Oct 7, 2013

For the Love of Drag Races

It was still pretty early. We stood out front of the supermarket, laughing, the wind blowing up the backs of our kerchiefs. It was getting cold. I wore my brown gingham dress with the green sweater and my blue school shoes. You wore your best blue dress with your sunday school sweater and your old Shoe Town ankle boots. Cars with painted on flames started pulling up, circling around and revving. We had a week's worth of lunch money, our combined baby sitting earnings and two wrapped meatloaf sandwiches in our pocketbooks. We had toothbrushes, pen, paper, lipstick, and a bar of ivory soap. There would be no future. But drag races were forever.

Sep 10, 2013

Waiting for My Burrito: An Anxiety Attack

Real mom and pop food 
with real sour cream 
for real people 
with real problems 
"a black bean burrito, please" 
I'm number 17
I'm waiting for my burrito
my laundry is tumbling not a block away
from this old wood paneled restaurant
with a zoo calendar hanging from a thumb tack
above the cash register
and a red plastic kitchen clock 
and super tiny receipts with almost no ink
I'm waiting for a burrito
black bean burrito
my burrito
I'm just waiting for my burrito.  

The plastic stained glass light fixtures 
tell a weird story about some red and blue people 
who live in what looks to be a green valley 
with red flowers and a great big yellow sun
I'm waiting 
at one of the oil cloth covered tables  
breathing in and out 
but still, it creeps up on me, sometimes
and before I know it
you are in my living room window
why are you in my living room WINDOW?
raindrops! raindrops!
please something 
start rinsing away this person's FACE from my window! 
ok ok 
shhh ok ok ok shhh it's ok
I'm waiting for my burrito 
I'm waiting for my burrito
I'm waiting for my burrito
that's all that's going on 
I'm just waiting for my burrito. 

Oh look, see? 
there's a "veritable kaleidoscope" 
of drink flavor choices in that cooler over there 
how fun
all lined up and rattling together
with such a classic, ice cube-y sound
I'll go get two diet cokes out to add to my order
you know
one for now, one for later
because I know I'll want one later
I always do
I'm ok
really, I am
I'm just waiting for my  burrito.

So, where was I? 
oh, right, I was running down the block
to add the fabric softener before it was too late
when you
when you came-a-creeeeeeping 
back in
creep creeping creeeeeeping back in
creepy creep creeper
creeeeeeeping back in
slithering like a snake, all snake like
help help
SPIDER oh god
boundary pushing pushy pusher 
pushing me 
wait! WAIT.
calm down, it's ok
I'm just here 
waiting for a burrito
that's all 
it's Tuesday 
I've got some laundry going 
everything's ok
I'm just waiting for my burrito.

Sep 1, 2013

Desert Heist

We were in the middle of the desert. The jewelry store where I worked was a round structure up on stilts reminiscent of The Lautner House. It was floor to ceiling glass. Panoramic views of ink colored clouds in gradient skies. It was transparent mountains against layers of light. From the blackest teal flecked with stars and planets all the way down to the palest shimmering pink horizon. 

As you can imagine, I was the jewelry store's sole security person. And the password, which was simply "crown, had been carelessly said aloud by me more than a few times at that point in the dream. Still, I continued to behave shocked whenever someone would tauntingly repeat the password back to me. For some reason I expected people to at least pretend that they didn't care what the password was. 

Later, after the sun set, I, the store's sole security person, found myself alone in a jewelry store filled with gold and precious stones in the middle of nowhere. Of course, it wasn't long before a group of people showed up on motor bikes and began loudly circling the building. Within minutes they were inside rifling through everything. This was a heist. The real deal. They shoved me along with a few other people into one of the vaults and shut the door. 

I wondered aloud if we were going to be killed. Nobody answered me. This became the hook from which I hung all of my hopes and dreams. Maybe, just maybe, no one had even considered killing us? Maybe this wasn't that big a deal? Maybe I was misunderstanding everything? Maybe. Whatever was happening, I knew one thing. I would have to wait to find out. Like anyone who's ever found themselves in a similar position, I would have to wait for an answer.    

Aug 24, 2013

One Way Ticket to Mars

God, I'd kill for some pancakes right now. My gum lost all it's flavor hours ago yet I keep chewing it because, it turns out, you never know when there will be more chewing gum. I've noticed that they've downplayed the scarcity of things like chewing gum out here. Which is fine. I get it. I mean, I'm ok if I never chew gum again, it's just that I wish they'd be more upfront about it. Because never knowing which piece of chewing gum will be my last has become weirdly unsettling for me.

Yesterday was kinda–odd. I don't want to say "bad". I don't know. I don't want to be negative or anything, but I watched the Earth get smaller and smaller until it became nothing more than a blue twinkling out in space–just a dot among a million other dots and stars. This fell on the 'Scale of Awfulness' somewhere between 'Bad' and 'Completely Terrifying'. But I was good. I just put another yellow pill under my tongue and waited. That always helps. They said it helps and to use it and I do. They've never led me wrong. "Bye-bye, Earth", I said. "Bye-bye".

What I like about not needing to eat or bathe anymore is that, for the time being at least, as long as I remain totally low maintenance and easy going, I could literally stare off into space all day long if I wanted and no one, I mean no one, would bat an eye. It's almost as though we are cargo. Human cargo being carted through outer space on the biggest rig imaginable. They just have to get us there. Then they'll relax. And when they relax, we'll relax. And that's all people want, when you think about it. To just finally relax. 

Aug 10, 2013


zipping rolling gliding
bouncing conveying   
everything fitting into one bag 
sound breakfast sandwich
choice making  
running skating 
through corridors 
having it all 
having this bottle of water
having this chapstic 
I am 
finally lint free 
I am 
practically at my gate
newly dedicated 
thinking space
now artificially improved
cleared for take off 
clicked in
considering water bottle
regarding pretzels
enduring tolerating
chapstic located

Aug 3, 2013

Cake and Coffee Reception

The tv in the white finished basement 
at the cake and coffee reception
was turned down, that day
I saw a sparkling sponge mop 
glide across a floor,  
I saw the game show host  
hold his microphone like a magic wand,
the cake, decorated with yellow roses, 
was brought officially down,
the coffee urn's orange light: ready to go,
there was the sound of bangles tinkling 
of nylons, of rayon   
of gold cigarette lighters clicking
of puffing 
of forks clinking 
of metal folding chairs scrapping the twinkling 
white terrazzo tile 
as the cutting 
of the first communion cake squares 
and there were not enough yellow roses
to go around 
and a few girls in white veils 
looked tired of smiling
they got white gift wrapped boxes
they got hearts and crosses
white velvet
diamonds and gold.

Jul 27, 2013

Dark Rainbow

Sticky pop covered movie theater floor
the stack of white institutional paper napkins 
pressed together
hospital strength pink pearl soap 
the phone booth with the rainbow sticker 
still stuck 

Crowning yellow plastic butter pouring down
hair combs stuck in back pockets we belong
eyeliner melted on with fire badge of badness 
I ordered a medium coke 
and removed the straw from its white wrapper
that first sip
a million bubbles syrupy joy 

In the end, we pushed back through the steel doors 
back into a corridor of blowing trash 
back into the traffic 
back into the world 
of unknowns and dark rainbows

I wore cloud socks that day
you wore sparkle socks
we ran home like sisters screaming
past the bus
past trees that might turn monstrous

May 16, 2013

Time Travel

It happens every forty-seven minutes. First the music starts. Violins mostly, evoking a slow, inevitable downward spiral. Then a man seen only in silhouette steps into the room. He puts down his brief case, the walls fall away and then begins what can only be described as his slow fall from a skyscraper. When he lands we know he's okay by the way he's sitting in a chair with his back to us, smoking a cigarette. It's as though he's bored by the whole thing

It's been two and a half days of endless episodes of Mad Men via Netflix Instant. It's starting to take a toll. Admittedly, I was late to the party. Mad Men was all new to me. When I first noticed that five seasons of Mad Men were available on Netflix I ignored it. I usually don't watch TV on Netflix. But, like many, I had heard things. Things about Mad Men. Things about incredibly accurate set and costume design. Things about period coiffure experts. And, I just couldn't take it anymore. 

You might say by the time I finally clicked on the Mad Men icon that it was already too late. That was Tuesday. It's now Thursday and everything has changed. As well, I'm keenly aware that I'm running out of episodes. I don't know just how I'm going to return to life as it is lived in 2013–to reality as it is experienced outside of my laptop–only that I must. That is, I don't know just why any of this has happened, only that it has to stop. 

Was Mad Men written with this kind of compressed viewing in mind? I noticed quite a few inconsistencies in the writing that I think might have otherwise gone undetected had I allowed any actual living of life to occur between viewings. Of course, I can't be sure. I can't un-watch Mad Men. I can't un-see what I've seen in the concentrated way that I saw it. Personally? I wouldn't do it again. But, please, don't let that stop you.

May 4, 2013

Sunny Enough

The sun – which, if I am totally honest with myself is no more than medium-bright today – is being enhanced somehow by how green everything has become literally overnight. It even smells green today. And my mood is about an eight this morning. So there's that. And this, too, effects the way I'm perceiving the sun. So, I guess if it were cooler out, or if everything were less green right now or if I were currently depressed the sun might seem less bright to me. 

It's entirely possible.

What I'm trying to say is that the sun is not currently shinning 'brilliantly' the way it does, say, in the movies or on tv. But, that I'm in a good mood anyway (eight on a scale of ten). And that the sun, which keeps coming back from behind the clouds as though to say it won't ever give up, is one resilient mofo (that crazy sun!). It keeps going; keeps getting back up, back out there in the sky to shine another day. So, while today is not the sunniest day in the world, it is medium sunny. And that's saying something.

Apr 27, 2013

Taste the Rainbow

Friday was the first warm, sunny day this spring in Chicago. I worked a half day and had that airplane-in-the-sky happy, soaring feeling upon walking out into the street. And there was the sense, too–that, even though you couldn't see it, a large body of water was nearby. It happens a lot this time of year. It's not that it smells like water or even fish, necessarily. It's something about the sky. It's something about the way the buildings in the distance just stop.

So, I walked through the neighborhood where I now work with my coat all rolled up in my bag, feeling sort of weightless. The whole world was wrapped up in blue skies. With the clouds giving away the curve and the shape of things. I could feel the distance and the size. I felt very, very small. And the sun, which had warmed the grass and earth and even things like garden hoses, made everything smell so familiar and promising. I was happy. So happy I couldn't decide whether to write poems or take photos. So happy that I had to be careful not to relapse in some way.  

My bus arrived and I kept thinking about how emotions are like flavors or colors that can be mixed to become other, more complex flavors and colors. Like the way I occasionally mix peppermint and orange tea. Peppermint becomes 'anger' and orange becomes 'happiness'. And mixed they become 'schadenfreude', or just, 'laughing darkly about something', I guess.

I wanted so badly to go home right then. Really home to sit on my front stoop from years ago. Or at my table in my old-old kitchen. With the windows pushed wide open and the birds singing. With the green painted wrought iron peeling. With the sound of everything and the sun shining. But then I thought about how I'd never be back there again. And how weird that was. How one day I'll probably miss my current kitchen, too. And how that was fine (and would probably taste like jelly beans or, you know, 'anxiety'). 

Mar 29, 2013

Pure Coincidence

I thought I saw Kathi today. Kathi with an i. Kathi from college. I was waiting for my coffee when I saw her standing in line. It's been many, many years, but this woman had Kathi's nose. Then, when she turned, I saw that she also had Kathi's eyes. And I felt a pang of recognition. Her voice wasn't Kathi's. But it didn't matter, because otherwise she was practically Kathi.  

I thought about it carefully. I knew that if I said anything to Kathi, there would be no going back to the not knowing whether or not she was Kathi. And, as obvious as it seems that confirmation would be the better thing, the fact that there is no going back to the state of 'not knowing' had to be carefully considered. 

And I knew if I said anything that the next few minutes would be very different than I had imagined them to be. And I had to decide what was more important to me: a few minutes of dark roast coffee with a hint of cinnamon and nothing else going on–or a few minutes of reconnecting with Kathi. Long lost Kathi. Kathi with an i.

If I tapped Kathi on the shoulder, she and I would scream and hug and start talking very loudly and animatedly. It would be like no time had passed at all. I'd find out that she had indeed gone successfully forward in the fashion industry (as evidenced by her amazing suede boots and what looked like $10,000.00 bag). And I'd explain how I hadn't (as evidenced by my disposable drug store mittens and back-pack by Bic). 

We'd laugh. We'd suddenly remember the instructor that had made our lives so miserable. And I'd be able to finally tell her how I went back to school years later and had that same instructor all over again! Oh, the exquisite irony. And Kathi would just die at the mention of this. Just. Die. And my mind would be blown by a flood of memories. Of course! Of course! How could I ever forget?

We'd trade email addresses and promise to get in touch. We'd say goodbye and go our separate ways. Later, I'd look at her business card and marvel that her handwriting on the back was exactly the same as I had remembered. 

And, I would wonder if I hadn't somehow predicted all of this. Hadn't Kathi crossed my thoughts a few times recently? I'd chalk it up to something slightly more interesting than pure coincidence. Like synchronicity. Or something about the Collective Unconscious.

Still, should I say anything? It felt scary to break the status quo. What was I afraid of? Why was I so un-spontaneous? Why couldn't I simply run into someone and be happy to reconnect? Why couldn't I be glad for life's surprises? Why did this kind of thing always provoke such anxiety in me? What on earth was the matter with me? 

So, as I started to say, "Excuse me, is your name Kathi?", my brain screamed, Wait! Let's think about this! Even if this person is Kathi, it's unlikely that this will be anything short of awkward and uncomfortable. Besides, were there not solid reasons that we drifted apart in the first place?

Then again, what are the chances of ever running into her again? I've been thinking a lot about the people I've lost touch with, lately. And Kathi was quite dear to me at one time.

"Excuse me, is your name Kathi?"  

"No", she said, "Sorry."

"Oh, no problem." 

I sat down at the window with my coffee for a few minutes, just as I had imagined I would. I did half expect Kathi to come through the door, though. It felt inevitable. And if she did? I was ready.

Mar 27, 2013

Consider Raisin Toast

I'd like to to take this opportunity to recommend the reader sit back and please consider raisin toast. I made two slices of raisin toast for myself earlier today (with butter–it was magnificent) and am here to report that I have zero regrets regarding the making of raisin toast today. The current loaf of raisin bread that is in our bread box (note: our bread box is actually a bread drawer) has not been denied the very real, often ignored cinnamon aspect of raisin bread. So, the pronounced cinnamon effect (pronounced to me, anyway, due to my oddly inferior past experiences with raisin bread) caused me to stop and think about cinnamon for a whole ten minutes. Thus bringing cinnamon to the forefront of what can only be referred to as my 'cinnamon brain'. 

It was so great.

Later, having broken out of my cinnamon reverie, I placed two slices of the raisin bread into our forty year old 'Toast-R-Oven'. We had bought it second hand five or six ago. It turns out, the exact same toaster oven that my family had when I was little is the exact same toaster oven my SO's family had when he was little! We know it will break down any day, but so far, so good. And, you can watch the whole process of toast toasting through the toaster oven's window. It's so exciting. The Toaster-R-Oven really is just an Easy Bake Oven for grown ups, if you think about it. I should also mention that if you do chose to watch the toast while it is toasting, it won't seem like anything is happening for a long time, which may become frustrating. But then, all of a sudden, the toast will begin to change color and brown and crisp and it will smell gloriously like cinnamon and raisins. This will seem 'sudden' if you happen to give up, like me, and look away from the toaster for even a second. However, if you manage to keep your eyes on the toast the entire time, you will see a very subtle progression that is not only fascinating but oddly reassuring. 

Mar 14, 2013

Winter Wear

I've been having flashbacks: it's winter but for some reason I'm wearing a paper thin coat. A little single-layer-of-fabric deal that doesn't even have buttons; that doesn't even have belt. It's a coat designed to be held closed (to be clear, dramatically closed. With one hand while jumping across puddles. Or traipsing through the streets). It's a smock, if I'm honest. A summer smock so diaphanous and lightweight that it would probably melt if I ever wore it out in the rain.

Yet, I wore such a coat through many winters. Through all of the winters. I froze. And I accepted it. Discomfort was just part of Winter; just part of fashion. So, my shoes, which by February were destroyed by the salt, were, in the interim, continuously wet and soggy. And my gloves, which were really these mesh, fingerless decorations that had come free with a bag of marshmallows, were quickly tucked away into one's tiniest coin purse when not in use (or, as it happens, eaten for one's impromptu breakfast as gloves like these were typically fabricated from things like rice candy).

Hats? Hats were the known destroyers of hair-dos. Layers? There wasn't room for any layers beyond those of one's already lightweight clothing beneath one's already lightweight coat. Boots? Boots would be just more things to lug around. And I already had a handful of Skittles in one hand and a micro-purse in the other–which kept my single Altoid and as many as eight dollars organized quite nicely. No, I was cold. Very, very cold. But then, *one day, as is the case with so many things, all of that changed. And I started dressing for the weather. And it was wonderful. And warm.

*Last Tuesday.

Mar 9, 2013

Looking Up

Looking up
through dirty winter windows
the sun seen almost by mistake
as it really is
just a glimpse
of a cold hard beam of light
not some loving, sparkling
lemon wedge in the sky
smiling joy onto the world
so much as something
so much as something 

Mar 8, 2013

Prop Cake

High white cake crowned 
with red raspberries
leaning a bit to one side
three layers of inscrutable
soft vanilla crumb 
filled with luscious red raspberry 
expertly frosted 
a clean white canvas to adorn 
with the merest of painterly flourishes! 
It was a cake.
A cake to behold.
A cake to end all other cakes. 

Feb 16, 2013


Orphan puzzle pieces carried around in a
plastic baggie for twenty years? 
Convoluted way of doing everything that 
frustrates everyone? 
Some underlying, unidentified background process 
that's drained you of all of your energy all of you life?
Rain drops on the windows? Winter trees?  
Warm mug of tea? Wooden bowl of apples? 
Happiness? Incredible relief?
Check. Check.

Jan 1, 2013

Any House In the World

Because it was Christmas Day, I got two seats to myself on the train to St. Louis. I brought my laptop and a bunch of reading materials so, of course, I just stared out of the window the entire trip. The combined effect of the train's motion and cushioned silence with the awareness of entire towns flying past at a hundred miles an hour had a tranquilizing effect on me.  

Hours passed. Everything about the train finally imposed a superficial simplicity onto the outer world in a way that only high speed trains can, I suppose. So, actual people and houses were now actors living in mocked up sets that looked like real houses in towns that were mere plastic replicas. Far away, pretend towns that twinkled a little with Christmas lights even as early as seven in the morning.  

Problems? People in this town didn't have any problems. Not anymore. None that could be detected behind such air-tight windows as found on this Amtrak train. Distance? Speed? Such necessitated the making of snap judgements. Details? There were no details. Only a blur where the world used to be. By the time I arrived in St. Louis, I, too, wanted a hundred-mile-an-hour life as seen from the safe distance of a commuter train. By then I'd have traded lives with anyone. And by 'lives' I mean houses.

Take, for example, the blue house with white shutters and brick chimney that I saw somewhere between Joliet and St. Louis. It was neat as a pin. A perfect little house with pine trees all around it. I noticed a tiny potted plant set on what had to be the kitchen window sill. There, a white lace curtain was pushed to one side. 

Steam, presumably from the dryer, came reassuringly from a vent on the side of the house. All the while smoke from the fireplace came from the chimney. I sensed that this house was spotlessly clean on the inside, too. Maybe even a bit under-furnished as only houses of normal, non-hoarding, non-neurotic people can be. 

And, though the house had to be at least a hundred years old, all the trim was new or at least newly painted. I sensed a strong 'no shoes worn inside' vibe coming from this house. I could practically see all the machine washable slippers lined up neatly by the front door. It was just a *hunch that I had.

*A fairly strong hunch, however.

As well, I was certain that every single piece of paper that came into this house was filed not only immediately, but properly in a nice, unassuming rolling file cabinet that was situated next to the desk in the office. Right next to the shredder. Because it makes sense to have file cabinets next to shredders in home offices. And, in this house, everything made sense.

Which explains why there are no stacks of paper anywhere. Not even little stacks of receipts or coupons near phones or mixed up with the mail, as I've seen happen. There is no clutter. Not even a junk drawer. In fact, in this house there are still a few drawers and cabinets that have nothing stored in them. These are earmarked, as they say, for 'future growth'. Because the people that live in this house think about things like the future. 

My favorite room? The little sewing room off of the laundry room. It doubles as a space for ironing clothes but there's a fold-away bed in there for guests, too. There's a great big gray and white plaid blanket and lots of gray and white pillows. In the closet are shelves filled with sewing and ironing supplies. There's this one bottle of liquid that makes the steam in the iron smell nice. You just pour into the iron instead of water. It's called 'Air' but it smells more like 'Sunshine' to me.