Tuesday, July 29, 2008

when you park on top of me, it hurts my feelings

Until I get around to uploading the platypus picture (see comments section of previous post), please enjoy this note I found on the windshield of my car in my office parking lot last night. AK and I spent a good half hour dissecting its weird passive-aggressiveness. A couple of things you should know:

1. All the spots in our lot are really fucking small.
2. Four out of every five people who work in my building are therapists.*

La nota:

I intentionally leave lots of space so when you park between lines I won’t knock your door and vice versa. You have been parking practically on top of me with ample space on your other side—you are over the line in my driver’s side. I can’t get in unless I go through the passenger seat and crawl in that way. Thanks. :-)

AK told me someone once left her a note that said, “Learn to park, asshole.” She and I and Jamie all agreed that that’s preferable to the anonymous happy face and self-righteous “I” statements.

Anyway, I’m working on my parking skills and enjoying the fact that my blog is writing itself this week.

*Not that there’s anything wrong with therapists. If not for mine, I’d still be the kind of person who left notes in which I tried to make people think I was really nice even while telling them crappy things. But don’t you think there’s something a little therapy-speak going on here?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

i'm glad i'm not a slave! and other profundities

I'm at my dad's house right now, and, due to the small miracle of him finally getting DSL, able to blog. I came home to help him clean out the attic, and amidst baby blankets that made me want to cry and '80s clothes that made me want to cry in a different way, I discovered lots of school papers and stories. Here are a few excerpts:

Untitled
a personal essay by Cheryl Klein, age 5 (as dictated to a teacher)

I'm thankful for sunsets and the beautiful world we have. I'm also thankful for the healthy life we have and for the sunshine and firecrackers.

Untitled
a personal essay by Cheryl Klein, age 5

I'm afraid that a car is about to hit me and getting killed.

Untitled
research paper? historical fiction? by Cheryl Klein, age 5

George Washington had two step children Jackie and Patsy.

The Most Beautiful Doll
a short story by Cheryl Klein, circa age 6

I always wanted a doll. But I could not have one. My birthday was tomorrow. Oh oh how I wanted a doll. I got a doll.

Why Wasn't I Invited?
a short story by Cheryl Klein, circa age 7

One day when I went to School, Karen (my best friend) asked if I was invited to Tanya's party. "I didn't know Tanya was having a party," I replied. "Oh," said Karen.

When I went home I told my Mom about it. All my mom said was that life isn't fair.

[Illustration of Mom with word bubble saying, "Life isn't fair."]

The day of Tanya's party I went fishing with my dad. Now I can have fun too, I thought.

My mom was right. Life Isn't Fair.

P.S. I caught a fish.

My Best Friend
a personal essay by Cheryl Klein, age 10 (excerpt from the longer work My Encounter with Life...)

Someone in my life is very important to me. That someone is Bonnie, my best friend.

We have alot in common. For starters we both think little kids are adorable. That is the reason we started the Mother's Helper Club in which we baby-sit only when the parents are home. We both adore animals, especially those cute little hermit crabs that look like aliens. Bonnie and I both like to act funny and weird sometimes too.

We like to do things together. Whenever possible we work together on school projects. We also both take gymnastics.

However, not everything is always good. Sometimes I get mad because she leaves me out of things. Sometimes I think she's mean because she's jealous of me. I try hard to talk to her about what bothers me and usually things work out.

I know I'm often jealous of her: jealous because her parents let her do more things and because she has more friends than me.

Even though we don't always agree Bonnie's the best friend I've ever had.

[Photo of Bonnie with the caption, "Bonnie!!!"]

A Conversation With...Mary Lou
a speculative essay by Cheryl Klein, age 10 (excerpt from the longer work My Encounter with Life...)

I've always wanted to be a famous gymnast, so you can imagine how excited I was when I saw Mary Lou Retton in Lucky Super Market. At first I didn't recognize her because she wasn't wearing a leotard, but a blue and lavender striped shirt and jeans, but the minute she turned around I jumed up and cried, "You're Mary Lou Retton!" I know that was stupid, but I couldn't help it.

"I certainly am. Would you like to ask me anything?" she replied calmly.

"Lots!" I said still jumping up and down. "Like, why did you retire?"

"Oh gymnastics was taking up too much of my life."

"Well," I began, "when I grow up I want to be a professional gymnast too. Maybe even win the Olympics. I have another question. You don't live in Manhattan Beach, so how come you're shopping here?"

"I'm visiting some relatives," she explained and started to leave.

"Wait!" I shouted. "I want your autograph." She gave it to me and I left in a happy mood.

Peru
excerpts from a research paper by Cheryl Klein, age 10

Peru is a very interesting country in many ways: In it's geography, history, industry, people, coustums, and goverment. From the ancient Incas to modern-day mineral mining Peru has all kinds of exciting facts!...

Even before Peru was founded people lived there. They were thought to have come across a land bridge connecting Asia to North America. These people were the Incas....

They managed to invent a way of growing crops in the mountains. Into the mountains they carved grooves that were much like stairs. On each "stair" they planted corn (maize), cassava (a kind of melon), squash or beans. These were their main crops.

This idea wasn't their only good one! They had lots of other great ideas. They had a good way of communication, a smart of conquering other tribes and they even tamed llamas!

Unfortunately they didn't even last a hundred years because in 1532 Francisco Pizzaro conquered them....

These facts about Peru are all amazing but there are many more that would take thousands of pages to write, but even the facts in this report are interesting as they are!

Untitled
English class journal entry by Cheryl Klein, age 12

I really like to watch TV on Sunday, Thursday and Friday.

On Sunday "Life Goes On," "America's Funniest Home Videos," "The Simpsons" and "Married With Children" are on.

On Thursday "The Cosby Show," "Different World" and "The Young Riders" are on.

On Friday the TGIF shows are on. Actually, "Full House," "Family Matters," "Perfect Strangers" and "Just the Ten of Us" are pretty stupid, but I like them anyway and will probably watch them tonight.

Untitled
English class journal entry by Cheryl Klein, age 12

I like Valentine's day, but it's an easy holiday to forget about. I remembered Valentine's Day at about 3:30 yesterday. Luckily my mom was able to take me to the store to get candy.

I've gotten quite a few valentines so far today.

Valentine's Day would be more fun if I had a boyfriend and unfortunately I don't.

In case you haven't already noticed, I'm dotting all my "i's" and "j's" with hearts since it's Valentine's Day.

Untitled
English class journal entry by Cheryl Klein, age 12

I barely know anything about India, but I learned a little when I saw "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" for the first time yesterday.

I saw on 20/20 that you can go to jail for being raped if you're a woman in India.

I know some Indian women wear red dots on their foreheads.

I know India was where Columbus was trying to get when he discovered America. India is shaped sort of like this: [illustration of bladder-shaped blob]. I think it looks a little like Texas.

Untitled
English class journal entry by Cheryl Klein, age 12

I would hate being poor, being beaten, and being sold like a piece of furniture, but mostly I would hate not having a chance at a good life. Slaves were born slaves, grew up slaves and died slaves. There was no such thing as an "executive slave." To me, there is no reason to live if you can't advance in life. If I were a slave I would be very depressed because I would know that the only life that lay ahead of me would be the life of a slave unless I tried to run away which I would be too scared to do. I'm glad I'm not a slave!

Untitled
English class journal entry by Cheryl Klein, age 12

I don't think much about being of German ancestry. For that matter I don't think much about being of English and French ancestry either. I'm just glad to be an American. I'm also glad that some of my Jewish ancestors lived in America because if they lived in Germany during World War II they could have been killed by Nazis. I don't know very much about Germany, but German looks and sounds like a hard language to learn. I don't really like how the way to say most German words you have to sound like you are throwing up, either.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

how my art class is going

I am learning things about water colors.

I am learning how much I don't know.

I learned that children's books almost always have 32 pages.

I am learning a lot about my five-year-old character, Vivi. For example:

Sometimes she's sad.

Sometimes she's skeptical.

Sometimes she's resourceful.

Sometimes she dresses her cat up like a dragon and fights him.

Sometimes she dresses herself.

Sometimes she organizes bicycle rides to raise money for charitable causes.

scenes from a busy weekend

A lot of things happened this weekend. I didn't take pictures of the first thing, which is good, because it involved Sara and Dave coming over for lunch and Sara being miserably sick and me making pizza that wasn't cooked all the way through (for the record, though, this is not what made Sara sick. Also, it enabled me to send her an apologetic email with the subject line "dough/d'oh!").

Then I went to a fun and snazzy reading for the lit mag Palabra at Tropico de Nopal. This is editor Elena Minor (the one without the giant head).
Meanwhile, AK made dinner for her sister Lori and brother-in-law Canny. By the time I got home, they'd been struck down by food coma.

We played trivia and it quickly became clear who the winner was, even though it was the '80s/'90s version and she wasn't born until 2001.

Sunday morning Alberto made brunch for us and others. It was yummy, and made even more so by his fabulous red walls.

The red walls also looked nice with the berries, tomatoes and AK's shirt. Next to those nice anti-oxidant-rich berries is a jar of a magical substance called something like "English double cream," which contains more calories than God. (I know, it makes no sense, but it's true. Trust me.)

We smiled the smiles of the well-fed.

Later that day we saw Feist at the Hollywood Bowl with Jody, Christine and friends. We sat in section W-"nosebleed"-8 and had a great time.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

the signs were there

Somewhere in the Klein family archives, there is a video of me receiving a large-sized plush My Little Pony for what is probably my eighth birthday. Hasbro made these big Little Ponies for a short time, and I was excited, because I wanted them to be parents for my stable of smaller ponies. I already had a mom pony named Bowtie who was blue with pink bowties on her butt. Semi-traditionalist that I was, I needed a dad.

Later, there would be a line of boy ponies who had both the aesthetic and the professions of the Village People. They had names like “Tex” and “Chief.” But when I was eight, Pony Land was still an all-girls school. So my new large-sized plush “dad” pony—blue Bowtie’s husband—had wings and rainbow hair and long eyelashes. (I may have been a femmey kid, but the signs were there.)

My mom sewed them wedding outfits, because my parents were crazy enough to make my sister and I all sorts of amazing gifts by hand.

In the video, she says, “Since Bowtie already has 55 children, I made her dress off-white.”

All of which is to say, where rainbow ponies go, a certain amount of queering is sure to follow. I just found a link to this awesome My Little Pony comic via Bookslut—don’t be scared away by the part that says “must be 14 or older.” It’s totally safe for work, unless your boss has a thing against cross-dressing baby dragons.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

does it count if i went to REI recently?

Usually the only people who call my land line aren’t people at all, but bill-collecting machines asking for Cesar or Rosa Perez. When I pick up, my expectations are low: I hope not for a friendly voice but for an “If you are not Cesar Perez, press 1 now” option.

So I was pretty excited when a real live woman called last night wanting me to participate in a survey sponsored by the forest service.

She asked questions like, “In the past year, how many times have you gathered with family or friends in an outdoor location that is not someone’s home?” and “In the past year, have you gone caving?”

Although I have a newfound love of picnicking, it quickly became clear that I am a pasty mole of an urbanite. No, I had to admit, I had not gone caving. I had not gone camping. I had not swum in a river or jet-skied or hunted or fished. One of the questions was about an activity I hadn’t even heard of, something like “orienteering.”

I asked the woman to define it, in case maybe I did it all the time and just didn’t know what it was called. But it turned out to involve, like, being given map coordinates and going to search for a treasure or something. The weird thing was, it was like her second question. Really? Are there more orienteer-ers out there than skiers?

When I was little, my mom was always trying to send my sister and I outside to play on our charming, kid-friendly cul-de-sac or in the playhouse with running water that my dad built us. But we’d just hide beneath piles of blankets in front of the heater vents like ungrateful little vampires.

Nevertheless, I still very much like the idea of being an outdoorsy person, and I found myself inflating my numbers in the survey. I must have gone to the beach more than three times, right? And that one time I went hiking in the Palisades—surely that was sometime in the last year, right? (Wrong.) And just because you didn’t stay overnight at a place didn’t mean you weren’t, in your own way, camping, no?

It made me realize what bullshit all polls really are. If I can’t be trusted to be honest about something as neutral as my usage of the great outdoors, can I really be trusted to tell a stranger my most intimate thoughts about race or gay rights or elections?

In a way, polls that ask about straight-up opinions are a lot safer than polls about habits. I’m proud of my views on, say, public transportation, but I’m likely to get pretty defensive if you ask me how many miles I put on my car last week.

Maybe that’s why I never go camping. I don’t want to pollute the air as I drive to a remote location. Yeah, that’s it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

we should all just be really funny all the time

I have seen a lot of one-person shows. The worst one took place in an airtight upstairs theater on Hollywood Boulevard. The performer read from a thick script (so, not only had he not bothered to memorize anything, but we couldn’t even delude ourselves into thinking the show was almost over because we could see exactly how many, many pages were left) about how tantric yoga had helped him through his divorce. Or something. I just remember him talking about his “root chakra” in a way that made me deeply uncomfortable.

Even at some of the better one-person shows, I found myself wishing I hadn’t been required to turn my cell phone off, because I really wanted to know what time it was.

This was not the case with Karen Kilgariff, whom AK, Cathy and I saw perform in I’m Really Different (Now)! with Don Cummings last night at Largo. At one point I did think, Wow, she’s been up there making us laugh for a long time. She must be tired. But I hope she’s willing to go until she passes out from a funny binge because I never, ever want her to stop talking.

The show was one part stand-up, one part cabaret, one part send-up of the one-person-show genre—of their inherent self-centeredness and predictable arcs and confessional pop psychology themes.

She talked about her seizure disorder and her compulsive eating (and I have to say I was comforted to hear that she’d struggled with Burger King like an everyday American rather than with some more glamorous substance, because in Hollywood it takes more guts to be fat than to be a drug addict). But she didn’t get all quiet and serious every time she hit on a Real Issue the way Margaret Cho (whom I mostly love) does. Her personal stories and what I would call her feminist viewpoint (because I think you have to be a feminist to be funny and female on stage, and you get extra points if your humor isn’t all about sex, re-appropriated or otherwise) were fully integrated into a fully hilarious show.

She also talked about sweat lodges and firemen and cheese and Bjork. And not to give anything away, but her musical co-writer/accompanist Don Cummings was not your average accompanist.

I left thinking, What’s all the fuss about over…stuff…in the world? We should all just be really funny all the time. It’s easier said than done, I’m sure, but Karen Kilgariff’s work was my gain. At the end of the show, none of my chakras seemed to have any sort of, like, chi deficiency whatsoever.

Monday, July 14, 2008

this is what happens when people in their 30s drink

Tonight I’m going to Largo and I’m flashing back to the first time I went there, on my third date with this guy Mike I dated for about four dates when I was 23.

He was 31 and really nice and introduced me to a lot of good small music venues, but the problem was he was a full-fledged grown-up. He talked about things like buying a house, which at the time was a giant turn-off to me. I mean, my favorite musical was called Rent. He might as well have said, “What I’d really like to do next is pick my nose while shooting helpless animals with my hunting rifle.”

Lately I’ve found myself beginning a lot of sentences with, “The older I get…” or “Now that I’m in my 30s…” Just last night, AK, Alanna and I—all of us between the ages of 31 and 32—had a whole discussion on the things being in one’s 30s might involve, including:

  • marriage
  • children
  • wearing nicer clothes even though we still can’t afford them
  • the fact that we are in our prime—no longer are we aspiring whatevers, or whatevers with a lot of potential. We just are what we are, and this is our chance to be really good at it, or not, which is so crazy-scary to me.

Why am I so obsessed with my age? I’ve been aging for 31 years now, and if anything, my rate of change has slowed down. It would have made more sense if I’d spent my freshman year in college marveling at how different I was from when I was a 17-year-old high school kid.

But maybe part of getting older is being able to witness yourself change, and being dull enough to narrate the experience. Because when I was a freshman in college, I was too busy fighting with my roommate and crying over the sadder songs in Les Mis.

Or is it that I’m having some kind of late return-of-Saturn thing or an early midlife-crisis thing? Except it doesn’t feel like a crisis. It feels kind of…fine.

Friday night I accompanied AK to an alumni meeting of an urban outreach program she worked with in college. We gathered in a ramshackle, un-air-conditioned church in Lincoln Heights and listened to current students talk about their experiences working with and advocating for the poor. I was immediately nostalgic for the intensity of youth and for the ability to look cute while sweating in a T-shirt and jeans, but I wasn’t envious. And I’m almost always envious, so that says a lot.

Instead I just took the night as a reminder that, even as a seasoned grown-up, I can and should let me surroundings affect me. I’m old enough and lucky enough to know what I want to focus on, but it’s also good to let my vision go blurry once in a while and just stare up at the beams of the church ceiling and wait for whatever’s next.

On Friday, what was next was margaritas with Suzie and Sean, which was, of course, followed by a conversation about being in our 30s.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

i wish dick cheney would take up housekeeping

I’m in the middle of Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. It’s about a party of diplomats, businessmen and one opera singer who are taken hostage by a grassroots terrorist organization in an unnamed South American country. The terrorists quickly set most of the women and servants free to prove that they are reasonable people, so the “important” men are left to fend for themselves and fend off boredom as their days inside the vice president’s overthrown house mount.

I’m sure that many people had many wonderful things to say about this book when it came out in 2001 (it’s beautifully written, it’s funny and sad and humanizing, etc.), but what I love the most about is how the men in the story come to appreciate and practice qualities that are traditionally deemed feminine and hence lesser:

  • Communication: A Japanese businessman’s trusty translator—who speaks dozens of languages—quickly becomes the most sought-after person at this international involuntary conference.
  • Cooking: A French ambassador gets to demonstrate his flair in the kitchen, even if the terrorists won’t let him use knives.
  • Cleaning: The vice president—who always felt useless in his second-banana role—discovers a new sense of purpose in polishing the windows, picking up trash and scouring the carpets.
  • Art: Although some of the kidnapped crew already had a passion for music, most considered it a hobby to be indulged in only after their long workdays were through. Here they quickly realize that the daily rituals of the opera singer and her makeshift accompanist (previously one of the hobbyists) can literally save their lives. Art might be escapism, but this is escapism at its most transcendent.

So a book that at first appeared to be about world politics (manly!) has turned into a domestic novel (girly!)—and, what do you know, it reveals itself to be even more brilliant in the process.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

hi, you don’t know me, but would you like to talk about gay rights while you’re in the middle of dinner?

1. i hate the phone

When I was 14, the woman who taught the only singing class I ever took (with largely unsuccessful results) offered me a work-study position at the performing arts center she ran. I sucked at singing, but I was all about free dance classes.

“Just call me if you decide you’re interested, and we can figure out a schedule for you.”

Friendly and generous, right? Lisa was a friendly and generous person. Nevertheless, I must have practiced making that phone call—hand in Y shape to my ear, parents taking turns playing the part of Lisa—50 times.

All of which is to say, I’m not a phone person.

But I am a bit of a masochist, so of course I signed up to phone bank with Equality for All last night. Our job was to call a list of people who had already expressed interest in volunteering and ask them to commit to a date or donate money. (Yes, volunteering to recruit volunteers sounds a little circular, but there’s a whole strategy to these sorts of things, which I leave to the professionals.)

So it’s not like we were making cold calls trying to convince people that God does not, in fact, hate fags, although I suppose the time will come for that.

Still, I had to take numerous deep breaths before each call, because the only thing I hate more than making phone calls is asking people for things, especially if they’re nice people. I have to work myself up to asking AK to do the dishes, which I would not have to do if she ever said anything less than, “Sure, no problem.”

All my phone calls went quite nicely. People either weren’t home or they signed up to volunteer or they said they were going out of town but to call them in a couple of weeks. Even if they were lying, they let me down easy. Other volunteers got hung up on mid-call or yelled at for mispronouncing the name “Stan.” How do you mispronounce “Stan”? I’m not sure, but apparently someone did.

Still, by 9:30, every cell inside my body seemed to be leaning against a tiny wall and slumping to the floor. Do not sign up to phone bank again, I told myself. This is NOT YOUR THING. Donate money or stuff envelopes or scrub the floors of the task force office with a toothbrush, but do not phone bank.

Not signing up for things when I am directly asked to do so by nice people is another thing I’m bad at.

But I successfully resisted! (Okay, so maybe I agreed to work at a table at All Saints. But I’m pretty good when there’s a nice solid formica object between me and the person who comes up to me. Then I am the pursued rather than the desperate one.)

2. i also hate asking people for stuff, but now i’m going to ask you for stuff, so get ready

I also had this notion that maybe I could recruit some people via the blog (I know, I know—if people don’t have a problem saying no to my face and voice, they really won’t have a problem ignoring a blog entry that is basically an anti-sell anyway. This is why I don’t work in marketing).

But maybe you are a phone person. Or maybe you have wads of extra cash lying around. Maybe you just like free pizza and muffins (there’s free pizza and muffins!). Hopefully you at least believe that it’s important to defeat the people who want to defeat same-sex marriage, because solving this is not like solving world hunger—it’s easy, and it doesn’t hurt anyone or cost any money. Except, like, the money you should donate to defeating Prop. 8—but it wouldn’t cost any money to implement same-sex marriage if certain people didn’t get their panties in a bunch about it.

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, go to http://www.equalityforall.com/ and click on “Volunteer” and/or “Donate.” Or, if you want to know about additional, specific volunteer opportunities in the L.A. area, email me at meadowbat[at]yahoo.com. I’ll be happy to email you all about it. I just might not call you.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

red, white and blue rays

AK and I sort of wanted to go out of town for the holiday weekend, but since gas is now roughly the price of gold, we settled for visiting The Deep Sea Via Long Beach. As we waited in the very long, very stroller-packed line for tickets--because apparently everyone else in Southern California had the same idea we did--I noticed one of those boards where you can stick your head through and take a photo that makes you look like, in this case, an otter.

"Hey, someone should go stick their head through and take a--" I began.

"No thanks," said Nicole quickly.

AK, however, was already there, ottering. I like how much I can count on her to come through at important moments.

Here's Nicole and I pretending that it's not 95 degrees out, and that parking didn't cost $7.

It only seemed fair that we get to pet some sea creatures for our troubles. Luckily there was Shark Lagoon. You would think that "touching" and "sharks" would go hand in hand only if the word that followed was "lawsuit," but these were small, exhausted sharks, and an employee kept getting on the loudspeaker to say, "Please do not touch the new hammerhead. He is a No-Touch Shark. We're trying to get him used to the Shark Lagoon. You may gently touch the other sharks, but I see a lot of grabbing out there. There is no grabbing. Please observe the Two-Finger Rule, and touch the animals with two fingers only."

It's true that at the ray tank upstairs, I may have gotten a little overzealous and tried to shake someone's big flappy hand-type thing. Shaking hands might be kind of like grabbing. But if you saw something that looked like a giant sea pancake swim by, wouldn't you want to shake its hand?

I'm not sure where lorikeets fit in at an aquarium, but there was a whole aviary of them, and they were beautiful--friendly, flying gay pride parades. (There was also a lone wallaby sitting in a shady pen looking sort of pouty. AK imagined him sighing, "I did not put in for the Aquarium of the Pacific. But I guess everyone puts in for the San Diego Zoo.")

During the long ride home on the Blue Line, AK reached into her purse and said, "Hey, look who stowed away!" It was a small blue spotted ray (not to be confused with Blu-Ray, as this guy doesn't have an opinion one way or another about HD-DVDs), whom we quickly named Raymundo. It had been a long day.

But we still rallied in time to catch Easy Rider at Hollywood Forever Cemetery with Meehan, her friend Maureen, Christine and Jody. I'd never seen the movie before--it was strange and arty and made for a time (or an altered state) in which watching scenes of craggy red rocks roll by was a sufficient substitute for plot. And when there's also veggie spaghetti and spicy green beans and pluots and wine, and a great purple sunset silhouetting the palm trees and headstones, it pretty much is.

But I think our friend Alberto summed up my feelings about the Fourth of July best in a (perhaps wine-aided?) text message Friday night: "Happy 4th of July! Be safe and be thankful for our constitution - it alone separates us from all others and truly free!"

Thursday, July 03, 2008

poetry spoiler alert!

On Tuesday, Jamie, intern Marcus and I were having a big geeky conversation about poetry:

Eileen Myles doesn’t use question marks,” I said.

“Sometimes I don’t want to use question marks either,” Jamie confessed. “You know, like if something isn’t really a question. But I’m not brave enough—I always go back and add a question mark.”

(You don’t even want to hear our semicolon discussion.)

Marcus said he had a continuing internal debate about just how “accessible” he should try to make his poems. That led to a discussion about the author’s intention versus what the reader takes from and brings to the work. For example, you could write a poem full of words that a reader didn’t know, and even if she (like me) was too lazy to look them up, she could still extract a strong feeling from the poem. It might be the same feeling the writer had, it might not.

“At the workshop I went to on Saturday, the poet showed slides of a bunch of paintings and asked us to write a poem inspired by them,” I said. “So I just wrote like a one-sentence description of what was going on in each slide. But I just said ‘he’ and ‘she’ did such-and-such, so when you read the poem from start to finish, it sounds like a narrative but kind of mysterious poem. It sounds like there’s all this meaning I didn’t intend. It was fun for me to write, but I can’t quite decide if the poem itself is meaningful to me or not, since usually when I write, it’s because I have something to say.”*

So the question is: Just how much of a control freak do I want to be? Less and less as I get older—I’m more open to the idea that writing is a dialogue, not a monologue—but I still like to think that my half of the dialogue will be more than gibberish.

Nevertheless, gibberish can be colorful. Here’s my poem, so you can decide for yourselves. Even though I’ve already divulged its nonsensical origins (should I have given a poetic spoiler alert?), I’m curious whether you poetry readers out there—the only folks left reading after that little question mark conversation—take any meaning from it:

This is Our George Seurat Moment

They are as gold as the '70s.
She is as solemn as a morning river.
The weary man conforms his
gray body to his child's.
The ghost hovers over his right shoulder,
brighter in his heart
than the pink bloom in his hand.

From the neck down, she fades
into the night; the hole-punch moon
doesn’t help much.

The stem of the guitar presses his forehead
like the barrel of a gun.
He studies his palm like the answers
are written there. His face is blue
as mint toothpaste.
He holds the flower up to the dream,
he holds fall-yellow to dog-red.

This is the night we all come together
with warm-kitchen smiles.
This is our George Seurat moment
casting shadows on water.
The boy is back, his candle
as bright as a warning. There are
clouds in the kitchen.

*This does not necessarily apply to blogging. Okay, yes it does. I always have something to say, but sometimes it’s very simple. Like: Last night Christine fed us homemade key lime pie. She really did. It was as good as it sounds, maybe better, especially the buttery graham cracker crust.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

hip-hop class update

The good news: Tiffaney taught a routine to Janet Jackson’s “Escapade,” which for some reason transported me back to eating bowls of ice cream in milk at Shallan Daly’s house in eighth grade.

The choreography itself—boys doing one part, girls doing another, everyone changing formation around the “stage”—transported me back to drill team and cheerleading, which might not seem like a good thing, but in this case it is. That’s my choreographic comfort zone, for better or worse: I judge all dance routines by how good they’d look performed by eight high school students in green and gold sweaters. This one would have looked awesome. (We didn’t have any boys on our squad, but as a taller, fatter member of the squad and a go-to base for stunts, I’m sure I would have done the butch part.)

The bad news: I really sucked—like, there was a whole eight-count that was just a blur. Also, there was a move Tiffaney actually referred to as a “Tiffaney Kick.”