Thursday, December 08, 2005

Because Outside of School, it's too dark to read

didn't Groucho Marx say something like that? Anyway.

Since I haven't much time for writing outside of school right now, I thought I'd share with y'all a recent virtual Blue Book essay I wrote. Misspellings and lack of sense-making have been left intact.

Blue Book Exercise: Write for 40 minutes straight and answer the question: How does a linguistic representation (or reproduction) of “what you are” begin to unlock the repressive nature of analytic thought?

For some reason I'm finding the whole idea of personal identity tremendously troubling right now. Am I someone? Sure. Was Shakespere someone else? Indubitably. And then there's George Bush, and a man who knows what Colorado looks like from the ground, and a woman who lives in an apartment down the street who I wouldn't even recognize on sight, and Dominica and Jigmey and Jim and Cassandra. And we're all different, or at least individal. And that's due to som sort of individual 'me'-ness in each of us. So I suppose there must be something that is "what I am." But I am still finding the whole idea tremendously strange.

When I was sixteen or seventeen, I got a copy of an academic journal put out by one of the colleges I was thinking about attending. The whole thing was pretty much over my head, or at least the articles were bouncing off of the Wernike's or Broca's areas of my brain (wherever it is that words become ideas) as I halfheartedly flipped through. I don't remember anything about the journal, except that it had a blue cover and that one of the articles started out with a quotation from Pindar: "become who you are."

The quotation bothered me in a way that's nothing up to that point had ever bothered me. I was used to knowing answers to things, to my Latin teacher's weary "does anyone... except Nora.. have any ideas on this?" I was used to knowing, if not the answer to a question, at least the means to an answer. For Greek, try Liddel and Scott, for fashion, Sassy. But this? How does one go about becoming oneself? And how does one know one's true self, from the many false faces that might show up in its place?

So I guess what I'm saying is, I understand what you mean by "the repressive nature of analytic thought."

So. Unlocking that. With a 'linguistic representation or reproduction' of what I am. Could such a thing exist? Do I know Shakespeare as a represented or reproduced in his work? Do I know David Bowie? Does it matter if their work 'reproduces' them, or must it just "tease with the promise of a story the [reader] of it itches to be told?" Could representation be so subjective as the awakening of an itch?

I guess what’s tripping me up is the whole question of whether or not anyone can ever be understoon, even to themselves. Identity seems so amorphous -- it’s not like any one of us can at any time point to a solid or external thing and say “this is me.” Trying to poke out an identity is like trying to get out of an echoey mirrored room with all the lights turned out: frustrating and a little creepy. And sort of an odd way to pass the time.

Ok. But I'm getting turned in on myself here. Obviously, I don't write highly anylitical pieces for fun (at least not exculsively). And obviously, a lot of what I write is sollipsistic and navel gazey. So I suppose I should assume that I assign value to these activities. And the 'itch' to understand ourselves an each other is undeniable -- probably 90% of society came into being around that itch (the other ten percent is spilt evenly between sex, the domestication of dogs, and the cultivation of grains). Somehow, this sort of understanding comes about in odd phrasings and not-neccesarily analylitical musings. Emily Dickinson speaks more to the human condition than Euclid does (though a line of 'breadthless length' has the appealing truth of pure creation, it doesn't quite 'select its own Society - /Then [shut] the door).

Some psychiatrists treat patients suffeing post-traumatic stress disorder by having them perform a series of guided eye movements. These movements circumvent talk therpapy and analysis, retraining the neural pathways to be able to cope with trauma, rather than letting it endlessly replay. If there are, as Bearden says, "roads out of the secret place within us on which we must all move as we go to touch others,” perhaps they function as a similar sort of short cut. I could tell you my life story, list my secret worries and idle thoughts for hours without end. But if I could surprise you, surprise myself. If I could undercut, unlock. Then maybe there'd be a connection. We'd have an itch, a story.

42, minutes. I'm afraid I'm done. You want messy? You got it.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

False memory syndrome

(via Arwen/Elizabeth)

If you read this, if your eyes are passing over this right now, even if we don't speak often, please post a comment with a COMPLETELY MADE UP AND FICTIONAL MEMORY OF YOU AND ME.

It can be anything you want--good or bad--BUT IT HAS TO BE FAKE.

When you're finished, post this paragraph on your blog and be surprised (or mortified) about what people DON'T ACTUALLY remember about you.

Friday, November 25, 2005

pumpkin, mit stuffing

pumpkin, mit stuffing
Originally uploaded by Nora Sawyer.
Happy Thanksgiving! I stuffed a pumpkin!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Modular Collage 1 (modulated again)

Modular Collage 1 (modulated)

Modular Collage 1 (modulated)
Originally uploaded by Nora Sawyer.

Modular Collage 1

Modular Collage 1
Originally uploaded by Nora Sawyer.
Something I'm working on. Still in the development stages (and I have yet to get a good photo...).

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Tuesday, Tuesday

So, school's heating up, and the assignments are piling, piling piling. I've never been one to be organized and/or 'on top of things' and I'm beginning to notice a disconcerting tendancy to feel organized and on top, when in reality I'm anything but. This leads to a misplaced sense of complacency. Also, that is decidedly not how novels get writ.

My friend Storm is on a 'raw food' diet (and has been for years). No wonder s/he's so healthy (and smells so nice, too). S/he's also prolific. I wonder if there's a connection?

I can't stop sneezing, but the cat's asleep on my lap and looks so happy, what can I do?

I had a dream last night the cat was an alien spy. But not in a bad way, really.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Kitty's got a brand new blog

I've started a blog for our cat/ward/landlord, 9-11. You can read it here

Sunday, October 30, 2005


Just got back from (not) selling CD's at the EndUp. I really am not a party person, and apparently my dour little face doesn't make folks want to buy CD's either. In other news, I got to watch the clock on my friend Chuck's phone turn over at (not!) 2:AM. It was 1:59... and then 1:00 again.


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

And now, this

My father’s father was made of stone, of anceint rocks from the belly of the earth. He could sand wood against his cheeks. I think he thought he was made of wood, which would explain a lot. You’re more careful with your person when it’s wooden. Marble is hard, but softer than most rocks. The marble that lines the bed of Lake Champlain seeps minerals into the water that make it good for your hair. When I was little, my grandfather told me rocks could float. Maybe he was made from wood after all.

My father’s father was a raven, like the trickster who first brought food to the world. You coulldn’t get a straight answer out of him, and when he told you things there was a bit of sandpaper hidden inside or maybe a bit of stone, so if you tried to eat it then you had rocks inside you, too.

My grandmother was once made of smallness. My grandfather used to say she weighed nothing, no matter how much she ate or how many layers of clothing she put on. Now that he’s gone, though, she wheels a wheelbarrow on her own, and stands in the kitchen with freeweights, flexing. At night she looks out the window, and she is made of looking.

My grandfather framed fibers under glass, if you break the glass then they’d be dust, like Popcorn Snow.

My father was made from protein chains, a crinoid or ammonite. Or maybe he was the world’s first boy. He never lost his baby teeth. He was created whole.

My father is made of ferns.

Friday, September 30, 2005

And I'm not on Ritalin 'cause I never got around to asking for it

I'm doing that thing again. That thing where I sit down to write a paper (in this case, a freakin' FIVE PAGE critical essay for my "Reading the Shape of Change" class) and I Just. Cannot. Sit. Still. I'm all over the internets, reading boring things I don't care have a whit about. I'm off to the grocery store, in the hopes they have something blueberry flavoured and fizzy. I'm scratching my nose. Anything not to write an essay about a book I freaking loved (Jim Grimsley's Dream Boy) and a topic that fascinates me (the nature of desire). Five pages, people! This is nothing! Except I've apparently stumbled into the section of my brian still trapped in Mr. Bridges 7th grade English, sulking its little heart out.


Fizzy and blueberrry.

Just so you know

Serenity is a good movie. You should see it.

Unless you're my dad. If you're my dad, don't go -- there's shooting and sad bits. Actually, if you have no stomach for shooting and sad bits, you probably won't like it, whether or not you're my dad.

But I have a fairly low tolerence for such things, and i made it through. So.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

We've created a monster

911, the cat we're sitting, has a reputation for viciousness. The contracters next door avoid him, the book-keeper talks to but does not pet him, and we, for this first month or so we've lived here, treated him like a large, furry grenade.

Over time, however, his attitude towards us has warmed and mellowed. When he hears us at the door, he comes and meows us welcome. When I'm writing, he sits as close as possible, preferably on my computer to some degree, and swats at my typing fingers. He purs like crazy when we pet him, and when he tires of petting, he swats at our hands claws in (an unheard of concession when first we met). And though he never deigns to come with us when we go to bed, he's always there curled up at our feet when we wake.

The secret? Beef jerkey.

The consequence? A Hindenberg of a cat.

We've put him on a bit of a diet. Jerkey only as a special treat, only small bits of dry food in the morning and evening. But Oh! does he whine. Oh! does he meow. He sees beef jerkey as his due, and he is (very nearly) willing to scale the heighest heights to get it from us. Luckily, is just too fat and lazy to climb the shelf it's on.

He's watching me as I type this. All kibble and no jerky makes nine a grouchy kitty. All kibble and no jerky makes nine a grouchy kitty. All kibble and no jerky....

Monday, September 19, 2005

Arrr! Who be windsurfin' now, matey?

The only thing better than reading Sen Kerry's skillfull takedown of the Bush administration's response to Katrina is reading it through the pirate translator over at mediocre minds.

If I could do it all over again

I'd have gotten Trixie and A. this for a wedding gift. 'Cause you never know when you might get thirsty.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Come to find out, I'm right on track.

From On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner:

Like any other kind of intelligence, the storyteller's is partly natural, partly trained. It is composed of several qualities, most of which, in normal people, are signs of either immaturity or incivility: wit (a tendency to make irreverent connections); obstinancy and a tendency towards churlishness (a refusal to believe what all sensible people know is true); childishness (an apparent lack of mental focus and serious life purpose, a fondness for daydreaming and telling pointless lies, a lack of proper respect, mischieviousness, and unseemly propensity for crying over nothing); a marked tendency toward oral or anal fixation or both (the oral manifested by excessive eating, drinking, smoking, and chattering; the anal by nervous cleanliness and neatness coupled with a weird fascination with dirty jokes); remarkable powers of eidetic recall, or visual memory (a usual feature of early adolescence and mental retardation); a strange admixture of shameless playfulness and embarrasing earnestness, the latter often heightened by irrationaly intense feelings for or against religion; patience like a cat's; a criminal streak of cunning; psychological instability; recklessness, impulsiveness, and improvidence; and finally, an inexplicable and incurable addiction to stories, written or oral, bad or good. Not all writers have exactly these same virtues, of course. Occasionally one finds one who is not abnormally improvident.

And the painted ponies go up and down

Finally, some seasonally appropriate weather. Granted, San Francisco is often brisk and cloudy, but today it feels all right and September-y, and I'm feeling the urge to make curried lentil and cabbage soup (they were eating it in this novel I've been reading, and I've been craving it ever since).

The brisk air is good for the roaming sense of guilt I've been feeling. Good in the way that it's making it go away for a while.

For some reason, fall is the most strongly nostalgic season for me (the smells maybe?). The new apartment is right in the middle of what seems to be the elementary school nexus of the universe, too. We've got a Catholic School, a Friend's School, and the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy, all within one block of us. It takes a girl back it does, seeing all these tots and hearing their dulcet screams at recess. The other day I was walking past the Quaker school's field during what looked like a PE class. There was this one girl with long wavy blondish hair who was tagging along at the end of the lap-runners, sort of half jogging half walking, stopping intermittently to examine random clumps of dirt and grass. I got all ruminative about how that was totally me, and now here I am all growed up and moderately a jogging type, and wow how I've grown. And then I totally tripped over a crack in the sidewalk.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Bardo, Dante, Guilt, and ow.

So for my MFA thesis my advisor suggested a novel. Which I think is a good idea, for the most part, excepting the whole ack-a-novel-thats-huge.

My ideas for a novel are still pretty fuzzy, but I'm sort of toying with a story that'll examine the idea of justice & punishment. Wait, no, punishment's not really the right idea. I'm sort of thinking of punishment like the levels of the afterlife Dante's Comedy -- you know, how people get what they deserve, but it's also kind of crappy and unfair.

My friend Hope invited me to a lecture next month about the Tibetan Buddhist concept of Bardo, which is sort of like this space between lives where you have visions, and your reaction to the visions determines your next life. And that reminded me of something I read a while ago, which argued that one of the lasting aftereffects of slavery was that white people had cut themselves off from empathy towards such a large group of other people that it caused long-term damage to society and family. That idea of something dogging you forever, until you get it, intrigues me. It's like punishment, but more like a karmic thoroughness.

Oof. Shouldn't a girl with a masters in writing be able to get this out better?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

No surprises here

Pure Nerd
86 % Nerd, 26% Geek, 43% Dork
For The Record:

A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.

A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.

A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions.

You scored better than half in Nerd, earning you the title of: Pure Nerd.

The times, they are a-changing. It used to be that being exceptionally smart led to being unpopular, which would ultimately lead to picking up all of the traits and tendences associated with the "dork." No-longer. Being smart isn't as socially crippling as it once was, and even more so as you get older: eventually being a Pure Nerd will likely be replaced with the following label: Purely Successful.


Thanks Again! -- THE NERD? GEEK? OR DORK? TEST

My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 95% on nerdiness
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 25% on geekosity
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 76% on dork points
Link: The Nerd? Geek? or Dork? Test written by donathos on Ok Cupid

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Long time, no blog

I know, I know. I'm totally lame. You're not even here, reading this, I'm such an infrequent updater.

Today was one of those ridiculously perfect San Francisco days. Blue sky, not a fog bank in sight, warm air (it was even warm in the shade! The shade, I tell you!). I tried to write, but the outdoors just kept on pokin' at me, saying, "hey, c'mere. I smell nice." But not in an icky way.

Innyhoo. So we're settled into the new place, the six-months-possibly-more catsit. There's more mailing and office work than I anticipated, and more heavy lifting, but I really can't complain. And I like writing here, which is something I never felt easy doing at the old apt. I spend the day on an old couch by the window, cat at my elbow. The window looks out semi-subterraneanaly at the garden, which gives a nice fishtanky feel to the whole affair.

I've been going for long walks, too, getting a feel for the new neighborhood. There's more hills and less trees, making for expansive views of what feels like all of California. and there's more bars, only here they're full of exhuberantly drunk men in wigs and tight tee shirts who pay me so little mind that I worry they might walk through me by accident. Which is oddly liberating, kind of like the childhood fantasy of becoming invisible. If I find a way to shoot lasers from my eyes, I'll let you know.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Itchy Itch

So, long-overdue update. MA done. Me grouchy. Ever have one of those days where everything you say seems sightly off and too loud? Story of my life right now.

Monday, July 11, 2005

we've been adopted

My days are really, truly blessed here. I realize how silly that sounds, but it's true.

I had a late night editing last night, and slept in a bit today. When I finally lurched awake at ten AM, Brian had already gone out (he had an appointment to help a neighbor move a cat at 8:30). I shnurfled around, retrieved the $3 Brian had left out for me to get an iced coffee with (we're out of milk, and I've never really mastered the espresso maker), and made my way down to the park.

The park is a funny little part of our daily routine. I say funny because it's simultaneously the most useless part of our day and the most important. For an hour or so, almost every morning, we sit on park benches and chat with the other park regulars. We talk about physics, gossip about the neighborhood, give each other amateur phsychological and legal advice, and watch all the dogs that frolic off-leash there get their 'dog' on. Almost all the new friends we've made since we moved here have been folks we've met at the park. Heck, our two most promising housing prospects are places we've found through park folk.

This morning, the weather was incredible. I walked the requisite three blocks to Bean There, got my iced-double-latte, and headed across the street and up the path toward the park benches where we all gather. As I got close, the bench erupted with shouts of "Nora! You're up!"

As of this week, our housing situation's been resolved. Mike, a guy we know from the park (natch) found us a -- wait for it -- six month cat-sitting gig. Nice.

Sunday, July 10, 2005


So the possible-living-situation with T has fallen through, and we're still looking. We've got a possible house share out in upper market (pro: $800 a month for the two of us, nice-seeming housemate; con: a bit of a hike from our preffered 'hood, wall-to-wall carpets, shared), a possible studio a few blocks from our current apt (pro: across the hall from friend Jason, private, cute old-timey details, hardwood floors and crazy-cool tiles in the kitchen; con: only slightly larger than a shoebox).

The whole looking-for-housing thing really doesn't agree with me. I hate that we have no money. I hate that we don't have great credit (thanks a lot, twenty-year-old self. I hope you had fun with those credit cards). I hate that we have to move now and that every time I sit down at my computer I spend two hours searching the classifieds for every minute I spend writing.

I hate change. I really am a creature of comfort.

Sunday, July 03, 2005


So, I'm having trouble doing just about anything today. Yesterday, too -- that trip to the grocery for lemonade and lesbian catcalling was just about it. This isn't turning out to be a good month. Or maybe it is. I'm honestly not sure.

Last Thursday, June 30, our housemate told us he's moving to Rhode Island at the end of July. For the past two months we'd all been talking about his boyfriend moving in (which would have reduced our already-managable rent to quite-pleasantly low). Now, Brian and I have thirty days to find a new living situation.

Unfortunately, Brian & I aren't planners. It would be great if at least one of us was (preferably him), but we're more 'oh-I'm-sure-it'll-all-work-out' types. We thought our rent would be going down. We just went to Boston for a wedding. I've been living of student loans and parental generosity since December. In short, neither of us can afford to pay first months rent & deposit on a new place. Not a (market rate) $1250-a-month studio in the neighborhood we live in & love.

Fortunately, we have great friends. Two immedeately offered to put us up for a while. One of them might even take us on as roomates in perpetuity.

So it looks like we'll be moving in with our friend T, just about four blocks down Haight from where we currently live. She's smart (I mean really smart - the woman listens to calculus lectures on her ipod when she's going to bed. Me? I'm not even sure how to spell calculus), funny, and suffers from varying degrees of agaoraphobia, OCD, and ADD. So I'm a little worried that we'll have to move again before August is over. But she thinks she'll be ok with having roomates (as she put it, "I didn't even panic about it when my meds wore off"). So probably it'll work out. And (woo-hoo!) her apartment is rent controlled. So it might be a solid plus in the long run.

But it's still depressing. We're adults. We should know enough to have set some money aside. But we're scraping through this only inches away from homelessness. I'd already started on a 'whats-it-all-about' kick after my cousin's wedding (nothing like the marriage of two type 'A' personalities to make a chronic underachiever feel a bit fraudish). To top it off, I've had writers block for days. Not that I believe in writers block.

Or spellchecking. Sorry kids.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Nothing so Rare as a Day in near June

It's absurdly gorgeous today: the sky is clear and blue, the sun is shining the world is green and green smelling. A few minutes ago, climbed out from under the pug we're dog sitting and walked down to the grocery store for some lemonade. On the way back, an old black lady in a wheel chair smiled at me and said, "Lots of pretty girls out today. I gotta go home and put my teeth in."

I love San Francisco.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Verlassen auf einem jetplane

or something like that.

So, I know it'll be hard for you all, as accustomed as you've become to fresh! daily! content, but I'm leaving tomorrow to go home for two weeks in sunny Massachusetts.

And it's my dog Merlin's 14th birthday tomorrow! Happy birthday, Merls-a-pup.

I was fourteen myself when we first brought him home (and if I recall I was much more limber).

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Nerd, continued

Brian and I, on a whim, went to see Revenge of the Sith (or is it Return of the Sith?) at midnight tonight. It completely took me back to that childhood space of I totally want that spaceship.

Oh, and cousin Jake? I'm totally sorry I played with the Star Wars guys I found under your bed all those years ago. I hope I didn't mess 'em up at all. *Whew* that guilt's been on my chest for like, twenty years.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Lest any one doubt that I come by 'nerd' honestly

I just got off the phone with my parents. We had a long conversation about the reasoning behind the Pythagorean prohibition against eating beans.

A long, animated conversation.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Five Questions from Tricia

1. What are the values/morals your parents (or
whomever) taught you as a child, which somehow
affected you in the future?

This is an interesting (and somehow difficult) one. One of the strongest lingering values (or at least one I've been noticing recently) is my strong 'intellectual' streak, something (oddly) that sets me apart from a lot of the people in my writing program. This isn't to say they aren't smart -- far from it, really. It's just that I have a sort of academic way of looking at the world: a love of reading and writing about strange and esoteric concepts, and an unabashed enthusiasm for things like literary theory and the history of ideas.

Of course it's not a black or white 'people see it either my way or another' type thing. But its always been one of my defining characteristics, from my brown-nosey elementary school days on up. And I take it really personally when people act like 'intellectualism' and 'elitism' are synonomous. Because thinking crtically is gonna save the world, man.

2. What is a common first thought you have in the
morning and the last thought before bed?

I don't know if there is a common thought that runs through my head when I'm lying in bed. I do love bed thoughts though - those funny little surrealist streams of consciousness that seem to show up in the liminal states between consciousness and whatever lies beyond it.

As we're falling asleep, we usually listen to Coast to Coast, a conspiracies and aliens call-in show that Brian's been listening to for forever. He usually falls asleep right away, no matter what topic is being discussed, but I'll often lie awake staring into the darkness as people call in to discuss alien abductions and haunted factories. Our bed is by the window, and I like to stare up at the sliver of sky between our apartment building and the next as I fall asleep, but some nights, when the eerieness on the radio gets to me, I just close my eyes and try to think of rational, daytime things.

When I wake up, I usually just wonder what's made Brian so damn chipper. And try to will myself out of bed in the direction of coffee. And I try to hold onto my just-before waking dreams for as long as I ca, but I never have the forsight to leave a notebook by the bed. This morning I woke to a dream of someone spraypainting the windows to a car I was in, and then me cooking appetizers and snacks for a large crowd.

3. If you were stranded on a deserted island and could
have 5 things and one person with you, what would you
have and with whom? (The ol' standby.)

Well, 'who' is easy -- I don't know if I'd even know how to get lost on a desert island without Brian. And besides, he's totally the sort who can figure out how to build a shelter and make fire, while I would, I dunno, weave together palm fronds into a cute bikini or reinvent deconstruction or something.

And lets see - five objects:

1. A phone (you don't expect me to live on a desert island without calling my parents at least once a week to talk about it, do you)?

2. A portable lavatory, well eqipped with toilet paper (I have anxieties about poopin' in the woods).

3. (ahem) a lifetime supply of feminine hygene products (can i include toothpaste and floss and make it a sort of toiletry bag? Ok, ok, I'll try to think outside the bathroom for a while).

4. I bookshelf stocked with (waterproof?) copies of Madeline L'Engle's books, the complete Anne of Green Gables series, random paperback mysteries and sci fi, and a few "infinitely re-readable" books, like the Illiad, the Divine Comedy and the like.

5. pants.

4. What is something you regret?

Sometimes I feel like regret is my default setting. Seriously -- today I had this great convestation with a girl from school, one of those totally wide-ranging and in depth funny conversations you get to have with folks every once and a while. And within an hour, I was feeling twinges of... I dunno ... free-range guilt? Even though it was a great conversation, I can't help but feel I said something stupid or potentially offensive or something.

That said, there are plenty of things I do and should regret. I fogot to call Shana on her birthday. I'm terrible with money. I often speak without thought or reflection. But if I had to choose one, everyday, practical regret : I wish I'd learned time management skills somewhere along the line.

5. What were you like when you were 10?

Ten was really my favorite age. I was at the height of my preadolescent powers. The fifth grade was the oldest class at Greenwood Elementary (the school around the block from my house that I’d been attending since kindergarten). We fifth graders were sort of uber-children, and school was a familiar world of teachers, janitors and administrators I'd known for years.

Though not popular, I was well known among my classmates, and universally accepted, even liked. Every day I wore the same uniform: a mismatched pair of Converse ‘All Stars,’ one pink, one blue; an old bomber jacket from world war two (the pockets stuffed with pens and paper), and a man’s fedora that my older sister had adopted and then abandoned some years before.

My teacher, Ms Riordan, and I had a special bond. We'd talk -- it seemed at the time -- like equals, with special jokes and secret smiles. Like every teacher I’d ever had, she scolded me for not reaching my ‘potential’ - a word I heard over and over again every year, as I turned math homework in late or missed assignments entirely - but she knew me, understood me. It was marvelous.

Except that I never did learn that 'potential reaching' schtick.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005


alternate title: boy am I wordy
Frog over at Between The Lakes was nice enough to pass on this meme to me. Anyone out there reading who'd like to play, let me know, and I'll send five questions of my own devising out your way (and thenyou get to ask me five questions and oh! this could go on forever...).

1) Tell me about your spiritual journey. I have a feeling there’s a story there.

Good question. I'd never really thought of my spiritual journey in any concrete way (and me! Dante obsessed over here. I know).

I grew up in a religious household. Which is to say that both my parents were religious, and actively occupied their respective faiths. My dad's a Quaker and my mom is Episcopalian, so I grew up attending both services as I liked -- Quaker meeting with dad when I was in the mood for quiet contemplation followed by organic peanutbutter sandwiches, Episcopal services with mom when I was in the mood for South African freedom songs followed by kool aid and raucous games of tag in the parish hall. And like I said, my parents were both very much involved in the life of their churches -- my earliest outside-of-family communities were formed in and around church.

This continued up through high school - I was in youth choir for a long time, and even after I dropped out of that, I regularly attended youth group and religious retreats (that was with the Episcopalians). Then, when I was a senior or junior in high school, I got very much into Quakerism -- in part because I was fairly shy, and in part ecause our old Episcopal church had hired a relatively conservative minister, and we (my mom and I and a fair amount of our friends there) were feeling a bit alienated.

When I went away to college, I stopped attending church regularly, and I have to say I haven't ever really gotten back in the habit. I do, however still consider faith and religious thought to be a big part of my life -- as I mentioned above, I'm fairly obsessed with Dante, and I read other stuff, like Aquinas and the Journals of John Woolman, which keep me on my spriritual toes. And I have a subscription to Soujourners magazine, which my mother says is just as good as church, really.

And when I was picking up my veggie box today, I noticed that there's an Episcopal church just a few blocks form me. So who knows, maybe there's more kool aid and tag in my future (though in SF, I've learned, one does not menation kool aid and religion in the same sentence).

I feel like I'm getting away without doing any sort of real meaty rumination here. But this was a great question to start mulling over - I'm sure more stuff will come out of it. I'm ruminating right now - I swear.

2) What brought you to SF?

This ones a little embarrassing, because so little brought me here, and so much makes living here so wonderful.

A little over two and a half years ago, I was living in Medford, MA with Brian in a perfectly nice apartment and working at a difficult but interesting job. I'd dropped out of Marlboro College about two years previous to that, and while I had a nice apartment and a happy relationship and a job that could be considered carreerish (that is, I wasn't slinging lattes), I still felt like there was something pretty tremendous lacking in my life. And I couldn't see myself going back to school -- there was just some sort of block there.

A week or so before thanksgiving, my old childhood friend Chris came out from California with his new boyfriend. Brian and I put them up for the duration of their stay, and Chris mentioned that should we ever want to move to San Francisco, it would be fun for all of us to live together.

That really planted the seeds. Brian had been fantasizing about California since he was a young and freezing teenager in rural Vermont, and started really talking about San Francisco as a long term plan. My job was getting more and more unpleasant, and I started fantasizing about San Francisco, too. Poor Chris had probably forgotten the whole conversation as soon as he got on the plane back to San Jose. But we started talking with him about it, anyway.

Then, at thanksgiving, my cousin Claire mentioned that she was taking a year off before medical school and moving to New York City. Everything in me that wanted freedom and something new and no more job and no more snow and arrrg! rushed to the surface, and I blurted out, "Yeah? Well, Brian and I are moving to San Francisco."

After that, things pretty much fell together. I gave notice at my job, Brian and I started saving money, and Chris started looking at two bedroom apartments in San Francisco. By March, we were here, in this small-but-cute-and-location! little apartment on Haight St. And in the two years since, I've finished my BA, started on my Masters, and made more 'neighborhoody' friends than I've had since college. Go figure.

3) What was the best thing about your trip to Hong Kong?

Thats a toughie. I went with my old college friend Liza, which was awesome in and of itself, because she and I hadn't laid eyes on one another for more than two years. So, seeing Liza, getting over (mostly) my fear of flying (because when you're in the air that long, you just cope), and getting outside my well-worn grooves. Those were the three best things.

That and looking for a lost turtle on Lamma.

Lost Turtle
Originally uploaded by Nora Sawyer.

Or at least wondering how one might find a single, specific turtle on a tropical island. Which leads us to...

4) How long have you and Brian been together and how did you meet?

Brian and I have been together five years as of April first (april fools day makes for a memorable anniversary).

I actually wrote down our 'how we met' story a few years ago, when I wanted to get all my family's love stories together in honor of my sister's wedding (a project that never really took off -- the collection that is, not the wedding). Anyway, you can read it here.

5) Tell me about the photo in your profile. I’m intrigued by it.

Ack! I just wrote a whole long bit on this, then accidently deleted it. Boo. Apologies if it comes out rushed.

That's probably my favorite photo from my trip to Hong Kong. Its of an alleyway in a town called Tai O, which is on Lantau Island in the Hong Kong archipelego. Liza and I went on a daytrip to Lantau one of our first days in Hong Kong. My guide book, "The Top Ten Guide to Hong Kong," reccomended that one take the Star Ferry over in the morning, then take a bus to "the quaint fishing village at the end of the island" -- Tai O, then hike up to the Buddhist monastary (and its 72-foot statue of Buddha) and enjoy a vegetarian lunch provided by the monks.

We got up early and took the ferry over, munching on red bean buns and sipping tea as we tried to get pictures of Hong Kong retreating in the distance. Once on Lantau, we poked arount Mai Wo, the village where the ferry dropped us, then hopped a bus bound for Tai O, on the other side of the island. The bus, filled to the brim with elderly people and their groceries, chugged up and down steep mountain roads for about a half hour before finally dropping us off in Tai O. We poked around for a bit -- Liza bought shrimp paste and I tooke that picture -- and congratulated ourselves on discovering something so far off the beatenpath (at least to those not in possesion of a "Top Ten Guide"). After a while, we started to get peckish and headed up the only road out of town (past the 'Fat Ho' middle school, for all those adolescent sniggerers out there), and towards the monastary.

After about fifteen minutes, the sidewalk ended. Another ten minutes, and we started to consult our maps, trying to figure out how many miles were contained in the half-thumb-width between monastary and town. Finally, after about forty five minutes of conversation about what an adventure this was and attempts not to look annoyed in front of one another, we managed to flag down a monastary-bound bus. Ten minutes and several(!) steep hills later, we were at the monastary. And man, was that monk-food good.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

We must imagine Sisyphus healthy

Oof. In my continuing campaign to be a guaranteed size eight for my cousin Claire's wedding, I've taken to jogging, and the propensity of hills and three-storey stairways in the neighborhood make for quite a work-out. Holy hindu cow-in-a-bucket, is it a work out.

In other news, San Francisco is freakin' gorgeous. I'm wishing i had a more eensy camera for in-the-pocket transport. The sunsets I'd show you!

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Obligatory Guilt Post

This blog is starting to feel like the journals I kept intermittently from about third grade on. The entries all read something like this:

Dear Diary (ugh - I hate cliches, don't you?), sunny today. Went for a walk with Merlin (did I tell you we got another dog!!!?). I can't beleive I'll be FOURTEEN tomorrow. Oh well, gotta go.

[next entry]
Dear Diary, Well - I just found you under my bed. I'll be sixteen next week, and lots has happened! I grew my hair out! Have you ever thought about sunsets? The're so pretty, yet so specific. Anyway, I'll write more later. Bye!

[next entry]
Omigod! I just found this diary under my bed again! I really should be better about -- oops! Time for dinner! Write soon!

You get the idea. Though I suppose, with the actual expectation of audience (hi guys!) inherent in blog writing, neglect is a slightly greater sin. And it's not like I need to go fishing under my bed for blogger software (digression: remember disks? That came in boxes? Playing Kings Quest III back in the day when it took four disks to play, plus at least one to save your games on? Sigh, and time marches on).

In other news, omigod! I'll be twenty-eight this Saturday. Brian and I are going to see Camille Paglia read from her new book (Break Blow Burn: Camille Paglia reads forty-three of the worlds best poems) Friday night, followed by a late dinner at the Metro Cafe. On my actual birthday, Brian will be testing for his blue belt in jujitsu, so I'll probably just stay home & worry. And write, of course, since I have 25 pages due for workshop on Monday (between-semester break? ha!).

I'm also working on some graphic stuff I hope to post up in here in the near future. Watch this space.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Been a while

72-foot Buddha
Originally uploaded by Nora Sawyer.
I finally uploaded some of my Hong Kong Photos to flickr. Click the Buddha to see more.

In other news, I [heart] flickr. So easy to use, so fun, so free. God bless the internets. They live, I tell you.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Nel Mezzo

Alternate title: Sestinas: what can't they do?
Alternate alternate title: Sestinas: say less using more words than other people say with less.

In France they have drugs that improve memory
(I read an article about it at a time in my life
when I thought I’d carved a space in the wilderness
though I was as unsure of the path
as I was of anything). Anyway. The article described
miracles: sparse thickets of thought thickened into woods

But that was the problem really. I already had a wood:
a place bereft of reflection or of memory
(for those who walk unpleasant places do not describe
a path; these are not reflective joints of life)
a place absent even the memory of a path;
where all that is belongs to wilderness.

far from being just a wood
becomes an essential piece of any path
(path: a place within cohesive memory
that defines the whole of life;
that which edges describe)

And so: a line describes
an angle, and so a triangle is made. And out of wilderness
we make our life,
in amongst a wood
of shivers, thought and memory
and suddenly there becomes a clear way, a path.

(or I suppose it should be a path
though mine does not for sure describe
the way through brambles of memory
through the dark of the sleeping wilderness
in the thickness of the wood
or whatever. Life).

Midway along the journey of our life
I strayed, abandoning the rightful path
And found myself within a gloomy wood.
So hard it is in its aspect to describe
This savage harsh and fearsome wilderness,
That fear rekindles with the memory.

in the thickness of our life (strange as it is to describe),
there is (or perhaps could be) a path, a way inside and out of wilderness
into the wood, out of memory

Excuse me? We could use some resurrection over here.

It's rainy and chilly here in San Francisco, and I'm feeling rather homesick, like Easter and spring just aren't real without family around. We'd planned to go see the Sisters' easter celebration in the park today, but it was all chilly and we had trouble getting motivated, and then the rain pretty much settled things.

Oh well. There's always next Sunday.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Doppelganger Sestina

written in class, March 19, 2005

When I was eleven, I saw my double
(Double didgets granting second
sight) rising from the yellow grass, waiting
Under swaying pine trees. It was still.
A strange hiccup, one two three.... three
Calling me, my echo, a child

The Magus Zoroaster, my dead child
In his garden chanced upon his double
And Shelley (the poet) saw his, too and died three
Days later. So: an inauspicious second
That hearts and minds and thoughts lays still
(Grass blew against its stiff legs, waiting)

Outside the house it’s waiting
Inside I’m just a child
Under blankets lying still
Counting breaths, double double
Eyes clenched against the seconds
Listening as the clock strikes three

The clock strikes three
And outside the dark is waiting
Somewhere out there stands my second
Night’s never so long as when you’re a child
At every hour the darkness doubles
At every hour, unbearably still

Chimes and echoes breaking still
Counting breaths, one, two, three, three
When I was eleven I saw my double
Standing outside, just there - waiting
I was just a child

Not prone to seeing seconds
The eye is cones and rods and retinas, still
I was a literally minded child
Who knew prime numbers (1, 5, 7, 3)
Numbers for with no factors waiting
No other’s double

As a child I saw my 2nd, counting one, two, three, three

The night still, waiting

And I was just a child. Two ones, double.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Hang spring-cleaning!

Ahh. spring in San Francisco. The weather's been between 60 and 80 (steadily! With almost no bizarre and sudden turns) for almost a week now, the clouds in the sky are there purely for their aesthetic value, and woodland creatures all over the city are feeling the first stirrings of that thing called love.

But alas.

The apartment is filthy. My papers are a complete mess; I can't find half my school things half the time, and the other half of the time someone's asking me to move them so that we can eat dinner or find the sofa or some such nonsense. And to top it off, an overnight guest is expected at the end of the week. But the Mole in me just keeps looking outside and thinking, well, how jolly it would be to be idle.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Poetry at 2 AM

Usually a bad idea

Inferno V:85

In her flocked and tattered robes superlative
Hovers idly
Without encomium or fond remembrance
For whatever oily stain was left
On Carthage’s sea salt cliffs

Love cries ring out empty
The high wind
Mocking fire’s memory
With August procession
In the flickering dim.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Just a miiinute! I'm in my niiiiighty!

Eeep! Here Tricia's gone an linked to me, and I've nothing to say. I'm working on a collection of short stories (an early version of my thesis for the conclusion of the MA portion of my MA/MFA program), and spring has completely sprung, complete with sun & flowering trees and a return to sandals as daily footwear. It's hard for a girl to stay focused.

But blogging! Must! Continue!

So, what can i tell you about my little life? Brian and I went for several walks today, one of which ended with a sausage and a beer at Toronado's. They had something on tap called 'nogginbonker,' but I was afraid to try it.

And that, my friends, is all you're getting.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The Hits Just Keep On Coming

So, I get these moods. Sometimes, even though the sun is shining, birds are chirping, and small puppies frolic in the park, I'll start to feel a case of the ol' ennui. And even though everything is going swimmingly, even though spring is here, and Herr Brian is all a girl could want, and I'm in a program that satisfies my every creative desire, I crash.

I'll sit on the couch, sinking lower and lower into despair until there's nothing left of me save a tuft of hair poking out from underneath the beige cushions. And poor Brian, who's trying to work, gets interrupted every five minutes: "I'm sorry I'm like this. You shouldn't see this." and a minute later, ""Do you love me?"

I tell you, the man's a saint. An atheist, but a saint.

Anyway, I've been like this all week. And then there was class this weekend:


Morning class: I'm more subdued than normal, and when I do speak I stutter, and then giggle. I hate myself for seeming weak. The instructor announces a new structure for discussions, wherein we raise our hands and wait to be called on instead of just speaking up. I can't help but feel that this is an inderect rebuke to my normally effusive classs presence.

Afternoon class: Four times, I start to speak, only to be cut off mid sentence. Twice, I am cut off mid-sentence by a prospective student. No one else seems to notice or care, particularly the instructor, who I thought liked me.

After school: I stand talking to my fellow students. J, an older man with a sort of rough and tumble sense of humor, asks "where's Brian?" in a way that makes the woman next to him hit his arm and giggle. I'm self-conscious about being the only one who's boyfreidn meets her at school. Do other people think that's weird? J gives me a ride home, along with two other girls. Getting out of the car, I trip and almost fall. I'm the only one who laughs.


Morning, before school: I'm running late. The toilet clogs and must be delt with. I have no clean laundry, and end up wearing a shirt that is low cut and has a tendancy to ride up at the belly. I spend the whole day intermittently pulling the collar up and the bottom down.

Morning class: I arrive ten minutes late, at the tail end of an in-class writing exercise. It looks interesting, but I don't get a chance to find out exactly what it was. During class, I work hard to make constructive comments about other's writing that I didn't particuarly enjoy, but that doesn't seem to be garnering much response. When we discuss a piece I really loved, my comments seem redundant and I have trouble articulating my thoughts.

During class break, I go outside and stand in the sun. No one esle from my class is around, except for A, a tough-seeming, pretty girl from the midwest who is sitting on the curb smoking a cigarette. I think about sharing with her my discomfort with my overly-revealing shirt, but go inside instead.

When it comes time to discuss my piece, comments are generally favorable. David, an older man who's work I enjoy, ways "Nora really has what I think makes a good writer: whe can write a good sentence." I am genuinely touched.

After class, I get back people's written responses to my piece, a work of fiction that combines first-person narrative and fragments of the protagonist's academic work. The crit from A reads as follows:

- Don't give a fuck
- If you're an academic "at university" then fucking stay there
- you're no writer if this is your kick
- this shit is hard to understand BECAUSE it has such a specific audience! We are not your audience! Academic Journals about Greek/Latin philosophy and mythology are.

then, on an interior page of the story:

It's been done - interpret something new - something folks give a fuck-in-the-hole-of a running donut ABOUT.

I go to lunch, and manage to giggle over beer and sushi with some of my classmates. We discuss (humerously) the feasability of ordering ritalin over the internet using scholarship funds.

Afternoon class: Memoir and Testimony. during the in-class writing exercises, I can hardly get myself to write. My voice seems false. Sentences don't come. Tears are pricking at my eyes. I want to go home and go to bed, but doubt my energy could even take me that far.

Did the commenter get that the piece was a work of fiction? Is my voice too obscure? Surreptitiously, I flip through the other comments, but all I see are negatives: beautiful writing, but..., the narrative sections aren't as vivid as the other bits..., Very few love notes this time. As usual, however, I'm impressed...

I feel something akin to suicidal. I want to remove myself from the picture. Deperately, I want to be gone.

Class ends. I see Brian, Chris and Ruben across the street. Chris is anxious to make dinner, which means he's anxious to plan a dinner that I'll end up cooking. They ask about class. I change the subject.

Home: I'm grouchy and unreasonable. I keep going to the bedroom to cry. Chris makes steak, I make salad. Everyone seems a bit nervous. I'm acting like the crazy head of a disfunctional family.

Oof. Anyway. Today, Tuesday, I'm meeting with my instructor to discuss my piece and the crits. I feel a bit silly, like I've been up all night staring in horror at a hooded figure lurking by the closet door, only to realize with the creeping dawn that I've been on guard against my own bathrobe.

I mean, all told, its not that bad, is it?

Friday, February 25, 2005

For the Record

I hate the sound of people chewing.
I had a strange dream last night.

I was in a small store - one of those strange boutiques you wander into, only to realize that the place is far too small and you can’t possibly browse without engaging in some manner with the proprietor. Always a source of frustration; I rarely come to buy. Anyway. This store was a magic shop (ein Zauber Kasten). It was also, I believe, a hair salon.

Anyway, as I spent time in this shop (which, by the way, had beige carpeting) I became aware of a mirror that the shopkeeper kept tucked inside an alcove. If one looked in the mirror, they would see the manner of their own death. Several people came into look in the mirror. I realized that this was one of those unpleasant rights of passage: sooner or later, I was going to have to look in the mirror, too.

Suddenly, I was in the alcove. The proprietress was cradling the back of my head, as one does in a baptism. I looked in the corner, where someone had placed an abstract sculpture made of driftwood. My head was pulled back, towards the mirror. I screamed, and then was quiet. An old woman looked back at me. I was relieved; my death would be from old age.

I looked closer. My reflections hair was gray, but her face was still young; she couldn’t be older than fifty. Her roots, strangely, were still brown. I searched the reflection desperately for clues - what could possibly cause my death at such a young age? All I could see was a strange misquito-like bite on my back leg.

I would have to dye my hair, I concluded.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Golden Ears

I am feeling the hard edge of my own selfishness lately: my need to be seen, my need to have my own specialness acknowledged. I think this may be contrapuntal to my awakening listening ear. At least I hope that it's a sign of growth.

When I signed up for this writing program, I expected to get all sorts of things out of it: heightened writing skills, to be sure, but also adulation, praise and attention. I am accustomed to receiving such things when I set my mind to a task and do it well (I offer the distinction of 'setting mind to' because I have not been accustomed, at all times, to doing so; often, especially in school, my mind has been elsewhere). I did not expect to be humbled. Particularly not with such consistency.

The other day, I spent some time with my friend D, who is also a member of the writing program. As she was driving me home, D observed that she and I had both been born with distinct advantages: I my supportive and loving family, she her high IQ.

And I was strangely upset by this. Not because I feel that my family was not an advantage, nor do I think that D is anything but brilliant. But because it was the third time in as many days that someone had pointed out their own intelligence, without mentioning anything about my own.

As my ex-boyfriend Gahlord used to say when I was upset: “feel that sting? That’s pride, fucking with you.”

Yeah, he was kind of a jerk sometimes.

Anyway: yes, it is pride. And it stings particularly, because I’ve always told myself and others that I don’t imagine myself to be smarter than anyone.

And that’s true.

But hidden deep within that was the assumption that OF COURSE others might think that I was (smarter, that is). And that my perception that, really, I am just about as smart as everyone around me, well that’s just due to my innate perspicuity. That’s right: I’m especially clever, because I can see how smart you all are. Now tell me that isn’t astute.

I am kind of a jerk, aren't I? I always imagined the onset of humility would be more enjoyable.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

SO I took a nap this afternoon (as people do, when they work at home and live in california and it's spring and all is decadent) and I had the strangest dream:

We were looking at an apartment next door. We decided we didn't want it, but I started having strange dreams about the landloards late brother-in-law. We were dogsitting for my parents, and I was trying to write the dead man's brother-in-law a letter, but kept making horrible and frustrating typos. Also, I wanted pretzels.

Here's the letter (I wrote down what I'd managed to get down in my dream as soon as I woke up. It seemed very important):

Dear Mr ___

Over thepast few weeks, I have been having a series of strange dreams. The content of these dreams has led me to beleivethat I am being visited by you late brother in law, Mr Harry Davidson. Through these dreams I beleive that Mr. Davidson may be trying to communicate something of great importance. Please contact me at your earliest convenience.


Belle Anne

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Hello, You.

I know, I know. If any of you are actually still out there you're wondering what on earth I'm doing in a writing program when I never write, I never call. Communication: not my forte, even now.

So - it is spring (at least today) in San Francisco. Poisonously green foliage. Great blue sky punctuated with columnular, fluffy clouds. A sense of bigness in the world. I wish I could show you the pictures in my head.

There's a park near our house: Buena Vista. The first week we lived here, Brian and I used to go for walks there every morning, and it was incredible, everything I expected California to be. When I'm walking there, I feel like a child: every tree, every snail crawling on primeveal leaves seems new, representative of a vast knowable unkown.

Reminds me of a hymn we used to sing in youth choir:
Name unnamed, given and shown, knowing unknown: gloria.

Sorry for the stream of consciousness. a combination of school and spring has untapped something for me, grammar be damned. Or maybe dammed. I probably need to drink some tea.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

I've been oddly out of it lately. I haven't felt like writing. Not that I don't have any ideas (though that's definitely part of it). It's more of a self-censorship, a problem I've had on an off since my late/teens early twenties. I can't seem to take pen to paper (or in my case finger to keyboard) without asking myself: with so much noise in the world, why add to it?

I dunno. I'm probably just making excuses. Lots of schoolwork to be done. Lots of writng. And me, sitting here, feeling like I should read the Phaedrus again, but too lazy to go over to the bookcase and fetch it. And even if I did fetch it, I'm not sure I'm in the mood to read it.

Perhaps a nap is in order. Or a tub interlude.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


Sleepy as heck. Brian has bad cough, and wakes the both of us up several times during the night. Need to be writing, but lack story ideas. Also, sleepy.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005


So. Oddly unverbal days of late. I've been having tremendously vivid dreams, though.

Location-wise, my dreams are fairly repetitive. I tend to have dreams that take place (at least in part) in the following areas:

1. The basement of the church I grew up attending with my mother and sister (the best of these was one wherein I was dating Axl Rose. Guns N' Roses had a 'clubhouse' in the closet where the youth choir kept robes and whatnot. Lest anyone think this was a teenybopper fantasy, let it be known that I had this dream last year).

2. The neighborhood on the border between Wakefield and Melrose, MA (a few blocks from where I grew up). In my dreams, however, this neighborhood has several added blocks, and is somewhat modular.

3. Outside my parents' house (when I was younger I'd havve reoccuring dreams that I'd be outside and unable to open the door. Or rather, I'd keep opening the door, only to find the wrong house inside. I'd have to sort through a pile of doors, trying each one on until I could get the right interior.

4. The stretch of Main Street between my old Jr High & my parents' house. The woods by my old elementary school (and the shortcut contained therin) usually play a role as well.

Hm. Is my corner of the Jungian subconscious stopped somewhere circa 1987?

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Congratulations to Rose and all the other Iraqis who got out and voted today. I've never been happier to have been proven wrong (and here's hoping that I continue being wrongheaded in my pessimism).

Friday, January 28, 2005

Now I've Seen Everything.

Seeing as how you're reading this on the internet, I'm sure I don't need to recap for you the whole "Postcards From Buster" coontroversy (ok, ok, just in case: some conservatives think that the PBS cartoon's portrayal of two lesbians in a now-pulled episode exploring the state of Vermont is further evidence of the 'gay agenda' at work on the hearts and minds of Our Nation's Children).

I just stumbled across this choice bit, on a blog called "Crosswalk":

And does PBS think the public is stupid enough to not catch what the catch phrases "maple-syruping", and "I like it Vermont style" really reference?

I'm sorry, but I lived in Vermont for several years, and currently live a scant 10 minute walk from San Francisco's Castro district. Heck, I even share an apartment with a gay man. I'm pretty much down with the current lingo. And I have no freaking idea what this man is on about.

You really have to wonder about folks who see the gay agenda lurking in the maple syrup.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

More poetry, posted before my editor's eye kicks in (as part of my new year's bid for upfrontness in writing).


At twelve,
I knew something of the longing
That marks adolescence.

I wanted to belong, yes,
But more: I wanted.
I wanted.

The sad-eyed Jesus
In the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum:
A laundered Kurt Cobain,
Jim Morrison, alive,
I am not like the other girls;
I know Latin.

I was twelve
And eager to understand
What made my sister so interesting,
Even though she was only two years older
And I was unusually precocious,
If a bit obtuse.

So I opted for early confirmation
The first step, I was sure
In my eventual sublimation.

And in my confirmation class,
Filled with graduate students
And doctors of Theology
And a man who I now realize
Couldn’t have been more than twenty,
But who was much older than twelve

I broke down
The night my goldfish died,
Though I prayed to God for a miracle.

To Abelard, Heloise
(unfinished, I think)

To her master,
nay father,
to her husband,
nay brother;
his handmaid,
nay daughter,
his spouse,
nay sister:
to Abelard, Heloise*

Relations, we call them:
These lines run between us.

Spoken as though
There were something
In speaking,
An essence called forth;
A foundation laid
In the wilderness.

In the begininning was the word
A breath over waters.

In the beginning,
This morning
You breathed
And I woke up
Awaiting definition.

* From The Letters of Abelard and Heloise, trans. and intro. by Betty Radice, (New York: Penguin, 1974)

Thursday, January 20, 2005


When I was born, irises were blooming in Missouri. This amazed me as a child. In Massachusetts, where we lived for most of my childhood, the most I could hope for on my birthday was a crocus poking up through the damp spring mud. Sometimes it even snowed. Once there was a blizzard, and the snow came up to my waist (which to be fair couldn’t have been more than two feet off the ground).

Now that I live in San Francisco, spring starts coming in January. I still find it amazing that, on mornings when its so cold I can see my breath, I’m greeted with the sight of purple flowers blooming outside the bathroom window.

I was born at noon on April 23, 1977. My mother tells me that while lying in bed in her postpartum daze, she had a vision. As the nurses bustled and my father futzed and I cooed, she was watching the credits to an old black and white cartoon. A song was playing in the background: “Fairy Tales Can Come True.”

She didn’t tell me this until I was a teenager, but I can remember, when I was about ten or so, watching a commercial for Sprite or Mountain Dew built around the same song. It made me feel so wonderful: melancholy and amazing all at once, as if a world full of possibility were about to open up before me, but just for a moment. I’d like to think that this is my song. My mother says it is.

Growing up, I was an oddly puritanical child. Odd because I can think of little in my upbringing, save a general aesthetic sensibility, that dictated one mode of living as better than any other. My parents taught us (my sister and I) that sex was a natural part of adult life, though probably something that should be avoided until one was ready. Wine was served with dinner, and available to us once we turned sixteen. Nonetheless, I imposed strict censures upon myself. I would not drink alcohol, ever. I would not have sex until marriage. I would not cut or dye my hair. I would carry only wildflowers at my wedding, and only ones I’d picked myself, that morning. Preferably, I’d live off the grid, reading and writing at night by oil lamp or candlelight.

I came up with these rules when I was about eleven, and believed in them, to a degree, well into my teen years. I’d always be setting rules out for myself, like a young Gatsby, or an Hepestus, trying to shape my perfect self from the sticks and mud of my perceived inadequacy. I’d mark my summer calendars with structured activities:

‘prayer and meditation, 9 AM - 10 AM, ‘study 10 Am -11, bicycling 11 AM - 12, lunch.’

I fasted intermittently. Luckily, I have a short attention span.

I fantasized about becoming a nun, but if I were honest I'd admit that I really wanted to be a monk. I remember seeing a movie on TV wherein a man joined a monastery, only to discover he had romantic feelings for one of his fellows. Upon finally owning up to this desire in the darkness of the confession booth, he learns that the monk taking his confession is, in fact the one he’s been lusting after. The monk slides away the screen separating confessor from Confessor, and pulls back his hood to reveal... a woman’s face. That’s what I wanted to be: the woman in the monastery, an object of desire, yet chaste; hidden, yet innately sensed and desired.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005


Spring seems to be coming to San Francisco. It must be the rain making that's everything green and the early flowers bloom in spite of the awful cold (51 degrees today -- I know, we’re wimps). All this wet is making me nostalgic for New England.

The other night, I was talking in my sleep. I do this from time to time, and my boyfriend, Brian, likes to try and draw hypnogogic conversations out of me, and relay them to me in my waking state. I’m trying to train myself to speak when I feel myself start dreaming - on that threshold between awake and asleep. Its a tiny thing we share.

Anyway, I was talking. And I said two things:

1. "Underneath the branches the people are wet, and made of bark."

And some time later:

2."My legs were twigs, but I didn't realize it at the time."

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Eek! A Meme!

The lovely Tricia sent this my way:

1. How many music files on your computer?

Um. I don't know. How does one tell?

2. Last CD you bought?

If we're talking 'album of music purchased in any format, 'The Life Aquatic Soundtrack (purchased of iMusic). If you mean last physical CD purchased, then CocoRosie'sLa Maison De Mon Reve (unless you count Songs of the Pogo, which I got my Dad for Christmas. I'm all about specificity, really).

3. What is the song you last listened to before reading this message?
Right now, I'm listening to theBoards of Canada Remix of Last Walk Around Mirror Lake (offa Boom Bip's Corymb). I downloaded it from this site. Which is where I get most of my new-to-me music.

4. Five songs you often listen to or mean a lot to you and why:

Well, according to iTunes, these are the songs I listen to most often. I don't know if the prejudice is mine or the iTunes' shuffler (probably a bit of both). Notice how smoothly I got out of having to choose favorites?

Note: I wanted to post MP3's of these songs, but couldn't figure out how to convert iTunes files into MP3 format. If any of you know a secret magic way, please clue me in.

i. Arcade Fire's Neighborhood #3 (Power Out) (off of Funeral). This is a fabulous album, though I'm not sure why this particular track gets preferential treatment. But there it is.

ii. Bran Van 3000's cover of Cum On Feel The Noise (off of Glee). Do I really need to explain why I love this?

iii. Nina Simone's cover of Here Comes the Sun. I defy you to listen to this song and not feel happy. In a melancholy kind of way. This is what the world would sound like if my Grandmama Mary had been one of the original Beatles.

iv. Bob Dylan's House of the Rising Sun . I've loved this song since I was a little kid. I can remember hearing it on the radio when I was about eight or so and begging my mother to get me a recording of it. She found me a really upbeat 'New Main Street Singers'-esque cover. As the Fresh Prince once noted: sometimes, mothers just don't understand.

Although to be fair, she accepted her youngest daughter's obsession with fallen women without blinking.

v. Good Friday by CocoRosie. Yum. (UPDATE: this song can be downloaded here

5. What 3 people would you like to answer this and why?

1. Colin Bayly...because I haven't gotten a phone call at 2:AM in a while, and he's got impeccable taste in music
2. My seester.... because I don't know what she's listening to these days, and I miss her
3. J.D. Salinger...because, well, wouldn't that be cool?

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Where the longhorn cattle feed/On the lowly jimpson weed
So, I'm feeling a bit more like myself today, and (in spite of the fact that it's Sunday for everyone), starting to appreciate this school-full-time-and-not-workin' lifestyle I've got goin'. One thing I need to do is spend more time every day just writing, so expect to see more of the not-wuite-ready for prime time fiction and whatnot featured below.

As for tonight, nothing to report. Making dinner. Brian on shoulder. Pants on fire. The usual.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

I don’t know what I expected not working to be like. Sunnier, I suppose. And more productive. But I hadn’t accounted for myself in the equation: the lazy boring awefulness that is moi. And the disorganization. And the ennui.

Brian and I are going to be housesitting starting tonight. Hurrah! Yard! And hurrah! Wacky dogs! I'm looking forward to writing (sans these distracting internets) in Shelly's secret garden.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Ooof. I can’t decide if I’m still jet lagged, or if I’m always this way: convinced that I suck irredemably & prone to run on sentences. I know a tremendous egoist lurks within me; I’m sure of it. Perhaps I need a bath? Yes. Perhaps I do.

You can't make me spellcheck.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Test Pattern

I'm typing from the Hong Kong Library, where I'm trying to get some stuff for school typed up and sent to Brian so that he can drop it off for me (proof positive that he's the best boyfriend, ever). I cant seem to open Word, and the error message in Cantonese isn't much help (neither, unfortunately, are the librarians, who don't seem to speak much English. They must've moved here post-1997).

Liza and I are staying at Mirador Mansions - a ramshackle warren of hostels, low-end tailor shops and stores selling tacky souveniers and knockoff handbags on Kowloon's 'Golden Mile.' Our first night here, having come from the internationally-renowned airport via sparking subways, we were a bit taken aback by the buildings deshabille (I really want that to be a word) charm.

Liza had detailed written instructions on getting to the hostel, and so (feeling very much the seasoned international travellers), we easily travelled through Hong Kong Island and across the bay to Kowloon. Night had fallen while we were underground, and through the bus window, the whole city sparkled. We'd asked to be let off at the Holiday Inn (as the hostel had instructed), and as soon as we disembarked, we were swarmed by solicitous bellmen.

"We're not staying here." Liza said, lurching after the uniformed attendant who had already taken her bag and was heading for the Holiday Inn's bright doors, "Sorry - we're not staying here."

We stood on the street corner and examined her directions. Apparently, our hostel was right nearby.

"Yes? Can I help?" Two doormen stood by, watching us.

"Can you show us the way to the Kowloon Garden Traveller's Friend?"

The solicitous doorman looked at us blankly, then pulled the directions out of Liza's hand.

"Ah. Mirador Mansions. Just down the street. On the left, there."

We followed the direction of his outstretched arm own crowded alleyway. A decrepit looking dog ignored us as we hurried past, its eyes rheumy and distant. We'd almost passed a brightly lit door when I stopped.

"This is it, isn't it? 'Mirador Mansions'"

The directions had instructed us to ignore "beggars selling fake Rolexes and offering rooms unaffiliated with the hostel." This relatively benign description had not prepared us for the scene that greeted us now: In the brightly lit entryway, vendors displayed every cheaply made souvenir of China imaginable: silk sheets, gongs, hats, even sex toys. Men crowded around us, calling out, "Fake watch? Tailor? Madam, yes? You need a room? Yes?"
"Can you tell me the way to the elevator?" Liza asked the nearest and most capable looking man. "The Kowloon Garden Traveller's Friend?"

"Ah! You need room." He hustled us over to a sign for the Lotus USA Hostel. "You want window?" He pressed a set of keys into Liza's hand.

No. We have a reservation somewhere. Where's the elevator?"

Just then, we spotted a bank of elevators. We hurried over, ignoring the men's disappointed cries.

Liza's directions told us to go to the thirteenth floor, where we'd find our hostel immediately to the right of the elevator doors. The doors opened to an dimly lit, sparsely populated hallway. We looked to the right -- an open corridor, looking out onto a ramshackle courtyard. A man detached himself from the group standing by the stairway to our left.

"Hello, Yes?" You need a room?"

"We have a reservation at the Kowloon Garden Traveller's Friend," said Liza forcefully. "Which way is it?"

"Yes, yes" he brisked efficiently. "This way."

He led us off, down the hallway toward the stairwell.

"Here. Your bag. I can take it for you." He pulled the handle of my wheeled suitcase out of my reluctant hand and headed down a the corridor. I wondered at first if I'd have to tip him when we got to the hostel, and then if we'd get to the hostel at all, and if I'd ever see my bag again.

He turned through a doorway into a narrow hall. The thought flashed through my head that this was precisely what my father had been thinking of when I'd insisted that he needn't worry, that Hong Kong was one of the safest cities in the world.

We were at the end of a trash-strewn hallway. The man opened a door, revealing a tiny room: two platform beds, made up with well-worn cartoon printed sheets bolted to a tiled wall, a small window letting in the sounds of the street below.

"No." I said. "This is not our room."

"You don't like the room? I have another. What do you want?"

"No, thank you." Liza and I simultaneously had had enough. I grabbed my suitcase from the man's protesting hands and we hustled back down the narrow corridor and up the stairs, making our way back to the elevator.

"Okay. It has to be somewhere to the right," Liza said decisively. We followed the open hallway along the courtyard, past laundry and darkened doorways decorated with small shrines. We turned a dimly lit corner, and there, at the end of the hallway, brightly lit and painted yellow, stood the Kowloon Garden Traveller's Friend.
Relieved, we rushed toward the card table and mismatched chairs that stood beneath the large, brightly lit reception sign.

After a bit of confusion, we confirmed that we had a room reserved for the night and the night clerk led us down a polished narrow hallway to our room. Inside, the room was small, with twin beds bolted to the wall, and well-worn (but clean) cartoon-print bedsheets. But was clean and safe, and for now, it is home.