31 August 2013

7 yo river

i grew up on a river. i forget that this means that i NEED a river.

it's kind of like how, if your local zoo has pandas, you kind of assume they have pandas at every zoo.  if you grow up on a river, you think it's not a real city if there isn't a river. my family's time in atlanta in the early 90s probably feels so unreal precisely because atlanta has no river.

because there's something permanent about a river. something solid. which kind of makes no sense, i realize, because a river is always moving, always vacillating, flowing, volatile. it is always going up and down and trying to leave.

but then i'm always trying to leave. so maybe that's why i love a river? because i recognize in a river impulses of my own.

i forget that i NEED a river and yet, this past january, i chose this particular flat because of its proximity to the river. then i walked along it maybe six times in the last six months. in the words of blair waldorf's step-dad cyrus rose: NOT ENOUGH! 

late yesterday afternoon, wanting to take advantage of what is presumably one of the few 75 degree days left to us and yet too restless to commit another hour to the continued cultivation of The Tan of My Life, i went for a walk along the thames.

which- at the point where it passes my neighborhood- reminds me, oddly, of both newport, rhode island and memphis.

which also reminded me how terribly much i need a river.

it's like blowing your nose, this need to see water. an expiation, a recalibration, a resettling of the soul. in the smell of fish and pebbles, in the sight of the rays of the lowering sun clashing against dirty water.

i am a woman who needs dirty water near.

30 August 2013

2 (1)

In her heart of hearts Melly Marvel Sprawling knew- she just knew it!- that Elvis was alive.

Her parents humored her, because if there was one thing Phelan and Marietta Sprawling knew it was that there was no putting a damper on their daughter's enthusiasms.

The thing about knowing such a thing with such conviction is that it rather sets one apart. Just the knowing. And it wasn't like Melly Marvel went about trying to collect converts. She was quiet in her certainty. But even that could be unsettling- to see an 11-year-old so sure of her convictions, so terribly certain that Elvis was undead.

'You have to allow for the possibility that he might have died, Melly Marvel,' said her Aunt Moriah, the one who loved Elvis and had once seen him with a girl on a motorcycle at the intersection of South Goodlett and Central. 'You have to at least allow for that,' she said.

'I have to do no such thing,' said Melly Marvel, in that way she had of completely shutting down a conversation by, through the steeliness of her tone, implying it would be the rudest possible thing to carrying on having it.

In her heart of hearts, she knew. How she knew, no one else knew, but they had some thoughts.

A public broadcast telethon entitled 'Elvis, Where Are You?' seemed to have played a pivotal role.

'It was hosted by Bill Bixby, some old actor,' Marietta told her sister over the telephone. 'With people calling in about seeing Elvis at all sorts of fast food joints across the U.S.'

'It's funny how he's never in Europe...'

'But that seems to have her convinced. You know how impressionable she is...'

'They're like a sponge at that age,' sighed (the childless, slightly bored) Aunt Moriah.

'We want to get her turned on to something else, but all she cares about is Elvis. I sometimes wonder if I did the wrong thing when I bought that tape...'

You see, Melly Marvel had a scare.

A rather sickly child with a constantly running nose, she'd busted an ear drum, a trauma that resulted in various surgeries and treatments and antibiotics and a full year of bloodied ooze leaking from her ear- an embarrassingly menstrual situation that necessitated the plugging of a said ear with a cotton ball acting in a mortifyingly public tampon-like capacity.

So Melly Marvel's ear was on the fritz.

One particularly gloom and doom doctor surmised that she might even be deaf by the ripe old age of 12, a distressing augery after which Marietta Marvelliefielles Sprawling drove herself and her daughter one parking lot over to the Target, marched into the store to the music section, and fished a cassette out of the bargain bin.

If Melly Marvel was going deaf, Marietta was damned if she wasn't going to hear Elvis Presley before she did.

They were vaguely related- Elvis and Melly Marvel. In that way that all of the family tries of Mississippi are gnarled together so you can claim kin to pretty much anyone you want.

For obvious reasons, Melly Marvel claimed Elvis. He was, after all, the King.

'She's reading a book now,' Marietta confided to her sister. 'Some book with irrefutable proof.'

'Dear God, heaven help us. I can only imagine what she'll do with irrefutable proof!'

'He's got to be dead, right?' asked Marietta, with a hint of embarrassment tinged with a sliver of doubt.

'He died on the toilet, you know. No one would choose to go like that.'

'Melly Marvel said he did that to throw everybody off. She says he's smarter than we think he is. She says she's smarter than we are.'

'Sounds to me like Melly Marvel's getting the big head.'

But, you see, it wasn't really that Melly Marvel had the big head. It was just that she didn't understand why everyone else couldn't see something so obvious. She did not know why they refused to believe.

'He's obviously alive,' she told herself. For there was proof. People had pictures! And there were voice messages! Bill Bixby had said it was so.

In truth, Melly Marvel didn't know who Bill Bixby was, but someone had thought him worthy of TV airtime and she always trusted the TV. Plus, Elvis had his phone number and was calling him from the beyond.

And so when Bill Bixby looked deep into his television audience, across all the tubes and miles and wires, directly into Melly Marvel's eyes and told her that if she just let Elvis know she wanted him to reveal himself, that she wanted him to come back, if she just called a 900 number and told Elvis that she needed him to return, he would do it, Melly Marvel was sorely tempted.

But then she thought about Elvis. Really long and hard she thought about how badly he must have wanted to leave, to escape, to get out of the life he had- badly enough to fake his death while using the toilet.

Melly Marvel couldn't even talk about using the toilet without blushing. She certainly couldn't imagine faking her death there!

That was how badly he had wanted to abdicate. Enough to risk the embarrassment and the jokes of dying while doing a #2.

That was serious. Even in her fervor and her longing for his return, Melly Marvel could see it. He was better off now and Melly Marvel didn't want to disrupt him. She didn't want to selfishly recall him to the life he'd left when he was, she knew, so much happier on his own.

She had been holding the phone in her hand but now she put it down.

'He's better off,' she told herself, drawing comfort from the fact that it sounded so glamorous, the city where Elvis had set up his new life. There could be no lovelier haven, she knew, than this magical land called Kalamazoo.

29 August 2013

0 i love me some jane

but day-um does her oeuvre of made-for-tv movies available on youtube betray some half-assed work. case in point: THE WOMAN HE LOVED

0 ready or not

i'm trying to gear up, to come out of my summer 'i just want to lay in the park and cultivate the best tan of my life' hidey hole and re-cultivate my social life (wherein i can show of my amazing tan). to that end, last night i wound up at a fancy schmantzy cocktail bar in the heart of chinatown.

a bar with an unmarked door and a dude outside who has to approve you and then communicate with someone elsewhere via an earpiece who- like the wizard of oz- passes final judgement on whether you can or cannot go in.

my crowd passed muster. we got in.

this was a really really good bar with mirrored ceilings and 12£ cocktails. it's been awhile since i've been in a really really good bar with mirrored ceilings and $12 cocktails. by which i basically mean the violet hour.

i miss the violet hour. i miss chicago. i miss being in a city where i know the cool things one can do and the cool people to do them with. it's disorienting. not knowing.

there are times where i think living in a foreign country must be how it feels to be re-learning a language after having a stroke. you know how to do it and yet it's somehow different, somehow off, and so you have to learn it all again.

i feel like i'm learning how to live in a city all over again.

0 so these have been completely exhausted

28 August 2013

0 :)

0 dreamz

i dreamed about jackie the other night.

actually, i dreamed about jfk, but she was there. i felt her presence.

we were swimming. not as in, like, naked white house pool parties, but i was on some boat and he was swimming up to it and jackie- though i only felt her presence- was present somewhere in the midst.

and i distinctly remember that someone was trying to draw my attention elsewhere, talking of some such nothing, distracting me, and to them i said, but it's the president. and, saying this, i felt jackie's eyes on me.

she was there. though i could not see her.

in 18 years, this was the third dream.

27 August 2013

0 well

the problem with being a writer is that people think what you write is the whole story.

it's like social media, where everyone is beautiful and fully made-up and only shot from their best angles and always eating yummy looking things. and you think, wow, they have really got it together! she is my hero! he always eats 10 gourmet burritos every day and never gains weight! her hair is always so shiny whilst i'm a horrible hag!

that is not how i want to be here. even though this is a blog and even though it's public and even though (presumably) a person or two occasionally reads it who doesn't know me.

as a writer, i feel like there's a writer-reader contract in which honesty is assumed. as a southerner, i want everyone to generally feel good about himself/herself. and as a person from my family, i'm totally willing to expose myself to make that happen.

this involves showing the bones of things, the underlying guts. because of my well-publicized morbid fascinations with cemeteries and taxidermies and violence, yes, but also so that if i ever do wind up accomplishing anything, we can all of us- because you are in this with me- sit back in our rockers on that veranda and sigh as we sip our mint julips and say, well, hot damn, didn't THAT take forEVAH.

to that end, i try to be honest about the fact that i am, most always, flailing. towards something, yes (debtor's prison, we know; a book, we hope), but flailing nonetheless. because to flail is to live, i say. and, yes, you can put that on a pillow.

all of that gets us- somewhat sloppily- to here: i've written before about depression. not always directly, but it's been there, at the edges (here and here and, most directly, here). what i've not written about is the times that aren't depression. the times that are something altogether else.

there've not been a lot. maybe a handful in my whole life. but they're there.

truthbomb: this past july was off-and-on awful. like, really really really a whole world of bad.

the problem is you can't write that as it's happening. at least, not well. at least, i can't.

which isn't to say that i didn't have fun. that i didn't go out and do things and see people and hang out and write stuff down and have interesting conversations and eat really yummy meals and get royal baby fever and cultivate a nice tan and have one incredibly spectacular hair day during which, sadly, i didn't see anyone i knew.

all of that happened. all of that was really lovely.

and yet still, if asked to describe the month of july, i would say it was an emotional exorcism.

because there were these days.

and they weren't even sequential. there would be one day and then the next day, i'd go hang out with c.smartt and we'd have vap and two bottles of wine on her rooftop and go to brixton and eat ethiopian at 1 a.m. and then- wide awake- i'd walk home through the empty city streets at 6 a.m., proud to have had such an adventure and to have finally ridden a bus. and then the next day, i'd sleep. and then the day after that?

the day after that it would feel like invisible pieces of my self were being dipped in acid.

for no reason.

yeah, there was grief. yes, there continues to be grief. and yes, this was precipitated by the probing of that grief in therapy week after week. but it wasn't about grief.

it was an electrical problem.

a problem of wires, of charges, of currents, that occasionally surfaces within. it is a place. a nothing, a blip, an inconsequentially small misfiring of something somewhere that somehow becomes a physically felt pain. a physically felt agony. for an hour, a day, a moment here and there and then it's gone and forgotten until eight years later it comes along again out of nowhere, necessitating a sifting through of the earlier memories to recall: oh yes, sometimes my self does this. even though such an admission feels deeply unfair, a traitorous resignation to something that shouldn't be and yet, unstoppably, irrefutably, is.

maybe everybody has had moments of this? maybe we're just not talking about it? maybe this is what you love to talk about or want to talk about and i've been a bitch and not listened? maybe this is what your blog would be all about if you had a blog or maybe you have a blog i don't read and it is all about this? or maybe this is just me and you're throwing up STOP WHERE YOU ARE hands because i have talked about it? i don't know. i don't where we all are.

but- as gilbert blythe told anne shirley- you write what you know.

i know that it's a slippery business. emotional states. well-being. balance. writing. and i know we don't make it any easier by pretending it isn't there.

0 PS90210: "it's party USA. everybody knows this."

Truth: i don’t know that 90210 has ever looked so 90s as it does in this one episode. you’ll see.
so, today, in season 4, episode 3 “little fish”, as you’ll also see, we’re solving lots ‘o problems: what do you do when you have to stand in a really really long line for eons? what if you don’t know what you want to do with your life? what if you do exceptionally well on a placement test because you cheated off the person next to you? what if you got a truly HORRENDOUS hair cut over the summer? (et tu, brando?) what if your gf burned your demo reel? and, lastly, should you totally panic when your bf drops out of college and spends all day fishing with his ex? all these problems and more… Continue reading 

26 August 2013

0 FJ: very quick thoughts on my boyfriend adrien brody, naomi campbell and the doing of yoga whilst on a yacht

for the record, i do a lot of yoga and i love yoga. i also love my boyfriend adrien brody.
yes, i’m aware there are some hair issues… Continue reading 

0 carnival

0 the meeting

debo's coming in a few weeks for a visit. we're planning both an overnight and an away day. the away day is yet to be finalized but yesterday we actually scheduled a meeting to discuss the details of our overnight. because this was occurring pre my mother's nap, at several points it sounded not so much like she was pronouncing the names of various estates in england as reading the letters off an eye chart. but we persevered!

tickets for the train = booked.

tickets to chatsworth = booked.

hotel = booked.

thanks to the beauty of technology, i forwarded debo a link and, together, we considered our hotel options. because we considered them at different rates, there was still a significant amount of wait! are you looking at bagshaw hall or the jug & glass inn?... look at the castle!... no, not the manor, the castle! but eventually we got ourselves on the same page and made some decisions.

we are staying at a b&b. a proper b&b. like, with breakfast included.

you know i've never done that! says debo.

neither have i! says i.

we both acknowledge that the fact that we are doing this with one another is maybe the most gilmore girls thing we have ever done. it is made possibly exponentially even more spectacular by the 76% chance that there will be a bath tub in our bedroom.

25 August 2013

0 bank holiday

tomorrow's bank holiday in britain. which usually doesn't affect me even slightly since i'm basically on call to jackie all the time, but these bank holidays baffle my parents to no end.

i mean, i think they get that bank holiday is a holiday where the banks are closed. what they do not get is why the holidays are different from the holidays in america. which is both americentric and silly.

in trying to explain it (which was a doomed enterprise as i'm not entirely sure what it is either), i told my father it was like labor day. which, of course, prompted him to ask, 'why don't they just call it labor day?' to which i had to say they couldn't because labor day was the bank holiday in may.

when i went investigating this further, i learned that this bank holiday is actually the bank holiday for the first monday of august. except, in the 70s, they moved it to the last monday in august, so it's not really the holiday for the first monday of august at all except in spirit.

so maybe it's the last holiday of summer? because august is all holidays all the time and now august is almost at an end? and so, really, in the calendar it's serving the same purpose of labor day- which, while a celebration of the economic and social contributions of workers, is perhaps more famously known as the last fun-for-all weekend that heralds the coming fall. (ie. if we all had cabanas on fire island, this would be the weekend we say adieu.)

which seems harrowing. where did the summer go? there are already leaves on the ground, yo. how did that happen? suddenly- too sudden- the light is decidedly autumnal and it is no longer sunny at 10 p.m.

23 August 2013

2 winded

we're all of us sensitive still, in my family. to depictions of violence, darkness, sad stories.

my parents had to turn off gone with the wind the other night.

this was significant enough of a thing that they have both mentioned it to me separately and my father has addressed it further in a letter.

last night, debo told me it qualified as an epiphany. this sudden realization that gone with the wind is a tragedy and not a romance.

they had to turn it off after rhett carried scarlett up the stairs.

'oh', i said, 'when he raped her, you mean?'

this leads to the longest conversation we've ever had about gone with the wind- which sounds rather flippant but, in light of the fact this is a book/movie i've been talking about for 25 years, it's pretty substantial.

'it's no wonder they lost the war when they had leaders like ashley wilkes and charles hamilton!' she says.

'but remember charles was raised by pittypat...' i remind her, hearing my father pipe up in the background to acknowledge: 'and she was a total flibberty-jibbet.' 

'and ashley wasn't as dreamy as i remembered...' debo said trailing off so i could jump in and point out that ashley is dreamy, in the sense that he's the old south, a disappearing world. he's a pathetic figure who can't speak his mind and tell scarlett he doesn't love her or even chop logs to warm the house she's running to keep the whole lot of them alive. he's so polite, so poetic that he's completely impotent, because the world he was raised to live in no longer exists. 

so he is dreamy, that's precisely the word for him, because he's like a water color, whilst rhett is painted in oil. 

rhett is the new south and ashley's the old and scarlett lies somewhere between- torn between old south manners and the stronger pull of her irish roots. the knowledge that she should be a proper lady but the fact that she only knows how to be herself- a gritty, rather vapid woman hardened by war and hunger, with ambition, a talent for math and a gift for making money. 

still, she cannot relinquish the dream. she clings to it, despite the fact that, as soon as she commits murder, it's definitely gone. 

the question then is whether she'll hang on to the last remnants of the world she grew up in (ie. ashlely) and be dragged down by it, or let it go. in the end, since the dudes abandon her in one fell swoop at melanie's deathbed, it's kind of all up to her to free herself. and, yes, the ending implies she goes for the latter, but she's returning to a plantation so the idea that she's made real progress is somewhat debatable. it's not like she up and moved to new york. she just did the southern thing and went home.  

'if any of them could just say what they mean, they might have been happier,' says debo. 

(an argument that is exactly analogous to saying 'if any of them could've done math they would've known nan couldn't be carrying jack's baby' in circle of friends.)

but that is, i think, the whole point. or at the very least part of it. because they could not say what they meant. not only because for any of them to have been forthright would have lessened the impact of the story and also the length of the novel/movie, but because to be frank is not southern. in all the psycho-drama and love turmoil, it's easy to forget that all of these characters are southern and, therefore, they are existing within the confines of an elaborate etiquette system. 

ashley keeps scarlett on the hook for years and years because (1) he's a spineless lame and (2) it would be super impolite for a gentleman to tell a lady he didn't love her. this was a time when ladies like scarlett- belles- turned down marriage proposals as a matter of routine. like how you'd say, 'yeah, i'm not free for dinner next tuesday,' they'd be all 'oh brent tarleton, thank you so much for your proposal of marriage i just can't decided if i like your or your brother better so let's all sit together at the barbecue.' 

you tell a girl you love her. you shut your mouth when you don't. 

so poor ashley here is caught up in a classic southern no win. 

and rhett is stuck too. because his rudeness- his flying in the face of southern conventions- is disingenuous. he is in love with scarlett but acts as though he isn't and frequently says so. so she isn't clear on his feelings because he isn't clear about them to her. everything is conveyed with a sarcastic veneer. and she's, what?, 20? and kinda stupid? it's like he's speaking at a register she cannot hear. 

it's a register to which one becomes gradually attuned. reading the book as a kid, i missed all this. around the age of 25, i was like 'holy shit.'

gone with the wind comes up a lot in conversations. because i read it a lot and because, in discussions of southernness, i bring it up a lot and because, in discussions with southerners, we southerners talk about it a lot.

a few weeks ago a biographer friend was in town and we were both from the south and reading the mind of the south, so inevitably the conversation wound it's way around to gone with the wind. and, in discussing her divorce, she looked at me across the table of a pub built in 1462 and said, 'you see i got it wrong. i married an ashley and i should've held out for a rhett.'

an allusion that strikes to the very centre, like a needle into skin, of all of my fears about my own judgement when it comes to love.

ashley is a watercolor. rhett is an oil. gone with the wind is, in the end, a clashing of the two. and yet there's a heroine. an anti-heroine, really, but a heroine nonetheless, who holds it all together. she is the bridge between the worlds, this woman. 

A WOMAN!!! (this is probably why the book gets demeaned as 'a women's book' or a 'trashy book' or 'a guilty pleasure.' because it's by a woman and it's about a woman. imagine how differently we might view it had mitchell opted to follow the war exploits of ashley and rhett rather than remaining on the homefront with the gals...) 

early on, there's a brazen acknowledgement that the women of the south pretended they were silly and only interested in silly things because that would be easier for the men to take and, in a society where men were happy, women would hold the power. it's one example of the what would probably be best described as- to borrow a phrase often disparagingly used by mr. brady on the brady bunch and yet which is useful if we can apply positive connotations to it- notions of 'women's liberation' (rather than feminism) that thread through the book. 

you guys, THERE IS SO MUCH GOING ON HERE. for reals. there's the racism of the 1930s south filtered through the racism of the 1860s south. the women's lib of the 1930s south filtered through the women of 1860s atlanta. there's the old and the new, the rich and the poor, the enslaved and the free. and the regrets!!! omg, the regrets. there are more regrets here than in grey gardens. see also: ellen's cousin philippe! (SADFACE. that is all i will say about that.) 

seriously, it's like the book of genesis set in civil war times. 

if i were given the opportunity to teach any two college level courses: course #2 = great american novels of the 20th century featuring groups of women wherein one dies at the end (the group, the best of everything, valley of the dolls)... course #1 = gone with the wind: the class. the whole semester. all gone with the wind all the time. we would just squeeze that book dry like a lemon until it had absolutely nothing left to give.

because it is key. it is pivotal. it is one of the great novels by anyone period. you should basically all go read it right now because it is grotesquely underrated as a work of art simply because it is deeply pleasurable to read, which is some horrible awful puritanical anti-pleasure crap at work that we should all- each and every one of us who loves books- actively seek to defy.

22 August 2013

6 interactivity

hollerin' harp green here, though i'd much rather be happy pickles blue.

0 the fambly

i write a lot about my family's _________ (quirks? familiness? strangeness? snobbishness? eccentricities? being totally wackadoo?).

the elitism. the occasional babytalk. the collective we. AROUND THE WORLD. 'have fun storming the castle' and, of course- everybody's favorite!- 'i smell that smell' (which, aside: when called upon to identify 'their song' by some friends, all my parents could come up with 'i smell that smell', which now also my father has had translated into italian so it can be sung at his funeral by andrea bocelli [btw, that is not a story. it is a TRUTH.).

in some respects blogging here is an only child's effort to preserve familial memories, and to pass them beyond, so that when my parents die, i won't be left alone with all of these things. the people who've read what i've written will be with me and some day in the far off we'll all be sitting on a veranda with mint julips in our hands and collies at our feet and when i ask if you want another 'drinkie-pooh' and respond to your news that your daughter's just married a marine biologist with the inquiry of whether he'll be taking her AROUND THE WORLD, you'll actually know what all that means rather than assume i've had a stroke.

language is a huge part of this, as one would expect from a family of artists of mixed promise. our conversation is riddled with so many silly things we've been saying for so long that nobody knows where they started. and such is the case with 'fambly.'

i think i remember that 'fambly' started when i was an obnoxious teenager and we would be going somewhere and, because i think being on time means being 10 minutes early, i would be ready 10 minutes before everyone else, at which point i would stand at the bottom of the stairs impatiently calling out 'FAMBLY!!!' as though the preciousness would lessen the obnoxiousness and as though such a thing would ever hurry anyone along.

it didn't.

but such things stick. at least in my family. we are like one of those adhesive strips stuck over the door to catch bugs. except we accrue traditions and nonsensicals instead of insects.

i also think 'fambly' arose during my embarrassing experiments in punnery phase, a time when i would say 'lettuce leaf' instead of 'let us leave', and think that was truly funny.

i'd actually kind of forgotten about all of this- or at least not consciously thought about it in a long long while- until yesterday.

there was a hurried phone call where it was late at night in england and late in the afternoon in memphis and i was rushing to bed and my parents were rushing to dinner. my mother said her day had been difficult. in the background, my father- whom i'd not spoken to in a few days- shouted proclamations of love. amidst a raucous burst of farewells and love and rushing, my dad exclaimed 'LETTUCE LEAF!' just as my mom said, quietly, contentedly, 'i love our fambly.'

2 imaginary breakfast with lindear

milk, welsh water, happy eggs, fruit, british red cheese. 

21 August 2013

1 the talking point

i'm giving a talk tonight. which kind of isn't a big deal because it's a paper that kind of has no point and yet which i deeply love, and so i feel pretty good about it. and also i've done this before. BUT, in further alsos, it's the first time i've given a talk since i delivered an earlier version of the same paper in paris over a year ago, so it's been awhile and i fear i'm better at doing this in my head than i am in real life.

this is the opposite of how after flying that plane, as time passed and i settled deeper into the memory, it gradually became more and more awful. with speaking, the memory has a roseifying effect. at this point, in my mind, i have become not just an adept speaker but one of martin luther king-esque eloquence. which ain't even slightly true.

i can write well and i can read well and that is all. things i cannot do: talking off the cuff.

however, as if compensating for my hubris, this impending talk has brought to the surface memories of the first talk i ever gave, way back in april 2011 at the popular culture conference in san antonio.

my panel was the last of the conference so there were literally the three panelists and three other people in the room. and, yet, the prospect of speaking before these FIVE OTHER PEOPLE was such a panic inducing reality that, first, i had to leave and throw up. as the person before me spoke, my hands trembled. i don't know that i've ever been colder in my life than i was in that room. i seemed to have been in some version of shock, completely panicked that i was going to have to get up in front of these FIVE OTHER PEOPLE and read a paper, something i had applied and paid a significant chunk of money for the privilege to do. 

but, as working at applebee's taught me, time goes on and the ordeal will pass. somehow i spoke, though i don't remember that part at all. 

all i remember is the relief of being out in the sunshine after, the phone call to k.clen to say i had survived, and the enormous chunk of cake a bakery randomly gave me for free because their till was already closed when i came busting through the door in search of post-triumph sugar.

the thing is that feeling actually hasn't gone away. i no longer throw up or go into shock, but in continuing to pitch myself into doing things i don't necessarily find it easy to do, that feeling of discomfort has not subsided. it has remained. which is partly why i find it so important to continue speaking, to continue doing these things. because we can't always do the things that keep us comfortable. sometimes we absolutely must not. because sometimes it is precisely the things that make us uneasy that are the most liberating, bring the most pleasure, make us who we are meant to become. 

i've written before about how these things build. about how if you do one thing you want to do and yet see as scary, it opens a door to another, and then another and then maybe even more.

a brief reminder, yet again...

here's how you fly on a trapeze:

you climb a freakishly skinny ladder.
you get buckled into a harness.
you stand at the edge of a platform.
you grip a bar with your two hands.
you bend your two knees.
you take one hop into nothingness.
you swing through the air.
you put your knees back over the bar.
you let go.

20 August 2013

0 two things that do not go together and yet which nonetheless are

i have been composing my christmas list for MONTHS. because i feel like it needs to be (a) concise, (b) reasonable, and (c) comprised of things that i cannot live without in the every day and yet which are easily transportable back across the pond.

because now that i've culled it down to the GREATEST ESSENTIALS, i fear forgetting it, so fyi, here's where we stand for christmas, in august:

1. refills of the fancy expensive canadian multi-vitamins that i cannot live without.
2. refills of the bed, bath & beyond paris body wash that i cannot live without.
3. itunes gift cards for the random american tv shows i cannot live without.
4. ££s to be earmarked for trapeze lessons that i cannot live without.

as you'll note, my definition of 'cannot live without' is maybe a little more than facetious. but, in contemplating the things i would like to do and currently cannot, or the things i would like to have and currently do not, or the things i currently have to spend my own money on that i really like to would not, this is where it winds up. four things. all of which are breathtakingly frivolous and yet also surprisingly simple delights.

the weird thing about living in a foreign country (and, yes, that was the best transition i could muster) is that it's kind of like being on vacation, in that when you're on vacation you're open to doing things you maybe wouldn't. for instance, when my family goes on vacation, i'm always startled by the regularity with which we eat ice cream (like, multiple times a day) or the enormous stretches of time we spend sitting on park benches (something we never do in our daily lives).

at the very least, when on vacation, you try to do random things, to be where you are and see the things around you and not just sit in your hotel all day. yeah, living in a foreign country is kind of like that. except not even at all.

because i live here. and so i can just go sit in my home all day. as i did many many days in chicago and everywhere else i've ever lived.

except this is london. LONDON.

the weird thing about living in london is that, suddenly, every time i don't leave the house all day, every time i work inside, i'm not seeing buckingham palace or the strand or hyde park or the v&a. never mind that i've seen all of those things multiple times. never mind that they're right up the street and will continue to be right up the street for at least another year, if not three. it feels like i'm not so much missing out, as not ruthlessly wringing every single ouch of pleasure from my circumstances. which is what you do on vacation.

living in london is not a vacation. it is real life. and yet, coexistent with that fact is the sensation that one should be enjoying everything more because one is in london. london is, after all, where one would go to get away. you go to vacate there. not to live.

and maybe this is a sign of my ongoing newness? maybe the pressure to be having THE TIME OF MY LIFE will dim down? in the meantime, i feel as though every day i do not leave the flat i'm forgoing the possibility of my life suddenly morphing into chick lit.

and every day i do leave the flat? whilst it isn't necessarily always THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE, there's usually a rhythm, an underlying pulse to the day, the awareness that i am in london, that i live in london, and that that's a terribly lucky place to be.

0 clarity

my parents are dying to know more about the forthcoming book on carroll cloar. that- and their love for him- is why they've been going to these events all summer. and yet they still haven't got a clear picture. bits and pieces, yes. but not a clear picture.

finally, a lady in some vague way associated with the book- the publicity identified her as the author whilst she called herself an assistant researcher, two positions between which lies a whole freaking world of difference- gave a talk, after which my father relayed his disgust.

she kept talking about other things and not about the book! he told me. twice, he raised his hand and asked when the book was going to be released, when they could expect it, what would it be like. because there's still no real idea whether it's to be a biography or an art book. my parents want a biography, not an art book.

but still, this woman who is associated with the writing of this book couldn't give him a clear answer. she just raised her hands and backed away and said she wasn't really sure, he said.

oooooooooooooo, i said. that is no good. when someone gives you STOP WHERE YOU ARE hands over their work. that is no good at all. especially when they're work is scheduled to be published in under six months! 

this has, in the end, made me feel far better about my own work, which is still 2 years (at least) from completion and over which i would never ever throw up STOP WHERE YOU ARE hands though it seldom could even be described as clear-adjacent. on my better days, i describe it as trying to find the words to describe the ever-shifting particles in a kaleidoscope. a romanticization of a process that is, in reality, more like trying to suss out a worm in a pile of slop.

19 August 2013

0 PS90210: “but how do you leave your whole life behind?”/”france does strange things to people.”

So here we are, at the end of our real life and 90210 summers. school is starting soon which means all the college kids are going to college and all the non-school people are wondering what they’re doing with their lives because a whole other year has passed. do you do this? do you still think of the year in terms of a school year rather than an annual year? i do. well, i mean, i’m back in school now but even when i was in the non-academic world i’d have a major existential crisis every september because TIME WAS PASSING ME BY. i’m not sure what the point of that was except if you feel that way you are not alone!!! anyway…

season 4, episode 2: ‘the girl from new york city.’ it is, somewhat predictably, about a girl from new york city. huzzah. problems: well, this girl from new york city has some. donna, david and kelly have some at their new grown-people’s apartment (namely, EVIL FELICE). dylan and kelly have their lurve drama. brenda is super :( and then the girl from new york causes all sorts of angst for brandon.  plus, there’s steve being steve. oh, and ahhhhhhndrea is here but kind of not really at all. she must’ve had something else going on that week (a tryst with jordan bonner? cooking for gil?). alrighty then, let’s dive in… Continue reading 

0 pretentious things overheard on the tube: saturday, 12 a.m.

'speaking of electronic music...'

'when joe and i were in croatia...'

'he had just gotten back from l.a. where he's very well known...'

16 August 2013


hey, remember last year when we stood/sat in line FOR EIGHT THOUSAND YEARS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT????


15 August 2013

0 ha. try 20!

0 a brief message from the vieve

yo. IT IS ME!!!

WHERE HAVE I BEEN?? WHAT HAVE I BEEN DOING?? BLAH BLAH BLAH. i know, i know. you've missed me.

but, you see, you just don't know what it's like to be AN AMERICAN HEIRESS. there are so many demands upon me. i can barely stand the pressure.

i mean, every time i start to get close to someone, the cameras are pulled out and there are loads of pictures taken to illustrate my emotional neediness, which are then disseminated AROUND THE WORLD.


there is no peace for AN AMERICAN HEIRESS.

and so- like oprah and her mountain in maui- i've been forced to seek refuge, to remain alone.

still, they find me!!!! they pry me out and take more pictures!!!!
and post them to all their social networking thingamabobs so that everyone knows i was lonely yesterday and comments on my holiday weight. (don't you dare say there's no holiday in sight... when you're AN AMERICAN HEIRESS it is all holidays all the time!!!)

but these are the people who control my food supply and also my treats. they fund my AMERICAN HEIRESS lifestyle and so i am enslaved to them. i must sit in their laps and pose for their pictures.

WHERE O WHERE IS MY OLINE?!? she would not allow these injustices. perhaps she has forsaken me because i routinely eat the cheese my captors offer when she expressly forbid me from eating people food.

word is k.smartt and k.clen are coming to liberate me soon. i will be FREE, i tell you. i am AN AMERICAN HEIRESS and i will go my own way. 

i could leave this joint in a second were it not for my budding addiction to dairy. if only they had not tranquilized me with milk and... ooooooo CHEESE...

love you, bitches.
la vieve.

14 August 2013

0 FJ: assorted analysis of the revelation that jason priestley is writing a memoir

firstly, OMG.
Screen shot 2013-08-06 at 8.08.09 PM
THIS IS HAPPENING. Continue reading 

0 booked

my dad is teaching himself to play the ukelele (the horn has apparently been abandoned). so there's been a lot of ukelele talk of late, but mostly we do as we've always done and talk about books (which then spins off into longer discussions of things like spanish flu before arriving at our eternal existential question: why do man-made disasters like war trump natural disasters in the collective historical memory?)

as has been previously established, there's a lot 'o communication in my family and, though i've moved AROUND THE WORLD (a family joke necessitates that be capitalized though it's likely no one will get the obscure allusion to an abc family made-for-tv christmas movie starring autumn reeser), we still talk a lot. as a result, with the smooshing of this timeline- and also the fact that events are unfolding simultaneously over skype and in letters- very small things assume a massive sense of drama.

like what book we will read next.

under normal conditions, this is a fraught life choice but the tension is incrementally heightened when there's a near-daily update.

my father's been taking another tour through texts on the spanish flu. i keep trying to get him onto cholera (because, omg, so romantic) but he just won't go. but he also can't quite work up the nerve to reread all of the nero wolf books, so he's kind of just pacing about in a literary no man's land trying to figure out where he wants to wind up.

in the meantime, i'm zipping through the jackie bios that are widely available in paperback for under 1£ on amazon.co.uk and then also faffing about with random other stuff- some virginia woolf, gatsby, a slooooooooooow trek through mind of the south (which may well be my new waterloo), etc., etc. essentially, i'm reading like i've always read but the jackie level has been upped.

except this time i have put up some walls. i have forbidden certain writers. there are people who cannot get it. hemingway, for one.

'you must read a moveable feast!' my father said during his hemingway kick last may. 'before you go to paris! read it NOW!' (we eatons are nothing if not FERVENT.)

'no,' i said. (and stubborn.)

'but you'll love it,' he said.

and i said, 'don't you understand? i cannot let hemmingway's voice in my head.'

because jackie exists in whispers. her voice is fluttery. when one is piecing together a quilt with materials the consistency of crepe paper, you do not let hemingway in the room.

he's found ways around this. around my self-imposed prohibitions. huge chunks of hemingway were read aloud over skype. we have watched midnight in paris SO MANY TIMES.

last night, my father read aloud excerpts from no less than five wall street journal book reviews, all of which came together to yield a quick study of the modern criticisms leveled against biographies.

there is, constantly, this passage of words and ideas- as i've said before, all of it strangely connected- like a river, or an electric current, flowing between us.  

i say all of this so that you will appreciate the hilarity when, last night, my father- whose stopping and starting and stopping of stephen king's 11/22/63 has been a daily unfolding drama for all of july and who knows that i am currently in the middle of four books- looked deep into my pixilated eyes across the atlantic and, in utter sincerity, lamented 'it's so sad you can't read things anymore.'

13 August 2013

2 :)

1 let's do this again

i realize now that, since i was a little girl, i was waiting for joe to die.

he had always seemed somehow impermanent. temporary.

i have always known that he would leave.

which now seems so awful. he was there. what if i missed him? what if when he was there i missed him because i was always bracing for him to go?

we were close. i know that. i just don't remember it.

i remember being thirteen and ashamed of my body and my breasts and keeping him at arms length, because i didn't want him to know i was growing up. because i didn't want to be growing up. and to let anyone near felt like an admission, and also a betrayal. as though i had betrayed them, him, by not being a little girl anymore.

i wanted to shield him from that. i didn't want him to know i was no longer who i was.

we were close. i know. i just don't remember.

this is the problem with intellectualism divorced from emotion. without the emotion, knowledge lacks value. in feeling there is comfort. i feel nothing.

there are memories. it's like watching a movie.

sitting at that orange table in the cafeteria of the north mississippi medical center, that jello cup between us, the tears in his eyes.

the note he left on my paint-by-number encouraging me to keep it up because i was capable of great things.

the tin of planter's peanuts between us in his old blue van, our hands taking turns dipping in.

the rough upholstery of his chair, with the arms worn down.

the incredibly tacky sign i made to decorate his hospital room when he was sick- the one really bad time before the really really bad times- with christmas bows and a scrawled GET WELL SOON PAWPAW.

when he went home, he hung it on his closet door.

when he died, the first thing i told my father upon landing in memphis was that i could not bear to see that sign.

when i was at their house, i did everything in my power to avoid going in that room because of that sign.

the one time i went in, mercifully, the door was open and the sign concealed. i threw up in relief.

that door, that ridiculous sign, those bows, hurt my heart.

but, you see, these aren't even memories! these are stories, narratives, a working around. my brain does this. it mediates everything, turning everything concrete, like a narnian turned into stone by the white witch.

my brain is a white witch.

in therapy, i tried to explain it. because it became evident fairly quick. she said, 'you tell stories.' i said, 'i know.' because i cannot face things dead-on. even right now, i am not facing this dead-on. i'm writing about it. because writing is easier, writing is a filter, a distillation, a crystallization.

stories are the path i build from which to observe the places i cannot confront.

he fell at christmas. when everyone went home and i stayed behind an extra night to spend some quality time with joe and burvil. he fell. i'd gone to the bathroom and he got up to put a blanket on burvil, who had fallen asleep, and his foot got caught on the blanket and he fell. i came back in and he was on the floor. burvil was standing over him.

i remember that it was deadly silent. i remember thinking he was dead. i remember the lightness of his hips as i squared them for him so he could get up. i remember, in the face of his fragility, being ashamed of my strength.

he fell during a commercial break of the abc family movie we were watching starring joey lawrence. i remember the enormous relief we expressed, once everyone was back in their appointed places, upon realizing that all of that had occurred during the space of a commercial break. we had not missed a single minute of the movie.

12 August 2013

0 PS90210: “whatever you do, just remember, no one’s keeping score but you.”

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand WE’RE BACK.
are you all like OH NO! I’M NOT READY! WHERE DID SUMMER GO? WHERE AM I GOING TO LIVE WHEN I GET TO CALIFORNIA UNIVERSITY??!?!? if so, fear not! you’re not alone! i mean, you’re in david silver’s boat, which isn’t exactly the boat you should be aiming to be in but at least you are not alone.
so yeah, summer’s almost over. like, in real life and in 90210. sadface.
but, you guys, we’ve got so much goodness coming. because this is the year ahhhhhhndrea becomes a slut (and is PUNISH-ed) and the year that david becomes a druggie (and is PUNISH-ed) and the year that brenda tries to elope (and is PUNISH-ed) and the year that brandon has a secret affair with an Older Woman (and is PUNISH-ed). and i’m pretty sure things happen to dylan and kelly too, i just can’t remember what they are. suffice it to say, ALL ARE PUNISH-ed. justice is doled out all season 4. except for steve, who maybe kinda forces a woman to have sex with him and then is totally redeemed because she’s mentally ill… wtf? but we’ll get there.
for now- PERISH THE THOUGHT- we are not even all at california university because brenda’s still being all ‘i’mma go my own way, ya’ll’ as if.
so today, class, we’re kicking off season 4 with episode uno: ’so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye’.
we went from having a lot of senior problems last year to a lot ‘o freshman problems this year. problems to be solved this week: what if there’s totally no housing for you? what if the high school teacher you have a crush on has a fiance? what if you cross paths with a paranoid new yorker? what if your BF broke up with you in europe? what if you’ve made a big bold move and it TOTALLY sucks? all this- AND MORE!- on this week’s episode of problem solved 90210…  Continue reading