First of all . . . we are not alone.

Secondly . . . today, I ordered this and this.

And if you know me, you know exactly why the act of placing that order put me into a 20-minute giggle git*.

*That last word should have been "fit." But I happen to love that typo.

on response (from the archives)

The best songs are ones that make us want to sing back - in whatever voice we can muster.

Perhaps that is the task of artists - not to create something brand new, necessarily, not even to self-express, but to inspire and encourage others to sing. To find their voice, their story; to unlock doors they might not have been aware of.

I can appreciate a work of art, even enjoy it, but I know it's hit a target only when it sends me reaching for a pen, searching for a word. In that moment, the painting, the story, the song ceases to dangle outside me; it slips into my immediacy and begins a conversation.

In part, these notebooks are the keepers of such conversations. Whether I admit it or not.

August 17, 2007.

As an exercise in courage, I am going to attempt to force myself to put out some of the entries from my private journals. This was pretty much the first installment.]



My earthly riches

Just decoupaged Moleskine #6 yesterday - that's the one on the bottom, with the yellow design. #5 is the one with all the little mini photo stickers; #4 has the diagonal stripes and gold leaves. #s 1-3 are stacked beneath.

I always say - these notebooks contain my earthly riches. Doesn't look like much, but hey, at least it isn't market-dependent.


About two years ago, I wrote a story. I should say, I began a story, and I wrote many parts of it out of sequence, and then, I found any number of reasons not to finish it.

I thought it was a story about a love affair. An illicit love affair between a female writer and her friend's husband. I thought it was a story about the complicated nature of friendship; about the tension between personal happiness and a sense of responsibility; about missed chances and completed choices. And about love, of course.

I wrote the final scene of the story on a warm day in Bryant Park. The night before, I had begun something powerful, but I hadn't realized it yet. I sat in the park, took out my notebook and scribbled out 15 pages or so without stopping.

Only then did I realize what the story was about. Not love. Not friendship. Not desire. It was about a writer's search for a happy ending. Even if it wasn't her own.

Maybe that's really all everything is about.


dusty haven

Today, on one of the first truly beautiful days of the spring season, I decided to take a little field trip down to one of my favorite neighborhoods - Brooklyn Heights. It is home to some quiet, pretty streets, the generously lovely Brooklyn Promenade, and a whole bunch of good-to-excellent restaurants/eateries. (Including Jacques Torres, but why tempt the devil.) It's also right near the end of the famous Brooklyn Bridge, so you can either begin or end a walk across there.

One of my favorite routes - uncreative though it is - is a walk on Montague Street. I get off at Court Street and walk up to the water. On the way, I would pass by Monty's pizzeria (and when I say "pass by," I pretty much mean, stop in for a slice of delicious eggplant pizza and carry on), a MAC store (danger), and a Starbucks placed conveniently across the street from one of my favorite little used bookstores in the city.

Heights Books was a bookstore's bookstore. It was made for bibliophiles and no one else. The layout was too confusing to run in and grab what you were looking for. There were practically no nods to decorative sensibilities - just piles and piles of books everywhere, narrow wooden and metal shelves crammed so close together that certain sections might have been difficult for a claustrophobic (or a larger person) to access. Everywhere, dust, yellowing paper and well-used spines. Heaven.

My favorite was the poetry section. It was set off in the kind of odd corner that one would easily miss if one didn't know it was there. Once you were in there, you were basically in a tiny, triangular alcove of books, with only a person-wide gap through which to re-enter the world - whenever you decided to do so. They even had an old and rickety swivel chair there.

The selection was totally random. Books in a used bookstore generally are; and more so when it comes to sections like poetry. You had the usual Norton anthologies, the Penguin editions, the Dover Thrift editions (these always multiply at the end of a college semester), you had the usual classics and Big Names, but you also had dozens of poetry books by people you'd never heard of before - or had heard of maybe ONCE, and meant to look up, but forgot about.

I've long had a thing for poetry books. It's more than just reading the actual books, it's being surrounded by all that concentrated energy. One of my very favorite poets, Erica Jong, once said that a poem was "a little container of energy, released by the reader when they read the poem." So, sitting in that tiny space, filled so densely by hundreds of books containing thousands of little unopened energy containers always filled me with a sense of secret excitement and deliciously precarious serenity. I would sit in the chair, then crouch on the floor, looking at every single book on the shelves, savoring the titles and authors' names, fingering the spines, pulling out ones that looked promising and flipping through just enough pages to figure out whether this poet's energy could unlock my own.

Once you've done that for a little while, you enter a state that I call bookstore-nirvana. The right books suddenly stick to your thumbs as you pass your hands over them. They fly into your hands like friendly, dusty sparrows. Sometimes, they make you sneeze. Occasionally, they make you cry. Usually, they just make you grin with total, disbelieving delight at your dumb luck, as though a blind date has just gone really well.

I found one of my favorite books there that way. Hawksley Workman's hawksley burns for isadora, which I actually found on an absolutely horrible, profoundly painful day. (To give an idea of the day's unpleasantness, I started it off normally enough, intending to just push through it. When I burst into uncontrollable tears on the rush-hour train, I decided it might be a good time to take the morning off work and go somewhere peaceful till I calmed down.) I went to Heights Books, bought the jewel-like little thing and read it on a bench on the Promenade. It didn't exactly make me feel better, but the urgently burning brilliance of the words at least shook me out of my sorry state.

That's probably the most extreme example, but it isn't the only one. I've never left the store without two or three marvelous little finds. And I loved the slightly eccentric older man at the register, who answered any and all questions about books with the alacrity of someone who had inhaled several reams worth of paper dust over the course of his lifetime. He would eye your books, tally their prices, and then give you a final quote that, I could swear, knocked off a few extra bucks if he liked your taste.

I liked everything about that place. I liked the opera music that played softly whenever that particular eccentric man was working the register. (Not when there were young, self-important hipsters on duty, though.) I even liked the prices - fair and well below retail, but clearly set by someone who knew the sentimonetary value of a first edition, even when it was a 1971 by a virtual unknown. (And, yes, they had a great selection of rare/old books; but I only allowed myself brief looks at those. Similarly to how I tend to mostly avert my eyes from Harry Winston windows.)

I loved that place. And I hadn't been there in a few months - not since the weather had last been nice enough to take a walk through Brooklyn Heights. Imagine how I felt today when I arrived to find it boarded up, all signage removed, with a "For Rent" sign in the window. I'd planned to take a walk, buy a couple of books and then begin reading one of them in the Starbucks. Like a proper white person. Instead, I ended up empty-handed, nearly weeping into my green tea latte.

This may sound totally ridiculous, but it really did put a damper on my day. I went home with the intention to write a heartfelt eulogy to this beautiful little Brooklyn gem, railing against the recession, the corporations and the illiterates. And then, I had the bright idea to Google it, just to see if anyone else was as upset as I was about this.

A couple blog entries later, my day was looking brighter again. (At 3 a.m., yes.) Turns out, it only closed at that particular location. It's just reopened elsewhere. So, it looks like I'll have to change up my walking route a bit.

But my sweet little dusty haven is still out there, somewhere. And perhaps a friendly sparrow hides inside, tucked between a required English Lit text and a 1998 issue of a high school literary magazine . . . just waiting for me to find it.


happenness (the ultimate geek-out)

Just placed an order on JetPens.com. Ordered a dozen or so of my beloved Uni-ball Signo DX with the 0.28mm nib. Mostly in black and blue-black, with a couple of other colors tossed in (including the new brown-black, which may or may not become a hit with me).

I have been using these pens for about 1.5 years now. Sometime in the winter of 2007 (or perhaps December of 2006; not sure; I know it was cold and I was still on my first Moleskine), a friend of mine introduced me to them. She did this by gifting me a Hello Kitty pen she'd gotten in Japan.

At the time, I was on a quest for the perfect pen. I'd started journaling in a new type of notebook (afore-mentioned Moleskine) a couple months before, and had unlocked my personal secret to consistent graphoproductivity: sensualize the experience. Make it intrinsically beautiful and delicious. Make the act of putting pen to paper a sexy, satisfying experience.

So, I'd found the paper and the binding and all; now, I was just looking for a pen. It had to be a fast-flowing pen, capable of keeping up with my thoughts; I had not willingly used ballpoints for years. So, probably a gel-ink, felt or fountain-pen. At the same time, it had to dry quickly, so that I wouldn't need to worry about smearing the words with my hand or the opposite page.

It also had to have the finest nib possible. My handwriting is quick and messy, and a finer nib is more forgiving when it comes to legibility. Additionally, a fine nib leaves behind far less ink, which means it's a faster drying time. Also, I was using the pocket-sized Moleskine, and wanted to be able to write smaller.

I quickly realized my old faithful Uni-ball 0.5mm pens (available in bulk at all major office supply stores) produced WAY too clunky a line. Additionally, there was a bit of bleed-through on the pages. Minimal, but it wasn't good enough.

On the recommendation of some fellow obsessive graphomaniacs, I purchased the very reasonably priced and attractive Lamy Safari in red, together with a jar of Noodler's Ink in Zhivago. My God, it was sexy. The thick, red pen in my fingers; the rich flow of glistening green-black ink across the creamy virgin paper. My notebook seemed to whisper Lara's Theme every time I stroked it with the Lamy. Snowflakes fell, I think.

Unfortunately, even the finest nib available at the store wasn't quite fine enough. I got maybe 10 lines to a page. And it didn't dry quickly enough. (True to Noodler's promise, though, there was no bleed-through.)

I went through a few other options. First, I over-hastily ordered a dozen of the Pilot G-2 pens that many Moleskinites swore by. Most of those are still rattling around the house, being used to sign checks and make shopping lists.

My quest brought me to the pen-and-marker aisles of Pearl Paint, infinite mecca of artists, crafties and wannabes. I am not sure how many collective hours I spent doodling on the thoughtfully provided test-pads in those aisles, experimenting with, literally, dozens of types of pens in hundreds of colors. I am not sure how much money I spent on all those delectable Faber-Castell "artist pens," in various nib-sizes and shades (including sepiatones, mmmm). I am not sure how many sketchpads I bought, drunk on the heavy texture of watercolor paper, and completely forgetting my utter inability to sketch, draw or, frankly, color inside lines.

Alas, even the "Superfine" Faber-Castell pens were not fine enough. My Moleskine was Cinderella's glass slipper - and, just because it's a pretty foot, that don't mean it's gonna fit. I reserved my Faber-Castells for my watercolor activities (which mostly consisted of me dragging a pen across the paper and then hugging myself with the simple joy of watching the vibrant color appear on the creamy lawn, very much like a small, feeble-minded child during fingerpainting class).

I did content myself, for a while, with the Pigma Micron markers by Sakura. These also came in a nice range of colors, and - joy of joys - were available in a 0.05mm nib. (Which was like, WHOA, considering that the smallest nib I'd seen before that was a 0.1mm; which was nice, but c'mon, 0.05mm!!!!) So, for a while, I used those, and they were fine.

Then, I tried the Staedtler Pigment Liner, likewise in a 0.05mm nib. In black. (By then, I had realized, I would never be one of those cool people who can maintain a colorful and serious journal, and then take pictures of it and post them on Flickr.) The Staedtler is a fine pen, and I still have a stock of them - in 0.05mm and 0.1mm. (The thicker one is nicer for drawing, or to neatly write quotes.)

Right. So, it was in the midst of all this sturm-und-drang (I know, someone totally should write an ABC show about this), that my friend casually gave me that Hello Kitty pen. Which was really just an ordinary-looking ballpoint gel-ink (a.k.a., rollerball) pen with a clear barrel and a rubber grip. Except it had "Hello Kitty" on it, along with that little white kitty face that no female over the age of 10 should have anywhere near her person unless she is either Asian or pink-cheeked, pig-tailed, bobby-socked and is/was class president of Chappaqua High in Minneapolis or something.

But it was a damn fine pen. A damn fine pen. The finest nib I'd ever seen on a non-technical pen. Near-instant drying time. Quick, smooth flow. An unpretentious exterior. A damn fine pen. Unfortunately, the only words printed on it were "Hello Kitty." And some Japanese characters above a smirking, triumphant, elusive "0.28" on the cap. No brand name. Nothing.

So, I sighed to myself and continued searching. (Shortly after this, I discovered the Pigma Micron and the Staedtler.) Every so often, I'd use the Hello Kitty pen. But - and this is aside from feeling, every time I used it, as though a dozen small Japanese men had just ejaculated on me in a private karaoke room - I have this thing about "saving" the items I love the best. Living in the moment is all good and well, but when something is finite and rare-to-unavailable - a bottle of expensive perfume, a limited-edition MAC lipstick, the ink in a wonderful pen - I tend to only use it when the moment is either special, or when I want to make it feel that way. So I very seldom used my wonderful Hello Kitty pen.

Now. The Staedtler and the Pigma Micron are both fine pens, as I have said. However, they have their drawbacks. Firstly, they are kind of felt pens. I think. Felt-like, anyway. Which means they dry out at the drop of a cap (hah, hah?) and bringing them back to life is very difficult. Also, they have this incredibly skinny little wire-like nib, which doesn't take much effort to bend (especially when one writes on moving trains), which then makes your delicate little nib into a big-ass calligraphy nib, which is all good and well when you are trying to practice calligraphy, but not when you are angrily trying to get out onto paper how much you hate the See-You-Next-Tuesday in the cubicle across from yours, all in order to relieve the aggression and not defenestrate said See-You-Next-Tuesday upon your next encounter.

Which meant that I had to keep buying more pens. Which maybe wouldn't be so bad - despite the ~$3 price tag on each - except it was just friggen annoying to have to go to the store every few weeks; and then, sometimes, you'd get one and it was already dried-out or half-dried-out. Not cool. Clearly, the situation called for a rollerball.

Boldly, I decided to throw myself at the mercy of the almighty God, Google. I typed in "Hello Kitty pen 0.28", sprinkled the blood of a young goat over my keyboard and hit Enter. And, lo, just a few hits down the page, was someone's journal entry about her "Hello Kitty" pen and how it was really just a Uni-Ball Signo 0.28 with a logo on it. I did a dance of joy, stuck a tampon in the goat, and Googled "Uni-Ball Signo 0.28."

Which is how I came to JetPens. Basically, they specialize in Japanese pens, and all sorts of pens that, I guess, are a little rare on the American market. I nearly wept when, verily, I saw upon the screen the exact replica of my friend's pen, minus the "Hello Kitty" logo. I quickly ordered about 20 pens and waited, with bated breath, for the package to arrive. (OK, so I unbated my breath a few times in the interim.)

This was, I think, in about late spring/early summer 2007. Yes. My second Moleskine's second half is written in the distinctive blue-black rollerball ink. And Moleskines 3-6 were all written with the same pens - mostly in black or blue-black. (Except for a brief flirtation I once had with a vividly azure-colored 0.01mm Prismacolor Premier. I was feeling "blue" so I wrote in the bluest ink I could find. Don't ask.)

Just 2 days ago, I had to toss my last blue-black Signo, with just a smudge of ink left in its barrel. It wouldn't write anymore; it just tore the paper. The other black and blue-black pens were long gone too - most of them had run out of ink. I probably lost at least one or two others. It's possible I gave a couple away as gifts.

I still have my reserve of colorful pens - purple, hot pink, sky blue. (The emerald-green one was left uncapped too long; it dried out and had to be tossed a couple months ago.) But I just can't write my normal journal entries in these colors. It's too distracting. I feel like I have to be zany or something. It's very difficult to write about bleeding the black bile of your rotting love in fucking hot pink. Even purple, which I actually quite like (and do use, on occasion), often reminds me of Jessica Wakefield and the Unicorn Club.

So, I am happy to have placed an order with JetPens. I am looking forward to ripping into that package; to lovingly distributing the pens among various purses, backpacks and stationery stations; and to uncapping a beautiful, pristine pen and violently ripping out its cherry with a poem about love in the moonlight. Yesss . . .

And for now? I'm writing with . . . the old Hello Kitty pen. I never did use it much; plenty of ink left.

And you know what else? I added something to my order. In addition to the pens, I also ordered a pen refill. I plan to put it into the Hello Kitty pen. I will hold on to this pen. It is the pen that other pens came from. It has meaning and value, even if it is ridiculously decorated with a childish logo.

OK, fine - actually, I put the refill in the basket only because it costs less than a full pen, and I was only $0.50 away from free shipping, so I chose the cheaper alternative.

Or maybe . . . I kinda like feeling like a dozen small Japanese men . . . uh . . . never mind.

prayer against relapse

Oedipus, lend me yo mommawoman's brooches.


perfect playlist (v. 1)

in no particular order

1. Rachael Yamagata & Ray LaMontagne, "Duet"
2. Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova, "Falling Slowly"
3. Hoots & Hellmouth, "Two Hearts, a Snake and a Concubine"
4. Nick Cave, "The Ship Song"
5. Leonard Cohen, "Hallelujah"
6. Joan Baez, "Diamonds & Rust"
7. Tom Waits, "I Hope That I Don't Fall In Love With You"
8. Damien Rice, "The Blower's Daughter"
9. The Decemberists, "Red Right Ankle"
10. Townes Van Zandt, "St. John the Gambler"
11. Nick Cave, "Brompton Oratory"
12. Hawksley Workman, "You Are Too Beautiful"
13. The Dubliners, "On Raglan Road"
14. Blair Harvey, "Where Love Goes"
15. Leonard Cohen, "Alexandra Leaving"
16. Powderfinger, "Drifting Further Away"
17. Eva Cassidy, "Fields of Gold"
18. Ryan Adams, "La Cienega Just Smiled"
19. Bruce Springsteen, "The Wrestler"
20. Two Gallants, "Crow Jane"





Not everything is for translation.


I guess the hardest thing about embarking on a new form of self-expression is resisting the temptation to cut yourself off at the knees by reacting to difficulties/failure with "well, maybe this just isn't my thing."

I used to call it "self-asphyxiation." This was back when I liked to have grand words for every silly time I rediscovered the wheel.

I know the popular rhetoric is: go forth and "attempt more failure" (I actually really like that). But there is something else to consider. There is only so much life for the taking - only so many hours in the day, only so much energy to expend. Perhaps best to stick to what I know and do reasonably well, instead of over-reaching and over-experimenting. Perhaps it's best to accept the fact that sometimes, there just isn't enough talent.

Perhaps it's time to grow the fuck up and accept that Mommy and the public school system were wrong, and I actually can't "do anything I put my mind to."

Or maybe it's time to find my contrarian streak again, think of the whole endeavor as a skill-building experience and slog on. Until I've finally created something.

Whereupon, become obsessed for 9-18 months, and then gradually drop it. Which is what usually happens.


short stories

Reading Carson McCullers' collected short stories & marveling at how terrific those can be.

It's been a long time since I've read a short story; probably longer since I've written one. (Actually, I'll tell you - last one I wrote was "Evaporated Water" in summer of 2006.) I think it's been a bit of an underappreciated medium with me in the last few years.

It has been ages since I've actually written a STORY. At least one that didn't end up getting told in verse.

Something to think about, and perhaps work on.


out of the mouths of . . .

Quoth my boyfriend, recently:
"So, are you the Mel to Great Big Sea's Flight of the Conchords?"


It occurs to me that what is required to keep a blog alive is not only the self-indulgence it takes to claim and design this corner of cyberspace, but also the self-confidence it takes to actually take oneself SERIOUSLY enough to think that the random shit that flies through your brain is worth putting down somewhere where ACTUAL people might actually READ it.

And then, not to edit it down so much that it loses all the traces of sincerity that made you think it was worth posting in the first place.

Pledge (with the caveat that a blogged pledge is worth less than a verbal contract) - I shall try to distill at least SOME postable bits from my paper journal entries and place them here. Otherwise, what the hell was the point of redesigning this page around a blog format?


carpe quispiam

Whoever first espoused the philosophy of delayed gratification never factored in the possibility of sudden death.


a thought

If self-absorbed introspection is called "navel-gazing," would one call digging up one's own high school poetry "navel lint-picking"?


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