7.31.2003

Phew!
I am always looking for inspiring writers, and hands down, no contest, this is one:

"It's the birthday of J(oanne) K(athleen) Rowling, born in Chipping Sodbury, England (1966). But her readers know today as Harry Potter's birthday. On Harry Potter's 11th birthday, he learns that he is a wizard. He is officially invited to leave his Muggle aunt and uncle and attend the special Hogwarts school for wizards. As a child, Rowling was short and stocky and wore very thick glasses, just like Harry Potter. She says she was very bossy, very bookish and terrible at school until she got older. When Rowling started writing Harry Potter, she was unemployed and divorced and living on public assistance in a tiny Edinburgh apartment with her infant daughter. She wrote during her daughter's naps, at a table in a cafi. She couldn't afford even a used typewriter. Then the Scottish Arts Council gave her a grant to finish the book. She did, and in the U.S. it was called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (1998). It was a dramatic overnight success. She was instantly famous and Harry Potter became a household name. She experienced a type of fame usually reserved for politicians and rock stars. On book tours, she spoke at big sporting venues, with images of her face projected on big screens behind her. She gave press conferences. At age 35 she was the highest-earning woman in Britain, netting more than $30 million in 2000. Rowling has had a series of seven Harry Potter books in her head since 1995 and she plans to write them all. She has the plots all mapped out already. There is a book for each year that Harry spends at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. She said, "I want to finish these seven books and look back and think that whatever happened-however much this hurricane whirled around me-I stayed true to what I wanted to write. This is my Holy Grail: that when I finish writing book seven, I can say-hand on heart-I didn't change a thing. I wrote the story I meant to write." Rowling released Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on June 21 this year. Within an hour, Barnes and Noble, the largest bookseller in the country, had sold 286,000 copies. That's 80 books per second. By the end of the day the book had sold five million copies total."

-From Garrison Keillor's Daily Writer's Almanac

Though I'm rare among my friends for not having read Harry Potter, I want to. I have a deep-seated agenda to get more girl heroines out there, and so I have been trying to read--and write---female characters. But just because I have this cursed thing where James Bond, Indiana Jones, David Byrne, and Frank O'Hara all seemed the most magical to me, and growing up were my inspiration, my models to emulate----to a point---well, that does not mean that there is not a place for a young wizard named Harry Potter. I just hope to soon accompany him with a spate of strong, funny, clever little girls.

7.30.2003

Unleashed

I am a little ill today
and all I can eat are hot biscuits with whipped butter and Slovenian honey from James. I worry so much about everything. The negative to making the biscuits: "then we'll be low on Bisquick," I reason. The negative to eating the hot biscuits: "there will be less biscuits then." I am a person well-versed in consequences, the only child with a much younger brother, the oldest and the only at the same time. Consequences. I am well-versed in context. I went to Hampshire, after all. All they teach is context. I took a class called "Law and Difference." We learned about society, race, and queer theory. I took a class called "American Government." We learned about society, race, and queer theory. I took a class called "Environmental Science," and did a project on fishkills, but really, it was a project on classism. There is nothing without context, even though my previous post was a poem-like thing without any context (ever wonder why it's hard to call something unfinished a poem? When it's not finished, it just glares at me. Dan has a friend who refers to his friends as "poets" "she's a poet" "oh, he's a poet too" and on a weekend away with my dear friend Jessica I wondered aloud: what is a poet? And she didn't know but she thought it had something to do with publishing. But we both write poems.)

Context and consequences are all you need to worry. You know that everything is a system, and everything matters. Not everyone realizes that everything matters, though, which leaves it even more on your shoulders. And you think: "I have got to get rid of this anxiety," and you think "is this going to get worse as I get older?" and you think "I have a whole day free and I still haven't gotten published?" And then you decide to go somewhere and read your new Harriet Levin and the gently used Czeslaw Milosz you found in the Bookmill in Montague, MA and try to forget about the problems. "Call it a sick day," you tell yourself. Tonight you'll be downtown, watching, for free, Macbeth.
golfcourses at night
sprinkler surprise
and there are stars
by the lake
which is a black and voluminous mass
shifting soundlessly
touching the blackest sky
gusts on quaking aspen
great lake country
somewhere there
is a lawnmower mowing

7.29.2003

Ha! An update on the below, from the Times: Pentagon Abandons Plan for Futures Market on Terror, posted at 12:21 today. Perhaps the Pentagon got wind of my blog posting...I did have visitors from China, Singapore, and Australia within that hour. (Welcome!) However, more likely the Bush administration just couldn't shout back loud enough, for once.

"I must say this is perhaps the most irresponsible, outrageous and poorly thought-out of anything that I have heard the administration propose to date,'' said Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the Democratic leader." -the Times

But let's remember that this did happen. They conceived the idea, built the website, pursued $8 million in funding, and had a staff ready to start signing people up on Friday. There wasn't a place for morals or ethics until two Democratic senators got mad and started raising hell on Monday. Sometimes it pays to raise hell.


Flabbergasted

OK, so, maybe not everyone is in consensus that the current administration is insane. I mean, there have been some shocking events, like the weaponsofmassdestruction fib, and some bad stuff about withholding global aid money because the people in need of aid also sometimes use contraceptives, and, well, I could go on. But my point is, sure, not everyone hates them. And that's alright. I'm OK and you're OK. But today's story does prove that on some level, this group is operating without the benefit of rationality. Right? What's today's story, you ask?

From the New York Times: Pentagon Prepares a Futures Market on Terror Attacks [free registration]. Yes, that's right. Bush has set aside $8 million to back a Pentagon computer program that allows anonymous users...even terrorists...to bet on what the next terror attack will be. This is set to start on October 1, with the process of registering users to begin on Friday. This Friday.

"Traders bullish on a biological attack on Israel or bearish on the chances of a North Korean missile strike would have the opportunity to bet on the likelihood of such events on a new Internet site established by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. " -Times

One of my first jobs was in a futures trading firm in downtown Chicago, and even then I concluded that futures trading was mostly a scam. But we were selling people options of sugar and wheat available three months in the future, and the money provided farmers with a little security no matter what the weather or the pests held in store for them. This seems different. It seems dour, dark, cruel and even sadistic. In other words, very Rumsfeld-ian. I mean, were I to bet on the complete destruction of Egypt's main airport, for instance, and then it happened and two or three thousand people were slaughtered, I would then proceed to collect $150 from the Pentagon? Doesn't that seem......wrong?


7.28.2003

Stations of the Cross

While in Western Massachusetts over the weekend, we also (in addition to the laundry list of fun below) visited the inexorable Mass MoCA, a groundswell of modern art in the Berkshire woods. It is my single greatest favorite architectural find; old factory walls with half-painted bricks, hardwood floors, iron ceilings, and broad sweeping windows that overlook the mountains. While there, not only did I purchase a pair of awesome guitar pick earrings (one reads "Lucky Star," the other, "Hey Baby"), but we also saw the incredible art of Robert Wilson. One huge room is devoted to his piece 14 Stations, which tells the story of the crucifixion of Jesus as depicted in the Bible. 12 cottages line the room, and each conveys a feeling, sometimes brought on by the statuary: eyeless red wolves pace one cottage, Shaker ladies knit and wait in another, a crawling figure on gravel, piles of glass beakers. Sometimes brought on by the unbelievably stunning audio that accompanies each piece: Pencils dropping on the floor. Screams and memories. Voices of warning. 14 Stations is not your average religious art, either. It is about universal memory, of being human, being mortal and vulnerable, of seeking reassurance, of experiencing relief, of the terror of madness and betrayal. About, I think, the constant tie between sanity and insanity. One is always, I feel, defined by the other.

If you live in Massachusetts, or Vermont, or New York, you should visit this room. Read about it here.
In the Woods Again, with pictures

One of the many bright spots of my lack of gainful employment is the fact that I get to go camping. A lot. Last weekend it was into the Berkshires with my teenage brother and his girlfriend. She was tried and true, but he'd not camped since childhood, and was new at everything. It was fun. I have the pictures to prove it: Blue and I wonderously crossed the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls, MA before going to meet our fellow campers, and then next day, after a short hike and a long swim, we all four traipsed into town for Yankee Doodle Days. YDD is a county fair, kind of; "A hillbilly fair" said our park ranger, and he was right. We watched an ox pull. We got strawberry milkshakes and milled around the sweet barnyard animals. Then we watched a demolition derby, sitting up against the fence with the crowd around us yelling for blood while we got splattered with mud. One car tipped onto its side and another knocked down a concrete barrier, and they all got smashed and resmashed.

The usual big sister role I play seemed to surface despite my striving determinedly to keep it underground. It's hard when you are actually responsible for everyone's safety and well-being, but no one wants you to act like you are, including you. I guess that's just a trap of family; your family has certain demands, and you meet them, and they are happy, but your non-family isn't happy, because you're meeting your family's demands. Ugh. I've written a whole children's book about this very topic. Free to be me, as long as everyone is happy!

7.25.2003

Searching for my Beautiful Reward

"More lies from Bush" is the subject line of a Democratic National Committee email I got this morning. Yesterday, when I went to the DNC website for info on working the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, I was met with the "George W. Bush Credibility Twister" game, and exhortations to play it. I didn't play it. I realize Bush lied. Everyone realizes Bush lied. Do you think it's forgivable, or not? It's a simple question, really, and the answer depends on everything from your politics to whether or not you lost a kid in Iraq. I can't possibly overemphasize how turned off I am by such pandering negativity. It is intended to be inflammatory, and there's nothing strategic or constructive about it.

I should be a good target for the DNC; I am young, healthy, well-educated, and believe in the principles of democracy to the very core (meaning, I believe in individual power, not in shipping out capitalism to poor countries; two very different readings of American democracy). I will never be a Republican. I will probably never be an Independent, either, even though that is the affiliation of most of my dearest friends. I am a true Democrat. And yet, I am disgusted enough to immediately remove myself from their mailing list. I wish reading the DNC site was more like reading Salon, which features probing stories that seek to be true and interesting. Articles that, in the end, are so true and so interesting that you can see how Bush lied, and why. And then you can ask yourself, is it forgivable? And when the answer is no, you are affirmed that you are a thinking person who cares about the world and about what is interesting, rather than being a sheep in the Democratic herd.
This was the post I wrote yesterday, July 24, but couldn't post due to Blogger's server.

Happy First Birthday, Crawlspace!

Tuesday was the one-year anniversary of my blog! It slipped by me. I love blogging; I think everyone should do it, if they are at all inclined. It is the best writing exercise I can think of, and it's free. It gets under your skin in a fresh and creative way; on the days when I don't post an entry, I still write a blog in my head. It's like journaling, but more edited, and therefore, more interesting. Another good thing about blogging is that it encourages other people to blog. Like my mom, for instance. She's going to start a blog of her own! That's how it happens, and before you know it, you've been blogging for a year.

Happy New Job, Donna!

Also, today is the bon-voyage party for Donna, a great writer who encouraged me to start this blog. I worked with her at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society as her reporter. And now she's off to EFF, and to get married (to Jarrod, an artist who made the starry bear in this photo from the Bearfest in Belfast, Maine).

7.22.2003

Camping

See scenes from my weekend in the country with my dear friend Jessica, on a pre-wedding commemorative camping trip. A calm weekend for just the two of us; good things abound. Less than a month till she's wed, and I still don't know what I'll read at the ceremony, or wear, for that matter. I always want to read Frank O'Hara whenever I get a chance, but I worry a little that I'll overdo it. Afterall, Jesse heard me reading O'Hara in the classroom when we were 13, at the mike when we were 14, at parties when we were 15. At some point, the people around me must get tired of the Frank O'Hara-Talking Heads-Rothko triad. But not me.

7.16.2003

People Out of Nowhere

She was carefully reading a newspaper that was spread out on the only table near an electrical outlet. It was the perfect writing spot for the anxious and unemployed, so I felt I deserved it. She wore a black and white checked suit and kept her hair in a chipper blond flip. I settled for an armchair where I could hunch over my laptop until I collected the courage to ask if I could share her table. "Of course!" she exclaimed, her blue eyes flashing. She plugged in the cord as I protested: "I really don't want to bother you," suddenly realizing that she probably knew I'd been eyeing her prime real estate for a good fifteen minutes as I sipped my first decaf mocha of the day.

She asked about my computer. I recommended Sony. I told her that my TV died just five nights ago in a tragic combustion of 27,000 volts, two weeks after the expiration of the warranty. I said I'd always buy brand-name in the future. She told me about her new combination DVD-VCR. I was distracted by her nervous energy; she was magnetic. I wanted to grab her hands and ask what she did for a living, but deeply I already knew. I wanted to ask how she maintained such a happy marriage because, I felt, she did.

I worked; she worked. She talked unobtrusively on her cell phone. She watched people move around her. She looked over notes and studied a Myers-Briggs test of someone extroverted. She slowly collected her things to go. I made a joke about her leaving our little office; she said she felt energized by being near other people. I said I did too. She asked if I had my own business. I told her I had a Master's degree in education, that I was writing a children's book, that I wanted to freelance write, that I was laid off from a dot-com in March, that I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do. I asked what she did. She said she was a career counselor for people who had been laid off. I asked what she charged.

"I'm really expensive," she said. "$1500 for four sessions." I nodded and smiled, pretending that wasn't totally out of my league. I asked if it worked for people, citing my many unsuccessful career-counseling workshops in which it was determined that I simply wanted to be a female James Bond/Indiana Jones type. "I have a guy now," she said, "who is, believe it or not, an aeronautical engineer. But his Myers-Briggs test indicates that he is outgoing, needs to be around people, wants to teach and be creative. But he has a passion for technical issues. So he just started teaching those issues, and he's very happy."

She tells me she's been a career counselor for 11 years. Before that, she was a newspaper reporter, high-tech PR person, and banker. "I worked in finance in Hong Kong," she says. "It seemed like I was flitting around, but it turned out all this experience has perfectly prepared me to connect with people in all different fields." I refrain from telling her that I have multiple files on my Myers-Briggs profile at home, that I am a INFJ (Introverted Intuitive Feeling Judging), that I still don't know what career to "choose," if choosing is possible. "My advice to you," she says, leaning forward, "is not to jump into getting more education. Determine where you want to be, and if it is really necessary to get a degree, or if you can just go out and do it." I nod. "And I know a lot of unhappy lawyers," she continues. I tell her I am considering environmental law. "People don't realize what being a lawyer is," she says as she shakes her head. "It is tedium. And what's not tedium is sales, because if you don't constantly bring in new clients, that firm is going to let you go." I decide that possibly law school isn't for me. "Humans are so complex," she says, smiling again. She gets her things together to leave, and I ask for a business card. She smiles. "I'm so bad at marketing myself," she says, handing me a card that reads, "Career Doctor." "Do you have one?" I shake my head.

I met someone like this last fall, on a Florida beach. A woman in her fifties, who had the same odd quality, rather like she shouldn't be there, as if she was almost too serene and sure to have ever confronted earthly fears or human doubts, and yet she was all-knowing. She materialized from nowhere, a glowing stranger. Again, I was drawn to her orbit, and knew before she told me what she had to say. I sought advice, and it was given.

I remember a family story of my mother's first visit to New York City. She was lost and nervous and on her way to a conference in Manhattan, and a woman appeared from nowhere to guide her to her destination. She had a strange quality about her, a compassionate grace, and in the end, my mom found out, that was her name: Grace. Grace disappeared mysteriously, but the Career Doctor pulled out of Starbucks this morning in a dented Buick Century, and I watched her go, her happy bob sillouhetted in the rear window.


7.14.2003

Meeting Someone Special

The line’s population was eclectic, I noticed, as I stood sandwiched between an elderly Indian woman and a white mother carrying her adopted Cambodian toddler. She regaled twenty-year-olds with stories about his adoption: "It took eight and a half months," she said. "We have friends who have been waiting two and a half years." There was the pair of African-American ten-year-olds who appeared to be there on their own, a quadriplegic, and a young man with multiple facial piercings who waited at the front of the line for five hours, just to be number one in line when Hillary Clinton pulled out her pen. We were all there to greet her as she signed our new copies of Living History, her book about her experiences in the White House while First Lady. I was there to meet her as Senator, and as (I hope) future president. The diversity of the group was indisputable, but there was a nice solid showing of white girls in their late twenties and early thirties, as if to ensure that I didn’t go around feeling particularly original. I wondered if I’d ever have my own book-signing.

As helicopters landed outside, people in front of me tried to guess what colors she might be wearing, and what outfit; "a pantsuit, for sure" said a middle-aged woman confidently. An older woman approached the Indian woman behind me and took her hand. "Now, you and I must be the oldest ones here," she said. "At Caroline Kennedy’s book-signing, the staff found a chair for me. We don’t want to be standing for hours! We need chairs! We must ask!" The Indian woman laughed. "YOU can ask," she said. Soon both women were supplied with padded chairs. The press began to line up, interviewing the pierced guy over and over, chiefly about the five-hour wait. What could he possibly have to say? I’d only waited three hours, and I was no more than thirty people behind him. Talk to me, I thought. Talk to me if you want a good interview.

I imagined what I might say to Hillary when the moment arrived. "Thank you," I’d gush, "for being such a strong woman." "You have my vote in 2008." "I hope you become president someday." These were the sentiments I wanted to express? An unmemorable string of clich├ęs? "Hillary," I’d say, "there really was a vast right-wing conspiracy; we all knew it; it was obvious to anyone with a brain." My vision got grander. Handing her my resume, I’d exude such a natural glow that she was bound to stop, mid-signature, and look up at me. Her staffers would gather at her side. "I need a job," I'd say confidently, and I want you to be my boss." Sure, I wasn't in pumps and hair gloss like her formidable, gorgeous, young staff, but it had been a hot weekend, and I didn’t have a job. What could be wrong with sandals and a sleeveless shirt with a plunging neckline? God, if only I’d at least brushed my hair this morning. Anyway, she’d know. By the time the Presidency became hers, I’d be her right-hand woman.

When she entered the room, everyone was on their feet, books in hand. She was so strikingly beautiful, much more so than I’d realized. She looked young for 56, rigorous and joyful, with sparkling blue eyes. She was in a pantsuit, by golly, a black one, with a light blue sweater wrapped loosely around her shoulders. "Hello!" she hollered. Everyone clapped and shouted and whistled. Secret Service rimmed the room, bookstore workers manned the books, and her staff, each trim and chic, manned our long line of people. "I’m so glad you’re all here!" she yelled, throwing open her arms. We whooped some more. Secret Service eyed the stroller of the adopted Cambodian toddler, checking for weapons.

As we filed towards her, I noticed I was shaking. What did I say to Joyce Carol Oates when I met her? I think I said, "Thank you for being a good writer." I’m not good with famous people. I looked at my newspaper again. My daily horoscope read, "You stand to meet someone special." Maybe I could tell her just that: our meeting was scripted in the stars. "Hillary," I could say, "you are my destiny." I noticed that she allowed people to occasionally shake her hand. I arranged my newspaper under my left arm for ideal hand-shaking posture.

But when the moment arrived, she sat there, beaming at me, until surprise crossed her face for an instant, as if she didn’t quite expect to see me. I reached for her hand and she shook it. "Thank you," I said. "Sure," she said, signing the book. Then she looked expectantly, with an instant of surprise, at the elderly Indian woman behind me.

Walking away with the book, trembling a bit from the geeky, humbling rush, I purged the tension in the room. Hillary radiated. She, the epicenter of action, left everyone hushed and shaking. Stumble through an interview with the Cambridge Chronicle: "I wanted to thank her for being so strong and intelligent! But all I said was thanks." Stumble downstairs.

The basement-level bar advertises a summer line-up of comedians. Two of them I’ve known very well. Years passed and now people were paying $15 to see Brendon Small perform one night in August. Perhaps someday, I thought, I really will have my own book-signing. Maybe not with the helicopters, but a signing all the same.

Past Secret Service, through the glass doors, back into fresh air, clutching my book. Across the street, two guys held signs. One read, "What REALLY happened to Vince?" The other read, "Liar, liar, pantsuit on fire." I walked over to them. "Are you guys from around here?" I asked. I just wanted to know if they were part of the conspiracy. "Yeah," said the 'Liar, liar' one, still in his teens. "Do you go to all the Clinton events?" "This is our first," said the 'Vince' one, "but we go to stuff like this all the time." I left, fairly certain that they were just bored and crazy.

"Hillary would never leave us out here like this!" yelled a woman who showed up too late to get her book signed. "Make sure Hillary knows how many people there are out here!" she yelled at a cop. I heard, behind us, a helicopter leaving.

7.01.2003

spectacular summer day blue white cloud drift
slow swaying of distant hazy deep July green
spinning hard on the bike i have resolved to go fast only downhill
today is easy I tell myself, slow on the hills going up,
but when I get home it is 83 degrees instead of 78 and I have gone my usual speed, exactly 15 miles an hour on
average
A man mows his lawn. I bike by and look up to smile. He has stopped mowing and is giving me a thumbs-up.
I laugh and wave and silently tell him I am 27 today, thanks for the thumbs-up
and deep in the summer forests I pass there are chipmunks loudly
passing their time
backfloat in Walden this morning, 7:30 am, avoiding the serious swimmers while we kiss and talk and shiver a little
when we get to the shore
there is a mother duck closely tailed
by two downy babies.
They stand at our feet.
I am 27 today, today,
and DREAM GIRL FORMAL 1966 drinking glasses arrive in a UPS box from Jessica
and there is banana cake with fudge icing for breakfast
and my mother sends
a framed picture of me sleeping just a few weeks into this life
and home from my ride
and this heat
I turn on the birthday shower and get into
my birthday
suit