the fate of objects

Nothing is more improbable or subject to chance than the fate of objects

Billie Dyer and Other Stories – William Maxwell


Downton Abbey does not sound like a show I would like. I am not a fan of period dramas; I’ve had enough of icy brunettes with mean streaks. I just finished reading Kazuo Ishiguro’s “The Remains of the Day” and it turns out, I am also not a fan of Great Britain in the early 20th century. Or, to be honest, I am just not interested in it.

But there’s a particular escapism in Downton Abbey that I enjoy. I enjoy escaping into a life in which the stakes seem low, but are actually impossibly high. I enjoy seeing the drama of gigantic problems and quiet solutions played out in soft, measured tones. I enjoy the calculations and the hard-hearted stoicism with which they face the unaccounted for incidents of life.

How do you ever know?

Preparation is just pretend. Nothing is more improbable than anything at all.

Billie Dyer kept a notebook. Billie Dyer, the African-American doctor from Kansas City by way of Lincoln, Illinois, kept a notebook that ended up in the hands of a curious Texan.

William Maxwell wrote a story. William Maxwell actually wrote a lot of stories. I read them and thought about aphorisms and why we write and who we hope will read.

I think we hope we’ll read it again someday. That we’ll pick it up and it will have a purpose outside of what it was. I think we hope for eternal life by way of notebooks and notes and write like a motherfucker aphorisms and quotes. I think we hope.

Nothing is more improbable or subject to chance than the whims of a nineteen-year-old carried out by a twenty-something-year old.

Will the object be gone tomorrow? Or venerated later today? I am almost always sure that there is a better course of action than the one I am on, or I’m almost always sure that I’m doing the right thing for me.

Who knows? Who could’ve guessed a Victorian mansion in the English countryside would experience it’s second wind by way of an ITV/Masterpiece Theater drama featuring English ladies in compromising positions with foreign dignitaries, blackmail, revolution, war, Dame Maggie Smith and Shirley Maclaine?

But then again, when I write it like that…

There It Is

Sometimes, when I’m feeling overwhelmed by Google Reader and my vision blurs staring at pages and pages of words, I refocus for a moment and I’m hit by Zan McQuade.

“I keep thinking I need to write it all down while I’m still here. Everything. Every last inch of curb and gutter stench. Every single person that passes me on the street.

And so I write this moment…

The focus that comes from free writing is tantamount to what you gain from free time. I have always felt that my most thoughtful moments come during the two-hour drive home from school and the blissfully (and so not green) long showers I indulge in when my roommates aren’t around to witness my waste.

It’s there that I’m able to flashback, or forward, for a while. Sometimes these moments take me to a conversation I had that day, other times its imagined conversations in the future or little moments or phrases that I’m able to bloat with meaning. After I arrive at my destination or run out of hot water I’m almost scared by the amount of time that has passed. It always feels as though those moments of introspection have aged me so much, as if my wrinkly hands will now be permanent.

I ran my hands underneath a stream of water for a few minutes to see if those wrinkles that appear distort the little swirls of me at my fingertips and they don’t.

Do you know why your fingers do that when you’ve been in water too long? It’s an adaptation. The wrinkles act as treads for the water, allowing a better grip in wet conditions. It’s a way for us to increase our sense of touch.

To pause and reflect on a moment, to write it out and appreciate it–every aspect of it–is to increase your awareness. You can’t capture it all, there’s no point in doing that, but in the next moment, when you’re just experiencing it, you’ll feel it all. A runner who can’t catch her breath won’t be running long and a writer who doesn’t stop to appreciate what’s around her won’t have much to write, or see. Everyone needs a moment to themselves, to gain some tread and a better sense. Every moment spent with yourself is a good one.

“The pause makes you think the song will end. And then the song isn’t really over, so you’re relieved. But then the song does actually end, because every song ends, obviously, and THAT. TIME. THE. END. IS. FOR. REAL.”

Jesus Christ!

Jesus Christ was the original tortured artist.

That’s what Andrew Lloyd Webber was getting at, right?

When I was five, six or somewhere near that age between innocence and enlightenment/self-awareness (seven?) I wanted to be a doctor, a model (not for the looks thing but for the standing around thing and getting paid–I knew what was up even then) and then finally a storyteller.

My dad, who was a pilot, would come home after being away for an entire week and recount Aesop’s Fables to my brothers and I in the back yard—always making sure to change his voice for the various animals. I felt so connected to those stories and the art of storytelling. Later, when we moved to Salina, I would always make sure to visit the storytellers’ tents during the River Festival and I started telling my own stories.

Years later, it happened.

I started feeling anxiety over things that I would write. I wouldn’t want to share it or look at it or acknowledge it because I was sure it was all the worst. That I was The Worst. But I still felt compelled to write, which is how I knew I was doomed.

I prayed that my ambitions would be skewed, that I’d want to do something easier or simpler.

Give me a love of numbers or anatomy.
Give me a passion for laws and regulations.
Anything, ANYTHING!

But please don’t make me do this.

“I only want to say
If there is a way
Take this cup away from me
For I don’t want to taste its poison
Feel it burn me,
I have changed I’m not as sure
As when we started
Then I was inspired
Now I’m sad and tired
Listen surely I’ve exceeded
Tried for three years
Seems like thirty
Could you ask as much
From any other man?”

My ambitions have stayed and like most things in the realm of love when it’s good there’s nothing better and when it’s bad I turn into a five year old and just want it to be good again and wah.

Which leads me to the present, where I have two versions of a short story minimized on my dash at work because I stayed up until I was too delirious to edit any of it last night because THAT IS HOW I COPE WITH BEING DOOMED/SCARED.

But Sunday morning and afternoon when I was sitting at my computer with the phone and wireless off and just writingwritingwriting? That made me deliriously, ceiling dancing happy. And I spent the rest of the day thinking about those characters and wanting to do more with them (and then being afraid of looking back at them, but I’m getting over it now). Everything else just feels like an obstacle to get over before I can do that again.

“Try not to get worried, try not to turn on to
Problems that upset you, oh.
Don’t you know
Everything’s alright, yes, everything’s fine.
And we want you to sleep well tonight.
Let the world turn without you tonight.
If we try, we’ll get by, so forget all about us tonight”

I am so doomed.

Which, I guess, is the whole point.

showing up.

It was the classic dance of two steps forward and three steps back: for every page I wrote of my short story, one got deleted.  After a few hours, I felt like hitting the combination of CTRL + Shift + Home + DEL had become instinct.  There was no progress; I felt like the task was too monumental and that I wasn’t ready for it and maybe wouldn’t ever be ready for it.

I always thought I’d be a storyteller.  My first and most vivid memory from my early childhood was listening to my dad recite the story of The Tortoise and the Hare for my brothers and I.  Listening, I was standing on the sidelines observing the events.  I was cheering on the Tortoise, I was learning a lesson alongside him.

Soon, I was reading different stories and coexisting with different characters.  Just like Little Bear there was a tunnel leading to China at the end of my bed, and on some days I’d return with chopsticks.

In the third grade, Mrs. Leiker asked me to read my short story about a scarecrow who comes to life when a particular song is played.  She had asked the entire class to turn in their rough drafts for her to read before they would be posted outside, and when I had handed her my story she began to read and started laughing.  Insecurity took over and I was convinced I did the assignment wrong until she spoke.

“This is great!” she had said, asking me to read it in front of the class.  I was the only one who got that honor and I loved every minute of reading that story, listening to the reactions of my classmates.

But writing a twelve page story this past week was exhausting.  It dominated my thoughts and conversations, but whenever I would sit down to write it took considerable effort.  I thought it would just “flow” but it didn’t.  It took preparation, careful thought and a kind of a dedication reserved for marathon runners.  The finish line was never in sight, but every step along the way was important.

It wasn’t easy like I thought it would be, but it was better because of that.

Your thoughts and ideas are the only things that can limit you–ask anyone who has ever done anything worthwhile.

“Showing up is half the battle” isn’t true.  Showing up is the battle; it’s being ready to get your ass kicked, to lose sleep and maybe even your sanity for awhile.  You can always decide to skip the workout, not submit your resume, pick up the cookies instead of the carrots; you can always decide to not show up.

Making that first step is choosing to fight because it puts you in motion.  It doesn’t end there though–you have to continue to show up.

It’s going to be an ass-kicking of a time, and you’re probably going to notice all the bad things first.  It’s like when you’re starting to work out and walking is turned into a foreign task because the muscles in your body ache that much.  Later, when working out has become a part of your daily routine, you notice changes in your body and life that legitimize every moment you spent at the gym.

There was this moment at the Academy Awards a couple years ago that I’ve always loved.  Russell Crowe had just won an Oscar for Best Actor and walked onto the stage.  He studied his award for a minute, then looked up at the crowd, giving a speech about his childhood.  It ends with this:

…A dream like this seems vaguely ludicrous and completely unattainable but this moment is directly connected to those childhood imaginings.  And for anybody who is on the downside of advantage and relying purely on courage: it’s possible.

Good luck and don’t forget to show up.

DAY 365. frick, frack, fruck!

In Rocket Science, when Hal Hefner meets up with Ben Wekselbaum, the boy he thinks is going to change his life, Ben turns to Hal and says:

The fights you fight today are the fights you fight for the rest of your life

On January 25th, the day before 365, I resolved to do plenty of things.  The original list, in all its single-spaced glory is here: YO.

On that list, I am most proud of the fact that I kept an open mind and interacted with people who I never thought I would.

I was reading Jay Z’s interview with Interview Magazine and while he spends the majority of the interview commenting on his specific industry I found his lessons learned to be universal.  When you get to a position that you’ve worked for it’s easy to put your life on auto-pilot and stay within the confines of whatever box you’ve created because that’s what works.

I wrote in that first post that I don’t typically make resolutions outside of the whole “To be content” box, because that’s easy.

I feel that the majority of my life is all about maintaining whatever state I’m currently in. Maintain my grades, maintain my health, maintain my sanity, consciousness, drug habit, etc. And I think it’s time for me to finally seek to go past just maintaining.  Besides, to maintain your position is to remain stagnant.  There is no way to ever grow as a person, if you’re not allowing yourself to move past a certain point.

A year ago I wrote that and I still feel that way now.  I still feel that I can push a little harder, that sometimes I rest a little bit longer than I need to; that I get afraid about what I want to do and so I don’t do anything, as if that’s a viable alternative.  But, I know that is always going to be an alternative and it’s up to me to challenge myself.

It’s a fight that I will have to fight within every aspect of my life and I like being aware of that.  It’s fun to see how hard you can push yourself, to look back and see that  you conquered something that seemed impossible.

I can’t give myself the true 365 days because some days I just wasn’t in the mood, but my WordPress Dashboard tells me that overall I wrote 364 posts, which is good enough for me.

Thank you for reading!

I can’t wait to not have to add the stupid numbers at the beginning of every post.

day 280. posts with the “f” word in the title are inappropriate.

Yeeeah, what she said (in the heading.)  Oops!

Um, let’s play with some definitions here:

Anxiety–that feeling you have when you have to pay for something and you’re trying to remember whether or not you have enough money in your checking account to pay for it.

Elationrealizing that you do have enough money in your checking account to pay for your what you need, and also have more than enough cash left over to horde like a Scrooge-inspired maniac.

I’m registering for my Spring classes soon and one class that I’m hoping to get into is a fiction writing course.  It’s set up like a workshop and you write around three 12 page stories.  I am full of stories that I’m dying to share.  I’ve been thinking about one in particular for the past couple of months.  I thought it was fictional, but, especially with the events of last weekend, I’m starting to see it more as autobiographical.  There are two main characters and once I get the gist of their story figured out I’ll write more about it.

And because I am the girl who buys the shoes, then finds the outfit, I do have a tentative title for the story: “Worst Case Scenario: A Survival Guide.”

day 273. avoiding.

For my Films class, we have this midterm paper that we were supposed to do by last Tuesday, but whose due date got pushed back to next Tuesday, thanks to a discrepancy between the syllabus and what the instructor told us all.  We have to analyze this scene from Boogie Nights, which has actually been pretty fun to do.

When I took my Introduction to Fiction class last semester I had this revelation that most people probably realize very early on, and it was the simple realization that when a great writer sits down to tell us a story they’re not exactly trying to tell a story about a porn star, for instance; they’re trying to tell a story about whether or not it’s possible to escape yourself, or whether you can change your entire life just by willing something to be.

I’ve been having a lot of fun analyzing different films and trying to understand the different stories being told.  Also, thanks to the inspiration of the Cities of Love films, I’ve been falling in love with Lawrence all over again.  Friday night, we stayed out late and went to a 24 hour cafe downtown, where I drank hot chocolate, and another guest watched the original Pink Panther in another room.  Then, last night, we hung around the Student Ghetto, a neighborhood of houses in town that is filled with students, walking around to different places, then ending the night with pizza from The Wheel, which is the greatest bar purely because they sell pizza next door.

This weekend was a winner.  Now, I just have to actually write that midterm paper.

day 227. thanks, stephen king.

I spent the summer of 2002 reading shitty (read: AMAZING) Sweet Valley High books and various memoirs from the Cuyahoga County Library. I’ve mentioned a few of those books here.   One of the most important books I picked up was Stephen King’s On Writing, which I mentioned in the previously linked to post.  A suggestion that he made was to read more and expand your vocabulary.

I took this suggestion very seriously.  I have journals filled with random bullshit and then pages and pages of definitions.  The amount of words I have stored in random places is ridiculous; it almost makes one think that I should know every word in the English vocabulary by now, but you’d be mistaken if you believed that.  Lately I’ve found myself looking up quite a few words.

I don’t mind, because it means I’ve still got room to grow and evolve.

A few words I’ve looked up lately:

vicissitudes: ups and downs

sublimate: to express unacceptable impulses in acceptable forms, often unconsciously; to change a solid to a gas or vice versa, without becoming a liquid.

verisimilitude:appearance of truth; quality of seeming to be true.

I have a feeling there’s a lot more where that came from.

day 207. I want to like “” BUT…

I have just read the stupidest blog ever.  Well, technically, it’s not the stupidest blog ever, it’s just the stupidest blog I’ve ever read.   Alright, just the stupidest blog I’ve ever read in the past five minutes; I’ve read more stupid things.  And this isn’t actually a stupid blog, I guess, it’s just sometimes she throws some stupid shit out of left field and I’m all “Wow, that was really stupid. I resent that you wrote that, because it makes me think poorly of U and UR blog.”

It’s this chick from California, who is apparently famous for her “b l o g” (she always writes it like that when she talks about her blog, and I wonder if she’s actually spelling it out in her mind, or just making it look “cool”) in her parts.  And by apparently, I mean she actually is “famous” in some sense for her “b l o g”.  I found her through Interview Magazine—the purveyor of all things of The Coooool.

She is someone my friend Luke would refer to as “the hippest motherf–ker on the planet”.  The only ads she has on her site are for American Apparel, she sometimes hosts events for Urban Outfitters and in one of her posts on “American Apparel babes” she ends with this: “besides, i haven’t visited the new one in malibu yet! omg, American Apparel beach babes? i can’t wait! xo”  And she does this thing where she rarely capitalizes anything after a period.

Then again, that’s just good marketing on her part.  She is speaking to a specific audience; an audience that I don’t totally understand, because I don’t get the whole hipper-than-thou-sell-my-soul-and-pledge-my-allegiance-to-American-Apparel-on-a-daily-basis thing. But that’s just me.

But interspersed between the loads of bullshit and hipster-cool advice, there’s some very entertaining writing, and some interesting, things that make you go “Hmm…” writing.   Yet, as soon as I start thinking “Hey, this deserves a spot in the Cool Shit bookmarks” she writes something completely stupid and elaborate eye-roll inducing.  And getting on the Cool Shit bookmarks is waaaay better than getting on the Interview Magazine “Blogs We Like” blogroll–which she totally is on. WAY better.

Like in her post “sometimes it’s ok to be a loser” she gives us this gem:

We need losers to continue on their loser path to nothingness, middle ‘age’dom, old age, and to keep from getting in our f—ing way! We need them to continue to be lazy, get nothing done, acquiring and spreading stds, snorting peanut butter crank, smoking pot, hanging out, shopping all day with someone elses money, partying too much, leaning against walls, avoiding phone calls/not returning phone calls, borrowing money, putting things off, not making plans, living in a trailer, surfing all day, eating too much, sleeping in too late, celebrating achievements they’ve yet to/and will Never achieve!

I didn’t just laugh at that, I went through a mental Rolodex of people I’ve met within the past year and a half, and then laughed harder.  Because when else will you meet more people that fit into that category of people who are lazy, uninspiring, uninspired, and, this is the best part, totally loaded with somebody else’s money and what seems to be all the free time in the world, than in your first couple of years of college?  Also, I’m guessing you can find those people in the first couple years after college.  Wait, maybe those people are just always going to be around, no matter when, because I keep thinking of more and more people that fit that mold.  They are the people who insist on doing nothing.  At all.  Ever.

The way it’s worded is a little mean, but I think I get what she’s getting at.  It’s that Shawshank Redemption, “Get busy living, or get busy dying” thing.  And I’m all about the get busy living thing.

So maybe I do like her.  And maybe she will get a place in the Cool Shit bookmark*.

Here’s the site, when you read something that is elaborate-eye-roll inducing, just keep reading: IMBOYCRAZY

*she did

day 189. the pick of destiny.

I’m pretty sure Jack Black and Kyle Glass’s “Pick of Destiny” was devised as an explanation for “Tribute.”  Making it the movie-length tribute to “Tribute,” which is a tribute to The Greatest Song in the World.

And for that, and so much more, I love Tenacious D.

My sister’s music collection has always been superior to mine (and a lot bigger) and I believe it was she that downloaded “Tribute” on the suggestion of her then boyfriend Jade, who played in some rock band at the time.   I think I was in 6th grade, and I thought it was hilarious.  Later, as in a couple of years later, I downloaded “Wonderboy,” the hilarious drive-thru track, the ridiculously crass and kind of uncomfortable “F— Her Gently” (you know you want to hear that—but don’t actually watch the video), and even now I’m pretty sure I have the “Friendship” song on my iTunes.

It was always hilarious to me, but stuff that ridiculous is really more fun when you can enjoy it with others.  So, I was happy when everyone else (yeah, I’m going to go ahead and assert the claim that I discovered them first) got into Tenacious D and started quoting some of their songs.  It’s one thing I miss about high school, the discovery of The Cool.  God, I’ve been on a kick with The Cool lately.  And I’m not even that down with The Cool!

I guess I just need to re-define what The Cool actually is, because I’ve certainly moved on to a different sort of “cool” than the cool I was talking about back in March.  And how many times can I say cool?  You’d think I’d be able to find a synonym that was cool-coolio-cooliest enough to replace that word, but I’m just a little bit too lazy to look around for one.

Anyway, I think what happened with the whole cool thing was that cool used to be what everyone else thought was great.  And now, after a slow start, The Cool for me is all about things that I find awesome for my own individual reasons, whether that be Tenacious D or Sargento Salad Finishers (seriously, that is so a part of The Cool for me).

By the bye, I’m finally over that school-related anxiety attack that kept hitting me at random moments during the day.   I think I moved on to other, more tangible problems–like the fact that my door refuses to open from the outside and I have to unlock the passenger side and then open the driver’s door from the inside.   It makes me feel like the Queen of England, so I enjoy having to go through that routine.

I must admit, I love my life more when things like that happen, because it just makes me realize that the whole “the-things-that-you-really-should-be-worried-about-are-usually-the-things-that-blindside-you-at-3-in-the-morning-on-some-random-Tuesday” thing is very true.   And it helps me roll with the punches better.  I’m great at that, I’ve had a whole lot of practice with that.

I was looking through my notes on my Blackberry the other day when I found a note that I assumed I wrote when I was reading East of Eden but have since realized I wrote after watching the director’s commentary on Rocket Science.

Have I mentioned that I chose the title of this blog because of that movie?  Well, yeah, I did.  I was also in my second semester of Spanish classes at the University and my mind only thought in Spanish at that time, and thus La Ciencia (de) Cohete was born.  Also, “astronáutica” would have worked, but I was keeping it simple…er, as simple as possible.  Wait, one word probably would have been the most simple thing, but whatever, too late now!

It’s a funny movie that I enjoyed because of the many awkward moments experienced by our protagonist Hal Hefner in his quest to find his voice—seriously, he had a stutter and wanted to win State in debate.  It’s all about growing pains, and if you haven’t been there, then… well, then this note (remember, the one I found in my Blackberry notes?) might not sit too well with you:

I don’t like people who have never fallen or stumbled. Their virtue is lifeless and it isn’t of much value. Life hasn’t revealed it’s beauty to them.

Wait, that quote is totally Boris Pasternak, which I saved from a couple of weeks ago when I was in my DESPERATELY SEEKING BORIS PASTERNAK phase.

But, it can be applied to Rocket Science, because it can be applied to La Ciencia Cohete.  Livin’ and learnin’ and shiz, right?   I appreciate the growing pains, and I especially appreciate the little wake-up calls, because it makes me more aware of the things that I would really miss if they weren’t a part of my life.

And, lemme tell you, it ain’t the car, cell phone, computer, iPod or even the television.  I’ve dealt with no phone, no tv, no car, and a computer that crashed and (1)ate my music and then later in the year (2) deleted an English essay that I needed to turn in the next day—and you thought that only happened in movies and original series from the Disney Channel.  Of course, they didn’t all happen at the same time, but I found a way to fix all those things.  And, lo and behold, the world did not end, not even when I was trying to work it all out and thought that I might be SOL.

The secret isn’t rocket science, and I don’t have it all figured out, but I’m getting there.

Here’s a clip from The Pick of Destiny, because I mentioned that?  At the beginning of this entry?  Before I started to ramble and you stopped reading?