Thursday, April 21, 2011
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Friday, April 15, 2011
These are a few of my favorite things
The way the air smells in the morning in fall. It smells like cleaning supplies and new books; dew and dying flowers. The way you look at me with your eyes that are greenbrownblue covered in glasses. The way it dies, all of it. Something tells me to look left, right, forward. We were all trembling during the final chapter and then wished we could read the book again, fresh, like we had never read it before. Every time we kiss I think of how much I love you. Every time we kissed I felt courageous. Every time we kiss I don’t taste anything, is that okay? When you hold me in your arms and I think we were made for each other and I get up and my neck hurts. You made me drink coffee and you don’t even make it anymore for me. The way you brush my hair with your fingers, like so many men are doing right now, like us, in a café somewhere.
The words felt dead on the page until I read them out loud and fall into the o’s and I’s and land in the middle of the lyrical sentences. Every word Emily Dickinson wrote. Every poem Billy Collins writes sounds the same but God, I’m telling you, it’s kind of good sometimes to read them. The way poetry brings me back to life and then kills me again at the end of each poem. The way I admit I will never be famous. The way I never submit work to literary journals. My favorite excuse: I’m not good enough. My favorite thing is everything about the page and the way it is so easy to fill it with words twirling inside my brain making their way out through bitten fingernails and soft fingers.
Memory. Picking raspberries in the backyard with my Grandmother. Camping in a pop up camper that made me think Camping was easy and cool like wind coming off the lake with the faint song of a loon miles away. Fireflies at night in a field look like little glowing periods at the end of lovely sentences. Sometimes the frogs sound like birds. A bird song scared me until I realized it was a bird song. I love the way the hair falls in my face, I might look pretty like that. The color pink makes me feel safe like it’s a big dose of Pepto-Bismol all around my consciousness. Soothing. I like the way organized books feel. Being in a library you know contains stolen kisses. Being in a nook looking out at the world unnoticed noticing the world walking back and forth.
I had a stuffed animal when I was a child named Snuggy. He was a bunny. He had no gender. Sometimes he was a girl and sometimes she was a boy. I loved snuggy. I don’t have anything amazing left to say in this paragraph except that snuggy was there for me every step of the way through childhood.
The snow falling in December, little embers put out falling to the ground. Frozen, dim fireflies fleeing the sky. A blanket of white word documents on the ground. Yellow splotches of highlighter in some places. Brown spots of color make me feel less excited to curl up in snow. Seeing my breath is never ordinary. I like looking at beautiful men and beautiful women. I like imagining them doing things like ironing or dancing ballet. Maybe they hate good literature but I imagine them reading it anyway. My birthday. My birthday and how I always manage to forget to ask for what I really want until after it’s over. The cat belly. The cat fur. The chin of a cat. Step of the cat.
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
I was fifteen when Amadeus came out. It was a long-ass movie, with an intermission, but I couldn’t get enough of it - the music, F. Murray Abraham, the story and Tom Hulce…Oh, Wolfie. If I were to see it now I’d probably think, that’s a gay man, but at fifteen I just thought, dreamy.
By Oscar time I was 16 and the film was having a long run at a dollar theatre thirty minutes from my house. My dad would let me go by myself, with my brand new driver’s license, on SCHOOL nights to watch it – again and again. He must’ve figured there were worse things I could be hooked on.
When F. Murray won the Academy Award I learned that he was raised in El Paso and his parents were still there. I started plotting how I would get into their house.
I decided a fake interview for my school newspaper was the way to go. I was not affiliated with the class I would later learn was called “journalism”. I had never written anything. I actually struggled for passing grades (sometimes forging my report card) so I could participate in theatre and dance. To boot, I looked ridiculous. I had sort of a Brian Setzer/Cyndi Lauper thing going. Think pompadoured mullet. Still, I got the phone book out and rang up the Abrahams who, just, said I could come over.
I took a clipboard with a piece of paper on it, for my ‘interview’. I did not take questions. The Abraham’s home was bright and open with congratulatory balloons and flowers everywhere. On a sliding glass door was an Amadeus poster and, on the wall, a Fruit of the Loom poster. F was grapes before he was Salieri. I didn’t write a single thing on my clipboard in the 3 hours I spent in his parent’s home.
With great pride, Mr. Abraham showed me his reel to reel player and his extensive bathroom remodel. But, of course, the Abrahams were most proud of their boy. Mrs. Abraham told me that she’d been watching the movie in a local theatre when, at intermission, she overheard two women talking about how incredible that Salieri was. She said, “I leaned in and whispered, ‘That’s my son’.”
I did not want to leave and I had no excuse to come back. “I forgot to take notes” was too weak, even for me to try. And, I finally admitted to myself that there was no casual way to ask people to be your grandparents.
After I moved to Seattle, I was leaving a coffee shop when I saw Tom Hulce walk out of a Blockbuster video. As we passed each other on the crosswalk, I averted my eyes and thought, I wish you could know how you touched my little life.
Soon after that, my brother died. That was bad enough but the circumstances around his death were dark and horrendous. I wasn’t afraid to close my eyes at night because, graciously, the only thing my brain made me see when I did was a soothing, swirling fuschia. Open eyes were problematic. If you’re me, you can still see where his name once scarred my leg. If you’re my therapist at the time, I probably wasn’t the first person you warned against trying to drink bleach. “You won’t die; You’ll just end up in the hospital getting surgery after surgery to repair the damage.”
But then Forrest showed up. I’m not embarrassed to say that Forrest Gump may have saved my life. Another long movie; I sat for hours in packed, vacant, giant and intimate theatres relieved of reality. I came to know when a crowd was about to laugh and curiously observed how different moments landed on different audiences. After the 10th or 12th viewing, I was driving home and thought, I should really commit to acting. Maybe I can make something that relieves someone someday. If it doesn’t work out, I can kill myself. Later. With that, I’d taken the tiniest step back toward the living.
Just two years before all those hours and days grieving with Forrest Gump, I’d been doing Extra work on Sleepless in Seattle. At 4AM, between takes in a restaurant, I was standing near a booth where a shot was being lit. Tom Hanks sat in the booth and yawned, then I did and he said, “Made you yawn.”
I smiled at him – unaware of how he would touch my little life.
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Aimee walked around holding people's hands. If you were walking down the street by yourself, she'd slowly come up beside you and grab your hand, as long as it was free for her to grab. She did it kindly and without being aggressive. If your hand was open and free, it would be held in her hand and you'd be walking side by side with a stranger.
Some people hated this and ripped their hand away from her, as if they were being terrorized. Some people even ran away. After all, holding hands can be the most intimate of actions for certain people. More than kissing. More than sex. Aimee knew this, but she wasn't trying to hurt anyone. She wasn't even trying to be funny. She was just trying to help.
Younger men would look at their hand in Aimee's hand and then up at Aimee's face and smirk, like it meant she was going to fuck them. Aimee walked with these men for about a block and then let go, quickly turning down a street or simply turning around and almost immediately getting lost in the crowd. These men would look for Aimee for about five minutes and then give up. Only a couple would look all day and lie in bed at night holding their right hand in their left and closing their eyes until they had a picture in their head that they could jerk off to.
Lots of people laughed when Aimee held their hand. Women would laugh and giggle and it would make their day, just to be able to tell someone else, "A stranger held my hand today."
A man named Walter didn't even feel anything when Aimee held his hand. She walked with him for blocks and blocks until they reached his apartment. He let go of her hand to take out his keys and looked at her face. First at her lips and then her nose, which was right in the middle of her face, and then he looked into her eyes for more than three seconds, which is a long time to look into a stranger's eyes. He didn't smile or say thank you or ask who she was. He just left her there in front of the apartment, where she stood for at least four minutes and then walked back the way she came from.
Tears formed in Alice's eyes when Aimee held her hand because she had always wanted to hold hands with a girl whose skin was just as soft as hers, but she had been too afraid to ask anybody. Aimee walked with Alice for what seemed like twenty-minutes and then, when Alice had stopped crying, she let go of her hand and walked away.
Aimee never asked if it was okay to hold a person's hand. She just wanted to, so she did it.
Tim had at first laughed when Aimee held his hand. He was walking home with a bag of groceries in one hand: a box of sugary cereal, two apples, two cans of soup, a loaf of crumbly bread. He gave her a look as if to say, "I think you're making a huge mistake," but when he saw her face, he could see that she clearly wasn't making a mistake. So they just walked, and as they walked, Tim began to really feel sad about Aimee leaving once they reached his door. He sat down and Aimee sat with him. He took out an apple and handed it to her empty hand. She bit into it and they sat staring at the cars passing them through the street.
And soon it felt like they were sitting right in the middle of the busy street. And it was raining. And it was snowing. And people in big cars that looked like boats were trying to parallel park around them. And it became dark outside. And Aimee held onto Tim's hand so he would know that it was okay. And he cried a little bit. And she cried a little bit too. And even though she didn't know anything about him, he felt okay being himself for a moment. And then, the sun came out. And he kept looking down at her hand to see that he wasn't alone. And that's all that Aimee wanted anyway.
Katie McMahon is a lady who lives in the North Hollywood area. She has a bachelor's degree that she keeps on her bookcase and looks at sometimes. She is getting a master's degree to put on her nightstand. Sometimes she takes pictures which you can look at here, but you don't have to if you're busy right now.
Friday, April 8, 2011
Thursday, April 7, 2011
They met at a hospital in the early ‘70s. Tom was a doctor and Connie just arrived as a new nurse. He asked a friend who she was and boasted that she’d be the girl he would eventually marry. Some mutual friends tricked them into running into each other at the bus stop, and he asked her out on a date. She immediately noticed the pack of cigarettes he had inside his breast pocket.
“No,” she said. “I don’t date smokers.”
Tom was a chain smoker who picked up the habit in medical school. At the time he had been smoking like a chimney, but he really wanted to go out with this girl. He told her he would quit. As a gesture, he threw away the Benson and Hedges and they started going out.
Six months later, Tom and Connie got married. They knew that they wanted to have lots of children since both came from large families – he with nine siblings, and she with seven. The birth of their son in 1974 was a complicated one, delivered through a Caesarian section and with a tremendous loss of blood. The doctors removed a small part of Connie’s uterus and told her that they should not try for any more kids. It was disheartening news, but they were happy to have had at least one and life moved on.
Seven years later, there was a recession in the Philippines and Tim was forced to look for work elsewhere. The country’s main export was the services of its people so it was not uncommon for the breadwinner to go abroad to earn money and send it back to a family at home. Tom was promised a teaching post in Libya. Gadhafi was already in power, but money is money, and that’s certainly better than receiving fruits, chickens and promises of favors from patients at home. When he got there, however, he ended up providing medical services in a desolate rural outpost.
After some time, a friend of Tom’s told him that the government was secretly planning to send him, a Philippine national with no actual ties to Libya besides this temporary medical post, to the front lines of battle in Chad. Having no military or combat experience (save the one-sided boxing matches he fought as a kid – he lost most of them, by the way), Tom high-tailed it back to the Philippine embassy the first chance he got and booked a one-way flight back to Manila.
Nine months later, Connie gave birth to a baby girl on Tom’s birthday. You might call my conception a mistake, or even an accident. But I like to think of it as a miracle. So something good did come out of Gadhafi being an asshole, but even that’s debatable.
Yes, they’re still together. And no, he hasn’t smoked since the day he asked her out on a first date.
3:30AM – sorry, it was 10 minutes longer than allowed.
At the moment, I am in one of my city’s 24-hour coffee shops, sitting here with other nocturnal creatures at 3AM. I have a stack of 80 undergraduate exams I have to grade – some are quite impressive, but sadly, I question whether or not some of these students bothered to show up to any classes. At the risk of violating FERPA, I might even say that some of these kids are dumber than a box of hair. How unfortunate.