31 October 2011

0 lit up

in december of 2004, burvil fell and broke her hip. four days later, we spent a night together in the north mississippi medical center tupelo hospital during which both of us believed she was going to die.

this was my first brush with true disaster. having watched at least three documentaries on titanic, i felt fully prepared. on my way to the hospital, i raided the christmas aisle of the grocery store for festive things, as i did not yet know there is nothing more depressing than the sight of sad people in santa hats.

burvil fell on a tuesday. december 13th. she was standing on a stool pulling christmas decorations from a cabinet when she fell.

my grandfather wondered how long she lay there.

he and i sat at an empty orange table in the hospital cafeteria- the jello cup i bought with my own money stood abandoned between us- thinking of how this woman we've known for forever, this 75-year-old woman who had never before been broken, pulled herself across the unmopped kitchen floor and called him on the phone.

burvil fell on tuesday, december 13th. the day joe turned 74.

when we returned to her room, i encouraged everyone to leave. i swore i'd everything under control. when they departed, i stood at the door of room 204, waving, as though i had been accorded a tremendous honor i was grateful to be accepting on tv.

by the time they return in the morning, i will have worked everything out. the sanitized version of what happened that night. i will know how the story is to be told and that the punchline is: "burvil said 'porno'!"

i will know there are things my parents must never know.

i've failed to mention that this was the year my father discovered he could stuff christmas lights in wine bottles and make pretty.

the lights in the bottles were a fairly simple thing, but evidently no one had seen anything like it at the time. upon entering burvil's room, every nurse asked, HOW did you do THAT? like it was a christmas miracle rather than a simple matter of coaxing a string of standard fairy lights down a bottleneck.

the bottle of lights sat on a plastic chair by the bathroom. an object of such glory that, in a room with very limited furniture, it warranted the last available place to sit down.

i don't know when i started saving bottles. somewhere in the mess of disasters and people i love being hospitalized in late 2009, i suddenly found i could not throw them away. i needed them.

the bottle of lights is what i remember about that night in the hospital when my grandmother and i both believed she was going to die.

during the four hours she was gone- in the middle of the night when they'd finally taken her away for the test for which we waited all afternoon- i sat in her hospital room. alone. in the dark. with the light.

8 october: a revue

"things i think you will appreciate: today i dressed like a mime."

"i have a chronic planning condition."

"i was just like jesus, except different."

"dear chick-fil-a cow, there's no winning me over from inside that suit."

"it could be like our own version of the purple hat club! except we aren't older. and we never had cancer."

"if you are working on Life Plans, then i can see the disappointment if you were banking on more."

"y'know, sometimes i forget you have a child. do you ever forget it?"

"now that levi has started a relationship with his uncle in new mexico..."

"they are, accordingly, steely and sore."

"and i bought a fun non-work-appropriate dress for being SOCIAL."

"let us find consolation in the fact that, in a world where very few things are ever certain, he is still a douche."

"i would be up-front about it and say, 'hey, my intentions are totally dishonorable and i'm not just saying that to be coy but really mean it.'"

"i don’t know if i’m more offended by the crudeness, or the obnoxious use of 'LOL'."

"sorry that my reproductive cycles are dominating my life choices right now."

"in her mind, she thinks, 'why put in the effort? i’d rather be unusual and handsome.'”

"i think there's a lot of people in this country who are afraid of aborting jesus."

"hello, 1999. i'm still a friend."

"hey, i have a penis that could cause warfare."

"by the power of this coors lite, i shall remember."

"i could sense that we needed to be his fairy godmothers and get him married."

"ohmygod, i almost forgot to mention the fake penis."

"they've got this whole crazy set-up with lights and sound and the little 'take two' board thing."

"Dicks of the Animal Kingdom is going to save lives. i mean, spiritually. Touched by an Angel-style. except, like Touched by Animal Dicks."

"i am a shameless quote floozy."

"it was like those penis straws you get at bachelorette parties."

"i liked him. he was like greenpeace personified."

"so at this point we're in an alley and ten feet from a train track... so, basically, the perfect setting for a hate crime..."

"i want to BE your google reader."

"geez. they call this strange and then tout making wine glasses from doll heads?"

"clearly clooney favors our generation."

"as for the new shakespeare movie, anonymous, keep in mind that it's coming from the director of godzilla, the patriot, 2012, the day after tomorrow, independence day, as well as the unforgivably terrible 10,000 b.c. of course, if you like your shakespeare with an impossibly large amount of pyrotechnics, wooden dialogue, and the most blatant disregard for historical accuracy and/or plausibility, it's bound to be an absolute gem."

"clearly i'm too old for trysting."

"i was just talking to oline and she was telling me about the wang panties..."

"we might have to have an intervention about those faux hair pieces."

"you don't have carrie bradshaw moments about your husband."

"silly fun is good."

"what is the appropriate verb for that? played?"

"HOW are you ALIVE????"
"i'm pretty sure it has not hit me. i'm also equally sure that it will."

"this will open so many doors, although i cannot back that statement up in any way."

"i need to learn to cook for people for whom i do not possess overwhelming sexual desire."
"yes! i encourage this platonic cooking endeavor!"

"i think that was us just reading too much into other people's email etiquette."

"just for a week, i would like to have cameron diaz’s life but none of the consequences."

"am i your defacto barny stinson?"

"nothing about you says gretel."

"it was hard to pee with the whole world between my legs."

0 o young oline, everyone loves halloween!

28 October 2011

4 hot child in the city

we've a phrase in my family that's invoked during the unfolding of any activity/circumstance/event of which my grandmother would expressly not approve.

don't tell burvil.

mind you, the specter of burvil's disapproval doesn't discourage us from engaging in said activity/circumstance/event. but it does give us a moment of pause.

all that to say it's going to be a night of much we won't tell burvil.

tonight, i am going clubbing. with my cousin. who is, shall we say, quite young.

are you jealous? i know you are. you're freaking keeled over with envy, because who wouldn't be? it's friday night and i'm clubbing with my college-age cousin. what 30-year-old woman doesn't long to say the same?

the only thing that could improve upon the idealness of this scenario? if i were two days removed from a diagnosis of four separate infections so that my preparations for the night of clubbing with my cousin could involve donning a mini-dress and mainlining decongestant.

but, wait!  that's totally how it's happening! the stars, they have aligned!

i assume this evening will be epical. really, how can it not be? 

cousins! clubbing! guaifenesin! cigars!

we keep only the best things from burvil.

3 today, on this day, last year in oline history

we went to aurora for chick-fil-a.

26 October 2011

6 #4

a gig has landed in my lap.

actually, it landed in my lap back in august and despite the passage of two months, i've still not really wrapped my mind around its being in my lap so it feels entirely too tenuous and fleeting a thing to be writing about.

still, the things i don't write about don't feel real. that's why i'm writing about it now. so it'll be real.

in landing in my lap, this gig has thrown a spotlight on my new habit of procrastinating on the things that i will ultimately do and yet find terribly daunting until they're done.

stupid things.

things that are really, in the large scheme of all the other things, not scary.

i should never have flown that plane. because flying that plane revealed that my spirit of adventure has limits. that there is a threshold of endurance and beyond it a whole world of things i do not have the nerve to do. flying a plane, for instance.

the gig that is sitting in my lap is going to be daunting as hell, but good. it's going to lend me the illusion of a great influence i do not yet possess and fill my bookshelves with advance copies.

now that i've written about it, finally, it feels real. now that it feels real, i've nearly the nerve to do it.

2 Movies You Really Should've Seen By Now If You Want To Consider Yourself A Grown Person: Bubba Ho-Tep

hell yeah.

you totally should've seen bubba ho-tep by now. otherwise, how are you going to know that you love low-budget horror films and possess a latent undying affection for bruce campbell?

for those of you, like me, who feel everything must be justified through the lens of learning, bubba ho-tep teaches us so much. about egyptian history. about mummies. about how elvis totally faked his own death and about the conspiracy to keep jfk alive by dying him black and putting him in a nursing home.

bruce campbell! elvis! black jfk! mummies! watch!

25 October 2011

4 you must

read this.

2 the 500

we are writing in a ridiculous time. a historical moment in which editors have decided that everything of value can be said in under 500 words.

this presents an interesting challenge. it demands a concision that doesn't come naturally and fierce editorial ruthlessness. and so your words (your precious ridiculously hard to get out of your head onto paper in the precisely right way so that they make sense to other people and yet are still true to what you originally intended words) are stretched to the very max.

everything i've published has dropped 900+ words in the process. essays that were met with resounding rejection at 1,300 have gone on to be heralded as universally appealing to all humanity when they're trimmed to an anorexic 497.

in the process, i fear, they are stripped of the reasons they were written. they wind up mere ghosts of a thought that was once complete.

and i can't help but wonder (a) will this trend toward brevity last? and (b) will my norton anthology "did you know?" box note that everything i ever published possessed "a general incompleteness," as though 900 words had wandered off?

4 done.

24 October 2011

0 home.

2 there is a time for everything

there was a god. that i believed. what i didn’t know was why, while other people found god in white rooms and were born again and clapped on beat, i felt nothing but numb and deeply unrhythmic.

i'm kind of pissed at god right now, i told my parents. for good measure, i repeated it. i'm kind of pissed at god.

i was living in chicago. they were in memphis. i had called them to say, without preamble, that i was severely displeased with our lord. the gasp of horror echoed down the phone line and put a chill into my bones.

i didn’t know what was more scandalous— that i was mad at the almighty or that i'd said the word "pissed" to my parents.

ever the polite southerners, they went spontaneously deaf.

but i was pissed.

the next day, i awoke early and dressed. at 11 a.m. on a sunday, i got on my bike and went down to the beach. i set my bible in the sand and removed my shoes. i stood there, silent, staring out into the distance, braced against the stiff wind blowing off the great lake. waiting for god.

the runners and bicyclists sped past, their steps and the whir of their wheels and the waves sounded like the beat of angel’s wings.

they went past as i stood there. waiting. still.

it was a move that netted me nothing more than a wicked case of windburn and an ever-increasing sense of betrayal.

in the church i grew up in, we were taught to expect much: rebirth, eternal life, christian community and an unceasing closeness to god. along with that came the sense that if your faith was valid, if you really really believed, that belief would come easily- without doubt, without anger, without wavering, without fear.

i think that's wrong, and i think it's wrong that it isn't discussed.

i waver every day though i believe with all my heart.

6 thoughts on adventures upon which i did not intend to embark but nonetheless apparently already have (ie. this is why i loathe the library)

i've lived in chicago 5 1/2 years, but i didn't get a library card until this past june. you may remember it as that morning when, from the general direction of south carolina, you heard a walloping hurrah.

i've mixed feelings about the library because borrowing books from the library exacerbates my fundamental character flaws. namely, a deep-seated avaricious need to accumulate books and words, and a ceaseless desire to please.

case in point:

a few weeks ago, weighed down by a pile of biographies and badly written jackie books, i decided to wander into more light-hearted territory. enter THIS scathing review and georgette hayer, prolific writer of regency romance.

i immediately checked out not one of her novels but eight.

when i went to pick them up, the librarian gushed in wonder. she assured me, georgette heyer was going to change my life.

georgette heyer did not change my life. because georgette heyer is bad. and not in the way that the thorn birds and forever amber are bad. not even like lace- where we open with an abortion scene and immediately move to a woman we don't know entering a room and saying to three other women we don't know, "which one of you bitches is my mother?" no, no. that is good bad.

georgette heyer is bad, bad. to an extent that you are aware of the badness but it doesn't make you want to laugh. it is, instead, burdensome and unenjoyable to a profound degree. for example, the word "pudding-heart" is deployed frequently. without irony.

i would write this off as a wasted day of reading and abandon georgette heyer and her pudding-hearts were it not for the fact that when i returned to the library this week to check out yet another jackie book, the librarian recognized me. she said, you are the girl who is reading all the georgette heyer novels.

and, because it was early and i'd not yet had coffee and, therefore, didn't parse the implications of her word choice, i agreed. i said, yes, i am.

and so now, because this librarian has printed me a check-off list and is cheering me on in my "ambitious literary pursuit," i am the girl who is reading all the georgette heyer novels. all 55.

23 October 2011

0 :)

“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out.”

-Sylvia Plath

21 October 2011

4 soundbites from the naked lady bar: "we do really well on panels"

"i regularly search amazon for you."

"some of this stuff, i just want to die when i read it."

"i wonder sometimes if people respect him."

"that is, like, rhetorically astounding."

"i think that should be the title of the panel: 'you're in MAPH... you're never going to have a career.'"

"i just have to drink a lot today because it's International Writing Day."

"it's like you're happy to be a peon."

"all of this shit that seems like 'that would never happen?' it totally happens in academia."

"did you just say 'douche nozzle'?"
"yes, and then he said, 'open your mouth.'"

"you have undermined everything you've ever done."
"we should put that on something... t-shirts!"

"i mean like, bang that shit while you can because when you get back to the real world, you aren't going to have anything."

"this is by far the dumbest email i've seen."

"in other words, in MAPH, people have one range of experience, which is poverty."
"and panels! we do really well on panels."

"what an unexpected place!"
"bridge troll peon, adjunct professor, freelance biographer."

"if you go to MAPH, you will aspire to be a bridge troll."

"MAPH was, like, wholly bereft of numbers."

"MAPH: i don't know how to talk about it."

"i got a masters of arts in the humanities degree with an emphasis in rhetoric and worry."
"and anxiety and drinking."

"our diplomas, let's be honest- the whole thing looks like it was made at kinkos the night before."

"it's just an angry internet comment- that's all our diplomas are."

"it was the stepping stone to the rest of our lives but unintentionally, i mean, whoops!"

"when they told me they were accepting the story, it really felt like losing my virginity."

"what's a moravian feast?"

"i mean, i was THERE and i was like, 'i can't even believe it.'"

"how the fuck did i get through MAPH without coffee?"

"i was reading this and it was like science fiction. how did you get through MAPH without coffee?"

"i mean, if i saw a moravian..."
"they look like people."
"but i mean, how would i know?"
"i don't think you would."
"the wachovia key chain?"

"it was kind of sweetly naive. they didn't consider the connotations of 'love feast.'"

"i was very young because i wanted to be old."

"i'm walking down a chicago street on my way to my job wearing khaki pants and i'm carrying a coffee and i'm like,  'i'm an adult.' not when i see my wife or my credit card statement but when i have my coffee, only then do i feel adult."

"it doesn't work nearly as well as the image of your doodling so hard that you learned something."

"i thought it was like a weird japanese thing... the morning tie ritual. i thought it was a humility thing."

"he was really into mammarial architecture and islam."

"there was this giant breasty space mosque hovering over the tiny japanese fishing village where i was."

"austin watched the american erection. it was a big erection. an important erection."

"so this kid asks, 'austin-sensei, do you have american-sized penis?' and i'm like 'that was really good grammar but never ask me that again."

"do you know- it look like mississippi has testicles."

"this is a weird choice- do i pee or get another beer?"

"i think a lot of people get sluts in their bathrooms at this time of year."
"yeah, that's totally a seasonal thing... sluts in your bathroom."

"really, they have 'man whore'?"

"motherfucker, what do i do?"

"i feel like i know the shape of the state i went to school in."

"ok, what do all the southern states have balls?"

"i am like, 'holy shit, i wrote that!'"

"if you're a 12-year-old boy reading that, maybe the stuff about bilbo baggins' sword is more helpful that hearing that your penis size is only an indication of your penis size."

"well, sauron is obviously some kind of flaming vagina."

"it's like you opened the pandora's box of hobbit sex."

"dicks of the animal kingdom- that will help boys."

"no, no, that is totally unhelpful here, but it is also the greatest reading ever of the lord of the rings."

"it's about a group of men trying to destroy a wedding ring so they can spend more time together. and they have to throw it in a pit that is very vaginal. come on!"

"i mean, think about it. if people read the bible and that doesn't help, this really isn't going to be helpful."

"yeah, how fucked up would that be?"
"that is seriously fucked up."

"is there anything ball-like about an orchid?"

"i am very confused by this latin etymological root."

"do we need to have a labial intervention here?"
"that's a euphemism for sex if i ever heard one."

"the big book of menstrual bleeding."
"it'll look so well on our amazon list... gateway to arguments, dicks of the animal kingdom, doctors book of whatever, the big book of menstrual bleeding."

"seriously, if you call balls orchids, what do you call ovaries?"

"even in the total moron's experience of jackie, i think of her without a voice."

"she's been skewered in many a blog."

"it's like the stole our trope. i mean, at least give us the language of flowers."

"i swear to effing god, if we are ever out in a desert, i will save your fucking lives."

"i mean..."
"i don't even..."
"but ouch..."
"yeah, i know."

"are we still talking about labia?"

5 kbg wrote this, to which i say amen:

"make every  moment, even the seemingly mundane, an opportunity for adventure, for discovery and exploration. the key is the approach, the everyday attitude of awe and wonder."

20 October 2011

0 cheeky time

i'm over at cheeky writing about lorraine hansberry today
(apparently under the byline of amanda troop).
please do read, re-post, like, tweet, tell your friends.
your oline.

ps. the NLB has hit the big time and has a facebook page
you know you wanna like that.

4 this is the ugliest shoe in all the world

whatever happened to laces?

0 amazing things said on 90210

19 October 2011

4 this is hot.

let me paint you a picture...

bikram is an hour and a half of yoga practiced in a 105 degree room.

that's hot. really, really hot. as in, if that room were a person it would be delirious or, quite possibly, dead.

so it should come as no surprise that when i leave bikram at 7:30 a.m., after embarrassingly few hours of sleep and having sweated for a solid 90 minutes, i'm not at my beautiful best.

my face is flushed. everything on me is soaked through, including all the towels i'm carrying. i'm guzzling down a liter of water as i walk home and tottering like a newborn lamb.

oh, and i'm wearing a sweatband.


i am recoiling over this admission and i imagine you are recoiling at this news. because if you know me at all you have to know i would not be caught dead wearing a sweatband. i would never be so unladylike as to own, much less wear, a garment whose sole purpose is to delare to all the world that i do, in fact, perspire.

so this bikram is a serious business. it requires the wearing of sweatbands, and it leaves one both feeling eurphoric and looking like the living dead.

you've got the visual now, right? sweaty oline wearing a sweatband, mainlining water while carting a mountain of wet towels and a yoga mat.

i'm doing this very thing- walking past the playground of an elementary school where, just last week, two five-year-old girls pointed in my direction and laughed, exponentially increasing my sympathy for pig-pen from the peanuts comic strip- when a car pulls up beside me and the window rolls down.

i am literally rubbing beads of sweat from my sweaty brow as the driver says, excuse me, but are you a teacher here?

3 Movies You Really Should've Seen By Now If You Want To Consider Yourself A Grown Person: Romy & Michelle's High School Reunion

yes, you knew this was inevitable. because romy & michelle's high school reunion is the greatest movie of the 1990s and, therefore, one you really need to have seen if you want to consider yourself a grown person. i will prove my point visually:


in november, you'll know what that means.
until then, read THIS.

18 October 2011

0 deep thoughts on frivolous things

when we meet him in the opener of achtung baby, our protagonist is dazed and exhilarated, stumbling about the berlin subway system. he's done with the past and frantic for something new. he fucks it up and it takes him 34 songs to recover.

you could love "mysterious ways" without ever having that context but, to me, u2 is an important band because of that context.

in the grim little trip of achtung baby, there's infatuation, adultery, manipulation, desperation, treachery, forgiveness, euphoria, resignation, love, hope, a phone call from hell and a whole lot of sex.

the album is about taking a risk and getting burned and wounding everyone around you. it's no accident that the protagonist reassures himself throughout, repeating "it's alright. it's alright."

what resonates with me here- what you miss if you don't consider the albums collectively- is that in "zoo station" when the protagonist lays out the fact that he's going to jump, when he says he's ready for what's next, when he repeats that he's ready for the push... he freezes.

he does not take the leap.

we want to believe he did, but listen to "mysterious ways." listen to this line: "while you can stand there, you could move on this moment, follow this feeling."

he lied when he said he was ready. eight songs later, he's still standing there.

and so, achtung baby isn't about making the jump (and the "jump" can be a metaphor for anything you want it to be). it and the two albums after are about the scary shit that happens when you don't. when you hold back. when you run away. when you try to throw your arms around the world.

with the ticking bomb in "love is blindness," the protagonist is paralyzed, numbed- by images, the past, the future- and he remains so through the entirety of zooropa. there's a reason the album sounds so hypnotic.

for nine tracks, he's frozen ("faraway, so close!"), and yet, still, he cannot let go. he doesn't even have the heart to sing the last song. instead he exits, handing it over to johnny cash, and awakes in the discotheque of pop.

pop is a raw spiritual undoing splashed in enough glitter that it can almost masquerade as a party. it almost sounds fun. but then you realize it's a glitzy tangle of chatter and tight spots and fast escapes and sudden shifts.

the pop in the title isn't just pop music. it's the pop that comes after the exhilaration of achtung baby and the numbness of zooropa. it is the bubble's burst.

the protagonist is at a strip club in the middle of the day, when it suddenly hits home how far he's wandered. in "mofo" he pleads with his dead mother to show him how to get out of the mess he's in and that's pretty much the album's high point. you wind up in the last track with him on his knees, speaking directly to jesus, pleading, "wake up, dead man"- with someone talking in the background all the while, as if to emphasize his insignificance.

this sounds terribly depressing. i swear it's not. because of all u2's albums, i think pop is the most honest, the most authentic. it captures them in a weird moment- on a month-long bender in southern france, struggling with the pressures of their art, their addictions, their women and their past. it's not at all pretty ("miami" is a damn ugly song), but it's there. it's their bullshit. it's real.

and while i would like to dismiss all the albums that came after pop, i can't because they're important to the point i'm trying to make through this elaborate metaphor of u2 lyrics- which, i suppose, is this:

the leap is never so scary as we imagine.

and the story of how we get there is the most important part.

because it's only with the final plea of "wake up, dead man" on pop that the protagonist takes the jump for which he's been summoning the courage since achtung baby track 1 (i swear, in the final 40 seconds, you can hear him gliding through the air). and it's only in "beautiful day" that he realizes it wasn't so scary. that after the flood, all the colors came out.

{modified from THIS and THIS.}

0 today, i'm being swanky

writing about films set in paris.
check it!
and see if you can figure out which ones i've actually seen...


kotačka's in town and we've been galavanting round like girls gone wild, thus, reigniting my love affair with this city. how do you not all live here??! for really, there is no better place on earth.