Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Agent Sarah reporting for duty in May

Agent Sarah wrote back to me. I don't think I updated that here. She said that she is excited to get the latest draft, and that her work is backed up a mile so she will be able to get back to me in May. This was a couple of weeks ago, when May was further away. Like a couple of weeks away. Now it's 2 days away. What do you think the odds are that she'll read it in two days? And fall in love with it? And meet a publisher the next day at lunch who will also love it and buy it for many, many dollars? Like more dollars than I have now?

Ok, let's do something. READERS OF MY BLOG! We're all going to concentrate on the same thing all at once for a couple of seconds. Are you ready? This is truly exciting. Never before has this been done on a blog EVER! THAT I KNOW OF! Everybody imagine that Agent Sarah says my book is ready to!... YAY! Thank you thank you! People, you have made blog history! Or blistory!

More on this as it develops.

Hey, and something else I just noticed. I'm blogging more again. This is a good sign of things, I think.

Monday, April 26, 2010

This blog's T-shirt would say "Under Construction"

I was being a responsible little worker until "Strawberry Fields" came on the radio and my mind snapped into that third place, that dreamy place that makes me want to write.

Let me take you down, ’cause I’m going to
Strawberry fields
Nothing is real
And nothing to get hung about
Strawberry fields forever

I've heard that "Strawberry Fields" is about drugs, but I don't know. Maybe it's about strawberries. I know The Beatles did drugs, but surely they ate fruit as well. Sometimes I feel like nothing is real and I'm not on hallucinogens. I'm just in serious denial.

For example, four summers ago there was a problem with my washing machine while I was potty training Christopher. He had to be potty trained by the fall to get into pre-K. For two weeks we were without a washing machine so I washed clothes by hand. He went through pants and underwear ALL DAY LONG. I distinctly remember hosing off his soiled pants in the backyard when he tottered up to me and told me that he'd had another accident in the pants and underwear I'd just put him in. First I was tempted to squirt the hose in his face. Perhaps that would potty train him, the ole' blast-them-in-the-face-with-the-hose-when-they-poop-on-themselves technique. But I knew I couldn't do that. So I downshifted into denial. "This isn't happening," I thought. Instant hallucinogen! Strawberry fields! Nothing is real! And nothing to hose off of pants! Sing it with me! "Pot-ty trained children forever." I think I ended up letting him run around the backyard naked for the next two weeks.

Anyway, I go into denial about people too. I was just discussing that with a recovery friend this morning. A friend who (in the spirit of anonymity) I'll call George Harrison. I thought about calling him "Peaches" but that would only make me hungry. I told him about how I like to tell people good things about themselves, even when those things aren't true, so that they'll feel good about themselves. This may sound nice, but it doesn't work very well. One man I fell in love with told me in the beginning that he didn't think he was good enough to deserve me. I assured him this wasn't true, and I thought by saying that I could really make him believe that he deserved goodness in his life. But he didn't and he followed through on that belief and mistreated people he loved. That didn't really help either of us. I loved a girl too who told me repeatedly "I'm such an asshole." I'd say, "No you're not. Don't say that about yourself. You're wonderful." And then I was surprised when she'd act like an asshole. I don't think I was wrong that these people had good in them. But both of them told me things they believed about themselves and then I was surprised each time when they acted accordingly. George Harrison agrees that it is more likely to find people who are able to return love if they believe that they can, and not just because I tell them to. But oh how I do love to believe that I can.

Living is easy with eyes closed
Misunderstanding all you see
It’s getting hard to be someone, but it all works out
It doesn’t matter much to me

Who do I tell people that I am? Up until now I think I've told people that I'm worthless. I don't think I say that to myself or anyone else anymore. You know what's going to be really hard? The next time someone tells me, "I'm such an asshole," and I shrug and say, "Ok. What are you going to do about it?" It goes against every cell in my brain. What I want to say is, "No, no! Don't say that about yourself! You're a great guy! You're a liar and a rapist and a tax dodger but I love the good in you!" There is good in everybody, but at least I know that it's not my job to force people to see it AND embrace it, no matter how much I want them to. And believe me, I want it to be my job REALLY bad.

So this is probably what it'll look like the next time an emotionally unhealthy person comes looking for me:
I'll be at a coffee shop sipping a medium roast. Cream and a dash of sugar. A big dash of sugar. A dude will come up to me, smelling like whiskey and wearing a hat that says, "I am a prick."
"Give me a compliment," he'll say.
"I don't know you," I'll tell him. "I only know what you're showing me."
A woman with too much makeup who smells like heroin will step beside him. She's wearing a T-shirt that says, "I am a difficult person and I had an abusive mother who I will think of when I look at you." She'll tell me, "But aren't you that girl who makes people feel better?"
"I'm retired," I'll say.
"You can't do that to us," Prick Hat will say.
I'll stand up. I am wearing a T-shirt that says, "Single mother of 3 in a 12 step program with an identity crisis going on - Awesomeness under construction." I'll tell them, "I'm not sure you want to take my advice."

Then I will squirt them with a hose.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Funny Lookin'

You might not be surprised if I tell you that you can not eat off of the floors in my house. Well, you could, but then you might not feel very well, and then you might also start to wonder about yourself, about why you would eat off of someone's floor in the first place and not, say, a plate. Oh, by the by, you might not want to eat off of one of my plates.

I clean about as often as I feel that I have to, and you can tell from looking at my place that I don't feel very obligated. Unless someone comes over to visit or if someone tries to eat off my floor and then I have to stop them and say, "Hey, you might not want to do that." "Yes, I really do. I HAVE to," he'll say, because I would imagine that this is how a person who eats off the bare floor would respond. "Ok," I'll say handing them a fork. "If you can find the floor, it's yours. Just kick around the laundry and move those papers. And that dog. There you go. Hey! Look at that! I DO have a floor!"

And to tell you the truth, the kids and I don't wash our hair or brush our teeth as often as we should. Hey look, you asked!...oh wait, no, you didn't ask for that information. I'm just giving you the cold hard facts here. Life is a little crazy lately and sometimes the kids and I fall asleep in our clothes, on the couch, with the dog and the cat and the rabbit. Teeth unbrushed, faces unwashed, pajamas unworn. But we get to school and to work every day. And when we do people are overjoyed to see us! Until they get too close and breathe. Then we might smell a little funny, and truthfully we might look a little funny. The other day when we were running late I told Christopher to put on his socks and he yelled from his bedroom, "Ok, they're on!" He walked into the kitchen with his socks draped over his head. He thought he was hilarious, and even though we were seriously late I still had to laugh. What a smart ass.

We are making each other laugh more. That's been a good change. A few weeks ago I was lying in bed, depressed about something and Emma snuggled down next to me and said, "Hey Mom." "What?" I grumbled back. Then she boasted, "I have 50 electric peanuts in my pants." I smiled. I hadn't smiled all day. "Do you?" I asked. "Yes! Oh - what a minute..." she snuck under the covers and came back up. "I'm not wearing any pants." Somehow Emma knows just what to say to make me laugh. I could be coming home from the funeral of both of my parents and Emma could say the words "electric peanuts in my pants" and I would still giggle. It's not just the ridiculous things that she says. It's that, at age 8, she has mastered a dry tone so she says these things very matter of fact.

The other day I was able to turn it around on her. She, Claire and I went to a mother-daughter yoga class on Sunday and Emma started off class upset about something. She cried quietly for the first 15 minutes. There are so many big changes going on for that little kid and when I saw her crying like that I wanted to make everything better, but I didn't know how. So when we were lying on the floor I whispered, "Hey! Emma!" She looked at me, and she seemed so sad and tired. I probably looked the same way weeks before when she found me in my room. "I've got 50 electric peanuts in my pants," I whispered. She smiled a little, but she didn't laugh.

The class worked on her after a while. The teacher had us doing fun, playful poses and Emma began to giggle a bit. Then in the last ten minutes of class she fell asleep during the meditation. Poor thing really was tired. Since it was Chris's weekend with the kids, he came to pick them up at the end of class. It's always painful to watch the kids get in the car with him and go, just a reminder that our family's split. Even though it's a good thing, Chris and I both agree on that, there's something about it that's just hard. When I was telling them goodbye Emma called me over to her window. She said, in her flat tone, "Hey Mom. I've got peanuts in my pants too." That's true mother-daughter bonding.

We're working on it, this taking care of ourselves physically and emotionally thing. Just a little awkward right now what with all of the peanuts in all of the pants. Atleast we can laugh.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Gen's had a good shot of adrenalin

Saturday night I actually did something other than go to a 12 step meeting, or lie in bed and wonder what my kids were doing at their dad's house and if they were ok, or where the hell I went wrong with everything, and what the hell I'm doing with my life. I mean, I still managed to fit those things in over the weekend, but intermingled with my self-torture I also went to see Roller Derby. I wasn't sure if I would like it. I was hesitant about going at first. But when the announcer described the skaters as "a tangle of fishnets and skulls!" I knew I was in the right place.

Really, I thought I would have grown out of my dark side by now. When I was a teenager I painted my fingernails black and listened to Agent Orange and The Misfits, and that was fine. But I never imagined that at 34 I would be sitting in a college gym full of people who still dressed like I did in 1991, AND ME dressing kind of like I did in 1991 with my Creep Show T-shirt and cut-offs, and getting a kick out of watching grown women with names like "John Cougar Menstrual Cramp" knock each other to the ground. There's something cathartic about the whole thing. And the music! I wish I had the soundtrack to that fucking game! They played Agent Orange, Blondie, The Ramones, and The Runaways! That's the music I try to get away with listening to at work! But I don't!

Anyway, my friend Tricia and I came up with our own Roller Derby names, even though neither of us have skated in years and we don't like getting hit in the head. She is The Velveteen Grabb-It and I'm Gen-O-Cide. This doesn't mean we'll be joining the team, these are just the personas that we'll adopt the next time we go to a game.

Then to complete my juevenille delinquent weekend, last night I saw the movie "The Runaways." It is the story of the all girl rock band in the mid 70's with Joan Jett and Lita Ford. I liked.

When I got out of that movie I started thinking. I'm way too cautious with the way I write. In the movie, when The Runaway's bizarre manager was trying to coach the girls in the band about playing like tough-as-nails rock n' roll chicks, he gave them this constructive criticism, "You ladies need to start thinking with your cocks!" I think it's high time I started doing this with my writing. I'm always afraid of pissing people off, or talking about how I really feel about things.

Inside of me there is a saucy, punchy girl. So far the only way she comes out is in fiction, or when I'm playing a part. If I wore scary face paints, called myself Gen-O-Cide and wore a bad girl clothes then I probably stand up straight, talk unashamedly about how I feel about politics, excessive Facebooking, and how I think that Crocks are the ugliest shoes ever made. Also, I would look like an over-30, mother of three who's trying to look 18. But I don't have to disguise myself to talk or write about how I really feel about things and people in my life. I can just go balls out. Most of my friends do this and people still talk to them. Of course, none of them have published their thoughts. For some reason, that's a little different.

Today when I write I'm just letting everything out. I'm a little afraid of what I might say. Perhaps for the first few days that I do this I should wear fishnets, roller skates and a leather jacket. Just to arm myself. That would be an interesting sight for the kids to see when they wake up in the morning. They'll trudge into the kitchen rubbing the sleep out of their eyes, hear the familiar sounds of the coffee brewing and the clicking of laptop keys, and then the quite unfamiliar sight of their mother in a roller derby helmet and leather pants as she writes at the kitchen table. One of them will say to the other, as she shakes her head, "Mom's thinking with her cock again."

What got me about the movie and really made me think about what I'm doing with writing was Joan Jett's attitude towards music, even as a teenager. She knew what she wanted to do and she was serious about it She still is, I read a little bit about her today. That chick is 52 and she's still performinging live all over the world because she loves to play guitar.

I want to write how that music sounds. Raw and alive. I want someone to open my book, rest their ear against a page and hear one wailing electric guitar.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Two Letters

Dear Cigarette,

You make me feel dizzy and drunk after I smoke you. Why would I want to feel that way? I don't really. So there must be something I'm avoiding. Or maybe something I'm trying to remember.

You taste like someone I used to know. But you also make my breath and hands stink. Your smell permeates everything. You used to taste good but you don't anymore. You are not the person I used to know, you are not a person at all. You don't love me. The second I take you in you begin to disappear. So I have to chase you again, chase this thing that could kill me and leaves me feeling dizzy, lousy, and worried after I have it.

And still, even as I write this, I want you again. Addiction is insane. To want you after all that I've wrriten here is insane. So part of me is crazy. And you're not crazy, are you, Cigarette? You disappearing act, you with no mind or soul at all. You who devolves into tar.

Fuck off,

Dear Genevieve,

No more disappearing acts. No more taking in things that don't give back.


Awwe, I wrote "Love yourself." It's nice, I know.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

To Agent Sarah, With Love

I am done. As of 6:00 this morning, I finished editing the last sentence. I knew I was done when I found myself spending a great bulk of time editing one letter in one word repeatedly. The last sentence is (and you will not get this out of context), "I drew pictures of myself." In my early-morning-up-since-three-not-enough-coffee-overediting-to-a-fault haze I couldn't decide if the sentence should be past or present tense. So I kept changing my mind and agonizing over literally one letter that would change "I drew pictures of myself" to "I draw pictures of myself." Finally I decided two things: 1) since the entire book was in past tense it made no sense to traumatize the reader with a present tense verb out of nowhere, and 2) I was seriously overediting. I also decided that it was time for another cup of coffee.

So there it is, children. Off to Agent Sarah! May she be kind. May she read it and say, "You, Genevieve, are done. This is a master piece. And that past tense verb at the end seals the deal. Here is a publisher, an ungodly advance, and a Starbucks gift card."

So what else is going on with me? I'm happy to start writing something else now, for one thing. The kids and I have been reading the Junie B. Jones series the last two evenings and having a great time. I have the absence of cabel television to thank for that. How am I romantically? Financially? Emotionally? My appetite, blood sugar level, and heart rate? Well, I have a storage bin of disposable lovers, money to burn, happiness aplenty, and the constitution and the body of a goddess. That's my official statement, which I have filed away and am prepared to deliver at the next family gathering I attend, where 50 people will all come up and ask how I'm holding together. And then when they walk away I will turn around and bang my head on their living room wall repeatedly.

But atleast the next time someone asks me about the book I will be able to say that it's in my agent's hands now. That I feel throughout my soul that it is truly done, no more changes. Right, Agent Sarah? Right? Pretty please? With Splenda on top? Yeah, that's what I thought.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Old bones over bars any day

It's official. I don't know how to be single yet. Last night one of my friends invited me out to a bar (by the way, I officially don't like bars) and I felt completely out of place.

Not in the way I felt out of place in high school - not like I was lower than everybody or less attractive or less witty. It's taken me up to this point in my life to get a truly sober perspective on people in a bar. None of us are all that superior, attractive, or witty. So I didn't feel out of place in a ugly-girl-in-a-room-of-prettier-girls kind of way. I felt more like a lamp in a swimming pool. I didn't work in there. You know, I stood there with a beer. Looked at the guitarists on stage who were good, but didn't play anything I could dance to, so I just tapped my foot. There were other drunk couples who danced awkwardly to music with no beat to it, which would have been amusing if seeing couples together didn't make me want to throw tiny cocktail umbrellas at them.

I felt much more comfortable at the cemetery I'd visited earlier that day. My friend Vicky (not the friend I went to the bar with) and I went to Holt Cemetery, which is a potter's field near City Park. It's where the jazz dude Buddy Bolden is buried in an unmarked grave, along with hundreds of other people whose families didn't have much money to bury them anywhere else.

To say that this place is not kept up well is a serious understatement. It's a mess. But that's what's so great about it. The grass isn't mowed on a regular basis, so it's too high. Some of the plots are covered in clover that's long enough to braid. The graves aren't in rows, they're just scattered everywhere, some right on top of each other. There will be a headstone and then less than a foot in front of it, a wooden cross with someone else's name scribbled in permanent marker.

The grave markers are wooden, cement, steel rods sticking out of the ground, and broken off pieces of plastic. The homemade ones have misspellings like "Bourn: 1923 Die: 1960." My favorite one had a misspelling and what seemed like an interesting story behind it. It said "Here lie my husbans" and then gave their names. Her husbands? She buried them together? One at a time, or both at once? There were "in loving memories" of mothers, fathers, grandmothers, children and teenagers, their faded names on cheap pieces of anything. My favorite name was a World War One vet named Obadiah Wise.

The two most unusual things about this graveyard was - no. I take that back. The two creepiest things about this graveyard were the things that Vicky and I found lying on the ground. Oh, and the big, crumbly brick construction that appears to be an incinerator towards the back of the graveyard. I wish I had pictures to go with this. We're not sure that's exactly what it was. Neither of us have seen a crematorium before but if we had to bet money we were guessing that's what it was. Judging from the potato chips bags, water bottles, and cob webs inside of it, we guessed that whatever it was, it hadn't been used in a long time.

I just googled Holt to see if there was anything that confirmed our theory and I didn't find anything that mentioned it, but I found a much better description of the place:
"As you enter this graveyard through a ramshackle iron fence, your sweeping view of the cemetery will likely give you the impression of a grim forgotten burial waste land. There is no formal landscaping here at this time; bare dirt, mud clumps, and choking yellow weeds carpet this environment. Well and poorly tended plots intermingle. A narrow ditch of green water stretches the length of the Holt. Sometimes a bone works its way out of the ground as graves are re-dug for a second, third, or more burial in the same site. "

And yeah, we found bones. That was the creepy thing. Half of a pelvis, a rib, and what we guessed was a thin arm or leg bone. I wasn't disgusted by it or anything. I was sad that whoever that was had unceremoniously popped out of the ground like that. But at the same time, decomposing is a rather undignified business whether one is in or out of the ground.

The other thing we found was an old glass bottle, like the kind you find at an antique store that once held homemade medicine. Vicky picked it up and read the words on the side "Embalmer's Fluid."

At that point it was time to go.

There really was a sweetness to that place, though. The headstones were like handmade cards rather than store bought. There was a loved one's handwriting, trinkets left behind of the deceased, like stuffed animals and a crossing guard vest. There was a wild parrot that was flying around making all sorts of racket, and it made me remember the city's bizarre wild parrot population. It was morbidly magical, if that makes sense. Not without hope.

So I guess yesterday I felt more comfortable in dead ruins than among living, drinking people. Scene of me talking to some dude the next time I'm in a bar:
"What's your name?" he'll say.
"What do you do, Genevieve?"
"I tour graveyards looking for bones."
[grabbing his beer and moving on] "Later."
"What? You don't want my phone number? Hey! It's cool. Want to see an incinerator?"

Ps- Yep. It's an old crematory oven. Just saw a picture of it online.