The Interim List

19 09 2011

It has been an unforgivably long time since I wrote anything creative, much less blogged… or really did anything other than eat, drink, work, or sleep. But it’s autumn (almost), that unforgivably crisp time of year that snaps your senses into better habits (other than the pies and donuts) with inelastic tautness and forces you to shed the leaves and look at your bare branches.

I’m not in the mood for self-examination or reflection tonight, so I’m going to stick with straight-up creative writing. Two poems that feel fall-ish to me with their mix of sexiness and sadness. Things die, things move forward. At least we have pumpkin pie.



  1. Press lips to enchanted chalice, where other lips have pressed before, communal quest for second comings, hands pressed palm to palm.
  2. Crush jeweled kisses into soft gold metal, warm from breath and body, lined in gilded charms of flourished tongue looping like filigree, prying vines hungry for wine, wanting to wind over legs and hallelujahs.
  3. Move lips to softly speak salty truths—anguished amens of a hurt-so-good love shouted in the soft shade hours of sunrise, on top of a bridge, our feet suspended above water and air, divine in our flustered gropes, fingers moving like morning doves, slow but steady.
  4. Let the words wash onto your hot hands that wrap around fluted neck, the hollow exposed, fill your mouth with me.
  5. A pang in my side, a thorn in head: the subtle signs of soon-to-be crucified love.

The Ossuary of Divorcees


  1.  I bury your skin and bones in my backyard, deep inside a ditch I dig with broken nails and the crosshatch barbs of last words left unsaid.  I bury myself beside you.
  2. My skeleton is mined, dusted, displayed for tourists.  I tell the story of separation to anyone who’ll listen, hope they’ll throw mossed pennies into the well and whisper wishes on the stone.
  3. Ribs unfold like brittle fingers to cup the thunder and rain, squeeze our petrified hearts to see if they still leak.  Disappointment when they don’t, so I cover them in crumbs of dirt, let the worms consume the corpse.
  4. Someday someone might unearth our skeletons, arrange them into an unlit chandelier.
  5. We’ll hang among the crystals. We’ll calcify there.

Prague Texture List

5 07 2011

I’ve been in Prague for three full days now and am just skimming the surface of the things to see.  I have so much to say about the city (yes, it’s beautiful; yes, people are friendly; and yes, I’ve gotten lost about a hundred times), but so far the thing that has struck me the most is how textural the city is.  Pressing your palm against the plaster, cobblestone underfoot, the lipped curves of rooftiles overhead.  It’s all pretty amazing, and I’ll post pics soon.  In the meantime, top textural moments from Prague:

  1. The fence of lovers’ locks.  People come to a fence that hangs over a canal, carve their lovers’ names into the metal of a lock (or paint it in some cases), and hook them to the iron posts.  Legend has it that if you carve the name of someone who you want to be your lover, your wish will come true.  The colors of the collection are striking, as is the fact that so many people still believe in love.
  2. The John Lennon Peace Wall.  Graffiti abounds in the city, but nowhere is it more powerful than the Peace Wall, a plastered exterior wall where John Lennon once protested.  The wall has since been painted and repainted by visitors from all over the world as a symbol of freedom of expression and the undying desire of all humans to be heard.
  3. The rose garden.  Because of the exceptionally cool weather Prague has experienced this spring, the roses bloomed late, and I stumbled upon them at their height.  Visitors come here and sting their significant others with kisses (supposedly good luck to kiss here) among the bumblebees.
  4. The river.  The Charles River flows through the center of the city, and while I wouldn’t want to bathe in it, I adore how it flows under and through bridges and buildings, and snakes through the main arteries of everything.  Prague faced serious floods from the river, some of which destroyed a number of original statues from the St. Charles Bridge, but on a whole, the pros seem to outweigh the cons.
  5. Marionette windows.  Anyone who knows me knows I’m terrified of puppets, especially the carved, creepy kind with little faces painted on them.  Nevertheless, en masse, the marionettes here take on a kind of aesthetic value not found in solo puppetry.

Lovers’ Locked (by SPL)

Don’t delight in the sight of a lock unhinged and crooked.  Hooked to a feral fence, a wish decrepit— a magic man, puff puff puffing the magic dragon on the spent end of a lit nicotine finger, watching her carve clandestine initials of her best friend’s man with the metal vee of her key, etch etch etching the purge into steel.

The Flood (by SPL)

Wash the unholy watermark, moonlit moss and overflow fungus feel like concrete clean.  Foundations lift from their feet.

This is it! shouts a man sure the world will end.  He’s in the street, his eyes opal and drunk on the future.  Wash the unholy waterstain from the sides of the home, its pebbled plaster pilling, rubbed raw.  A wall agape.

The flood takes two hundred years to brew, ten minutes to spill its steeped tea into the city.  Percolation and a sneeze—bless you!—flooded homes and cracked trees.  My husband always forgets to bless me, wash me clean, scrape the grit from my home and innermost mind.

Book List: Milan Kundera’s “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”

13 06 2011

What do you say about Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being?  Per my earlier post, I finished it in tears while eating a Subway sandwich, and like my ultimate experience with it, the book is both heart-rending and completely absurd.

  1. Sabina… has there ever been a more beautiful mistress?  I propose not.  The scene with the seductress posing in front of her lover in a bowler hat might be among the sexiest and saddest in literature.
  2. Dogs… if you are like me, you love dogs and animals more than most people.  The last chapters justify this love philosophically, religiously, and zealously.  I no longer feel the need to apologize when I pick my chihuahua as the one person I’d take to a deserted island.  They are the last bastions untainted by original sin.
  3. Love… doesn’t fair well here.  But does it in life either?
  4. History… I adore Kundera’s sophisticated perspective on revolution and politics in this book.  So often Eastern European authors (or western authors writing on the subject of Eastern European countries) take a pro or con stance on Communism and Russian occupation of countries.  This work, like Russian Dreambook (reviewed earlier), takes a more nuanced stance in the form of Franz, perhaps the most compelling character in the novel.
  5. Roads not taken… perhaps the most alarming, obvious point of the book is the oft-repeated motif that we will never know if our life choices are “good” or “bad” because we only live our lives once.  How many unborn children could we have had should we have met the woman of our dreams on a passing subway card?  How many husbands have we passed without so much as a glance?  I’m often struck by the exciting/horrible possibility that a thousand alternate lives constantly swarm around me, and Kundera’s writing does nothing to allay this fear.  So I dwelt a bit on it and wrote the following…

A Love Song for My Never-Was


  1. I write love songs for the never-was, who is better than the has-been—that itchy wool coat I wore for thousands of years, summer heat and all.
  2. The love song I write starts with the word “if,” the conditional—which is code for the negative, for the never-was.  There are other times to use the word “is.”
  3. I write love songs for the never-was, who is far superior to the present-is—though the present-is is also a never-was.  Dilapidated, half-built house of heart he has.
  4. The love song I write is written in eggshell notes that I need to break, whip my insides into froth and want, foaming with hurt.  But you are my never-was, so these are things I’ve never done.
  5. I write love songs for the never-was, whose imaginary kiss alights my lips at night, a soft moan that is my own since you and I never were.

Play List: Yearning Burning

9 06 2011

For when you’re feeling a little yearning in your heart…

  1. Best Coast’s “Boyfriend”
  2. Raveonette’s “Lust”
  3. Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love”
  4. Phosphorescent’s “South of America”
  5. Margot and the Nuclear So & So’s “Love Song for a Schuba’s Bartender”

Book List: Alan Lightman’s “Einstein’s Dreams”

9 06 2011

I just finished reading Alan Lightman’s novel Einstein’s Dreams, a novel slight on pages but full on thought.  I’ve often wondered whether a novel without lead characters can carry the day, but Lightman’s precise, poetic language flitters around the page like a firefly that I can’t stop watching.  While Einstein and his friend Besso do make appearances as characters throughout, the book’s blend of musicality and theoretical physics shines brighter than all else.  A list doesn’t do the work justice, but my blog format insists upon itself.  And so:

  1. After reading this novel, you won’t view your watch the same way.  I stopped wearing one during my first year of law school (too depressing to keep track of the many hours were spent highlighting Latin words), but if I hadn’t, I would have stopped somewhere midway through this book.
  2. Lightman has a joint appointment in the humanities and sciences teaching at MIT in Boston.  Yes, he’s brilliant.
  3. As an author, he illuminates the depth of the human need to capture and store (and ultimately ruin) beloved moments.  While reading the novel, I got the sense that seconds were escaping through my fingertips, seeping into the pages, and diffusing into the air.  I finished the book too fast, and wished immediately I had paced myself.
  4. Per Wikipedia, Lightman’s physics research “has focused on relativistic gravitation theory, the structure and behavior of accretion disks, stellar dynamics, radiative processes, and relativistic plasmas.”  I don’t understand any of that.  But I do understand that he studies black holes and the ways they accrete matter via their gravitational pulls.  He also studies the human heart, and how it accretes matter from life.
  5. Favorite line: “And they know too that time darts across the field of vision when they are eating well with friends or receiving praise or lying in the arms of a secret lover.”  J’adore, Mr. Lightman, j’adore.

In time, there are an infinity of worlds…

No creatively inspired SPL-knockoff for this work; it’s too good.

The Indy 500 Hypothesis List

30 05 2011

Over the past few years, attending the Indy 500 has become a bit of a family tradition.  It usually begins with my mother obsessively making hotel reservations a year and a half in advance (“just in case”) and my father complaining about the size of the hotel room immediately upon arrival.  It usually ends with me drunk, exhausted, sunburned and/or blistered.

But the magical moments in between are among the best I ever have, both for their f-ed up family tradition aspects, as well as their pure people-watching potency.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the Indy car series and the race itself.  I could easily write a list of Indy favorites; it would go something like this: (1) the first ten laps; (2) stalking drivers in Gasoline Alley; (3) Graham Rahal; (4) beer and burgers; and (5) waiting for Danica to complain.

Likewise, I could write a least of least favorite aspects: (1) caution laps; (2) walking through broken glass in sandals; (3) sitting in traffic without Graham Rahal to look at; (4) waiting in line for half an hour to get beer and burgers; and (5) the disproportionate number of Danica merchandise trucks.

Regardless, the thing I love—that which trumps all others—is time with my father, who is quite simply the best dad in the world (and not just b/c he buys me Indy tickets).  And this year, my father and I came up with a list of hypotheses to test at Indy.  Find out which are true and which are false:

  1. Hypothesis #1: You can identify [male] drivers’ wives/girlfriends based on appearance alone.  TRUE.  This year’s uniform consisted of the following: skintight white jeans, large boobs, yellow gold jewelry, and $2,000 handbags.  Happily, brunettes trumped blonds; unhappily, tanned bested pasty.  The only exception to the rule was Dario Franchitti’s wife, Ashley Judd, who apparently didn’t get the memo and (embarrassingly!) showed up in a sundress and straw hat.  Rocking only 2 out of the 6 qualities, I apparently will not be an Indy wife anytime soon.
  2. Hypothesis #2: The beer belt is the best beer-carrying invention to date.  FALSE.  Two years ago, we saw two men carrying a 12-pack each holster-style on a homemade belt.  At the time, I was pretty impressed, thinking they had cracked the code for carrying as much beer as possible without having to carry anything.  Wrong!  This year, we saw homemade beer backpacks.  How were they constructed?  With 24-packs made into backpacks using duct tape, duh.  Picture proof provided below.  (Oh yeah, and he was dressed like Captain Morgan and had Jager taped to the beer… double bonus points.)
  3. Hypothesis #3: Upper back tattoos do not age well.  TRUE.  I have to admit, Dad and I disagreed on this one.  I’ve been begging for his blessing to get a tattoo since I turned 18, only to be turned down again and again.  While the basis for his objection deals with hepatitis, perhaps he should have advocated this point more strongly.  We sat by a pair of women with significant ink on their backs and shoulders.  I’m sure at some point they looked badass.  But at age 65+, their sun tattoos looked a bit more like squished hardboiled eggs.
  4. Hypothesis #4: Jim Nabors is actually a zombie.  UNKNOWN.  For those of you unfamiliar with the tradition, every year before the beginning of the race, actor Jim Nabors sings “Back Home Again in Indiana.”  If you don’t know who Jim Nabors is, he’s Gomer Pyle from The Andy Griffith Show, but that doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that he appears to be reverse-aging and developing an alarming fan base.  Dad and I offered him some freshly killed meat to see if he’d go apocalyptic on us, but he merely kept singing.  I remain unconvinced that he’s not actually dead.
  5. Hypothesis #5: Scott Dixon would win this year’s race.  FALSE.  This one was Dad’s pick, and not exactly a “dark horse” choice.  Dixon won the race back in 2008 and drives for Chip Ganassi, meaning he has the Cadillac of cars that go 200+ mph.  Indeed, Dixon led for a significant portion of the race and certainly had one of the fastest cars in the field (though Kanaan’s car seemed to be running hottest, passing up to three people per lap).  Nevertheless, lots of drivers ran clean races and Dixon had some slow (and possibly extraneous?) pitstops, causing him to finish fifth.

Till next Memorial Day for this list!

Worst Date List

25 05 2011

Wow.  When I solicited bad first date stories for this blog entry, I had no idea the quagmire into which I was walking.  I’ve always had an ambivalent relationship with the dating world.  On one hand, I found it miserable: having to be likeable for more than a few minutes, having to laugh at bad jokes, and having to brush my hair?  These things required serious work.  Yet, on the other hand, I found it intriguing: what to wear?  Would there be sparks?  Would I have to rely on my bail out plan to put Operation (R)Ejection into place?

Back in the day, I had some bad first dates.  I had a few awful ones.  I won’t name names, but you know who you are.  Nonetheless, my bad ones barely skim this not-so-lusty list:

  1. Top honors goes to my friend who had a chocolaty-delicious run-in with a finger-licking nice man in Illinois.  Admittedly, this tale comes not from an “official” first date; the two individuals in question knew each other and had hung out a couple of times casually.  After an early-in-the-relationship date, the returned to my friend’s dorm room for a little making out etc.  Only, somewhere during the “et cetera,” the young suitor stuck his finger up her butt with no warning.  I’m not knocking the move (though I question the validity of any information this kid received that girls like it generally), but this move requires the following: (1) many candlelight dinners; (2) drinks; and (3) express permission.  The element of surprise didn’t work for this man, whom my friend quickly bounced from her bedroom and never called again.
  2. In the realm of terrible texts, my friend met a stranger at IHOP (significant warning sign number one?) who asked her on a date.  After standing her up on the first date, he begged for a second chance via text, which my friend reluctantly gave.  After her concession, the boy wrote a series of texts calling her “my princess” and “my royal highness” (significant warning sign number two), and told her he’d take her on the best date ever (a carriage ride???).  The spectacular date suggestion: Starbucks.  When she met him, he’d taken the liberty of buying her an Odwalla juice (warning sign three… three strikes and you’re out!).  What a prince!  After nobly sacrificing the Odwalla, he offered her a protein bar from his gym bag and advised her not to take steroids.  The chance of a stellar second date: zero.
  3. Another friend agreed to meet her date in a Wal-Mart parking lot, then drive to their final destination (a park) together.  While in the Wal-Mart parking lot, the boy forgot to put his car into park and locked his keys in it.  Perhaps to no one’s surprise but the boy’s own, the car began to roll away.  Though he managed to get his car under control without damage, he committed another car cardinal sin upon drop-off at the Wal-Mart parking lot: he couldn’t find his car.  He wandered for a while and became so distraught that he went to security.  Who promptly indicated that he’d forgotten where he parked; his car was right where he left it.
  4. So my awful date begins with an awful movie: I, Robot.  As if seeing a Will Smith movie once wasn’t bad enough, I’d already seen this one previously.  But my date really wanted to see it, so I caved to the re-watch pressure.  Within ten minutes, my date had crammed the vast majority of a large movie theater popcorn into his mouth, making sure to lick his fingers—in what he must have thought was a “sensuous” manner.  Worse still, in between licks, he kept stroking my hair and putting his greasy, slimy index finger into my ear.  So I did what any reasonably decent woman would do and “took a restroom break” from which I never returned.  When he called (after the end of the movie!), I explained that I had a terrible case of diarrhea.  And would continue to have it every time he called me for a follow-up date.
  5. A gay friend of mine agreed to a blind date with a friend of a friend.  The beginning of the date started well enough: the blind date was cute, athletic, and funny.  They had a glass of wine, discussed deep issues like politics, career fulfillment, and coming out to their parents.  After another couple of cocktails, the blind date began discussing his bisexuality.  My friend is of an open-minded persuasion, so no deal-breakers there.  Bottoms-up, down the hatch with a few more drinks.  By the end of the night, the blind date was explaining—loudly—how he is actually heterosexual, how much he loves women, how much he loves the taste of women.  In three hours, the date had full sexual orientation regression!  Needless to say, my friend wisely began flirting with the bartender.

This entry makes me never want to re-en”list” in the dating roll call!  Until we meet again…

Play List: Feelin’ a Lil’ Old School

24 05 2011

I’m feeling a lil’ old school tonight…

  1. The Mamas and the Papas’ “Dream a Little Dream”
  2. The Righteous Brothers’ “Just Once in my Life”
  3. Smokey Robinson’s “Ooo Baby Baby”
  4. The Spinners’ “I’ll Be Around”
  5. Todd Rundgren’s “Hello It’s Me”

Play List: Good Bye Songs

17 05 2011

In honor of all the graduating MFAers, whom I will miss immensely:

  1. The Kills’ “The Last Goodbye”
  2. Rolling Stones feat. Dave Matthews’ “Memory Motel”
  3. Matt Pond PA’s “Remains”
  4. Stellastarr*’s “Homeland”
  5. Pearl Jam’s “Black”

Austin Hit List

17 05 2011

I’ve been a very bad blogger.  Mostly because I haven’t blogged.  You can’t be a good blogger if you don’t blog (but, conversely, maybe you can’t be a legitimately bad blogger either).  Regardless, I have many good excuses, most of which relate to writing final exams–which no one wants to hear about–and traveling, which maybe some folks do want to hear about.  One trip took me to Austin, Texas, a destination unvisited by me since my teens yet oft-praised by friends who like to have fun, as opposed to my morose friends who like to complain.  (Those friends are content to stay in Chicago when it’s May, forty degrees, and raining…)  So without further hoopla, here’s the best things about Austin:

  1. Salt Lick – so I’m probably not surprising anyone with this pick, but I *was* surprised this place lived up to the hype.  Featured by just about every FoodNetwork show and touted by every meat-eating friend Texan I’ve met, this restaurant rests on a large swath of land surrounded by grape vines and fields.  The wait ranged near the one to two hour range on the weekend, but the scenery made the wait whittle away in no time.  Picnic tables and bocce ball courts give a family reunion vibe to the place, while cheap beer (sold only by the six pack) and homemade wine make any unruly (or metaphoric) aunts and uncles more tolerable.  The meat is delicious–supple, soft, melt in your mouth good–but it barely matters because the sauce is where it’s at.  Garlicky goodness, smoke, sublime meat juice on face.  A semi-sexual, totally-fantastic experience.
  2. Live Music – I’d love to pick a particular band, but I have the sneaking suspicion that my friends and I barely skimmed the surface of the Austin music scene.  We hitched our wagon to a lovely roofdeck at the Blind Pig, where a cover band played country-alt-rock for three hours without breaking a sweat.  Shiner Bock may have made frequent appearances throughout the set, but hey, it’s a Texas necessity.  Peanut M&Ms may have been smuggled as contraband, as well; that’s a Chicago necessity, and we all have needs.  But truly, there’s music everywhere in Austin.  As a representative night: Los Lonely Boys was playing at Stubb’s (an also fantastic bbq joint where I may or may not have made love to warm apple crisp), a random guy wooed the ladies at noon near the river while encouraging them to wear dresses rather than pants, and in the mornings people hold guitars in the hand opposite their coffee cups.  If you don’t tap your feet here, you don’t have a pulse.
  3. Juan In A Million – you might sense that my posts often deal with food.  I can’t help it; my belly controls my brain.  And if you love breakfast tacos as much as I do, your brain will lead you to this humble yet deceptively stellar outpost.  The menu isn’t much–all Mexican, all the time–but what they do, they do well.  Bacon and egg breakfast tacos may have been the best I ever had, except then I ate their barbacoa taco (yes, for breakfast… don’t judge… I like meat…), which was officially the best I ever had.  Liquidy, hot salsa comes gratis and will clean your sinuses for the week.
  4. Ben Kweller – technically I’ve never seen Ben Kweller perform in Austin.  But I’ve seen him a bunch of times, including his last tour in Detroit, and he calls Austin home.  So I give a proper shout-out.  He’s the shit, and embodies everything good about a boy, a guitar, and rock with solid country roots.
  5. Making Random Friends – Austin inspires friendship.  Whether it’s stumbling around Sixth Street, having a girlfriend grab and shove too-small boots on your feet, or just hanging poolside, people who come here are people to meet.  Make friends.  We did.  While lounging by the hotel pool, we met three ladies from Houston, each of whom were about three hours of drinking into their mornings… as a conservative estimate.  Friendship blossomed between watching them refill mimosa glasses at least seven times, listening to their sexual conquests (which included, allegedly, several prominent lawyers), and planning our fake bachelorette party for the night.  Unfortunately, they had a man down before the party commenced; thankfully, my liver looked at me sweetly and told me it was time to go back to Chicago.

But I’ll be back, Austin, I’ll be back!  See you in September, when I can continue to compose my hit list.