children aren't really people (almost, kind of, maybe, starting to understand my parents)

You bring it home from the hospital, this tiny thing, helpless as a kitten - more helpless, even. All it can do is suckle and cry. You fall in love, you fall into a stupor, your only goal is keeping it alive. It's so cute, so cute, so small, so funny, so soft, this precious little pet, this unbelievably fragile toy which you are supposed to keep dry and fed and safe.

The toy gets bigger, cuter; it smiles on cue, like some kind of trick it has learned to please you. It bats at objects you dangle in front of its face, it sits up, grabs things, learns to walk, and all this seems like more learned tricks, all the manifestations of autonomy are absolutely adorable. "Oh look, he's smacking Mommy! How cute!"

It gets bigger, louder, faster, learns to talk - how cute, it has a favorite toy, a favorite subject, dreams, desires, goals that it thinks are unrelated to being cute - oh, how cute, it thinks it's people!

It gets bigger, hairier, more demanding - of you, of life. It's cute how it thinks it understands what it wants. It's cute how it thinks it understands how to get it. It's cute how it thinks you don't understand.

It gets bigger, it fights back, it sneaks out in the night - or maybe it doesn't, maybe it hides snacks in its underwear drawer because this is the only transgression it can come up with - maybe it smokes on the sly, drinks, fucks, maybe just reads sex novels with the dust jacket off. It's getting away with nothing, but how cute that it tries.

It gets bigger, it runs off, it moves out, it refuses to call on a regular basis, it gives vague answers to "where are you" and "where have you been" and "why" and "who" and "what's is going on with you," it snarls, it's hardly even cute anymore, but look, it's been arrested, it's had a pregnancy scare, no one's asking it to dance, it's crying, it needs help, how sweet, how cute.

It gets bigger, slower, sadder, greyer, more like you, swears to be less like you, it bites when you pet it, it refuses to make eye contact, it doesn't understand, it doesn't understand you're only trying to keep it dry and fed and safe.


things I couldn't stand to forget (1)

That morning was foggy. Dreary. Raining, slightly, in that irritating misty way that doesn't quite call for an umbrella. I rolled out of my bed at 5:30 or so; my father's car was going to be downstairs in ten minutes; I was supposed to be in the hospital between 7 and 7:30, in time to fill out the paperwork, to have my blood taken, to have the IV placed, to complete all the necessary preliminaries before my surgery was performed at 10 o'clock.

At 10 o'clock, I was going to become a mother. It would be comical to say that I "rolled out of bed" due to my 39-weeks-pregnant rotundity, but I did not so much roll as heave, strain and lever myself off my sunken half of the mattress. It had been almost 6 hours since my last drink of water, and I was already thirsty, with hours to go before the IV began pumping me with fluids. I brushed my teeth, permitting myself an extra generous mouthful to rinse with, sucking the excess off my cheeks after I'd spat.

I put on my black maternity skirt, a stretchy black tank top, a flowing black mesh coverup thing. I looked like boho Fiddler on the Roof. I scraped my hair into a bunched tail, and didn't bother with makeup. I considered being scared, and opted for my customary choice of merely exhausted.

The ride to Lennox Hill with my parents and my husband was ... well ... pregnant with expectation. Predictably. I was at that stage of sleep deprivation that usually crosses over into giddiness (I hadn't fallen asleep until sometime past 2 am), but that crossover is hard to achieve when one hasn't felt physically well in several months. As we drove over the bridge, I looked at the Manhattan skyline, veiled in early morning light and fog, and thought that the next time I saw the outside world, I would be somebody's mother. My parents chattered happily, running over the story of the day I was born - a story that gets repeated every year on my birthday, and one that I, self-centered attention whore that I am, never tire of hearing. I observed this to myself and considered that self-centered attention whores are maybe not the ideal candidates for motherhood.

The baby stretched inside me, distending my stomach in a way that I'd gotten rather used to, and I patted his little head, wodged just south of my ribcage, which was the whole reason we were going to the hospital to get me cut open; he was in full breech presentation, and had stubbornly refused to turn around. Whenever I told anyone I was going to have a C section, their face changed; their mouth drooped sympathetically, and their eyebrows bent upward at the center; they almost always counseled various crazy-sounding solutions to get the baby to turn upside down (which is right side up, for the unborn). I tried the downward facing dog thing a few times, but secretly, I was slightly delighted to be having unnatural childbirth. The whole idea of waiting and waiting and suddenly, in the middle of doing something, being doubled over by pain, and then continuing to suffer that pain until I finally got to the hospital and got an epidural - that whole idea was not attractive to me. Getting cut open sounded a little brutal, sure, but at least there was something controlled about the idea, something fundamentally opposite to the idea of getting my cunt ripped open. (My literal cunt. Literally ripped open.)

We coasted up to the hospital, and there was a small amount of hullabaloo about my mother hopping out and waiting for me with an open umbrella, so that I could take the three steps between the car and the awning without getting wet. This was comical, which was good, because it distracted me from the fact that it was now over seven hours since I had last eaten or drunk anything. I surreptitiously stuck my tongue out for a few rain drops.

I waddled into the hospital lobby, which smelled nothing like a hospital and was quite nice and comfortable, but the psychic vibes hit you like nobody's business. Same as the inside of a courthouse, but more so - this, your body realizes even before your mind does, is where life comes to get interrupted. My pulse sped up, my awareness of everything pricked, my heartbeat migrated upward like a started butterfly. My baby kicked (elbowed?) me in the bladder.

I did what I always do in times of stress and fear; I go all efficient and smiley, like a flight attendant. I ushered my mother and husband into a row of seats and bustled toward the receptionist, my belly cradled in front of me like a status symbol. The second and third trimester, by the way, were literally the ONLY time in my life when I stopped hiding my stomach. This was going to be my last day of that. I was almost going to miss it.

I went through the paperwork, and then I ran to the restroom. On my way back, I stopped at a water fountain for a cubic millimeter of water, which I tried to spread all over my increasingly sticky mouth. By this point, I was seriously tempted to drink a whole glass of water and tell everyone fuck it, we'll have to try this another time. I remembered how difficult has been to lift myself off the toilet, and reconsidered.

There was some waiting and dawdling and marinating in my own anxiety - again, the anxiety wasn't so much in my mind as in my body. My mind was perfectly serene in its faith in modern medicine, the excellent reputation of the hospital-where-Beyonce-gave-birth, the expertise of my ob-gyn, and my own healthy body. My mind was idly observing the somewhat drab decor and irritably wondering if the whole ban on fluids for 10 damn hours prior to scheduled surgery was warranted. My body was preparing for something momentous; heart jumping, skin twitching. My body knew what was up.

The OR nurse greeted me with "Hi mommy!" and I freaked out. I didn't stop smiling, of course; I giggled and cooed and played my part. My well-developed Seven-Sisters reflex was to snarl that I still had the right to my own fucking name, but I had been a bridesmaid before and I knew how this rolled. They'll compliment your hair and stately walk and your idiotic dress, but you need to recognize the alpha in the room, and in this case, the alpha was punching me in the navel from behind it.

Things moved faster after that, but not fast enough to distract me from the thirst that had become almost torturous. I was starting to avoid certain sounds in my speech because they were coming out with those awful dry-mouth clicks that generally accompany pit-stains at podiums. The OR nurse helped me to change into a hospital gown with some kind of weird body stocking girdle thing underneath, and soft socks. She hooked me up to machines and tormented me briefly (and apologetically) before finally getting an IV needle into my hand. That hurt some, and she assured me it would be the worst it would get.

She asked me many questions about myself and my sexual history, and I briefly felt important. (Self-centered attention whore, yep.) She took my vitals and did an ultrasound. Apparently, I was having contractions, although I didn't feel anything. I like to think that the baby agreed with me that 39 weeks was plenty of gestation, and June 12 was a good birthday.

There was more waiting, this time on a gurney-bed, holding a kidney-shaped bowl with several vials of my own blood. My parents took turns hanging out in the room and going for cigarettes; my husband sat on a chair, looking at me with a nervous, little-lost-boy look in his suddenly enormous eyes. I wanted to hold him, and I wanted him to hold me, but he seemed too afraid to touch me in any but the briefest way.

Other people were in the room. The OR nurses chatted and joked with each other, and it felt like a slumber party, or at least a friendly Ricky's store. A couple of other patients arrived, and got prepped behind curtains. At one point, a man walked in, wearing scrubs, and holding a tiny baby. It was his third; a boy; they had been hoping for a girl. I've never before seen that particular mix of disappointment and exhilaration on someone's face. He held his tiny, sleeping son, and I craned my neck to see the newborn's face. I felt reassured to find him cute.

Things happened, people talked, I did my compulsive loud, jokey shtick and made my husband cringe; that temporarily restored our usual dynamic, and his eyes went back to normal for several minutes. And then, I was asked to get up and go somewhere, and of course, I needed to use the bathroom first, dragging my IV in with me. I felt the hard enormity of my stomach with my hands. I don't think I even knew where I was being taken; the nurse (Carmen, of the lovely face and subtle makeup and lovely silver jewelry), briskly walked me through some swinging doors and blurring faces, and I am pretty sure I thought I was going to be asked to sign some more paperwork.

The room was white, bright and very cold, and I was actually confused for one moment; I thought I was going to be examined before I realized that the table in the middle of the room was an operating table. I'd been in an operating room once before, getting my gallbladder removed at 16; but then, I'd been wheeled in supine on a gurney, and all I had a memory of were glaring lights and big masked chins. I'd never walked into an OR; honestly, the whole idea of walking into an OR was a little alien. They never showed anyone WALKING into an OR on Grey's Anatomy.

"Wait, this is it?" I actually said.

Carmen, maybe realizing that my mind was finally catching up to my body and beginning to feel afraid, said quietly and firmly, "This is it."

"I think I'm scared."

"That's normal."

"My heart is going really fast."

"That's what happens as soon as you walk in here."

And with that, I felt better. I don't know why. Maybe because I believed that my adrenaline spike was just a normal reaction and should be taken in stride. Maybe that was the moment I realized that I was surrounded by faces that were all smiling happily behind their masks, and this was not a bad thing. Maybe because there were so many of them in the room - at least 6 people, maybe more - and for the next hour or so, their only job was to focus on me. Maybe because I also saw that, apart from my ob-gyn, they were all women, just like me, and they were going to help me get through this. It was cold and vast and sterile and alien, but I felt the shadow of the birthing tent in that room. The hospital is where life goes to get interrupted, but this room, in this wing of the hospital, on that day - this was where life went to begin.

Someone helped me climb onto the table. There was a flurry all around. The anesthesiologist began to prepare me for the epidural; she directed me to slump on the resident in front of me, to relax completely and curve my spine "like a cat."

"Like a cat, like a cat," I muttered, "oh, this is like yoga, ha ha, I really should have taken prenatal yoga..."

"You're doing great! A little more, just stretch down and relax..."

"Like a cat ... like this? Am I doing this right?"

"That's fantastic," said the friendly voice behind me, "have you EVER seen such a good cat spine, EVER?" (I wondered if the over-the-top positive reinforcement meant I was acting really psycho.)

"That really is great, that's terrific" obediently said the unnervingly stunning resident into whose arms I was slumping. I hoped I wouldn't crush her. She held me in a full embrace, and she looked like an actress playing a beautiful young doctor on a Shondaland TV show. As I tried to relax into her, I realized two things: one, that I would never be as thin as her, ever, and two, that I was about to get stabbed in my fucking SPINE, and that it needed to get done perfectly so as to prevent me from feeling myself getting cut fucking OPEN.

"You are going to feel a coldness, and then a little pinch," said the anesthesiologist, whose voice was so youthful and sweet, I crazily wondered if this was her first solo gig. (I Googled her later, and Dr. Kimberly Gratenstein actually TEACHES anesthesiology. I was in damn good hands.) It felt very important to me to know exactly what to expect.

"A little pinch, what does that mean? Is it going to feel like a regular shot?"

"Exactly." I relaxed. "And then you'll feel some pressure." I unrelaxed, while attempting to keep my spine catlike and relaxed. I'd heard about this "pressure" on the blogs. It sounded terrifying, but it was all already happening - the coolness of an alcohol swab, the poke of a needle, and then, the pressure. I braced myself for awfulness, but it felt like a fist pushing into my spine - not lightly, exactly, but I've definitely dealt with worse on crowded subways.

"Is that it?" I said, and "that's it!" said Dr. Gratenstein, and then things moved fast. "Get her on the table quick" someone said, and I could feel my legs falling asleep even as someone scooped them up onto the table. I was positioned, quickly, on my back, my arms out to either side of me, the classic pose of Christian martyrdom. I could feel everything falling asleep now, going numb, and it felt crazy, because I could still feel SOMETHING in my legs and lower torso, but I could not move a muscle.

I could feel people hovering there, touching me, draping me, smoothing that surgical clingfilm stuff over my abdomen; but I could not move. I was assured this was normal - my kind of epidural does not cut off all sensation, it only eliminates pain - but it felt sci-fi and far-out, like a scene from one of those sleep-paralysis horror stories. I tried not to focus on that; a blue paper screen was hoisted, flapping, in front of me like a mainsail, and everything that was happening south of my sternum stopped being my problem. It was uncomfortable to lie on my back - I'd avoided the position for the last two months or so - and I kept feeling just a little short of breath or nauseous, but the divine Dr. Gratenstein stood by my head the whole time, and responded to every complaint I made by making mysterious adjustments that fixed everything within seconds. (I would like her to live with me and do that all the time.)

"Look who's here!" someone said, and I turned to see my husband looking foxy in a set of blue surgical scrubs, making Patrick Dempsey look like Brian Dennehy. I thought he should have been a doctor and told him so. He had the frightened, big-eyed look again, and he took a seat next to me and held my immobilized left hand. (My right hand was actually mostly available for movement, which was good, because my nose kept itching from the oxygen tubes.)

Things proceeded in an orderly, calm fashion. I can't say I've never been more comfortable in my life, but, with Dr. Gratenstein on one side of my head, and my husband on the other, I definitely felt OK. I was getting a perverse kick out of the fact that I was getting cut open, and could feel people rummaging inside me, and that it didn't hurt. It was like I was a vampire or zombie or something equally cool. This was also the only time in my life that I can remember that people laughed at all my idiotic nervous jokes and agreed with everything I said. (Once again. I would like Dr. Gratenstein to live with me for always, and laugh at all my jokes, and say sweet things, and make everything not hurt. Why can't I just have this one thing.)

"There he is," someone said, and I went quiet. "I can see his tushie!" someone else said, and I actually started trying to crane my neck as though a) this would allow me to see over the blue screen and b) it would have been any kind of good idea to look.

"You can see him?" I yelped. "You can see the baby?"

"Just his tushie for now."

"Well, is it a good tushie???"

"You're going to feel a lot of pressure now, a LOT of pressure," someone said from behind the screen. I braced myself mentally - but the truth was, the LOT OF PRESSURE was no worse than the weight of my ob-gyn leaning into my stomach. Once again, I've gotten worse on the subway.

In the next second or two, several things happened. I felt the pressure of a person leaning into my belly, and just as it was getting uncomfortable, there was the sudden relief of no longer having a fetus pressed against my lungs. Simultaneously, there was a prolonged scream, louder than anything I could have imagined, echoing through the OR, with a smoker-drinker's low rasp and an edge of righteous fury that would have been immediately recognized by every tech support person I have ever spoken to.

It was 10:56 am, and my son had just been born.

I was planning to be cool about the whole thing. I had rehearsed lines in my head; I'd contemplated misty mommy ("Look what we made!") versus grizzled barfly ("Well all right! Now, can I get a drink?") versus addled disbeliever ("Whoooa! That came outta ME?") I was NOT going to cry, and I was NOT going to act like one of those ridiculous women in the movies. Well, so much for that.

As soon as I heard him, I started tearing up. "My baby!" I blubbered in a voice I didn't recognize. "Give me my baby! I want to see him! My baby, my baby, why is he crying so hard, is that normal, can I see him, please, please let me see him, my baby, my baby, etc." My head and shoulders were jerking around, and I honestly think I was trying to hop off the table, scattering my innards all over the place, to get to the source of all that screaming. Which was unabating, by the way.

Carmen coolly rocked my world. I'd forgotten that I'd handed my DSLR off to her. This was not, after all, a birthing tent. In the middle of all that caterwauling - mine and the baby's - she calmly walked over to my side of the screen and handed me my Nikon. It was a few confused seconds before I understood what she meant and pressed the "Play" button - and there he was, hearty and real, nothing ephemeral about him, his face squinched in that scream, still smeared with blood here and there, and his knees somewhere around his armpits, his legs bent crazily up like a frog's. He was breech, facing my spine; he'd been in that exaggerated lotus pose for weeks, and he stayed in it after he was taken out.

My eyes had just focused on the screen; I was zooming into the image to get a better look at his face, trying to reconcile the contorted little stranger in the picture with the concept of "my baby," when the camera was whisked away, and then someone was coming toward me with a bundle of one of those striped hospital baby blankets. The bundle was making a lot of noise, and then, the nurse tilted it, and there was his face.

He looked unhappy and uncomfortable, but he was, in that moment, the only thing I ever wanted to look at. "Closer, please, closer," I begged, and the nurse brought him all the way down to my face on the left side, and I reached my right arm - the only one I could move - to touch him. I turned my head to nuzzle his angelic skin. His perfect rosebud mouth. The tiny cream-drop of his nose.

He was still crying. "We have to talk to him," I told my husband urgently, "he'll recognize our voices, he's been hearing them all along, he knows us." And we talked to him, both of us - "hi, baby," we said, and "welcome" and "we've been waiting for you" and "we love you." And he did stop crying. And so did I.

He snuffled, and sighed and relaxed, and he looked at me with bottomless charcoal gray eyes. He looked sentient and solemn and apprehensive and hopeful. He looked like he was as unsure about this whole thing as I was. He looked like he was willing to like me, maybe even love me, but I would have to give him a reason or two first. He looked like he was trying to figure out exactly who I was, and how the outside of me measured up to the inside. He looked like he could tell that I was trying to do this right, and he would give me a chance.

I am not sentimental (unless the right song is playing). I've read enough true accounts of motherhood that I did not expect a great, earth-shaking, soul-melting mind-alteration at the instant of birth. I suspected that, in that first moment, I would have the same reaction that I had to the photograph of him - cute, cuddly, yes, but a stranger. That isn't what happened - immediately, I wanted to touch him, to kiss him, but there was a tiny pause before I knew I really loved him.

He was a person. An individual. In his way, he was complete and formidable and charged with personhood and potential and personality. Right away. And in that brief instant before I knew I loved him, and that he was mine, I knew only that I respected him, and that he was his.


New home . . .

This place is feeling awfully comfortable . . .


This is a poem on a wall a few blocks from my house. I often walk by, but I think I've only read it in its entirety maybe twice, and each time, it's made me look at the world a little more calmly, a little more clearly, a little less darkly.

So I took a picture, so that I could read it whenever I wanted. It's a bit long for a mantra, but just right for a reminder.

I don't know who wrote this, and I don't know who thought to put this on a wall, but I'm grateful to whoever did those things.


Have finally redesigned photography site!
Come one, come all. BYOB.



It has been a long time since I've made an appearance here.

I always did figure that would happen - just about every blog I've started, the day comes when something stops me from coming back to it. Maybe because a living chronicle is, by nature, haunted by the ghost of the younger self who started it, all smiles and enthusiasm, picking out background graphics and fonts, imagining all the excellent adventures and sparkling insights that would one day dance across the scrolling pages. And, after a while, after you've disappointed yourself enough times, you lack the courage to look that optimistic younger self in the eye.

If you're a coward, that is. Which I am.

On paper, it has been a busy and progressive (in the sense of making progress) year or so. Last July in particular, was quite the hotbed of activity - I started a new (steady-ish) job, found a new apartment, and moved in with my then-boyfriend - all in a matter of about 3 weeks. (I always find it hard to wrap my mind around just how FAST the most important changes tend to happen.) And then I got engaged. So, you know, hurrah - the developmentally arrested adolescent has grown up, glory be and hallelujah, let angels sing and let parents unrend their garments at long last.

In theory.

In practice, it has been a long, vicious winter of discontent. In practice, while I am actually - surprisingly - happy in my relationship and deliberate codependency, everything else has been falling around my ears. Sometime last fall, I realized that I'd stopped doing everything that made me feel like "me" - writing, photography, music. I pulled away from my friends and all the things I used to love.

I felt like I betrayed myself. I felt like I'd slid backward, past all the personal-development progress I'd made in the last few years, into a black hole I recognized well from circa 2006, when I finished grad school, finally got my last degree and found myself completely unsure of who I was or what I wanted. I felt lost; I felt wasteful; I felt wasted and angry and aimless.

I've been blaming my job for sucking the life out of me; I've been blaming the weather; I've been blaming my lack of alone time. And maybe all of that is true, to an extent.

But maybe it's also time to forgive myself. And maybe the long road of life sometimes loops in on itself. And maybe I just need to stop comparing today's reality with yesterday's dreams of its tomorrow.

Life, despite all the pretty metaphors, is nothing like a book or movie or symphony. At least, not until it's over, and by then, it's left to the lawyers and biographers to sort out. Until then, every time you feel like you've Finished something or Closed A Chapter or Gotten It At Last, and somehow manage to idiotically infer that this Accomplishment means anything will be easier or simpler from now on, somebody up there laughs, pats you on the head and politely refrains from pointing out that you probably felt the exact same way when you finally managed to make poo-poo on the Big Kid Seat.

I have no illusions of anyone giving a damn about any of this. I am not sure why I am writing tonight. Maybe because I just feel like I need to. Maybe because I need to remind myself that I can't fight or deny the present reality by refusing to write about it. And maybe just because whatever future self comes back around this blog, she deserves a better host than that goddamned snot-nosed font-picking punk who's been running this joint lately.

Fuck optimism.

Bring on the future anyway.


Balls to the Wall, or, The Joy of Metal

I've never been a big fan of heavy metal. Oh, I've never minded it; I even like some songs, especially when I'm in the gym or feeling angry. I know the names of the more famous songs and artists. But I've never considered myself a real fan. Still, when I was invited to go to an Accept show, I didn't see why not. Even though the only Accept song I knew was their biggest hit, "Balls to the Wall" - and I only knew that because it was on the "Wrestler" movie soundtrack.

So I went to the show last night. It was their first time playing New York in 15 years; it was their first show with a brand-new lead singer; and it was a "promo" gig, so they played the Gramercy Theater, which has a (sold-out) capacity of only 750. We ended up in the front row. (Well, I was in second, but the only one in front of me was a 12-year-old who came up to below my chin.)

The opening band totally stunned me. It's called JC Satellite and Accept's bassist's son is in the band; this much I'd heard. What I hadn't realized was that his son is about 17, and the rest of the band members (three brothers) are the same age or younger. The lead singer/guitarist is 13 (!!!) years old, small and slight, with a cherubic pink-cheeked face under a pale, halo-y mop of rock-and-roll hair . . . and, seriously, he has the charisma, stange presence and poise of any seasoned stage veteran I've seen. It was extremely impressive. (And a little disturbing, to tell the truth, but not in a bad way.)

After a respectably brief break - and an introduction by NYC radio DJ Eddie Trunk - the band finally came out. The crowd roared and strained forward. A hundred hands thrust out of the sea of bodies, holding cameras and camera-phones aloft. Scented ganja clouds shot into the air and spread like incense in the temple of rock-n-roll. And Accept launched into what turned out to be 2 hours and (about) 10 minutes of non-stop high-octane energy. One song after another. No breaks, no slowing down. Just a continuous stream of intense, room-shaking sound and primal, visceral animal joy.

And this is the part that got to me. Maybe it's because this was a promo show (they did a meet-and-greet with VIPs immediately after); maybe because it was their return to touring; maybe it was just a good night. But I have NEVER seen that kind of stage-generosity. And I tend to frequent Celtic and folk and alt-something shows, where the houses are small and the songs are personal and the artists give a LOT away to the audience.

Every time one of the band members saw a camera - whether in the teeming row of press photographers right by the stage or in the audience - he would pose. They smiled, they made devil faces, stuck their tongues out, completely hammed it up - and, every so often, a couple of them would exchange a look and laugh. Happily. Glowingly. I swear, I have never thought of metal as "happy" music before, but that is exactly what I got out of last night's concert. (Great Big Sea fans will understand this - it was like 5 Alan Doyles playing to a roomful of wannabe-Alan Doyles.

I'm glossing over a few details, I suppose. Like the crush of people in the front, made worse by the rude shovers (but that's certainly not the band's fault). And the music, of course, is a matter of taste. I did enjoy it, but I have to admit, every song sounds kind of the same to me (although non-fans would say the same about Celtic instrumentals) and I could make out only about 5% of the lyrics (although that doesn't stop me from listening to, say, Swedish hip-hop/swing). And the fact that I hadn't gotten enough water, but that's my own damn fault. (Next metal concert: sneakers, thinnest T-shirt possible and a GALLON of water for the show.)

But I've got to say, I kinda loved it. My ears are still not back to optimal performance today, but it was worth it. And it's always nice to be surprised - I never would have thought that I would end up enjoying a metal show this much. Certainly never expected to see so many open, friendly, joyful smiles up on that stage. (Also didn't expect to see men in their 50s looking quite that good. Wow. I love you, Wolf Hoffman.) Not to mention - and I suppose this wasn't so much a surprise as a delightful find - the sheer instrumental/technical prowess of the band. At one point, they played a metallic, electric medley of classical music. I actually started to squeal, it was so good.

I'd thought I understood the appeal of metal. The intensity, the violence, the animalism, the physicality. What I'd underestimated - and maybe it was just this show? - is the joy of it. The joy of the performers and the audience, who both participate fully in the experience. (Afterward, I spotted several instances of audience members congratulating each other on a "great show.")

I'd not gonna turn in my acoustic for an electric. And I'm not gonna stop cutting my hair. (Although I am on the look-out for studded leather wristbands.) But I've definitely come away from the show a little more metal-friendly than I'd been before.


yellow smile

Recently lost a notebook - again! - though, fortunately enough, this one contained very little and was not a Principal Notebook, just a scratch pad of sorts. As some sort of weird penance for my absentmindedness, thought maybe should keep promise to self to occasionally drop some older scribbles here.

One of those nights when the darkness comes to hover low, slow and sweet as an addict's next last draw. Nowhere to go - the lights of tattoo shops bright-white stablike, customers slabbed like patients etherized upon tables, drunkards stumbling through streets, talking to their own universe, their invisible gods. One of those New York nights when the city is a swelling hologram of an ocean, overwhelming and untouchable; a slurred feast of life where I am an uninvited guest, an unnoticed gatecrasher.

Late hours of a winter Wednesday night, the lower east side still breathes its fumes of tobacco and cheap liquor through uneven yellow teeth, mumbling minute myths from beneath a tightly drawn black hood. Music spurts from the doors of bars like streams of brown juice onto the sidewalk; the doors belch forth the sated staggering and yawn wider to admit the thirsty determined. The girls are Sunday morning's carnations, broken-stemmed and limp-edged, a few more petals lost to "he-loves-me-he-loves-me-not." The boys swagger, loud and thick in winter coats; they've grown teeth on their fingers and eyes on their knuckles and they inflate with every emptied glass.

This is the feast and none of us have been invited to the king's table, so we snatch and snatch and grab and pinch and filch and scrabble. Every mouse will find his crumb, but why settle for only one crumb when you can cram in two, three, more, more, more. Bigger, better, more - what if the one behind you gets to carry away what you dropped?

They spill into the streets like fruit fallen off the cart, rolling bright, bouncing brown into the gutter, spilling sticky everywhere. Bugger the cold - the skirts are short, the sleeves rolled up, jackets gaping like a leer. Get it, get it, get it all before you are too old, before it catches up with you, before you no longer look good in those jeans, before you can no longer tell yourself they look good on you.

We spill like wine spills on a tablecloth, greedily eating up the white. We drink to find courage enough to do something memorable and then, we drink the memories away. The streets are full of tomorrow's vomiting headaches. The bars are crammed with tomorrow's regrets. And underneath, the trains grind along almost unwillingly, shaking exhausted homeward.

The Big Apple. No matter how soft and rotten parts of it can get, it's big enough that you'll always find a shiny chunk worth sinking your teeth into. No recession, no depression, no crime rate, no filth, nothing short of total nuclear annihilation will turn New York into anything other than what it is - a mecca, a temple, a thief's wide-eyed promise. It hums a ditty out of one corner of its cracked, painted mouth and spits bones out the other. It cracks its knuckles and polishes its fingernails. It snaps on a garter belt and slips out its dentures. It keeps one hand in your pants and the other in your pocket. It whispers red words of love and serves you with a printed invoice afterward.

This is New York; a syphilitic whore who will fuck you for free and charge you extra for the penicillin afterward. And you'll pay - you'll pay because you want to survive till the next go. You'll pay for the privilege of believing in that next go, the mere possibility of another crumb being flung.



pee-yew, eh?

So I recently read this article called The New Dating Game (caution: it's LONG), which was, in part, about the PUA (pick-up artist) culture, and I'd read the PUA bible (or one of 'em, anyway) a couple years ago. (The Game, by Neil Strauss. It's actually a damn good book.) So, reading the above article kinda got me to go poking around online a little to look at the PUA pages and read some message boards - real people typing real thoughts, not some gifted writer packaging the whole thing in a salable narrative.

I'm going to lay aside the fact that reading the unvarnished thoughts of self-styled unabashed assholes and their loyal acolytes is not the most pleasant thing in the world; it's not, but I've always found reality and truth to generally be a desirable thing. So I chose not to take offense to any of the very offensive things posted - but I definitely came away from the reading feeling just a little more worried about the state of the world.

Whether I read the accounts of men or women (yes, there is also a small community of aspiring female pick-up artists, "alpha females," etc.) it really seemed like the biggest factor in whether you were going to get together with someone was what other people would think. That and the whole "vanquishing" factor. The "power" complex that was behind all those ridiculous games played with phone calls and texts and whatever.

If only men stopped hating and fearing female power. If only women stopped resenting male power. How much happier we all would be if people could fuck without calculating the impact it has on our actual or perceived "social value." If we didn't feel we had to fuck on or above our "level"; if there WERE no levels. How much happier and less brain-fucked we'd be if every romantic/sexual interaction wasn't also a transaction.

I am not discounting the intrinsic, primal allure of an objectively beautiful man or women in his or her physical prime. But, from what I've read (and seen in life), a surprisingly large number of people aren't actually seeking to find a sexually satisfying experience with a person they are deeply attracted to. It's way more left-brained than that.

Guys want to fuck lots of "hot chicks." Girls want to feel they are chosen by guys who can fuck lots of "hot chicks." Guys seem to be driven by a wish to impress other guys; girls want to impress other girls. How utterly pointless. How . . . well, how gay. (Not that there's anything wrong with that . . . unless you purport to be straight.)

It's true what Leonard Cohen sang - "the naked man and woman are just a shining artifact of the past." How lovely it would be if we could attain some sort of nirvana, where we just follow the irrational tingle without thinking of what our friends will think of our chosen partner. If there wasn't so much "sport-fucking" and more pure, naked communion, based in the clean joy of unconnotated flesh-pleasures. Without thinking about who paid for the drinks or how tall he is or how many other guys are looking down her cleavage.

Perhaps a drop of LSD in the water supply really wouldn't go amiss, eh?

Or maybe I'm just a hopeless romantic.



Been fiddling around with a new design for my photo site, currently hosted here. The new one would look like this. Still dithering over how much sparkly faux-Flash animation stuff I should use, and wondering what psychological insights can be gleaned from the fact that I can never pick just ONE photo for the splash page . . . or, for that matter, two. Or three. Or eight.

Been sorta delving into the graphic side of my brain - retouching some of the recent shots I've taken and meant to retouch; revisiting the old photos too, and trying to figure out how I can make them better. Or, if not better, how I can bring them closer to my artistic vision. Which is a tough question to answer when a) one's vision shifts periodically and b) when the very notion of ascribing an "artistic vision" to oneself makes one's inner cynical asshole bust a gut.

Over and over, I come back to the look of "magical realism." Years ago, when I first discovered photography - and Photoshop - I'd kind of abused that concept, drenching every shot in copious amounts of soft-focus blur and hyper-saturation. Finally, an older photographer not-very-gently informed me it made my work look amateurish. I eased up on the blur, but I still do love vivid colors and have never been beholden to the idea of making my digital images look as close to film as possible. To me, the camera and the software are just tools - same as paints and brushes. If I SEE a red sky, if I want a red sky in my image, why not put one there?

But I do wonder sometimes, if I am going too far. If my work does look amateurish. Then again, the inside of my mind probably does too.



So, once again, I find myself returning here, feeling slightly penitent, slightly prodigal, wondering whether I should attempt to write into some sort of theme ('cept there ain't one), or just blurt something to break the silence.

To be honest, I'd had this Very Special Entry planned - in fact, I was going to simply copy it out of my paper journal. A little while back, I'd written a long and truthful account of the aughties in my journal - so truthful, in fact, that it's pretty much hopeless to edit out the parts I'd rather keep private. So, I'm not going to try.

In that entry, I dwelled intensely on how the aughts were "my decade." And they were. I turned 18 in the fall of 1999 - came of age, you might say. Everything major that happened to me (so far) happened in the last 10 years. I have to admit, I was unusually nostalgic as 2009 came to a close. Kept thinking how I'd never write xx/xx/0x in a date field again. Kept thumbing the pages of the journals I've kept faithfully for the past 3 years.

But, as it always happens, the new year was rung in, the kisses were exchanged, the champagne was quaffed, the car staggered groggily to my curb in the wee hours of January 1, and I woke up some hours later, the last sins of 2009 echoing deeply into 2010. Unchanged.

I gave up making resolutions a while ago. For that matter, I've given up artificial deadlines. And the only wish I ever make on stars or wishing wells or at 11:11 is "Just let everything be all right." Because, really, that's the only constant, isn't it? No sooner is one specialized wish granted than another one appears, seeming so much more urgent than the last. And what is a resolution but a wish, a prayer sent to the better angels of your own nature?

This year, I resolve to do just one thing. The same thing I've been doing for the last ten years, or twenty. I resolve to continue slouching toward my Bethlehem, skipping to my loo, and following my bliss. I resolve to trip over my own feet and fall flat on my face, to sit down in puddles along the way and refuse to go another step, to whine and complain and bitch and moan, and then get up and keep going, in whichever direction seems best at that particular moment.

Yes, of course, I have certain goals I'd like to achieve, certain ideas of what I'd like my future to look like. But those are the details, the ephemeral wishes that will either come true or not, and then recede into history like individual dots in a pointillist painting. All I resolve to do is . . . paint more dots.

Happy new year :)



Nearly a year ago, caught in the middle of the hardest mindfuck I'd
ever endured up till that point, I got drunk in a small Canadian town
and took a dumb leap of faith. I told a woman I barely knew the
biggest, heaviest secret I carried. (It was, in truth, not such a big
deal. But I have so few secrets that it felt enormous.)

In the immediate aftermath, I was horrified. That night, I was
surrounded by people whom I'd known much longer and better than I knew
that woman - people who would seem to have had a much better claim on
the status of my sudden confidante. But the bar was noisy, dark and
crowded; I'd had a few cocktails; my inhibitions were down and I
suddenly went with my gut feeling. It was something I almost never

She, in turn, revealed a few things to me. And so, a friendship began,
in tumbled whispershouts against the background din of other people's
laughter; on a furtive, madly giggling walk through a skin-searingly
cold northern night; with a sigh of relief and a smile of abject

I've always had a reverent view of this sort of female friendship.
Perhaps because it is so hard to come by - REAL female friendship, I
mean. Not frolicsome and fickle sorority "sisterhood"; not attachments
of shifting mutual convenience; not sticky gossip mills and subtly
intra-vampiric "support groups."

I guess I am trying to say, it's hard to find a girl who will tell you
that you look fat in that skirt; but without making you FEEL fat; with
an immediate suggestion for an outfit that you WILL look great in; and
without ever rejoicing in her momentary superiority to you.

You can have wonderful male friends; and, heck, you can have a great
time at sorority parties. But, to me, there is nothing like the energy
of meaningful female interaction. And I've only felt that energy a few
times in my life.

It's something to be cherished and recognized as rare and precious.
Even if it comes to an end, it should be treated with respect and
dignity. And if it merely hits a snag - as all relationships do -
attempt to get through it. If you fucked up - done something
questionable, wrong, even ugly - fess up, talk about it, and just be
honest. One of the miracles of the female soul is its deep capacity
for compassion. Trust yourself and the remarkable women in your life,
that honesty and compassion will prevail over almost any drama.

I've had a few wonderful days lately. Hell, I've had a couple of
incredible years lately (in a very personal sense). I've seen and done
more - and become more - than I could ever have imagined a few years
ago. And the best of it has been with the help of a few amazing women
I've met along the way. Amazing women who encouraged and enabled me,
and, perhaps most importantly, gave me permission to tell myself (and
the world) that, while I may not be perfect, I'm sure as hell not
broken. And they gave me that permission freely and generously, merely
by being that light they wished to see in the world.

I so often feel grateful to these women who made a real, cognizable
and extraordinarily valuable difference in my life. I almost never say
anything. I don't even know if they realize it. But, whether they read
this or not, it's how I feel.

Love you, my bitchez :)


For the last few days (maybe weeks), the universe has been smiling at me.

And I'm finally able to smile back.

And however long this feeling lasts, I'm just going to be thankful . . . and keep smiling.



It's a chilly, dreary, grey day. An endless rain comes down on New York, as if on cue. Completely unlike that cruelly ironic sunny Tuesday - ah, we've all gone through this so many times. Eight times, at least, right?

For the last couple of days, watching the calendar tick toward this anniversary, my strongest feeling had been relief that, for the first time in a couple of years, I would not be spending 9/11 downtown. Last year, and the year before that, I'd been working in a building right adjacent to Ground Zero; just about every day, I had to direct tourists to what the Onion had dubbed the "World Trade Center Memorial Hole," wondering what the hell they could get from posing next to a big, empty construction site. It got that much worse on 9/11 itself, when the streets became clogged with policemen and gawkers, their numbers dwarfing the actual mourners into relative insignificance.

So I was glad I would be nowhere near there today, but, surprisingly - or perhaps not - it still feels the same. Still the same sense of grief and anger and frustrated impotence. And, strangely, a vague wish to be there, downtown, feeling whatever it is I feel.

Recently, I had the privilege of seeing John Mann of Spirit of the West perform in small, intimate concert. One of my favorite songs of the show was "Nothing Ever Dropped," about the relatively uneventful nature of his generation's formative years.

"Nothing ever dropped
Nothing ever fell
Nothing dropped and left a deep impression
No great war, no great depression."

For better or worse, this was The Event of my generation. The towers dropped, and everything changed.

I remember that morning, of course. I was sleeping in, as usual, in my dorm room on the Upper West Side, miles away from the financial district. I woke to my mother's phone call shortly past 9 a.m. - "terrorists had attacked New York." Unfortunate choice of words; for a second, I thought we were literally being attacked, as in, they were marching into the city, and instinctively looked out the window. Nope, all quiet.

And then, we turned on our TVs and our radios and began running to one another's rooms. And cell phones weren't working and loved ones weren't accounted for, people couldn't get home, couldn't get through, and all hell was breaking loose.

It was Howard Stern who told me the towers had fallen, actually. I was surfing radio stations, trying to get more information, when I landed on his voice - "Oh my God, it's going to fall. Oh my God, there it goes." For a minute, I actually felt pissed off - this is NOT something to fucking joke about, Howard, I thought pissily, and then switched stations, only to realize it was not a fucking joke.

This has all been told before. I've never liked going over it. I was lucky - I lost no one. I had one friend working in WTC and he had been late to work that day. I didn't even lose my sense of security, really - I've always been the kind who figures, your time comes when it comes, and no sense in trying to outrun it; so I never started fearing planes or tall buildings or large gatherings that could become targets. And I never wanted to be one of those who milks the I-Was-There moments for a story.

I wasn't there. I have no good reason to climb on a soapbox; my story is the same one you'd hear from any other of the millions of people who were in NYC that day.

My loss is the same loss everyone feels - the skyline, mainly. You never really get over it. Not really. You never look at the skyline without noticing the big, gaping hole where the towers - love the architecture or not - had stood.

The immediate aftermath of 9/11 was a somewhat complicated thing - initially, there really was that incredible feeling of community, of union. On September 14, most of my university turned out for a candlelight vigil on campus; we sang songs of peace, some people made speeches, and then, a bunch of us walked downtown. As we walked, others joined us; at one point, someone joined in who was holding an enormous American flag, and we walked along and sang beneath the gently wind-wafted banner. The cabbies - the New York cabbies, for God's sakes - stopped to let us pass, even when they had the light. The oceanic feeling was strong, as Freud would have said - but, guaranteed, had he been there, he'd have been lost in it too.

The cinematic moments were nice, but they didn't last; and that's a good thing. New Yorkers are, contrary to popular belief, pretty good, compassionate people for the most part, but we're not built for small-town sweetness, and there was a slight sense of relief when things went back to normal and cabbies started gunning their engines at you again. Rough normalcy is better than soft grief.

That wasn't the complicated part - that came later, when the world seemed to divide into hawks and doves, neo-cons and bleeding heart liberals. Everyone's politics came out. In fact, a lot of things came out, and some of them weren't pretty. I lost a good friend, and I am pretty sure a big reason for that was the difference in our responses to what had happened.

It's been a long time. So long, sometimes it's hard to remember (for me, anyway; I was not quite 20 on 9/11/01) a time before Afghanistan and Iraq were in every other headline, before everyone was arguing about what was right and wrong, and what the government should or shouldn't be doing. Before all the buzzwords - "domestic security," "terrorism," "Guantanamo" - became part of our everyday vernacular. The wars may be far away from us geographically, but they've become a permanent fixture in our consciousness. And, sometimes, I wonder when it will end - but only sometimes, because, in the last 8 years, it's become hard to imagine a world without it.

I'm not promoting a "crunchy" ideal of peace - I know better. Peace is nice, it's great, it's a wonderful ideal, but there will never really be peace in the world; just relative lulls in the violence and brief respites of ignorance in certain media regions. But I do sometimes wonder what we'd all be like if the last 8 years had been quieter.

Well, maybe we wouldn't be different at all; who really knows.

I've never been of the school who tries to find a "bright side" in tragedy. I don't believe the Holocaust was "good" for Jewish identity, and I don't believe industrial accidents are "good" for future knowledge, and I sure as hell don't think there was anything good about a bunch of psychopaths flying planes into buildings. (Especially considering the current state of airline security, but that's another blog.)

But every year, trudging through the pervasive misery of this hideous anniversary, there is, at least, the promise (whether it will be kept or not) of 9/12. There is always a tomorrow, until there isn't (and if there isn't, you won't be there to care). There is always the prospect of future normalcy - where the cabbies scream obscenities even if you ARE wearing an American flag; where airplane seats are sold out; where tall buildings are being built with no thought of planes flying into them.

Some call it carelessness or heedlessness. I say, be careless. Be heedless. Live. The legacy of past tragedies should not be fear; rather, I believe it should be a casual but sincere gratitude for every day of normalcy. The sky is blue, or will be tomorrow. The sun will rise and set, turning the clouds purple and gold. Someone will kiss you or smile at you or try to feel you up. A dog will lick your face, or maybe just refrain from biting your ankle.

Remember; mourn; grieve; be angry if you feel angry. Be whatever you are, but don't forget the simple joy of ordinary days. Ultimately, if there was anything we collectively lost after 9/11 it was the ordinariness of ordinary days - days with no headlines or death tolls or urgent news reports from abroad. All the more reason to appreciate them when they come around.


gentlemen in bars

A Latvian after 1 drink: passable, if accented English.

A Latvian after 2 drinks: broken English.

A Latvian after 3 drinks: nearly incomprehensible English.

Anything after that: Horny, horny Borat. "Baby, I vant fok you."



My fingernails and I have a long and complicated history. Actually, it really isn't that complicated - I used to bite them viciously, then I bit them casually, then I stopped biting them altogether, then I decided to start grooming them. Like, you know, a normal person.

Yesterday, for the first time in over a decade (I think), I intentionally cut them short. SHORT. Like, they don't reach to my fingertips. SHORT.

This has had a drastic impact on my life so far. I can no longer scratch myself satisfactorily. Picking at pimples, which had once been a guilty pleasure, is now a chore. And forget drumming bitchily on a deli counter while I'm waiting for my change.

It's only half as terrible as it could be, though, because I've only butchered the tips of my left hand. Because, you see, I have finally followed a temptation that has niggled at the back of my mind for about 5 years - last night, I went to my first class at the New York City Guitar School. Guitar for Absolute Beginners. That's me.

So far, so good. Learned two chords. And by "learned," I mean, "heard about." Brought a rented guitar home last night - man, nothing like walking through the city with an axe strapped to your back. Felt like a rock star. Until I almost lost my balance on the subway stairs. (Whatevs. I'll just pretend I'm tripping on goofballs.)

We shall see where this goes. Ultimately, I'd like to pick up enough skill to compose and play simple melodies for my lyrics. Realistically, it's entirely possible this guitar will end up in the same pile as the keyboard I got for my 10th birthday, the harmonica I loved for one month in eighth grade, and the kazoo I purchased from a gorgeous, tattooed candy-shoppe owner in St. John's. Not to mention the shakers and spoons. And the tambourine I stole somewhere.

Yeah, I know. I could have a pretty cool folk band going, if I could just make three or four invisible friends.

Got my first real 6-string
(rented, but for now, it's mine)
played until the cats all howled
was the summer of 2009 . . .


completely insensitive reporting of a child's birthday party

My boyfriend's 11-year-old nephew: What is this, what the fuck . . .
Boyfriend: You mean fudge. Chocolate fudge.
Fat kid: What? Chocolate fudge? You have chocolate fudge?
Nephew: (with incredible look of contempt and annoyance) Aw, FUCK,
whadja mention fudge for, now he's gonna want some . . .


Candle In the Wind

Goodbye, Michael J
No, I never knew you at all
But every time I saw you on
TV, my skin would crawl
I heard about your good works
All the music that you'd made
But all I could think was
"What a subterranean shade . . ."

And it seems to me, you lived your life
Like a candle in the wind
Pasty white and dripping
And so alarmingly thin
And I would have liked to know you
Especially when I was a kid
'Cause, boy, you paid a lot of dough
For what your candle did.

The "Thriller" video sure looked cool
And so did that sparkly silver glove
You rabble-dazzled everyone
And gave them someone to love
Even when you turned
Your face into a mask
Your fans still stood behind you
And kneeled to kiss your ass

And it seems to me, you lived your life
Like a candle in the wind
Amid all the court appearances
And the babies dangling
It must have been nice to know you
For all those cute little kids
Who did so much more for you
Than Lisa Marie ever did

Goodbye, Michael J
Our superannuated Peter Pan
In the end, were you black or white?
A woman or a man?
Goodbye, Michael J
From a young woman who can't turn on
Her bloody radio today
Without hearing your overplayed songs

And it seems to me, you lived your life
Like a candle in the wind
With the blowing and the twitching
And the sputtering
And I know you were messed up in the head
From all that fame as a kid
But that's still a bad excuse
For all that fucked-up shit you did.

Yeah, that's not a good excuse
For all that fucked-up shit you did.

Spare me if you have a problem with this, OK?


Dear New Yorkers with umbrellas . . .

I know how hard it is to be you, juggling a soy mocha latte in one
hand, typing into your corporate BlackBerry about how much you hate
your boss with the other, and managing to hold your umbrella aloft
using little more than the muscles of your neck and shoulder. I know
you can't be bothered to watch where you're going. But if another one
of you bumps into me, I may have to take that umbrella from you . . .
and beat you with it.

You have been warned.


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