Monday, September 30, 2013

Not Anybody's Job

It's kind of weird that it's not anybody's job to make you unafraid.

I dreamt about my fiction professor from college last night--a courage pusher. I haven't thought about her in a very long time. Not that she didn't play a huge part in the formative years of my writing education. She's just not on the mem rotation. But there she was, with her maroon lips and long grey hair. Big smile. She's a horrible liar. I could tell she hated what I was writing, but she found something, some nugget she could sort of rally behind. I wasn't asking to feel what I didn't deserve to feel. Just to feel unafraid.

So I guess if you want to be immortal, don't worry about making the great American masterpiece, or making legislation, or even making a baby. Just make people unafraid.
May 2010.
"There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them."--Andre Gide

Friday, September 27, 2013

Be the Grace

"The thing is...the thing is, my test--it was today--but. Last night? I don't know what it was. I don't...some kind of food poisoning. I was--look, I was throwing up for, like...for like five hours. I threw up for five hours last night. And so. So. If I could talk to...potentially a doctor. I mean, to get out of the test."

This kid was rambling. Holding a peach skateboard. Built and tone, hip tank, but today scared. Poor guy. I'm just a dumb proctor. I can't ordain a retest. I talked to my supervisor. Okay, we decided. Okay, I will leave the office. I will walk across campus with this kid to his professor's class.

Today was gorgeous. Greens, a windy bluster. But this kid, this kid staring down was all, "What are the odds? I mean, I haven't been sick all semester. And...and now I'm late. I'm sure they hear this all the time, but I really really was sick." Poor, poor kid. We made a game plan. "Should I be next to you?" I asked. "Or should you ask alone?" We decided I would wait by the door. And I hear from down the hall, the kid saying the same word vomit about vomit. And the professor going "Yeah. Yup. Okay. Yeah. Okay?" Long long pause. Professor: "So, what? You wanna take it Monday?" Subtext: "This is Physics 102. I don't GD care when you take this dumb exam." I walked out, we chose a new time. The professor shrugged.

The kid WAS the sunshine. "I can't believe it!" He said over and over. "That was easy!" I agreed. "You know when you cram the night before? I didn't get to cram. I mean, I was going to fail."And he was a flurry with "So, what's your program? How do you like Arizona?" And we were a happy little two-let on the sidewalk. Because a tiny bit of grace goes such a long way.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


I'd rather write a play that you don't think makes sense than one that reaffirms what you thought you knew walking into the theatre.
Only know you've been high when you're feeling low,
only hate the road when you're missin' home.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Love You As Much As I Do

The first day of fall has not disappointed. Bisque and I drove into Phoenix right as the sun set. Gold over the highway. The windows are open. We didn't deserve this--it's been hot all week. But a respite, a hard-shift, for my favorite season.

This afternoon I was plugging away at revisions, feeling like a semi-failure, and I did something really annoying to my boyfrand. (The kind of thing I couldn't have gotten away with four months ago, but, here we are at eight months. I wear gym shorts on half our dates.) I set aside my computer, I tapped him, I asked, "What's your favorite thing about me?" Yes, I'm gross, but, come on, we all want to do it sometimes. And he gave an answer that did not have to do with the current play project/torture chamber I am in.

The people who truly love us in this world want to support what we do the most, but they care the least about how it actually turns out. Our primary work--ourselves--is what they're in it for. Talent, pay-off, success--these are nice things. But they are nice things that probably don't make you a better friend or girlfriend or sister or teacher or daughter or stranger or roommate.

You say I wanted you to be proud of me.
I always wanted that myself.
He says, "When you gonna make up your mind?
When you gonna love you as much as I do?"

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Meaning-Making Monsters

In Writer's Workshop today we discussed some people's aversion to storytelling. "There isn't a story in that," re: a piece of pop-art. Or, "the author didn't intend that" re: a short story. But despite what is there, even if it's one image, stationary, that is a story to us. Maybe the art itself didn't give us one, but it gave of itself to our brains, and our brains make the meaning.

Lavender said, "I think it's because we all just want to believe there is purpose for everything." Without the story, do we have purpose? Perhaps not.
Relaxing rainy afternoon in Chicago. June 2013.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Take That Towel Off Your Head

There was a Muslim girl on my high school Speech team. She was quirky and her favorite game was asking people, "What if a dead body fell through the ceiling right now, what would you do?" She only wore long sleeves and always wrapped her hair. I asked her if she had ever been swimming, and yes, she had, at a Muslim summer camp.

Our team of 20ish kids gathered for our yearbook picture in brisk south suburbs February. We were all goobers, and the photographer had to shush us a few times. Right before he snapped the photo he said, sure as cement, "Will you take that towel off your head?" Silence. Our teammate tightened her jaw and just said, "No." We took the picture, shuffled back into our coach's classroom, and DIED LAUGHING. One coach wrote it on the blackboard, "Take that towel off your head." Another suggested we put it on the back of our sweatshirts. The girl's face was in a permanent "I cannot believe that just happened. What a GD idiot/lunatic." I thought the whole thing was hilarious too! Some dude who called what was clearly a religious garment a towel! See, I had never heard the term "towelhead" before, so I thought it was legitimate ignorance instead of prejudice ignorance.

Tonight I attended a lecture about humor in religion. It was interesting enough. The speaker--a professor from a prestigious school--basically tackled two concepts. The first--religion and comedy have a giant commonality: they were created to help people get through tough things. The second--a brief look at how humor plays a part in Judaism, Christianities, and Hindu/Buddhism. I repeat: it was interesting enough.

I was there because my thesis play (a comedy) explores religious themes. It also explores judgement (in conjunction with religious themes). Judgement and analysis from within a faith and judgement and analysis from outside a faith are two very different things. So I asked why is it we love to make fun of religion so much? I offended the speaker by saying, "For my demographic, religion and humor are basically synonymous." The dude stopped me and shook his head and gave a kinda PC answer, but was sure to end it with, "Those two are definitely not synonymous." But for me, it feels they are. Even religious people I know make fun of themselves--and DEFINITELY of others. If you must have faith, the least you can do for yourself as a 20something is not take it seriously.

Does my teammate still think about photo day? I hope so--because that means it was an anomoly. I truly do hope it's one goofy anecdote, and not a drop in the bucket. Did we make it all better when we joined in on razzing that moron? Or did we sweep her pain under the rug? No one else believed what she believed. Did she step forward from that day with more conviction? Less?

I left the talk repentant for speaking out of turn. Like, who am I to say what to an expert? Perhaps I THINK I look outside my own self, but not farther than others who are essentially just like me. And then this tall chick with the sides of her head shaved said, "I really appreciated your comment" as we left the hall. More.

Monday, September 16, 2013


It's hot. It's really stupid hot, and I still love Arizona with all my heart, but I am done with above 100 days.

Summer is special. There is a feel. Limeade, reading novels, late mornings, what day is it. That feel is rancid in this September broil. Yes, I miss the forest of Michigan, I miss the sidewalk outside my dad's house, I miss the season of childhood freedom.

And I hate you, Arizona, for pretending it's not expired when it's roadkill.

Wisconsin in June.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Other Side of the Table

Auditions for my new play were Thursday and Friday. Call-backs yesterday. Holy toledo, what I have learned from the other side of the table.

-Everyone wants to be having fun in an audition room. Have as much fun as possible.
-Try new things. If you get direction, take it too far rather than not far enough.
-Do you.
-They say don't be nervous, but, like, actually, don't be nervous.
-You're unique, so know that and show that. In the words of Powerline, stand out.

I can't believe these words I have written on my own, early in coffee shops, late in my camp bunk, on the living room couch, were recited all day by strangers. This play, it is happening.

I'm really too young to be feeling this old.
It's about time you admit it, who you kiddin'?
And nobody's ever done it like I did it.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Wisdom of Friends

Advice I have received re: my blog post on Monday about my compulsion to fix ish.

-If you're trying to make things happen, it's because you believe YOUR way is best, and, well, it just might not be. To think so usually means you're just very fearful of how things will turn out if you don't have complete control. Obvs, fear is not good.

-Be aware of the expectations you have for yourself and others. This will help minimize how much you are trying to control. What's really important? And why? Be in charge of a few things. Let the rest fall into place.

-It is important to enjoy life NOW instead of believing we must live a certain way to get to an eventual  future we can enjoy.

-Being happy is worth chucking previously-designed plans under a canoe.

-Ultimately where you're headed is good, and you're not responsible for making everything perfect in the meantime. Problems aren't even problems when seen in the correct light.

I saw tail lights last night in a dream about my old life.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

I'm Visiting You In Your Sleep

This morning I was greeted by not one, but two emails from dear friends who dreamt about me last night.

I. KWall

"The setting is a little foggy, but in essence, we were in a huge group of people staying at a large house, sleep-over style.  ___ ____ won the lottery and decided he didn't want to forfeit all the taxed amount, so he decided to fake his own death and run with the cash (logical, I know). There were like 8 of us in on it...and we were ALL going to fake our deaths and live off this cash together.  

The rules were strict: we all made a pact that we wouldn't tell a soul or say any goodbyes, because the world had to believe that we were really dead.  Part of the main reason I went along with it is because you were in the group.  (If Alice S______ jumps off a bridge...)"

II. Jamin

"i had a dream last night that i was at froyo and you and your boyfriend walked out and we hugged for a long time."

Kyoto 2008.
And they'll come true. Impossible not to do. Impossible not to do.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Maybe It Would Be A Good Idea

Muffy gave me some interesting advice last week:

"Maybe it would be a good idea to be lackadaisical for a bit. Not all problems have to be resolved right now. It doesn't have to be a perfectly working machine at all times...I don't think you're imagining the problems...However, some problems are worked out in time, and maybe, if [it] were given more time, the problem could work itself out naturally."

I really appreciate this advice. Not because I like it, but because it completely blindsided me. What do you mean things don't have to be perfect all the time? Yes, they do?

Truly, when there's a snag in my life, I pride myself re: not letting it sit. I set out immediately to solve. I  have never considered myself a perfectionist because I recognize perfection is a very strange concept. But I do believe in progress. That's a watered-down way of saying I'm GD psychotic about things getting better. It's not that all changes come quickly or even at all, but I go absolutely batty if I am not at least walking toward or trying to walk toward a solution. Other options:
-sweeping things under the rug, don't ask don't tell type ish
-waiting to see what others involved might do
-deciding it's a problem not worth a solution

These other "options" make no sense to me. They make me physically uncomfortable. I must speak when in conflict with others, I must reflect when I am displeased, I must write a more interesting play, plan more dynamic lessons, run if I've been slow.

I get it, but I don't get it. Can anyone help me? How do I stop wanting to fix everything, often before it's even a problem for me? Highly responsible, highly neurotic. I know one trick is to remember problems we fixate on often do not come to fruition, or if they do, we are far more equipped to take them on than we had previously assumed we would be. I guess I know that. But, still. I can't eat it.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Backstreet Boys: September 5, 2013

"I'll be the one to hold you, and make sure that you'll be alright."
Pop stars are the saints of this century, and BSB is Jesus. I'm not trying to be funny. Those boys worked their buns off last night. They seriously danced (in miraculous sync) for two solid hours. While singing. While singing five part harmony. And while sometimes wearing those stupid fedoras from 1995 that I'm positive they tried to talk their costume designers out of.
Shellz and Meep witnessed three hours of my fan-girling.
This was an event. This was big. Larger than Life. And I've really got to hand it to them. I suppose I could say I shelled out a lot of scrilla ($70) to scream at Brian Littrel from my very mediocre seat, so I deserve to want things. These men have made their living off of me after all. But, truly, what I expected of these guys, what everyone expected, was not what they wanted to do if they truly had it their way. I want it that way. I wanted them to sing every hit, nothing from their new albums, dance just like they did in 1999, and generally be charming, and thank me for, you know, just standing there. And for the most part, that's just what they did. How could you not despise "We've Got It Goin' On" after singing it for literally 20 years? And, yet, it was their first single. They do the body rolls, the exaggerated "AhHhH!" Their cross to bear.

The PR work for this concert was phenomenal. This was not just a comeback tour. The dudes have all learned instruments--stating they're not "just a boy band" anymore. And we're like, uh. Yeah you are. They were good to us! They would do a huge laser-light shooting, ground-stomping hit and then explain a little about the success of their new album. (I mean, it got to Billboard Top Ten...their 8th consecutive record to do so. Only two other musical acts can brag that in the world.) They'd give a sentence about what the song means to them (so we can try to care) and say which guy wrote it (they wrote this whole new album themselves, and, frankly, it shows). But, the audience still would sit down, literally be checking e-mails, go to the bar. If we had it our way, they would just perform Millennium in full and never progress. Our saints aren't supposed to change. That's the point. They're saints. We change, and they ground us. And when AJ and Kevin talk about being dads? We're like, "Uh uh. No way. You're not a dad. You stick to that chair routine from 'As Long As You Love Me.'" Which, by the way, was done extremely well--the backdrop looked just like the original music video, all those metal fans and bluewhite waves.
"Jam on 'cos Backstreet's got it." 
The truth is I will always love BSB. Incidentally, I actually don't know who they are, where they're from, or what they did...but I still love them. And as long as I (collective I) do, they'll still be poppin' out from backstage in that unified "Alright!" and doing the exact same typewriter arm movements I mimicked off MTV when I was in fifth grade. I mean, it was hilarious to me that I was there...and then I'd look around and realize...there are literally thousands of people here, arms raised in worship, chanting, taking pictures, feverishly trying to document the moments. We have come to collect something we think is ours. We clap at the alter, and the saints perform the same garbage city to city year after year lest we lose our faith.

They sang it on their first album, and they couldn't have known how true it would be:
As long as there'll be music, we'll be comin' back again!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

We Were Five Feet Away

He was in the first class of Intro to Screenwriting I taught
two years ago.
The shy guy who sat at the back table--
his grammar was trash, but his characters were great.
He was always so nice to me,
and I don't know why.
His name starts with a G and he also looks like a giraffe.
But I saw him today on the library lawn, and when I did my usual
smile-no-stop he did. And wanted to hear about my summer.
This kid looks the same to me, but he's been through
50% of college since I met him. And for no real reason
we intersected in the same five foot radius
on this August afternoon.
This is my third year here.
Two years ago I had no idea what was in store.
I made big fat guesses and launched without a landing pad.
I was breaths away from going to Japan instead of grad school.
Every move was life and death. Join the improv team?
Live on the corner by the Mexican grocery.
Go to the MFA parties, don't.
Snub the kisses, don't.
Accept the invite. Decline the date. Forget to eat.
Two years ago I was at a bar playing on the MFA trivia team.
We were in second place.
In a fit of "I'm a stranger in a new city who even cares!"
when the first place team was announced
I yelled an abrasive, "WHAT?" at them
because they were two dudes. And we were a table
of, like, fifteen in-pursuit of higher ed peoples.
The guys shrugged. They won. I never saw them again.
It took me a full year to figure it out.
Sort of a..."Now wait a minute, we go to that bar,"
and some, "Now, WAIT, a minute, you were there that night?"
But I ended up knowing those two strangers.
The one on the left, the one five feet from me,
is now my boyfriend.