October 31, 2007

Lord, grant me patience

(I am burning up inside)

I dreamed of terrible things...

...death, destruction, grief...

Not so surprising since we had an earthquake and I'm still feeling a little jarred from it. I heard it before I felt it, which is really eerie. And for hours afterward I hallucinated that it was starting up again.

I wanted to call someone for reassurance, but it felt like there was no one I could call. So I did the only thing I could think of to comfort myself. I exfoliated. A lot. I'm soft as a newborn, now.

October 30, 2007

I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' no babies.

Today, between lunch and a 2:00 meeting, I went to a baby shower for a friend at work.

I always have such mixed emotions about these. On the one hand, I've never been to a baby shower for someone I didn't like or feel some sort of attachment to, so I am genuinely happy for the expecting mother and want to share in a little celebration in anticipation of her big day.

But there's a lot of things working against it, too.

One is a general dislike I have about opening and/or giving presents in public. I absolutely adore giving and receiving presents--don't get me wrong. But I like to do it individually. A private moment between two people where, no matter what the nature of the relationship, one can say, "I picked this just for YOU because I thought it would make you happy." There's something I can't stand about handing someone a present in front of a group of people waiting expectantly for this thing I have chosen and then evaluating against other opened and unopened presents. I feel...exposed. There is no special moment. No matter how much the recipient likes the present, there are other presents to be opened and that one is deposited in a pile along with all the others.

Even more strong is my dislike of receiving presents in a group setting when all attention is focused on me opening the presents and catching a glimpse of my facial expression that captures exactly how I feel about said presents at the moment I open them. I find it nearly impossible to mask my emotions as they flicker across my face and I spend the entire time in terrible anxiety of offending someone. Plus I'm just shy and hate having all the attention focused on me.

But I'm wandering away from the topic.

The second thing that bothers me about baby showers is that it always seems that a huge proportion of women who attend them are mothers already. I feel like there's some special cult of womanhood into which I have not been inducted and have no way to relate. Today, for example, the women attending this shower exchanged stories about their birthing experiences--most notably the length of delivery. One woman had been in labor for 24 hours. She announced this dramatically and murmurs of "Oh, my," and "I don't know how you did it," fell over the shower attendees munching on fresh fruit and cakes. Then there was a small contingent who'd had impressively speedy deliveries. One woman described her first birth and declared with pride, "I was 2 cm at 8am and by 10:45am he was born." She closed her eyes and sat back with satisfaction as we all "ooohed" and "ahhhhed" and took a moment of silence to contemplate the wonder of her uterus and vagina.

This is all well and good, but what the hell can I say to this?

(I won't even get started on all the CRAP people buy for infants. My distaste at the idea of receiving 50 outfits with little variations of puppies on them and a little baby bomber jacket is extreme.)

Similar scenarios have unfolded numerous times at work even outside of the more formal baby shower setting. On multiple occasions I was part of a group about to start a meeting and we took the first 20 minutes to discuss the logistics of breastfeeding and breast-pumping. I listened politely, but found myself exchanging meaningful looks and silent plans with the gay man and lesbian of the group. [Via telepathy and slight facial twitches and glimpses at watches: 'Drinks after work?' 'Yeah, 5:00?']

Just recently, this lesbian friend has joined the contingent of current and future motherhood. I have to say that I've been fascinated to hear of she and her partner's experiences. They get asked the usual questions of heterosexual mothers, plus a whole host of other ones. (e.g., "Was it, like, a turkey baster?")

I like hearing this new twist on familiar stories.

Alexis (pregnant) and Ilsa (not pregnant) joked about Alexis' moods and irrationality and hypersensitivity to smells. Apparently for a few weeks she couldn't stand to have Ilsa within two feet of her because Ilsa's natural smell repulsed her and turned her stomach. (My God!) They laughed about it and looked into each other's eyes with love and then continued to share their trials and tribulations. This part was wonderful.

I would also like to note that my stance on childbirth is not the most popular here in the Bay Area. I would want to give birth in a hospital, and I want all the drugs available to me as soon as they can possibly be given. So many women here are horrified by this. Maybe it sounds closed-minded or "Westernized," but I don't want any fooling around. Stories I've heard of special music and scented oils and candles and massages...screw all that. Get it OUT.

I feel I should add a couple of things here. I'm not trying to say that I dislike mothers and expectant mothers and want nothing to do with them. That's not the case at all. I just have a difficult time relating to them. I've changed a lot of diapers, made a lot of bottles, and stayed up a lot of late nights with other people's children (usually those of my mother). I'm not completely ignorant on the topic but obviously my experiences in no way compare to having children of one's own.

I also feel the need to add that I like kids. I find them interesting and amusing and amazing, and I don't mean any of this to sound like some staunch advocate of not having children sitting around and complaining about "breeders." I just felt the need to express the mixed emotions of today.

A sad update.

There is a homeless man who sits with his dog next to the 38-Geary bus stop at Market and 1st Streets downtown. I see him whenever I go to my Beale Street office. He's generally the first person I see when I get off the bus, and this has been true as long as I've lived in San Francisco.

He always has a sign that says, "Turk and I are hungry," or "Turk and I are down on our luck." Turk is a mottled black and brown pitbull, and he's often curled up asleep against the man. He actually appears to be more well-fed than his owner. I regularly see people squatting to pet Turk, talking to the man, and putting money in his cup.

This morning the man was alone and the sign was different. It read: "Turk is in Animal Control. Please help."

It made me sad. I tried to provide what help I could.

October 29, 2007


I woke up disoriented and slightly afraid.

I dreamed I had written. I dreamed I had been written to. But when I looked, neither was true.

It had started to rain.

October 26, 2007

Laced with quiet (and not so quiet)...

It was pointed out to me tonight that this blog is like the innermost workings of my brain without context. Perhaps.

Okay, yes.

But at this moment I need to pretend no one ever reads this and just...write. And, uh, listen to music under a fog-covered sky. And drink this Sierra Nevada. And wonder what the fuck that weird noise is. (Seriously. Scratching?)

"You ring your bell and smile at me; I drink from your well and fall down."

I find that I keep thinking about the girls who are in shampoo commercials. Girls who are secure and smiling and carefree. Their long tresses glisten as they toss their hair, knowing fantastic things are in store for them because their hair looks so good that night. There's not a trace of shyness, doubt, melancholy, hesitation, fear, or insecurity in them. And you are led to believe that good things DO happen to them.

I need to get some of that fucking shampoo.

I've mentioned this countless times, but here I go again...

I'm trying to collect myself and figure out where to go and what to do next. I know exactly what I'm doing until June 30, 2008, and beyond that it's...blank. Occasionally I am thrilled with that openness. Other times I am overwhelmed by that emptiness.

(It all depends on how I spin it. Kind of like "freedom fighters" vs. "terrorists.")

"Take it with the love that's given, take it with a pinch of salt..."

A friend told me a story of his parents recently that touched my heart deeply. His mom confided to him that on the weekends, she and his father lay in bed in the mornings and hold each other for hours because they know they won't always be able to do that. Grabbing it while they can, I guess.

"Your mom would stick a fork right into daddy's shoulder......and dad would dream of all the different ways to die...each one a little more than he would dare to trrrryyyyy...."

(Incidentally, my mom DID drink until she was no longer speaking and my (step)dad DID throw the garbage all across the floor.)

"Like an animal in your care...but give it time, you will outlive me..."

There's a blog I read frequently by a guy whom I just stumbled upon. I think I was doing a search for a song and he mentioned it in his blog and I found it that way. It's called "Everything is wrong with me" and he's says something like he's "28, bipolar, and hungry." In it he recounts his attempts to find a serious girlfriend, massive amounts of masturbation in an attempt to "inseminate his apartment," weird mental hang-ups, etc. It's mostly pretty amusing.

But I wonder: Is this what I'll be? Blogging about my thoughts and experiences and ridiculousness forever? I fantasize about a day when I will have no use for the blog, because my life is full enough. I imagine myself in that hypothetical future position thinking, "Remember those days when I used to blog all the time? Yeah, I think I wrote about a bunch of shit I was thinking and stuff. That was fun. But this is better."

"We drift in and out...sing into my mouth..."

"The images stuck in your head
People you've been before that you don't want around anymore
That push and shove and won't bend to your will..."

October 24, 2007

Will _____ for sleep.

I realize that my near constant insomnia of late is responsible for my wildly fluctuating emotions, but I just can't seem to fix the problem! I'm all over the map, especially in the last few days: heart-stoppingly high, alarmingly low, always exhausted.

Last night and today I felt absolutely desperate. There's a lot of stuff I'd be willing to do for some sleep at this point.

It makes me worry about my health, because I'm going to make myself sick. It just feels like nothing can quiet my mind. I long to slip into the quiet dimness of my bedroom, slip in between the soft sheets as the lanterns sway overhead, and surrender for the next 24 hours. Ahhhh....it sounds blissful...

Until then, thank God I have friends to monitor my actions--keeping an eye on me to make sure I don't do anything irrational. I make a decision, start to stumble forward with it, and someone cries out, "Wait! No!" I stop, nod dumbly, and try to close my eyes again. Most of the time I would resent this, but right now I need it.

I am just so tired.

October 20, 2007

Aren't you...?

I guess not.

"Calmly crashing, I pace and I figure it out again."

Ugh. I can feel myself getting blocked up this very minute, like a tide coming in.

You know, I've long wished I could receive a daily reading of my neurotransmitter balances every morning. That way, I would have a better idea of what to brace myself against.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Daily Readings for A. M. Ashcraft


Serotonin - check
Dopamine - check
Epinephrine - check
Norepinephine - ++

[Sweet. I should be feeling pretty mellow today. That sounds good.]


Serotonin - **LOW READING**


[Uh oh. Better stay home. I'll batten down the hatches, get out the lanterns, wrap myself in blankets and wait it out.]
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

It would be so much easier to make attributions about the way I am feeling.

October 15, 2007

My God.

I'm ready to move out of this fucking neighborhood.

Please. Oh, please.

Just stop.

October 14, 2007


winter stifled shivering on the curb phone in hand panic resolution hesitation it all fell together this is not my home yet I saw her red coat out the bus window and it was one of the most comforting sights of my life long long phone conversations a dead end that I kept turning down a false alarm spring green pants to match the green walls new people a loss of a dear one documenting writing angry Polish people why does he write summer better and better disbelief the ability to be surprised alarm an act of resistance a moment of being shattered goodbyes all around no one to walk with I hate when it becomes important it’s the little things that are getting under my skin it feels too ridiculous to talk about this is when the humming feeling began in the base of my throat wild ideas fucking do it relief terror happiness terror disbelief because it’s for other people this? this? whatever this is that I am real pleasure fall dreams dreams dreams more questions than answers all this relief mental preparation and crushing disappointment you would not believe the acceptance at that moment I could barely express my gratitude oh jesus fuck support and checking in waiting okay near miss fairer than expected not an issue joy amazing water never before sleek and soft almost like a shampoo commercial to memorize for the long days I lost a bit of my dignity and it seemed the only way to recover quiet catharsis I love the way repeatedly pessimism optimism it is unfortunate that I can’t control the movie projector in my mind boring meetings and suddenly it goes back there again lingering hands lips tongue the best one ever your voice changes when you talk about it

(It's not so hard now.)


was terrible.

October 13, 2007

Highly liberated

Somewhere between last Sunday evening and Monday morning I made a decision. This has been weighing on my mind for awhile now, and I was feeling completely oppressed by it.

Since early in my graduate school career I've been groomed for a job as a college professor. It's what I know best, it's what I have the most experience doing, and it's the kind of job for which I know how to look.

Don't get me wrong. I love teaching and I love interacting with my students. And there's a fair number of appealing things about this profession.

But a tenure-track faculty position is a pretty major committment. It normally takes about seven years (with enough publications, conference presentations, and favorable student evaluations) to be awarded tenure. I was invited to apply for the position in Human Sexuality Studies at SFSU for Fall 2008, and I was incredibly flattered by their request that I apply and offer from professors within the department to write me letters of support. But even if I got this job...do I want it right now?


I'm not saying I won't apply for a position like this eventually; I likely will. But at this moment I am unable to answer questions about where I'll be and how long I'll be there, and this is not the kind of job you just take for a couple of years and then give up. Not if you want another one, at least.

It was only a small mental event to make this decision, but it felt like a rather large seismic one for me personally. I am so relieved. And so...unencumbered. It's still rather scary, though. And it just adds to the general free-wheeling, 'what the hell?' approach to life I have been taking as of late.


October 11, 2007

I don't know what in the hell a 'writing meme' is, but I've been tagged...

The wicked flower girl thinks out loud tagged me for a writing meme. Of course I will answer the call. I'm supposed to write about my greatest strengths in writing. Damn, these greatest strengths/weakness questions are always so hard! But I will do my best.

(Incidentally, Beth, I must confess how extremely flattered I am that you tagged me as a fellow "writer." And if, for some reason, I have misunderstood this, please don't tell me any differently.)

I've long been frustrated by my writing because it seemed like the only things I could remotely make come alive were things that actually happened to me. Yes, I was pleased with my ability to recall and describe the minutiae of conversations and interactions from long ago, but "big fucking deal" was always how I looked at it. I didn't want to be so bound by those chains of reality. To break free from them, I tried to write poetry (for YEARS!), fictional short stories, song lyrics, and on and on. With the exception of one four line poem I wrote in the middle of a fitful night when I was about 14 years old (ahh...sometimes it is so boring to be so dark, compulsive, and overly expressive, but it was there from a very early age...), I've hated them all.

Interestingly, although I feel like I'm pretty good at describing actual events, I feel my greatest strength in writing does not count because it is not a personal strength at all: I'm good at using other people's writing--bits and pieces from various authors and musicians mingled together to form a different kind of whole--at expressing myself. (See my last blog entry for an example from just today.)

What the fuck kind of thing is this to be good at?

It's just that I'm hooked on words. words Words WORDS. In every form. They move me to the utmost emotion; they have the power to shape exactly what I'm feeling, thinking, and experiencing AT THAT MOMENT. Sometimes it's almost embarrassing. And occasionally a little inconvenient.

I've often bought books and cds based solely on one line that I read or heard. Sometimes I was disappointed, and sometimes I was not.

Even when I'm reading for pleasure, I have a neon-colored highlighter in my mouth to mark the words that move me or make me laugh or make me think. Like a big old dork. I would like to be the kind of person who reads without a highlighter. Who can enjoy a book for what it has to offer at that moment, and then put it down and never look back. But I am not.

I'm a collector of blank books. Many of my books have writing in them, and some do not. They all have an empty first page because there was nothing I had to say worthy of being put in such an important spot.

From the time I learned to read and write, I can remember days when my head was racing beyond my control and the best way I knew how to soothe it was to write down other people's words. Any notebook that I've ever had, including the one I'm using every day right now, shows evidence of this. In between the to-do lists and the notes from meetings are words and lyrics scrawled across pages and in margins that served the smaller purpose of amusing me for a few moments and the larger purpose of working the bugs out of me.

Not even an hour ago I wrote a long letter to a friend in which I did this. I was trying to describe something, and in the end I had to revert to providing her with a list of quotations that touched on the range of emotions I was feeling. The people who seem to understand me best are, more often than not, people who do this themselves, at least to some extent.

Sherman Alexie. Now here is someone who understands words:

"Junior dreamed of the western that starred Lynn as Lynn and Junior as himself. During the love scenes, the camera would fade out just as they fell into each other's arms. But in real life, Junior and Lynn fell onto the bed, drew circles on each other's naked bodies, and counted moles.

Junior ran through his vocabulary in his mind: make love, sex, do it, fuck. He wanted to climb out of bed and find a thesaurus. He wanted Lynn to whisper synonyms in his ear."

I'm never really sure how other people take it when I do this. I think at times it works out to be fairly cryptic--sometimes I like it that way and sometimes I just can't find a more direct way to say what I mean and this is the result.

So...yeah. Plagiarism is my biggest strength. How attractive.


People said, --Now that you're a senorita, cuidate. Take care of yourself. But how was Soledad to know what they meant? Cuidate. Take care of yourself....But no one told you how to...well, how exactly.

Really, there was no way once it began for her to find where or how to stop, because it was a story without beginning or end. And why was it her responsibility for her to say enough, when in her heart of hearts she never wanted it to end, and how sad she felt when it was over and he pulled himself away and she was just herself again, and there was nothing left of that happiness but something like the juice of the maguey, like cold spittle on her thighs, and each person went back to being just themselves.

For a little, for a moment as fine as una espina de nopalito, she felt as if she could never be lonely, she felt she was not herself, she was not Soledad nor was he Narciso, nor rock nor purple flower, but all rocks and purple flowers and sky and cloud and shell and pebble. It was a secret too beautiful, to tell the truth. Why had everyone kept such a marvel from her? She had not felt this well loved except perhaps when she was still inside her mother's belly, or had sat on her father's lap, the sun on the top of her head, her father's words like sunlight, --Mi reina. She felt when this man, this boy, this body, this Narciso put himself inside her, she was no longer a body separate from his. In that kiss, they swallowed one another, swallowed the room, the sky, darkness, fear, and it was beautiful to feel so much a part of everything and bigger than everything. Soledad was no longer Soledad Reyes, Soledad on this earth with her two dresses, her one pair of shoes, her unfinished caramelo rebozo, she was not a girl anymore with sad eyes, not herself, just herself, only herself. But all things little and large, great and small, important and unassuming. A puddle of rain and the feather that fell shattering the sky inside it, the lit votive candles flickering through blue cobalt glass at the cathedral, the opening notes of that waltz without a name, a clay bowl of rice in bean broth, a steaming clod of horse dung. Everything, oh, my God, everything. A great flood, an overwhelming joy, and it was good and joyous and blessed.

--Sandra Cisneros, Caramelo

October 7, 2007

The part that was left behind.

I had an unexpected good-bye.

Well, it wasn't entirely unexpected. I figured it was bound to happen eventually. I just never knew exactly when or how.

As it turned out, it was on Friday evening on the sidewalk of Geary Blvd. as I was illuminated by the fluorescent lights of a convenience store. I looked up and briefly froze mid-stride--possibly looked like a deer caught in headlights as my brain took in the information--and then I looked away and kept walking, kept walking.