notes from somewhere in the back row

I’m moving and rifling through four years’ worth of notes and books and clothes. Here are a few fragments from notebooks that didn’t make the storage cut.

Summer 2011, Fiction Writing II:

I’m kind of in love with my professor for only calling me Beatrice.

How to be an asshole:

1. Mention your typewriter

2. Humblebrag about how post-modern your work/question is

3. Say these things:

3a.“I think, for all of us, youth might be our greatest fault,” and

3b. “I read a lot of Native American poetry,” and

3c. “You all know who Kerouac is, right?” and

3d. (on Indians) “Not Columbus’ misconception(????), the Asian ones”

Spring 2010, Earthquakes and Natural Disasters:

We lose dollars; we tend not to lose people

Unknown Class, Unknown Time:

New Mexico is for introspective writers/actors and geologists. Give it back to the Native Americans (96)

Summer 2011, Fiction Writing II:

“cousins”

Golf ball through the kitchen window

shortshorts

This guy did not. Get. It.

Every (f) Good (a) Boy (c) Does (e) Fine (accompanied by a picture of a treble clef and scale)

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Don’t Fear the Reaper

The souvenir cowbells in my trashcan rattle every time I hopscotch across my floor to get to my bed or my closet or my bathroom. They are marketing tools from an event I volunteered at in April. I grabbed two because my friend didn’t want hers – “They’re just going to end up being something else I have to throw away,” she said. I knew she was right, but I pretended like I had space.

Now, my desk is covered in lesson plans and notes crisscrossing from 2008 to 2012. I’ve packed them in boxes labeled with KEEP because they’re worth something, whereas the cowbells are worth nothing. I can’t keep the cowbells. There’s no space or point to them. When has anyone ever needed less cowbell? When did I rewrite that script?

The soles of my shoes are covered in berries that the overzealous sun has forced to ripen before their time. I want to remind them that it’s still May, that for everything there is a season –to ripen, to rot, to start all over. But, even nature has rewritten her script, so I shrug and learn to trust the process.

Seasons don’t fear the reaper

Nor do the wind, the sun or the rain

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and again, and again, and again (I’m always falling in love)

The other day I was giddy on nitrous oxide and genuinely thought my teeth were loose because of course I did.

“Do you remember the last tooth you lost?” I asked my hygienist. It sounded a little more urgent than I wanted it to, so I continued.

“I remember it–I remember thinking ‘I guess I’m an adult now.’”

With that we speculated about where I’d be years from now and I gave her Plan A, Plan B and Plan C.

It’s funny to think about the things that are supposed to initiate us into the adult world.

I’m almost 100% sure that years from now, under the influence of auld lang syne or a particularly beautiful day, I’ll turn to whomever’s close and urgently ask: “Do you remember…?” and try to trace the time from there to here.

from my dentist

 

“and mostly, I am grateful that I take this world so seriously”

It’s time to tuck a few notes into the Internet time capsule.

The abstract ones and the notes scribbled on legal paper with phrases like “we are all the sum of our contradictions” and “it’s hard to pull off anything, take as long as you need.” Cheesy book quotes, like: “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” Or essays that start with, “It’s a long story…”

Because it is a long story, so save the Playbills and the concert tickets and remember the funny phrases and the pizza and the good weather and the love (and shame) and love. Always, always, always love. And balloons.

21, thanks for the drinks.

Thanks for the goodbyes and hellos.

Thanks for feeling like a million Alanis Morissette songs.

Thanks for Big Bear and the beach.

Thanks for graduation and the discovery of deer.

Thanks for The OC game and Joan Didion.

Thanks for good lighting and simple songs.

Thanks for Pet Sounds and Born to Run.

Thanks for the uke and Dream a Little Dream.

Thanks for cute faced kittens and dogs with a sense of humor.

Thanks for belly laughs.

Thanks for family and long days in pajamas.

Thanks for “Shall we dance?”

Thanks for Beyonce.

And thanks for Harry Potter. Because that had to happen.

22, I want even more karaoke.

And finger picking ukulele songs

More give

More patience

More poetry

More accents

More songs of myself and long walks and Xs and Os.

And maybe a little Mahler spilling through those songs.

22, there’s something about you that I really like already.

I wanted to thank the mockingbird for the vigor of his song.

Everyday he sang from the rim of the field,

While I picked blueberries or just idled in the sun.

Every day he came fluttering by to show me,

and why not, the white blossoms of his wings.

 

So one day I went there with a machine,

And played some songs of Mahler.

The mocking bird stopped singing,

he came close and seemed to listen.

 

Now when I go down to the field,

a little Mahler spills through the sputters of his song.

How happy I am, lounging in the light,

listening as the music floats by!

 

And I give thanks also for my mind,

that thought of giving the gift.

And mostly I’m grateful that I take this world so seriously.

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Will I Make it Home Tomorrow?

In almost every writing course I’ve taken I’ve been reminded of the importance of beginning in media res—in the middle of things. Explication is superfluous; no one really needs to know what happened before the shoe dropped, before the letter arrived to the cupboard under the stairs, before she decided to cut his hair. The way I have been taught to regard time is that because it is linear, some parts are more important—or, at least, more interesting—than others.

Not everyone is taught that, but most people believe it—that life only really begins after some point, a specific age or event. Life can change in grand, sweeping ways that can knock you off your feet and point you in new directions but it’s not always tidal waves. Every day you make a decision to live your life a certain way and that’s you setting your course. We’re powerful in that way.

“We can never know what to want,

Because living only one life, we can neither

Compare it with our previous lives

Nor perfect it in our lives to come”

-Milan Kundera

The way I read that, is that the true unbearable lightness of being is deciding what to do with all your potential energy. The possibilities in every day of living, a new start every single day.

In “Goodbye to All That” Joan Didion writes: “It is easy to see the beginnings of things and harder to see the ends.” But I think both are impossible to grasp. I think we all exist in the gray area between the black and white beginnings and endings, never quite sure when the moment started but always in it. Telling our own stories just by moving along, in media res.

And maybe time isn’t linear; maybe it’s circular. Everything in our personal experience could support that idea: have you, on personal level, ever witnessed time ending? Yes, experiences end but how can you ever be sure that something is really over? Maybe nothing ends, maybe things just move to the periphery of our vision where we can never quite catch sight of it. I could believe that. I could believe that entire worlds are caught in motion just around the corner.

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oh, the weather outside is weather

The only reaction to finishing a two-hour final writing exam over a segment of American literature ranging from Tuscaroran oral narratives to impassioned fire-and-brimstone sermons to the Gettysburg Address is to raise your arms in the air and mime yelling “Woo hoo!”

OR, doing that is the flagrant foul of test taking. Win some/lose some. More specifically, lose 2% of your final grade. Like Pee Wee said: “I’m a loner, Dottie. A rebel.”

Two years ago, I took a survey class on Latin American society. The main text was titled “Born in Blood and Fire” and every Tuesday and Thursday I would sit and consume over an hour’s worth of media on the past and present atrocities in South and Central America, Spain, Portugal and the Caribbean. It didn’t always make me happy, but it made me more informed. Before this class, I had no idea a banana republic was more than a department store in mid-sized US cities. That’s important information! It also piqued my interest in nonfiction literature and, like Charles Darwin, it made me crave fictional media in a different way.

Scanning in his mind so many times and places,

he’d had enough of dying species,

the triumphs of the strong over the weak,

the endless struggles to survive,

all doomed sooner or later.

He’d earned the right to happy endings,

at least in fiction

with its diminutions.

Now, my consumption of media in all its forms is a little out of control—at least, that’s what I learned after filling out a 24-hour time sheet in my media and psychology class. I also learned of the third-person effect—the belief that media can and does affect the way other people think, but doesn’t affect you—and I learned that words and theories are only as good as the counter ideas and actions. That if you think Americans consume too much and give too little, you should consume less and give more. If you think your generation is narcissistic and lazy, then spend more time appreciating the world around you and less time looking at the worlds you create through social media.

Last week, Louis C.K. was on Fresh Air promoting his five dollar comedy show, “Louis C.K.: Live at the Beacon Theater”. Here’s what he had to say about actions and words:

I see soldiers fly all the time, because that’s how they get to the war. You think they get to go in a cool green plane with a red light – go, go, go. No, they just go to Delta, and they just wait in line to go to a war. And they always fly coach…every time that I see a soldier on a plane, I always think: You know what? I should give him my seat. It would be the right thing to do. It would be easy to do, and it would mean a lot to him…Because I’m in first class – why? For being a professional asshole. This guy is giving his life for the country… He’s told by everybody in his life system that that’s a great thing to do, and he’s doing it. And it’s scary, but he’s doing it, and he’s sitting in this shitty seat, and I should trade with him.

I never have, let me make that clear. I’ve never done it once. I’ve had so many opportunities. I never even really seriously came close.

And here’s the worst part: I still just enjoy the fantasy for myself to enjoy. I was actually proud of myself for having thought of it. I was proud. Oh, I am such a sweet man. That is so nice of me to think of doing that and then totally never do it.

It’s hilarious and he’s a hilarious, but it’s also a good reminder to just do it–give up your seat, stay offline more often–whatever, just do it. Because the world is already bad and mean and selfish, we all know that, but sometimes we can make it a little less so.

a sort of reasonable discussion on tablets

TL; DR version: HP is having a fire sale, selling their tablets for $99! I recently decided to buy one and if you’re in the market for a tablet, here’s an argument for why you should try to snag one

Sometime at the beginning of fall, I was having a seriously awesome day so the universe intervened and when I went to close to my laptop, I touched the screen and the LCD lights got all dramatic and broke under my thumb. I’m stronger than I look apparently.

I took my laptop to Best Buy and they asked if I had bought my computer from them and if it was under warranty, which I understand as shorthand for: “We can’t help you.” They couldn’t help me even if it had been under warranty, because Best Buy is The Worst.

I bought the cheapest monitor I could find, which ended up being a pretty nice (and fairly large) HP monitor. I assumed I’d find some computer guy in Kansas City or Lawrence that would be able to fix my screen, but all this tomfoolery happened on a Wednesday night and I had a paper due the following Monday (and a test that next morning and two seconds between that test and work to find something/figure out a way to fix the screen — woo hoo!) Of course, I never found that computer guy and the return policy on the monitor expired months ago, so my laptop was accidentally, but successfully, converted into a desktop.

On school days, I would pull up PDFs on my iPod and various documents on my BlackBerry between classes (and sometimes in class) to review and/or read over important lessons. My strained eyesight and chronically dead phone battery were screaming at me to do better than this.

So, I found a repair guy. His company was based in Texas and guaranteed a good-as-new computer screen in three weeks or under. I’m not really the type of person to send a valuable electronic with years of school and personal work on it to the boondooks based on trust and cute colloquialisms scattered about a website. Especially not for the price he was asking for, which was reasonable, but not for me. To put $300 into my laptop now would be to invest in it and tie myself to it for another two years, at least. That just seems illogical to me–it’s working fine as a desktop and I’m kind of enjoying having a larger computer screen, although it does make Skype video conversations a little awkward, as it looks like I’m super engaged with something directly to the right of the webcam. Nevertheless, I’m not investing in this laptop. And thus began the search for the perfect tablet–preferably one that cost as much as, or less than, the cost of repairing my laptop screen.

The first thing I did was go to Amazon and compare the Kindle Fire with the iPad. Amazon makes a lot of great arguments for how they’re basically the same product, but the key distinction between the two–the deal breaker distinction–is that the Kindle has yet to come up with a way to edit documents on their OS. While I would never write a long form essay on a tablet, you bet your ass I’d be doing edits on it. The majority of this was written on my Blackberry. My love for writing on the go is river deep, mountain high (so much so that I’m hesitant to ever step away from RIM and into Apple, I could blaze through an entire Dickens novel with this keyboard and that is an acquired skill I never want to let go). This was only the beginning of my search, but I proudly proclaimed that if you were any type of writer there was no other tablet you could get but the iPad. It had a wide-screen, document editing capabilities and an app store full of entertainment options for especially boring classes or pompous professors (because let’s be real).

Awesome! Done!

Except, the iPad doesn’t exactly fit into my predetermined budget. Like, no-fucking-way-I-could-ever-justify-that-even-if-it’s-the-holiday-season-does-not-fit-into-my-budget.

The second part of this search became my LOTR: Two Towers (oh yes, this shit just got epic) and I began scanning the Internet for articles cross-checking the iPad and other tablets in the same way the Kindle Fire compares itself to the iPad. SPOILER ALERT: comprehensive lists like that don’t exist. My psychology professor made the argument that “my generation” doesn’t know how to think critically because we have Google and I was totally trying to prove her right, but the “Top ‘Generic #’ Tablet” lists didn’t actually list features or compare anything the way I needed them to (CNET does a really fantastic job with reviews though–I just need more “man on the street” input). Consequently, in my free time, I would search tablets, read the reviews (users and critics) and then scour the Internet for some hyper-specific comparison article on that tablet vs. the iPad because, remember? It was the only thing I needed!

Honestly, this is where the search got a little exhausting because I was prepared to do little to no grunt work and even the slightest bit of investigation made me want to turn all Frodo and abandon The Ring. But! Turns out finding the information I needed was pretty easy. Amazon’s tablet section lets you compare the tablets to others listed in the marketplace. Apple’s tablets are only sold by individuals not the certified marketplace, so when you type it in you’ll be redirected to a page full of individual listings of first generation iPads and a defiant link to the iPad vs. Kindle Fire comparison page.

In the tablet section, I selected my most basic requirements: a 7″ screen, 32 GB capacity (at least) and 4G capability (but will settle for 3G) (standards! who’s gotta stick to them?) and went from there. I loved RIM’s tablet, but if I’m going to have the Godzilla sized version of a cell phone without the “phone” part, I wouldn’t choose Blackberry. I know, doesn’t really make sense, right? But everything I like about my Blackberry has very little to do with Blackberry (and there was a month when I was regularly tweeting mean things and just generally trolling their Twitter account) (and I say I’m busy–HA). The tablets I was most interested in at first were the tablets powered by the Android network, which got me super excited because THAT is how you compete with an Apple tablet. I would love access to the Android app store! The best part was that almost all of these tablets were at or near $300.

There were little problems I found though, like “tinny speakers,” low battery life or the worst thing of all: no customer reviews.

Then I found the HP Touchpad, a model HP discontinued in August with a memorable fire sale wherein they were sold for $99 for the 16GB version and $149 for the 32GB. It’s specs rival the iPad– most notably, the identical 9.7″ display and 1.2GHz processor (which is .2GHz faster). It’s also backlit for outside reading and the speaker system was designed exclusively by Beats by Dr. Dre. It comes with wi-fi capability, but not 3G or 4G, which is probably for the best if you’re like me and don’t really need to be paying for the extras anyway.

Right now, the Touchpad retails for a little under $300 on Amazon. HP discontinued the model after deciding they didn’t want to take part in the tablet game. They originally sold it at the same price as an iPad and were met with little success, but a demand was created when customers went wild over August’s fire sale. The company hasn’t definitively decided if it will still develop the webOS system or continue to build it’s app store, but they do offer Touchpad support services and carry accessories for the device ($10 herringbone sleeve, stop tempting me). Also, it has an awesome wordpress app and 300 other apps that PC Magazine has boiled down to a convenient Top 20.

If the company’s position in limbo between developing new apps or keeping their apps “fresh! (for August 2011)” here’s some awesome information: the Android OS can be installed on HP tablets. Did the Hallelujah chorus ring in your ears when you read that? Because it did for me. Beware though: downloading the Android OS voids your warranty, so see if HP’s webOS fails to satisfy or if Instagram really is coming to the Android network before you do anything rash. Both operating systems can exist on your device though–it’s just a matter of which system you want to enable and how badly you need that warranty.

HP is having a second fire sale, starting at 6PM tonight on their official Ebay account, selling the tablets for $99 again. If you’re buying the HP Touchpad in this sale, you will only have a 90 day warranty anyway, so there’s no point voiding it before seeing if there are any real problems with the tablet. All of the tablets sold in this second sale will be refurbished.

I ordered my Touchpad a day before reading about this fire sale, because OF COURSE I did, and it should be here before Tuesday. I can’t wait to test out the speakers, tinker with webOS and cross my fingers that HP decides to continue developing apps for it.

Do you use a tablet? Would you consider buying one? What are your tablet “needs” and should we refine Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to fit today’s society and its growing technology? Do you feel a little guilty looking at the phrase “tablet needs” and reflexively and simultaneously imagine starving kids in Africa being fed cornmeal by UN aid workers, holding their hands out Oliver Twist style because they want some more? Or…is that just me?

They day I get over my constant guilt about everything is December 21, 2012.

7/10: speaking of…

When I think phenomenal, I think Maya Angelou.

Dr. Maya Angelou was born in St. Louis (go Cards) and raised in Stamps, Arkansas—a place full of stories, many of which I read about during That Time I Should’ve Been Reading Harry Potter (Apparently). I found a couple Maya Angelou books on my mother’s bookshelf and because “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” sounded a bit like a mystery novel, I read it.

It was actually Maya’s autobiography, a book that illustrated the trauma and struggles associated with her life in Stamps—traumas that included sexual abuse and blatant racism—and the triumph of transcending her life in Stamps—transcendence by way of the arts and family.

Maya is a dancer and performer, a reader and a sister, a daughter and a granddaughter, a political activist and many things in between.

In The Heart of a Woman, another Maya Angelou autobiography I took from my mother’s shelf, she recounts a few years of her life in New York City which include volunteering for MLK and Malcolm X, having Billie Holiday sing her son to sleep one evening and marrying an African politician—and those are just the things I remember off the top of my head.

The woman exemplifies her poem “Still I Rise,” making void any and all excuses for not being anything and everything you want to be. Obstacles? She had ‘em. Patience? She had that, too—and not the type of patience that just sits and waits quietly, the type of patience that involved doing what you love in every capacity (for her, getting involved in politics and stage acting) and finding ways to improve in all of the above categories.

A few weeks ago, I picked up a used copy of Maya’s “Letter to My Daughter.” She never had a daughter, but if she did these are some of the things she would’ve told her: that growing up was a continual struggle against surrender, that she believes one can never really leave home and that voices need to be reminded to sing again and again.

Live well and live with meaning.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.