the greatest thing, ever: in the newport grocery parking lot, a license plate holder that read PRINCESS QUINNY.

the worst thing ever: a cologne sample that made my elbow smell like cheap bourbon.

not but almost up there with quinny: original pirate material, the streets.

in one of my retirement fantasies, i buy a graying old farmhouse against the hills in the grapevine, a truckers' route between los angeles and central california. in the winter i drive to the interstate when it snows, hoping the pass isn't closed and gaping at the monstrous fog belts that hang ten feet above the asphalt. in the summer i drive north to casa de fruta and take in the garlicky air between gilroy and the winchester mystery house; then i go south through the mountains and read a book in denny's as the high school church groups pour in from the local thrill ride park. i know the gas station attendants by name and drink their watery coffee; i tape newspaper snowflakes in the windows of my farmhouse and listen to johnny cash.


at the peak of my tree climbing career, i'd have been up and down the neighborhood maples with enough mistletoe for dozens of late christmas packages before you could say scopes monkey trial. as it stands, i have no muscles and am utterly unwilling to dirty the clothes i laundered so carefully for my trip to arizona. be still, friends. i'll post your holiday treats as soon as the leaves get bored and start falling to the ground.

trip to arizona, yes yes. jake (still no website - work on that, eh?) and i are making for paul's place in tucson, where we will join leroy, jen, nik, julia, and assorted offline revelers in time for marlowe's year-end shindig. i'll strive mightily to recruit guest diarists for the site and paint all toenails that happen my way. i'll try to avoid singing in the car, as i know some people don't appreciate that.

That face swept quickly past -
My features, in a glass;
What caught my gaze? The eyes
Softened with content
I didn't know I felt -
O moving stranger

(diane wood middlebrook, "glimpse in a mirror")

being alone on christmas eve is not unlike being alone on any other night. in my case, it entails listening (and dancing) to enrique iglesias without shame, contemplating the giant plastic holiday candle (k-mart, you serve me well) in my bathroom, and thinking about the baby jesus. i've been unable to connect him to the tradition of christmas trees, but i've found lots of websites to think for me.
It is believed that on the night of the birth of Christ, all kinds of living creatures came to Bethlehem with gifts. The olive tree came along with its fruit and the palm with its date but the fir had nothing to gift the newborn king. So an angel, taking pity on the fir, commanded a cluster of stars to shine on its beautiful boughs.
this is good stuff, but it's a bit aesoppy. cloying. i prefer the party line on candy canes.
The white color of the Christmas candy symbolizes the Virgin Birth and the sinless nature of Jesus. The hardness of the candy symbolizes the solid rock, the foundation of churches and the firmness of the promises made by God. The candies are made in a "J" shape to represent the name of Jesus and the shape of the staff of the "Good Shepherd". And the three red stripes on the candy represents the Trinity and the blood shed by Christ to let us have the promise of the eternal life.
i'm addicted to candy canes - i'm probably made of them at this point. so basically i have a first class ticket to heaven. i was on tenterhooks for a while after stealing the book of mormon from a courtyard marriott in seattle, but now my heart is full.

we played round robin free association on the car ride to big bear this week. my father, a logical man, favored homophones; emily used words related to political history and bartending (how sad that she missed deukmejian!); joanna was scatological, and i kept returning to death and cheese. this is characteristic, as they are two of the most reliably compelling concepts in my world. it follows rather nicely that i'm an ovolactovegetarian aspiring poet.

new year's eve isn't a big time of reckoning for me; in recent years, i've focused on appreciating val and grant's fancy bartending and singing with paul as he plays the guitar. the years end more naturally at christmas, and it's appropriate to be at the fireplace with my beasts this time. i forecast lots of chuck and jude and notebooking for the next while, and that's more than fine. happy holidays, kids - here's hoping that we all get to heaven.


what will you see when you visit the build-a-bear workshop at fashion island? silicone breasts on moms? why yes - that mall has the highest concentration of implants on this side of the rockies. a nice girl losing her will to live because she's been firing cotton into stuffed animals all day? yes again, but that's the nature of custom toy stores. our point is that you might see george deukmejian, former governor of california. you will have nothing to say, though, and then he'll run away. he's sly, that deukmejian.


ahead of the pack for the first time in a long time - 72 hours until baby jesus's big day, and i've had two christmases already. the freedoms of being finished with gifts and having no midnight-mass-related obligations are keeping the holidays mellow, and i have no complaints.

on seattle, part 3: i've been too ashamed to admit that i concluded it wasn't for me on the second night of our trip. joe and i found ourselves at shorty's, a coney island-themed bar downtown, and its clown murals, surf rock jukebox, and disaffected bartender led me to believe that i need to go back to southern california. it's much more complicated than that - i couldn't find a building that felt just right, i didn't want to serve coffee for a living, i balked at getting so far away from my folks. i'm certainly at my best after big changes, and i felt like the belle of the ball after moves to palo alto, boston, oxford. i had studies to anchor me, though, and being alone and relatively aimless didn't seem so magical when i actually scouted the supposed site of my latest reinvention. i couldn't wear flip flops, couldn't find a room big enough for my crap, didn't realize that i'd been counting on an instant connection with the city. it's humbling to realize for the four hundred and seventy first time that i'm not very good at anticipating my needs, but i have a death grip on the notion that each fizzle gets me a bit closer to the right move. chicken soup for the generic loser's soul.

stupid reasons for los angeles: naked-toe-friendly weather. vaguely familiar yet intriguing vibe - high comfort, low boredom. the concept of a city of people who know they're rich and/or famous for stupid reasons - san franciscan faux-righteousness annoys me. i look forward to being scorned for my thrift store clothes and not-insubstantial butt rather than for my failure to free mumia. nothing but love for genuine activists, mind you, but i'm tired of californians pretending to be serious. i would also like to live in a bungalow and park my car.

fair-to-middling reasons for los angeles: wisp of a chance of working connections and finding a decent job, attractive cost-of-living figures, minimal relocation expenses.

real reasons: i want to see my sister at college, and to have coffee with my dad again. i need to be provoked and safe enough to really work at getting into grad school. i can't leave joe; we're utterly dysfunctional, but i'm not finished. so there.

found art: at the nomadic waste area in big bear this morning, a garbage man sat on a green plastic lawn chair. after watching us chuck our bags, he stood and threw the chair in a dumpster.

No! Time, thou shalt not boast that I do change:
Thy pyramids built up with newer might
To me are nothing novel, nothing strange;
They are but dressings of a former sight.
Our dates are brief, and therefore we admire
What thou dost foist upon us that is old,
And rather make them born to our desire
Than think that we before have heard them told.
Thy registers and thee I both defy,
Not wond'ring at the present, nor the past,
For thy records and what we see doth lie,
Made more or less by thy continual haste.
This I do vow and this shall ever be,
I will be true despite thy scythe and thee.

(bill shakespeare, sonnet 123)

dear santa,
From The Vatican Collection (tm)

For the first time, the Sword of the Archangel Michael is created from the artwork of the Vatican. In splendid bas relief, his legendary deeds are portrayed. The casting out of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. His fight of the Angels against the legions of Satan. The compassionate rescue of tormented souls. And the dramatic victory over "The Serpent". Each scene is meticulously detailed. Set with brilliant crystals and tastefully plated in 24-karat gold. Plaque is 11 1/2 inches wide by 44 1/2 inches tall.

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($9 Additional Shipping)
for your convenience, i'm enclosing a picture from the skymall catalog.

seattle is very beautiful, very cold (alas, i read geegaw's weather alert at a kinko's on queen anne hill!), and very difficult to navigate in a car. without the other cars, maybe - i'm convinced that everyone else was driving like tourists. happy to report that coffee vendors : seattle :: slot machines : las vegas, and they function the same way - i pass a cafe and realize there's change in my pocket and one more americano, just a single shot, wouldn't hurt anyone...

hunting for a place to live is probably a good way to meet a new city. you crawl through neighborhoods evaluating buildings, pop in and see a few in close focus - so, this is what windows and bathrooms and staircases look like here - and settle down in a coffeehouse with a newspaper to look for more. you catch snippets of conversation and see how the local kids do their hair as you muck through your crossword puzzle. we broke for pure tourism a few times (the space needle, a mexican modernism exhibit, a pilgrimage to toys in babeland), but mostly we wandered and peered and chatted. i met bartenders and dogs.


notes from a seattle apartment search:

- denny / summit 6 mo lease onsite laundry iffy? view, "coffee messiah"
- "unique space" brick wall 14' ceiling was commercial space poss no disposal ladder to loft: no climbing for jude?
- $795 "old world charm", little nat'l light, good luck parking.

i made the mistake of falling in love with the first building i saw (before i knew it was beyond my means); by the time the apartment manager started dropping scary rent figures on me, i had gauzy visions of leaded windows and mahogany detailing. i couldn't forgive later candidates for smelling funny, or having nasty carpet, or sitting across the street from 7-11. the lesson: it's not so good to drive around until you see a pretty place with a VACANCY placard. better to get the tough numbers from a local newspaper and harden your heart first.

oh, and come up with a plausible life story. in the beginning i told people i could maybe afford their rooms if joe decided to come with me, and then we had awkward-cheery exchanges essentially about my love life. landlords don't want that kind of detail. eventually i started saying that i was establishing residency to attend UW's creative writing program, but we were seeing the yucky places by then.


my father taught me to ritualize coffee, but kevin taught me to really worship it; he owned a cafe called the amsterdam, and he hired me for the summer after my first year of college. i learned that diedrich should be pronounced Died Rich, that a real mocha started with homemade chocolate milk, that the weird mercedes people who materialized at five fifteen would tip big if you let them in early and seemed empathetic. i'd be on the phone to france from three thirty to four thirty each morning and at work by around five, and for the first few hours each day i had only to greet the early people, chat with the old woman who delivered steaming pastries, and sit over the crossword puzzle with a scone and a custom drink. i was back home, stinking of espresso and wonderful almond paste, by noon; by the time i napped and reentered the waking world, the sun had nearly gone down. i completely avoided the tacky diurnal business that forces most people to scuttle around at unholy hours.

naps and gloom make everything more reasonable. san francisco was doing its holiday thing when i woke up at dusk today: a cab had a christmas tree jammed in its bonnet, a cable car actually caroled as it thundered by. normally i hate that shit, but i was warm and swirly and half awake. not sure they appreciated me at the grocery store, but i think they were just jealous.

i've never been to seattle. in my head it's eternally dreary, and i could live there without fleeing sunlight. i'm taking my flip flops with me to washington tomorrow. they may be useless, but in my perfect city, i wear sandals in the rain. i have to find out if this could be the place.

best custom drink: the vincent vega. coca cola, vanilla syrup, a shot of espresso. don't knock it 'til you've tried it.


when i'm not careful, ted hughes is my favorite poet. i haven't seen that much of his work - a few of the crow poems, famous bits like "pike" and "the thought-fox", a production of tales from ovid - but i found a copy of birthday letters at heathrow airport during a four-hour layover a few years ago, and it hooked me. for most people in the states, hughes is famous for 1) supposedly driving sylvia plath to suicide and 2) refusing to discuss their relationship. in a way, birthday letters is an extended striptease - hughes drops seemingly intimate details from his marriage and then sweeps them under tidy archetypes (one could argue that he's expanding on a joseph campbell-type contention that a primal cycle underpins most art and nearly all relationships). the problem - and herein is my fascination with hughes - is that his adaptations in the poems are largely unsuccessful. if birthday letters is supposed to seem like a failed attempt at healing through analogy, it's brilliant - the tragedy of his dramatic voice and its feeble universalizations is an awesome thing. if hughes didn't want to emphasize the conflicts in his imagery, if in fact he was simply inconsolable, then the poems are some of the most heartbreaking pieces i've ever read. i purchased the collection to be a rah-rah plath fan and hate her spouse, and i ended up sobbing into a big plate of breaded mushrooms in a nasty airport diner. it was a harrowing afternoon.

as i mentioned when a poodle chomped on my hand several months back, i'm in the business of learning that drama is serious stuff. you can't court it for fun - it will make you either ridiculous or miserable.

joe and i haven't had a particularly epic relationship. we started to fall in love in stratford, on the river avon, and we've had our share of bellicose episodes - nights in the rain, broken plates, reunions where it felt like an orchestra should be swelling behind us - but in truth we're a couple of fucked up post-children who know neither who we are nor what we want. i always told him that we'd conclude reasonably, that if we broke up i would be deeply and quietly sad. it's not true. i want fire in the sky, for everyone to walk on their hands to acknowledge that i'm upside down. what to do?, he said. i want an operatic demonstration that i'm a goddess for someone, but then that was always our biggest problem.

what will actually happen is that i'll burn some synthetic logs, have tea, and pet the cats. no earthquakes or sea serpents. i want to learn that this is how things happen, but it should be important that i love him this much.

Somebody had made one. You admired it.
So you began to make your rag rug.
You needed to do it. Played on by our lightnings
You needed an earth. Maybe. Or needed
To pull something out of yourself -
Some tapeworm of the psyche. I was simply
Happy to watch your scissors being fearless
As you sliced your old wool dresses,
Your cast-offs, once so costly,
Into bandages. Dark venous blood,
Daffodil yellow. You plaited them
Into a rope. You massaged them
Into the new life of a motley viper
That writhed out of the grave
Of your wardrobe. Like the buried wrapping
Of old mummy non-selves. You bowed
Like a potter
Over the turning hub of your rich rag rug
That widened its wheel.
Searching out the perimeter of a music -
The tongues of the loose ends flickering in air,
Issuing like a fugue out of the whorls
Of your fingertips. It calmed you,
Creating the serpent that coiled
Into a carpet. And the carpet
Lifted us, as it turned and returned,
Out of that crimson room of our cardiac days.
It freed me. It freed you
To do something that seemed almost nothing.
Whenever you worked at your carpet I felt happy.
Then I could read Conrad's novels to you.
I could cradle your freed mind in my voice,
Chapter by chapter, sentence by sentence,
Word by word: The Heart of Darkness,
The Secret Sharer. The same, I could feel
Your fingers caressing my reading, hour after hour,
Fitting together the serpent's jumbled rainbow.
I was like the snake-charmer - my voice
Swaying you over your heaped coils. While you
Unearthed something deeper than our verses.
A knowledge like the halves of a broken magnet.

I remember
Those long crimson-shadowed evenings of ours
More like the breath-held camera moments
Of reaching to touch a falcon that does not fly off.
As if I held your hand to stroke a falcon
With your hand.

(ted hughes, from the rag rug)

the ride home from thanksgiving dinner was always a high point of the holiday season: at one point, we considered giving a prize to the family member who recounted the strangest extended-family-member conversation. competition was stiff. this year we debuted a sisters-only talk in the car from davis to oakland, from mom to dad: the point is not that our unit has fractured into smaller parts, but that we kids are interacting in a novel and welcome way. we've told each other for some time that we'd stick together as adults, and lookit! it's actually working.

littlest sis made a good call with her BRITNEY SWALLOWS tee - stroke 9's lead singer wore a SPEAR BRITNEY top to last wednesday's punk-pop extravaganza, and it seemed reasonable that she might convince him to trade (woo, rocker man sweat!) after the show. sadly, i tattled to the bouncer about a large fan who menaced her during the set, and it seemed that he was close with the band. our chances of following said fan (who, i would add, not only trampled and nearly groped my sis but proceeded to break wind on her for two straight hours - is there no justice?) backstage were slim.

i fled outside and met a group of fellow disgruntled oldsters. one argued that philosophy and pink floyd were the pinnacles of human effort, and i countered with something about crooners and a defence of poetry; percy shelley was a big fat fuck, said the guy, and that was the end of that. hey, a concertgoer recognizes shelley!

in other news, i'm attempting a novel. i have less than a thousand words as yet, but they're nice words. and i have a plan! if i can double or triple my output in the next few days while getting my character across her kitchen and refraining from more jumbly flashbacks, we may have the beginning of something.


wednesday, 27 nov.
tee shirt:
tangerine, AMOEBA MUSIC
cab driver: so, you work for the music industry?
me: no, i like the store. and i like orange.

tuesday, 26 nov.
tee shirt:
teal, LE TIGRE, poor drawing of chihuahua
grocery clerk: so, you like cats? [points at shirt]
yes i do.

sunday, 24 nov.
tee shirt:
guy at newsstand: my granddaughter goes to stanford.
me: oh, lucky her! i had a really good time there.
[guy makes a sour face and stalks away]

tuesday, 19 nov.
tee shirt:
magenta, no text, paul frank logo
guy at gas station: is that for the movie monkey bone?
me: no, it's this designer's thing. the monkey's name is julius.
guy: brendan fraser's in monkey bone, so it's probably pretty good.

my little sister is wearing a BRITNEY SWALLOWS shirt to a stroke 9 concert tonight, god help her. i'm accompanying her, god help me.


happy birthday, mister president's daughters -

my favorite berkeley coffeehouse has a bush twins tribute wall. they could be having a big latte-and-schnapps party out there right now. i miss my car.

the word on the street is that the media can go crazy on the First Kids now that they're of age. we all remember how vicious the news became once chelsea clinton was old enough to defend herself - wooh. poor bushies, someone will mock your every legal margarita, or something.

big trip to talk with prospective landlords in seattle next week (thank you, ms. gaw, for your friendly local pointers). i got a haircut that says "clean credit report" today in preparation. a ladybug promptly buried itself in my bangs. omentastic! - like the ladybug that dove into a bucket of propane on my porch and came back to life on the day i first posted kidchamp. maybe washington will make me happy! maybe i'll get past the banana breakfast in my latest attempt to read gravity's rainbow!


after a seven-year streak of utter pathos, cal beat stanford at the big game. then they stormed the field and ran off with their own goal posts. maybe they'll slice them into little segments and wear them as bangle bracelets? maybe they'll make a battering ram and loot the local noah's bagels? i can but speculate; we left in the fourth quarter to avoid head trauma and the beery berkeley guy chatting up my mum.

i was very proud of the fancy chili i made last night, but i had convoluted chipotle paste dreams. in the one i remember, i was flying around in the car above a digitized map of the northeast. the goal was to land in massachusetts - that's a recurring dream thing - but i stopped in delaware at a state fair. i had a large foam cowboy hat and stringy blue hair that kept crawling down my shoulders, so i yanked it out and hid it in my pocket. "vegetarian / vegan chili!" yelled a food vendor, and i was hungry from all the car flying, so i approached him.

guy: ask me anything you like, Hat Girl!
me: tell me about making the chili.
guy: it's hard to get everything right when the RV is bouncing around. and in between, my little girls had two funerals to attend.
me: are you sure it's vegan? no rennet, gelatin, broth, big bacon bits? crazy things have animal products.
guy: like?
me: like peanut butter. they have to squeeze a chicken over it to make it creamy.

i walked off with my chili, but i realized i should have provisions - who knew if i'd find more protein before massachusetts? i met another guy and sent him back to the vendor with my twenty-eight dollar bill. he returned with a bucket.

guy 2: [peers at roiling sky] there's no way you'll make it now. best to just get a job and stay here for the winter. also, i love you.
me: i know. but do you know where i went to school? harvard [a lie]. and the little girl, the me with thirteen-year-old dreams, is dying. please help me find my car. it has a prawn hanging from the mirror.

and we set off down a bottomless concrete staircase. i woke up.

i told mum to wear neutral clothing to the game, and then i tired of the sorority girls in FUCK STANFURD [sic] tees; we found a vintage shop. now she has a fancy (red) scarf and i have a (red) beret and (red) fingerless lace gloves. i recommend this to visiting football fans: why bring an old college sweatshirt when you have an excuse to buy a ridiculous (red) boa? it'll cost like five bucks.


i switched elementary schools just before the ship trip in dana point harbor, the night when our class would pretend to be scurvy sailors and sleep on an historic clipper. the new class had a harbor day that emphasized biology - petting pools, kelp-smelling, watching swallows hack at the cliffs between mansions and beach. the highlight of this day was to be the monstrous old octopus in a tank at the visitors' center. as i had a love affair with scary things and a crippling fear of, er, krakens, i was thrilled. they were sort of the same thing in my head.

but the octopus had escaped, was the thing. hit the road, headed for the harbor, gotten the hell out of dodge, said our docent. in fact, the tank was ajar and there were suspicious squelchy marks on the table. i'm very gullible now, but i had an excellent bullshit detector then - i think it was true. though the octopus was probably piled like organ meat behind a door somewhere, it's awfully exciting to think that he might have executed fancy invertebrate cartwheels and rolled back into the ocean.

July 24, 1983: An Asian elephant, Misty, broke free from her chains at Lion Country Safari in Irvine, California. Head game warden Lee Keaton, apparently was attempting to put a chain around the elephant's leg when she turned on him, crushing his skull and killing him instantly. (Misty had attacked a handler, David Wilson, just three weeks earlier. The handler survived.) After Keaton was killed, Misty managed to run off the property, causing an evacuation of a nearby swap meet and a massive traffic jam on a nearby freeway. Misty was loose for three hours before being recaptured. At the time the elephant was owned by Gentle Jungle, a company that supplied animals for movies and television. Misty is now at Hawthorne Corporation giving rides to children.

i was four. i remember this - but i remember her on the 405, the same freeway (the same spot) where o.j. would joyride in his bronco ten years later. hadn't known how it ended, though.


i've hinted at it before: i spend substantial periods of time trying to zap myself into a molly ringwald character. lots of people wish themselves into the brat pack films - her lives in sixteen candles, the breakfast club, and pretty in pink are all fairly enviable. i tried to broaden my thinking - the stand would be tenable, too. fate is tricky, though. if i've succeeded, it's in being the bowl-cut, angsty molly in early episodes of the facts of life. that's like wanting to be janet jackson and becoming todd bridges' girlfriend on diff'rent strokes. eighties, i hate you!

zadie smith's autograph man was alright. like rushdie, she's prone to developing one-liners at the expense of cultural texture: she's funny, and i love that, but white teeth was a more thoughtful book. this is the sort of novel one expects from a twentysomething. smart and occasionally touching, not so substantial.

what am i expecting, though? how many people are capable of really nailing rites of passage, er, in passing? i think about paul and his novel - roland is about his age, and it's p's job to bring him to life in a way that resonates with millions of strangers. terrifying! i mean, i struggle with poems that convey the significance of the cat's toilet-drinking.

okay, but when is meaning clear? if zadie smith wrote the autograph man in twenty years, would i take her more seriously?

my parents' split and its aftershocks have made historians of the whole family. some interactions are simpler to categorize in the past tense: mistakes become patterns, long-term friction is identifiable. more often, we lose certainties: A doesn't remember what B considers defining, C can't trust B if A can't, D is neglected, E is misunderstood. you grab a subjective truth and hope it's true tomorrow, or to a stranger, or in twenty years. you try.


i don't have the taste-specific imagination that one needs, i'm guessing, to be a good cook. joe can take one whiff of a pumpkin bisque and know that it needs a certain kind of curry. emily and i, on the other hand, substituted frozen cherries for fresh cranberries in a holiday preserve because they were both round and red. ultimately it tasted divine, but we couldn't congratulate ourselves in good conscience.

i am, however, a vomit artisan. not real vomit (though, honestly, i find that awfully fascinating as well), but simulated vomit: when i was a slip of a girl, i dominated the lilliputian field of faux barf production to convince mum i needed to stay home from school. careful pummeling of things that looked like breakfast, a smattering of progresso bread crumbs, a dash of vinegar for that unmistakeable tang - i showed her a few early attempts, and honestly they may have been unconvincing, as the later triumphs never went beyond me and my palette. created for the pure joy of damn good mimcry, and flushed.

this anecdote was going somewhere, but nostalgia got me fuzzy. oh, well.

jen's slithy tove had me thinking yesterday. she opened the floor for a discussion of improbable reasons for love (he wears moccasins in the winter, he cried at the end of the hobbit). my initial think was a rejection of the premise - quirks endear because you're already infatuated with the whole thing, or because they suggest grander, more huggable traits (he's creative, she's sensitive). they're shoes and books, you know.

then i contemplated my navel for a bit and tried to simply respond. an approximation: the missus and i are a tesselation, a fish-bird-fish escher print. ignore the metaphor behind the curtain - i'm not saying that he completes me, that we complement one another. too squooshy. literally, you live with someone for long enough and your nose magically fits in their shoulder. their foot behind your knees, your arm on their back. add two cats who twine together in their sleep, and you have a monkey's fist for a bed. i've ended fights because it would be too weird to wake up sprawled on something i hated. it's a useful idiosyncrasy: sometimes your head decides things, and sometimes it's the random parts.


ENNUI NON!: exorcising the demon

1) join a huddle of little old men sitting on a porch and watching the city demolish housing projects. accept their pronouncements; reject their thermos of "oolong tea".

2) hike down to the grocery store for something you desperately need; buy milk and breath mints and realize you completely forgot the thing when you reach the top of lombard street and are almost home, sweating like a whore in church. repeat.

3) visualize your migraine as a bald guy with a jackhammer and a barbed wire tattoo on his forearm. imagine him getting smaller and more insubstantial as you descend the stairs and stomp on his face.

4) how about crochet?

5) peanut butter jelly time.


fury isn't really a novel, it's proof that salman rushdie can make oodles of money for riffing on whatever catches his fancy. it reminds me of my own trip to new york: this is what we ate, here's what people said, these are the accumulations i found when i got home, showered, smelled my clothes. i haven't the patience for Literature - between studying like a meth-addled monkey, playing grendel's revenge, and pretending that i stand at the core of my family's emotional well-being, the days have been brimming. fury was timely. i wanted to see trivial things bound together and advertised as A Serious American Work, and i wasn't disappointed. thank you, sal, for attaching weight to buffy the vampire slayer and long afternoons at home.

i would like to tell kaplan about my GRE score. they make posters of testers who excel, and i think i could best my fear of cameras for the opportunity to mock lesser monkeys on walls across america. oh, definitely. i would wear my hair in the messy buns everyone hates and draw mysterious glyphs at the corners of my eyes so that superstitious course-takers would maybe mimic me in order to succeed, yes yes. they would study my dopey picture face and ape it at home. i don't get to feel this way very often, you understand.

the storm that stranded me in pinole was a real brouhaha. i assumed the zap-sizzle-flashes were sparks from the electric bus lines, but the clouds rushed together with such verve that bmw car alarms rose together in song all over the neighborhood. i am not proud of requiring rescue from a gas station, but i adore the moments when weather-pleasantry conversations actually mean something, when the guy at the corner store almost tells you to leave your car outside, there's some monstrous stuff out there and you shouldn't go.


1590. the world is my butt monkey.


1: so, you remember peter the deke?
2: um, no.
1: peter the frat boy?
2: oh, yeah.
1: he's starring in a horror movie. the milkman. the alumni magazine says he's the villain...i think peter's the milkman.
2: maybe it's a red herring, maybe he's the victim.
1: or the hero. maybe osteoporosis is the real killer.

[phone goes dead]


pinole, you never left my heart. i'm back at the lovingly paved blip on the freeway where kidchamp's first entry stumbled together last year. as before, denial is a theme: i got caught in a nasty thunderstorm on my way to davis, and accidents on the bay bridge kept me on the road until (what little)sun(there was)set. i remain blind as a bat on freeways after dark, so pinole and i are getting comfortable with one another. but all is not lost - a nice man at the shell station is letting me leave my car parked there overnight, and mom is ferrying me to davis so i can take the GRE in the morning. mothers are wonderful people, and mine is the hercules of mothers. i am the augean stables for the time being, but we won't dwell on that. for now we will dwell on jack in the box, a pen and soggy scraps of paper, and a big-ass cup of free root beer.

phil seconded my comments about the ring, after a fashion, and notes that ringu (the japanese source film, and a substantial franchise at this point) is harrowing. paul claims to have bested its horrors, but he also refuses to drink tapioca pearl tea; sometimes we listen to him, sometimes we don't. i'm happy to report sleep sans incident for the last few days, though i now shut doors to televisions (in addition to closets) before bed.

affable big-headed foam guy or no, free root beer or no, i don't really trust jack in the box; their menu is too varied. they sell the sort of things that one eats when grocery shopping isn't feasible and the freezer is full of mummified food from a volume discount store: jalapeno poppers, taquitos, injection-molded sausage patties. i grew up going to carl's jrs, and though they are also utterly vile, each franchise smells the same and each item tastes like the same deep fryer. they generate a queasy sort of recognition, while jack in the box gives me the impression that they're serving whatever fell from trucks on the freeway over my shoulder. given a choice, i would not patronize them. it's still pouring, though, and my sweater has the weight and smell of a yak.

as months go, october was fairly bizarre. i finally 'saw' my father without a moustache, courtesy of the new york post and people magazine; a pair of irishmen, both named mick, began demolishing my apartment without warning; joe passed the foreign service exam and moved back to arizona, and mom offered me my sisters' wisdom teeth for a halloween costume. i'm a tough cookie, but wisdom teeth are strange things. they're striped like agates, and they look like they could run away on their goofy little roots. they are suspect.

i still get the feeling that i invite drama because i coveted it so much as a teenager. should i apologize to my family for being a lightning rod for weird shit? is it that i simply attach sinister meaning to innocuous things? can i start fires like drew barrymore in that movie?

here's mom.


note: i am a weenie. i saw maybe fifteen minutes of one of the alien movies when i was eight, and i'm still unable to think about sigourney weaver without getting upset. a camp counselor read me stephen king stories at some point in junior high; i continue to close all closet doors before going to sleep. i refuse to speak about jim henson's dark crystal, period.

that said, no one with the slightest tendency to clench at spooky things should see the ring - it's the scariest movie of all time. the premise is cheesy - watch an evil video and die in seven days - but that's just it: the first death is cliched and not at all disturbing, and i settled into my sticky theater seat thinking that the whole show would be silly. no, no. it's cruel and surreal and ultimately utterly unresolved. as we left, dozens of couples around us were fighting about coming to the movies: "let's go see "the ring", you said. jackass, jackass!"; "damn, i'm never watching television again. why'd you do this to me?". we had no reason at all - joe thought i wanted to go, and i thought he kept mentioning it because he was interested. that in itself is scary, as the film-in-the-film essentially lures random people to the VCR. so i had horrible nightmares, and when i jolted awake i had to convince joe to go to the bathroom and find me a sleeping pill; i was afraid to leave the bed.

why? because the director manages to scratch the surface of dozens of sinister archetypes, and the references are casual enough that if, say, you were a slightly paranoid viewer with a hyperactive subconscious, you'd be forced to fill the narrative gaps with personal fears. because i've seen maya deren and luis bunuel films, and the ring implies that their arty cacophony is evil, evil, evil. because i got used to hitchcocky, lovecraft-style felt-not-seen horror after an hour and forty-five minutes and was wholly unprepared for an explicit climax.

don't see the ring. if you have seen it, please tell me that it's amateurish and obvious and that i'm silly to fear my television. honestly - i need it.


the morning after a birthday can be more satisfying than the birthday itself. new reads are waiting for me - salman rushdie's fury, zadie smith's autograph man, lemony snicket: the unauthorized biography. the answering machine is full of good cheer, and it's socially acceptable to have cake for breakfast. in my thank-you note for friends who came to dinner, i get to tell valerie that my sister loves to see her, that my mother thinks grant is a catch. i wasn't very enthusiastic about turning twenty-four - i should be the great american something by now, or able to pay for my car insurance - but i woke up happy. hey.


for those of you who wonder about my brushes with mtv, sorority life's mara has joined my test prep course. and for those of you who wonder about state school student vocabularies - she's under the impression that unequivocal means 'special'.

my three-legged cat, on the other hand, has a fine grasp of language and fun; he vomited in three of joe's shoes this morning. this was calculated - they were five feet apart on the bedroom floor, and his aim was impeccable. one of the shoes was a camper, but the other two had "TO BOOT" printed on their insoles. three-legged cat means 'special'.



when i worked at a bookstore, i sold a cheap edition of don quixote to an earnest-looking high school student. our register wasn't registering very quickly, and the elderly man behind the student got a good look at what i was trying to sell; he was visibly relieved when the book left the store. i asked him about it, and he said

seventy-some years ago, don quixote landed him in the hospital with a horrible case of diphtheria. he'd gotten the book from the library, and the kid who'd borrowed it immediately before him had coughed all over the pages. he knew this because they ended up in the same room in the contamination ward; the other kid died. the old man had tried to read the rest of it many times since, and it panicked him; he was sorry to abandon cervantes, but that's how it goes.

i was cruelly mocked when i told my co-workers the story, but i did some diptheria research when i got home; turns out that it's quite possible for that sort of germ to linger in a book for several weeks. as for the likelihood of the whole thing - i've never seen someone look quite so devastated about, um, don quixote. i think i believe him.


joe and i were locked out of the apartment last night. to no one's surprise, my uncle wasn't around to come over and save us with his master key. i've had it to here with paying people to break me into my house, so i built a lock pick with a mineral water bottle and joe used it to get the door open. if you don't believe that, i can but say that i've read a lot of girl-detective novels and befriended a few locksmiths over the years.

1. Which is the mightiest?

2. Which has committed the most acts of staring?

3. Which tail will play hooky?

4. Which is:
a) The lawyer?
b) The doctor?
c) The theologian?
d) The world-wise?
e) The good-for-nothing?
f)The good-for-something?

5. Which is your favorite?

6. Which would make a good hairnet?

7. Which is good for a free meal?

8. Which would Goethe wear?

9. Which would Homer choose, if he came back to life?

(Questions for Further Study, from Fragments on Tails, Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, 1783)

There is a theory of crying that tears are actually the body's way of releasing excess elements from the brain. There is a theory of dreaming that each one serves to mend something torn, like cells of new skin lining up to cover a hole. I'm not one to have dreams about flying, but last week we were thirty feet above the bay - this was where we went to discuss things, so that no matter what we decided it was only we two out there, and we'd have to fly back together. I'm not one to have dreams where animals can speak, but last night a weeping horse I'd been told to bridle wanted me to save him from being put down. We discussed what was left of his ability to take children for rides - how much trot, how much canter - but I just wasn't sure I could do it, having already bridled him and all. I was once very brave. Once I was very brave. I was very brave once. I boarded a plane before dawn. I carried all those heavy bags. I stayed up the whole night before folding the house into duffel bags. I took a curl from the base of your skull and opened the door to the rusty orange wagon and weighed those heavy duffel bags and smiled at the airport official. I boarded a tiny propeller plane and from a tiny window I watched you walk back to the rusty orange wagon. I watched the rusty orange wagon go whizzing by. They say the whole world is warming, but only by imperceptible degrees.

(lisa olstein)

in southern california, the santa ana winds are a gentler form of the gusters that tear through las vegas. they have the yeasty, benevolent heat of a laundry duct (yeah, i like the smell of hot lint; i also like the smell of gasoline). wind from the bay is a fine rain, really - like god is spitting when he talks, as a friend used to say. out here it's simply strong as hell. the school out back has been holding phys ed indoors - is lusty air bad? - so the redwoods at the end of the yard lack their customary knot of twelve-year-olds sharing a cigarette. van gogh or no, cypresses standing still are nothing like flames - they remind me of cemeteries in los angeles. whipping around in this weather, they're much better.


finally saw mulholland drive last night. an old salon article argues that it's the most straightfoward of lynch's weirder works, but i'm unconvinced - blue velvet and wild at heart made a lot of sense to me. i'll need to watch it again if i'm to address that point seriously; i have a bad habit of letting my eyes go out of focus and wallowing in pure color when i see one of his films for the first time. then i get urges to paint my apartment and wear blood-red lipstick.

local news has been full of the ten-year critical mass anniversary this weekend. their monthly bike ride (friday) was especially well-attended, and a bit of montgomery street was closed downtown in honor of car-free day. their arguments are sound - pollution is getting nasty around here, and san francisco streets were designed so poorly that they cry out for some sort of alternative transportation (i'm rooting for the bay area's olympic bid in the hope that it triggers a commute reform) - but, like most community action groups, they lose me by being completely obnoxious. i've had a few close scrapes with cars running red lights while i was in the middle of a crosswalk; i couldn't begin to count how many times i've nearly been hit by a cyclist (and they swear at me. huh?). i'm not so inclined to support added bike lanes when riders ignore extant traffic markers. i know that i'm letting a few jerks ruin the movement for me, but i'm bitter about getting lumped in with shitty and frivolous drivers. can't we all just get along?


the first week of silence was mostly the versace demon's fault. when he was dating my sister, she gave him our modem; when they parted ways this summer, he and our dial-up access disappeared in a cloud of sulfurous smoke. poor computer - i had been slapping it around for failing to meet my needs, and it was telling the truth about its lack of hardware the whole time. i'm a bully.

week #2 was visits to san francisco and a sudden obsession with the GRE. i'm still more than a year from grad school, but i decided to do the standardized testing dance while y=mx+b still means something. i've probably spent 30 hours studying so far; it's kind of sick.

the haters have been trying to silence my mother for decades. when her high school class donned matching white dresses and sang at graduation in the hollywood bowl, they asked her to mouth the songs. my sister used to stretch her wee arms toward mom's face when she sat down for lullabies ("no sing, mommy, no sing"). happy to say the tide has turned; as we painted the bathroom last week and listened to 69 love songs, mom took the stephin parts and i sang with claudia / shirley. this whole parent-as-roommate thing is working out rather nicely.

to do:

i) when afternoon temperatures return to double digits, cornopoly. i've been critical of the town-as-farm vibe up here, but i will concede that their halloween / harvest events appear to kick ass.

ii) collage / application for the delta of venus, local bohemian cafe. when i asked about dropping off employment info, i was advised that the owner likes bright and shiny things. my plan of attack, then, involves foil / tea light constellations, the famous lauren snowflakes, and doctored photos of emily dickinson. in the event that i fail, i've also contacted some gourmet mushroom growers. someone will hire me.

iii) writing you back. sorry about that.

Do you remember the day we wanted to describe everything?
There is a beautiful cage in the empty sound
where the name would have been. One strand of hair
was music. I summoned the courage to grin: I climbed the hill
with my bucket and slept and cannot be cheered. This is not
enjoyment of darkness because we are made to see
edges of the light, facing out again, to the black.
Was it sadness or fear? But no night is old, they are all beyond
being old. Nothing has brought me back unwilling.
The sea is the sea when we turn our back on the city.
This would be a good day to go sailing
perhaps, elegantly into the vast and vacant sky.

(genevieve kaplan)

(1) was abroad when the pentagon was attacked. her workplace in washington will have no ceremony tomorrow, though the building houses the u.s. constitution. she wants to find a quiet place.

(2) was unlike himself when he spoke of the way his new york apartment smelled last september. maybe he expected us to want local details of the disaster; maybe it was helpful to give them away. it was the only serious conversation we've ever had.

(3) - (50) found a decrepit cafe on market street, the only storefront downtown with any signs of life. the greyhound station pulled barricades across its counters when frustrated air travelers began to look dangerous; we looked for breakfast because we had nothing else to do. the cafe owner stood on a table in front of his television: "IT'S ALRIGHT! WE HAVE EGGS!"

before the bus terminal, when the television was just beginning to shock us and i was groggy with sleep, i was on the phone. nothing dire - i was lucky enough to know that my loved ones were nowhere near the sites - just greetings and affection. that's the plan tomorrow. were i there, i would hug you.


i have yet to live more than five minutes from the set of an mtv reality show. in san francisco it was the real world house on lombard; now i'm a hop-skip-and-jump from sorority life. when the university is back in session, i'll make every effort to flatten the sisters with my roller skates. your fifteen minutes of fame are over!

a chain link fence separates the yard from the local junior high. i assumed this morning's child-din was middle school related, but those shrieks came from the elementary school across the street. this is the undiscovered country: children, insects, people who wear shorts and don't deliver packages.
I am the color of wine, of tinta. The inside of my powerful right claw is saffron-yellow. See, I see it now; I wave it like a flag. I am dapper and elegant; I move with great precision, cleverly managing all my smaller yellow claws. I believe in the oblique, the indirect approach, and I keep my feelings to myself.
But on this strange, smooth surface I am making too much noise. I wasn't meant for this. If I maneuver a bit and keep a sharp lookout, I shall find my pool again. Watch out for my right claw, all passerby! This place is too hard. The rain has stopped, and it is damp, but still not wet enough to please me.

(elizabeth bishop, from strayed crab)

knowing that one is doing something For The Last Time is silly. insignificant activities take on all sorts of ridiculous importance. i could have spent the last few days dramatizing my interactions with joe - rightfully important things, as it's possible that i'll move farther away after davis and our san francisco phase is about to end - but i've fixated on little things. this is the last time i'll wake up in this room, the last shower in the clogged tub, the last cup of dodgy instant coffee on the porch. when i came back to the apartment after he left for washington last year, he'd traced his hand in one of my notebooks (i'd done the same when we nearly broke up in oxford). i don't have the stomach to be sentimental in that way this morning; it's much easier to rhapsodize about last pieces of toast.

kidchamp: cow country coming soon.


site updates are going to be difficult when i move in for good. it was my job to resuscitate the computer in davis, and mom's system doesn't believe it has a built-in modem. i coaxed it, serenaded it, plied it with tough-looking accessories - no progress. consoled myself with the assurance that i'd have lots of mail and work when i got back online in san francisco today, but the inbox was bare. pity party for me!

davis is a digest-sized version of my parents' old house. i had no idea that arranging furniture could be so emotional - i know that we're working with a smaller space, that the new rooms don't really care that the sofa and the fat man chairs need to be placed just so in relation to the coffee table - but i get angry when a certain bookcase can't live next to its friends. the building should be more sensitive to my nostalgia.


it must be difficult to manage a corner store if you're insane. i was too lazy to trudge up to searchlight market for a carton of milk after mailing letters on polk street, so i tried the place on union instead. i'm not sure that they were selling anything - the four or five refrigerators looked like the one in my apartment, and none of them would open. there were a few bottles of wine on the floor in front of the counter, but the room's focus was definitely several dozen ishtar and romancing the stone cassettes. the guy behind the counter was engrossed in one of those, and he wasn't interested in confirming the presence or absence of milk. fine, then.

insanity in oxford, on the other hand, was a big advantage for the old jamaican chap who owned hi lo. bars were required to close at eleven, but this place was open until five in the morning sometimes - who was going to argue with scary dreadlocked-beard man? he had a tendency to scream at patrons for breathing too loudly and his eight-year-old grandson charged three quid for warm cans of red stripe, but an after-hours bar is an after-hours bar; it was always jammed. i was one of his wife's favorite customers until i had to step on a seat cushion to get to the restroom one night. that was the end of my acquaintance with hi lo, but i bet it's still packed to the rafters.


a full year of kidchamp! the homestead is intact! i feel like i'm back at the computer lab in elementary school, having successfully navigated my raft to the willamette valley though thieves got two of my oxen and little jessie died of a snakebite.

keeping at a hobby is actually quite impressive for me, you see. my guitar gets exercise when paul comes to visit and i plan to break out my roller skates as soon as i get to davis, but at the moment that stuff is weeping softly in my closet. plans have a way of running into one another and being forgotten.

i still perch on the back porch stairs, cheapie prayer candles / ash tray / mug of tea at my ankles, and write each of my posts in a spiral-bound notebook. the rusty pipes at my shoulder still look like sex organs, i have yet to figure out what goes on in the abandoned warehouse across the alley, and charles bronson still peers at me through the broken cat door. i didn't need the bridesmaid dress from pinole after all; i was dropped from the wedding party, so the order was never placed. joe moved back from washington dc when anthrax closed the senate building, so my big relocation never happened. the animal hospital and i are amicable, and my old supervisor promises me a glowing letter of recommendation when i need it.

happy birthday, little site. you're a bit vague, a bit fitful - but i like your direction.


du hast: according to popbitch, rammstein's till lindemann will be releasing messer (knives), a collection of poetry, in september. if you haven't already gotten me the santa claus cthulhu for christmas, this would do nicely.

du hast nicht:
Werchter: --> we need your help here!
Richard has lost an ostentatious ring shortly before the show. It regards a huge ornated silver ring. Despite of an intensive search, this ring was nowhere to be found.

Richard emotionally clings to this piece of jewellery due to a very personal matter. Anyone who has news about the current whereabout, please send a mail to...

(pictures of said ring at rammstein.com)
what, one wonders, would rammstein consider an appropriate reward?

mom surrendered her keys to the old house this morning. at the moment, she's probably somewhere outside sacramento with a car of yowling cats. i began jamming sweaters and books into duffel bags this afternoon; i'll join her in davis with my first load of crap this weekend. she tells me there's a good thai restaurant and a tapioca drink bar close to the new place; she also says that the local kaplan center should be very happy to give me a job. we'll - discuss that.


the phantom edit, part the second: a concerned listener adds bass lines (and supporting vocals) to those pesky, minimalist white stripes.
What is most interesting about this project is to listen to Mr. McDonald grow more comfortable with each installment in his role as the White Stripes' uninvited bassist. In the first few songs, he tries to fit in and not detract from the original appeal and integrity of the music. As a result, the songs sound very natural, almost as if they were originally recorded with bass, but at the same time a lot of the rawness and power that came from the sparseness of the music is lost.


A highlight is "I Think I Smell A Rat," on which Mr. McDonald adds a bass line (borrowed from "Paint It Black" by the Rolling Stones), which, instead of blending into the song, stands in glorious counterpoint, adding to rather than subtracting from the White Stripes' version. On the next two tracks, "Aluminum" and "I Can't Wait," he adds his own California alternative-pop backing vocals, and it soon becomes clear that the less true to the White Stripes - and the more true to himself - Mr. McDonald is, the more worthy the collaboration becomes.

my sister anticipated this. when she was a wee girl, she found one of my drawings (nothing special, as then and now i can draw nothing but cats), colored it in and replaced my name with hers, and stuck it on the refrigerator to impress our mother. emily's art has always been aggressive - when i beat her out as mom's helper for cookie-making, she actually bit me in the ass - drew blood right through my purple corduroy pants, the little monster. i'd like to say that i retaliated later by shutting her in the toy chest and rolling it around until she threw up on her stuffed animals, but i actually did that without provocation. ah, girl-children. ask me about my chipped teeth sometime.

KISS, Pete Yorn and Tom Waits are the final additions to the line-up on "We're A Happy Family", the forthcoming Ramones tribute album, joining a glittering array including U2, Metallica, Eddie Vedder, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Marilyn Manson.
we're very excited about tom waits / "return of jackie & judy" around here, and i'll admit that marilyn manson / "kkk took my baby away" could be a good time as well. as for the offspring / "i wanna be sedated" - well, it's preferable to an actual offspring song (complete track list).

time to pay homage to the best jukebox in san francisco. technically it's the last boys' night before joey moves to chicago, but i'll pretend it's my send-off for davis - a week and counting, now.


i tried to post about the al-qaeda training tapes - the ones with the dogs - a few days ago, but their recurrence on the news makes me so angry that i have little to say. telejournalists will never cease to disgust me.

this won't seem related, but it makes sense in my head.
When I got there the dead opossum looked like
an enormous baby sleeping on the road.
It took me only a few seconds - just
seeing him there - with the hole in his back
and the wind blowing through his hair
to get back again into my animal sorrow.
I am sick of the country, the bloodstained
bumpers, the stiff hairs sticking out of the grilles,
the slimy highways, the heavy birds
refusing to move;
I am sick of the spirit of Lindbergh over everything,
that joy in death, that philosophical
understanding of carnage, that
concentration on the species.
- I am going to be unappeased at the opossum's death.
I am going to behave like a Jew
and touch his face, and stare into his eyes,
and pull him off the road.
I am not going to stand in a wet ditch
with the Toyotas and the Chevies passing over me
at sixty miles an hour
and praise the beauty and the balance
and lose myself in the immortal lifestream
when my hands are still a little shaky
from his stiffness and his bulk
and my eyes are still weak and misty
from his round belly and his curved fingers
and his black whiskers and his little dancing feet.

(Gerald Stern)

product research: the twenty-first century's answer to confessionals and selling plasma for fun and profit. two pleasant marketers paid $100 this morning to videotape me hopped up on cold medicine and poke around on kidchamp. the transaction was comfortable, though it's a bit strange that motorola now knows

- my sister christened her sneakers The Intergalactic Slut Shoes
- i am unable to sing "brave scotland"
- the portable toilets in petaluma frightened me.

is this information a weapon for the forces of darkness? have i prostituted myself? did it bother them that the apartment smelled faintly of cat poo?

i'm still flailing around for material to slap together on an 'about' page. i like the concept of an FAQ, but i'm not questioned (ha) very often - if you're burning to learn something, do let me know.
Yes: there was to be, as Lord Henry had prophesied, a new Hedonism that was to re-create life, and to save it from that harsh, uncomely puritanism that is having, in our own day, its curious revival. It was to have its service of the intellect, certainly; yet it was never to accept any theory or system that would involve the sacrifice of any mode of passionate experience. Its aim, indeed, was to be experience itself, and not the fruits of experience, [motorola] or [cat-related] as they might be. Of the asceticism that deadens the senses, as of the vulgar profligacy that dulls them, it was to know nothing. But it was to teach man to concentrate himself upon the moments of a life that is itself but a moment.

(oscar wilde, the picture of dorian gray)

caterina beat me to commenting on the verlan article in yesterday's new york times. i was all atwitter about having a personal frame of reference for something that interests the general public, but the argot glossaries at my disposal are a bit too rude to recommend. links are a delicate business, you see.

my french was fairly decent by suburban standards - i studied it for eight years before college, so i could hold my own with les trois mousquetaires and the occasional exchange student. then i dated French Vanilla (a guy who'd gone to high school near cannes and was in denial about being caucasian - long story) for a year and a half; my listening comprehension went through the roof and my grammar went down the toilet. in conversation courses at university, my professors would interrupt me to tell the class that i'd used an interesting term that shouldn't really come up with elders or strangers.
But along with its subversive element, [a professor of French applied linguistics] explained in an interview, "for the young urban professional, Verlan is a form of political correctness expressing solidarity with and awareness of the immigrant community at a time of anti-immigrant politics."


But Leyla Habane, a Moroccan-French university student...is leary [sic] of that interpretation. "I think these terms can be pejorative in any form," she said, though she admitted that they could also be used playfully. Perhaps because it has been so widely adopted by most French, she finds the term beur [verlanization of arabe] offensive.
my understanding leans toward ms. habane's; french is a bit tricky now, as mine is peppered with verlan and argot that i haven't exactly earned. also, predictably, my circle of francophones kinda contracted when FV and i stopped dating.

the times piece was nostalgic for me, though; i'm tempted to brave the conversation group at the benevolent bookstore we discovered last night. for now, it's France Battle time on iron chef.


beth orton / daybreaker: the all music guide warned me that this was the most conventional of her three albums, that maybe i should start somewhere else, but i'm still trying to believe in new releases. the title track here is strong - throaty, luxurious delivery, an appropriate dollop of burbles and wheeps, excellent pacing. i suspect that spinning this disc might have brought the fog back in; can't be sure, but i'll listen some more just in case. "mount washington" has an annoying effect that sounds like the cell phone when it's crushed in my purse and leaving strange messages on my friends' answering machines. i forgive beth orton for this on account of the weather.

david bowie / heathen: deserves most of the attention it's getting, may in fact be his best release since scary monsters. "everyone says hi" strikes me as a sequel to "young americans", and that's a good thing. crooning throughout the album reminds me of bowie's songs as the goblin king in labyrinth, and that's a very good thing - i may be the only girl in america who actually enjoyed him in the tina turner wig and those particularly startling leather pants. the "cactus" (pixies) cover is one of those happy paradoxes where the antithesis of an ideal vocalist is also an ideal vocalist. now i want a frank black version of "heroes".

i finally let the office know that i wouldn't be coming back in september. i've been chewing on the idea for a while, but after two years of gainful employment - it's a bit frightening, this official Nothing To Do. the move to davis is slated for the first of next month, so i'll be tinkering with poems and taking housework too seriously until then.

laura dern played the u.s. poet laureate on the west wing the other night. as the casting choice didn't bother me, i'm probably going to hell.


plush santa claus cthulhu (via logical creativity)! someone needs to own this. the jingle bells on His tentacles are so cute.

fully lucid dreaming has never really come together for me. i've been able to recognize that i'm having a nightmare, to change its course by tweaking its internal logic (if i'm being chased by a ghoul, i can crash the dream by playing scrabble with it) - but i never reach the super-effective stage where i can use my hours asleep to sort out solutions to waking problems. a guest speaker in my college sleep class was very excited about that stage: conceivably, it could extend one's work day in all sorts of constructive and not-at-all-restful ways.

in poking around a lucid dreaming site this morning, i came across a section on 'dream markers' - broken appliances, for example, tend to recur in dreams and can be an excellent indication that one is asleep. the flip side of that marker, though, is that a lucid-dreamer-to-be is directed to ask himself if he's awake every time an electric gadget doesn't work. yup, that's a recipe for mental health.

the fingers / dig spaces: i've been looking for a good new local band, preferably melodic guitar pop, for some time. the fingers are not that band; they are stroke 9 (of "little black backpack" fame) with a cellist. i'm slowly learning to ignore enthusiastic music reviews in the bay guardian.


i'm actually glad that i am trying to break your heart, the documentary on the new wilco album, opens in orange county a month before it comes to san francisco; down there, indie stuff tends to appear on the radar just as the rest of the country is getting sick of it. then again, i spent most of my time in southern california at debate tournaments or reading in my room. i'll admit that i might have failed to meet the hip kids.

dear enjelani is on her way to being formally hip; she landed a recording contract, quit her job at cisco, and headed for a recording studio in nashville. just two years ago she was playing our cafe nights at the french house...hooray for nice girls finishing first.

all sorts of talented people are popping up on the web again - paul is now broadcasting from tucson, stewart is back from his world tour, and also lauren has begun posting again. welcome back, everyone! i missed you.

every window was wide open last night as joe watched the giants game and i vacillated between my notebooks and the porch, waiting for the heat wave to break. we were both inside when barry bonds hit his 600th home run; fireworks exploded onscreen and thundered outside, reflected on the high-rises up the hill. i don't give a toss about baseball, but the effect was nice.


we ran into thoth, street-performing subject of last year's oscar-winning documentary, at the movies yesterday. as it was quite warm and he's known for appearing in a gold loincloth - in central park - i was surprised to see him fiddling away in a heavy cape for a knot of people exiting signs (not an epic film; wait for video). pleasantly surprised, mind you - san franciscans get cranky when summer is actually summery. we need thoth.

from "a chat with howl", christopher wunderlee's piece in zyzzyva's fall issue:
Wunderlee: Have you had the chance to meet any of the other great voices of contemporary poetry?

HOWL: Oh, sure. I met The Wasteland once, in London. He was depressing, kind of characterless, but you could tell he had had some tough things to deal with. I corresponded with Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird for a while, but it got tedious - he's a bit of a schizophrenic - one day he'd be eloquent and passionate; the next, empirical and austere. I never took to The Red Wheelbarrow - no flair, always spoke in short sentences. Same with The Road Not Taken. But Funeral Blues and I were very close; we understood each other. The Fish and I had a bit of a fling. I've played golf with Skunk Hour for years; he's a bit longer off the tee, but I catch up with my putting.

on repetition: in finishing a wild sheep chase, i've finally read all things murakami. it combines his customary elements (heavy drinking, cat with a fish name, mysterious woman, disappearance, sheep man) in a fairly satisfying way. as i've grown accustomed to his chattiness, his themes are comfortable.
"Remember the name of your cat?"
"Kipper," I reply.
"No, it's not Kipper," the chauffeur says. "The name's already changed. Names change all the time. I bet you can't even remember your own name."
Shivering cold. And seagulls, far too many seagulls.
"Mediocrity walks a long, hard path," says the man in the black suit. "Green cord via red cord, red cord via green cord."
"Heardanythingaboutthewar?" asks the Sheep Man.
The Benny Goodman Orchestra strikes up "Air Mail Special." Charlie Christian takes a long solo. He is wearing a soft cream-colored hat.
on flat-out boring, i let my sister talk me into seeing resident evil. i usually know better than to rent movies based on video games, but i'm a sucker for ZOMBIES WHO ONLY WANT ONE THING...TO EAT HUMAN FLESH!. if anything works in game-movies' favor, i assumed it would be that one is assured of a win at the end. not so! this thing concludes with poor bathrobed milla jovovich about to gun down a whole city of the not-at-all-scary living dead. she's quite striking, and i'm sure it's cost-effective to crank out sequels with little more than milla, gray makeup, and chocolate pudding, but - i want to like bad movies, and it's so hard sometimes.

08.04.02 dog years
Mostly, rankled, I yell: Dumb dog, how long
before you recognize, I belong here?

He never will, though I'm no stranger to him
than to myself. He barks when I pull up, barks

as I open my front door. I hesitate, but he's sure
that I've come home to the wrong life.

(Susan Cohen)
joe returned from the grocery store with a bouquet of flowers last week. i'm so accustomed to associating them with overwrought holidays, with forlorn men at the supermarket who forgot their anniversaries, that i was confused: did you do something wrong? are you planning to do something? he was just being thoughtful, though, and they're lovely. charles bronson enjoys them as well, and has been digesting and re-presenting them all over the kitchen. one wonders why cats are so keen on greenery - nearly everything is poisonous for them.

07.31.02 meu nome e gal

i've acquired a lot of poetry in the last month. sizing up editors, envying the occasional "first time in print" authors, and so on. the last piece in zyzzyva, a journal that intimidates me and yet manages to seem benign, is a series of cover letters from their rejection pile. their amusement value isn't always readily apparent, and that worries me.
I am the former managing editor of Eastern Washington University's literary journal, Willow Springs, and more recently a waiter at Bread Loaf.

- DL, seattle

Since you state that "cover letters are of minimal importance", I will with relief keep mine short and to the point. I don't have any credits anyway.

- SC, alabama

As a man in my mid-twenties, I have been exposed to enough social, economical, and political stimuli to sustain ideas for a hundred-year writing career. I have seen misdirection of responsibility and selfishness to such proportions that you feel humiliated for others, but I have seen compassion and growth to match.

- WN, portland

that final one makes me titter, actually.

my own mail is awfully nice - both lukas and enjelani sent heartening things after my adventures with the weblog review. we like them. which reminds me - ray is as engaging in person as he is online; paul and i spent a lovely afternoon with him in berkeley a few weeks ago.

the YES YOKO ONO exhibit at the moma was fairly lackluster. i intended to gain respect for conceptual art - bet ten dollars on it, in fact - and was disappointed. "amaze", a series of plexiglas walls surrounding a toilet, knocked two or three museum-goers to the floor while i was in the room. i'd like to think that the slip-and-falls were planned with the piece - it would have been considerably more interesting than the twenty white chess sets or the eerie videos of john and yoko's bed-in. john lennon, by the by, looked utterly joyless throughout the collection (there were several lengthy videos of his face, his toes, and so on). radical pacifism is kind of creepy.

feminism, on the other hand, was a big old party at ladyfest last week. screenings and concerts we caught were generally amateur, but i mean that in the best possible way - hooray for girls who are unpretentious, loud, and excited about their art. the thought of leaving san francisco actually saddened me for a few days. i know events like these are slowly popping up around the country, but it's nice to be in the right place at the right time.


as expected, acquaintances have been kind to my site. it began as a stunt double, standing in for phone calls i meant to make and e-mail i meant to send. ambition ended there, really - friends check in for a bit of my day, and the occasional stranger gets bored and moves on. no surprises.

i've avoided sweeping pronouncements; politics and religion are certainly part of my life, but they tend to ruin dinner parties. i dislike rants. strike that: i adore rants, but i've attended to the notion that one should pick apart small things rather than skate across great things. write what you know, ad nauseam.

i figured i was due for a kicking from a stranger - kidchamp lacks a comment box, so i sought punishment from the weblog review. ask and you shall receive -
...the blog lacked capital letters. I expected to find the introspective scribblings of a semi-literate teenager. My tearing hand reached to my hair.

I found nothing interesting, funny or gripping in the actual content. It's a personal journal that would sit happily on the hard drive. It does not speak to the audience, it appears to be oblivious to the audience, and there are references to places, events and people that have no meaning to strangers. There is no attempt to explain and no sense of a personality behind the blog. Her actual use of English is of high standard - non-capitalisation apart. However, she does tend to use colloquialisms which are near unintelligible to me (I am a foreigner), and which, I suspect, are an unconscious imitation of the books she reads. Many of her entries refer to the books she read, but, like many of the other entries, require a prior knowledge to appreciate. I was struck [sic] by her seeming existence in a vacuum, with no reference to the outside world, that I searched for her September 11th entry. That only proved how trite and insular she is.


I would strongly recommend not visiting this site. The target audience is Lauren, and, possibly Joe and Paul. That's it. The writer is highly proficient in sentence construction, and I would be happy for her to write reports for work, but that does not make her a writer. There is nothing excrutiatingly [sic] awful about the site but very little of any merit.
as expected, the review amused the hell out of me; i do feel guilty, however, about soliciting formal criticism for an expressly casual site. i'm also tired of being so conversational that i don't make sense. my breakfasts are lovely, but they've probably received all of the attention they deserve.

i like the idea of comments, and i like the idea of an About page; expect them. i also like the idea of a larger audience; i'll try to earn it by treating kidchamp as Real Writing.

i'm tempted to write to my reviewer; i responded to september 11th with a ted hughes poem and a david foster wallace passage. ah yes, but i didn't explain what i was doing. more on that later.


Keep a dream notebook in which, on awakening, you record whatever fragments or scenes you can recall. Do this over a period of two or three weeks, or longer.

Not every dream will be useful.

01. whistle of a drill from an unidentifiable direction
02. dry hiss of tinnitis
03. sediment in a mug of tea
04. san judas tadeo translated hastily, the product a fifth of its source
05. mustachioed praying mantis
06. rolls against my back and nudges me awake, signaling the crisis that will consume the day
07. bare cobs the size of crocuses
08. convincing an antique to lend its history to the apartment's bare cheapness
09. spectre of ancient Pacific swallowed by taquerias
10. vendors with freshly iced churros sweating in the sun
11. and television taught itself a dozen new languages while I was asleep
12. the cats blinking awake as I pronounce their names, their cries an approximation of their names for me
13. a catastrophe in satin
14. platform shoes chuckling on the sidewalk
15. specific sadnesses
16. evolution of the modern hat rack
17. a boy with a port wine stain, a woman with a deviated septum
18. a warm valve packed into ice and papered against the wall
19. bubobs unsatisfactory in the mirror
20. i drip with conviction
21. useless profusion
22. my proud father hammering analogies into the table
23. a grim equation of serotonin and bile
24. a great bolus of years I can regurgitate on command
25. lonely ghosts disappear through the walls of the garage
26. the year's early thaw coursing through the gutter in clear streams
27. he pauses with the assumption that he will be interrupted
28. promises hanging crazily like laundry from washpins
29. a foreigner wraps his tongue around new slang
30. thin voices naming obstacles
31. studied eccentricity of a packed hall
32. the tragedy of my dream secondary to his breakfast
33. a mortar board wrinkling between electric bills and postcards from Europe
34. cable car squeals down the hill, tourists clinging to its sides like joeys
35. discipline is posture, is schedule, is a daily affirmation of the probability of greatness
36. inquisitors snatching refugees from the sea and stoking a great belief in causality
37. the eucalyptus leaves scissoring the air
38. quotations and pop broadsheets
39. ripples in the crowd as an alarm shrieks from the automatic toilet
40. as the sky blossoms in every direction
41. light of the great flowers reflected in the bellies of skyscrapers
42. hymns rise in my throat for a nation that clings to secular wonders
43. a cactus that learns to tap its neighbors' roots
44. waxy fingers clutching the edge of a strawberry crate
45. milk curdled into dirty clouds
46. fruit flies humming above a bag of apples
47. wrinkled like forgotten babies
48. a tourist rattling at his camera
49. the plane disgorging us like a pelican
50. a raccoon with wide eyes and wrinkled hands
51. the bland necessity of groceries

holy shit, i dream in bad poetry! automatic writing rocks!

both-eyes-open-lights-on stuff has been considerably more successful. our parade of guests have tapered off for a little while - i think jake will be dropping in for ladyfest next week, but the soldeveres / osters / kerschen / erwins / osters run is over. i'm lonely, and the apartment sure does look nice when we have visitors, but getting back to the notebook is probably a good thing.

- and i'll be updating. no, really.

07.10.02 just to watch him die

we also commemorated the hottest day of the summer by making a big ol' pot of pumpkin and tomato bisque. to our aid came one crescent dragonwagon, the creator of a dubious soup and bread cookbook.
Combine flour and water, from which we crawled, of which we are largely made, and without which we cannot live. Add salt-of-the-earth, just a bit; salt for savor, for soul, the sharp and dangerous mineral wrested from nature yet part of nature, a rock that can be eaten, which dissolves in water only to return, unchanged and crystalline, when the water evaporates. Add yeasts, airborne vegetal travelers, which themselves make the dough "travel" (and where? Up into the air, of course!).
my mother footnoted the book with observations on individual recipes (Good w/cheese, but looks like vomit).

acquired johnny cash at folsom prison, get rhythm & story songs of the trains and rivers, and pink lemonade as paul napped. fine substitutes for air conditioning.

today we rendezvous with ray / bellona times in berkeley. onward, christian soldiers -
07.09.02 all that's right with our great country

Paul here again, using the shift key and advising everyone to go read Ian McEwan's Atonement pronto. The prose is so good that I cannot quote the prose to demonstrate how good it is. It is far too subtle. Also, I left the book in Reno. But it was a terrible shock to move from that to American Pastoral, 25% of which I read on the Amtrak coming down here. So far I don't know. Very little is happening, and the things that do happen are buried under four stomachs' worth of rumination. (Trenchant and considered rumination, to be sure, but I really dislike essays masquerading as narrative.) It doesn't bother me that Roth feels compelled to put a circle jerk in his idyllic 1950s America—I mean, you expect that sort of thing from the man—but it's a bad sign that said circle jerk, which takes all of two sentences, is actually one of the more memorable events so far. We'll see. Frank Conroy claims it's the best American novel since The Great Gatsby, so maybe Roth's just been clearing his throat so far.

Singing Scrabble: you put down a word, you sing part of a song containing that word. It's harder than you think, and sometimes it leads to inelegancies like "Qat Scratch Fever," and it requires you to drink a lot of red wine so that the next day, when you are in the Middle Eastern restaurant for lunch, your head abruptly folds on itself and your stomach, thrown off balance, tries to reject the tabouleh you've been giving it and for the next three hours you can only lie on the couch and drink tapwater. This requires a change in plans, for I must be a hardy young man to sleep on the beach this weekend.


we have reached the beginning of the high season. in lieu of buggies and parasols taking turns around the park, we have clots of hefty tourists in matching tees, just waiting for me to nudge them down lombard street with the car's snout. gay pride week is in full swing as well - i haven't run across any of the weekend's parades, but i've had the pleasure of walking through some especially robust piles of festivity-garbage downtown. already nostalgic for early summer fog. joe's parents will see the apartment for the first time next weekend, so i'll spend the next several days seesawing between second drafts and coaxing mildew from the ceiling.

vacation reading:

whites, norman rush - a series of tight, fleshy little pieces. i finished a few stories before realizing that minor characters were popping up to narrate later; once i was up to speed, the collection held together like an episodic novel. quite satisfying, though i've grown so fond of rush's confidence with setting that i'm all the more annoyed with his lack of recent work.

lewis carroll: a biography, martin n. cohen - a long, romantic apology for a sad man's habit of photographing nude girl-children, and an exhaustive record of his persnickety/obscure satires and letters. celibacy is a key premise here: unluckily, someone located the missing racy bits of LC's journal shortly after cohen's biography hit the presses. crap - i think we were all ready to set the subject aside.

my war gone by, i miss it so, anthony loyd - i discovered this when loyd materialized in my bookstore wanting to autograph his stuff. it sat on the shelf for a year because i made an asinine comment to him about the cover photograph (it's affecting, but one shouldn't really like it) and i've been trying to heal and forget. he's a very capable and unapologetically personal war correspondent, and he does a fair job of unsnarling bosnian politics. i'm shocked by how young, how normal he seemed last year - reading some of this fucked with my sleep.


bless us, i've started writing poetry again! it's pretty questionable stuff so far, but listen, i hadn't been able to slap more than a few lines together since june of 2000. this is running the old pipes for a while, forgiving the rust and waiting for the water to come clean. we like cinquains and triolets so far, closed forms like hangers for our clothes. we're feeling a bit better. still wearing yoga pants around the apartment, but better.


i took a leave of absence at the beginning of the month. i'd been getting sick, and i thought that solid rest would get me back to the office sooner than a smattering of sick days. after four visits to the doctor, i spent a week in southern california.

reacted horribly to medication, gagged and twitched through most waking hours. left the house twice for coffee with my father, once with mom to buy flowers for my sister's birthday, once to the movies. lost ten pounds. came back.

more doctors' visits, nurses' apologies for side effects, eventually new meds. long talks with joe, another (much better) trip south for joanna's high school graduation. more sleep, a hair cut, some world cup games. we got back last night.

the good news is that i think i know what's up: june has been an intensely physical version of head-things i've ignored for too long. i'm squirming with envy as jake packs up his life and moves to pennsylvania for grad school - i assumed i'd spend my twenties mastering new cities and new day jobs, but i've made excuses for staying here and exhausting the novelty of my stint at work. i want to learn and explore, and that seems unlikely here.

paul, in turn, has the self-discipline i lack. i know that i want an MFA, that i want to publish, and i haven't done any of the writing to get there. i sit on the porch with a notebook for hours on end - nothing. that needs to change.

the few people who know about my month of shit have told me that i'm in a terrible state for decisions, that i should wait and think. i've spent three weeks looking for gold at the bottom of my navel and hoping to feel good about going outside. bored as hell. suspicious of faux epiphanies. throwing up a lot.

the compromise seems to be my mother's place in davis. i could look for new work, save money, steel myself for a bigger move without friendly faces at the end. getting the hell out of san francisco seems important - i need to be sure that the place is poisonous for me, or that i've blamed it for my mental state without cause.

that's it, so far. i'm very unhappy, and kind of scared, but things are going to change.

05.31.02 science!

kudos to ms. gaw for pointing out 10 reasons why x is better than y. justification generators make us happy, and they work so well with yesterday's paragraphs -
10 reasons why marriage is better than rotting alone.

10. marriage is ubiquitous in shadow
9. you can have as many marriages as you can handle
8. a frigid marriage is a good marriage
7. marriage's nemesis: an omnipotent malevolent being. rotting alone's nemesis: a beer-bellied liar
6. marriage doesn't suddenly grab you and take you to other places
5. your marriage never leaves the house after 9pm
4. to capture marriage, you need a real trap. to capture rotting alone, you say: "hey, captain, here's a pit" and push him in
3. rotting alone never said "abandon ship! all hands abandon ship!" because he was already out of there at the first hint of trouble
2. marriage doesn't turn your bathroom into a library
1. "i'd rather be his whore than your wife" just doesn't have the same sting as "i'd rather kiss a wookie."
on pairings, i passed the afternoon making a tape for the car. the ensuing test drive was marvelous - who knew "unloveable" (the smiths) would complement "sweet caroline" (the langley schools music project) so well? "the killing moon" (echo & the bunnymen) / "beast of burden" (the rolling stones) - my word! and annie's dehydrated macaroni and cheese is heavenly when mixed with soymilk. take this, america, and use it well.

05.30.02 two kinds of people

high school's deborah threw a lovely wedding at a ranch in sonoma on sunday. i knew i'd bump into old familiars, but their sheer volume was shocking - what with the grown-up clothes, the reception tables, the tentative dance floor, it felt a bit like model united nations. kept caucus references to a minimum; i'm thinking most people don't romanticize debate conferences like i do. the ranchers had a golem made of barrels, tires, galoshes - oh, it would be pleasant to have a digital camera. a friend's husband had a splendid talk with joe about the virtues of marriage - best thing that ever happened to me, my wife is my queen, and so on. joe had a gazebo-induced meltdown when we tried to plan a ritual of our own a few years ago. it's good for him to see happy survivors, ceremonies that aren't heavy and stilted.

mom, via the mom information channels, reports that we were a hit with the home-friends at the wedding, which is to say that i dressed like a normal person and joe was a fabulous fellow. i'm pleased that he charms everyone, but extroverts make me feel terribly inadequate. sweet, sweet walls of the darkened apartment.

05.24.02 its light green lipstick on our faces

the aforementioned neighbors are moving this weekend, and monster ballads ring their departure down the stairs. given a choice, i wouldn't have myself living upstairs or my uncle* as a landlord, either. also their new digs are supposedly eighteen times larger than their place now. i'll wave a hankie.

i can make one dish, and it is condensed soup. no cans involved, i chop and saute and simmer, all the good stuff - it just ends up condensed, which is actually very convenient for storage purposes. it's possible that creating complicated fresh food intimidates me, that i've modified prepackaged and dehydrated stuff for so long that i've developed a comfort zone. it's great soup, anyway. i think joe would eat it without the threat of a guilt trip.

if you plan on challenging paul to a tacky website duel, make sure he doesn't have a picture of blonde you in an ugly pink dress with a white britney spears pumpkin on your head. you could start getting tipsy e-mail from people in vermont, and then where would you be?
To receive an answer to a yes-or-no question, ask your question aloud while holding a bay leaf to a candle flame. If the leaf crackles while burning, the answer is yes. If the leaf bubbles or makes a squeaking noise, the answer is no.
* when one of the apartments is empty, said uncle buys a fake shrub for the hallway to impress prospective tenants. he leaves the tag on the planter so that he can return it when he finds someone.