bizarre and adventurous. I was visiting Maria, my dearest American friend from my semester in Ireland, and Gutter, The Brave and Beautiful, long-time acquaintance from El Victoir, friend for many a year now.

Friend. What a meaningless word. I'm also friends with the early morning T driver who smiles weakly at me when I nearly kill myself tripping up the steps. Also friends with my mother, whose calls and worries I dodge with increasing agility.

Gutter and I are friends like this: we know nothing about each other, really, except that we grew in the same fishbowl with similar attributes ignored or undernourished. We were cerebral, lonely, entertaining and unknowable. He loves my family and they him. They've adopted him, want to know him in and out, and his mother probably wouldn't know me from Marky Mark.

Ha. I almost forgot about forgetting. Here I am, back again on topic. My point about my visit and self-forgetfulness is this: I forgot how excellent, sweet and full I feel when I'm with Gutter and Maria. This is the feeling of being with an intellectual peer, an alive soul. I have friends in Boston, of course, and I love them dearly. I didn't know how much I was missing THIS, though.

The link above comes from Sunday's adventure at the Met's Cloisters (very near Gutter's apartment.) We walked steadily up a wooded path cut into a huge cliff, the city dwindling on one side, the river opening up below, the castle-like museum above. It was surreal and brought out a disorienting homesickness. I don't know exactly where that ache of nostalgia connected - it seemed to be a general sensitivity reaching out to a dozen memories of paths, quiet, lungs, views. I felt myself opening a little.

The Cloisters reminds me of the Isabella Stewart Gardner in that many an archway, sepulchre and tapestry has been artfully woven into the building itself in such a way that one feels she's happened upon a pre-existing marvel where everything within it was created there, in timelessness, one culture spiking deep into that place and making sense of itself. Of COURSE there are unicorn tapestries and moorish spanish triptychs glowing with saffron and cobalt. Perhaps it's a peculiarly American attitude on my part to feel like everything was supposed to be in that space. I like that Rockefeller and Gardner shared that same compulsion to tailor palaces for these artifacts they found fascinating. How could a person stand in Paris dumbfounded by the beauty of a medieval sculpture and say, "I dunno, I could find a better place for that." Such arrogance! And yet... the effect... I was wooed and won.

I wrote this, you nosey clamourer, while Gutter practiced piano. He decided to take lessons, bought himself a keyboard with all 88 keys, and has attained an alarming proficiency in a period of months. Did I mention he is a Favorite Person?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

My sheet has a long horizontal rip in it. I’m not sure when it happened, and I think this is because its happening wasn’t a singular thing. It’s not like a bolt of lightening felling a tree or a balloon popping. This tear began one day on a microscopic scale. It widened and festered and unzipped slowly. I noticed it, peripherally. I did nothing. Besides notice it, I mean.

Also, I lost my job with the foundation. This was a singular thing. It happened yesterday. I had it, and worked hard at having it, and then yesterday it was taken back.

Also, it's death day. This past weekend I ended up staying over a friend's house. Everyone seemed to want to conk out early, so I asked for nighty-night books from my hostess. She gave me Truth and Beauty, by Ann Patchett, whose work I love. I couldn't read the book, however. Within the first chapter I was introduced to Shane's female counterpart - an underweight flamboyant mascot-of-the-campus woman who flung herself physically into people's arms.

This rip is really big; that's the thing. I can't just go on pretending this sheet is useful. I'll have to take it off and throw it out.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Food glorious...

Remember the devolution of cafeteria food in college? Well, a lot of you went to nice colleges with fairly good food service. I went to St. Bonaventure University, which rated at the top of the Princeton Review's "Is It Food?" list about five years running.

This was the progression over a period of 72 hours:

1. Chicken fingers. Edible.

2. General Xiao's chicken (chicken fingers plus gooey spicy overly sweetened soy sauce). Edible if you found pieces without sauce.

3. Chicken parm. Edible with LOTS of sauce and extra cheese microwaved into a gloppy mess.

4. Chicken soup. Suspect.

Now, I don't have proof that these were the same fingers all the way through. I didn't get them fingerprinted. HAHAHAhahaha... Oh my god I'm so freakin' funny! ... Anyway, can't be certain it was the exact same product, but it became obvious over a period of time that no trucking company wanted to come to the Back O' Beyond, New York to deliver fresh food to us. More importantly, our tuition dollars had to go toward the essentials - fresh paint on the basketball court every season, frinstance.

Either way, I noticed that the food service seemed to order all food by the metric ton, and would not try to hide that fact by altering their offerings on a daily basis. NO, if they had canned peaches, by GOD, no Bonaventure student would go an hour without seeing a canned peach, at least peripherally.

Day 1 of peaches:

"Yay, I looove peaches! In pure corn syrup! Yum!"

Day 2:

"Think I'll put some cinnamon on 'em. There, that's different and still quite yummy."

Day 3:

"Hmm. The syrup is congealing. The peaches are still tender, though..."

Day 4:

"Isn't that yellow color a little startling? Anyone?"

Day 5:

"I... just... can't... Hey, whipped cream, guys!"

Day 6:

"Sorry, professor, I'm late because there was a peach-slide of apocalyptic proportions, the syrup and peaches making the dining hall a veritable slip n' slide of terror. Our lawyers have advised my parents to sue."

Day 7:

"Dude, I wish peaches had better aerodynamics."

Day 10:

"That little piece of cottage cheese was in there yesterday. Grody."

Day 14:

"I wonder if they biodegrade?"

Day 21:

"Hey kids, guess what's for dinner at the bomb shelter? Clue: it comes out of a can..."

Day 37:

"PEARS! I looove pears...."

All this is to say that I'm beginning to admire our food service and wonder how they got so clever. I'm trying to be economical and clever myself, trying to think of the ways my mother disquised leftovers (ineffectually) and my babysitters got us to eat "good" food (by heaping it with sugar, salt and/or grease).

Here's my quandary: How do I make my italian sausage, red and green pepper, onion, cheese, tomatoes and garlic interesting for one. more. night. I've done the obvious sausage, p&o sandwich. I've done pizza today using frozen naan. Tomorrow I might get out the blender and make a peppery garlicky version of V-8. The sausage I'll stick in my ears.

Having griped so long, I have to admit, I never, EVOR passed up the canned pineapple. Even when I had canker sores. Pineapples are good, man.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Happy happy happy soooprise!

GUESS WHAT I GOT! noreallyguessohmygodit'soexciting...


I bought exactly four varieties of vegetables.

Two (or three counting tomatoes) varieties of fruit. One fresh, one frozen.

I bought CEREAL and EGGS.

I bought MILK and YOGURT!

I bought FOOD for-to EAT!

But damn, Sarah, I forgot the cheese.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Things The Novelist never liked about me:

My mercurial attitude toward cats (which I think is only what the species deserves considering its mercurial attitude toward me)

My unfixableness

My fear of
1. spinach
2. exercise
3. family
4. outer space
5. the military

My inability to share an umbrella

My fluctuating ability to sleep (countered with incredible powers of tossy-turny, nightmare-induced fits)

The way I pointed out his eye boogers. At least I stopped trying to pick them out myself.

The way I hated myself.

The way I left his bed messy in the morning. His bed is impossible; old sheets, old mattress, egg-cup foam thing – all askew (see above referenced tossy-turny abilities)

My disdain for frozen vegetables.

My abundant social life. (I kid you not. I’M the social one.)

My untouchable subjects.

My tendency toward disappearance…

Things I never liked about The Novelist:

His fervent need to spread the joy of military history to ME, though repeatedly told of the unwillingness of his audience.

The great agility with which he dismissed my nightmares.

The way he insisted on sharing an umbrella.

His love for me. Highly suspect.

Things I really don’t like about The Novelist now:

His un-love for me.

Friday, February 02, 2007

And the Lord sayeth unto JoBiv, I shall destroy you further!

The Novelist. JoBiv. No longer. He's done with me. Near the anniversary of hospitalization and our first dates.

I am not strong enough for this.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Sleep is for the weak. And JoBiv.

The weak and JoBiv - not mutually exclusive.

I slept through the past week. No, really. I showed up for work here and there, but I didn't exist for anything else outside my bed. Sometimes I took off my pants before I slept. Sometimes I had funny hair when I woke up. I'm sure I had funny hair lots of times but had no proof because I was not inclined to look in mirrors. I was inclined to sleep.

Not so much inclined as fully horizontal.

Everyone I know thought I was injured or hospitalized, except my co-workers. They saw me for four-hour periods of time.

List of people who thought I was dead, injured, hospitalized, or incarcerated:

1. My therapist. I was not in his presence, where I ought to have been, the two times a week I ought to have been there.

2. My psychiatrist. But that was nearly purposeful. He thinks I'm bi-polar and I'm sick of his shit.

3. My chorus. I had a nightmare during that sleep. Someone had pooped in the bathtub and no one would clean it. I kept getting filthier and filthier and wished there were cleaning supplies so I could clean everything and myself.

4. My boyfriend. He actually yelled at me a little (in his way - he generally doesn't yell unless his brother is coming at him with a spatula.) I finally got in touch with him and he was pretty mad. He wants me to be okay.

5. Becca, English Jo, Major Healey, choir Melis, my boss... all people with whom I had made plans. All people who I disappointed.

6. My brother Tom, who has called me twice in the past month, which is weird considering he forgets how to pronounce my name sometimes.

7. My parents. They called, paged, voicemailed, messenger-pigeoned. I was not awake.

Where was JoBiv?

In my bed, having nightmares, waking for short periods of time during which I hated myself utterly for sleeping during the day, ate sliced bread, and went back to my bed. Sometimes I drank tea to wake myself up, but I'd get dizzy and my eyes would slip shut and I found myself in bed again, dreaming of research facilities where little girls forcibly underwent CPR and made papier mache collages of huge serpents, where deformed people were kept standing in stalls with blue curtains that showed their heads and feet, like dressing rooms, where a teenager had to seduce her nextdoor neighbor to keep him from kicking her little sisters' dogs, where I walked up to people who had to hear me but I would walk through them, mute and transient. Or else I was half-awake, pulling out the bad hairs and trying to distract my mind with a funny book or movie or thought - anything.

Is she back to stay?

It's hard to be back but it was hard to be there, too. When I informed my mom that I am alive she mentioned that maybe I shouldn't be working. This year has been hard, after all, and I'm not strong enough to work two jobs, earn my own rent, run my own life.

It hurts, but not because she doubts me when I need her support. It hurts in the place between my ribs and lungs where I can see myself going home to my girlhood bed, her hand sweeping my hair from my forehead and encouraging the tears.