Saturday, June 30, 2012

memory

What is it that we recall as our best memories? A triumphant moment? Crossing the finish line, erecting the building, reaching the top of the tower? Or lying in bed on a lazy Saturday morning, tangled up in the sheets and sleepy happy? Or having a mundane moment transformed into something magical like when a child takes its first step or reads aloud for the first time?

It's not healthy to devalue the lazy Saturday mornings. As if allowing such unproductive bliss distracts me from the arduous climb to the summit. Arduous being the operative attitude word.

I'm going to take my meandering, unfocused, stopping-to-smell-the-roses-with-a-grimace self to bed now.

Monday, June 25, 2012

trusims are sometimes lies

In the category of "What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger" I'd like to present exception #398:


Sunday, June 24, 2012

emptiness

This isn't about sorrow, it's about being emptied.

The workweek began with the sudden resignation of a valued coworker. Then ended with a day full of (mostly good) schmoozing. It left me drained. Friday night I had food poisoning or a stomach flu and, well, that resulted in 24 hours of emptying.

We worked in the garage this morning for two hours (heat index: 102° today) clearing, organizing and discarding. Then, we went to a baseball game–which is not exhausting for me because I don't pay enough attention to get exhausted but it was with St. Barbara's company and there was a bit more "being on." Don't get me wrong, I like the socializing. It's just always more work than it seems.

We ran into an old friend, which was fun. But then found out that her partner had passed away a year ago of Alzheimers and Parkinsons. A traumatic amping up of a traumatic experience. A new and delightful neighbor came by to say her lung cancer had metastasized to her brain, she has 18 months to live. But so full of life and devoid of pity! She is wonderful and inspiring. My daughter and I had an overdue talk. A healing, clarifying talk. Hard work and relief.

Over the past two weeks my father had surgery twice. First, exploratory to find out what was causing pain and blockage in his bladder. I was steadying myself for the bad news: a recurrence of his cancer. But it wasn't. The second (stent) operation was not successful but they're going to try again in two days. He is on pain killers and speaking to him on the phone today was like talking to a half asleep version of my father...hard and disconcerting. But he doesn't have cancer and that is amazing.

And this isn't all of it but you get the gist. So much emotion, so much energy, so much everything. Empty. Not depressed, not elated, just whoosh.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

observations

Like many government-supported organizations, the university has buildings dedicated to Students with Disabilities, Student Health Services, etc. Walking past the Affirmative Action building last week I suddenly realized that it was beige.

Monday, June 18, 2012

bibullshit

On the university's fb page our social media person asked the question,
Can you name one book that changed your life?

The comments contained lots of good books (The Picture of Dorian Gray, Sister Carrie, Lord of the Flies, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Fahrenheit 451, The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, etc.), some lame (Alchemist) and most predictably, many listed The Bible (often capitalized BIBLE, in case we missed their piety).

The Bible changed their lives? Liars! Fucking liars. Most of them wouldn't get through a book as convoluted and boring as the Bible without all the pious pressure. What they understand about the Bible is the predigested, completely bullshit version fed to them from the pulpit and vacation Bible school. The Bible itself is full of begats and incest and murder...which should make it somewhat interesting but in fact, does not. It's a poorly told story, choppy and inconsistent. Not to mention offensive and violent and anti-women and pro-slaves, etc. ad nauseum. The Bible changed your lives? Drone-brains.

language (f)arts

I should make this a regular blog feature: Mangled expressions...quite possibly my favorite serendipitous experience. I posted this on the fb today:

Public service announcement:
You "flesh out" ideas. You "flush out" toxins.
Use it in a sentence? I'd love to!:
"Colonics or Juicing? I'm trying to flesh out a way to flush out my system"
Then, today I heard "Money was not an object."
I thought, well, actually money is an object.
Perhaps you meant to say, "Money was no object."?

Everyone has to figure out how not to go stark-raving mad in meetings, this is my way.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

fallow build-up

Sometimes you just have to loaf around on the weekend until your energies are replenished. But sometimes loafing around just leads to more loafing around. Didn't feel like I got shit done on Friday.

Saturday I went food shopping (truly should get some kind of bonus for facing the grocery store each week) and closed my Chase account. (It was time to put my money where my politics were, so it's the inconvenience of my local credit union for now on. Seriously, I was so glad to get that done.) But I still felt like I was swimming against the current the rest of Saturday.

Then, this morning I got up before 7am, cut my hair and cooked 7 days worth of meals before heading over to a friend's house for dinner.

The best metaphor is either laying fallow or letting the pressure cooker build up steam...I don't know. All I know is that I kicked some middle-aged ass to day and boy am I tired.

Friday, June 15, 2012

cruppers and glue

crup this
A passage from Nightwood by Djuna Barnes. Matthew is sick of his friends and their well-nurtured sorrows. He is sick and contemplating death:
"To all kinds of ends I'll come. Ah, yes, with a crupper of maiden's hair to keep my soul in place and in my vanguard a dove especially feathered to keep to my wind, as I ride that grim horse with ample glue in every hoof to post up my deeds when I'm dropped in and sealed with earth."
(A crupper is a strap attached to a saddle that loops under a horse's tail to keep the saddle in place. It does not look very comfortable from the horse's point of view.)

How I love the metaphor of riding "that grim horse with ample glue in every hoof to post up my deeds..."

reluctant, accidental farming

There are many tricks you can use to "con" yourself into doing things that you know are wise but that you're less than excited about doing. You know, putting the alarm clock across the room so you get to work on time, picturing your arteries full of congealed bacon grease as you reach for an eclair, etc.

It has been long established in my little world that I am happiest indoors. Don't like the extreme heat/cold, bugs or being on my knees in the dirt. Wish I did, I'd be a better Renaissance woman, well-respected lesbian and more smug liberal. I like to say that I was waiting in line for Sarcasm, Hair and Belly-laughs when the Metabolism and Outdoorsy counters ran out of supplies. I have really good hair though.

One trick I use to force myself to be more "earthy" is to tap into my obsession with not wasting anything. Not putting stuff in the landfills that has practical use. So, I compost. No interest in gardening, just want to make great smelling, rich, loamy compost out of all the discards from the kitchen. Eventually, I ended up with lots of compost and no urge to garden.

Exhibit 1
Enter Drought. One of the worst droughts in recorded Houston history. Houston, a name synonymous with dampness. Anyway, the drought killed the long-suffering and sturdy azaleas in our front beds. It was sad but you know, que sera sera and all that shit. We decided to take our Red Flyer wagon-loads of compost and dump them in the now naked beds. We churned and stirred and walked away.

And then, like some time-sped-up, National Geographic miracle movie I went out there today and saw Exhibit 1. Call me crazy but that is some reluctant, accidental gardening right there. Those unnamed plants, my fellow Americans are a mystery to me. I have no idea which meal byproduct(s) over the past year have contributed to the farm but we're going to have more of them, whether I like it or not.

Ron and Mandragora.
Joe is convinced we're going to pull up something mutated and Harry Potteresque. Which is highly possible. What worries me more than anything is the sudden urge to protect the farm. I found myself daydreaming about a sun screen for the tender little things when I know full and damn well I'm going to forget about them. Forget and find their brown, shriveled up bodies next week in a wave of guilt and irritation. If they actually screamed when they were thirsty I'd remember to take care of them. I should cultivate Mandrakes instead.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

magi, musketeers, marx

The sweet one in the middle is St. Barbara.
One of my (and our) best friends moved in with us about 7 months ago. Joe and I went to design school together and he has known me even longer than St. Barbara. It might not be apparent on first blush (just an expression, we are both too..."whorish" is bit overkill...perhaps "experienced" for anything so coy as blushing) but that beautiful man is gayer than a tap-dancer in short-shorts and a hat full of fruit. So, I'm kinda in show-tune hell, people (read: constantly entertained and delighted).

It's so odd to think of the handful of people in this world with whom I could peaceably reside, I am currently living with two of them. We compost, crossword and cook together. We three are so oddly contented.This is how weird, fenced-off compounds get started. I'm building a root cellar and a bomb shelter this weekend.

Monday, June 11, 2012

un-fan devotion

The late Christopher Hitchens
Christopher Hitchens' last public appearance was in Houston at the Texas Freethought Convention. I was fortunate enough to see him. Among the brilliant and poignant moments were his comments on how letters from people who had read his books or heard him speak meant so much to him. He encouraged everyone to write letters to those who had made an impression on them. That such an acerbic man was touched by the words of people who liked or respected him surprised me.

The up-very-late Tom Waits
I have thought about this a lot in the past six months since his death. My history of fanatical belief has given me a trigger reaction to fandom. I find most "fan" behavior obnoxious ("too close to 'fanatics,'" she said snootily). I don't worship anyone. I am not in awe of anyone who has not done something...well, awe-inspiring.

Tom Waits is awe-inspiring. Because his lyrics and music are blindingly colorful or painfully desaturated. Because he doesn't get comfortable and predictable. Because he makes me laugh hard. Because he keeps banging shit around and doesn't tour unless he goddamn wants to.

So here is the letter I sent to Tom Waits. One of my all-time favorite famous people.

­­June 2012
Dear Tom Waits,

Your lyrics and music have made me belly-laugh. Have cemented the bond with my children. Have made my happiness and sorrow richer. Your characters have been perfect company when I felt like an outcast. Your love songs have shone a light on the complicated, deep and imperfectly perfect love I have for my partner. I love the graininess of your songs. I love the clarity and cloudiness. I love how the dotted line from crotch to brain, intersecting the heart, is fed by your music.

Thank you, thank you.
Epiphenita

Saturday, June 09, 2012

daughter bride

Every other image of love or marriage or weddings seemed kind of boring/traditional.
Six months ago my daughter got engaged. Why so long to report? Partly because I've let Facebook suck away my writing time. Partly because I feel her sense of privacy and my enthusiasm should not sit too close to each other on the bus. To say that I'm thrilled with this match is no exaggeration. She is a-fucking-mazing and funny and complicated. He is worthy of her–I can give no higher compliment.

They have set the date. It's just under 5 months away. They have the location for the wedding (Rothko Chapel...wonderful). One of my wedding gifts to her is to contain myself while she doesn't worry about the details. This gift will get a little less pristine as the date draws near, I'm afraid. But it's not getting opened.

image source

Thursday, June 07, 2012

lethal cake

A cake I made for one of the people I supervise at work. It was ridiculously rich and delicious. Contains three cake recipes (2 layer-15" diam cake pan) and more butter than is good for a person.

Oh, yeah. The honoree's name started with W. Clearly, this has no connection to the former president. He will never get a cake from me.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

love and contempt

Have you ever really liked/loved someone for whom, within a short span of time, you feel intense dislike and revulsion for? And those feelings ping-pong back and forth regularly? It's not so hard to imagine academically but in reality, I can't seem to get my head wrapped around the dichotomy.

On another note, I am in the middle of Reading Lolita in Tehran. It's hard to see the rise of religious zealotry in this country and not feel a shiver of deja vu when you read about the Iranian Islamic Revolution. Couldn't happen here, you think? You should read this woman's utter disbelief that this could happen in her country. And watch her slowly accept the morality squads' erosion of civil liberties. Especially for women. Accepted is the wrong word. Resigned is more like it. Because she understands that rebellion could mean death.

With that little pick-me-up, I'm going back to baking a cake for my coworkers...


Tuesday, June 05, 2012

almost forgot

I just realized that I'd forgotten to mention that three months ago I got a job!
It had been 11 months since I'd been laid off, though I'd worked freelance and contract during much of that time. After the bliss of not being permanently employed, I had some trepidation about the whole full-time job re-entry. But it's great. I'm a goddamned Art Director at my alma mater! It's full of challenges and I have to wear business drag but I like the people and the university is something I can get behind. I really love this job.

welcome, whatsyourname

I went to the Welcome Center at the University today to do some research for a project. The woman at the desk was, true to her calling, very welcoming. I asked her a question and she didn't know (it's not called the Answer Center, after all) and she decided to call someone to help me.
She asked my name and let's say I said,

"Epiphenita."
"Teresa?"
"Epiph-enita"
"Felita?"
"No, Epiphenita."
"Alicia?"
"Yes. Alicia."

Monday, June 04, 2012

imbalance

What triggers anger? Fear? Arrogance? Impotence? My anger is a rich blend of all three and something deeper and more primal. No, it's more about my inner child. My history.

Many smart, capable female friends have been posting on Facebook about getting old. And fat. And not being pretty. I see decades of creativity sucked dry by bullshit. And I got angry.

"Why do you waste your energy puling about aging? All you have is time and you're pissing it away. There's a million more fascinating, enriching and amusing things to do out there than moan than something you can't change. I am 53. I don't give a rat's ass about getting older. Get on with your lives and stop this ridiculous, first-world whiny shit.
You are smart and I love you but you are wasting your precious time. The End."
It probably won't make a bit of difference and I'll offend people and make them defensive. I should just block them so I don't have to read it. 

Who do I think I am, telling people that they're full of shit? 
Who do I think I am, telling them I know better than they do? 

This goes back to power. And balance and imbalance. 

Do I have the right? 
Do I have the obligation? 
Do I see clearly?

Well, I guess I think I do. I think I have the right and obligation to say that the Emperor is stark naked. I am pretty sure, however, that it falls on deaf ears and I want to be okay with exorcising cultural demons even if it seems I'm the only one witnessing the act.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

balance

I've been thinking a lot about leadership.
About the balance between being strong and ruthless.
About the balance between being ├╝ber egalitarian and ineffectual.
Of course, it doesn't have to be one or the other.
But it is rarely clearly, cleanly one or the other.

As a woman, claiming power is the sound of cymbals crashing in my head.
At once, invigorating and terrifying.
I jump up in excitement and recoil.
Such figurative schizophrenia makes me angry.
But anger is a stupid response because this is about balance.
Which is never simple and never clear.
Even for men. I don't know.
I've been thinking a lot about leadership.