Sunday, September 30, 2012

Is Anyone Else Worried About Allie Brosch?

Who is that, you ask? And then, if you haven't read the title of this post, you're asking me, "Who is who, and what kind of opening sentence is that for a blog post? Please take more writing classes or I will be forced to start reading Lady Gaga tweets again, and I just can't go back to that place in my life, I can't!"

Ok, well first, calm down, we'll get through this together. All celebrity tweets are addictive, the most addictive of course is Steve Martin's. You can't help it. Steve Martin is the world's most brilliantly funny human. His last tweet was "Is the election this year or next year?" See! See! He's being silly because the election is SO obviously this year. And it's even funnier when I explain the joke.

But that's not why I'm writing tonight. I am writing because Allie Brosch, writer of Hyperbole And a Half has not posted anything for about a year and the last thing she wrote was about depression. This woman is so funny that it should be against the laws of perpetual entertainment for her to stop writing. And drawing. I love her drawings so much that, for a while, this was my Facebook profile picture:

I know that I've never posted a picture of myself here, but you'll have to trust me that this is exactly what I look like when I get the impulse to clean. My cleaning cycle happens in mad bursts where I run around with a broom, shaking my stick arms, with my googly eyes popping out. Allie might not have realized that she was drawing me, I'm sure that she thinks she was drawing herself, but I recognized it and I've kept up with her blog ever since to see how I'm doing.

I haven't had any update lately though. Maybe I should do some internet stalking - I mean, google research. (15 minutes later) Ok, I found her. Sorta. She answered a question on and the question was, "Does anybody know what's happening with Allie Brosch?" And she has, indeed, been suffering from depression, but that update was from six months ago. I've wondered from time to time when I read her stuff if she suffered from depression and insecurity. The first thing I'd think was, "How could she possibly feel bad about herself? She's got over 50,000 followers. How could she think she sucks when she's so talented and makes so many people laugh?" But I know that shameful feeling, the feeling of disliking yourself not because you are a bad person but just because you ARE, and it's so hard to shake. Nothing on the outside can cure it, it's all inside stuff and it can shade everything in your life if left untreated.

I just finished reading Bird By Bird, by Anne Lamott, and one of my favorite things that she about success as a writer was this, "the realtionship between getting published and mental health was summed up in one line of the movie Cool Runnings which is about the first Jamaican bobsled team. The coach is a four-hundred pound man who had won a gold metal  in Olympc bobsledding twenty years before but has been a complete loser ever since. The men on his team are desperate to win an Olympic medal, just as half the people in my [writing] classes are desperate to get published. But the coach says, 'If you're not enough before the gold metal, you won't be enough with it.' You may want to tape this to the wall near your desk.'"

I forget that just because a person is successful doesn't mean that they don't get insecure about themselves or their work, just like I do. I have 27 followers so if I don't write for a while, that means about a handful of poeple will be disappointed, whereas, the suffering of Allie Brosch has affected thousands of people, and caused me to internet stalk her to make she she's alright which I never NEVER do, unless I'm really worried about someone or unless they said that they were going to call me and they didn't or when it's Steve Martin and he's Tweeted something about going shoe shopping and I suspect that it might be the Payless near my house, then MAYBE I might do some web snooping but other than that I'm a typically well-adjusted non-obsessed person.

Hmm, reading back over this I don't sound all that considered about her as a person, just as someone's whose writing makes me laugh. It's ok, Allie! Take all the time you need to heal yourself! What you're dealing with is something that's not you're fault and is really REALLY hard to fight but you can do it! I'm ok, I've got backup, I can reread my Bloom County collection, and I can follow Ellen Degeneres for good measure...

But wait...Bloom County...That cartoonist hasn't come out with anything in years. Is anyone else worried about Berke Breathed?

ps- I also just found this which I thought was a good, both as an update on Allie Brosch and about depression.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Vigilante Council on Aging

Today, my dears, is my birthday. And yesterday, on the last day of being 36, my daughter said, "Mommy! You're 38 now!"
"No, no, no. Don't go adding years on me. I'm almost 37," I told her, "almost" meaning "six hours away from."
"Oh. Well, I guess you just look older."
"I mean - no- you act older. Like, more mature."
I put my hand on her shoulder. "You can't dig yourself out of this one, dear."
"No, seriously, you're like-"
"Let it go. Get me chocolate."
"Okey dokey."

Today won't be too much different from any other day. My ex picked up the kids this morning and with my free time I plan to write, cook, go to a meeting, and get ready for work tomorrow. My dad is cooking brunch for me, which is a little different, but I gotta say I don't feel all that different.  Maybe there just not too much difference between 36 and 37. Except according to Emma ON MY FACE.

ACK! What if she didn't mean my face? What if there are grays I don't see? What if I've got saggy bits? What if I look like one of the Roller Derby cheerleaders I saw last night with missing teeth and wrinkly arm fat that droops like the face of an old French bulldog? No! I'm too young! Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

"Calm down," the more mature part of me says. "Do you have missing teeth?"
"Do you have wrinkly arm fat?"
"No. But I've got arm fat."
"Every woman except those who starve themselves for professional reasons has arm fat."
(sob! sniff!) "Really?"
"Yes, Genevieve. You're still attractive."
"For a 37 year old."
"....I hate you."
"I'm your inner truth. I get that a lot."

And according to my inner truth, those thing will eventually happen to my body. My ultimate plan is....wait. This needs to be announced with proper flourish

**~Gen's Super Awesome Plans For Aging!~**

My plan is, that as my body begins to fall away, I will shine more brightly inside. Like this:

In order for this to happen, I must stick to a strict diet of non-self hatred and hugging pink things. This may sound like a cruel tutelage, but it's a means to a bright, shiny soulful existence, which is ultimately what I want out of life.

While my body is still energetic and my happy appendages have not surrendered to gravity I will leap and dance about as much as possible.

So I'll give you a song that I can't possibly sit down to whenever it comes on. It's Busted by The Black Keys. At precisely 1 minute and 40 seconds, I am compelled to get up and dance like a Blues Brother. Dance with me, my friends!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

This is What a Second Line is

The other day my buddy Tom asked me what a Second Line is and I froze in horror because if any of my out-of-state friends ask me this question it means that I have not done my job as a New Orleanian. And since I am not just a New Orleans woman but also a nerd I will first give you the wikipedia definition:
 The "main line" or "first line" is the main section of the parade, or the members of the actual club with the parading permit as well as the brass band. Those who follow the band just to enjoy the music are called the "second line." The second line's style of traditional dance, in which participants walk and sometimes twirl a parasol or handkerchief in the air, is called "second lining." It has been called "the quintessential New Orleans art form — a jazz funeral without a body."[1] Another significant difference from so called "jazz funerals" is second line parades usually lack the slow hymns and dirges played at funerals (although this is not a hard rule; some organizations may have the band play something solemn towards the start of the parade in memory of members deceased since their last parade).

NOTE! You absolutely do not need a parading permit to second line. In fact, if you can get your hands on a brass band right now, you can dance behind them in your living room with a parasol and it's completely legal. And even if it is illegal where you live, a New Orleanian would never arrest you. We would just grab a handkerchief, wave it in the air, follow you around your house, holler things, and drink all of your alcohol. Topless.

When my family Second Lines at weddings we play this song But it doesn't have to be that song. The last wedding I went to for my cousin's daughter, since there were no handkerchief or umbrellas, we grabbed napkins and paraded behind the bride and groom and none of us even stopped to get a permit first. I have just looked online for footage of something like this, but all I can find are clips of brides and grooms Second Lining through the French Quarter and you can only really hear police sirens.

A better example is You Better Second Line which is a clip from a Jazz Funeral for singer Juanita Brooks.  The beginning is slow but theatrical, I think, with the dramatic flourishes of the women in the beginning. After they walk from the grave (at precisely minute 4:40) things really pep up. Feel free to dance around your computer when it plays, and if you do, not only will you not be fined for not having a permit, but you will technically be Second Lining at a Jazz Funeral. In fact, I dare you to hear that whistle blast at minute 4:40 and NOT (at the very least) dance in your seat.

So those are the basics. If anyone has further questions about Second Line feel free to post questions in the commentary. New Orleanians are standing by. Well, they're not really STANDING. They're dancing, and drinking wine from plastic cups at 6:00 in the morning. Hey! You over there! Focus! These people have questions! And for heaven's sake, put your shirt back on!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Piano Needs Meds

At the hospital where I work there's an atrium with a skylight, and that's where the piano sits, right by the coffee shop, in the sunlight. It's mostly volunteers who play it, older gray haired men and women who come with worn books of sheet music. But sometimes it's a short black guy in an Environmental Services uniform, who I guess is on break, and he sits at that piano with no music to follow and he tears that shit up. It's always a lively jazzy song that I've never heard before.

This is in sharp contrast to the people who usually play, and I'm not trying to snub them, I mean they are there to perform and add music to what is usually a frustrating day at a place where no one wants to be. But really, when people are passing by on their way to chemo treatment, is it necessary to play the theme from "Love Story?" You know, that movie where the woman dies of cancer at the end? Or imagine that you're 75 years old and your son has brought you to have blood drawn for the 50th time that week for some test that will conclude that you're old and you're dying, and the piano pipes up with "Sunrise, Sunset?"

Or worse, and I swear this is the worst, "Send in the Clowns." I don't care what visit I'm there for, I mean, it could be a well-visit, where by definition I am there for my annual confirmation that I am doing well, and if I walk past someone playing "Send in The Clowns" I guarantee that I will be diagnosed with heart failure. They don't even play it well, and for some reason that makes it EVEN WORSE. They miss notes and the song hobbles along, as if its suffering from clinical depression.

What is not as bad but spooky, is when no one is there, and the piano plays by itself. The keys go up and down as if someone's working them, but no one's there and all of us walk past this situation as if it's normal. I want to stop, point, and say, "Is this freaking anyone else out? Can we unplug this?" Maybe I'm crazy, but I always get the impression that the piano is lonely and it's pretending someone's there. "I'm ok, I just have to stay focused," it tells itself. "I'll play 'If I Die Young' until Margaret gets back."

The piano needs Prozac. And since we can't stuff pills under its lid the best solution I can come up with is to hire the guy from Environmental Services full time. Something tells me that even his jazzy songs about death won't be depressing. He can play by the coffee shop, bathed in sunlight, and people who are there for hip replacements will start to Second Line. And I will grab a white napkin, wave it over my head and join them. Maybe I could be hired to do it full time! Ok, I need to find this guy and get our plan going. We'll form a duo , call ourselves "Send in the Clowns My Ass," and we'll be a smashing success.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

My Lawful Addiction Could Perk up My Heinous Depression

I feel hung over but I haven't had a drink in two and a half years. If I could explain why I would. I guess there are things contributing to it, like worries and things like that, but to actually walk around feeling dizzy and numb when I haven't done anything fun to earn that feeling - well that's just bullshit.  I just feel numb all over, sad and directionless. Maybe it's depression.  Let's see, I'll ask.

"Hey, Gen?"
"Yeah, Gen?"
"Are you depressed?"
"Ok, thanks."
"No problem. Talk to you later."

Well, fuck. Now what am I supposed to do? Take a walk? Read inspirational things about love and the world? Lie on the couch and stare at the ceiling for the next two months? None of those things are appealing. Blog? Well, I don't really feel like it, but I've missed a few days so here it goes...

The other night I went to see the movie "Lawless." I recommend this movie for the following reasons 1) Gary Oldman is it, 2) the guys who made the movie also wrote/arranged and performed the music on the soundtrack themselves, 3) Guy Pearce is in it, 4) Mennonites are in it, and 5) it's about hillbilly gangsters in the 30's and you can't go wrong with that kind of subject matter. Unfortunately, I wasn't expecting there to be torture so I spent a good bit of the movie hiding behind my hands and telling my friends Lucy and Jamaal to let me know when they finished tar and feathering the bootlegger. I expected there to be shooting but DAMN. I've reached my movie-violence quota for the next six months.

There, I've blogged about something, do I feel better? I don't know, I'll ask myself.

"Gen? Do you feel better?"
"You wanna know if I feel better after you talked about pouring hot tar on people?"
"Hmm. Ok, I'll try again."

So there's a bunny in my living room. She's so cute and pettable! She's white with light brown spots and she's way cuter than the psycho-apocalyptic bunny in "Donnie Darko."

"How's that?" I ask myself. "You have a cute bunny, see. Doesn't that make you feel good?"
"....Why, exactly, did you feel the need to throw in the image of Frank the apocalyptic rabbit in Donnie Darko?"
"I don't know, it just popped in my head."
"Look, I appreciate you trying but you're me and I'm depressed, which means WE'RE depressed, which means it's not likely that you'll be able to say anything that doesn't have some kind of dark and gloomy slant to it."
"Uh...Jake Gyllenhaal is in that movie. He's super cute."
"Sure. Bring up my sexual confusion, THAT doesn't cause me any grief. Because just when I'm think I'm 100% gay, a super cute guy comes along."
"And vice versa. I start to think I really am straight and then a super cute chick walks by-"
"Oh! You're just being impossible right now."
 "That's right. Stop trying so hard, dear. I don't even know why I'm going off on that. I'm comfortable lately with being bisexual. I'm just going to gripe about anything you bring up."
"Hey look...the bunny hopped by your feet."
[Looks down at the rabbit licking my shoe] "She is cute."
"And she loves you."
"She loves my shoe."
"STOP it."
"Ok. She loves me. A cute little forest creature loves me and I'm happy about it. Feel better?"
"Yes. Yes, that does make me feel better."
"Good. Now go lay down on the couch for two months like we talked about."
"We never agreed on that."
"Oooooooh," the me who's determined to stay depressed whines. "But I'm tired!"
"Get a cup of coffee. You have an addiction to keep up, you know."
"Hmm. I do like my legal addictions."
"That's the spirit!"
"Before I go, I should leave my readers with something like I usually do. A song or something."

So we've agreed to leave you with White Light White Heat It's one of the songs from the Lawless soundtrack, and a Velvet Underground cover.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


I sit outside by the fountain on my lunch breaks, the one out in front of the hospital that's big enough to swim in. Not dive in, and ok maybe not even accomplish a decent dog-paddle, but my point is that it's big and I'm always tempted to wade in it, and maybe lay on my back and float while kids throw pennies in. It's made of rectangular cement blocks, all different sizes. From the other side of the street it looks like a city in Star Wars, with a waterfall spilling from the long rectangle at the back.

But it hasn't been running since the hurricane hit. Usually the water is clear white and sparkles in the sun, which is why I'm always tempted to jump in, but it's been green since I got back last Friday. It amazes, depresses and impresses me that in two days a gushing fount can become a stagnant puddle of mildew.  I was bummed when I first saw the fountain that way. I think it was the stillness of it, more than the mildew,that bothered me. I sit in a windowless, gray office that my coworkers and I refer to as a cave within a cave. To get to my work space you have to go through one colorless, windowless office and into the next. I need to be outside on my breaks with the sunshine and the water, and when I watch it run it reminds me that I'm alive, that something inside of me is flowing and colorful.

It's almost a week since I got back to work and it still hasn't been cleaned. I still sit by it though. Because it's beginning to change shape. Dragon flies hover over the surface, and tadpoles are squiggling underneath. In one week, it's become a whole other world - uninhabitable for me and but very much alive. I watched the tadpoles swimming today, the way I wish I could do in the fountain without being arrested or committed, and I wondered if they knew why they were there. If they knew that they were born in that spot because a hurricane had come and made it possible.

I heard a story once on Radio Lab about how when a whale dies it sinks to the bottom of the ocean and for the next several decades its decaying body becomes a vibrant world. First the big beasts, like sharks and snow crabs and things eat away at it, phase two is the enrichment opportunist phase where the whale's soft tissue left over from the scavengers is eaten up by smaller things. Phase three is the sulphophilic stage where sulphur mussels, clams and some microscoptic things live off of the nutrients in the bones. The show said that one whale can live 50-75 years, and in its afterlife it can support a community of organisms for another 50-75 years. A whale dying and falling to the bottom of the ocean is called a Whale Fall. I love that. When I die,  unless I die in the water, I won't float gracefully. It will have to be called "Woman Fall Over" or "Woman Trip in Front of Tractor." Wait, that's a headline. But you see what I mean.

What I mean is, life never really stops moving. It just changes shape when it has to.

After I got off of work, I got into my car and immediately began to change shape - the dress shoes and the cardigan come off, the earrings came out, and the "yes ma'am" tone in my voice was replaced by an imitation of Joan Jett singing "Mama Weer All Crazee Now."  I thought about the dragonflies and the tadpoles and hoped they'd find another place before the hospital got around to scrubbing the fountain. I wondered if they knew, just by instinct, that there's always another place to go.

ps - you can geek out on Radio Lab here:  It's everything that a show about things like decaying whales should be.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Water Door Magician

Parker Crush is 16 and she's amazingly strong. She can lift a safe, a solid steel one, that would usually take her aunt, two other locksmiths, and old George to hoist and shuffle on unsteady feet across the locksmith shop, and she can heft it over her head. But to look at her you wouldn't know that she's that strong, in fact, she's kind of scrawny.

She's my teenage, lesbian, super locksmith girl in the book I'm writing called The Water Door Magician, a book which just a month ago didn't have a title. Why did I make her gay? Because I wanted to write something PG and fun for the young adult GLTB crowd. It can't all be adult, R-rated and/or serious, can it? I want this girl to be sure of herself and confident. A good person, but of course she's got to have flaws or she won't be interesting. She's got long reddish-blondish hair, and green eyes. And she carries a leather pouch with lockpick tools inside and one day she breaks into the school disciplinarian's office, but when she opens the door she finds a world called Torwin, and they need her there. Until she finds this place, she's just a punk picking locks and playing pranks on people. The reason she picked that lock is because she heard cries for help on the other side. She had no idea they were coming from another world.

It's fun to write, but it's plot driven and I keep wanting to wander off on small details that don't carry the plot. Like the way Parker's mother Marnie twirls her hair at the kitchen table like she's a little girl deep in thought and how she often reminds Parker of a fidgety little girl, twirling her hair and absent-mindedly eating the French fries off of Parker's plate. 

That's all I got tonight. It's almost midnight and I need to go to bed. Besides, Parker needs another couple of paragraphs before I can let that kid rest, and she's a growing girl who needs her sleep.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Kenny's Ghost

Well, it's a few days later, but it feels like longer. The kids and I are safe and back at home, but I know that a lot of other people aren't so lucky, like the entire city of Laplace and Plaquemines Parish. Hope everybody's ok, though displaced.

So Monday night I packed my three kids, the dog (Lily), the rabbit (Ginger), the hamster (Fluffy McFluffersons - Fluffy for short), and the hermit crab (Super Dude) into my little Ford Focus (Madame Blueberry) and headed off in a undisclosed eastern direction to stay with my friends who I will call Hailey and Sven. I was going to call them Madame Blueberry and Super Dude, but those names are already taken. Their house got some tropical storm force winds and a lot of rain, but miraculously never lost power AND! despite the rain we were able to swim and I discovered a love for swimming in the rain. This is the kind of thing that you don't know you like until you do it, kind of like eating escargot. You think "Would I like snails?" and you realize that you can't say for sure until you try. Well, maybe that's just me. There are some who I am sure would like at a plate of snails, or even just think about it and they know, they just feel deep in the pit of their nausea, that they would not like it. I looked at rain pelting on the surface of the pool and thought, "This is pretty. I want to be with the pretty, and I don't care if it's cold."

Of course, I had to do this on my lunch break because I worked remotely from my computer while I was away. Luckily I have a job where I can do that. Um, those of you who were flooded out, can't work and don't have electricity right now, please don't hate me for working in the comfort of an air-conditioned undisclosed eastern location with a pool...You don't like me anyway? Then stop reading my blog, silly!

I got back into town on Thursday and was told to report to the Northshore hospital campus instead of my regular office. So after driving back from Hailey and Sven's I dropped off the kids and the beasts at my aunt's and reported to work in my shorts, T-shirt and sneakers with no socks. The nurse who I reported to didn't seem to care that I was dressed this way or that I smelled like a combination of McDonald's, dog, and sweat.  She gave me an ID bracelet and led me to a set of elevators.
"Now, let's see," she said, after hitting the "up" button, "Which one is Kenny in?"
The elevator door on the left slid open. She shrugged.
"Oh well, I think it's this one, but he's nice." We stepped in and before I could ask she told me, "Kenny's our ghost. They call him Kenneth, but I call him Kenny. Think he died here. Anyway, sometimes he messes with us, but he's alright."
"He only lives in the elevator?"
"Yep." She looked over at me. "I'm serious. You believe all that?"
"Uh, sure. Sometimes."
"I thought it was all bull before. But I believe it now."
"Since Kenny?"
I wondered if this was some sort of initiation thing. Like if she was going to hit the emergency button and play with me. But she didn't seem to be messing around. She was too self-conscience about whether or not I thought she was crazy.
So to be polite I looked around the elevator and said, "Hi Kenny."
Then we hit the third floor and either Kenny's ghost, or the mechanics of the elevator, the inner workings of which I don't understand any more than the afterlife, opened the doors and let us out.
Luckily I didn't have to report there the next day.

So today is my first real day off since I've been home. And now! To clean the debris around my house! And fumigate Madame Blueberry. She still smells like road trip. Like a road trip with sweaty, nervous tall people and their animals. I may have to clean it with fire.

Here is the best 80's song ever for those of you who've spent the whole week living out of your Cars