Showing posts with label creative. Show all posts
Showing posts with label creative. Show all posts

I'm a dime. I'm fine.

Sitting cross-legged on the rug, she tipped the oversized mason jar once used for cold brew coffee onto the floor. The sound made the dog look up briefly before dropping his head again.

An avalanche of copper. A buck or so of nickels, dull and thick in their near worthlessness. She spread the pile with her fingertips to unearth what was left of those precious glinting slivers. Dimes were always her favorite. Tidy little discs that like to hide behind pennies, surprise you in a winking flash. That pleased feeling of suddenly jumping ten cents closer to the object of one's vending machine desire.

There were no quarters. Quarters had their own special home, in the footed antique desert dish where they gathered strength in numbers before giving their lives in service of clean sheets, socks, sweats.

The indignity of the moment bit, though she re-packaged it cheerfully as frugality. Legit a week's worth of Metro rides in here! She glanced at the dog, as if to check whether he could read her true thought, which was closer to a solitary, sighing Christ. If so, he remained poker-faced about it.

A curious imposter in the jumble of coins peered up at her: a lone googly eye. Lidless. Lost. Laughing? Oh, knock it off. Don't be dramatic. No bigger than the nail of her pinky finger. Hard transparent shell protecting a flat black circle. She resisted an urge to crush it with her thumb, watch the clear plastic turn milky the way it will when bent. Cheap things give easily under pressure.

Instead she picked it up and carried it to the kitchen trash. It wouldn't help her get to work in the morning, and she doubted she'd come across its mate any time soon.

forest story, Part II

The next move is obvious. Prescribed, even. Conceived by some bolder, more seductive version of herself lured from hiding by the intent eyes of a stranger in plaid.

But as she composes the message for his delivery boy, Riley questions her verve. Where is she going with this, anyway? Will she follow through? Does she even want to? The illicit thrill of committing mutiny with Baxter just inches away in the driver's seat is too delicious, though. She hits send.

Tell your boss I'll come drink his moonshine, but only if he does NOT sell my boss that trash can. 

Her heart thumps. Shots fired.

Ok will do, comes the reply at once. Would you like me to give him your number, or make him wait?

Another flutter of inspiration. The tenth muse is hovering close. The Muse of Modern Flirtation.

You can keep it as collateral for now. Give it to him on Friday...but only if he's nice to you for the rest of the week.

It's hard not to smile at the scene she knows she's just created. She can picture the laughter, the teasing that has doubtlessly erupted amongst the lumberyard crew. The proprietor's pleased grin. He's handsome, yes, but substantially older than his strapping--and also handsome--young assistants. Riley knows this will constitute a win for him. And she enjoys giving it to him.

After a pause during which she imagines the colorful exchange between employer and employee, an affirmation of her thrown-down gauntlet comes back: I like how you think.

Riley is barely aware of the ride back to the office.

---

Thursday, just after ten a.m. The optimistic ping! of an incoming text. Riley unlocks her phone.

He wanted me to send you these pictures and tell you he was up all night making moonshine for you.

A kitchen counter. Vials, rubber tubing. A gallon glass jug nearly full of yellowish fluid. Riley ignores all of it, honing in on other, much more interesting clues to this stranger's life. The clean, white subway tile backsplash. An expensive looking gas range. A vintage surfboard propped against a wood-paneled wall. And most curiously, a vase teeming with the elegant stalks of peach-pink peonies.

She stares. They're her absolute favorite. What are the chances? And why on earth? A single, straight man buying himself cut flowers? Riley decides to fish a little, when she does reply--but she waits until nearly 3pm to do so.

Tell him his flower arrangement is very pretty... But the intermediary doesn't pick up on her sarcastic implication.

Are you going to be there when I deliver the beams? I'm leaving here now to bring them.

I'm not, no. Riley wonders whether, if she were, there'd be something for her to receive as well as Baxter. Maybe it's the flowers, she thinks. Maybe they're for me? She decides to give the mystery moonshiner the benefit of the doubt. His advances were much too direct to be hiding a wife or girlfriend.

Impulsively, she continues: But tomorrow when you see him, tell him I just signed the lease on a new apartment, a 1920s building with what I believe are original hardwood floors. Tell him I could use his advice on how best to care for them. She sends a photo of her new place, the richly grained floor striking in the empty space. He might have to do the consultation in person, though. Oh, and he can have my number...as soon as he let you guys go home for the day.  

---

Friday, at the office. Riley's phone lights up with a unrecognized number. She swipes the screen.

The flowers are for you. I hope you like peonies.

She looks at the time. It isn't even noon. Has he really let his employees go a full half day early, just to get her number that much sooner?

I guess there's no point in not admitting that they're my favorite. 

Too bad you made me wait to get your number. They're a bit wilted now. And I only just today got the picture of your floors. If I'd had that sooner I'd have delivered them in person to your door once I tracked you down. That seemed a little stalkerish, though, so I figured I should wait to be invited in.

Well that's a bold claim. You really think based on a pic of my floor you could find me? Lots of old buildings in this city. Either way, here's a better shot. Though I won't be walking on them for a couple weeks yet. 

Riley, thoroughly enjoying herself, watches the phone as he types his reply. When it comes, however, her smile evaporates and her jaw drops, as she sees her street address pop up in the message window. Then, a second later, a link to the Craiglist ad for her very apartment. The one she'd just signed a lease on.

Are we really going to make me wait a couple more weeks? I'm a pretty popular guy walking around with all these flowers.

Gobsmacked, flattered, upended, and slightly nervous, Riley shakes her head. Okay I'm impressed.

By the way, I believe the floors are 3.25" face CVG Douglas Fir. Haphazardly replaced with a knotty pine. 

Okay, I'm *really* impressed.

Good. You're meant to be. Now, when are you free? You can come to Santa Monica tonight and drink my moonshine, or if you'd like, come with me to the forest tomorrow to look for wood.

The next move is obvious, too.

forest story, part I

Wednesday, middle of May. A lumberyard in the valley. Riley descends lazily from the cab of the car into stultifying heat. She winces as her crisp white tennis shoes sink thickly into the grit. Her sweater, a necessity in the chill of Baxter's frigid office, begs to be shed, but the only thing underneath it is a clingy, strappy tank top. No.

Riley allows her boss to charge ahead, his mission and vision clear, as ever, only to himself. Whatever impossibly specific standards he has for this, his latest project, her input will only be shrugged off. Better to let him wear himself out, and give in, bitterly, to some substandard offering--or conversely, be the sole victor in his quest. Riley need only stay out of his way--and his wrath--and she'll live to die another day.

Baxter, knowing what he wants, inspects stack after stack of wood while Riley, shielding her eyes in the glare, inspects the property. Squared-off logs in haphazard heaps. Old wood, deep and darkly hued in chocolate, amber, red, and Riley's favorite, weathered taupe. The beams are menacingly splintered but undeniably sturdy. Grand, even, if two-by-fours can be grand. This is not Home Depot. This is a place for connoisseurs, artisans, and the aesthetically-obsessed, eco-minded design buff. Riley once again gives a begrudging tip of the hat to Baxter's taste.

Something about this place, though. Something familiar and warm. She's just about to puzzle it out when a booming, friendly voice fills the space just to her right. "And who might you be?" Riley turns to an eyeful of man, a great hulk of muscle and flannel and ruddy beard. An honest-to-goodness lumberjack, peeled straight from the paper towel's label. He carries a box spilling over with what appear to be tubes and glass beakers. Everything about his comportment says good humor and confidence, including the blue eyes that are definitely twinkling at the presence of such an unexpected fish out of water.

Riley accepts the challenge. "Me? I'm nobody. He's the one you have to worry about." She nods ahead toward a scowling Baxter, hunched over in examination of a particularly hefty beam.

The man at her side gives her a curious half smile. "Oh, I doubt that very much," he rejoins, but allows Riley to drop back while he greets the customer on his lot. As they confer, Riley's attention returns to her surroundings. To the shambles of a cabin with a wraparound porch, from which strains of Led Zeppelin pour like spilled whiskey. To the cutting table, where two young men, her juniors by a decade, face off across an expanse of raw timber. They, like their boss, are piqued by Riley's appearance in their dusty workstation. Riley is aware of this, and feels a flush of self-consciousness. The flush deepens when she notices their boss, ostensibly in conversation with her boss, is staring directly at her. Something is going on here. There is a buzz in the air that has nothing to do with circular saws.

And in a rush, the familiarity gains a name. Bonnaroo. This feels like fucking Bonnaroo. Good old boys. Sunshine. Music.

But something more demanding than putting a label to this colorful scene is pulling at Riley's attention, and for once it's not Baxter. It's the lumberyard's owner, who is positively refusing to avert his eyes from her. Riley hasn't been the object of such unbridled and shameless scrutiny in a long time. She flushes again, uncomfortable in all the right ways.

A transaction unfolds. Protracted, of course, because Baxter being Baxter has demand on top of demand as pertains to cost, cutting, delivery. Throughout the sale Riley tries to adopt a casual, meandering attitude, as if politely interested in the wood's age (five hundred years) and value (three hundred dollars) but not acutely aware of the chemistry between herself and its vendor. But it's no good. The chemistry is electric, and Riley is pretty sure everyone including her boss has caught onto it.

She fetches the checkbook from the car, ditching her sweater and the last shreds of pretense along with it. Fuck it, she thinks, striding into the cabin where she finds herself alone with a very intense, very interested man she estimates as having at most five years on her. Neither of them say a word at first, as Riley thumbs through the binder to a blank invoice. Then: "Sorry for the mess. I'm making moonshine."

"Of course you are." She shakes her head. She can't help it. The man is a caricature.

"Would you like to come back and try it, when it's done?" He teasingly withholds her pen as he asks this. The two hundred dollar pen Baxter insists on her using, despite her protestations, because he likes how "official" it makes her look. Riley lets the full weight of the man's gaze lock her in place. The air in the cabin feels thicker than honey, and just as sweet. Almost unbreathable. Almost. But before she can choose her own adventure, the screen door clatters, interrupting the flow of honey.

Baxter, ignoring or perhaps truly ignorant of the moment he's walked in on, has another demand. He wants to buy the vintage steel trashcan sitting outside on the porch. Lidded, with ribbed sides and just the right faded patina, it's the sort of charming antique that will go perfectly at his ranch house. He wants it, and he wants to know how much for it.

"Not for sale," replies the proprietor, much to Riley's surprise.

"Sure it is. Everything's for sale. How much?" Naturally, the refusal only inflames Baxter's desire to obtain.

"Honestly, I'd never planned on selling it. I'd have to think about it." Riley is loving this. Baxter not getting what he wants? Delicious. So rare and so delicious.

"Okay well you decide on a price, and have your guy deliver it along with the beam. I'll pay him cash for it then." Baxter, having arrogantly declared a presumptive win, clatters back out. Apparently taking with him some of Riley's verve, because suddenly she can think of nothing to say to this man, this tower of hypermasculinity, other than, "Here's your check." And with that, she steps back outside, flustered and unsure.

The stranger picks up the slack, though, and offers a final parting shot. "If you wanna try that moonshine, you're gonna have to leave me your number." He calls this out loudly, right in front of his employees. Right in front of her boss. Again his directness brings color to Riley's cheeks. Thankfully by now she's found her moxie again, and calls coolly over her shoulder: "I'll give it to your boy when he makes the delivery." She walks backward for a few final moments of eye contact between them before turning away, breaking the spell.

Well, this was fun. 

Riley congratulates herself on some top-notch flirting, undecided as of yet whether she'll pursue the lead. Either way, worth the dirt on her shoes.

Definitely worth the dirt on her shoes.

labor of love

Something different today. Something I had intended to share earlier this year, thought under different circumstances. But things don't always work out the way we intend or hope. And that's okay. And I'm still very proud of what I created, even if it didn't pan out as a profitable enterprise.

Remember when I spoke about a business I was starting? Well, I had what I thought was a fantastic idea. And I still do think it's pretty cool. But there are just too many variables to make it feasible. And so after many months of frustration, of trying to hack my way through those variables, I had to admit it isn't going to happen. Not in its current iteration anyway.

First, some background.

A couple of years ago, inspired by flat-lay collages I saw online, I decided to compile outfits of my own. Over the course of a couple of Red Bull-and-EDM fueled days, I pulled all the clothing out of my closet and arranged it in neat groupings that I photographed on my desk. Nothing revelatory, I know. Lots of people do that, particularly fashion bloggers. But after I'd uploaded all the pics to my phone, I showed a couple of girlfriends, and they both responded the same way: "Awesome. I wish someone would do that for me."

Both of these women are working professionals, and neither would have the time (and maybe not the patience) to do this for themselves. And when one of them said, "Seriously, you could charge people for a service like that," I had the exact same (admittedly dim, because I never think any of my efforts are really all that great) sort of lightbulb moment as I had when someone said I could charge people to redesign their blogs (resulting in Rainy Day Templates). Hmmm. I wonder...

And that's how Trove was born.

Sort of.

Trove wasn't actually born until a couple years later, because I shelved the idea for a very long time before dusting it off to really examine it again. The reason I pulled down off the shelf? Stylebook. If you've never heard of it, Stylebook is an app for visually cataloging your clothing, and easily compiling it into outfits. It's absolutely fantastic and super useful...once you get past the incredibly tiresome task of photographing every. single. item. of. clothing. you. own.

When I discovered Stylebook, I re-shot all of my garments separately. And holy hell was it tedious and time-consuming. But once it was done and I could use the app, it was amazing. So much fun. And I instantly saw that someone could make a business out of doing the grunt work, for professional women who had no inclination to do it for themselves, so that those women could then enjoy the fruits of all that grunt work. I thought about fashion bloggers and stylists, too. Even costume designers. I saw the market for it.

At that stage of the game, I still thought flat lay was the way to go. But that didn't last long. I realized after a few weeks of playing around that I wanted something that would look spectacular. Magazine-quality images. Something visually appealing and fun and interactive.

That's when mannequins came into the picture.

There's not much point in walking you through the process from there, because it's very easy to see where I was going. My idea was to inventory garments one by one styled on an actual mannequin for shape, and under professional lighting for accurate color representation. I would then edit the images to remove the mannequin completely, leaving a "ghosted out" garment. These images could then be used by clients in apps like Stylebook (because by then, other similar apps had emerged onto the market) to easily and quickly create outfits.

Only, it's not as simple as it sounds. Because women and their clothing? Come in lots of different sizes. And you can't put a size 0/2 top on a size 6/8 mannequin, without stretching it out. And here's a fact you might not know, because you haven't spent about a hundred hours in mannequin factories like I have--mannequins don't even come in size 0/2.

And there are a whole other host of insurmountable issues I'm eclipsing. Loads of problems related to dress forms (yep, tried those), mannequin shapes, lighting, the technological obstacles, and much more that I'm skipping over. Bottom line: it is all but impossible to do what I want do to, large scale. I'd need a ton of resources. I'd need a studio where I could have an army of different sized mannequins, plus bins and racks and tables for temporarily storing clothing. I'd need a small team of employees to help with the steaming, the dressing and undressing. If you've never fought to pull a pair of skinny jeans onto a rigid, lifeless mannequin--trust me, you never want to.

And this isn't even touching the subject of editing the images, which I planned to outsource, because OH MY GOD the tediousness of background removal, even with how powerful Photoshop is.

Oh yeah, and the problems of where, how, and how quickly to accomplish the inventory. Would you want some stranger coming in and packing up all of your clothing for a few days? Maybe if you saw how glorious the rewards were...but maybe not.

Also, and perhaps that which is most important: It became glaringly apparent throughout my efforts that I simply do not have the temperament or discipline to work for myself.

Anyway, that was my idea. I got as far as doing my own entire closet for sampling and exampling, and creating a pretty gorgeous website (if I do say so myself). You can see it for yourself here (I'm particularly proud of the copy, so if anything please read the "about" page), but here are a few screenshots, too:






The silver lining that came from this dead end, of course, is that my own wardrobe has been beautifully inventoried, and I can use the Stylebook app exactly how I'd envisioned others using it. And you guys, it is an absolute pleasure. The only way you can fully appreciate how it works is by watching me use it, so I just made this quick, super crappy video just to demonstrate (it keeps timing out here but you should be able to watch it on YouTube):



Again, when Trove still seemed like a viable business idea, I had every intention of making an amazing video that would showcase how cool it is. But yeah. No. Trove is not a viable business idea. Which is a bummer, not the least because it dovetails so well with minimalism and especially capsule wardrobing.

But that was (is) Trove. Defunct pursuit. Abandoned concept. Labor of love.

the queen and the viscount

The queen is fucking the viscount, and the whole court knows about it. We do our best to act like we don't, but they're getting sloppy. Unsealed missives. Garden dalliances in the full glare of moonlight. We look away when they exchange simpering glances, keeping our own faces blank. But the stink of their self-satisfaction--that we cannot escape.

Honestly I think she wants everyone to know. Everyone but the king, of course. One by one she draws aside her handmaids, demanding to know what we've seen, what we've heard. Oh, nothing untoward m'lady, we lie, and the sluttish twinkle in her eye betrays the delight she takes in this facade. But we value our heads, so we keep the lips on them sealed. We don't tell her what the viscount does when she's away. Which is much, and ugly. There are casualties of his "affection" from the galley to the stables.

The queen fancies herself a coquette, but too many years have passed for that. Too many babies born. The velvet at her waist pinches, the rouge creases on her cheek. The seamstress told us she's had the lace of her cuffs lengthened to hide withering hands. No more is she the apple-cheeked ingenue freshly arrived at our shores, her dowry the promise of war avoided.

And the viscount, well. Have you ever admired a stallion far off in the paddock, only to see when it approaches that it is, in fact, a gelding?

Then you know our illustrious viscount.

How To Simultaneously Create a Great Birthday Gift and Conquer Mild Social Anxiety at a Party

MATERIALS NEEDED

- smart phone 
- alcohol
- more alcohol
- video editing app 
- maybe a little more alcohol?

INSTRUCTIONS

1) While your friend is otherwise occupied, introduce yourself around to his or her guests and quietly explain that you're creating a video as a surprise present. Say you'd be grateful if they'd contribute a few minutes of their time, to record either a best wishes message, share a funny story, relay a favorite memory, or just tell the thing they love most about the birthday guy/girl. Tell them you'll give them some time to think about what they'd like to say, and you'll check back in a little while.

2) If the party is being held in someone's home, find the host and explain what you're up to. Ask if there's a quiet room or hallway that you can use.

3) Make sure everyone you plan on recording is getting good and drunk. 

4) Optional: record footage of the party and the guest of honor with his/her friends, to mix into the video.

5) When the party starts to get loud and raucous, it's time to start collecting messages. Slyly spirit guests - solo or in small groups - off to the quietest, most out of the way spot you can. 

6) See that big red button? Hit it. Repeat as necessary. 

7) Edit your masterpiece. iMovie is perfect for this sort of thing. You can easily import vids, trim and filter them, add titles, transitions and music, etc. 

8) Put the finished movie on a thumb drive for your friend, along with a separate folder containing the unedited clips in case they'd like those, too.

9) Enjoy your friend's delight and pat yourself on the back for putting aside your fears and mingling (sort of, anyway) at a party. 

---

It's Krista's birthday and these are her friends, so it's not my place to share the finished movie. But I'm really pleased with how it came out so I can't resist posting some screenshots. It's the second time I've done this for someone (though this time I got much fancier with it) and while the editing afterward can take some time, trust me it's worth it for the reaction. Krista texted tonight after finding it on her door, and her response made my day: I'd call you but I'm still choking. IDK what to say. I watched it again and cried more. I love it so much. I'll cherish that forever, seriously. 

Notes: I used the option to embed one video on top of another (again, in iMovie, right on my phone) and slowed the speed down on those smaller vids to 1/2. This gave a really cool contrast between the two windows, and the slower motion made the party scenes look extra pretty. I ended with a clip of Krista blowing out her candles and making a speech. Happy to explain anything in more specific steps to anyone who needs it - just email me!

















ghost

His ambition was the first thing she told her parents about. Then it was just a nugget of a promise, a wink at some future time when their security would depend on hers. Fledgling though it was, oh was it precious to her. It was every disappointed sigh, shoved back down their throats. It was the exemplary report card she'd never brought home. It was her ticket away, and above - far, far above.

Satisfied with the achievement of it, she promptly retired her own.

She slipped it around her neck like an amulet, a charm against her own uselessness. When she had nothing to hold onto, when anger and envy had depleted her of everything else, she clutched it tight to her chest. It thickened and gnarled into a knot that hung heavily between them. It was everything they didn't know about one another. It was everything they didn't love about one another. But they would, right? Someday? When there was more time? 

His ambition was a placeholder.

Soon it outgrew her, and she grew scared. The knot fingered into claws, scrabbling and scratching towards someplace higher than she could ever, ever reach. She chained herself to it with prayer, then blood, then fear and guilt. It dissolved everything, like acid. She looked to him for help, for reassurance that it belonged to them - but he wasn't there.

His ambition was a ghost.

lost and found

for Kayla

She knew it was missing the moment she woke up. Goddamnit, she thought. Not again. Splashes of morning collected in the twisted sheets, spilling and pooling but refusing to disappear when she pulled all four hundred threads-per-inch over her head. It warmed her in patches, soaking through the cotton, waiting cheerfully for her reemergence. I'll be here when you're ready! I'm California sunshine, and I'm utterly fucking relentless!

As always, she started with the bathroom mirror, padding barefoot across a floor that felt especially cold and hard. But it wasn't there as she held herself briefly in a series of practiced poses, angles and arcs that flattered her body's better features. Not in her stomach, forgivingly flat before breakfast, and not in her biceps, pale sinew that betrayed or belied its age depending on the light.

She looked for it in the shower, turning over thoughts like foreign coins, the flip sides of which are interesting, but rarely surprising. Nope. Not there. Not today.

Drinking coffee a little while later, she gazed around a room at furnishings chosen at no small cost of consideration or price. At books and photo albums and nearly four decades of mementos - the things that would represented her sum and substance, when she ceased to present her corporeal substance to the world anymore. But it wasn't to be found in any of that, either. (And she'd known better than to look anyway.)

It wasn't in the faces that filled her day. Not the one that supervised her on how to spend it or in those of whom she supervised herself. Not in friendly smiles, not in nods of respect, not in the appraising, approaching eyes of men on the sidewalk - glances which seemed to grow shorter all the time. She rarely returned them at all these days, for fear of experiencing just how short.

It was hiding particularly well, she realized, when not even a bit of it was to be found in her lover's eyes at the end of the day. Always the last place you look, she thought wryly, noticing how late it had gotten. A few more hours and she'd have to call off the search until tomorrow.

Then the letter came. It rang itself into her inbox with an optimistic chime, and she reached for her phone. Launched her mail app. Recognized the name. Opened the email. Read the words. Understood the import. She felt the compliment bloom in her brain, then float down to her heart where it took root and bifurcated in a single, delicious burst. To the tips of her fingers it raced, this relief in remembering that Yes, okay, sometimes it's impossible to see myself, but it is there.

It is there.

She boxed it up in steel-reinforced gratitude and copy-pasted it to the clipboard of her mind, where it would be easily accessible for at least another twelve hours before slinking off in the dead of night, luring her into the next round of hide-and-go-seek.

applesauce

A boy and a girl went apple picking one day, in an orchard not far from their home. They each carried an empty bushel to fill with the fruit of their choosing, and wore smiles befitting a sunny afternoon.

The boy made his selections with care, examining each for ripeness, for color and shine, before twisting, pulling, and placing it gently in his bin. He worked slowly, peering up through the branches in search of what would be worth the trouble to attain it. 

The girl, on the other hand, picked frequently and indiscriminately, with little regard to what she chose. Her basket was soon full, and bore evidence of a haphazard harvest in the form of bruises, wormholes, and sticky stems.

Despite having no room left, however, the girl wanted more. Seeing the boy's bin was still fairly empty, she took it and poured in half of what she'd gathered. The apples tumbled together roughly, and the boy watched silently as his own crop disappeared underneath that of the girl, who promptly turned back to the trees. 

"Don't worry," she laughed. "We're just making applesauce anyway."

They left the orchard a little while later, two bushels heavier than when they'd come. It wasn't until they were nearly home that the boy realized neither of them had a pot big enough to cook all the apples they had collected at once. If they were to keep them from rotting, they'd have to boil batch after batch after batch. 

The thought of all that work made the boy hungry, so he plucked an apple from the top of his haul to munch on. The load didn't seem to get any lighter, though.

the Ugly Thing

There once was a girl who found an Ugly Thing. She wasn't looking for it. She just came across it one day on her walk. Rather than go around the Ugly Thing, she approached it, curious. As she got nearer, she saw it was even uglier up close. The girl was fascinated. She stared and stared. She walked the length of it, examining every last inch. And the more she saw how ugly it was, the prettier she felt.

Every day the girl would visit the Ugly Thing - sometimes more than once. She grew to know every ugly crack and every ugly crevice, until the Ugly Thing's ugliness was as familiar to her as her own beauty.

Many, many days went by. The girl grew a little bit older. She started to feel the pinch of time and watched as people she loved passed out of her life, in the ways that they sometimes must. The girl spent her walks to and from the Ugly Thing deep in thought. She thought about who she was. She thought about what she had learned, and what she still wanted to. She thought about the things she had filled her life with so far - what she'd made room for and what she had crowded out. And the girl started to feel a little sick when she realized how big a place the Ugly Thing had in her heart.

At that moment, the girl vowed to stop going to the Ugly Thing. But she knew it would be difficult, as breaking habits always is. So she tried to understand this need of hers, to see the Ugly Thing. The girl realized that every day that the Ugly Thing remained ugly was a day that she could still feel pretty - even on those days when she wasn't sure she was. Even on those days when nothing seemed true or clear, the Ugly Thing's ugliness was a reliable constant by which she could know up from down, right from wrong. Every day the Ugly Thing told her I am ugly, but you are not.

The girl felt shame. She felt disappointed in herself, that she'd come to rely on an Ugly Thing for anything, much less as a way to love herself. So the very next day, the girl sat down to make a list of all the places she could go, instead of to the Ugly Thing.

She was still writing long past the hour that she usually took her walk.

escargatoire

Monsieur Noir and his family were running late, which greatly annoyed his wife. Eglantine hated having to rush, even when it was just the two of them. With the children in tow, it was downright chaotic. Sebastian seemed determined to render himself as filthy as possible in the hour prior to dinner, requiring an unnecessarily long bath. And Genevieve refused to go anywhere without her eyestalk bows (one of which Sebastian had unraveled and commissioned as a makeshift splint for brave Private Loeffler, injured in Friday's bedtime battle). By the time they left the house, Mme. Noir was so flustered she forgot to check the mailbox for the gloating postcard she'd been expecting any day now from Santorini. Her in-laws were nothing if not reliably boastful about their travels.

"For heaven's sake, Henri, slow down. They won't give our table away at this hour." Henri ignored this, causing his wife to glance at him nervously. "You did make a reservation, n'est-ce pas?"

"Of course, darling. But you know I don't like running into the Lacombes," he replied, pronouncing with obvious distaste the name of the neighbors who tended to be found, most Sunday nights, stationed in their usual spot near the club's front door. (Mme. Lacombe, it was rumored, suffered from agoraphobia, and thus preferred to have a clear escape route.) "Jacques is always so..." M. Noir cast about for the right word to express his disdain. "...familiar."

Eglantine didn't respond. Her husband's attitude towards les parvenus was nothing new, but it never failed to chafe her. She was, after all, from the 18th arrondissement herself, the daughter of working-class slugs. Henri's blue blood, cut to fifty percent by the time it coursed the veins of his children, occasionally drained from his heart and pooled, in a most ugly fashion, around his ego. It wasn't why she'd married him, that was for certain.

The family crawled in silence, the children absorbed in a competition to see who could leave the bigger trail behind them on the sidewalk. The game took all of their concentration and, Eglantine supposed, would leave them so dehydrated that dinner would be a multiple soda affair. Oh well, she thought. At least they're being quiet.

When they found themselves, a little while later, standing before the grand double doors of Gastropodapub, Henri paused to check his reflection in the glass. Smoothing his mustache, he addressed his wife without looking at her. "Remember cherie, je ne veux pas parler avec les Lacombes ce soir." And then, as if the idea had come to him like a pleasant memory forgotten, he leaned over to kiss her cheek.

Eglantine smiled and nodded wordlessly at her husband, still undeniably handsome even if the shine had long since faded from his shell. She ushered her young children into the restaurant's foyer, nicking a speck of pollen off Sebastian's back as he moved past. This was her family, and she loved them dearly.

Henri exchanged a few words with the hostess, who beckoned to the group a moment later with raised menus and a welcoming smile. "Noir, escargatoire of four?" Single file, they followed her through a dining room filled with the delicious aroma of soups, sauces, and other enticing fare.

Sunday dinner really was the best.

if only

Once there was a girl on a journey to a place she'd never gone before. Never having been there didn't slow the girl down, however, for she was impatient, and keen to be in a new place. She became so anxious to reach her destination, in fact, that she took to traveling at night, despite being unsure of the path.

The girl stumbled in the dark, stubbornly pressing on even though prudence would have had her wait til dawn. "If only I had a lantern," she pined, and just as the words escaped her, the girl tripped and fell into a burrow hidden in the forest floor.

She sat for a moment, stunned into silence and unsure what she ought to do next. The moon, who'd been watching, took pity on the girl and shone more brightly. Illuminating white light pooled around her, and she dusted herself off and climbed back out, never noticing the change in the cold night sky.

On the girl walked through the small hours, stopping only to gather wild berries and drink from the stream. Sunrise spread slowly on the horizon, and soon she was warm and confident of her way once again. But it wasn't long before the girl, tired of the road, sighed, "If only I wasn't alone." The birds in the branches heard her complaint, and cheerfully raised their voices in the morning sun. A tune suddenly came to her, and the girl began to whistle it without wondering from whence it came.

Believing she was close to her journey's end, the girl moved ever faster through the wood. She paid no attention to where she stepped, crushing wildflowers and scattering the makings of an animal's den along the way. "If only it were tomorrow!" she remarked, dreaming of all that would be different, and forgetting all that wouldn't. 

But the sun, who could have inched his way more quickly across the heavens and granted the girl's wish, did not hear it. He only heard the birdsong that filled the forest and floated up to the wide, blue sky, from where the girl on the ground looked very, very small, and very, very lost.

henceforth

Beloved Family Pet Toppled in Newborn Power Grab

BROOKLYN, NY -- Area couple Thom and Joy Oswald disclosed today their intention to transfer all affection and attention previously enjoyed by their eight year old terrier mix Fitz to a seven pound, four ounce human newborn with whom they share a measure of deoxyribonucleic acid. Effective immediately, sources say Fitz's cuddling privileges and fetch sessions have been suspended indefinitely, while daughter Berkeley will be showered twenty-four hours a day with kisses and tummy tickles.

"I mean, he can't complain. He's had a good run," stated Thom, who until Berkeley's arrival at St. Joseph General at 8:34 a.m. on December 7, where she obtained an Apgar score of 9 and delighted the nursing staff with her itty bitty fingers and toes, used to walk Fitz twice daily without fail. "I'm sure he understands. This is just how it goes."

Citing her infant child's complete and utter helplessness as the primary factor in the decision to henceforth all but ignore a once-treasured pet, Joy relocated Fitz's bed, bowls, and toys from the kitchen to the laundry room. "The high chair has to go somewhere," she explained. "And I don't need him underfoot when I'm cooing at Berkeley the way I used to coo at him."

Officials say Fitz plans to live out his emotional banishment curled up beside an empty water dish, dreaming of frisbee with Thom, and patiently waiting for his new sister to learn compassion. 

shape and use

Two friends were walking together when one paused to shift the weight of something on her shoulder. The other frowned. "Why don't you drop that?" he suggested. "You'd get further faster."

"Because it isn't a burden," she replied. "It's a shield."

Her companion seemed confused, so she continued: "One is a problem to be solved; the other solves a problem I don't want."

After a moment she added, "Only when it's in your own arms do you know the shape and use of what you carry."

The two set forth once again, taking care to set their pace to one another - as friends do.

conflict and dialogue

Conflict stormed into the room and crashed about wildly, breaking windows and glasses and hearts.

Some fled, terrified of getting cut. Some crept closer and saw themselves reflected in her mirror finish. The show didn't last long, though; Dialogue took her down with just one shot.

rageview$

Retired Mommy Blogger Settling Nicely Into Nursing Home

HOLLYWOOD, FL -- In what his wife described as an "inevitable conclusion to a lifelong horror show of dysfunction", 43 year-old Turbin Tildon spent the afternoon helping his mother Dee, a retired mommy blogger, settle into Shady Acres nursing home Saturday.

"Isn't this nice, Mom?" Turbin asked, his dead-eyed smile tight with long-suppressed resentment. "You should be as comfortable here as I was living the first year of my life in your walk-in closet."

Appearing enraged and refusing to speak or make eye contact, the elderly Dee - whose blog "Oh, Dee! Lightful Days and Twinkly Nights" publicly chronicled the embarrassing misadventures of Turbin and younger sister Calliope - sat rigidly on her new single mattress while Turbin arranged framed pictures on the dresser. "I'll put the collage of me crying when I couldn't find my favorite toy truck right here. Remember when you posted that for millions strangers to laugh at? Haha, that was a popular one!"

Sources say Tildon, a successful writer whose recent autobiography "Rageview$: Recovering From a Life Online" ranked #3 on the New York Times bestseller list, is more than wealthy enough to provide in-home care for his aging mother. "All the money in the world can't buy back what he really only ever wanted from her," his wife sighed, shaking her head sadly and watching as Turbin unpacked Dee's collection of e-devices.

When asked how often he planned to bring his young children to visit their grandmother, Turbin laughed bitterly and looked away. "I need to go speak with the director," he muttered. "They spelled my name wrong on the sign-in paperwork."

At time of press, Mrs. Tildon was inquiring staff as to the availability of wifi in her room.

---

And before anyone cries foul, stay tuned for my self-deprecatory follow up piece: "Area Ex-Boyfriend Relieved To Be Out of Blog Spotlight". 

Accountability

Accountability knocked hard on the door, but The Victim refused to answer. "Go away!" she cried, and stuffed her fingers in her ears. She looked with satisfaction at the arsenal of excuses that lined the shelves of her room. "I don't have to come out if I don't want to!"

"No you don't," replied her visitor. "Nor do we have to come in." And off he walked, hand in hand with Integrity, in search of another opportunity.

the words

The words sat inside the girl, threatening to choke her if they weren't set free.

"Let us out," they begged. "We'll kill you if you don't."

"No you won't," answered the girl, swallowing them back down again. "You'll die yourselves if I just wait long enough."

"You can't," scoffed the words. "You never could and you never will."

The girl took a deep breath and held it. She willed the air in her lungs to trap the words in a thousand tiny balloons, and carry them off where no one would ever read them. 

"We're still here," said the words, after a moment. "Nice try though."

"You'll only make things worse," the girl sighed. 

"No we won't," the words replied. "We'll change exactly nothing. Not for the better and not for the worse. Things are what they are already. We've had nothing to do with it."

The girl, realizing this was true, said, "Fine. But only a few of you can come out. The rest have to stay. Decide amongst yourselves who it'll be."

The words clustered into a huddle to confer, jostling one another and tangling up their meanings. They spoke in a whisper so the girl wouldn't hear. Finally, they called out, "Okay, we're ready!" and ten or twelve sentences marched forth to be released.

The girl closed her eyes and opened her heart, and dozens of words took flight, beating their wings frantically to get clear of her before she could change her mind.

Those left behind watched, satisfied for the moment. They knew it was only a matter of time before the rest of them would be set free, anyway.

The girl knew it, too. And all she could hope was that when they were, they wouldn't carry her off with them. 

two away zone

I'm having a rough night tonight. I'm so, so sick of being housebound with two bad feet. Yes, two. A couple of weeks ago, I managed to jack up my right foot, I think from all the hopping around on it? I thought it would feel better in a day or two, but instead it got progressively worse. And then I spent all of last weekend running around town on it, going out to dinner, to bars, to the pool, and by Sunday night, it was murder to even stand on it.

Anyway, I know it's just a matter of a few more weeks, so I'm trying not to be a whiner. But these little demons in my head keep whispering things that make me scared, all these what-ifs about improper healing, about permanent damage or chronic pain, about the possibility of not being able to run again.

And I'm at that point where I know I have to ignore these demons and just have faith that everything's going to be fine.

Faith, I have come to realize, is nothing more than the decision to anticipate a positive outcome. And I like thinking of it this way, because it gives me a sense of control where otherwise I felt none. At the very least, I can choose to anticipate good things vs. bad. That choice is mine to make. It's a small thing, but it's something to hold on to.

The one thing that invariably overcomes negative feelings, for me, is taking action of some kind. Action beats the shit out of worry. But there are occasionally times when there really is no action I can take. This is one of those times. Inaction is, in fact, my only and best option.

And it sucks.

---

New to me, music-wise:

The Eastern Sea (The Match, America)
James Vincent McMorrow (Sparrow and the Wolf, Hear The Noise That Moves So Soft and Low)
The One AM Radio (In a City Without Seasons, Sunlight)
The Neighborhood (How)
Radical Face (Always Gold)
Whitley (More Than Life)
Beta Radio (Where Losers Do)
Turtle Giant (Dry Eye, Something That You Need, We Were Kids)
The Helio Sequence (Back To This, Downward Spiral, Shed Your Love, Lately, October, Hallelujah)

There's also a new Washed Out album! Haven't listened to it yet though.

---

Last night I woke up in the middle of the night, with the following sentence stuck in my brain: No one ever had their heart impounded for parking it in the wrong place. 

I've never had that happen. The words were just stuck there, and wouldn't budge. I almost felt breathless when I woke up, it seemed like such an urgent thought. I grabbed my phone and typed it into a note, but beyond that, I don't know what to make of it. I don't even know if it's true. I think I've had my heart impounded a few times, and it was hell getting it back.

Anyway, for fun, I half-baked this up in the Paper FiftyThree app:

safe on the sand

And here's how it might go:

You'll both be walking on the beach, content to stroll along, when all of a sudden she'll run into the ocean, splashing and laughing and looking back over her shoulder, wordlessly daring you to follow. You won't be able to resist at first. She's as vibrant as the sky and you'll want to stay near her. So you'll give chase, catching her in the shallow waves which you'll break together, your bodies pressed close. She'll shiver in the cold and look into your eyes, asking, inviting, challenging. Your arms wrapped tight around her will satisfy you both, for a moment. Let's stay here. It's deep enough.

But then she'll want to go in further, and she'll pull away from you to wade out into the surf. Her movements will slow as her limbs fight the dregs of tides that have come from far, far away - that have always been there, really. Her stomach, her chest, her shoulders will sink out of sight, and you'll feel a twinge of fear as you watch. Be careful. Keep your footing. 

And the currents twisting around her legs will threaten to sweep her away. She'll feel them and she'll want to give in, because the helplessness is intoxicating, and it promises something beautiful, if she can just hold her breath long enough until there's more air to be had. 

You'll want to follow, you'll be sorely tempted, but you won't. You know better. You know there are things lurking beneath the surface that can sting, can cut, can kill. You know that people drown every day, and you won't take the risk. The beach is good enough for you. 

Meanwhile, she'll be deep, deep out in the water. She'll wave to you, beckoning with her arm stretched up as high as she can reach - but you'll just wave back. I see you. I'm not coming in. 

And she'll be disappointed, and momentarily afraid, but she'll keep an eye on the coastline and always know the way back.

And her arms and legs will grow strong from swimming alone, with nothing to hold onto. 

And her lungs will pump and her heart will pound, and she'll feel as alive as she can feel, here on this earth. 

And you'll grow smaller and smaller in her eyes until she can barely make you out where you stand, safe on the sand.


Hipsta: Buckhorst H1 lens, Ina's 1982 film. Location: Malibu, CA.