Monthly Archives: September 2010

An independently owned and operated blog post.

I regret starting a blog post with this statement, but here goes – I was in Starbucks the other day.  And this middle-aged man was sitting at the table next to me.  We started small talking.  He mentioned that he’d started four different businesses from home and that I should do the same.  I agreed.  That sounded like a fine idea.

Then it came out that I wrote a blog.  And this guy was all about ways of making money, so he said I should put ads on my blog and I should finagle subtle advertisements into the posts themselves.  For the sake of keeping things simple I agreed with him again.  But the whole thing left me uncomfortable.  I thought to myself, no, that’s not the kind of blog I want to have!  The aim of my blog isn’t to make money for myself or third parties, it’s simply to have a platform for expressing myself and have a platform for connecting with other people. 

Ya know?

So, there will be no ads appearing on this website any time soon.  And mentions of Starbucks are in no way meant to endorse the company.

I was going somewhere with this.  OH!  I wanted to say a nice word about a website a friend referred me to.  It’s called  Every 3 hours or so they give you a word or a few words that’re supposed to serve as a jumping off point for you to write something and then you write something in 300 words or less.  It’s good for those times when you want to write but you can’t think of a single thing to say.

Thought I’d share my latest.  It’s a true story from the year 2004.  The jumping off phrase was “not my ticket”:

I’m itchy.  I’m sitting in the orchestra section for an evening showing of Phantom of the Opera with Dad.  I haven’t showered in two days because that’s how long the trip to New York has been for freshman orientation at college and no one else was trying out the dorm showers so I didn’t either.

The man next to me is opening up a Hershey’s chocolate bar and I think that I’d like a Hershey’s chocolate bar, too, but I’ve been itching my stomach and my face and I wouldn’t share if I were him.  Dad is grunting because he doesn’t have enough leg room.  We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge earlier and it was sunny because it’s August and I sweated some and now the sweat has dried.

Andrew Lloyd Weber music starts to play and the man is still crinkling the candy bar wrapper and Dad is still adjusting his legs and I’m itching myself, but goddammit this musical is brilliant.  I hope Christine and Raoul bang.

If you join you can conveniently find me under the user name “MadameLibrarian.”

What’s next?

Sometimes I feel like I pick up the perfect book at the exact time I need to be reading it in my life.  Several years ago I took the Pulitzer Prize winning Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt out of the library.  I remember it being an enthralling read.  But I couldn’t get through it because it just left me so unbearably sad.  Passages left me bawling.

When I returned it to the library they said I’d damaged it and they wouldn’t take it back.  I’d have to keep it and pay them $30.  I was broke at the time, and as much as I love the library, I cursed it the whole drive to the bank to withdraw money.  And then I returned to the library with the $30 and I’d been crying so my face was all red and my eyes were puffy and I really thought that the book had been damaged when I took it out, but I’d borrowed it for so long that I couldn’t remember (and I might’ve been locked out of my house in the rain one day and the pages of the book might’ve gotten damp).  So I handed the librarian the money and she looked at me full of concern, and she was like, “What’s the matter?!”  And that made me more upset.

I know.  It’s a sad story.  But Angela’s Ashes is way more sad.

Anyway!  Right now I’m reading Continue reading

Poem from the Poem-A-Day

So, I’m on the Poem-A-Day mailing list from the Academy of American Poets. When I signed up for it, I thought I’d only be receiving poems every day in April, National Poetry Month. But then they just kept on coming. Which is great. Except…most days I don’t read them. I just move them into a folder in my Gmail account I’ve aptly titled “Poetry.”

But somedays I do read the poems. And sometimes I’m like, “Meh.” But sometimes I’m like, “Wow.” And today’s poem, by John Koethe, was a wow. This critic’s quote sums up why the poem did it for me: “Koethe’s poetry is ultimately lyrical, and its claim on us comes…from the common human dream that our lives make some kind of sense.” I didn’t realize that was my human dream, but, yes, I think it is. (I also like the poem because it mentions a cat.)


Wallace Stevens is beyond fathoming, he is so strange; it is as if he had a morbid secret he would rather perish than disclose . . .
—Marrianne Moore to William Carlos Williams

Another day, which is usually how they come:
A cat at the foot of the bed, noncommittal
In its blankness of mind, with the morning light
Slowly filling the room, and fragmentary
Memories of last night’s video and phone calls.
It is a feeling of sufficiency, one menaced
By the fear of some vague lack, of a simplicity
Of self, a self without a soul, the nagging fear
Of being someone to whom nothing ever happens.
Thus the fantasy of the narrative behind the story,
Of the half-concealed life that lies beneath
The ordinary one, made up of ordinary mornings
More alike in how they feel than what they say.
They seem like luxuries of consciousness,
Like second thoughts that complicate the time
One simply wastes. And why not? Mere being
Is supposed to be enough, without the intricate
Evasions of a mystery or offstage tragedy.
Evenings follow on the afternoons, lingering in
The living room and listening to the stereo
While Peggy Lee sings “Is That All There Is?”
Amid the morning papers and the usual
Ghosts keeping you company, but just for a while.
The true soul is the one that flickers in the eyes
Of an animal, like a cat that lifts its head and yawns
And looks at you, and then goes back to sleep.

The world is beautiful and so are the chemicals that come together to create soft-serve goodness.

Every time I see someone walking down the street licking an ice cream cone, I think, I want to be walking down the street licking an ice cream cone.

It happened tonight on my way to work, so I stopped to get a cone.  It’s been happening a lot, actually.  So much so that I expect the guy at McDonald’s to see me and ask, “The usual?”  And then I’d get embarrassed.  But I think he likes being able to make my ice cream cone.  He always looks so proud of the cone he’s produced when he hands it to me.  Tonight the ice cream looked so perfect that I thought I should compliment him on his craftsmanship.  But I didn’t.

Leaving the store with my cone, I felt like I was in an advertisement.  The ones that make the world seem idyllic because one person will do one nice thing for another person and then that person is inspired to do a nice thing and the happiness and love carries on like waves on an unpolluted beach.  The McDonald’s guy put extra care into my cone, which made me happy, and then on the sidewalk I saw that a man had dropped a wad of cash, so I said, “Did you know you dropped that?” and pointed to his wad of cash, and he said, “Thank you!” and maybe he went on and pulled a woman away from a speeding taxi cab just before it crashed into her and broke her.  But I kept walking so I didn’t see.  Then a woman with a cane was approaching me on the same sidewalk, mere steps from the wad of cash guy, and she was laughing like she was full of life, the way that crazy people laugh when there’s no obvious thing to be laughing about.  But just after she passed me, she exclaimed, “Look at how she be licking that ice cream cone!”  So it turned out she was laughing at me.  And that filled me with joy.  Because she was right.  I was really licking that ice cream cone. 

(Note: I apologize for this post being an advertisement for McDonald’s ice cream cones, but I like them, despite the corporation that produces them and the terrifying list of ingredients.)

Justin Bieber + James Ellroy BFF <3 xoxo :P

I was doing some paid hair modeling for a Vidal Sassoon workshop yesterday.  And that may sound glamorous, but two things to understand are (1) the pay is not impressive and (2) my hair stylist was a 50something-year-old named Bill who was absolutely lovely, but had a distinct smell and a distinct combover.  Still, he was easy to talk to, which is my favorite quality in a hair stylist.

Anyway, while I was waiting for the hair cut to begin, I was reading another interview in “The Onion.”  This time with author James Ellroy.  I felt almost assaulted by his opinions in the interview.  Which makes for a provocative read.

I especially liked what he had to say in response to this question, “You said you don’t read newspapers, you don’t have a computer, and you don’t go to movies.  At what point did you feel like unplugging from contemporary culture?”

Here’s part of his response:

I can’t stand dipshit, tattooed, lacquered, tarnished, depilatoried younger people talking their stupid shit, stage-sighing, saying ‘It’s like, I’m like, whatever,’ and talking in horrible chiches, rolling their yes when they disapprove of something.  I saw that the culture was pandering more and more to this kid demographic…  I began to see more and more billboards for vile misogynistic horror films, white-trash reality-TV shows, neck-biting fucked-up vampire flicks, and stoned-out teenage-boy pratfall comedies.  Bad drama, bad comedy, that portrayed life preposterously, frivolously, and ironically and that got to me.

On the one hand, my reaction is, wait…I’m technically one of those younger people “talking their stupid shit” that he’s talking about.  And on the other hand, I completely agree with him about culture and its portrayal of life.  It’s draining on the psyche, the soul.  Too much consumption of that kind of culture makes me more likely to talk in horrible horrible cliches and such.

It’s a real danger of contemporary times, I think.  For instance, today, I got sucked into a few episodes of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.”  And after awhile, you start identifying with those people, rooting for those people, and you’re no longer watching it ironically to shake your head at their lifestyle.  Their lifestyle becomes normal.  And that’s not okay.

As consumers of contemporary culture, we need to hold on to our critical eyes.  That’s why I think it’s great when the media puts out articles like this one on Lady Gaga.  And that’s also why I think this YouTube comment is great:

@JU5TlNBIEBER judging from your username, your opinion is invalid.

Could not. Agree. More.

Sit on THIS!

So, I got my passport a solid 18 months ago, and I’ve yet to put a stamp in it. I don’t have a full-time job, which is great because it affords me lots of time…but not lots of money. Therefore, I would totally ride these more affordable saddle seats should airlines ever install them:

Look how cramped that is! Apparently they would only offer these seats for 1-3 hour flights, but imagine all the bonding with strangers you’d be able to do in that amount of time! “Argh! My legs hurt!” “Argh! Your hair is in my face!”

I love this quote from the director general of the company that designed the seat: “The seat … is like a saddle. Cowboys ride eight hours on their horses during the day and still feel comfortable in the saddle.”

Hope I’m not coming across sarcastic in this post, because I really am excited about this seat. I’m also excited about this hilarious video about BP that I couldn’t figure out how to embed:

A Walk.

I lost my digital camera’s memory stick for several months, but when I moved I found it!  Here’s yesterday:


“I listen to terrible music.”

I’m thinking about music today.  How it’s so powerful.  And how the exact nature of its power is hard to verbalize.  It’s so awe-inspiring–how the innate power of music to move us and stir up emotions and memories in us transcends genres, styles, time periods.

Usually in casual, small-talky situations I dread being asked what kind of music I like, who my favorite band is.  They’re intimate questions, I think.  And the answers are revealing.  Also, I’ve just never come up with concise answers.  It’s a fluid thing, taste in music.  Ten years ago my answers were much different from my answers now.  Just as ten days from now my answers might be very different from whatever I might say today.

I think this is similar to how I am with music:

I listen to terrible music.  At any given moment, if someone listened to my iPod, I’d be mortified… I usually listen to one song over and over again until I resent it, then I move on to another song. –Chris Kelly

In third grade, my school bus driver had a ritual he did almost every bus ride.  And everyone on the bus took part.  He would cue up his cassette player up front, always to the same song–“We Will Rock You” by Queen.

I highly recommend this to all bus drivers.  We were extremely well-behaved grade schoolers.  I think because we didn’t want to compromise being able to stomp our feet and scream lyrics like, “You got blood on yo’ face / You big disgrace / Wavin’ your banner all over the place / We will we will rock you / Singin’ we will we will rock you.”  I’m not sure I’ve ever felt like more of a badass than during those sing-along afternoons on Bus 11.

The most appropriate thing to do to end this post would probably be to come clean about my music preferences at this moment in time.  But it’s scary.  It’s like when you’re in a car with a group of people and you start singing along with the radio, then some wise guy asks, “Who sings this?”  And you answer Elton John or whoever it is.  And then the wise guy quips, “Yeah, let’s keep it that way.”

I’d like to go on record saying that I think that’s one of the meanest things a person can do.  Singing is like voicing your soul to the world.  No one should ever be made to feel like the world doesn’t want to hear their soul.

Four weddings and a quote about a funeral

It’s been an epic Labor Day weekend. Wedding Four of the summer was attended, thus concluding the Summer of Four Weddings.

From all this exposure to vows and receptions and DJs, I’ve concluded that I have no idea what kind of wedding I myself would have were I to have one. Unlike Jennifer Lopez in 2001’s The Wedding Planner, I didn’t spend my every waking moment as a child planning how I would get hitched to Matthew McConaughey. (I think it involved a Breyer horse ridden to a chapel and then a tiny woman being carried over the threshold of a doll house.)

In the lead up to Wedding Four, by accident or perhaps by no accident at all, I happened to be reading Dan Savage’s book about gay marriage and the overall institution of marriage, The Commitment. I initially picked it up because I was looking for inspiration to continue with my own book-writing, and I’ve always appreciated the no-nonsense style of Savage’s advice column. The subject matter of Savage’s book, as summed up in the subtitle, was a draw, too: “Love, Sex, Marriage, and My Family.”

I didn’t know it for a while, but I’m a romantic. I eschewed serious romantic relationships for a long time, instead getting a sad vicarious fix from romantic comedies like, yeah, The Wedding Planner. I’ve since taken a long, hard look at myself and my fears and exactly what was prompting my plan to turn into a lonely reclusive cat woman and thankfully, I no longer have much use for Matthew McConaughey. (Note: I still plan to be a semi-reclusive cat woman, I’ve just nixed the lonely part.)

Back to Dan Savage. A signature viewpoint of his that he brings up in his column, podcast, and in this book, is that a relationship doesn’t need to necessary last for years and years for it to be deemed a success. Therefore, even if a marriage ends in painful divorce, it shouldn’t automatically be categorized as a failure. Likewise, he says it’s too bad that marriages are only deemed a success when “death do us part.”

Toward the end of one chapter, Savage shares a short excerpt from Ovid’s Metamorphoses about a couple who helps traveling-in-disguise gods Jupiter and Mercury. The couple is hospitable and in return they receive a favor. They redeem it by asking that neither of them outlive the other: “Since we have spent our happy years together, / May one hour take us both away.”

Savage writes, “That’s how I want to go–with Terry, not before him, neither of us outliving the other. Death is a perverse measure of success, as I said, and I don’t believe that someone has to die in order for a relationship to be considered a success. But I live in hope that when our time comes, after many more happy years together, we’re both taken to Maloney’s [Funeral Home] on the same day, at the same hour.”

You know that’s some serious romance because not only did Ovid write about it, but so did Nicholas effin’ Sparks in his book turned movie The Notebook. (Spoiler Alert:) James Garner and Gena Rowlands dead and HOLDING HANDS in a nursing home bed together–that scene alone provided months of vicarious romantic satisfaction.

Hmm. What’s my point. Weddings. Love. Family. If I’ve learned one thing this summer, it’s that I’m pro those things. Maybe not holding one of my own, but I’m at least pro attending weddings. And I’m pro family. They’re good fodder for books. And love! I’m so pro love that I leave you with a compilation of all four of the first dance songs I’ve experienced this summer in chronological wedding order:

A video that mistakes Fred Astaire for Frank Sinatra at one point:

Lyrics that truly encapsulate love: “Cause every time I see your bubbly face, / I get the tingles in a silly place”:

A video tribute to Carrie Underwood that features a country song, but not one of her own:

And finally, a wonderfully bizarre mix of random images paired with movie stills and posters from Titanic and Moulin Rouge:

Hey, read this thing I read! And watch this thing I watched!

I was reading “The Onion” yesterday during my commute. And I got so engrossed in an interview with Jonathan Franzen. I’ve never read any of his books, but this dude has shit figured out, so much so that I’ll have to seek out his work. I really like what he has to say about reading and writing and communicating electronically.

I couldn’t trim this down, it just all speaks to the core of my being:

I think novelists nowadays have a responsibility—whether or not my contemporaries are actually living up to it—to make books really, really compelling. To make you want to turn off your phone and walk away from your Internet connection and go spend some time in another place. I’m trying to fashion something that will actually pull you away, so I’m certainly conscious of the tension between the solitary world of reading and writing, and the noisy crowded world of electronic communications.

I continue to believe it’s a phony palliative, most of the noise. You have the sense of “Oh yeah, I’m writing in my angry response to your post, and now I’m flaming back the person who flamed me back for my angry response.” All of that stuff, you have the sense, “Yeah, I’m really engaged in something. I’m not alone. I’m not alone. I’m not alone.” And yet, I don’t think—maybe it’s just me—but when I connect with a good book, often by somebody dead, and they are telling me a story that seems true, and they are telling me things about myself that I know to be true, but I hadn’t been able to put together before—I feel so much less alone than I ever can sending e-mails or receiving texts. I think there’s a kind of—I don’t want to say shallow, because then I start sounding like an elitist. It’s kind of like a person who keeps smoking more and more cigarettes. You keep giving yourself more and more jolts of stimulus, because deep inside, you’re incredibly lonely and isolated. The engine of technological consumerism is very good at exploiting the short-term need for that little jolt, and is very, very bad at addressing the real solitude and isolation, which I think is increasing. That’s how I perceive my mission as a writer—and particularly as a novelist—is to try to provide a bridge from the inside of me to the inside of somebody else.

Whoaaaaa. I posted this mainly because, as a writer of stuff and reader of stuff and user of electronic communication devices and stuff, I want to come back and refer to his words, like, every day of my life from now on. Especially when I’m sitting at my laptop and I’ve been sitting there for hours typing and clicking and scrolling around Facebook and I start to feel like a shell of a person: