June 30, 2008

A strange request for assistance...

In recent months I've developed a growing fascination for the messages that people write on bathroom walls. I could easily insert some Modest Mouse lyrics here to illustrate this point but, in the interest of maintaining all of my friends' sanity, I will refrain. (Oh, but they're good lines...)

At any rate, I'm not talking about crap like "For a good time call blah-blah-blah" or "I heart so-and-so." I'm talking about really interesting things--poignant, creative...words filled with longing and pathos and/or humor. I realize that such things are highly subjective and in the eye of the beholder. An example of what I'm talking about can be found in the women's bathroom at the 540 Club here in the humble Richmond District at 6th and Clement:

"My daddy is a dollar.
I wrote it on a fence.
My daddy is a dollar
not worth a hundred cents."

I love these lines for reasons I cannot quite explain.

I would like to ask that you keep your eyes open for words that catch your attention. If you live near me, please let me know what you see and where so that I may document it myself. If you live far from me, maybe you could take a picture of it--a close up in which the writing is clear--and send it to me?

I'd be most grateful. And you'd be credited in what I end up doing with it--now isn't that an amazing incentive? No?

Anyway, thanks in advance.

Message read on the bathroom wall said: "I don't feel at all like I fall." And we're losing all touch, losing all touch. Building a desert..."

Okay. I lied about the quote.

"A fixed or established mode of procedure or course through life, usually dull or uncompromising."

When I was little I bit my fingernails like a fiend. My mother hated this habit and, in an attempt to deter me, would rub my fingers in chili peppers so that they would be too hot to put in my mouth. I was momentarily afraid, but after tentatively touching my finger to my tongue and pulling it away quickly I discovered that I rather liked the heat. After eventually sucking all the spiciness off of my newly delicious finger tips, I asked for more. This was simultaneously the beginning of both my love of extraordinarily spicy food and in the masochistic patterns of behavior that, as an adult, I would perfect in the form of new and anguished psychological ways to torture myself by being unwilling or unable to let go of situations that caused me pain--because the pain was REAL. Its absence was terrifying.

June 28, 2008

You are now landing far, far away.

When I was four, my mom and I lived in a filthy little trailer on Willis Ave. behind the car wash and the T&L Hot Dog. For awhile her coked-out boyfriend Mark, who liked to roller skate up and down our street in tight little shorts, a bandana around his head, and tube socks pulled up to his knees—somewhere there is a picture of this fiasco on wheels—lived with us, too.

I entertained myself in various ways. MTV had just started that year (1981) and I was enthralled. I spent a lot of time nursing my horrendous crush on Tom Petty, trying to literally nurse our kittens from the tiny nipples on my flat-as-a-board chest the way that I had seen their mother do, and wondering if I’d have to be buried alive with my mother when she died since I was too young to live alone.

Fortunately, I also had more normal pursuits. One of these was spending time with my best friend Chris.

Chris was my age and lived with his parents and older brother Ryan just a couple of houses away. My memory of the way he looked is hazy—I can remember his shaggy blonde hair and little boy jeans—but mostly I remember the way we spent time together. We particularly enjoyed eating green apples off the tree in my yard, rolling each other down the hill in tires, and trying to “fish” with a string and a stick in the creek behind my trailer.

We both loved animals and would make regular rounds to visit and pet all the dogs and cats on our street. When my little cat Cookie got hit by a car, we were devastated. Instead of accepting her tragic death and moving on, we developed a conspiracy theory about what had happened to her. Specifically, we believed she was being held hostage in exchange for the top secret information we possessed. This information was so top secret, in fact, that it was a mystery even to us. All we knew was that someone somewhere knew some information about my cat and we were determined to uncover it. We prowled around for hours looking for “clues.” We felt certain if we could spot just one single flea in the grass that we were hot on the trail. We hid behind porches and bushes listening to neighbors’ conversations, certain that someone in our midst on Willis Ave. had a dungeon full of terrified cats being held hostage. I don’t remember how long we were on that kick, but I suppose eventually we got tired of never overhearing anyone confess that they had all the missing cats in the neighborhood in captivity.

We moved on, and our relationship began to change.

One hot summer afternoon Chris invited me to his house. His mom sat in the front yard at a picnic table cutting up cantaloupe, and she offered us a piece. I eyed it suspiciously—the only thing I liked that was orange was Kool-Aid—and politely declined. After polishing off a crescent-moon-shaped piece, Chris took me to look for toys. We entered the dimness of the musty garage and, though his mother was only feet away, it immediately felt secluded and isolated and my shyness took over. While he rummaged through old boxes, I stood shyly staring at the oil stains on the cement floor, uncertain of what to do with myself. I don’t remember the moment I realized he was walking toward me, but suddenly Chris stood in front of me. I recall briefly catching a whiff of his cantaloupe breath before he quickly leaned forward and gave me a peck on the lips. He then took off running—why did the boys always run away?—out into the front yard. “Mom,” I heard him say breathlessly, “I kissed Amie.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. He was telling his mother about it?

“Did she cry?” she asked.

“No,” he reported.

She seemed nonplussed. “Well, then, I guess it was okay.”

I felt incredibly awkward about making my conspicuous exit from the garage after that. Actually, the last memory I have of that moment was standing there and wondering whether to act nonchalant in front of the two of them or to take off running for home. I don’t recall what I decided to do. I do remember, however, that soon after that I invited Chris to join me on one of my “trips.”

My bedroom in our trailer was incredibly tiny. There wasn’t room for both my twin bed with the Strawberry Shortcake blankets and my dresser, so the dresser was inside the closet. I loved this closet dearly. It felt luxurious to me because it had its own light that came on when I pulled a string, and it had folding doors that slid shut with a thunk of authority.

One of my hobbies was pretending this closet was an airplane that would take me away where no one could find me. I had recently flown for the first time and was desperate to get in a plane and go somewhere—anywhere—again. I would pour cherry Kool-Aid inside my jewelry box to take with me and then climb into the airplane. I pulled the drawers of the dresser out to make stair steps leading to the top. I turned on the light just as the pilot announced, “Last call for flight 842-6360 [our phone number],” and the doors of the plane were closed. I shut my eyes and leaned back to simulate the force and angle of the plane taking off, humming to myself as the engines whirred and I was lifted off the ground.

I never had a clear conception of where I was going—Florida was the only place I’d been to and I knew I wanted to go somewhere different—so I just considered it to be somewhere far away where no one knew who I was. It was always sunny and filled with strawberries there, and everyone would always be nice to me. My pilot seemed to be equally vague about our destination. “You are now landing far, far away,” he would announce. “It’s 80 degrees and sunny.”

Sometimes I was so absorbed in the fantasy that I truly expected to open my closet doors and find myself in another world. Sometimes my mom broke the spell to ask me what in the hell I was doing in the closet with a jewelry box full of Kool-Aid. But it was on such a trip that I invited my new boyfriend Chris—we had kissed, after all and that meant something—to take with me.

He usually had no problem disappearing into an imaginary world with me, but he thought that using my closet as an airplane was really weird. “It’s hot in here,” he complained, “and I put my hand in sticky Kool-Aid.”

“Just be quiet and enjoy the flight,” I instructed, certain that he just needed some time to warm up to the idea.

“What flight? We’re not going anywhere,” he protested.

“I can’t hear what the pilot’s saying,” I said, clicking my seat belt shut.

“Let’s go out and play in the creek,” Chris suggested.

I was growing impatient. “I’m taking us to the most beautiful beach in the world!” I informed him. “It’s better than the creek!” He was impatient, too, and pushed open the closet door with his foot and climbed down out of the plane.

“You can’t do that,” I said flatly. “We’re still flying and if you get out you’re going to fall to the ground and die.” He ignored me, and hopped to the floor. “Fine,” I said dismissively. “I guess you’re dead then.”

I slammed the closet door behind him, and continued on my journey. I never invited anyone again; I just packed my Kool-Aid and went alone.

June 27, 2008

Six inches forward, five inches back

I only have a few random bits of news because I am so worn out that I'm having trouble putting together cogent and coherent thoughts.

To begin with, I have now applied for four jobs. I found a fifth one to apply for tomorrow, because my brain is fried tonight.

I had such a bad day today that it is really quite hilarious. Or at least it's hilarious now that I am home and curled up in bed. It was also quite funny when I recounted it to a dear friend over dinner and I drank sangria--that saved the day. The friend, not the sangria. Well, maybe the sangria, too.

I had a conversation on Tuesday that I can't stop thinking about and, although I don't have any great wisdom about it, I felt the need to write it down. After my last seminar and as I was meeting with one of my bosses to discuss all the details involved with the end of my job, we ended up having a lengthy conversation about fairly personal matters. We reflected on the changes we'd experienced in the last few years. She's 41, and just a couple of years ago got married. She told me, "You would not believe all the idiots I dated all through my late 20s and well into my 30s and all the ways I wasted my time. Then I met my husband and it was all over."

That wasn't the extent of our conversation, but I really liked that part. It made me feel less alone in the time I have wasted over the last several years. I'm trying not to make that mistake again. ("Trying" would be the operative word here.)

June 26, 2008

Conversations with students

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Me: What does it mean for the researcher to be a tool of data collection? This is a bit of a philosophy of science kind of question. M., my philosophy major, what do you think?

M: [with a stoned, sleepy expression]………Um…..could you, like, repeat the question?

Me: What do you think it means for the researcher to be a tool of data collection?

M: [long period of silence followed by several snickers from other students] Wow. Like, duuuude.

Me: Is that really all you've got for me?

M: [closes eyes and nods solemnly in affirmation]

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

[S. comes up to me prior to the beginning of class and apologizes for missing the previous class. He hands me the paper that was due along with a doctor's excuse.]

Me: Thanks. Are you feeling better?

S: Huh?

Me: How are you feeling? Are you feeling better?

S: Well…I still have diarrhea really bad. So if I have to jump up in the middle of class and run to the bathroom it's because I'm about to explode.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

[T. shows up to take the exam an hour after everyone else, when most of the other students have already finished and handed theirs in.]

Me: What's the deal? Why are you so late?

T: Oh, I couldn't go to sleep last night, so I took, like, a bunch of sleeping pills at 5am this morning.

Me: And that seemed like a good idea knowing you had to take an exam at 9am?

T: Yes.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Me: [as E. is handing in her exam] How'd it go?

E: Oh…okay, I guess.

Me: Just okay? What did you have trouble with?

E: [hesitates] Well, I'm kind of embarrassed to say this, but it's true. None of my other classes test me on whether I understand something I read. You know how you would ask us questions about the main ideas and arguments in each of the articles? And whether the author would agree or disagree with a certain statement? Well, I just never have to do that. I mean, it's bad, I know. It's disturbing. All my other tests are just about recognition. I don't really have to understand anything.

"Home...is where I want to be. Pick me up and turn me 'round..."

She lifted up her wings
I guess that this must be the place...

In the last couple of days I've been feeling so homesick I can hardly think straight. And by "home" I'm being very broad. Part of me is longing for Richmond, VA, specifically, and most of me is just longing for the east coast, in general. Mostly I'm longing for seasons. I am craving fall.

I'm trying to put my finger on the source of these feelings. I suppose a lot of it has to do with finishing up what I originally came out here for, and for awhile I assumed I would return east immediately. As I've applied for four jobs in San Francisco in the last two days, it's becoming clear (by default if nothing else) that I am making some kind of commitment to staying here at least a little longer. I'm having a little bit of a hard time with that at this particular moment.

It's not like I have anywhere to be. It's not like I'm tied to anyone or anything and my decision would have no impact on anyone but myself.

Yeah. It's not like that at all. [sigh]

One of the organizations I applied to work for has locations in both San Francisco and Boston. I confess to thinking, Oh! A way out... Will I always be this way?

June 24, 2008


It has been a strange day. To begin with, I slept from approximately 2am - 4:15am, so I've feeling really tired and unfocused all day.

I sat in my empty classroom this morning at 8am before my students arrived, grading the last of their papers and trying to summon the energy to get through teaching a four hour class. One of my former students, Aurora, stopped in as a surprise to say hello and brought me a cup of coffee as a gift. It was so incredibly thoughtful, and really made my morning. That extra dose of caffeine helped wake my butt up, too.

This afternoon, I finished up the last postdoctoral seminar I will ever have. Somehow--since there are still a few days left in June--I thought it wasn't until next week. But today when I arrived there was a cake and a "graduation" certificate and goodbyes and hugs and well wishes. I felt really disoriented and strange, holding the turkey sandwich I'd just bought for lunch and accepting hugs and congratulations. There was a meeting afterwards about turning in my security badge and keys and telephone passwords and filling out termination papers.

Now I am the last one left at work. The office and the cubicles around me are quiet except for my typing on the keyboard. I guess this is what the end of this looks like. It ended not with a bang but a...oh, nevermind that.

I contacted my old graduate school mentor to confirm that I could use her as a reference as I'm applying for jobs. She was sad to hear that, at this time, at least, I am only applying for jobs in the Bay Area. She held out hope that I would be heading immediately back to Richmond, where I could always find a job with her. It is strange to know that if I wanted to, I could start driving to the east coast tonight and probably have an apartment (and be in talks about said job) by Monday or Tuesday. It is strange. I feel strange. And clunky. And unsure of myself at this moment.

June 23, 2008

Temporary fixes

alternative title to this blog: I did it all for the nookie.

I'm heading to Cali for awhile. Would you like to have sex?

This is a paraphrased version of a message I just got from some random guy. He doesn't even specify that he's coming to San Francisco, so for all I know he's on his way to Rancho Cucamonga (the best name ever) or Hollister. I briefly thought about sending a message back saying essentially:

"Sure, on the following conditions: You're crazy-smart, witty, sarcastic, and genuinely kind. You also have to have impeccable taste in music. If you share MY taste in music it's a huge bonus. You must be a good kisser and have excellent dental hygiene. You must like to read and drink and wander (in every sense of the word). You must have at least one thing you're passionate about--be it worms or trains or nuclear fusion or Pluto's status as a planet (or lack thereof). You must be observant and able to appreciate subtleties in humor and meaning and emotion and expression. You must promise to never drink the milk out of your cereal bowl in my presence. You must be interested in people in all their shades of black, white, and gray. You must not be dogmatic or close-minded or spiteful or mean-spirited. You must love culture and travel and food and adventure and spontaneity and learning for learning's sake. You must not spit on the sidewalk or scratch your crotch in public. You must wear deodorant. You must be willing to let me burst into song when it becomes necessary (and it frequently does) and you must not be freaked out by my ability to experience every emotion known to mankind. And then some. Within a twenty minute period. You must be loving and warm and have emotional depth. You must never wear trucker hats or visors turned in some wonky way on your head. If you meet these conditions and you're disease free then, sure, come to "Cali" and let's have sex."

I briefly thought about it. And then I thought, "Fuck it. I'm busy."

For a little while

(Thanks to Matt for sending me this.)

Like a horse and carriage

It's a rather exciting time to be in San Francisco. Last Monday was the day gay marriage became legal, and there have been so many beautiful and moving love stories taking place. My favorite story is of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, who were the first couple to be married after being together for nearly 56 years.


And my lovely friend Sooze brought this particular story to my attention via her blog:

Rich and David Speakman were the first couple to be married in Santa Clara county, and they used Bush's economic stimulus check to pay for their wedding.

David Speakman said, "It paid for everything so we should probably send him a thank you note."

June 21, 2008

I just ain't fancy.

This is totally random and quick before I run out the door, but I thought it was funny and wanted to share. So I got my haircut recently--what I was calling my "big girl haircut"--and I really liked it. The thing that always makes me nervous, though, is that I'm not good at styling it the way the hairdresser styles it--with all the products and hair dryers and round brushes and flat irons. It looks nice when they do it--don't get me wrong. I just can't reproduce it.

This time Marissa, my stylist, promised that this would be a style that I could do myself and, even if I chose not to, it would still like good. She took me through and gave me tips every step of the way, and I asked lots of questions. I'm on my way out right now, and I just gave it a shot. I have managed to create some kind of strange hair fortress that probably can be seen from space and has spy satellites all over the world linking up to keep a suspicious eye on it. My hair could seriously bust through brick walls!

Sometimes I want to be a girlier girl--the kind of girl whose mascara and eyeliner doesn't run down her face and make her look like a line-backer--but I'm just not. When I do all the hair and make-up to go out, I just end up looking like a homeless hooker by the end of the night. It's quite humbling. It's easier just to leave the house with wet hair and a bare face.

Multifaceted (dos)

Memories of summer

It has been hot in San Francisco the last couple of days. We get a day like this a couple times a year, but a few in a row is pretty rare. Pulling my hair up and feeling damp and sticky brings about a strong sense of déjà vu for me.

The coolness of last night was welcome, and I trotted down to the store to buy chilled white wine and champagne. Nannette and Scott were on their way, and I ran into Jenny and Bob at the store. I felt slightly electric and filled with possibility, like I used to feel when there was a thunderstorm in the distance that was quickly approaching. We sat and sipped and talked and laughed under the stars in the cool darkness of my backyard until 2:30 am.

It made me remember Richmond, VA in the summer, and all the parties that people had on their balconies. People would sing and call out to whomever was strolling on the sidewalk below, inviting them up for a drink. One hot night I was taking a walk and a group of frat guys was singing drunkenly off of a balcony on Monument Ave.:

“And I’ll hang around as long as you will let me…
And I never minded standing in the rain…”

I paused on the sidewalk and joined in:

“You don’t have to call me ‘darlin’ darlin…
You never even called me by my name.”

Afterwards one of them held up a beer and cried, “Hey! Come on up!” I smiled and waved and kept walking, cheered by this brief exchange.

Feverish plans

On those summer nights, Dave and Judith and I would sit out on one of our balconies and talk about future plans. Things we wanted, things we feared, things we were striving for. In a similar fashion, last night I told Nannette and Scott: “I seriously need to travel. I can’t stop thinking about it. And we have to go to Spain.”

So we started laying the foundation for a 11 to 14 day trip that would take us to Barcelona, Madrid, Lisbon, Marrakesh, and Casablanca. I told them I couldn’t afford it right now, but that once I got a job saving for this trip was a high priority. We agreed to shoot for going in 6ish months.

I love the idea of this, because the three of us know each other REALLY well, travel well together, and can make each other laugh in almost any situation. We’d have a blast. And we could all use something to look forward to.

A bit of writing

Although writing has gotten a little too comfortable for me to rely on as a means of expressing myself—I want to break out of this comfort zone more—I wrote something yesterday that made me happy. I still kind of feel like it’s a work in progress.

Partial confessions

1. I have no idea where the tapes are now. I don’t think they even have cases or labels. Just innocuous black plastic rectangles waiting to be discovered.
2. I kept them catalogued in a special, private folder on my computer.
3. Freaked out by the possibility that, if there is indeed life after death, the dead can now see all. What if they see…?
4. The lie I told my friends in fourth grade to make it seem like I had a whole other life from the one I actually had.
5. I was irresistibly curious. I couldn’t help it. I had to try.
6. I pretended not to know the surprise, but I knew. I guessed long before. But I didn’t have the heart to ruin it.
7. The pillow I held and pretended was holding me back.
8. A drop that I had somehow missed turned to crust and, when I found it later, I gagged.
9. Sometimes I imagine talking to my childhood self.
10. Sometimes I imagine my elderly self talking to the young woman I am now.
11. I wanted to be tucked in more than anything.
12. I hid it flat on the window sill, and it was completely covered by the window when I shut it.
13. The metallic taste of absolute terror in my mouth.
14. The password I always used for such things was, ‘skin.’
15. When I was 13 I told my little brother he was going to hell for it.
16. She ran over my cat and didn’t take the time to stop and do anything about it. She called me later and told me to go out in the rain and pick up her dead body out of the driveway.
17. I tried to talk myself into it a thousand different ways.
18. During times like that I would sing to myself so I would feel less afraid.
19. When I pass others’ windows at night, I crane my head to see inside.
20. I told her I wished on that star, but I didn’t. I was tired of wishing for the same goddamn thing all the time so I just stopped.
21. It made me smile under water.
22. I wrote it all down in a flurry of anger with the intent of tearing it up and throwing it away. But, truthfully, I fell in love with the fury that poured out of my pen and didn’t have the heart to get rid of it. I swore to myself I’d keep it hidden forever. But I’m pretty sure someone else got their hands on it.
23. It’s much less exhausting just to tell the truth.
24. I would climb on top of the dresser, shut the closet door behind me, and pretend I was flying far, far away.
25. I hid all that cauliflower in a knothole underneath the cabinets.
26. Being ignored hurts worse than anything.
27. It made me feel alive.
28. He crawled under my teenage bed, naked except for the stuffed frog he clutched against him. I couldn’t stop laughing.
29. There was no burglar. I was sneaking out.
30. I drained the last drops out of the wine glass and smoked the cigarette stubs and pretended I was an adult.
31. I hid it under the mattress.
32. I felt shy and couldn’t stop looking down.
33. There’s so much I haven’t said yet.
34. Things you probably wouldn’t even want to know.

June 20, 2008

Dipping a toe in the water

At this moment, I am filled with a wild, pent-up creative urge. (Of course I am. I'm trying to write some cover letters for job applications when, let's face it: I'd rather be doing anything else in the world. Need your gutters cleaned out? I'm your woman. Haven't balanced your checkbook in years? I'll get right to it. Need help applying hemorrhoid cream? Sure!)

Perhaps I took that a little too far.

At any rate, I'm looking around at various things I've started and wondering if they should be picked up at this moment. I had a little box I was making. I had a song I was writing. I haven't made a greeting card for awhile. Do I feel enough inspiration to take a stab at a second poem?

I want to sing, I want to make music, I want to paint with my fingers and toes, I want to record myself talking and experimenting with noises, I want to try to make a souffle, I want to take pictures of people's facial expressions when they don't know anyone's watching, I want to make collages of found objects, I want to speak only through drawings and pantomime...


I did a step in the right direction. I have a friend who's organizing a little "show" at a local coffee shop and asked for submissions of various pieces of writing--the only requirement was that it had to fit on one page. I submitted four things. It's just a little tiny event in my neighborhood but it's a step toward making something I created public and it feels weird.

Remember that guy that invited me to submit to his book on stories about mothers and daughters? Well, I looked into it further. He wants stories of inspiration and triumph and strength in mother/daughter relationships. *Gag, cough* No thanks. If I want to blow sunshine out my ass I'll find another way to do it.

June 19, 2008

Purple Bottle

Sometimes there are things that make you believe--that make you not want to give up.

It’s alarmingly easy to end up cynical and jaded and pessimistic—especially when it comes to the mushy stuff. If you have not yet had the personal experience of meeting someone who—at the very thought of them—you melted a little and got weak in the knees...well, there’s no way around it. This will be hard for you to understand.

But I’m a sucker for love. It’s ridiculous, really. I’m starry-eyed over love.

I reach a point where I’m personally fed up with the whole business. Love can occasionally wear steel-toed boots and unceremoniously kick you in the teeth. Then things like this happen that ignite the flame of hope in you again.

Seriously, I’ll shut the fuck up now and get to the point.

Short version: A close friend of mine met someone online. They wrote to each other for several months. Last night they met in person for the first time. It was intense and amazing and they were very happy. If you see a sudden shadowy shape appear across the sun, it is most likely them floating above the world in their bliss, smiling down benevolently at the rest of us poor beasts trying to get by.

Today he attempted to articulate through typed words how he felt. With his permission, I’m sharing a portion of it that I found especially beautiful with you, gentle reader:

(Let me again apologize for being so full of shit. Really. But c’mon…I got jerked off on by a random stranger on MUNI in the midst of all this love in the air. I’m feeling a bit off kilter!)

My fingers miss her fingers. Mmmmm, my fingers no longer understand why they do anything else. They are Elena*-hand-holding machines….

He describes them sitting side by side listening to a lecture together during which she grabbed his hand, intertwined hers with his, and lay both of them on her thigh.

There our hands stayed for the rest of the talk, our fingers occasionally sliding slowly against each other, feeling the friction and newness and sense of exploration, back and forth. Our thumbs quickly became great friends. They like to slide and swirl and stroke; a little like a thumb wrestling match but with total tenderness replacing the aggression. Oh god! I miss her thumb right now!...

Oh my god, Amie. Oh my god….

I'm feeling DEEPLY vulnerable right now. A fucking feather could kill me right now. I am hers. I am had. That's all there is to it….I feel like I could fucking conquer nations if, ya know, I had any interest in that sort of foolishness.

Wow. If you don’t find that absolutely heart-warming and delicious and fantastic--well, then you are made of stone and you and I would not get along.

[*name changed to protect privacy]

It's easy to forget how easy it is...

...to talk to my best friend.

I spent the day in the Mission District, the Latino neighborhood and also the sunniest and warmest part of the city, and she called while I was walking around. I gave up my plans to go to Dolores Park and grade papers. I pretty much stopped what I was doing and parked myself with an iced latte at a sidewalk table of a nearby coffee shop and we talked for a couple of hours.

For a variety of reasons, we hadn't talked (with the exception of a few quick and fairly vague emails) since sometime in November. I spilled my guts completely. It was only later that I looked around at the other patrons sprawled out enjoying the sunshine at nearby tables before I realized I was revealing the most intimate details of my life on the corner of 17th and Guerrero. But I needed that conversation. It felt like a long drink of water.

June 18, 2008


I had a MUNI incident yesterday on the M train. This one's not that funny. It's downright...nasty.

I was traveling from San Francisco State University to CAPS downtown at about 1:30 in the afternoon. The train wasn't very crowded at all. I had piles of stuff with me--laptop, shoulder bag, lunch, etc. I sat in one of the seats facing forward by the door, and my attention was mostly engrossed by responding to text messages. My hand, my poor left hand, was holding onto the metal bar in front of me while I futzed around.

At one of the underground stations a man got on and stood directly in front of me. He had created this sort of pulley system for garbage bags and had them hanging around his neck--one large one on each side. He had a long trench coat on, and as he stood in front of me I noticed him fiddling around underneath his coat and behind his garbage bags. I briefly wondered why he was standing so close, but quickly went back to what I was doing.

A couple moments later I felt the results of what he'd done on my left hand. When he, um, got me I looked up thinking at first that something warm had just been spilled on me. It turns out it had, except that it was this man's seed. I made a weird, gagging sound and jerked (Brief aside: I can't help it--I the words I choose seem to be double-edged.) my hand away. He quickly zipped up his pants under his garbage bag and hopped off the train at the next stop.

No one else seemed to notice what had happened with the exception of the fact like I was now gazing at my left hand like it was my arch nemesis and frantically searching for a tissue in my bag.

I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed. I still feel dirty.

Other than that I had a really good (long) day yesterday. My students were a great deal of fun.

June 16, 2008

Never-ending math equation

There's lots going on today. In my head (where shit's always going down) and otherwise. A couple things are just things I've been thinking about.

To begin with, I'm getting ready for class tomorrow. Since we only met a few few minutes last Tuesday and canceled class on Thursday, we're hitting it full force tomorrow. It's been awhile since I've had a four hour class and a stack of papers to grade.

I had a student email me today freaking out because she didn't know how to get TWO FULL PAGES out for the paper they have due tomorrow. She said she'd done everything I asked, but just didn't have anything else to say and would I please look at it for her? So I took a look, and told her she'd missed half of the assignment all together. She said, "Oh! Well, I wrote the paper before I read the instructions you gave on the syllabus..."

Sweet Jesus.

As for my thoughts, I've started to get a serious glimmer in the back of my mind about moving.

If you've read even a tiny bit of my writing before, you already know a lot about me in this respect: I've never really felt like I was where I belonged and I'm always restless. I've always been this way.

I'm the same as I was when I was six years old...

When I was planning to move to Spain I was excited for so many reasons--not the least of which was fulfilling a life-long dream--but also because I felt like I'd come back with a whole new perspective on "home." Since then I've felt pretty stuck, partly because I haven't been able to think of anything that captivated me as much. But I've always wanted to live in New England, and I think I'd really like living in Boston. I'm not saying I'm leaving right now or anything. I'm just starting to think a little more seriously about it.

Maybe I'm crazy. I know that I'm crazy. Maybe I'm shooting myself in the foot by moving before I have the chance to feel really rooted to a place. But I'm looking, looking. I hope I know when I find it.

Where do you move when what you're moving from is yourself?

Also, I think I'm scrapping the whole dating thing. I don't think I have what it takes, and I don't think I can bear to be so disappointed again. After my most recent experiences--when I felt so incredibly good about the whole thing and so surprisingly optimistic--well, I just don't trust my instincts in this area. It makes me sad to say that, because I feel like I have much to give from this part of myself, but...well, anyway.

...Well, I know what I have and want but I don't know what I need...

June 15, 2008

"She's been singing that song on a loop for three days."

You know by now it’s half past late, and I only came here for escape. You, you’re just my next mistake--like me to you...And I hate to speak so free, but you mean not much to me...I guess by the dim light in your eyes and that to you all things come as a surprise, I should set the steel trap of your thighs and dive right in...

Mi abuelo

I was having a leisurely morning and making raspberry pancakes when I took a peek at my phone. I had missed a text message from my mother. She said my grandpa had fallen and hit his head and had to get 16 staples. I was immediately annoyed with her for giving me the news in such a way, but I hurried up and called my grandpa.

He'd recently made the decision that he was going to have to quit the part time job that he really enjoyed because he couldn't keep up anymore--it was wearing him out too much. His health has been declining, in general. I feel guilty that I haven't been home in almost exactly 15 months--the longest I've ever gone without visiting Bridgeport. I also felt guilty because I had gotten upset with him recently. Nothing dramatic; I just told him that my feelings were hurt that he'd never called me when I was in the hospital.

Anyway, he's at home resting and doing okay. He had fallen on the cement steps in front of his house, and he was really embarrassed about it. "Just an awkward old man," he mutter disgustedly. A boy that I used to play with when I was little now owns the house across the street and had seen him fall and called the ambulance ("the emergency car" as my family always referred to it). I am worried about him.

I called my mom after he and I hung up the phone and all she wanted to talk about was how she was at the bar getting ready to watch the Nascar race and wanting to know what I had done last night. When I mentioned my papaw (no comments, please) all she said was, "I told him he needed to put a railing on those steps just yesterday morning. Did I have ESP, or what?"

June 14, 2008

Funny conversation #9

[After not getting to talk for a few days]

KWT: I'm so glad to hear you're feeling better! What else is going on? Anything new?

AMA: I'm having an existential crisis.


My Mama she took me aside one day
She said you better have fun while you play
'Cause someday you'll wake up and you'll be old
And all of your youth will be gone away

And you'll work in a factory and you'll earn your pay
And your fingers will rot and your mind will decay
You'll be happy, so happy with your family and house
But you'll never, you'll never enjoy yourself

Joy without pleasure
Ain't no fun, ain't no fun at all.

Half hours on Earth: what are they worth? (I don't know.)

Dream 1. I was with my aunt, with whom I'm very close, and we were visiting and catching up. I was showing her pictures of people I had loved. They were pictures of people from various stages of my life, and I loved and missed them all. I was feeling terribly sad and trying to hold back my tears as I leafed through the pictures. I was also showing her a tattoo I'd gotten across my back. It was a picture of my face when I was old, and there were tears running down my cheeks in the tattoo, as well.

After seeing these things, she shook her head and said, "I can't understand why everyone always wants to live in the past. You act like you're the only one who's ever had your heart broken, like you're the only one who ever felt alone and afraid. All you want to do is look backwards at the things that could have been, the things that didn't work out. You act like there's nothing to look forward to in the future. I just don't understand it."

Dream 2. I was on a boat--probably more like a yacht--and, for whatever reason, we were stuck in the middle of the ocean. We knew we weren't going to be rescued. At the time we had plenty of food and supplies and we could have stretched them out for a very long time. But a large group of people on the boat had gotten together and decided to go out with a bang. Instead of rationing food and water and medicine carefully, they wanted to have an enormous party. They wanted music and dancing and drinking and food as long as they held out and to hell with what happened after they were gone.

I didn't like this idea at all. I kept thinking, I'm going to die quickly with a bunch of idiots because they want to have one last party before they kick the bucket!

For some reason, all I had with me was a container of antibacterial cleaning cloths. While everyone else got drunk and laughed while the could, I ran around frantically trying to clean up every sticky spill that I could find. Within a couple of hours I was completely out of them, and then I didn't know what to do with myself. An older lady on the boat said, "You obviously weren't able to clean up after everyone, so why did you try? You have no control over this. Might as well enjoy the party."

Pure sweetness

I get into periods where I can't help but wonder if there isn't more. As in: Is this it? Is this all there is? I go into existential crisis mode: What the hell are we doing here? Do we just grow up, go to work, get old, and die?

I get into periods where I recognize and appreciate the ups and wouldn't trade them for the world, but I can't help but wonder if they really, truly are enough to justify the downs. Are we to always scramble to capture what joy we can, while we can? And will it always be this pattern? Up, down, and on and on and on and on until...

You get the idea. I suppose this has crossed everyone's mind at least once or twice.

Today I got two things that touched me deeply. The first was a postcard from my friend Lynn with this afternoon's mail:

Polyester pants 1

Polyester pants 2

The second came as a little brown box sitting outside my door when I got home this evening. It requires a brief bit of explanation.

A couple days ago when I was so sick, I thought of how nice it would be to have a chocolate chip cookie. At least in theory. I knew I could get one if I really wanted one, but I would never be able to consume it. But it sounded lovely to feel well enough to feel like eating a chocolate chip cookie. Rather randomly, I made my Facebook status update say, "Amie wonders if you have any cookies to share." This evening I got a little brown box of chocolate chip cookies in response to that wish from my dear friend, former fellow graduate student, and adopted older brother, Brian. He sent them from Philadelphia.

Brian's cookies 001

They are delicious, and they made me feel indescribably good.

And tonight I am wondering if I found the closest answer I'm ever going to get. I'll have other existential crises, and this particular one's not completely over, but I can't think of a better answer that I'll ever find. It's cliched and trite and sappy, but maybe the best we can do is grab onto those we love and who make us happy and, in one way or another, keep them close and weather out the bad spells until the good ones come around again.

June 13, 2008

Funny conversation #8 and a serious conversation

[walking out of a taqueria in Half Moon Bay]

A: Did you hear those teenage boys talking in the booth behind you? One of them said, "Hella sick." Good God.

S: Maybe they were talking about you. Like, "That bitch is hella sick."

A: Then they should have been using past tense: was hella sick.

S: [is amusing himself and continues] "That bitch was hella sick in her fallopian tube..."

A: Don't joke about my tubes. Just be glad your tubes are healthy.

S: I don't have any tubes!

A: What?! Yes, you do! How do you think your sperm gets around? In little boats?

S: They travel in viking ships with a big horn going, "AaaaHOOOOOOO!"

* * * * * * * * * *

[after a prolonged period of being silent while sitting back and listening to music]

A: [thinking he'll think it's a crazy question] Do you ever wish you were stupider?

S: [without hesitation] All the time. It would make plodding along, swallowing everything, and being content much easier.

A: Exactly.

June 12, 2008


Someone once asked me if I thought that all the loneliness people felt canceled each others' out, or if it built up and accumulated into one large, aggregated loneliness.

I think it accumulates.

June 11, 2008

There's a hole in mommy's arm where all the money goes...

It appears I have more to say today.

Unintentionally, this is the second blog in a row directly or indirectly about drugs. This one is actually a confession.

I have been thinking about Fentanyl for days. My God, it was fantastic. I had it twice in the emergency room; a nurse who was also a medic on a helicopter gave it to me. I remember he kind of acted like a badass, but at that moment I was not in the position to even be annoyed by him. He warned me that I would like it. He also warned me that they wouldn't give this to me on the regular hospital floor--because it is such a strong drug it required the recipient to be under the kind of supervision usually only available in the intensive care unit or in the emergency room.

There was nothing quite like the feeling I felt when he injected it into my arm. It was this sort of rush and warmth immediately throughout my body. I didn't care about anything else. I don't remember that nurse's name, but I remember him coming back into my room after injecting me and me telling him I thought I loved him.

I knew I would love drugs and I knew I would want more of them! That's why I never did them. I knew I could be like Sam Stone! I also find that I have a whole new appreciation for what how dependent on their boyfriends (as their providers and injectors) women who use intravenous drugs can get.

I find it terrifying that I'm still longing for this drug.

Putting too much faith in the Zophran

Because I’m not about to write another whiny blog here or elsewhere about how I feel, I’ve decided to give you, instead, bits of a few of my drug-induced dreams from the last couple of nights.

1. I was riding naked with three other people in a bobsled-type of vehicle through a bowling alley/arcade where a group of trannies was having a fundraiser. There were several bobsled teams, but we weren’t racing. Somehow our activities were part of the fundraiser, although it’s unclear to me how me riding in a bobsled naked could ever attract any kind of monetary donation. Unless it were for me to NOT appear in the event any longer.

2. I was a chaperone on a kids’ school trip, and we were eating lunch in a school cafeteria. Another chaperone and I were at the end of the cafeteria line waiting for our trays filled with sliced ham, mashed potatoes, a hot roll, green beans, and a little carton of milk. When we got up to the front of the line, I was amazed to find that the school cooks were the same ones that had been at my own elementary school, throughout my tenure there: Daisy, Helen, and Helen. They quit serving food just as I had gotten to the front of the line. I was both amazed to see them and disappointed at not being allowed to eat, and I said, “Don’t you remember me!?” Daisy leaned against a stainless steel sink and picked her teeth with her pinky fingernail and drawled, “Thinking you deserve special favors is not going to get you this ham dinner any faster.”

3. I was stealing unopened Christmas presents from my friends. I remember thinking meanly, “I don’t care if they’re my friends and I don’t care who these presents are for and I don’t even care what’s inside them. I want them.” Weirdly, I was storing them in a public restroom that was at a rest-stop along an interstate. I hovered outside the restroom, making sure none of the people stopping there left carrying any of my ill-gotten gifts. Every time someone would go inside to use the bathroom, I would run in after them and watch them suspiciously until they left again. And then I went back to my basement and continued stitching together the skins I had collected for the human suit I was making.

I made that last line up.

I actually had a couple of others, but I feel like I shouldn’t share them. They’re kind of weird.

June 9, 2008

Warning: Complete Grumpiness Below

I feel like shit ass I got beaten the shit out of fuck.

I'm sorry, but I'm laying it all out here. Don't read if you don't want to know the gory details. Seriously.

First of all, I have a new hobby: pooping. Oh, my God. I'm so tired of being in the bathroom. There is a reason for this. I was on massive amounts of intravenous morphine for almost a full week, and a major side effect of this is constipation. I'm not talking about some mild, "Wow, this mundane activity is slightly more challenging than it used to be." I mean everything shut the fuck down completely. In the hospital they filled me with "stool softeners" and laxatives and even those little missile-shaped suppositories that make your bum feel all waxy and melty and...weird. But my body refused to budge.

When Jenny and Nannette brought me home they supplied me with this organic Smooth Move tea that tastes like [squinches up face] black licorice and instructions to drink a cup a day for a week. This stuff is the, ahem, shit. So to speak. It totally works. I think I have uncovered some kind of archaeological poo time capsule. I think there are strata deposited during the Nixon administration down there, and I wasn't even born yet.

What makes it all worse is that it happens when I don't even feel much like sitting up, letting alone anything else. So I lay my head on the sink in the most pathetic and tragic way possible, feeling sorry for myself and wondering how my life ended up in the shitter. (Alright, alright.)

The second thing that I'm crabby about is that my body is like one giant bruise. My belly is full of bruises (not to mention the incisions) from surgery. My arms, hands, and wrists are filled with bruises and scabs from both successful and unsuccessful IV attempts. (And the unsuccessful ones were sooooo much worse.) It just hurts all over, and it's a sad day when pulling a soft, fluffy pillow against you causes you to grunt in pain.

The third thing I will bitch about (I'm nearing the end, I promise) is that every food item that is not Cream of Wheat or saltine crackers makes me positively ill. Turns my stomach. Makes me nauseous. And then makes me have nightmares about whatever food it was I tried to eat (soup, peanut butter, yogurt). Bleck. I find myself having thoughts of, "Well, at least I'll lose a few more pounds." And then I'm furious with myself for thinking such a thing. Not for thinking about losing a few pounds, but at trying to make it a positive thing out of being SICK for God's sake! For being so susceptible to societal and personal pressures about this issue that I would think such a thought at this time. I get pissed and absolutely indignant! Then I feel worn out and lay down and take a nap.

Fuck this shit.

The good news is that I'm not actually lacking anything. I have all that I need: medicine, clean clothes, soft bed, crackers and Cream of Wheat, foolish parrots who are glad to be with me, toilet, toilet paper. (I guess some comforting hugs and hair strokes would be nice. But those are not in my future anymore.) I'm just grumpy and cranky needed to complain a bit.

I hope you aren't sorry you read this far. (And if you are: fuck off!) I'm just kidding. Mostly.

P.S. The class I'm teaching starts tomorrow. Dear God, help me.

June 7, 2008

It is a strange feeling this...

…this being completely in the care of other people.

I have been in the hospital for the past week, and what a week it has been. I’m not really sure where to start. I have so many people to say thank you to—both strangers and friends—and this seems like the most ridiculous mechanism through which to do it.

I started by taking myself in a cab to the emergency room on Saturday, and I would end up spending two days in the emergency room before being transferred to UCSF Mt. Zion and staying until today. I was sicker than I realized, and I am happy to say that I am now home and recovering.

To begin with, I have a whole new respect for the nursing profession, as so many of them took such good care of me. There was the nurse from Guyana who stroked my hair as I curled into a fetal position on the gurney and sobbed in pain and fear and frustration. There was Vino and Harlan and Chan and Mayra who answered my calls in the middle of the night begging for more pain medication, who brought me jello and crackers, and who joked with me even when I was completely doped out of my mind and made the IVs and medications and hospital gowns more bearable. There was the nurse who held my hand and wiped tears from my face as the anesthesiologist placed the mask over my face and said, “We’re going to put you to sleep now, Amie,” as I went into surgery. There was Neehani who came to visit me when she was not on her shift and laid her hands across my abdomen and said soothing words and wished me good health and told me of going to visit her family in Thailand. I want to write to them all and thank them personally.

And then there are my friends. I will never forget Yan and Jenny bursting into the emergency room to find me when I didn’t know anyone knew where to look. Nannette stocked me with reading materials, Jenny made washing and brushing my hair her personal project, Matt took care of my birds, Scott kept me supplied with coffee infinitely better than that available at the hospital.

Scott and Matt visited me and sat with me every day. Every single day.

I was never alone in the evenings, and they never minded how stoned I was on morphine and oxycodone and vicodin or if I drifted off in the middle of a conversation. They all made me laugh in various ways—Scott raised my hospital bed as high in the air as it would go (5 feet!) and Matt let me kick his ass at the song lyric game (you can’t really be that bad, can you? C’mon! I was at such a disadvantage!). Patrick brought me a little box and the latest issue of Jet for all my hip-hop needs. Everyone called and texted constantly (especially my sweet Kelli), and took walks with me and my IV machine around the 5th floor.

Jenny brought me home today, and helped me get groceries and bird food and prescriptions. Nannette was waiting when we got here, and the two of them did my dishes and laundry and changed my sheets and helped me take care of my birds and made me tea.

Now I am in bed, and I feel loved. And very, very lucky. Thank you all so very much.