Monday, November 29, 2004

Bathhouse Buddha Hanging Over in the City

Saturday was delirious and bliss

because Friday night Mark either poisoned or put serious drugs in the bloody mary’s he made for Kate and me at Melissa’s house. My intent had been to make a new bloody mary recipe I’d found on the internet, because I know Kate likes the bloody mary, and hey it’s the hairy end of her last undergrad semester. As anyone who drinks at all probably knows, you can’t taste vodka, so two big cups of the spicy bloody went right down, which brought Kate and I out into the street laughing and loudly chattering. I smoked three cigarettes. I think I’d had three cigarettes in the last year, and for the past several months they’ve thoroughly repulsed me.

The drive home was unframed and executed by Mark. In the middle of it we hit a sobriety check point, which Mark questionably sailed through. (Please forgive us our unsafe wrongs.)

Saturday Mark and I had plans to visit the Russian/Turkish baths in the city, my first time, Mark’s second, with his brother and his dad. We wake up, Kate and I topple into the car. We get bagels and return Kate to her car at Melissa’s. I felt disconnected from everything. I ate a bagel and drank some coffee and was fine until we got stopped in traffic. Within minutes I’d slumped over pale-faced.

We get into the city, Mark jerking the car through traffic. We’re almost to the bathhouse. "It’s coming." Mark shifts to the right side of the road. I vomit orange and tan with bagel bits. There was a guy sitting on his porch talking on his cell phone. He went inside. I vomit again, we take off. A few feet down the road, "There’s more." I vomit, I vomit again. We take off. Just before the stop sign, "There’s more." I vomit again. I’m shaking but feeling a little freer.

We see Mark’s dad and brother coming down the sidewalk toward the bathhouse. I go in, give the man my wallet to lock up and take the key to my locker. I have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve never been to a bathhouse. I put on my bikini top and shorts, take my bottle of water out of my locker, put it back, take it out, grab a towel, put it back. What. I'm shot.

I go downstairs where there is steam and a maze of people in togas and swim suits. It is dim and I think I am in ancient Rome. Amo, ardeo. With Mark I go into the sauna made of wood. It is hot hot hot. My nose hairs burn. There is a guy sitting to our left. He and Mark both have acorn tattoos. This guy also has a squirrel on his chest and two acupuncture cup marks on his back. He’d quit smoking recently and wanted to open up his lungs. The guy to our right had made acorn bread for Thanksgiving. I didn’t know this was possible. Mark goes somewhere. I go into the room across the tile path.

This room’s made of tile, much bigger than the last, a smidge less hot, and with a cold-water showerhead at the doorway. I like this room. I don’t know where anybody is. I begin to level. I’m sweating, I feel the toxins moving around in my body. I feel like I’ve been meditating for days.

Soon I find myself in the steam room with Mark, his brother, and the guy with the acorn and squirrel tattoos, whom I’m sitting next to. Mark asks me how I’m feeling, he tells the tale of mary's poison. Acorn-squirrel guy, who’d recently been to a bathhouse in Chicago, tells me I need some more of the stuff to make me feel better. Mark’s brother says, "Hair of the dog."

I go out and sit down along the ledge of the icy-water pool and stare. I feel as close to zen as possibly I’ve ever felt. An older guy who looked uncannily like a movie star I can’t pinpoint grabs both of my shoulders and says, "What are you thinking about?" I don’t remember what I said and soon I was in conversation with a tattooed guy to my left who lived down the street.

Then I am in the hottest and largest room, where Mark and I find his brother. There is a large mostly naked man lying down and being beaten with leaves. It’s so hot our asses can’t handle the wood of the benches. A guy pours a bucket of icy water on the bench for all better. There are faucets placed along the benches, with icy water running into white buckets underneath them. I could deal with the heat only by squeezing the icy water out of a towel onto my face and body, which was ultimately relieving, nearly deific. Soon enough hot though.

As I walked on the tile with hot in me more toxins moved around in my body. I sat some more and moved from room to room.

Then I followed a quiet man up the stairs and into a small room with a table on which I lay face down, where he would massage my whole body. He told me to take off my bikini top and asked me if I’d ever been to the bathhouse. He asked me how I was feeling. "Hungover." He did my back, my arms, my hands, my neck, almost my ass, my legs. He asked me if I was flexible and began bending my legs every which way. He turned me over and did some more. It felt aaahh; I also felt the toxins moving around in my body.

I returned to the downstairs and sat in the room with the cold showerhead at the door. The wood sauna, where I wanted to go, was full of people. The room I entered, however, was empty except for me. I sat and sweat alone for a few minutes before people came in.

Eventually I went upstairs to get shampoo and a robe—I prefer toga—so I could shower after one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had. I’d like it again without the hangover. I’d like to do it once a week.

Afterward, Mark and I got in the car to head toward Highland Park for a vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner party. My head was doomful with aching, so before leaving the city we stopped at a grocery store and I bought Aleve. We also stopped for a pretzel. A few bites and I was spinning. Luckily I hadn’t told the guy in the grocery store I didn’t need the bag. I needed that bag. We were thick in traffic. There was no pulling over, and I was vomiting and vomiting again into the bag. We pulled over just before the Holland tunnel and dropped the bag off.

Off to the vegetarian dinner party, where there were many people I didn’t know and a lot of good food. I ate and I talked to the people, who comprised one of the friendliest bunch of strangers I’ve encountered. I fondled a Rubik’s cube; I consumed the Brita. Eventually in my bed I slept.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Red Wine and Rose Tree

I find it curious that matching velour sweat pants and zip-ups are acceptable in the office since they’ve come into fashion. In the same way I find it curious that faded and ripped jeans are acceptable as nice and in-fashion since Abercrombie & Fitch started selling them, that and the short-sleeved t-shirt over the long-sleeved t-shirt ensemble that once was associated with sloppy alterna-types. Funny that the same things my mom complained about me wearing when I was a teenager are now lauded on cheerleaders and middle-aged women because they fit the day’s fashion. (This does not include the velour sweatsuit.) This observation is nothing new, but I still find the trend laughable when I'm feeling like an old cranky bitch. People are ridiculous and, as Nick Cave would have it, they just ain’t no good. Speaking of which, I saw Shrek 2 last night, in which this song appeared, which I thought odd and interesting.

Wednesday night I saw Alexander with Shin and Tom. Two days later I still have mixed feelings. I can name the things I dislike about it; I can’t, however, name the things I like, though feelings are still mixed. For example, I don’t like the grab-bag "foreign" accents assumed by the actors. I heard British, Scottish, Irish, Spanish, and hybrid accents. I had the feeling each actor was told to decide which accent he or she could pull off the best and use that one, despite character or storyline. And why when characters in movies are supposed to be "foreign" (I think also of Troy), do they often take on a British accent? That’s my question to Santa Claus this year. Watching an American actor posing as a Greek hero and shouting like a Brit about fighting by Zeus and by Hera is terribly distracting. Too many disparate pieces to reconcile.

Yesterday I brought a bottle of wine to Thanksgiving Dinner. I bought it because it looked cool, it was called Heart of Darkness (one of my favorite books), and it was described simply as "red wine"--not cabernet savignon, not merlot, not shiraz--red wine. It wasn't rotten, it wasn't my favorite; i.e. not so great.

p.s. Every time I hear a Beatles song I feel rejuvenated.
p.p.s. Anne Carson is on to something far, far away.
p.p.p.s. At Alexander I got popcorn spilled on me. That’s the second movie in a row that I got popcorn spilled on me.
p.p.p.p.s. Rhododendron

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

The Real F/U

Finally late yesterday afternoon a guy came to hang the picture and fix the file cabinet. After he hung the picture he said he’d have to go look for a part for the file cabinet and said I’d have to move some of the files in the top drawer so he could get to what needed fixing. So I began shifting files down to drawers below. The top two drawers are packed full, a sign that the journal is receiving many submissions, which is a good thing. However, when I pulled out the top drawer—you can see what’s coming here. The whole cabinet began to fall top over at me. I almost caught it, but didn’t. All that was on top of the cabinet—foot-high stack of papers, gallon of water, box of Grape Nuts, two boxes of tea, bag of dried plums, plastic bowl, framed picture of my brother, mug my brother gave me—came crashing. I yelped and the woman in the office next door came running.

She helped me put the heavy drawers back in the cabinet. Coincidentally, this woman had appeared in my dream the night before, which I had told her in the morning. (She had appeared in a dream once before, which I didn’t tell her about.)

The Dream: I was flying a small plane. I had watched Mark do it and figured I could do it. I did well, but I wasn’t secure with the details of landing. I wobbled a lot and could see the crew below could see I was a new pilot. I felt a little embarrassed. Nonetheless, I landed it. Turned out that even if I had been an expert, I couldn’t have landed right because a wrong part was on the plane, which the crew pointed out to me. So I did as they suggested and Shin came with me to the car dealership so I could get the right part. This is where I saw the woman from next door to my office. We both smiled and exclaimed, "I can’t believe I’m seeing you here!"

In the end, as with most things—it was pretty funny. Everyone seemed concerned about little me almost being pinned between the file cabinet and the door. I wish after the first brief flash of concern that they’d seen the humor.

Here’s to going home from work today! Last night’s bellyache caused insomnia and now my right eye is swollen with tired and allergy. I’m a pirate in a skirt. Furthermore, technology is against me today. Damn terrorists, evildoers, toothy dogs, rabid spit.

By the way, thanks to Jeremy, Arab Strap plays all day here at the office of abominable snowmen and good-hearted leprechauns.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

There's a Devil Broken on My Floor

F/U: I just called maintenance for at least the fifth time—I’ve lost count—in three weeks about the picture that was hung by its frame instead of by a hook. The frame, naturally, bowed and began to fall from the wall. It is now on my floor, even though maintenance has paperwork that says it isn’t. Also, the top file drawer of my file cabinet is still broken. That happened months ago. It isn’t even my file cabinet. I’m borrowing it until mine, which was ordered even more months ago, arrives.

Let Love In, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds is now getting the day through. When I was in college, I was listening to this CD in my walkman as I was walking from class to my dorm. Always there were solicitors and pamphlet-givers at the bottom of the bridge to the dorms. I usually blasted my walkman and looked down. This day I was blasting Nick Cave singing about a devil crawling on my floor and at that precise moment a young Mennonite boy handed me a pamphlet that read in bold letters on its cover: How Can You Be Saved? I couldn’t stop laughing. Oh, Mr. Cave.

Let love in.

Jigsaw News

In case you haven’t heard, here are the safest and most dangerous cities in America, according to Morgan Quitno Corp.

1. Newton, MA
2. Brick Twnshp, NJ
3. Amherst, NY
4. Mission Viejo, CA
5. Clarkstown, NY
6. Lake Forest, CA
7. Thousand Oaks, CA
8. Colonie, NY
9. Cary, NC
10. Dover Twnshp, NJ

1. Camden, NJ
2. Detroit, MI
3. Atlanta, GA
4. St. Louis, MO
5. Gary, IN
6. Washington, DC
7. Hartford, CT
8. New Orleans, LA
9. Richmond, VA
10. Birmingham, AL

I don't remember where I found this next bit, but accept it as truth:
Studies have revealed that cigarette smoking during pregnancy causes lower fourth-grade reading scores.

So it’s ok for women to continue smoking while pregnant as long as they don’t mind suffering through that one fourth-grade year when their children regress to illiteracy.

Bridget Jones is being seen by one of the doctors here today. I’m not supposed to talk to the outside about patients, but I think the celebrity of this name allows me sufficient ambiguity for cover-up if necessary. The surgical coordinator, whose office is next to mine, keeps saying her name without a hint of busting. I know, grow up, Sara. I can’t help it, though. Every time I hear the name outside my door I think it’s a joke. "Doctor, Beaver Cleaver is here for his CPAP f/u" or "Doctor, Harry Potter is here for his EEG."

Monday, November 22, 2004

Cave Dwelling Hoodlums Ace Chemistry

Went to Howe’s Caverns on Saturday. It was my first time in a cave.

Doesn’t that sound like I’ve come out of the closet?

Wrong door, begin again. It was my first time in a cave. As long as I can remember I’ve wanted to frolic in a cave. I wish the path inside had been dirt instead of brick and that I’d been able to explore the secret pathways and crawl spaces. However, I understand that if I’d been able to do that, and thousands of other people were allowed to do that, the cave would now or some day not be stable enough to enter at all. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the field trip, and I feel like a new woman. Mark and I came away with hooded sweatshirts bearing the Howe name. A couple was getting married in the cave as we were leaving, couple #539.

On the way out of the boondocks we stopped at an animal shelter that smelled like the most potent, the most powerful of dogs. Bark, bark. Bark.

Do antidepressants cause adolescents to commit suicide, or do antidepressants prevent adolescents from committing suicide? You decide.

My instinct is to say that adolescents should not be dosed with chemicals because they are still developing in body and in mind. (Isn't this part of what the cuddly Dare program is about?) Everybody has problems, some more than others, but the quick-easy especially at that stage in a person’s life is not the most profitable long-term answer. (To be honest, I think the quick-easy should be left to last resort always, though I am one to take the long, grueling route even when unecessary.) I could also say that cave-boys and cave-girls in their adolescence didn’t have the opportunity to eat Prozac or Zoloft. Probably all young people have emotional difficulties of varying degree. So it goes. On the other hand, the world is much changed since yesteryore, and maybe new times birth new problems which call for new ways of assessing and addressing those problems. I still don’t like the idea of fucking with the developing wires of young people, which I imagine are too unstable for anyone to gauge well enough what antidepressants might do to them. I imagine there are plenty of people ready to tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about, I don’t understand what they go through, and I’m condemning a good antidote. So it goes. The New York Times Magazine incited all of this.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Arabian Night

Dream last night: here’s what’s left in memory. I was in desert terrain, war terrain. There was a feeling, however, that this terrain was not current in the midst of the violence and evils of war, but rather long afterward; nevertheless, a violent, evil energy hung over the place. I was at a park in this desert. I was at the edge of the park. I was supposed to meet Melissa and Kate for dinner. They were about to leave for some other place. There was the sense that I was going, too, but the fact was that I wasn’t going. I waited at the park and ended up at a family Italian restaurant and ate alone, then went to my aunt and uncle’s house to check on things. Later Melissa, Kate, and I found each other. They had decided to go to the Olive Garden, which I thought was weird since we’d decided to meet up for dinner before they left. Then things became more fast-paced…

I was a family. I was each the husband, the wife, and the son. I had about 70% of the consciousness of the wife, about 40% of the husband, and about 10% of the son. We had been running from evil forces: black evil forces, not the evildoers that Bush speaks of. This was sinister. We were chased to the roof of a boxy adobe structure. There were faceless people wearing tan military-wear and dark black guns. We saw a way down: slip down off the top of the roof, down in between two metal fences, under a piece of wood supporting one of the fences, which was two inches above the ground, and behind the fence. The plan was to be in between one of the fences and the adobe wall, closed in. This was considered a way out. The wife saw this and slipped down. It was tight, but she made it. The son slipped down. It was easy for him; he was small. Then the husband slipped down. Anxiety built. The enemy had caught on. Whew! The husband barely made it under that piece of wood; he was bigger than the wife and son.

Still in the evil desert, I was with Melissa and Kate. There was a fair of some kind going on in the town center; in the air was the feeling of needing to escape from the enemy continued. We weren’t having fun at this fair. We were being forced to participate in games. This was our ticket out. One of the games struck similar to Candy Land. Finally we were sitting at picnic tables with 15 or so other people. Kate looked to her left. Spotting a sign for discounted margaritas, she said, "Enough of this. I want a margarita" and laughed in a way that said she might not really go. I looked and saw the sign and said, "Yeah, let’s go. I want a margarita." Melissa didn’t seem interested. It was, after all, risky. Then there was beeping, and I began looking around to see whose digital camera was signaling that its battery was dying.

I woke up. My cell phone was signaling that its battery was dying. Damn thing. I’d charged it a bit in the car on my way home from work.

The Thing that disturbs me

This morning on the radio I heard the following, each on different stations:

"It’s not a Democrat thing, it’s not a Republican thing—it’s a government thing."
"You’ve heard about that supply-and-demand thing."

The first was from a man raging about the national budget deficit; the second was from a man talking about oil. This language is imprecise and ineffective. Now, I don’t sit around with an arrogant spoon up my ass, intending to critique the way people use language. (And I know I'm not a perfect speaker either, ok.) I just happened to notice this, particularly because the two instances came one after another as I was turning the radio dial. It’s no wonder many people don’t understand politics, economics, etc., of the nation, of the world in any substantial detail.

What, precisely, is not a Democrat thing? What is this thing? Is it something to be worried about? Is it something to rejoice about? Is it a way of dress, an emotional outpouring? And this supply-and-demand thing—is it a problem, an accomplishment, or just a situation without direction of any sort attached to it?

Perhaps these speakers know, perhaps they don’t. Probably someone at the head of the line has some idea, but how is a newcomer supposed to have any idea what kind of thing this thing is? And how are the children of the newcomers supposed to come to understand these "things" within any clear framework? It’s one thing to reconfigure a language for layman, or to explain a thing to kids, but just plain dumbing it down into vague generality brings everyone down. The clear specific thing behind the general thing dissolves. There is an unfortunate ignorance pervasive among young people, ignorance rooted in this sort of generalization of terms, which seeps exponentially down the lines. I witnessed at least a sample of it when I was teaching freshman composition at a community college.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Oops! She Did It Again

Last night I dreamed about a large pool table that in the dream seemed to be of normal size. Multiple sets of balls were being played at once. I was in a hotel. I was playing pool with two other people. There was quite a crowd. I noticed the purple balls were particularly striking on the green felt, and also next to the orange balls. I went back (to where I don’t know—my room?) to get my camera. It may have been disposable, it may have been digital. On my way back with it, I overheard some ladies talking next to a table, which held a picture of Britney Spears wearing puckered sex-lips. The ladies, soccer-mom aged, were saying, "I saw her/met her. She’s a very angry person, not at all like she makes herself seem on stage." Looks of disgust and disapproval tore over their faces. Just as I had guessed, I thought, and walked on back to the pool table with my camera. In the meantime, one of the girls playing had put in a ball out of turn. This is when the alarm beeped me awake.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

By the way, I don’t like it when, say, in a hallway there is a near-collision between me and someone else and--let’s say this someone else is an older lady—this person squeals "Oops!" At first the "Oops!" seems honest, like we’re both supposed to share in this funny little mistake, which I am willing to do until I look in her eyes and see that she’s saying "Oops!" for me, trying to lay the blame on me, when, quite frankly, it was I who was walking and looking both ways in the common path and she who sped too fast around the corner. This has happened on a number of occasions. It might serve us all well to admit our faults, not only to others but also to ourselves.

Instead Steep Your Kids In Tea Leaves

Yesterday while driving to work I listened to a report on a technology going on in a Japan school. Although many people believe Japan to be safe, the radio told me, they are no longer correct. Many students take trains to schools; parents are worried. Kids are being kidnapped; unruly kids are stabbing others in the school. In response to such deviance, a system has been installed in some schools. In one particular school, all the kids are dressed in white shirts and white shorts, wearing red knapsacks, inside of which is a little chip. This chip is much like what can be placed in, for example, store merchandise so as to track items, though certainly not to thrust invasive surveillance on free citizens. (Again, I think I may have been a sort of prophet on the toilet back when I was wee and thought I was being watched while I peed.) Each time a student enters or exits the school’s gates an e-mail is sent to the cell phone of one of the parents, letting him or her know.

What a world to live in: my child is on keel with store merchandise and I receive an e-mail—on my cell phone—to let me know when it is entering and leaving school. Where is the outhouse?

Sipping on Think O2 tea (in order to be keener), I listen to various musics while my stomach growls:

Momus—20 Vodka Jellies (thanks from yesteryore to one Exigent)

Sugarcubes—Life’s Too Good (the Icelandic tracks and the remixes move my shoulders around)

The Arcade Fire—Funeral (thanks to Kyle Wills (sure I’ll plug the Teenage Prayers and that schnazzy photo again))

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

The Inane and the Broken and the Inane

(And by "inane" I mean "inane", not "insane", as I was once mis-corrected in a college paper.)

"Hi. I’m calling from Neuroscience. I called on Monday of last week and again yesterday about a picture that had fallen from the wall in my office. It was hung by its frame instead of by a hook."

"Yes, I was just closing the paperwork on that. Bruce and Martin were there yesterday and fixed it. (Empty explanation empty explanation empty explanation empty explanation empty explanation empty explanation empty explanation empty explanation empty explanation empty explanation empty explanation empty explanation empty explanation empty explanation empty explanation empty explanation empty explanation empty explanation empty explanation)."

"Ok." Full pause then, "I’m in my office right now and that picture is on the floor."

Uncertain mumble then, "Well, I will follow up on that, because as I said, the paperwork says it was done yesterday."

(You can assure me all you want that those men were in my office yesterday and re-mounted the picture, but each time I can look at my wall and see that it isn't so.)

Van Gogh’s Les Irises sits on the floor, leaning against the file cabinet, the broken latch on the top drawer of which I called about two months ago.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Sing Song Day Long

Perusing the news I realized that in every picture I’d seen of Condoleezza Rice she looked scary and mean. So I decided to do a bit of comparing as I ate my gigantic salad here in my office. I found a more congenial shot of her sitting with her pal Bush. That says a lot.

Also while eating my gigantic salad here in my office, I realized I don’t like black olives anymore. This is weird. I like almost all foods. I don’t eat much that’s fried because it makes me feel heavy, oily, bulbous and generally crappy, but it tastes all right. My new stance on the black olive: I will eat them, but I prefer not to.

On my way to work this morning there was a story on 90.9 about a NYC sanitation worker, for 23 years, who sings as he’s being driven around the city on the back of a truck to pick up trash. He said singing keeps him happy, unmindful of whatever in his daily life might cause him to be unhappy. He said he wants also to make other people smile. Without knowing him I like this man. He knows how to live life unweighted by the daily uglies.

There is a maintenance worker here at the hospital who sings all day, too. He flits from tune to tune, paying no mind to the dramatic office drivel that goes on. One day I told him I liked that; he was of the same mind as the sanitation worker above. When I first moved into my office he came in to fix something and said to me, "Sara, there are a lot of fucked up people working here. You’re smart to keep quiet like you do." Yes, he used my name. I felt like I’d won a prize. For him to have said that implied that I’d quickly been accepted into the wiser echelon--of singers and such.

Now I have a ton of schtuff to finish before going home to do homework for guitar school. Lesson No. 2 is tomorrow.

Monday, November 15, 2004

The Heights

I am not short, but I am also not of the tall crowd, especially in this day when people are growing taller and taller. I’m a shade shorter than 5’8".

During the weekend I began thinking about my mom’s next visit to New Jersey. We’d have a girl night: the two of us and the fantastic girls I’ve met here in NJ, which is new, as I’ve said before, since most of my friends have been guys. I imagined us all together and I saw that every one of those fabulous girls, including my mom, is shorter than me. This is not a value judgment, girls, just an observation of the physical, particularly following a recent picture taken of me, my mom, my aunt, my grandma, Mark’s mom, and Mark’s brother’s wife’s mom. I look like the obvious basketball candidate towering over every one of them. It’s all relative; in some crowds I look wonderlanded into the diminutive.

Anyway, I then began thinking about the contributors to said body type. My mom is 5’4". My biological father, whom I do not know but whom I have seen once, is responsible for my height. He’s 6’4". I don’t even know this man yet he contributes to one of the major aspects of the way my body developed. He is also responsible for my brown eyes, also a major aspect, and maybe my cheekbones, but those might be attributable to my mom. Of course, scientifically, since he and my mom contributed to my make-up, there was a 50/50 chance of my receiving one or the other for any given piece. (I’m skirting genetic accuracy here.) Standing back, though, looking at the whole picture, how I grew up, reared by my mom, my grandma, and my grandpa, until I was 5, when my adoptive (and kick-ass fantastic) dad entered the picture, it seems ultimately strange to me that I would still bear as symbol, always and absolutely undeniable to the eye, so much of my biological father, who, whether he cares to or not, knows nothing of me.

On Sunday while Mark and I were hiking, his bad knee and all, in the woods, this conflict between the physical and the intangible that compose me surfaced into my staring at sticks and leaves.

Before you go, you have to see this stunning photo.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Chronicles from the Heart Abstracted

This morning I opened my work e-mail to a heart-wrenching message from an author who has been revising for us an article he submitted in July. We (the journal) generally like to receive revisions within 6 weeks. Some authors are quick about it; others take months and months until I wonder if they’ve just given up.

[Note: as opposed to poetry world, where you’re either accepted or just get a rejection note, for scientific journals, generally speaking, a paper submitted can be either accepted, sent back for revision once and maybe twice, or flat out rejected. Many are sent back for revision, and most of those are eventually accepted. Rarely and almost never is an article accepted at first sight.]

This doctor/author called me about a week ago. He’s British, so you know I enjoyed speaking with him. He was a very nice man who sounded "real", i.e. kind and polite but without stock formality. Because I remembered his name in association with the number of his manuscript, he was impressed with my memory. Gold coin. He told me he was in the process of moving and asked if we would accept his revised paper a couple weeks after the six-weeks mark, and asked how I would prefer to receive the figures that accompany the manuscript. I told him the delay would be fine. Frankly, it was rare to be contacted at all about delinquency. I usually don’t hear from the authors who take months and months, even after I send them "what’s going on" e-mails, so allowing two more weeks was nothing.

This morning in the message I received—I won’t share too much detail so not to breach the contract of common courtesy—he tells me he’s been working out of a different office in a different building and his file are packed away; further, he is essentially homeless and to top it off not very happy. He pleaded that I please bear with him and promised he would try to finish over the weekend. Shriveled cherry on the sundae, he addressed the whole message to Beth, which unfortunately is not my nickname. I didn't mention it in my reply. I'd hate to potentially contribute to cardiac arrest or worse.

I’ve been in that hectic domino scenario before, when everything collapses, and I’d like to send this man some cookies.

On another but related note, I think the above publication process is quite smart and productive: an author submits work, which is sent to reviewers who comment (usually pretty thoroughly); the author then revises according to the anonymous comments to make a more thorough and concise article on the study at hand and also for the larger scientific field, each author and reviewer contributing to the progress of each other and to progress of the larger field. Teamwork at its best. It’d be cool if when a poem of mine were rejected from a journal I received comments by which I might improve the poem. I won’t get in to the flaws in that idea; I’ve gone on long enough.

Music today:
Roy Orbison--the very best of (again, a comfort zone; despite what this lenghty might suggest I've been dreadfully busy at work)

Sons & Daughters--Love the Cup (again, more comfort zone; I do believe I'm going to have to buy me some
Arab Strap (take that as you will))

Modest Mouse--Building Nothing Out of Something (I thought this might last me 'til the end of the day. I need help. Somebody save the hand that moves the mouse! Help! I'm bleeding!)

The Zombies--Begin Here (this will save all of civilization, including the hand that moves the mouse; indeed it will trip triggers)

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Cheer and the Mirror in the Lake

Lately I’m in fast forward. Not twitchy, but I run everywhere. I almost took out a young brunette patient on my way to get my lunch earlier, clipping doctors all the way. Also lately, I’m totally cracking myself up, particularly in the car as I’m driving home, conjuring jokes and laughing out loud, wishing I had someone to share them with, feeling quickly and momentarily lonely. (Why are these walls padded?) It’s a phenomenon weird to me. (And, hey, why am I chained to the floor?) During a poetry workshop at Iowa, I was asked to read a couple of poems I had turned in for the worksheet, which we didn’t have time to discuss. It was a pair of related poems, both which came to me while I was lying on my bed one Sunday afternoon. I had just shut my eyes to nap, and then these two short poems surfaced. I don’t know where they came from but I found them crazily funny. When I began to read them in class, my voice quivered in my attempt to hold back my laughter. How narcissistic I would seem! But the inevitable smile broke onto my face and luckily some people in the class laughed so my own laughter could be less noticeable. Since I don’t claim authorship, it isn’t really narcissistic, but how could I have fully and convincingly conveyed that in the lone second I could have stuffed it into between reading the poems and laughing at the poems? Impossible. Anyway, here’s to cheer.

I doubt that when I die I will be flown in my casket first to Cairo for my funeral and then to West Bank for my burial. Oh well. I still hold to my enduring dream of ideal death: to run fast off the edge of a cliff and, after freefalling for long enough to be fun, disappear into the air. Which would make the casket unnecessary altogether. What is right for Yasser Arafat isn’t necessarily right for me.

Tunes for today:

Mojave 3--ask me tomorrow
Stereolab--Aluminum Tunes (disc 1)

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Double-Sided Coins In My Imaginary Pockets

Today is my first guitar lesson, which will take place at a music store just down the street from my house. Rock with me in spirit at 5pm Eastern Standard Time.

Today I am wearing pants made of very thin material. Every time I walk down the hall, past the people sitting, copying, faxing or otherwise, I stiffen and fear I have on no pants at all. It's disconcerting, but also entertaining.

No word yet on the reception of the imaginary cookies.

Tunes to help balance the day full of way too much e-mail correspondence with authors, doctors, reviewers, and publishers come from:
u-ziq—Tango ‘n’ Vectif (which may be my least favorite of this fella’s albums, but I enjoy it in the off hours)

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The Cookie Solution

So…I sent a letter of acceptance to an author yesterday. This morning I received a reply e-mail that said, "Good…..congratulations!" I felt immediately triumphant. And then I remembered the paper wasn’t mine; it was his. Was he being funny or sarcastic, was he congratulating himself—to me, was he kindly sharing his success with me? Today I am congratulated; weeks ago I got an f/u in response to an acceptance letter. I never know what to expect and that is what makes this trip good.


The above terms have come to me in various contexts from overseas today to reference one resolved problem or another. It’s no wonder learning another language, English in particular, is difficult and ever unpinnable.

So I’ve decided to start a business, an emperor’s new clothes sort of enterprise, selling imaginary cookies. Imaginary Snickerdoodles will be my first product, which I will launch in Ireland later on this afternoon.

Today's tunes:
Sons & Daughters--Love the Cup (acknowledge my crush on Scott Paterson)
June of 44--Tropics and Meridians (which I rarely listen to, but today I do)
Gorillaz--Gorillaz (which I borrowed from my cousin and by sheer accident never returned)

Update: I just sent my first batch of imaginary cookies to Ireland via e-mail--"Various Mythological Characters". More later on the results.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Who you gonna call?

I needed to buy a gift for a baby shower. Immediately I thought of Shin to help me out, given his expertise in the area. I "dialed" his number.

"Hi Shin. Whatryou doing?"

"Playing games on my computer."

"Oh," pause, "Whatryou doing later?"

"I don’t know. What are you thinking?"

"You wanna go to Babies R Us?"

Then there was cheering the size of a football stadium. Even those of you who know this newly bald Asian hero may not know that his real job is to assist ladies, particularly the aggressors with fast shopping carts, in their quest for the perfect baby shower gift. He’s got the eye, that diaper gleam. Just like I’m a prostitute on the side.

So we went to Babies R Us in the Sunday afternoon. The store was white, the store was pink. A lady at the registry counter, who spoke primarily Spanish, "explained" (sounds muddle in my ears) to me how the list worked and where I could and couldn’t find the items on the list. After ten minutes of my pretending full comprehension, I went away certain only that the aisles and sections were numbered. Pink circles, white numbers. The place was white, the place was pink. Heaven in corporate-world, not heaven otherwise.

We set off with our yellow handout containing the list of items we could and couldn’t buy, uncertain what most of these items were, and equally uncertain where they were--Shin in his black stocking cap, which he later rolled down onto his bald head like a condom, and I in my red cape. I came away with a plastic alphabet, each letter on a ring, and a soft elephant rattle. Then we went to Toys R Us and bought candy. I couldn't have done it alone. Or, I could have but I might still be crouched in the corner touching pillows.

Music today:
Orbital—Orbital 2
Fugazi—13 Songs

Celebrate anachronism!

Friday, November 05, 2004

Not a soap star yet but there is potential

It has occurred to me that all this Irish talk began as fantasy-talk when I swooned after my first call from the original Irish fellow (not Irish fellow 1 or Irish fellow 2), and after I crushed on Scott Paterson of Sons & Daughters. And now I believe in, and regularly think and talk about, my Irish "friends". Partly this ok because I am indeed establishing rapport with these folk (not SP, however).

This, nevertheless, is how serious delusion begins, when the world inside becomes mismatched with the world outside. (I contest that this is the natural state for everyone I have and haven't met, though.) This is how Nurse Betty cases develop.

Which means I need either to make a checklist and mark realistically on the Cartesian grid just where my relationship with each of the fellows is, or to show up in Ireland for work tomorrow morning with a harp, a Guinness, and another Guinness.

I’m going back some day…

…to Blue Bayou. You guys in?

I’m making a name for myself overseas…as an endearing space cadet. During another web conference this morning with Irish fellow 1, Irish fellow 2, who had been here in my office teaching me the ways of the online system for the journal, came in (to the office in Ireland). You may or may not remember Irish fellow 2 from a previous post: when it was time for him to leave, I enthusiastically offered him a ride to the train station, and then as we were pulling out of the hospital parking lot I realized I had no idea where the train station was. Turned out fine, we had a nice chat while we wound about town in my new Grace.

Anyway, during the conference, Irish fellow 1 says to me, "Irish fellow 2 just came in, do you want to say hi?" I say, "Sure. Hello." Speaker phone. Irish fellow 2 says, "Hi, Sara. I guess you found your way back to the hospital ok. How’s your new car?" I blush a little, laugh and say, "Yes, I found my way back. The new car’s good, though a bit dirty." Irish fellows 1 and 2 laugh. Hm, I see the scenario is known outside the main stage. Conversation carries then ends. I say to Irish fellow 1, "That was pretty funny" and explain what happened when Irish fellow 2 was here. Irish fellow 1 says, "Yeah, he just told me about that yesterday." Hm. We laugh.

There is the kind of laughter in such a situation that feels uncomfortable and leaves me red and twitch-faced for days thereafter. This was not that kind of laughter. These Irish fellows are cool, laid-back yet efficient folk. I feel comfortable like I’ve been hanging out with them for years and so I quickly move beyond the lines of formality that begin communications with new folk—which some people who hold to standard procedure find unnerving. Once you’re in, however, there is no standard. Go ahead, be informal, be frank and funny.

What’s the difference between these fellows and the other work-related people around whom I feel like the misunderstood schoolgirl freak? Nationality? Temperament? It could be there are no answers. Just the random energies of life itself, no science about it. I'm fascinated by those energies that intersect naturally, and by those that repel away in negative magnetism.

I'm not feeling very lucidly profound today, so the above stands as is. Meantime, go here to see some bad-ass pumpkin-carving.

Music today:
Throwing Muses—Red Heaven
Roy Orbison—the very best of (isn’t it all the best, though?)

Thursday, November 04, 2004

More Snippets So Far So Good

See what some folk in the UK are saying about us, or some of us, post-election (particularly the blue front page on the right in addition to the articles below...oh boy). Found via Exigent.

I’ve been editing an obituary all morning. Happy day! O! happy happy day!

Music for the happy day: 28 Days Later soundtrack, which includes Brian Eno and the best Grandaddy song. I mean it, the song’s infectious. I swear I heard Godspeed You Black Emperor! (I continue to find varying placement for the exclamation point) in the movie but there is no such mention on the soundtrack. In my world, however, GYBE is the undercurrent soundtrack with all sorts of exclamation points.

Snippets Gathered So Far So Good

A few things for the day:

For the first time since before I moved to New Jersey just over three years ago, I'm drinking my coffee black. It's an experiment.

I talked to my mom last night. Everyone in my family voted for Bush, including my little brother who is in the Navy in South Carolina and cast an absentee ballot in Illinois. Kerry won Illinois, but still. She knew I would vote for Kerry if I voted at all. We still love each other just the same.

Yesterday, The Good Doctor said, "I don’t want to hear this. This is too many Bushes." In addition, I like when The Good Doctor sees me coming with a query and says in Indian accent, "What’s up?"

After four months at this job in the hospital, I still can’t seem to get over the awkwardness I feel when passing people in the hallway, particularly those people I pass several times a day. Honestly, though, I think a part of me gets off on that awkwardness, and so I drive red into it like the rocking-horse rider, purposefully and obsessively staring at people in the hallway, without saying a word to them, forcing them to feel awkward, too. That’s sick.

Let me describe the librarian in the Medical Library here at JFK Medical Center. She is a kind, gray-haired lady who wears calm solid colors or modest flowery dresses and speaks with a serene British accent. She also speaks French and German, as I know from eavesdropping on her phone conversations. She listens to classical music all day, and on her computer screen is a waterfall falling between lush green trees. Is she real? This is more evidence that indeed I and the rest of us are part of a performance directed by The Unknown, which means that back in the day when I was wee and thought there were cameras filming me in the bathroom, I was not lunatic but right on target.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Who's Moving?

Because I don’t have a lot to do at work today I’ve been blog-hopping. So far I’ve come across posts from two friends with preliminary plans to skip the country post-election: Canada, Denmark. Who else?

Drama at the Polls

Last night I went to vote after work. After first going to the wrong place but discovering my district number while I was there, I made my way over to the Mary Mother of God church in Hillsborough, NJ. The first person I see is one of my ex-fellow teachers in the English Department at RVCC, about my age. Had barely talked to her, never liked her. Ugly vibe from the start, won't get into it. Whatever and anyway, I'm over it, I say hello and she remembers me. I explain my situation: not sure if I am officially registered because I mailed in my registration form three days late. I had slacked. She begins looking up my name, and then this old bitch sitting to the right of her points her finger at her rigidly and says, "You are not allowed to look people up. You’ve already been caught and told not to do this. You do it one more time, and you’ll have to leave." Well, well. So Old Bitch asks me my name. I explain my situation. My name is not on the list. During the weekend while I was in Connecticut, Kat had told me about the provisional ballot, that I would be able to fill one out if my name didn’t appear on the list at the polls.

OB: Your name is not on the list.

Me (consciously playing half-ignorant): Is there anything I can do about that?

OB (rigidly): No. You can’t vote.

Me: Are you sure there isn’t anything I can do about that?

OB (rigidly): No. You can’t vote.

Me (attitude shift > firmly): I was told that I can fill out a provisional ballot.

OB and this other old lady next to her look at each other obviously thinking, "Oh God, we have to do this, I hate doing this, this is such a pain in the ass." I continue to stare firmly at both of them, their eyes side-glancing at me. They know. They begin to whisper. OB complains; new old lady says, "We have to let her vote."

New old lady relents hesitantly, though not as defiantly as OB. She hands me the provisional ballot, explaining what I need to do.

This lit a fire under my cheeks. No doubt other people are more knowledgeable than I am about the voting process. I admit ignorance, and I admit shame for not being more politically aware and knowledgeable than I am. I voted for the first time in 2000. My family never spoke of politics, government, the way our country is run, so the whole business didn’t rise to importance for me until I became more aware of the world outside my head, which was recently for I am a space cadet. Frankly, I still think like most things this business is comedy, but I consider it important to put in my effort against the continuation of Bush, or to at least counteract one such vote in my household. There probably were others in my position, whether because they slacked or because of some foul-up in the registration system (for example, the guy in line behind me) who didn't get bitchy back to the OB and weren't, then, at least able to try to vote. Just another "voting machine" broken down, I guess.

And an aside: "In South Dakota, a judge ordered supporters of Republican Senate candidate John Thune to stop following Native Americans to the polls and writing down their license numbers." I hope the families of the only two people I know from South Dakota were not in on this, Mr Shirley and Mr King. Following Native Americans is not nice.

Noon Prayer

Dear God,

Please help me to write shorter blog posts lest I lose friends and general interest. In addition, if you could get rid of my allergies once and for all, that would be great.

Love – The Rock

p.s. Thank you for Brian Eno, ice cream (particularly the buy 1, get 2 free deal at Stop & Shop last night), and sunny days.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Eye Candy

Visit the sidebar in the hole. There are three new places to visit, including the one and only Mr King whose fantastic photoblog I’ve waited much too long to hoot ‘n’ holler about. See the dying sunflower. It made my body hairs soften. (Normally they’re very coarse. I’m like one big pube.)

I have reached toxicity level with this candy corn. I blame Target. Pre-Halloween I wanted a small bag of candy corn mixed with the big pieces: pumpkins, bats, witches, etc. For one, Target carries only Brach’s brand, whose yellow mellowcreme tastes like plastic yellow and not like banana, as Farley brand makes it. Neither does Brach’s make a maple piece; Farley does, however. That’s neither here nor there, though. I knew Target carried only Brach’s but I was there and was going to buy it anyway. The problem was that because of the unjust packaging I was essentially forced into spending more money on the large bag so I could get the product I wanted. There were no small bags or even plastic containers with both the corn and the big pieces; only the large, and I mean Large, bags held the mix I sought and only half-sought. I may not finish this Large Bag until Easter. Since I feel compelled to finish the damn thing and sooner than Easter, I brought it to work with me today and thought I’d have a little, and then a little more. Now I suffer from headache, mild bellyache, and twitch-face. Thanks a lot, Target. I paid an extra dollar for a bag I didn’t really want. Screwed. I suppose I could have gone without, but I am American, and that means that I run on a blind drive to consume things.

As if anyone really cares...I'm toxic.

Visit new places and have a nice day.

p.s. Anybody know anything about San Diego?

Monday, November 01, 2004

Careers by Ears

This morning it occurred to me that it might be a good idea to examine the tone and timbre of voice alone in career placement testing. Forget those easily manipulatable Q&A-gauges. I was listening to the radio on the way to work this morning, 90.9 today as finally everyone on 101.5 has come to irritate me. Perhaps it will pass. Anyway, a fellow named Alan Sloan (not sure of the spelling) was speaking. I could hardly concentrate on what he was saying because his voice sounded like that perfectly matched to a clown. "That guy would make a great clown," I thought. We already know that some people have "the radio voice", some people have no choice but to be a used car salesman, and some people are destined to be bitchy know-it-all mothers who host corny Halloween parties. This guy on the radio was a clown no question. I wonder what I sound like--a phone sex operator for pedophiles? I have long had beef with the sound of my voice unless after a night of screaming or a week of coughing. I once thought smoking would cure my little voice into husky strength, but the health risks aren’t worth the glamour of the sexy, smoky voice.