Thursday, September 22, 2005

If It's Worth Doing, It's Worth Doing Like An Old Texan

Susan and I have a new form of exercise, Cardio Disliking. The thing that got me today was the name of the local bagel chain - Finagle a Bagel. I do not think you need to finagle a bagel, I'm sure you need only give them a dollar or whatever. It's not like you go in there like "If I give you this dollar, will you give me a pair of red shoelaces (sotto voce) andabagel?" Down with gratuitous rhyming. Anyway, today at lunch I was discussing this with co-workers, and this new part-time designer, about whom more later, said "Well, I think they mean more like when you get the bagel, it's like when you're putting toppings on it." Silence.

Unbounded gratitude and love for all the support re: my mental health. Saw a psychiatrist yesterday (whose office was in a brownstone on a tree-lined street! I felt that I should discuss the fear of death and take off my glasses and rub my eyes a lot.) and he is not too concerned for my sanity. Apparently people sometimes just have hypomanic episodes, sometimes can be caused by anti-depressants, etc. He's advised me to cut back on caffeine and alcohol and let him know if I experience any distinct changes in mood. So, good.

I was going to complain about this designer, with whom I was brainstorming about a how-to poster today, but the problem was mostly with me, in that I am too conceptual and probably too meta and have to remember that I'm not working for some crazy cutting-edge ad agency but for a branding company rooted in business, but the problem was also with her, in that she had no idea what I was even talking about. At any time. She makes my most literal-minded friend - and you know who you are - look like Rimbaud. She kept saying, "but I don't understand - how is that a concept?"


Enough complaining. Here are some pictures of produce.

Hmph. Blogger won't let me upload my second picture.

Here, then, is how you would count to 10 in French like an Old Texan.

Here's to you, conceptual things, heirloom tomatoes and Texans of any age. Thanks, as always, for reading.

Friday, September 16, 2005

again and again, I get up and say I only want to get it right.

Just got back from seeing the Dandy Warhols play in a big tent in the rain in a field in New Hampshire. Diagram *that*, MAPWs!

The tent was so crowded, and the stage so low, that I spent the first third of the first song thinking that they hadn't come on stage. But I muscled my way up to the front until I could see slivers of the performers, and then to right smack in front of the speakers, where I could clearly see the sly and amorous glances Courtney kept giving me. Also longing. One of the 12-ft men standing in front of me yelled "Courtney, you're the only man who doesn't make my penis shrivel up!" He is the Angelina Jolie of men.

Drove up with benevolently weird silent guy from Craigslist, this girl with whom he'd been emailing for years and hadn't met until tonight, and Tom. I was nervous at first thinking maybe there was some unwritten Craigslist rideshare rule whereby if you acecpt a ride from someone you have to provide/do "420," in the local parlance, but we escaped unscathed. Flirted briefly but well with guy behind me in beer line. Tom, who used to box paraprofessionally, almost got into a fight with a short guy in a funny hat who kept trying to push him to the side, saying "Dude, you're in my way. You're like a foot taller than me." Finally, after brushing him off, Tom faced him and said "You noticed?" and the guy backed away. It was exciting. And then the show was over, and we went home.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


I just got back from the psychiatric ward of the emergency room. My psychiatrist, therapist, primary doctor, and the psychiatric nurse think it was/is a hypomanic, which I can type no problem but can totally not pronounce because I always start like "hippopotamus," episode.

Hey, I just realized that what I might have considered to be kind of not-great writing skills on the Internet may be caused by the weird hybrid writing/speaking style/language that people use.

Hmm. Maybe that paragraph is evidence that this purported hypomania is not over. I mean it's not over, but I sure have calmed, pardon my french, the fuck down. I wasn't out of control at any point, I looked totally normal. It was exactly like being on the best part of every drug you could name. I felt totally laid back while my mind was just racing. I couldn't hang onto a thought to finish it, before another rushed in to take its place, and of course they were all incredibly brilliant and insightful.

I wrote down my symptoms on yellow post-its at work so I would remember them. They were/are:

mania (mental glee)
inability to concentrate
unassailable good mood (ed. at the time, I described this to people as not being able to conceive of any negative emotion, as though negative emotions were in an entirely different plane than I am.)
I wrote down "really do have many things to be happy about," because it's true. Or maybe it's not, I can't be trusted right now, and here if I were that kind of person here I'd insert a grin emoticon, but I've decided to only use emoticons in handwriting.
hyper-aware in every sense (vision, hearing, etc)
body tingling all over
amazed at how witty I am
amazed at how lucky I am
wanting to tell everyone I loved them

And, you know, I really do think I was funnier than usual. Meta-hypomanic comments. Unmined comic territory!

But it was scary, at one point I remember having an empty salad container in my hand and looking at it wondering what I should do with it, instead of just throwing it away. And I was outside the front door of our office admiring the way the light fell on a windowjamb(?) and I said, out loud, to my boss (who knew what was up), "Look at how beautiful that is. I want to paint that" which I don't think I"d ever say.

I also described it as you know how when you feel normal you feel here (hand held at a sort of middle level) and when you're sick, you're here (hand held significantly lower)? I feel here (hand held high), it seems to be a distant cousin of sickness, but in the most wonderful positive way. Cara's going home well.

So Darcy took me to the emergency room because my therapist wanted a professional to look at me, and there I was pretty argumentative. It was funny, even at the time, I was pre-emptively apologizing to the poor people I was dealing with even as I condemned them and their antiquated medical practices. I wasn't too bad, not at all. Definitely held most of it back. Darcy's a rock, I tell you. Sto-ic. I on the other hand, freaked out on the nurse because as we were leaving, she said "I hope you get this worked out," which I for some reason interpreted as "but I really, really, really don't think it will," Ridiculous, and I got it seconds later.

So. Now I'm home, and I feel speedy. Still feel pretty happy. Lots of adrenaline, but also a little tired, still feel a little bit like I'm on drugs. On the way back from the hospital Darcy and I had normal conversations about normal things, and it was totally cool.

So feel free to leave comments, as always. This is a little bit of a reaching-out post, and I'd rather it didn't just hang there, lonely. No pressure, just mild encouragement.

And while you're here, and I'm where I am, if you're reading this blog, I probably love you. You kmow who you are. Unless you're one of those people, like me, who reads blogs of people you hate. In which case I feel cosmically sisterly in your direction.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Literature and Spirituality, or, Yet More Navel-Gazing

This is going to be a difficult and awkward post to write.

I majored in English Literature because I liked to read and was going to graduate in a year and had to major in something. I liked and was pretty good at writing papers, because I looked at them as problems to solve, not opportunities for intellectual inquiry or reflection (this because I was/am lazy), but I never liked discussing books. I thought relationships to books were singular and personal*.

My favorite writers are John Cheever and John Updike because they write about the magical in the everyday and the everyday in the magical, and because they seem to marry the Catholic and the Presbyterian, the two forces to which I've been most exposed, in interesting ways, and because they write sensitively about complicated characters and approached what it is to be human with love and no fear and because damn can they write**.

And it dawned on me today, as I was reading one of my favorite passages from Rabbit, Run:

"Every employee hated Kroll's; yet they left it slow as swimming. Janice and Rabbit would meet in this chamber, with the dim light and green floor like something underwater, and push at the one unchained door, push up into the lightm and walk, never admitting they were going there...hand in hand tired walking gently against the curent of home-going traffic, and make love with the late daylight coming level in the window. She was shy about him seeing her. She made him keep his eyes shut. And then with a shiver come as soon as he was inside her, her inside softly grainy, like a silk slipper. Lying side by side on this other girl's bed, feeling lost, having done the final thing; the wall's silver and the fading day's gold."

that that's my sense of spirituality right there - the fall from grace coupled with not expulsion but grace, redemption. Forgiveness. The belief that the world is a good place, and whoever is watching it is good, too.

And this happens again and again in their writing, especially with Updike, on a stylistic level even - maybe especially - when it's being contraindicated by the plot.

Here's another. Rabbit's about to cheat on his wife with a likeable hooker:

"He asks, 'Should I pull the shade?'
"Please. It's a depressing view."
He goes to the window and bends to see what she means. There is only the church across the way, gray and grave and stony. Lights behind its rose window are left burning, and this circle of red and purple and gold seems in the city night a hole punched in reality to show the abstract brilliance burning underneath. He feels gratitude to the builders of this ornament, and lowers the shade on it guiltily."

I could think about this book forever. So. I want to teach a course called (I just paused for nearly two minutes, trying to think of a course title that wouldn't use a colon) "Narrative and Stylistic Spirtuality in the Works of Post-War, (Probably) Alcoholic Male Writers From New England."

I've always identified a little too much with Rabbit for my own comfort. All this about a loving God could just be me subconsciously wanting to get away with stuff in this life and the next.

*Or this is what I told myself; more likely I didn't like discussing books because I didn't think about them and so had nothing to say about them.

**although this morning on the train I read this sentence from Rabbit, Run (at the very beginning, when Rabbit's playing basketball): "His arms lift of their own and the rubber ball floats toward the basket from the top of his head." and I thought "that should be 'the rubber ball floats from the top of his head toward the basket.'" At that moment, I tell you, I became a woman. Or all my heroes were dead. At any rate, it was a moment and a feeling I think he'd appreciate. Also, his grandson goes to school with Mike's daughter! And his son, according to Mike, looks like a homeless person who startles him every time he addresses him at a T stop.


I'm Turning Into Someone I Should Hate:

1. I can no longer walk in heels, and have detected smarm in my voice when I say so.

2. I bought* a book called "Circle of Simplicity: The Return to the Good Life." But I bought it in Brookline. I guess you have to know Brookline to see the humor in that.

3. I am thinking about the Raw Food Diet. I don't know what got me started on this, but I know people who have done it, and I've read up on it and apparently it's insanely good for you - you become overrun with energy, your health vastly improves, and it's said to improve your mood, too. The downside is that no one ever wants to have dinner with you, but every cloud has its silver lining.

Signs There's Still Hope:

1. LOVED Brookline.

2. Am compiling list of foods soon to be recategorized "raw." Like wine. Or perhaps "raw" is surfer term meaning good.

3. Today I used work I did for my Discourse Analysis class on the rhetorical effects of the progressive and perfect tenses and the passive voice to compare our client's website with that of a competitor and literally didn't notice when the fire drill went off.

Signs I Might Be Turning Into Someone Other People Would Hate

1. Today in the kitchen I held forth, over a half-eaten pan of eggplant parmagiana,on the idea that the principle of not eating the last piece drawn to its logical conclusion means that no one can ever eat anything divided into pieces.

*At a used bookstore. You might think that mitigates the fact that it was bought in Brookline, but I bought it at the Brookline Booksmith which is almost painfully yuppie-pretending-to-be-smart-and-cultural-and-hip-and-with-it** so of course I wanted never to leave.

**there ought to be a way, when making a hyphenated phrase, to indicate that one of the elements in the phrase is itself a hyphenated phrase. I like the idea of the second part of the phrase being written in subscript, but that's because I think that in those two-part hyphenated phrases the accent is usually on the first syllable - maybe the unaccented syllable can be written in superscript if it's first, and subscript if it's second? Do I hear a Nobel Prize?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Everyone must rush out and buy "Wake Up, Sir!" by Jonathan Ames - it's a PG Wodehouse homage - Bertie Wooster is Alan Blair, a 30-year-old sometimes-novelist from New Jersey who won a settlement of a quarter million dollars, and decided on a whim to hire a valet, and was tickled beyond all reason to find one actually called Jeeves.

The language is perfect Wodehouse, updated for the 90's, and the novel is both hilarious and poignant. Everyone I've talked to who has read it says "I am Alan Blair," but they're all wrong, because I am.

Quotes to further impel you:

"When women really stun you, you want to die. It's an inversion of the lustful violence one feels. The desire has become pain, which is its natural course, according to the Buddhists. Desire = Pain. I learned this on the back of a ginger tea box."

"Rather than say anything, I stood up and put my foot in the water, testing it. Testing the water, that is, not my foot. Though maybe it was my foot I was testing - whether it could tolerate the water's temperature. Oh, God, I don't know what's more difficult, life or the English language."

In other news, I've been listening non-stop to the Dandy Warhols' new album, which is called "Odditorium or Warlords of Mars." It is excellent in that sparkly twangy Dandy Warhols way. Also one of the top 10 sexiest things in the world, I've learned, is a long inhale without a corresponding exhale, or maybe it's just when the adverb-defyingly gorgeous Courtney Taylor-Taylor does it. Hey, they're playing Friday night in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Reckon I'll go to that.

Done! (client directive)

"Please check the language in the 2004 brochure to make sure it is or is not the same as what we're using now."

Sunday, September 04, 2005

and the winner for "Denotation of Irony" is...

Richard Cheese. He does loungey, swingy covers of songs we've grown up with: Suck My Kiss, Add It Up, Welcome to the Jungle, Enter Sandman, Been Caught Stealing. And a cover of Nirvana's Rape Me that had everyone at the dinner party in tears.

He will sometimes change lyrics - when he does "Creep" by Radiohead, he sings "I wish I was special...I'll have the special...." Yes, he's the modern day Weird Al, (albums are "Lounge Against the Machine" and "Apertif for Destruction.") but the music is good. You can get his stuff on Rhapsody.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Old Orleans

I don't have a lot to say. It's unfathomable. Last night I heard Stone Bryant or Phillips talk to someone there who said that he got a clear handle on the situation when he caught himself saying to a co-worker "when we get back to the States."

2 things.

1. I keep thinking "isn't this a J.G. Ballard story?" Why is that my rubric for catastrophe? This isn't - anyone who's read any J.G. Ballard will tell you that this isn't at all that kind of thing. But I persist in thinking it. Obviously, it's a testament to the fact that I've grown up so privileged that my schema for "rioting/destruction/anarchy" comes from a British man's book about bored rich people amusing themselves. Excuse me while I get another glass of Chardonnay.

2. What does it mean that the vast majority of these people are poor and black?

3. Should that be "black and poor?"

4. Can we all, by which I mean America, agree that the way that this has played out indicates both a government incapable of dealing with non-overtly-politically-significant catastrophes, and an extant civil state, or states, in which American citizens have been left in such a state that they shoot at their rescuers? Dear God, forgive us.

Designers kill me.

I spent a couple of hours in a meeting with two of them, talking over creative directions for a new identity for an existing brand. To wit:

1. Because my program realizes that people often approach writers with skepticism, because hell, anyone can write, we get a very solid grounding in both the theories that underlie our structural and stylistic choices and in learning how to explain and argue for these choices. Which I love. But designers are totally different! it's this whole intuition thing, and here let me insert that

2. I am a complete moron when it comes to design. My opinions on design are all conceptual; I have no sense of whether something is aesthetically brilliant or terrible. In my more high-falutin' moments I fancy that this is because I can't argue for them, but I think it's just that I have no visual sense. Or rather that I'm designerly autistic - I've taken enough design at CMU to be able to be able to rattle off rules of what makes something good or bad design, but I can't feel it.

Back to 1. So of course Catapult employs very talented designers, and today we were looking at designs they'd worked up in support of 3 potential creative directions, and they were saying things like I feel like it wants to be more like this and ...the black, which totally feels like "performance" and This corner is so saturated, you almost want that saturation all the way across and as soon as I started this project I've felt that the main thing was to get your eyes on the package. And they're always right, because they're brilliant. I envy them their visual sense, which seems more primitive and shamanistic and thus more desirable than verbal sense, which seems much more easily learned, and I envy their certainty that products and designs ARE a certain way, and it's just a matter of figuring them out.

If I didn't love words so goddamned much I'd have a huge case of designer envy. But I spent the second half of the afternoon thinking up taglines. Being paid to think about words! It's the best thing ever.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

MFA Boston. Nobody's Fool.

A few years ago, my ex and I missed a connecting flight to Sydney and got to spend the day in San Francisco. I'd never been to SF, and I wandered around in a daze, thinking it was the most magical place I'd ever seen. 30 hours later we got off the train in downtown Sydney, and San Francisco became a hazily remembered glum little village.

A few nights ago, I was driving across the Veteran's Bridge in Pittsburgh, listening to the Johnsons' Big Band and watching smoke puff out of a stack at the Heinz plant, and I loved Pittsburgh, loved grittiness, loved resoluteness, loved the smoke and lights and, as Updike wrote about Eastern PA, the cloudless white skies. Today on the way to work I walked from South Station to the Boston Public Market, which is held on a footbridge over the harbor every Monday and Thursday from June through November. The smell of the sea blew up from the harbor and the cheery red-faced Fendleys and Flahertys beamed from the sides of the streets. At the market I was offered my choice of Thai, lemon, chocolate or regular basil. I fondled huge, psychedelic, obscene heirloom tomatoes, tasted rosemary goat cheeses from a nearby creamery, and bought corn that had been picked hours before. Then I went in to work and spent a riotous 30 minutes plotting with Susan and Erin about how to use "Susan's" membership card ("I have one but it's not mine") to trick the MFA out of comp tickets to the Ansel Adams exhibit. Then I got an email message from Reality Tom saying that he found a great new restaurant and that we were going on Sunday, his treat.

Just sayin'.