A Poem for a Rainy Sunday

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Every year, November

rain comes in thin
metal sheets tearing
last leaves from trees
pins them to sidewalks
mapping a path to winter

grey comes to shade
clouds like slim boats
hung on steeples
needling the skies
to hold autumn in place

night comes quickly
after noon to hurry day
away, slow blooming frost
covers the ground, windows
with the dying breath of gods

Motivation (or Why I Need to Shut My Mouth)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I stepped on the scales this morning, and to my horror, saw numbers I had never seen before between my toes. And while ever tightening waistbands and unzippable zippers have subtly suggested my love handles were becoming too much to handle, I was unprepared to see in very real numeric proof the score of pounds at the root of the problem. This "heav-alation" presented a problem that must be tackled (before it makes it to the buffet line), and so I've drafted a few action steps:

* Find exercise options that don't sound repulsive
* Always (always, always) take the stairs - this includes at the 9th-floor Atlanta office
* Tell yourself that chocolate contains carcinogens
* Consider buying one of those elastic expanders that pregnant women wear on their "normal pants"
* Start a love affair with green leafy vegetables
* Sweat more from being active than, well, from just living in the South
* Get quotes for liposuction (Discard this idea because I can't be magically skinny AND have money for a house.)
* Walk to work - this includes the 9th floor Atlanta office
* Bring mumus back in style
* Buy stock in Spanx
* Go ahead and replace Facebook profile picture with the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man

In Memory of Johnny Castle

Thursday, September 17, 2009

July 3, 1988*

Dear Diary,
July is a good month. I think Patrick Swayze is cute. I love the movie
Dirty Dancing. Jennifer Gray is good for the part. I want to be in a movie with Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Gray. I want there to be a Dirty Dancing II. Adios.



July 4, 1988

Dear Diary,
Today is July 4th! We had a big meal and firecrackers. I have a dream of being in a movie with Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Gray. I still have flash backs of the movie. It's 11:15. Gotta go!


P.S. My birthday is in 2 days!

*Genuine journal entries from the mind of me, age 8-going-on-9

An Uncomedy of Errors

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

* Woke up late (nothing new)
* Eyeshadow looks rather 80s this morning. Oh well.
* Yesterdays' shoes hurt; plan to wear comfortable shoes today
* Comfortable shoes look wretched
* Consider changing clothes; opt for pointy-toed heels
* No time to make lunch
* Coffeemaker auto shut-off; last cup lukewarm
* Walking out the door. It's cloudy. Remember umbrella is in bag upstairs. Impossible to "run" upstairs in pointy-toed heels.
* Get in the car. Remember keys are on chest by the door.
* Gas gauge? Less than 1/4 tank and a drive to Atlanta this afternoon ahead.
* On Prince Ave, in the right lane behind a gigantic truck easing along at roughly 5 mph
* Switch to left lane. Two cars ahead, a left blinker winks. Traffic sails by on the right.
* Arrive at office, nearly 45 minutes late. Park badly.
* Nearly mowed down by a frat boy in a Jeep plowing down Meigs Street
* In office, decry events of the morning to coworkers
* Realize work laptop is in back seat of car
* Spitting rain; umbrella in office
* Sitting in office - frizzy-haired, cramp-toed, drinking less-than-warm coffee and thinking of bed.

In Memory of Denise Gess (1952-2009)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Denise was a visiting professor during my MFA tenure in Wilmington. We had our disagreements (like whether or not Sophie's Choice lived up to its reputation), but we also agreed on other things - the novella is an amazing form and Francine Prose is amazing in it. I've kept this e-mail from her for more than 7 years. It's her response to me after I complained of harsh criticism from another professor, who referred to my writing as a donut: pretty on the outside, empty on the inside.

"[He] wants you to get fierce. If he tells you you have a donut, show him it's a jelly donut, not a donut with a hole. Beautiful, shimmery on the outside and thick, rich, oozing with flavor, color, substance on the inside. He wants you to dig in and prove him wrong. So get to work; you can do it!!!!!"

I just found out from a friend that Denise passed away over the weekend after a battle with cancer. I thought of this e-mail in an instant and the picture of us at The Pilot House where we dined the night before she left; the rickety antique table she gave me when she departed; the odd fluorescent-lit room where she taught Forms of Fiction to a class with a left-of-center dynamic; and Firestorm at Peshtigo, the book she worked on during her visiting semester. I expect 7 years from now, 17 years from now, if I hear Denise Gess, I will still think "donut" first.

May she rest in peace.

What's Good for the Gander

Sunday, August 16, 2009

I read this article from Saturday's New York Times about how the hippest new accessory for the Brooklyn hipster (of the male varietal) is the pot belly. The article suggests that the pot belly-volution is a ripple effect - backlash against the six-packed bicep baring men's magazine models. Not to diminish the pressure that men feel to be buff and bulging, but I couldn't help feeling a wee bit like...excuse me? As though the rise of the uber-fit male can somehow trump the endless barrage of women's magazines (not to mention television, movies and advertising) touting the tall toned tanned Air Brushettes. It seems like the guys got to rebel before they were even oppressed.

Resigning myself to an "it is what it is" attitude about men getting to relocate their bulges from their biceps to their bellies, I decided to channel my energy into a revolutionary wish-list of things to banish when the fairer sex gets to reassign our own appearance-obsession to the passe category.

* Plucking - Little hairs marring perfect arches and creeping across the bridge of the nose must go. Not to mention what I refer to as my "errant eyebrows" - otherwise known as chin hairs - that make me feel uncomfortably close to a bearded-lady candidacy.

* Shapers - However you wish to address them - control-tops, body shapers, Spanx, contour undergarments, or, in the words of Bridget Jones, "scary stomach-holding-in panties popular with grannies the world over" - they're modern day torture device that attempt to disprove that matter cannot be destroyed by using super-freak elastic to suck, tuck and smooth the fat away. And also the will to live.

* Gym Memberships - Sometimes I feel incomplete as a woman because I do not have - nor have I ever had - a gym membership. I don't like to work out, and the thought of doing it in a large room amongst other people who are skinnier, prettier and more athletically inclined makes me want to eat chocolate.

* Skinny Jeans - Unless the name of the jeans indicates the effect they have, I'm not interested.

I mostly like being a girl - make-up, high heels, handbags. I think I would just like it better if I could accessorize with chub.

Excuses, Excuses

Saturday, August 15, 2009

It's amazing how quickly you can go from gung-ho to heave-ho. I started emdashery, all zeal and zest and dedication and fell flat within weeks. I have plenty of excuses for what went wrong, but in the end, I realize that F. Scott Fitzgerald was right: "A writer not writing is a maniac within himself." And while I'm in no way lumping myself into the category of FSF's greatness - nor am I suggesting that blogging will be the cure-all for my mental faculties - I am quite certain that more regular postings will make for a less em-bittered ash. Even though I don't have a presidential pardon to show for it, I do have a list of "buts" to explain my absence.

* But my computer died.
Sadly true. After many threats and allegations that it would make its exit, the whirring clicking mess finally went kaput. I feel like it had a remarkably short life given its purchase price, but I suppose I was rather abusive to it during my thesis-writing days. It was also unmercifully shuttled back and forth from North Carolina to Georgia, was owned by a PC-incompetent writer, and gave me fair warning before its final click-tastrophy.

* But I was on vacation.
I took a trip to Cleveland to see my best friend from grad school. It was the first time I'd seen her since her wedding in October more than a year ago, and it was my first real trip to Cleveland. (The trip for her wedding which mostly afforded me views of the hotel, her parent's house and a white dress doesn't count.) And while I'm guessing that your notion of vacation does not include Cleveland as a destination, it proved to be quite enjoyable. I left feeling like Cleveland gets a very bad rap...and also, that these two videos are hysterically accurate.

* But I've been house hunting.
When I moved back to Georgia after living in North Carolina for almost six years, I set up shop at my parents' house. After realizing that I sometimes go to the storage unit to visit the rest of my life, I decided that it was time to settle down and find somewhere to get my life out of a metal box. As one of the world's most deliberate human beings, this excuse gets extra merit. For me, house hunting isn't just an activity. It's a moral dilemma. I'm trying to be persistent, but it's so easy for me to get overwhelmed and think I can just live at home until I die. But then, I remember all my books, boxed and moldering, and a few pair of shoes that didn't seem to make it in "not storage" boxes, and I go back to the Real Estate Book with a Sharpie.

* But I'm getting old.
Also, sadly true. I celebrated my 30th back in July. I thought that reaching the three-decade mark would make me feel desperate and panicked about all that I hadn't accomplished before the end of my 20s. Like going to Europe and New York City. Or writing a book and getting published. Or, you know, like getting married. But instead, turning 30 felt like a relief in some ways. An opportunity to start fresh, to reorient those goals for the next decade, and to feel like I have plenty of time for everything.

None of these excuses may truly beg my pardon for being absent for two-plus months. I started to throw in that I also experienced a moderate bout of writer's block, but that seemed like too much of a dog-ate-my-homework. So now that I've made my excuses, I will get back on the blog-wagon and be more diligent. If for no other reason than no one wants to see me become a maniac.

The Truth Hurts

Monday, August 10, 2009

Last night, my good friend Tommy took me out to a belated birthday dinner. We were discussing all of our happenings since the last time we met - incidentally at his 30th birthday celebration.

"I've got a new blog," he said.

"Oh, really? You should send me the link. You know, I've got a new blog, too."

"emdashery? The one you never write on?"



Monday, May 25, 2009

Blergh (blairg or blurg) - An expression of dismay tinged with frustration or exasperation, often said with little to no emphasis because one is simply too tired to emote it. "I overslept again, am late for work and left my lunch on the counter. Blergh."

Sheesh (sheeSH) - Used to indicate a mix of mea culpa and indifference. A verbal shrug, typically in response to someone else's overreaction. i.e., "I know I ate the last cookie, but I bought the box. Sheesh."

Squee (skWEEE) - An exclamatory word for adults that encompasses Beatlemania-esque teenage screams one is too old to emit. "The new Harry Potter movie is coming out two days early. Squee!"

Yelch (yellch or yulk) - Disgust at either physical or emotional circumstances. Used to indicate a level of repulsion, a verbal shudder. "I forgot to throw away last week's Chinese takeout and it cultivated its own little mold farm. Yelch."

Yowza (YOWzuh) - A multipurpose word that can express 1) excitement regarding a felicitious windfall, i.e., "I won front row tickets to the Hall & Oates reunion tour! Yowza!" 2) self-congratulation over a job well done, i.e., "I balanced my checkbook and there is still money in the account. Yowza!" 3) a part of speech for that which renders you speechless, i.e., "It's been scientifically declared that Michael Jackson is no longer human. Yowza."


Monday, May 11, 2009

Many twins, particularly identical ones, claim to sometimes know what the other is thinking or feeling while the pair is physically separated. A sudden sensation that is completely out of context with the current surrounding indicates what their distant twin is experiencing. I wonder if mothers have this same quality in a one-way fashion about their children. For example, I'm quite certain that my mother instinctively knows the following three things about her children:

1) Cold Feet - As a bonafide southerner, Mom has little to no tolerance for cold weather and, by extension, being cold. Particularly offensive to her are cold feet. Which could explain her near-obsession with socks. I'm not absolutely certain, but I think that when her chicks have cold piggies, she knows about it.

2) Empty Stomach - Mom is the consummate southern hostess - meaning she finds hungry strays unbearable and wants to fatten up the general population. In some circles, my mother is known as The Bread Lady for her delicious homemade sourdough bread and now Amish friendship bread (available in lemon, cinnamon or chocolate). My friend Jenn once brought someone over to my house and introduced our abode as "the place where there's always something to eat." I remember calling home while traveling and reporting that I hadn't been fed a meal in some time. I would have had less reaction from saying I was bleeding to death.

3) Wrinkled Clothes - A constant in our house growing up was the giant can of Fautless Spray Starch that occupied the table in the corner by the ironing board. Most people would swear my dad's work shirts were dry cleaned and starched, but they were simply attended to by the master laundress. I think I might have been the only girl on my hall my freshman year of college who had a full-sized ironing board in her tiny 10x10 shared space. I remember ironing a pair of pants one day and my roomate inquiring about why it mattered so much. "I just know she'll know if I wear wrinkled pants."

My mom is sort of like the Statue of Liberty, inviting the cold, the hungry, the wrinkled masses. A safe harbor of warmth, sustenance, and crispy shirts.

Cat Lady Chic

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I am a Wikipedia junkie. I'm prone to time-warping through what I refer to as "Wikipedia rabbit holes." It usually starts with a headline on Yahoo! news. Take, for instance, Saturday's featured Yahoo nugget on child star survivors. It mentioned Drew Barrymore, who was recently featured in the HBO film Grey Gardens. Her performance in the film is garnering acclaim from critics, so I went to IMDB to see the details, and I discovered that Grey Gardens chronicles the sensational story of the riches-to-rags branch of the Bouvier family tree. And that's when the time-warp opened up and sucked me into the Wikipedia rabbit hole.

I found myself fascinated by Jackie Kennedy's aunt and cousin, both named Edie, who took a spacious estate in the Hamptons and turned it into a feline infested garbage dump. Both women aspired to stardom, had haphazard careers that never really took off, and ended up squirreled away in the playground of the rich and famous performing skits for one another until the health inspector showed up to evict them.

That's when the story became tabloid fodder and spurred Jackie O to spend more than $30,000 to clean up the mess. But just two years later, the women had once again allowed Grey Gardens - an estate with one of the most notable gardens in the Hamptons - to drift into disrepair. Ironically, it was their eccentricity that finally led to their fame when the 1975 documentary Grey Gardens made them cult icons.

"Little Edie" suffered from alopecia and wore colorful, dramatic headscarves to mask her condition. Though she lived in a weed-choked dilapidated house filled with catfood cans and raccoon feces, Little Edie managed to pioneer a fashionable garbage chic that turned her into a style icon.

The squalor's extremity was appalling; and yet, the photographs depicted a house well-loved with touches of whimsy and affection. And the women looked curiously happy. The whole story was fantastical - the kind of truth you'd swear was fiction. Perhaps my preoccupation, my willingness to go down so many rabbit holes, was my own predilection to derelict spaces. You could almost imagine Little Edie pirouetting through the dashes of sunlight slanting through holes in the roof, skipping around piles of moldering books, skirting broken furniture and humming a tune...one that only she could appreciate.


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Last Saturday, I spent the better part of the day in the dimmed corridors of several abandoned buildings. Strapped with cameras, my friend Tommy and I worked our way through the slightly damp and musty innards of empty factories and their dilapidated outbuildings. The factories themselves were cavernous - at the same time airy and stifled. The other buildings were in varying states of disrepair, from splintered roofs that let slivers of sunlight cut through the dust to completely open to the blinding blue sky that looked all the more clean and bright against the gloom.

We picked through glass shards from broken windows, rusted metal machinery and the weeds that worked their way through the concrete. And there were the other signs of man: stacks of time cards from the 40s and 50s; a list of money saving measures still tacked to a bulletin board; piles of carpet samples; scattered hard hats.

I took a photo of a door with no knob. Tommy noted that there was something poetic about it. Perhaps it was the contradiction of silent factories. Quiet spaces that once hummed. Empty stillness instead of deafening industry. Concrete fortresses filled with rain pools and lush vines. The mundane items that somehow seemed exceptional because they had been abandoned. The strange beauty of neglect.

I'm almost certain that Willie Mae Hollis never thought that a time card from 1944 noting a standard 8-hour workday in December would one day be fascinating just because it had been left behind.

The First Dash of Ash

Saturday, May 2, 2009

For well over a year now, I've been posting photos on Spare-Time Shooter. It started as the forum for playing 26 things and continued as an irregular posting place for the latest of my shooting expeditions. I realized recently that it was ironic for me to have a blog for my burgeoning photography hobby and not one for my lifelong love of writing. I didn't pick up the camera seriously until I was about 24 or 25. But I picked up a pen when I was six.

And I followed the pen from poetry in high school to fiction in college and ultimately into grad school where I spent three years on a Masters of Fine Arts in creative writing - best know by its shorthand "MFA" and a variety of disparaging nicknames like "Masters of Failed Artists" and "Masters of Forgotten Authors." In truth, I probably fall more into one of the later categories, having long-since abandoned any notions of "being a writer" in favor of just being. My grad school years read like a cautionary tale of being a big fish from a small pond who drowned in a sea of comparatively better writers. The happy ending is that I was able to reincarnate as a relatively normal human being who gets to play with words at work and rather shamelessly enjoy pulp romance novels instead of The Notables of the Esteemed Literary Canon.

So now, I'm an almost-30 gal who loves words and pictures (almost equally), laughs too loudly, enjoys nothing so much as a good pun, who plans to put her MFA (failed and forgotten) to work from time to time. And as for the blog's name, I'm a notorious user of the emdash - that little guy in between phrases when writers like me want to interrupt themselves - and I like to think I do it with style.