03/30/11

how I spent my writer’s vacation.

Look how cute. Sorry my 95 Saturn isn't a riding animal.

I live in Montana; it’s fucking stupid beautiful. “The last best place,” important writers have said. You can rent a cabin in the woods at Lolo Hot Springs with a weird bunk bed and an electrical outlet for 35 dollars a night. So I cancelled my Wednesday morning class and I fucking drove myself out here and here I am.

“I think I’m in the wrong place,” I told the woman behind the counter at the hot springs. “I have a reservation for a cabin.”

“You’re not,” she said. She was around 40 and pretty. “Cabin 12.” She showed me a map of the layout of the cabins. Remember No Country For Old Men? It was just like that. (Also Psycho: twelve rooms, twelve vacancies…)

pretty deep into that bottle by the time I got around to writing this blog post, not gonna lie to ya.

“How many?” she said.
“Just me.”
“Oh. Just getting away for awhile?” she said, consolingly.
I tried to decide in the moment if telling her I was a writer would somehow make it less weird, and decided it wouldn’t.
“Yes,” I said.

She gave me a ticket for the hot springs behind her, like at a carnival. It said “admit one.” ‘Are you kidding?’ I almost said, but didn’t. She explained that the natural pool was to the left, and the other one, you know, with concrete and lawn chairs, was to the right. She apologized for the chemicals in the pool on the right, which I found touching. Another thing I almost said: ‘Could I have cabin 13 instead? You see, I’m a writer and I plan on scaring the shit out of myself tonight with dark fantasy.’

Look how tiny. Look at the weird bunk bed.

Whatever, there’s already a couple staying in cabin 13, but man, you should see cabin 12. And you will, for I took pictures. I hate bunk beds. Sleep on the top and you’re suspended in space, the dangers of which are obvious, but the bottom bunk feels like the beginnings of a pressure chamber. I’ve been on a kick recently and everything reminds me of Edgar Allan Poe: pits, pendulums, and people encased in walls. The room has a closet. Tentatively, I opened it, and found nothing inside. No dead bodies, no black cats, nothing. I have no one to blame but myself. After all, they didn’t know I came here to write.

misguided optimism.

The conditions are too perfect. I mean, there’s a fucking babbling brook just outside my window; I can hear it still. I’m writing this at 10pm. I got here around 6. Here’s what I’ve done so far:

  • I made house. It took about 9 seconds.
  • I went outside to check out the river but the weather is pretty shitty. Driiizzle.
  • I took some pictures of my room and myself. The pictures feature a room full of promise and a girl dreading her future.
  • There could be no more delaying. I started to write.
  • More precisely, I read everything of the story that had come before. Tonight I am focused on revision of this terrible, bleak tale stuffed with pathos. Incest, suicide, betrayal, you know, a greatest hits kind of thing.
  • I finally started writing. I’d say of the four hours I’ve been here I’ve eked out about an hour and a half of solid writing. Unless you count this blog post, which I don’t.
  • The story’s still not done and it makes me sick to think about it. The original draft was about 14 pages. Workshop made helpful suggestions like “revamp this entire character” and “add a hundred more scenes” and “make fundamental changes to the stories overall arch and structure.” Did I mention my friends are assholes?
  • The story is now 24 pages and I’m only just now approaching the third act. I grew weary. I decided to take a break
  • I decided to take a line break.
  • Whenever I start to feel a little uneasy about writing, I like to pick up the short story of an author I respect in order to really bring the feeling home. Without trying it always turns out to be just the right story to elucidate whatever it is that’s gone terribly wrong with my own piece.
  • I read Joy William’s story, “Substance.” I find often whenever I read one of her stories that I am so moved by the experience I want to get up and tell somebody all about it. This is almost never a good idea. It’s almost as bad as when someone starts telling you about something funny they saw in a television show. Actually it’s probably worse. What I admired about the story was the weight of it, and yet it’s told so swiftly. She reminded me how unswift my 24 pages are and still nowhere near the finish line. The story is on my kindle and it’s impossible to guess how long it actually is in “microsoft word,” you know, the unit I measure my life in.

It’s 10:30 now. I woke up at 11 this morning. There’s no Internet and I am so very alone. This is what I paid for. There’s nothing to do but go back to the writing. Anyway. God help me. I’ll be back to wrap this up later.

sober determination.

Epilogue:

  • I finished a draft of the story before bed, which is to say, I ended it abruptly. 26 pages, suckers. It’s called “Get Well Soon.” And I hope you do.
  • I came to learn real values.
  • I never used my free hot springs pass. Maybe if I had someone with me, but electing to take a bath by myself with a bunch of strangers, I decided, takes more courage than I could muster.
03/25/11

thesis shmesis

school is hard and stressful. I’m trying to think of a title for my thesis and I just keep thinking up old trustys that already exist. it’s weird how I have no imagination. here is the product of my recent brainstorm. the brainstorm was filled with lightning and electricity. tell me know which ones you like best in the comments, and you could be a winner.


A River Runs Through It

Winter in the Blood

Tales From the Crypt

A Tale of Two Cities

Other Terrors Lurk (gospel website)

Lolita By Vladimir Nabokov (alice bolin)

Stop me if you’ve Heard This One

Only the Lonely

Lord of the Rings

The Newer Testament

Life is Painful

How to Win Friends and Influence People

A Contemplation of the Separated Evidence (thesis title generator)

Welcome to the Jungle

Welcome to the Jungle Book

After the Flood

My Thesis

Out After Dark

On the Slip

Instructions on How to Love

A Murder of Crows

Things that are Dead

Except on Fire

The End of the Affair

The Worst

Bury Me With It

Doom Revisited

The Davinci Code

Another One Bites the Dust

I’m Not Gay but My Boyfriend Is

What Not to Wear

Off the Rails

Forgetting Jacob Johnson

Armageddon Days are Here Again

A Loud Alarm

Several Exits

Addicted to Love in All the Wrong Places

She had it Coming

Oh No and Other Poems

The Dog in the Hat in the Nighttime

Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place

It's Not What you Think

 

03/15/11

literally, 500+ words on what I had for dinner.

Denny's lets you substitute withered green beans for french fries. and such small portions!

Firstly, I went to the gym, and let me tell you, it was way hard and boring. You were always in my thoughts. I couldn’t wait to get off the elliptical and write a blog post about how long and boring it was. The mind is always running; it wants to be somewhere else, and that is very unzen. I should have been thinking: woosh woosh woosh woosh, the sun is warm, the grass is green, let go, let god, let go, let god, be here now, be here now, always here somehow… but instead I thought of jokes to tell you, and it’s ironic or something because I can’t remember any of them now. Not a single one. I remember the thoughts but they are without punch line. Predictable observations about how all the people at the university gym are young, thin, and annoying. Fear of seeing one of my beautiful, thin students. The fear realized. Something about my terrible gym outfit and how I am always the fattest, worst dressed person at the gym, and the thing is, I’m not even that fat. My gym clothes really are that awful, though. How can a person ever justify buying cute gym clothes? Isn’t the whole point that you want to shrink out of them, pronto? A lot of those cunts seem like they’re already at their goal weight. Montana kind of sucks. In Michigan, I am quite thin.

Let me say something quickly about writing, since this blog is primarily supposed to be about writing: I am not interested in writing. I am interested in fitness and wolverines and that’s IT.

Speaking of not writing: you’ll never guess where I’m writing this. You give up. Denny’s. It’s called a chain restaurant, ever heard of it? Some people find eating dinner alone in public humiliating, but the way I see it, anybody who’s lame enough to go to Denny’s is a person whose opinion of me I care not about. (See the classic onion article: I’ll try anything with a detached air of superiority.)

Website, I don’t know what it is lately, but I feel giddy about our relationship. I feel like we’re falling in love all over again. I want to tell you everything about me. Website, did you know that on the subject of ordering food at restaurants, I am remarkably high maintenance? In my defense, I’m a vegetarian, and menus get everything wrong. A menu is a jumping off point to start negotiations. Tonight I ordered the mushroom and swiss burger, but with the veggie patty, and not with the regular bun, but rye bread, and the waitress was all, “did you know we have a wheat bun?” and I’ll admit she tripped me up but ultimately I said, “I don’t care that you have a wheat bun” (more or less) and mother fucking green beans instead of French fries! I know! I was excited too! That wasn’t even my idea. It says right on the menu that you can do that. I said to the waitress, “Is it true a person can substitute green beans for French fries?” It’s true, she said. What a world. She wasn’t as excited about it as me, but I don’t hold it against her.

Okay. This is getting a little retarded. After today I’m going on a diet from talking about my diet. I’m serious. Next time I’ll talk about something else.

P.S. It’s been 20 minutes and I’m still hungry. That means I’m doing very well, right?

 

03/14/11

eye of the tiger.

I am a person interested in perfection, and that’s why I wore sweatpants to teach this morning. For the last two semesters, the universe has been kind enough to assign me a disproportionate number of beautiful, 18-year-old girls, and this morning I felt the need to explain my clothing choice to them. “About the sweatpants,” I said. “It’s my new thing. They’re for fitness purposes.” They stared at me, wondering what any of this had to do with the art of fiction writing, and so I went on. “I need to be ready to spring into action at any moment.” Nervous laughter. (I don’t even want to THINK about what those kids think of me. I don’t even want to think about it.) I stopped short of telling them I’m getting too fat for many of my non-elastic wasted clothing. I stopped short with them but apparently have no problem telling you fine people. This website is the dumbest fucking idea I’ve ever had and I seriously have no idea why I keep writing it.

Here I am drinking that disgusting 2pm meal I was so excited for.

Actually, I wanted to talk about my fitness goals embarrassingly and publically for lots of reasons. First, I get the feeling you like when I humiliate myself. I think it makes you feel better about your own sad lives somehow to watch me live mine so disgustingly in the open, and more than anything, I am a clown. Secondly, I thought a little accountability would do me good. If today I write about diet and exercise, and in a week I’ve suddenly stopped talking about it, you’ll know I’ve given up, and maybe that will embarrass me enough to not give up. I don’t know. Probably not. We’ll see.

And the Human Response.

So here’s the big declaration. Caloric restriction, exercise, and no booze! I mean, not forever, let’s not get crazy, but for a second. Lord, I love to drink, but it makes a person all puffy and not really in the mood to “work out.” I don’t know why the quotes. Work Out. Work the fuck out. Eye of the tiger. Fitness. Fitness montage.

I ate a breakfast burrito at 9 this morning and it already felt like cheating, because it made me feel full. I told him light cheese, I swear, but I think his idea of light was maybe a normal portion, and I didn’t get the hashbrowns in it, but stillll. So I decided that I couldn’t eat again for another 5 hours. At 2 o clock I can eat again, but I don’t know why I’m all fucking excited about it because I’m only going to let myself eat some boring diet type food.

Depravation is the worst, am I right? It’s disturbing, my idle mind. Every two minutes or so, like clockwork, like a screen saver, I get this brilliant idea to do something terribly unhealthy. It’s sort of similar to when you’re sitting around alone, bored as Hell, and you suddenly remember that masturbation exists, and it feels like the first time. “Hey, I know how to spend the next 5 minutes! Awesome!” It’s just like that. I’m all, “hey, you know what would hit the spot right now? A second breakfast burrito/taking a nap/crack/etc.” I walked into a convenience store at 11:30 this morning, and my brain said, “Duuuuude, let’s get a 40, take it home with us and climb into bed. You’re already wearing sweatpants; it’s perfect. Doooo it.” I didn’t, but the point is I already wanted to.

Anyway, this is my new lifestyle. I need to accept that food is no longer a source of pleasure, that I will be confronted with uncomfortable (i.e. sober) mental states, and that I will have to physically exert myself, often. Didn’t lent just happen? For lent, I am giving up joy. Wish me luck.

I’m going to shut up now before things get out of hand, but yo. Remind me to tell you later how awesome wolverines are. Preview: so awesome.

03/10/11

whatever.

Not just weird and sorry, but misunderstood. I need to work on my inflection or personality or something.

Stress, anxiety, depression: all the best things. When I was younger I could just check out for awhile when this happened. It’s not that hard to deliver pizzas when you’re suicidal.

It’s the difference between, “Aw, bro, I’m so sorry I forgot your cheese dip. No, no, it’s my bad. Let me run back to the store. No problem at all. Let me see if I can get you some free breadsticks” with excited affect, and: “sorry, I’ll be back in 10 minutes” with no affect.

Look at this dumb fucking failure. It's called evolving to eat things other than bamboo, Panda. Ever heard of it?

And the thing is, the amount a person tips is ingrained in their personality and rarely varies given the circumstances. Take me, for example. My usual is to tip over 20%. Add two dollars for every ten dollars, round up; it’s simple. I learned to overtip from my mother. I think we both feel like our very existence warrants the world an apology. If I feel I’ve gotten really shitty service I might tip 15-18% instead. “That will show them!” I think. Of course, it doesn’t show them.

I got a little off track, but what I started to say is that I’m depressed, but I can’t check out, I have all these responsibilities. Teachers are all “why haven’t you turned in the work?” and my students are like, “when are you going to give me back my story?” and blah blah. On top of that, I’m not single, so I have this whole other person to juggle. I have to consider his feelings. The way I do that tends to be to constantly accuse him of not considering my feelings, which are considerable. It’s exhausting, being depressed.

There’s a lot of reading and writing to do, but watching David Attenborough’s Animal Documentary series on Netflix, one after the other, this is about all I can manage. It’s a wicked indulgence. To watch an antelope frantically clawing through the water in slow motion, only to have this prehistoric beast, this heartless, cold-blooded alligator leap from the depths and chomp the thing – I don’t know what to say. My God. Cheetahs are fast but gazelles are better at dodging. In one scene you see it make an unexpected zip, the Cheetah gets caught up, stumbles, and the prey animal lives to fight another day. In the next sequence though, we’re reminded of the pitfalls of eyes on either side of your head – deer runs straight into a tree and the Lioness rips his neck open.

Wait, there’s more.

Big fat walruses, hundreds of them on the beach during mating season, all of them roaring and armless, like slugs with tusks. The babies squeal for their mothers who try their hardest to keep them alive, but male walruses – angry they are not the baby’s father – wobble over and suffocate them. Nature is filled with murderers and everyone wants to live. For a moment you’re happy the gazelle gets away, but then it’s all, “Cheetah just wants a hot meal, what’s so wrong with that?” Who do you side with? Nobody. Nothing. No one.

But the prey animals, they don’t want to hurt anyone, right? Have you ever felt a blade of grass? It’s covered in microscopic barbs. It wants to live the same as everything else. There are no winners here. It’s like watching a war or a funeral procession. Look out your window, hear the crickets chirping? The crickets hate each other. The birds want them dead. The grass doesn’t want to be stood on. Everything’s fucked.

Who invented this world? Where is this God I keep hearing about? I can see now why Rednecks might all gather together in a field with shotguns, shooting pointlessly at the sun. I can imagine a scenario where that would seem like a reasonable reaction.

I believe in beauty and hope and kindness, sometimes. Sometimes I try to express it or talk about it, but I have this problem with inflection. Have you ever tried to say something enthusiastically, genuinely, in earnest and full of love, only to have people react something like, “yeah right!” or “are you being sarcastic?” I’d say that happens to me about twice a week.

We workshopped my non fiction piece on Monday and afterwards I said, “Thanks a lot. That was really helpful.” The class laughed. The teacher snorted, “yeah, right!”

“I meant it,” I said, to the air. To no one. Helplessly.

It hurts. It makes me want to not find things beautiful and to not be grateful.

Is it comforting to know that elephants in captivity can paint flowers with their trunks? They’re just trained to do it. It’s a circus trick, and then their human masters sell the paintings. They have no fucking clue what they’re doing. Whatever. We’re all doomed. That’s my position.

03/8/11

molly’s favorite animals

1. bears
2. dogs
    a. domestic
    b. coyote
    c. wolf
    d. fox
3. elephants
4. insects/arachnids
    a. ants
    b. spiders
    c. moths
5. horses
6. chimps
    a. bonobo
    b. gorilla
    c. orangutan
7. cats
    a. lioness
    b. house
    c. lion
    d. panther
    e. mountain lion
    f. tiger
8. sloths
9. birds
    a. sparrow
    b. duck
    c. raven/crow
    d. osprey
    e. robin
10. platypus

Honorable mentions:
sharks, donkeys, snails, squirrels, and rats.

Worst animals:
1. lizards
    a. all variety of lizards.

03/3/11

Day 3 and I am a Golden God.

Sometimes I step back and look at my life and I can hardly believe that I am the person living it. I pulled out the keys to my office, and it was a tough day at my office. I had 8 hours of class and another 4 hours of reading. I took off my glasses and rubbed my eyes. I felt like a grownup. I felt like someone getting ahead by using their head. Rick Moody came for a special guest famous author workshop. The man who wrote The Ice Storm said to me, “I really liked your story. After another draft or two you should try to publish this.”

It felt really good for about 9 seconds, and then I said something way too personal, and then more stuff like that to try to cover up the first thing, and now that thing just echoes in my head over and over and drowns out everything else.

Earlier this year, I got a story published in The Meridian and I was excited. Then I became embarrassed, got drunk at the bar and blew 60 dollars at the poker table in as many minutes. That showed me a thing or two about feeling good. If this were the middle ages I’d be one of the nutbars who think they can make the plague go away by whipping themselves. I am that type.

I mean, don’t feel sorry for me. It’s fine; I’m sure it will be fine. I just wish I could break out of this uncomfortable cycle I find myself in. Lately I am either: 1. saying something. 2. mortified by the thing I just said.

I’ll work it out. Thanks for reading.

03/2/11

games people play.

Not to belabor the weird thing, but I try not to make conversation with people in the food service industry because I’m so weird and I assume everyone is like me in that they don’t want to be talked to. I should remember that 70% of people are extroverts and in fact, connecting with one another is what we’re here for and all of that. I don’t know, I guess I go back and forth on the issue. When it comes to business transactions I aim to be friendly but brief.

Cody takes me to asian restaurants and asks the waitstaff questions. He wants to know everyone’s name. There’s this book from the sixties I like a lot called Games People Play. It measures social gestures into measurable units called “strokes.” Actually just watch this Curb your Enthusiasm clip and then we’ll continue.

Dude saying hi to Larry equals one stroke. Larry saying hi back returns with a single stroke, but the first guy has this expectation of more strokes. I swear I have a point.

I like to cut off most conversations after a few strokes. Honestly I think I’m afraid of rejection, or of boring the other person, or I glimpse my own future boredom. I don’t know, I’m not a doctor.

It’s weird for me to hang out with people who aren’t afraid of stroking but I do it often. And I’ve formed a hypothesis about it: food service industry people take about 2 or 3 strokes before they soften up and let their guard down. So it goes something like this.

“your green curry is amazing.” (1 stroke)
“yeah, thanks.” (a cordial but wary reception.)
“No really, I quite enjoy the curry.” (2 strokes)
“I too enjoy green curry…” (still suspicious but coming around…)
“Your setup is beautiful. Have you had this place for long?” (stroke 3)
“About a year and a half and I am now won over, sir!”

And suddenly the guy is telling us his life story and giving us free drinks at noon on a wednesday and I am proven wrong once again.

Then I said something weird and cody said I was awkward and I cried in the parking lot. I told him, through copious tears, that I knew I was overreacting. We smoothed it over. When we got home I picked up my guitar and played a few chords. Cody told me I was holding the pick wrong and I started crying again. After that he was nice to me and told me over and over again how great I was. I got really good results from crying. I might try it again later.

03/1/11

the first day of the rest of your month.

Dear Diary,

The alarm went off at 8:30 or something. I read act IV of Hamlet on my kindle next to a crabby, sleepy bear. I think his stomach hurt; I don’t know. It snowed all yesterday and this morning and then got a little warmer. Slush. Everybody hates the weather. We (the great collective we) seem to remember things going differently last year, a less shitty February. We are not yet consoled by the arrival of March but maybe we’re getting there?

Got myself caught up on the Charlie Sheen thing. Subsequently adopted “I’m tired of pretending I’m not special” as life mantra.

Read an article Alice sent me about how to define a vague relationship or something like that.

Went to Shakespeare class, where once again I failed to have anything valid or interesting to contribute.

I ate a breakfast burrito from the campus cafeteria with the coeds. It was so good. I love breakfast burritos.

Wrote 639 new words for an old story. Concluded it wasn’t enough and I would never amount to anything.

Read an article on why young men suck at everything but getting laid and 6 reasons why humans should be terrified of crows.

Read Kate’s story and the first two chapters of Ted’s novel. I walked around campus holding up Ted’s manuscript in front of my face like some super nerd. Realized what I was doing halfway to the bus but elected not to stop myself.

By 5pm today I had already tweeted 13 times. What on earth about, you might be wondering.

Passed two bums on the footbridge smoking weed and having a blast like they owned the place. I gave one of them a dollar and the other 50 cents and they said without prompting, “it’s cool, man, we share everything.”

Went to the grocery store. Came out at exactly 5:15 across the street from the 5:15 bus stop. A different homeless guy stopped me and started prattling on about could I give him my address and his wife was over there and a broken carburetor, but I was anxious about missing the bus and I literally said to him, “Shut up. I’m going to miss the bus. Here’s a dollar.” Turned out there was no need to be so terse, but pardon me.

The bus was 5 minutes late, just like it always is, and I rode it home without incident. People chitchatted about being sick of the weather. Someone pointed out that it was only March 1st, after all, and the snow was not atypical. This person was not well received.

Came home with the intention of exercising but ate a sandwich instead.

I Read Missoula’s Missed Connections page on craigslist for about an hour and then wrote 180 words of a poem inspired by one of the ads titled, “you have an orange coat.” Decided I will make my students do something similar tomorrow, except not a poem because nobody likes poems. Also, these kids signed up for a fiction class.

Around 7pm I wanted to put on my pajamas and go to bed. I started feeling drained and useless and I wondered what I’d been doing all day. Felt that the beginning of the month was paramount and I wanted to ask something extraordinary of myself.

I mustered up the energy to write this blog post. Had the idea it would be a good goal to write a blog post every day for the month of March but thought better of making any promises. We’ll see how it goes. What do you care? You don’t care.

I switched to the present tense. Or did I?

You’re up to date and I’m writing in real time, which is lame and dumb. Sorreeee!