i have a question...

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

tv is a drug

(a bright spotlight on 1 speaker. loud commercial noise. 1 looks like he hasn’t slept in days but cannot close his eyes. he is paralyzed. rambling. desperate.)

1: i think i have a problem. sometimes i can’t eat. i can’t sleep. i obsess about it. it calls to me in the middle of the night. i wake up in a cold sweat, itching for it. i can’t focus. i need to concentrate on more important things.
there are so many more important things. i can’t remember what any of them are right now, but i know this isn’t life.
i’m addicted.
i’m asking for help here.
i need to get my life back on track.
are you even listening to me?!
i said i need help!
is anyone there? are you listening? i can’t get away from it.i can’t escape.i can’t think of anything else.my thoughts are scattered.
iforgetwhereiamsometimes. sometimesican’tremembermynameorwhereilive. ineverknowwhattimeitis. ican’trememberthelasttimeislept. isaidineedhelp. someonehelptellmewhatishouldbedoingpleasei’mbeggingyouturnitoffturnitoffturnitoff!
(silence. blackout.)

(lights return. a huge book is thrown at 1 from offstage and knocks him out cold. blackout.)

Monday, January 29, 2007

Wandering Plays

I had an inspired thought yesterday that these plays could have a running theme of movement or roaming. Just a thought, since people are either coming or going in all of them so far.

Here's a little fun one, inspired by workday boredom.

date marry screw

2 speakers are everywhere, always. Perhaps this play goes on in the background throughout the others.

1: Martha Stewart, Oprah Winfrey, Kathie Lee Gifford.
2: --
Marry Oprah (ACK!)
Fuck Martha (*hewerep*)
Date Kathie Lee
1: Totally!
2: Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Tom Jones
1: Marry Hanks.
Fuck Jones.
Date Cruise.
2: I’d marry Hanks, fuck Cruise, date Jones. Fucking Jones would be so…sleazy…
1: OK. Jackson 5 MJ, Thriller MJ, MJ today
2: Date Jackson 5—he was just a baby.
Marry Thriller.
Wait. I have to pick between fucking a baby and fucking an alien?!??!!
1: HAHAHAHA. I totally stumped you.
Wait, you can justify fucking Martha Stewart but not Michael Jackson?
2: At least I know what’s down there.
OK. Vinyl, tape, CD.
1: Marry Vinyl…cuz nothing’s sexier than vinyl.
Date tape.
Fuck CD; although it might have a problem with premature ejaculation. Hopefully, we could work around that.
2: OK. OK. The cast of Growing Pains, the cast of Cosby Show, the cast of Full House…

(And on and on and on.)

Sunday, January 28, 2007

You Can't Argue with That

1 male and 1 female speaker. They too are walking…wherever.

X: don’t look at me like that.
O: like what?
X: like you want to kiss me. i don’t feel like being kissed right now.
O: i wasn’t.
X: like that. that face right there. take that face off.
O: or what?
X: or i’ll scream.
O: but there’s no one here to hear you!
X: you’re here!
O: yes.
i am.
(his point is made and X is speechless.)

They exit.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Law of Gravity

2 speakers. They are walking, wherever. One speaker stops.

-did you feel that?
-you didn’t feel that.
-feel what?
-it felt like…
like the earth stopped. do you ever feel that?
-…i don’t think so.
-it happens to me sometimes.
when I remember something or someone i haven’t thought about for a long time.
what or who was it?
-what or who did you remember?
-i don't know yet.
(silence. then. this speaker seems to cave in on herself a little…but at the same time, there is…joy. the pain is exquisite, a familiar ecstasy.)
-i just figured it out.
(silence. her mind races to its inevitable conclusion.)
he snuck up on me again.

They exit.

Friday, January 26, 2007

drunk dissolution

A bar. 2 friends. One is polishing of what looks like her 3rd or 4th drink. A sudden lull in the conversation before lights up.

1: (taking a deep breath after she gulps her drink) --whoa. i haven’t drank this much in a long time.
2: drunk.
1: i’m not drunk.
2: no. you haven’t drunk this much in a long time.
1: yeah. (takes a deep breath and says on the exhale--) i know.
you know what i noticed? or heard, rather? or read?--i forget. whatever.
wait, what was i saying? oh yeah. you know what I realized? every good restaurant has grammar mistakes on their menus.
2: its
1: it’s what?
2: every good restaurant has grammar mistakes on its menu. the subject of that sentence is "every restaurant," which is singular.
1: what did i say?
2: you said.—nevermind.
1: are you mad at me?
2: what?
1: are you mad at me?
2: (laughing) what are you even talking about? here. have some water.
1: stop yelling at me.
(silence. uncomfortable shifts in respective seats. silence.)
2: (just making conversation) i wish it would stop raining.
1: it’s always raining somewhere.
(1 suddenly downs the rest of her drink and rises to leave.
2 is left to contemplate the sudden truth she is faced with.)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

We're all losing something

One summer, not too long ago, I was very inspired. And surrounded by inspiring people. We splattered walls with our creativity. And this was my first foray into postmodernism, if I may be so...audacious. I collected snippets of conversations and they ended up making a lot of sense to me.

We’re all losing something
Or that
Mainly I just helped myself
Opening your mouth makes sense sometimes
Who is this antagonist?
In his eyes, she is everything that is good and perfect
We will wait with bated breaths
The crazies who invented love
Hidden in plain sight
You’d rather be in it than not, right?
Where are we going?
Within reason
Rain is time to be whimsical
Barreling into a void
I think it’s dangerous
I lost my baggage on the way to my new life
Everything folds up
…Wake her up
It’s that kind of tired where you’re not sure you’ll ever not be tired again
He’d never tell us he was lost too
Something had been ripped from my body and I could taste it in my mouth
I want my song to be in my head
I would have cried but I didn’t have time
And I heard in color
She is the devil but mostly to herself
We are neither of those things only
She will wear her mother’s skin like a blanket

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


With this post, you all are up to date in my writings. It might be a while before inspiration strikes again, but tell your friends to come read and, in the meantime, send me inspired vibes...Enjoy.

December 2006

We used to put a wreath on our door. Our Christmas trees used to tower over us on our parlor floor, over 8 feet tall, painstakingly decorated with ornaments generations-old. And piles of presents would gradually appear under it over the days before Christmas. When we got a plastic tree the 2nd or third year after moving to California, I felt cheated and homesick. The tell-all pine scent of Christmas in New York and the brisk cold outside, the stepping lightly over icy sidewalks, replaced by the scentless, warm, sterile Christmases in California. I could feel the loss of seasons in my body that first year. Where was winter?

Now I walk down the street and see Christmas lights appear on doorsteps and in front yards the day after Thanksgiving. And the hat tree outside a front door I don’t even use in a New York City apartment is festooned half-heartedly with a glittery garland. I feel like the year (or maybe it’s years) has passed me by. I don’t know if I’m any different at the end of this year than I was at the beginning. I used to be able to tell. I could name the ways in which I had changed. Would write them down every New Year’s Eve because I felt like a summary of the year duly noted an ending and a beginning.

I don’t know when the holidays became a day when I wanted to avoid family instead of a day when I craved them. Even when I knew how difficult family time would be (because there were years when it always was), I anticipated Christmas movie revelations, snow fall on Christmas morning, hot cocoa, pancakes, and presents, pure joy as I discovered gift after gift that I had requested on a long list before the holiday. The reality ended up being waking up too early, awkward silences at gift opening and an afternoon we didn’t know what to do with, followed by a quiet, often-tense dinner, and trying to find places for several tchotchkes I had no use for and stuffed animals I was too old for in my room.

It’s hard to believe the magic of Christmas really ends at a certain age until you have kids of your own. What a waste of a holiday for those 15 or 20 years between when you realize there is no Santa and when you have to create him yourself. Can those of us that were denied the magic so long ago, who figured out that everyone was just pretending to be happy, who knew that the scenarios portrayed on-screen in holiday movies never really happened, really be expected to do anything differently, anything better, when we have our own families?

I am a little less jaded when it comes to New Year’s Eve, even though I’ve only had one or two celebrations that are really worth talking about. I still fall for the sentiment of New Year’s. The idea that the old year is over and the new year is full of great potential, so much possibility. I feel like I’m young enough that that still makes sense. I still have a chance to make the best of the year ahead, to prioritize and analyze and move forward, without too much backtracking or regression.

That doesn’t mean that I’ve always celebrated well or even felt particularly joyful or excited on the day itself. I often, in fact, feel like I haven’t changed enough, like I haven’t worked hard enough, like I’m not where I imagined I’d be at the end of another year. And I used to have to write it down to make sure I remembered, gave myself credit for all the ways I had changed.

I stopped doing that last year. When I was fed up with writing a laundry list of how things were different than they had been the year before, of patting myself on the back for growing. I was 22. I was supposed to be growing. It was the first time in almost 10 years that I hadn’t made any hopeful plans for the year ahead. In fact, I wrote something along the lines of “Good fucking riddance” to 2005.

It seems to be my general sentiment for time lately. Good riddance to the 6 months I worked on a show that I felt achingly uncreative working on. Good riddance to the month in which my mother left my abusive step-father and spent basically on the lam. Good riddance to the 1st year I had survived out of college. Good riddance to another volatile holiday spent with my brother.

Now we’re up against another holiday. Another year has passed. I can’t believe it. This one went much faster than I expected or was ready for. It didn’t seem like there was enough time to change. I was too overwhelmed…with work and family and trying to regain my footing. Of course, in light of one of the tumultuous years of my life, my instinct is to say good riddance.

But I’m still young…maybe this year I’ll try to be a little more hopeful…

Monday, January 22, 2007

SLP has all the answers

Big up to Suzan-Lori Parks. She's the coolest.

From "All the Answers," 365 Days/365 Plays
Ive got all the answers. Heres a selection:
Learn to say no.
Learn to say yes.
Roll with the punches.
Show up but also
know when to go.
Celebrate yr birthdays.
Show up.
Work with whatcha got.

Me and My Bundle

You know when your double standards come back and bite you in the ass? I wrote this in an attempt to make some sense out of what seems endlessly confusing, but I still have no answers.

November 2006

I hate technology. It frazzles me. I read once that people being interrupted by emails and phone calls while taking an IQ test do worse than people who are stoned while taking it. That pretty much explains my constant state of distraction and restlessness. Even my sentences have become shorter. See?

I am suddenly a bundle of contradictions. Or maybe I’ve always been this complicated. I used to think that high school drama, with all its apparent life-ending crises and time-standing-still, would end with high school. But somehow it hasn’t. Is that my fault or just the way my life has ended up?

I have no idea which direction I should be walking, and yet I am somehow determined to get there. I can’t tell if it’s the place I’m living, which everyone seems to agree is not for me, or if I am actually destined to never feel settled. Left chasing the idea of home but never being satisfied with what is in front of and comforting to me.

My greatest fear is being excluded, but I often crave silence. It doesn’t make sense that I should have to choose between the two. There’s got to be some way for me to know exactly how everyone feels about me at all times and also feel safe being by myself. Maybe it’s called trust. I’m still hoping people will prove themselves to me in some absolute way…but they can’t do that if they know nothing they do will prove anything to me. Or that what I’m really doing is expecting them to fuck up and break my trust.

I don’t know how to, once and for all, drop my walls. I need to stop setting myself up for failure. I want to escape. Cut ties. I used to have friends I had no baggage with. Now all my relationships are complicated and intertwined. And I swear it’s not my fault. I stayed silent for years because I never wanted to be in the middle of anything. It sucks that when I finally began speaking my mind, it inevitably involved becoming emotionally involved.

When do relationships stop being productive? When do you stop learning from them? When do roles suddenly become so stagnant that they feel less like choices and natures and more like traps and assumptions? Is this why people get divorced? Move? Get pregnant? To literally change who they are in the world?

I can’t blame any of this on my age anymore. Or maybe I can, but only partly. At a certain point, that is just an excuse. And scrutiny of the choices you’re making and situation you are actually in is required. Everyone needs to jump off the “Graduation Funk” bandwagon. That’s a huge cop out.

Someone tried to convince me once that being an old cat lady was only seen as sad and pathetic because we are a society bent on socialization and not because it’s actually a particularly unattractive way to live, but there is very little denying that in a city that never sleeps, coming home after work and watching hours of reality TV isn’t much to jump up and down about. Especially since I’m actually not an old lady. Although I do have more gray hairs and wrinkles than I care to acknowledge.

I bounce between just rolling and feeling so restless my legs actually itch. I can’t imagine living this life for another 2 years. And I also can’t really fathom how overwhelmed I would be if I had to move again so soon. That seems to be the Catch-22 of my decision-making lately. Either way, neither choice seems quite right. Can’t someone else make the decisions for me? Then I can blame him when my life is still unsatisfactory.

Why is it always so much work? Or maybe that’s just me. I just need to figure out what I’m looking for.

I hope I know it when I see it…Otherwise, all of this will remain just speculation.


Saturday, January 20, 2007


More thoughts of high school and childhood. And what it means to have survived 4 years somewhere I didn't belong.

September 2006

For some reason, I’m thinking a lot about my childhood these days. About a childhood that I sometimes look back on with regret because it was overshadowed by adult matters that left me self-reliant at an early age. I remember high school as the epitome of this contradiction. A time when I was supposed to be experimenting with booze and boys, cutting classes, rebelling against my parents but which, in reality, was a time when I took school too seriously because I knew that would be my way to escape.

I didn’t really smoke anything or drink until I was 19 and 21, respectively. In high school, I never crammed and I never cut class. I was mortified to find out that I had gotten a B in an art class once because I thought that meant I’d have no chance at getting to be the valedictorian and I felt that made my entire four years at high school a 1460 day long waste of time. I had entered high school as the “smart girl from New York,” the one who left high school with the same reading and writing skills as she had when she had entered. I knew at the end of my freshman year that I could make it to valedictorian and that B was the one chink in my academic armor. (I ended up making valedictorian, after taking one more honors class than the person who was salutatorian.)

The point is, when my mother and step-father moved us from Brooklyn, NY to Cambria, CA and I left a school of 1100 to attend a school of 400, I knew the first few days that I needed to get out as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Once I had graduated and finally moved away from Cambria, I knew I was off the hook, and I stopped being so rigid with myself. I took classes I wanted to take, and ended up deciding to major in theater, which was the first “rebellious,” independent decision I had ever made. I lived with a male roommate (we shared one room, two beds); I started smoking cigarettes, pot, and drinking (all recreationally, of course). I partied. A lot. Hosted costume balls and spontaneous dance parties in my apartment. Sometimes even sacrificed my homework for a night out with friends. And even cut classes now and then, to catch up on sleep. Or homework that hadn’t gotten done the nights before. It was a time of intense self-awareness and transformation.

Five years after graduating from high school, I try to look back at those years without too much regret. I had to make the best of it at the time because, otherwise, I probably would have killed myself. Or gotten pregnant and really been stuck there. Who knows what might have been if I had actually fallen victim to the closed mindedness of the tiny, white-washed town? But I do know that the way I saw it, as a gateway to what ended up being the most wonderful times of my life, helped me get through each day and not resent four years of my life. I can chalk it up as just a long, torturous transition. And maybe that is actually what high school means to everyone.

But Cambria has a way of swallowing people up. I always called it a black hole, and I knew that if I caved in college at some point and crawled back to Cambria with my tail between my legs, as I saw and heard many of my high school classmates do, I might never leave. And some of those kids still haven’t.

I’m not sure if it was because it was their hometown. Or because the town itself seemed to breed a certain type of non-thinking and unmoving young person. But there seems to be a particular phenomenon of people I knew moving back, after various times at colleges or not, and subsequently never leaving.

I can understand if your hometown is a big city, like San Francisco or New York, that you might move back after college. Or even go to college in the city. And maybe that’s because I did grew up in a big city, and even though I was never really an adult in New York until a year and half ago, I knew that a rural town was not where I belonged. I just don’t understand what opportunities exist for young people in a town of 6000, a town with one streetlight (actually, the second got installed my last year in college), a town where not only do you never pass anyone on the street who isn’t white but you probably know the names of everyone of those white people. And their kids.

Sometimes I imagine the scene at my ten-year high school reunion. I know some of the people there will be fatter and that those who aren’t are the ones who got some plastic surgery, and a lot of people will be married and even more will have kids (since they started in high school or right after). I even know of one of my high school classmates who has come out of the closet. (I somehow doubt she’ll make an appearance at the reunion.) I imagine sitting and drinking with the one or two people I still keep in contact with and judging all the others while I stuff my face with buffet food and congratulate myself on the 10th anniversary of my escape.

Friday, January 19, 2007

But Enough about Me...

I read Jancee Dunn's book and related to it so much, I wrote her a fan letter and sent her this review, hoping to get some attention as a writer.

It didn't work.

But the book is still really good.

A Nobody Finds Herself
--June 2006

I recently had a birthday, and my mother asked me what I wanted. I hadn’t thought about possible answers to that question for years because the answer is always inevitably “money,” as impersonal as that seems. But since, this year, my mom is a little strapped for cash, I gave the question its due attention.

I spend an embarrassing amount of time surfing the web at work. I pore over celebrity news and entertainment blogs, almost as compulsively as I check my personal email. One of these blogs had an announcement about Jancee Dunn’s memoir, “But Enough About Me…a Jersey Girl’s Unlikely Adventures Among the Absurdly Famous.” It was one of those purchases that I probably never would have been able to justify making myself, but I was eager to read any and all celebrity factoids (since my livelihood and social life are greatly based on useless celebrity trivia), so I added it to the list of things I wanted for my birthday. This list also included My So-Called Life, The Breakfast Club, and Say Anything…on DVD. I figured my mother could make a more educated choice, and I would be more surprised, if I gave her a range of items to choose from.

My birthday arrived and I opened my package from Amazon.com. Inside sat Dunn’s book, and, after I finished the book I had been reading, I eagerly began it and found I couldn’t put it down.

Written as part handbook for young journalists and part memoir, in which the passages dedicated to her parents and her sisters are the most vivid and moving, the book flies by before your eyes. It’s the kind of book that’s perfect for reading on the New York City subway (the same one you imagine Dunn may be riding, once you discover she lives there too!), the kind of book that is so engrossing you almost miss your stop and never hear the music you’re listening to on your iPod while you ride to work in the morning.

We follow Dunn from her awkward and self-deprecating adolescence to her awkward and self-deprecating adulthood. Even her dedication at the beginning of the book declares, through the words of Emily Dickinson, that she is “nobody.” From her mid-teen years in New Jersey, when New York City seemed like a whole other country, to her stumbles through employment at Rolling Stone, MTV, Good Morning America, and New York Magazine in the city that once seemed so far away, and finally to a reconnection with herself and the family she hadn’t even thought to learn more about. It struck me, though, that for someone to have such luck in the writing and entertainment industry, there’s no way she could be as awkward and fumbly as she portrays herself. This woman may be a self-proclaimed geek, but that doesn’t mean that she isn’t cool.

Her first cringe-worthy Q and As at Rolling Stone, with the odd couple of Mary Tyler Moore and Johnny Rotten (not simultaneously, of course) affirm her early admission of geekdom. But the interlude chapters that shed light on how to make the best of sticky interview situations prove that Dunn eventually hit her stride beautifully. It is Dunn’s honesty and earnestness that are undoubtedly the traits these “absurdly famous” respond to. Dunn seems to be a wide open book, eager for connection, and desperate never to make a fool of herself or anyone else. She is on the celebrities’ side. She wants them to look good, and she wants to tell the truth about them, even when she has to ask them about their very public mistakes. She is as relieved as we are when they respond thoughtfully (thank you Robert Downey, Jr.); and she writes honest and generous articles about her subjects (the anecdotes about Loretta Lynn’s and Christina Aguilera’s reactions to her articles about them made me almost weep openly on the subway, as Kelly Clarkson belted “Breakaway” in my ear).

Dunn is not shy about pointing the interrogation lamp at herself. She is brutally honest about the fights she has with her family (about college and money and her need for independence), her unlucky love life (with the abrasive and immature Ritchie, the controlling and dull Sean, and the lazy and irresponsible Trevor), her uncertainties about marriage and motherhood (as she observes her friends and her sisters beginning to settle down and create their own families), and the serious mistakes she makes as she begins to forget who she is in the fog of her “Rock Chick” lifestyle.

In the end, it is her family that holds her up and gets her back on her feet (literally after a severe coke binge, her brother-in-law Patrick carries her to the toilet so she can vomit, after generously making her a grilled cheese sandwich and regaling her with his own pre-sobriety stories). It is her father’s constant cheeriness, her mother’s strength and unexpected vulnerability (another tear-inducing episode on the train), and her sisters’ unfaltering loyalty that remind Dunn who she is and has always been. And the “happily ever after” ending doesn’t hurt either.

“But Enough About Me…” is a veritable blueprint for ambitious writers and young people trying to make it in this potentially crushing city. But the most striking and resonating message I was left with is that, absurdly famous or not, we are all human. And in this culture so fixated on success, when we beat ourselves up because we don’t look like the women in the magazines and haven’t yet made our first million, when we become impatient because we don’t even know what we’re doing with our lives yet, it’s a lovely reminder.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

ruminations on high school

I remember noting that 5 years had passed since when I had graduated high school...and I didn't really know how to articulate what it meant to me.

Most Likely to Succeed, June 2006

Everyone remembers those silly superlatives we get stuck with in our high school yearbooks. Or maybe it’s just me. And maybe it’s just because I was actually voted something. The superlative somehow loaded with the most pressure—“Most Likely to Succeed.” Five years ago, I was busting my ass to make valedictorian of my high school and somehow validate the culture shock I’d suffered for four years in the small, rural, conservative town of Cambria, CA. I deserved to be voted “Most Likely to Succeed,” if the definition of that was “smartest” or “most hardworking” or “most well-read” or “the one who takes school most seriously because she’s the one who most wants to get the hell out.” I doubt my teenaged classmates had the forethought to imagine where we’d all be in five years. Or that our definitions of success would change so drastically.

But let me back up a minute, to examine some of the less loaded superlatives. “Biggest Flirt” was perhaps the most envied—or revered—position. At least to my 17-year old self, who, at that point, wanted more than a lot of things to be flirted with, even if it was by the “biggest flirt” in class. (It all counted to my burgeoning and easily wounded sexual ego. However, I only vaguely remember being flirted with by Jeff. He, like most boys in my high school class, seemed intimidated by my studiousness and overt lack of patience for teenaged male ignorance. I can admit now that it’s partly my own fault I didn’t get a date until I was 18…and out of high school.) I wonder whether “the biggest flirts’” reputations preceded them into college and beyond. And whether or not that label followed them around, bolstering them somehow, upping their confidence with new potential conquests. They were seen as savvy flirts, precociously sexually confident, by their peers in their teenaged years. Did it matter to them in real sexual situations? Probably not.

Perhaps the students we voted “Most Likely to Make You Laugh” and “Friendliest” (or some such nonsense) were encouraged by our admiration in their personalities. Jennifer and Marcus really were the wittiest and goofiest students in our class. I wonder if the last five years have given them edges, jaded them in some way. If they started taking themselves too seriously or if their lives have taken such drastic turns that their senses of humor have waned somehow. I wonder if David and Camille moved through college making friends and acquaintances as easily as they had in high school. Or if leaving the insular, tiny town of our high school and entering a proverbially bigger and badder world made them more tentative so that they just kept the one or two friends they had had in school.

Our yearbook committee also decided on voting for overtly superficial superlatives, “Best Eyes” and “Best Smile.” I can’t imagine that this meant anything to Ryan, Jennifer, Noe, or Rocio in the moment or that it followed them into their lives at all. I can’t imagine why we thought those categories were at all interesting or relevant to someone’s character. Isn’t the point of a high school yearbook to shed some light of relevance on those years?

Did the kids who weren’t voted for anything feel left out? Did they feel even more that their classmates didn’t understand them, hadn’t validated them? In retrospect, I had been labeled the new girl, the “student,” since my first day. Those kids didn’t really know me, but I had worked so hard to make the 4 years pass quickly and painlessly that if someone else had gotten voted “Most Likely to Succeed” or ended up valedictorian, I would have been completely affronted and felt even more like high school had been a total waste of time. As it is, that’s something I still grapple with sometimes. That high school was a time and place where I learned very little and no one knew me. Maybe everyone feels that way about high school. I think, now, that they must.

In the end, when I realize that it’s been 5 years since our graduation ceremony, the event at which I talked about appreciating our one moment of togetherness before our dispersion into the “real world,” it comes down to the fact that I haven’t seen most of my classmates in these 5 years. And if I show up at a reunion in another 5 years, I doubt I’ll see them before that. So my measure of success (how much money I’m making, what my job means in the grand scheme of things, my life plan, my certainties and uncertainties about the decisions I’m making for myself) isn’t based on their approval or the approval of my teachers anymore. But I am still (and perhaps again) consumed with how I measure and factor all those things today against the standard that I feel like was set for me back then. Really, it’s just the standard I have always set for myself. And that, in truth, is the hardest to live up to.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Monday, January 15, 2007


Overwhelmed with the sudden shift in my lifestyle, I used to sit and smoke in the window of our tiny Brooklyn sub-lease apartment, in the hottest summer NYC had had in years, it seemed.

August 29, 2005

I smoke a
solitary cigarette
by a
small window,
Waiting for the
inevitable headrush
and thinking too many thoughts to jot down.
The world slows down for a
and a book slips off my lap.
The city is quieted by my c o n c e n t r a t ed inhalations.
It is a silence that eludes me to the point that I crave it, need it to slow my
and a restlessness that won’t quit, that demands attention in a way I can’t


A fly victoriously enters from outside—
I know he, too, will nag me.
The room spins slightly and a dull ache throbs in my head.
A drop of sweat appears on my lip and I
wipe it away with one finger, but it is just another
futile action in this new routine of stagnant living.
I can’t chainsmoke my fulfillment.
I can’t even name it.
It is blurred at the edges by
this noise,
this crush of bodies,
this oppressive heat.
Distractions are welcome, but the
red flags of my psyche keep flaring up.
I pad back to my room to seek more remedies to keep my fears at bay.
It is not
Just Survival.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Less Lost

The two poems below were written within days of each other and within days before moving from Berkeley to NYC. They were inspired by my friend Bonnie saying, as she looked at my school ID that had been taken 4 years earlier, that I looked the same, just less lost.

Lost, June 23, 2005
She said I look the same but less lost, yet I’m reeling.
Spiraling down some familiar whirlpool and hoping you’re at the center somewhere,
Waiting perhaps with a questioning, uncertain look or an
open, inviting smile to what we both have known is right.
It’s us found.
Instead—I’m reeling alone…and so are you.
And I grope for some familiar handhold…
lumber blindly through crowded streets in a city you’re not in
(even though you belong there).
And I try not to wait for you to finally find me, so we can both be the same, just less lost.

Untitled, June 25, 2005
She said I look the same, just less lost.
But I write on a post-it to remember my name.
Two notes of a song saunter through my head—
And somehow I’m back where I started.

I closed the door weeks ago, but you strolled back in like you own the place,
You didn’t even knock—
Just moved back into me as if you’d never left.

I stamp through familiar territory.
I’ve trod this path before—still got my armor on.
I’m ready for battle.
But I guess you want peace.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Fiona Does Disney!

Fiona Apple's latest album, Extraordinary Machine, inspired me to do something I had never done before--write a review. I even posted it on Amazon.
(This is the last post from 2005, aside from a fan letter to Zach Braff that I am too embarrassed to post here :)
Keep reading!!

November 2005

Don't be alarmed. I don't mean Ms. Apple has sold out to the mega-corporation. She's just begun to make wonderful, whimsical music, and it seems she's finally begun to take herself much less seriously! It's refreshing, interesting, heartfelt, poignant music, not to mention the best lyrics she's ever written. It takes a couple listens, all the way through, for this album's superbness to begin to sink in. But right away, "Extraordinary Machine" grabs you, with its unexpected orchestrations--oboe and bells that delightfully enhance this downright catchy tune. The ironic pairing of such whimsy with lyrics about adaptability in a raucous relationship ("Be kind to me or treat me mean/I'll make the most of it, I'm an extraordinary machine") is delicious.

The sadness and anger at the fall-out of her relationship sneak up on you. She boasts in "Get Him Back," the most driving of the songs, "But wait till I get him back/He won't have a back to scratch." The kinetic force of her determination and frustration is palpable. But then she also takes time to reflect on her possible insanity at such intense feelings. In "Tymps (The Sick in the Head Song)," accompanied by what sounds like Danny Elfman-inspired percussion and is reminiscent of The Nightmare Before Christmas, she wonders, "I'm either so sick in the head/I need to be bled dry, to quit/Or I just really used to love him/I sure hope that's it."

Her signature piano playing is almost forgotten among the near-perfect production of the supplemental orchestrations, until she rocks out in "Not About Love." Her fierceness on the piano sweeps the song away into rage, even as she belts, "This is not about love/Cause I am not in love/In fact I can't stop falling out." Ouch.

This may be my new favorite break-up album, for all the above reasons, and these simple, hilarious lyrics, in "Oh Well": "What wasted unconditional love/On somebody/Who doesn't believe in the stuff/Oh well." This album is, in the end, about moving on, with your dignity and sense of humor intact.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Some Times

Written a few months later than the first two, after my unemployment seemed...insurmountable. Please bear with the recurring themes...these are questions I still don't have answers to.

October 2005

Sometimes I go hours and hours without speaking. It doesn’t even seem strange except when I get a bit of an itch in my brain to utter coherent sound. It’s not an itch to connect, though. Just to speak.

I can’t believe I’ve gone this long without feeling productive. Sometimes I feel like it’s killing me slowly from the inside. Like the unfulfilled itches within my body to run and speak and get something done and feel purposeful are actually gradually rotting me from the inside out.

I can’t afford a new cell phone, a pedicure, or even a haircut. It’s disgusting to me that having a bit more than 500 dollars to my name means I can’t afford having a roof over my head in this city. Or the city I left. I am homeless again, and I can’t believe it. And this time, I’m not even cushioned by secure finances. I’m stuck selling myself to people who don’t understand how skilled and capable I am. It’s got to be the most exhausting job ever, this of not having one.

I think I might actually be in shock about this. Sometimes I can’t make a simple decision to leave the house, am held captive by my irrational need to stay by the computer (even though it’s a laptop) and the slight joys of watching daytime television. I’m numb to both the reality of not working and running out of money and the possibility that my stagnant, unproductive life might actually change soon. It’s going to be an utter shock when I do actually have to punch in my time card and spend 8 hours a day out of the house, in uncomfortable shoes, trying to make sure not to fuck up on the job. Not to mention that I’ve never had a fulltime job in the first place.

Sometimes all I want to do is smoke cigarettes. There is a pronounced putting-off-of-the-inevitable about the indulgence of smoking. I crave those few moments in the day when all I seriously have to think about is the next drag. It is addicting. I don’t think it’s the nicotine that I’m addicted to; in fact, I’ve grown to hate the smell and taste of cigarettes, the lingering stained smell on my fingertips. But the concentrated breathing of smoking is something that I could call my one addiction. Smoking is just self-destructive enough to be something I could indulge in. It’s also almost productive enough. There’s a morbid feeling of accomplishment as the paper burns away and the box contains fewer and fewer cigarettes, as the pile of butts grows.

I’m muddy-headed again. I can’t distinguish the things that I feel like are wrong with me with the things that I think are wrong with other people. I’ve lost my objectivity in this haze of stagnation. Somewhere I’ve misplaced my ability to judge myself in light of others and on my own. I think I lost it in the move. I’ve taken some steps backwards, beyond my control. The current of this city is sweeping me away.

I can’t tell if I’ve become determined finally or if the resignation of being broke and unemployed has almost become attractive. I’m trying to make writing my fulltime job, as opposed to vegetating and couching. I might as well sit in front of my own computer, as a prelude to sitting in front of somebody else’s and getting paid for it. Perhaps this will force me into productivity. Gradually turn the course of my path to something that begins to feel like home and make sense.

I think this is the first time that I don’t know…anything: where I’m supposed to be or what I’m going to do or when I’ll start making money or who I’ll meet here or there. It’s the first time I might as well be anywhere and nowhere. It’s the scary sort of homelessness where being alive doesn’t really matter that much. Not in a morbid, catastrophic way, just in the way that my existence isn’t making any difference to me or to the world, so what does it matter? And of course, on the other hand, there’s the exhausting thought that this is also the first time in my life when I could literally be doing anything. This is that crucial time everyone always talks about of possibilities being endless. It’s just as frightening a thought as the simplicity of stepping in front of a train, the painless and liberating oblivion of that.

I’ve made decisions that I feel obligated to stick to. My everyday life is demanding tenacity, just to feel like my feet are planted. The depth of my stubbornness and resignation is staggering. I don’t know whether calling it determination is accurate because sometimes it’s just a surrender to unproductivity. It’s not even optimism really, although I am a firm believer that a certain amount of certainty is inevitable. I don’t think a belief in the inevitable is optimism though; I’ve always just considered myself a realist.

Anyway, something has shifted in me, and I really can’t tell if I’ve given up and am subconsciously sabotaging myself or if I’m finally convinced of my capabilities and am representing myself correctly. I used to think I was good at things. I moved to this city confident in my ability to take over, but something has disconnected in my plans. My confidence is shaken, and I don’t know what the next decision I have to make is.

I’m just so bored. I miss college. My homesickness is more a nostalgia. Is that the same thing? I understand that if I went back to Berkeley, nothing would be as I’d left it. I want those moments, those potent, important times, back. When everything was a lesson and my world expanded drastically every single day. When I fell in love and got my heart broken and felt creative and productive and was surrounded by others doing exactly the same and when I played and wrote songs and had dance parties because I needed to move and there was always music. When I felt in control, like I was definitively making positive decisions for myself and surrounding myself with people who loved me and I could tell.

If college is the best times of people’s lives, my best times are over and I know there’s a ton for me to look forward to but when is this forward movement going to begin?

Thursday, January 11, 2007


This one's more about the city. How I thought I'd be coming home. But how it turned out to be something different than that.

July 2005

Everyone is calling this a homecoming. But I feel like I foolishly left my home on the other side of the coast. It took me almost six years to stop feeling homeless in California. And just when I discovered a family there, I left. I don’t know why I’m sustaining this heat, this unyielding post-graduation poverty, this listlessness, resignation to mindless employment. I don’t know if this is typical post-graduation confusion or if I’ve really made a mistake picking up and leaving the only place I have felt at home since I moved across the country (the other direction) before high school. I feel like any soul-searching, any growth I could be going through is stifled by the simple necessity of income, by the pervasive heat. I’m writing because I’m frustrated and feel a bit lost.

It’s a different lost feeling than when I entered therapy 2 ½ years ago and figured out who the hell I am, after something crashed within me and I realized there was no one in my life that I could talk to. I know who I am today; I just don’t know who I am outside of school, without my circle of comfort, in a city that I should know better. It’s figuring that part out that I’m reluctant to do, for reasons I don’t know yet.

I knew this move was going to mean something different for me than for my roommate. I’m an adult now, in a city I’ve only been a kid in, but this is the first time she’s been away from her family. It’s not that cataclysmic beginning of adult life for me. I went to college 250 miles away from my family; I go months without seeing them, and I’ve been a fairly independent child, in terms of distance, since I started going to summer camp when I was 8. Maybe even since my parents got divorced and began to share custody of my brother and me, when I was 3. We were shuttled from one home to the other, never quite feeling settled, not knowing in which place we were supposed to feel at home. My mother’s house was the homestead; I always felt like a visitor in my father’s. There were different sets of rules, different standards of living, different foods, different routines. My mother worked at home; we always ate meals together, and I slept in the room that had been mine since I was born. I remember eating cold cereal and french toast for dinner alone in my dad’s large, empty house, and I lived in three rooms in 6 years, once moving out of the large room that had been mine for years for my brother when he came back from rehab. Seriously and constantly displaced in my own house.

I believe it’s because all of this that I am such a desperate creature of routine, that I cling to comfort, to the familiar. Searching always for somewhere I can relax, for people I can trust and confide in. These things are precious to me in such a way that I don’t understand people who take them for granted and I sort of resent people who have them all. A family without divorced parents living in the same house for years and years is something I’ve never known. I understand that no “ideal family” exists, but my family seems to win a lot of awards for chaos and upheaval, not to mention hostility.

I was uprooted from everything I knew and was left to reconfigure my life during an unhappy adolescence, feeling greatly out of place and unsettled for almost all of high school and even two years of college. I suppose it’s the kind of unhappiness everyone goes through during adolescence, but my feeling of homelessness seems unique in comparison to the other teenagers I knew. Now I’ve found myself back in the city that once was home, and I’m homesick for something that never really existed. Is that what homesickness is? The desire for something ideal, the yearning to be surrounded by only the good of our memories?

I feel a bit like I’ve taken a couple steps backwards in my self-knowledge. I’m impatient with my unhappiness because it took me 20 years to figure out how I could and would be and deserved to be happy. Then it took me 2 more years to make it that I actually was. Or was beginning to be.

I moved after graduating college, seeking the romance of New York City, chasing images in my head of sunny apartment rooms, late mornings in cafes, taking lovers in a large, white-comfortered bed. The reality is always less romantic than the fantasy. What I need to remember is that I’ve figured out some of what I need, that I have the ability to take advantage of what seems like even the most hopeless situation–I survived high school in a frighteningly conservative, cultural wasteland of a California town. I spun that experience into an incredible college experience in Berkeley, taking initiative and making my own opportunities. Patience with myself is something I’m still learning; giving myself a much needed break, giving myself time to find another niche.

I’m not going to starve. I’m not going to die of boredom or inactivity. I’m no longer a 14 year old, lost in a city that bustles too fast for me. The noise outside my apartment window is too loud sometimes, and the current of people on the streets sometimes threatens to pull me in the opposite direction. But I just need to brace myself against the current, plant my two feet and take firm steps forward. I’ve done it before.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Shadow of the First Born

I will begin at the beginning...and post in order of what was written. Please keep checking back for updates! Kisses.

(For the record, much has changed in the year and a half since this was written in my brother's life and mine and between us.)

July 2005

It’s hot. I’ve just discovered my wireless networking does work. That’s a relief. Let’s just hope my new disk drive works too; then something will have actually gone right in these last few days. I’m working downtown, starting tomorrow–got lost on the way there, turned around about 4 times. Every directional instinct I had was incorrect–it made me uneasy. If I thought about it anymore, I’m sure I would convince myself it meant something about my choices in life too. I don’t want to admit it, but I’m not happy here. Not yet, anyway, and I, of all people, have a tendency to make grand generalizations when it comes to anything having to do with my own state of contentment. Something to do with catastrophic thinking or Murphy’s Law. I want instant solutions; I want things to be fixed. I tell people they can’t do that, can’t demand anything of anything really...but then I’m the first person to assume that if I’m unhappy now, I’ll be unhappy forever and that anything that could go wrong will. It’s all very irrational of me really. Old habits die slow, painful deaths–in fact they refuse to die.

I’m supposed to be writing about my brother; we’re supposed to be writing a play together. He’s going to write about me, and I’m supposed to write about him. We’ve rediscovered each other these last few months, since the end of April. All of a sudden, this voice at the end of infrequent conversations, some more satisfying than others, this vague notion of “brother” came into sharp focus and I had to reorient myself around him. Figure out how to be a grownup with him around. Parts of that were much easier than others–we got drunk together the night he visited; I was affectionate with a boy I liked while he was around--and then he was gone again, leaving me with words of sincere encouragement about how I was doing and my lovely friends, my chosen family. I’m trying to figure out how to be a “sister,” since I survived a lot of years basically being an only child. All of a sudden, I have obligations as a sister that I need to remind myself don’t apply to us, but now we’re supposed to fall into habits that we never even practiced.

It’s all very complicated and confusing, and then I need to remind myself to just be myself because if there’s anyone who loves me unconditionally (which I still find shocking), it’s him. He told me I was his litmus test for women in his life, that if he can find someone who loves him and whom he loves as much as we love each other, he knows he’ll be OK. It’s not a sentiment I share because my brother, like my father in so many ways, gives and takes away. Ours is (or perhaps more accurately was) a relationship based greatly on him dropping bombshells that I felt I needed to clean up after. My vivid analogy during one therapy session was that my brother was blow-torching the trail that I followed him down, trying to make it presentable and pretty as I walked in his wake. It’s a vivid enough image that it’s taking me longer than 2 otherwise pleasant visits with him to get over. I’ve never been one to take what I can get, unfortunately. Like I said, I want quick fixes. To somehow be totally fulfilled by this new relationship all of a sudden, to not feel obligations based on the title of “sibling,” to never have to talk about my family with my brother, because we were pretty much raised in different ones and I don’t think we’ll ever be able to reconcile the damage and the support we both experienced from our fractured family. I was an only child with a brother; he was an orphan with four parents.

I’ve never seriously talked to my brother about the 6 years he excommunicated himself from our family, starting when he was 14 and I was 11. I haven’t lived in the same house with him for more than 10 years. I remember total unrest and unease as I became both the forgotten child in his absence and the cherished one. Mixed messages even from my parents. It’s something I don’t think I’ll ever forgive them for. And while I was living at home, in turmoil and not asking any of the questions that, in retrospect, burned the backs of my eyelids, no one really knows what he was doing. I speculate it was nothing more severe than doing a lot of drugs and having a lot of sex, but I don’t know where he slept or if he slept or what or if he ate, how sick he was or even how sane. In my frightened and paranoid family of ex-addicts, this recklessness was unacceptable and acted upon irresponsibly. Rehab facilities and interventions and no one really listening to anyone, least of all my brother, who was just a really angry teenager, as far as I can tell now. Still, it’s a painful and fairly taboo subject between us. Not because I don’t want to know, but because maybe at this point, it’s irrelevant. Water under the bridge, as they always say with self-satisfaction.

Again, however, those days are burned into my memory, into my everyday existence in ways that I can’t escape. I was never allowed to be scared or angry or reckless; those were my brother’s departments. No, I was the peace maker, the one who, through my silence and compliance, my “goodness,” proved that no one had failed as a parent, as they feared. Of course, as a 22 year old, I take credit for it all. I gave them what they needed, so they didn’t feel like failures but it was the person that was older than 11 years in me that somehow knew that’s what they needed. It wasn’t their good parenting. These patterns of placating turned me into someone I didn’t know or care to learn about. It felt much deeper than anyone else’s adolescent silence because there were things I knew I couldn’t talk about, questions I knew would go unanswered, slaps on the wrist if I tried to be honest, keeping me in the hole I had dug for myself. So instead, I stayed quiet and internally angry.

It’s my brother, now, who has somehow mended his relationships with these people who betrayed him, literally locked him out of our family, arrested him on the corner so he would stop leaving home, sent him away so someone else would take care of him. I recently remembered that my brother was put into therapy at around the age of 11–it was a decision made for him that I’m sure was far more counterproductive than helpful. I remember sitting outside his psychologist’s office, the white noise machines humming, drowning out whatever was going on inside. I often heard the drone of voices inside the room anyway but could never make out anything specifically. This memory now makes me sad and disgusted because I understand a bit more how stifling the situation must have been for him. I think forced therapy is just as unsuccessful as forced rehab is (and was for my brother). It doesn’t help unless you seek it yourself. Despite all of these apparent injustices, he is on far better speaking terms with a bigger percentage of our parents than I am. It all feels terribly unfair, and I hate to play the victim, even though it’s awfully easy.

We’ve lived separately for more than 10 years–it’s a situation nobody else in my life can relate to. I go for months without seeing my brother, and it’s something that nobody quite understands. But that’s the nature of my family. It’s something I’m not sure will ever change. We’ve always lived far apart from each other, and even when we are in the same city, it’s easy to keep trucking with my own life. Block them out a bit and just keep trucking. At this point, it’s my mode of survival. And it’s how I’ve taken care of myself for a long time. Maybe it’s called denial.

When he came “crawling back to us” as I cruelly called it, at 18, I actually had a hard time coming to terms with it. He was accepted back into our family so completely and so easily; it took more adjusting on my part than that. Perhaps I’m still adjusting. Sometimes there were days and weeks when I didn’t think about him once. He was far away, out of sight, out of mind, as it usually is with my family. We call it “compartmentalizing,” as if giving it a label means we’re coming to terms with it, which we aren’t. But I was consumed with high school and my own unhappiness, trying to make sense of a cross-country move and adjust to a much smaller town, trying to survive my adolescence, still treading lightly through my own life.

After getting tired of making no money, riding on his GED, he decided he would join the Navy, at the urging of our parents. I entered college less than a year later. As I finally began to carve out my identity, literally putting the pieces of a shattered puzzle together, clarifying the image of the me I figured out I wanted to be, his apparent impulsiveness would sometimes shatter my new calm in ways that I didn’t have time or patience for but that overwhelmed me anyway. All of a sudden he was going to Japan for 6 months or had a wife or was getting a divorce. It was always something significant, and I was, again, left to somehow react, stay on the straight and narrow while my older brother lived with no regard for the rest of us. I was always infuriated by the swiftness with which I was sent back to that familiar role. Even as I began to find my niche and become comfortable with the adult I was discovering, I was still the good little sister, the good daughter. The one who was doing so well, the one no one ever worried about. And I couldn’t figure out if it was my “nature” or if I was living in reaction to my unpredictable brother, resisting the chaos of my childhood and my family relationships by doing what was expected of me, making it my responsibility to sustain order among the tumult.

He mentioned once, in his stay in the Navy, as he swiftly acquired college credits and discovered he actually liked school, that he wanted to be a doctor and I realized suddenly, not without some due amusement, that I was ending up the impractical one (with my theatrical aspirations), and he was going to be the one who picked the straight and narrow path. Little by little our roles had reversed, and I didn’t want to give him the credit he was due for having turned his life around, for having goals that he made clear. My future seemed tenuous and trite now–he was going to be the upstanding son; I just wanted to be on Broadway. He was back in the glow of our family, even if he didn’t want to be. And I was back in the shadow of the first-born, a sister again instead of an only child.

I graduated with a degree in theater; he wants to study English now, following his passion instead of something “practical,” even though he’s some kind of engineer (and bored). We seem to have reached a kind of stasis. I’m not sure how to explain it, except that suddenly, he is actually someone I can be honest with. No slaps on the wrist, no false assurances, no cliches, no lip service. There’s a lot of time to make up for, but I don’t think looking at it like that is the right way. I sort of met my brother for the first time in late April. There needs to be some kind of starting over. We disagree and even argue about our scholarly family and the pressures that they do and don’t inflict on us to be academians. I don’t understand why someone who lived several years having nothing to do with this extended, he says snobby, family would care what they had to say about whether or not he has a college degree. But what I do understand is that perhaps now I’ve forged the path ahead of him. Maybe he’s even felt, like I have, that he lives his life in reaction to mine, in some ways.

In fact, maybe I’ve just been stumbling through my life, more connected to him than I thought, unaware of or refusing to acknowledge that family can mean obligation but it doesn’t have to mean everything.

New Year's Resolution Completed

I've been told by a couple friends that I should get on this whole...professional blogging train. So this will be a forum where I will post my writings. Because that's as close to publishing it as I can imagine right now.

I hope you all enjoy.

Oh, and please tell your friends.