Sunday, February 24, 2008

The course of true love runs orange

Found this entry from a month ago. I guess I started it during finals and forgot about it.

Last night, I trudged home from the coffee shop in the dark, a little tired and a little cold, with a head full of rhetoric. I came to the weirdo intersection at the top of my block, and turned onto crooked Clark Street behind a couple, probably in their 50s. This couple was fairly nondescript, except for the one thing I noticed immediately - they had on the same coat. It was a grey coat, one of those deals with the protective outer layer and probably a fleece liner underneath. It had embellishments of orange and a dark blue covering the shoulders; and a detachable hood, which the woman was wearing and the man had apparently removed.

I walked right behind this couple, thinking several things: First, I thought that they were ridiculous (could they not go to the trouble of finding their own coats?), then I thought that I would never be caught dead in matching coats with anyone, then I wondered if they had the same size coat, then I wished I had a hood on my own coat, and so on etc. There were kids my age walking behind me, and I could hear the girl teasing her boyfriend and asking if he was going to get a peacoat that matched hers. I wrinkled my nose, and wanted to turn around and frown at them. Suddenly, I realized that the matching coats weren't offending me at all. Maybe I even liked the matching coats. Even now, I think of those two and it's nice. They didn't care how they looked, which is an anomaly these days.

So hooray for nerdy middle age. I don't know if I'd ever go so far as to have matching coats, but far be it from me to judge...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Is publishing your fiction in a blog the height of cheese?

Recently, I received this assignment:

A morbid piece of trivia inspired Robert Olen Butler’s Severance, his new book of stories. As Tom Barbash writes, Butler had learned that a “human head continues in a state of consciousness for one and a half minutes after decapitation. Having then determined…that in a ‘heightened state of emotion, we speak at the rate of 160 words per minute,’ Butler arrived at a new—and unlikely to be replicated—art form, the vignette of the severed head, told in exactly 240 words. 62 “talking heads” are at the center of Butler’s collection, including John the Baptist, a German woman who angered Hitler, and Nicole Brown Simpson, who catches a last glimpse of her husband. It appears O.J. is running for the end zone and, she says, “I can see what’s tucked there in the crook of his arm and it is me, it is my head, and I stare into my own eyes.”

For your Dead Head Vignette, select a figure from your cycle or invent a new one who will fit into your cycle and imagine his/her last thoughts in a heightened state of emotion and in exactly 240 words. How will this unique perspective shape your prose style? What do they see that sheds new light on the events in their world? A truly inventive title should begin the piece. Remember, this is YOUR work--be imaginative...did the person lose his or her head in a car crash, a climbing accident, a dream? Remember, exactly 240 words.

I chose Steve, the father of Sarah, a couple of people I wrote out just this week. I was having a little trouble figuring Steve out, so I thought this would be a good chance to figure out what his deal was. I think I got a start at least. If you like, read what I wrote below. Or... Write your own! It was pretty interesting to think about.

“The Door”

Shit…shit, I left the door unlocked. Sarah will kill me if – oh my god, I’m already dead. Is this what dead looks like? I wish someone would sew me… ew, there’s my body. That’s me, that’s my…why the FUCK did I want to rush for that stupid elevator? I couldn’t gotten the next one. Now Sarah will have no, oh god, what have I done? Her mother’s a drunk and now her dad DECAPITATED himself in an elevator? Who will take her? That fucking bastard Mike. I never… I wanted to, FUCK. How could he do that? How could I be so impotent? I deserve to die a horrible, ridiculous, impotent-man elevator death. Oh Sarah. If I could just catch the next elevator, God, I swear I’ll fix it. I’ll fix her and I’ll fix him, oh I’ll fix him right into prison. I want to make it right. I want to help my daughter. I want to have 25 minutes with Emily at the office, 15 sweaty minutes, it’s been so long and now I’m dying, basically a reborn virgin, but don’t say birth because this is its opposite… How did those doors do that? What the fuck kind of he-man elevators are those, anyway? Every day, I rode them (45 minutes, Emily, that’s all I wanted), and they seemed so innocuous, so innocent like my beautiful baby daughter, so sure and smart until he….

Monday, February 4, 2008


I read the blog below this morning, and it strikes something that's been bothering me for awhile, so I decided to share it. Let me preface my introduction of it by saying that I still haven't decided which Democratic candidate I'm voting for in the primaries tomorrow (though, let's face it, Obama will more than likely win Illinois). It's been hard for me to decide, and so, in true Bethian fashion, I've put it off. I find both Clinton and Obama appealing in very different ways, but from the minimal reading I've done it looks like they have a lot in common, policy-wise.

However, my decision-making process has been hampered by an intense anger at "Hillary bashing." I hear from friends, or fellow students, or family members that Hillary is "evil," Hillary is "crazy." There is a flipping facebook group called "One Million Strong against Hillary Clinton" (or something similar, I can't remember). Last summer, when I saw that my old roommate had joined this group, I laid into him. "Why," I wanted to know, "must you hate someone? Can't you instead find some other candidate to support? What good will hating her accomplish?" Obviously, it's too late for such arguments in the world of televised ads and debates. Our system has made itself into a monster of criticism. Fine.

But here's my theory: Hillary Clinton is, above all else, a politician. She's smart, she's shrewd, and she's been in or around politics for a very long time. The public and the media attack her for a variety of behaviors, but aren't these simply the behaviors of male politicians which we've seen for years? Example: she is often called "calculating." I'd agree that "calculating" is not a flattering attribute. However, I also think that any politician around is going to be "calculating." Hillary Clinton is being attacked for normal politican behaviors because she's a woman. I think that deep down, we've all coached ourselves to believe that women aren't like that. And so it makes me angry. Please read (or skim, or whatever) the blurb below. Think it over. And don't forget to vote!

(Side note: perhaps H Clinton's behavior is doubly noticeable because she's running against a candidate who is so highly un-political, who presents an image of the idealist for the first time in a long time. Just a thought.)

Friday, February 1, 2008

My $7 Nose Salt

Today is day 6 of My New Job, of The Rest of My Life. The cubicle has its disadvantages (it's a cubicle) and its benefits (everyone leaves me alone so I can blog on the clock on Friday afternoons when there isn't much to do).

I'm working for a software company, hereafter known as Initech. It's not a bad gig, really: the pay is very good and my coworkers are kind and flexible. It's no FOA crew, but it'll work. The work is odd. One never pictures themself in the places one ends up.

Because it is February, because it is cold, because I have so very little self-restraint when it comes to weekend benders, I find myself with a lingering sinus issue. As I am uninsured, I decided I would fight this sinus infection on my own, no drugs and no doctors. Step One of this self-healing went like this:

Last Saturday, after brunch (no, I didn't accidentally elbow the busboy while I was gesturing wildly with my fork), I headed to Whole Foods to buy a neti pot. The neti pot has been recommended to me for two years now, but I couldn't bring myself to buy what is essentially a nose-douching device. But these are different times, and last Saturday I left Whole Foods with the little pot, some $7 nose salt, and a German chocolate cake brownie.

I'm pleased to admit that the pot has some lovely benefits. It really does make me feel less stuffed up, and I can tell when a day passes andI haven't used it. Also, it is the time of my roommate's life when she gets to watch me stand over the sink and attempt not to drown in my own salt water.

In spite of the weather and the sinuses, this is my best quarter yet. Classes are truly enjoyable, I met David Sedaris at a book signing, I'm making some money, and earning partial scholarships. Hot Chip and Justice will both be here in the next month or two, not to mention some heartily welcomed visitors from home (brothers, aunts, friends, oh my!). I feel badly for neglecting my blog, but I think it's the result of increased productivity at school. I'll take it.

(So if you don't know what a neti pot is, look it up on youtube. You won't be sorry.)