Monday, December 30, 2013

Essay or Death

Do you ever not act on something because it means a lot to you and you really love it? Even though you are aware of how little sense that makes?

Yesterday I blogged about how I'm having a rough time writing my statement of purpose for grad school, and today is no better. So I texted a writer friend who's also applying to the program and I said, "I'm afraid that I'm not good enough, that my writing is boring, and that I'm too old to be a writer, like it's too late." She said there's no such thing, and reminded me that I've already been published so I'm actually a writer already. Then I shared the same fears with my coworker James and he said, "If you don't go to grad school for those reasons, I will kill you." Then my writer friend said, "I'll kill you too," and then she texted me a kissy symbol, like "I'll kill you if you don't do this, love ya, bye."

So now I HAVE to apply to grad school or I will die. And my friends will not make this a "she died quietly in her sleep" type of death, no, they're going to toss me from a moving car and into a Miley Cyrus video. So I just gotta do it, I just gotta write it. I'm a writer, I can write this, right? Right? Of course I can!

Why do I want to get an MFA in creative writing? Because...ok. Because I want to learn more about writing, and to become as good as I possibly can. Because I love teaching it and I want to eventually become a professor. Because I would get to share what I know and read other people's work. Because I feel at home at college, I practically grew up on a college campus when my mom went to grad school. Because writing can be so solitary and I want to be part of a writing community, more than just talking to other writers on-line I want to meet them and know who they are. Because it's the career I want more than anything, it's not just a job, it's my vocation. Because my friends will kill me if I don't.

Ok, I need to say all of that, but say it better and make it two pages long. More coffee is necessary.

UPDATE: This is rough draft is honest, enthusiastic, and so fucking cheesy all at the same time. I might make myself vomit if the words "wisdom" and "experience" end up in my final draft.

UPDATE 2: Can't I just say, "Lemme in your program or I punch you in the face?" No, that won't work, it has to be two pages long.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Statement of Purpose

The purpose of this post is to write a rough draft of my statement of purpose. Oooooooooooooooooooh God. I hate writing this stuff. It's for my grad school application. Did I mention that? At statement of purpose for my grad school application for the U.N.O.'s MFA program in creative writing?...That sentence I just wrote was poorly written and boring and there were too many prepositions in it. And the over editing begins...

This should be easy to write. I have a lot to say and there's a whole heap of reasons why I want a Masters in Creative Writing, I just feel squirrely and restless when I sit down to write this thing. I haven't had to do academic writing in six years, I'm used to my own messy style now.

So first I'm going to write this messy. Then I can go back and edit. Ok, here it goes.

Dear Santa Claus,
How have you been? Did you have a nice summer? How is your wife? I have been extra good this year so I have a long list of presents that I want.

Wait, why does that sounds familiar? That's not a statement of purpose! That's Sally's letter to Santa from "A Charlie Brown Christmas!" I'm already plagiarizing! And it's not even applicable! OOOOOHHH, I'm never going to get this! Never! NEVER! (wrings hands, hurls self in front of a train)

Ok. Now that the despair is out of my system I can try again.

Four score and seven-

No. Take three.

Dear U.N.O.,

When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the moviehouse, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home.

(Gives self a long, baffled stare in which I question how I was even able to pass high school.) Genevieve...that is the opening line from The Outsiders. I know that you feel awkward writing this. I know you feel insecure about applying for grad school in the first place because you're afraid that you're not good enough. But all you have to do today is tell them why you want to do it. So write about that and we'll edit it later. Write it, you know, casual.



Ok. Here I go.

Dear Fuckbuckets,

Please consider me for your creative writing workshop. I love to make up stories and new words, as is evident by my calling you a fuckbucket when I don't think that's a real thing. I just made that up all on my own. That's just a sampling of the many nicknames you'll get from me when I am part of your workshop. I love to write and to learn new things about writing. I have also recently taught a workshop and enjoyed that experience. I like sharing what I know and learning more about writing through my students. That workshop and the tutoring I've done on the side has shown me that I would love to teach, so ultimately I would like to be a creative writing professor, and with the help of you clever bitches I can also become the best writer I can be. I thought I wanted to be a librarian for a while but then I realized that I don't want to shelve books, I want to write the books that people shelve. I want to be part of the writing community and publish all of the time, and have other writers and readers in New Orleans say things like, "Oh yeah, I know Genevieve Rheams, I saw her do a reading at Burger King." And then they'll want to take my class! See how that would work? And I would talk about U.N.O. all the time, like about how I got my undergrad and master's degree there, although I'll probably get my doctorate some place else. But let's not get ahead of ourselves because I haven't even finished my application yet and so far I'm a little freaked out about it. So my purpose is - I get into your program and become the best writer ever. Deal?


Sigh. God help me.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Young Adult Christmas

I haven't written about my kids much because they're getting past the age when I can write about them without disclosing personal stuff. Their issues are different. When they were three and resisting potty training, it might have been funny to write about that, but they weren't reading my blog and neither were their friends. In fact, none of them were reading anything, so they couldn't even accidentally come across it. Now if one of them Googles "gender confusion" or  "prison bitches" they can find my blog. Also now their issue might be staying up at night upset about ___ and though I might find it funny and worth blogging about, they take it very seriously.

Yes, sometimes I find the things that they're upset about funny. Of course they're upset about ___. Everyone gets upset about ___ when they're fourteen, and now that I'm thirty___ years old and not fourteen I find it amusing that I was ever worried about such a thing. I don't laugh while they're upset of course. Just on the internet with you.

This is where fairness comes in. Because if they wanted to they could find my blog by Googling the term "magic space bears," read about how I find some of their anxiety funny, and then write a fair rebuttal in the comment section. Or start a blog of their own called "My Mother's Lies." But I don't think I have anything to worry about because if they Google "magic space bears" the first thing they'll find is Hyperbole and a Half. I can't help it if they prefer Allie Brosch to me. Still, I will leave ___ to them and continue to only slander myself.

But I will say that the mood has changed a lot in my house since the kids turned 10, 12, and 14. There are sometimes when I look at them that I can actually see their hormones chugging Red Bulls and doing mad skateboard stunts all over the inside of their bodies.

The skateboarders inside of them make them sullen and moody. I don't blame them. Their bodies have been high jacked. They're beginning to change from the inside out in ways that they feel their mother never properly explained. Because there, um, might have been some information she skipped.

"Mom, what is __?"

"Oh? ___? That's normal."

(Child looks horrified) "It is?"

"Yeah. I forgot to mention that part."

"How did you forget to tell me about ___???"

"Because I don't really love you."


"Just kidding. But you're not worried about ___ anymore, are you?"

For my complete parenting guide tips, look for my new book, When Mom Makes Us Laugh Nervously. 

Though my daughters' moods have been up and down I really thought that Christmas would even them out. Because you know, NO ONE gets bummed around the holidays. But really, it's usually such a fun time for us. We have our little rituals, like getting hot chocolate and going to see the lights in City Park. And running loose through the tree lot. They don't even look at the trees except in passing, they just run like maniacs through the rows and giggle, while I pick out our tree. Then I call them to me when I find one and we all vote on it. It's a giggly time in general I would say. They giggle when I take out the decorations, they giggle when I put up the lights on the house. They giggle when I get frustrated from untangling wires. That's a whole lot of smiling.

But this year those smiles have been replaced by mostly blank looks. And when it's not blankness it's frustration, as if they are all untangling wires in their heads. Mostly I think I've done a good job with not taking their bad moods personally. I know that they're all changing in complicated ways and it's hard. But I felt hurt when no one showed enthusiasm about Christmas this year. When the decorations came out and no one cracked a smile. When I mentioned stringing lights on the house and no one looked up from their electronic devices. I wondered if I'd done something wrong, or if I'd had more money I could buy cooler stuff instead of the same old stuff that we put up every year.

"The tree will be new," I thought.

I had an idea. I would take us all out to dinner, get some new decorations to replace the old ones that were falling apart and then we'd hit the tree lot. This was brilliant.

This was a terrible idea. First we argued for a half hour over where to eat. Whenever I mentioned a place none of them would agree on anything. Claire doesn't like Mexican, Emma doesn't like sushi or Chinese and Christopher doesn't like any place he's never been to before. I realized that the problem was that I was leaving it up to them so I announced that we were going to Applebees, they groaned about it and I told them just to be quiet and eat it. The main problem with this that I didn't mention is that I don't like Applebees. It was just the only place I could think of that was nearby and had a vast assortment of American and Americanized versions of ethnic foods for the kids to choose from. Which is why I don't like it.

There was minimal groaning during dinner, mostly from my 12 year old. Then we went shopping. More Emma groaning. So much that I couldn't focus on what we were looking for. Then we went to the tree lot.

There was no running. There were no smiles. They browsed through the trees. I watched them walking through the rows and considering the merchandise like grown people and was horrified that they didn't take the time to run wildly. It was a relief when my son finally grinned and said, "I'm going to look over here," and tore off running to the other side of the lot.

We picked a tree and by the time we tied it to the roof and drove home, I was too tired to decorate it. No one protested. So we gave it water and left it bare that night. And the next night. The day after that they went to their dad's for the weekend and I couldn't believe it wasn't decorated. I'm the kind of Christmas woman who has her tree, decorations and lights up within a week after Thanksgiving and here it was well into December and I had a naked tree in my living room. I thought about decorating it myself while they were gone but that just felt so lonely.

It made me wonder why it is I really do what I do at Christmas. Do I do it for them? Is all of this some kind of sacrifice and now I'm feeling like a martyr because, like the Applebees compromise, these aren't things that I really want? What is it that I really like to do at Christmas when left to my own devices?

So I experimented while they were gone. I took out the outdoor lights and began stringing them up. And I giggled. I drank hot chocolate. I played the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack. It turns out that the things I share with the kids are the things I really love to do, and I would do them anyway.

But I missed them. I thought about them the whole time I strung up lights. I realized that the things I really like doing might not be the things they like. The holidays are just like anything else. They don't have to like what I like. Soon they'll be old enough to make their own traditions and figure out what it is they like to do. I had been trying to force them to enjoy the same old stuff and it wasn't working.

I spent Saturday afternoon fixing up the house, and took pictures of the end result and texted them to people. I was like a kid proud of a drawing. I had decided to decorate the tree that Sunday before the kids came home, and then I got a phone call from Claire.

"What's up, kid?" I said.

"I miss you," she said.

"Awe. Well, I miss you too. Hey, did you see the picture of the lights I sent you?"

"Yeah, they look good! You haven't decorated the tree yet, have you?"

"Well, I was going to. You want me to wait?"

"Yeah, don't do it without me."

So I waited until they came home. It's a rare day when all of their mood swings line up in the same direction, but that day it was happy. We decorated the tree while the latest episode of "Once Upon a Time" played in the background, which is a little different for us. Usually it's something like Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, and not something with evil wizards, but that's ok. All four of us were smiling.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Unexpected Expectations

Earlier today, out of nowhere and for no reason, I had the following thought, "When I get into a relationship again, I'm going to need a therapist and a tranquilizer gun." I don't know what that means and so I don't know whether to take that as a sign of progress or psychosis. I guess it would depend on whether or not the tranquilizer gun would be for me or the other person. Scratch that, neither scenario is good.

A tranquilizer gun, really? Do I expect to be with a lion? Do I think there's a chance I might become a werewolf? Exactly how much do I think I'll need to tone shit down? Sex jokes aside, really, seriously, what kind of problem do I think will arise where the only solution will be to shoot someone unconscious? I'm not planning on dating a fledgling vampire or a circus bear.

What bothers me is that I'm the one who had the thought and I don't know what it means. I started out wanting to blog about getting a Christmas tree with my kids and then BAM! relationship epiphany with guns. This is why the therapist will be necessary.

All this reminds me, there was a quote by Gustave Flaubert in The Writer's Almanac the other day that I must share. He said, "Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work." So maybe my relationship thought was me...working? Was I writing it? Was it a character's thought, a character who's nothing like me, who's short and loud and good with math, three things that are totally and utterly unlike me? Except for the one thing we have in common which is that we're terrified of relationships? Oh dammit!!!

Oh well. Christmas tree post to follow tomorrow, a story in which no one will be tranquilized.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Open Note to Self

Dear Genevieve,

You can not expect to get up at 4:30 in the morning if you keep going to bed at 11:30 at night. It is both unrealistic and demented. I know that you pride yourself on your ability to function on very little sleep, but I'm afraid that your perspective is horribly flawed. Mostly because of the term "function."

Sure, you're as capable of not sleeping as the next person, but the image you have of yourself as some kind of super human who can power nap between 3-5:00 in the morning, fix breakfast, clean the kitchen, write for two hours, shower, get the kids to school, put in a full day's work and then come home to do it all over again in the evenings is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. You will die.

I know how this misconception got started. Remember when you were 18 and you would stay up until 5:00 in the morning with your friends, and then show up to work at the coffee shop at 6:30?  You have this memory of how you were able to open the shop, work until 3:30, and then go back out again the next night. In reality what happened was you staggered around deliriously sipping iced coffee, which did nothing to curb your exhaustion, and then told your boss you were sick and had to go home by 10:00 am. And then you went out again that night. Perhaps if you had become addicted to cocaine you could have pulled off the kind of bad ass social life that you think you accomplished, but you didn't. If your manager at the time hadn't been constantly stoned you would have definitely been fired, and so the only way you really succeeded in this scenario is that you didn't lose your job because the cafe was run by substance abusers who were passive about their dysfunctional employees.

Your only responsibilities in the fall of 1993 were to serve coffee, pay your car insurance, party, and listen to Nirvana, and you barely had the energy to do those things. You weren't even in college yet! You had almost NOTHING to do, and you were tired.

This is the person that you are thinking of when you imagine yourself as someone who can get a whole lot of stuff done on a few hours of sleep. If you hadn't been so sleep deprived at the time, you might now have a clearer memory of how you really were but this is not the case. Your memory of yourself is a lie.

This brings us up to speed. It is 20 years later and I know this might come as a shock, but your body has aged. And your workload has fucking exploded. You to go to work, come home, cook dinner, help the kids with homework, force the kids to help you tidy the house, and then force them to go to bed. Then you have time for yourself, but if you're going treat yourself to some you time until 11:30, then you need to sleep until 6:00 and not 4:30. While it's admirable to try to wake up with the Amish and get an hour's worth of writing in before chaos of the day begins, it just ain't gonna happen unless you go to bed for 9:00. And that's not happening if you decide to start watching "Dr. Who" at 10:00.

But that's what you did last night, and so now you are on your lunch break and you are ready for bed. This is not good. I suggest that you go to a Starbucks and have a stoned 18 year old serve you a latte.

Stoned 18 year old baristas. The circle of life continues.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Code: Face Pain

I work for a large, unnamed hospital. I would name it but then I'd have to kill the internet. I don't want to do that, so I'll just tell you about me, James and Brian.

James and Brian are my coworkers, and we survive our positions as Data Stewards for the unnameable hospital, which I've decided to call Blinky, by acting like 3rd graders. This involves a lot of these kinds of conversations, that always center around the same insult:

Me (approaching them): What's up?

James: Your face.

Brian: Oh! Burn!

So to back up here for a second, or actually, to back up a number of years, the three of us are college graduates. None of us majored in the thing that would have prepared us for the job that we do. In fact, none of us are sure what we do. When people ask me what I do for a living the following conversation ensues:

Stranger at a party (he is standing across from me wearing a suit and holding a martini. I don't go to parties where classy people stand around holding martinis, I'm just making up that scenario because I go to swankier parties in my mind): So what do you do?

Me: I'm a Data Steward One.

Stranger at a Party: What's that?

Me: I think it's something to do with medical information.

And I think I'm right. I am also right in that there are levels for whatever it is that I do. Me, Brian and James are "Data Steward One." One of our other coworkers is a Data Steward Two. We don't know how she got to the next level. And we also don't have a clear understanding about what she does so we don't know how she's stewarding the data at a higher level than we are.

So not only are we unable to describe what it is that we do, we don't know what anyone else around us does either.

"James," I said the other day. "How do I find a patient's last x-ray in the new system?"

"I dunno, I don't work in that system. Ask Latasha, I think she does."

"Right! Latasha, she knows everything!...What does she do?"

"Um...she knows shit."

Latasha is the person in the office who is a treasure trove of information. She's familiar with all of the database systems, she knows key people in other departments, and she can switch out toner in the printer. But none of us know what she really does except that she knows everything. So we have decided that that is her job. Omnipotent Coworker One.  Every office has one. Find out who this person is and bake her cookies.

Just as an aside, I can tell that I am pretty much useless at my job because when I typed out the term "database systems" in that last paragraph, I became confused. I'm not really sure what a database system is. It's one of those terms that alludes me like "patient encounter" and "EMR." You know what an EMR is? It's an "electronic medical record." I just gave you information that I learned a year after I started working with EMR's. Do you know what a patient encounter is? I don't know either, but I can tell you that it doesn't involve aliens as (I feel) the word "encounter" clearly implies.

Anyway, it wasn't Latahsa who taught us the code for face pain, which has been the single most useful piece of information that me and my boys have learned at Blinky. Our coworker Pete does something with medical codes. We don't know what that thing is, but he's at a Level Two with it so we're impressed but we don't know why.

One day I was stewarding the data and I came across a patient encounter where the chief complaint was "Pain in the Face." As sympathetic as I usually am whenever I have to read a diagnosis, I could not stop laughing at Pain in The Face. For one thing, it's just funny to imagine saying.

"What brings you in today?"

"My face hurts."

No reason. A brick didn't land on it. This pain is mysterious.

Secondly, there's an accusatory nature to the diagnosis as if this patient is a pain in everyone else's face.

"What brings you in today?"

"I'm a pain in the face."

Now I swear, I really do care about other people's pain. I also care about their privacy so I didn't tell anyone who this patient was. But I did run up excitedly to Brian and James and said, "Guys! Guys! Face pain is a real thing. It's a real diagnosis!"

"No!" said James.

"Yes!" I said.

"It's a medical condition?" asked Brian.

"Apparently so!"

Pete did some quick typing in whatever program it is that he uses. "There's a code for it," he told us.

"NOOOO!" we said.

"Yep. Medical code 784.0. Pains, face."

We were delighted. Pete then emailed us the different medical listings for face pain.They are:

Pains, face 784.0
Pain in the face 784.0
Chronic pain in face 784.0
Atypical face pain 350.2

Our minds boggled. How different is "Pains, face" from "Pain in the face?" Why is Chronic pain in the face the same code as (what we assume is) occasional pain in the face? And! And! What is atypical face pain? Is "atypical" describing the pain or the face?

The fact is, people, that we just don't know enough about face pain.

We have, however, taken our 3rd grade sense of humor to a whole new level of geekiness.

"What's up James?"


"Oh! Burn!"

We are at Geek Level 16. Though it's not reflected on our employee badges, you can tell when you talk to us just how advanced we are. We are not 784.0. We are definitely 350.2, and we're not looking for a cure.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Days Are People Too

Monday has really been living up to its reputation lately. It's like it's not even trying. It's saying, "Everything you have heard about me is true. I'm going to start off difficult, become more complicated, make the hours go by slow, and end unsatisfactorily." This means that you are going to be late for work, your pants will tear, your boss will fuss at you, and you will get your period early. Even if you are male. ESPECIALLY if you're male because that's what kind of a bad ass Monday is becoming.

This is partly Sunday's fault. I've been listening really close on Sunday afternoons and based on my rising anxiety level, I think that Sunday is thinking up evil stuff for Monday to do and she's giving him ideas. This covers Sunday's reputation perfectly because Sunday can continue to look peaceful and devout, but really she spends all day being nice to your face while she silently plots for you to have a terrible tomorrow. Sunday is the kind of person who will shake your hand at church and then tell everyone about that one thing you did in high school. You remember that thing you did that one time? No? Well, Sunday does and she's blogging about it. She didn't even go to high school with you! She just dug this stuff up!

The guy you want is Tuesday. Tuesday is that guy who doesn't call a lot of attention to himself because he doesn't need to. He's always there after Monday, compassionate and forgiving. He says, "I know it's been hard. We're going to get through this." Tuesday would lend you money and tell you not to worry about it, and if you told him a secret he'd never tell anybody, not even his best friends, Wednesday and Thursday. Wednesday and Thursday give Tuesday shit sometimes for being such a quiet goody goody but then they remember that time that Saturday relapsed and OD'd in the bathroom and he was the only one who kept it together until the ambulance got there. Saturday has been madly in love with Tuesday since he saved her, but she's too much of a party girl for his taste.

Wednesday doesn't like to take sides. She reads a lot and you can talk to her, but you can tell if you look into her face that she's not really listening. She's wondering if she wants beans with dinner. This isn't because she doesn't care about you, she just doesn't know how to handle things. Her inability to handle conflict makes it nice on a day when there's not much going on, but if something comes up you'll look at Wednesday,  and she'll shrug and tell you it's almost over, and you'll spend the rest of the day wondering when Friday's going to get here.

Thursday has gender confusion. If you are going to have a random, out-of-character sexual experience it's going to happen on a Thursday and it's going to be amazing.

Then Friday is here. Friday wears no shoes. He doesn't want you to worry about anything at all, even the stuff that you should probably be worried about, like that itch you've developed since your random sexual experience on Thursday. Friday will bake pot brownies for you and if you don't eat them, he doesn't get his feelings hurt - more for him. He's endlessly supportive, and a good listener like the hippie dad you never had. But you probably shouldn't take his life advice.

Saturday is a really good person which is why it's hard to be mad at her for throwing up in your car. She tries to be just a regular 9-5 job, stand up kinda woman who balances her checkbook and eats right, and sometimes she does, but then out of the blue she'll toss back three slices of cheesecake and a bottle of tequila. She's funny, she's beautiful, there are songs written about her, and sometimes you wish a Saturday night would never end, but inevitably it does and if Saturday's not careful she will show up drunk on Tuesday's lawn. It's a shame because if it weren't for Saturday's self-destructive impulses she and Tuesday would make a great couple. But it's not a surprise Saturday turned out like she did when sandwiched in between a free-spirited hippie like Friday and a stuck up bitch like Sunday.

Tuesday would like me to tell you that he does have his flaws. He fails to return text messages in a timely manner. If you do miss him, though, it's ok. He'll return in seven days. Unless Monday has anything to say about it.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Schooled in Dr. Who

I watched "Dr. Who" the other day, thus ending my 38 year spree of avoiding it. I wasn't PURPOSELY avoiding it that whole time. I spent the first two years being a baby, the next year watching "Scooby Doo" and the last 35 being irresponsible. Until now.

Inspired by Google's tribute to 50 years of Dr. Who the other day, I finally decided to watch it. I needed to have questions answered, and understand pop culture references that other people seem to know that I did not. And British ones at that! Like, what is a Dalek? What is a Tardis? Is it medicine? It sounds like medicine. "For massive head wounds, I use Tardis Complete." And what is a Time Lord? It sounds cool. But what IS it? Can I be one?

It turns out, for those of you who have also spent the last 38 years spinning a circle with your eyes closed, that a Tardis is a spaceship/time machine disguised cleverly as a Police Box, and a Time Lord is Dr. Who. I'm glad I could clear those things up for you. But don't ask me what those Dalek things are, I've only watched three episodes and none of them have featured Daleks. I can only deduce from the pictures I've seen that they are vending machines that attack.

But Dr. Who relics from the past brought up another question, which postponed my watching it for so long. Which version to watch? There are approximately 58,206 versions of Dr. Who. It's kind of like Sherlock Holmes. Not only are there several different adaptations of Sherlock Holmes movies, mini-series, and shows, but there are 18 of these going on currently.

Here is an average conversation I have with people who watch Sherlock Holmes.

Friend: I've really been getting into Sherlock Holmes.

Me: Oh, that new one on TV?

Friend: Yeah, both of the new ones.

BOTH OF THEM? Why are there two? I know that there's probably one for England and one for the U.S. but can't we share? No? Which one of us got Lucy Liu out of the deal? I'm confused.

So I've started watching the Dr. Who that started in 2005, the one where The Doctor looks like the lead singer from Men At Work. And as confused as I am, because I've only watched three episodes so far, I like it. It feeds into my kind of geekiness.

I knew that it would. I just knew that I would take to it and I would become a quoter, and my conversations would go like this:

Me: I picked a wrong time to shower - HA!

Friend: I beg your pardon?

Me: That was from Dr. Who, Series 31, Episode 5, Minute 41:18. Remember that scene?

Friend: No, I only watch all of the Sherlock Holmeses.

That would be me, the one to memorize lines down to the second when they happen. That's what makes me....Time Lord.  DUN, DUN, DUN!!!!!!!

They still haven't explained the Time Lord thing, but I have a theory. I'm guessing he's called that because he can travel through time? Dammit, Genevieve, you're a genius! I know, I know. I've always been a good guesser. And no one has explained what a Police Box is either, but I'm guessing that's a British thing. That's where they keep all of their police, in that one little box. That's what makes it an effective disguise for the Tardis. No one wants to go in that box, that's where the police are.

I have this whole show figured out.

Now that I understand why people like it, I can rest easy. And now I know what the lead singer of Men At Work has been up to lately. Am I the only one who sees a resemblance there? Look at this:

Maybe it's the noses and the receding hairlines, but Colin Hay and Christopher Eccleston look alike to me. Look, he even wrote a song about it.

I just watched that video. How did I make it through the 80's without noticing that Colin Hay had a wandering eye?

Tune in next time when we further discuss physical abnormalities of 80's musicians.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Why She Did

She's wearing horns, and sometimes she'll wear cones instead of a blouse. She's dancing over an air vent, she's wearing this little thing and it's showing other little things whose scientific names make us uncomfortable, like "areola." She is stripping off what little there is, but not entirely. She looks like she wants us to see everything, she moves in that way that maybe, we think, she does.  She's wearing a stuffed leopard over her crotch, and sparkly rainbows over her nipples. What does that mean? We're not sure. These are new, complex images that bring us to old conclusions.

And she used be be such a nice girl when she worked for Disney, when she tasted Kix cereal in the commercial, when she wasn't shaped like rising hills, the ground that defies gravity, this girl that we don't know any better now than we did then. Why would the girl who kissed Mickey Mouse shave her head?

Why she did, and why she does, and why she will do it again, none of us will really know. We can ask her, or we can let some else ask her, and we can read it in a magazine, the one where she's in an acrobatic position on the cover. But no matter what her answer is, we'll draw our own conclusions. Some of us will think she's a tramp, some of us will think she's liberated, and some will think she wants attention or money.

I think about Halloween.That night, when it was young, human beings used to wear masks, not for candy, but to frighten evil spirits. We wore horns, we stuck out our tongues, and we shouted at the devil to keep him from taking our souls.

Tomorrow there will be a picture of her in a spandex gum wrapper. Her hair will be sprayed and teased into the shape of a vulva. She'll hiss, and scream, and shake, and bear skin. And some of us will look but most of us will turn away just when she wants us to, so that we can't take her soul.

And we used to be such nice girls.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Fruit Post

I found a draft of a post from the other day that I'd forgotten about. It was only one sentence and it was this:

Someone tell me why I keep eating grapefruits.

If it helps take the pressure off, I can answer my own question. My eating habits have been deplorable lately and I'm trying to make myself eat fruit for a snack instead of Nutella. Nutella is great and everything, but the fact that it's great is the problem. Following my family's creed of, "If a little is good then more must be better," I could eat (and have eaten) a bowl of Nutella. Have you ever read the fat and calorie count for just a tablespoon of that stuff? It is exactly 1 billion calories and 5 football fields of fat. Football fields might not be a food measurement on the side of the jar, but is it once it's in the bowl.

So grapefruit. Why, you ask, not something sweet like grapes? Or a tangelo? For two reasons. One, because grapefruit is the only fruit that fills me up like a meal, and two, I once read a short story where a tattoo-artist-in-training practiced inking grapefruits before she tattooed people because the skin of the grapefruit is similar to human skin. This fact somehow gives me more incentive to eat it, not because I'm a cannibal, but because grapefruits can get tattoos and so they'd probably be cool to hang out with.

Notice that neither of those reasons had to with essential vitamins or cancer-preventatives. My diet reasoning is strictly tattoo-based.

Anyway, the feeling-full reason for my grapefruit consumption is just as important as the tattoo short story. Generally fruit as a snack makes me hungrier, so if I eat a handful of grapes at 2:00 then I will need to eat a whole chicken by 2:30. But after I eat a grapefruit? I don't have to eat dinner until 8:00. Which is so very hip and European of me.

So why question the consumption of such a miraculous hipster fruit? Because it's a mess. The actual peeling part is fine but once you get to the juicy part it's like trying to eat a tsunami. I simply can NOT eat this thing at my desk. I need a bib, a fork, a knife, and a roll of paper towels. I've even tried cutting it up in the morning and packing it in chucks to eat later in the day and I still end up with juice running out the corner of my mouth.

"Maybe you're just really sloppy," you're probably saying.

"Maybe you should read blogs by cleaner people," I suggest.

"Ok, I will."

"Wait, wait! I spoke out of turn. You're right, I am very, very sloppy. I'm sorry, I cranky from Nutella withdrawal."

"Oh, it's ok. I could never stop reading your blog."

"Still buds?"

"The bestest."

I love our talks. Anyway, I wonder if there's more tattooable fruits that I should be eating. Like tomatoes. (NOTE: I know what you're thinking and I don't know if they really are or not either. No one does. That's why tomatoes are allusive bitches and we should eat them for spite.)

Eating fruit for spite and tattoos is my new diet. That's why I'll eat a lot of cantaloupe because its relation to pumpkins frustrates me. I like cantaloupe and I like pumpkins, but I'm pissed off that they're cousins because it doesn't make sense to me. And so I shall eat them. The overall benefits to my body and extended lifespan is just a side-effect of my deranged small-mindedness.

It's 3:00 and I haven't had any grapefruit yet. This could explain my crankiness. I had a banana with lunch. Eating a banana means that an hour later I will eat three whole chickens and a can of potato soup. Bananas are infinitely worse than grapes in that way, and I'm pretty sure you can't practice tattooing on their skin without completely mashing what's inside.

I am now going to test this theory by pulling the banana peel out of the trash and drawing a heart on it with a ballpoint pen....

Ok, that was a bad idea.

But I think I proved my point. I eat grapefruit for good reasons. Whacked out as those reasons may be, they are still beneficial, and also I may now consider a career as a tattoo artist. It doesn't matter that I can't draw, what matters is that I will only tattoo fruit. Because if they complain about the work I have done, I can eat them. If I have not already eaten a football field of Nutella.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Huns of Fun

Brian and James and I have picked out our Hun names. We don't always go by them at work, only when we're feeling particularly oppressed by management. Then we call to each other, "Come, Arg. Come, Huuurg. Let us read from the book." Because in our minds, Huns talked like Klingons. And then we gather around James's desk and read from the paperback that I found in the lunch room, on top of a stack of romance and mystery novels, and this book, the title of which I am not making up, is Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun, by Wess Roberts, PhD. Do yourself a favor. GOOGLE THAT SHIT.

It is, as you might have guessed, musings of effective leadership from Attila himself.  This book kind of works like The Bible. You can randomly open it up to any page and get a quote for the day. I'll do it right now...and I've opened it to page 36, "Discipline is not suppression. It is the teaching of correct ways expected of Huns." That's going on my kids' bathroom mirror.

Or this one here on page 53. This will no doubt clear up some issues I've had with dressing for success. "When on the hunt, be prepared to hunt. Take your best bow and lance. Wear clothing that will serve you well as you chase the wild beasts in the forest." This no doubt inspired Ross Perot's review of the book, "The principles are timeless." Because the bit about chasing wild beasts through the forest is so fucking relevant in corporate America its as if time has stood still for the last 1,500 years.

And just for the members of my audience who might not know, Attila the Hun ruled the Hunnish empire in the 5th century, was the enemy of the Roman empire, the sacker of countries, the plunderer of the Balkans, the murderer of lots and lots of people. According to the book, this book, you know, THE ONE THAT IS SAYING HE'S A GUY PEOPLE SHOULD WORK FOR, his last wife was the young daughter of one of his chieftains who he'd killed for being a disobedient Hun. The daughter had begged Attila not to kill him but he did it anyway, and then he married her. What do you think the odds are that he proposed and gave her time to think about it?

Which is why I'm confused as to why on page 19 "empathy" is listed as one of Attila's leadership qualities. "Chieftains must develop empathy - an appreciation for and an understanding of the values of others, a sensitivity for other cultures, beliefs and traditions" ...Except when you want to marry their daughter. Or if you want to invade Italy.

This historical fact does not strike confidence in the hearts of me and my coworkers when we read the reviews from guys like Andrew P. Calhoun, Jr. chairman of The Resource Group, "Attila could well lead any corporation today."  Reeeeally? Did this guy actually read the book or was he just focusing on the chapter about booty?

"He means treasure, guys" I told Brian and James, after we giggled and snorted at the following quote on page 77, "Booty has become a powerful force that ignites the spirits of our warriors, driving them to commit their talents to any nation that bribes them into service."

"Sure he does," Brian said.

"Remind me to bring up this organization's lack of spirit-igniting booty at my next evaluation," said James.

"We long to be bribed into service," I agreed, like a good Hun.

There is a lot of talk in the book about how to be a good Hun. For instance, page 104, "Good Huns normally achieve what their Chieftains expect from them." However, this contradicts the next page which says, "For Huns, conflict is a natural state." But the next quote is perhaps my favorite, "Huns only make enemies on purpose."

You will never be the accidental enemy of a Hun, because conflict is their natural state and they will kill you on purpose. With an empathetic heart and an eye on the booty.

Now go start a company.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

B-Movie Extra

Before I tell you about the giant spider, I have to reiterate something I know I said before, but humor me: I swear I don't do drugs. And I stopped drinking three years ago, so this can't be a case of the DT's, although I'm not a doctor, so maybe the spider was a result of belated withdrawal. But I do know this - I know that I saw him and I know that he was really the ceiling fan.

Most nights, I sleep like a coward. I fall asleep lying on my stomach, hugging the pillow with only the top of my head sticking out of the covers. But the night before last, the night of the spider, I fell asleep on my back with the lamp on. It's like I was an action movie hero, allowing myself to rest but ready to spring into action, which I would detect with my keen, warrior-like sense of "something's fucked up" and I would snap out of a deep sleep and into a me-against-evil reality where I would be the victor who saved the world. All I needed was a gun under my pillow or a ninja sword.

But I wasn't armed with anything when my eyes snapped open to find a giant spider lowering itself from my ceiling fan down to my bed, like an eight-legged mountain climber hanging from a rope. Its brown body was as big as a microwave, and it had long, thin golden legs that reached for me like fingers. I screamed, and it scurried back up its thread toward the ceiling.

It might seem like I cried out like a scared little girl, but I think what really happened is I hollered like Xena Warrior Princess and this spider thought, "I've watched all six seasons of Xena and I know this will not end well!" and decided to bail. Then I blinked and it was gone. This freaked me out more. Where had it gone? It was too big to disappear in a second.

My ceilings are high, so when I stood up on the bed to inspect the ceiling fan, it was still a good two feet above my head, and I was nervous that the giant spider might be hiding behind a fan blade. I looked frantically along the ceiling, thinking that it was crawling away from me and maybe I could catch it before it disappeared into another room. There was no way I could go back to sleep with that thing in the house. What if it bit the kids? What if it snuck back in and bit me? It couldn't have been poisonous, there are only two poisonous spiders in Louisiana and they're....

It was when I was trying to remember what I knew about spiders, when some other rational thoughts began to pop into my mind. The first was that spiders don't get that big here. Maybe in the Amazon where they eat jaguars and cattle, but not in New Orleans. The second was that there was no way a spider THAT BIG could disappear in one second. Third, there was no trace of webbing, and I distinctly remembered that it had spun its way down from the light fixture, which incidentally has brown fan blades like the color of the spider's body and golden chains, like the spider's legs. Most likely, I thought, I had a very real-seeming dream about the spider, and the memory of me blinking was actually me waking up.

I was still looking for it while I thought all of this. My mind was moving slowly but my heart was pounding and I was wide awake. And ready for what? What exactly was I planning to do if I had found the spider that was three times as big as my face? Wrestle it? I didn't even have a rolled-up newspaper on me.

I would like to think that I was brave to seek out the giant spider that was really the ceiling fan, but instead I was just like one of those extras in a B-movie who are killed in the first five minutes. You know the kind.

"Look, there's a giant ant in the street. I'll go have a look," I would say.

"I don't think that's a good idea," the main character would warn.

"It's ok, I'm sure it's nothing," I would say, as I'd step outside and be eaten by Godzilla.

Or I'm like those people in horror movies who you yell at to not go down to the basement to see what that noise is. And they ALWAYS do. And they ALWAYS die.

So the fact that I am seeing spiders that aren't there is only worsened by the knowledge that I would be dead by now if they were real. I'm really not sure which of those two things is worse. If I wake up tomorrow morning and my dresser is a Gila monster, I'm leaving the room.

Friday, November 8, 2013


I was cleaning throw up stains from the bathroom floor and I thought of you. The kids are sick. I wondered if you have kids, if you get sick, if you're healthy most of the time, if you drink too much coffee, if you feel too much or too little, if music does things to you, if you go to the laundromat or if you have your own machines, if the laundromat smells better than your house and that's why you go there because you really do have a washer and dryer you just prefer to go other places that smell like a Tide-All-Gain cocktail, and how you're able to make all of those elements of your life work if you 1) have kids, 2) those kids are sick, and 3) if you have to make repeated trips to the laundromat to clean all of the stuff.

And I wonder if maybe that's why you read my blog, my reader, my vigilante dear who scrubs the bathroom floor, whose laundromat smells better than your house. I'm always blogging about me, me, me. But what about YOU. What about you? Try and appreciate the fact that I'm thinking about you, and not worry too much about how I started thinking of you while I cleaned vomit. The two are, like, barely related.

I'm feeling a bit off today from lack of sleep, family sickness, and caffeine withdrawal. Did you know that the word "withdrawal" has "awal" at the end of it? Isn't the extra "a" weird, giving it more of a warbley sound than you originally suspected? 

Is this something else that I didn't know about you, my reader, my blog-checker who sometimes skips the funny stuff for the serious stuff, and sometimes skips my blog completely to look at the headlines on The Onion? What are you like, I sometimes wonder as I write to you in this place that I've created that's like one long payphone call, the kind that you make when you see a phone on the side of the road and you decide to call a friend. You would have used your cell phone but you think you've left it at home, and really it's fallen under the seat and you won't know that for a couple of days. The payphone is outside the laundromat where we, you and I, go to make things clean, to start fresh, to look over at each other and wonder. "Does he have kids?" "Does she feel too much or too little?" It's strange to talk into a payphone with no idea who's on the other end, but stranger still maybe for you to pick up the phone and listen to someone you don't know. The call comes from a number you don't recognize and ends with a "click" for a goodbye.

I have a washer and dryer. But the laundromat smells better than my house.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013


Yesterday as I laid down on my VP's office floor, clutching a Styrofoam cup of ice I realized that I needed to take better care of myself.

I'd gone into work even though I'd thrown up that morning. I thought it was just the result of a migraine I'd had and thought, "Eh, it's nothing. I can make it to work." But hours later, as I was being driven home because I couldn't drive myself I realized that I'd been feeling off since Sunday night and just wasn't paying attention to it. It's almost impressive the extent to which I can ignore signals from my own body that something might be wrong. You know, like vomiting. And when I say impressive, I don't mean in a good way. Here's what I ignored this week:

Sunday night: nausea which I chalked up to being upset in general.
Monday: Stomach rumblings, intestinal mischief that should have clued me in to the fact that I had a virus, and a migraine. But a girl still has to go to work, drink six cups of coffee, clean, and exercise, right? Besides, it was probably all in my head.
Tuesday: 4:20 am - Vomit. Probably a result of the migraine. I'm fine, really.

I finally stopped ignoring my body a little after 9:00 when I tried to walk to the bathroom to go throw up and I couldn't make it down the hall. I knew if I didn't sit down I would fall. I was dizzy, nauseated and felt like all of the energy had been sucked out of me. I felt like microwaved french fries, all dried up and tasteless. And I was embarrassed because I was sitting in the hallway, unable to get up, like a drunk in an alleyway. A few minutes later, the director of my department was holding a wet paper towel to my forehead.

"Gen, what's going on?" she said.

"Mmm," I said, because that was the best I could explain the microwaved french fry feeling.

She got me a cup of ice chips and after I sucked on a couple of pieces, I could open my eyes. She and another lady I didn't know led me to the VP's office, who was gone at the time, and they let me lie on the floor in the dark until a friend could pick me up.

I think I was dehydrated. I perked up considerably after more ice, and eventually Gatorade. I slept most of the day yesterday and I'm home today, but I swear to God the thought, "Maybe I'm ok to go in" went through my mind.

I don't like slowing down. I'm sure a lot of people would say it's a result of American culture or something and maybe that's true but I know it's also because I'm a single mom and I've had to become the mom and the dad. So though the mom side of me was saying to slow down and stay home, the dad side of me looked at my kids and said, "I gotta keep going." In some cases that willingness is good. And in some cases, I end up a dehydrated husk on my boss's floor.

So. I'm cutting back on coffee....ok, everybody calm down. I know that's not something you ever thought I'd blog, but I think it's necessary. My caffeine intake is out of control. And I need to start paying better attention to my body signals. Throw up = lay down. It does not mean I'm not a tough girl just because I rest when I'm sick.

And I will repeat that phrase to myself as many times as I have to. And I will repeat it even when I am sleeping. And even when I'm meditating and technically I'm not supposed to be thinking anything, how am I supposed to rest if I don't constantly and obsessively remind myself to rest? I have to keep going!!!!

I'll be on the floor again in a week.

The Femme Trials

I just got home after my arrest from The Femme Police. My wrists would hurt if the cuffs hadn't been so fuzzy. It wasn't easy defending my femininity, especially after that comment about how I don't like shopping, but I managed to get out of there without losing my female privileges. And this was how...

So the other day I was going about my business and blogging about how I'm not stereotypically feminine because I don't care about clothes, shopping, or color coordination. You know, I'm sure you all have been there. And then The Femme Police showed up to revoke my femaleness.

There were two of them, Agents Glossy and Botox, in high heels, makeup, dove gray skirt suits because dove gray was the new pink that morning, and those necklaces that look like five crazy necklaces around their necks with little rocks that made clicking sounds every time they moved.

They raised spiked heels at me. "You're under arrest for slander against shopping. Hand over your membership card and your uterus."

I was sitting on the couch with my laptop across my lap, because I assume from the name that that's where it goes. If it was called an "elbowtop" I'm sure I'd find a way to coordinate that but they cleverly gave it a name that we writers can work with. This has nothing to do with my arrest, but I just thought I'd point that out to make you better informed readers.

Anyway, I set the laptop aside, revealing an attire of sweatpants and a 23 year-old Motley Crue T-shirt.

"Oh dear God!" cried Agent Botox, shielding her eyes.

"Pull it together! Remember your training!" yelled the other.

I gave them a confused look. "What? Oh. This?" I stretched out the shirt. "Come on, man, this was the Dr. Feelgood Tour, 1990. Tommy Lee mooned the crowd! To this day I can't look at this shirt without thinking about that man's ass."

Agent Botox turned green and left the room. But Agent Glossy took a deep breath and stayed focused. She pulled a curling iron out of her purse and pointed it at me.

"Don't make me do your hair."

My eyes went wide. "You wouldn't."

"I'll make you sit in a chair for two hours while I curl each strand of hair and spray them to your head with noxious chemicals while I tell you about my cousin's wedding."

I held up my hands. "I'll go quietly."

True to my word, I was silent until we got to court, where I faced a tribunal of fabulously boring-looking women. They were all too thin, all brunette-dyed-blonde, all manicured, and all with a stunning amount of eye makeup on. I could not tell how old any of them were. They wore yellow robes because yellow was the new pink that afternoon and stood at individual podiums, each with Scentsy warmers on the table top and signs that said "I'd rather be judging" on the side.

It was the one in the center who unfurled the scroll of charges against me and read them out loud.

"Genevieve," she looked up and smiled. "Such a pretty name." Then she looked down and scowled again, "Rheams. You have been brought before this tribunal for the following crimes against femininity...wearing mismatched clothes, poor color coordination of furniture, failure to wear accessories, failure to wear makeup, keeping the same hair style for 15 years, failure to keep decorative pillows on your couch, disinterest in purses, slander against shopping, failure to wear heels, only owning two pairs of shoes, a liking for punk music, too much enjoyment in lifting heavy objects, fear of large groups of other women, and the inability to cry during commercials."

"...Does it count if I cry because the commercials are too long?"

"No!" they hollered. "They must warm your heart."

"Shit," I said. "Well, all of that's true. But there are other things about me that I think count towards being a girl."

"List them please."

"A vagina."

"Oh yes. We'll be needing you to turn that in."


"It's an insult to women to go around being a girl without really being one."

"But I also love babies, and little kids who dress like grownups, and little animals who dress like people, and tea cups. And I'm kind, compassionate, intelligent, and a good friend. Surely those count as wonderful feminine qualities as well."

The leader pulled out her cell phone and began typing. "I'll have to google that..."

"Maybe she's more of a man," the one on the right suggested.

The middle one looked up at me. "Do you like to watch football?"

I squinched up my face. "No. I like to play football, but watching it on t.v. bores me."

The three of them threw up their hands.

"What kind of an answer is that?" the one on the left said. "You kind of do but you kind of don't? It's too mixed, we don't know what to do with you."

"But she DOES like babies," said the one on the right. "That counts."

"Why don't we just drop 'feminine' and 'masculine' as labels?" I asked. "Everyone is so different, why don't we just appreciate each other as individuals?"

"Throw her in the Androgynous Holding Tank," the center one proclaimed.

"That's it? That's all you're going to ask me?" I said.


I laughed. "You didn't even ask me about my sexual orientation."

"Oh that? It doesn't count against you if you're a lesbian. We've all slept together. It was good fun."

The ones on the left and the right nodded in agreement.

"Although if you are a lesbian, we can let you go because then it all makes sense," said the leader.

"But I'm not a lesbian. And I'm not straight. I'm bisexual, I fall in love with both."

And that's when their heads exploded. It's ok, I'm used to that happening when I explain my sexuality. But the guards still threw me in the Androgynous Holding Tank. It was filled with men and women waiting for relatives to bail them out.

"What are you in for?" I asked a guy who was leaning forlornly against the bars.

"I cry during commercials and I'm straight," he admitted.

"Did you tell them the bit about stereotyping?"

"Yes. While I cried."

I patted him on the back. The rest of us talked and we all decided to start a rock n' roll band because that's what happens in Androgynous Holding Tanks. That's actually how Joan Jett and the Blackhearts got started. And I was let go and allowed to be female as long as I agreed not to blog things that pose a threat to ideals of men and women that people have grown comfortable with.

I don't like nail polish. It takes too long to dry and I don't like sitting there while something stinky glues itself to my hands. I have better things to do. Ha HAAAA!!! You'll never take me alive, fuckers!!!

Here, enjoy a song about androgyny.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Lighter Matters (with hedgehogs!)

No, I'm not smoking again. My last post probably implied that, but no. I was listening to a song and it gave me the image of cigarette smoke and VIOLA! An "I love cigarettes" post was born. I think that might have been a poem but I'm not sure. I'll have to consult a professional.

Me: Was that last post a poem?

Professional Poet: No.


So I know that my posts have been kind of serious lately so today I thought I'd bring you this:

Clearly, there's a story here. The sunglasses say to me that this is a vampire - a vampire hedgehog getting a bath. Look, he's even sparkling! And he loves his human so much, he's not even biting him. If a vampire hedgehog bites a human, does the guy become a human vampire or a hedgehog vampire? Could that guy handle such a drastic change in his life? Maybe this IS a picture of a former-human vampire hedgehog and he's taking a nice, hot bath to relax from the emotional stress of the whole ordeal.

Anyway, I just wanted to drop in and say good morning, and post pictures of hedgehogs. And now I have to go prepare for my sister's wedding shower, and flea bomb the house. I know it must seem strange to combine those two things but it's the only day that me and all of the other living critters will be out of the house AND be able to clean up the mess when we get home in the same day. Plus help throw a shower. This is kind of what my life is like, multi-tasking family events and administering poisons.As long as I don't get them mixed up then no one ends up like this guy:

Friday, November 1, 2013

A Cigarette Knows

I love your smoke.  It's the way it drifts up in curves, like a snake or a slim-hipped woman, a signal rising to show where I am, to spot me in a crowd of people who've got nothing in their hands, no gray halos above their heads.

When I worked with the fire department they showed me once in a training session what it's like to be in a cloud of smoke. It rises to the ceiling, seemingly translucent but if you stick your head in it, you're as good as blind and breathless.

And still after that lesson I lit up a cigarette, sucked it in and spit it out of me, one blinding cloud of my love that poisons the world. I am as remorseless in my heart as an infatuated dragon.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Why I'm Breaking Up with Elliott Smith

For one thing, he's been dead since 2003. Not that a detail like that should put too much of a strain on our relationship. Nuns are married to Jesus and He's been dead for 2,000 years. Although maybe that's not an apt comparison. Their hearts belong to a diety, and my heart belongs to a musician who stabbed himself in his.

That's one theory anyway. Another is that his girlfriend murdered him. She says they had a fight that morning, then she went to take a shower and when she got out she found him with a kitchen knife in his chest. He talked about suicide so much that on the one hand, I can see him doing it. On the other hand, they reopened the case recently. He had wounds on his hands, like the ones people have when they fight back, so they're not really sure what happened.

I've become a groupie too late. That happened. And it's at this point that I should warn you that I'm going to admit things about my Elliott obsession that will probably make you shut down your computer and back slowly out of the room, and start reading someone else's blog with lighter subject matter, like one about snow globes. But if you're a steady reader of this thing you might have noticed two things: I have recently started seeing a trauma therapist to finally deal with childhood nuttiness, and I've been on a serious Elliott Smith kick.So the signs were everywhere that a post like this was coming, and if you keep reading then you can't say I didn't warn you. Don't feel bad, though. Here is a link to a blog about kittens.

I can't go to his shows, so I watch them on YouTube. I can't tell him how much his lyrics and his music comfort me so I sing with him. I watch interviews with him so I can hear his gentle laugh, to know there were times that he smiled, and I think, to try to figure out what went wrong. I don't think that thought out loud, but it's there as I watch him, that shy guy with a Ferdinand the Bull tattoo on his arm and often unwashed hair, so clearly uncomfortable in an interview. He looked like this:

I met him on Pandora a few years ago on my Shins station. I didn't pay much attention to him at the time. It wasn't until this summer when I was listening to "Angeles" that I clicked on his description thinking, "I like this guy. I wonder what else he plays," that I read about him and saw that he'd been stabbed to death almost ten years before. Then I had to read more about him, and when I did it was like finding out that I had a brother that my parents hadn't told me about. He'd been crazy about The Beatles, even as a kid. He was a reader and sometimes his songs were inspired by stories he read, just like how my writing is inspired by music I hear. He said the words would put pictures in his mind and that's where some of his music came from. Music puts pictures in my head and that's where my stories come from. Those things practically make us the same person, right?

I don't ordinarily like to find out too much about famous people. I can't appreciate their acting, their music or their writing sometimes if I know too much. I used to like Tom Cruise movies until I found out all of that Scientology stuff and now I can't watch "Jerry Maguire" without thinking about how he if I met him in real life he might try to sell me on it like an Amway salesman and it would be all awkward. Or he'd think my occasional bouts of depression were bullshit. No, it would never work with Tom Cruise.

But Elliott would say "I know how you feel," I know he would. His music says that to me all the time, even when he's not singing. He had it rough as a kid too, and it comes out. People write about how it came out in his lyrics, but I think it came out in sound.

Sometimes, especially when my kids where little, like before the age of seven, they would make a certain sound when they cried and suddenly I could hear my own crying as a child. When this happened, I had to remind myself that they were just upset about something harmless, like I'd taken a toy away or it was time for bed, and that nothing bad was happening to them or to me in that moment. I had to remind myself how old I was and where I was. One certain sound that my son made when he cried made me taste blood in my mouth. I honestly don't know where that came from. I have no clear memory of what happened to my mouth or why a small noise from him triggered a memory that filled my mouth with blood and my head with my own cries. But that's what happened.

There are certain sounds that Elliott's guitar makes that echoes my own cries, and for some reason it doesn't disturb me. There is no other sound that brings up those old feelings in a way that I can handle them. I can't listen to Radiohead's "Fake Plastic Trees" not so much because of the lyrics but because the gorgeous, sad sound of it makes me hear myself screaming and I swear I don't know why. But Elliot is different, and I don't know why that is either. The song "Christian Brothers" makes me want to talk to him, not so much because of the lines like "No bad dream fucker's gonna boss me around/ Christian Brothers gonna take him down" but because of the guitar. His sound, instead of making me feel more alone, reminds me that my pain isn't unique. This is good, I don't want to be unique in this way. It's not that I want other people to be in pain, I just want to know that other people who have it get the same way sometimes and maybe we can help each other feel better.

I wish I could have made him feel better. Sometimes I listen to his live performances so I can hear him move and breathe, as if by watching him I can bring him back to life. I watch his fingers on the guitar, see what T-shirt he was wearing,and hear him make mistakes and laugh about them.

I can not believe I just admitted all of that, and more surprised still that I'm more embarrassed about admitting that I watch the way a man moves on YouTube than I am about having flashbacks where I taste blood in my mouth. I think I get embarrassed about all the wrong things.

But, I can't help it. He seemed sweet and cute. He giggled once when an interviewer used the word "kerfuffle" and repeated it to himself. It does worry me a little that I'm so drawn to a person who was a suicidal addict. I've known a slew of suicidal addicts, but I don't go around falling in love with all of them. Only, you know, a few. But this guy...

They said when he died there were no drugs in his system besides behavioral medication. No alcohol, no heroin, nothing. I understand that, I think, better than it happening with some crazy chemical in his system. There was no buffer between his mind and the overwhelming pain of himself that made him tear his body apart. Maybe he was even out of cigarettes.

I can't count the number of things of done to block out the pain of those moments when I've felt so ashamed and so stupid for no reason at all, and it's a desperate, wrecking ball of a feeling that swoops in and hollows me out, and I have to fill myself with something, anything at all. To sit with it is to starve to death, to feel so hungry, so hideous inside like the walls of my stomach are coated with an acidic tar that eats me from the inside out. I have to get up, I have to pace, I have to put something in my mouth, I have to get someone on the phone but I can't talk, it hurts to talk, and I'm so so stupid. I think to myself that I wouldn't be feeling this way if I wasn't so fucking stupid.

And it's a moment and it passes. That's what I've learned. If I sit with it I won't starve to death. Nothing is actually eating me, there is no blood in my mouth. There is nothing I've done wrong, there is nothing that's really bad that's happening to me in that moment that feels so real. And I'm not, as it turns out, stupid.

I don't know if that's exactly how Elliott felt. I'm sure it was a variation on the same theme. I also don't know why some of us live through this and some of us don't. When I think about all of the things I've done to myself, I don't understand why I'm here and other people like Elliott are not. But he reminds me what can happen to hurt children who grow up to finish the job that some sick adult started when they don't take care of themselves.

And that's why, Elliott, I can't go out with you anymore. I know what you're going to say, you're dead and you don't know me, but just hear me out. Being with you these last few months has been a really good thing. But when I listen to you for a few days in a row I've noticed that I go into a dark place. No one will probably know how or why you died. Only you know that. And also the more I get to know about you the more I realize that I don't really know you because you can't truly know someone from interviews. Although I do believe that you can determine that a person is awesome when they laugh at the word "kerfuffle."

I'm going to miss seeing flat, one-dimensional pictures of you and listening to you speak in one-sided conversations that I can't participate in because they're recordings that happened over 10 years ago. My capability for emotional intimacy must be at an all-time low if I can only romantically connect with a person on that level.

But, I don't know. Maybe this is what I need right now, with all of these repressed memories coming up and the frightening, sometimes overwhelming feelings which all led me to believe that I shouldn't be in a relationship with someone anyway. Maybe you, Elliott, who can only comfort me, who can not be hurt by me or feel rejected by me if I tell you that I need a few days off, are the perfect partner (of sorts) for me right now. You don't even know that we're together, how could you feel bummed that we're apart? You can't! It's perfect!

God, I am so fucking weird.

So maybe I won't break up with Elliott right now. I think I need him. I can't imagine going more than a few days with listening to "O So Slow"  which has no words and which is, I believe, the noise of my soul. That's what it would sound like if you put your head against my chest. And there would be a man standing in front of my heart with a guitar like a shield, making my cries with me so that I don't have to sing them alone.