Tuesday, November 27, 2012


As an act of contrition for my self-obsessed posts, a story. Of course, it is a story that I have been ruminating on due to a recent turn of my own personal life events, but whatever. It'll probably be more enjoyable for you, my dear non-readers, than my constant roller-coaster-ride of emotions. It's also possible that I've written about this before, but in that case, it'll be a nice reflection on memory.

Here it goes!

My mother's mother is the most wonderful, wacky human being in the world. She's also one of the strongest people I know.

She divorced my grandfather after discovering his infidelity, and watched him cut every last one of her credit cards up in front of her and her six kids. He closed her out of her own checking account. She had a high-school degree, no skills, no money.

She had been making things for the kids for a while, bags and clothes with her little sewing machine. And I'm not sure quite how it happened, but she decided to start making more of these things for other people, and selling them.

A scrunchie in action. Hers were nicer.
When I was a kid, a trip to Nanny's house was synonymous with scrunchies. Somewhere in the mid-'80's my aunt Dorothy who worked as a floor person at the Manhattan Bloomingdale's (Dorothy, as an aside, was denied the opportunity for a college education by her father, who didn't believe any of his four daughters deserved an education) sported a scrunchie in her hair. Nanny yanked it right out, and asked her what it was. Dorothy said it was the next big thing, and Nanny immediately started production of the things. Well, my Nanny rode the wave of that scrunchie fad, sometimes raking in thousands of dollars in sales of that foppish hair accessory at a single craft fair. She had trash bags full of them in her garage, and I would go in and put ten on my arms to take home.

She continued selling her sewing products at craft fairs well after the scrunchie fad fizzled. She started making tote bags, which were and are a huge hit, and different kinds of scarves and necklaces. Her eye for clean shapes, and funky fabric/button combinations made her table a hot-spot for fair regulars, and she even started selling them to stores and making money on commission. Until recently she maintained another job, but the sewing was a creative outlet for her, and also, at times, a nice extra source of revenue.

To my knowledge, she never dated anybody again, and from what she's told me, she never wanted to. She just "couldn't imagine" having to compromise what she'd managed to create for herself. Which, I guess was a safe place, solace, independence, creative fulfillment, happiness.

I started talking to her on a routine basis a few years ago for both personal and artistic reasons. I was going through a terrible bout of heartbreak, which was exacerbated by creative frustrations, or really a lack of creative activity, which always has me feeling low. I wanted to latch onto anything, anything at all that interested me -- or lit a spark in me, or had me make something, even if that something was ultimately meaningless and didn't "amount" to anything. That was the primary reason for starting this blog.

I digress. Well we were talking one day, and I forget exactly why this came up but she said she wanted to tell me about something extraordinary that happened.

She was at one of her craft fairs, and sitting next to a man who had a table full of bird houses. Not just any bird houses, but "the most beautiful, intricate little houses." She started admiring them and struck up a conversation with the man, his name was George. George was a widower who had remarried. He had been in investment banking, or some other high-powered career in finance. He retired early after his wife's death, and decided to start making these bird houses to pass the time. They hit it off, and from the sound of it, the conversation got pretty deep in a short span of time. He offered her some of his popcorn, she obliged. There was a lull in the conversation at that point, and I think for a moment they just sat and stared at each other in disbelief. Maybe he was embarrassed by the realness of their encounter, or maybe he didn't have much else to give, but, he offered her some of his cherry soda as well. She said something flirtatious in response. I think it was something like, "Sure, George, I'll have some of your cherry soda." Nothing sexy, just like with the tonal implications that make something unmistakably flirty. They laughed, and continued gabbing over their shared snack, and the kind of shared experience that I guess can only be acknowledge by individuals with a certain amount of age and experience and I-don't-give-a-shit-ness. At a certain point his wife stopped by and seemed perturbed by something or other. My grandmother immediately disliked her. After she left, things quickly went back to normal with a joke or two. Their time together whirred on by. Then, other booths started to pack up, and it was time to go. They dragged out this process a bit, and then it came time to say good-bye.

Now, here's the first truly amazing part of this story. He looked at her, and asked her if he could give her a hug. She said, "Sure, George. You can hug me." So he did. And then he looked at her and said, "It is what it is."

Listening to my grandmother tell me these this particular detail over the phone -- I was agog. The fact that he'd say something like that out loud -- something that actually acknowledged and validated what they'd been feeling and thinking -- somehow verbalizing that they had been both feeling and thinking the same thing...this really took my breath away. I was amazed that this kind of stuff could ever happen, let alone happen when there had been utterly no grounds for saying something. How much of this sh*t goes unremarked, or is brushed under the rug when people in their youth or pride or ignorance are more invested in saving face than facing reality? How much of the stuff that I'd felt in my little life, but de-validated in my mind and my actions, had also been felt by somebody else, who also didn't utter anything in response? It was a bit overwhelming...

As I sort of re-composed myself, clumsily managing to sputter out something inaudible -- but which probably still intoned something naïve and conciliatory -- she hit me with another whammy.

She said: "I waited forty years for a hug."

Bam. On the floor, once again. She had admitted not only to herself, but also to me a fact as plain as day, but one I'd never dare to think about. Forty years...for a hug. She had waited for just the right moment, the right guy, the right hug. There was a sort of quiet sadness to the way she said it, as though it didn't even matter whether or not there was somebody on the other end of the phone. It wasn't a self-pitying kind of sadness, but the kind that comes with a relinquishment. A realness. (You've all seen it at the end of Titanic, when the old lady drops the billion-dollar necklace into the ocean. Yep, like that.)

Well -- I didn't know how to react to this at all, so I just ended up waiting. She finished the story by telling me that he'd chased her down in the parking lot. He gave her his card, and an apple. She said thank you and then left, and that was that. I still didn't know what to say. Eventually, I mustered up a, "Well, what do you think is going to happen?" I felt dumb. Of course nothing was going to happen. Really, nothing did happen. A lot had happened.

It was as though she'd struck my head like a gong, and it was vibrating and reverberating inwardly and outwardly. My little head was buzzing, and every time I thought about the story I felt tingly and a little sick. I kept this drunken feeling to myself for a few days, but then I had to start selectively telling people. I may have told two or three people before I started to get a grip.

A few weeks later I was talking to her again, and I asked about George. I asked her how she was feeling about it, about what had happened. I was really curious.

She said, "You know, I was starting to feel really down about it, and then I did something amazing. I changed it in my head." I let her go on, again, not knowing what to say. "I do this sometimes when I start down a path of self-pity or doubt or when I want something that I can't have. I am just taking it for what it is. I'm really thankful that it happened, but it is what it is and now it's over. I just want to preserve the magic of it in my head, and protect it. I don't want to ruin it. I do the same thing when somebody wrongs me. I don't hold grudges. I just take each day at a time."

Well, and that was the third time I was floored by her resilience and candor. And strength. And positivity. And I admit I realized a great deal of how I think must come from somewhere, and that somewhere might be in this other person.

I'm not really sure how to end this. So. That's all I'm going to say about George.

I'm not being fair...

I'm not alone, I do have help. People don't always understand me, and can't always give the help that I need/want, but they are there and they help. Most of the time I have trouble asking for it, and am impatient.
The fault is in my own.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

OK, so...

I guess I have to face it: I am the quintessential blogger stereotype. The old-school kind. The kind that only blogs when they have something to vent about or rant. This is me accepting that fact and moving on, this time -- surprise, surprise -- to vent. I wish I had the time or mental wherewithal to write some more luxuriously meandering posts like I used to, reflecting on things or people or experiences. But right now, I'm in a really selfish time in my life, because I'm fighting at the teeth for something that nobody fully understands, something that I, myself cannot fully understand.

So, dear non-readers.

Right now, I am feeling very alone. (I'm sorry to be so, cringeworthily cliché). This is not because I lack friends or a social infrastructure in my life. It is because I have committed myself to a singular vision for what I want to do. This is not something that I entirely know how to achieve, and it is absolutely something that 99.9% of people in the world do not understand.

I would like to be in the company of people who have a higher chance of understanding what I want, and am busting my ass for the mere chance of achieving that privilege. I don't think it will be a 100% payoff. But, one could liken that which I seek to the sensation of relief one feels when you find yourself seriously in love with somebody who seriously loves you back. It's a first big step in a long life of ups and downs, but it is a major prerequisite for those ups and downs, and a relief nonetheless. I want to allow myself to feel vulnerable again. Right now, I'm in the Hunger Games, and I'm keeping constant vigil.

And I don't really have anybody to talk about it with except for my computer screen and keyboard right now.

I need this to happen...I need this to happen....

Monday, October 1, 2012


The world has always been kind to me. Sure I've been through some stuff in my day. But -- right now I am feeling overwhelmed with gratitude for all that I have and have had.

Two amazing things happened today:

1) I mentioned that I needed a studio to somebody, and he said, I have one, take it for as long as you need. And so I was given an 800 square foot studio. I asked him whether I could pay him, and he said absolutely not. So now I have a key to an 800 square foot studio. And I can do my work, and photograph it.

2) My brother, who is going through some serious shit right now, is living his dream come true of becoming a professional dancer. Today was his first day on the job. In addition to this he sent me a care package. ME. Because he thought I was "going through it." Which, I guess I am, but it's mostly out of worry for him. But he saw that, and saw past his own troubles and looked to mine, which I didn't even realize that I had...really.

I could go on about all of the other out-of-this-world gifts I have been given from the universe lately. A warm, safe house where I wake up happy every day, a visit from out-of-town friends, a phone call from somebody who noticed my work online ... etc. etc. But the list might never end. All I can do is acknowledge it, and try my best to contribute in my own little ways.

And then of course, after saying all of this, I remember. The universe didn't have as much to do with these things as people did. Real people, goo and flesh and flaw, with real problems and real lives, who just happened to go out of their way make other people's lives a bit more awesome and probably don't know the extent to which they bring the sun into my world. Well. Universe, and people, or some combination of the two, thanks. I needed that.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Dear Universe,

In response to your recent reply....

THANK  YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I love you, I love you, I love you. You're the best,

De Vita

Friday, August 24, 2012

Words, Part I

This is going to be the first of probably a long series of posts about my work. Just because I don't write about my work, or because there is no writing on my website, does not mean I am not constantly negotiating a dialogue between myself and the work, and between the work and itself, the work and other work I have done or that other people have done. But I figured that, for better or for worse, that starting to write about my work will help me by making me feel somewhat legitimized in my OWN mind in terms of what [I know] I'm constantly ruminating on, and, be one step of many towards privileging my work with an explanation that my viewers, should they exist, may not always deserve, but will nonetheless desire, if they care to desire it. Unfortunately I am realizing that I have to come down off of my high horse and stop assuming that people will give a shit about the work that I am creating, or why. I have been taking for granted that people would merely intuit that my work was thoughtful and done somehow in earnest merely by way of a sixth sense (the sense that somebody else, not you, is thinking about something carefully, but expressing it differently than you might). It seems, that until people extend me that courtesy (cough, never) I will have to spoon feed them some information, which perhaps will allow them to give me some credit once in a while. So. I am going to start by giving people a sense of where this all came from, and then start to try to unfold my work a little bit. This will be a series of stories from my childhood, experiences, and just plain thoughts about my work that I have and are probably in a very nascent stage of existence (I hope...). Ultimately, I see this as an exercise which will ultimately get me in the habit of talking about my work in my own terms, and to start to unpack things which make perfect sense as objects or experiences, but when expressed through other means feel awkward or difficult to articulate. I don't have many people right now who are interested in this, and so...it is also an outlet for me to start just venting about my work. So forgive me if it's not the most composed of things, but you know me; there is a reason why I am an artist and not a writer, and it's because worded concision is not always my strong suit. [Case in point, all of the above.]

Ok, so here it goes. I'm going to be more casual with my writing so as to be more in keeping with the overall willy-nilly aesthetic of this blog that keeps me entertained, and keeps you from getting bored, if you, dear reader, even exist.

Up until now, I have been relatively committed to this idea that most of my work involves in some way a process that is personal, peripatetic, hidden, and ultimately lost in my private realm.

The idea behind this is simple: people tend to look more at things that they fail to comprehend, so make a process that is too painstaking to ever wish to articulate, and layered enough, so if somebody should just dive on in, it would be a while before they got to the bottom of anything, if ever, while still maintaining some degree of integrity in the initial conquest -- e.g. to say something true.

In this vein, the goal behind most of my work is also pretty simple. I want people to stop and think about something. Mostly I just want them to stop and look, because I am an artist and I think that's what most artists like. Actually thinking, I know, is secondary and quite a bill.

There is history here.

In terms of my artwork, I started doing this as an artist in college when I became a printmaker (printmaker, as I define it, is anybody who makes a print, once. You made one at the Childrens' Museum? Great. You're a Printmaker).

So I started printmaking accidentllly I was rejected from painting because somebody at Columbia (cough, Gregory Amanoff) said that I couldn't draw, which is bullshit because I am excellent (if I do say so myself). I can draw pretty much anything that I want to, mostly stuff in my imagination, but lots of stuff! My portfolio, however, had moved beyond that, and did not really stand to my drawing abilities, seeing as I was invested deeply in painting at that point. Oh, well, it worked out for the better, and I'm so glad that he was so wrong, because it helped me find something else that was very right.

So, ok. I took drawing 101, dominated, and then realized that maybe I wanted to do some more stuff with lines on paper. My professor told me to take printmaking, and it was love at first sight. I was immediately into big machines, new words, and new skill sets. In high school, this was pretty much the only reason why I got into sports. When I signed up as a trial for the crew team, all of the new language and boat talk fascinated me, and I was intellectually hooked, even though, to this day I would hold that being in a crew race is probably just as bad, if not worse than giving birth. Yes, probably worse, as at the end you lose and have bloody hands and are crying, and don't even have a baby to show for it.

Well, in printmaking culture, I probably latched onto all of the wrong things, and I know this because I am not really a good printmaker, and don't really go about making prints anymore, even though I consider myself to be a printmaker through and through. After I stopped being horny over the big flat-bed presses with the biiiiiig wheels, the ACIDS, rosin room!, and the various tools (dremmels! diamond-tipped needles! rockers!) that you could possibly use, I started to learn things about what it meant to be a printmaker.  I got the sense that a lot of printmakers were totally obsessed with just being really hardcore about process just to show that they have a badass skillset, a sort of stump-the-chump mentality. Like, they'd approach you and say, "What do you think THIS is?" And I'd say, "That's easy, it's a woodcut." And then I'd find out it was a 27-layer silkscreen print with chine collé on some kind of wild handmade paper that made it look like a print that was probably much simpler to make. The idea would be to make something look effortless, as if it had never been touched, but merely spoke itself onto the cleanest, most supple piece of paper you ever did see. All this, while putting so much crazy effort into it that it became impossible to divine how it came into existence, without somebody explaining it, with a magnifying glass and white gloves, or an x-ray machine. In this class, I learned to be come really obsessed (and good at) determining how -- between methods, machines, materials and man -- something came to be. And then, of course, my goal became to play that game but try to play it better, differently, and on my own terms, to serve my own interests.

The idea of making something look untouched, simply extant, as a finished project was also something that resonated with me deeply. Painting was all about these difficult but nonetheless relatively arbitrary choices all sort of revolving around concept, imagination, color, and space. Painting, in spite of knowing that there were skills involved in making the various decisions that one could in that context, could nonetheless be anything. In printmaking, you had more of a structure which appealed to me. This idea that you needed to simultaneously show off your chops while trying your best to turn your body and actions into a machine was fascinating to me, and probably struck a chord within me, boomeranging vibrations straight to my Catholic upbringing (which taught you to do good even when nobody knew it, and be self-effacing and body-denying to the end). The idea that seeing a good, clean print was a success in and of itself, that mere finished-ness as an object or idea qualified as admirable really kind of stuck.

In the meantime, this little thing called The Facebook opened up around the same time I was taking printmaking. It initially seemed like this snobby Ivy-League thing, but soon everybody started to realize that it was sort of changing the way people our age interacted. People were being jammed into templates, and soon enough their words, thoughts and actions were being crammed into differently, and more awkwardly named templates of different sorts. I really think that I could sense that the world was changing in some big way, because I started to make work (admittedly really bad work) that reacted to it as best as I knew how. Having had the mentality of a painter (and a painter, at that, who was interested in concept - we can go into my gradeschool and highschool era "conceptual" artworks later on, if you'd like, in the second volume of my memoirs), my first impulse was to embed a sort of readable content in some conceptual, invented pictorial language. This is what I'd always turned to, because I could. I made these really complex, cold, and disturbing landscapes involving half-formed humans, mostly old-fashioned looking, aryan pre-teen amputees and animals and mutants, and extinct birds that were all kind of living in the same world, connected and mutating and casually, lazily fucking each other and just as coldly ingesting one another, birthing each other, and spitting each other out.

But then I started reading more theoretical works, and in particular was drawn to some old painting analyses by Michel Serres, this French philosopher [in't college amazing like that? you're just exposed to so much all at once...and it blows because you're young and brash and scared and surrounded by people that are bigger idiots than you are, and thus you are also miserable, but it's also just an interesting time.].  I also remember first being exposed to Lacan at this time, and was all bent out of shape over the fact that the guy just seemed so naïve -- his writings just seemed too reliant on vision and visibility, period. Lacan probably got me thinking about other kinds of experience, other than visual, which define human experience, which shape who we are, and also about language and visual and experiential spectrums. Well, after reading this stuff, I started to think of things more broadly, but also more simply. I made sketches of musical scales and constellations, and made dozens of photocopies of kung fu moves, etc. I took a course on perception and neuroscience.

My work started to become more interested in practice and materials as a means of auto-expression. Things that are what they are can be just as mysterious, interesting, but all the more to the point. And in this world that seemed increasingly complicated, and brash and confusing, action and materials just made sense.

Probably all of this sounds very old-fashioned to a lot of people. The world wants people in my generation to just latch on to whatever is new and interesting, and go with the flow and frenetically spit out material that deals with what is new, now, next. I'm not ever going to be that person. I have always been sort of ping-ponging in between being ahead of the game, and being very old school. To me, they are the same, as, if you'll forgive a cliché, history always seems to repeat itself, so it doesn't fucking matter. But, for what it's worth, this is how I came to be both interested in some of the things that interest me now. Basically, I was and am looking for new languages to give the world some kind of sonar (not a mirror, ok?) through which it might better perceive itself.

And don't get me wrong, I am not convinced that I'm going to Change The World or something big and noble like that. But I do just want to keep making stuff that will make people, if only for one millisecond, feel a little strange in the world and the skin that they are only peripherally aware of, if that. And I think that if I can manage to do that, one way or another, I'm making the world a better place, doing my part, whatever.

So this is a start. Influences I guess you could call it.

Hussle & Flow

I have started to hussle a little more, fire under my ass to reapply to school and WIN. And the work, if you can call it that, is flowing more (and thank god!), for better or for worse.

So apologies in advance if I have been, am, or will be totally out of it as a friend, family member, or good, old-fashioned blogger, because I am putting my nose down and working my ass off, still, more, again and again, for the only thing that I so desperately want, which is to do this art thing, do it well, all the time, and do it forever and ever amen.

I will be more careful, more protective of this measly body thing that holds the crazy head of mine in place. I am eating, sleeping, exercising as best as I can...trying to earn money too...oh, and trying hard not to be a complete selfish jerk to the people I love. But all that aside, I'm obsessed, and manic, and needy.

I feel sometimes as though the world is giving me this big wall, The Great Wall of So You Want Ha, and I just keep deliriously flinging myself up against it, in total darkness, interspersed with brief, glorious moments of light. I know I can be better, work harder, do things differently. But right now, this is what I can do...

Please, please, please, please, please...

Dear Universe,

I was just thinking, in case you didn't glean based on my overt awesomeness, that I would make a pretty kick-ass girlfriend to some independent, confident (not cocky...), considerate, intelligent person who is able to have a sense of humor both about themselves and about me, and who is within an appropriate and complementary age range. This is completely an unselfish statement seeing as there must be somebody out there for whom I am perfectly suited, and who is just totally missing out right now. If it happens it happens, if it doesn't it doesn't, but I just thought I'd throw it out there.

In other news for the Universe, it might be nice to get laid this century.

That's all.

Friday, June 8, 2012

A Much-Needed Elegance

In a novel I read recently, a line struck me and still does. "There is," says the line, "a certain elegance to absence." Unlike most lines that I remember from books, this one was neither profound nor beautiful. Instead, there was a practicality to it that appealed to me.

The book was about a woman who leaves New York for Argentina after a divorce, and the two other women she meets there. I could tell you more about the character who the line concerns, a Viennese woman who has tried her best to wrangle her way into a career which will allow her to continue to live her life of attending parties where she will meet and sleep with men who don't care about her, a woman whose hair color and obsession with body waxing trump the need to eat. She attended every party she could find, understanding the fact that sometimes not going to a party was a more powerful statement than going, but not being able to resist the lure of feeling not so very alone.

All of this, as usual, is inconsequential information. The book, as it turns out, was ultimately a flop.

More of use to you would be knowing what state I was in when I read the line. I had just started a new medication to treat the fatigue and lethargy I'd been immersed in for almost a year at that point. And to boot, my very dear friend was in the hospital, very, very ill. It was a bad time. I'd been missing a lot of things, and felt even more that whatever I'd worked for (mostly in terms of my career and social life) was gone forever, that somehow I would have to start from scratch.

The line basically relieved me of this, by making my involuntary non-participation an attractive sign of restraint.

Friend is not in the hospital, and I am feeling much, much better. The weight of illness gone, the line still resides with me as I enter a new funny stage of growth. Again, I have been forced to realign my goals and dreams and intentions due to things that seem to be outside of my control. Rejection does not follow you like sickness does, but it does sort of render your intentions slightly more porous. On the one hand, it is exhilarating. I feel as though with each rejection, any acceptance will be that much more powerful, meaningful. Give me an inch, I dare you, and see me take my mile. On the other hand, it does pull aside the curtain on a latent sense of inadequacy, that I haven't had the luxury of acknowledging until now, if only because I've been too busy, and things, for better or for worse, have been working out in a way that is easier for me to understand or equate with progress.

As I've been making attempts at resurrecting my own Presence as a person, an artist, I am getting frustrated very easily with my own clumsiness. This before had been Just Who I Am, but now it's a sign of General Inadequacy. My friends have commented that I've been down on myself lately, calling myself a Loser, etc. This, in my mind, has been a half-joke, meant in part to relieve some of the tension I've built up in my head. Sure I don't think I'm a loser, but at times I wonder if I'll ever be able to do the things I want to do, or whether I am just entertaining some fabulous illusion...

My clumsiness and general self-annoyance is increasing and I'm reaching a point where I just need to get out. I'm proud of myself for realizing this before. I need to get back to basics and listen to myself for a little while. This will be good. And just when I think that I'm leaving for too long, or that it might be harder to gain any momentum when I return, I realize that I am very much in need of some elegance right now. This trip will be a much-needed elegance.

Monday, March 5, 2012

So, whomever keeps up with this damned blog should know that I've been "going through It," as my brother always says.

I mean It, of course, could always be worse. But I've once again been forced (against my will!) to re-evaluate everything, make choices, Shift.

Being in this situation, and feeling a bit lost, I made the obvious choice. First I called a bunch of artists and old professors and (in vain) asked for guidance and hinted at a mentorship. Then. I called the family psychic. Of course, this was about three weeks ago, and I VERY PATIENTLY waited for her reply (especially since she asked me to be patient on the answering machine...she would call me when I was ready).

She called back today, and we set up an appointment. What should I ask?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

I think I'm totally depressed.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Back to the Future!!!

It has been said that I've been going 80's. It has been a process, since late in the 90's. It could be argued that I never left the 80's.

In high school it probably started with the music. First the pop, then the punk, then the post-punk. I don't know how to talk about music, but it Did Things to me that any other music at the time didn't come close to doing.

In high school I also started shopping at thrift stores. Due to endemic disagreements with my parents about clothing choice, around the age of 11, I gained fashion independence, but at a price: I had to pay for my own clothes. This was no issue, as I had a miniature mint from my babysitting monopoly in the summertime. But I was perpetually on a budget, and would make a B-line for any sale rack at the stores where I'd go shopping. My involvement in a production of Steel Magnolias ensured a place for Aqua-net on my dresser for life.

Midway through high school, I was introduced to the Thrift Shop, and that was the true beginning of my downfall into 80's shame. I swiped up a pair of bitch heels and a synthetic, ass-cheek-short lace dress, and some large sunglasses and I was an instant thrift devotee. While I dabbled in other eras -- 40's-style prairie dresses, 60's big-button coats, peasant tops and wide-leg jeans from the 70's -- I kept coming back to the artificial candy-coated 80's. I also insisted on keeping my Sony Walkman, listening to tapes, "Because," as I've valiantly declared time and time again, "It is the only sound medium that actually preserves the integrity of the album, and frustrates any attempt at clicker-happiness."

In the past five years or so, things have gotten worse, people have started to comment. I've taken heavily to the high-waisted pants phenom, off-shoulder blouses, leotards, stirrup leggings. I've even outdone myself. Last spring, I started being "ok" with my frizzy hair. I even teased it once (with help from the ever-present Aqua Net). I purchased a button-up blouse with pleats on the front (no buttons) and did not remove the shoulder pads. I also very recently traded in my horn-rimmed Ray Ban glasses for an elegant, but oh-so-eighties plastic oversized Chanel frame (which, don't you worry, only cost me $50 after coupons and sales!!!), which has really taken the whole thing to the next level.

This, folks, was just the intro, and I'm sorry if I got diverted in an overly-effusive review of my own greatest hits of the 80's. It was all, all to say this:

Well, once again, I've outdone myself. I've taken my retro style even deeper. Yesterday I got fitted for a diaphragm.

Yes, folks, I'm going super-old-school-retro-fab with my birth control methods. And there are a lot of good reasons. I was on hormones for a few years during my last (and only) bout of regular sexual activity, and I suffered from a heavy depression which lifted about two weeks after I stopped the pill. By then, I thought that the depression was an inextricable part of who I was, that my gray outlook was just how I saw the world. Off the pill, I started to see the butterflies and rainbows again, and it was like a monumental weight had lifted off of me.

So, no, I'm not going back there! Sure, there are other methods. Condoms break and then I get freaked out and pop a few Plan B, which is back to the hormones which can be dangerous if over-used and also make fishes grow legs and extra eyes. Not ok! Then you have your IUD implant, which has the most horrific side effects known to man. Like. You could actually get pregnant. And the IUD would attach to your infant's head. Or it could merge with your uterine wall and cause infertility or DEATH. Oh, yeah, stick it up there! Sign me up!

In any case, I'm not sure why more women don't use diaphragms. First off, they come with their own case. That's awesome. They're an ugly color, and look like a condom for a horse, buuuut. They're as effective as condoms and pretty discreet (once they're up there). They do not kill the fishes, they do not kill the uterus. And they're reusable. Sooooo...

Apparently they're just out of fashion. They were invented around the turn of the century and were super cutting-edge through the 1940's. The numbers dropped exponentially when women started pumping themselves with hormones. Even though the stats started to show a decline in the usage of the diaphragm starting in the 60's, their aesthetic is undeniably 80's. The whole idea of beauty in the 80's revolved around women with tiny waists and but huge boobs, and a nice curvy butt. Pubic hair was in-style (at least in porn mags) as were bushy eyebrows and frizzy, teased hair. In general, the 80's female naked body was way more comfortable with herself, even though it would be eventually dolled-up and artificial-ized for the dance club. The thing also comes in a nasty-80's-pink plastic case. That's so you can put it in the back pocket of your high-waisted, acid wash jeans.

Unfortunately my aesthetically and ecologically informed decisions regarding alternative birth control methods was not met with much enthusiasm from the outside world. Let's just say, I've been blushing a LOT since I set upon my journey back to the future. First of all, I had no idea how to come about finding one. I pored up and down the aisles at the drug store, and without finding one, I approached the female pharmacist, who looked at me like I had three heads when I asked "Where are the diaphragms?" She informed me that I needed to see my ob/gyn and be fitted for one.

So I went, and armed with this embarrassing experience, I set up an appointment. I was so nervous to ask, I waited (of course) til she brought up the subject of birth control as she was burrowing with an oversized q-tip between my thighs. I told her that I got depressed with hormones and hated the idea of an implant of any kind, and asked whether I could have a diaphragm. She said nothing and looked to her nurse, and looked back. I tried to back pedal a bit, "I mean -- is it not effective or just out of fashion? Because I can deal with out of fashion, but I don't want to get pregnant..." This snapped her out of it, but not before my face turned crimson.

She said, "Oh, no no, I mean, we just don't get a lot of requests for them anymore. So it's just out of fashion, but they're very effective." Then THEY started back-pedaling saying that they had both used one "once" at one point in time [in the late 70's].

What ensued was a bit of a fiasco. They had to dust off the ole fitting kit, and shove one or two up there to make sure it was the right size to plug it all up. Then I had to demonstrate that I'd grasped the concept, and the thing kept squirming around ... I dropped it twice and both nurse and doctor were horrified and told me that I could just take my time and they'd check up on me in a little while. I swear I've never turned so red in my whole life...

Well I did manage to work things out, and then I sat back and wondered whether all of this was just wishful thinking as the most action I'd gotten in over a year had taken place in the last half an hour. The nurse eventually poked her head back in, and asked how things were "coming along."

"I got it." I said.

"You got it in there?"


"And...it's ok?"

"Yeah, it works."

"I mean, did you feel it at all?"


She sent for a different nurse to go over my little instruction book with me. I realized that the questions were more for her own benefit than mine. She was curious.

The nurse that came in was a total trip. She had a thick Pittsburgh accent and looked herself like she hadn't quite emerged from the 80's, but not out of choice...When she walked in she said, "Holy shit, those things are HUGE!!" Just when I thought I couldn't possibly blush any more...

She referred to sperm as "all those little spermies" or "Those nasty little guys" or "the little buggers." "Ya gatta kiw'em AW, 'em liwgaz." "When you're tha-rough, you should wait at least SIX HOURS, and then clean it and put it in your case...aw I guess you get a little case!" As she read on, it became apparent that she was (again) reading more to herself than to me. "Whoa you gotta reach way up'air! I don't even know if I can feel my cervix. That's what it says, though,'Reach back and feel your cervix. It should feel just like your nose.'" I pondered who the fuck wrote that little pearl of wisdom, but touched my nose for good measure. After every phrase she told me, she would bulge her eyes and say "If you don't do this, then YOU COULD GET PREG-NANT." I almost peed my pants I was laughing so hard.

On my way out, the nurses were all howling, and they hushed when I walked past their meeting room. The nurse who'd instructed me came out and said, "Naw, If you get PREG-NANT, don't blame your teacher!" She covered up her name tag which read Karen, and told me her name was Michelle.

I almost died of embarrassment. I left clutching my script, in awe that they couldn't just hand me one then and there.

The agony was NOT over yet, as I was met with similar disbelief from the pharmacist, also female. "Uh," she said, awkwardly looking up from the piece of paper, "We don't ... carry those. We'd have to order them in. And it might be expensive, it's not always covered." It was, and she told me I could pick it up in a day.

Put briefly: what the fuck?

1) What's the deal? Why are they out of fashion? They're cheap, they work, and there are no bad side effects.
2) Why don't women (and female healthcare professionals) know anything about their bodies or feel comfortable about talking about it with other women?
3) Why the FUCK did I need a prescription for a fucking female condom, which will cost me $25 COPAY with my insurance, when BOYS can go buy condoms over the counter?
4) How long is it going to be before they come back with a vengeance (like my Ray Bans which everybody made fun of eight years ago but now are like everywhere)?
5) Why the FUCK did I need a prescription for a fucking female condom, which will cost me $25 COPAY with my insurance, when BOYS can go buy condoms over the counter?

This country is so fucked up. I'm going back to the future...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Well, that's that, I guess.

I applied to four MFA programs, admittedly to really top notch, reach-for-the-stars programs, and it looks like I've been rejected from all of them (the last one has yet to come, but on an online forum people have already heard back about interviews in my department). I also applied to and was rejected for a second time from a local fellowship program. The only one left right now is my application to a residency program in Maine, which I was rejected from last year.

Lots of rejection. And I am ok with it, really. It would have been exciting to turn a new page and plunge headlong into something new and different, but this is not my year, it is what it is.

What I know I need to do now is make more work. Lots of work. I need to put my head down and work, work, work. I need to make more things, more often. Better things. Because eventually whatever I've been trying to say will come through, and I know it will be through my work. Always has been this way, and always will. The best part of this whole thing is: there is no doubt in my mind what I have to do. I don't feel lost, or directionless, or forlorn at all. The only thing that has ever been sure in my life ever -- has been my work.

So. Back to the drawing board.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

No hope for rain this bleak winters day.

I went to the dermatologist today, and I could have punched her. For the record, doctors, like plumbers or baristas or persons from any other actual skilled profession are NOT all created equal.

Some have brains, for instance, and others don't. The dermatologist asked me why I was taking Plaquenil, and I told her that it was because I had a mysterious illness that had me down and out for about eight months or so. I had a strong family history of auto-immune disorders. Eventually I ditched my PCP who laughed at me and patted my shoulder as he was leaving the room, chuckling "You aren't depressed, now, are you?" And had I been depressed, I wouldn't have told him then, that's for sure. Yes. I left HIM, and went to a doctor with a brain, who listened carefully to what I was saying and gave me a plan which actually worked, and I'm feeling much better.

I felt like punching the dermatologist, however, who then went on about how AWFUL it must be to be ill at 25 years old, and how her twenties were the BEST years of her life. And how she just couldn't IMAGINE having to take two pills every day. Ha ha ha. She THEN proceeded to list all of her medical problems, including dry eyes and dry mouth (which often accompany auto-immune disorders). I told her that I'd started to experience dry mouth and eyes as well. Then she went on for eight minutes about how she wakes up with sludge in her mouth and how her first husband couldn't stand to hear about it. "It's just so gross, and I have no idea what to do about it." Honestly -- ask me who wants to hear that stuff, especially after you've just put me in the pit of despair with your former comment!?

And THEN, worst of all, she sort of casually asked me what my "heritage" was, a rare question in a doctor's office, if you are WHITE. I knew why she was asking, because I happen to have a brain. So I told her that I was Irish. She looked up at me. I paused, and then said I'm also Italian on my dad's side. She nodded her head vigorously and shook her pen in the air, relieved to be able to tell me that it was "natural" that I had "more hair" because of my "Italian heritage." I looked at her fake-o blonde hair set in a poof on her head that was secured with a butterfly clip and her clumsily done blue eyeliner and thought of all the possible nasty retorts I might make at that moment, but held back. Again, because I have a brain. But I mean. Come on. Aren't doctors supposed to be ok with the body and all of the stuff that goes with it?? (Fluids, hair, etc.) Ugh. How utterly irritating. It made me want to grow my body hair down to my ankles in fierce rebellion of her bridge-and-tunnel-bred idiocy.

In any case, and this has nothing to do with the blondie brainless doctor from hell, I have over the past month or so accumulated an arsenal of hair-removing devices and solutions and have decided to take it upon myself to look into the whole hair situation. It should be interesting. I just find it really difficult these days to care much about my appearance or reputation ... or anything. I am sitting on an egg which is my little life. I realize that before too long it's going to bite me in the ass and I'm going to have to move, move, move. So I've just been sitting here in the meantime, growing a small forest on my body, and dreaming of all of the tiny creatures and wood nymphs that might possibly inhabit it. Because I'm in Pittsburgh. And the weather's nasty. And unless you REALLY like beer or sports on television, you have to WORK to do anything. And I'm sick of working. (Blah blah blah blah blah -- who cares, right?)

Aaaand that's all for now, folks.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Oh well...

Well, 2012 so far has brought about two rejection letters so far. Not bad, considering we're just in the beginning of our second month. I usually feel a mix of and indignance and sadness when I'm rejected. I suppose it's the usual fare. The first one wasn't so bad. It was for this fellowship locally that I was already ambivalent about attending.

Then came Yale. I put my heart into the application, drafting so many different versions of a statement, and poring over my portfolio with insane attention to detail. I was denied admission not by email, but by an email that said something had been updated, and so I had to login to their website for the privilege of getting some bad news. I wasn't even invited to interview with them; the whole time I was saying, I know it's a crapshoot, but I just hope they invite me to interview before they reject me. Because the interview might dignify the rejection process, and also anybody who meets me would be out of their mind to reject me, or at least I could justify that they didn't prefer meyer lemon tarts to chocolate mousse. (I've determined that my dessert persona is a meyer lemon tart. It's dense, but not too. Sweet, but not too. And it takes longer to make so you don't always see it on the menu. Thinking of myself in this way has, since I was cast in the chorus in high school plays, helped me deal with rejection).

But no dignity was to be had. I had only just let myself look into the faculty profiles. I fantasized about super-deep conversations and life-long relationships with people who would be honest with me about my work, inevitably adore me. These people would become my network for my career moving forward. I might be able to practice in New York. Stay closer to the people who I know and love. Then, before anything got terribly out of hand, I was rejected and it was over.

It was hard for me to feel indignant because it was so quick. Clearly I hadn't come across in a way that spoke to them. Clearly the failure was mine. My friend pointed off that the Meyer Lemon Tart Analogy still held true. Which was right. If they weren't feeling my work, there wasn't much I could do in that domain. I was never about to change the type of work I do for anything. Not for fulfilling assignments, not for lack of money, not for lack of support from gallerists or lack of technical skills.

But part of me is still so curious about what they were looking for. What conversations were had over the work that I'd poured my income and SOUL into over the past four years or so. It is really killer. I did shed a few tears but then started laughing at the absurdity of it all. I drove simultaneously laughing and crying as Pittsburgh simultaneously snow-rained. Nothing seemed to be able to make up its mind.

Long story short, I skipped a few meals out of feeling ill. Then I was whisked away to an amazing shopping trip where I was doted on for hours. Secured an awesome new outfit, including, fittingly, a raincoat which I'm sure would make future such rainy days all the more exciting. In the end, it didn't hurt that much. It didn't hurt as much as having a gallerist who didn't turn on your work, after you'd spent years of your life and the equivalent of three years' rent on realizing it. It definitely didn't hurt as much as having my heart broken for the first time.

And I'm ready to move on, but mostly I am really insecure about what other schools will do. Everything feels like it's in flux, and while I try to remind myself that my situation right now is very stable, I have a roof over my head, "a song in my heart, food in my belly, love in my family," etc etc. And that living this way can go on the way that it has. I've already allowed myself to lust for something more ... both a good and a bad thing. So. Oh well.

Monday, January 30, 2012


A few months ago I meant to post about sandcastles, but didn't.

Here it is.

When we were kids each year we'd take a trip to the shore, no small task for a family with three or four small children to venture out of the depths of Southwest PA.

After a few days on the beach, my dad would tell us that it was time to make the sandcastle. My dad's a funny guy. He is -- in and out -- a bit of a protocol junkie. He ran the house on a pretty tight schedule, tight discipline, tight restrictions, etc. etc. It's actually something he's devoted much of his career to exploring. He actually writes protocol manuals for hospitals, which other people follow.

The beach wasn't much of an exception. His vacation days had as much structure as his everyday life. (And I am not saying this from a critical or judgmental standpoint -- I just want to create some context for those of you who do not know my father.) It's just how he functions, and somehow you learn to just go along with it (or, in my case, just agree to disagree).

The sandcastles were similar in a way. We all knew it was coming, expected it. (I was usually more willing than my brothers because there was some artistic aspect which I found more pleasing than diving in the potentially lobster-infested waters). Yet -- when we all assembled to work on it together, my dad kind of softened as he became more absorbed in the process of building the castle. He got quiet and pensive and would offer suggestions here or there, but would never impose any overarching architectural concept on the project. He kind of let us do our thing, and in that way kept our attention for as long as it was going to last.

I was always very focused. I loved creating turrets with spiral staircases winding up the structure. The staircases were the best part, chiseling elegant little stairs so that very small people could ascend to the tallest room of the tallest tower. I would often get very frustrated when part of it would collapse, or when one stair was disproportionate to the others. Or when a brother dumped wet sand on something, or stuck what he thought was a rather elegant seaweed-and-detritus topper to the turret.

And my dad would say, "Just remember, there's no mistakes in sandcastles."

This helped relieve me a bit, despite the fact that I kept attempting to perfect those staircases. I knew at the end of the day, the tide would have its way, and the whole endeavor would be smoothed over, at least until next year. I know my dad probably couldn't have predicted it, but this idea has really seeped into my worldview. In the past four years or so, every job, relationship, living situation -- has unfolded in such unexpected ways. I've set out to construct my staircase, and, well, haven't made it past the first story. I'm ok with that, and I have to trust in this process, forgive myself of my intended outcomes. The human imagination is hardly infinite. Sometimes mistakes and snares can cast wide potential.

I look at my dad now. He's really struggling because for the first time of his life, the structure he has built for himself is failing. I see him, and he is really grasping for what to do. I am very proud of what he has accomplished, but I also see this moment for him as a big opportunity. And I just want to tell him that maybe there's another way, that maybe you can't always stop tides or little brothers from getting in your way, and maybe there's a better castle lying in a million pieces on the shoreline, just waiting to be built, destroyed, changed, rebuilt. He has to see that it all was not in vain...

I imagine it must be hard, spending your entire life building one castle, and then realizing that there is nothing you can do but let go. I hope at some point he can take to heart what he taught me, and realize that it was a lesson that extends far beyond an isolated few hours of my childhood and into our lives.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thoughts on Fairies.

No, this is not a post about homosexuals.

My brother said to me the other day, "You know -- you really can only have one emotion at a time." We were talking about how I'd been feeling sad a lot, but how certain small things made me happy in a big way all the time. He said, "It's like that line in Peter Pan -- that Fairies are really little, but they have big feelings, and so they can only have one emotion at a time. You're like a fairy! Biiig big emotions ... one at a time." I took this as a huge compliment. Not only do I love Fairies, I love the idea of really committing to something 100% and then moving on to the next big something. It is both a strength and a weakness of mine.

When I was little I really believed in Fairies. The nature-y kind. I once discovered a little patch of daffodils in a neighbor's abandoned lot. I cleared a little bit of earth for them to grow and would lie on my belly and talk to them for some time. I was delighted to see them come back year after year. I knew there was something magic going on, and was content to carry on with the magic in my own little spot, feeling very much like I was complicit in their inexplicable being. I knew that "real" Fairies didn't exist, the ones with wings and wands that Disney tried to sell. But I also knew that if Fairies did exist, they probably wouldn't show themselves to me right out. Maybe they were just little balls of light. I could be patient. I wanted them to know that I was there, and cool with whatever they were up to. You know, just in case.

Likewise I remember sitting in a warm spot on the living room floor, gazing at the dust as it caught the light on a Sunday morning. Thinking to myself that there was something wonderful going on. Wondering if the specks of dust had thoughts and feelings. Creating stories for them in my head. Exhaling and watching them go crazy. (I certainly did know how to entertain myself...). These particles were not fairies but I was certain that they had some kind of magic, and perhaps Fairies would be close by ...

Starting from a very young age I've dreamt about flying. Just ... feeling a slight updraft and lifting my foot, floating off the ground. One of my first words was "higher!" [said on a swing], my very earliest memory was being carried -- feeling like I was floating above the ground without explanation. So much of me was content to bask in this feeling of floating, of sort of drifting above people, observing them and not really engaging.

I know that a few years ago I posted on this blog about a little girl that I met while couchsurfing in Finland. Ronja, named after the girl pirate from Finnish storybooks. Their house was full of magic, and I was so inspired by their lives and all that I saw. Tented hallways, bead curtains. The best and most well-trained dog I'd ever met. Plants with butterflies in them and crystals that cast rainbows everywhere on the floor and walls. I took mental notes for my own magic little place.

When I finally did get to move into my own house, I moved in with a friend. Prior to moving in, she was already obsessing about household rules and how it just had to be for her to tolerate living in any situation. She was going on about how we had to have rotating cleaning schedules or paper towels or something, an I thought in absolute seriousness about my cohabitation prerequisites and blurted out, "Yeah! And we have to have crystals in the windows to invite the Fairies in!" At which point she was like -- "Ok?"

But it's true. Having rainbows dance on the floor is an invitation for daily magic which you have to make at least a small effort to bring into your life. At my work there are dried flowers at the desk, and of course Mr. Stink, my little stinkbug friend. In my room, stars and garlands hang from the ceiling. Little attempts at my own Fairy bower...

So ... these are my thoughts. My wish in life is to live more like a Fairy. A little ball of light that comes when it is invited or feels safe, or simply when it wants to cause some trouble, makes the world a little more delightful and takes on more than it can handle most of the time. Biig big emotions, one at a time.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Give and Take

I just got a note in the mail from a friend. Closing line: "You have a lot to give." A tragically loaded statement as far as I'm concerned.

A couple years ago I broke up with my boyfriend of 3.5 years. ("Lizzy, WE KNOW") Many of you were there, and I do believe that there is a series of really intense posts around that time. I was devastated, heartbroken.

Heartbreak, yes, in spite of the fact that I knew it was coming to an end. In retrospect, about six months into the relationship I knew -- in my heart of hearts -- that something wasn't quite right. But for one reason or other I really clung to the relationship. In part, I guess it was because it was the only love I had ever known, and it is to this day the only relationship I'd ever had. A big part of me was totally convinced that our love would trump all -- that all of the bad parts of our relationship were circumstantial. This of course may have been a self-preservation tactic on my part. I was insecure, in part convinced that if this didn't work out, probably nothing would.

I'm getting away from my point. I guess in the decline of our relationship I really made a hell of an effort to cling to it. I moved closer to him (at least in part) to see where the relationship would go. As he was drifting away from me in what ended up being an incredibly painful transition year, I kept coming to him (literally making myself close to him). I remember one night he was very busy with school work, and I was tired because I'd spent an entire day at the office. I went to bed early, and he came in and started fussing over some papers, and I complained because he woke me up. He said, "Why are you even here." I wrote it off as him being stressed and fell back asleep. I kept coming to him, even though I felt increasingly unwelcome in his space. I'm sure he'd long since decided that it was over, but was going through a lot of what I was going through. Eventually I broke my foot and for at least two or three weeks the crutches, my lack of a car and characteristically shitty weather prevented me from going anywhere. He didn't come to visit or see how I was, until I asked him to. He came once and then not again.

The relationship kept fumbling painfully forward for another seven months after these things even happened. And I kept trying to do more and give more, at least give what I could. I was miserable at work, had no studio and wasn't making much art outside of commissions and invites. Which meant I was triple miserable. And my major emotional support structure (boyfriend) was not doing much to help things.

What I'm getting at is this: my impulse is always to give more. To forgive before I understand, and try to see the good in things. For a long time growing up I was pretty stingy. I had siblings, and knew when the good fruit snacks came, they would be snatched up by mangy brothers and I had to get mine first and stash them away.

My parents were also kind of funny about giving. They say that in most family structures one parent is the "security" parent and the other one is the "nurture" parent -- and usually these fall along gender lines. My parents love me and my siblings very much, but when we were kids they were kind of obsessed with the idea of creating a security for their family, which meant in part that there wasn't much leeway in the structure that they created for themselves and for us. I really think that (although there is always grey area here) that my folks "security" parent genes were dominant over the "nurture" genes. Everything was "fair" and "even," and anything that was deemed superfluous (e.g. not fulfilling basic needs and education) was brushed aside. In other words, unless it was "earned" nothing was really given. (I am not only talking about objects here, although that was a big part of it.)

In this sense, whenever I was given anything, I felt guilty about it, and in some way indebted because I had not earned it. And that which I was given and had earned, I felt justified about. Looking back it feels pretty unhealthy way of looking at the world.

It wasn't until later that I started to learn about giving, in little bits. About being in relationships based on trust and generosity and understanding that some days are worse than others, and so you give more or you take more depending on the circumstances. I learned this from friends, from my second family. People who, time and time again, just kept giving and for no reason. It became too burdensome to feel guilty about it, and the only thing left to do was to give. And I'm not just talking about giving things. Because that's a really minute notion of what it means to give. But time, and energy and love.

I admit that when I fell in love for the first time I may have gone off the deep end, but I do not regret anything. And it was reciprocal -- we both gave a lot into that relationship, for better or for worse. But I think at a certain point I did kind of lose myself in the relationship, which is why I think that the break up really threw me for a loop. In the six months of severe insomnia that followed, I woke up every night between 3 and 4 am, unable to get back to sleep. In my sleepless internet browsing, I researched causes of insomnia. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, each hour of the day is part of a Qi cycle. Each stage of the cycle has a body part with which it is associated. If there is an imbalance in that part of the body, problems emerge. Between 3 and 5 am is the stage of the "lung," which, not surprisingly, is associated with the act of giving and taking, and the emotion of "grief and sadness." I thought that it was telling that almost every night, I was brought back into consciousness during the hour of the lung. That there was an imbalance; perhaps too much giving -- to little taking? I was also working three different jobs, none of which made me happy.

The insomnia didn't get better. Not with 10 mg of Ambien every night. Not with melatonin and massage and yoga and exercise and reading and breathing exercises. The house was never so clean. I was never so well-read. But in the daytime, I was like a zombie, always awake, but always only partly functional.

Things were kind of reaching a breaking point for me. I applied for a credit card. One morning in my room I went onto a travel website, and used my new credit card to purchase a ticket to Paris for two weeks and four days. I told my boss at one job that I needed to quit because I had to go to Paris. I told my boss at my other job that I needed to go to Paris, and understood that it might mean I was fired.

Then I went to Paris, and for two weeks, I didn't have a cell phone, alarm clock, or the internet. I went around, read books, ate chocolate, drank wine, talked to strangers, went thrift shopping. If I wanted to eat a chocolate croissant for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I did. If I wanted to eat a kinder bueno bar at 11 pm at a bar with a pint of beer, I did. I took. I took and took and took. People were really willing to give. I relied on the kindness of strangers, and my shiny new credit card, and neither did me wrong.

My insomnia persisted throughout the trip. It was great, in a way, because I was always sort of at the ready. Early morning, late night. I was my own perfect travel companion.

And when I came home, I started sleeping again. For a year plus I had given all of myself into a dead-end relationship and dead-end jobs. And then I packed all of my selfish me time into two awesome weeks in Paris. Poof. My Qi was kind of back in balance, and didn't get off-kilter again until my roommate situation got screwy (approx. 5 months).

As I've grown older and gained in experience, I am finding that generosity is a major component in any relationship for me. It has, in a sense, been a breaking point in many of my relationships, and often becomes a barrier between sort of regular social acquaintances and friends.

I find that it is still often easier for me to give than to receive, but I have made a big effort to be comfortable in my Need. I am no rock, no island. There have been times where I have really needed help, and I'm glad that I am able to ask for it. That I feel like I can.

Recently, I hosted a couple guys from Philadelphia who I only peripherally knew. There was no question in my mind that they would stay with me and I would feed them, etc. Not only because so many friends and complete strangers have done the same for me so many times in my life. But because they were there and they needed a place to stay and I liked them. One of them came up to me after the first of two night they stayed with me and gave me this whole monologue about how he was really messed up because of his overbearing father and too-giving mother, and how he is comfortable in his need, in particular around generous, solicitous women. I thought this was generally odd, and was in part annoyed because it made me think twice about what I was doing, and whether I was being stupid. I wrote it off. I felt bad that he had this big hangup and figured that if that was a role that felt comfortable for him, and for me, then why think much about it anyway?

Ugh in any case. This note that I just got, "You have a lot to give." This whole time I'm just trying to qualify why it irks me so supremely. In part it's because of what it isn't saying. It is acknowledging potential to be rather than being. And also this idea of one-sidedness. I don't want to over think every contribution I make to the lives of others ... and I don't want to curtail it either. I'm neither Mother Theresa nor Paris Hilton ... Most likely it was written because the writer didn't know what else to say, which makes me wonder why anything was written on the note in the first place.

This is way too long, and I know I'm being difficult, and this probably wasn't the ending you'd hoped for after such a wildly peripatetic entry. But there's plenty of food for thought here, and THIS is why I write blog entries and not essays or books or whatever and nooooow I'm gonna stop. Oof.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A nothing post

I'm getting new eyeglasses today! They are big, tortoise-shell, and SOOO eighties. I am making a hard turn to the eighties much to the chagrin of people close to me who actually lived through the eighties (and not as a baby, like I did). Blouses with shoulder pads, high-wasted jeans. Big hair. Jumpsuits. Anyway I like the glasses because they're a little softer, a little more fem than my current R.Crumb/Malcolm-X horn-rims.

That's actually not what I want to write about.

It's Friday night, and instead of hiding like I want to, I'm going to the house party of a dear friend. "Forgive me Father, it has been 20 days since my last social engagement." For a 25-year-old, that's like forty years. I figure that rather than condemning myself to social purgatory, a minor effort once a month wouldn't hurt. And so to hype myself up I'm listening to this awesome song and wondering whose outfit and dancing style I wish to emanate.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Confessions of small cruelties

Yesterday at my gym (yes I have a gym), I saw a woman who is a friend of a friend. We'd gone out a couple times. I'd all but forgotten that she'd existed. She was in the locker room and we both looked at each other with vague recognition but neither of us said hi.

I'd met her about a year ago. She was in my friend's apartment, they'd just gone to a party together, and were both already a bit tipsy. She was sitting, slunk back on the futon in my friend's cozy living room, her winter coat and hat and gloves were all on. She didn't get up when I came in. Already a small person, bundled up and ready to go, and sitting in such a deflated but expectant manner, she had the look of a petulant child. I couldn't decide how old she was but then she took off her gloves to accept a glass of wine and I saw that her hands revealed their bones and veins, their youthful fat sucked away. I decided that she must be in her late 30's at least. Within seconds of her first sip of Pinot Noir, she revealed an attitude of a petulant child, "I want to go out. I want to go dancing. I have one night out without my kids and my husband and I want to go out." A few more sips of wine and she'd already revealed to me some incredibly intimate details of her personal life -- petulant no longer quite cutting it as a descriptive -- including that she'd been repeatedly unfaithful to her husband, that she disliked her children, etc. etc. As a side note, I wonder why this happens to me relatively often, or whether it's just a common thing that I have never gotten used to. People tend to reveal certain stunning details of their lives immediately after we've met, as if they wish to either dazzle or shock me with their eccentricities. Little do they know that I could honestly care less, and would much prefer to engage in a conversation where stories are starting points and not giant, random paintballs of information pelted at my head. And so very often I'll try my best to be utterly non-reactionary, an attempt to diffuse the situation and get down to it.

In this situation there was really no hope for that. She would have her way, we would know her discontent, we would know how daring she was.

More Pinot Noir for everyone. My friend, I'd already concluded by then, was an alcoholic, or a burgeoning one. I decided that I needed the wine at that moment more than I needed any sort of discretion on his behalf.

So, onward. She'd gone to Mexico for a yoga retreat, to get her certification. Instead she dropped out after about two days and had had, "the most amazing fuck" with a man on a Mexico beach. He had long hair. He was either French or Mexican, I forget. I kept imagining Fabio even though I don't find him attractive and he doesn't look Mexican or French in the least. This little woman with a Czech accent fucking Fabio on a Mexican shore, as her brand new yoga pants, strewn carelessly into the sand several meters away, were massaged into submission by the tide. "It couldn't," she gasped, as she ran her fingers through French-Mexican Fabio's hair, "be butter..."

She laughed as she mentioned how she tried to explain to her rich doctor husband why she hadn't received her certification. "But I want to go out, I want to dance!" We'd finished the bottle of wine.

We got into her car. She put one of the two baby seats into the trunk, so that I could sit in the back seat. At this point, I'd finished feeling sad for her, I was mostly just fascinated. As I got in, I thought to myself that the safest seat in the car in case of an accident is the seat directly behind the driver. I'm stupid, shouldn't have gotten in.

We went to one bar with "dancing." I have to say, dancing in Pittsburgh in January is never going to be the Saturday Night Fever of one's dreams. I didn't have anything better to do, and at this point, I was already curious to observe her behavior. We went and stood while others danced, and then meandered to a different section of the club where there was some world music playing. There was a coalition of black foreigners there -- some were from Senegal, others from Côte D'Ivoire. We all danced, and I had some fun after all. In that environment, she looked so small, sad, opportunistic. She stepped in several times when I was dancing with my friend, and otherwise leaned against the wall, her arms crossed, downing a hard drink.

A man asked for my number and I told him no. We all finally decided it was time to go, got back into her car. I stayed at my friend's house overnight, but not because I wanted to. I did it to be cruel. I am cruel sometimes, and I wish it weren't an impulse of mine. I wanted to show to her that I was actually free to do whatever I wanted, whereas she had to reinstall her baby seat in the back. And live with herself ...

A few months later my friend and I went out dancing again, just us. She was there, with an older man. I asked whether that was her husband, and he said, "No, they're having an affair."

I wondered to myself how people in Pittsburgh could ever have affairs, seeing as it's impossible to walk outside without seeing forty eight thousand people you already know. As I watched them dance, I felt another cruelty brewing inside me. They were at least 15 years older than anybody else there. Who did they think they were? Granted if I didn't know the circumstances of their relationships, I might have been more forgiving, thinking, "Wow they look like they're having fun," or something nice like that.

When I go out dancing, I rarely dance with anybody else, unless I'm with my brother or a few choice girlfriends. I like to just dance, and that way it becomes about bodies and music and moving rather than crude courtship and sex.

Well. I instantly perceived their self-consciousness, and did nothing to abate their apparent discomfort. They were glued to each other at the crotch-butt, until eventually they made gestures to dance with me or my friend which I blithely denied, feigning a carefree attitude despite my sobriety and complete consciousness of their malaise. Instead, I wished its increase, wished every clumsiness and out-of-place-and-out-of-time-ness upon them. And eventually they stopped dancing. Later the man offered, "I really like how you dance, it was great just to be able to watch you." Half-disgusted, I offered in my best attempt at off-handedness, "Do you not go dancing often?"

I wish I could be somebody who did not judge. I keep listening to this song by the Roches (yeah, yeah, I know: I can't stop about the Roches -- they're great!). It's called "Everyone is Good." I was listening to it and listening to it on repeat for a while when I really needed a dose of goodness. I do honestly believe that everybody is good. But that doesn't mean that I think that everything that everyone does is ok. I try and try not to judge. I've met people who are insightful and sweet and not judgmental. And in comparison I feel like a caveman to their enlightened elvishness. I know there is great complexity to people, and that's what makes them people and that's what makes the world wonderful and frightening and interesting. But I judge anyway. And I try not to hack at my own crude sense of justice ... because I know that's wrong too. If everybody did that ... then things would be crazy fucked-up. And I mean ... I'm still young. Mother Theresa wasn't born a Mother. I know, excuses, excuses.

But sometimes I allow myself some small (intentional) cruelties, and they don't make me proud at all, but. Nobody's perfect.

So yeah, I saw her and I didn't say hi, and I figured that was a small decency to allow for the previous small cruelties. When I walked out of the dressing room, her lover was waiting for her. And I'm sure neither of them noticed any part of the internal drama which I just recounted, so ... who is actually the victim of cruelty here? Sigh. And so I blog.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


I'm at this point where I really don't want to engage with people very much. It happens every now and again, and the last time I really remember it happening was when I was living in New York. I would leave my cellphone at home, not check my email, go on long walks and bike rides, not tell anybody. In a smaller city it's more difficult to remain anonymous. When I was really struggling to get over my heartbreak a few years ago, it required about four trips to New York, a trip to Amsterdam, and one completely solitary trip to France to recover. The trials of the last year or so were more varied in both nature and duration. It would of course follow that the recovery process has been varied and more nebulous. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around it. There's less of the somebody-heal-this-broken-bone feeling that I had with the breakup, more, like, what-the-fuck-was-that.

But again, I need to hide a little. There are about a handful of people whose presence I welcome. I'd been feeling a little bit guilty about this, but I got over it. I don't care to offer up excuses for my behavior, and while I appreciate that people enjoy being around me, I often feel very burdened by social interactions where people expect me to kind of carry them. When I'm ready to dance I will dance anybody into the ground, but I just have to be in the right place. What most of them don't know is if I have no desire or motivation to be part of a situation, I lack many of the social reverences that compel others to continue to engage with it on any level. I do have the social wherewithal to take a time out when that side of me is present. A few weeks ago at a party at my own house, I extricated myself for an hour and a half without explanation. I just went to my room, shut the door, and sat in the dark for a bit. When I was ready to come back down, my friends were still alive and seemed a bit surprised but then things kept rolling merrily along.

I needed to get back down to basics, hard and fast. Last year was tough, man. And the year before. Everything I thought I'd wanted, really, thrown myself towards -- from college to boyfriend to jobs to galleries -- haven't worked out. It's ok. I learned a lot. LOTS of really great "learning experiences." I'm almost afraid to say it, but I just want something to pull through for me. At this point, I'm wary, nearly cynical, but really trying my best to fight that impulse. Cynicism, people tend to forget, is so easy in a world like ours.

In the process of learning so many "valuable life lessons," I remember that a handful of people did pull through for me in a big way.

So. I don't know. I am with the people who really matter to me, and just turning down the volume everywhere else. And I think now that my grad school applications are all-but-finished, I'm gearing up to throw myself at the next great beyond. So I am taking the liberty of giving myself a time out. It's not that I don't love the others, or care about them, I just need a volume decrease.

Monday, January 2, 2012


Sorry about the last post. Something about new year's eve and my birthday always kind of gets me down.

I've just -- been feeling removed lately. We had a small get together at the house on New Year's day and I needed to hide for a bit. When I was really sick I longed for social interaction, but then when somebody close to me got very sick, I shunned it almost completely. A few strangers who came into town helped me feel like I could be somebody else, a happier, lighter version of my 2011 self.

Social situations at times make me feel much more lonely and isolated than when I am completely alone. Funny how that is.