07/2/15
dorothyranier

clap along if you feel that it’s perfectly reasonable for rooms to have roofs.

So much has happened since January that we might as well not even talk about it. Jobs, am I right? I spent four months in a basement for broken families and then another month chained to a desk in a terrible brain sucking factory. I don’t think it’s wrong to always hate your job so long as your job is always awful, and what job besides “revered author” isn’t awful? Eventually you just have to throw up your hands and go back to dog walking.

The merciless disaster of a relationship. My precious woof and our many homes. The moon, the sun, the moon, the sun, again and again and again.

What’s the expression? Working hard, hardly working. But things have improved. My big head is back, which you need to be a successful writer, I’m pretty sure. Last week I went to Missoula and hung out with my old friend Alice Bolin. She is so regal now, like a statue you leave gifts for on a silly superstition of good luck. I couldn’t stop laughing at her jokes, it was pretty embarrassing. Tim and I lost our hands at the Oxford’s poker table. Never mind who is Tim. We floated the river four times and saw one of every animal. I talked to Skylar about a new feature at the indy, although I wouldn’t hold my breath. Don’t Tell Mom The Flat Tire On the Way Home Overdrew My Account.

In July we work on tans and letters. When I hear my name I think Irish-German, but when I look at my red-brown arms from the sun reflected off of last week’s river, it’s German-Irish. It doesn’t matter where your parent’s parent’s parent’s came from, of course.

I am excited and eager to make new art. Here’s some of the things I’ve shared lately.

1. Doghatesfilm.com

dorothyranier

Hark the dog and the films she hates. The site is in beta but what can I say, you get busy. This piece about 50 Shades of Grey is probably the best literature to date.

2. After the Rose Podcast 

My friend Megan and I made a podcast about ABC’s hit romantic reality series “The Bachelorette.” Many wonder: Do you have to watch the show in order to understand/enjoy the podcast? At least one source besides myself says no. You may find that a good podcast feels very much in the brain like finding great new friends.

3. Choose Wisely: 35 Women Up to No Good 

I have a story in this collection with Joyce Carol Oates and Aimee Bender, no big deal.

4. David Gates interview

I read his book with my mouth hanging open. All other writing is made of garbage. When I finished the last story in the collection I sat in one place and stared at a wall for two straight days.

5. Oh, Canada

A 3,000 word personal essay about an okay time I had with a girl.

6. okey-panky

A 1,400 word personal essay about a fun date with a cool guy, and an interview from the aforementioned editor Alice Bolin to follow.

7. Twitter @MollyL  

 

09/4/14

I’ll gaze your navel.

It’s starting to become a problem. (“Your looks have become a problem!” #namethatfilm) I get in these funks where I wait too long in between blog posts, and pretty soon every day I just feel sick and sad that I haven’t posted anything. It really gnaws at me! It causes a lot of undue suffering. Like one week of not writing equals one dead cat in my backpack, and then one day I wake up and find I’m carting around 5 or 6 dead cats. Then I try to write and I’m hypercritical and self-conscious about what I’ve written, I throw everything in the garbage—anyway, it’s this whole gross, boring cycle.

Long story short, I solved the problem by finding this inexplicable list of free interview questions on the internet. For a change of pace, I tried to answer these questions as plainly, honestly, and un-sarcastically as possible. Next week: My novel, in its entirety. ha ha ha. l o l. It turned out really long! All free! Enjoy!

GENERAL QUESTIONS

WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT YOUR PROFESSION?

Walking dogs is mind numbingly easy. I’m good at it. I like animals. My job burns calories. The pay is okay.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE LEAST?

I have a fucking master’s degree; this shit is humiliating. Particularly when I see my friends publishing their books and/or talking about writing their class syllabuses. It makes me feel sick. Every day I feel like I’m wasting my life.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN DOING THIS?

A little over a year.

SHOULD YOUR PARENTS HAVE BEEN MORE OR LESS STRICT?

I chose my parents before I was born. They got divorced when I was 4 which I don’t think is good or bad, contrary to what we’ve been brainwashed to believe. My mom wasn’t strict at all and I turned out okay. I do wish somebody had told me to brush my teeth and sit farther away from the television, cuz now my eyes and teeth are fucked up.

HOW WAS YOUR CHILDHOOD?

My hair was snarled; I was always covered in dirt. We took the boat out to the lake. I played a lot of soccer at my best friend Dylan’s house. I used to stay up late at night and write fake reports from topics in our world encyclopedias. I idolized my brother and was mystified by my sister. I had the feeling that everybody thought I was special, in both the good and bad way. We rode our bikes to the woods. In my memory it was good, but I'm sure at the time it felt like the present moment, which usually feels bad, or at the very least, uncomfortable and incomplete. I know that as I got older I had more and more social problems in school. I was often sullen and at night I would make myself sick with worrying about why there was something instead of nothing. It scared me and still does. 

ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?

If I’m happy, then the word happy has no meaning.

IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY?

I’d be more careful with men’s hearts. And I'd try to not be an obese teen.

IF YOU HADN'T BEEN BORN IN THIS CENTURY, WHEN AND WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE LIVED?

I’m a woman, so anytime before say, 1968, no thank you.

WHO ARE YOUR HEROES?

Any artist who overcomes their depression enough to make good art. No specific names come to mind. I see a person who’s smart and kind and cool and I think: I want to be like you.

WHO DO YOU HAVE NO RESPECT FOR?

I think everyone is doing the best they can with what they have.

WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?

Beat myself up.

ARE YOU POLITICALLY ACTIVE?

Nah. I think the best thing anybody can do is to develop her spiritual self/moral compass. Policy is actually very nerdy and complicated. People imagine there are malevolent forces out to get us when in reality I think it’s just a big dumb machine and the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. I’m resigned to just keep my head down, stay out of trouble and try to carve out the best life given what I have.

DO YOU DO ANY VOLUNTEER WORK?

Not unless you count this circle jerk of a website. You’re welcome.

HOW HAS AMERICA CHANGED IN THE LAST TEN YEARS?

We’ve pretty much come around on the gays; that’s nice to see. Looks like video games and computers keep getting better. Good job, America.

HOW HAVE YOU CHANGED?

I haven’t that much.

WHAT'S THE SIDE OF YOU THAT THE PUBLIC NEVER SEES?

I think in real life I can be very sweet. I don't know if that comes across as much on the internet. And maybe it's not even true.

DO YOU SOMETIMES FEEL THAT THERE ARE TWO DIFFERENT

________________? (SUBJECT'S NAME, PLURALIZED)

Yeah. There’s the Molly that is me and the Molly that is a dumb ass drug people say dumb shit about that my brain won’t let me do anymore.

DO YOU WISH YOU HAD MORE PRIVACY?

If I did, that wish could come true.

If you haven't figured out by now, these questions are written with celebrity in mind, so. I will say that I don't think I would mind if my tits got leaked on the internet. (See Morgan Murphy's hilarious stand up on this topic.) But of course, it's also totally okay to mind.

DO YOU THINK THE PUBLIC AND CRITICS EXPECT TOO MUCH FROM YOU?

No. I’m flattered whenever anyone expects anything of me at all. It’s a compliment.

HOW HARD DO YOU PUSH YOURSELF?

Not very hard.

WHEN ARE YOU COMPLETELY SATISFIED WITH YOUR WORK?

Never really. I come close when people compliment me a lot.

WHY HAVE YOU SUCCEEDED IN A FIELD WHERE SO MANY OTHERS HAVE FAILED?

I genuinely consider myself a failure. As for my few piddly successes: They were because the work was really good. That’s the only explanation. It’s not because I’m good with people or networking or any of that shit.

WHAT'S THE MAGIC FORMULA FOR SUCCESS?

Work really hard + be really talented + know the right people.

I don’t know if that’s the right order or not. It’s more like a circle than a linear line.

GENERAL QUESTIONS, PART 2

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT REINCARNATION?

I totally believe in it. I feel it in my bones and I’ve seen it in my dreams.

HOW ABOUT ASTROLOGY?

Bullshit. Or even if it's not, most people don't know how to decode it. The enneagram rules!

WHAT ABOUT LIFE ON OTHER PLANETS?

Lots but far away.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX?

Weed.

IS THERE A BATTLE OF THE SEXES?

Only in people’s heads.

WHO'S WINNING?

Depends on the head.

ARE WE RETURNING TO A MORE ROMANTIC TIME?

I don’t know about this “we” business. I know I’m not. The older I get, the less romantic.

HOW DO YOU DEFINE MACHO?

Anybody who can carry me on his or her back is macho.

DO YOU BELIEVE IN THE TRADITIONAL ROLES FOR MEN AND WOMEN?

Nah but there’s something to be said for division of labor. One person chops the wood, the other peels the carrots. Shouldn’t matter who does what of course.

IF YOU WERE A MAN (WOMAN) HOW DIFFERENT DO YOU THINK YOUR CAREER WOULD HAVE GONE?

It’s hard to get hired in this city as a dog walker if you’re a man. People think women are more trustworthy, which in my case is hilarious. If I were a man I’d probably be some sort of day laborer. Maybe somebody would have taught me a goddamn marketable trade when I was a kid.

If we’re talking about writing, I don’t know. I think it bodes well for me that I’m a woman because I don’t think I write like most women. I think people give me a harder time for navel-gazing because I’m a woman, but I mean. I can’t really deny that I do that. I’m interviewing myself on mollylaich.com right now, for example.

WHAT'S THE MOST UNBELIEVABLE RUMOR EVER PRINTED ABOUT YOU?

I wish. Closest thing I can think of: Somebody once wrote in a comment section on one of my indy articles something like “Molly must be sleeping with the editor in order to keep getting work” which I found, you know, incredibly insulting (and really untrue, I should add, if anyone was wondering. Robert and I are great friends but we don't fuck, christ.) That same person left a comment on another article. They were all…wait, let me get this verbatim: “Great interview? I don't think so. The interviewer insinuated herself nearly a dozen times in this brief dialogue with the words I or me.” I often jerk off at night to an image of this person hunched over their free weekly paper counting the number of times I used the words I or me.

WHAT WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT DAY OF YOUR LIFE?

I don't know.

DO YOU WORRY ABOUT WHETHER PEOPLE LIKE YOU FOR THE REAL YOU, OR BECAUSE YOU'RE A CELEBRITY?

Haha. No.

DO YOU MAKE FRIENDS EASILY?

Also no. I don’t think I’ve ever successfully pursued a friendship on my own. If we’re friends, you did the work. Thank you. It means a lot. Unless we’re talking about the internet, in which case, I consider myself wildly popular.

WHICH DO YOU ENJOY MOST: A NIGHT ON THE TOWN OR STAYING IN WITH THAT SOMEONE SPECIAL?

To answer this question would imply that life is one way or the other when we all know it’s always both and neither. Side note: I'm enjoying the inverse of "special someone" here.

WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE PIG-OUT FOOD?

Gross.

WHAT DO YOU DO FOR EXERCISE?

All kinds of boring stuff.

WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE SPORTS TEAM?

My fantasy football team “The Detroit Lions.”

DO YOU THINK AMERICANS PUT TOO MUCH EMPHASIS ON COMPETITION?

Every American is different.

IF YOU WERE PRESIDENT, WHAT'S THE FIRST THING YOU'D DO?

Resign.

SOME PEOPLE THINK THAT __________________(SUBJECT'S NAME) HAS IT ALL. WHAT DON'T YOU HAVE?

It all.

QUESTIONS FOR AUTHORS

HOW OLD WERE YOU WHEN YOU STARTED WRITING?

I was really little. In first grade I wrote this thing about how I wanted to be God. Everybody thought it was cute and wise. I remember filing that away under “This is a way to get attention and love.”

WHEN DID YOU KNOW THAT THIS WOULD BE YOUR PROFESSION?

First of all, I don’t “know” anything. But I decided to make a go of it and take it seriously around the end of undergrad when I realized I thought I was better than everyone else in my workshop. So far I’d say I’ve pretty much failed.

WHO'S YOUR FAVORITE AUTHOR?

David Gates.

WHY?

I worked with him in grad school. He helped me publish several stories. He called me shallow once. His writing is really smart and good. On the sentence level: calm, poised and true. Funny but not annoyingly witty. It's like every line winks at you under the surface with the knowledge that the world is bullshit but we still need to carry on and try to love one another anyway. His writing is like if David Foster Wallace understood the virtue of brevity. Seriously, read one of his books if you haven't yet. I'm mucking it up trying to explain it.

ARE THERE ANY WRITERS WHOSE SUCCESS MYSTIFIES YOU?

It would be unwise of me to name names in a town this small, but a lot of people seriously bore me.

DO YOU READ MORE FICTION, OR NON-FICTION?

I used to read way more non-fiction but that flipped once my heart died and I decided I knew all I cared to know.

WHAT ARE YOU READING LATELY?

Wild by Cheryl Strayed and some garbage novel I won’t mention by name.

WHAT ARE A COUPLE OF YOUR ALL-TIME FAVORITE BOOKS?

The Road to Los Angeles by John Fante, Jernigan by David Gates, Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson, Bad Behavior by Mary Gaitskill, The Catcher in the Rye by you know who, and so on.

CAN AN AUTHOR WRITE FOR THE PULITZER AND THE PUBLIC AT THE SAME TIME?

Any author “writing for the Pulitzer” can fuck right the fuck off. I know people like that. They’re gross.

PUBLISHING HAS BECOME BIG BUSINESS. HAS THAT HURT?

It has? Oh god yes, it hurts. It burns.

WHAT INSPIRED YOUR LATEST BOOK?

I’m going to cry.

DO YOU THINK TELEVISION IS RESPONSIBLE FOR ILLITERACY?

I’m not a doctor, but I think literacy rates are at pretty much an all time high. I just looked it up; the internet says literacy rates in America haven’t changed in 10 years. It also says Seattle is the most literate city in the US. I thought it was Boston. Anyway, that would explain why everybody here is a smug fuck.

WHEN YOU GO TO SEE A MOVIE, DO YOU TRY TO READ THE BOOK FIRST?

You know, sometimes. Particularly if I think I might be assigned to review the movie.

MANY SCHOOLS HAVE BANNED CERTAIN BOOKS FOR VARIOUS REASONS. WHERE DO YOU THINK THE LINE SHOULD BE DRAWN?

No line. Leave it up to the librarians. They’re some of the raddest people on earth.

HOW DO YOU OVERCOME WRITER'S BLOCK?

I look up bullshit interview questions on the internet and answer them.

HAVE YOU EVER WRITTEN ABOUT YOUR OWN BAD HABITS?

Oh lord, yes.

DO YOU EVER FEEL FORCED TO WRITE?

Like there’s a fucking gun to my head pretty much all the time.

HOW WOULD YOU FEEL IF A PUBLISHER WANTED TO CONDENSE YOUR WORK?

Good.

07/25/13

my boyfriend’s back (and you’re gonna be in trouble).

Too much time has past since my last confession. All the quality people have died or moved on. So much has happened, where to begin:

1. Becoming a full time dog walker/pet sitter is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. It’s as easy as you imagine and weirdly lucrative so long as you work all day every day and sleep in a stranger’s bed with a pug under each arm every other night of your life. My enthusiasm is tempered only because dog walking is a well known loser job, as evidenced by this recent onion video, “Friends Don’t Understand How Man Not Depressed.”  Three guesses for what this sad, pathetic man does for a living. I’ll give you a hint: He’s not a doctor. If you saw the way the dogs look up at me from the leash with total devotion, you’d understand.

2. An attractive, newlywed couple moved into the upstairs of the house I’ve been living in and are converting the space into their own personal love nest. They dismantled the pool table and threw away the television. Day by day, the ugly tile is covered up with pretty hardwood laminate. Imagine a Charlie Kaufman film. Every morning I wake up thinking, “Oh God, my life.” But I move into my new place in Greenwood this weekend and I have big plans to throw away everything that isn’t an elephant. Speaking of which.

3. In a surprise twist, Jesse moved to Seattle a couple of weeks ago with my first and last name tattooed over his heart. He rolled up with everything he owns in the $300 Subaru, and now he’s making $500 a day roofing, like a game show screaming, “All this could be yours!” But money’s only fun when it’s buying you freedom, right? He moved in with his second choice, a young, rich, beautiful girl in Kirkland. She has no idea what she’s up against. He hates me, he wants to marry me, I’m a whore, I’m beautiful, I don’t know, it changes on a dime. Jesse Casado is Daniel Plainview from There Will Be Blood. He is Brandon McCarthy from Welcome to the Dollhouse. He’s Mark Wahlberg from Fear. He’s the guy who killed McGinnis in Jesus’ Son. He is Raging Bull.

“Will you believe me when I tell you that there was kindness in his heart? His left hand didn’t know what his right hand was doing. It’s just that certain important connections had been burned through. If I opened up your head, and ran a hot soldering iron around in your brain, I might turn you into someone like that.”

The last time I saw Jesse he’d started drinking at 5:30 in the morning. He bought me breakfast at Denny’s and I sat across from him on a bed of eggshells thinking, forgive me, please. I’m sorry I hurt you. Forgive me. Love me like you used to. Let me love you. Just be my friend. Guess what’s never going to happen? On the way home I puked up the Denny’s in a plastic bag, and it’s like, what the fuck is the point of this? What am I doing? I quit.

4. The worst of it is that I haven’t been writing, but I’ve been off the Jesse for a few days now and I think I’m coming out of the fog. I’ve got my sense of smell back! I can feel myself having ideas again. I want to write essays on dogs and how to be nice. I want to write you free letters and a novel and a million short stories and more film articles. Now it’s just a question of where to start.

Where do I start?

06/17/13

let’s talk about all the movies I saw by myself this month.

Feeling the suffocating weight of the human condition and my life choices, but what else is new. Writing is a shitty vocation on any day but it’s been particularly difficult for me lately for some reason. Sometimes you go to paint and the colors are wet mud, that’s all, it happens. Like breathing, writing for me has been labored and difficult.

I’ve got this new life plan. My mother taught me from a very early age that people who are happy and love themselves are assholes. I think she was thinking of my father but I analogized the lesson to include everyone, chiefly myself. So my new thing is to from now on go incredibly, uncomfortably easy on myself. You remember the four agreements, right? 4. Always do your best. Maybe on Tuesday my very best means eating an entire frozen pizza and going to bed at 7:30, I don’t know, I’m not a psychic.

Holy fuck, I’m so lonely, I go to the movies every weekend by myself, sometimes twice a weekend, that’s how lonely. I go to movies whether the paper assigned me to see the film or not. If writing is a knife in the heart than cinema is the balm. You just watch it with your eyes, get on the internet afterward and bitch about what you saw. You don’t have to create anything or guess what the characters look like.

For example, I saw After Earth in theaters on purpose. The scholarship has been done, it’s hardly relevant anymore, but seriously, what were they thinking. Gifting your kid a 130 million dollar movie to star in is not inspiring, Will Smith. We do not relate, this isn’t a father/son story the American people are interested in getting behind. Will and Jaden are speaking in accents because it’s 1,000 years in the future and language changes but this is a dumb future detail to guess at and also distracting. It was stupid when they did it in Cloud Atlas too, we don’t need to have them talk funny to know it’s the future. The plot says everything on earth has evolved to kill humans since they absconded long ago. That’s Lemarkian bullshit—evolution doesn’t work that way. Why is M. Night Shyamalan obsessed with plants killing us. The plants aren’t going to kill us, bro.

The CGI is bad, the story is boring and Jaden has no charisma. The lesson of the film is that you should never be afraid of anything. Not being afraid of a monster who wants to kill you is known as “ghosting.” To ghost is to truly not give a fuck but I think Will Smith takes it too far. What I hated most is the moment when Will Smith puts a necklace on his wife in this single, sweeping gesture that only works in movies. Cal does the same thing when he puts the Heart of the Ocean on Rose in Titanic, I fucking hate that. Necklace clasps are a bitch and we all know it, why can’t we just be real with each other.

we are royalty, Rose.

we are royalty, Rose.

Star Trek: Darkness Falls, The Iceman, Now You See Me and Before Midnight (coming this thursday) I wrote reviews for in the Indy.

What else.

My roommates and I snuck into an advanced free screening of This is the End last week, and maybe this is all the liquor and candy we smuggled in with us talking, but it might be the greatest and funniest film of all time. This is Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s directorial debut and I think they learned a lot about how to make a comedy look pretty from David Gordon Green (the indy genius who directed All the Real Girls and Pineapple Express, holla). My love for this film is just more evidence to a growing internet rumor that I’m actually a 14 year old boy.

Not in theaters (and not streaming on Netflix so you’re so fucked), I watched a movie called Killer Joe (2011) starring Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch and some other people. Hirsch’s mother is awful and has an insurance policy, so he and his Dad hire Killer Joe to, you know. The best part is how nobody lingers too much on the morality of the situation; a good dark comedy is hard to find. I love films about poor, violent and otherwise not very bright people. I want to write a short story collection in which every story is as fucked up and entertaining as this movie was.

what could go wrong.

what could go wrong.

Since Killer Joe was so thrilling, I can’t write and my life is as empty as a shell, I went and saw Mud, again starring McConaughey. The movie has a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which sounds good, but what it really means is that the film is unobjectionable so perhaps a little soft. It’s about 13 year old boys in Arkansas, which I find really relatable. It’s a Cormac McCarthy style morality tale about how women hurt men, tempered with the optimism and guarded violence that comes with a PG-13 film. Seriously, I wish I’d never known the rating, it was a real spoiler to know that nothing truly terrible would happen.

Last night I tried to watch The Descent (2005) but it was too scary. I can’t watch scary films alone, and unless you’re a dog don’t even bother inviting yourself over. Right now I’m doing a me time thing.

me. alone in my room. calmly reading.

me. alone in my room. calmly reading.

 

01/19/13

sleepless in seattle is a real thing.

Dear Diary,

I can’t remember why I moved to Seattle. I know I must have made the decision at some point, but I don’t know what prompted it. Why Seattle specifically, I mean. Nevertheless. I’ve been here since January 2nd. Jesse and I broke up right after Halloween, but we kept living together and behaving as a unit, so it didn’t seem worth mentioning. It was probably shortly after he threatened to kill my dog if I went to the movies that I started to think I should leave the state for good.  I took my plants with me, which was a mistake, because they died in transit. Jesse had already started eating the chickens–there were six when I left, but then an animal came in and murdered four more, leaving only crooked-toe and Dorothy. (Or is it Sylvia? I’m not sure.) It feels like the deaths are my fault. I still love Jesse and I miss him like a drug, but whatever. Nothing ever works out. It’s fine. Sometimes you have to just say “fuck this shit” and move to Washington.

I live in a shoebox-shaped room set off from a house with four other roommates. They have eight chickens and a pitbull mix named Manny. I’m working for my cousin’s organic cleaning business, which is both okay and soul crushing. It hurts to be so close to other people’s nice things. First of all, the houses are often already clean when we get there. Secondly, they have all these neat paintings and statues and figurines all over the place. Their appliances are modern. It all reminds me of a moment from Jennifer Egan’s great novel, A Visit From the Goon Squad. It goes:

“Finally Bennie came out. He looked trim. He looked fit. He wore black trousers and a white shirt buttoned at the neck but no tie. I understood something for the very first time when I looked at that shirt: I understood that expensive shirts looked better than cheap shirts. The fabric wasn’t shiny, no—shiny would be cheap. But it glowed, like there was light coming through from the inside. It was a fucking beautiful shirt, is what I’m saying.”

That’s how I feel about cleaning other people’s nice things. I’m sure I’ll get over it.

The honest truth is that I don’t feel very good, but please don’t worry about me, because I’m going to be okay. Right now I am soulsick and listless. The mayans were right: Breaking up with Jesse was the end of the world. But here’s the thing about the end of the world–it isn’t an end at all. You just keep going on with all the color drained out of everything.

It hurts to be around people for very long, so I’ve been spending a lot of time in my room reading and trying to teach myself art history. I like the renaissance era religious paintings because they’re filled with magic, mysteries and secrets. I think my favorite painter is Botticelli. I got drunk and ordered a shitload of art posters, but I should have thought it through. They’re all dark and horrifying. You can’t hang The Garden of Earthly Delights where you sleep and expect to lead a happy life. I need to find pretty paintings to protect me but there’s the rub because I used up all my amazon money and I don’t like the pretty paintings as much. To me, a good painting looks like hell.

I prefer paintings to people, because I can’t hurt them and they can’t hurt me. I don’t have anything to say to anyone, and I don’t care much what other people have to say. I’m lonely but not at all interested in a cure.

The last few days in Seattle have been hopelessly foggy. It seems that I’m living in a long, boring dream that I can’t wake up from. The legend is true about the rain and Nirvana. They play a lot of 90s rock on the radio, which is comforting but maybe not representative of the overall milieu. I only know the one station right now.

The crows! People here are so stupid, they have no idea that crows are running the entire city. Every afternoon you can look up and see hundreds of them flying overhead in a northeast direction. Last week in a parking lot I watched a man watching them, and I thought, what a great man. Great because that’s what I was doing, and I think I’m great.

What I need right now is a writing project. I need to start working on something and see it through to its completion. It’s the most important thing. But I just don’t know what I want to write yet. I know I talked about writing a novel, serially, in blog format, and some of you in fact signed up to watch me fumble through that, but I’m just not sure. What if I did personal essays/memoir instead? What if I quit writing forever and started a hotel for dogs?

It’s 2013, and here we are, all of us, alive. Presently, it feels to me like anything could happen.

10/20/12

the beagles were kidnapped.

Let me just get this out of the way and tell you, in case you’re not my facebook friend or you missed it: Our beagles were kidnapped. The lady who gave them to us on craigslist had a change of heart and scooped them back up. It’s very sad. That afternoon while we were out I found this orange rubber stick for a dog in the street and I brought it home for them. Of course when we went inside they were gone. It’s like something out of a novel written for children in the seventies. (Seems like there were millions of kids books back then about boys and their dogs.) The orange stick makes it so embarrassing. The orange stick says, “Aw, look at this fool who let herself love something. Look who earnestly expected things to go well, or at the very least stay the same.” Anyway, the beagles are gone. It’s sad, but there’s nothing to be done about it, and I do NOT want to talk about it. Don’t ever mention the beagles to me again.

I’ve been trying to transition back into adulthood, and it sucks. I am severely underemployed. I have this tutoring gig that starts at the beginning of November, but it’s part time, and everybody needs money; that’s why it’s called money. Is there anything more frustrating than looking for work? It’s become obvious that my six month experiment of not owning or operating a car is coming to a close. I can’t seem to find a job that doesn’t require reliable transportation. Meanwhile, winter promises to come down hard on Montana at any moment and my bike doesn’t have fenders.

So I need to get a car loan, which means I need to open up a bank account here in Missoula. I showed the lady at the bank my passport and a piece of mail in order to prove residency, but all I had was a handwritten envelope from my friend Mike from that time he sent me his poetry chapbook. I held up the evidence, and the lady said that it was not good evidence. She said I needed something more official looking. “Do you have a Montana drivers license?” No. “Are you on your lease?” No. “Do you have a registered vehicle in Montana?” No. That’s why I’m here for a car loan. I am nothing and own nothing. She told me she couldn’t do anything for me without a more official looking document on my side. Blocked at every turn, I thought. She said that my voter registration card would do, which I’m supposed to get in the mail any day now. The crux of my life has been whittled down to waiting for a voter registration card.

Then I did something that up until now I never would have done, an action born from some new and terrible place inside of me I didn’t know existed: I stared at her. I looked her right in the eyes without moving until I could see just a little bit of fear and panic looking back at me, and I kept staring. I tried to bully her into letting me open an account at the credit union anyway. It didn’t work, but it made me feel powerful. I learned this from Jesse.

I had a student who did that to me once, too, after I told him that he couldn’t write a third paper on steroids. “Your first two papers were on steroids,” I said. “You’ve already demonstrated sufficient knowledge of steroids.” This guy had arms the size of my thighs, and he didn’t like being told what he could and couldn’t do, and he stared me down. I was scared, but I didn’t let him write his third paper on steroids. I saw on facebook the other day that now he’s a model for Hollister. I guess he’s a good-looking kid, now that I think about it. His last paper was a personal essay about bad things that happened to him in his life, and it’s to date the only essay from a student that’s ever made me cry.

I’m getting off track, which is fine. I came here to write about how hard it is to find a job and how terrible life is. It’s just this dumb and sad state of affairs where I have a masters degree and a resume filled with writing accolades, editing jobs, publications and teaching, in a town where that’s all anybody is fucking good at. I’m applying for housekeeping jobs, office work, custodial work, dishwashing, fucking anything. Half the people in this town have been telling me for months (via anonymous internet heckling) to quit thinking I’m fucking special and get down in the dirt and work like everybody else. The other half tell me to pursue my “passions” and write a book. Neither half is willing to actually give me a job. I want to die. I can’t write a book. My writing hasn’t been good lately. I’m no longer good at writing, and no employer is willing to take my word for it that I just want to put my head down and do some goddamn dishes for minimum wage.

It’s frustrating. My self esteem is at an all time low. Even if what everybody tells me is true, what’s the point of being so fucking talented if I can’t even take care of myself?

I told my parents about Jesse, my roommate/boyfriend. (Individually, of course, do you think I’m the product of dual parenting? Please.) I said, “I’m living with someone but I think he might be a little insane,” and they didn’t bat an eye. They were both relieved and thrilled that I’d found a strong man to live with and I was no longer out on the street or living with a bunch of shitty, dirty children in a punk rock anarchist collective.

Even more unrelated than the anecdote about my student obsessed with steroids: Of late I keep finding myself plagued with this weird, unpleasant memory from five or six years ago, back when my friend Ed killed himself. He was having some relationship problems, one thing led to another, he got into heroin and he shot himself in the head. It was terrible, obviously. The overwhelming feeling was that it was a terrible mistake, that it shouldn’t have happened. I even had a psychic tell me once years later, “Your friend Ted wanted me to tell you that he never meant to kill himself. It was a mistake.” The memory I’m talking about is from the funeral. I’d never met his mother before that day, but there she was. She looked very much like my mother. She said to me, “I’m his mother,” and her eyes welled up with tears and I hugged her. And then after the funeral service I was walking down the aisle, and we were suddenly face to face, and impulsively, without thinking about anything, I hugged her again. It was a supernatural hug. In that moment she was my mother and I was her daughter and I was telling her how sorry I was for accidentally killing myself. I can’t stop thinking about it. I wonder if she remembers me at all, but we’re not in touch and I have no way of knowing.

Jesse is fed up with Missoula and life and I can’t say that I blame him. He wants to move to a tiny town in Minnesota and build a boat.

I don’t know what’s going to happen.

 

10/11/12

don’t send help.

Yesterday morning we were out of coffee, which I hate. It took everything I had to power my body down to the Safeway. I thought I’d take just one of the dogs with me, so I took Edward, the handsome beagle. I tied him to the bike rack as if he were the horse I rode in on. He barked louder than I’ve ever heard an animal bark in my life, and then I paid $2.25 for the world’s worst coffee. (Safeway, what the fuck? You burn your coffee every single time. It’s not an anomale at this point, you just serve burnt coffee.) A man loomed by the bike racks.

“That dog’s got some anxiety issues,” he said.
“I know that.”
“Looks like he’s got some coon hound in him.”
“He’s a beagle.”
“And some pitbull.” the Man added. “You can see it in his face.”
“No. He’s just a beagle.”

Mind you, I’m not inordinately attached to the idea that my dog is a purebred animal, and he doesn’t have fucking papers or anything, but for some reason I found it incredibly irritating that this guy didn’t know what a beagle was. He persisted again:

“I’d say he’s part coon hound, part pitbull.”
“Sir, you’re just describing what the parts of two dogs add up to, which is a beagle.”

I tried to look up dog training videos on how to train your dog to be tied outside of a business without crying, but the searches just came back with “Don’t tie your dog up outside of a business.” You can’t win.

The dogs love me. They follow me from room to room; they whine and cry when I leave. I am the new love of their life. I take them for lots of walks. Earlier, the smoke had cleared and the wheat colored hills to the north had no cows on them, but now the smoke is back and there are cows. I think they’re cows, anyway. They could be black mounds with legs, but who would go to such trouble.

The dogs love me, but they fear and respect my roommate. The beagles got out and wouldn’t listen when I told them to come in. I said, “Jesse, call your dogs.” And Jesse said, “Get in the house” and it’s like they understood English; they just ran inside single file. Jesse said to me, “Here’s the difference between you and me: You ask them to do things, and I tell them.”

I hate that, but he’s right, and I don’t understand the difference. There’s a finality inside of Jesse that doesn’t exist in me, and I don’t know how to find it. I read about dog training all day long, and Jesse just does it. It pisses me off.

I might have to stop writing about my roommate so much, for a lot of different reasons.

1. It’s weird to make an art project out of your relationship. It’s just plain weird.
2. He said in the beginning that he wanted me to write about him, but that always has its limits. He was a little sore the other day. He said “I just wish you wouldn’t write about me with your emotions” to which I said, “What the fuck are you talking about? That’s how I write everything.”
3. I can never get to the heart of the matter. The really good stuff is classified. To really get to the heart of Jesse, you have to rip him open, and then he’d be dead and it would be too serious.
4. My roommate is damaged goods. He’s an abused pitbull who snarls and bites people who try to get close to him. He’s misunderstood and he’s been hurt in the past. It sounds condescending, but I don’t mean it that way. Jesse is smarter than me, and he knows how to take care of himself, and it’s thrilling to watch him navigate the world. I love him exactly how he is, but there’s something wrong with him. He’s not like normal people. I think he might be the three-legged dog I’ve been dreaming about.
5. I should save him for the book.

One of the mini poodles escaped today. Two hours of unmitigated anxiety, plus imagining that phone call: “Funny story, I killed your dog…” But he came back. After that I had lunch with an author in town who invited me out specifically to remind me of my potential. He said, “You could write anything you put your mind to.” Being reminded of your potential is fine when you’re using it, but when you’re just sitting around not writing, it cuts like a knife. I’m not mad at anybody, I’m just anxious. Not writing feels like your dog ran away and you don’t know if he’s ever coming back. I should put an ad on craigslist. My beloved book has gone missing! Send help.

Casey Hannan and I did this story exchange thing for Story Tapes. Watch it! I am robotic and my eyes are all wrong, but I think look pretty.

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……”

09/27/12

On Not Writing

Writers will say, “There’s no such thing as writer’s block,” or “I don’t believe in writer’s block.” Okay. Well. What’s it called when every time I write a sentence it’s the worst sentence I’ve ever written, and this happens so consistently that soon I become afraid of the page itself, until the doubt gives way to fear and anxiety as I watch the month of September slip pitifully through my fingers with nothing to show for it? But what can be done? Another day, another dollar. Just go grimly on.

I thought getting out of my house on Phillips Street would help, so I took a greyhound to Seattle to write and hang out with my friend Laura’s dog. I did one out of two of those things. The greyhound driver out of Montana went ahead and told us all sorts of facts about the 1913 fire that apparently ravaged St. Regis and the surrounding wilderness. Her facts were morbid and came in unpredictable spurts. Just when I thought I could relax, she’d get on the horn and say, “Just past that tree line you’ll find a cave that collapsed in the 1913 fire, killing 13 men and all six of their horses.” People on the bus were really into her and who could blame them. The driver on the way home was boring. He didn’t have any wildfire facts. All he did was remind us after every single stop that there was no smoking on the bus. Dude, does anyone in the year 2012 think that it’s okay to smoke anywhere at any time? What a dumb, boring bus driver.

Here are some things that I’ve been doing instead of writing:

  • Craigslist is the new Submittable; all told I’d say I spend around 2-4 hours a day perusing it. I look in the jobs section and weep. I look for open apartments, sublets and roomshares (as if lightning is going to strike twice and I’ll find a roommate with an even BIGGER picture of his face hanging from the wall). Mostly, I look in the pet section where I mourn all the lost dogs and dream of buying all the puppies. Somebody advertised that they found a 3-legged dog near Russell Street. I wrote them to explain that no, it was not my dog, but if they didn’t find its owner than surely I am destined to step in, because I have reoccurring dreams of owning a 3-legged dog. They did not reply. It makes me mad to think about it. I should have found that dog. I never find any dogs.
  • My roommate Jesse and I continue to play house, but is it really a game? I do the dishes and think, “Ha ha, pretending to be in a domestic partnership, doing the dishes.” I think if I get married and have children it will be the same in my head. “Ha ha, brushing my daughter’s hair. Ha ha, second mortgage.” Back when I delivered pizzas I used to pretend that I was a serf in feudal times, working for pennies. I asked my coworkers if they ever did anything similar, and they were like, “What? No.”
  • Jesse asked me to marry him on facebook chat while I was in Seattle, making him the second man in 2012 to propose to me on the Internet. This is what happens when you get older. You can’t just casually date anymore. Everything is a fucking catastrophe. Men are all, “You’re going to rip my fucking heart out of my chest!” It’s grave. To his marriage proposal I said, “Probably,” and that made him mad, so I said, “Sure.” Then we walked around a table holding hands backwards  and now we’re “married.” My roommate is like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman in that he doesn’t like to kiss on the mouth.
  • We are so poor. Every day I ride my bike across town to my post office box. I put my key in the lock and pray, and every day, there’s no check waiting for me and I ride home defeated. It’s always a dreary bike ride for some reason; I have terrible thoughts.
  • The smoke that lingers in the hills of Missoula is disconcerting, definitely, and sure, it hurts to breathe, but the truth is that I like it. It seems like nothing affects me anymore. I used to cry when the music swelled in movies and now I feel nothing. For awhile there, the busses were free, but I had to pay this morning, which. What the fuck. Riding the bus should be free. Everything in the world should be free.
  • And to think, just a couple of weeks ago I quit smoking. Here’s the classic joke: “Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop smoking!” That’s not funny at all.
  • Reading books, watching films, listening to music. Just trying to get through this thing. Trying to remember how to write again. Trying not to panic. The world is a just and orderly place, right? And to die is different from what anyone supposed? And luckier?
09/11/12

oh, I don’t know.

There’s this boss moment in The Lion King that I can never shut up about when Mufasa appears as a ghost in the clouds, looks down at Simba and says, “Simba. You are more than what you have become.”

I looked up the Hamlet equivalent, and he’s not nearly as inspirational. The Ghost just tells Hamlet to “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.” In the Disney version, Scar never bangs Mufasa’s wife, and when Simba goes back to reclaim his kingdom, he intends for a peaceful overthrowing of the fraudulent monarchy. It’s only by accident and circumstance that he ends up throwing Scar into a pit of flames.

Life’s not really like that, kids! In the real world (i.e. Shakespeare) you obsess over what’s real and what’s imagined. You have no idea what this life is for. It’s just given to you out of nowhere, and now what are you supposed to do with it? Even if you wanted to be fair and just, how do you know what that looks like? Who can you trust to show you? How do you know what the right thing is? Once you think you have it, will you have the guts to act?

The point is that Hamlet’s a good play and I wish I were writing more.

Here’s some more shit about the house I share with Jesse:
As soon as you walk in the living room, there’s a gigantic canvas painting of Jesse’s face on the wall painted by his ex girlfriend. The place is sparsely furnished and sometimes cold. I told him our house reminded me of Xanadu. He hasn’t seen Citizen Kane but when I laid it out for him he seemed pretty receptive to the idea. Jesse says that people always think that their lives are going to work out, that one day they’ll have everything they want and when that day arrives, things will be better. But Jesse knows that it’s not really like that. Here is no different than anywhere else and it will never get better, so accept your marriage, accept your shitty job and try to find some happiness in it. I said I agreed more with the first part than the second, but I’m still working out the details.

There are fires in the bitterroot and the smoke seems to be getting to people. Some nights the moon is pink, which is beautiful but not at all normal and I wonder if she’s enraged or happy or what. The smoke doesn’t bother me but my friends seem pretty upset and I think it’s as good a time as any to get the fuck out of Montana.

On that note, I’m catching a greyhound to Seattle for five days to watch my friend Laura’s dog. Don’t worry, I’ll live-tweet everything.