31 May 2011
"i was like, 'i can't wait for dana and oline to get here to tell them about the woman with the crazy red hair.' then i realized it was you."
"i double-fucked the columbia."
"just because i think your audience will probably be jews, agnostics and atheists..."
"but i think even jews will understand that."
"i mean, who's friends with the town floozie?"
"grapefruit juice for eucharist? it's tropical jesus! he's drinking piña coladas!"
"i feel like we just cheered on a race that isn't real."
"you were killed by a secondary couponing website."
"it's totally the laser disc of writing tools."
"i don't know if bbq and a mirror is the best idea."
"oh pillowfight. we almost went! twice!"
"france is like the country where romance comes from."
"do not say 'anything' or 'nothing' - there are no existentialist stores around here."
"our thirties are going to be so awesome! IT WILL BE THE BEST SEX OF OUR LIVES!!!"
"i had more fun this weekend than i have... well, i was going to say in awhile, but then i realized that was a lie- i have a lot of fun really often it seems."
"egypt... now that would be a flashmob."
"so confusing. but i'm going to go with 'only into me when he's drunk.'"
"yeah. i feel the same way about burritos. only into them when i'm drunk."
"we're not really candid."
"is that my napkin or my pants?"
"my girlfriend from NY is coming to town, there is a wedding, and a soccer game that involves a bus."
"they're like beanie babies except you don't wind up with a plush doll at the end."
"that's the masturbating party girl."
"i don't think she's masturbating."
"i don't know, it sounds pretty solo to me."
"is it the rapture yet?"
"i'm on board with the love and the friendly hippies. they have good food."
"i don't know how i feel about men's shoes that click."
"you just sort of sat. that doesn't equate to a frolic."
"oh babe. you're glowing!"
"now that I’ve put more nail into the ‘oline will never want kids’ coffin…"
"what is her... um... preference?"
"that question stemmed from both haircut and golf shirt. which are totally not things to define a person, i know."
"i envy her toned arms."
"i have real, actual money left over."
"how amazingly lindear is this???"
"i totally understand: you still want it to be, even though you don't want to publicly want it to be."
"...in a b-game outfit..."
"what made me be okay with her is my sloooowly acquired knowledge that some people are really, truly, actually like that."
"anyone who is still obsessed with their wedding from 2009 is not okay with me."
"you remember her... the woman who interviewed me three times this summer and made me submit four writing samples and then didn't hire me?"
"it's the year i regrew my virginity."
"things that dicks say for $1,000, alex."
"the faster things take off that means the quicker i have to clean my apartment."
"shredded carrots, oatmeal, salsa, tomato, and ground turkey. who knew?"
"can you feel the size of my brain swelling? all the learnicating."
"people view healthy eating as a real asshole thing to do."
"how does one DEAL with bad hair day as a redhead?"
"i yearn for cheese on toast."
"please celebrate. it is my first ever major electronical purchase without a boyfriend."
" i can’t figure out how to stretch it out and also not look like a wolf howling at the moon."
"i so aged during those 3 hours. on wooden benches. in a hot gym."
"my highlights are the diet, the roof, and the meatloaf!"
"how brave of it to go off all by its lonesome."
"i greet every compliment with 'i haven't washed it in DAYS!' which is probably not the best policy."
"i’d be cute if i were in a kevin smith movie."
"they have to be going to a show because that's an unusual amount of neon."
"little did i know you used to speak ebonics."
"food helps, of course."
"i don’t know about you but as soon as i realized that kirk cameron didn’t go anywhere, i knew we were all ok."
"really all you need to know is that kitty kelley asked if i was prepared for a cash bar."
"god, how did we survive high school without puking every day?"
"it will give you a chance to simplify your emotions. or at the very least, your dreams."
"we sacrifice a lot for your dead lover."
"i'm just saying, if 30 keeps up this pace, i may not make it to 31."
30 May 2011
because, oh my god, the ooooooooohs, they are so good.
and there are some songs that really really need a 4th verse
that is a precursor to a song that's three years away from being written...
29 May 2011
28 May 2011
27 May 2011
there's a jackie relative who's willing to talk to me. when we spoke on the phone last august, he said, well, you know, jackie loved parades and, as well as i think i know her, i did not know that.
i've not met with this man for a million reasons. because i didn't have the money, i didn't have the technology, i didn't have any questions and i didn't have the emotional wherewithal to arrange for a rental car in a city whose website explicitly warns that there is no available parking and it is stupid to drive.
but mostly i have not met with this man because there's a fool voice in the back of my head that says that meeting with him would somehow expose the severity of my limitations. this is the same voice that says my work should unfold in a neat and tidy way, that all risks are inadvisable and standing still is by far for the best.
i'm fairly certain that voice is a vile bitch. because neat and tidy isn't the answer. quite often you have to make a big old mess.
if you know exactly what you're doing, where you're headed and how, you will likely get there, but you might also miss out. because it's by taking the risks and the paths you never planned to go down that you wind up doing the really really interesting things. the things beyond what you can dream.
there's a jackie relative who's willing to talk to me. i'm likely imperilling his life by admitting it, but, all these months later, i am finally ready for him.
26 May 2011
i saw the marrieds over the weekend. we toured viriginia wine country, discoursed on the masturbation cures of w.k. kellogg and, in general, ate like kings. it was lovely, lovely.
in the course of this, mrs. married said it has been hard to keep up with what i'm doing and asked what, precisely, i am working on now.
which is funny because i have no idea.
i went to washington to network with other people who love dead people and determined to sell myself as a biographical editor/researcher/assistant/anything for the very practical reason that if i'm going to keep doing this beyond august, then i'm in dire need of another revenue stream.
that was the plan. i was going to focus on getting money and worry about jackie when i got home.
when i saw her at breakfast, stacey schiff (of whose memory i am now in awe) asked, is it still all jackie all the time? and i shrugged my shoulders and said, eh, because it really wasn't.
but then people asked who my subject was and when i said jackie they kind of rolled their eyes and started to walk away and there was nothing to do but put on my full jackie: the tabloid years regalia and stop them and say, wait. you really don't even know.
and their eyes would widen and, by conversation's end, i'd have them nodding away and riddled with envy over the awesomeness of my research materials.
i went to washington to make money and returned ready to kill the first 150 pages of the book i wrote five years ago and begin at the beginning. with that paragraph i put down on paper in january 2004 for the first assignment in tracey weiner's "writing biography" class.
at the time, i thought it was the first paragraph of the twelfth chapter of a book i'd not yet written, but i was wrong. it's page one.
25 May 2011
this is THE PASTA OF OUR LIVES.
for reals. i gave my mother a box for christmas and my parents have called every time they've eaten it since to thank me.
so yeah. go forth. buy a box. get your vegetables and your carbs. and be happy.
this is likely not the year i'm going to istanbul, so last night k.clen and i hit up the chicago turkish festival. from this, we learned some important things: turkey is windy and cold and if you give a turk $10, he'll give you all the food you want.
in the mid-90s there were these posters. i'm sure they had a name, but i don't know it. regardless, there were these posters and you were supposed to stand and stare and squint at just the right angle and then suddenly, from among 800 thumbnails of al gore or whatever, the image of a dolphin would emerge.
once you'd seen the dolphin, there was no not seeing the dolphin.
and if you didn't see the dolphin, those posters just really pissed you off.
writing is like those posters. in the sense that once you've glimpsed the possibility, you can't ever not see it. nor can you really show it to someone else.
my vision of precisely what it is i'm trying to do is blurred at best, but occasionally it comes into crystalline focus. and, as though the sun has slipped out from under a cloud, there are these moments where everything is entirely possible and the path is perfectly clear.
the trouble with these moments is that they do not last. and they are few and far between. to date, i've had two.
one in new york in march as i walked down 6th avenue in the rain listening to "down in the valley" on repeat. the other this past weekend in washington, when a two mile hike to the lincoln memorial done in ill-advised flats felt like nothing because i was walking on air.
i'm not an expert, i'm barely a writer and i've no clue what i'm doing beyond the fact that i'm, at present, not writing at least four different things. but the one thing i do know is that there are these moments and they are the key.
they must be felt to the fullest. lived. savored. sunk into like a hot bath at a long day's end.
because, on most days, the only thing that rings true is that i will wind up abandoned, incontinent and riddled with mouth cancer. yet, in the midst of that black pit of impossibles, there are still these moments, and they are enough.
once you've glimpsed the possibility, you can't ever not see it. once you've seen the dolphin, it is always there.
24 May 2011
biographers don't eat. at their conferences the food is placed strategically just beyond the bar, which is surrounded by such a crush of people that one can never break through.
in my many futile attempts to reach the mountains of canapés i could see on the other side of the room, i spent a significant portion of this weekend's conference in lines leading to bars, which is where this question always seemed to be making the rounds: how much sleep do you get?
biographers don't sleep. the hourly average among them was four. people looked at me with wide-eyed wonder and blatant envy upon the admission that i'd been clocking in at five and a half. my smugness was short-lived.
before leaving for DC i'd resolved that the summer belonged to jackie and that she was going to get an hour every morning.
i'm back from DC. jackie's getting her hour. last night i got four hours of sleep. it has aged me a bare minimum of 800 years, but there is a silver lining: i'm a biogapher at last.
please, from wherever you are in the hereafter, please appreciate that:
i am your longest relationship.
you and me, we are so far beyond common law married.
and so it seems like nothing to give you 5 more of my years.
even if i have to wake up an hour earlier.
and spend a small fortune.
and never ever sleep.
and take you across the country and half-way round the world.
we are on our way, you and i.
so all i ask is this, dear jackie:
earn me $25 by 2016.
that's absolutely all i need from you.
and then we'll call it even.
forever and ever,
23 May 2011
it's not an exaggeration to say that i blew into DC with the most badly packed suitcase ever in the history of ever.
4 pairs of shoes.
3 days in town.
even at the most superficial level, it's plain as day that math doesn't work.
so you can imagine the sense of doom i experienced when, upon pulling the fancier of the two dresses from my bag thirty minutes before the reception at which i was due to wear it, i discovered a constellation of stains had bloomed all down the front of the skirt.
i can improvise under pressure. that's not to say i make excellent life choices, just that i can often think on my feet and not totally cock up. often, but not always.
thirty minutes before i'm due at kitty kelley's, i'm standing in a hotel bathroom in my underwear attempting to eradicate the spots on my fancy dress through the application of water and the deployment of a hairdryer, a process that- given that i'm performing it on silk- only adds a larger, secondary layer of spots over the preexisting spots to create- at crotch-level- an effect best described as aurora borealis.
it takes ten minutes to choreograph and commit to memory the stance necessary to conceal said stains: shoulders back, right hip popped, right arm at a 120° angle in front, handbag held vertical.
only after perfecting this posture do i see the other stain.
i can often improvise under pressure but sometimes you're simply doomed. placing all hopes in an early sunset and the notion that kitty kelley was likely a woman who likes her lights low, i wore the dress.
that evening- shoulders back, right hip popped, right arm at a 120° angle in front, handbag held vertical- i pretended i wasn't wearing a stained dress and gave my best impersonation of a witty, world-class biographer. or at the very least, a woman you would want to edit your book.
as i stood there, precariously gesturing with a glass that seemed to be weeping with condensation, the heel of my gold payless shoe caught within one of the many trenches comprising kitty kelley's treacherously bricked back yard, an incredibly glamorous author's wife, on whom i developed an immediate girl-crush, complimented my appearance. she said i looked "so very belle époque."
after the reception, after the glamorous author's wife and i had removed our stilettos and walked through the side streets of georgetown in bare feet talking about the books we read in high school and our shared mississippi heritage, after i'd caught a cab and was back at the hotel- i looked in the mirror, at my beautiful dress and all its horrible stains. and i smiled.
because i was very nearly entirely certain that as i stood there in kittey kelley's garden, no one had seen it. the spot on the back of my dress. the ones on the front, yes, likely, but not the spot on the back. not the round one that looked like a shooting target circle, right center of my ass.
22 May 2011
20 May 2011
i come from an enthusiastic family. like, really enthusiastic. if you've ever spent three minutes with my father, that should come as no surprise.
my father's enthusiasms tend to be of the dire kind. everything is inevitably going to be the end of the world. i, on the other hand- and perhaps precisely to compensate for that- fall at the other end of the spectrum. everything is inevitably going to be the best thing to have ever happened to us in all our lives.
so- as you've likely noticed here- i'm totally way into excitingments.
so i'm just going to state this for the record now: get ready. it is going to be the summer of our lives.
19 May 2011
oh, mother dear,
we're not the fortunate ones
croftie is convinced this is the year we're going to get published.
she tells me this on our crepe date, over a glass of chapoutier. hearing the unflinching conviction in her voice, i have no doubt that this is the year she will.
but then croftie always has high, high hopes. croftie always gets things done. because croftie has a work ethic that would shame ben franklin and to which the rest of us layabouts can only ever hope to someday aspire.
odds are this is not the year i will get published. because i am somewhat less determined. i prefer to indolently anticipate disappointment and perhaps one day be pleasantly surprised. in the words of my father, i am an "optimistic fatalist," who is a master of the "artful lollygag." this is not a compliment.
and it's not due to laziness or lack of material or a great deficit of distinctly unsouthern belle Big Ambitions. i'm writing myself off as unpublishable because, at the moment, i have yet to ratchet up whatever it is that it's going to take to write what's next.
which makes it sound far more important that it really is. it's not the gospel. or an epic. or, heaven help me, Fiction. obviously, it's just biography and it's just jackie- a subject that is the biographical equivalent to the beauty pageant answer "world peace."
so in the large scheme of things like God and gawain and foer, it is relatively unimportant that there's this jackie book i'm meant to write. the jackie book i wanted to write even before i wrote the jackie book i ultimately did write.
and it's fairly inconsequential that this is THE jackie book and that i really really don't want to write it because it is an inferno of impossibles. and because biography done well is damn difficult and i'm not ready to damn myself just yet.
something i should have thought of before mentioning this jackie book to the world famous biographess when we were lunching in new york. before casually tossing it out over the humus plate in the simple hope of garnering that amorphous credibility that comes from the respect writers have for one another's as-yet-unacted-upon Great Ideas.
it is a great idea so i was stupid not to have foreseen the explosion of enthusiasm its revelation would trigger. i should've anticipated the overpowering gung-ho.
there are three reasons why this project, this jackie book- otherwise perfect- appalls me to no end:
1. it involves a language i do not speak.
2. it involves money i do not have.
3. it involves sources that do not exist.
never mind that the few sources that do exist appear to be systematically dying off as i approach them.
there's an elvis song entitled "it's impossible." the actual opening lyric is "it's impossible to tell the sun to leave the sky." my family, big fans of bastardy, bastardized this line into the distinctly different yet equally truthy observation that "it's impossible to stick a piano up your nose," the sentiment that perhaps most accurately captures my feelings towards this jackie book.
i do not say any of this to the world famous biographess when, three months later during our endnote business, she digresses and returns to the subject of the dreaded jackie book. this evil book that couldn't care less that i'm not yet ready to write it and is apparently going to railroad it's way into my life and be an abominable inconvenience.
i do not tell her it's a piano up my nose. instead i nod and smile as she tells me jackie book's time has come (it hasn't). that it is a story that MUST be told (not really). NOW (noooooooooo).
it could be a documentary! a mini-series! a sophia coppola-directed feature film!
the world famous biographess tells me this and only then does she avert her gaze toward her falafel and drop the bomb for which i have been waiting all these months.
that it would be better were i an academic or an older, previously published white man (sadly, i am neither), because there is no funding for girls like us.
a sentence that, just hearing it spoken, i know is going to be hell on earth to repeat to my parents.
when i do, a full week and a half later, the response is predictable. my mum says- her voice fraught with the hope that her daughter is the reasonable, financially cautious young woman she was raised to be and an inkling that she probably isn't- well, cupcake, maybe someday you can really do it, but the timing's just all bad right now, right?
and i couldn't help but laugh. because though i'm a woman of few philosophies, the one i've held most dear is that one must imagine somewhat more boldly than may be socially acceptable and that when things are at their most inconvenient and impossible, that's when they'd really best be done.
which is essentially what the world famous biographess meant when she said, we're story-tellers and, really, nothing else matters when you've a story to tell.
so maybe croftie's right. maybe it is the year we get published. or, if not, maybe it's the year that- without french or funding and with sources dying right and left- i finally try to tell this story that all the older, previously published white men have inexplicably overlooked. and who knows. maybe there's a reason they missed it. maybe it was left for me.
i know this because the old man loves him some gossip and not three minutes after its occurrence this was a story he immediately related to me in all it's glory, making liberal usage of the words "pussy" and "balls." which would've been horrifying were it not the absolute funniest thing to have ever happened in the history of the world.
because, really, how often does one's 85-year-old employer look earnestly up and ask: caroline, in all the years you've known me, caroline, CAROLINE, really, have i ever been a pussy?
this likely matters to no one but me and caroline kennedy, but, i swear, people, it's important. and it seems somehow more important this year than ever before.
in the schematic of my life, this day is monumental. 19 may 1994. i've celebrated it for the last 17 years and, every year, lamented the lack of commemorative news coverage. (if you're a newcomer, read THIS and THIS and this'll make more sense.)
i was wearing a green t-shirt and white shorts and sitting in mrs. watson's 4th period science class. and i absolutely swear to you, this was huge. i would not be a writer were it not for this. i would not be in chicago. there would be no oline in the city. you would not be here. there would be no here here. jackie, she's a big fucking deal.
she is why i write.
on two separate occasions last friday, i was confronted with the question: so what's happening with jackie?
on my lunch break, my mother asked it over the phone, as i slipped my bare feet into the frigid waters of the small stream that runs through the little garden that's sprung up by the art institute.
i counted the change accumulated at the bottom and wondered how big a wish one gets for 16 cents.
and then there it was again, when k.lo leaned over the table at katie i's peruvian birthday dinner and asked the exact same thing. i was halfway through a virgin daiquiri, which- it was increasingly clear- was, in fact, not a virgin.
what is happening with jackie?
it's a question for which i have no answer, but i've got ideas. huge, incredibly expensive, wildly implausible, recklessly bold, impossible to execute ideas.
but if the jackie i love- the jackie of the 70s, the jackie whom history has erased and who went braless and saw sex movies and married a greek- has taught me anything, it is that life is an adventure. that we must always be present. that anything is possible. and anything can be.
18 May 2011
so THIS is exciting.
what i remember about the 13 year cicadas of 13 years ago is that it was the year before the year i graduated high school. at the graduation ceremony for the class above me, i was to be turning pages for bobby lutrell, with whom i was co-accompanist for the centennial high school choir- a position i prized as being infinitely sexier than being in the band though, in retrospect, it kind of really wasn't.
bobby lutrell was super cute. like inappropriately cute for 11th grade. he had this floppy hair and a vaguely ethnic background that lent him a perpetual tan. and on top of the hair and the tan, he freaking played the piano. the monday after titanic came out, he was playing "my heart will go on" by ear. there is a part of me that still believes he was totally my destiny. or gay.
but the problem with bobby lutrell was that he knew he was super cute, a fact i- an enlightened and tortuously humble southern baptist young lady- felt should have rendered him repulsive.
mind you, it didn't, but it should have, and so i never even fully acknowledged to myself that i was thoroughly in love with him at the time. a matter further complicated by the fact that i was becoming slowly entangled with partner's then-boyfriend whom i would, within six months, date and make gay. and, of course, the joint crush that partner and i had harbored for peety for years and years and years.
so high school was confusing. even before the cicadas.
in the midst of that stew of adolescent angst, in that summer of 1998, the cicadas came. we knew three things about them:
(1) they were nasty, big-ass bugs
(2) they were attracted to noise
(3) their only goal in life was to mate
i remember thinking about this then. as i stood at an outdoor graduation ceremony, turning the pages of music while the boy who knew how cute he was banged loudly on a heavily mic-ed percusive instrument alongside a group of 100 people singing at top range.
i remember tossing my hair in a way i thought bobby lutrell would be sure to find attractive and thinking, this is totally the best place to be when the cloud of sex-crazed bugs comes rolling in.
17 May 2011
i'm totally a child of the american 1980s and, in the american 1980s- or at least in my little corner of it- there was this age of innocence before the challenger explosion where people really thought we would one day be living in space. to that end, there was a sense that we should be getting ready.
my family, enthusiastic as ever, did its part. we got ready by being freaking obsessed with freeze-dried food. because, i guess, for southern people food is always the primary concern. but, seriously. i look back now and i'm all like, why?! surely we didn't really believe we eatons would be eating on the moon. sadly, i think we maybe did.
we were particularly preoccupied with the ice cream, which is both unsurprising (given my predeliction for dairy) and shocking (given the abject nastiness of what apparently passes for dairy in space).
the freeze-dried ice cream we "enjoyed" was meant to approximate neopolatin. it was a chunk of a chalk-like consistency with three sections, dyed alternately pink ("strawberry"), brown ("chocolate") and white ("vanilla"). and yes, the scare quotes are necessary. these flavors, they were aspirational, not actual.
the ice cream also had the extra-exciting feature of coming in a package clearly manufactured by the makers of capri sun, so you had to bust into it with a great gnashing of teeth, which would've been an intolerable inconvenience were we ever actually eating it in space. but we did not think of that then, so consumed were we with pride over our preparedness for the inevitable eventual time when we would one day live in orbit.
the notion that we would one day live in space was always presented with a degree of urgency. it not only would happen, but really, really soon.
fyi- i'm thirty(ish). i may be ready but i still do not live in outer space.
if you're like me today and wanderlusting,
there's plenty of danishness to be had: