Monday, October 22, 2007


There's rough gray carpet around the edges of the glass, surrounding the sharks in a sort of domesticated tranquility. The little children gather around it, their warm hands pressed against the wide pane that towers seven feet, maybe more, over their cowlicked heads, their dusty craned necks, their faces shrouded in sickly green aquarium glow.

The inside of the tank is curved and cylindrical like a soup can, its cement walls coated in mossy film. From the main viewing side, Lana can see across to two hidden portholes, and if she stares long enough, she sees a kid's face appear in the lower of the two as a blacktip sweeps sharply by, cutting another neurotic circular path.

Lana watches, a canvas tote bag weighted down with juice boxes and triangle-cut turkey sandwiches hanging limply over her left shoulder. She is standing contrapposto, posing in a way, as another living exhibition in the zoo's aquarium gallery. Her frizzled dirty-blonde hair is tamed, with much effort, by a red bandana. In an oversized t-shirt and a hand-written name tag, she watches mothers pass by with their own, actual children. She wonders whether they wonder how old she is. If they know that she is pushing thirty. If they could trust a day care that would employ a fragile woman like her. At 12:30, once the kids have tired of the sharks, Lana will seat them at the splintered wooden picnic tables in front of the polar bears, and distribute the lunches. Then she will retreat behind the ladies restroom and smoke a cigarette while she watches a daddy long legs crawl up a drain pipe.

For now, the kids aren't tugging at the legs of her jeans. They are engrossed, captivated by prehistoric silky bodies that seem weightless and hazardous in the water. Lana is repulsed by their black eyes, their gaping mouths. She is bothered that she cannot see her reflection in the side of the tank. The dim lighting in this space makes her feel as though she is drowning, but there are mothers and fathers milling about her, holding the arms of their children, negotiating problems with camera flash against the glass, breathing underwater.

As she moves toward the back of the exhibit to recline on a carpeted bench, one of her charges, Madeline the doctor's daughter, lets out a scream. Its shrillness is absorbed by the fibers in the walls, but it is felt and echoed just the same, from the cavernous mouths of the other children with their unfinished stalagmite rows of teeth. And then Lana sees the source of fear. The smooth-sided body of a blacktip shark rolls to one side, suddenly lifeless and no longer sustaining its own motion. Slowly, it cuts back and forth like a sheet of paper blown from the edge of a desk, and plummets past the viewing window, sinking to the bottom of the tank, leaving no wake.

Madeline runs, flailing to Lana, her stubby pink arms outstretched, plump fingers splayed. Lana watches her gaping mouth, her chubby cheeks, the way she chokes on her own spit when she sobs, and knows that one day Madeline will be ugly. And so she hugs her, the way she's been told to, and is suddenly joined by a mass of other bandwagon seekers of affection, who dutifully rub Madeline on the back of her corduroy jumper, and pat her hair until it is a knotted mess.

Outside at the picnic table, Lana watches the children eat their sandwiches and trade juice boxes, which come in two flavors--grape and apple. One of the boys has a ring of artificial red food coloring around his lips, and he's watching her with heavy, watery eyes. Lana reaches into her back for a pack of cigarettes and swings her tired legs over the bench of the table, heading for a spider-infested patch of dead grass behind the ladies restroom. She'll stay here for a minute or two. Long enough for a smoke. And when she returns everybody will have forgotten about death.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

It's Official.

Ricky Nelson is the hottest teen idol of all time.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Daunting Task Force

My good friend Kevin recently published a list of his top five albums. I've always wanted to do this, but most "Top 5" lists in my life are too tentative to document. My attentions are fickle.

I've learned that growing up can change the way you feel about an album, the same way falling in love can change the way you feel about a song. It's the same with all art, I think.

But these are the albums that have always been there, or that have come into my life so boldly and explosively that I can only assume that their effects will be lasting. There are five of them. I think I might be ready.

1. Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

There were seventeen tracks on Wilco's previous effort, Summerteeth, but this time, one of the most inventive and versatile American rock bands did it right, releasing a cohesive and groundbreaking 11 track album that would forever change the way they made music. The critical and commercial success of "Yankee" allowed Wilco to grow as a band, and listening to this album made me forget that any other band in the world existed.

The album feels dreamlike. It lets me into a new place, where negative space becomes important, where descending chimes and sleepy fragile vocals play with underwater guitars, and where everything echoes.

I listened to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot two summers after it was released. I'm actually ashamed of this fact to this day. Though I was familiar with Wilco, I had never listened to much of their music, except for a few tracks off of Summerteeth. Now I can't make it through a week without immersing myself completely in the final dissonant measures of "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart," or the playfully nostalgic pounded piano chords at the beginning of "Heavy Metal Drummer." Every time I hear "Reservations" I fall hopelessly in love.

2. The Police: Outlandos d'Amour

Even finding out the sad news that my cat had died while I was listening to "Born in the 50s" did not ruin this album for me. It says something that I only own it on vinyl; there's no skipping tracks with this one.

This is the time in the Police's career that I admire most. Nobody knew what they were supposed to sound like, and I think they didn't either. And on this album, it sounds like they didn't care. Part reggae, part punk, all pop genius, "Outlandos" has been one of my favorites since I was thirteen.

It's driving, it's fierce. Sting's vocals wail and gargle and scream. Everything is tight when it needs to be, and cacaphonous when appropriate. It's probably measured and calculated like most things that Sting does, but it doesn't feel that way. It makes me go nuts.

3. Ellis Paul: Live

I've always hated live albums because they never sound like they should, and because there's always an annoying person in the crowd who makes jarring sounds at inappropriate times. But this is a folk concert. And it's one of the most intimate folk concerts I've never been to. When Ellis breaks a string he reads an original poem whilst changing it. His guests include Patty Griffin and Chris Trapper. He jams on "Autobiography of a Pistol" and "Martyr's Lounge," and whispers and coos on "Last Call" and "Conversation With A Ghost."

Ellis is a storyteller, and each one of these songs moves gracefully and keenly, like fiction you want to believe. His soaring vocals are unmatched on any of his other studio efforts. It's two discs of modest, heartfelt pleasure. Every time I hear it I pick a new favorite song. Ellis Paul is simply one of the best living songwriters, and this is him, essentially. It's all you need.

4. Weezer: Pinkerton

Screw The Blue Album! Regardless of how much Rivers Cuomo seems to hate Pinkerton, I think it's one of the strongest rock albums I've ever heard. This was a time when the guys of Weezer weren't afraid to be playful. Their self-deprecating, angsty lyrics are the soundtrack of adolescence. But they aren't pandering to anybody. They're just playing fun, kicky, rocky, pop songs.

I miss the days when the boys would make strange noises in their songs, and sing along with guitar solos. Weezer was too big to play in the garage at this time, but this album feels like it belongs there. I love it. It makes me feel like I fit in somewhere. It always has.

5. Sufjan Stevens: Seven Swans

Sufjan Stevens saved me in a way. His music and Over the Rhine's music finally gave me positive feelings towards Christian artists. This wasn't annoying praise music. This was lyrically dense, intelligent, complex stuff, that just happened to have Christian themes.

One of the most intimate, sensitive, and heartbreaking albums I've ever heard in my life, Seven Swans makes me feel like a human being every time I listen to it. The melodies, the banjo, the haunting starkness, in contrast with Stevens' other efforts, are what makes "Swans" so special. The first time I heard it, I was driving home from the library, and it began to rain. "To Be Alone With You" came on just as I pulled into the driveway, and I remember sitting in the car and listening to it all the way through. That's what Sufjan makes you do, especially here. You have to stop and listen to all of it.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Things left in the pocket of a winter coat

I can shapeshift in the fall. I can slip into things and realize that they feel familiar. I can be more restless, but I can also be more patient.

I was quiet in my mom's car, getting my sense of hearing confused with my sense of feeling, exhausting my memory. The last time I heard this album all the way through without stopping, I had a broken heart. I basked in melancholy on my roommate's futon, under piles of blankets in the middle of the day with the blinds closed tight, trying to create the illusion of night for dramatic effect. The feeling of hurting someone else made my skin feel pinched. I was punishing myself. The time before that, I was reclined in the driver's seat of my Toyota Echo on the night of my high school graduation party. Guests had gone, I was alone with the windows up. This album was a graduation present. It was hard to sleep.

Traditionally, this is the time of the year when I want to say the most, but when I feel the least eloquent. Nothing that I write will match the importance of what is happening around me, or inside me.

I'm unpacking sweaters that I didn't know I had. I'm recalling moments that I'd similarly forgotten.

This is the ticket from the theater in the park. The wrought iron table teeters, my right wrist slips across the page of a notebook, the spine creaks when I press too hard. This is the end of the summer and I'm writing this. And I can smell popcorn that doesn't smell like popcorn, but more like a high school football game, or the floor of a movie theater on Lee that we've just trodded into, wrapped in wool scarves and watching our shoulders moisten as the flakes melt under soft yellow lobby light. Now we are at the corner, and we've said goodbye too early and isn't it strange now that we must continue this way. This is you and me drinking coffee from clear cups, being diplomatic about the last bite of cheesecake, which has fallen over onto its side in surrender, and I'm realizing that you are leaving. Now I understand why you came, and why you stood for so long under the hot lights of the stage. Not because of the cold, but because you weren't sure. And at the time, neither was I. I kept a few things. When I get my phonograph fixed, I'll think of you again, when I play them.

This is me promising that my attentions will not die with a season anymore. I will play the same two-disc set all year long--perhaps more rigorously at times. And I will keep one of my sweaters folded on the top shelf of my closet.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Brushing Past You

I just imagined, briefly, whilst brushing my teeth and simultaneously pacing circles around my apartment, that there is someone else in the world who similarly wanders during personal dental care processes. Perhaps one day I'll run into this person on a sidewalk. Shaken, we'll stare nervously at each other, toothbrushes hanging limply from mirrored cheeks. We'll want to smile then, and we will, but only for a moment, before our lips self-consciously suck themselves inward to avoid dripping fluoride-rich foam across the concrete. And then, just as suddenly, we will retreat on shuffling slippered feet, to spit.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Creative Juice, Foiled, Sings Swan-Shaped Song

I just had this wonderful and weird idea for a story, involving a boy throwing his little brother's possessions into a well. I began writing about fifteen minutes ago, and it was all going, well, well. And then my parents' computer decided to freak out just as unexpectedly as my story idea came to me.

I may never get that page back, but I assure you, it was a good one while it lasted.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Better Mileage

Imagined Dialogue Between Me and My Toyota Echo, as I Trade Him in for My New Toyota Prius:


I'm sorry, you know. You know I am sorry. I've told you this.
I know.
I'm older now. You're older now.
These things happen.
But lately, I've felt different with you.
Different how.
Smaller different. Like I...
Like you deserve better.
You do, though. I get it. I look at him, and I see why.
He responds to my touch.
Keyless entry. Yeah, I know. Could we just not, please?
Aww, come on. You know I loved rolling up your windows. It kept my arms fit.
Remember that time we were going 85 with the windows down? The way it felt.
Yeah. Insane.
You didn't like it?
The truth is, I never felt really safe with you.
You're telling me this now? I could have tried harder!
It's just not in your nature. It's okay.
So all those miles I gave to you. That just means nothing now.
Of course it still means something. You've seen Ferris Bueller. You know that odometer doesn't run backwards.
Again with the references. Always the references. You name me Akira. From Kurosawa to Hughes. We've certainly come full circle, haven't we?
Circles. I'm gonna miss your turning radius.
I'm not the only one who's turned.
Don't. I'm saying goodbye, Akira.
For him, though? Come on. 30 miles to the gallon wasn't enough for you? I know you're a poor college student but...yeah! How the hell can you even afford a guy like that?
You and I both knew from the beginning that this wasn't going to last. I've been planning this for a long time. Saving up. I was a rebound, remember?
Yeah. Me and your mom first.
It's weird when you say it like that. This whole dialogue is.
Remember that time in the park? With--
Or the time you hid in my trunk and tried to---
Stop, please. Just stop.
I feel so close to you now. Here. Where we met.
It has to end. It has to.
Don't cry. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you. It's just...
60,000 miles.
You've taken all your stuff, right?
From the trunk.
And the backseat?
He has a pretty big trunk.
With a privacy screen.
Good. I can't bear to watch.
You know I really did. I really do.
I love you too.
I'm leaving now.
I know. But could you...
Could you leave the Spandau Ballet sticker?
Does it mean that much to you?
It's the last ironic reference we'll ever share, isn't it?
I can't do this.
Are those the keys? To him?
Yeah. I have to...
Just go. Jesus. 55 miles to the gallon. And a back-up camera.
I'll have to watch you as I leave.
In the mirrors.
And the camera.
And the camera.
I'll miss you, Akira.
He's grey. Perfect.
I'm waving goodbye, Akira.
60,000 miles. God, I feel so old.
Me too.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Shorn Is A Good Haircut!

There really isn't anything like a good haircut. I swung through the door of the salon, the soles of my Converse slapping the swollen pavement, and for once I didn't feel the day's humidity festering between my thick, unruly locks. I wasn't moved to pull my hair back into a bandana. I arched my back and felt a breeze--an actual breeze, across my neck. And why wouldn't I feel the breeze on my neck? There was no hair there anymore to block it.

A lot of people are asking me what moved me to have my curly, shaggy coif whacked. It's a long history. For the past two years, I've been seeing two stylists, and every time I sat in the chair before this time, I'd say, "I want it short." And one of my two stylists would say, "short?! Really?! How exciting!" And then I'd put a stop to the madness and say, "not like that. I mean, just a little above the shoulder."

Then I'd leave, and by some frustrating tinge of buyer's remorse, I'd regret not having something different done. At least make it worth the wad of money I pay. Do something different. I've called myself a wuss in this blog before. But not anymore.

Maybe it was watching "Roman Holiday" last summer with my Culture Night girls. I'd seen the movie before, but seeing it this time, being a woman now, watching her face sink and then brighten almost instantly.

The way such a simple change can make you walk differently--can make you into a different person. It's what she needed to be, and it's what I needed to be. That's what I thought as I watched it, curled up in my basement with a group of the most smartest, beautiful, talented girls I know.

One year later, and I've got my change. I can't tell which version of me looks more like me now, and I love that. This new haircut makes me want to hug everyone! Miss Hepburn got to thank the Academy after "Roman Holiday," and now I get to thank her. And my stylist, Dana, for the best good-hair day of my life.

Oh yeah, and I should thank my supportive fella (seen above) for encouraging me to take a risk (whilst also warning me that shaving my head could have some undesirable consequences.)

Thursday, August 2, 2007

For The Love Of Pieter!

This morning, I woke up, and the name "Breugel the Elder" echoed in my head. It was literally the first thing I thought of upon waking. I think that deserves a hearty:


I hope it all means that today I can expect to debauch like it's 1566!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Laundry, Laundry, Big Hair...Underground Club?!

Parma Heights is dead, man. Everyone in the Greater Cleveland area knows it's a hole. Parma is what people outside of Cleveland think Cleveland is really like. Dying businesses, citizens who are tragically stuck in the 80s, pierogi enthusiasts, flamingo-decorated lawns.

I work in Parma, part-time, and one afternoon on my lunch hour I passed an old non-descript, defunct building with a home-made paper banner on the side of it that read "JESUS LOVES PARMA" in dot-matrix print. I tried to remind myself to bring my camera the next day I worked so I could photograph it, but when I got back the following Monday, the building had been completely demolished--reduced to a heap of concrete rubble. It must be a sign.

Still, there's hope for Parma, Parma Heights, and its surrounding communities. The key is never to leave The Davenport.

My mom actually discovered this two-week-old club by visiting the website of a band with whom we're (oddly) mutual friends. The venue was listed simply enough, and we decided to check it out.

Located at 6287 Pearl Road in Parma Heights, the Davenport is hidden securely beneath a Marco's pizza shop, in the same building as Parma's Arabica coffee house. We later found that all of these fine establishments are owned by the same kid--a prodigy of an entrepreneur, it seems.

Stepping down into the Davenport after being exposed to miles of laundromats, decaying strip malls, and seedy fast food joints, is like being pulled into a hipster's oasis. There's a classy, sprawling wooden floor, an elevated yet unassuming and personable stage, a bar stocked with over 45 different beers, and, yes, a comfy collection of davenports that feel like home.

I'm still in shock. When my mom told me that this place was located on the same street as my place of employment, I said to her, "But I work in one of the creepiest places in the world!" Did I mention that the Davenport has over 45 different beers?

There are good things about the Davenport. For one, it's a big enough venue to draw in a variety of different performers. The owner has his choice of bands. Last night, a singer-songwriter with an acoustic guitar tried to channel the Decemberists before bowing out and letting an alternative-looking (think Crispin Glover) comedian do five minutes. Then a piano-driven pop/rock trio (Return of Simple--my band) took the stage. The final act of the night was an alt-country band called Ghost Town.

I don't want to ruin anything by saying this, but since it's on the Davenport's myspace (, I feel okay letting the ten readers of this blog know that smoking is allowed, despite Ohio's recent smoking ban. While I'm not a smoker, I was oddly excited for those around me who gleefully lit up. I felt like I was in a speakeasy.

There's a cover charge to get in (at least, I assume there is on all live music nights), and that's okay, but the drinks are pretty pricey. My mom was upset that they didn't have any wine (just beer and liquor), so she ordered a Smirnoff Ice, and I had an oatmeal stout. Our bill together came to $9.00 before the tip. Harsh.

Another problem with the place is that the acoustics need a lot of work. With the wooden floors, and the size of the place, there are some major problems with sound bouncing off of everything and echoing to a distracting degree. By the owner's attentiveness to the sound board last night, though, I'm sure he'll have everything ironed out in time.

I guess the moral of the story is that sometimes things are worth searching for. Or that seedy and creepy things are sometimes nice of you flip them over. Or that if you build an indie rock club that's got 45 different beers and a jukebox with Pavement in it and a bunch of cushy couches and an eff-you-smoking-ban mentality, hipsters will come.

Or that maybe, just maybe, Jesus really does love Parma.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Remorseless Pleasure

I've come to hate the term, "guilty pleasure."

It's made many appearances in my life lately, as a new season of the Canadian teen melodrama, "Degrassi," begins to "go there" once again on "The-N" (or "Noggin", before 5:00 PM). Every time I try to explain to somebody why I really and genuinely enjoy the show, the person I'm talking to will invariably chuckle and then muse, "so it's really just a guilty pleasure."

No. Not at all. I love the over-the-top, at times surreal predicaments that the same ten characters will get themselves into every year. Eating disorders? Check. Student-teacher relations? Check. Panic attacks? Check. A boy getting shot, paralyzed, confined to a wheelchair, losing his best friend (who actually got him shot), playing funk guitar in a terrible wedding band, becoming a struggling artist/t-shirt designer, having trouble getting it up, being oppressed by his father, and totally crushing on three girls at the same time? Check.

I'm sincerely trying not to feel guilty about any of it.

When I was a kid, I preferred the Monkees to the Beatles, and my favorite 45 to listen to was "Henry the VIII" by Herman's Hermits. That song made me the happiest. The Monkees were easier to dance to than the later Beatles era records that my mom owned. It was okay that I liked the Monkees and Herman's Hermits back then.

Now, if I told anybody that I really like the Monkees better than the Beatles, I'd be judged. People would respond with a) "ha. that's funny." or b) "are you an idiot?" For some reason, it's now regressive behavior for me to enjoy listening to one set of poppy mop-tops instead of the other collective-approved set. Listening to the Monkees was never a "guilty pleasure" until people out there made me feel guilty for doing it. And now all of these snobs are in my head, blocking out the lyrics to "Porpoise Song."

Chuck Klosterman says what the term, "guilty pleasure," should mean:

"In and of itself, the phrase "guilty pleasure" seems like a reasonable way to describe certain activities. For example, it is pleasurable to snort cocaine in public restrooms, and it always makes you feel guilty; as such, lavatory cocaine fits perfectly into this category. Drinking more than five glasses of gin before (or during) work generally qualifies as a guilty pleasure. So does having sex with people you barely know, having sex with people you actively hate, and/or having sex with people you barely know but whom your girlfriend used to live with during college (and will now consequently hate). These are all guilty pleasures in a technical sense."

Although I've never actually participated in any of the aforementioned behaviors, I'm sure I would feel hundreds of times more guilty for doing those things, than I do when I watch anything on E! Why not save my guilt for the big old nasty stuff and simply immerse myself in the God-given pleasures of Patrick Swayze, or John Woo, or "The Suite Life of Zach and Cody", or Cowsills records, or Ring Pops, or roller derby, or the Oxygen network?

I read today that Seneca recorded an inscription from the gates of Epicurus' garden, where his first followers once met to learn and philosophize:

"Stranger, here you will do well to tarry; here our highest good is pleasure."

And so, I shall tarry for these two days, until the newest episode of "Degrassi" airs. I shall escape the oppressive thoughts of my judgemental snobbish bretheren, and excitedly watch the fate of Marco, the show's token gay kid/addictive gambler/class president, unfold. And it shall be good. It shall be so, incredibly, deliciously, and gloriously, illuminatingly good.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

On the Drive Home

I got distracted by a melody on the night drive home from Beaver Falls this evening. It was pitch black out there on the turnpike, the road was wet, my body was jittery with caffeine, and I had to shut off my iPod and just let the song in my brain take over. I had this set of lyrics:

"Before the weight of touch/Before our time was worth so much"

And I felt like I could build a whole song around that lyric, and the few little minor chords dancing around in my head. It turned into an odd little love ballad, that's actually kind of creepy in some ways. I like it a lot though. I'll put the lyrics here. Once I got home it took about twenty minutes to write, which is actually longer than it usually takes me to write just a first version of a song.

In playground days,
before I ever knew your face,
I was four and you were ten.
That's why I'm glad I didn't know you then.

Before the weight of touch,
before our time was worth so much
We could have taken turns on a tire swing
and it wouldn't have meant a thing.

But I'm grateful now
for six years between us.
I waited much longer
without you around.
And if I had known you
for all of my life
nobody would have been found.

In innocence
Before I became cognizant,
I might have thrown some rocks at you
and eaten all your Big League Chew.

Without these words
I couldn't say what you just heard.
I couldn't say how nice it is to grow
with somebody who already knows.

And I'm grateful now
for six years between us.
I waited much longer
without you around.
If I had known you
for all of my life
nobody would have been found.

Look at us,
the way we call eachother 'kid'
like we're dying just to know
what we were like so long ago.

But things are fine
when our legs become intertwined
when taunting children aren't close by
to tease us when we kiss or cry.

I'm grateful now
for six years between us.
I waited much longer
without you around.
If I had known you
for all of my life
nobody would have been found.

Also, if you're my friend and I haven't responded to your e-mails or phone calls in the past few weeks, I'm sorry. I'm a deadbeat, and I deserve to be punted inside a wind tunnel or something. I promise I'll make it up to you.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Stack Judgements

Last year my city's branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library (CCPL on the streets) suffered tragic losses during an odd and epic flood, and had to undergo a huge renovation. Before, the library was alright. The selection of books and music was not nearly as good as it is at other branches of CCPL. Creepy old men sat in the back, where the romance novels shared a corner with YA materials. Poor planning, really. I was always grateful to have a library just five minutes from my home--I could walk there on a nice day. Still, before the flood, it always left me feeling a little empty.

Now, the Brecksville Branch is sexed up. We've got tall, oak stacks, carved with leafy designs. They're staggered and spaced so the whole building can finally breathe. Things are rearranged for easy access. The DVDs and the CDs aren't on opposite sides anymore--they're close to the door--so people who are afraid of books don't have to step too far into the realm of the scary written word.

My favorite thing about our branch now is that it's totally self-service now. You scan your card and your items. You remove the little plastic security devices and deposit them into a few specially-marked colored bins. You print out your receipt. And you also pick up your "held" items off of a giant shelf.

On this shelf, items are arranged alphabetically, according to the last name of the person who requested them. I simply search for "DES" in the group and pull out the stuff I've waited for. But the best part is, I get to see what the guy next to me requested. Today, I found a young person, whose name starts with "DER", who I suspect is just discovering Daft Punk (there were four different albums bundled together.) My friend whose last name starts with "DEM" requested the last Harry Potter book (and by "last" I mean the most recent one--not the last of the series, which some of my friends are itching their skin off for.)

I get to judge people based on their interests without even having to have a conversation with them! How cool is that?!

Of course, I guess this works the other way too. People are probably judging me. This means that if I ever need to borrow a Michael Bolton album (for whatever reason), I'd better just drive to whichever branch has it and pick it up. Folks I know might see it on the holdshelf and disown me. And then there was that time last summer when I read about Stetson Kennedy's fascinating infiltration of the Ku Klux Klan, and decided to study the Klan's history as a result. I took so many Klan books from the library, I'm probably being watched by the government or something. What if those books were out in the open on the holdshelf and people saw them? Is this some sort of invasion of privacy?

Maybe not. Maybe it just makes it easier for creepsters like me to relate to strangers with the same taste. I think the "DOL" person with the Abe Lincoln biography on hold could be my new best friend.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Static Evolution

The title of the chapbook that I completed for my Advanced Creative Writing workshop at B-W is, "Static Evolution." The concept is basically that you can create the illusion of change by looking at something in a different way, switching lenses, etcetera. I also wanted to make small things seem profoundly important. Thus, I included poems about electrical outlets, grapefruits, a shark's mouth, a turnpike sign.

On the cover of my chapbook, I included a series of photos that I took a few weeks ago outside my apartment on Seminary Street in Berea. There is a massive amount of construction happening, and in the early stages of the process, many of the streetlights were taken from the ground and laid in pieces on the grass. They looked so vastly different that way--like alien pods or something. When I show people these photographs, they tend to get confused. So I thought I'd post them here, and confuse as many people as possible.

Above: A streetlamp on the lawn.

Above: Things start to get a little strange

Above: I liked the patches of yellow grass where these things used to lay.

Above: This one's my favorite. It was such a bright and sunny day that the idea of needing streetlights at all seemed absurd.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Thursday, April 19, 2007

In a Batman Notebook...

There's a poem called "Self Portrait in Ink" by Bruce Beasley, originally printed in the Virginia Quarterly Review. In it, Beasley becomes a translucent octopus, releasing an exact copy of himself, in ink, which he leaves behind to escape from a shark. Layered meaning ensues, etcetera, etcetera. Actually, it's a gorgeous, dense poem with exciting wordplay and tantalizing line breaks. It's a fun read. I may add it to this entry later.

Anyway, our Advanced Creative Writing professor had us read it in class today and then decide what we would want to use as a medium for our own self-portraits. Some of the answers were as follows: wind-blown leaves, guitar strings, a stone bust (like Lionel Richie's!), and a jar of honey. It's a small class, nonetheless chock full of weird people, as you can tell. Anyway, I chose comic book cells.

The next part of our assignment was to create a self-portrait using the medium that we chose, in the form of a poem. We had about seven minutes to create. The results were actually incredibly impressive. What I struggled with before I started to write was not wanting to create a self-portrait. I really wanted to explore the control that an artist has over its subject, and the dynamics of that relationship. Then I inadvertently got into the audience's response to art as I wrote.

No matter how introspective of a person I am, and no matter how much I truly try to know myself, I want more than anything to be able to see myself from the outside, to get the best objective view. So I fell in love with the man who draws me in this poem. It may or may not be Daniel Clowes.

he draws my breath
and blood.
I am drawn to
exceedingly self-aware
thoughts in clouds,
colored blue
by Small Press, Inc.
only when we can afford to.

Each cell as a linear,
filmic storyboard:
bird's eye black,
XCU, flecks of green
in mine,

Tales of little consequence
made epic
by thick black guiding lines,
boxes of time and space
with white space in between,
never filled.

Comics are supposed to be!
comics are not!
comics never!
Shouldn't this be
funny? You're funnier
in life than on paper.

The paper is under my
skin, I say silently,
and pull a long
pointed speech
from my tongue,
and there's a paper cut
on my windpipe

which he kisses in
his brain, hot
under clip-on easel

Monday, April 16, 2007

Demanding Re-counts!

"You Voted For it! This Month's B-W Cinema Movie is 'Wild Hogs!'"

On the way into the student union this sign assaults my vision. "You Voted For it!" It says. So accusatory. Like it's my fault that I have to suffer through this crap with the rest of my colleagues. The truth is, I didn't vote for it. I didn't even get to vote. When did this so-called "voting" take place? And why the hell are we watching "Wild Hogs" again? Are you serious?

Baldwin-Wallace has this monthly event called B-W Cinema that takes place in John Patrick Theater. Students vote on a movie that they'd like to be screened, and whichever film receives the majority of the vote is shown. There's free popcorn, some raffles, etcetera. It's a simple, free event that's easy to enjoy.

Usually the films that are nominated by Student Senate are semi-popular ones that are about a month away from being released on DVD. It's kind of cool if you've missed the movie while it was in theaters and still want a chance to see it on the big screen. In the past, the Senators provided a great variety. Last year I got to vote for "Mad Hot Ballroom," for instance. This spring, "Wordplay," was one of the nominees. Obviously these were dark horses. I'm perfectly happy that "Batman Begins" and "Casino Royale" beat out the less popular "indie" choices, because I enjoy both of these movies very much. I'm not against Blockbuster films at all, when they're well-done and entertaining, and I agree that it's appropriate to show something that most college students will enjoy watching with their friends.

But seriously: "Wild Hogs?"

This year, the voting process has been shrouded in mystery. I actually don't think that the first semester's films were voted on by students at all. I think Senate hand-picked them. Last year I was sent an e-mail that directed me to an online B-W Cinema poll. And this year? Nothing. I wasn't given a ballot. I'm incensed.

The first blow was when Senate chose Chingy to perform here this spring. It was between Chingy and OK Go. And they picked Chingy?

First Chingy. Now "Wild Hogs."

Is there something terribly wrong with my peers, or am I the weirdo here?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Five-Minute Farce

1. Head across campus to pick up screenplay evaluation.
2. Realize halfway there that you've popped your front bike tire.
3. Opt to walk.
4. Trip over bike while passing through front door of building.
5. Recover, pick up screenplay from professor's office.
6. Head back outside, walk bike towards streetcorner.
7. Curse madly as your messenger bag strap rips.
8. Laugh it off, pick bag up off ground in front of attractive jogger.
9. Arrive at crosswalk too late for "WALK" sign.
10. Decide that you deserve chocolate for all this nonsense.
11. Go out of your way to the student union.
12. See that some of your favorite candy bars are on sale--two for a dollar.
13. Fling useless messenger bag onto table, dig around for wallet.
14. Snap. You left it in your sweatpants when you changed out of your gym clothes.
15. No chocolate for you, suckah.
16. It's a lot colder outside than you thought it would be.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Imagination is Freer Than Memory

Last week in Advanced Creative Writing, we had to make short lists of specific places--things that could be settings for poems or short stories. I came up with a list of stuff like: a stairwell, a winter coat pocket, a shark's mouth, an eyelet.

Today our prof wrote all of our nominations on the board and we voted on one that everyone would have to write "a short history" of. It ended up being, "a fluorescent ashtray in the bedroom."

So anyway, we got thirty minutes to write something about the fluorescent ashtray in the bedroom, and in my case, a shark's mouth. Surprise, surprise, right?

A Short History of a Fluorescent Ashtray in the Bedroom

That's where I see her,
Aunt Judy.
In cheaper motels,
under broken lattice front porches,
in leaves, dodging loan sharks
and cobweb clutter,
in film
and filth

and sepia,
a beer-pitcher Bonnie to a
steel-toed, line-dancing,
one-night Clyde.
But not as wry,
or motivated.
Like Salinger's Zooey,
in a chain of smoke
and cynicism,
only not as witty,
not as pointed.
Dull, really.

And this is all she's left:
nightstand, stolen console TV,
tinfoil rabbit ears and
no heirlooms.
The last to get boxed
is what she'd miss most,
if forced to feel.
We don't know.
She is missing,
and this is her likely ghost,
a fluorescent ashtray glow,
casting shame.

A Short History of A Shark's Mouth

I've been here,
shifting seismic rows,
pointed plate tectonic teeth
and the like,
pre-dating badass, sans
I've always been this cool,
watch yourself.

Open, suck, pump
twitch, lorenzini dots
sense, dodge fish flutter.
Feel that?
Each one serrated,
for my pleasure.
Saw soldier, thrash monger,
frenzy firer.

The salt stands still,
the jaw gapes and drops,
at the ready. Ripping scales
with no remorse,
but plenty of remoras trailing,
sucking guts and gills as it were.
Put that on your neck and wear it.
I'll just grow a new one.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Something of a Moment

When my ear finally popped in the shower, I wondered how long the dump truck outside had been beeping.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Borrowing From The Yellow House

Robin Behn has a series of "Yellow House" poems that are thematically linked--sometimes very loosely, sometimes very intensely. She's working on a collection of these poems. In my advanced creative writing class, we were required to read a handful of these works, and I loved a few of them so much that I couldn't stop reading them out loud last night before bed.

Today, our professor read each of the poems one-at-a-time and after each was finished, we were told to write down particular words or short phrases that we remembered--things that jumped out at us. We did this with six separate poems. Then, after we had the lists made, we were instructed to go outside for twenty minutes and write something new using, or inspired by, Behn's words that we'd recorded.

I tried to use every single word on my list, and I came up with this, although it has no title. Also, because of the nature of blogger, it's not formatted the way it is in my notebook.

The perpetuity of dank stones,
chestnut smell of death, a
filmic latch-key monster
with velvet teeth and
fallen feathers.

Your fingers,
your beard as curators of my neck, no--
more like fluttering tails
of blind cavefish
the lattice of my ribcage.
And then you are,
you are
arched over like a spoon, like
the letter r on its side,
unaware of the policing squares
of light
that pass through latitudinal
tree trunks and jagged crosshair
in the still--okay, cemetery;
in the exact middle of what is not

not a dream,
but a street where I once lived
in an--
almost--yellow house.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Squealing Inside!

13 Reasons I really really really want to go to Bonnaroo this June 14th-17th:

1) The Police.

2) Wilco.

3) The White Stripes.

4) The Decemberists.

5) The Black Keys.

6) Spoon.

7) Wolfmother.

8) Franz Ferdinand.

9) Damien Rice.

10) Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals.

11) Martha Wainwright.

12) Gogol Bordello.

13) David Cross.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

The Making Love of Art

An assignment in my Advanced Creative Writing workshop this week was to combine two favorite works or literature and turn them into a new original poem. They didn't have to be poems--they could be short stories, novels, etc. I asked my professor if I could use a poem and a painting. She approved.

As soon as I heard the assignment I immediately thought of one of my favorite poems, Recovery of Sexual Desire After a Bad Cold by Fred Chappell:

Toward morning I dreamed of the Ace of Spades reversed
And woke up giggling.
New presence in the bedroom, as if it had snowed;
And an obdurate stranger come to visit my body.

This is how it all renews itself, floating down
Mothy on the shallow end of sleep;
How Easter gets here, and the hard-bitten dogwood
Flowers, and waters run clean again.

I am a new old man.
As morning sweetens the forsythia and the cats
Bristle with impudent hungers, I learn to smile.
I am a new baby.

What woman could turn from me now?
Shining like a butter knife, and the fever burned off,
My whole skin alert as radar, I can think
Of nothing at all but love and fresh coffee.

As soon as I knew I wanted to use this poem, I knew I needed a Frida Kahlo painting to team up with it. The Ace of Spades sold me, a tarot symbol, a supernatural force symbolized by a skull. I can't think of skulls without thinking of the Day of the Dead. Then I remembered Frida Kahlo's painting "Tree of Hope" and I knew this was it. The fertile, proud, healthy version of herself, perched in a nightscape next to the daytime bed of invalid Frida. No more back brace. There's a duality here, broken and virile, color and absence of color, day and night, sickness and health, and a strong theme of renewal that I see in both Chappell's and Kahlo's work. So here's what I came up with:

Desiring Frida by Marissa DeSantis:

This morning the brace is gone,
for in the night the stubborn bolts
vacated and left the blood and blister, sweat to dry,
the skin to renew.
A woman in a red dress was here,
or perhaps a fever dream
or perhaps the Ace of Spades
a tarot skull with
chiclet teeth white as dogwood,
chattering through the forest para Dia De Los Muertos.
But I am alive
in this bed with my flag and my forsythia.
And I wave for the woman to come,
Come, I am virile, I am not asleep
I am waiting for coffee,
for this clean snow to fall and kiss
your dark eyebrow
while I touch you again
for the first time.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Holy Grounds

I ask the barista which of today's blends is the darkest and she tells me that it's "Frank's Big City Blend." When I first sit down to read a collection of Kelly Magee short stories in a coffee shop with wood floors and paperbacks and perfect lighting that is so far away from the big city, a woman enters with three kids right next to where I'm spread out on a leather couch by the front window.

These kids are young--all of them over four but under nine, and all equally expressive. I wonder why a mother with kids who are obviously difficult to quell would seat them beside a studious-looking lass like myself, clearly trying to get reading done. When she gets up to order her coffee, I try, so hard, to get in a paragraph. A really long one with lots of syllables.

The youngest one, a boy in a gray knit cap and mittens, attempts to spell the word "Fox" and gives up before the "x." His mother encourages him. "What would Jesus do? He wouldn't give up, would he? He'd try his hardest."

Now I'm too involved in this family and their love of Jesus to concentrate on pages. So I move, and as soon as I stand up I hear the mother say, "Do you guys want to snag the couch?"

I imagine that every man in this coffee shop walks up to me and asks what I'm reading, and then hits on me. I smile politely, tell him I'm spoken for by a man in a town that's even farther removed from Frank's Big City, who works out harder than I'm trying to concentrate on this book. It looks like Chick Lit but it's not, I swear. I'm a smart girl. You don't know what you're missing.

I have a scratch on my right shin and I itch it, lifting the leg of my jeans just high enough so he can see my grey knee socks, and then I realize that I'm also revealing my boyish (albeit incredibly hip) tennis shoes. My toes wiggle nervously and because the tops of these shoes are nylon, I think he probably notices and falls in love with me.

I've heard this stupid Bon Jovi song three times in the past two days. I've got to befriend one of the baristas so they stop playing such awful music in here. So far though, this isn't my place. I just read here. I mean, sometimes I read here. Sometimes strange men hit on me and sometimes I get distracted by noisy children and two old ladies in matching red wool coats discussing politics in the corner where I usually hide away.

When I pull on my hat and throw my bag over my shoulder, I notice the empty coffee cup I've left on the table. It's not far to the counter, to the gray plastic bin with all the dirty dishes in it. So I pick up my cup with the half-sip lingering at the bottom and take it up there, depositing it in the bin and balancing it on top of a stack of saucers. I wait for a moment, listening across the room for the mother of three to notice and tell her children, "See? That's what Jesus would do."

Friday, January 19, 2007

Ballad of a Hipster

I wrote this song tonight. The challenge was to start a song with the line "Woke up this morning" because I think everybody should have a song that starts that way. It turned into a sort of self-reflexive/social comment thing. The italicized parts are spoken!

I find that it adds to the humor of the piece.


Ballad of a Hipster

Woke up this morning
feeling like a metropolitan pocket-sized version of me.
Yea I'm such a hipster.
Gonna meet my friends for some hookah and darjeeling tea.

After the shisha
Gonna head downtown to a place where they have some good shows
once in a while
and they're usually indie bands that nobody knows.

But I knew them before they were on the radio.

But after a while
it all feels the same.
A person gets tired
trying to remember all those names.

Can't see through my glasses,
at least not enough to spot all the phonies in here
who enjoy Oprah's Book Club
and offend me by drinking pitchers of domestic beer.

Yea, I prefer imported sake.

It's so hard to smile.
You might think I'm a little mean,
but I'm surrounded
by poseurs and philistines.

And when it's bedtime
I pull my vintage covers up over my head.
The four Ninja Turtles
in ironic nostalgia, crawling all over my bed.

I'm sleeping alone.
It's the price you pay when you're the coolest person you know.
I'm such a martyr.
Yea I hope I die young;
it gets exhausting looking down my nose.

I guess that's why I need glasses...

With such thick frames!
With such thick frames!
With such thick frames!
With such thick frames!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Workshop it Out

I'm back in a workshop-style creative writing class. Advanced Creative Writing: Fiction & Poetry. I took Advanced Creative Writing: Poetry as a freshman with this very professor. She's tough as nails, and quite demanding, but I've put out good work under her tutelage so I'm psyched to start another semester with her. There are only seven other people in my class and I always find that smaller groups are more conducive to workshopping.

I'm posting my first workshop poem on here. Over Christmas break this year I spent a lot of days at the mall with my sister--usually I end up at the mall a maximum of four times a year. I think I went to the mall seven times in a matter of two weeks this December.

On one of these trips, I saw an elderly woman fall and hit her head in front of the cosmetics counter. She was with her daughter and her granddaughter. I don't actually know if she died or if she lived, but I wanted to write down what I saw because I can't get the image out of my head.

Christmas Shopping

I watched the old woman fall
against the trampled
marbled department store floor
in front of a dozen make-up artists,
who stirred to life like entranced mannequins.

The fragrance saleswomen rushed at her first,
angels on commission,
through a sinking overpriced haze
of floral spray.
It already smells like a funeral home.

I stood an aisle away
between racks of discounted Christmas sweaters,
the kind I give to my grandma,
who is the same age,
because I can't think of anything better, or maybe
I don’t know her at all.

Her face looks powdery and desolate,
a latex mask with eyes as wide and hollow,
a frozen front-porch grimace,
cracked lips,

Nobody heard her daughter scream for her
over the Muzak and the hard hurried footsteps
and because everything is unwittingly absorbed
in places like this.

I fear she died instantly upon falling.
That her brittle soul is mistakenly headed
for the garishly bright fluorescent light
of the cosmetics counter.
I want to scream
You're going the wrong way!
You're going the wrong way!

But instead I flee in fear
up the down escalator.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Amuse, O Muse!

I wrote a new song tonight. I wanted to use the word "saline" in a set of lyrics so I set off for the task by making that word the first line of the song. After that it sort of evolved into a piece about the frustrating failings of memory.

How your fingers taste to me
I've tried to re-create.
My senses discern and refuse to wait.

Come clean.
Do your hands ever think of me?
Do they scratch at your bodyand make you feel free?
We're safe behind eyelids,
they're curtains that hide our dreams.

Just like Ulysses I'll block my ears
I want to keep your voice right here
The sirens silenced by the din
of your soft whisper from within.

In my head there's a matinee.
You're on three screens but to my dismay
the film breaks in the projector's haste
and it warps the angles of your face.

How your fingers taste to me
I've tried to re-create.
I think I've waited too long.
I think it's getting too late.