Friends, I've got to take the next few days off from blogging, email, and the internet in general. I'll be back Monday, if not before. Thanks for all the love and support; it's very much reciprocated.
Thurs. Feb 17, 2011
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Best of the blog
- "I have to think of something before I die"
- Dear "books on how to not kill yourself"
- Mommy, tell me about the war.
- Questions for the Author
- How do I get to Ground Zero?
- A Flaming Asteroid Hits My Ex-Boss In the Nuts
- Book review: Wuthering Heights
- "Feminist Men": Oxymorons, or Simply Morons?
- Random facts about the book
- Amanda Cudy Swavy
- Amanda Stern
- Anne Elliott
- Anne Fernald
- Ariel Schrag
- Ashley Davila
- Ayun Halliday
- Beehive Hairdresser
- Bridgit Antoinette Evans
- C. Brooks
- Cheryl B.
- Claire Cox
- Clio Bluestocking
- Dana Piccoli
- Dorothy Parka
- Geoffrey Ian Bara
- Janet Reid
- Jen Bekman
- Jen Dziura
- Jess Zaino
- Judy McGuire
- Koren Zailckas
- Lauren Cerand
- Lea Jacobson
- M. David Hornbuckle
- Maud Newton
- Melissa Febos
- Michael Stuart
- Nathalie Hardy
- Rachel Kramer Bussel
- Satia Renee
- Sharon Mesmer
- Tayari Jones
- Virginia Vitzthum
- Wendy McClure
(Previously unposted, from March 2005)
A full house tonight – lots of repeats from last week, including the girl they call Barbados, the giddy suicidal girl they call LuLu, the little butch white girl from Florida, and a very quiet, stolid girl who smells a little like pee and is rumored to be a kleptomaniac. Klepto's been sitting with us at the bead table for the past few weeks, not saying a word, nodding shyly and hooking her own earring hooks. And, apparently, stealing shit from everyone. Tonight she is almost social; I notice that a few people are including her in the conversation; she smells less like pee than she did last week. She makes eye contact, says please and thank you instead of just nods, laughs at some people's jokes. She makes a long necklace that says "LOVE FOR LIFE BLOOD FOR LIFE LOVE FOR UZIKIEL."
Others are in a saucier mood tonight -- I put hooks on earrings that read "LICK ME," "EAT ME," and "BIG TITS" -- this last from the normally very proper Barbados. One cute chubby girl makes bracelets that say "HOLLA" and "DON'T HATE." The "HOLLA" bracelet is black beads with the rainbow surrounding the letters -- it could sell for ten bucks at GirlProps or Claire's. I tell her she should consider a career in jewelry design, and she is very aw-shucks about it.
LuLu, who almost threw herself off a roof, is sitting next to a pretty Puerto Rican girl, and they make matching rainbow-bead bracelets that say "LULU (HEARTS) VIVI" and "VIVI (HEARTS) LULU." They then sit and hold hands under the table, sharing in the general gossip, which is coming from Florida.
Florida says they're all in trouble, they're all going to get discharged before the regular 30-day limit. "All of us who went to PA," she warns. "That guy Brad said so."
"What happened in PA?" I ask. I run the risk of being too nosy, but I have to know.
"Oh, we got abducted by this Jesus cult," says LuLu, like this happens all the time. "Like, eight of us was hanging out and these people was talking to us about their place in PA, and they made it sound really good, so we went with them, and then all of a sudden we're in this van, and we're praying at three in the morning."
"Yeah, we were there for a few days, and then the cops came, and it turns out the cops were watching this cult, and the FBI and everything, so I don't know what happened after that, but they brought us back here. But now they say they gonna discharge us early."
Now, this is where the beads part really gets to be a pain in the ass, because girls are coming up to me with strings to tie and earrings to hook, and all I want to do is get the details on this fucking crazy ass story, but they wander off, and I don't get the rest.
(By the next week, I'd heard more of the cult story from Samantha, who was there on the unit when it all went down:
It all started when the girl they called Haiti went AWOL for three days. Nobody had seen her, and she was discharged in absentia, her belongings moved to the AWOL closet in case she ever came back for them. Which she did, three days later, and everyone was asking where she'd been.
Haiti said she'd been with this great group of people who were picking her up and letting her stay on their ranch in Pennsylvania – they were religious, but they were really cool, and they would give you money and cell phones and clothes and help you out.
"It's better than this place," Haiti told them, and everybody decided that they wanted to go, too.
"Come if you want," sniffed Haiti, "they're picking me up at Subway in a half hour."
And the call rang out down the hall, the hysteria began. Samantha described sitting in the lounge reading a book and Florida rushing in going, "Pack your stuff! It's better than this place! They give you cell phones!" And then Lulu and her girlfriend and Sal and Florida and a bunch of other girls and even some boys from their unit all started running around, packing, and discharging themselves from the shelter. And staff was trying to deter them, but they could not be deterred; everybody had to run right out right away to get to Subway to go to PA with the Jesus people. And apparently a bunch of the security guards went after them, and they tried to talk the kids into coming back, but then these Dollar vans pulled up and Haiti said, "Let's go," and they all jumped in the vans and pulled away.
This is what Samatha gathered, as she sat there watching the lounge empty, and then hearing the staff buzz about it later. And she doesn't know what happened next, but then she's waiting to talk to the drug counselor on Friday, and the whole lot of them come busting back in, asking to be readmitted. Which they were. But again, no idea what went on in between.)
Tonight I try to get a little more of the story out of Florida, who floats around the bead table on and off, asking everybody if she thinks she should dress more femmey or keep her current style, which is pretty butch (or "A.G.," in the shelter lingo, for "aggressive"). She wants a girlfriend really bad, and she understands if she goes femmey that might increase her chances. Everyone says she should go femme, but I say she obviously feels comfortable being AG and she should do what makes her happy. (And by the way, what the fuck happened with that cult?)
Lulu and GF sit happily discussing the baby on the way. I start to realize as they talk that they came to the shelter together, and that they plan to raise the baby together. It would help if Lulu would stop drinking and doing drugs, and wanting to kill herself, but damn, at least she has her GF, which Florida envies so badly. "LOOK at the two of you," she stresses. "I want that."
What else? My horrible, limited Spanish is tested again, and it fails. The girl with the great bracelet designs, Carla, is told to wash her smelly feet. She is sanguine about it -- "Yeah, I'll go do that, my bad." She is one of the most agreeable girls I've met there, definitely becoming a favorite. She reveals that her drug of choice is meth, and I wonder if maybe am developing a thing for meth addicts.
It's noisy, as usual, with The Nutty Professor running in the background, and girls can recite whole chunks of Eddie Murphy's riffs -- "Spandex! Lots and lots of spandex!" They don't want to let me clean up tonight, it's all, "'Miss, I'm almost finished," and then I spill some beads. Girls are speaking Spanish into their cell phones; Sal announces her intent to go out and smoke a jizz before night meeting. It's jovial, and nobody's bleeding in front of me, but I am very aware of all the blood these girls are wading through right now, and the night feels a little long and exhausting. I'm glad to be home, as always, and extra grateful, always, to be here.
It's been hard to find the time and the wherewithal to write online, but I have about ten minutes between the groceries and the shrink, so let's see:
The shelter was good last night, as always. I heard some intense stories, which I don't feel comfortable sharing. Maybe a year from now I'll post the notes I wrote privately in my notebook last night; I'm thinking about going back to posting last year's notes instead of fresh ones. Last year around this time there was this insane incident where a bunch of kids ran off to join this Jesus cult, and had to be rescued by the cops -- maybe I'll edit and post it later, if I have time.
The benefit, the benfit, the benefit. It's like I decided to throw myself an ulcer.
Duke rape case. Lots to say here. I've seen too much of guys like those, and the way they're treating the woman in question is once again disgusting.
And Kellie Pickler screwed the pooch on Idol last night, but it won't matter.
Behind the scenes: Horseshit up to my neck. Overscheduled and emotionally taxed to the point of severe crankiness. I'm pissed off, stressed out, and fed up.
Next time I'm writing a memoir about somebody else.
More of a placeholder, because it's late, and I don't know what to say. The reading went well, though I was somewhat disconnected; I wonder if, after lo these thirteen years of getting on stage, I'm getting more nervous beforehand than ever. And then I didn't want to take the time to futz around and adjust the height of the mike, so I just stood on tiptoe behind the podium the whole time I was on stage, which made my legs shake a little, and I felt like the mike was blocking the whole left half of my face from view. I read "Bead Lady gets a chirp," and people seemed to like it well enough. More importantly, the room was full, and a lot of money for progressive candidates fighting for seats in the House was raised. So who cares about the left side of my face?
Bill had to work on Saturday. But we got to spend the morning together, and we walked down to Canal Street in the sunshine before he peeled off to work and I went up to midtown to drop off some clips at my agent's. And the air conditioning on the Lexington Avenue line reminded me so much of last summer, when I was visiting Samantha in the hospital -- I had the sudden urge to go up there, to go up to the old subway stop, walk the six blocks in the bright heat to the hospital, feel the AC again as I walk through the same double doors, and go up to her old room; to see her there, to pull the chair up to the bedside and ask her how she's doing and pet her hair. Why? Because it was always the right place to be. No matter what else I did that day, if I went to see her, I had done the right thing. Like a twelve step meeting. Always the right choice. Going to see my sick friend in the hospital offered me complete moral clarity, at least for the hours I was there.
Things are murkier these days. I think of Elizabeth Bishop, Casabianca, a poem I fell in love with after they ran it in the subways. Love's the girl standing on the burning bridge, trying to recite "the girl standing on the burning..." You get the point; I don't have to write the whole thing, do I? My wrists and forearms are really starting to hurt.
I walked the two miles back downtown. I prefer not to take the subway if I can walk. I used to have terrible panic attacks on the subway coming back downtown from the hospital. The train would stop between 86th and 59th, between 59th and 42nd, and I'd sit there trying to breathe deeply, counting my breaths, By the time I've taken ten deep breaths, something will have changed, even if it's just my heart rate. But after two I'd feel this excruciating mask of tension around my nose, eyes, and sinuses, like relaxing certain muscles just revealed the deeper pain of others. And by five, I'd be like, COME THE FUCK ON ALREADY AND MOVE THE TRAIN. So I walk, if I can.
I got home, checked the email, didn't feel like writing. It was a lot easier to write on this stupid thing when I felt like nobody was reading it. At the reading with Koren Zailckas two weeks ago, someone asked her about the aspect of writing memoir where other people might be pissed at you for what you wrote, and Koren said, "I advise you to live in denial about that while you're writing." Same with blogging. What's that aphorism, "Dance like no one is watching?" I used to blog like no one was reading.
I still loathe and resent the word blog.
So then I was cleaning off the balcony for the spring, all four by eight feet of it, and the bench we have out there; it gets so grimy over the winter, between the exhaust fumes from the cars below and the dirt from the neighbor's flower boxes above, and from...I don't know, wherever dirt comes from, generally. From entropy. I was thinking about my mom, and wishing I could make things better for everyone in the world just by thinking about them. Like, if I spent enough time with any given person, I could actually solve their problems and improve their life, and then I could go on to the next person. Then I realized I was spacing out, leaning on my rubber squeege-broom, fantasizing about being some kind of faith healer, when really I have the least faith of almost anybody I know.
I read the Bible when I was eleven; the Old Testament, not the New. I didn't understand most of it. I prayed to God at night to call me. I was worthy of it, I thought; I'd be great on God's team. But God did not call, and I moved on to Kahlil Gibran, and started seriously contemplating killing myself.
I'm leaving out a lot of stuff: All of today, with our 5 mile run and our walk to the Lower East Side for vegan brunch, followed by a literal pound of candy. Our talk on Friday night, him on the sofa, me lying on my back on the living room floor. Hanging out on the clean balcony when he got home Saturday night. I also vacuumed, and bought a Victoria's Secret Ipex bra. My breasts are now jutting out from my clavicle.
There's more, but the weekend's over, and it's time to go to bed.
Here are two upcoming biggies:
Monday, April 17, 8pm
Galapagos Artspace, 70 North 6th Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 718-782-5188
The Progressive Reading Series, benefitting the Fighting Dems
Hosted by Stephen Elliott author of Looking Forward To It: or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The American Political Process
With Adrienne Miller, author of The Coast Of Akron
David Rees, author of Get Your War On
Jonathan Ames, author of I Love You More Than You Know
Paul LaFarge, author of Hausmann, Or The Distinction
$10 to $20 sliding scale
ALSO! ALSO! ALSO!
Tuesday, May 9, 7pm
Halfway Home, a literary benefit for Covenant House NY, at Bowery Poetry Club, 308 Bowery at First St., 212-614-0505
Featuring Nick Flynn, author of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City
Jeannette Walls, author of The Glass Castle
Felicia Sullivan, forthcoming author of The Sky Isn't Visible from Here
Moonshine Shorey, from The Bowery Bartenders Big Book of Poems
E.F. Goode, author of A Bird on a Wire
and slam poetry legend luckydave
Featuring free book raffle, and "re-gift" bags you can keep or give to a person in need.
$5 - $25 sliding scale
Hope to see you there!
Just read Josh Kilmer-Purcell's I Am Not Myself These Days: A Memoir (P.S.), the story of his love affair with a male hustler and crack addict, carried out while the author was an ad exec by day and alcoholic drag queen by night. Sad, weird, and interesting, if not wholly satisfying in the end. Also read Pamela Des Barres' second memoir, Take Another Little Piece of My Heart: A Groupie Grows Up -- if you liked the first, as I did, you'll like this one, too; especially the part where she crushes on Sandra Bernhard. Finally finished Ali Smith's novel The Accidental, which had been sitting on my nighttable, three-quarters read, for weeks*, which I guess is not the best recommendation -- the writing is really nice, but I didn't care much about what happened to the characters. Then again, I read very few novels, and really like very few books; half the time, my own book doesn't even make the cut with me. Now I'm in the middle of Maia Szalavitz's Help At Any Cost: How the Troubled Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids, all about these psycho, abusive "theraputic" programs, group homes, and boot camps for adolescents. A young friend of mine was kidnapped and sent to boot camp, and it was horrifying; Julia Scheeres wrote about her similarly awful experiences in Jesus Land. I know how close I came to winding up at a place like this, and I have seen the graduates -- they are fuuuuuuucked uuuuuuuup. And lastly, I got a peek at an advance copy of Curtis Sittenfeld's new book, which won't be out for another month and a half, and, as with Des Barres, if you liked Prep (and it seems that every single human being on the planet did), you will like her new one very, very much.
So what are you reading? What's on your nighttable, three-quarters read?
(*Though not as many weeks as They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky, which is only one-fifth read, and which I will probably never pick up again, if I'm being honest.)
Oh, nothing much. Heard from an old friend from junior high -- my only friend from junior high -- junior high was not a good time for me, or for anyone, as I understand it. We swap emails -- is this you? it is! -- then simultaneously apologize for the end of the friendship -- I hit "send" with mine and hers pops up in my in-box. One of the most creative, brilliant, loyal, imaginative, intellectually curious people I'd even known; our homemade real-time role-playing games were as meticulously, exhaustively detailed and organized as any computer simulation. How much fun we had, playing together -- one of the things I also loved so much about Samantha.
Speaking of Samantha, which I can't really do, it's time to get back to writing the second book, loathe though I am to do so. I mean, I know what I have to do -- reread our correspondence and my journals from last year. Write her a letter, the kind that doesn't need sending. I was complaining to Anne that I still don't know the point of it all, and she offered something about, you know, the courage, the serenity, and the wisdom. Yeah. That's a good one, isn't it.
Saw four kids outside the Duane Reade yesterday, one had a sign, KICKED OUT OF MY HOUSE. Pregnant white girl, Latin kid with lip piercing, two black girls, all between 15 and 17, I'd guess. I stop and give them the address of the shelter, write it down for them on a postcard advertising the book. "You can get a meal, a doctor, a place to stay, free clothes -- go there, twenty-four seven." I look right at the pregnant girl when I say, "a doctor," and she gets it. I mean, I hope she gets it. What they really want is a dollar, which I don't spare. Blame Samantha for that.
It's been weird. I mean, things are good, great, wonderful, and fine. But I do feel pretty overexposed; hypothermic, even. And distracted and confused. How do any of us do it? How do we walk around in public with our little personalities pasted on like stamps askew on an envelope? A friend said he had a post subject for me -- two people have asked him recently, by way of conversation-making, "So what are you into?" And he, like me, thought at first that they were talking about sex ("Um, I don't know, bondage, a little light spanking?"). But what they really wanted, he realized, was for him to fill out a MySpace profile for them right then and there. Well, I like these TV shows, and this music, and these bands, and here's this survey I filled out about all my hobbies and preferences and quirks, so there's my collection of cultural signifiers, okay?
Right now, my "personality" has so much to do with the shelter -- the past, the present; the book, the beads, the benefit -- I was saying to my shrink, I'm going to have to move past it, at some point. It can't always be the central fact of my life. There's been too many years since then; it's more than half my life ago. I have to let it go, sometime. Not that I'll ever be able to walk past kids on the street without wanting to stop, wanting to do something. But I kind of need a new hobby, besides homelessness, and besides reproductive rights, for crying out loud. A new profile.
Hello, it's me -- yes, you, us
again, me again, hello,
old me, same me from mirrors
and other optical phenomena,
so here we are again, having
conversations alone, like we
were sixteen and tripping on acid
in a deli! And there we were,
do you remember? And we were
rapturous to see me, as we'd
often hoped and suspected me
there, and we touched the finger
to the mirror with overjoy and
understanding, knowing nobody
knows what we know and I'm
glad we're together now, let's
say how things really are for us.
I love you. I miss you all the time.
I'm sorry things are so tough.
Oh god I'll see you later. And
so I was my halo, my body's subtle
self, and went bereft for weeks
without me, then feeling me step
suddenly into my absence like
an ocean entering a room, a bird
landing in its own shadow and
taking flight, until I learned to live
without you. So now I'm not you
anymore, I'm me, though it's still
us, it'll always be us, and I do feel
fondly, even with the disasters, tender
every time we emanate together and
wonder, I've thought you were a
chimera, or a penumbra, or a word
you're not sure what it means but
you use anyway, and which one is me,
and if you are apocryphal like the
fiction, I wonder why you disavow
me, and who it is I think I see standing
two feet deep in the mirror tonight.
Hello. Who is this again. I'm me.
It's us, and it's been so long.