Thursday, November 23, 2006


I haven't been having my period for a while, but I've been reading a lot about the advantages and disadvantages of various kinds of menstrual paraphernalia...When I start bleeding again (assuming it does happen someday), I don't think I'll be using tampons anymore. I've known for a long time about the dangers of dioxins (the chemicals that are a byproduct of the bleaching process used on most tampons...what the hell is the point, by the way, of bleaching something that's just going to be put up someone's vagina and saturated with blood anyway? Oh, yeah, I almost forgot--dioxins are uber-carcinogenic, too) and the stupidity of giving 6 or 7 dollars a month to an industry run by men who don't give two craps about me and my body. That's 91 dollars a year; all the women in my house, together, spend over a thousand dollars a year on tampons. This crap needs to stop. So...I suggest:

1. Reusable menstrual cups, like the Diva Cup ( or the Keeper ( Both are made by women, for women--hooray--pay for their slightly higher costs in just a few months, are reusable, and don't have the potential to cause toxic shock syndrome or, y'know, cancer of your lady parts.
2. Using reusable menstrual pads. Y'know how you say someone's "on the rag?" Guess where that came from? You got it--back in the day women used to bleed onto cloths, which they'd then wash and reuse the next day or the next month. You can buy them from LunaPads ( or you can make your own! Use pretty fabric to make you feel good when you're bleeding and bloated. Here are some patterns:
3. Last, but not least, you can use sea sponges. I hear what you're saying, but it's really not as skooshy as you'd think...the only thing you have to keep in mind is that you need to keep these extra super clean. When they're full, take them out, ring them out, and wash them using soap and water. At the end and beginning of your cycle, boil 'em. They'll be good for a few months.

Happy bleeding!

Monday, November 20, 2006

A smattering of images and poetry, all of my own making. Enjoy.

The suicide note, as a genre, has been going downhill since Seneca
No one teaches your to write
your own death.
That is something learned alone,
through years of grappling
with words bare-handed,
until the calluses and callowness
finally wear away, leaving only
the bones,
the milky white truth
of your hands laid bare.
No one tells you how
to recognize your own death–
but you will see it from time to time,
in a mountain juniper
or an electric transformer
silhouetted against
the autumn sky.
And you will know it
as you once knew
your mother’s shape moving
towards you in the dark;
that is to say,
without knowing at all.
-AG, 2006

Iphigenia at Aulis
I step into sacrifice
like a bone-white robe,
absolved both of sentiment and sense.
I climb into the cavern
of sins not mine,
by wrongs and judgements
past and passed,
an answer
to God’s clamoring
for blood.
A thousand ships set forth
for Troy,
driven not by beauty
but by death,
launched over my body
prostrate, as the sea:
known not for what it is
but for what it holds,
not what I am,
but what through me
comes to be.
-AG, 2006

Little Indiscretions
The endless cresting waves
of sodden days
are made bearable by
these little indiscretions:
a kiss on the forehead
of a love not yet a lover,
while she sleeps in the next bed;
a dozen cigarettes ground out
in a circle of bare earth widening
outside the front door;
flowers secreted
from the garden of a neighbor
who won’t miss them
(for the audacious blooms
of her heirloom
and god knows, this
last sin–
having dared
at all.
–AG, 2006

Saturday, November 18, 2006

So... I was received into the Worldwide Anglican Communion on Sunday (that's the Episcopalian Church, for those playing along at home). My mother came up to visit, and we--by which I mean my mother--bought this dress and this sweater. Normally I'm not a dressy kind of girl, but I wanted this to be special. I may wear jeans and corduroys 99.9% of the time, but for momentous occasions you can't beat a skirt.

The service was beautiful, with a bishop and a deacon and songs by the choir much singing and music and laughter that I had to choke back tears several times. Especially at the Eucharist, that most emotion-laden of events; the whole reason we say Sunday Mass in the first place. I love everyone at my church so, so much (Durkheim was right, it seems). During communion we sang this song, to the accompaniment of the shruti box (a droning Indian instrument that I associate with the musical nuns who come and visit our church every so often, and whose convent I have been lucky enough to visit twice. They offer music as a form of prayer; it's intensely powerful). I swear, the doors between heaven and earth were thrown wide open then and there, sunbeams through the clouds and all. Here are the lyrics (of course) to part of the song, which is sung to an old French church melody that is at once spare and elegant. Adore devote is the Latin name for it, I believe. What moved us centuries ago has the power to move us still. Human beings across time and space, even vast stretches of it, aren't so very different. (Cliche'd, I know, but also true).

Humbly I adore thee, Verity unseen,
who thy glory hidest 'neath these shadows mean;
low, to thee surrendered, my whole heart is bowed,
tranced as it beholds thee, shrined within the cloud.

Taste and touch and vision to discern thee fail;
faith, that comes by hearing, pierces through the veil.
I believe whate're the Son of God hath told;
what the Truth hath spoken, that for truth I hold.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Quiz! That I made up! Whee!

Are you a dyke or a lesbian? Because believe me, girls, there's a difference. Full disclosure: I am emphatically a lesbian.

1. Your hair is...
a. hennaed and moisturized with organic conditioner
b. the lowest setting on the Wahl beard trimmer

2. Your shoes are
a. Birkenstocks some days, Manolos on others
b. Merrell hikers, with Vibram soles.

3. Your pets are:
a. Two cats, Dar and Prozac
b. a pitbull named Max

4. Your first crush was--
a. your high-school art teacher
b. Joan Jett

5. Your jewelry is:
a. dangly Indian earrings, chunky rings and bangles
b. an eyebrow ring, a leather bracelet, and some...ah...personal jewelry

6. Your first concert was
a. Dar Williams (or Janis Ian)
b. Bikini Kill (or Joan Jett)

7. Sex isn't worth it without
a. love
b. a harness and a few other toys.

Mostly A: You're a lesbian. Not necessarily 'femme,' but leaning that way; a little less raucous than a dyke. You know it if you are it. You like neck scarves and folk music, but you're also definitely up for a groping, earth-shattering girl-on-girl tryst in the ladies' room at the coffeehouse.

Mostly B: You're a dyke, from your hiking boots to your nose ring and tattoo. You've made love to the strains of Le Tigre more than once, and you never quite got over the crush you had on your high school gym teacher (her biceps were so...well defined). Mazel tov.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Every generation believes that theirs is the last. There's nothing so very wrong with this eschatological bent (a new word I picked up in my Near Eastern Studies/Feminist Gender and Sexuality Studies class--it means 'having to do with the apocalypse or end of the world.' Cool, eh?). It's the way of the world, as I've said. But lately...lately it's seemed scarily true. On a personal level, the end of my first semester as a senior is rapidly approaching, and while I'm excited, I'm also scared. Before now, I'd been worried; I worried when I applied to college, of course, and at other strategic points along the way (the MCAT, for example). But before now I had never been truly scared. And while I'm aching to go to medical school, I'm also abjectly terrified. The office of Community Development puts on all these programs for freshman students: How to Spot Eating Disorders, Being LGBT at Cornell, Overcoming Procrastination--any virtue or vice you could imagine has an associated program. The seniors get the career fairs, I guess (and the free schwag from Merill Lynch and HP and so on...I considered going and pretending to be an econ major in order to score pens and highlighters, but decided against, not really). I propose that Cornell institute a program for seniors at the beginning of the year called "Mortal Terror and You." Bet you five bucks the auditorium would be packed.

I fell asleep this afternoon and felt like I'd broken into a million tiny pieces that someone had somehow managed to scoop together and arrange under the sheets: The Sudan. Applications. Guantanamo. Global warming. My parents' mortality. The limbs of the trees here, now stripped of their leaves, waving in the wind like the arms of the fallen. The impending gas crisis. It's almost Halloween, and the veil between the worlds is thinning...

There will be an answer; it just might not be the one we hope for.
There will be an outcome, but the outcome is up to us.
We can keep our mouths shut and our hands balled into fists. Or we can speak truth to power, and open our hands.

Tell it like it is.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Because we can't be serious all the time: a bunch of superfun linkage! All no doubt well known, but nonetheless enjoyable.

Dinosaur Comics!
Hear dinosaurs talk about determinism and the nature of consciousness while stomping on houses...

Cute Overload. Have you ever wanted to grind a puppy into powder and cook it so you could inject it directly into your veins? What about snorting a line of bunnies? That's what this site is like. Don't visit it if you'll be operating heavy machinery in the near future.

Something Awful. And by awful, I mean wonderful. Not for the faint of heart, but the Comedy Goldmine and Photoshop Phriday are worth the price of admission (which, by the way, is nothing).

Writhe and Shine. Goths at an industrial club in New Orleans, tryin' to scrape a living. Sort of sad, considering the setting of this comic is probably long gone, but dark humor, like dark coffee, is delicious.

Dip Me in Chocolate... the site for the serious chocolate conoissieur (did I spell that right? Damn French, using up all the vowels. That's why there are hardly any vowels in Serbia. Did you know that? It's because the French took them all.) If you know what 'single origin' chocolate is about, can talk about 'percentage of cocoa solids' and 'tempering' without feeling out of your depth, can name at least ten brands of chocolate, and think Hershey's has all the appeal of cat wharf, here you go... Or if you merely aspire to this level of refinement--not to say snobbery--with regards to your chocolate experience.

Now you know what I do with my time when I'm not writing German papers...or reading Faust...or reading kinship theory...or writing about the intersection of gender studies and hagiography...or doing yoga...or applying to medical schools...or agitating for sustainable food practices...or writing poems...or baking...or running.
We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution of the universe. --Goethe

Earth's the right place for love. I don't know where it's likely to go better. --Robert Frost

Winter is coming.

The cold is already stirring, ready to creep over the hills and settle in for the long dark months ahead.

People are settling too, at the same time as they're striving (particularly during this crazy part of the semester). Defenses kick in.
The slow slide begins.
It's all downhill from here,
picking up speed
with no resistance,
no trees to block the mad descent.

I wanted to say something, too, about the sixth sense that those of us with/ recovering from eating disorders develop. I wanted to say that I can recognize 'one of us' from across the quad, or in a sports photo, or in line at Libe Cafe. The arm which, though covered by a thick sweater, clearly strains to lift a purse. The veins that stand out on wrists and hands, like those of old women. The jeans--already a size 0 or perhaps a 2--that are just beginning to bag, although they fit fine at the beginning of September. The girl who's at the gym every time I go, pedaling away on the elliptical machine as if she were actually going somewhere, moving steadily towards the land of the models in the Cosmopolitan she reads as she exercises. The other women I pass from time to time when I run at night, dragging their bodies through their paces, running on adrenaline and grit (but certainly not food). The empty eyes. The stare. The mad rushing from cafe to class and back again, carrying a coffee (black, of course, with two packets of Equal) and a cigarette. The crew that heads to Tasti-D-Lite around seven in the evening, substituting four ounces of vanilla soft-serve for dinner (and breakfast, and lunch). The appraising glance at my body as I run past. And despite these disappearing acts, I know they want nothing more than to be seen. If you're reading this, I see you. Indeed, I'm haunted by you. You are known.

Monday, October 16, 2006

I got my MCAT scores back! And I'm...very pleased. It would be lame to talk numbers, so I won't, but...yeah, it's all good. Thank Goddess, because I wouldn't have wanted to take them again.

So, the other day I was walking around campus and thinking, gee, it seems like there's a lot of free stuff available here. So I decided to devote part of today to searching out and acquiring free things (the part that I wasn't spending writing papers and preparing my German presentation--which reminds me. Oh God, the in-class presentation. I get so very nervous, especially when I'm giving a presentation in a language that is not English. It's not so much the linguistic difference as it is the fact that if I get tripped up, I have difficulty recovering--in any language. It's just that giving a presentation in a foreign language amps up the stress level, which makes it that much more likely that I'll forget "my lines." Oy.). At the end of the day, I had:

1. From Gannett: Free condoms, a lollipop, and a mass of pamphlets because I love pamphlets--ask my friends. I'm always bringing 'free materials' home. Coincidentally, two pamphlets tied for favorite: "What you should know about genital herpes" and "Getting what you want from sex." I also took two pens. I figure I spend enough time and money at Gannett that it's no particular crime if I take a pen home with me now and again.
2. From the atrium of Corson-Mudd Hall: Several Oreo cookies, a strange kind of chocolate/almond cookie I couldn't identify, a cup of coffee, and a tea bag for later. I don't feel bad about this, as I was a neurobio major for most of my Cornell career. Word to the wise: the bio folks, and the neurobio crew in particular, frequently have free food. And it's not crap food either--it's usually pretty good. Go to a presentation; get cookies afterwards. Go to a Friday colloquium, and behold: free pizza and beer. I'm telling you, it's worth your while to be interested in psychopharmacology and modeling neural networks. There's no reason to go hungry on campus, even if you don't have any money. With careful planning and an ear to the ground, you could eat your way from reception to reception or meeting to meeting (student groups often lure people with promises of pizza--generally legit).
3. From the dispensers on campus, in increasing order of quality: the Sun and The New York Times. I could have taken a USA Today but didn't. I would put it even below the Sun in terms of objective news coverage (for serious). Read them, then use them to light fires or make interesting papier-mache sculptures! It's fun for the whole family!
4. From the library: Bookmarks and an Organic Chemistry textbook (just kidding). Rented part of Monty Python's Flying Circus and "Tipping the Velvet," a strange English lesbian SM film. Free, free, free.

That's all for now, folks--the sleeping pill is finally kicking in! Hooray!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Sorrow. Speaking. Sonnets.

If we lived in a world without tears
how would bruises find
the face to lie upon
how would scars find skin
to etch themselves into
how would broken find the bones

How would misery know
which back door to walk through
how would trouble know
which mind to live inside of
how would sorrow find a home
--Lucinda Williams, "World Without Tears"

Fall always makes me feel melancholy. This morning I watched the leaves falling from the trees and heard the rush of wind through the branches and could taste the metallic tang of coming winter softened by the sweetness of wet ground and I knew: there are no words for this. There is description, but it's empty; there are photographs, but they are shadows on the wall of the cave; this is the immediate, the Real (as a Lacanian might say), the f'ing SUBLIME. Or as Goethe put it in a section of Faust that I read for class today, "In awe one feels profoundly the immense."

So, struggling for meaning--and in one of my classes this afternoon, no less (two hour seminars can feel dreadfully long, even with the best of subject matter)--I wrote about not being able to write, and the absence of meaning. Ta-da. One contradiction, coming right up, with a side salad and cottage cheese. Note also the lines that I cribbed more-or-less verbatim from William Shakespeare and the Book of Ecclesiastes, respectively.

Sonnet, for Autumn

I fear that there is nothing left to write--
The well of words I drilled has now gone dry;
I've given over being to this blight,
Destroyed by that which I was nourished by.
The passions moving me I can't express:
Leaves raining down in storms of red and gold,
The sweet and silken feel of hand's caress,
So sharply felt, unable to be told.
All is vanity, there is no hope,
So let my burn my papers, break my pen;
When emptied of their meaning, shrunk in scope,
What use is word and wonder to me then?

Faced with the All, all language falters, dead;
All I can say is: nothing can be said.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Snow-covered bridge over Cascadilla Gorge. Copyright Anne G., 2006. (Not really). Isn't it lovely? I took this picture last winter (hereafter known as the Time of Hell that Bears No Mentioning), and only recently rediscovered it. Ithaca in the winter really can be lovely, if you can get over minor difficulties like 1) having things INSIDE your nose actually freeze 2) walking up Libe Slope when they haven't plowed and the snow is a foot and a half deep 3) thirty-seven consecutive days without sunshine 4) debilitating seasonal affective disorder.

I'm kidding, of course. The winter days aren't bad. It's the nights, when the wolves come out, that you have to worry about.

That aside, it's poetry time! (The answer to the question, "What do you write when you have a moderate fever?")


I dreamt your hands last night,
your memory a light
flickering in my skull, and sleep
too distant to grasp– I keep
waking up hungry for a bite
of your flesh like fruit; I fight
like Tantalus, but your sleight-
of-hand denies me. I’m in deep.
I want your wanting.
I watch myself as if from some great height,
curled up alone in bed, my muscles tight
as a bow new-strung. You’ll reap
what you’ve sown in me; I’ll seep
into your dreams some hollow night.
I want. You’re wanting.


It’s been snowing
since early this morning,
clouds spitting splintered prisms
as I consider
that you’ve been gone since
early this year,
something I remember
each time I roll into the sweet
indentation you wore in my bed.
The radio prophesies the snow
will continue
through the afternoon
and wear itself away at the edge
of tomorrow,
two feet deep. Funny how
every present freezes
and becomes a past.
Funny how it’s tomorrow already
and the whiteness
still laps at the windows,
a grief without color and of
immeasurable depth.

Seudat Havra’ah
(The Meal of Consolation)

My tongue is split. I cannot eat.
-Sylvia Plath

There are no words–
only egg and lentil,
too thick with meaning to swallow,
a heavy consolation.
I haven’t seen my own face
in days and we just covered the mirrors
this morning,
another erasure.
And still you draw me near to you--
a gesture which is nourishment enough--
and press life to my lips
one split pea at a time,
pregnant with more
than the death I imagine,
waiting to rend the veil
and be reborn.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I have pneumonia. I feel like I'm breathing fire, and I have a crazy fever and the best that's come of all this is that every few hours I wake up and write down my fever dreams in a notebook I keep by my bed. Mostly it's been inspiration for slam poetry; occasionally, a more coherent stream of consciousness.

I quote from the notebook:

what can you do when you're on fire for someone who doesn't even know what a match is,
what do you have to fear when you've never known darkness,
what is there to aspire to when all the mountains have become dust and the plains
are buckled and warped like lumber
left out in the rain
what would I give to run my hands over the sweet contours of your face
and map your body again?

Facts about today:
I had a therapy appointment that I was too feverish to get much benefit out of. (Yes, I know I ended with a preposition. I'm not apologizing).
I am applying to five medical schools for REAL now that AMCAS has received my transcripts. Glory hallelujah.
I had four vials of blood drawn downtown and then had to walk the better part of a mile uphill (a steep, Ithaca hill) to get back to my house.
Today the new york state gubernatorial debate was held at cornell university, in bailey hall.
Meanwhile, President Musharraf was speaking at Cornell Weill in New York City.
i'm too tired to punctuate or capitalize consistently.
My lymph nodes are literally the size of ping-pong balls, which makes it hard to swallow.
I still don't fully understand middle high german, even with a dictionary.
today I walked three miles, but made up for it by not eating much (I can't taste anything, and texture only gets you so far).
I'll be having a ritual on friday night to exorcise one of my biggest, scariest demons. There will be three other women with me. Before the ritual, we'll have a dinner that I'll prepare (God willing, and I stop hacking up chernobyl-green phlegm...Isn't phlegm such a disgusting word? It sounds like exactly what it is...sputum is a nicer name, a little more detached, not quite so thick...I think it's those heavy dipthongs, the ph and gm, that make phlegm sound so viscerally gross... and mucus is likewise narsty). Anyway, the dinner. Warm pitas with baba ganouj, hummus bi tahin, and feta-tzatziki...rice and bulgur pilaf with saffron and almonds...and for dessert, a Lebanese sweet called halva (not the Joyva Halvah you buy at the grocery store, which is basically a block of lard and made with sesame seeds...this is almond and wheat halvah, much lighter, but also much sweeter). Funny how the idea of cooking it revs me up so much, but the though of eating it (especially the halva, which, even in this reduced-fat form, is still a very very dense source of a neutron star of sugar and fat) freaks me out.

Since Telluride won the dorm-chef competition, I've been feeling pretty confident about my cooking abilities... we did a bang-up job. In two hours, with only a microwave, a fridge, and 'dorm' ingredients (peanut butter, ramen, chips and the like) we came up with three surprisingly delicious and nutritious dishes: Desiree and I made a grape-apple crisp; Michael and Calvin put together a cold citrus noodle salad; Jim and Sid and I figured out the coup de grace, a cashew-chicken chili with herbed sour cream, quesadilla strips and grape-orange salsa. We rocked it hard; the whole team was great. Maybe I'll go be a chef somewhere.
Or a painter/poet/doctor/chef. A Renaissance woman. A Jill-of-all-trades. A Queen of DIY. Now all I need is a lady to share my queendom with...

Monday, September 18, 2006

I think I did something to my foot. It hurts again, the same way it hurt when I had a stress fracture. What was I doing? Not running, although I did that today as well--no, I was dancing. I put on some elegant-yet-punchy music and was doing plies and grand jetes and pirouettes all over my room, but got a little excited and ended up crashing during one of my jumps, which seems like a very 13-year-old thing to do. I'm not sure how I'll explain it to my doctor.
"So you were...dancing?"
"Yeah, and I couldn't do the pirouettes right in bare feet, and I didn't have slippers with me, so I was dancing in my socks and I slipped."
"Damn, that was stupid."

But enough about that. I've also begun using a "mood tracker" on my psychiatrist's advice...a piece of paper on which I quantify the unquantifiable stuff of emotion. There are columns for anxiety, depression, elevated mood and obsession, all on a 1 to 10 scale; a place to write my caloric intake and the kind of exercise I did on a given day; and lastly, a space (the equivalent of perhaps half a college-ruled line) for "general comments." Half a line to describe the vicissitudes of mood, the swaths of emotion. It reminds me of a tour I recently took of Cornell's entomology collection--one of the largest in the world: you catch something, whether a glorious pale-green luna moth or an horrific stag beetle, and rather than watching it, or revering its beauty, you kill it with acetone and pin it in a box (complete with a number and a name).

But enough about that. Let's talk magazines--specifically, indie-ish magazines that I love and haven't mentioned or linked to already.

Bust magazine, at is what a feminist version of, say, Marie Claire would be. It's pretty fluffy, but sometimes that's what you want. It's a glossy magazine, too, with great photographic work. My favorite columns are News from a Broad and Eat Me (though One Handed Read is good too).

Though I'm not Jewish, I like a lot, too. It's "The New Jew Review," entertaining and thought-provoking at once. I study it so that I don't seem like too much of a goyische putz at Shabbat dinners.

Bitch Magazine is my favorite ever. "A Feminist Response to Pop Culture," it dissects everything from trans rights at the Michigan Women's Music Festival to the spate of weight-loss reality shows to Big Pharma's search for female Viagra. It's smart, readable and witty. Go to now!

More to come; and I'll finally get the pictures off my digital camera this week (God willing and the creek don't rise) so look forward to some eye candy!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Well, I'll be damned if it isn't halfway through September already.

And I haven't submitted my common application yet because certain, nameless entities deep in the bowels of Cornell's bureaucracy haven't yet changed my incompletes into grades. And I would rather be shot in the leg than send out a transcript with that tawdry INC on's the academic equivalent of a scarlet letter, isn't it? Not like an F is failure, pure and simple...but an INC, like Hester's vermilion A, has a story behind it; one that you want to know but don't feel wholly entitled to ask about... Was she just not able to hack the class? Did her mother die in the middle of the semester? Did she have a nervous breakdown and go skipping naked across the Arts Quad, handing out posies to strangers? Did she have mono, or possibly cancer? Unless you ask, you never know...and after the grades have been entered into the system, there's still that indelible asterisk after the grade (eg, A*), like a little scar reminding you of what was, or rather what wasn't--at least not on time.

Furthermore, there's trouble in paradise. I have developed (another) wholly unfeasible crush. I thought for while that I was getting those vague 'hey, how you doin'?' vibes that we lesbos do so well; she was animated and interested and stood very, very close to me while we were talking. HOWEVER (and there's always a caveat, isn't there?) she is at least 15 years my senior, possibly a little more, which makes her old enough to be my mother; she may have a lover already (though she's spoken in suggestive terms about polyamory); and, last but not least, she is--drumroll, please--one of my instructors. Oy veh ist mir.

In our next episode: less self-centered bitching and more social awareness!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Oh my God, kids! I think it might be time for another installment of Things (And People) That Piss Me Off! Hooray!

1. The people who saunter down the middle of the sidewalk at approximately 0.05 miles per hour when I'm hauling balls to get somewhere (either because I'm running or because I'm about to be late for a class).
2. People who take up time in seminars asking bullshit questions that are phrased so as to sound profound but which, once all the trappings and "isms" and name dropping has been cleared away ("Well, as Deleuze said about Derrida's friend Foucault's ass...") is actually the height of ignorance. Especially crappy when the professor tries to gently tell them they're full of it, but they KEEP ASKING ANYWAY because they're THICK AS A BRICK (to quote a Jethro Tull song). It's not the stupidity I object to--I can forgive that. It's the pretense.
3. Fish that is not salmon or fish sticks. I haven't eaten either in a while, but I remember that as a kid I loved me some damn Mrs. Paul's fishsticks, with the homemade tartar sauce my mom put together (Recipe: take mayonnaise, canned pickle relish, and a little lemon juice. Mix.) It's the breading, I think--it masks that fishy taste. That, and the fat.
4. Watermelon. Watermelon flavored candy. Melon in general. Calling breasts "melons."
5. All the women on campus wearing skirts that, I swear to Jeevis, are six inches long. Sooner or later one of the guys (or gals, for that matter) is going to be so entranced by these articles of clothing--essentially very wide belts--that he's going to walk straight into a tree. On second thought, that would amuse me very much.
6. Let's say you actually find a good magazine in a waiting room. Let's make it an issue of Curve (a lesbian lifestyle magazine). Let's further say that you see an article in the table of contents that interests you very much. So you flip to that page and find...that someone has torn it out of the magazine. They should be consigned to the tenth level of hell, which they will share with people who tear things out of public yellow pages and those who tip less than 15 percent.
7. Popped collars. You aren't from the 'hood; you're the son of an investment banker and a socialite/fundraiser. Also, your name is Sterling and you're from Long Island. Go screw.
8. People who say things like, "I don't think there's anything wrong with gays; I just don't think they should be (insert profession here: teachers, clergy, etc)." Obviously you DO have a problem with gays and lesbians. Here are your options: either stop being so homophobic (the best option), or take it to the hoop and admit that homosexuals creep you out.
9. Thousand Island dressing. First, that orange can't be found in nature. Second, it tastes like someone's already eaten it.
10. Apropos of this week's events: Frat boys who don't know that saying "I'd fuck you" to a stranger is not a compliment; it's a crime. My prescription: a week in a woman's body, Tiresias-style, to get a feeling for just how degrading and scary that attention can be.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The MCAT, God be praised, is over. I was expecting it to be a long test--I'd reckoned on 6 hours--but imagine my surprise when I arrived at the testing center and realized that it was instead a 9 hour ordeal. Well. I'd completely forgotten to factor in the writing sample portion of the test, and to make allowances for the sundry registration and administrative tasks that inevitably accompany such a test. Thus, I spent the majority of my Saturday (from 8 in the morning until 5 in the evening) in the grip of this...this...thing that is the Medical College Admissions Test. Making it somewhat more bearable: the fact that I feel I did well.

And then, today (two days later) I took the make-up final exam for my Organic Chemistry course from last semester. Frankly, I think I'll be proud of my grade when all's said and done; I busted my ass over the summer, studying like a champ. The sole stain on an otherwise satisfactory exercise was the fact that there was a question on the exam (a 20 point question, fully 10% of the total grade) that focused on information that was NEVER. MENTIONED. IN. CLASS. We never covered Fischer projections, never. No one ever intimated that they were important; they were never on any of the tests; we skipped over the sections of the book that covered them. And yet there it was, crouched like a malevolent beast on the first page of the exam: A Fischer projection of glucose. Damnation.

What else is there to say? I had an interesting experience tonight (more than a little frightening, truth be told). I was out running a little after dark--you could still see lingering rays on the horizon--and of course there were all manner of inebriated students out celebrating the last days of freedom before the beginning of the semester. My main beef with drunks on the sidewalk is this: When I'm running, most people at least pretend to move out of my way, giving me a few centimeters' space to pass (centimeters--ha. Now I know I've been in science for too long). People who are drunk never do. They plow blindly forward, or stop, trying to get their bearings before staggering a few more yards. These particular drunk people, two men and a woman, were on the sidewalk on a fairly unpeopled stretch of my usual loop. As I approached, one of them tripped, spilling her drink. "You dropped your beer!" another one cried, laughing. Then one of the men--I'm not certain which one--saw me coming towards them. "Hey, you!" he called. "I love you!" The other one called, "I love you! I would fuck you!" I kept running, passing them by running on the curb. "I would totally fuck you!" I didn't say anything. I started to worry--what if he followed me? Should I turn around, which would mean passing them again, or just keep going? Was it my fault for running after dark, alone? For wearing my shorts?
I don't think most men--even 'sensitive, evolved' men--really understand what it is to be a woman in American society. To have to set up a 'battle plan' every time you go out after dark, not to feel safe (and not only not to feel it--but really, genuinely not to BE safe) if you go out alone. For all our talk about the horrors Afghani women endured under the Taliban, their confinement to their homes and so on--and to which, by the way, I am hardly comparing my situation--we are remarkably unmoved by the fact that most women feel confined to their
homes after dark here, too. At least if unaccompanied by someone else--maybe not by a male relative, as is the case in the Middle East, but still by a 'guardian' of sorts. So, to avoid being harrassed, I have to give up running after dark and doing other things I want to do? I realize it's in my best interest to be careful, and for the most part I am, but giving up freedom for a dubious security? Fuck that.

For information on dealing with harrassers and abusers, and coping with the aftereffects: The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. Check it out at

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Next in our overview of diners: the State Street Diner, right here in lovely Ithaca. It sits (duh) on State Street, one of the main drags, and it possesses all the prerequisites for diner status:
1. A preponderance of tile; not the kitschy, oh-honey-let's-do-the-kitchen-in-'50s-style tile either. The real McCoy, from back in the day when tile was happening for the first time.
2. Smoky-voiced waitresses who write "Thanks" on your tab in smeary ink pen and deliver your food with speedy matter-of-factness (though they will chat with you once you become a regular, or if they're feeling particularly friendly, or if, like me, you look 12 years old).
3. This based on one experience with their coffee (I haven't been a coffee drinker long): coffee that will give you an ulcer if you don't already have one, and turn your stomach into Mt. St. Helens if you do. Maybe--probably, in fact--this was an isolated incident. I'm sure their coffee is generally very good, although to quote Dar Williams' song Southern California wants to be Western New York: 'They want to own a family business in sheet metal or power tools and they/ want to own a diner where the coffee tastes like diesel fuel..."
4. Straightforward, greasy spoon food. Hash browns, eggs, grilled cheese, burgers, fries. No marinated tofu or fresh-picked baby lettuce here. When I was still really ill, I hardly went to the State Street; when I did I got cottage cheese and diet coke (and amused looks from the waitresses--less amused looks from my friends). I haven't gone back yet.
5. Those yellow and red squirt bottles for ketchup and mustard that you probably remember from the elementary school cafeteria (remember fighting the tremendous urge to just squeeze ketchup all over the person next to you in line, turning their white shirt into a work of art like some crazed eight-year-old Jackson Pollock?). It makes one doubt that they buy Heinz; then again, it's nice to see other ketchup companies get a chance. I bet you money they just keep a 10 gallon drum of cheapo ketchup in the kitchen and refill the bottles with it every so often. At least that's how I like to imagine it.

This is where I went out for a late-night nosh with my friends the night of...the incident my freshman year of school. Maybe that, too, is a reason I've avoided it in the past. And maybe scrambled eggs and waffles with syrup and golden, oniony hashbrowns are good not only for fixing hangovers but for healing in general. I should go back.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Let's talk about diners. We'll start with the chains, I guess, though to my mind these are not technicall diners but rather a marketing masquerade: these are the ubiquitous casual restaurants that you visit every time you go on a cross-country trip (it was always Waffle House for my family, since we lived in Missouri and made most of our sojourns either to St. Louis or to points further south). First, there's the fact that the Mason-Dixon line could easily be called the IHOP-Waffle House line. Waffle Houses, which serve not only waffles but other quintessential diner food--greasy eggs, greasy sausages, and somehow--only God and the Waffle House people know how-- greasy grits. Not much vegetarian food. None at all if you consider that everything is presumably cooked on the same griddle, subatomic particles of bacon finding their way into my grilled cheese sandwich. But, when needs must, one reverts to being six years old and makes do with such options. It is a fact that when my grandfather died and we drove to St. Louis for the funeral I ate nothing but grilled cheese sandwiches during the three days of our trip, at various Shake-n-Steaks (how far does the Shake-n-Steak empire reach?) and Waffle Houses. It is also a fact that, when I drove myself to school my sophomore year (all 1200 miles, most of it with my Iowan friend Amy) my mother drove with me up to the Waffle House near the Kansas City airport, north of the Missouri River. We had breakfast there and said our tearful goodbyes; then I jumped in the car, consulted the map, lit a cigarette and headed for Lenox, Iowa. So we have established that Waffle Houses are special places indeed.
Later there will be more--about the IHOP where I spent most of the summer before my freshman year of college, and where my friend R. met a slew of unsuitable boyfriends (ranging from the simply boorish and unmotivated to one who was a bonafide ex-con drug dealer). About the Corner Restaurant in Westport where I met my friends over Christmas my freshman year, and told them that I had been raped at school. About Winstead's, a Kansas City tradition, where there are chocolate "Skyscraper" malts that easily serve three (not to mention a smoking section that my clearly-underage friends and I were allowed to sit in late at night when no one else was in the restaurant), and damn fine grilled cheese sandwiches, too. About Nichols' 24 Hour Diner, on Southwest Trafficway, where my first girlfriend and I went for a late-night snack one snowy winter's night and where I was sure, for the first time, that I was really in love; we were served tater tots with cheese sauce by a transvestite waitress (Nichols' is right next to a drag bar). And more. All these secrets, all these memories, summoned up by the smell of hash browns and extra-strength coffee, a waitress who calls you "hon," a Formica tabletop.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


A little more than 24 hours until my flight. I hate flying. I hate packing. Because I begin to pack and think, huh, I don't have that much stuff...and so I start putting little extras in (oh, I could use that candleholder...and that jacket will be nice once it's cooler...) and then before I leave I go to pick up my suitcase and it's definitely over the 50 pound weight limit and by then I've decided that the candleholder and jacket are necessities, and I don't want to have my mom ship them out to me, so the real decision is should I leave behind my yoga mat or some of my CDs, and how much exactly could I cram into my carry-on without having to worry about a) not being able to lift it into to the overhead compartment and b) throwing off the weight calculations for passengers and cargo? Also, I try to put heavier things into my smaller suitcase, reasoning that I can fit fewer of them, so I won't exceed the 50 pound-per-bag limit if I put all my books in the smaller case and my clothes and such in the other, but then my small suitcase nearly dislocates my shoulder when I try to pick it up and I realize that it's time for another exciting game of musical suitcases. If anyone has a foolproof, stressproof packing strategy, I'd like to hear it. As I sit and ponder this, it occurs to me that there might be a saner way:
1. Identify the items that I'll need immediately after I get there (MCAT study book, Orgo book, shorts and T-shirts, undies, toiletries, drugs, CDs), and put those in; other things can be shipped later.
2. Identify things that will be nice to have around once I arrive, but aren't indispensible or necessary to life (DVDs, more than a few pairs of socks, a swimsuit, vibrator...)
3. Last, if there's room, the extras...the candleholders, the jacket if possible...but if things are out of season or there's just no room, have them shipped instead.
Ha. I'm a genius. And I'm slightly--slightly--less insane than I was when I began to write.
Maybe it's the Ativan kicking in, or maybe it's just that it's 1:30 in the morning and I'm beginning--ever so slowly--to return to a regular sleep schedule.
Now if I could just find my digital camera and make sure I don't forget my MCAT admission ticket...

Monday, July 31, 2006

Just five days until Ithaca! I can hardly believe the end of June I was completely stir-crazy and thought August would never come...and now here it is.
I wish I didn't wish my life away, didn't wish minutes or hours or days to go by...that I could live happily in the now. I suppose I can, but that I just don't. For instance: When I was in high school, I worked at a library, and when things were slow I would read; but for the most part I spent that time wishing it was either a) 5:00 (on weekends) or b) 9:00 (on weekdays). I didn't hate the way time dragged as much as I hated that I was wishing away chunks of my lifetime. Again with the mindful engagement in the present.

I've been taking practice MCATs and am averaging 11-ish on the science sections, which pisses me off, because it puts me at a 35 average in all. Plus the writing sample, which I'm not exactly sure what they do with. Just a 12...I just need a little push...just a little more...the last class of Harvard MDs accepted had an average between 11 and 12...Wash U was between 12 and 13...and I. want. this. so. much. Medicine, I mean. The chance to heal, to connect, to assist, to serve.

But enough about me. As I was working the treadmill at the Y today (not even I am crazy enough to go running outside when it's in the triple digits) I started thinking about what a motley crew my friends are. Again, for instance: I'm working on a novel right now--as yet untitled--and though it's a bit strange, I know that if I wrote many of my friends into it-- just as they are, with no embellishment-- editors would be making pointed jabs about realism and farce.

There's O, a bisexual Muslim who smokes and drinks (often toasting, "Because I'm such a good Muslim!" before doing shots) and is also a gourmet cook, but who doesn't eat pork; she is extremely well-read, most of it extra-canonical (ie, interesting). She owns one of the largest cats I have ever seen, and I love them both dearly.

There's B, a semi-Buddhist from the Pacific Northwest who's studying Organic chemistry with an eye to alternative fuel sources; he wears steel-toed workboots all the time which means he's very loud going up or down stairs--also, he stomps; he once hitchiked across Europe and Asia (and almost froze to death in Russia). He's also incredibly sweet, though while drunk he has been known to administer roundhouse kicks to the jaws of those who sneak up on him.

There's N, (another!) bisexual who's going to Yale Law and has the sharpest wit (next to me, anyway) the world has seen since Oscar Wilde. He also has a weakness for clubhopping, samosas, and expensive alcohol (which he sometimes uses to wash down his other favorite indulgence--Cool Ranch Doritos). Did I mention he grew up on a Midwestern cherry farm?

Enough. I'm off to hit the Biological Sciences section again, and to look up (for the second time) what the f*&$ a capacitor does.

Friday, July 28, 2006

A smattering of the best advice I have ever received; by no means complete, but interesting all the same.

Sometimes you've just got to say, "fuck it." --Deb Linderblood, a dietitian at the EDU, on what to do when the battle in my head just won't wind down. It became our code, for instance when I was staring warily at a huge dessert that was part of my meal plan...

When you're done peeing, what do you do? Shake your dick off. When you're done pumping gas, what do you do? Shake your dick off. --AO, describing how to get those last precious drops off the nozzle

That high-speed, slumped-over walk you do on campus? That's the dork walk. Slow down. --AO again

The thing that is important is the thing that is not seen. --Antoine de St. Exupery

"Are you like this about everything?"
"Like what?" (me)
"Do you have to control everything in the world?"--Taryn Mattice on letting go

It's not the things I've gone and done/ I'll regret or be ashamed/ but the things I did not say or do/ because I was afraid --Carrie Newcomer

Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. --the Bible, somewhere, via Elizabeth Peters

I want you to breathe. You look like you're not breathing. --Beth Parker

Think outside the mouth! --Suzanne Guthrie

Moshe says you're not a failure. --Addie L-Z, my best pal, the night before I left school

Do not multiply entities beyond necessity. --Sir Occam; his razor specifically. Good advice for philosophy, even better advice for writing.

Never negotiate from a place of desperation. --Niccolo Machiavelli

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Everything you want to do or be you already have and are. --I Heart Huckabees

I have an appointment with a dermatologist next Tuesday. I called four offices before I found someone who wasn't scheduling appointments in September (?!). I'm focusing on studying for the MCAT and so I'm not freaking out overmuch. It's not as if worrying about it will do anything to change what's going on in my body (or if it does have an effect--thoughts have wings, as they say--it would probably be a negative one). So today I studied, and ran, and baked. I wish I could upload the pictures I took of the bread--a hefty challah and a golden-brown cinnamon-raisin loaf. I've been working quite a bit from a book called "The Best of Shaker Cooking," and the bread recipes are very good--not surprising, considering Shaker communities are and always have been cut off from the outside world as much as possible. A lot like the Amish, except the Shakers don't have sex. How do they get more Shakers? They recruit, I guess. They used to adopt young orphans, who of course came into the communities happily; who wouldn't want a place to sleep and a few warm meals a day? But then they hit twelve or thirteen, and started feeling those "very special feelings" and often ran away. Food and shelter is one thing; obligatory celibacy is quite another.
I remember being eleven and being depressed and in love simultaneously, both for the first time; I had a hopeless, hopeless crush on an older woman (and by older I mean 30) who taught my Sunday school class (looking back, I want to shout to my younger self, "Oh for God's sake!"). Anyway, I crushed on her HARD. Doodling her name, staring into space during school while imagining that she might adopt me (like Miss Honey did on the very last page of Roald Dahl's Matilda--remember?). I didn't know at the time that what I was feeling was a crush, and neither did anyone else; thus, for a long time I thought the "very special feelings" we learned about in sixth grade health class were an amalgam of frustrated passion and despair. Not too far off, as middle-school desire goes.
Speaking of childhood discoveries, I've been going through my old books preparatory to being out of my parents' house for good. And I've discovered that I still have a lot of the books I loved in elementary and middle school, and that some of them are still insightful and interesting (and with more eloquent writing, it pains me to say, than a Janet Evanovich or Dan Brown novel).
Here are some of them:

1. The Little Prince, by Antoine de St Exupery. No explanation necessary. If you haven't read it, do so immediately. I've read it in German and French, too, and it's awesome in any language.
2. Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume. The book that has taught generations of girls what their mothers were afraid to mention--periods. And reading it still makes me feel like I'm nine years old, wishin and hopin and thinkin and prayin. Little did I know that I'd be an early bloomer and spend the entirety of sixth grade as the tallest student at Red Bridge Elementary.
3. Deenie, also by Judy Blume. Stress-induced ulcer? Check. Scoliosis? Check. Masturbation? Check. Reading about a girl with whom I could completely identify? Triple check. Judy Blume is a goddess. If I could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, she would come pretty close to Jesus (right at the Gloria Steinem/ Einstein/ Buddha/ Sylvia Plath level).
4. Matilda, by Roald Dahl. Every reasonably intelligent child who has read this book has at some point tried to move things with his or her eyes. Several of my friends have 'fessed up to this. So will I: I stared at a silver ring for half an hour trying to levitate it. Nothing. Maybe I should've tried a glass.
5. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, also by Roald Dahl Pre-creepy Johnny Depp, pre-advertising blitz, pre-candy bar tie ins, there was only the story of little Charlie Bucket and his dirt-poor family. I was always looking for that golden ticket, that way out. I think I eventually found it. I think everyone can.

Another waterlily from my backyard stock tank. A lotus, symbol of enlightenment, peace, and new beginnings--as loaded with symbolism in the East as roses are in the West.

The C Word

At the chiropractor's today I noticed a mole on my back. I was changing into my gown and the room had a mirror in it (why do rooms like that always have mirrors? For people with body issues, it makes the whole thing so much harder) and of course I couldn't resist taking a look--and this mole, which has been happily living on my back for as long as I can remember, has suddenly gotten bigger. It has a mottled look at the center, too--a lot like the pictures of stage I melanoma I remember from "The General Practitioner's Guide to Dermatopathology" while I which I read quite often while I was working for a doctor two summers ago. I would take it and read it on my lunch break. Sick, I know, but interesting...vitiligo, coup de sabre, eczema, contact dermatitis... and in my own defense, it was more interesting than the few other books in the room where I worked, among them "ICD-9 Coding Guidelines" and "Business Education in Graduate Medical Curricula."
So. The mole. I'm going to have it checked out as soon as possible...I plan on phoning all the dermatologists on my insurance plan tomorrow, and seeing who can get me in before I leave for school. At least for a preliminary check, and (if necessary, God forbid) for a biopsy or removal. I know from working in the doctor's office that a skin biopsy can be done with a little circular blade that works a lot like the hole-punch you used to make confetti when you were a kid. It's called a punch biopsy, in fact. I've seen it done, and the whole thing took ten minutes from start to finish, from prepping the skin to stitching up the hole--the majority of that time is spend waiting for the local anesthesia to kick in. That's the amazing thing about early skin cancer--you can just go in, get a shot of lidocaine, and have them cut it out right there. And that's it--no metastasizing, no chemo, no anything. Just a few stitches, SPF 30 sunblock, and a small scar to remind you that you are indeed a lucky person. Not to romanticize it, not at all...but to think that something like cancer could be dealt with so quickly and easily--that the contagion, the disease, could be cut out just like that...incredible. If only it were always that easy. But then again, if every infirmity of body or mind could be cut out just like that, wouldn't life be hole-y rather than holy? Without resistance to struggle against, how would people become stronger? If I could have my depression and anorexia just dissected out of my brain, would I do it? Should I? How important are means relative to ends..?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

This is my kitten--not really a kitten anymore, but that's still what I call her. Her name is Stella, since she's always the star of the show, and here you can see her lounging in the linen closet. She doesn't go in there very often, because we usually keep the doors tightly shut. When she does get in, she usually pees--as cats love to do.
And so, apropos of nothing, and because I've had a good day that has enhanced my feelings of gratitude, here's a list of things I love--to balance the lists of things that piss me off.

1. Watching David Attenbourough-narrated nature documentaries. "Here we see the elusive lorikeet in his natural surroundings..." I wish there were some way to indicate accents in writing, like some variant of italicization. French would be cursive, of course, all run together, while German letters would be square-ish and hard. See what I mean? Wouldn't that be cool?
2. The first cigarette of the day. I love the smell of nicotine in the morning. Smells like...addiction.
3. Candlelight masses late on Christmas Eve and early, early on Easter morning.
4. Robin Williams. Not in his Disney-movie guise, though Mrs. Doubtfire was pretty funny and reminds me of elementary school. No, I'm talking about his stand-up comedy, full of F-bombs and smart, incisive social commentary. Also dirty jokes. The man is insane, and it's lovely. Stand up comedy in general makes me happy. Eddie Izzard, Margaret Cho, Elvira Kurt. It's all good.
5. Loath though I am to admit it, I love Depakote ER. My anti-crazy pills. I've thought of making a shirt that has the molecular structure of valproic acid (Depakote) on it--I already have serotonin earrings.
6. Animals! Ok, more specifically, mammals--because spiders and mosquitos are technically animals, and I'm not fond of them. But just about any mammal--lions, cervals, dogs, horses, mice, meerkats...I dig them all.
7. Old-school slang. What it is! Get hip to what's goin' down, cats and kittens. Don't slip me that jive, turkey, just groove on the outrageousness of your existence. Dig it!
8. Nature. Ok, easy target--doesn't everybody say they love nature? Yeah. I know I'm a city girl, and I love stomping around downtown, but every so often I just have to get out somewhere where I can see the stars and hang out with the deer and listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Cicada Choir and not worry about getting hit by cars while I'm running.
9. Bread right out of the oven--and none of this frozen breadsticks bullshit. So few people get to experience fresh-baked bread nowadays (yes, I realize I just sounded 87 years old). But when I pull out a loaf of ciabatta and it steams when I cut it and the 60-percent olive oil spread melts as soon as it touches the crumb...or. gas. mic.
10. A broad category--makin' stuff. It's my best thing. I sew, I knit, I draw, I paint, I make jewelry, I make cards...If I weren't going to medical school, I would definitely be making a career out of makin' stuff--whether it be books, or greeting cards, or clothes, or oil paintings. Yeah.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

A waterlily photographed in my backyard pond. And by pond I mean stock tank. And for those not from agricultural areas, a stock tank is a big metal vat farmers and cattle(wo)men fill with water and put in the pen with their livestock so the cattle have something to drink from. Not the chic-est thing, but the lilies are lovely.

Yesterday I was awakened by the sound of falling rain. I went outside to smoke the first cigarette of the day and to see exactly how hard it was raining. The drops were so big and fell so fast that they ricocheted off the bricks on the patio like hail. When I opened the door, I noticed it--it was cool. A cold front had moved in overnight, and the heat wave broke like one hears of fevers breaking. I could almost hear the plants in the backyard breathing a sigh of relief--I could hear the whole city groaning in unison, a groan of pure pleasure, like awakening after a long illness and a fitful, fevered sleep to find that your body has cooled and you can stand again. Grace falling like rain. Healing poured out.

It's these mundane occurances that make me believe in something bigger than myself--God, if you want to call it that. I'm a Christian, I guess, though not a very good one; I attend an Episcopalian church but am also at home in a Quaker meetinghouse or a Buddhist meditation hall. But what good are labels? I simply believe (or perhaps simply is the wrong word--maybe 'fundamentally' is what I mean, though without the implications of Fundamentalism) that there is a Divinity running through the world, what philosophers would call a ''first cause,'' what theologians would call God, what secular humanists would call "goodness" or "love." For the most part it is beyond our comprehension; in the face of it we're like a blind woman looking at the sun. But there are times when some of the veil slips away, and for a moment we see it clearly, feel it utterly, like a blind woman feels the sun on her face.

I was raised in a fairly conservative Methodist church, and my parents are both Orthodox Christians--also very conservative; most people who hear the word "Christian" immediately call Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson to mind (heads up: while I don't hate either of those men, since I am making a concerted effort not to hate anyone--I really, really, really don't like them. To be fair, they probably feel the same way about me). To many people, Christianity is synonymous with judgement, hypocrisy, sexism, homophobia, fundamentalism. Perhaps that's why I don't mention it much. During the schoolyear especially, my Christianity is explicitly stated in only a few ways (though I hope the basic message of love and acceptance Jesus preached is apparent in all my actions): Every Sunday, I get up early, put on some nice clothes, and go to church. Added bonus--since I'm already up, I frequently get the first pick of brunch foods when I get back home. On Ash Wednesday, I show up for all my classes with a little bit of schmutz on my forehead from the early-morning service. I wear a little cross around my neck sometimes, along with my St. Brighid medal. So what? You ask.

So...I just wanted to put out there that I am a Christian, and that I am also gay; that I also have friends who have had abortions, and who I've loved and supported because they were making the best choice they could; that I lean waaay to the left, on everything from nationalized health care to immigration policy to women's rights; that I believe that the antagonistic relationship between religion and science is stupid at best and dangerous at worst (look up the debate on making Plan B emergency contraception available over the counter, or the FDA putting the kibosh on an HPV vaccine for 'moral reasons'...which effectively translates into "let the little sinners get cancer"). Liberal Christians exist. Don't be afraid. And more on the FDA sometime in the near future.

Friday, July 21, 2006

A tigerlily (my favorite Natalie Merchant album)!
Taken at Loose Park, in the atrium adjoining the rose garden.
So happy.

It's time for a random slice of randomness, in the form of "Did you know?"
Pick up these tidbits; bust 'em out at cocktail parties to impress your friends and impressionable, drunken strangers.
Did you know...
That chocolate contains not only caffeine, but a second stimulant compound called theobromine, named for the cocoa bean's latin name, Theobroma cacao? Theobroma means 'food of the gods,' because only Aztec emperors were allowed to drink it.

That my doctor agreed to write the letter allowing me to go back to Cornell? Hot damn. I saw him this afternoon, and he told me he was proud of me (sniff) and that I'd earned the right to go back. Hells yes!

That a woman's clitoris has more nerve endings than the entire penis? Ladies first, for once. Also, the optimal pH of a healthy vagina is the same as that of a glass of red wine. Romantic, eh?

That the number one vegetable Americans consume is potatoes, in the form of french fries? No wonder there's an obesity crisis. Get out there and have some salad, some zucchini, some aubergines! Do it for your country! If you're afraid to try arugula, the terrorists have already won!

That female blue whales are larger than males? And since blue whales are the largest animals on earth, it follows necessarily that the largest animal in the world is female. Go on, sisters, Mama Blue Whale is looking out for you.

That light is both a wave and a particle, as evidenced by the double-slit experiment? Look it up and blow your own mind, or read Hawking's "A Brief History of Time."

That panda bears are more closely related to raccoons than to bears?

That's enough for now, but perhaps this will become a regular feature. I'll be back at Cornell in two weeks, God willing. And at this moment I am very, very happy.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Fotographen! Photos! Pictures!
Shot with my lovely digital camera...happy birthday to me, indeed.
Ducks in a row, you say? Pas de tout. They couldn't be less organized if they tried, honking and squabbling over bits of bread. This is the edge of the pond at Loose Park, arguably the best park in Kansas City, and always full of people (even at night...hell, especially at night...although they tend to be more criminally and/or pot-smokingly minded than the people who take their children to play there during the day). When it's not 102 degrees outside, it's a great place to go running...there's a 1.5 mile loop around the whole park, and since everyone there is a Midwesterner, the other runners and walkers will wave or smile at you as you cruise by at your 10-K pace. We are an amiable people.

This is what I look like now. I think I look a little bit chunky-style in this picture, but what can one do? I'm looking (justifiably) pensive. That's Jon Stewart on TV in the background (God, I love that show) and there's some of my art hanging above the TV. And, yes, there's also a teddy bear and a matroishka doll. You wanna fight about it? It was my bedroom as a kid, and I haven't done much with it. What can I say, I'm here as rarely as humanly possible. Don't those tendrils look kind of Pre-Raphaelite? The one upside of this oppressive humidity. Awesome.

The innards of a rose. Not to gross anyone out, but it looks amazingly like a human organ...When I had my echocardiogram (which is what they do when you have and f-ed-up EKG...It's a picture of your heart, essentially, in real time; they use the same technology as they use to perform sonograms on pregnant women, only rather than looking at a little embryo in your uterus they look--obviously--in the cardiac region) I was amazed by the sight of my own beating heart. It looked embryonic, primordial...but at the same time, watching my valves rhythmically open and shut put me in mind of a flower blooming in the morning, then closing at dusk. Pretty sentimental, as medical procedures go, especially because I was convinced at the time that I was going to have a heart attack any second. I have the tiniest tendency to catastrophize.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I didn't cook or bake today, even though I got some lovely aubergines at the Overland Park farmer's market on Saturday (isn't the British word aubergine so much nicer than eggplant? Wouldn't you rather eat an aubergine, or wear an aubergine sweater, than do either of those things with eggplant?) It was just too hot. We have the air conditioner running full blast and my room is still too hot to sleep in, hotter than a pawn shop stereo (ba-dum ching).
I had several appointments today and just being outside for those few minutes was enough to make me nauseous. This is the time of year for gazpacho and sorbet and popsicles upon popsicles. I haven't been eating much; perhaps this will come back and bite me in the ass. In fact, I'm almost certain it will. But I'm trying, and trying is half the battle.

I've been working on living in the moment, which is a lovely thing to talk about, but is pretty f-ing hard in practice. At times it works--last week I went on mindful stroll through the Whole Foods produce department (completely equanimical since I wasn't going to buy anything, as I am not in the habit of paying five bucks for a head of lettuce). It was so great I felt high--the bright yellow and red and green peppers gleaming, the beets such a dark purple they looked black, the asparagus stalks standing up like little soldiers, the wet bunches of arugula and chard and radicchio looking so inviting that I wanted to flop down on them like little feather beds. This is an utterly everyday experience shot through with gold. The woman picking out new potatoes the size of ping pong balls while her little daughter makes a grab for the glistening strawberries. The adorable gay couple bickering about whether to buy conventional or organic olive oil ("Dammit, Robert, you can't put a conventional vinaigrette on an organic spinach and chevre salad!"). Again, this kind of awareness doesn't come to me naturally.
I start out mindfully washing the dishes, say, but within thirty seconds (often less) my stream of thought runs something like:
Why does he let ketchup just dry on the plate like that? Doesn't he know he can soak things, or at least scrape them off? Men. At least ketchup has lots of lycopene in it--an antioxidant, good for him. Although if he eats it with a half-pound of french fries, he'll probably have a coronary before cancer has a chance to get him. mom's a Cancer, isn't she? I wonder where the Western zodiac originated...the Greeks, I guess...bulls, crabs, virgins, lions...yes, that makes sense...The Chinese zodiac is made up of Chinese animals--boars, dogs, dragons...but where did the Greeks see lions? Oh, yeah, probably in North Africa...Carthage and so on...what war was that? Or did they just have colonies there?
And there goes the mindfulness.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

More Poetry!
All poems by me.

Words Learned (For Nan)

From you I learned
that most primal of languages,
the voice expanding, increasing
in courage, rising to heaven like a spark
born of a greater flame.

And innocently I mouthed the words,
coaxing my tongue to mark new time
and my lips to let slip new sounds.

You taught me hūa, flower,
your fingers spreading like petals
on the pillow above your head,
opening languorously to the sun;
dizí, your body like a reed flute,
supple and straight,
pouring forth a haunting,
plaintive wail; a groan in the night.
Also nŭ, woman, the all-important,
you and I who managed somehow
to simultaneously birth one another
and ourselves.
I learned ai, love, the sacred syllable
alive on my lips, sounding so much
like the English I that sometimes the difference
is forgotten, and the two words
meet in one flesh.

She held me to her breast
like I was a plant threatening
to outgrow my pot--like I needed
to be tamped down
on all sides.
I told her
I used to believe
in miracles blooming
like marigolds,
I used to live
for the flash and shimmer
of doves' wings,
for the gashes hammered
into the hands of the penitent,
for the salt tang of blood on my tongue.
I have not outgrown these old desires,
but I no longer expect
them to appear
in my outstretched hands.
I only lust after
the simple act of faith,
the mundane deliverance.
I dream in swaths
like the paths of scythes,
Cutting low everything
that stands between
my own heart and
the ponderous heart of God.

The Anorexic Runs
Thrusting myself through the thickening air
of the seventh mile,
alone and in the rain,
I begin to recite poetry
out of habit,
reeling up words from the well
of my brain
to cut the pain
growing--like some pernicious vine--
up the trunks of my thighs.
Sylvia Plath's pure
wrath and rhythm
propel me on,
help set my pace:
You do not do you do not do
anymore, black shoe
as my soles pound cement,
inching forward,
running from.
My soul's treading this water,
soaked to the skin
with rain, with sin
that cannot be forgiven:
memories that cannot be outrun
or undone.
I would not run
to save my life
if I knew that it was worth saving.
I have run out in rain and back in rain.

(With thanks to Robert Frost and Sylvia Plath).

The end, because right now I have to go do some studying for the MCATs. Cheers. And next time, it's back to our regularly scheduled programming. Please drop me a line if you've enjoyed it.

Friday, July 14, 2006

"And don't the Good Book say we shall inherit all our fathers' sins?
And there ain't no hope for me honey 'cause I know my daddy's been
straight to hell
and back again
and if he called me up tomorrow I would not know what to do
or what to say to him
so I sing it to the night 'cause the night won't go away...
And it's a fearsome lonely ache, at night I holler it into the wind,
Feelin' for the hole deep inside me where he should've been
But I've got nobody to blame because I know that his daddy was worse
He was much worse than him
So I sing it to the night 'cause the night won't go away,
Scream my rage into the night 'cause the night won't go away..."
--Kim Forehand

That's such an amazing song; I wish I had it on something besides an old cassette (that's been played so many times that the magnetic coating has rubbed off in places). That cassette was given to me when I was in my first year of high school by a woman who taught at one of my summer enrichment camps, and thereafter adopted me as a daughter of sorts. Yohanna, if you're out there, hello and I love you.
And that song is how I feel tonight. I'm working through things. This is what I came home to do this summer, yes? And yet I wasn't prepared to feel like I'd been slammed in the chest with a double-barreled shotgun of sadness. I should be used to it, I know. Sadness, you can learn to live with--to ride it, like a wave, or sink under; even kicking and screaming for all your life's worth gets to be old hat after a while. But grief. Grief, there's the rub. For everything that should have been but wasn't; for the things that should never have happened but did.
And grief for the world at large--for Israel, for Palestine. Or rather, for the Israelis, the Palestinians; the Jews, the Muslims, the Christians--the PEOPLE, in other words, not the states. For the raw tangible suffering on the face of a mother who has learned her only son is dead. For the centuries of hurt, rage, shame. For a world that could be heaven but is made hell, by our own doing.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

It's so. godawfully. hot. and humid.

When I open the door to go outside (to smoke, or to run--oh, the irony) it's like walking into an invisible wall. You can feel the air--not the breeze but the air itself, humidity in the 90% range, oppressive, heavy. And when you come back inside, you're wet--not just with sweat, though of course there's that too, but with condensation that's settled on your cooler (!!) skin. I haven't experienced weather like this since I visited my great-aunt in Arkansas the summer I was ten. The atmosphere was soupy then, too, and even at 10 and 11 o'clock at night my cousins and I would swim in her backyard pool. That was when my grandmother was still alive, and my uncle hadn't succumbed to emphysema and cancer. We all drove down South together in my grandma's huge van, the air conditioning on so high that the windows fogged up and I curled under a polyester blanket in the backseat for warmth. Somewhere around Little Rock I ate a half a bag of "Harvest Cheddar" SunChips; thirty miles later we pulled to the side of the road so that I could throw up. I haven't eaten cheddar SunChips since, and even thinking about them makes me feel a little queasy, as if I could still feel the van rocking towards West Helena, Arkansas, the blanket tight around me, a Judy Blume book in my hand.

That was what I did when I felt bored, or lonely, or frightened as a child; I read. During a horrible last stint in daycare, the summer before fourth grade--where the other kids made fun of me for going to summer school when I didn't have to ("for enrichment," I corrected them, to disbelieving guffaws), and the staff were by turns neglectful and wrathful--I read a book a day. When the daycare workers put on videos, I read. Encyclopedia Brown. Books on capital punishment from the children's nonfiction section of the library (for years I lived in fear that I would be taken away and put on death row; didn't my father always tell me I was no good?). Historical children's fiction. Bruce Coville. Books my parents bought for me at the Christian bookstore down the street, in which the main character always learned a lesson about faith, or obedience, or honesty, by having wild adventures. I wasn't missing much on the video front, at least--we watched Grease 2 at least once a day, because the daycare director's daughter was enamored of it. I sighed and turned the page.
At school, when I'd finished the assigned worksheets or problems, I read, my knees resting on the edge of the desk until my legs fell asleep. By first grade I was already allowed into the "chapter books" section of the school library, reserved for the 4th, 5th and 6th graders. Nearly every morning, before school began, I went into the library and deposited my two old books carefully on the counter. The librarian checked them in, then checked me out when I returned with my next two choices. She was always very kind to me; I think she knew why I read so much, the things I was hiding from, the fact that I tried to cram words into my head in the hope that some of them might come out my mouth, let me tell someone the truth--but she never pushed.
"You'll like this," she told me, holding out a new Beverly Cleary novel. "You liked Ramona and Beezus. I know you'll like this one." And that was the closest she ever came to asking--the subtle give and take of recommendations, of choices. Judy Blume (though not the 'naughty' ones), Beverly Cleary, E.L. Koningsberg, Lois Lowry. Already an affinity for female authors, female protagonists. Maybe that's why I still wish the Harry Potter series were the Hermione Granger series.
Somewhere I turned to other things to quell my fears, other ways to hide from unrest and upheaval--other dreams made flesh. Running over reading. Purging over page-turning. I read non-fiction through most of high school, lost some of that childish dreaminess. I picked fiction up briefly my senior year with Haruki Murakami and Margaret Atwood, some Amy Tan, some Kent Haruf. I am returning to fiction--to writing it (which I've never considered as a medium--poetry and essays, that's me) to reading it. I reread The Kitchen God's Wife last week and it made me cry more than once, tears streaming like Amy Tan's lucid prose; I just finished reading Holy Fools--loaned indulgently from Susan--and liked it so much I went out and bought Chocolat, which I likewise devoured. Pun perhaps intended.

So let's say I'm bookish. A bookworm, waiting to wriggle into the spaces between sentences, the ambiguities between words. Let's say that an entry which I intended to have be about the weather has become an essaylet, on a topic I didn't anticipate at all.

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend.
Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.
--Groucho Marx

Monday, July 03, 2006

So I saw a PETA ad in my Mother Jones magazine (shameless plugs for both...and yes, I know what a hippie I am) and got to thinking about beauty products...something that rarely crosses my mind. I am, after all, the same girl who wore Old Spice deodorant all through seventh grade (I still like how it smells. I keep some in the bathroom, and go in and sniff it occasionally). BUT.
The thought of eyeliner being dripped into the eyes of helpless little bunnies just so someone (note I am not making any judgements, or using the words "putting it on with a trowel" or "sorostitute") can have a dubiously enhanced face makes me cringe. So, to those who can't make it through the day without a little mascara...and for those who put it on for special occasions, like pride rallies or job interviews or church, here is a list of cruelty free companies. It's by no means exhaustive, but if you go to the PETA site or run a google search for "cruelty free beauty" you'll find many many more. I've focused mainly on the ones I've used, or have seen at my local cooperative market. (Hippie!) Also, this is where you discover that I am a veteran shampoo thief (just a palmful at a time).

Aubrey Organics (I knew a girl who used this, or at least had it in her shower. Never mind what I was doing in her shower. I used some, and it smelled good. The girl turned out to be a teensy bit neurotic...leaning towards psychotic...and that's why, although I'm sure it's a good product, I don't use it. That, and it's expensive as all hell. I guess that's because the wild jasmine flowers have to be hand-plucked by virgins at midnight during the full moon, or something).
Avalon Organics (What I use. The Henna shampoos and conditioners specifically. My freshman roommate had it, and I used so much of hers that I felt guilty and went out and bought her a new bottle. I don't know if she ever noticed. I didn't ask. Hi, Laura!)
Bath and Body Works. You know it, you love it. Have fun.
Burt's Bees: Please don't make me say that they're the bees' knees. But they are. And they make a lot more than lip balm now. Sometimes I think to myself, "I knew about Burt's Bees when all they sold was that weird little tin of lip balm," and it makes me feel all superior. Kind of like that annoying uncle you have who lived in England a long time ago and saw the Beatles when they were still playing in dirty little pubs in Liverpool. Yeah, like that.
Kiss My Face. The name has always seemed weird to me, like a combination seduction and demand. But it's organic, and cheap, and you don't have to venture into a patchouli-scented boutique to get it if you don't want to--they have it at CVS (though I for one have started to enjoy the smell of patchouli. Perhaps I have lived in Ithaca too long).
JASON organics. I've seen it, but never used it. There are umlauts scattered liberally over the vowels in the name, which prejudices me against it.

More to come, cats and kittens. That is, if anyone's reading this. And even if no one is, it keeps me off the streets. It's "therapeutic," as my psychiatrist would say, "a creative, constructive response to negative emotions."

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Holyyyy crap! It's July already! And to make matters...different (not necessarily worse, now that I think of it) my periods have returned. Thus, it's time for another installment of things (and people) that piss me off! Jubilation!

10. Bicyclists. Not in general, only the ones I see while I'm running. I think most runners harbor a secret dislike of bikers, because while we're running our asses off (literally and figuratively) they whiz by at twenty miles an hour, barely breaking a sweat.
9. Fox news. I watched it last time I was on the treadmill at the YMCA (not by choice...they just had it turned to that station) and I seriously considered whether it would be worth it to hurl my Walkman through the screen.
8. When you're running and your undies get all bunched up in your personal areas, but there are a lot of other people around and you can't pull them out. Sometimes I pull them out anyway.
7. The fact that I suck at returning phone calls and emails. I'm working on improving this, but it still makes me feel like a loser, and so I let things slide until I have 9 unheard messages on my phone and just can't ignore it anymore.
6. Fireworks. Not the safe ones (ie, sparklers, or the big shows one just goes and watches), but the kind my neighbors shoot off from approximately June 30th through July 10th, preferably while shirtless and drunk ("Go get Daddy another beer while he lights this M-80, sweetheart.") Also, they scare the hell out of my dog. We've considered getting him doggy Valium.
5. The fact that Applebee's (I didn't go there by choice, it goes without saying) has exactly three dishes, all of them appetizers, that are vegetarian. All of them contain so much cheese that I wonder if they aren't getting kickbacks from the Dairy Board.
4. Pawn shops. Definitely one of the top 5 most depressing places I can think of.
3. People who claim to be into 'indie music,' then later reveal that their idea of indie is the White Stripes, U2 and Weezer (all of which I like, but none of which are particularly underground nowadays).
2. People who drive 10 miles under the speed limit the whole time you're behind them, then decide to kick it up to Mach 3 once you've passed them or gotten into the other lane. This is known as BPDD, or Bi-Polar Driving Disorder.
1. That there are literally a half-dozen gay bars within a half-hour of my house, but none that cater specifically to the lesbian crowd. Also the fact that I 'pass' so effectively that unless I'm wearing my "Hello, I'm Queer" shirt, everyone assumes I'm straight. Maybe it's the long hair, and the fact that I never learned to play softball.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Some suffer from the disease of writing, and it becomes chronic in their sick minds. -Juvenal

It is impossible to write a poem, or perhaps even to really enjoy poetry, without a certain unsoundness of mind. -Macaulay

It's hip to be miserable when you're young and intellectual. -Carly Simon

Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth. -Pema Chodron

The greatest miracle I know is that even when it appears love can't conquer all, it does. -Anne Lamott (I love, love, love her!!! She is at least part of the reason I'm still here.)

All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of thing shall be well. --Julian of Norwich

What you did to me made me feel myself something awful / a voice once stentorian is now again meek and muffled / it took me such a long time to get back up the first time you did it / I spent all I had to get it back and now it seems I've been outbidded... -Fiona Apple

Don't give or sell your soul away 'cause all that you have is your soul. - Tracy Chapman

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Minimalist poetry time!

This morning the clouds
were shot through with gold
as if someone had sewn up
a wound in the sky with
glowing thread


It would be so easy
to step from the ledge,
Like stepping off the diving board
When he was eight years old,
His eyes shut, wet eyelashes
brushing his cheeks
and his fists clenched
against the impact—

and he would fall
as he always had,
like a pebble worn smooth
by the lives rushing over
his own,

and finally tear through
the surface,
of the water
and of his small pains.

becomes you

and then suddenly that identity consumes you, devours you, becomes you. And you and it are one and the same, melded completely; and what was once only a soulless noun (or a gerund maybe) has become your entire being.

I have ‘become’ in blinding flashes, have become “gay” as solidly and surely as a ten foot tall cube of granite, and as difficult to ignore; have been christened “epileptic” and so assumed it, so become it, no longer a woman with a face or a given name, only the name given to me, only seizing in wild spasms, limbs arcing through space and meaning.

and now, the meat of the post:

Recovery from anorexia and bulimia is like moving to another country—exhilarating and terrifying, fraught with anticipation and doubt. After ten years in the lowlands of compulsion, I am traveling towards the hills.

I am reminded of the struggle everyday, not least when I sit down to eat. There are other more subtle temptations and tortures, however. The grocery store is a maelstrom of contradictory urgings—potato chips glistening with grease share aisles with low-fat whole-wheat crackers. The produce aisle, my old haunt, is backed up against the snack food aisle’s decadent bazaar of pastries, chips and crackers. In the checkout line no fewer than a dozen headlines scream at me from the womens’ magazines assembled there—‘the crash diet that actually works,’ ‘drop a dress size in ten days,’ ‘eat more and lose weight,’ ’10 exercises to sculpt that flab.’ I will myself not to look at the article on crash dieting, tightening my grip on the shopping cart instead. The lanky redhead on the cover of the magazine casts a look in my direction that would put a siren to shame—“You know you want to look,” she coos softly. “Just five, maybe ten more pounds. My, my, look at those hips…”

In a culture that elevates thinness to the pedestal previously occupied by moral purity (both have been equated with ultimate happiness, in any event) it is impossible to escape the pounding surf of explicit and implicit judgment. Going out to eat with friends, I hear them lament their naughtiness at ordering a fudgy dessert, as if a sweet tooth were a moral failing. “The calories that must be in this!” they exclaim. I watch them eat it, refusing the offer of a spoonful, and tell myself not to run to the bathroom (despite my wishes otherwise). There is no respite from the maddening repetition of the new tenets of the American woman’s faith—that calories are bad, fat diabolical, and thin the Holy Grail.

Some days it seems like too much. I feel as if my skin has been peeled away, and each advertisement and conversation is like lemon juice in the wound. Mere existence seems too painful, and I feel too sensitive and vulnerable to live. But I keep breathing, and my heart keeps beating, and each day I survive to fight some other day.