Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Fantasies of Being Fat

Warning: Yup, you've got it, another fat grrrl post.

I weighed myself last night. It was not easy but I had to do it. Lately my back has just give out on me, and my wrists, fingers, and ankles ache. These are usually signs that I'm carrying too much weight on my body. It wasn't pretty but it didn't send me into a tail spin. I think it is because I had a shift in my thinking.

Yesterday as we driving to Costco for our weekly watermelon run, I said to H, "Why do I keep doing this myself" in reference to losing and gaining weight. H answered, "Because when you don't have your weight to focus on, you have to focus on other things. If you're still unhappy you have to deal with being unhappy. You can't blame it on being fat." And you know he was right although it made me a bit grumpy that he was so insightful at the time.

I've spending a lot of time thinking about what it means to be a fat grrl, about what it means to let go of the fantasy of being thin. But this thinking as lead me away from another important exploration: What would happen if I let go of the fantasy of being fat? What would happen if I was thin? You see every time I get "thin" (I assure you this is relative in terms of societal standards), I freak out. And yesterday I realized that last time I hit my goal weight I was feeling unhappy....depressed even. But I didn't, maybe couldn't, deal with it. So I ate. I ate myself to gaining 40lbs in about a six month period. I ate myself fat again.

Why? Because I have a fantasy about being fat. When I'm fat I can be angry at the world. I can hide my sexuality. I can express all my discontent onto my body. I don't have to deal with the emotions that make me uncomfortable because I just translate them as a general discontent about my body. My body becomes my whipping boy.

But this time around the emotional issues have not gone away. They're still haunting me because this time I know that being thin will not solve anything. And I also know that it's not hard for me to get "thin" (reminder: way relative...I'm talking like 15o here). I didn't feel deprived on WW. I ate normally to be honest. I ate a lot...all the time. But I wasn't sitting there eating an entire package of cookies for instance. I don't eat those cookies because I'm hungry. I eat those cookies because I want them to numb me from feeling. This is not about accepting my fat body anymore. It's about me accepting my emotional life.

You see I feel amazingly guilty for feeling depressed or discontent. I think that it's like spitting in the universe's face because I have so many wonderful things going on for me. I have a beautiful, loving husband who loves me. I have three beautiful, healthy, funny, wonderful children who love me. But there are times when I feel discontent. And then I start to wonder if I'm like my dad who was never happy with what he had. I feel discontent over my career move, and then feel guilty because I've been through so many careers. I feel selfish...and then sometimes I feel like I really don't deserve all this wonderfulness anyway. In those dark moments, I realize I'm waiting...waiting for everything to fall apart. And then I realize that there is a part of me that is trying to make that happen in order to get it over with...I can't seem to accept and enjoy that maybe this is my life now. Maybe it's okay to be happy.

And I realized that really my being fat had everything to do with having a pretty serious eating disorder. I am not naturally this weight. I am this weight because I ate myself to this weight. I looked over pictures of my family and when things are going good, we all tend to run around 150. My grams has been that weight for years now without any effort except walking. My mom gets to that weight easily when she's not distressed. And I looked at my kids. They're all thin. Even Piper who's a big girl is not fat. She's like me and she'll always run to the curvy.

I'm reading these signs now. And yes, I am going to get counseling as soon as we back from Mexico. But for now I'm curbing the eating and moving more. I'm trying to look at the emotions as they come then let them go without making judgements on them. And I'm trying to love myself a bit more. Love myself enough to enjoy what I have rather than destroy it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Journies I

After a few days in Port -Au- Prince, we left for the country side. The plan was to drive up the mountains north of the city. Once in the mountains we would stay at the home of a Catholic nun in a tiny village. Our mission was to help care for her garden, run a couple of services in the village church, and deliver the illegal medicine hidden in our bags. After a couple of days there we would drive to Cape Haitian.

I loved Port -Au-Prince. The city was alive in ways not familiar to me. It was not just the bustling but the fact that people existed outside. Selling, buying, arguing, talking, for the most part was an outdoor activity. The buildings seemed to exist only as a backdrop for the real business that occurred in alleys, on the sidewalks or in markets. This was lively in all senses of the word. Things were alive in all their human glory as well as their human failings. Poverty forced many people to exist outside without a choice of the inside. Crimes as petty as simple bribery to as horrible murder mingled with the joys of a good barter or the sip of sugary, ice cold coke. Port-Au-Prince, like all great cities, was dark and light, beautiful and ugly. But what dominated the center was not open but closed: the Iron Market, a place where slaves were once sold. But even the Iron Market could not contain life as the market grew outside of it's enclosed walls. Outside there was a rock which held shackles, and a sign stating that these once held people. My chest contracted when I saw this, and there was from that moment a burden.

Port-Au-Prince with its vibrantly colored houses, its devastating slums, the poverty, the ostentatious rich was my first lesson in colonization. It was my first encounter with my own role as white. And it was here in this sprawling city that I realized the insidiousness of racism. It was when my eyes were opened to what it meant to be from the U. S., and I began to see what it was that the U.S. did that made it so hated around the world. In Haiti, the U.S. functioned both as the city on the hill with gold streets and as the great monster demon that sprawled over the world, devouring and using with no conscience. And no matter what I wished I could not erase where I had been born. Everywhere I went I carried its baggage.

And Port-Au-Prince marked, in memory at least, where I began to lose my religion. We stayed with a missionary family in beautiful house, a mansion really. It was the biggest house I had ever seen anyone live in. They had two maids and a housekeeper. They hired random boys on the street to tend the gardens, bring out trash, etc. When I expressed some surprise at the luxury they lived in, the missionary leader's wife, spoke to me sharply: "Haiti is very poor. These people are lucky to have jobs! They're doing them a favor." In my mind, missionaries lived as poorly as the people they served. I had already given my own poverty in the states a romantic feel by imaging that God was preparing my way to become a missionary. The luxury of the house stood in contrast to the city streets filled with beggars, lepers, children with no homes. They lived in a section filled with rich homes and high fences kept the poverty at bay but the poverty floated in through the smell of the beast that lay beyond such gates. And once we began to move about the city, I began to understand the kind of contrast that existed between these white missionaries and the majorities of Haitians. They did not live this way because they gave people jobs. They lived this way because they could in a poor economy. They took advantage of the poverty to make themselves richer than they could ever be in the U.S.

As our bus pulled out of those gates, instantly surrounded by a wave of beggars, I hoped that the mountains would offer a more flattering view of the missionaries. I hoped that I would see what I built up in my mind as a true missionary. And while I was sad to the see that city grow smaller into a blur of turquoise, yellow, and red, I felt some hope that maybe there would be hope buried in the mountains that rose ahead of us.

Monday, May 26, 2008


Warning: Fat Grrl Post (note: when I spell it "grrl" I'm feeling sassy).

And no, don't worry, this is not a post about the eighties band Ah-ha. No this is a post about those light bulb moments where you supposedly say "Ah-ha!"

I should know by now that when I start slamming on the body there are other issues lurking in the background. I couldn't really figure out what was going on though. I wasn't stressed about my thesis, and while I was a bit anxious over packing, etc, it was nothing too serious (I mean, I quit smoking during this). But still I was eating like mad, and beating myself up verbally with every cookie I inhaled. It was an insane cycle:

Ginger eats a nobake cookie.
To self: "Wow you ate a whole cookie, and you're not even hungry."
G eats another cookie.
"OMG. You are such a disgusting fat slob. You ate ANOTHER ONE."

And this conversation essentially went on through about four cookies. And then my mornings...lovely self-destruction in front of the mirror. I HATED looking at myself, and when I did there was a steady stream of verbal abuse that had it been directed a child? Social services time. Of course I'd never talk to my children in such a way. Hell I wouldn't talk to my worst enemy this way.

But what blows me away is that never once do I stop eating. It's like I'm eating in defiance of myself. I'm rebelling against that nasty voice in my head who tells me how ugly I am. Rebelling by making myself fatter. Crazy!

But it hits me the other day that this overeating/self-abuse is stemming from anxiety over going to Mexico. See, I feel so self-conscious around H's family. His mom and sister are so tiny, and his whole family is way into exercising, etc. I always feel like this giant, clumsy clown around them. And in turn ending up acting bitchy, sulky and unpleasant which just makes me so much more likable. The attitude and the weight are, I think, defenses...sort of like a preemptive strike. I assume they're going to look down on me so I guard myself. I do this with women alot especially thin, pretty women. I assume they're going to look down on me so I get all hard and cold. I scorn them before they can scorn me.

And this has prevented me from having a real relationship with H's female relatives. It's a huge step for me to not only see this but admit it. And it makes me determined to over come it. There is no reason why I can't let my guard down. I have to learn to be okay with my body enough that I don't put up these walls. I have to learn to take the comfort I feel with my body when at home to the street. I'm envisioning this little bubble that I carry around with me. In my bubble, I am curvy and sexy not fat and sloppy. In my bubble, I am okay with me and okay with other's bodies. Maybe I need to market the bubble...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Ginger aka Editor From Hell

Now that I've given all the writers horrible nightmares (just think I could be your editor), I'll explain why I cut. First, I was concerned that I was being racist. Second, I wasn't fully getting across what I wanted to say. To be honest, writing about this trip is very hard. I've been wanting to do it for years but have always hated everything that came from that particular creative exploration. This trip was pivotal in my life as it was the moment when I began to lose my religion and it was also the moment I began to think about colonization and what it meant to be white in such a world. But basically there was something that nagged at me all day about the post, and when I came back, I felt that I had to delete some of it.

Other news: we leave for Mexico in 9 DAYS. And you know what I did yesterday? I hung with friends K and D. I ate Thai at the most fab. restaurant, Thai Orchid. For some inexpiable reason we had never heard of this place, and they have pineapple fried rice which was like heaven in each tiny bite. Yum. Then I went to B and N with H, the girls, and friend D where we sat until 11 talking to each other and Zeth, the coolest bookseller in Charlotte. But did I do any packing? No. And now I only have NINE FUCKING DAYS to pack my house, clean the walls, wash the floors, clean windows, and move all our shit into storage. My mom wants us to move in with her on Friday so she can have the weekend with us (works since we have to be out by Saturday). Oh and I really need to hammer out my history and introduction the thesis to send to Sean before I leave. Sigh.

But I'll try to keep posting...of course I will I am an addict...but hey it's good for me right?!

The blog editing could have been much worst. H reminded me that two years ago I deleted this entire blog. Green Tea Ginger ceased to exist for about a week. Not that anyone was reading at the time but still it was light that went out;P

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Pierre was my companion on expeditions through villages, on the streets, and in markets. He patiently translated for me even though I suspect he couldn't always understand me. "Slow down!" He'd smile, as I chattered to someone through him. We meet with vendors, guys selling fresco and cokes on the streets, the children who surrounded me hoping for gum and money. I'd drag him to coffee makers who were on every corner. They would squat besides little gas stoves, their steel pots peculating coffee up through steel filters. I loved the coffee which was served black with a lot of sugar. The strong flavor laced with licorice was like no coffee I had ever tasted. Pierre worried the whole time I drank, worried that I would get malaria.

Initially we talked very little about Pierre. Perhaps because he was shy or maybe because, raised as a Pentecostal, he was aware that we had to be very careful about our relationship. But we started to spend some time alone, talking. I learned that he wanted to go to the US to learn English, maybe go to college. His mom had raised him alone. He had no brothers or sisters. He began to learn English as the mission school attached to the church his mom joined. He had always lived in Port Au Prince. He had a lovely voice, very deep and smooth even when he spoke in slightly broken English.

A few days into our trip, the mission leader's wife cut her eyes at me. "I think our translators are in love with Ginger." She announced, her voice tight and dry. The other adults looked at me, concerned. I blushed, embarrassed and angry. These adults warned us that Haitian men would be interested in us only to secure green cards. And there was always the underlying suspicion of female/male relationships.

But there was a part of that blush which came from falling a bit in love with Pierre. There had never been even the slightest touch between us. But I felt Pierre's presence as physical as a touch. I knew how he smelled, and when I closed my eyes could reconstruct him. But underneath this love was the horrible suspicion cast by the adults. Their prejudice, their assumptions about Haitian men, their assumptions about me, clouded what I felt.

That night Pierre and I went for a walk. The retreat service was over, and we just walked on the beach. It was all very exotic to me...rather like one of those romance novels my mom read. But it was also not because Pierre was black and I was white. Pierre came from a country devastated by years of colonization, corrupt politics, and extreme poverty...and while I was far from rich in the U.S., my nationality created a tension between us. Before I went back to the room, Pierre gave me a business card with a photo on it. I don't know why he gave it to me.

When I arrived at breakfast the next morning, there was only one translator. I could not see Pierre. It quickly came down that Pierre had been fired. Angry, I approached the mission leader and his wife.

"Why did you fire Pierre?"
"We only needed one translator." the mission leader said, his eyes already beyond me to the man he wished to suck up to.
"But Pierre needed this job so he could pay for his classes." I told them.
The mission leader's wife narrowed her eyes at me.
"There was no reason to pay extra for something we did not need." She said quietly, and waiting until her husband left, "I advice you to be careful. These men are not boys. And they do not want to marry American woman out of love."
"Pierre wasn't in love with me!"
"Maybe not but you were in love with him."

Friday, May 23, 2008

Haiti Morning

Mornings in Haiti are sticky hot. There is no relief from the intense wet heat that smothers the island during the summer. Nights are only slightly cooler but somehow the sweat is a sweetness beneath such a vast black sky. Mornings are rough. The sun's coming, foretold, in the pinkish tentacles that spread slowly over the lightening sky, is not a welcome coming. Perhaps if I could drag myself out of the sleeping bag before sunrise; but I am not an early riser, and I've never been good at doing things that I know are good for me.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Come Waste Some Time With Me

Some links for those terminally bored, those not watching Lost, or those otherwise unengaged:

I knew there was a reason why I blogged! According to Scientific American, "It's Good For You." Now I could have told them all their findings but it is pretty neat that someone is going to look at brain imaging. I told H earlier that I write about being fat here because it helps me to feel better about things like my eating, my weight, etc. Just being to put into words what I'm going through starts to change how I see things.

For those who share in my APTBS obsession...a new interview. And they reveal JonoMofo's real name...

Fat Days

Warning: Another fat girl post.

In January, I took what I considered a brave step and quit WW and dieting. I was giddy but scared because I really don't trust myself around food or food choices. And unlike many other posts I read (oh I quit dieting and I weigh the same as I did then six months later), I weigh much more than when I quit dieting. Okay I don't know if I weigh more because I refuse to step on the scales but I have outgrown all my clothes and have had to do several emergency shopping trips to buy bigger clothes.

I'd like to say that through this all I've been calm as I munched my way through entire packages of no bake cookies or half of the birthday cake left over from Camille's party. I'd like to say I enjoyed every bite of whole servings of queso dip from our fav. Mexican restaurant. But I haven't. And it's not much that I was wracked by guilt but more that I was just moving my mouth and not even enjoying what went into it. The eating that started as a way to relieve thesis anxiety continued once that anxiety passed. And my huge, pregnant looking belly is evidence of that...and I can't say I've really enjoyed the preparation that went into that belly. And exercise just fell by the wayside I might add. When I'm not eating healthy I tend to not move my body.

The last month has been very very hard for my self-esteem. I feel gross. Not just in how I look but in how I feel. I'm sluggish, tired, and kind of depressed. There are some days better than others but lately it feels like all days have turned into fat days. I wake up feeling huge, cumbersome, and just nasty. I dress without looking in the mirror, and sometimes burst into tears when yet another item of clothing that no longer fits. I struggle to remember to not beat myself up, to love my body because I know I am struggling with an addiction.

Then I got my hair cut. Now normally this is something that would have made me feel great about myself. I love getting my hair done, and when my hair looks good, I feel great no matter my weight. I knew this could be an opportunity for me to pick myself back up. But no, I ended up with a hair cut that I hated. I just wanted something, anything that I could hold onto to make myself feel pretty. It was like a blow to be honest, and it laid me low for a few days.

Add to this the realization I had the other night. My whole problem with being disappointed with weight loss is that even thin I don't look the way I want. I want to look like this girl Rachel I went to college with. She had that perfect, thin, curvy shape...hourglass, big ass, etc. And she had red hair with prefect creamy white skin. Basically being thin did not make me feel beautiful, because thin did not turn me into the woman I wanted to look like. Thin was just me but smaller.

Disgusted and unhappy, I decided to diet. H was semi on board as he's gained weight right along with me. I felt guilty about turning to dieting, and even more guilty when my mom decided to join me (she's been not dieting as well). I wasn't sure I really wanted to diet but I didn't know what else to do. Eating whatever I wanted was not doing much for me to be honest. I felt of out of control like I do when I start smoking. If there was something junkie or sweet in the house, I'd consume it in a sitting. But the thought of dieting filled me with dread.

Day one: I didn't eat anything processed all day and the only sugar I had was in my coffee (OK I ate one piece of the kids' community Hershey bar). I felt good, not hungry. Not much in the energy department but I did walk for almost an hour and did Yoga in the morning. I did vow with my mom that I would eat if I was hungry. I promised myself a long time ago (even before WW) that I'd never go hungry.

Day two: I was starving! But I did eat lots of fruit and vegetables. I also said "Fuck this diet." I just can't do it anymore. But I also can't fully do the whole "intuitive eating" thing. Here's why: First, I don't fully believe that we can really know biological hunger. I just don't think we can separate all our cultural garbage from biological need. Second, I realized that if I treat myself as I would my children I'd not let them eat a whole package of cookies (which trust me they'll do). I try to teach them to make healthy food choices, and I make sure how house as more of them than it does sugary, processed foods. My children don't just naturally eat healthy food. Trust me they'll choose the cookie over the grapes. But if we limit how many cookies are in the house, they gravitate towards healthy foods. This means, that in some ways I have to see myself as training my body to gravitate towards better choices. But this doesn't mean, it's a diet or that I'm depriving myself. I do the same thing that I do when I quit smoking: "If you really want a cake, you can totally have that cake." Just knowing that I could have it if I want it usually makes me not want it.

Day Three: Today. Well I do feel better. I feel way more in control of things. The exercise feels good. Eating healthy food feels good. Still not in love with the old body but am not sinking deeper into depression either. Maybe feeling like I have some control over my compulsive eating will clear up some space to deal with body if only my hair would miraculously grow back!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Hair

This is right after the salon. I look like I should be in Spinal Tap or Queen. Argh. But do note the super fab. color.

And after I tried to mess with it the next day. Okay it's better but you can't see the great color. Argh. This is going to take FOREVER to grow out. And yes I am sooo shallow about my hair. When my hair looks bad I feel bad. Next time: same hair cut as before, same dye job just thicker red in the front instead of tiny streak all over.

Monday, May 19, 2008


If I sleep for eight hours a night, that leaves me with sixteen hours of waking time. That's sixteen hours a day I've pretty much wasted for the last couple of weeks. Hours not spent with my children, my husband, work, hours doing quite literally nothing.

Last night, after being woken up for the third time, I had a hard time going back to sleep. I sat and thought about stories. And slowly with just a bit of pain I began to think about my thesis again. It was tentative thinking--a light touch with a hesitant hand. I found myself afraid to touch too much. I kept waiting for all the doubts to start clamouring for attention. But I brushed up against a few ideas, and set off not warning bells.

Too often I let myself let fear take over. There are too many things in life I've not done, pulled the plug on, or ignored because I was just too scared to take the risk. It is often easier for me to just pull into routine or into doing nothing. I'm afraid that this is what these two weeks have been about. Afraid to love, afraid to work, afraid to make firm choices about not stopping my compulsive eating, etc.

Yesterday feeling emboldened by my foreplay with thesis ideas, I went to get my hair done. This is no cheap adventure. I spend a lot of money on my hair (likely not a lot by California or NYC standards but a lot by mine). And instead of going with the hairstyle I had before, one I loved, I tried to have the new woman modify it a bit. The color came out awesome. Black with these bright red streaks over the top. But the cut? Just bad. It's not that she didn't do a good job. She did a great job and she did what I wanted but...well it just looks horrible on me. Maybe I need to better choose where I'll be risky....

But I am thinking about my thesis. I am thinking about the ways in which we are compelled to tell our stories and how other people use those stories once they are told. How they often become not our stories any longer, and how we may only serve as a soundbite for those stories rather than as the creators.

To My Lover On His Birthday

I am totally unable to write poetry so I steal from another.

Here's to H, my lover, my friend, my partner, my soul, my heart.

"You have what I look for, what I long for, what I love,
you have it.
The fist of my heart is beating, calling.
I thnak the stories for you.
I thank your mother and father
and death who has not seen you.
I thank the air for you.
You are elegant wheat,
delicate as the outline of your body.
I have never loved a slender woman
but you have my made my hands fall in love,
you moored my desire,
you caught my eyes like two fish.
And for this I am at your door, waiting."

Jaime Sabines

Happy Birthday, H.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Hill-Williamson Gallery

On Saturday morning Ginger helped Umberto, Camille and Piper finish their collaborative frog pond collage (I was napping on the couch since I woke up at five and couldn't go back to sleep until then). The night before, all three of our children had finished their paintings for the art exhibition that was taking place at Kaleb, Daren and Kerri's Saturday morning. And so, by Saturday around noon we were on our way to the improvised Hill-Williamson gallery.

By the time we finished hanging up all of the paintings the room was a swirl of colors, shapes and vivid images. We were in a museum of children's minds, the gallery of children's favorite things and colors.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Reflections on Living Elsewhere

My dad used to tell me I had Gypsy blood. A stupid racist thing to say, I know. He said he had it too. "We're not meant to stick around places for long." He told me when I was nineteen. I liked that image of myself. I envisioned a future where I moved from city to city because I certainly had plans to brush the dust of Maine from my heels as soon as I could. (Already this is becoming a different story then the one I intended to write...) And yet I ended up pretty much living in Maine until I was 28.

Like many kids in rural areas, I dreamed of the city. I hated living in the country, and I hated Maine. When I was nineteen we moved from a small city to a the middle of fucking nowhere. It was so remote, I got creeped out walking around at night. There was a huge expanse of woods behind us, and nothing but cow fields to our side. In order to go anywhere resembling civilization I had to ride my bike about 20 miles which I did on a regular basis. I didn't drive so I was stuck...I remember walking through snow drifts to go visit my boyfriend who lived about ten miles a way. I fucking hated it. And was from here that I started to visit Boston.

I loved Boston but couldn't figure out a way to live there. I wasn't willing to go homeless, and didn't know anybody who was taking in underaged, stupid kids. My friend W enjoyed having me over for the weekend but we both knew I wasn't going to be moving in there. He was older as were his friends so for the most we're talking college educations (W was educated at Notre Dame and MIT), decent jobs, and owned condos. I had yet to meet the alternative poor who holed up together in shitty houses scarping out money more for alcohol than food.

But Boston...oh I loved her. When W worked, I wandered around Cambridge, and once I got braver, I started to take the bus or T into Boston. I would wander in and out of shops, not having the money to buy anything but enjoying the feel of being in a city store. I loved Newbury Comics, and spent hours in there browsing through comics. I also just loved being out on the street walking around being anonymous in ways that I never was in Maine. When W came home, we would go to Oh Casablanca, an amazing Indian restaurant where the owners would always make me coconut soup. We would go to his friends house and drink all night. And I felt like I was part of something that seemed very city to me.

Later I made a rash move to Rochester NY. My aunt invited me to come stay with her, and I was dating J at the time who was in Niagara Falls. Living with my aunt was disastrous, for that matter Rochester was disastrous. It was not Boston and it was NYC where I also longed to live. Rochester was one of those dying sprawling cities where not much happened. There was one cool street, Monroe Ave. Monroe Ave was were all the freaks hung out. I moved closer, rooming with a friend of J. I got to know Lance, the owner of Astor's Coffee. His dad had bought him the shop in an attempt to keep Lance from travelling with the Dead. It was a smallish cafe with okayish coffee, and a cool, turquoise interior filled with local (often bad) art. I meet other freakish people there. The kids from Rochester University befriended me but in their own snobbish way. Maybe I seemed like the real deal to them. I was working part time for the park services picking up a tiny rec center/park. I made just enough money to pay rent, buy food, and have some left over to buy coffee.

Later after J's wife found out about us, I moved in with a friend while J tried to figure out what to do about us. I discovered through this friend, an alternative sex Internet board. Then I started hanging out with the drag queens and the queers. I became a fag hag, and loved it. I worked days at Toys R. Us, and spent the nights out clubbing various drag queen bars. This was more about the city for me. I felt at home with these people who didn't seem to fit in elsewhere. I stopped buying food, saving my money to buy drinks. We were all misfits in some way. And in many ways they were more like me than the friends I knew on Monroe Ave. They were for the most part working shitty jobs, living with their parents, dreaming of getting the hell out of upper-state New York. For various reasons, we were all discontent with our lives but had little resources to do much about our places in the world.

But while there was a part of me that loved these people, there was also a surfaceness to our relationship. We were all fragile, brittle, hurt and rejected too much to really know how to open ourselves to love. My friend, L, wanted desperately to have a sex change but it was harder then to have this operation, and she was drained trying to convince her therapist to recommend this for her. She dreamed of just going to Sweden to have the work done but had no money to make this happen. She dressed as a man during the day so that she could work towards saving for the operation that may not ever come. A, a beautiful gay man on whom I had a small crush bounced from boy to boy but never opened up with anyone. He told me that it was only fucking that made him feel human. And sometimes with me. We would sit in his car after clubbing just holding each other, trying to keep the sun from rising on another day that would just hurt us more. There was H, a sweet metal head guy who drove an old Camero. He would come pick me up and we'd do lunch sometimes. I don't think he was interested in me, just lonely after his girlfriend left him. He had a two year old son he took care of with his mom. There was a sense among us that life was not supposed to be this way. And this was not a sense you got from the middle class kids slumming on Monroe. They were all playing while they earned their degrees from a prestigious university.

I was also falling apart. The old idiom that the city is a killer came to bite me on the ass. I lost a lot of weight, and the drinking every night was not doing much for my sanity. I slept a lot toward the end, and stopped caring about anything. I was trying to survive on a shitty job, and was not really capable of making any plans for the future. College was starting to seem impossible. And eventually I knew I was wearing out my welcome with the friend whose place I crashed. J was doing nothing to end his marriage, and I was starting to hate him. And really I hated Rochester. This was not the city I wanted to live in...I wanted that mystical city that I dreamt of at nineteen.

So I returned to Maine, and to college. My goal was just to get out. To find something that would let me escape to that city I dreamed of...but I knew that the city would always change. I would never find that place that existed when I was younger. I knew now that the city would always eat you if you let it. Cities worked well for those who had money but had a tendency to destroy those without.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


I suck at book reviews almost as must as I at music reviews. Perhaps it is due to the fact that I experience a good book the way I experience music. I can whip out academic book reviews like nobodies' business but trying to write about a book that I love...much harder.

Instead of doing the much needed packing, cleaning, etc, necessary for our move, I spent the whole evening reading End of the World Blues by Jon Courtenay Grimwood. I picked this book up on a total whim at the library. Set in Japan and London, it is the story of an AWOL solider haunted by his multiple pasts...and the story of Lady Neku...a person with her own complicated pasts. I graped it because it was set in Japan, and something about the back reminded of me Gibson's Necromancer which had a profound influence on me at 20.

Of course I checked this out in the midst of my thesis drama, and it sat with only a few pages read for three weeks. I almost returned it on its due date but on a whim renewed it. And then I started last night...and read between packing boxes, late into the weehours of the morning, and yes finished it at 2:30 am this morning.

This book restores my faith in scifi although I am not sure if this book qualifies as scifi. It is a book that weaves between realities and universes without ever letting the reader in on the joke so to speak. But more importantly, it's beautiful, challenging, and provoking. I left the book with a kind of sigh, a wow, and a longing for more. I had forgotten how a good scifi books moves into the futures that could await. These worlds always set me to plotting my own stories.

You see the nineteen year old me wanted nothing more than to be a writer. I used to write these horrible scifi, fantasy, just strange stories in my journals. I even submitted one of them as part of my application process to the UMF BFA program. I was rejected. And after that rejection, I stopped least fiction. You see the rejection was harsh. I received someone else's acceptance letter. I was crying with joy when I saw the acceptance letter, and then in despair when I realized the name wasn't mine. It was horrible. And I took it as a sign from the universe that I was meant to write fiction. I turned my efforts towards academia and succeeded there in ways I never did as a fiction writer. Oh, I wrote some fiction, and even published in a little literary rag in Farmington but I never ever thought of myself as a writer after that moment.

When I read something like this...I don't makes me dream again.

A quote for E: "It was hot, the air was sour, and London stank of fried onions, too much aftershave, diesel, and dog shit, maybe it always did....The sun was out and people were smiling, as the city changed into something more relaxed and less English which it always did at any pretense of good weather."

Monday, May 12, 2008


Pool days are here again! We spent our first day in my mom's pool last weekend, and then did another day on Saturday. Way cold but the kids loved it.

As always more photos here.

Packing Your Life Away In Boxes

We've moved a lot over the last eight years.

When U was seven months old, we packed most of our belongings and moved them to my brother's girlfriend's garage. We took a few things in the trunk of an old Mercury Topaz to Fayteville, North Carolina. We didn't acquire much in the few months we lived there but the few things we did buy ended up in boxes stored in my mom's new apartment in Charlotte, North Carolina. Our clothes, a few photos, some books, and cds made a bus trip from North Carolina to Mexico City. We left Mexico City with a few more items stuffed into suitcases which moved with us back to Charlotte. In Charlotte, we've lived in five different apartments. Each time we moved more and more stuff even as we got rid, gave away, and trashed even more things. With each move we both added and discarded various things.

Whenever I move I feel this overwhelming urge to simplify what we own. But it becomes harder with each move. But it some ways it becomes an art. You start to see things as holding meaning, and you have to decided if that meaning is worth holding onto. With some things its easy. We do not need to keep the old dining room table that is basically falling apart. Or Camille and Piper's old highchair. The computer desk is a mess and is ready for the recycling pile. That tall bookshelf which was always a piece of shit and doesn't really hold books well...gone. But even these easy things hold memory. The table we bought on sale at Garden Ridge, and we were so excited to have a real dining room table. It has been the center of much our family life. It's held dinner for us and friends. It's been the creating space of many paintings, crayon ponies and rainbows. U has sat there and learned to write. I am blogging from this table at this very minute. The highchair held first birthday cakes for both Camille and Piper. The bookshelf was a point of contention with H and I when we put it together. Get rid of it now or later? And of course it held precious books.

Imagine then the conflict over items that seem more important. How much baby stuff do we really need to keep? Duplicate photos? What about the books that seem to multiply with each new home? And our beloved cds? H and I debated whether we should burn them on the computer and then sell them. I won out and we're keeping them. They were Christmas gifts to each other, special purchases from local record stores, memories and more held on a little silver disk. Then there are the framed prints, the Chinese character painting we had done at an international festival. There are my various Buddhas. Our cats and lizards. The gifts from H's mom from Mexico. There is our lovely Tibetan mask who scares away the demons. Boxes and boxes of tea. So much stuff that speaks about us.

Tonight I packed away books, files, and photos. Our home is starting to look bare and sparse. There is a beauty to these bare white walls but a sadness that H feels quite deeply. He kept sighing as I put more and more things away or into the trash. Huge boxes filled with my school books now line the walls. Tomorrow we'll rent a storage shed and put these things away for the summer. We'll leave for Mexico to return and find yet another new home. And then a year from now we'll hopefully repack these things (and no doubt more things) as we prepare to move to another city likely in another state. We'll yet again linger over items, remembering their stories, the memories they have come to hold for us. We are modern nomads with too much stuff.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Weird Fishes

Verizon Wireless Amphitheater
Charlotte, NC

May 9, 2008

Now onto the Radiohead portion of the evening.....To begin I have to add the disclaimer that I'm not a huge Radiohead fan. I like them fine but they're not something I'm going to listen to on my own. H, however, loves them, and has loved them from day one. I remember vividly when Kid A was released. U was just a wee one, and H was so excited. He played the album for him all the time. One could say that U's early formation was framed by Radiohead (and T.S. Eliot but that's another story). We were supposed to see them at Bonnaroo a few years ago, had the tickets and everything but Piper was just too little for something that intense. Thus Radiohead playing Charlotte was a huge deal for H. We splurged on good tickets for this graduation present.

I have to admit that I was looking forward more to seeing Liars then Radiohead...but...well let me get into the show.

Like most arena performances I've attended, the crowd started pouring in after Liars. The lawn was just a mass of people, and most of the seats beneath the pavilion filled up rapidly. We had to scurry from our beer run to get to our seats in time. Of course it was a false alarm because these kind of crowds let up a cheer for every roadie that hits the stage. But we got to see the set which, even in the dark, looked pretty phenomenal. Huge metal pipes hung over the entire stage with a variety of instruments waiting to be played beneath and among them. As we sat waiting for the band, an ominous black cloud, which we named Armageddon, hung to the left of the left of the amphitheater.
When the lights hit the pipes, it was an amazing light show. The pipes looked like great dangling stars. The screen behind the pipes was the only screen on that night (making me glad we didn't end up with lawn seats). It was a spectacular entrance. They started with "All I need" which is one of my favorites off "In Rainbows." It was a bit faster but it still maintained that really beautiful, soulful feel. Yorke played the piano during this song.
But for the second song, maybe to ensure that we were not lulled into labeling the show too soon, they pulled out two small drum sets (which Johnny Greenwood and Ed O'Brien played), and roared into "There, There." Now I have to admit that roar is not the first adjective that normally comes into my mind for Radiohead. One reason I've never really been into them is that I find them too slow, not nearly loud enough, and kind of droney. But I was quickly disabused of this judgement after "There, There." This song was fast, loud, and fairly heavy (I mean they're not APTBS but hey who is?). The drumming was amazing, and considering it was coming from the guitarists? Wow.
Cameras attached to poles shot the band from above, giving weird distorted angles of various band members.
This is one of my favorites shots from the night. This is from "You and Whose Army." Throughout the song, Thom Yorke made these strange faces, really playing up the bug eye thing. It was almost comical.

But ever ones to keep the crowd guessing, the songs ranged from fast, heavy to slow, droney. And while I am not normally a big fan of the drone, Radiohead just does it so well. Bottom line they are very talented. They're music is seamless at this point. There are just no missteps. As a band they're totally insync with each other. They move from instrument to instrument with proficiency...they're not just dabbling with other instruments, they can actually play multiple instruments. And while one would think this would make them sound overly polished...they're not. I mean, they are polished but they're also fresh and a bit spontaneous. This crops up in Yorke's crazy dances--all elbows and knees. He gives new meaning to the idea that white boys can't dance. But he doesn't care. He's wrapped up in the music in that moment, and it takes away from the idea that these guys could do this in their sleep.
And while for the most part, I was not transported during this show...not transported in the way that say Liars, APTBS, or Destroyer moves me outside of myself into a place where there's just noise...I was caught up several times. During 15 steps, I danced like crazy, and felt moved...but it was just hard to get outside of the arena's atmosphere. I don't often long for drugs of let's say a psychedelic nature but this was one time when I did. There were a few people I'm willing to bet who were on their own little trip, and I can see why. Drugs were likely the one thing that could lift one away from the psychos working the arena.
And yeah a lot the problems I felt with getting transported was totally connected to the venue. It's hard to feel moved when you're surrounded by a bunch of people who a, talk through the whole show, or b, keep doing shit that gets them harassed by staff. Imagine: you're really into Paranoid Android (second encore), you're dancing, you're feeling the music course through you. Suddenly you hear "You need to put out that cigarette." This happens about ten times because the moron behind you with the cigarette is more interested in pissing off the security then listening to Radiohead. They don't really care that everyone around them is losing out too. And yeah it sucks that you can't smoke but Jesus, it's two feet to the smoking area. This was the whole night...
And the whole production is such a contrast to say the production of a small show. The light show was phenomenal but can you imagine the cost of this kind of thing? And I realized that one thing I really love about small shows is that it's about the music in ways that bigger productions aren't. Now Radiohead is an amazing band. They're good, very good, one of the best bands I've ever seen. But I wonder if they could really do a show with just them and their instruments? Yeah a small show but a stadium? They have the talent for sure (I'd love to see them in a small venue) but the crowd at this show wanted lights and smoke along with the music (as evident when they talked through all the slow songs). We were lucky because Radiohead was good but you know lights can cover up a sucky band in ways that they couldn't be covered up a small venue.

Now APTBS uses lights and fog to create an atmosphere but I can't imagine how that would translate to a stadium. The environment they created at the Grey Eagle was so intimate and strange...other worldly really. I didn't need drugs to be transported during that show. I was moved without the drugs. But at this level, with this kind of crowd, the sheer size of the area, necessities a stage set of mass scale.

Umberto said of this picture: They were trapped in rainbows!

But this what Radiohead has to work with...they're famous now. And all in all they converted this skeptic. They are amazing really just amazing live. I think my fustration comes from not just being able to hear them as intensely as they deserved. I'm already planning to revisit their albums.

I Wanna Run Away

Verizon Wireless Amphitheater
Charlotte, NC
May 9, 2008

Last night was definitely a two post review. For one thing, Liars deserves their own review. H showed me their little clip on Pitchfork in which they played "Juan's Basement." We both loved them immediately. How could you not really? That opening drum beat alone is enough to send me into a swoon. And then the screaming singing: "I wanna run away!" We were hooked right off but alas we are also poor graduate students so we have to yet own every album (which will come). This means we entered the show not as, well lyrically prepared, as I like. We were, naturally, thrilled when we found they were opening for Radiohead.

And we were a bit late. Mostly because H wanted beer so we had to go to an ATM. Oh and the traffic to the amphitheater was horrid. But we got to hear most of their set. Now as I mentioned before we were lyrically challenged but we did recognize that many of the songs came from "Drums Not Dead." Simply put they were amazing. Angus is an amazing vocalist. He ranges from loud screeching to soft almost sweet. But even during the sweet moments there is a tension, an energy that is lurking beneath the surface waiting to flare up. On the stage he's manic, roaming, dancing in jerky hyperactive movements, taunting the crowd in a wry dry way.
The other musicians are really good as well. Aaron Hemphill I could barely see due to our somewhat sucky side seats (not that I'm complaining too much; it was better than lawn seats). But I could hear him. He's an excellent guitarist, merging nice melodies to the music, twisting feedback into something ethereal. He's as stoic as Angus is manic. He also drummed a bit, and he's equally as good on the drums. I'm really into drumming lately...maybe it's because I've heard such great drummers lately. And yeah Julian can drum. His heavy sound framed the music quite nicely, and definitely called you to get off your fucking ass and move.

They always have this tension between these droney songs and then fast, slamming beats that cut their songs in two. Lyrically and conceptually they're very smart as well. Their albums revolve around themes like the Puritan witch hunts. There is a strangeness to them, their lyrics and their music that I find appealing and a bit creepy at the same time.
I kept thinking though that this is a group I'd want to see at a smaller venue. They're playing Ashville tonight and if I had the money I'd be there. In a small space, I imagine that energy would just drench everyone. Charlotte crowds suck to be honest, and the people in the pit just stood there as Liars pounded out their music. H and I were seriously the only people moving in the seats. I'm kind of stunned at how one could not move to this music.
So this leads to my rant. People, show some love to the opening band. I almost got into a
confrontation twice. Once because two girls in front of me started a very loud conversation about their lives during the Liars set. After I started bitching really loudly about their rudeness, they finally moved the conversation elsewhere. And then during their last song some idiot looking for his seat stood directly in front of us. He finally noticed we were annoyed and moved on. I mean, is it that hard to shut your fucking mouth during a set? If you don't like the opening band than skip them. It's an amphitheater! There's lots of space to gossip. Go away and let me listen!
When we went to see NIN a couple of years ago we couldn't even hear TV On the Radio, and someone called Bauhaus "a local band." And it's a striking contrast to the small shows I go to where people listen to the open band, applaud them loudly, and if they don't like them move away to hold their conversations. There's a kind of respect because most people at these venues just love music, and they want to show some respect to the bands struggling to be noticed. This is not the majority attitude at a place like the Verizon.

I can not wait to see Liars again. Hopefully next time it will be a smaller venue but regardless they did not disappoint live. Photes here.

Thursday, May 08, 2008


Appears that Oliver Ackerman sightings are popping up everywhere. Check out E's review of their London show when you get a chance. Next time they swing through NC (please guys do), I'm "fixin'" to find JonoMofo and get a fangirl shot.

I Told You

They were loud..APTBS destroying shit again. Do I get some cred for listening to them, up front with no ear plugs?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


I've always flirted around with ghosts. My teenage self owned Ouija boards and held seances with a regularity that did not extend to anything else in her life. She also fully believed that a ghost named Ernest lived in her bedroom. Sometimes late at night she felt Ernest brush her bare back and whisper nothing in her ear. She'd wake with the hair standing on her arms and the back of her neck. She never could actually see him but she felt him watching her from the corner of the room. It occurred to her that she should feel afraid but mostly she just felt sadness and longing.

As she grew older, into the self she is now, that teenage self gradually stopped believing in ghosts. But sometimes at night she remembers those ghostly sighs. And sometimes when she looks up into the faces of old buildings, she sees stirrings that no one else sees.

Yes the top pictures are crying to be fucked with. I'm not entirely happy with the bottom one...but I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the orignial yet. This was just some play.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Play Dates

Some days are so beautiful and so full of life that I feel filled up with joy. These are the lazy days, the days spent in the woods, with my kids and my lover. There is never a purpose to these days just an aimless wonderment at what we see. And usually on such days amazing things happen to us. First there was birth...a batch of goslings greeted us from the pond. The girls noticed them first.

And then, in the middle of the afternoon this magnificent barn owl. She was not scared of us at all, and we got to watch for a long time.

Other Worlds

because a body of water both
reflects light and eats it too,

It was to pretty too write on John but here's another one for you.

We Hate It When Our Friends Become Famous

By the time REM released "Out of Time," I knew a few "indie" kids. It was the year I graduated, and call me cheesy but "Losing My Religion" had special appeal to me. After all I spent that whole senior year losing my religion. My brother and I made up a song about a guy losing his virginity to another guy. Memorable album. But the point of this post is (I will not be distracted) that I got to listen to the indie bitching. REM were sellouts, etc, etc. And the bigger the album got the louder the complaints. There was lots of "I listened to them way back when they released their first album" or "I drove all the way to Athens [no small feat when one lives in Maine] to see them live." Often these conversations became one upmanships as each kid attempted to out do the other. It was really a foreign language to me because I hadn't really listened to anyone that no one knew about. By the time a band reached my ears, it had been well used.

I felt a bit disgusted by this bitching. After all, I argued with them, shouldn't you be happy for their success? Isn't it great that they are now easily available? Is it not freakin' awesome that other people will hear and appreciative them? The looks I got let me know that as usual I was clueless about the indie music scene. But it was okay by me because I thought these people were pretty pretentious and clueless themselves. It was just another sign that being indie meant fitting a certain criteria.

Thus it was with a bit of surprise that I found feeling the same way as these long ago indie kids. You see APTBS (yes I KNOW I'm obsessed) is touring with NIN. H announced this to me over my coffee one morning last week as he read Pitchfork. I managed to not spit my coffee across the room. "No fucking way." I said. "Yeah, it says here...Deerhunter, Crystral Castles, A Place to Bury Strangers." he answered. "They playing anywhere near Charlotte?" Of course they weren't so my sudden excitement faded into a sulky daydream where we drove to fucking Texas to see this show (I came to my senses pretty quickly...which is good because H often indulges my fantasies). And to be honest, initially I was really stoked for them. I mean, this is great exposure for a band who truly deserves it.

But then I started to think things like: "I'm glad I saw them in a little bar now." "If they sign to a major label will they get all rock star like?" "Will I EVER see them in a little club again!!!" And I felt sort of guilty and a bit stupid. I mean, they deserve this and I shouldn't be anything but happy for a good band to make it. After all the shitty bands that get so much air play, so much money, so much everything, it's nice to see a band that actually can play get that kind of attention. But I can't help that feeling of "Oh please let them not turn into pompous fuckheads that keep stables of women." And there's a part of me that also feels this ridiculous pride that I saw them way back when (and have the pictures to prove it!).

And I realized what my friends from long ago were feeling. There is an intimacy to listening to band that not many people have heard intimacy that comes from seeing them in a tiny venue...maybe getting to meet them. You follow this band. You scour the Internet looking for their songs, any song that you may not have heard yet. You trade these songs with other crazed fans (sorry D;P). And you do feel like it gives you a kind of cred: I heard them way before they opened for NIN and recognized then that they were amazing and talented. You feel like you're earned the right to be their fans. And yeah it's kind of silly but the feelings are there nonetheless.

Of course I wish APTBS an awesome tour. I'd personally like to go kick some ass for them if the NIN fans get all stupid (when I saw NIN TV on the Radio and Bauhaus opened for them. No one even listened to TVOTR and when Bauhaus came on some asked who they were. His friend said "I don't know. A local band"....that kind of shit calls for some ass kicking). But I ain't flying to Texas....or OK for that matter. But I do hope they get some exposure and that someone with some common sense signs then so we can have some have new albums. And yeah, I fully plan to use my cred when they get famous: "Well you know I meet Oliver Ackerman way back when...."

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Birthday Hours

May and June are a time of birthdays in our family. May 1st=Piper, May 14th=Camille, May 19th=H, June 9th=my mom, June 11th=Umberto, and June 22nd=H's mom. And then nothing until August when we celebrate my birthday (horror of horrors). So we spent a couple of months eating so much birthday cake we feel sick of cake for at least another year. I started a thing last year where I write a little blurb about each of my kids on their bdays...a sort of capsulating of their year and thoughts about their beginnings.

This year I realized how LITTLE they are. Normally, I feel this sort of nostalgia as I think about how old they're becoming. But this year...maybe because I've been listening to Destroyer so much...I just realized they're so new. Even Umberto, about to be 8, just hasn't been here very long. They're so fresh to life. Sometimes this freshness makes glaring my own cynicism about life, and when that freshness touches that dark place, that discouragement, I feel awakened like Spring. But other times, I feel an overwhelming sadness that this is what we are offering them.
And then I think about how for too many children 8 is already old.

Piper the Birthday Girl

Piper spent her birthday proudly proclaiming "I'm the birthday girl!"
Three years of age! It is such a small amount of time to be on the earth. Three years seems like nothing to me at my age. I look back and think how fast three years go. And yet for this little being, three years is a whole life. And how fast this little one has become an integral part of our world. I can't imagine life without Piper and yet so much of my life occurred without her. But she's now a part of our hearts and our souls.
I remember when I found I was pregnant with this one. It was a shock (as much a shock as two consenting, knowledgeable adults can have), and it was a moment that changed our world in many ways. I was unhappy at my job...things were going downhill in many ways. H was about to finish his BA and we were uncertain about where to head next. I knew that I couldn't continue teaching high school. Piper's immanent arrival was a key factor in moving us to grad. school. I knew there was no way that we could afford daycare for three, and yet we really couldn't afford for me to stay home either.
Really Piper propelled us into grad. school. I took my GREs pregnant with her. I applied pregnant with her. I took care of loans, financial aid, etc with this passenger aboard. And I wrote papers nursing my wee baby, read theory books bouncing her on my lap.
And now she's a little girl as we are about to finish up this chapter of our lives.
So this year stats:
Favorite music: Morrissey and "the ABC guys" (They Might Be Giants).
Favorite movie: Land Before Times and My Little Ponies
Favorite past times: Playing dress up, playing "real" and dancing.
Despite entering the whiny year as I call it, Piper is a happy kid. Her joy and laughter are contagious. They move us from our gloomy spots, and have us all dancing on the rug. She does respond to music in ways the other two don't. She just loves it. She's a great animal love but she's nervous around them. She's grown into her beauty in ways unexpected. So far Piper seems to look like me but acts like Horacio.

Birthday photos here.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Conversations With Our Children II

Kids are running around, H and I are having a conversation about believing in God.

Me to the kids: Do you guys believe in God?
Umberto: I don't believe in God .I believe in Nature!
H to me: Did you say God was a theoretical model?
Camille: God is a theoretical model!

At the Chinese restaurant, the waiter brings out our dumplings. Camille yells, loudly, "Oh my god those look like vaginas."