August 2005 Archives

Existential Dread

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Yesterday was the first day of classes. I decided a while ago that I wouldn't write much about my job, mostly because I like it well enough to want to keep it. But I figure there a few safe job-related topics, and I'll hit some of those.

For instance, here were some good things about the day:

1. I finally got to wear these fabulous new red d'Orsay pumps


I bought five or six months ago and have never had an occasion to wear. When you get really great new shoes, you can't wear them just anywhere the first time.... But now these shoes have been introduced to society and can go anywhere they want.

2. The M&Ms that have been sitting in my desk since April were still fresh.

3. Someone very kind left a box of lavender jasmine tea and someone else left a bag of goodies in my mailbox.

4. A student rushed into my office with an mp3 and said, "I've been waiting all summer to play you this song about falling in love in a concentration camp. The first time I heard it, I instantly thought of you." I'm not entirely sure I was flattered by that.... I mean, I did talk about love a lot, especially the traumatic kind, in the classes he took with me, mostly because he wrote about it a lot.... In any event, he showed me these features on my computer I didn't even know about and played me this cool song.

I Never Meant to Hurt You

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Few things piss me off more than the statement, "I never meant to hurt you," since it's usually mustered in defense of some fairly heinous act.

"I never meant to hurt you... by sleeping with your best friend."

"I never meant to hurt you... by failing to explain that my estranged ex isn't always so estranged."

"I never meant to hurt you... by taking your credit cards and running up charges in excess of your student loan debt."

"I never meant to hurt you... by A) having sex with and B) impregnating you in your own bed while you were passed out from a night of heavy drinking and unable A) to give any kind of consent or B) tell me where the condoms were or C) remember a damn thing."

Well what DID you MEAN to do, asshole? What did you think your actions would result in? I hate that phrase because what it usually translates to is, "I was too lazy/selfish/stupid/mean to consider how my actions would affect you, so I just did what I wanted and hoped I wouldn't have to deal with the consequences."

Without You I'm Nothing

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I like to sit around my motel room after my show in my bra and panties and I’ll say to somebody, “Get me a Remy Martin and a water-back, goddamnit!” -- Sandra Bernhard, WYIN

At some point during the summer of 1990, I went to the Catalina Theater on the corner of Campbell and Grant in Tucson, Arizona, to see the film version of Sandra Bernhard’s smash one-woman show Without You I’m Nothing. I went by myself; I know people who won’t go to movies alone, but I’ve always kind of liked it, liked sitting wherever I want and being able to watch every last credit without someone saying, “Can’t we just go?”

I remember sitting in the theater, my jaw slack with wonder, my stomach clenched like a fist with envy. How does someone work up the audacity to do a performance like that? I knew I didn’t have a personality that would let me dance around on stage to “Little Red Corvette” in pasties and a sequined g-string bearing the stars and stripes, but I did decide that I wanted to use my life as the basis for my art, just like Sandra did, and that I was willing to bare almost every crevice, crack and contour of my soul.


What I Look Like

Celebrated Saturday

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Last Saturday afternoon, SBJ and our new friend Anesthesia and I went downtown to Celebrate! the city we live in. It was your typical street fair, with jugglers and really cool chalk drawings on the pavement and a couple dozen tiny girls (three, four, five years old) doing fierce tumbling routines along the main thoroughfare of town.

We walked around, looked at crafts, searched without success for a stand selling funnel cakes with tomato sauce (SBJ claims they're all the rage in Connecticut), drank beer in the park. We talked about important things, like emoticons. We agreed that the only acceptable emoticons are the plain old print ones, like :-), and that the cartoonish ones you sometimes see online should be banned from use forever more. We spent some time figuring out what Anesthesia should be called in this blog–we were happy enough with the nickname we came up with. At first she said, "Yeah, but it puts you to sleep!" I said, "That's not my main association with it. I think about getting general anesthesia before surgery, and how it feels really good, but it's dangerous--too much can kill you." Which didn't reassure her all that much, but then SBJ pointed out that the word would make a great album title for some metal band, and then we couldn't think of anything better, and this word sounds like another name that is meaningful to her, so we went with it.

SBJ asked about really bad haircut stories. This is a competition I always win because I almost died from a bad haircut. Seriously: I cried so much my intestines exploded and I nearly hemorrhaged to death. (That's the short version--the long version is truly fascinating, provided you're not afraid of being grossed out. I'll tell it someday.)

We found a stall where girls were selling samosas and painting on temporary henna tattoos. SBJ wanted something to complement his three questions, so the girl gave him a straightforward geometric pattern an inch or so below them--she said she had never hennaed a man before and wasn't sure what would be appropriate, so she went for something simple. It looked fine, but SBJ was not overcome with pleasure at the finished product. In fact, he said he felt gypped.

Then it was my turn. I got a paisley (one of my favorite designs) on my shoulder, which looked pretty awesome, and felt very celebratory. All in all, a very satisfactory day.

Kant's Three Questions and Yo! God

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Sweet Baby Jesus's biceps, it should be stated at the outset, are pretty great. Lately he has been spending a decent (not a ridiculous) amount of time at the gym, and he's bulked up since I first met him a year ago. He looks good.

Not long ago he began toying with the idea of decorating one of those biceps with a tattoo. Of course he came very close to getting a band of barbed wire around his upper arm.... Just kidding. He'd never do that. Nor would he opt for the ribbon of celtic knots--yes, they look fabulous, but they might be one of the few tattoos more ubiquitous than Chinese characters.

What he finally decided on were the three questions posed by Immanuel Kant in Critique of Pure Reason: "What can I know? What ought I to do? What may I hope?"

Which are pretty f*cking awesome questions.

I Love Needles

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This is kind of maudlin and strange, but what the hell.

Every couple of weeks I drive 20 miles for a block of alternative health therapies: a chiropractic adjustment, a massage, an acupuncture treatment.

I start off with an adjustment from Jack, the chiropractor, whom I really like. He's young, 6'5", well muscled, blond, and affable. If you're going to let some guy you hardly know cradle you in his arms and squeeze until all your joints crack, it might as well be some hot guy with a slow, sly grin. Yesterday I told Jack I was just a mess, and he agreed–said my adrenals were shot and marveled at how toxic my system was, until I told him I've been treating my insomnia with booze, benadryl and prescription sleeping pills.

Out with the Guys

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Last night was one of those nights I go hang out with the guys and talk about writing. Sweet Baby Jesus was there (the tattoo on his arm looks so fabulous! I promise I will get around to writing about that soon), as was Tom, as well as a guy I'll call Lemonhead, because he told me that's his nickname, and another guy I'll call the Monk, because he said he is one. The weather was pleasant, so we sat on the patio of a bar where the drink special was "anything Stoli for two bucks," and I had no problem sucking down four cranberry stolis and one stoli & tonic.

We are all writers, so we workshop our stuff. SBJ and Lemonhead had some really great poems up, the Monk gave us a very poetic short story, and I submitted an essay about menstrual problems I had as a fifteen-year-old anorexic recovering from a bizarre and traumatic illness. The piece is actually kind of funny and I like it as well as anything I've written in a while, but I was still worried the guys might be freaked out by the subject matter. I shouldn't have worried. They gave me really smart suggestions for improving the piece, and didn't seem a bit weirded out that they now know all kinds of details about my menstrual cycle. They also claimed to be grateful for a little clarification about what happens in a gynecologist's office.

One of the Boys

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Right now, I'm kind of one of the boys. My two best friends here are Tom, who is married, and SBJ, who is not, but as I said, my affectionate mocking of him is tinged with the fond feelings of a slightly snotty big sister.

By a significant margin, most of my colleagues are male. I do have some fabulous female colleagues, but most of them are married with small children. These are women with PhDs, diverse research interests, cool husbands, and very busy schedules. For various reasons, it is harder for these women to socialize than it is for the guys I work with. Although I manage to meet these women occasionally for lunch or coffee, a more common event in my social life is to find myself the solitary woman at a table with three or four or five guys, drinking a round of Arrogant Bastards (a local brew), talking about poetry and tattoos and bowel disorders and gross medical procedures and how the fact that SBJ likes neither Pink Floyd nor Led Zeppelin is one more thing that makes him odd.

Madge and the Beast

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I sometimes say that Madonna saved my life while I was a missionary in Taiwan, because it's really kind of true. I hadn't much cared for her before my mission--I loved the song "Material Girl," because it was so witty, but so much of her other stuff just seemed like the silliest, shallowest dance music, and I liked my dance music rife with complexity and angst. But as a clinically depressed missionary given to long bouts of crying, I guess I felt that since the whole God thing wasn't working for me, I might consider looking to other things to offer me happiness.

I got transferred to Taichung, one of the larger cities in my mission (which covered the lower half of the island) at the beginning of June. It was monstrously hot, and spending all day riding a bike when it's 100 degrees and 100% humidity really takes something out of you, even if you're not being treated for depression. To escape the heat, my companion (an assigned working partner, not my lover) and I would do something we called "shopping first-contacting," which meant that we would go to some department store with air-conditioning, then wander around passing out flyers advertising the church until we at least felt human again.

Our favorite department store was called LaiLai's. It offered many attractions, including a restaurant in the basement that served barely edible pizza (as opposed to the inedible kind of you found everywhere else--Pizza Hut had not made it to Taiwan in 1986) and an electronics department featuring a big-screen TV that constantly played Madonna videos. We would often position ourselves right at the top of the escalator, which was also midway between an air-conditioning vent and the television, thrusting flyers at people without saying a word as the escalator crested. They almost always took them, looked at them, looked at us, and shrugged.


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