Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Couple

I was more than tipsy. While I don't need much liquid courage in a karaoke bar where you have your own room to share with your friends, if I was going to sing George Michael's "Freedom" in a large bar straight out of season 2 of "The Wire," I was going to need more than one beer. 

The couple had been sucking at each other's headspaces pretty much since I walked into the bar. Not in that romantic, intimate way where there's a little part of me that envied them, but in that way that's just obnoxious. Yes, please, dry hump directly in front of the ladies restroom. Oh, for sure, don't worry, I was secretly hoping you'd knock my drink over. 

So I wasn't all that surprised when, at 3 in the morning in Brooklyn, when I'd flagged down a cab, the couple ran down to the corner and stole the cab.

I clenched my fists and shouted out, "You are horrible people! HORRIBLE! And you know it! Tonight, in the dark, when you're clinging to each other and pretending that you don't feel desperately lonely, my voice will echo out, and you will know it in the marrow of your bones, yes, you are horrible people. IN THE MARROW OF YOUR BONES!" 

My friends will vouch that this is exactly what happened. 

Another cab came by about five minutes later. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Sticker Price

There's a sort of car window decal that is very popular here in Los Angeles. For every member of a family, there's a little stick figure -- a dad, a mom, some kids, a baby sometimes, occasionally a pet. Some of them have family member's names under their cartoon avatar.

Maybe it's just my twisted way of thinking, or maybe it's because I've lost family members, but every time I see one of these decals, almost always on the back of a beat up minivan, I wonder what the family would do if someone died.

Would it be more painful to pick a day to go out to the driveway with an old knife and scrape away a smiling stick figure, or to try to ignore it every time you put away groceries and loaded up the bikes?

How sad it would be after so many months, when you're sleeping again, and food has taste again and you're thinking about maybe going to that movie you meant to see, to have that dumb sticker remind you that they're gone. And how sad it would be to realize that you'd started to not notice their absence. 

Thanks for Noticing Me.

 In Scotland I lived with a very nice girl who had rosy cheeks and wore Eeyore sweatshirts. She always made me a cup of tea and she'd boiled the kettle and up until that year, she'd never left the country. The only thing I asked my parents to send from America was peanut butter but both she and our other roommate always declined to try it. She wasn't fond of foreign food, she apologetically explained.

We were eating dinner. I had a copy of Chaucer by my plate, and I was wrangling keeping my page and something called "pasta bake" when she said, "Ach, Liz. It's so sad."

When I asked her to explain, she sighed and said, "That you're going to hell."

We'd discussed her strong evangelicalism and my atheism, and I could tell it troubled her, as if I'd confessed that I hadn't been to see a doctor in a long time, or that I had no savings account. She asked me if I was scared to die, and I said, yes, I supposed so, but not because of hell. Why not, she asked. Because, I explained, I don't believe in that either.

"Just because you don't believe in it doesn't mean you're not going there," she said, and stood up from the table because it was my turn to clean the dishes, even though I didn't believe in them.




Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Post Project

If you're so unlucky as to follow me on twitter, you may have noticed that I've been babbling about something called the Post Project. As more people have been getting mail from me, I've been getting more questions about what the hell I'm doing, so I figure I might as well attempt to explain it -- to myself more than anyone else.

I've written before on how I believe love only flourishes when it is given away like it'll never run out. "Love wastefully," I was told. The crux of this philosophy came from the best writing advice I ever got. It was from Paul Rusell, my professor at Vassar, whose books are lovely. Anyway, writing and loving are not so different, it turns out.

I'd been skipped ahead in the creative writing track at school and while my first couple of stories had gone over well, I eventually found myself "blocked." From my position here, years later and on the far end of a life-altering block which I call The Horrible It  (...more on that later...) I can look back and realize that I didn't know from blocked, but at the time it felt wretched. Every idea I had seem to wither the moment I tried to follow it.

Finally I went up to see Paul, who had a thick grey beard, pronounced poem "poh-eeehm" and had an office jam-packed with plants. I confessed that I couldn't write, which had never happened to me and  that I didn't know what to do. I think I may have even teared up, which strikes me a pretty hilarious now. It must have struck Paul as pretty hilarious at the time. He asked me if I had any ideas at all, and I replied that I did, but not for short stories, only for a novel.

That's when he told me, in not so many words, that I was killing myself in very small increments. If I tried to hoard my ideas for "the big book," I wouldn't be able to to finish so much as a paragraph. "It's like the loaves and fishes," he told me. "You have to give it away like you'll never run out, because then you never will."

I'm not quite ready to go into The Horrible It which has pretty much defined the past four years of my life, but I will say that I'm nearly free of its utterly damning and stifling shadow, thanks to some very heavy emotional lifting and a complete determination to give it away like I'll never run out.

The Post Project is my effort to continue giving something away without any expectation of return. It is also my way of trying to constantly be in a state of creation rather than consumption.

A lot can be gained from watching a good movie or a good television show, but I find that if I am doing something at the same time -- doodling, picking at my guitar, or making a post card to send someone, it feels like I am not merely sitting and soaking up someone else's art. Creativity is (has?) a force of inertia, and one of the ways I've gotten past The Horrible It is to really seize any chance to make something new rather than be happy and complacent either consuming or, worse and more Horrible, criticizing someone else's art.

Plus, who doesn't like getting mail?

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