Monday, October 17, 2011

truism.

versus:

hope limps home. fact, the untamed beast, licks its chops.

postscript:

the beast knows no remorse.



Friday, October 14, 2011

my life as a drum.

this morning i woke up surrounded by my fortress of five pillows at 5 a.m., as i often do these days. i usually lie there rubbing my feet together until i can fall back asleep, always on my left side, because i read it puts less pressure on the inferior vena cava (and accordingly, less pressure on my worries about the phlebitis in my left calf, which, a few weeks back, prompted a trip to the doc and then an ultrasound to rule out a clot. the many surprises of pregnancy, quite a feat to conquer for the anxiety ridden). i turned off the tv, closed my eyes, and soon heard drumbeats. not just any but the ones played during the clarksburg christmas parade circa 1982, when i marched, wearing a red sequined bodysuit and white boots with red-and-white yarn tassles, with the mitzi layne dance academy baton unit. i had thick bangs and a bun way on top of my head...i'd still wear my hair that way if my ponytail weren't so thin from that last bad haircut. i remember every beat of that drum routine. it's too bad some genius has yet to invent a way to recreate sound memory; if such a thing existed, i'd put it in here so everyone could hear those drumbeats along with me.

my life as told in drum beats began early. actually, even earlier than i can possibly recall because i was only a year old when my brother got his first drum set in our apartment on baltimore avenue in glen elk, with the yard that my picture-memories paint as somewhat southern-gothic feeling, perhaps because of the creeping vines and somber cement statues that my grandfather, nanoo as we called him in italian, poured when he had a paving business. our apartment was underneath nanoo's dim, moody, godfatheresque apartment upstairs that always smelled of spaghetti sauce and coffee and his cologne in the green glass bottle-shaped-bottle that sat on the counter in the bathroom. i vaguely remember what my family's apartment looked like, probably from later visits when dad needed to repair something for one of the tenants who came after us. mom says my brother peed behind the front door in the living room there because he was afraid the toilet would swallow him. nanoo was a hot head, but kev and i were his sweethearts and i bet he didn't care about the pee stains or the noise from his first grandchild's 5-yr-old drum cacophany. ten years or so later, kev was playing with much more skill on his red sparkle set in the attic at our house on carpenter street. all the time, in the middle of the day, for hours. and this is why i know that one neil peart solo...the one from yyz, i think?...by heart.

another 15 years later, a 21-yr-old drummer began the tradition of people calling me dee, his particular style varying from deetrain to deepants to dirty dee. now, at 31, he is also the man who still holds claim to being the last who loved me...not that others wouldn't have; i just wasn't interested in having anyone who could easily be had. or something like that. his drum set was in the corner of his parents' very-full basement in the house with the only teal leather couch i've ever seen. i rarely listened to him practice, though one time comes to mind. maybe it was the day he went to the basement to finishing putting shellac on a triptych he would show at an exhibit at zenclay, a gallery/tea house atop the studio where we took ceramics class together, and then he wandered over to his set, and as i watched his arms and face go wild with every beat, i couldn't help but picture animal from the muppets. he played with a band called asteriskathon for a hot minute, which isn't notable except that i could never pronounce the name until the first time i heard him say it. on the day of his first (and last?) show at 123 pleasant street, the local hangout, with his second band, branches, we hadn't seen each other in a week or two because he had been in boston then vermont to see his brother and i had been in nyc for a weekend with my friend ann. the night before we both left town, we argued and he came to my house later and wrote this note on the back of one of my atm slips: will you be my girlfriend?, with a box for yes or no. i still have it somewhere. so the night at 123 was a happy reunion for the on-again couple. i wore knee-high, shiny stiletto boots i'd bought at the store across from the midtown nyc hotel, and he wore red flared pants from goodwill and flip flops. the next day, i presented him with all the gifts i'd so carefully picked out: the black heart procession on vinyl, bought somewhere on the lower east side, and a mortar and pestle bought somewhere on the upper west side. he said he didn't buy me anything because he didn't know what i would've liked, so he showed me all the things he had bought for himself instead. had that moment been punctuated by a sound, it would've been the slow, dull thump of a lonely kickdrum. ten years down the line, animal and i are friends, and i barely remember the sound.

another eight years later; another drumbeat. the quiet man with the distinctive walk and distinctive way of pursing his lips before he smiled...which wasn't often, and so making him smile became a self-congratulatory thing for me, especially immediately upon glimpsing that telltale movement of his lips. the first night we met was in a narrow kitchen at my friend's house, trying not to bump into each other while both doing a subtle, two-second "hey you're cute" double take. then we went on with our evening, occasionally catching glances but never exchanging words. in the two years after that night, that initial double-take moment returned to me, usually on the frequent occasions when he had done something...or nothing is more like it. turns out that nothing can be just as bad as a bad something. in those times of frustration or hurt or blazing resentment i would wonder, but wait, didn't that look "mean" something? and if it did, then why would he act this way? and then just as quickly wonder, is that me wanting to believe in fate? fate is silly and only for the movies. i never came to any conclusions about it. well, except for one: now that i know what i know, that look he gave me was not singular, nor was i to him. the high hat crashes the heart with the knowledge that you are no one to someone. and then you move forward, in some span of months or years that you can never quite enumerate, because by then it no longer matters. but this time is different. that last crashing high hat was followed by another beat. a tiny, precious one. one that makes moving forward both absolutely necessary and impossibly complicated. and every single day, i reanimate yesterday's lifeless hope for that crash to soften.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

the sound of old perfume.

i can bring home the bacon/fry it up in a pan
lyrics from a mid-80s perfume commercial. a woman singing about how she can do it all. corny and apropos, all at once.

independence has been on my mind, a lot. since i moved from memphis, my independence has been put on hold.
a fact that suffuses my now-bulbous little self with an overwhelming feeling of yuck. while i'm glad to have help, i have never needed this much help since i was a kid. not a great feeling for a 35-yr-old woman, and one who has always relished her independence... now see, there i go feeling slightly uncomfortable upon saying that. i always do. because, for a yet-to-be-unearthed reason, i carry guilt about having parents who have helped me along the way...and i'll be darned, as soon as i finished that sentence my brain unearthed the reason: if i haven't suffered sufficiently to achieve something, then i feel i don't deserve to have it. so, owning my independence usually requires a bit of mental gymnastics. eventually i remind myself that while my parents have done what all parents want to do (which is to help, according to my mom) they have not, in fact, been the ones to do the legwork that got me where i've gotten. that was me. little 'ol me. i did the talking, the writing, the networking, the work. after quitting college then waiting tables and answering phones at a doctor's office for a few years, i moved to miami and folded expensive jeans in a retail shop owned by juan, who fired me for not keeping the store tidy. THE HORROR. look, i'd never use the "he just didn't like me" excuse for being fired, bc i think it's lame, but in this case it simply has to be true, bc one thing i could never be accused of is being untidy. anyhow, before and after my unfounded firing, i interned at a modeling agency for free and within 2 months was hired full time as an agent's assistant. i think i made 20 grand; not too shabby for 1998 and my first job in the professional world. about 8 months later i was promoted to new york city, which only lasted a few months. then i went back to college, where i worked at a coffee shop for extra cash -- bc those student loans i'll be paying off after i'm dead didn't cut it -- and i graduated with honors. and in memphis i worked my way up...well, more like out and around and behind and beneath...from my first job in advertising to my dream of freelancing. around two months before i moved, i was finally making a stable income as a freelancer -- turns out that phrase is not oxymoronic. what a tickly-good feeling. like a first kiss, except i didn't have to wonder when the next one would be. with my newfound steady paycheck, i'd no longer have to bargain shop for toilet paper at the dollar store. no more checking unit prices for me. i'd grab that quilted northern and not think twice.

after moving from memphis to wv, financial bliss died a sudden death. i lost my livelihood. my livelihood. i never even knew i had one. i enjoyed my work; therefore, if i didn't hate my work, then could i actually consider it work? and if i couldn't consider it work, then how could i claim to have a livelihood? these are the trips my brain takes me on. so today -- sometime between drinking that sickening orange glucose cola at 8:46 am and being stabbed with the 4th needle at 11:45 am -- i realized why this move was (is) such a big deal: i've spent a good 12 yrs trying to find the most "me" i could find in a career and get to a place of stability (well, actually, i always avoided stability like gas-station coffee, but i was finally getting comfy with the idea), and just when i had gotten oh-so-close: bomb, dropped. time to pack it up and move it out, little sister. big brother is coming with the uhaul on a friday; you'll be back in wv by sunday. or tuesday, as it turned out. after all, what kind of finale would it be without my brother's back going out and three more family members driving 12 hrs from wv to the rescue? so, on a tuesday night in july, after the monday night should've-been-three-but-turned-into-seven-hour-trip from memphis to nashville, i arrived at my parents' house with not two but three dogs and a belly full of first grandchild.
what i left behind...livelihood, friends, solace, places to eat and walk and hang out...has become my shadow ever since. following me even on the many sunless, rainy days in clarksburg.

i don't harbor secret wishes to run backwards, toward memphis and everything this move took from me. not at all. i do wonder what could've happened had i stayed. but i wonder about all sorts of things. mostly, and fairly impatiently, i await the return of my independence. the baby just bunched up on the right side of my belly. that makes two of us.




Monday, October 3, 2011

pancake puppies, scary roosters, and the creation of life.

yesterday, in the midst of realizing i could not, in fact, steal wifi from mcdonald’s while at denny’s eating 3 of my 6 deep-fried pancake puppies (sans syrup, bc calories should be wasted on more decadant things), i was saved (briefly) by none other than travis tritt. i sang along (or ahead, rather) in my head: “i’m a member of a kuuuntry club/kuntry muuuusic is what i looove/i drive an old ford pickup truck/do my drinkin’ from a diiiixie cup...” i like that song. i grew up on songs like that. as a kid i sang, along with my cousins, along with the grizzly-lookin singer-dude from alabama: “roll ooon eiiiighteeeen-wheeeeler, roll ooon…” and along with john anderson: “just a swaaaangin’….” and along with randy travis: “forehhhver and ehhhver, forehhver and ehhver, forehhver and ehhhhhvvverrrrr a-a-a-a-aaaamennnnn….” i like that i grew up in clarksburg. i like that i got to play in and around the big red barn (which, come to find out, turns out to be quite small as barns go) in the middle of the hilly, aluminum-fenced pasture at grandma’s with my cousin jamie, who had an affinity for hot tea with milk and sugar and for lighting things on fire with hairspray and who once tied beetlebugs from strings to the ceiling fan in grandma’s living room. one time he got a tree branch stuck up his nose; i don’t know how it happened (though unceremoniously would be my guess). another time he used the cordless phone from the barn to call his mom in the house and snarl in a low voice: “i’m watching you. i know where you are.” overall, jamie wasn’t much of a watcher. watching was too slow for him but the perfect speed for me. grandma’s little neighborhood, on top of that very steep hill in the east view section of town, was peppered with the makings of my future mental pictures…roosters and chickens and cows and horses going about their day in the field; i loved to hear the roosters crow, but they were mean as hell so i admired from afar…the cinder-block-sized salt block for the cows, with a big dip in the center where they licked…the honeysuckle vine across the street at violet’s house…the crab apple tree in mrs. what’s-her-name’s-yard on the corner…that huge, ominous, rust-flaked hook hanging from a metal pole near the corrugated steel-and-wire pigpen...the path a few hundred yards up the road where cousins would come out of the woods on horseback, horseshoes click-clacking on the pavement on the way to grandma’s big green house.

if i were still that child, i’d still love being in clarksburg...but i’m who she grew up to be, and i don’t. however, as it often goes, my disenchantment is tempered by the knowledge that i’m lucky. a lot of girlsi should refer to myself as a woman, i suppose, though unless i’m being purposely supercilious or snarky, i like “girl’ just fine… in my situation wouldn’t have parents who’d be as thrilled as mine to have their girl home again. so. i live most days in my little hometown in strange fog of gratitude and despair. which results in me being a strange, foggy version of myself. was i more me in memphis? i was. now, with the background of memphis in my foreground, i realize that while i found that city ever-so-slightly dystopian i had still created a life there…as if to remind me that’s more than a figurative statement, a little someone fluttered in my belly just now…but that story will have to ripen a little longer to tell. missing memphis is complicated; missing the me i was in memphis is not. me… i used to crank up the volume and sing — aloud, and not well — perhaps while vacuuming or with (at) my dogs, who didn’t appreciate it, if their barking was any indication. i used to enjoy my solitude on fall evenings in my house, maybe sewing or using my aunt's old costume jewelry to make gifts for birthdays or xmas. i used to make people laugh, at dinners out with jessi and ellen at café eclectic or young ave. deli or memphis pizza café, or on the deck at otherlands coffee house (before i boycotted it after the day some guy with a napoleon complex copped an attitude bc of my dog. his dogs weren’t on leash; mine was. he told me i should leave. i told him he was messing with the wrong woman...see how “woman” fits there? get it? yeah. and then the owner took his side, and i took my business elsewhere. but not before giving her the malocchio).

there have been many versions of my life, from east view to memphis to clarksburg. i like to imagine them on a timeline, with increments marked by dots and descriptions and big, glossy pictures in place for the best of times. and as i look down at the bulge that makes my belly lopsided toward the right…and wonder if it’s a head or a butt i’m patting…i know the biggest, glossiest, most perfect picture ever is to come. so i smile down at my little someone, take a swig of my now-cold decaf, and look forward to deciding what kind of cookies to bake for movie night with my cousin 5 hours, 18 minutes from now.