Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Closing time

Life on earth and other accidents has closed it's doors. I've moved to: The Hindenburg Effect. I hope you'll all visit soon. And let me know if you have problems accessing or commenting?

I'll be back to reading around the circle soon!

Love to you all.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Backing into Beta

Today I made a leap and registered a new blog - beta version. Life on earth and other accidents: part 2. I made a list of twenty alternate blog titles but haven't hit on anything that feels as right as LOE. Nothing has been done on that site yet, but at least it's registered in case I continue to have title block. Here, for your amusement (or your raspberries) are a few of the new titles I jotted down. Be kind, I was free-associating:

20/20 Hindsight,
Certainty and Large Cash Prizes,
Five O'clock Shadow (Don't ask me why, but I like that one) and finally,
True Fiction, Earnest Lies.

Ok. I agree. Nothing we can use there. I leapt on True Lies only to discover it was a movie title. It was perfect and Hollywood has stolen it.

I don't want to move. Especially to a neighborhood like Beta, where the plumbing is barely hooked up and the electricity is likely not to be on. Where, if I'm catching the drift over at Blogger Help, archives and old blogs are eaten, comments vanish, or you just plain can't sign on.

But let's face it, the "old" neighborhood isn't what it used to be. I can't use Blogger for Word anymore. The font in Old Blogger is senile - and cranky. It spaces where it feels like it. It leaps from Ariel to "font" without permission. The spell check converts all diacritics to something else and beware of turning on italics because you may never get them to turn off again. Or suddenly, lo and behold - an article appears in font 15 inches high. Surprise!

What do the kindly folks at Blogger say? Why, they are concentrating on New Blogger. They are no longer investigating problems with Old Blogger.

I remind myself that I am getting what I'm paying for. Not that this has been the case always. I've been grateful for the cyberspace - and the almost idiot-proof templates.

A general call out - Who has moved house to Beta? Who is screwing up their courage to do it?
Who is planning to stuff hand-written notes in bottles and set them adrift as an alternative?

In honor of this collapsing, unsupported old blogging neighborhood, I present two different Hobo signs both meaning, Hit the road! Quick!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Backing into corners

The digital display remembers the surname and first initial even though there is no message. I stare at the name and nod acknowledgment, certain he'll know I got the message he didn't leave - thinking about you, miss you.

Me too. I miss you too.

I've come home feeling almost beaten. A last minute email from the Acting President, "we have maximized enrollment for the fall." Up 12%. I'm trying to process what that translates to in terms of demand, the sheer number of new records to be entered, the crush of people needing something right now or better yet, yesterday.

On the bus, anxious, overwrought fantasies play out in my mind. I see myself standing at the main desk some few weeks from now, multi-tasking straight into cardiac arrest, or almost worse, starting to sob uncontrollably, until they have to usher me out. She's fine, she's fine, she just needs a little air. I know that after a "stress leave" no one would know what to say to me. I tell myself I have to put a positive spin on this, stop projecting ruin into the future, but I'm looping it. Over and over - I don't think I can face this again. I figure I'm due for a good Friday night cry.

Instead, when I get home, I pick up the message he didn't leave and think about how he mistrusts words, how he thinks he always says things wrong and hates to speak to voice mail. I think that my being "a verbal person," as he puts it, adds to his discomfort. But then I usually hear the things he doesn't say, too. Like I wish it was different. That doesn't mean just us, but so many things...

We are in accord there, too.

It helps to know that he was here. It reminds me that there is something more worth my energy.
I figure instead of crying, I'll sleep off the day - and wake up somewhere else.

The graphic above is the hobo symbol for: This is not a safe place.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The owner is out

One of my favorite expressions, the one I use to describe my coworkers and me trying to, say, coordinate leaving the building together to attend a meeting or have a staff lunch, is "herding cats." As you know if you've ever been owned by a cat, they herd very poorly. It's genetic memory. Once, in Egypt, they were gods. They remember that. In fact, they consider their status to be unchanged in that regard.

Lately, however, I've been inspired by hiring, training and attempting to schedule five new student assistants, to add a variation to the metaphor: "herding fruitflies."

And that is where I've been. Herding fruitflies and watching in horror as complications and workload mount and I progress backwards in the fight to accomplish anything. In spite of the fact that I'm running very hard.

So. I've been gone. Not even energy enough left over to sit down and visit my favorite bloggers, let-alone write anything.

With this note, I'm posting the first in a series of hobo signs. Markings left on rocks and walls as messages for the next wayfarer passing through - from the earlier part of the 20th century, I assume. I've long loved these - which I found in a book on signs and symbols of the world. Some are clear and straightforward and some, in design or meaning, mysterious and complicated in execution or choice of symbol.

The sign above means The owner is out and I post it sadly, because Lucas of Jumper's Hole has taken down all but two posts on his blog. Lucas, I hope you are only gone for a little while.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

On fashion escapes and need

I pass the window of an expensive dress shop and my eyes lock on a grey suit in the window. It's a 40s inspired number - rounded collar, some elegant pleats and tucks, a fitted waist and short peplum, narrow pants. The T-shirts in this store run about $175 and the jeans around $300, so I can imagine (but not without gasping) the price of this suit.

And I want it. I want a pair of expensive pumps with dangerous heels to go with it. Oh. And a stylish haircut and killer red lipstick.

I want to take all my loose, floaty, comfortable clothes, and donate them to Goodwill.

And why? Because I've realized that for the next 18 months, I have to squeeze my pay cheque until it bleeds enough into my savings account to keep me afloat for the first year I retire. In case I'm not fabulously famous for my craft work by then, or Wal-Mart isn't hiring Greeters. Suddenly, the thought of this plunges me into poverty mentality.

Suddenly I want the uniform of unlimited wealth. I want clothing that says, "I don't have to ask what it costs."

That has to be it. Because I don't have or plan to have a lifestyle of the rich and famous. I'm unlikely to end up as a member of the board for a famous ballet company or large non-profit organization. God knows I don't plan sit around beading in such an outfit. I live in a city where wearing a skirt is cause for people to inquire as to why you're dressed up.

Or maybe it's resistance of a broader kind. Resistance to my future life - the one where I don't suffocate on the number 20 bus every day, don't sit at the same desk, doing more-or-less the same thing, bored or frustrated to near-stupification. The life in which my time belongs mostly to me and I can write at 4:00 a.m. without thinking about an alarm clock. But also the life in which decent income and dental plans are a mere memory and expensive grey suits hit the category, "hallucination."

Some larger part of me looks forward greatly to the challenge of life without a safety net, doesn't mind the thought of shopping at Frenchy's and Value Village, likes the idea of salvaging and fixing disgarded furniture, going miles out of my way (via bus pass) for a bargain on brown rice or coffee - but that part is silenced suddenly by the grey suit.

That suit is a previous, anxious life in a larger city. A time when being in style mattered sadly, desperately. When being myself wasn't quite enough.

Nerves from that life, I'm shocked to realize, can still twitch and bother.

I think about owning my time, as an antidote. I think about moving to Dawson, the Yukon, population roughly 2,000 - where a good snowmobile suit would be the height of fashion. I think about writing at 4:00 a.m. - and about Jess saying, about indiscriminate whim-shopping, "what hole needs to be filled?"

And I hang the thought of the grey suit at the back of the closet. Right where it would be, in reality, if I owned it.

PS On the other hand, Weedy's son once said, "Anyone who thinks stuff doesn't make you happy hasn't had good stuff."

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Blogging past the dumpster

"If you’ve got to if after trying to
give it up (like smoking or Nembutal)
if after swearing to shut it up it keeps on
yakking (that voice in your head)
that insomniac who lives across the wall,
that amateur Hammondist
who plays those broken scales next door
o then consider yourself doomed to.”

-Erica Jong, “Bitter Pills for the Dark Ladies”, Rising Tides: 20th Century American Women Poets

My personal journal, the one I drag around in my purse, has not exactly survived the advent of blogging. Or at least, it hasn’t survived with grace. January 2006 to the present, there are pages I would never want anyone to see – and when I read them, I wonder who in hell that annoying whiner is, and moreover, why someone hasn’t put her out of her misery yet. But there she is, along with a cheerier entity who has scribbled notes and drawings for artwork.

I’ve retained the habit of “free writing,” learned from Natalie Goldberg’s book, Writing Down the Bones – and I reread to trace my moods and changes over time, from the safe distance of right now. I look for phrases or sentences that evoke a clear memory or provide material to recycle and insert in a piece that isn’t a wail of incoherent misery or complaint.

The pickings were mighty lean, but here’s what I found.

Jan. 5th – “The energy crackles between us. We are 200 watt happy in a 40 watt situation.”

Jan. 20th – “It’s the first time I’ve let my guard down in two weeks. I’ve worked like a mule, skipped lunches, felt like the pressure was going to blow my eyeballs out.”

Feb. 16th – “And don’t think this shit-parade of holidays isn’t reminding me that no one is sending me flowers.”

Feb. 17th – “(Overheard in a restaurant) We recognize our strengths and weaknesses, as men. Table of young men in suits, one lone woman with them, who says nothing, scrunches down in her seat. The guy talking looks like a pampered dipstick.”

May 8th – “It makes me feel like sulking. Actually, when I have a minute, I am sulking. And I’m enjoying sulking a lot more than I enjoy the feeling that ____is looking at me like he has suddenly stepped in dog poop.”

May 16th – “(Restaurant) I’m sure there is no version of French in which you can assume the annoying current habit young girls have of ending every sentence with a question mark. The words of the women at the next booth sound like Chickadees landing and taking off. English is more of a Penguin language, flightless.”

A few sentences. But then I’ve been talking to you. And believe it or not, I’ve spared you the worst of my trips on the bi-polar express. I discovered that, for me, personal journals often turn into private dumpsters – places where I do not improve my writing skills, do not make breakthroughs in understanding or experience great insight and do not (oh, so do not) even give a passing nod to style, grammar or spelling. I do not spin much gold out of straw. Actually, I tend to spin straw into manure.

Blogging, because there is actually a possibility that someone may read the drivel pouring out of my head and may actually relate to it in their own way, improves my attitude (not to mention my spelling). It forces me to find the funny bits. It changes my attitude, for instance, when strange men appear on my balcony on a bright Friday morning. Whoa! This is a little story! I think, instead of the more safety-conscious, I am phoning the landlord right now who-do-they-think-they-are!” And instead of fretting about my tenuous hold on sanity when I chase fruit flies with a dust buster, part of me hovers around the ceiling watching and taking notes. It’s absurd. And it’s another story.

Day to day life, the routine of it, becomes fodder when you think of it as “story.”

You learn to look for the odd moments and embrace them – the more surreal, the better. I stink at meditation. At plunking my ass on a cushion and attempting to be here, now. I find that I’m immediately somewhere and somewhen else. And my knees hurt or my nose itches. I attend because I write. And I write because “it keeps on yakking,” that voice in my head…

And because you read. Because you’ve become community. I lean over the virtual fence and tell you how today went.

Thank you for that.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Life on Earth: Saving the world in my spare time using only my fabulous brain power

I think it was KD who told me this Buddhist pearl of wisdom, which is (inexpertly quoted), that every time we do good, the same amount of evil comes into being.
It’s a yin yang thing apparently – the way a world operates when it’s divided into opposite poles.

Today, listening to the radio only for short intervals, I heard about:

1. The terrible struggle facing new immigrants to Canada, who, although better educated and more qualified than they have ever been, inevitably end up working minimum wage jobs and living in rotting suburbs.

2. The tent cities of homeless people mushrooming up around the Seine, in France.

3. The latest attack on Israel, the latest attack on Lebanon. The head count of the dead.

4. The inadequate apologies of the Catholic Church regarding the molestation of 47 children by a Bishop of the church.

5. Local crimes and misdemeanors – which seem to be increasing in violence and frequency.

So! I have had enough. Something must be done. I’ve concluded that, if good is creating evil, we are all being far too nice. One quick edition of the news is proof positive.

I urge you all to tell the next woman who asks you if the outfit she’s wearing makes her look fat to tell her, “Yes, you look a perfect cow in that outfit and what happened to your hair?” Stop smiling at children immediately. Let that door you walk through slam in the elderly lady’s face.

Don’t say “please” or “thank you,” or shut up when you see that someone clearly needs to speak. For the love of humanity, stop giving to charity and recycling and remembering your lonely old granny’s birthday, and get in that big fat gas-guzzling SUV and drive like hell just for fun. Run a red light.

Get drunk in public and critique everyone who walks by you. Cheat on your taxes (ok – cheat bigger). Try making petty theft a hobby, then try a bank. Don’t give to charity, don’t feed the hungry. Ridicule difference, be a racist bigot, aspire to unapologetic greed, pride and sloth. Abuse any power you can steal.

Lean, mean and snake-vicious, we’ll save what’s left of the world. Do it for the children.

This has been a public service announcement from Radio Station LOE. Thank you for your bandwidth.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Saturday notes: The day’s another house of cards and plans let go.

1:30 a.m.I’m awake for the second time since I went to bed. This time there isn’t even the hope that I’ll drift off. Until 5:30, I work on the emerald and sapphire bracelet (above) and then, finally, head back to bed and lose consciousness for three hours. I don’t know if it can be called “sleep” when I have stretches like this. I don’t think I’ve hit the deep stage sleep for over a week now and every sound from outside has become an alarm going off. A Russian alarm.

When I was twenty-something, I bought a windup alarm clock that was made in the USSR – and let me tell you, the Russians must have been serious about timekeeping because that thing emitted a sound that I imagine to be the audio equivalent of cardiac arrest. Comrade get up now or die!

8:30 a.m. - The “or die” part, in my sluggish, slumping state, has become vaguely interesting. I wonder if death is restful. Is there a REM stage? Do you hear car horns, and traffic and people yahooing home drunk and sharing their inebriated joy with the whole world? Are there angels? And if so, do the pesky things have a harp and hymn curfew? Are there barking dogs? Telephones. Naw.

Noon - I give up on the idea of shopping for food because I’d only careen around the Superstore like Night of the Living Dead, buying things I already have and forgetting everything I need. Instead, I listen to a science program on the radio, while experimenting with closed eyes, just to see if I feel at all drifty. I don’t. The program airs a segment on Direct Brain Stimulation as a treatment for Parkinson’s disease, severe depression and anxiety and insomnia. Well, at least I’m not depressed – but apparently the problem is in “Area 25” on your basic brain roadmap and Area 25, people, has forgotten to shut down, it’s partying like it’s 1999 and I am young enough to stand life without sleep. Myself, I’d be happy to call an agent and put it on the market. Cheap brain real estate. Fixer-upper. Needs off-switch.

5:00 p.m.I have two really good email letters and two really good snail mail letters to answer. If I could focus my eyes, I might read. And what am I doing? I am chasing flying bugs with my shop vac. Yessir. That’s what I’m doing. Trying to vacuum up bugs as they fly.

7:00 p.m. - Someone just shoot me.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Friday notes

9:00 a.m. Shower, dress, emerge into the living room to find outdoor furniture sitting inside the living room. A man is on my balcony, right by the open door, industriously rolling stain on the wood.

“Hello there,” I say, as if he was out there every morning. He smiles and hellos back, goes on with his rolling. Hello there, I say in my head, Isn’t it lucky I didn’t wander out here naked? Because you know, I do that sometimes in my own home. Make a quick dash out here without getting dressed. Because, gosh, I don’t expect there to be a man on my third story balcony. Now wouldn’t that just have been too funny? If I’d decided to do that this morning with you out there working away? Wouldn’t be both have been surprised?”

”I was wondering when someone was going to do that,” I tell him out loud, “They sent a note around saying we’d be advised the day before so we could clear our balconies.” He pushes the roller back and forth.

“Uh-huh” he grunts.


At work, I’ve hired five new students in four days and constructed a training schedule that is a veritable house of cards…one piece moves by a hair and the whole thing collapses. Meanwhile the library system and its backup have been murdered by a power outage and are still dead after a week. My pre-term stress levels are threatening to overflow the sanity wall.

But today, nothing is going to diminish the joyful prospect of a four day weekend for me. Certainly not an unexpected male person appearing on my balcony. I sit down to put my makeup on. It’s that kind of day. I feel like looking nice for myself. The plan, after lipstick and eyeliner, is to attend to a large basket of laundry I’ve been collecting during a spell of weather so hot that being in the vicinity of a dryer might have been life-endangering.

10:00 a.m. - The plan changes when the phone rings. It’s Man I Don’t Write About Anymore.

“I was going to drop over,” he says.
“Um,” I say, eyeing the walloping basket of laundry, “you figured out I wasn’t at work, huh?” Duh.
“You told me you weren’t working today.”
“I did?”
“Yeah. Is it ok? I mean, are you busy?” I walk the phone into another room.
I was about to do laundry but that’ll wait, only there’s a guy on my balcony.”
He decides to wait for an hour and give my new roommate time to finish.

I do a quick pickup around the house and try to change gears. Not laundry. Not reading. Human interaction. Another unexpected man in my morning. Rather like dandelions popping up on your freshly mowed lawn. Fine. I can adapt to anything as long as it isn’t at work. Man I Don’t Write About Anymore is not exactly work and he’s an appealing species of dandelion and so my morning and early afternoon arrange themselves. Another house of cards plan goes down.

2:00 p.m.The kitchen. Spread out on the bread board: organic peanut butter, blackberry jam, banana, whole wheat bread. The oddest thing happens. At the precise moment that I drop the bread into the toaster slots, I become absolutely present. I am thinking, with delight not called for by such a simple, mundane act, This is my old toaster. This is my bread. This is my afternoon, my life, my peanut butter sandwich. The dandelions have departed. There is a cool breeze blowing through the balcony door. A pearly white overcast sky outside. The laundry is slooshing around in washing machines downstairs. I fit perfectly in my own skin.

It’s always like this. The moment that is illuminated, charged with magic, everything deepening and assuming connection, taking on additional colors. It’s always a perfectly ordinary moment, always when another house of cards has blown down and I’ve stopped trying to pick up the pieces.

And off-topic. For those of you who enjoyed the conversation about relationship and monogamy, I refer you to a wonderful response piece at Yottabite, Contracts and Negotiations.