Current status: Midwest travels edition

I am at a bar in a kind of huge strip mall in Des Moines, Iowa. There is a wall of giant, beautifully crisp, flat televisions behind the bar, all showing the same baseball game, and not a single eye is pointed toward them. People are yelling at each other, as you do in most situations when drink and loud music get involved. Boyz II Men’s “Thank You” just came on the loudpseaker and threw me uncomfortably back to my youth when I used to have that single on a cassette and would rewind and replay ad nauseum, only to swap it out with whatever Brandy single I was also obsessed with at the time.

There is a table of middle-aged men in business suits directly in front of me, and they are cackling like madmen and dropping F-bombs in the course of whatever story one of them is relaying.

I flew in this morning and did that ridiculous thing occasional airplane passengers do where I felt a kinship with my fellow stranger travelers. You know, you break through the clouds and suddenly spot the blue arc of the Earth’s boundary and you start to look at the backs of people’s heads — their tiny, stupid, insignificant heads — and they start to seem both stranger than ever (I am on a flying bus with people I’ve never met, and we are rocketing through space and time!!!) and more familiar than ever (someone on this plane near me will not stop farting oh god), once you consider that they are living the same weird life you are, but in a different way.

I had these idiotic thoughts before achieving full caffeination; forgive me.

This is my first extended stay in the Midwest, which is to say it is my first non-layover trip to the Midwest. It’s true — the people are nice and the grass is green. Right now in this little strip-mall bar, there’s a country song and then an R&B song. Country song, R&B song. And then a Mr. Big song (you know the one). And now the song that is about butts that masquerades as being about bass. Ah, the Midwest. The great melting pot of America.

Getting RIPped

I heard a (hip young) undertaker on Fresh Air today talking about cremation and embalming and death rituals and all that fun stuff, and it occurred to me that I am in my thirties and I have procreated and yet I still have not put on paper my wishes in the event of my untimely death, which is getting more and more statistically probable with every new day I draw breath. What am I waiting for? (Someone to do it for me.)

I suppose I can put a couple of throwaway paragraphs on the internet and then ask the twelve of you who still read this blog to feel free to email a link to all my loved ones should I die, to make sure what they understand of what I want squares with the crap I have actually thought about and written down. Is that how we do death prep in the Web 2.0 era? Oh god, we aren’t in the Web 2.0 era anymore are we? I should be tweeting out my living will in 150 parts and ending it with “LOL.” Also, I am just kidding. I know there are not even twelve of you left who read blogs, especially this one.

In all seriousness, I don’t want to be embalmed. What a waste of time and money and horrible chemicals that are causing everyone cancer, probably. I want to say, “put me in a wooden box and stick me in the ground wherever there is already a convenient hole and let me get all wormy as quickly as possible so maybe some flowers will grow above me, but DON’T put any pea gravel anywhere near me,” but I know it is more complicated than that. I’m not particularly sentimental about what happens to me after my death, because who cares, but I accept that it is a practical concern that the living will be left to deal with so maybe I can do them a solid and take out some of the guesswork.

First, give away all my organs. Or the ones still working, I guess. I won’t need any of them unless you think there is a decent, scientifically sound chance of reanimation, in which case PRESERVE EVERYTHING, INCLUDING MY BROWN FITZWELL BOOTS. My eyes are terrible but one of them has a weird spot in it that bestows magical powers, so don’t let that shit get buried. Give it to someone!

In all honesty, I am kind of charmed by the idea of donating my body to science and maybe being empirically useful for once in my life/death. Maybe hanging out on The Body Farm and getting nice and ripe in the sun for the clipboard-wielding students to study, and then eventually becoming a part of their collection of skeletons. Yes! It might be the closest I get to being in a Head Museum. Let me bookmark that application process right now, actually.

If that doesn’t work out, for whatever reason (no one can find a free truck to get me there?), just cremate me. Except let’s consider water/lye instead of fire. I don’t need a fancy or beautiful or comfortable coffin and I have no interest in an eternal resting place that’s just taking up space in the ground. Just pulverize (politely and efficiently) what’s left of me and take the bone “ashes” and mix me up with potting soil and plant something interesting with part of me. I will try not to spoil the new growth with my acidic wit.

If you think that I am joking in any way about all that stuff ^^ or about putting any or all of the following phrases (or those found in my previous post) in places meant to memorialize my life, let me reassure you: I am completely serious and, should there prove to be some kind of afterlife where I am not sentenced to hard, hot labor for all the schemin’ and cussin’ I did while among the living, I am going to DIE (AGAIN) LAUGHING when I see one of these phrases printed in my obit or on my (exquisitely designed) funeral program or on the cardboard box where my cremains rest. (Which reminds me, which one of my designer friends wants to take charge of the funeral program project? Come get this ridiculous Victorian-era decoupage source book from my office so you can be sure to really make the whole thing sing.)

Some more epitaph suggestions, should anyone choose to keep part of me in some kind of urn or manila envelope:

• Former indoor kid

• Quick to light, slow to burn

• Still silently judging you

• Hopeless romantic who never once believed in love

• Follow me @eyedeadcreative

• Once had her photo taken with Todd Zeile

• Incompatible with life

• Greatest hyperbolist of all time

Write something

Write something.

Write write write something. Anything. Use words to conjure up pictures in other people’s heads and yes maybe even your own.

Stop asking why. You know why. You have to do it. It’s as much an instinct for you as blinking and breathing are. Can you imagine how awful it would be if one day you woke up and you couldn’t muster the energy to blink or breathe anymore? Your eyeballs would shrivel up in your head and you’d die. That is going to happen to the interesting part of your soul if you don’t write something soon.

Take a sip, loosen your standards.

Write write write, what can we write about?

Last night on Radiolab they were talking about laughter and how Aristotle thought it was our ability to laugh that made us human and apart from the other beasts. But Aristotle, while boasting a badass name, was wrong. Laughter is certainly a weird thing when you really think about, physiologically, what is happening during a fit of laughter. But laughter isn’t a uniquely human thing. Why would it be? Animals laugh and play and experience joy, too. I figure the only thing that makes us truly human is our capacity for self-sabotage. May science prove me wrong.

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Is there a medication that kills ennui? Or transforms it into courage?

Actually, I don’t think ennui is what I have. I have the opposite, sort of: So many huge things I want to do but seemingly no time at all in which to do them, which creates a kind of crushing suffocation and a world that both zips around you and never seems to change.

So, what, like, mushrooms?

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I’ve been thinking of all kinds of one-sentence bios for myself lately. Or are they epitaphs? Maybe that is the same thing.

• Incapable of sitting like a lady

• Liquid courage, solid shame

• Unimaginably bad at fantasy football

• Cannot pronounce “library” without total emotional and mental focus

• Hack

• Completely, breathlessly, incontrovertibly in love with adverbs

• Never even touched a banjo :(

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I saw “Boyhood” a few weeks ago. The only movie I’ve seen in a theater all year. It was lovely. I know everyone knows that already. Richard Linklater is my spirit animal. These are random thoughts. I got giddy when I saw the Lamar Sorrento painting on Ethan Hawke’s wall. That kid playing Mason could not be cuter and the adult playing Mason could not be cuter. Patricia Arquette’s boobs could not be bigger. I know that before I am able to accept it, my own boy will be bigger than I ever imagined. It’s terrifying, in the way a roller coaster is when you are at the top of that first peak. I suppose I am lucky in that I like roller coasters.

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I’m not dreaming lately. I hate hate hate that.

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I saw someone from my deep past last weekend and I went up and said hello and he wouldn’t even look at me. It was painfully awkward. I tried to talk to him and he kept looking past me, into the distance, obviously wishing I’d just go away. I left feeling like complete shit. He won.

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The older I get the more my family breaks down. Lately some things have happened that I’ve not even been able to fully process, much less address. This one thing I had in my childhood that set me apart from so many — this solid, loving, close-knit family — has dissolved. It breaks my heart. I know nothing is permanent, but damn.

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I’m tired of layoffs.

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I miss taking photos, constant photos. You see the world differently when you are behind a lens. When you get out of that habit, the world goes a little flat.

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I haven’t traveled anywhere in a good long while. I was supposed to take a road trip recently and it fell apart in spectacular fashion and didn’t actually happen. We are going to the Smokies in a couple of weeks for a little bit, but I am pining to see something new, to breathe the air of a place I’ve never been. I want to know why no one will just pay me to wander around aimlessly. I would have made an incredible trust-fund kid.

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Wrapping up a random post is difficult. It’s 1 a.m. and the boy will be up at 7:30 and I’m really doing myself no favors by staying up, considering the insane workday ahead of me.

Let’s end with a photo of this guy, whose smile could power a grid. He’s in such a big way lately. So many new words and phrases and such a sweet attitude most of the time. My heart.

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Unexpected momentum

Status: I'm doing fine.

Tonight I was leaving work and taking the stairs because the elevator is out, and I caught a glimpse of myself in the stairwell window. And I was sort of taken aback by the sight of myself — my hair is long, suddenly; I’m in long sleeves, suddenly; I wear glasses, suddenly, except I have for so very long now and have yet to get used to the idea — and the sight made me happy for once. Like every other person ever, I tend to go negative when faced with a reflective surface. But for some reason tonight looking up and seeing my reflection was a comfort. I am a living, breathing, working, questioning, hoping being. I learn things every single day and it’s been a long time since I’ve been truly bored. I’m working so insanely hard these days and trying to be a good parent and daughter and sibling and partner. So much is happening right now in my family and professional life that it’s kind of impossible to lasso. Someday I hope to be able to write about it all (The Great Family Insanity of Mid-2014) but in my old and wizened state, I am trying to let dust settle when I can before kicking it back up again. (My employers circa 2009 would be so proud to hear this, I bet!)

It’s kind of insane the degree to which so many things have fallen apart these past few weeks. But it’s equally insane the degree to which so many things are getting set up to happen. Potentially. Although, maybe not. That’s the problem with potential.

And while I have to mourn the loss of things that can’t ever be the same again, I’m not afraid. We keep moving forward until we don’t move anymore. That’s what we do. If I’ve learned anything it’s that This Is What We Do, even when we don’t have any clue what we’re doing.

That comforts me. Because tonight I saw someone in the window reflection who clearly understood that.

Publication titles endorsed by the Nashville Scene*

Football, You Middle-Class Folks to Whom No Specific Class, Sex or Race Can Be Assigned
A tab devoted to (insanely inferior) American football, obviously

The Self-Loathing Southerner
A section in which every Southern comfort is given its slow and painful comeuppance because we hate everything about being Southern, except the righteous indignation that comes from being forever an underdog

Grass to Mouth
A section devoted to locally sourced foodstuffs

Pith in the Whinge
A blog in which every perceived imperfection in the local alt-weekly is pointed out in painstaking detail by a writer from the daily

*not actually endorsed by anyone

Open letter to an old lover

Photo on 9-15-14 at 11.09 PM #3
We used to gaze at each other for hours, lit by curiosity and liquid crystal.

Forgive me for bringing this up so suddenly. I know it’s been a while.

It’s just that tonight on the drive home I got to thinking about the times we shared, and how I discovered so much of myself through you, with you. And how much I pine for those days. They were simpler. We were learning so much so quickly about each other that, looking back, our break was inevitable. How could we have been prepared?

I didn’t realize it was over until it had been for some time. I had a baby and took a new job and you busied yourself with your own evolution. It’s fine. It’s not my fault and it’s not yours. It just happened.

I ached for you in ways that weren’t even obvious to me at first. There was a void where you used to bring me things. Not necessarily valuable things; I am not the kind of gal who’s swayed by shiny things (although bring me a tacky costume ring that glints in the sunlight and I might love you for life because I am forever a 7-year-old girl at the fair). It was the ideas and concepts you used to bring me that I missed the most. Where had they gone? They were still out there, sure, but they just didn’t find their way to me through you as easily anymore. So I walked around not knowing about amazing things, all the time. Can you imagine? Awful.

Remember how we would stay up all night gazing at each other and sharing ideas? You’d watch me sip cheap wine and I’d become looser with my words and in fits of courage and stupidity say things to you that I’d sometimes regret the next morning. Nothing necessarily hurtful, just silly things only vocalized by the comfortable and inebriated. You made me feel so free back then. You encouraged me to write ambiguously worded open letters to inanimate objects. You never interrupted, you rarely judged (or at least didn’t tell me if you did), and you made me feel heard and understood. I have never forgotten that. Although I have forgotten how to be that. I try sometimes. The shoes fit weird these days, for so many reasons.

Anyway, I know this is probably embarrassing you. You thought the past was buried and that we had moved on to bigger, brighter things. You’re all over the place now, even more so than before. Even harder to pin down. That’s OK; you don’t have to feel bad about it. It’s for the best; you are (should be) a force for good and I am trying to not be selfish by wanting to keep you the way you were before, when it felt like you were made for me.

Internet, I have missed you so fucking much but nothing is the same. Do you realize that this time 10 years ago, our parents and employers were not even allowed on Facebook? Do you remember? That was like some kind of golden age, lost to legend and a hundred thousand Farmville requests now. Do you remember you and me, how we used to just shoot the shit about nothing but, through our silliness, open up so many slices of the world to examine, one by one? We had this really intense thing for so long and now I have to work up liquid courage to even talk to you on a level that is not completely superficial. I am awkward around you and unsure of myself. I’m in middle school again, except I’ve got the cynical conscience of a thirtysomething constantly hissing “What is the point???” to everything I try to say to you.

Ah, there it is. You just recoiled a little bit. It was subtle — you’re not trying to hurt my feelings — but I saw it. I know, I’m making you uncomfortable and being a little clingy and overly nostalgic. I think maybe you used to like that about me because it showed my sincerity, when I would get so overeager about memory and meaning. It’s true; when I find something I like, or even something I don’t like, I can get a little too excited. Can you queue up that scene from “Tommy Boy” where he kills his sale? Awesome, thanks! You have always been so good at that. Anyway. Emotionally, I am Tommy Boy. It’s funny because it’s true.

So, none of this is meant to make you feel bad for how things have turned out. I’m not asking you to change, and I’m not begging for our old relationship back. I’ve changed, you’ve changed. The whole world has changed. I just wanted you to know that I haven’t forgotten the way things were. And as old and sad as it makes me feel, I wish I could get that time back, when it was just you and me figuring things out and being silly in the middle of the night. With no fear.

LT

‘This is it’

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“What the Living Do” by Marie Howe

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won’t work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up
waiting for the plumber I still haven’t called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It’s winter again: the sky’s a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living-room windows because the heat’s on too high in here and I can’t turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

I’ve been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss—we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I’m gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I’m speechless:
I am living. I remember you.