enter: title here

As I read what I’ve written I am struck by my blatant objectification of myself and others in my previous entry. I transformed the people I described from individuals to characters. I judged my motives as though I had become the art I hoped to create, looking through a critic’s lens at my passing realizations. Like an editor reviewing the verisimilitude of an author’s narrative, I called myself “cliche.” How can a human espouse a cliche? Has my relationship with an abstract world of fiction melded into my perception of personal reality? How often does the art we seek to obtain mold our view of existence; how often do we look at our surroundings through audience eyes as if watching a movie rather than living our experience on a material level. Even after I hit the “publish” button, I edit and re-edit entries, altering my posts relentlessly striving for the core of my intended meaning.

The medium I sought to control has controlled me; I am no longer a person but a phantom.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

bio: glib

I am the ultimate cliche: the writer in the coffee shop.

I should probably just stop myself here–I could feel my eyes glaze over as I typed that sentence.

Instead, I intend to proceed.

Setting: Coffee shop. The small barista is a local favorite; it houses throngs of politically active poets, seven varieties of dark shade-grown roast, and walls of dissent-inspiring art work. The place is designed like a remodeled warehouse (open, cemented, and echoing), although this prospect is impossible due to its location (small, local plaza enfolded in the historic district next to Savannah’s most famous park).

At Rise: It’s bustling today. It took me a moment to find a seat with my mug and computer, finally settling for a corner of couches next to a middle-aged woman and her espresso. Though the place is packed our intimate corner somehow remains quiet.

Her: The woman across from me (silver mop of short hair, thick-lensed, silk scarfed, munching on squares of dark chocolate) stares softly out the window before writing ferociously in a three-subject binder. I didn’t intend on disrupting her although I bump her bag as I push into my seat. She smiles once and looks back down. The thumping of the house hip-hop does nothing to assist her austere. Her eyes occasionally scan the room as she presses pen to paper, looking, just as I am, for inspiration for her notes.

Me: I lament the fact that I am writing on a laptop, disrupting the potential tranquility of the lacking technology. Looking at the woman again, I am envious of her paper devotion. As a kid I always carried a notebook; it was my final years of college when upper-division courses demanded I lug around my Mac that it became second nature to type rather than write. Soon, creative writing courses and time crunches took over and I abandoned my notebooks. Since then I have convinced myself that a typing medium is better, that I write much more efficiently with my hands tapping out the words as they come to my head. I argue that typing allows me to re-arrange sentences with a click of a mouse or look to a thesaurus in a time of frustration. I convince myself it’s better this way, but I don’t really know what I have lost.

Her: She finishes her chocolate and folds her cover back in place, capping her pen and gathering her purse. I feel my voice rise in my throat as I wonder if I should say anything, mention the notebook, say I am remiss, tell her my name. I say nothing, and she is gone.

Them: Now, the older woman has been replaced by two tattooed, chipped-black nailed and tired looking vegans. They talk loudly of the American Apparel jackets they want to buy (totally almost got it last week, except for the price, was, like, sooo expensive) while breaking off bits of a dairy-free muffin.

I rise: They inspire about as much as a girl sitting in a coffee shop on her laptop, swigging back tea. I am a character, a cliche, so trite I’m almost not worth mentioning.

My initial point–inspired by the hippie-turned-leisure-class-post-menopausal-crisis-turned-memoirist–is that I don’t know what I lose from abandoning my notebooks, but I don’t really know what I gain, either. A lacking patience in my own creative process, perhaps. The ability to check Facebook updates if my mind wonders instead of following its path, I suppose.

I am not even certain what this entry is supposed to suggest or what I am trying to say. I have accomplished nearly nothing, other than my need to publish more of my thoughts, however glib they may have become.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

mem: galaxy

[an oak tree – not quite a magnolia]

We had grown tired of the magnolia tree we used to sit in. It was taller than my family’s one-story ranch and considerably convenient for spying into the neighbors’ backyards. The uncomfortable truth was that, while large enough to saddle two very skinny nine-year-olds, the branches were not a favorable place for spending more than a few minutes in at a time. Knots in the branches dug at the backs of our bare legs and leaves provided equal parts shade and irritation. The tree was not the crux of our problem. Our combined energy levels had exiled us to the outdoors, and there were just some solutions nature in its intended state could not provide.
“I’ve got a plan,” my best friend confided one particularly muggy afternoon.

My friend was a twig-like blondie–a boy, before I knew the difficulty pseudo-sexual fascination tragically would cause for many of my other male friendships later on. At the time, we were able to reserve our flirtatious experimentation to pecks on the cheek next to the swing set (trite, yet, true). This game would quickly develop into a “I’m-going-to-kiss-you-if-you-don’t-give-me-my-way” war, supplemented often by the “I’m-going-to-dump-water-on-you-(etc.)” chase, both of which ended in me screaming, running inside and locking him outside of the house.

I suppose it’s a little obvious by now that I was quite the ruffian as a child. Now that my post-collegian stint in gender studies classes has fed my already budding feminist tendencies, I hesitate–and even am loath–to use the phrase “tom-boy,” but for lack of a better term I find myself stuck. Sufficed to say I lacked what would be considered gendered “feminine” qualities for a budding girl. I wore baggy shirts and draw-string shorts with sneakers (or bare feet–this was the south after all) which allowed me to scurry into a tree or onto my bicycle at a moment’s notice. The same friend once called me a tom-boy and I slapped the poor kid right across the face. Sweet justice, but, in retrospect, a little cruel. It left a red mark and he cried. I think I got away with it because no one saw and he was too ashamed to tell and reap the benefits that tattling would have provided. Friend: if you are reading this, I’m sorry.

Gender, sexual identity and torture techniques of young children are not the focus of this entry, however.
That being said, I think you now have a clearer picture of tiny me and her skinny blond friend: hyper, knobby, tanned, and insatiable.

Back to my tale.

“What’s your idea?” I couldn’t contain my interest.

My friend went on to explain that the blue dumpster which loomed in our caddy-corner neighbor’s yard was full of building supplies. The neighbors were adding a new section to their house and the temporary dumpster was full to the brim with pieces of flooring, tile, and–best of all–large planks of plywood.

We could see clearly into the dumpster from our tree: with the metal handle bars creating a ladder on the side we could easily slip in.

The plan was set: that Sunday, when the workers were on break and our neighbors at church, we would climb in, snatch ample supplies, and scurry away with no one the wiser. We would then proceed to build our ultimate creation: a honest-to-goodness clubhouse.

It was decided our clubhouse would go in my backyard since the dumpster was significantly closer to my house than his. It never once occurred to us that this might not bode well with my slightly over-protective parents for us to be digging through dumpsters. Nor did issues of broken glass, rusty nails, fiberglass, or, well, trespassing ever cross our minds. We had our heads set on one thing and one thing only, and nothing else was going to stand in our way.

That Sunday came as slowly as our birthdays–the night before I hardly slept.

He was at my house right at nine Sunday morning like we’d planned. We climbed into our tree and waited until nine-fifteen for the neighbors’ black SUV to slug around the corner and off to church. We felt like super-ninjas or Power Rangers…only, instead of fighting crime we were (technically) stealing.

Once the path was clear we bounced over the the dumpster, raging through it yelling and laughing as we found one treasure after another. A couple thrilling hours later we had collected all our supplies. We had a small pile in my tiny backyard and were ready to construct.

I remember we took our project very seriously, collecting nails we’d found littering their yard; using the special hammer my friend had been given for his last birthday; even drawing up semblance of blueprints on printer paper with markers.

What I don’t remember, however, is where my parents were that day or if we became exhausted lugging five-by-four sheets of plywood across two neighbors’ yards along with several other random items. I expect the latter was a non-issue since our little bodies were so coursing with adrenaline from the prospect of the clubhouse we didn’t have room for fatigue.

We stared at our newly sequestered booty for a while. There was some scuffling about how we were going to proceed from there–I had in my head a grand construction with several stories, bunk beds and a full replica of a kitchen; he had in mind something a little closer to a tangible goal. His idea won out in the end.

After hours of nailing and collapsing boards, we had a horrid little three-and-a-half sided box with sagging boards for a floor and no windows. The “roof” issue was resolved by placing another sagging plywood sheet over the top, blocking almost all light into the thing and causing the air to go from muggy to stifling inside our creature. But it was ours so it was beautiful.

The smell factor only became worse when we decided it needed a paint job. My friend had pulled from his father’s garage several cans of gray spray paint and one can of black.

“We can call it the ‘Galaxy,’” he said. He informed me he intended to paint its name on the side over the gray with the black.

“The ‘Galaxy’?” I asked, reproachful.

He groaned. He was tired of having to persuade me to see his side.

There was an argument which he eventually won since 1) I didn’t have a better alternative, and 2) our masterpiece did take residence in my backyard, not his, so he should have some say to make up for his initial loss.

“Fine,” I snapped, “but only if we paint the inside black like you said–but I get to use my glow-in-the-dark paint on the inside for the stars!”

“Why?”

“It’s the galaxy.” Obviously.

“Fine.”

“–and if we get to have a table!”

He growled. “Fine.”

We set to work.

We spent the next hour or so spraying the plywood, resulting in a sort of lumpy gray-brown with patches–an even bigger failure than our club…thing. Even we were becoming disappointed. It was not the glorious freedom-providing clubhouse we’d had in mind. Our tree was starting to look good again.

To top it all off, the glow-in-the-dark paints didn’t work because there was no light for them to charge inside the morbid structure; I think my friend even spelled “galaxy” wrong on the outside. G-A-L-E-X-Y.

The next day, we felt slightly betrayed when my father dragged the thing back to the dumpster–but only slightly. Even still, the offense we took was really just going through the motions for the effort we’d put in. It was a pathetic eulogy for an even more pathetic creation.

The magnolia tree served us just fine from then on until I moved to Maine the next spring.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

mem: sweaters

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. It’s late at night, almost one. While I type this, I am alone in bed in my apartment in Georgia. It’s much warmer than Maine (my home state) these days when the sun graces us, but at night, the breeze wafts in from cracks in the old windows and I am chilled through and through. The only thing warming my body is the old woolen sweater I have wrapped around me. I pull it closed with one hand as I type with the other.

I went home for Thanksgiving this year. It was my first Thanksgiving as a free entity; I’d never lived farther from my parents’ house than twenty minutes and the drive from southern Georgia was an adjustment.

Arriving several days before the celebration meant helping to clean the mess I’d left in my rushed escape months before. My mother, in a fit of physical and spiritual cleansing, had begun to purge my old bedroom and the basement simultaneously. The clutter had become synonymous with two somewhat prodigal rooms, and she vented her frustration on their mess like she was purging her suppressed rage with a therapist.

In her warpath, she stumbled upon a pile of old sweaters that my grandmother had worn. She deposited the pile at my sister’s and my feet, demanding they be distributed as we wished; the rest would go to Goodwill.

They were a bizarre conglomeration of sweaters: a combination of ones my grandmother had bought in passing at the garage sales she browsed when still mobile and higher-quality designs she’d purchased before her grandchildren were born.

My sister and I hemmed and hawed, not wanting the sweaters to be lost, yet neither seeing ourselves wearing the items on a regular basis.

The more we pawed at the pile, the more we began to recognize the significance of what we were doing: we were letting go of the last remnants that served as proof of her existence.

At one point we stopped arguing over who got the dark blue sweater (it’d fit me better, but the shade would match my sister’s skin tone, et cetera) and realized, with a jolt, that this had been her favorite. Our activity turned from a playful spat over aesthetics to a divvying of portions of our grandmother’s biography. These sweaters were pieces of her history. These sweaters were proof that she was human; she breathed; she had taste; she had silver hair (which still clung to the shoulders of many of the pieces); she was more than a memory.

I ended up with a substantial portion of the pile–my pseudo-hipster fascination for vintage sweaters joined with a personal investment in preserving my grandmother’s memory, winning out in the end. My sister hadn’t known our grandmother as I had; I think my sister knew what they meant to me.

I wear a cardigan now. It is white, cable-knit, pure wool and slightly scratchy. It reminds me of watching her paint, sleeves rolled-up, hand darting from water to pallet to paper to water. She’d been a landscape artist and was teaching me how to make waves with the color.

“You see, Jessy: Even though this part of the surf appears white, I’m using all sorts of colors to make the shadow. All the other colors disappear and all your eyes see is the white.”

My arms are too long, however, and my wrists pull far past the length of the sleeves. A mix of moth balls, old wool, and the rose perfume she used overwhelms me as I inhale. I imagine it’s her shoulder, not mine, that is pressing back at my nose.

It’s almost Christmas. Funny how nostalgic you can become this time of year.

Sitting with my sister that day was a reminder of how difficult it’d been to clean my grandmother’s room after she’d passed. I could never have guessed what becomes precious after a loved one dies. I always thought you would be remembered by the expensive items divided in your will or the heirloom china you never used. Now that she has passed, it’s the day-to-day items that I’ve come to associate with her.

She had a particular taste in sweaters. She’d get cold and need to wrap them tightly as I do now, buttoning them all the way to her chin. She made mistakes like forgetting where she’d put her keys. I remember searching for hours before she would find them, snagged on a piece of yarn and stuffed under Kleenex in the front pocket of her cardigan. These sweater, these memories, are proof of her mortality.

As I sit typing I am listening to the classical Christmas music station I’ve qued on Pandora. I think of how much she adored this time of year and how much light she brought to the celebration. It is a task to compensate for the joy she would bring just by her presence.

I pull my sweater more tightly, giving myself a squeeze and hoping, somehow, she feels me hugging my shoulders, wishing she was here.

Thanks for the sweaters, Granny.

Merry Christmas.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized