Accursed rational brain, and, sandwiches.

“You get your intuition back when you make space for it, when you stop the chattering of the rational mind. The rational mind doesn’t nourish you. You assume that it gives you the truth, because the rational mind is the golden calf that this culture worships, but this is not true. Rationality squeezes out much that is rich and juicy and fascinating.” Anne Lamott.

YES. And, what a high order it has come to be–to make space for intuition, for those feelings in your gut that tell you something’s creepy, or wonderful, or, you know, whatever it is. It’s hard to make decisions, and it’s hard to know what’s right because our brains are glutted with all sorts of daily cloudy shit, and because it’s hard to let go of things, even when your gut tells you you must, to be sane, to be healthy.

I’m learning it is normal to be confused. That’s what the brain does. It challenges the gut, because it must. It turns every instinct we’ve got into an electoral debate. All we can hope sometimes is that that shit doesn’t turn republican.

But, maybe we already know exactly what we should do. Maybe we should live by the wormy cludge (*I’ve just invented this word, I think: let’s define it. Cludge: an amalgam of “sludge” and “clutch,” as in: Before it even came to pass, Rutherford understood the situation would end badly by the cludge in his belly.)  This probably does not work. But, well, I intuitively grasp the meaning of this word, by which I mean–I understand it, viscerally, and so, I shall use it, without worrying what you will think. I shall not allow my life to be dictated by the minds of others! I declare!

Even now, I wonder: should I eat a sandwich from the most delicious sandwich shop in the world? You’d think this would be an easy decision. But, herein lies the endless battle. Does it make sense to walk all that way for a sandwich when I’ve probably got other things I should be working on? Am I truly hungry enough to make indulging in such a sandwich worth it? And, then, if so, what sandwich would I even eat? It’s all just TOO HARD.

I will leave you now, to sit here, and meditate on my decision. To live in the present, is all. Right? To understand what will truly nourish you. To figure out if a sandwich is merely a distraction, or a necessity.

(Okay, let’s not waste any time here. This sandwich thing is definitely happening. Rich, juicy, and fascinating. Yes. It will be all of those things.)

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In New Orleans, people dance.

It’s true. I got to visit this magical, mystical land in order to help promote The Butterfly Clues at the Winter Institute–an independent bookseller’s conference-y thing at a shmancy hotel in the french quarter. Now, it must be noted that never have I ever, in my adult life, had someone pay for me to travel somewhere I really wanted to go (or, even somewhere I didn’t want to go), so this alone was pretty thrilling for me. I took full advantage of the bewildering luck of all this by staying on an extra three days, with friends, outside of the touristy-realm.

I think what I found most heartening and glorious about the whole experience was that it’s a place seemingly built on “good living”–this is how the friend I was staying on with described it, or something like this at least, to avoid heinous misquoting and the like. “The big easy,” is how it’s also known, among other things like crescent city (which has something to do with its being situated around the Mississippi, I think. Oh, god, I could be getting all of this wrong, in which case, please first forgive, and then correct me.) New York living is built around ambition, and success, and seemingly endless striving. It’s not meant to be a “comfortable” place to exist; it’s challenging, it’s built to be challenging, and I don’t know a single person who lives here expecting otherwise. There’s plenty that’s amazing about the struggle and aiming-for and mad rush of humanity you experience living here–it forces you to work harder to find ways to feel calm and grounded and happy, which is a good skill to start grappling with as early on as you can start a’grapplin, and, it’s a place full of amazing artsy-and-otherwise energies…and food. But, it can also be one of the most anonymous and lonely places ever, especially at first, especially when you haven’t yet found your way into some of the wonderful communities that do exist here.

Oh, and people in bars don’t dance.

BUT THEY DO IN NEW ORLEANS. YES.  In like a dance-for-your-own-enjoyment kind of way. And, they say hi to you, on the street! And you say hi back, and it isn’t creepy! Wild! A place where the norm is friendliness, and openness, and SEVENTY DEGREES in January? They don’t want you there if you’re not into being a nice, decent person! I wore goddamn backless summer dresses the whole time and sipped iced beverages on benches and saw lots of cool dogs and walked around, wide-eyed, joyful, like it was my fucking job. I’m also a real sucker for older people who call me “baby,” in a non-creepy, totally grandparent-y way of course, and that happened, too.

On the downside: hard place to be a vegetarian, but, not impossible.

Another upside: found a book of poems by Mary Karr in a cool old bookstore, crammed to impossible, creaky heights with old books that smell just as old books are supposed to smell. (You know what I mean.) I’d been wanting to read her poems for awhile, and had trouble finding them browsing through used book stores around here, and so it was an exciting find.

Whew. In other news: if anyone’s around on February 8th: I will be reading: at the New York Public Library (I’ll get back with exact location soon): at 6 PM. And then my roommate and her band will be playing at Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn at 10. So, meet me at the ‘brary and hear me, and several other YA authors, read some stuff, and then follow me to BK for some music!!

 

 

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Cats, Ponies, Planes

One of my roommates, Annie, sat on a plane next to a lady named Matthea Harvey, who happens to be a poet I sort of adore. She also, to my great relief, happens to be an excellent comforter in times of very-high-altitude wind-tossed distress, and held my dear roommate’s hand as she trembled in her seat, and told her everything would be just fine, and showed her photos of her cat. This is exactly the kind of thing you need to see when in such a situation. Cats. They are the only solution to total, inconceivable terror. But not a bunch of cats, because cats in large groups are TERRIFYING. (I worked on a farm in Spain for a short period of time in 2009 and experienced just this terror every time I’d refill the cat food and about eighteen creatures would sprint in and set upon that bowl all at once, like vultures to a fresh carcass. Cree-py.)

Anyway, in homage to Ms. Harvey’s generosity, and, of course, her talent, I present this delightfully playful prose poem, mostly about ponies (another surefire solution to any kind of discomfort!) It sort of reminds me of Donald Barthelme, if you’ve ever read any of his stuff (WHICH YOU SHOULD! IT’S AWESOME. AND I’M WRITING IN CAPS LOCK TO EMPHASIZE JUST HOW AWESOME HE IS.)

Anyway, without further ado, I present:

THE CROWDS CHEERED AS GLOOM GALLOPED AWAY

Everyone was happier. But where did the sadness go? People wanted to know. They didn’t want it collecting in their elbows or knees then popping up later. The girl who thought of the ponies made a lot of money. Now a month’s supply of pills came in a hard blue case with a handle. You opened it & found the usual vial plus six tiny ponies of assorted shapes & sizes, softly breathing in the styrofoam. Often they had to be pried out & would wobble a little when first put on the ground. In the beginning the children tried to play with them, but the sharp hooves nicked their fingers & the ponies refused to jump over pencil hurdles. The children stopped feeding them sugarwater & the ponies were left to break their legs on the gardens’ gravel paths or drown in the gutters. On the first day of the month, rats gathered on doorsteps & spat out only the bitter manes. Many a pony’s last sight was a bounding squirrel with its tail hovering over its head like a halo. Behind the movie theatre the hardier ponies gathered in packs amongst the cigarette butts, getting their hooves stuck in wads of gum. They lined the hills at funerals, huddled under folding chairs at weddings. It became a matter of pride if one of your ponies proved unusually sturdy. People would smile & say, “this would have been an awful month for me,” pointing to the glossy palimino trotting energetically around their ankles. Eventually, the ponies were no longer needed. People had learned to imagine their sadness trotting away. & when they wanted something more tangible, they could always go to the racetrack & study the larger horses’ faces. Gloom, #341, with those big black eyes, was almost sure to win.

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Lovesick

The Fault in our Stars, John Green’s new YA book, comes out tomorrow, and I’m excited! I’ve actually not read anything by this author yet, but I’ve been reading about him a bit  and I’m dead set to start powering through this, and some of his other work (Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, Will Grayson Will Grayson–co-authored with David Levithan.)

Anyway–based on the synopsis I’ve read, as well as a bit of the first chapter (posted online)–the book’s protagonist, Hazel, is a sixteen-year-old gal whose stage IV thyroid cancer has gone into remission, but whose snark and depression has not. Her mom makes her go to a cancer kid support group to help deal with the expected psychic weight of tackling a life-threatening illness at such an early age, the potential of its return lingering, always, in the near-distance…or maybe it’s just to get her out of the house.

Enter Augustus: hottie cancer survivor and support-group-attendee, also in remission. Amazingly, he’s as interested in Hazel as she is in him, and ultimately helps push her “to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.”

Coupled with the stellar, witty, unsentimental writing I hear this guy is known to deliver, this book seems like it could be just the refreshing-and-cathartic-teen-cancer-love story we’ve all been waiting for. I’ll report back (though, admittedly, I’m shit at reviews, unlike my friend Matt (hey, Matt!), who has an amazing book blog you should all check out: http://booksarethefuture.tumblr.com.)

2012! Horrah!

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Work-in-progress

New ink-and-gouache work (for Rhoda!)  These creatures managed to get real creepy real fast.  What’re you gonna do though, you know? When they’re in there, they’re bound to fight their creepy way out. It is their way, and I, helpless servant, must deliver them unto the world.

On a somewhat un-related note (related in the way that it makes me think of “works-in-progress) I listened to this story on Radiolab: http://www.radiolab.org/2011/jan/25/finding-emilie/. I imagine it’s a pretty popular story, and chances are you’ve already heard it if you happen to listen to Radiolab on a consistent basis, BUT, if that’s not the case, give it a listen. The girl in this story is an artist, working her way back after an extreme accident. You might cry (which is great! get it out! You probably haven’t cried in ages!), and you will also clutch your heart and say “aww, geez,” in a very genuine way, without even realizing you’re doing it until you look down and there’s your hand, just where I said it’d be. It’s the real deal. And Radiolab has some amazing editors.

I feel like my blog is shaping up to be this ‘attempt to restore faith in humanity’ kind of thing–purely accidental, born only of my own strong need for reminders, most likely–but, this story sort of did that for me earlier. So I guess I’m continuing the streak.

Oh, and, hey. Happy New Year!

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This image will haunt your dreams

Right? Won’t it? How singularly creepy these wigged heads are! Staring out at us all from their 37th street window! Judging our misdeeds! Ever vigilant! Ever terrifying! Also, they all seem to be wearing a whole lot of makeup. I, too, used to wear too much makeup, Creepy Wigged Man-Heads. And then I grew up and realized I was just overdoing it. Let your natural beauty shine through! You’ll be so much happier in the long run! If you don’t stop now: beware! It will never be enough. You will live and die by this.

And, to quote David Foster Wallace’s now rather famous 2005 Kenyon College commencement address (I’m sorry to do this here, but, you know, it’s just plain good advice): “If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you.”

So, chew on that, Creeps. Chew. On. That.

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Flynt-like

Saw this painting (below) at a coffee shop in Chicago (New Wave, in Logan Square!) and it made me think of good ol’ Flynt. If you haven’t read The Butterfly Clues yet–and you probably haven’t, because it doesn’t come out until Vagentine’s Day (which, like Valentine’s Day, falls on February 14th)–Flynt’s a street artist who spends much of his time harvesting objects and supplies with which to make art. He also likes drawin’ nude ladies, and transmogrifying them into weirder-than-human forms.

Anyway, when I noticed this piece–by an artist named Dusty James (wonder if that’s a pseudonym, too…?)– it immediately brought Flynt to mind. It’s something he’d create, or at least admire. For sure. Looks like Dusty used a lot of salvaged objects to make it, too–found wood, little plastic toy soldiers, lego-type things. Really neat. I like it.

Image

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