Saturday, November 10, 2007

Am I too late?

I fear I am running late. Not for an appointment, not for a date, or a movie, or for work. This is a much bigger late than I have ever been before...

I don't have my PhD in Neuroscience yet. I haven't read any of the philosophy I am supposed to have read. I am not married. I have no children. I don't have a "career" and I have yet to publish my novel (in fact I haven't written it--shit).

Who else feels this way? We all do. Cue french accordian music. Okay, Radiohead will do, thanks Saurin Park.

It's no wonder saving mice makes me feel better than anything else, it's no wonder I don't feel satisfied with life. I don't know what satisfaction looks like. Have you ever heard of the approach/approach phenomenon? Here I am, your average run of the mill lab rat. To my left down a tunnel lies a scrumptious morsel of swiss cheese, to my right down a tunnel lies a scrumptious morsel of swiss cheese. Which way do I go? Which way do I go?

It doesn't matter, right? Wrong. If I were really a laboratory rat, I would run back and forth down the little tunnel, never arriving at either yummy destination. I see this as a metaphor for my life. I can't run down the tunnel, because there might be something at the other end that would be fun, at which I could be good, that would have been my calling. I have so many callings that I am without purpose. I don't fail. Worse, I flounder.

Time to say goodbye to one scrumptious morsel and devour the other before something gets moldy.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Here I go again on my own...

There is a song for everything that happens in my life, and for some reason today it is Whitesnakes rock ballad of the moment we all face, walking the road of life without mommy or daddy to lean on. As I ponder the bills in my mail, the ones on the way, and the ones on the way to being on the way, I wonder how it will all get paid, how it will all get done.

I am sick today. Not so sick that I can't move, but so sick I can't really hack another day of the less than rewarding job that I have discovered through various calculations, I am paid less than $20/hour to do. So, it is some web surfing, some reading and some napping for me. It's lucky for me that I have such a job really. I promote gratitude at all times, but sometimes it takes a bit of work. Here is how I did it today.

1. I went to work,and upon arriving decided that my impulse to call in sick was a good one, and by 9:30 I marched myself our the door.

2. I saved a mouse. I am with the general public on the disgustingness of having mouse poop on the kitchen counter. I am not however, into the glue trap. And as I walked home, feeling woozy and vaguely sorry for myself, I spotted a little grey furry guy stuck awkwardly to one such trap--the side of his faceplastered to it, his legs awkwardly crushed beneath him as if he had tripped and found himself stuck to it. He was wiggling frantically, and I weighed all the things I had to do in my apartment upstairs--eat, go to the bathroom, email the office, call my boyfriend and sister--when it suddenly occurred to me--What am I doing thinking about the mundane when death is on the line? How would I feel if I was trying to wiggle myself free, facing starvation or cardiac arrest from my panic and a passerby said, "Hmmm, I could save you, but you know I really need to call in to the office"?

So, I made a plan, mentally tallied the inventory I would need to successfully proceed with the rescue mission. I didn't want to touch the mouse--ew, germs! I would need a pair of rubber gloves, some kind of oil (olive or baby) to neutralize the adhesive, and maybe some alcohol to douse my hands after removing the rubber gloves.

I did stop to go to the bathroom, as I wanted to devote my full attention to the rescue mission. I left the apartment, all rescue apparatus in a tote bag, and scurried up the street to the spot I had last seen the mouse. But, alas, it was gone and for a moment my shoulders fell in lost hope as the thought occurred to me that I was too late to make a difference in the poor rodent's life. Then I deducted that if I were the callous person that put out a sticky trap in the first place (please my friends if you want to kill mice, poison them, use the evil traps that sometimes get your fingers) would I be kind enough to kill the mouse (by method of drowning or crushing) before disposing of him? No, I think if I were that person, I would just throw the mouse away.

Sure enough, on the corner by the apartment building of the first sighting of the awkwardly squirming mouse, in the garbage can, beneath some brush, was the trap and mouse still struggling pathethically to let himself free.

As I reached into the garbage can with my rubber gloves, I looked up and down the street to see if anyone would spot me. What was I afraid of? 1) seeing someone I knew and having to wave at them with my other hand in the garbage can--how would I explain that? and/or 2) being spotted by someone anti-rodent who knew that I was on a rescue mission, who would lecture me on the filthiness of rodents and how I did the neighborhood a disservice by setting this one free. But there was no one I knew and generally speaking people don't care what you do as long as you a) have clothes on, b) are quiet, and c) don't have a gun.

So, mouse in hand, I walked up the street with him half hidden behind my leg. I ran as quickly as I could without causing alarm, and brought him (or maybe it was a her) to the edge of the pond in the park near where I live. I held the trap out with two fingers as far from my body as I could get and pulled a bottle of baby oil from my bag with my other hand. I doused the poor guy in the stuff and watch him nearly sigh with relief, as the wiggling began to make a difference and his leg began to pull free.

As he lay panting in the grass, free from the trap, I caught a glimpse of his eyes in his oil drenched head. He was clearly in shock, and in fact his eyes seemed frozen over by cataracts and bulging like a looney toon. I gave him an unnecessary pet to soothe him and wondered if he would survive. Or would he cower in his shock until starvation overtook him? Or might he die of baby oil poisoning? I deducted that either way, my sitting there rubbing his tiny head with my rubber-gloved finger probably would not prevent either fate. So I left him, telling myself that I would come back and check for his tiny carcus, bury him if necessary.

It was a small deed, but it made me feel better than 40 hours of work slaving to keep an overpriced MFA program afloat. I love the students I work for. They are a gracious, lovely lot, but to continue to work in a place where my impact pales in comparison to the mere rescuing of a mouse seems like rolling a big rock up a hill. I am not cut out for this work. I believe in art and in creativity and its power to save. I just don't know if the MFA is saving anyone. It is a moral dilema for me.

So, you ask, where does Whitesnake come in? Well, the Ivy League Art School has been my home. Sure, in my proverbial family, my father beats me, my mother commits verbal violence, and my siblings get a lot more attention and love than me, but still it is home, and if I leave maybe I will just end up married to some alcoholic who sleeps around. Maybe it is not even better out there. But I think I will have to find out. I have graduated and it is time to leave the nest.



Here I go again on my own,
going down the only road I've ever known.
Like a twister I was born to walk alone,
but I've made up my mind.
I ain't wastin' no more time.
Here I go again....



Sunday, September 9, 2007

Not a sell out, but a warm up

I have a recent phone message from a friend who has (I assume lovingly) called me a sell-out for starting a blog. This one’s for you S:

I am sitting in a cafĂ© in upper Manhattan. There is jazz on their stereo, but I only hear it on the breaks from my Pandora “Shout out Louds” station. I am writing a blog. I am picking at an egg and cheese on a bagel, thinking about how I would like another cigarette, and another, and another. The music I am listening to is poppy and thick, summoning nostalgia from deep within my belly (most of my feelings come from my belly—the curse of an empath: belly aches). My boyfriend lives in Brooklyn, he is the co-owner of a T-shirt company whose hope is to inform youth culture about important political figures. We are working on a proposal for teaching underprivileged children art. We work at an art school. We, and all our friends, struggle daily with our vaguely hipster-like identities. Am I a sell out? I am not sure, I think I am just a member of a generation that yearns to make a difference in the world and also wants all the privilege that comes with living in the most liberal city in the most “free” nation. And most importantly, we don’t want to sell out. We want to get money for just being ourselves. And we hope that when someone starts paying up, we will still be ourselves and not relinquish on our promise like our hippy-cum-yuppy parents.

My brother is a rock musician. He lives in western Pennsylvania, but Brooklyn is waiting for him. The hipsters worship an absent figurehead, who is busy stocking groceries on Mill and Blair. He may be on a smoke break now, but he may have quit. He may be working on his novel, or he may be playing video games, but he remains unaware of the throngs of plaid shirted, tight-jeaned, just slightly tattooed, purposefully grubby-looking, messenger-bag-carrying, lost boys looking for their Peter Pan.

But, these are only images and then there is the reality. I digress. I am a digression, this is where I am my digressive self. Is that selling out? Perhaps, but then, when does the selling begin. Where’s my money?

Am I like everyone else? God, I hope so. I am so tired of the throngs trying to assert their difference. The rush to discover the band before they are a free iTunes song. The rush to find the white boots you wore in sixth grade before they are on the cover of Elle magazine…or Marie Claire, or whatever the fashion magazine that isn’t so fashionable.

And along comes another digression--I was in Lucky magazine. Yes its true.

Was I a sell out for that? I would love to say absolutely, but again, I didn’t receive any of that coveted cash. They dressed me up in clothes that didn’t really fit (big metal clips held them in the back), plucked my eyebrows, cut my hair and painted my face. Then they interviewed me about my life as a full-time administrator at a university art school, a part-time student, and a sometime painter and writer. The article was printed. I was misquoted and reduced to a corporate-like employee without all the dimensions of me that I love (no artist, no student, just a single, 30 year old career girl, fade-up Mary Tyler Moore theme music). All my digressions were left out, including the fact that I couldn’t even afford the clothes they put me in--the bag I carried would have cost me 8 months rent. And I didn’t get to keep one thing. Nada.

I did get a free haircut, 5 copies of Lucky magazine, endless embarrassment, a proud mother, and loads of giggles. But they made me look a lot richer. People who don’t know me think I am faking my thrift store chique look. Students in the school where I work now think their tuition is paying for my $5000 bag. What I want to know is when did selling out become such an unprofitable business?

Why should I begrudge those lawyers and hedge fund managers I know? They are only conforming like the rest of us, it just happens to not be as fashionable among that lot to wallow in what is wrong with the world, to feel the drive to make a difference—again, these are images and erroneous ones at that, as I know a slew of bleeding heart corporates, and just too many jaded trust-fund hipsters to count. Regardless of the wardrobes of the company you keep, disenchantment comes with a price, not a salary. And yet, I am hopeful that I’ll get mine. That someday I can really sell something, and people will buy my paintings and buy my stories. And what will be the price? They will have to listen to me about what is wrong with the world, and what is really important.

So, S, there it is, my warm up. Now, I close down the blog to work on one of my short stories. If you would like to read one I will gladly sell out. Just send me $15.95 and an SASE. With love from the sea.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Joy of....

Sex? Cooking? How about both? The Joy of Cooking in my family, is a book that gets purchased for you (that is if you are a woman, in this sprawling family of women) when you have married (read: when you have grown up enough to take on the responsibility of cooking for a family, or at least a man). The Joy of Sex in my family, is a book that never gets purchased for you. You should not really have it at all (sex or the book), but if you do you should really be married. Anyways, in my family, you should really be married. What's wrong with you anyway?

Well, the news is: I have recently obtained both The Joy of Cooking and The Joy of Sex. Actually the latter is More Joy of Sex, as I have been having the improper joy of sex for over 10 years--eek! No wonder I'm so good in bed! The improper joy of cooking, on the other hand, I have not had. Luckily, now I own the joy, with a capital J, of both...I got the joy joy joy down in my...where? down in my...where?

...and the secret is (lean in close for this one): I'm not married!

And if the devil doesn't like it he can sit on a tack, ouch! Sit on a tack, ouch! Sit on a tack! OUCH!

So, moving on from elementary school church songs, you might be asking me, if you were here, how in the hell did I get the Joys (proper) of cooking and sex without solemn vows or surpassing the only occasion on which I might wear a garter? Well, there is a spot in the lobby of my building, where everyone leaves the things they do not want. A rummage sale, without the sale; dumpster diving without the dumpster. I love it. It is my favorite part of living here. At Christmastime, the Christmas tree is placed in the same corner as the things that are being left for scavenge. It is the most beautiful array of gifts one could hope to see--piles of well loved objects looking for more. Velveteen rabbits abound. In fact, when I moved into the building, it was December, and I didn't know that this corner was always the give away spot, I thought it was Christmas generosity (or humbug) that compelled people to share the wealth (or dump their shit), under the tree.

So, last Saturday, I came home to find two large--and I mean LARGE--boxes of books. Books! Books! Oh boy books! I won't make a list for you of the booty I collected, but I will tell you it was a veritable feast of literary sustenance--Eco, Borroughs, Beckett, Irving, Woolf, McEwan, Franzen...are you getting the picture? I passed up the biographical sketches of Star Trek characters, as well as some books on make-up techniques used in Star Wars, and some chess essays (chess essays!? damn, come to think of it, I should have grabbed that). Anyways, I had a pile up to my chin, but if I lifted it just a bit, I could fit one last (mind you thin) book under there and possibly navigate the stairs without wiping out. So, there it was: More Joy of Sex. Small enough to fit under my chin, big enough to have nice pictures to look at. I guess whoever had owned it had had enough joy of sex.

The next night I walked into the lobby and all the remaining books (the, like, three I didn't take) had been cleared away or claimed, but above the spot where our unwanteds are deposited was a sign: "Just married sale....combining households, so some stuff must go." After wiping the look of disgust off my face at the saccharine sweet tone of the note and the cheesy graphics, I scratched my chin and wondered if the book boxes I dove into the night before had been a cleaning out of the new married couples' book shelf. The books had had a decidedly complete spectrum of male to female, with moments of absolute polarity (i.e., Virginia Woolf/Boss Tweed biography). It seemed to make sense. And then it dawned on me--one of the things that "had to go" was the joy of sex! Oh, honey, you won't be needing that anymore. And I scratched my chin more and wondered further, had her mother bought her The Joy of Cooking for her wedding shower!? Was this how it worked in all families?

So, I decided that if the rule was not having The Joy of Cooking before you were married, and not having the Joy of Sex after you were married (and all these years I thought it was premarital sex that was the problem!), well, then I would have to break one of those rules. If I am ever going to get married (it could happen), and I want to be sure to keep the joy of sex (proper or improper), I best have The Joy of Cooking before I get married. (I know it seems a bit fuzzy, but trust me, I am the expert at breaking the small rules for the greater good, and I did really well in Symbolic Logic. I could write you a proof for this.) Thus, tonight, after a long therapy session about food and my mother, I bought The Joy of Cooking.

I am going to try it tomorrow--cooking I mean. The joy of sex? Well, my boyfriend has apparently gone into a cave, so not much chance of that tonight. I better go out and get Our Bodies, Ourselves while I am at it...