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April 28, 2005

I'm comin' out of my cage and I've been doin' just fine

This morning I wanted to keep running FOREVER! At least for three miles! (^_^) But I had time constraints, so I just did the .25 mile walk, and 2.5 mile run, and .25 mile walk. During the running, though, I just wanted to run and run and run. It's never felt quite like that before.

So. Fucking. Awesome.

I mean, last week, when I did 2.5 miles without stopping for the first time, I was pleased with myself, and it felt good from that point of view, but it was hard. Today wasn't like that at all. Today was zen; today was teetering-on-the-brink-of-orgasm (but not in an annoying way) for about a mile; today was bliss.

I have some Very Deep Thoughts about this, but I've also got a lot of work to do this evening, so I'll just repeat myself again:

DAMN! That was so much fun!

Oh, and just to make this an even better day for living in the moment and fully in my body, I'm going out swing dancing at Frim Fram with Francis.

Posted by Rose at 06:44 PM | Comments (1)

April 26, 2005

It may be the whiskey talking, but the whiskey says I miss you every day

Last night I couldn't sleep; I've had a lot of trouble sleeping over the last couple of months. It's a new thing for me, as sleeping has always been one of my favorite hobbies. When all else fails, I give up and sip a little bourbon and try to get some writing done. Fiction has been right-the-fuck out lately, though I very much want to get back to my poor neglected protagonists. Instead I've been writing up anecdotal essays, based on whatever niggles at me that day.

My friend Columbine posted some stuff about flight on his journal, and I got to thinking that he didn't know that I had once wanted to learn to fly a plane, so I wrote up a little piece about that. It mentions my dad, but the act of writing it made me miss him so terribly. He died suddenly two and a half years ago, and my mourning has been haphazard; last night I found myself on the couch sobbing fiercely over all the things I'll never get to talk to him about.


I can't remember if you ever knew this about me. It seems strange that you wouldn't know something about me, but there you go. I have always wanted to learn to fly, although the ambition has dimmed with age. My fervor was greatest as a teenager, when I read books about barnstorming. I wanted to learn to fly maybe some sort of Cessna, although sometimes I thought I wanted to fly an ultralight. The age for a student pilot's license was actually lower than the driver's license age, if I remember correctly (I just tried Googling it, and that seems true, but of course I can't check for what it was in 1986).

I read Richard Bach's book Biplane, and then his other books about flying, and eventually I read his random crappy books about spirit and wonder and soulmates (which contain some truth and a lot of crap); I was probably the only teenaged girl in the world who read those after reading his books about flight.

One day in the Gonzales library I was supposed to be shelving books, and I was instead standing by the book cart pretending to be shelving books while reading a book about planes, and a man asked me if I was interested in flying planes and I started talking to him. I still remember a little bit about him. It's been nearly twenty years, but I'm pretty sure I'm right (and was right then) that he wasn't a pervert. He flew out of the little airstrip near the Kleinpeter dairy, between Bayou Manchac and Baton Rouge. He did sometimes fly Cessnas, but he really loved flying ultralights, and he explained that you trained to fly the ultralights, and that they were one-person machines, and that your first flight was a solo, and I definitely do remember the thrill that gave me, standing there in the stacks thinking about being up in the air alone looking down over the crown cover.

I knew my dad had flown in the navy, but I didn't really know that he hadn't successfully flown in the navy, that he'd washed out of flight school. (I'd later learn why, and it's an interesting story, and much to his credit.) I hadn't told him that I'd been getting interested in flying, but I know that I thought he'd be really excited to find out. He'd be proud and happy and thrilled to find out that his daughter wanted to do one of the things that he'd done.

That guy in the library told me that if I could get to the airstrip regularly, I could trade labor for flight lessons. (He'd offered lessons, and I'd explained that I surely couldn't afford flight lessons, and he'd said many teenagers who wanted to learn to fly couldn't afford to pay, and that barter was common.) I was fucking beside myself. I wasn't afraid to work hard, and that particular kind of working hard was exactly what Richard Bach talked about in his books, the kind of grease-under-fingernails and oil-fumes-up-nostrils labor that I'd been daydreaming about while treading the wall-to-wall carpets of the parish library.

It had been about four years, so I'd forgotten about the fiasco that had ensued when my choir teacher had offered to teach me piano for free. ("We don't need charity.") It didn't occur to me that my father would accuse a stranger in the library of being a child molester. (He wasn't a pervert! He was a PATRON!) And it couldn't cross my mind that my desire to fly would bring up painful memories for my father, whose own flying career had been brought short by his disinclination to fly bombing raids over Korean villages of defenseless women and children.

Daddy said I couldn't do it. Just flat out said no. It was not the kind of no that allowed for any sophistry on my part; it was a very scary kind of no. This was just before the shit really hit the fan; this was while I still thought he'd hung the moon, and while he still thought I was his good little girl. So I didn't argue. I lost the phone number, I "forgot" about the airstrip, and I stopped reading books about flying. In fact, I've never read another book about flight since. I had a driver's license then, so it's been almost nineteen years.

I've had that span of my teenagerhood on my mind a lot lately, so when you posted your links to flight stuff that was what came up unbidden. I do know I could still learn how to fly; I'm a damn good driver, so it doesn't strike me as being impossible, but it has slipped down on my list of things-to-achieve-before-eventually-dying. On the other hand, if I want to do it, I should probably do it sooner rather than later. We shall see.

Posted by Rose at 11:37 AM | Comments (1)

First we take Manhattan

All-around clever guy Randy Cohen has written up a lovely idea in the NY Times Book Review: he proposes to create "a literary map of Manhattan -- not of its authors' haunts but those of their characters, a map of the literary stars' homes."

It's a kind of Wikipedia-like effort he envisions. Anyone can email him at and then he'll add in the information.

It's brilliant, and I hope scads of people offer up their literary knowledge, and I hope that not just because he's my pal; I hope that because I'm eager to see the ultra-cool map he gets to commission!

Posted by Rose at 12:04 AM | Comments (1)

April 22, 2005

It's gonna be the future soon*

Another new running record to report: yesterday I ran 2.5 miles in a row, huzzah! I'm looking for my first 5K race to run. I had thought I'd do the Club Atletico Mexicano's Prospect Park race on May 8th, but I will be at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival that day!

There's a 5K in Queens on May 14th. That might be the one. I'm very excited to think about entering a road race. That is just not a thing I ever thought I would one day do!

On the downside, I have been feeling the assault of tree pollen. Every year it is horrible, and then a whole year goes by and I forget how horrible it was, and then BOOM! Allergies. At least I am only allergic to trees, and so the horror and misery should be brief.

*and I won't always be this way
when the things that make me weak and strange
get engineered away

[the chorus of a wonderful and catchy song, "The Future Soon," from Jonathan Coulton's recent EP, "Where Tradition Meets Tomorrow".]

Posted by Rose at 04:24 PM | Comments (2)

April 20, 2005

Damn right I'm a maniac

I've been hoping to offer up a poem I've been working on for the last couple of days, but it just isn't coming together properly. I haven't given up on it, but it's not fit for public consumption yet.

For various reasons, I've been feeling very raw and exposed and vulnerable for the last week. Both very alone in the universe and very keenly observant of what's going on around me. That's not a bad condition for a writer to be in, but it's not very conducive to my everyday happiness. However, for the last several years I've seen my goal not as happiness, but as learning how to live in the moment. Letting myself feel how I'm feeling, instead of shunting those feelings off to the side. And that means that sometimes I'm going to feel uncomfortable in my own skin.

So here are a couple of successful poems by other people about bits of things I've been feeling lately; one of them not-at-all appropriate for the season and the other one exquisitely so.

How to Like It -- Stephen Dobyns

These are the first days of fall. The wind
at evening smells of roads still to be traveled,
while the sound of leaves blowing across the lawns
is like an unsettled feeling in the blood,
the desire to get in a car and just keep driving.
A man and a dog descend their front steps.
The dog says, Let's go downtown and get crazy drunk.
Let's tip over all the trash cans we can find.
This is how dogs deal with the prospect of change.
But in his sense of the season, the man is struck
by the oppressiveness of his past, how his memories
which were shifting and fluid have grown more solid
until it seems he can see remembered faces
caught up among the dark places in the trees.
The dog says, Let's pick up some girls and just
rip off their clothes. Let's dig holes everywhere.
Above his house, the man notices wisps of cloud
crossing the face of the moon. Like in a movie,
he says to himself, a movie about a person
leaving on a journey. He looks down the street
to the hills outside of town and finds the cut
where the road heads north. He thinks of driving
on that road and the dusty smell of the car
heater, which hasn't been used since last winter.
The dog says, Let's go down to the diner and sniff
people's legs. Let's stuff ourselves on burgers.
In the man's mind, the road is empty and dark.
Pine trees press down to the edge of the shoulder,
where the eyes of animals, fixed in his headlights,
shine like small cautions against the night.
Sometimes a passing truck makes his whole car shake.
The dog says, Let's go to sleep. Let's lie down
by the fire and put our tails over our noses.
But the man wants to drive all night, crossing
one state line after another, and never stop
until the sun creeps into his rearview mirror.
Then he'll pull over and rest awhile before
starting again, and at dusk he'll crest a hill
and there, filling a valley, will be the lights
of a city entirely new to him.
But the dog says, Let's just go back inside.
Let's not do anything tonight. So they
walk back up the sidewalk to the front steps.
How is it possible to want so many things
and still want nothing? The man wants to sleep
and wants to hit his head again and again
against a wall. Why is it all so difficult?
But the dog says, Let's go make a sandwich.
Let's make the tallest sandwich anyone's ever seen.
And that's what they do and that's where the man's
wife finds him, staring into the refrigerator
as if into the place where the answers are kept—
the ones telling why you get up in the morning
and how it is possible to sleep at night,
answers to what comes next and how to like it.


Nothing Stays Put -- Amy Clampitt

In memory of Father Flye, 1884-1985

The strange and wonderful are too much with us.
The protea of the antipodes—a great,
globed, blazing honeybee of a bloom—
for sale in the supermarket! We are in
our decadence, we are not entitled.
What have we done to deserve
all the produce of the tropics—
this fiery trove, the largesse of it
heaped up like cannonballs, these pineapples, bossed
and crested, standing like troops at attention,
these tiers, these balconies of green, festoons
grown sumptuous with stoop labor?

The exotic is everywhere, it comes to us
before there is a yen or a need for it. The green-
grocers, uptown and down, are from South Korea.
Orchids, opulence by the pailful, just slightly
fatigued by the plane trip from Hawaii, are
disposed on the sidewalks; alstroemerias, freesias
fattened a bit in translation from overseas; gladioli
likewise estranged from their piercing ancestral crimson;
as well as, less altered from the original blue cornflower
of the roadsides and railway embankments of Europe, these
bachelor's buttons. But it isn't the railway embankments
their featherweight wheels of cobalt remind me of, it's

a row of them among prim colonnades of cosmos,
snapdragon, nasturtium, bloodsilk red poppies,
in my grandmother's garden: a prairie childhood,
the grassland shorn, overlaid with a grid,
unsealed, furrowed, harrowed and sown with immigrant grasses,
their massive corduroy, their wavering feltings embroidered
here and there by the scarlet shoulder patch of cannas
on a courthouse lawn, by a love knot, a cross stitch
of living matter, sown and tended by women,
nurturers everywhere of the strange and wonderful,
beneath whose hands what had been alien begins,
as it alters, to grow as though it were indigenous.

But at this remove what I think of as
strange and wonderful, strolling the side streets of Manhattan
on an April afternoon, seeing hybrid pear trees in blossom,
a tossing, vertiginous colonnade of foam, up above—
is the white petalfall, the warm snowdrift
of the indigenous wild plum of my childhood.
Nothing stays put. The world is a wheel.
All that we know, that we're
made of, is motion.


I love both those poems. And why is it all so difficult? And all that we're made of is motion. I love that poetry is true.

Posted by Rose at 03:50 PM | Comments (2)

April 16, 2005

Two miles down, 24.2 to go!

Yesterday I set a new personal running record! I ran two miles in a row without stopping!

This is such an exciting time for me right now with the running, because I can feel myself getting stronger and faster every week. I know that progress isn't always going to seem so obvious, so I'm hoping to be able to hold onto the feeling I have now, of enthusiasm and joy and surprise at my increasing competence and stamina.

Two miles! Lookit me go!

Posted by Rose at 12:57 PM

April 11, 2005

I set off in search of my forebears, 'cause my forbearance was in need

I may never again hear "Ballad of the Sin Eater" (by my man Ted Leo) without remembering running on my old high school's quarter-mile track in glorious early morning spring sunlight. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

One of the things that helped me stay sane while I was down in Louisiana was exercising; it was such a nice, normal link to my real life back home in Brooklyn. On Wednesday of last week I went to a gym in Gonzales and worked out, because the weather was crappy. On Thursday and Friday, though, I went to the track at East Ascension High School, where I went for the three years before I graduated early.

I was an unwilling athlete in high school, because PE was taught so horribly that it just always made me feel klutzy and awful. I don't actually have particular horror stories about high school gym, but I do remember it with vaguely queasy feelings. Certainly nothing about it felt comforting or calming whatsoever.

Last week, though, that track was my respite. Thursday wasn't really the best run. It was my first outdoor run on a track since I've gotten serious about this (I tried once last year when I'd just gotten started, and ended up mostly walking). A track is not just a very long treadmill! For one thing, it doesn't have a speed control! For another, there is wind! I walked a quarter-mile to warm up, then went out too fast for my first quarter-mile of running, and really just shot my wad—I felt like crap. I ended up having to alternate running and walking laps. So I got in a fair amount of exercise, but it didn't really feel very good at all.

Friday, I went back and it was so incredibly wonderful. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, and I was on the track by a little before 8am. The temp was just below 60F, and there were only a couple of other folks out. I walked a lap to warm up, and then started running at an appropriate pace; I then ran my first complete track mile. After a one-lap break, I followed up with my second track mile.

As I finished the mile, halfway through the fourth lap, the devil got in me and I decided to sprint. I know objectively that my sprint is simply not the fastest thing going; I'd be surprised if it averaged out to a six-minute mile. But DAMN! How fun is it to go twice as fast as normal? Pretty fucking fun. That last eighth-mile was a blur of blue sky and green trees and green grass and black track and my earbuds flew out and my legs were flying and my arms were pumping and the air was still so sweet and the sun so brilliant as I came around the last bend. Of course, when I slowed up to walk it all off I thought for a moment I might puke. But I didn't.

I walked another lap and my mind wandered among several strands of thought—chief among them the absolute shining wonder of my not only coming willingly to my high school athletic field, but doing so to find solace and emotional strength.

Posted by Rose at 05:20 PM

April 10, 2005

How do you solve a problem like Maria?

Last night I flew into LaGuardia from just about a week in Louisiana. I had expected a hard trip, and the anticipation gave me fits of anxiety for the two weeks leading up to my departure. Despite my preparatory fretting, I really wasn't steeled for what the week was going to be like.

I'm going to be circling back to this topic a lot over the next few weeks, and I think the most economical way to introduce the situation with my mom is to summarize it: I realized this week that I've wanted the same thing from her for over twenty years, and I realized this week that I'm not ever going to get it.

It's not very complicated, and when I write it down in words it sounds so sad and sweet and pathetic: all I've wanted is her attention and approval. When I was a child I thought I had it, and perhaps I even did; Lord knows my mother was proud of her bright, bookish little girl. When I was a pre-teen I began to suspect that it didn't actually run very deep. There was a time when she concentrated on me quite intensely; this coincided with the start of my menstrual periods and lasted about a year.

Because I was now a young woman, it was time for me to put down my books and learn to be a young woman. And what does a young woman need to know? How to be a wife. I was eleven years old. Up until then, my mother had left me alone, and I'd get home from school, homework already finished, and I'd read. Suddenly now I'd get home from school and there'd be this shit for me to do. (I should also add here that my mother is not a very good teacher. She is impatient and perfectionistic, all about product and unclear on process, and profoundly insensitive to emotional nuances. Her lack of teaching skills, coupled with her well-intentioned, yet creepy, wife-building agenda, made these sessions horrific for me.)

I think this may have been when she figured out that she'd gotten a changeling baby, although maybe she already knew back in Arkansas in 1971, when I spat out her breast milk in favor of a bottle. Whenever it was that she came to the realization, it was when I was twelve or so that she gave up on me. Me, I was more than happy to give up on her. She made me nervous and miserable. I knew even then that I didn't like being around an irrational woman given to fits of weird, misplaced sentiment and peculiar, angry outbursts.

Anyway. I'm 33-years-old now, and I kind of thought that things might go differently on this trip. I kind of thought that with all my years of therapy, and with all those years in general, that I might be able to help us forge our relationship into a better state, one of greater closeness, or mutual recognition, or even both. I was pretty fucking full of myself.

In short? It didn't work. It's not going to work. I'll surely write more about the details, but what I'll say now is that I have done my best, and I now understand that I was doing my best twenty years ago, too, and I think perhaps I am simply alien to her in some unfixable way. I don't find that surprising, though of course it is sad. But it is not my fault.

Posted by Rose at 05:09 PM