Monthly Archives: March 2003

Sweet Vidalia

Days without a parking violation: 1
Days until street sweeping violations begin : 3
Days left with a job: 1
Days left with health insurance: 4
Days until I get hit by a car in my interview suit: 5
I burned my hand cooking the other night. I knew there was a reason my roommate cooks and feeds me every night. He goes away for the weekend and comes back to me having amputated my arm because of cast iron-induced gangrene.
I was making this catfish. My dad’s enamored with blackened catfish, and he gets all excited talking about his award-winning Creole secrets, so I call him and ask him how to do it. Mostly because I love hearing him get so into the simple pleasure of frying fish. He instructs me to put the pan on the stove and turn the gas on high, letting it sit there until the cast iron starts to turn white. Then drop in the fish, admire the flames, flip, and serve.
He relays these directions to me, both of us forgetting that I am the girl who has broken every finger on both hands, cracked my ankle on the pavement, knocked out my front teeth while riding my bicycle, and am continually nursing bruised hips, toes, and wrists because I simply don’t know where the end of my limbs are. Which is why I’m kind of nervous about not having health insurance. Guaranteed on Tuesday the garbage disposal will suck me in and tear off my torso.
So of course I got burned.
I put the pan in the sink and went to wash my hands. I barely touched it with the back of my hand — just for a millisecond. I instantly turned the cold water on it, but when I looked at the cast iron, some of my skin was still stuck to it. There wasn’t even a blister, just 4″x4″ of seared skin. Blackened like catfish.
I was not looking forward to a whole night of dripping plastic bags of ice or sleeping with my hand in the fishtank. So I got out the ritual onion, lopped off the end, and tied it to my hand with a rubber glove. The onion absorbs the heat and relieves the pain better than ice and burn cream combined. Sounds crazy, but it’s the only useful thing I retained from a fling with a Latino cook.
Eventually I had to remove the onion because people were wrinkling their noses at me and my breakfast cereal wasn’t tasting so hot. So I spent a few days in excruciating pain, which I thought would finally end yesterday. It probably would have, until it got infected.
Now my entire right hand is consumed in soupy burn, exposed tissue, and cracking skin, which pisses me off because it’s becoming quite difficult to write. That’s really the worst part; even typing is a little stiff. And if I lower my hand past my shoulders it throbs. Excellent.
I want to write about leaving my job but I think I’ll save that for another time when I can flex fully and concentrate on something other than the residual smell of onion emanating from my wound.

Big Hair & Befuddlement

Which reminds me. I was seeing this guy who looked like Bob Ross’s son on acid — supertall with this enormous curly hair that stuck up all over the place. We were loitering outside Rudy’s bar one night, where he worked. Or lived. Or both. A green Dodge Dart screeched to a halt outside the bar, and this huge black woman jumped out with a camera. She yelled across the street, “I never seen a white boy with an Afro!!!” and she asked if she could take his picture because no one would believe her. He smiled and everything.
In the following concert narrative I WILL NOT discuss the following:
1. what a shitty venue the Mid E is
2. people who talk during shows
3. friends who are always, and without exception, late
4. friends who complain about people who talk during shows when they couldn’t get a spot up front due to their tardiness
5. the snugly-cuteness of Pinback’s bass player
So I went to see Pinback at the Middle East last night. I was excited to see what it was all about because I’d hear four reviews of their last show: “Right On,” “Not Into It,” and two “Not What I Expected”s.
I’ve been listening to their two CDs, the self-titled and Blue Screen Life, since the summer when they were given to me by friends. Neither friend offered any explanation other than, “I like this. Listen to it.” So I was left to figure this band out on my own.
I’ve never heard anyone that sounds like Pinback. They are undeniably original. And wonderfully strange. There’s lots of plucky bass and bounciness, jangling guitar, and the staccato vocals blend into the music like an instrument. They baffle me, though. Whenever I listen to music, particularly the first time I hear something, I take it apart instrument by instrument and figure out where each one is and what it’s doing. When I learn all the pieces, I dig into the whole. This usually takes twenty or thirty seconds of a song. I’ve been pulling entire Pinback albums apart for months.
I can’t hear it! I can’t tell where it’s coming from! And it sounds so simple. There’s basses — two? — there’s sometimes guitars being played like basses, or basses being fretted and strummed, there’s drums and is that two people singing or one? Are the keyboards mimicing voices or basses? Or are the guitars mimicing keyboards? Is it the same person singing or are they trading line for line? What movie is that sample from? Good God what does it all mean?I figured if I saw them live it would all make sense. I’m still a bit befuddled.
The show would have shed more light if it weren’t for a few negative variables (see: Things I Won’t Discuss, numbers 1-4 above). Two basses on some songs, sometimes basses being played like guitars, tricky drumming, two keyboards. There was a band member whose purpose was undefined, and he took the role of Stage Marm, wandering between the guys and asking them slow and solemn questions in their ears while they were playing, nodding thoughtfully. Once in a while he’d sit down at the keyboard and pull out a few notes.
The albums are very produced and clean and slick, and the performance was none of those things. I think that might be what the two people meant when they said it wasn’t what they expected. I loved the performance as much as I love the albums. But live, they were gritty and hard, and unpolished. There was a lot more passion in the music. They got loud and broke out of the mold, strumming franticly and wielding feedback, probably not something they’d do in the studio.
I said a while ago how I looked up the lyrics to their songs and was surprised and disturbed by their subject matter and abstractness. It’s like walking into the middle of a story where you only get a handful of words, a single paragraph. But there is an underlying sadness and disconnect through all of their music for me. Watching them play live was strange because the two front men represented opposite ends of the spectrum in the band dynamic, pulling the complex feel of the music into perfect halves. One encompassed all the pain and intensity, and the other all the coarse weirdness.
The singer/guitar player reminded me of Jack Black sometimes — it was like they were playing someone else’s music and he was making fun of it. The other singer, who also played keys, was pulling some crazy shit on the bass — my brain melted trying to follow him. He had an intense and earnest look about him, knitted brows, squinty eyes. And, well, there’s always the Things I Won’t Discuss, number 5, above.

Enjoy the View

My desk at work, which has been temporary for the past three months but is now truly temporary because I only have 26 hours left here, is directly across from the water cooler. They stuck me in the middle of the floor between the Coke machine and the industrial sized refrigerator (which is not plugged in yet). There were plans to build a kitchen for the floor and an ergonomically-compliant cube for me, but talk of both fell through when I started going to the chiropractor and the company realized how much it costs to provide subsidized soft drinks for its employees. The view of the water cooler is pleasant, it’s blue, you know. It is five feet from the edge of my desk, however.
This means that anyone bending over to get water presses their ass directly in my face.
Now I don’t know about you, but when I bend over, I’m highly cognizant of where my ass is pointing. Maybe this is because I used to wear so many ridiculously short skirts. Or maybe it’s because of the reasons I no longer wear ridiculously short skirts. Either way, if my butt cheeks are pressed against someone’s face, there better be a damn good reason for it. And consent. Always consent.
Todd wears silk boxers. Not just traditional black, but orange and royal blue, too. Who would have known that underneath those neatly ironed jeans and muted J.Crew sweater lurked a silky secret?
Jeff’s a 34″x36″, which I find impressive. Stacie goes to the gym way too fucking much. Part of me believes that she is well aware of where her ass is pointing. So she gets it all puckered up and ready to plant under my nose in an attempt to make me jealous of her jazzercised pink plaid backside. She does stuff like that. And she drinks a lot of water so her rockhard bottom greets me hourly. Every once in a while I get a money shot of the sapphire-trimmed thong peeking out above the belt-line.
Did I mention I only have 26 hours left here?


My obsession with Ben Gibbard is getting out of hand.

The boy is keeping me up nights.

I was thinking about the My Favorite Bands issue this past weekend. I’m trying to find the formula. And I’m beginning to think I might have to change my roster. I wrote recently about having to see a band live in order for me to really understand them. And I don’t think I can add a band to my Absolute Favorite list unless I’ve seen them live. Is that true? Hmmm.

See there’s Catherine Wheel. They are my default Favorite Band, and have been since 1992 when Ferment came out. The first show I actually got to see was in 1995 at Paradise in Boston. They were playing with Belly. (The Verve played Paradise the next day and I’m still twitching from that weekend.) I’ve probably seen Catherine Wheel about 20 times since then. I could break out the ticket stubs and count but let’s say that’s a rough estimate.

And then there’s Jeff Buckley.

Of course Jeff Buckley is on the Favorites list but I never reference him because it goes without saying. It’s like Radiohead. Of course you like Radiohead. Who doesn’t? It’s like saying you like the Beatles. Do you know anyone who actively dislikes the Beatles?

I’ve never bothered to go see Radiohead play because I hate stadium shows, but getting to see Jeff Buckley live was something else. I saw him in New Haven, it must have been 1995? The summer after Grace was released. That album was imbedded in my skull. I dreamed it. I was sitting in the Daily Caffe in New Haven drinking iced tea and trying to figure out what to do with myself. An old friend of mine from NYC who I hadn’t seen in a year showed up. I was like, “What are you doing in town?” And she said she came up to see Jeff Buckley play at Toad’s Place. I freaked. How did this one slip past me? (This is when I resolved to start keeping track of shows obsessively.)

So we ran across the street to Toad’s, and there’s shy Jeff standing on the sidewalk shuffling his feet and smoking a butt. The door was $7 and there were probably about 50 people in the club. He was nervous. He sang “Lilac Wine” and I cried. I walked out of that club wanting to shake everyone on the street and make them see how alive they could be.

Ironic, huh?

I’m getting away from the whole Ben Gibbard thing. I do that. See here’s the thing. I got the Postal Service CD, right? Oh — Ben is the front man for Death Cab for Cutie in case you’re just joining us. So he puts out that album and I have to get it. It’s so silly-techno. It’s really — I don’t know. I love it so much and I can’t even explain it. Some of the more industrial tunes are really gorgeous and dark, but “Such Great Heights,” which is the first single released, is just bubble gum pop music. It’s such a huge divergence from his normal moody indie rock thang. So it’s refreshing. But the album is so painfully sweet — he does these little things with his voice — his voice that is so small and bashful and cute, like he’s six years old. As a side note, my favorite part of the entire Photograph Album CD is in “Movie Script Ending” when he sings “the shop fronts on Holl-y” because his voice is so tiny and innocent. Anyway still gushing, she is — there is one of those moments in the new song I love, and he says, “I am thinking it’s a sign that the freckles in our eyes are mirror images and when we kiss they’re perfectly aligned.” I’m all awwwwww….

I’ve been listening to the CD non-stop. I do this. So when it’s over, I just start it again. I was listening to it in the rain the other night around midnight, and I walked down to Diesel to get a coffee (at midnight) and was in the middle of my favorite song and kind of didn’t want to take off my headphones but the girl at the counter was like, hello? So I did, and they were playing the same song in the cafe. Swear to God. It was the trippiest shit I have ever seen. I looked frightened, I’m sure, and she looked at me even harder, and I told her — “I was just listening to this CD. I mean, just listening,” holding up my headphones to demonstrate. She got really impatient and was like, okay what the fuck do you want to drink? But I was so rolling around in accidental Ben Gibbard bliss that I had no idea what I wanted. I wanted a big steaming cup of Ben.

Oh, Christ. I’ve completely lost my mind.

So I was telling Ruby yesterday how I don’t know what to do, that I’m lovesick over this musician, and he has such shitty luck with women apparently; his songs are mostly autobiographical and through half of We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes he’s in love with this chick and she gets married and invites him to the wedding. Then there’s the Forbidden Love EP. Poor, poor boy. He’s too cute to have to deal with this sort of madness. I could heal your wounds, Ben! Come to me!

I am 27 years old.

ANYWAY. Death Cab never plays out East. They’re all about Seattle and Oregon, Colorado, etc. But I was just doing my deep-dig into the bowels of the Web site calendars and unearthed a little tidbit that my boy Ben is playing upstairs at the Middle East — upstairs meaning the little room. I know no one else can understand how worked up I get about shit like this. But let me tell you, I am majorly worked up. In fact, I may kidnap him and take him home and make him breakfast.

I can’t take it.

So back to the Favorite Bands Thing, if you’re still with me — I’m beginning to think that Catherine Wheel needs to be archived, because, well, they don’t really exist anymore. Catherine Wheel performing live is like some old mythic event one only hears about… historic, legendary. I think the last time I saw them play was 100 years ago at this unannounced WFNX show. Plus their CDs have come out of rotation. They’re not even in the 100 Listened-To right now, which I keep out on top of my stereo.

I don’t know. Someone was just bringing to my attention that I’m always saying “My favorite band EVER,” or “that’s my favorite album EVER” — and I guess I can safely say that about CW’s Like Cats and Dogs, but maybe I have to replace the CW with DCFC because of the amount of fresh aching my lonely heart undergoes at the hands of Ben Gibbard. I have healed over the wounds of Rob Dickinson years ago.

Little piece of trivia: Rob Dickinson is the cousin of Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden. And both have loud bands named after Medieval torture devices. Yeah.

Three more good Shows to Bug Out To and I’ll let you go:

  • Andrew Bird is playing at the Mid E 4/17 — again upstairs. I can’t get over the fact that the Adonis of violinists is playing upstairs, the show is $7, and they listed him as “A. Bird (fr. Squirrel Nut Zippers)” because there wasn’t enough room in the calendar. I think he went to Berklee if I remember correctly so maybe these is his old stompin grounds. Actually I may have made that up. It sounds familiar though.

  • Stellastar is at the Mid E 4/26. You should go, I’m thinking. Plus it’s Saturday night, what the hell else do you have to do?

  • Bobby Bare, Jr. is playing with the Damnwells at North Six in Brooklyn 4/1. I will be there. Breakfast will be served.

Looks like I’m going to have to start buying eggs and toast in bulk.

Digital Indigestion

My dad’s birthday was last week. I got him the Absolute Moron’s Guide to Digital Photography. Here is why.

He bought my mother a digital camera for Christmas, which she conveniently hasn’t learned to turn on yet while he gets hours of excited use from it. I’ve been providing tech support for my dad since my sister bought him a computer two years ago, and most of the questions are pretty basic, but it’s hard to explain to someone why Windows just crashes sometimes.

“Well, dad, it’s just… that’s just what it does. You know, the whole Bill Gates is evil thing.”

“But I don’t understand. You pay good money for these machines. The refrigerator doesn’t just “crash” sometimes and let the food go bad. What if I didn’t feel like working one day? What if I just up and left my job for no reason and left things unfinished and even threw them out so no one could find them again?”

And you wonder where I came from.

So my dad buys the digital camera, and he’s all jazzed up about it, and sending three dozen .jpg attachments in one email to my Yahoo account, which explodes and refuses delivery. After sending the email he calls me frantically on the phone, trying to figure out why there’s a demon sending him email (is it the same thing as a virus?!) and why I didn’t get the photos.

So last time I was in Florida, I gave him a crash course on Windows and file management. I think he hung on long enough to figure out how to name folders.

I’ll probably cry while I’m writing this part of the story, because it’s a total Hot Dog Moment (the definition of which I will have Shannon explain in detail at a later point); when a parent is so vulnerable you just want to shield them from the world. But I have to share this because it’s really fucking funny.

The condo complex where my parents live hosted a Super Bowl party a while ago. Actually, it was around the time of the Super Bowl. My dad brought my mom’s digital camera and took a bunch of photos, which he later downloaded to his computer. There were other photos already on the camera, so they were all dumped into the same folder. I’m assuming the program asks you to name the topic and then it assigns a name to each photo in the folder, such as Party_001.jpg, Party_002.jpg. You get the picture.

My dad is a construction worker, so grammar and spelling are not his natural forte. He builds a mean roof, but his email… sometimes I get the urge to print them out and hang them on the fridge with a rainbow magnet and a gold star.

He named the images after the Super Bowel.

The first three photos of the Super Bowel party he sent boasted the spread fit for kings on the buffet. This included a trough of the one and only Mama D’s Bean Dip, which has been proven to produce “Super” results.

The emails came a few times a day for the first week, my mom and dad red-cheeked and grinning, eating nachos, watching football, Super Bowel style. The first time I saw the names of the .jpgs and laughed hysterically, I felt a little guilty. At first I thought it was my dad being funny, which he is known to do. But when the rest of the photos from the folder started showing up, including pictures of my cat sunning herself on a lawn chair, the seriousness of the Super Bowel issue became clear.

My sister and brother-in-law were copied on the emails. I wondered if they, too, were amused by the state of my father’s bowels. Especially my sister the English Teacher, the Grammar Bitch, the Defender of All That Is Spellchecked and Holy.

I figured I’d let it go. Didn’t want to embarrass my father, you know. He was making big strides in the technology department and I was pulling for him. Plus the emails stopped after a week and I figured the next round would be appropriately named and I could stop obsessing about whether or not I should tell him before he copied everyone in his address book. Or be forced to consult my sister about the situation.

My father has been rebuilding the condo for a few months now. The place is very 70’s, which works in my current apartment but not in a retired folks’ summer space. He’s been redoing the kitchen, wallpapering, tiling the floor. To get good use of his digital camera, and to show off his work, he’s been keeping me updated with weekly before and after photos. A few of them I have printed out and hung on my fridge with rainbow magnets and a gold star. Thankfully, the kitchen shots arrived perfectly in threes, to my non-Yahoo account, with the names NewKitch_001.jpg, NewKitch_002.jpg. I breathed a sigh of relief.

Then came the bathroom photos.

Subject: new pics of bathroom
Hi kris we started the bathroom today — your bath, the one off your room and taking down teh ugly gold paper for new peach stuff the mother picked out. And the new toilet seat. Goind to home depot tomorrw love dad.

The attached photo was of the new peach toilet seat. It was called SuperBowel_075.jpg.

I got an email from my sister two minutes later. She was one of seven people copied.

Subject: our father
should we tell him?

I replied:

Subject: re: our father
it’s his birthday next week.
i’ll take care of it.

You and Whose Army?

I debated whether or not I should update. We’re at war and life inside my bubble hasn’t changed. I’m still as self-absorbed as ever. So perhaps I should just keep my shallow rants and recommended listenings of the day to myself. Though I must say, John in the Morning put together a smashing playlist this morning including the Cure, “Killing an Arab”; Belle & Sebastian, “I Fought in a War”; Jakatta, “American Dream”; and Billy Bragg, “Rumours of War.”

I don’t know. I’m a little nervous about the new template. What do you think? It feels like spring. I need a change.

My friend Eisuke used to do weird things to his hair every season. In the fall he bleached it orange, in the summer he cut it all off. But he was Japanese so he could get away with stuff like that. I have to settle for throwing out my furniture and changing my Diaryland template. I renew my life with Learn HTML in 21 Days and a trip to the Salvation Army.

I’ve been receiving lots of fan mail lately, which warms the heart. One reader from the Netherlands complimenting my sensitive, expressive hands. If he only knew.

I suppose I’ll have more to say at a later point. I have plenty of copy, I just feel weird about writing. Ignorance is bliss, after all, and I’m happy as a clam.

Take This Job (offer) And…

I’m going to prove all you freaking people out there using scare tactics to keep me chained to this desk that there is nothing to fear but the economy itself. I don’t know what kind of job you people are looking for, but I’ve had pretty good luck thus far.

As a matter of fact, I was contacted this morning for a position I was drooling over for a week or two at Harvard. There are obvious benefits to working at Harvard — walking to work, tuition reimbursement, cool burgundy insignia sweatshirts, lunch with rich young lawyers — and to top it all off, I get to say, “I work at Harvard.” I was applying to be a Faculty Assistant, which is

Oh here let me go back to the beginning.

The whole scare tactic thing.

I don’t want to be a marketing whore for the rest of my life. We’ve established that. I’ve spent my whole life torn between being Practical, as advised by friends and family, and following the Romantic part of me. The part of me that hates restrictive clothing and not being able to use the word “fuck” freely. Usually I get torn on weekends, and make peace with my Practical side by Monday morning, allowing me to dress pretty and place nice. Then Romantic can come out and raise hell on Saturday and Sunday. I clean up well, but I have to tell you, my heart ain’t in it.

When I was looking at colleges at 17, I wanted desperately to go to Emerson. Emerson has a Creative Writing program, and I applied there. This was not my Practical side. Romance had the reins on that one.

For some reason, older people have the impression that your major in college somehow dictates what you will do to feed yourself four years later. I have two theories on that. One, education is a process, not a piece of paper, and two, they have obviously not tried to live in a major metropolitan area on a journalist’s salary.

So those pulling for the Practical party said, “What are you going to do with a degree in Creative Writing?” and of course I wasn’t thinking about using the degree to get the job I wanted, I was thinking of the work I’d do to get the degree, and what a fantastic process those four years would be. I believed this. I told members of the Practical party this. They assured me they’d save me a spot at the grocery store in suburban CT when I was done ringing up my useless four years in the big city — which, I might add, comes to approximately $120,000 these days.

I was adamant. I applied to nine colleges, eight to appease the Practical party and one for the Romantics. I applied to Emerson early decision. They accepted me into the Honor’s program and agreed to pick up the tab for my tuition.

The Practical party, however, pointed out that a major in Journalism, not Creative Writing, would guarantee me a secure nook in the job market upon completion of my educational gig. I was 17, mind you, and afraid. I was looking at my sister, a failed-writer-turned-English-teacher, who had majored in the liberal arts and had nothing to show for it but control over a teeming class of 30 high school freshman who didn’t speak English but were supposed to understand Shakespeare. I certainly didn’t want to end up being a teacher. I wanted to be a writer.

And I certainly didn’t want to be a journalist.

Honestly, I think by the end of the whole ordeal I was exhausted defending my position against an ever-burgeoning fleet of Practicalites who were ganging up on me day and night. Especially when BU matched Emerson’s offer and tossed in a little work-study money for room and board while they were at it.

The first day of COM 101 at Boston University, Dean Baker gets up in front of the class of four hundred freshman Journalism majors and shows us a news spot of a 12-year-old boy getting decapitated by a freight engine. The stunned silence that follows betrays our inexperience. He paces the stage before us. “How many of you would interview the mother at the scene of the accident?” Five people raise their hands. Dean Baker says, “The rest of you can leave. You’ll never be journalists.”

Welcome to the first year of my Practical Education.

I didn’t want to tell the truth. The truth involves little boys being decapitated by trains and hysterical mothers. By junior year I was writing obituaries and traffic reports. I just wanted to tell pretty stories.

I softened the blow a little bit by switching my major from Print Journalism to Photojournalism. Just as much writing, but now I could hide in the dark room as well. I was blacklabeled, though. There were only six Photojournalism majors in my class of four hundred students. And the professors hated us, felt we were not true journalists, saw us as hangers-on of their academic lineage. My favorite was Dr. Moyes who tried to embarass me in class every chance he got and always called me “the photographer with the writing problem.” If he only knew. I had already written two novels by the time I showed my face in his class.

Even Photojournalism offered no escape. Deadline News Photo was pure torture. I’d show up at 9:00 AM and get the day’s assignment. I would then have three hours to find a person in a red shirt, get their permission to be photographed and interviewed, ask them who they voted for in the last election, take a properly-exposed and composed photo, get their name and contact information, develop the film, print the negative, process the print, write the caption — all under deadline pressure, three hours, don’t forget — and put it on the editor’s desk by noon. I can’t recount how many of my prints were handed in soaking wet — perfectly acceptable as long as you could get the caption to stick to it. We were graded on the photo, the time limit, and the quality of the interview. Half the time I took the pictures without the person knowing and made up the information because I was terrified to talk to anyone I didn’t know.

My Romantic side hated news photo because the pictures I wanted to capture on film forever were already vivid in my mind. I just hadn’t photographed them yet.

I’m getting away from my main point here. What I’m saying is, I spent four years being Practical. I graduated with a degree in a Practical subject I not only detest, but suck at. To be even more Practical, I decided to abandon the creative project I was working on post-graduation in favor of employment at an Internet marketing company writing copy that I had no interest in but paid the bills. Handsomely. In other words, I was being Practical.

How’s that working out for me? It’s not.

I quit my job because I am sick of being Practical. Everyone is fighting me here. Everyone is telling me not only am I being self-indulgent by wanting to work on my own art, but that I’m insane to do so in this economy. You know what? Fuck the economy. I’m happy as a pig in shit to be eating beans and rice if it means I can put 1000 of my own words down on paper each day for myself and no one else. I don’t care if I have to spend the rest of the day shining shoes. I could run down the hundreds of jobs I’ve done over the years to cover my ass, from the graveyard shift at the meat packing plant to dressing up as the Easter Bunny and rollerblading down Newbury Street. When I lived in New Haven I was a guinea pig at Yale for psychological tests for $5 an hour. I put nuts on bolts 14 hours a day one summer to pay for my room and board. I’m pretty resourceful when it comes to keeping a roof over my head.

So I called my sister on Sunday to ask her about the whole Cover Letter thing. “You quit your job?” she asks me. Yes, I quit my job. “In this economy?” Yes, in this economy. I thought I could come live with you if things didn’t work out. “So, why don’t you get a writing job?” Arg. I just had a writing job. I hated it. I want to write my own stuff. “So why can’t you write your own stuff after work?”

“Because when you spend your whole day tooth-pulling words about high tech small business network security, firewalls, ISDN, VPN, IP, DSL, XML, DNS, FTP, antivirus software, blended threats, bluetooth, defragging, hackers, and password crackers, the last goddam thing you want to do is tell pretty stories. The last goddam thing I want to do is look at my computer, never mind write more. I’m sick of writing other people’s bullshit. I’m sick of dragging my ass home creatively tapped from fighting my Romantic side off with a big Practicality stick all day until I’m so confused and frustrated I just want to go listen to somebody else’s art all night. I’m sick of pretending that this money is enough to satiate my need to be heard in this world. I’ll fucking starve to death I don’t care.”

“Kris? It’s okay. You don’t have to. ”

I felt like screaming at her that she was the freakshow that put me through all this shit in the first place by insisting that I’d be fucked for life if I majored in Creative Writing, a similiar career path to her English major ten years before me. She scared me into the journalism thing, and I bought it. I’m not going to point fingers or say it’s her fault. But it is. She was the main candidate in the Practical Party. And if it weren’t for her, I’d probably be a best selling author by now. Bitch.

Anyway back to the cover letter issue. The problem is that the Internet is changing everything, especially the way in which people apply for jobs. I mean, the resume isn’t even Word format anymore. Half the places have you cut and paste the information in there.

So Sunday I cut and pasted for a few hours, and Monday I got a bunch of call backs.

There was one position in particular that I wanted so badly I could taste it. It tasted like Hasty Pudding. The job at Harvard.

The ideal job I’m looking for will require nothing of me. I will show up, smile pretty, answer the phone, throw together some PowerPoint presentations which for some godforsaken reason bring me more joy than almost any other computer application, organize someone else’s life a bit, proctor some exams, water some plants, and go on my merry way at 5:00 in my Harvard insignia hoodie to sit in Algiers Cafe and write.

I am aware that I will be taking a pay cut for this newfound freedom, but I know it will be worth every penny of mental health.

So Bianca wants me to come put her life in a PowerPoint presentation and water her plants. She’s thrilled with my experience, the fact that I type 250 words per minute and know the New York Times Styleguide and Libel Manual (I’m not sure what turns her on so much about the Styleguide — it might have just been an inside joke I was not a part of) in any case, Bianca is certifiably in love with me.

Bianca wants to pay me $19,000 a year less than what I’m earning right now.

I know some people who make $19,000 a year.

This is not an ego issue. It has nothing to do with that. At all. But even rice and beans in this city costs $12 a plate. Gas is what, a thousand dollars a gallon now? My rent goes up every year. And just last month I paid $250 in parking tickets. And then, well the truth.

My job has to support my music habit.

Which is making evenings in Chinatown flaunting my wares look pretty damn enticing.

So now we have the economy figured out. We can get jobs, just not ones that keep us Journalism majors above the poverty line. Or here’s the actual truth of the matter: I also applied to MIT and Tufts University. But the corporate venues, that’s where the compensation is. The same jobs pay ten grand more a year. You just don’t get that cute insignia hoodie and they make you work over school vacations.

The real issue is one of proper shoes. I just can’t bring myself to dress my age. I wonder if I told Bianca I needed a new wardrobe to come water her plants, that the dot com for the past three years has ruined my sense of proper professional attire, if she’d bump my salary up to six dollars an hour? What do you think, Bianca?


Green, Gibbard, Gay, Gone

word of the day
verdant VUR-dnt, adjective:
1. green.
2. lacking judgment or experience; unsophisticated.

Okay I’m hell bent on not doing any work today. This entry has no flagrant point or definite path. But there’s a few things on my mind and I’ve got an hour to kill so let’s explore.

The almost-spring makes me want to fall in love.

On my lunch break I ran to Newbury Comics to geek out with the record store boys. They informed me that Nina Nastasia is playing with Calexico at Paradise on Friday. I don’t really remember the six degrees of separation but let me retrace my steps.

I have not heard much of Calexico, though they come heavily recommended by several people with impeccable taste. I believe the chain of discussion went from my purchase today of the single for The Postal Service‘s song “Such Great Heights” off their album, Give Up. I originally got Give Up because Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie is half of the band. Since I have to bear his children soon, I’m gathering up all of his projects for posterity.

So I went to get the single, right, cause I wanted to see what B-sides were on it, and then — WHAM!!! — Iron and fucking Wine covering a Postal Service song on the single. I can’t get over it. It’s basically Sam Beam converting techno to banjo. So the dude at the check out register held up the single with a questioning glance and I said, “Death Cab for Cutie begets Postal Service begets Iron and Wine cover of “Such Great Heights”.” And he was all, “No way.” And I was all, “Way.” And then that’s when the other cashier got involved. He backed me up enthusiastically, saying Iron and Wine The Creek Drank the Cradle was one of his top five albums of the year and he said that Nina Nastasia had a similiar feel to her with bowed harps and viola etc. Furthermore, we should go to Paradise Friday and see her play with Calexico.

Oh, and I’ve decided I’m going to work on removing the word “fuck” from my vocabularly. I swear, I try, and then it’s just… there’s few words as gratifying to say.

I got blown off this weekend. It’s okay. It was by Whole Lotta Nuthin’ Boy who I was infatuated with a while back. I spent a year chasing him while he barely gave me the time of day. When he finally did, he looked in my eyes and said, “I’m sorry, I only date beautiful girls.” Don’t worry, he’s on the list. I kind of rationalized that whole thing too, because I don’t necessarily think he’s shallow in general, but god forgive me for not being 5’2″, emaciated and blonde.

And to continue the frequently accessed topic of My Love Life is an Unparalleled Joke, I had a run-in this morning with my gay ex-boyfriend who I have not seen in years. He’s such a flamer at this point it’s not even funny. The consistently painful irony of my love life began ten years ago when I surrendered my virginity to a guy and then immediately surrendered him to homosexuality. I ran into his brother last year at Store 24. He came out of the convenience store wielding a stick of pepperoni threateningly and screamed across the parking lot: “You turned my brother gay, you bitch!”

I wish I had that much power over people. I’d make a few stops on my way home tonight.

Work has gotten really fucking (that slipped out) weird. I have nine whole days left at my place of employment. It’s surreal. Upon giving my notice, they tied me down like a cow and branded my forehead with a giant Q so that everyone knows to ignore me, strategically “lose” my mail, and not even say “bless you” when I sneeze. I am diseased. I am in quarantine. I am leaving this fudging (fudge? can you actually say fudge without sounding like a 50’s housewife?) company.

It’s funny how people stop putting up fronts when they don’t have to anymore. It becomes clear who never liked you to begin with. Their voices come down three octaves and the wrinkles in their faces betray the lack of forced and constipated smile. I would love to just open my mouth for about five minutes and verbalize what’s on my mind. I’m having Fight Club fantasies of cornering my manager in her office and punching myself until I bleed so she’ll give me the digital scanner and the Coke machine as corporate sponsorship. Then we can have Diaryland every night of the week.

I can’t remember many situations as uncomfortable as sticking around after you quit your job. I imagine it would be simililiar — though not as bad — as breaking up with someone but having to finish out the lease. I’ve never shacked up with anyone exactly for that reason. That and the control freak issues of keeping the Brita filled and needing to eat everything out of bowls.

I never wrote a review of the Frames show I went to at Paradise last week, which was transcendent.

I think the majority of this nonsense is for my own entertainment.

Besides, you’ll all probably turn gay on me anyway.

Movie Script Ending

Sometimes I like to push the Universe and see if it pushes back.

I live in a movie and I write the script. I believe that’s why I listen to music 24 hours a day; I create the soundtrack as well. I find myself doing certain things because they fit in with the cinematic experience of the day.

So last week I was at my Café, it was a Wednesday which is my night to daydream curled up in the big velvet chair with my legs sprawled over the arm rest, trying to read a book and managing a sentence or two of Hesse’s Steppenwolf every few minutes. It’s one of the few times I don’t require myself to focus on anything in particular. I drink coffee and gaze out the window.

This night in particular there was a table in my line of vision. Someone had moved the furniture around slightly during the monthly vacuuming, and it completely threw off my feng shui. Inconsistency drives me mad.

It was semi-snowing, the huge windows getting a bit misty, they were playing one of my favorite CDs, I was not reading my book. See — here I am, instinctively setting the stage.

SCENE ONE: Int. Someday Café, at night.

The squeal of the espresso machine periodically drowns out Death Cab for Cutie’s The Photograph Album.

GIRL, 27, is seated against the right wall of the Café in a velvet chair, pretending to read a Respectable Novel. Her corduroys are too big and one of her shoes has fallen off while sprawling, exposing socks with bees on them, but she is too absorbed in daydreaming to notice. She sucks on a cinnamon stick and twirls a lock of red hair that slides repeatedly from behind her ear.

SCENE TWO: Ext. Someday Café, at night.

Snow falls lightly, the tiny white lights on trees are glowing in the mist. Davis Square is filled with cheerful sounds.

BOY, 31, waits in the crosswalk for the light to change colors. He is frowning in the snow. The brightly colored wool knit hat he wears enhance his gray-blue eyes. He is wearing gloves with no fingers and runs across the street, a college-sized text book under one arm.

SCENE THREE: Int. Someday Café, at night.

BOY orders jasmine tea that comes in a tiny silver pot and sits at empty table facing GIRL, who is pretending to read Respectable Novel. She has suddenly become conscious of the missing shoe and shoves it on her foot.

BOY pulls leather-bound journal from his back pocket and sets it on the table. He pours some tea, opens his text book and begins reading. Every few minutes he jots something down in his journal with a graphite pencil.

GIRL and BOY are both clearly having difficulties focusing on their literature. As they daydream, their eyes meet occasionally. More accurately, BOY occasionally notices girl staring at him. GIRL’s cell phone rings.

GIRL: Hi Shell.

SHELL: Hello, my little butterfly. How you be?

GIRL: Fine. I’m at the Someday. I’m definitely not reading but I’m drinking a shitload of dark roast. I’m going to be up til dawn.

SHELL: Is your little crush in there tonight?

GIRL: Which one? The under-age punk?

SHELL: No — the one that used to work mornings but got fired — what’s his name, Jared?

GIRL: Jordan.

SHELL: Yeah. Jordan.

GIRL: No. He’s not here. But are you going to meet me? I saved you a seat.

SHELL: I don’t think so. I have to do epic laundry. Jump in the shower. Grab a bite to eat. Are you writing?

GIRL: No way. I’ve had enough freakin writing for today. SmallBiz Editorial Calendar makes me want to throw up all over my computer.

SHELL: Sure thing, K. Well… I doubt I’ll be able to meet you. Why don’t you give me a call tomorrow?

GIRL: Fine, fine. I’ll catch up with you later..

SHELL: Stay out of trouble.

GIRL: But why?

Both giggle maniacally. GIRL hangs up and goes up to counter for a refill, passing BOY’s table. BOY is writing emotively in his little leather-bound journal with his graphite pencil. She guesses that he’s reading “The Norton Anthology of Literature.” His handwriting is beautiful. GIRL sighs.

The song changes, and Death Cab for Cutie’s “A Movie Script Ending” fills the Café. GIRL realizes this is a sign. Of what, she is not sure. But it is a Call to Action. Suddenly back at her chair, GIRL tries desperately to think of something to give BOY. She had already donated her tiny glass giraffes to the tip jar of subway musicians that morning. Wildflowers from the sidewalk were not an option in winter. GIRL decides to write BOY a poem.

GIRL becomes very silly and inspired by this prospect, scribbling haiku excitedly until she is laughing to herself. Upon gathering her things to go, GIRL passes by BOY’s table, and places the haiku in front of him, on his book, which is not the Norton Anthology of Literature but an advanced chemistry text. Oh well.

GIRL bends down next to the table so they meet at eye level.

BOY: What’s this?

GIRL: It’s a haiku.

BOY: Oh?

GIRL: I wrote it for you.

BOY: Oh. Well, thank you!

GIRL smiles and quickly disappears out the door and around the corner. BOY straightens the paper before him and reads:

traffic light window
striped-hat-boy writes shining words
refills, one dollar

Maybe this is why Amelie is one of my favorite movies. I guess people don’t really do things like that. But I do. I can’t help it. I want my life to be this little magical place of surreptitious gifts in the subway, chance encounters, heartfelt and inspired conversations over coffee, skipping work to go to the top of the Prudential building and watch the sun come up over the city, and eat amazing falafel on the sidewalk in June.

Sometimes I like to push the Universe and see if it pushes back.

Well, last week was more like a shove.

Sprechen sie Dumbass?

So last night was entertaining.

After another late night at the office in hysterics over my computer, panicked, trying to translate German with Babelfish and counting the 13 days I have left at this job, I fled the office to the certain safety of the Cantab Lounge to find some dark bar comfort with friends.

Ah, the Cantab. This is one of the most local of local joints — and not neighborhoody in the college sense. We’re talking no shirt no shoes required, old men that have lived in Central Square for 100 years and still crawl in after work to blow their physical labor wages on cheap whiskey and $1 pints. The Cantab has fabulous Bluegrass on Tuesday nights and is as dark and dirty as the patrons.

In the world of journalism, writing is called “copy.” Hence, copyright, copywriter. And as Nora Ephron said, “It’s all copy.” This is my mantra. Anywhere in this world, if you pay attention, you will find something to write about. This world offers endless possibilities for story lines, character studies, and characters. And characters.

So, Alex.

It’s always interesting to sit down at a table of guys, in this case three, where everyone is deep in conversation and getting along famously, only to find out later that two of them had just met the third before you walked in the door. It puts a spin on the social dynamic. But I didn’t have the liberty of this knowledge until much later. I could have played “one of these things is not like the other” with the three friends, but I tend to keep an open mind.

Alex was a big, Rottweiler type guy with a lot of tattoos and enormous blue eyes. He was clearly Irish. He had a hint of an accent that I was trying to grab onto, but it was so slight, and it was definitely not the South Boston accent I expected. He kind of sounded like he was from Pennsylvania. So he was the loud talker, the center of attention, the jester, the one who commands the conversation not through scintillating dialog but through force.

The first thing Alex asked me was, “What’s your deal?” Now that could be construed any number of ways. Because it came conversationally and with an upward nod of the head, I assumed he was asking me where I worked and/or lived. But to be clear, I asked him what he meant. “You look a little stressed.” So I gave him the brief version of the dot com hell I had just emerged from, where deadline Germans are breathing down your neck as you try to put copy together for the foreign-language homepage of a live site that gets 1,000 hits a minute. He latched onto the whole German thing immediately and started rattling off what could have been his native tongue if he didn’t sound like he was from Pennsylvania, gesticulating wildly and frightening me just a little. When he was done with his spiel, he ended emphatically, draining his stein and slamming it down on the thick wood table. I clarified that I did not speak German. If I had, my stress level at work would have been significantly lower tonight, not needing the handholding of poorly designed online translation bots.

Naturally, my next question would be where he learned to speak German. Of course, our dear Alex lived there for two years and seemed to pick it up quickly. Now that sounds plausible, right? I’ll give him the German thing. But there was something about him that set off the bullshit detector fairly early in our acquaintance, and I can’t tell you exactly when it was. All I know is that whatever city or culture came up in conversation, Alex either had been there, lived there, done drugs there, or slept with someone who had been there, lived there, or done drugs there. But back to the original topic: German was his minor in school.

His major? Psychology. Talk of healthy mind states, meditation, child development, and anti-anxiety breathing techniques while chain-smoking Marlboro menthols and banging on the table with a drunken fist rings a little cheap to me. His concentration was sleep disorders. This is where Alex lost a few points on the credibility scale. To make matters worse, his word choice betrayed his declaration of schooling and made it clear that he was actually in the Marines.

Apparently there are four levels of sleep: Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and Delta. This is the first thing he says on the topic of his specialty, and I have to stifle my giggle because I want to see how far he’s going to run with this. And he ran all the way — without looking back. First off, Bravo and Charlie are obviously military terms. And there are no Bravo or Charlie waves in sleep. There are Alpha and Beta, Theta and Delta. But wide-eyed, he enlightened us laymen on the sleep cycle, and how he studied, in depth, post-traumatic stress disorders linked to dreams. He didn’t believe sleep disturbances should be treated with tranquilizers because they actually interfere with sleep (“that’s old school.”) by not allowing one enough time in the Charlie level. I agreed and told him how when I was taking this codeine cough syrup I started getting a form of apnea because I was having a hard time coming out of Delta sleep. He stared at me blankly for a minute, clueless as to what I was talking about, and then launched back into his tirade on the Bravo cycle. As a side note, sleep apnea is the first topic in sleep disorders. As a major, he should have at least read that chapter.

He had a few beers (which, for some reason, I found myself paying for) and then launched into his new story of surfing in Hawaii, killing Japanese people, and shooting heroin in Seattle. Alex aired his rotation of track marks and pulled his sleeves back down. He moved to Boston because “there were too many drugs in Seattle.” On the topic of his geographic cure, I said that was an excellent decision since we didn’t have any drugs in Boston. He nodded wholeheartedly. He proudly begain a slew of racist jokes in vox elephantine after drawing the attention of the entire bar where we were the obvious minority. Then he moved on to reciting his bad and impromptu poetry about a leaf in the wind.

Oh, Alex.

At this point I excused myself and went up to the bar, where I received not only the box of matches I was seeking, but two marriage proposals. One from a fellow BU-alum (class of ’74). The other from a runny-eyed iron worker — both alcoholics who were late getting home to beat their wives. The iron worker, who I betrayed my blue-collar upbringing to by affectionately calling him a “tin knocker” like my father, immediately whipped out his cell phone and began dialing. Apparently he knew a Justice of the Peace.

In my absence, Alex was interrogating my friends on whether or not I had a boyfriend. Then he called his live-in girlfriend. She was pissed because he claimed he’d be home for dinner. He was pissed because, well, he was pissed — in the Irish sense of the word. “It’s not like I’d ever lie to you or cheat on you!” he assured her, glancing at me sideways. His slurring voice started getting disturbingly loud, and he covered the phone briefly to shout at the waitress, “Hey Mabel — bring me another!” I would have climbed under the table in embarrassment but the bartender was so used to the abuse in this joint that the permanent scowl on her face had worn so deep the corners of her mouth were flush with her jaw line.

After screaming at his girlfriend on the phone for ten minutes, he finished his Busch in one go, forked over my friend’s cell phone, and turned to me violently for the answer to the universal question: “Why are women so fucked up!?”

I blinked.

“Because of guys like you.”

Ignoring me, our good friend Alex began detailing the trials and tribulations of his relationship, saying he didn’t have time to give this chick all this attention, and be all domestic and shit, and I asked him why he moved in with her. He ignored this like all the pointed questions and obvious statements I kept making. He really was demanding an answer. Really.

He started putting his hands on me, which really pissed me off. Certain people are more than welcome in my personal space. Drunk strangers in bars railing on about Asian hookers and IV drug use are not one of them. He was visibly agitated by this confrontation with his girlfriend. “Why are they so fucked up?” he kept asking me. “You’re a woman. You know these things.”

I love getting these questions at a table full of men. All three of them turned to me, leaning forward slightly, awaiting the revelation.

“Well, I think since I am a woman, and all women are exactly the same, I speak for my fellow sisters that we are possessive, suspicious, and often straight up psychotic. We have no control over ourselves. It’s hormonal.”

Alex half leaped out of his chair, slamming both open hands on the table and rattling the salt and pepper shakers. “See!? That’s what I’m talking about. Thank you.”

He has rested his case. He got up to “go make more room.” I actually thought for a second he was going to throw up, but I guess he needed to take a leak.

For the first time since I arrived, I was left alone with my compatriots, who met my elevated eyebrows with a smile and a shake of the head. This is when they revealed that they’d just met Alex an hour ago. I was counting the paces from the table to the door and glancing at the clock. The show we were going to started in forty-five minutes. But part of me didn’t want to leave. I wanted to see what else Alex came up with. I also wanted to see exactly how sarcastic, sardonic and obnoxious I could get with him before he noticed.

But Alex could never notice. He didn’t have it in him. Besides, he’d chalk it up to his newly-confirmed theory about estrogen. It’s at this point that he returned from the bathroom, ordered his seventh beer in the past hour, and decided to become the stand-up comedian for the night. After harassing the bartender about shutting off the jukebox during his song (I told him it was because he put on Guns ‘n Roses), he launched into a spree of low-brow jokes. Before he started, I said, “This better not be lewd. You’re in the presence of a lady.” I have no problem with obscenities or screwing humor, clearly, but sitting at a table full of men who are laughing about fucking some chick up the ass is a bit disquieting. Alex assured me that the jokes would be in good taste. “I have two sisters. That’s how you can tell I’m respectful of women. Believe me you.” He said this as he put his enormous right hand on my left thigh and I removed it forcefully. The tirade began with prostitutes, anal sex and pit bulls, and ended with a cock fight between an Asian guy and a black porn star.

And then it was time to go.

Alex was digging for a pen to get my phone number. He wanted a tour guide for the city, since he had just moved here and all. Apparently he forgot his way around after living here for ten years. Or did he forget his way around his fabrications for two hours? One can never tell.

I declined on my phone number, telling him I gave up cheating boyfriends as my New Year’s Resolution. He insisted on giving me his. In a rare moment of wry humor, he wrote, “Sie ruft Mich an!” Call me.

Clever boy, that Alex.