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.