due diligence

Brain: I just decided to name your bike Sid the Vicious Cycle, so I'm gonna go ahead and take the rest of the day off, cool?

Me: Hm. Should we maybe Google to see if someone else got there first? Might just be worth a long lunch.

Brain: No. I'm the only one to think of that, ever.

Me: Okay. See you later.

your next mission

This morning I posted my ski boots on Craigslist. They hadn't seen the light of a snowy day in a very, very long time. They say that if you don't use something for six months, you should get rid of it. I hadn't used these in six years. Plus they were a gift from my former in-laws, a pair of individuals with whom I have zero pleasant associations.

Terence hates getting rid of things. Just a few days ago I went on a clean/purge spree and he rescued a weird, small, mysterious halogen bulb from the trash where I'd tossed it. "What are you doing?" I said. "We don't even know what that goes to. It doesn't have a regular screw-in base."

"It must be from one of your lights," he said. "I'll return it to Samy's Camera. They can use it."

I gaped at him, trying to comprehend. "What are you talking about? You don't even know what it's for! You're going to drive forty five minutes and spend gas money returning what's probably a five dollar bulb? They're going to look at you like you're crazy." I didn't add what I wanted to, which was that if he's got forty-five minutes to spare, I know some baseboards that could use wiping. Physician heal thyself, or some shit.

But that's just another inverted mirror we see each other in. Hoarder vs. purger. Every time I start a new pile for Goodwill, Terence worries over my discards. "But what if you need that?" he'll say, watching me stuff a tutu into the bag. "What if you go to, I don't know, a tutu party?"

This exasperates me. He'd probably say it's optimism at the heart of that thought, but I see fear. Fear of letting go, of moving ahead into the unknown. Of saying goodbye to tangible, touchable remnants of good times. And anyway, a tutu party? Yeah, maybe. But packing for every random contingency in life sounds like a really cumbersome way to move through it.

He asked whether I'd made the Craigslist ad funny, as I usually try to do. (In college I posted a flyer in my apartment building's laundry room trying to unload a fish tank. "From non-smoking home, housed non-smoking fish." I got a call a day later from a guy in the complex who didn't want the fish tank, but wanted to meet the girl who wrote "non-smoking fish". I had a boyfriend, but the lesson stuck. Funny gets love.)

Not really, I texted back. Though I did include a crack about obviously not skiing much lately, so I sent him the link so he could read my post.

I like the intrigue of why you used them just once in 2009. :)

LOL. I should imply a torrid affair with a ski instructor. Brief but torrid.

Super spy on an Arctic mission. You held onto them awaiting your next mission.

I posted some other stuff, too. Pieces of another me that don't fit anymore. I'll get pennies on the dollar relative to what I paid for them, but their value lies in the memories they made me, anyway.

Sometimes it's hard to be honest with yourself about what you no longer need. Hard, but necessary.

succession

These are trying times we live in. Economic uncertainty, terrors domestic and foreign, and the unwanted, unaccountable, and severely disappointing replacement of the original J. Crew Cece Ballet Flat.

Just listen to heartbroken Cece loyalists such as "YYCC", who writes: I agree with the other reviewers who put low stars on this version of the Cece ballet flat. They definitely are NOT the same as the previous version...I called Customer Service... I can't walk around the city carefully goose-stepping to make sure I don't roll an ankle from my heel slipping in and out of the shoe. Bring back the original Italian makers!

Low stars indeed! To be clear, then, that's Italian = good; goose-stepping = bad.

But YYCC's disappointment is nothing compared to the crushing blow received by "blondewanderlust" when her mail arrived (assuming she wasn't off wanderlusting at the time): I was SO EXCITED to see the CeCe's back in stock on the site. I shrieked my happiness from every social media platform I am privy to; however, I giggled and danced too soon, as these re-released CeCe's are Wrong, Wrong, Wrong! They don't feel even half as nice as the other 6 pairs I own in leather or suede.

Did you hear that J. Crew? Wrong, wrong, wrong! And blondewanderlust should know, being as she is on her sixth pair. I guess when you're privy to a generous shoe budget--

Wait--hang on a moment--"Letdown" in Colorado has something to say: I've had 8 or 9 pairs of the original Italian CeCe's and they fit like gloves...These new "imported" ones have a rounded toe, instead of the original almond...Adding insult to injury? These remain the same price as the originals, but without any of the value. I was so disappointed...I'm so sorry that J. Crew has started to cut corners on their flats...I'm always willing to spend a fortune in exchange for quality!!

Um. Hm. Eight or nine pairs, you say? Ladies, this isn't a competition. I'm sure you've all had many lovely pairs of Cece flats--

I have 5 pairs of the old Cece ballerina flat... - "animus"
I have two pairs of the original Cece flats... - "msandow"
I own 3 pairs... - "Britain"
If I weren't planning on returning, this would've been my 6th pair of the Cece Ballet Flat - "AnnB"
I have these flats in just about every color, suede and leather... - "Sammie"

OKAY, OKAY, WE GET IT. You bitches collect Cece flats the way I hoard chili oil packets from the Chinese takeout place. And the updated version is causing you so much distress you've put manicured fingers to Macbook keyboards to complain about it.

127 of you have done so, in fact. One hundred and twenty-seven of the most unintentionally hilarious reviews I've ever had an hour to waste on reading. A few more favorites:

The stiching on the Emma flat also makes them look much more casual in comparison to the Cece flat...Audrey Hepburn would wear Cece flats, not Emma flats. - "Petra"

Ed note: Right you are, Petra! Hepburn's abhorrence of visible stitching is well known, and documented with a dedicated chapter in each of her biographies. Also a main point in Roger Moore's eulogy, if I'm not mistaken.

I was very disappointed to receive these flats. I already own a pair and LOVED them so I thought I would order 2 more. When I received them I noticed they are no longer made in Italy. The new Cece flats are made in Romania... - "Mickey"

Ed note: Romania? FUCKING EW.

I don't understand why the only positive review on this page is in regards to the old Cece...seems sketchy... - "ELB2"

This new version is not made in Italy and has a much cheaper look, feel and fit. If someone told me they came from a dude also displaying knock-off bags on a grubby blanket under a bridge in Hong Kong I would totally understand their origin... - "Picnic Jones"

Ed note: Oh adorable. A girl calling herself Picnic has a problem with grubby blankets.

---

Happy belated holidays, I guess? Fighting my way back to regular posting soon I hope!

PPRL: The Shipping News, by E. Annie Proulx (winner, 1994)

It took a while for The Shipping News to get its hooks in me. I was thrown off by Proulx's linguistic style, choppy and fragmented (and wonderful, once I got used to it); her powerful but challenging vocabulary choices (Petal Bear was crosshatched with longings, but not, after they were married, for Quoyle). But then the story took off, darkly comic, shocking but somehow charming, and I was happily sucked into the frigid Newfoundland landscape.

Give me an underdog any day. Give me someone lost and unsure and stumbling through life. The older the better. Give me the Quoyles of the world, trampled by the cruelty of others, sabotaged by their own poor choices. Give me quirky townspeople, big hearts who've bloomed to fullness in small places. Give me late-in-life, last-chance love. I'll take all of them in real life, any day, and sure enough in my novels. I absolutely loved The Shipping News, for all its forgivably flawed humanness. Proulx's use of metaphor on a grand scheme is absolutely stunning; volumes could be written about her iceberg-ridden, treacherous northern seascape. It's a book to curl up with right now, in the dead of winter, and be comforted by characters who've been to hell and back and are stronger for it.

A handful of topics for consideration:

the role of misfits (social, romantic, professional...)
stagnancy vs. movement
sons and fathers; the rejection of one's ancestry and/or the upholding of legacy
water - as escape, as home, as grave, as passageway...
the threat of the sea vs. its allure
the hardships of orphaned children
the role of wives tales and superstition
an unstable home (literally and figuratively)
life as a series of headlines

ups and downs

Hello.

When I was in college, perhaps the most impactful thing I learned in my composition classes is that every piece of writing should be a gift. Whether a story, an essay, a poem, an article, a blog post - whatever the subject or form. A gift. Put enough into it that the reader feels like she's been given more than a string of nouns and verbs. Innovate. Be vulnerable. Entertain, enlighten, inspire. Try, anyway.

I haven't posted much lately because I haven't had any gifts to give. It's a weird time, and I don't know how to write about it without sounding flat and dull and whiny. But the longer I stay away the unhappier I get. So at the risk of sounding flat and dull and whiny, I'll catch you up on the past few weeks in the hope that it will be like shedding a skin, dry and dead and colorless. Maybe there's something more vibrant underneath that just needs a little air.

Terence and I are still living together. It looks like we're going to ride out the lease. So that's June. Rent downtown has skyrocketed with the opening of a Whole Foods which is literally a three minute walk from our building. My old apartment? This tiny little space? It rents for over $2k now. I doubt I'll stay downtown when we move out. I'm thinking about Koreatown, or maybe Hollywood? Not sure. But right now, our loft is perfectly suited to our needs. Chaucer's, too.

We're getting along fine, for the most part. In some ways our relationship is better than it ever was before the breakup. We're more patient with one another. I think neither of us sees much use in arguing, or holding on to anger when we do argue (because we still do, occasionally.) What's the point? There's nothing to be won anymore. Whatever there was to be won has been lost, for good. And that sounds awfully nihilistic I know, but in practice it's actually rather liberating. Why resent him for being him, when soon enough he'll be gone from my life? I've let go of my expectations and am turning inward more or more, for the things I wanted from him but never got. Maybe that's what I should have done in the first place. I don't know.

Before he and Kerry moved to SF a few weeks ago, I tried to explain to Ross exactly what doesn't work about Terence and I. It's a wavelength thing, I said.

Yeah but what does that mean, he asked. He was arguing that every relationship eventually reaches a sort of staleness (though he didn't use that word). Doesn't everyone get sick of their partner eventually?

I used him and Kerry as an example. I don't know. Maybe a little? But underneath it, as long as the two people are on the same page, that gives them a sense of emotional intimacy. You guys are on the same page. I can see it every time I'm around you. The way you respond to things the same way. 

That's how I think of wavelength. When you're at a party, or in a bar or restaurant - anywhere public, with a mixed group of people. Someone says or does something, and you look up and catch your partner's eye because you know he's thinking the exact same thing. That's wavelength. It's gratifying and satisfying and, in a way, incredibly sexy. Terence and I? No wavelength. Tons of inside jokes, which I treasure. But not that organic emotional and intellectual chemistry.

Incidentally, Terence told me that on one of our last nights out with them, when he asked Ross how he and Kerry do it, Ross had said, We think of ourselves like it's us vs. the world. 

I think that's pretty amazing. It's on the the list of reasons I will miss them.

---

We had a final night out together, the four of us. Kerry had come back down only long enough to pack, and after an exhausting day of getting ready for the move the next morning, they joined us for dinner and drinks. It was supposed to be a wild last hurrah, but it never really got off the ground. The weirdness of Terence and I having broken up, the stress they were under about closing on a new house in SF - all of us were distracted and a little down. We tried, but we were bickery and short with one another. I could tell Kerry was already gone in her mind, and it was like looking at her across several zip codes, not a dinner table. But we have had so, so many fun times over the years that I was content, anyway.

They were so sweet and inclusive of Terence to the very end. Still referring to us as an "us", still inviting us up to SF to visit.

---

Part of the reason I haven't blogged is that I still spend time with Terence. We still go to shows, to dinner, watch movies, go shopping. He's still a huge part of my life, which doesn't seem to make sense if we're broken up. So writing about it feels strange, disingenuous, confusing to me, to him, to anyone reading. Are they together or not? What the hell?

We've had a hundred frank discussions about our relationship. You'd think that would help us find closure but sometimes it's more confusing than anything. One minute we'll agree that we're wrong for one another, the next we'll wonder whether anyone will ever be perfect for anyone. At what point are the good aspects of a relationship enough? At what point do you stop running - away from what's not enough, and toward what may never actually exist? Will I ever be completely happy, with anyone? The self-doubt is crippling.

I've been listening to Mother Mother a lot - kind of obsessed with them, in fact - and they have a song that pretty much captures exactly how all of this makes me feel:



---

We spent Thanksgiving together. Chaucer's nickname is Winks, so we called it Winksgiving. I brined and cooked my first turkey. It went well, except for getting confused about when to tent the breast. We did it backwards; instead of covering the bird with foil for the first half hour, we put the foil on after 30 minutes. I went for a run and while I was gone it suddenly dawned on me that we'd screwed up. I texted and called Terence frantically, but he was playing guitar and didn't hear his phone. When I got home fifteen minutes later, breathless and sweaty, I ran to the oven and yanked the door open. "We had it backwards!" I cried. "It's supposed to be covered for the first part of cooking!" We ripped the foil tent off the turkey and oh my god. It was like yanking a toupee off a bald man. The sides and back were a gorgeous golden brown, but the breast on top was pale and white. Fucking hilarious, but me being the oversensitive idiot I am, I started crying. I'd so wanted it to be perfect. Thanksgiving to me has strong associations with my mother; I'd felt close to her all day, thinking she'd be so proud of my cooking. Then here I go messing it up so badly. But it was fine. We were laughing about it within five minutes. And Chaucer was spoiled so rotten - giblets, dark meat, yams...

---

Some of my AZ friends came to town, and it was like breathing pure oxygen for four days straight. I was dizzy with joy. Such an unbelievable good time. We didn't even do much; dinner, drinks, screwing around in bars and hotel rooms. But it was a mixed group, some newer friends who don't know all the old mythology of our friendship - stories which go back twenty years, in some cases. So we spent the weekend telling those tales to them, to one another. Reliving, reconnecting, laughing endlessly. At one point we all were piled on a heap on the bed, drunk and high and still in our going-out clothes. I told the story of how I'd come to be friends with Mason - it is a doozy of a story - and everyone was just captivated, quiet and listening. Just sharing the genesis of that friendship made me feel more whole than I've felt in a long time. It's good to remember where you came from, especially when you're not sure where you are.

I spent most of the weekend with my friends alone, though Terence joined us for the last night. I can't deny what a blast that was, too. The place we'd intended to hit was closed for a private party, so we found ourselves marooned in Hollywood, out of our minds and not quite sure where to go. We ended up in a biker bar, randomly singing The Cure and joking around with tatted up strangers before finding a nearly-empty nightclub that we shut down, the dance floor happily to ourselves.

---

The business idea I have - I am still working at it. It's become a bit of a logistical nightmare. Lots more challenges than I foresaw, but I still believe in it. Trying to overcome one hurdle at a time and not get discouraged. Everyone I tell thinks there's huge potential in it so I'm not giving up yet.

I hate to be a tease about it but that's all I can say right now. Argh.

---

And here is what some of the past few weeks has looked like:























---

Riveting stuff, right? Woman Lives Life, Is Reminded it Features Ups and Downs.

See above, re: gifts.

PPRL: Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson (winner, 2005)

I wasn't thrilled by Gilead, or even greatly entertained - but I was moved by it, in a way. It's a thoughtful and thought-provoking novel, full of gentle humor and graceful characterization. It made me miss my friend Bill, written as it is from the perspective of an elderly man reflecting on the life lessons he's accumulated over his many years. Bill is as wise as Gilead's protagonist, as patient and generous of spirit. Many of the book's best lines reminded me of things I've heard him say. Even Bill's conversational tic of ending with Well, anyway... came to mind as I read; the narrator has a similar style of punctuating his thoughts with the same sort of humble, verbal shrug.

Some excerpts I found particularly poignant, beautiful, or relatable:

A little too much anger, too often or at the wrong time, can destroy more than you would ever imagine.

You can know a thing to death and be for all purposes completely ignorant of it. A man can know his father, or his son, and there might still be nothing between them but loyalty and love and mutual incomprehension. 

Sometimes I have loved the peacefulness of an ordinary Sunday. It is like standing in a newly planted garden after a warm rain. You can feel the silent and invisible. life. All it needs from you is that you take care not to trample on it. 

A good sermon is one side of a passionate conversation.

Sometimes the visionary aspect of any particular day comes to you in the memory of it, or it opens to you over time. 

Material things are so vulnerable to the humiliations of decay. 

It was as though there were a hoard of quiet in that room, as if any silence that ever entered that room stayed in it. 

It is one of the best traits of good people that they love where they pity.

...we all do live in the ruins of the lives of other generations...

There are a thousand thousand reasons to live this life, every one of them sufficient.

Ideas for discussion:

Compare the Christ-like qualities of the narrator with those of his grandfather.

How are the narrator's efforts to be closer to God manifested in his words and his choices?

How is this a book about finding one's father - literally, figuratively, and spiritually? (think fathers as gods, fathers as teachers, fathers as equals...)

The narrator is particularly preoccupied with his volumes of written sermons. At times he seems proud of them; at others, humility trumps and he considers o having them burned. Other material items from the church - as well as the church's structure itself - seem to concern him, too. What makes a thing holy, in his eyes? Mere ownership, or something more? What is the role of pride in all of this? Of ego?

Explore how Gilead is a meditation on the difference between the way things look and how they really are.

Discuss how the novel expresses that sometimes it is the things we've lost that actually stay closest to us.

Paper topic: water as metaphor (baptism, rain, the thunderstorm that shut down the baseball game, sprinklers, etc).

In what sense is Gliead itself a sermon? What could be considered its central message?

Much of the book's action takes place in another time, and is only relayed through remembrance and flashback. How does this structuring affect the mood and tone? How does it limit or enhance what Robinson seems to want to convey?