Saturday, November 29, 2008

Giving actual factual thanks

I worked on Thanksgiving morning. We were understaffed because we were just as crazy busy as I told people we would be and I was mildly ignored. Ah well. We got a lot of people their coffee who would have otherwise had caffeine headaches, including hospital staff, stranded foreign research types, and families on their way to the feast. I saw one of my regulars put a fiver in the tip box out of sheer appreciation. Awesome.

But here's the excellent news: Christmas came early! Santa deeply appreciated my ingratiating comments and poured socks and chocolate and can openers and happiness down upon me! Not one, but TWO tear-inducing boxes showed up on my doorstep brimming with help from lovely, lovely friends.

And here's what I have to say: Thank you, thank you, thank you. And also, thank you for reading past my self-amusing bullshit to help me out when I'm too ashamed to really ask for help.

My feet are warm. Delicious.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Calling all cooks...

It's that time of year again, when I am pointedly not in New York for Thanksgiving. Please send me a favorite holiday recipe for my mini-feast! I will think of you fondly as I prepare it in my jammies on Thursday morning.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

a baleful bachelorette

Galloping toward me with terrifying velocity, here comes my ten-year high school reunion. Put aside the usual stressors of the holidays and think of the horror of facing high school all over again. I wasn’t so good at it the first time.

I freely acknowledge that I’m not actually going back to high school. It’s not like the movies – we’re not queuing up outside the gym in nice suits and shoulder-padded dresses, playing grown-up in the nursery. The class president (who’s actually not a douche, thank goodness) organized some space at a bar big enough to accommodate a crowd.

Not sure who will show up, but I know I won’t remember names or details. We will ask each other, “So what are you doing these days?” and, “How’s life in Florida?” and, “How are the kids?”

It’s occurred to me that I should have a sentence prepared that I can repeat on command; something simple and only slightly artful where facts are smudged. I need something translucent but not transparent. No one need know how much I’ve struggled over the last ten years, right?

My parents, who were in town this weekend for a chorus concert, bless’m, reminded me that my view of my own life is a bit exclusive these days. My mother reminded me of grad school, travels abroad, publishing, non-profits, Boston, singing… The facts are all there and they seem impressive from afar. My brain glances over these things as surreal or unimportant and clings to hospitals, deaths, surgeries, dumpings… the soul-swindling monotony of a job that does not pay a living wage for a company I can’t believe in.

Here’s the fascinating thing, however: my mother kept bringing up my single status. She said that I could tell them I was “in love, and now looking again,” to appease them. I know that a ton of people from my class are married or attached, but it never occurred to me to be uncomfortable as a bachelorette. She mentioned it enough to make me realize how preoccupied she is with my marriage prospects, or total lack thereof. This must be one of the things she worries about when she frets away with thoughts of me. To her, I must be lonely.

So I present to you yet another dimension of parent-induced insanity. While they’re here they not only convince me that I’m unstable, unable to support myself, sickly and pitiful, but now I’m also incredibly lonely – adrift in the world without a captain to steer me right.

Yes, I know that’s ridiculous. I know I should have some rallying anger against the very thought. I should dig up thoughts of all my excellent friends, tepid dates, excellent daily flirtings; all the things that show my own agency in creating connections in this city. Alas, there’s something tempting in my post-parental-visit emotional hangover that pushes me toward self-pity. I am alone. I am lonely. I am unloved… even (gasp!) ten years after High School. I am a hopeless case.

So this is the feeling that propels tv heroines to take a stranger to a party and pretend he’s the fiancée. Silly.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

booooks are goooood

Paper Towns came in at the library! Yay John Green!

JoBiv: (smiling, thrusting library card at young, pleasant librarian) I have a book! I have a book!
Young Pleasant Librarian: You do, eh? (She pops out of seat and checks her shelf)
JoBiv: I do! I'm kinda excited.
YPL: No kiddin'. John Green? (Returning to seat and proceeding with checkout.)
JoBiv: Have you read him? Great stuff: funny, intelligent, respectful to the reader...
YPL: I've been meaning to read him... He wrote... An Abundance of Katherines...?
JoBiv: Yes yes! So good! Read it read it!
YPL: Okay... (laughing, humoring JoBiv) ... So you have a two-week due date on this book, but by the look of things you won't need that much time.
JoBiv: I don't think it'll be a problem. (melodiously) Thank yooouuu!
YPL: Thank you. Heehee.

Oh holidays.


I don't go home for Thanksgiving. I haven't been home for Thanksgiving since undergrad, I believe, and this has worked well for me. I have my little ritual: rent movies that I would be embarrassed to watch with other people around, watch the parade in the morning and cook recipes from friends for a mini-feast.

Last year I ended up at a serious feast after working the day at the cafe. That worked out alright. It was a huge crowd of friends and I enjoyed myself, but honestly, was pretty happy to get the hell outta dodge when it was all over.

The year before I spent with The Novelist's family in a quaint picturebook New England house. Roaring fire, spiked hot cocoa, fair isle sweaters included.

This year I want to work at the cafe, and I'll tell you several excellent reasons why:

1. I don't need to go home, and several other people do. Being available that day means other people can spend time with their families. That's cool with me.

2. I like to see my regulars on holidays when they expect us to be closed and are ever-so-happy when they see we're open. They need their coffee before they travel, they need a place to study for the paper that's due next Monday (there's always a paper due after Thanksgiving), they need a warm place to take the kids for an hour so their mother/father/caregiver doesn't kill them with a turkey baster. And the hospital doesn't close on holidays, does it? No sir. How pissed would you be if you had to do surgery on Thanksgiving and there was no good coffee around to start your day? PISSED, I tell you.

3. I like to laugh at foreigners who have no idea why the whole city closes down so people can eat turkey in celebration of a handful of religious zealots swindling the aboriginal culture. Poor foreigners.

4. We make mad tips, and we split them for that day. Whatever we're tipped we take home, on the spot. This usually doubles my tip income for the week.

5. It's a palpable excuse for staying in Boston. Maybe that should be number one.

Our manager conducted a casual poll on everyone's holiday plans and discovered that - lo! - all the college kids would be gone. Shocker. He scrambled to figure out everyone's availability. I told him that not only am I available, I would LOVE to work on Thanksgiving.

He... didn't schedule me.

Hmm. What now?

I could go on with my mini-feast, but I honestly can't afford the groceries. I could acquiesce to several impatient friends who have invited me to their assorted meals. I could beg some of the people who ARE scheduled to give me that shift.

Yeah. Think I'll beg.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

good grief?

Watching one of my closest friends deal with the slow whittling away of her grandfather, I’ve been a valuable support because I’ve seen it. I can sympathize. I can do what she needs me to do, which is mostly to exist in common knowledge; to share the onus.

And then, when she’s not looking, I choke on my memories and the freshly overturned soil of my past losses. I ache in that weird spot in my chest where my heart must be squeezing itself in useless, useless grief.

How is it that my life is most punctuated by funerals? I’m trying to figure this out: is it that there have been more in my life than in others? Or was it timing? I started going to funerals when I was eleven, so it’s possible that I’ve clung to those experiences because of the absolute shock to my eleven-year-old mind with the first one. Psychologically it makes sense that I’m still ruminating over something that was so bewildering then. It left a big messy pile in my brain that won’t right itself.

Then I think that maybe this is natural, too. The grieving process has no set time limit. Who can say how long a person can hurt? Memories can blindside you whenever they surface. I can catch a scent of beeswax and find myself transported to the Russian Orthodox church, kissing a paper crown on my grandmother’s forehead with my brain whirring away, trying to figure out if I killed her with inaction. Countless hospital patients come in and out of the café with their tired gaits and pinched faces, all evoking the Via Dolorosa of a passage to death. Without warning I’m eleven again, pressing myself against the too-clean wall of a hospital corridor, desperately seeking the courage to go in and look at my dried-out grandfather, speak to him, smile at him, bring him some last comforts, avoiding the leering ghosts in wheelchairs who cough around their dismantling bodies.

The truth is that I forgot about the healing process entirely. I’m separated enough from those family and friends, those with whom I mourned, to have forgotten the period of communal laughter and tears. My friend had piles of pictures with her last night. There she was with various embarrassing hairstyles and awkward body shapes, laughing and loved by her warm grandfather. Here’s the beach house where they spent their Augusts together, the whole family. Here’s the graduation party for her brother. Here are the countless times she got stuck or lost and he reached in to untangle the problem and deliver her to safety. Here are the jokes and the memories – stories she’d never heard before and the stories they’ve all memorized by rote.

The wake is tonight. Shane’s was the last wake I attended, inappropriately dressed and manic with proprietal grief. I remember the vast line, the clogged funeral home, his parents smiling and sharing memories, graciously, so graciously making a space for the rest of us to mourn him. I’d turned over a box of artifacts to them: livid paper towel doodles of inside jokes and odd notes that showed his bizarre and contagious sense of humor. I finally got to meet his high school friends and the all the people who’d watched him go through his childhood dramas. We all poured our love and grief into the middle of that space. We fed off of it desperately. I gave and took angrily, not knowing what I would need for my own stores in the coming years without him.

I hope for my friend that her process is more cathartic. God, that sounds almost clinical, but I do mean it. I hope she cries her heart out and then finds that space that hurts with emptiness, and slowly gathers memories to fill it in again over the years. There will be the spot on the pew where her grandfather should have sat at her wedding. She will tell her babies about how he would have loved to meet them. She’ll be caught off guard reaching for the phone when she needs to know which back road leads to her destination, realizing she can’t rely on Gramps this time. It will hurt, but it will also slowly heal.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

An early Christmas list

Dear Santa,

The past year was a sparse one in terms of lifestyle, and I do not ask to catapult to a life of luxury, but please, I would giggle with glee if you would tote the following things to my apartment this Christmas:

1. A can opener. One that isn't rusty. It doesn't even have to be new.
2. A mattress pad for a queen-sized bed. It DOES have to be new.
3. Socks. No really, I won't complain if you bring me socks like I did when I was an ungrateful brat of an eight-year-old.

Also, Santa, have you lost some weight? No really, you're doing something different with your hair, maybe. You look fantastic! I'm not just saying that.


Monday, October 20, 2008

October hauntings

Wes once wrote a supportive response to a post about nightmares I'd had (also in October, I noted): "I do think writing one's dreams - letting them out for others to see, too - takes away their power," he said. I guess I've dabbled in dreamlogging (like weblogging, right?) here and there, when my dreams force my hand. Lately they've been fairly forceful.

The night before last I was on a huge ship of some kind. There was a danger lurking, and a kind of us-versus-them tension. I'm not sure who made up the crew of people on my side, but the other side was rumored to be unnatural; maybe they'd attack as trolls, or bats, or shadows. When they did attack I thought they were visitors.

They walked onto the ship from the sea, normal people in boring clothes with welcoming smiles, easy conversations. At some point I became aware that they were specters of some kind - projections from the true fiends who hid somewhere else. We tried to attack them but their unreal bodies proved impermeable to hooks, broken glass, fireplace pokers, and even, I believe, some kind of heavy kitchen utensil I'd found. A meat mallet? Something strange.

When the real bodies of the enemies arrived we couldn't tell which ones to spend our energy attacking. They were identical to their specters and seemingly benign. They had placid faces and boring clothes. I still felt the need to attack. My poker would deflect off of a specter body and sink squishily into the real body, loosing blood and screams and pain. Meanwhile the ship steadily sank - not tipsy like the Titanic, but evenly, grade by grade, the way I imagine the coasts disappearing with global warming. I woke up with a Charlie horse, all my muscles tense and pulsing.

The night after that I dreamed about my father. He was much older, saggy and little. My brothers and I were playing a kind of serious game, keeping a wine bottle out of his hands. At least, I was keeping the wine bottle out of his hands - my brothers kept handing it back and forth between them, and occasionally handing it straight to him without seeming to notice.

When my father drank from the bottle we could all hear the liquid splashing through his dried-up organs. It leaked out of his chest and onto his chair and left holes. He never looked at any of us. His eyes were grey instead of their usual warm brown, and he seemed blind.

My brothers were talking and arguing but my voice, as in so many of my dreams, grew tinier the more I tried to shout. I tired to whisper to see if the opposite would be true, but found that whispering shut me into a different room. When I tried to yell the walls would vanish and I'd be back in the game, but useless.

I've had several dreams about my body lately. They seem to be about privacy - like not being able to find a bathroom to change in, or often one thought I have will expose a part of my body to the person to whom I'm talking. For instance, the person will be telling me something, and I'll think, "I should write this down," except every time I think that a part of my shirt goes invisible and the person can now see my left breast and a big scar on it. Everything hinges on word play and I can't figure out the code.

I have this repeating image, too. I wouldn't call it a dream. In the vision there's a little girl swinging in a dark space. She's clinging, actually, and I think it's a rope at first, but then I look and look at it and the image reveals itself. The girl is clinging to a long and delicate set of vertebrae that stretch upward into darkness. She's near the bottom, her legs laced through and her arms clutching like it's a swing or a rope ladder. She's stuck - she can't go up or down. There's nothing around her, just the bones and the stuff joining them, floating in that space.

My mother tried to help me with my nightmares when I was younger, because they've always been vivid. She told me that if I thought about the way the different dreams felt I'd get closer to their purpose. She thought of dreams as the brain's recovery time. In dreams, according to my mother, you let feelings surface that you were unable to feel during wakefulness. So, if the overriding sensation is anxiety, frustration, tenacity - that feeling is worth investigating, and you can kind of throw out the symbols that seem to point elsewhere.

I kind of buy that, but I think I've read too much to allow my dreams to just lie. My brain gives things purpose all the time because I like to think that way. I think this makes my dreams more pungent, in a way.

That being said, the most disturbing thing about the aforementioned dreams is actually my own disgust of them. I'm repulsed by my brain's ability to come up with gory, macabre and violent dreams. And so, unsurprisingly, I suppose it all comes down to my overall disgust with my lack of control - over my life, my body, and especially my own mind.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Labors of love

I've been working on projects for the little people in my life, because it's all I can do, financially. I can't even afford birthday cards, but I can sew a little, so I'm trying out my Project Runway skills.

Here's an apron I made for the little one I babysat:

She's officially THE Starbucks baby, so it seemed appropriate. I'd show you a pic of her wearing it but I don't think her parents would appreciate it.

I made this as a going-away present. The mean terrible parents moved to Seattle without asking me. How selfish!

And then Baby Girl turned the big FIVE this week. I called her up on her birthday and she answered saying, "I'm five years old and it's my birthday all day!" She'd had a bit of sugar at that point.

I went home this weekend and it wasn't terrible, considering my brothers are still douche booketts and my mother is chronically coughing and my dad is a bag of awful. It was all worth it to see Baby Girl in my latest creation. I give you... the princess cape!

I know you can't tell that it's purple brocade with a satin lining (which, together, cost me less than $10) but it IS and it's beautiful and she seems to like it!

Score one for Aunt Jo!

I'm back early from my trip home, by the way, because I have lovely white dots on my tonsils. Strep, I believe, to be confirmed after a 3:30 doctor's appointment that I cannot afford to go to. Sigh.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Just so ya know...

The following things, since I know you've been wondering, have crawled up my ass of late:

1. Lost my T pass. The monthly one. The $60 one. I'm simultaneously stranded and strapped for cash.

2. Just paid my September rent yesterday. Can't imagine getting the funds together to pay October, especially since rent goes up Oct. 1.

3. My roommate ignores me or returns all queries with growls and grunts. Won't explain why, but I imagine it has to do with her passive aggressive attempts to get ME to call our landlord about HER mouse problem. I did call, and got yelled at by the surly receptionist because someone else has been calling her nonstop.

4. Three panic attacks at work in five days. Bad ones. Crying, gulping, gagging bad. So fucking embarrassing. Usually follow my trip home to Brookline with a straight-to-bedroom-shut-door cryfest. Could contribute to roommate's testiness.

5. Local babysitting job drying up abruptly, as the family shall abscond to Seattle tomorrow. Dealing with my mini-bereavement because, as usual, I have fallen utterly in love with the little one.

6. Did I mention the money problem? Have no insurance, stopped going to physical therapy (or any other therapy for that matter), thus in pain. Keep selling my stuff hoping to boost my finances - s'long file cabinet, stereo, maybe guitar next. Returned PAYLESS shoes I bought for interviews because a) I can't afford $12 shoes right now and b) I'm too gutless for interviews. What was I thinking? Also can't leave the house because (refer to item 1) I can't afford to go anywhere, see friends, eat food...

7. The Baby Girl's birthday is October 9th. Raise your hand if you can afford (mentally, physically, financially, emotionally) a trip home to Le Victoire - NOT SO FAST JoBiv!

8. Losing weight. Not on purpose, but none of my clothes fit correctly. Paradoxically always feel dumpy and gross and fat in my clothes.

9. Election season. My wee brain and shrinking faith can't take another bad one.

10. Because there might as well be 10... JoCD is back in full force. Lists, scratches, bald spots, blatherings...

Eggs tarragon, avec loneliness.

This is a lovely little Saturday morning omelet for a party of one. That's you, JoBiv.

You'll need:

2 eggs - the last two in the carton. Yikes.
2 sections of shallot, diced
1 roma tomato that may or may not be your roommate's, seeded and diced
2-3 tablespoons of grated parm
1 tablespoon tarragon
splash o' milk (1% today! Oh luxury!)
salt n' pepa (not the hip-hop phenomenon, the staple condiments)
2 slices of that creepy Trader Joe's bread that never goes bad. Seriously, I bought this loaf three weeks ago and it's still in tact! Non-furry! Of course, it tastes like cardboard, but whatevs. I mean seriously, remember last week when you thought you didn't have any bread? And then you find this forgotten loaf in the back of your shelf and are sure it's gone native to find... useful food!

1. Get some butter melting in a smallish pan, very low heat.

2. Whisk together eggs and milk until a little frothy. Whisk in tarragon, then parm.

3. Pour slowly into pan. Slide in the diced veggies.

4. Make yourself coffee, put the bread in the toaster but don't toast yet, and generally take yer dang time. This one's best cooked slow. When you can hear the butter crackling and the sides of the egg have released from the pan, start the toaster.

5. Fold the omelet (or don't, I don't particularly care, but it's nice for presentation) and let cook a little while you butter your creepy bread. Divide in two, plate prettily and serve. To self.

6. Eat. No, really, go ahead and eat. Cry later, over the sink full of dishes.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A plea

O, High Maintenance Women of Boston, hear me: If you must ride public transportation in stiletto heels, do so with utmost caution and consideration for us fragile humans. Please make use of poles and handles whilst complaining with your friends, so as to lessen the chance of your foot-weaponry impaling fellow passengers. Every time you lose your balance, we gasp in chorus, pray for our feet, and snatch our children from your windfall. The constant threat of bodily harm is too much for us to take on our journeys home from work. Have mercy on us, the Lesser Beings, the plebeians who shuffle from our surely tawdry homes to our surely tawdry places of work.

Also, your feet will whither and crumple by the time you're sixty if you keep wearing those damned shoes. I have a nurse friend who will speak to this.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


On the summer days or presidents’ week vacation, I’d follow my mother around the house, curious about what she did on a normal day. With the boys somewhat self-sufficient and me always more responsible than they were, she took on the onus of our stuffed house, her parents, and my father. We mostly took up emotional energy, I realize now, and actively undid all her work on the house without realizing it.

We always joked about my mother leaving glasses of water all over the house. In her bustling she’d realize she was thirsty, forget she’d already filled and left a glass of water around the kitchen, and bring the next cup of water with her wherever she was headed. She’d get busy or called away by her obnoxious kids, and later that evening we’d have to collect her water glasses when we ran the dishwasher. More often than not, one of the glasses would end up spilled before the day was over. Thus they were christened, “water bombs.”

I suppose in a house of six people the logic goes thisaway: Look, there’s a glass of water; I wonder if it’s mine. It can’t possibly be mine, there are five other people, plus guests, roaming this house right now. At least three of them have hacking colds, too. If I move it, one of the kids will yell about me throwing out his glass of water. I will leave it.

So when some skinny elbow or flailing overexcited hand brushed one off a shelf, or the hearth, or the washing machine, or the end table… the permutations are endless. We all did it, and we all smiled patiently, laughed together, and screamed out, “Water Bomb!” My mother rolled her eyes, surely thinking they couldn’t all be her glasses of water, and handed us the paper towels.

Just as a game, though, when I was following my mother around on those rainy vacation days, I’d count myself lucky if I found her morning tea. It was never anywhere near the kitchen. I figured out it was closest to the location of the first errand of the day, left cold and lonely in a linen closet, the basement, the shelf above the recycling in the garage, next to the stack of library books that needed to go back. I’d find it and rejoice privately, the real thing after ten false-gold nuggets in the form of water bombs. And before I’d wander back to the kitchen with it, or offer it to her wherever she was, I’d take a sip.

Black tea, English breakfast or the equivalent, not enough sugar for me, a lot of skim milk, stone cold. Maybe this explains why I can never drink mine hot.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Saturday Morning Fancy Eggs

You will need the following:

A freezer full of hamburger buns you bought for a friend's Labor Day BBQ that required, she claimed, "shitloads" of buns, the purchase of which took up two weeks of your grocery budget.

Okay, not really, you only need

2 hamburger buns, defrosted on a plate over the pilot light. Sliced bread would work, too, if you had any.

2 eggyweggs

1 cube frozen basil
1/4 cube frozen garlic (these cube things are the coolest! Of course you could use fresh if you had it.)

splash o' roommate's milk

salt and pepper

1. Beat eggs with milk, add basil and garlic. Beat beat beat til frothy and green. Add salt and pepper.

2. Using the tops of the hamburger buns, slice off the seedy part. Cut holes in the center using cookie cutter shaped like an autumn leaf that you got when you threw a party with an old roommate/once-upon-a-time friend. Stuff bottom slice of hamburger bun in your mouth unconsciously.

3. Get a pan on the burner with some oil. Get it not-quite-cracklin' hot.

4. Place hole-y roll in the pan. Carefully pour about 1/4 cup of the egg mixture into the center of the bun. Let the bread absorb a little, then pour a little more. Cook 'til it puffs, then flip and cook until it REALLY puffs. Wonder idly what happened to the bottoms of the hamburger buns.

5. Garnish with sliced tomato and parmesan. Eat while thinking that next time it would be fun to have ingredients like Italian bread, cream, pancetta, fresh rosemary, shallots... Shut self up and try to eat mindfully.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Kittens to cats

The week of September 1st is always a bit jagged in Boston, and especially for me. Between the move-ins and move-outs, the crap on the sidewalks, the moms and dads navigating badly as they drop off their freshmen/women, pretty much everything reminds me of school.

Now, I miss school, and not just because I have a fondness for anxiety. I miss the smell of new notebooks, the click of new pens, and the neat, exact edges of unopened books. I love peeling price stickers off of things that are so new that the price sticker is barely on there. I miss the reunions with people you've missed all summer, the eager introductions with people you're just meeting, the promise of brand-spankin'-newness everywhere.

But these days, I miss feeling the rusty cogs of my brain begin to turn again. I try to self-educate, but I miss the brilliancy of the moment when someone else's perspective cracks a window in my brain and I just... see new things. Of course my reading and poking does this for me, but I love a conversation that challenges my every thought.

Which actually comes down to this: I miss my fellow nerds.

I talked to Arahsae today via gchat, or whatever it's called. And I ran into two other Simmons peeps near various train stops. And I have more and more people asking me, all the time, "Why are you at Starbucks? Aren't you in school or something?"

Or something.

But here's the underlying truth, the covenant with fate I seem to keep... All ends in entropy. Everything goes pear-shaped eventually, as my favorite Brits say. Some things start new and make life better while you work on them, but all things unmanaged age and fade and fall apart. Kittens inevitably turn into cats. Cats are okay, but kittens are waaaay cooler.

That's not a direct line of logic, I guess. More than preferring my metaphorical kittens, I'm just sick at heart from all the people and things that have left me here in my dismal patterns. It's completely natural to leave things behind and therefore to occasionally feel left-behind, but I'm just tired of it. Sus once said that every friendship has an expiration date; it may be tomorrow, it may be seven years from now, it may be the year 3012. I guess in my life this has held true, but not only for friendships. Every new situation has an expiration date. That's what kills me. These days I'm apt to obsess about the ends of things before they start because I'm sick to death of entropy. I've had my fucking fill of cats.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Et voila!

Two versions, and this is merely the beginning...


"Who's ever heard of a
parakeet funeral?"
Christopher asked as we
put the corpse in

Strawberry tupperware
hoping against hope it
wasn't a sin.

Not bad, eh?


Maybe it wasn't an
Avian heart attack:
We can't blame Dad for Doc's
tragic malaise--

Could be some allergy
Parakeet's seemingly
bescorn a cage.

So that one forces a rhyme, sentence structure, and sense, but it has promise, no?

Monday, September 01, 2008


Good news, I think. I'm back to writing some poetry. I'm currently working on a double-dactyl poem. Here's my favorite (and I don't think I can top it):

Higgeldy Piggeldy
Hamlet of Elsinore
Ruffled the critics by
dropping this bomb:

"Phooey on Freud and his
Oedipus, shmoedipus.
I just loved mom!"

-Anon. (until proven otherwise.)

So far I have a few thematic lines that could work for a short tale about the death of my pet bird. How does "parakeet funeral" strike you? I'm sure I can work in "anaphylactical," although it doesn't seem to be a word yet.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Sponsored by the Letter J

Today, Iced Grande Two-Pump Vanilla Nonfat Latte, a young mom of a gorgeous two-year-old adopted child, complimented me in the nicest possible way. Now, considering she asks for me whenever she comes in (“Where’s Doh?”) and tells me all about her day when she sees me (“I hab schoo wiv Mommy,” “I hab punkin loaf after a rest”), Little A and I have gotten to be pals.

Iced Grande etc. Latte has a teacher’s cert in elementary ed. and has tons of brilliant ideas, one of which is an alphabet poster for Little A with familiar places and people. I… (gulp) have been nominated to represent the letter J.

I’m really, really, flushingly, flappingly happy.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Cafe Microcosmo

  • 4:00 am: Skunk fight outside my window. Ends predictably.
  • 6:30 am: Stench wears off. Alarm chirps.
  • 7:30 am: Arrive what I think is a half-hour early for work, enough to get my tea and breakfast and sit peacefu... FUCK, Old Lech is here and wants to whisper sweet garlicky nothings in my ear. Hide in the basement.
  • 7:57 am: On the floor in apron, hat and forced smile. Informed I am still one half-hour early. Learn I have the same exact schedule as the Special Needs Girl, because both of us are a bit useless and together might make up a whole person on the floor. Shittiness sinks in.
  • 8:15 am: Punch in anyway. Proceed to be pushed around by grumpy Monday Morning types. Try to keep up with Regulars in a fairly cheery fashion, meanwhile dropping $30 worth of pastries on the floor, getting yelled at for cleaning too thoroughly, and nearly killing myself on the stairs.
  • 9:30 am: Inform shift manager that an artist is coming for us to review work for us to put up on our walls. She shrugs. I try to get her excited and fail.
  • 10:48 am: Behind the bar, cranking out drinks frantically, manager and friend both go on their half-hour breaks at the same time. Artist's wife arrives for conference. I send her around a corner with a free drink and frantically yell for help. While scurrying for whipped cream, someone tells me I need to be off the floor to help with sorting tips. My elbow catches a milk pitcher, sends it flying sideways, dumping its 180 degree contents down my calf and ankle, soaking my sock, seeping into my shoe...
  • 10:49 am: "Shitshitshitshitshitshitshitshit...."
  • 10:49:23 am: Yank off shoe and sock, rip apart First Aid pack for a burn pad, slap the slimey thing on my ankle, wiggle my shoe back on, and go to interview the artist's wife.
  • 10:55am: Artist's wife schools me on corporate procedures about these things. And here I thought I was the resident expert. Shamefacedly shuffle downstairs to print out necessary paperwork.
  • 10:58am: Changing in "dungeon," Special Needs Girl argues about who gets to do tips. In my underwear with floppy wet burn thing sliding off my foot and a whip-smart artist's wife waiting for me upstairs while our printer pops out one. letter. at. a. time, I simply say, "Please be quiet." Tears well up in S.N.G.'s eyes.
  • 11:00am: Shove paperwork at artist's wife, bumble through polite farewells, run/limp out door with co-worker.
  • 11:01-11:40am: Take sloooow train over Longfellow Bridge, which may be breaking beneath us, to bank where our coins stop up the counting machine three times. Gossip about the cafe half-heartedly while praying I get enough tips to cover groceries for two weeks.
  • 12ish to 1ish: S.N.G. is off the clock, but waiting in the basement for us to sort out the cash, staring and making terrible social gaffs. I can't stand other humans anymore so I start drawing bananas on each person's tip envelope. Banana scenarious include but are not limited to: Banana Tourist, Banana Incognito, Banana Silent Treatment, Banana Olympics, Banana in a Hammock (literal, not sexual), Banana Nun Loaf (banana in habit with little poop - terrible, I know, but my brain fell apart), and Banana in a Hot Air Balloon. Why not?
  • 1:34pm: clock out, but stay to read and decompress and enjoy A/C. Regulars look at me like I'm a little pathetic to spend all my time here. In return, I begin to feel a little pathetic and take myself home.
  • 2ish pm: Run into current favorite Irishman from Chorus. Reunite joyfully and plan on gettin' the gang together. Heart pitter-patters with hope and promises are made for future rendezvous.
  • 2:20ish pm: On the train in my non-cafe clothes, I still reek of coffee. It smells like skunks to me. I try to make sense of the day. I get out of my seat so a three-year-old girl with Downs Syndrome can sit safely with her Mom or nanny or whoever. She waves eagerly. I feel like a puke as I think of S.N.G., who isn't nearly as needy as this little girl but is almost always as joyful. I think of how little joy I return to her.
  • Later than 2:20ish: Feeling abruptly returns to burned foot on train. Swallow scream.
  • 3ish pm: Forge through Coolidge Corner to pick up ginger root and pork and a sense of self.
  • Afternoon and onward... Cook from Arahsae's 3rd cookerie 'zine. Spray things with bleach. Calm heartbeats and hatebeats. Eat near roommate, but not with roommate.
  • Now: Full stall. Literally full of yummy pork. Muy consada.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Learning blows.

This, apparently, is the week for old friends to come back from my checkered past to make me feel like a pile o' somethin' smelly. I assume they don't mean to do this. I have the proclivity to travel pile o' shitwise these days. At any rate, these people somehow draw out my worst traits and I tend toward several unlikable behaviors:

1. intellectual oneupmanship,
2. bluffing,
3. and sundry manipulative affection-demanding gestures.

While standing by the mailbox on the street with my roomie walking toward me and my world crumbly around the edges, I had an epiphany. It went like this:

I act exactly this way with my father and brothers. I am repeating impossible relationships in my life in hopes of solving a massive problem, i. e. my family. Instead of changing my behavior, I fall back into subconsciously ritualized behaviors as a last-resort survival tactic.

Epiphany, Part the Second: the rituals never work.

You can imagine how useless they are considering they go like this:

1. Oh yeah? Well I'm super smart and stuff!
2. Then I don't give a shit, I'm just fine over here and not miserable at all!
3. But I'm cute as a button, right? Don't you want to touch me?

No one ought to be on the receiving end of that, even if they deserve a little confusion in repayment for all the shit they put me through.

That's the end of today's psychology lesson. I hope you learned something.

I hope I learned something.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

But what is she DOING?

Because people seem to be wondering, I shall provide you with the following mundane list of the crap that fills my days.

1. Avoiding phone calls.
2. Making unavoidable phone calls.
3. Carefully timing all checks sent to landlord and utilities.
4. Putting various band-aids on various lacerations/blisters/vulnerabilities on my still-mostly-dead foot.
5. Making corporate coffee. Avec smile. (Sometimes genuine.)
6. Buying more band-aids whilst postponing rent checks.
7. Babysitting a ten-month-old baby girl who screams at the top of her lungs for the first fifteen minutes. EVERY TIME I WATCH HER.
8. Lying awake.
9. Avoiding you. Yes, even you, although I love you and want to have something wonderful to say to you about my life. I don't, and so I am quiet.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


The young family comes out around seven every night. The babysitter trades off with Mom and Dad, and the two little girls run sloppy laps around the ersatz courtyard, squealing and giggling for a half hour until they're tuckered enough for a bath and bed.

Last night they sat on a blanket, Mom and the girls at first, reading and playing. The sky rolled in with gray furrows and distant mutterings. As I rose to close our ancient pulley windows the littlest one stood barefoot on the blanket, her feathery hair blown over her eyes, chubby hands fisted. She looked out as though she could see the thunder approaching and would take it down a peg once it reached her. The older girl clung to her mother and shuddered. She jumped as I slid the windows down, craning her neck to find the source of the rumbling too-close noise.

Usually I say hello to the little family, but last night I was distracted and awed by their impunity. Even mother nature didn't dare rain on them. The father smiled gently as he gazed in the direction of his toddler's stare.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

and dreams

Lately it’s every time I go through Park Street station; there he is, packing up his guitar, wrapping up cords, zipping bags and gathering gear. I always miss the music.

He has brown eyes, big bear build, colorful, detailed tattoos sleeving strong arms. His head is shaved shiny. He wears brown and jeans and has a wallet chain. When he sings into his mic, his voice surprises me with its flannel softness.

In my work I don’t waste time with shyness, or coyness for that matter. The café is a stage and I act my ass off. The day flies by in a series of vignettes – this customer likes to be courted with sweet how-was-your-weekends and how-is-your-handsome-sons, the other one likes to be teased, told we’re out of his favorite things, made to pout before delivering his order exactly as he likes it. Old Man T comes in for his bagel, toasted darkly, one butter, small coffee, and sings vaudeville tunes to me as I hustle for him, trying to smile in appreciation when I can.

It’s funny that Park Street Guitar Guy leaves me tongue-tied. Musicians in general, performers in general, leave me tongue-tied. Perhaps it’s my own discomfort as a performer – it’s nice to be told someone enjoyed your performance, but also unmanageable. You say, “Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed it,” and try to sound sincere, but really you know all the little things you missed and mangled and want to tell everyone how unworthy of praise you feel at the moment. And so what do you say to an artist you admire?

As I lean on the fourth metal column, past the second fan, across from the big subway map, I think of how to talk to him.

“My timing’s off. I always miss your music now…”

What would he say to that? Sounds like the start of an awkward conversation. And even though we make eye contact fairly often, I don’t know if he remembers seeing me. If he does remember seeing me, perhaps he won’t like the familiarity. Who needs a stalker?

“So, do you make any real money?” Hmm, seems rude. As does, “Do you play anywhere… else? Like, real gigs?” How could I put that better? “Nice elbows.” Thinking that, I laugh to myself. He looks up and I hide behind the column for a minute.

Well, I console myself, he could be a douche. He does play a lot of Dave Matthews, after all. He’s probably like all the pseudo-hippie frat boys I’ve learned to avoid, trying to get laid with a little heartfelt tune here and there, playing the misunderstood, suffering artist. Ugh. If he has a pocket-sized dog-eared copy of On the Road or Howl on his person at all times, it’s already over.

Still, there's something to be said for hormones and dreams, isn't there? A crush is a crush. It makes your heart bubble, makes you sweep your hair back, straighten your back, and hope.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Regular customer: Hey, Jo, when's your chorus concert?
Jo: It's this weekend actually, on Saturday.
RC: Oh that's great! Are your parents coming?
Jo: Yep, coming in on Saturday and staying the night.
Mitch (from across the cafe): Goddammit!
RC: (bewildered expression)
Jo: Mitch hates it when I see my parents.
Mitch: She's freakin' useless for like a week after.
RC: That bad?
Jo and Mitch together: THAT bad.

Monday, May 05, 2008

they're coming.

If you should see these people on the streets of Brookline... pray for me.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

remember when i was a writer?

I don't.

I did have some creative fun making this today, however...

... for a Chorus fundraiser. I've done more cheerleading than raising of funds, since I'm historically terrible at asking people for money. (Thanks, however, to the good, kind, much-too-nice-for-their-own-good people who have helped out. Sweet nothings shall be whispered in your general direction.)

Monday, April 21, 2008

waking is a struggle of birth
body tossing spirits away
mewling against the light of day
still tethered to the heaving earth

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Sunday Mornin' Saffron Pancakes

Start by pouring a half cup of boiling water over a generous pinch of saffron. Seal in airtight container, allow to steep for a few hours (or a few days).

A couple years later, prepare some pancake batter, like so...

Dry ingredients in one (bigger) bowl:

1 1/2 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 tbs sugar

Wet ingredients in another bowl:

1 egg, lightly beaten
3 tbs melted butter
1 cup ROOM TEMP milk (fattier milk works better)
1/4 c saffron infusion
1/2 tsp lemon juice

Lightly mix wet into dry. Fry up in a buttery pan (or on a griddle if you have one). Sprinkle pancakes with powdered sugar and devour. They should be thin and light and perrrfect.

Keep cooking batter until all important matters which you have been avoiding finally catch up with your conscience. Clean the kitchen instead of dealing with these matters. Write blog entry about procrastination to pretend that said procrastination has ceased.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

People don't suck. Not always.

I need to leave my job, and I know this, quite solidly, but every time I think I'm gonna scream some amazing customer makes me reconsider.

We have a young nanny who comes in after dropping off her charge at the local nursery school. She sits in a comfy chair and reads, naps, chats, reads s'more. At noon she takes off to pick up the little one, but before she goes we talk a little about books, music, nannying, Boston... anything. The other day we talked about children's lit. Next morning she paid for her drink and handed me a big ol' book - a collection of short stories by Roald Dahl.

Then there's the big T. He comes in two times a day and gets the same thing in the morning: the NY Times, a multi-grain bagel toasted twice with butter, and a large coffee. He's about 65 and works odd mornings at a school somewhere, and works as a tour guide in some historic site on the weekends. He studies furiously for both jobs, highly nervous about them. He insists that I should be an actress. He also insists that Sinatra, if he'd put as much work into acting as he had into singing, could have won an academy award. This gentleman talked up Bonnie and Clyde with such reverence that I eventually felt I had to rent it to see for myself. He fairly glowed with happiness when I shared my review with him. "I saw it at every theater in Boston on its opening night. The audience... You could hear them gasp in that last scene..."

One of my customers started out surly. He's a young Irish researcher affiliated with the hospital in some way. He'd come in and order a large coffee, dump half of it in the trash and fill it up with milk. One day I yelled at him: "Dude, just order a small coffee in a big cup. You're throwing away a good fifty cents every time you come in." Since then he's warmed up a bit and we've had jokes back and forth. When I came back from my surgery he announced loudly, "Oh, I thought they'd finally fired you!" Thanks, dude. One of the girls I work with said something like, "Whoa, I didn't know he could talk." Since then I've set out to sweeten him up with everyone else. This mission resulted in a contract trading 20 seconds of Irish jigging for 14 days of free coffee. He turned purple with embarrassment but eventually signed it and taught me a simple jig. Now he comes in with a big ol' tip ready for whoever serves him.

The nanny, just so you know, was so intent on her reading that she missed the jigging. Woe is she!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Smoky Night

This video (title link) shows footage of a fire that consumed a house behind my apartment building. Those evacuated include my roommate and myself. She woke me with panicked shouting and we blundered into shoes and out the door. I was sure our roof was on fire - the sky glowed orange and sparks flew up and over, floating into our courtyard. Running out to the street, we stepped over hoses and around trucks and spun on our heels to watch out for the next truck as sirens wailed. Wandering through the peculiar desolation of Coolidge Corner at 4am, we finally pulled out our phones and tried to find a place to sleep for the night. Melis had couches and blankets ready. Somehow, when our hearts stopped pounding, we slept.

(Pictured here, the site where a house used to be. The brick building with the iron porches is my building. Too close for comfort.)

Today, a house is gone, another house is damaged, three firefighters are injured, and a whole neighborhood is investing in new batteries for smoke alarms.

Friday, March 14, 2008


I had an interview today for an interesting but possibly not career-oriented job, and found myself saying all kinds of things about my passions that I don't want to believe. I was saying that Children's Literature is a private endeavor, has no application in my real life or career. That writing is a personal pleasure and not a profession. That my education was fun but completely self-indulgent...

The thing is, I'm beginning to believe those statements. And truthfully, I have no idea where I go from here.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

silhouette nouveau

Got m'hairs cut. One of my regulars insisted on cutting it as I would be an instant advertisement for his shop. Smart, and he gave me a deeep discount. He also insisted on coloring it. I'm not so comfortable with the highlights, but hey, it's only hair.

My brother's lung, oh worriers, is on the mend. They've blown it up, done some confusing surgery and sealed him shut. He's still in the hospital and they'll release him when he's able to take pain medication orally. Should be soon.

I'm going home for Easter.


Monday, March 10, 2008

My brother's lung

... went POP again.

He's okay, it's re-inflated, they're planning surgery, he's not in much pain, the babies are taken care of...

but I guess I'm going home for Easter.

Because I need to see him

and poke him for myself to make sure he's still alive. And then beat him up for not quitting smoking when he said he would. And then hug him but not too hard lest he burst something else important.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Morning rituals

By the time Bostonians are restlessly tossing in their early Sunday morning hangover beds, I'm standing in the freezing cold, waiting for the Green Line trolley to amble its way down the hill. The driver and I exchange polite grunts and I stow myself in a forward-facing seat. I take out my book and try to get my eyes to focus. Sometimes I succeed.

The other people traveling at this time fall into categories.

Category 1: The people who run Boston so you can pretend YOU'RE running Boston. I'm talking T drivers, cleaning crews, Dunkies' and Starbucks staff, more cleaning crews, and construction workers. I'm sad to say that the hours before the morning rush hour are the only time I tend to see people of any significant shade of color other than pasty-ass white on the Beacon St. train.

Category 2: The mentally ill/retarded/homeless. One Downs dude, two tiny asian trash-pickers and one lady wearing seven-thousand layers and reeking of pee all fall into this category. One dude must have a municipal job. He wears a clean but ill-fitting suit, has the narrowest face and the biggest cartoon hawk nose, bouffant hair and the most irritating voice I've ever heard. When he recognizes someone he talks incessantly about his health in that nasally whine. "...But I stopped seeing that doctor because my mother said I should get a second opinion..." This man is probably in his fifties. His mother must be pretty old to be that domineering.

Category three: Financial district workaholics and workoutaholics. It has to be pretty bad if you get into the office not only before dawn, but before all your co-workers could collectively manage to spell the word 'dawn.' I guess that's a competitive edge. Women in yoga pants with their work shoes in chic shopping bags (Neiman Marcus is a popular choice) belong in this category. Some of them have showered and made themselves up for the train ride. Yes, the 5 am train ride that takes them to their workouts.

I don't spend much time evaluating the crowd anymore. The train rocks along and I read or sleep the open-mouthed, drooling sleep of the truly exhausted. At some point I wake up and say, "Whoa, where the hell am I?" As yet, I have not screwed up so badly as to pass my stop. I have, at least thrice, had mini-heart attacks upon realizing that I wake up AT my stop as the doors are closing, at which point I leap up and scream and roll out in the nick of time Indiana Jones style.

Then I switch trains.
After limping down the stairs I stare at the same people across the Red Line tracks. There are two Brazilians who know each other but seem to only talk while waiting for the train. They cease conversation once they board. There's an older black dude with a cane who sits on the far side of the bench so the Brazilians can chat. There's a challenged woman who walks waaaay too close to the edge of the platform. She wobbles, too. It's disconcerting.

Because I'm challenged in my own way, I travel one stop, exit with all the people who work at the hospital, and yield to the right, toward the elevators. The same women board the elevator every time I use it. They are round, short, one's southern black and one's West Indian. They are both middle-aged and tired. Every time we enter the elevator, one of them exclaims something faintly religious.

"Ah Lawd and Save-yah!"

"My Lawd God in Heav'n!"

"My sweet baby Jesus..."

These exclamations seem to mean the following things in the inarticulated early morning conversation: "It's fucking cold, it's fucking early, and I can't believe I'm fucking working."

At least, that's my interpretation. I never open my mouth in these exchanges but smile knowingly and nod in agreement. I give my, "Hooo doggies you're dead on!" look and let them exit the elevator first like a good little girl who was brought up right.

So you can imagine, by the time I get to my Starbucks, apron-up, clock-in and set up the store, I've done a lot of living considering how long I've been awake.

And this, all this, is why I can manage a half-smile and a "Do you want room in your coffee?" by 6:00 in the goddamn morning. With a two-hour lead time, it's almost like I'm awake.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Wake-up call for Miss Biv...

Tomorrow morning my therapist will call me at 9:45 to tell me a joke.

Several reasons behind this:

1. I'm afraid of the phone, and have many scary phone calls to make tomorrow. The first phone interaction, by his decree, will be easy.

2. I have the day off (kinda) and would sleep all day, or pretend to sleep, if I didn't have a concrete reason to do otherwise.

3. He really, really wants to help keep me afloat and doesn't know what I need, so I asked him for some very basic survival help. The phone call is his idea but dovetails nicely with other help I've asked for. (I believe my phrasing went something like, "I need consistent kicks in the ass.")

What would Freud think, I wonder?

Friday, February 22, 2008

DJ Jazzy JoBiv

Last night I helped out my Canuck Melissa with a wee project. She's running an event (a benefit gala) for her work and needed a soundtrack. Now, last year we developed a short album of carefully chosen songs that would bring people in for hors d'oeuvres and then kick them out at the end of the event. I sat and wrangled tracks from all over my CD collection, flexing and stretching to appease the client.

This year, I was prepared. Having lots of time on my hands these days (artificially, anyway), I put together 38 tracks of possibilities, choosing with Canuck's pickiness in mind. The songs had to be clean, classic, and not too adventurous. I, of course, insisted on putting in a few gems that she simply had to hear, 'though I knew they wouldn't make it to her compilation.

So after two hours, two bowls of homemade chili, two pudding cups and too much music, she walked away with three perfected soundtracks, hand-picked and groomed. Some great things got left out (my favorite version of Chet Baker's "My Funny Valentine" got blacklisted for its extensive, but I think understated, drum solo) but some greater things will get an introduction (Madeleine Peyroux, Jamie Cullum - new school meets old school).

All of this is to say that I was shocked at how happily I drifted off to sleep last night, completely immersed in my music. I was full of my expert status and gleeful after sharing music that's informed my vocal personality (including non-vocal tracks, mind you). The silly thing is, I forgot about this. I forgot that I'm good at something. Or some things. I forgot how good it feels to share and teach the things that make me passionate.

Let me cling to it a little longer. There has to be a way to use this in my life, right?

Monday, February 11, 2008

i rambini

Bizarro Sunday…

On my way home from a sad, painful little shift at the Bux, I wound up on the T across from two teen-aged boys. At first I was zoned out, buried in thoughts of how to initiate a few big discussions with various people (my manager, therapist, surgeon, roommates…) and was shocked out of my anxious meanderings by mention of guns.

“He’s got this rifle that’s like old Civil War but like way better and it reloads faster and the bullets are like made with…”

Inspecting the kids from across the aisle, there were no outward signs that they’d be in much contact with firearms. I don’t know what I was expecting, but the whiteness, the abercrombie-ness, the general we-live-in-Brookline quality was baffling to me. And they would. not. shut. up.

“… And there’s this gun where like the bullet’s like this big (gesturing with hands to the rough size of a basketball) and you can only shoot one and it’s like all your ammo for like weeks but it like tears shit apart and then you can’t shoot it for like a month but it’s like this big…”

What? Video games maybe?

“…he was just in the Airforce which, like, they don’t even have real guns because they don’t shoot people like Marines, so I don’t think he even saw a gun but there was this cool one that this Marine kid had and he can carry it anywhere and wouldn’t it be cool if I got a gun and I could...”


This reminds me of my mother’s take on the Second Amendment. Her theory is that the founding fathers would be overjoyed if those who still insist on upholding this particular amendment may only do so in an historically accurate manner. That is, they may carry 18th century bayonets, which are impossible to aim, take about five minutes to reload and require such constant upkeep that really, how much damage could a person do with one? I don’t think this argument is particularly helpful, but charming thought, no?

Anyway, the Gun Fiends got off at my stop and lurched behind me for most of my limp home. My rough estimate on the time invested in their deep conversation… twenty minutes or more. On GUNS. This is the kind of instance that makes me think that I could never write convincing enough characters for a good novel because my brain would never conceive of a person, much less TWO people, who could sustain that kind of conversation for more than five seconds. I'm (appropriately) blown away.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Found an old notebook...

I was looking for blank pages so I could take notes on my scary phone call of the day (Mass Rehab) and found pages of doodles and poetry. Only a few pages had anything on them and I believe all the of the material came from my trip to NYC last year. At the time I was unsure of The Novelist and of myself, in a very dark moment.

How's this for indicative poetry?

Shoes and Lovers

Shoes and lovers hurt you
From knowing you too little
And knowing you too well
You can never know how long
You linger in the middle
The best days of the pair

I should tell you that I had a date last night -- a good one, I thought. It involved tea and a bookstore, so how could it be bad? The slight complication is that the gentleman in question works in the same offices as The Novelist. I don't want to hurt my wee writer. Well, I mostly don't want to hurt my wee writer... There's a part of me that is still angry.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

un edit ed

I don't know where to start, so I'll just start. I worked a my first shift back at Starbucks yesterday. My doctor said I could go back to work so I took a shift that someone bailed out on. Three hours in my scar started puffing up. By the time i got home it was bleeding. I was tired, of course, and aching everywhere and not even useful in the store and completely unsure of how many hours I could work, and then... bleeding.

I have no money coming. My surgeon's assistant never mailed the forms he was supposed to mail, despite my constant calls, so I missed the file date with my insurance. My parents finally got a big fat envelope of forms postmarked january 7th. Clearly the guy didn't touch it til at least a week after he got back from vacation. By the time my parents forwarded the envelope, I opened it to find out it said I could go back to work immediately. Good? Not good? I had no idea, considering I hadn't seen the surgeon again.

I had an appointment the next day, actually, and brought up the forms. I asked my surgeon to extend the date because I couldn't get hours at starbucks and can't afford to shut off the income from the insurance til i start getting hours. This is all assuming that the insurance will work out.

As an extra happy surprise, I got several statements from my insurance detailing my surgery and the parts they'll cover. Apparently I owe about $3,000. Honestly, it wouldn't matter if it were $30, I can't pay anything. I've saved that freakout for another day.

So now... today... I dunno. I have to call Starbucks and tell them I'm bleeding and I do want hours but I can't DO anything. I should maybe, okay definitely call the surgeon's office to let them know the wound opened up and find out if that's a big deal or not. I have to call insurance people every day for the rest of my life until they can help me. I have to take a shower and brush my teeth and wear clothes and read mail and every little thing seems impossible.

I'm so tired. How do I stop being tired?

I've been going on dates willy nilly, too. I was going to omit that, but it's important. I'm in this very juvenile frame of mind these days where I need constant approval and attention, and so I throw myself at people and beg beg beg them to like me. I'm so fucking pissed that I have to wear a brace and can't walk properly can't earn money and I want some proof from the world that I'm still some kind of adorable human being. So I let men buy me dinner and tell me all the things about their lives that would normally make me say, "I think I hear my mother calling," and leave. I let them kiss me and try to feel convinced. And of course, as predicted, none of it works for the positive, except maybe getting dinner or coffee for free.

It's my brother Chris's birthday today. Also The Novelist's. My chest kind of squeezes around that weirdly. Everything, everything is so uncomfortable.

Trying to find a positive note, but then again we talked about that, didn't we? How i try to be positive for you sometimes, try to make other people more comfortable with my hardships. Maybe I don't have the strength today.

Monday, January 21, 2008

First day back at work

and my stitches opened up. That's right, five hours of work and I'm BLEEDING.

This can only end in tears, as they say.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

'strange' is wunnathose words

Walking out of a long, high-tension movie (Atonement) with my friend, she stood waiting for me to put myself together. As I put on a sweater and a coat and a scarf, something strange happened.

I feel that this thing was so private and harsh to my friend that I can’t tell you about it, yet I need to write something because my head is spinning. And so, in a sort of prophylactic attempt to save her story I’ll tell one of mine.

It was a hard Thursday last year when I hadn’t managed to get out of the apartment for a week or so. I’d missed therapy and was about to miss group therapy. I found myself spending hours playing checkers online with strangers, who are much easier to talk to than the people who care about you when you’re in a mind to hate yourself. I’d decided to meet some guy I’d met through Match or checkers or something else. I’d decided to put on make-up and go out for a flirty, meaningless coffee because I couldn’t stand to take myself to group therapy. Mostly, I couldn’t stand to deal with my own shit that day.

And of course, while I was walking with this person, having just met in Coolidge Corner, a man from my therapy group was getting into a cab on his way to the hospital. He spotted me and yelled out a Hulloo.

“Oh, hi,” I said, careful not to use his name, because it’s strange territory among… groupees, “How are you?”

“Well, I’m headed over there right now. I’m going to be a little late but I really need to go. It’s good for me to go even when I don’t want to go…” etc. etc.

At some point it dawned on him that I wasn’t going and that I had company.

Now it was equally impossible to introduce this person I’d just met. I felt it wasn’t my right to give his name or to exchange it for the groupee’s name. All I could do was stand there and look stunned.

“I left a message with the secretary,” was all I said.

“Okay, well, hope to see you next week,” said Groupee.

Even though no one had been hurt, and only I had suffered some embarrassment, I still remember that cold, tight feeling in my abdomen of every single thing having gone wrong somehow, of all my deep and terrible secrets being bared, and worst of all, of those secrets becoming so instantaneously stupid and tiny.

Rationally, I knew that, in fact, nothing had happened, yet my mind twirled in inflated confusion for days afterward. I know my friend is feeling some of that now. I could see it on her face. Just as no one could soothe that feeling out of me, I knew that anything I said would only make her embarrassment more acute.

How do any of us sleep while so many people are hurting?

As we left each other tonight I apologized for my long silence over the past months. I said, "I'll try not to be such a stranger."

She said something like, "Oh, don't worry, you're not a stranger, you're just strange."

"Strange" is one of those words that if you say it over and over and over it loses meaning and sounds foreign. In fact, it makes everything more strange. strange. strange. strange. strange. strange. strange.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

my left foot

THAT's why she's so grumpy. She can't feel her foot and the doctor told her that's not a good sign but too bad it could be like that for the rest of your goddamn life so let's just get that brace altered and send you on your way to a life of ugly too-big shoes and unsexiness and oh my fucking god...

Effing brace. I'm so sick of it I could SCREEEEAAAAAM!!!!


the momanomaly

On day five after surgery, I awoke from the last shards of morphine into a new version of my life. In this version, pain and discomfort was constant but normal, I was fairly helpless all the time, and my mother lived on the floor of my bedroom.

I need to tell you about those days with my mother because it was so otherworldly. She was not the same creature I’ve grown to accept and fear. She was placid, strong and giving.

Even better, my roommates seemed to calm in her presence. One of them got sick that first week and we spent a lot of time letting my mother baby us. We had our rituals of tea and TV and simple meals. When I felt well enough we walked to Trader Joe’s and I tried to keep my mother from bringing the whole store home.

And despite irrationally blaming my mother for my tanking love life (as though I’d have dates lined out the door a week after surgery [or ever]) and my flailing social life (think I’m bad with the phone when I’m NOT on narcotics?), the days were mostly lovely in that, “wow, she expects absolutely nothing of me,” kinda way.

By week two, several changes had occurred. One, my mother ran out of her nasal nicotine cigarette-replacement spray. At home she would have been pacing and gnawing. In my apartment she calmly drank tea and tooled at crossword puzzles. Also, I had gotten well enough to regain my rigid sense of personal space and felt a bit claustrophobic. Because I’m predictable, I ended up crying to my mother about how hard this must be for her, to give up her routines and her privacy to help me.

Here’s the cool thing: she totally caught me out in my pathological game. My mother, whom I’ve been defensively mothering for at least a decade now, coolly dissected my reactions and let me be upset about the things that upset me. I cried on the couch where I couldn’t quite sit comfortably and she told me it was okay, that life sucks, that THIS sucks. She allowed my puerile manipulations and excused them and in the end she was simply there.

And then Dad’s phone calls kept her phone buzzing off of tables. My roommates got used to saying, “It’s PapaBiv!” whenever they heard the ringtone. It was always PapaBiv. He had decided to pick us up.

It wasn’t until my father had called from Schenectady that I noticed my mother unraveling. She started having coughing fits and slipping snide comments into her usually gentle instructions. She made and edited lists out loud, urging her frantic energy onto my plate and begging for me to pick it up.

The night before my Dad rolled in I was able to hear what she’d been saying for a few days. “It’s been so nice to be here, among girls. I never had that. I never lived on my own with a bunch of girls and had my own life.” By the time Dad reached Springfield, those phrases became a spite-tinged litany.

On Christmas Eve, when my father had become completely irascible, I caught my mother’s eye and said, “Y’know, there are a lot of nice men in Boston.” There was a true wistfulness in her eye as she washed out wine bottles in a series of deft, well-practiced movements.

A week in pictures (and poverty)

There was snow. It was purty, and impossible to walk on with only one good foot.

Eggs and bananas. Bananas and eggs. (And toast, at the time, although I've run out of bread since.)

Proof that I left the apartment and made it to the movies with my roomie. Good Jo! Tut tut.

Dressed up for dates, because if I go on dates someone else will pay for my coffee/drinks/dinner. And I'm less bored. Okay, and I like boys.

Proof that I still love Boston, even though I've been dealt the worst blows of my life here (and they just keep coming).

Monday, January 07, 2008

Art therapy.

I thought I felt like this today.

Turns out this Ramona is a gross understatement.

*No Ramonas were harmed during the making of this post.
** I would tell you the story of today but it's an internal one and completely boring. Let's just hope it's a temporary funk a la Ramona.

Forgotten poem

I wrote this when I was with The Novelist and never published it here. Trying to get back in my poettish frame of mine, so I'll share it, even tattered as it is.

I've noticed that we've learned to fit each other.
We take turns, leave space in our breath
for each other. We crawl around time
and give hours to each other. We
slice open our inner ears for each other.
We leave our hands empty and wait
for each other. We break all our eggs,
but tiptoe for each other. Perhaps
we save up our best lies for each other.
(And I wonder; would one of us die
for the other?) We keep sacred one drop
in the eye of the other. We conquer
the others, submit to each other.


Friday, January 04, 2008

riding the crazy train

I got my brace fitted on Monday, New Year's Eve. It's purple with bright planets on it, because that's how I roll. Er... limp. Understand, please, that I need the brace because my foot is still dead and my calf muscles only partly work. This, according to my surgeon, is not a hopeful sign.

On Tuesday I decided to test out the brace a bit and took myself downtown to my former place of work. The T ride was the most entertaining part of the day. Of course there were the hungover young folk still wearing their stained party clothes and reeking of greasy food and appletinis. Then there were First Night families trying to figure out why Boston SUCKS on New Year's Day when it was ever-so-fun the night before. I sat facing one family with three middle school aged kids. The littlest one was absolutely beautiful with her awkward glasses and sweet cowlick.

Then two blue-collarish guys got on, walked past me and sat lengthwise across back-to-back double seats, so as to assert their masculinity, one can only guess. One was a short latino with ridiculously long eyelashes and a baby face. The other was red. Red hair, red skin, red bloodshot eyes. I caught him looking at me and looked right back, then turned away. Apparently, this was an invitation.

He got up while the train was in motion. He sat across from me on the edge of a double seat, knees jutting into the aisle, leaning forward.

"Hi," said Red.

"Hello," said Jo.

"Do I know you from somewhere? You look so familiar to me," said Red.

"That's funny, because I have no idea who you are," I said, countering my rudeness with a wee smile.

"Oh. Well I just thought I knew you..."

"I'm pretty sure I've never met you," I said.

"Okay. Well. How was your New Year's?" asked Red.

"It was okay." (Actually, it was dead quiet. I didn't manage to leave the apartment.) "How was yours?"

"Oh mine was... blah blah... worked all night... been driving... blah..." he said, I think. There were huge gaps in his speech during which the train squealed or rumbled and he spoke too quietly and I couldn't hear a thing he said.

"What?" I said.

"I was driving with my buddy from... ...and we .... and then... so we're tired as hell..."

"Do you get to go home and rest?" I asked.

"Yeah, we're headed to the North End. I'm staying in the North End," said Red.

"Cool," I said, nodding and smiling.

"You have a really nice smile," he said.

BLUSH, I said. "Thank you."

Awkward silence.

"So," I said, "You're not from around here?"

"No," he said, "I'm from... ... up by... ... just in town for a while, thinking about moving here..."

I nodded, not bothering to have him repeat. At this point I realized the entire First Night family was watching us fiercely, especially the little girl. Her eyes fled from one face to the other like she was watching a ping pong tourney. I thought I should be a little more polite.

"And you? Are you from here," he asked.

"No, I'm from western New York. Six hour drive away."

"Ohh, and you live around here?"

"Yep, I'm not going back," I said. "I found a good place in Brookline."

"Brookline," he repeated.

"I came here for grad school and I'm staying," I said.

"Grad school," he repeated.

It was then that I realized I sounded like a prick. Red lost some of his gusto as the interview continued. For some reason, I felt like I had to efface myself a bit to make him more comfortable. I started babbling about how my grad degree didn't lead to a good job and I'm barely making it, like everyone else in the city. Through all the jabbering there were longer moments of stilted silence. When was he getting off this train? We'd been on it from Kenmore.

"I'm Chris, by the way," he said, reaching out his hand for me to shake.

"I'm Jo," I said, finding no reason to lie to him.

"It was really good talking to you, Jo."

"Yeah, well I hope you get some rest. It was nice talking to you, too."

"So could I get... ... if you don't..."

"I'm sorry, what?"

"Could I... number? Or could you... ... your number?"

My mind raced a bit. The little girl across from me peered intently, watching my every gesture. I thought about myself first, all the things that are currently fractured in my life and how undateable I am right now. I thought about him, not really living here, just some random dude to whom I was not all that attracted. I thought about getting a free dinner out of him - a practicality I could certainly use. I thought of excuses I could give him to make him feel better. In the end I said,

"No, I don't think so."

He smiled and took it well, then repeated the whole "It was nice talking to you" bit.

In the sudden and absolute silence there was nothing to do. I looked out the window at the dark tunnel, I looked across to the little girl, who was squirming in shared discomfort. I smiled back at Red a bit. I decided to get off at Boylston to end the awkwardness. I could just hop on the next train and keep going.

I got up, gathered myself, and just then remembered the brace. Red's baby-faced friend got up, too, hovering by the stairs. Shit.

"This is my stop, too," said Red.

Shit shit shit.

"You really do have a great smile," he said.

"Thanks," I said, flushing from the compliment and the coming gaff.

The doors opened and I let myself down the stairs one at a time. Red followed. I limped along and Red and Baby-face passed me. Red said a nice goodbye. Baby-face turned around, pointedly looked at my leg and gave me a pitying look. "Have a good New Year," he said.

I thanked him and whipped out my cellphone, pretending to check messages, not wanting to pass the gates and have to pay again.

A man waiting for a Lechmere train saw the whole thing. I waited for the next train, leaning on a column, regaining my composure. I bent to hide the brace a bit more. No use.

This, I thought, is your New Year.