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 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.