10/9/12

four dogs, two humans.

My brain still doesn’t think my life is real life. I don’t know why, cuz I mean, look around, it’s the realest. We eat a lot of potatoes and tonight I’ve got big plans of steaming up the rest of the red cabbage. We’re like the Bucket family in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. They were pretty hardcore vegans until they got their hands on an unlimited supply of milk chocolate. “It wasn’t even really a chocolate river,” the kid who played Augustus Gloop later told reporters. “It was cold, dirty water.” At least, that’s what my friend Alice says he said; who knows if it’s true. She does the Austrian accent and everything, it’s hilarious!

The point is, four dogs live here now. The mini poodles are a contract pet sitting job from craigslist. The rancher who owns two mini poodles will be back in three weeks to collect his pups when he returns from the oil fields. There’s no reason to think the rancher won’t come back for his mini poodles.

 

Here are some old cranky poodles named Corky and Roxy. They think that my lap belongs to them. They are the prince and princess of my free orange chair. Everything in this picture but my satchel is curtesy of craigslist.

In an entirely separate incident, my roommate found the beagles in the “for sale: general” section of craigslist listed for one dollar. It’s fate, he argued. Who else would find an ad for two perfect beagles when they were so miscategorized? Like our love—like our improbable craigslist love, when you go looking for a roommate and instead find a loveless marriage—the dogs were meant to be ours. So that’s how we went from having zero dogs to four emotionally needy little animals in a single Sunday afternoon. They’re squirmy and hard to photograph, I’ll say that for them.

After some big important scent, I'm sure.

 

The beagles came to us with the names Bella and Buster, which is too much alliteration, anyone would agree, but then again, they seem to know their names well enough and who are we, their new slave masters? Jesse likes the name Bella but wants to call the bigger one Edward. He thinks it’s hilarious to reference Twilight in this way. I don’t always get my roommate’s sense of humor. He also thinks it would be really funny to go to the polls and vote for Romney. Ha ha. Voted for Romney. And there’s all the Nazi stuff on his Facebook page. Ha ha. The Third Reich. We’re still getting to know each other I guess.

My mom saw a psychic, and the psychic told my mother, “Which of your kids is the writer? This person should write a book.”

The world has high hopes for me and I fucking hate that. How come psychics never tell people, “I see your daughter, sitting on a comfy orange chair surrounded by spooky clouds and music. She should continue to fulfill her destiny by watching “The Dog Whisperer” and “Animal Hoarders” for hours a day, Ooooooo……”

08/23/12

Missoula is for lovers.

LAST NIGHT

I met David Gates for dinner at the Depot around 6:30. I heard he was back in town and I wanted to talk to him about literature and maybe ask him what I should do with my life. David wrote two books in the 90s called Jernigan and Preston Falls. These books are so good they make my heart ache to think of them. He’s probably my favorite living author, so it’s pretty lucky for me that he teaches in Montana and we’re friends.

I asked him how his summer was, and he said it was terrible because his girlfriend broke up with him and he didn’t write anything. I told him to shut up and write a new novel. He said, “What the fuck for?” or its equivalent. “It’s hilarious how unambitious you are,” I said, and he said that it was worse than that even, that he wished people would just forget he ever wrote anything. He talked about never wanting to finish another story because one more story would make enough for a collection and it would be terrible to publish another short story collection. If I’m making him sound grumpy, know that he said all of this with a great deal of charm.

I told him how everybody in town keeps telling me to shut up and write a memoir. Even people who hate everything I write and wish I would die tell me to shut up and write more embarrassing non fiction. But I have this unfinished novel, also, so I just wanted to ask David Gates if he thought I should abandon the novel for a collection of personal essays or what.

He said there was no point in writing either things, but he implied that a novel is more salient in the long term, and who cares about people like David Sedaris or Sarah Vowell? “My god, the last thing we need are more personalities!” But really, the last thing we need is more of anything so this point doesn’t mean much.

He concluded by saying that I should just write both. Why wouldn’t I just write both? He said, “Why are you asking me when you’re just going to do whatever you’re going to do anyway?” No bullshit, this guy.

We talked about all kinds of other stuff, like how good The Godfather is and how Toni Morrison is very sexy and flirty in real life. My ex boyfriend Cody was in David’s non fiction class the fall after we broke up, so we talked about him for a second. I said that Cody was a super talented filmmaker but I had to break up with him anyway, and when we broke up he said “never talk to me again” and it’s been over a year since I saw him. And David said, “Of course you broke up with him. He’s not hot and you’re shallow.” What a card, that David.

I let David buy me dinner because he’s got way more money than I do. I suppose that makes me a really shitty person. Somebody should take me out back behind a building and beat the shit out of me with hammers for doing this awful thing.

After dinner I went to karaoke with people who I know and love as well as some incoming MFA students. I’m a fourth year MFAer at this point, which is to say I fucking graduated and what am I still doing at these kind of gatherings, but whatever. I sang “Rehab” by Amy Winehouse, then “Dancing in the Dark” by Springsteen and finally “Sir Duke” by Stevie Wonder.

I was going to sing “Welcome to the Jungle” but a nice girl named Rachel wanted to sing it and I let her because I’m such a kind person.

I was surprised to see my friend John who I used to be in love with was at the Golden Rose next store, because he’s been in North Dakota for weeks making tons of money on an oil rig. He’s still handsome, which is annoying. We hugged twice and made plans for coffee. I’m not in love with him anymore but if he asked me to marry him tomorrow I’d probably say yes.

I talked to the bouncer about my writing and we smoked cigarettes. I forget his name, but both times he said, “thanks for the conversation” which is a nice and weird thing to say, I think.

My other friend John asked me if I felt okay about a fake problem and I said I did. I said, “Don’t worry about me,” and he said, “Why would I not worry about you?” I said that I didn’t want the summer to end because I love my friends and I’ll miss them when they’re busy with school and I don’t want anything to change.

My friend Kurt told me again how much he liked it when I said “No yolo!” on Facebook, and I agreed it was a great thing to say, because I emphatically do NOT believe you only live once. I told my friend Kurt who is having some relationship problems that he’s handsome and smart and funny and women will be lining up to date him soon. I hope that wasn’t weird. We also talked about rap music but that wasn’t as fun for me because I had no idea what I was talking about.

Jeff the karaoke DJ tackled me toward the end of the night, in a fun friend way. I rode my bike to my new place on the west side. I had been sleeping in a tent out back, but I’ve decided to become an inside dog and move in for good. I don’t have a bed yet so I slept in a sleeping bag on the floor and it was just fine.

TODAY

I woke up with the sun and read some stuff on the internet. It looked cold at 9 in the morning so I put on fleece sweatpants and elected to take the bus into town instead of my bicycle. There’s a bus stop right in front of my new house, it’s really convenient. Waiting for the bus, I saw Jeff the karaoke DJ and his beautiful one-eyed dog across the street. It was neat because I didn’t know he lived there. He gave me a ride into town. I mean, why the heck not.

Jeff dropped me off at the corner of Higgins and 3rd. I started to walk down the street, but then in the distance I saw my ex boyfriend Cody, the one who said my love was like a loaded gun. I got scared when I saw him and ducked around the corner like a moron. I quickly realized that was a moronic thing to do and tried to recover. I came back around the corner and approached him as normally as possible. I said hello and he took out his headphones, begrudgingly. He looked pretty good. I said, “I hid around the corner when I first saw you, that was stupid.” He didn’t say anything. I said, “I didn’t know if you were still in Missoula,” and he said, “I still have two more years of school, why wouldn’t I be?” I haven’t seen or talked to Cody in over a year, but I still know him, and I know that he was seething with rage and I certainly ruined his day. I said, “Okay, I’ll let you go,” and he said, “See you later.”

I headed further down Higgins to the Hob Nob and my friends Greg and Kirsi were outside eating breakfast. “I just saw Cody,” I told them. They told me they watched the entire thing unfold, including the part about me getting scared and ducking around the corner. “If I saw you do that, then Cody definitely saw you,” Kirsi said. You can’t do anything in Missoula without 5 of your friends seeing you. It’s great. My friend Brian walked out of the Hob Nob while I was talking to Greg and Kirsi and I said hello to him.

The line was too long at Hob Nob so I walked down the street to Bernice’s, where I sat outside with a coffee and a not ripe banana. I tried to read a book but an old man reading the paper started talking to me about the weather and wolves in Wisconsin, how they’re getting along really well with the elk. Then Jeff came by with his one eyed dog and we talked about people in the neighborhood we both knew.

I walked down the street to Shakespeare and Co. to see my friend Garth who owns the store. My friend Erika who is also the arts editor at the Indy was there shopping and we all talked about something for a minute. Erika asked me if I would write the movie review this week and that made me happy because I love writing movie reviews. I made plans with Garth to have lunch next Wednesday and then I left.

I decided to head back downtown and see about finding something to eat besides the not ripe banana. There was an osprey flying circles over the river and I stopped to watch him. The osprey landed on a pole, and then both me and the osprey watched a crow circle around for awhile. I wanted to know what the osprey was thinking, and it drove me mad, to stare at an animal knowing that I can never ever know what they think about.

To be a bird for a day. I’d give anything.

It wasn’t even noon yet and I’d already been in so many awesome adventures and seen so many cool people. I thought it would make a great blog post. I thought about how much I like my life in a very real and uncomplicated way, and the idea felt fragile in my hands, like something too good to be true. I walked to the christian coffee shop to write this blog post, and here we are.

05/29/12

an open letter to visitors of this website.

Technically, I’m homeless. When kids downtown with clipboards ask me to sign their petition, I don’t have an address to write down, so it is: I am without a home. I’m not trying to shy away from the label. It’s a romantic idea, but I don’t know. I have an iPhone. My mom’s not rich, but she could put money in my account if I asked her to. It’s more that I have chosen not to get an apartment this summer because I don’t want to work in order to pay rent.

I just took a bath, for example. How homeless can I really be. This week I’m watching Holly’s cat, Gypsy. Over the weekend I watched Keema’s cat and two dogs. Keema’s house has a flatscreen tv and cup holders that sit on the arms of the couch. It’s like they thought of everything. The cupholders made me feel bad about myself. Also, I burned the bottom of their Tfal pan. Housesitting is harder than you might think.

It hasn’t always been so luxurious though, sincerely. I spent a few days on the lam. The street people of Missoula tend to be the same shade of brown, top to bottom, and I think for a moment I took on this aesthetic. I joined a yoga studio in order to use their shower. Some days, when I don’t feel like doing yoga, I don’t shower. You would think that would be good motivation to move, but meh. Not always.

I lived at a punk rock collective for a week or so, in something like a utility closet. It sounds bad, but the mattress was weirdly comfortable. I promised the nice people who live there that I wouldn’t write about it (yes, it’s just like fight club, the first and second rule). I think they meant not to write about it in the newspaper, but just in case. Let’s just say that I fell in love with the puppy of the house and leave it at that. It was terrible to leave him.

Been spending a lot of time with animals, let me tell ya. Boy oh boy, aren’t animals a trip. I love to watch them up close. Domestic animals, I mean. They must find our human dominated world so bizarre and confusing. Why are we like this? Their humans leave them, and I’m just some asshole standing in their kitchen. With their eyes, they say to me, “We don’t like that you are not Keema. We hate change but there’s nothing we can do about it.”

It’s fascinating to watch animals exercise what little agency they have. “Fuck you, Molly. I’m not eating today. How about that?” How about it. What do I care? No. I care a lot. It gets to me. I’m sure Gypsy will end his hunger strike really soon. Fuck. Holly specifically asked me not to write bad things about her cat on my blog. What’s with everybody telling me not to write things? Guys. I’m not famous. You’re probably not even reading this. Anyway, Gypsy is a beautiful cat and it’s actually pretty metal that he’s refusing food out of undying devotion for his master.

After Holly’s, I have a few more days of homeless. I have a plan. Do you want to hear my plan? First, I make my way to Portland, Oregon sometime between June 3-5. Would anyone like to drive me to Portland? Greyhound might. From there, I need another ride to Onalaska, Washington to do a 10 day meditation retreat. This will be my third time. I blogged about it a couple of summers ago. It’s a creative solution to my homeless problem and also a way to experience the true nature of reality or whatever. Would anyone like to go with me? You can still sign up. It’s not too late. This is a serious offer.

From Portland I’m going to Austin for a couple of days to see about a man. You heard me. That’s where the men are at. In texas. After that, you know. More dogs in Montana. This is getting boring.

Let me just wrap this up by telling you a little something about magic. Everything in my life up to this point I created with my mind. I previsioned it, and now here I am, living in the painting that I drew with my mind’s eye. Everything is going to plan, and I’m pleased. I created it with my head, and then with my hands, feet and mouth. There’s nothing magic about magic.

Love,
Molly

P.S. One thing about not having a car and being homeless is that you require a lot of help and favors from your friends. If you let me sleep on your couch or drove me somewhere, thanks a lot. I really appreciated that. I hope someday that I can do something for you! Friendship.

05/8/12

things that are dangerous. things that are great.

Downtown in Missoula, Montana yesterday, a real live Native American approached me on the sidewalk. Picture the red, ruddy face, as you would expect, then add a shitload of scratches, bruises and gashes held together with medical tape. He asked what kind of money I could spare. My god, are you kidding? The spending kind.

“Got in a car wreck yesterday,” he said. “This keeps happening to me. My daughter is always asking how I get myself all banged up all the time.” He said it jovially, like, “Oh, I’m such a klutz!” The world can be such a horror show, you know? So many unsafe edges and surfaces to smash your face against if you’re not careful. Even if you are careful.

If you went back to my blog entries from fall of 2009, you’d find my first impressions of Missoula: There’s no sales tax, the ducks and crows, for lack of hands hold feathers, a river runs through it, and so on. The place looks and feels made up. All of that is still true, so there’s no point in repeating it.

Here are some before, during and after photos of the elephant in Utero my brother put on me in boston.

Here’s another example of a thing that is dangerous. I asked the heavens/facebook for a bike to use for the summer. Somebody I never met but who knows me through my newspaper writing went ahead and loaned me his bike. He had a broken leg from falling off of said bike but the helmet saved his head and it’s fine. I’ll be fine. He made me promise I’d wear his haunted helmet, and I agreed, warily, warily, warily, warily, and no need to finish the thought.

Your apartment is great, I said. The song you’ve been working on in your diminished condition is great. Your many guitars and broken leg is great.

The hills are great. The pink clouds creeping over the hills are great. Except for the low hanging chandelier directly under the couch I’m currently surfing that I will never remember not to hit my head on again and again, I can’t think of anything that isn’t great.

05/3/12

travelogue: star date infinity.

I left Michigan on Tuesday morning. There’s the blunt edge of how much my mother will miss me to deal with, but so it goes. Birds fly away. Leaving the cats tears me up even more, because they don’t understand. You can’t send a cat a text message that explains why you’re leaving them.

The thing about me lately is, to be perfectly frank, I can’t stop thinking about faith and God and love all the time. I want to practice what I’ve learned like a teen might dutifully play the clarinet for an hour a day, but it’s not that simple; you can’t hold faith and love and God in your hands.

Imagine someone with the gall to rape in broad daylight wearing rainboots. This is the alley they would choose.

There was a man getting off the plane in Chicago from my connection to Boston. He was alone, quiet and unequivocally different. He had the proud suit, hat and beard. I couldn’t tell if he was Hasidic or Mennonite or what, but anyway, you know the type. When he got off the plane, he crouched down in the causeway to stuff a worn bible in his carry-on. I wanted him to know that I love God as much does. I wanted to talk to him about it, say something like, “Isn’t it cool how God is the same no matter what weird beard he’s wearing?” Anyway, there are men like that all over the city. They’re always alone and it seems to me a little sad and bewildered by what’s happening in the world around them. I could be totally wrong about that.

"Nobody ever mentions the second world, but it exists, like plate tectonics exist. It's called Detroit." That's the line that got the people most riled up from the poem I read at Cantab Lounge's open mic night . (That's not me in the picture, of course.)

It continues to be hilarious how terrible I am at the basic goings ons of city life. I never put the metro card through the machine in the right direction, for example. Two separate New Yorkers who are old and special friends made a point of mentioning to me how slow I walk. In Michigan, where I came from, there’s not much more than parked cars to walk to. In Montana, where I’m going, there’s the scenery to gawk at. I’ll get a steady pace worked out. Don’t nobody worry about me.

Real Pigeons of New York

Today is tattoo day! Tomorrow, the mountains. We’ll be in touch.

03/20/12

shit I can’t get over right now, part 1.

1. Paul the Octopus picked all the winners in the 2010 World Cup!

Of the final games, Paul the octopus picked 8 of 8 winners correctly. I had to look up how to do probabilities to figure out how likely that would be by random chance. .5 is the probability that the team he guesses is correct, right? he has a 50% chance of guessing right for every matchup. So .5 to the power of 8, and, ta da! Paul the Octopus has a .3% chance. Is that enough to make you believe in magic? I’ve made the leap from a lot less!

Germans are weird.

More incredible than that is how Paul’s soccer loving handlers came to this discovery in the first place. How many Octopi did they consult before they found Paul? Do you know that an octopus is as smart as a dog? They are clever, affectionate weirdos. Paul’s dead, incidentally. He had a good run.

This reminds me of a similar phenomenon I can’t get over right now: Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon really does sync up with the Wizard of Oz. I have actually done this back in high school, more than once. (On weed.) You start the album on the MGM lion’s third roar. “Great gig in the sky” plays during the tornado, it’s like they’re fucking dancing. The soundtrack goes “Cha-ching!” during “Money” at the precise moment the film switches from black and white to color.

Again, with both of these instances, it’s not just the phenomenon, but the sheer improbability that the phenomenon was ever discovered.

2. Separate Drinking Fountains? Are you fucking kidding me?

That’s so racist! I know that we’ve already done the scholarship on the history of institutionalized racism in America, but HOLY FUCK. The 1950s weren’t that long ago, you guys. It wasn’t some crazy time before we knew about germs or Jesus or electricity. How did a plumber install the pipes without stopping and saying, “What the fuck am I doing? Oh my god. This makes no sense! We’re all God’s children!” I can’t get over separate drinking fountains right now.

Look at this asshole.

These are stills from the film Mississippi Burning.

3. Oh my God, how is Michaelangelo’s statue of David so good?

Look at what a good job Michael did carving this marble into a statue! It looks so much like a human. Look how much his abs are just like a very fit man’s abs. People were probably very fit back then, and especially a mythical man. Look how vulnerable the genitals. You have to imagine that he has black hair, isn’t that weird? The statue was made in 1504! That’s only 12 years after they didn’t even know America existed. Think about how old it is and how lucky that it didn’t get broken. I read on the wikipedia that in 1991, a deranged man went at the statue with a hammer and broke off a couple of its toes. Why would he do that? Further, why don’t deranged men run at beautiful things with weapons more often?

Stay tuned for more shit I can’t get over in the next couple of days. Unless I get over it by the time I post again.

03/5/12

things fall apart.

The writers conference I went to in chicago last week started off on a high note, and then everything began to unravel. Here’s a list/summary of what I learned at AWP.

  1. I went to the conference for two reasons: To read my stories into a microphone and to meet my twitter friends. All told, I hugged around 15 new people, which is beautiful, which is the point of life, which is meaningful and true. More than anything, I discovered that really, I already knew them. I am a very affectionate person and it meant a lot to me to express my inappropriate love for Internet strangers in the physical. To love and be loved, this is the point of life. Duh. Everybody knows that, even if they don’t know that.
  2. As for the readings, one was pretty good and one was sweet but terrible, which averages out to okay. They were just fine.
  3. It’s fun to go to panels and muse on the writing process and everything, but ultimately, for myself, School is Out. At one of the panels I went to, somebody in the audience asked a question about “theme.” What are your themes? How do you stay true to and interweave themes into your novel? I have a masters degree in writing and I don’t know what a theme is. It’s an issue of too much craft and not enough soul.
  4. Sometimes I heard myself trying to casually interject my piddly credentials into conversation (I was published here, I got this fellowship, I know this person, puke) out of a made up need in myself to make it clear that hey, I have a right to be here. Whatever, I’m an asshole just like everybody else, but what I hope to learn from that is, in the future, don’t fucking do that.
  5. I spent the whole last day of the conference walking around on the brink of tears and not knowing why. Emotional exhaustion, probably. You don’t believe in magic, blah blah blah, but whatever; physics agrees with me that thoughts are things and we’re all one. By the end of that debacle, we were swimming in each other’s feelings, which, in a sea of writers, are complicated and many.
  6. Ambition is the worst, and from now on, I’ve decided to abstain. I’ll keep writing fiction and trying to get published, but I’m over worrying about what caliber of journal I can get it into, whether or not I can get paid, who will read it and whether or not I can make some kind of lasting impact on the literary canon before I die. None of that really matters, right?
  7. I always say that a writer is a person who hates writing, which is cute and sometimes it feels true, but it’s not true. I love this shit. I love it so much. I would die without it. When I’m able to express a hard to reach idea through words, and people take it in, and I feel like I’m understood? That’s all that matters. None of the other shit matters. And finally, obviously:
  8. Write from your fucking heart.

Friday night I went out with an old friend from grad school, a writer I met from twitter and a couple of his friends. I’ve been sober for almost 6 months now, maybe you heard, I don’t know. It’s tiresome to always talk about not drinking, but whatever. (To quote Margaret Cho: “If Richard Pryor had a period, he would talk about it.”) What is drinking but a contract of cowardice amongst friends?We’re afraid to get close so we agree to go on a voyage together. Not drinking is like treading water alongside the boat. Or maybe I’m in the boat and everyone else is in the water. Metaphors have their limits, let’s move on.

Over the weekend I thought a lot about how it would have been if I were drinking. I feel like I might have gotten lost or hurt. I feel like it would have been unsafe, and it’s hard to imagine that I used to hurl myself into danger so often.

I worry that people who drink are afraid of me. I’m afraid I’ll never be able to get close to anyone ever again.

Around 2 am, I got on the train and went back to the couch I was surfing in Wicker Park, and the party continued on without me in a hotel room with party drugs and Romanians. What would it have been like if my old self had attended? Here’s what I think: I would have felt closer to them at night, and then farther away in the morning.

Since then, nothing has gone right. I figured I’d mosey on out of the city on Saturday afternoon, but I was too chill about making train reservations and I missed the $35 train out of Chicago at noon, leaving only the 6 PM train for $93. I felt that dumb, heavy regret of knowing I’d lost a lost of money and it was my own fault. It will take me two hours of watching a dreary holocaust film and another hour or two of writing up the review to recoup not even half the difference.

Money is depressing. Wasting it is depressing. Whenever this happens I have a trick where I project myself a month or so into the future, when it doesn’t matter anymore, and it works, sort of. But I always know it’s a trick.

The train broke down somewhere outside of Kalamazoo. The conductor came on to say, “Well, the computer is on the fritz. We’re going to try to shut it down and reboot.” Apple+Q the train computer. That didn’t work. He came back on and said, “Well shoot. You know, this doesn’t happen very often.” They got the rear engine working and we travelled backwards to a rondevu point.

Here’s the best joke I could think of for the occasion, maybe I texted it to you or you read about it on twitter: “How long was it before they all started eating each other in that Mark Twain story?”

Another train came along and we swapped engines? I don’t know, it all seemed insane. The whole thing took about three hours. I spent the time feeling lonely and thinking about friendship. The signal on my phone was bad and for a few minutes, I started to consider that it might be the start of a national or global apocalypse, and I wished I had a man around who was good at building things with his hands, or even just a friend to make jokes with. It was a tragedy of boredom and inconvenience. It’s not like we were on a boat or an airplane. There was basically no chance we would die, which to me, almost made it worse.

A couple hours later in Detroit, the train hit an abandoned car on the tracks. The conductor came on the horn and gave an impromptu speech filled with pathos and insecurity. “You’re probably wondering why we’ve stopped,” he began. I wasn’t, actually. We didn’t feel any impact. He assured us that no one was hurt, and he told us to stay calm and try to be patient. It was the “please stay calm,” part that was really unnerving. We waited another two hours on the tracks for the railroad police to come. All told I spent 12 hours on the Amtrak, but what is time?

Like I said at the beginning of this very long blog post: everything is unraveling and falling apart around me. My sleeping schedule is a little messed up. Sunday night I spent a few hours preparing my class lesson for Monday morning. I went to bed at 3 am, but I forgot to set my alarm. I was having this long, ornate dream where I took acid and engaged in all kinds of debaucherous lesbian sex. I do this all the time in my dreams. I drink or take drugs and I fuck women. What does it mean, Freud?

My Monday afternoon class starts at 1. I woke up at 2:13 PM, and that wave of disbelief followed by overwhelming despair and regret washed over me. I had spent the last 11 hours partying and fucking women in my sleep, which made it doubly wrong.

My students communicated with me through email that they left their papers on the desk, so I had to drive the 40 minutes to campus to retrieve them. My 95 Saturn won’t stop gobbling up oil. The oil isn’t leaking, it’s just burning away. Where does burnt oil go? It has gotten to the point where I have to fill it up around every 30 miles. The 95 Saturn is my ticket out of Purgatory, Michigan, and I find the troubled engine troubling.

I bought three quarts of oil at the gas station, and the attendant said to me, “Have a day.” That about sums it up.

02/27/12

even more on writing.

I’ve been thinking a lot about writing and how it’s done and where ideas come from. Stephen King, in his book On Writing (which we all agree is a national treasure) says that writers don’t know where they get their ideas and that it’s all very mysterious and we can’t possibly explain how it’s done and everything. Who knows where thoughts come from? They just appear! That’s true, I guess, but I think I can be a little more specific. This would be way more interesting if I were famous or widely read. It would be very, “Where does Molly Laich get her ideas?” It still is that, I guess. You know what I mean.

Here. I’ve broken it up into the various categories of writing that I do.

Fiction

Most of my stories start with a single idea or image. I fall in love with one idea and I want it to be in a story, but there’s no plot or anything to go with it and that makes me depressed. So for a few weeks, I walk around feeling sad that my idea has no home. Then I think, “well, you might as well just write down the idea.” It can be something very kinesthetic and mood based, like standing on a hot street corner in Phoenix staring at a billboard. Or it can be a little more fleshed out, like “What if my friends got drunk and drowned a dog.”

I’ll start with an example from a story I wrote when I was around 18, called “There’s Been a Bear.” I just had this idea that there had been a bear, so I wrote down that sentence. Then I built a little story around it about a kid who wakes up and finds that her family has been replaced by grizzlies that read newspapers and wear eyeglasses and stuff, and voila. The characters are born out of the situation. I remember Kevin Canty telling us in workshop that in a short story, the character’s personality is defined by what they do, so I think it works out to do it in this order.

One thing that gets me into trouble with short stories is that I often use people that I know as real life templates for the characters. I imagine what they look like, and then I put them in the scene, so it becomes this thing of, “for this scene, Dustin will be pretending like this thing has happened to him.” I’ve been irresponsible in the past using my friends in stories. People are all “Hey, I’m not gay!” and I’m all, “No no, you’re playing a gay in the story,” and then they get upset and try to kill me. (That only happened one time, and it turned out fine. He didn’t know that I had moved.) I’m getting better at at least changing their goddamn names, though. Geez.

Sometimes I’ll use real life events as a springboard for the plot, but it inevitably works out that the details get rearranged and monkeyed around so much that it scarcely resembles the original event and the “fiction” is preserved.

As for writing a novel, I don’t know. I still don’t get that. So far I guess what I do is that I go to a colony in the woods for two months, I write 30,000 words in various MS Word documents, and then I put those in a drawer and feel bad about them.

Non Fiction

By this I mean creative non fiction personal essays or features, a la the kind of stuff I’ve been writing for the Missoula Independent for the last year. The weird thing about these is that the process is completely different from fiction. Working on these stories runs me through the emotional ringer in a fresh, new way. For “Forgetting Mary Jane,” (a story I wrote about using marijuana) I would say I’d been working on that piece in my head for around 10 years. I got the idea that it might make a compelling non fiction essay about a year before I ever pitched it at the paper, and then from there, it became a collaborative work with Robert, editor at the Indy.

The collaboration aspect is mysterious and interesting. I think I’m very lucky to have fallen into working with an editor who turned out to be such a good fit. He’s very swift and exacting. He reads my bad sentences out loud to me in a way that is so gut wrenchingly painful that it makes me never want to write a bad sentence again just to avoid it. But more than that, he gives advice on where to direct the rewrites in ways that I never could have done on my own. It’s weird to work with someone else on writing. That’s all I can say about that. Workshop is like that a little bit, but in the end, you take the advice or leave it, and you do it in isolation in the privacy of your own home. I have had some good experiences with edits for published fiction as well, on a smaller scale.

When I write non fiction, I tend to vastly overwrite, meaning that I’ll write 10,000 words for a 3,000 word essay. This is something that doesn’t happen in fiction. I tend to have a lot more self doubt and anxiety about the final product, and with good fucking reason, because thousands and thousands more people read it than any piddly little fiction piece that ends up in a journal. Puking into a bucket the night before one of my stories comes out in the paper is not an uncommon occurrence.

Then I wrote “Abacradabra” about using magic and addiction recovery. From start to finish, the gestation period in my head for that one was around four months, although the magic aspects were still years in the making. The constant with these non fiction pieces is that I’m thinking about them ALL THE TIME. They ferment in my head like a fine wine. I’m writing the sentences in the car, in the shower, in bed, etc. Around a month of this before I ever start actually writing anything down.

Right now I’m working on a story so earth shattering and mind blowing I can’t even talk about it. I can’t even begin to mention it or say anything about it for fear of making all of your hair fall out with the sheer electricity of the subject matter.

Film / book / music criticism

I consume the media and then I think about how I want to talk about it from the time the media is consumed until the deadline, which tends to be a pretty short turn around. During the film screening, I think about jokes I might tell about the brilliant or terrible shit I’m seeing. When I’m reading books, I underline stuff that’s either really good or bad and then I write about that. This is boring. You get the idea. It’s a matter of taste. I believe I have great taste, but doesn’t everybody?

Blog Posts

Blog posts are Facebook status updates and tweets with a prohibitively long word count.

So there you have it! I would be really interested to know what you guys think and how my experiences relate to yours. I wonder if we are similar or if it’s different for everyone.

02/15/12

AWP, linkss and how to be good.

It’s all very hard to talk about. I spend most of my time exploring the mind/body connection, which is valid and beautiful I’m sure, but it’s not the stuff of blog posts. “My writing” is in a nebulous and hard to define place. I wouldn’t say that I’m not writing. But I’m not. Not really.

Michigan is a waiting room filled with strangers who I don’t really talk to, but I like them a lot! First, there are my students. They are so precious and dim, what else is there to say. Little half-awake sleepyheads, they are, and it’s my job to come around the room banging pots and pans.

Beyond that, I spend a lot of time at a yoga studio in Clarkston. Imagine a very hot room filled with pretty women, and bam, you’re right there with me. When you’re resting in savasana, the instructor comes around and rubs your temples or your feet or your shoulders. Let’s say hypothetically that it’s been awhile since you’ve known such a touch. Hypothetically, you might find that very thrilling.

I want to be perfect. I want to be all of the best things, so that means not just great at writing Facebook status updates and stories and stuff. I also want to be nice. Do you remember The Fall, by Albert Camus? There’s this part where the narrator talks about the pure pleasure found in doing kind acts for other people, and he describes in detail the contrivances he went through to seek out opportunities to do so. I just wish I could remember what he did to create helping situations. What, am I supposed to hold doors open for people and stuff? Trite!

Camus makes it clear that seeking out good deeds in this way is a selfish act. Yeah, yeah, we’re all selfish, whatever. Never mind the motives; I want to be good and do good. So when I go to these places and stand in rooms with a bunch of strangers and don’t talk to them, I try to radiate an aura of good. I want people near me to think, “Look at that nice, humble girl.” Maybe when they get home from yoga they will say to their husband, “I don’t know what it was about her. She was just so nice.

Enough of that! I’ve done a little housekeeping in the links section of this page. It had been a couple of years since I combed through it or examined anything too thoroughly. Basically I just wanted to link writers and other friends, people who I’ve worked with personally or who I admire from afar on the web or neither or both, I don’t know. If you’ve read this far and you’d like to be linked, I’m sure it would be my pleasure; just say so. If I forgot you it was probably an oversight. Don’t think you’re going to experience a surge in popularity or something; it is a purely ceremonial gesture.

Finally, I’ll be going to AWP in a couple of weeks. Will you? By going, I mean that I’ll be waiting outside the building like a hobo all week because I didn’t bother to buy a ticket for the main event and now it’s sold out. (I totally don’t care.) I’m scheduled to do two readings. The first is called Convocation in Chicago on Thursday night with the good people at PANK, Mud Luscious and Annalemma. Look at my name on the flyer in such good company! So many of the readers are my real life heroes. I am incredibly frightened and excited to meet them. The other reading I’m doing is for Burnt Bridges Press at 7:30 on Friday at Billy Goat Tavern or something like that. That link takes you to the whole schedule. And finally, I should mention that Unstuck has a reading on Thursday night as well, and I am a proud slush pile reader for this illustrious magazine and Matt Williamson, my friend and Unstuck’s grand master appreciates when I network.

 

01/28/12

a routine take on a classic theme.

For a second there I thought the well had dried and I wasn’t a writer anymore. I acquired some new interests around the new year, things like vegetables, water picking (look it up) and skin regimes that include but are not limited to slathering food all over my face. It’s a good life here with my mother in Michigan while I teach community college and save up money for something cooler in spring. (As long as good no longer has any real meaning, it is a good life.)

This lady named Kelly Howell who makes subliminal audio programming that puts me into a trance-like state before bed every night told me that any discomfort I was feeling in the month of January was likely the result of increased solar flare activity. The solar flares are expanding our consciousness, heating up our bodies and causing unspecified irritability and discomfort.

I got a cold the other day, which infuriated me because I thought people who stopped eating dairy products as of December 26 of 2011 would never get colds. The cold sucked all the moisture out of my face under the nose and the top lip and it makes me look and feel like a grown-up who loves Kool-aid.

Next, A small bird came in the night and scratched my right eyeball. It swelled and it hurt. The bird would have scratched my left eyeball too, but then my mother’s cats ripped the bird apart and all three took equal parts in the eating.

That’s probably not even how it happened.

Worst of all, I’m this 29-year-old woman who doesn’t have any wisdom teeth. I don’t think. I might have one on the top right row. How do you know if you have them? I’m obsessed with whether or not I have them. The point is, some prehistoric, sharp pointy bone is poking through on the bottom right side of my gums and it hurts. This seems to happen every few months and then every time it turns out I was mistaken. It’s sort of like when I was nearly 15 years old and waiting around to get my first period under some mistaken delusion that it was going to be awesome. Do I think I’m going to know more when the tooth finally breaks through? What’s the point of even talking about it.

So yeah. Solar flares.

About the writing: Meh. There are millions of projects I can and should be working on about now. There’s the novel I started at MacDowell. It’s like a dead body I walled up in the basement, but I have all these feigned regrets, all “Oh, why did I kill that man in the heat of passion!” Then he starts tapping on the brick, whimpering, “I’m not dead,” and my friends on facebook and twitter are all, “We want to meet your dead friend,” and I know that I should feel bad that I don’t want to save him, but I don’t know. I don’t want to save him.

I got some movie review writing gigs and a third feature for the Indy in the works. Got a couple of stories that need nothing more than a quick spit shine and day after day I can’t be bothered. I’m a writer with more work than ambition to face it. Basically, I’m the biggest asshole ever.

Solar flares?

No, but seriously. Get it together, Molly.