Friday, May 24, 2013

Spring Has Sprung

Over on that site thing, I have put together a playlist of some songs I have been listening to an awful lot this spring. Here are some silly nothings in regards to said songs.

1. "In The Aeroplane Over The Sea" - Neutral Milk Hotel 

This song reminds me of Vassar and my lovely freshman year roommate,  now accomplished poet Elizabeth Gross. She put this song a mix she made for me, "Tiny Cities Made of Ashes," and I was reminded of it when my internet absolutely lost its marbles when this band announced it would be reuniting soon enough. But, really, "And one day we will die / and our ashes will fly/ from an areoplane over the sky / But for now we are young/ Let us lay in the sun/ and count all the beautiful things we can see."  I mean... 

2. "Holy" - Frightened Rabbit 
I like any song where I'm fairly sure there's a Hamlet joke. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Boys and Girls


What must it be like to be a boy, 
to speak with your father's voice, pouring out
your thick, strong throat. 
I am envious!

I would spend dreamy autumnal days,
tracking back all the things I ever said,
the golden cord of a father language.
Ancient, sacred father words!

A language spoken at a feast of fathers, 
proud and able men who had been waiting for me
to learn their bold tongue. 

What must it be like to have a grandfather!
to know the words
of the songs of your father's father, heady and thumping.
Feasting songs!

Songs of victory and devotion,
of ruination and soulful father mourning,
sung out clear over the golden father table. 


Gobble down the memories of fathers
and enjoy the happy, full feeling they afford you!

(If I could learn the silvery, waning
language of mothers
and speak it as mine did,
like hers before her, I would.)

(But I have no ear for tongues.)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Stories We Tell Ourselves

The boys arrived after we'd all been swimming, I think. High school nights were mostly spent at this house up in the hills, where my friend's parents would look the other way as long as no one drove and grades stayed markedly above average.

They had disturbed all the five or six large dogs who had been dozing happily when they rolled up with their luxury SUV, music blaring loudly. I immediately disliked them and immediately felt guilty that I'd judged them for being idiotic and rude.

As drinks were being poured, I noticed a nice box of chocolates on the counter which hadn't been there a moment before.

"Oh, how nice!" I said to my friend. "Ugh, I really am an asshole."

"What are you talking about?" she asked, breaking up an ice tray.

"Those guys came in, and I instantly thought they were meat head degenerates, but look, they brought us these nice chocolates! That's so, I don't know, polite."

My friend laughed, and said she'd pulled them out from her cupboard while I was trying, unsuccessfully, to shake hands and introduce myself.

After they left, my friend discovered that the boys had stolen all of her very ill mother's pain medications. We made pancakes the next morning and danced in the kitchen to Ella.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


I can't remember what sort of party it was, but I remember it was pouring rain. A hot, heavy summer rain since the season hadn't changed yet. It was still stifling enough that some kids were sleeping overnight in the library, the only building on campus with serious air conditioning.

Inside, there was some sort of ridiculous drama. I liked a boy, the first and last boy who wore button downs and khakis I'd ever liked. He was tall and very quiet, and it was easier to think about him than my mom, back in California, sick.

I stepped outside with my drink, dodging couples. Across the way I saw an older woman walking along side her dog. It was old, very old, shuffling with a painful gait. Even from a distance I could see the multiple large tumors bubbling up along his back and down its legs and its many pink bald spots.

The woman walked slowly beside her dog in the downpour, holding her umbrella out over it, in no rush. The loud music came back to me and I felt stupid for being so young. 

Thursday, May 09, 2013


It wasn't my horse.

We would all try to ride in the early mornings. Sacramento summers mean afternoons of 105 degrees, and the barn was out amid rice paddies and the air port -- no shade to be found any where.  Before the shows in Pebble Beach we would take our horses out to the watery fields to help them get used to splashing around in the water, in the hopes they'd take to the beach easier.

The watering truck had just finished its first circuit of the day, dampening the already arid sand of the arena and the tractor was headed in to drag it with metal spikes to groom the sand neat for surer footing.

We were at a standstill as I was adjusting the girth, the leather belly tack which secures the saddle. When the tractor raised its front bucket with a loud clank, he reared up, screaming. Turning, he threw me into the dirt. I landed on my left side, my arms up over my head, trying to roll away from his descending hooves. He clipped my kneecap instead of crushing it completely.

I pulled myself up and went after him. His eyes rolled and he was worked up in a foamy white lather.

After a long lesson, when he'd finally calmed and been hosed down and put away, I sat down by the tack room. I unzipped my leather chaps, untucked my breeches from my well-worn boots and rolled them up.  The black started mid-way up my shin. Not purple. Not dark blue. Black. Licorice black.

It extended up over my knee, swollen up like a softball, halfway up my thigh. When I touched it, I couldn't feel it. I was completely numb.

The rice paddies are gone now, and so is the barn. They built tract homes over everything, and they sit on the flat land of the valley, nearly all empty. At night they turn the lights on for no one. 

Thursday, May 02, 2013


I was very young and I'd just watched "Fantasia" and the thrill of watching "Night on Bald Mountain," which my mother would have never let me watch had she  been there was still in my mind when we were driving home in the rain. Squinting through the rain-spattered windshield, the red brake lights ahead of us reminded me of the writhing flames and little demons from Disney's animated short.

"They look like the devil," I said, pointing.

She turned to me, her face paling. "What?"

"The red lights, they look like devils."

Panicked, my mother rerouted us.

The Preacher's apartment was sparse and cheap, like all apartments of the recently divorced or sober. He gave me a soda and peanut butter crackers. I was left alone for an hour to watch television. I could hear the usual muttering that meant my mother was praying. After a while, they came back into the living room with its black pleather sofa.

"We're going to pray on you," the man explained, and I didn't say no. They put their hands on me, and prayed to banish the servants of Satan. I wondered if he had any more peanut butter crackers and when we would go home.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Further Thoughts On Chris D'Arienzo and O.P.P.

When Buzzfeed came to me asking if I had any ideas for them, I immediately pitched them a running series of interviews with creative people on their processes.

Like the Post Project, one of the ways I've been hacking away at The Horrible It is to really luxuriate in the concept of process. In my mind, process is the infrastructure on which you build discipline. Young artists look for a voice, professional artists look for their process.

Now it seems obvious to me that The Horrible It was inevitable: I was given a time frame in which to execute something and I started with absolutely no process. I had no tools. I was done before I even started.

So now that I have a sense of what my process is, I am endless fascinated by other people's process. (O.P.P., if you will.)

Talking with Chris, the creator of the Broadway hit Rock of Ages, I was really struck by how quick he was to laugh and how obviously happy he is.

When he described to me how he was shut out of the film adaptation of the project, it was clear that while he wasn't short-changing how upsetting and frustrating that experience was at the time, he had reached a place where it was the creative process that mattered more to him than anything else: he just wants to make art. I think it's that clarity of vision and the valuing of process over product that gives Chris his zen-like joy in creativity. I admire it and him.

You can read my interview with Chris here