Monday, February 26, 2007

A Product of Upbringing?

Well, I'm assuming by the lack of comment that I am a little out of my mind concerning the "thing." Oh well. They'll come for me with that pretty white coat sooner or later.

So you're gonna be institutionalized
You'll come out brainwashed with bloodshot eyes
You won't have any say
They'll brainwash you until you see their way.

I'm not crazy - institutionalized
You're the one who's crazy - institutionalized
You're driving me crazy - institutionalized

I love my folks. I really do, but I've begun to wonder if they haven't coddled me a bit too much. Actually, I know they're overprotective. Especially with me, their youngest and only daughter. I have no idea of why they (and my brothers for that matter) continue to see me as perpetually 16 years old.

I started to think about it after I got off the phone with my dad last night - at the end of a conversation that really kind of pissed me off.

I'm going to Tallahassee in a couple weeks to see Krishna (YAY!!) and I've been looking forward to it for months now. I thought I might borrow my folks' extra car (what they call "The Wal-Mart" car) just to be on the safe side and because the Taurus has a CD changer and tape deck that work. My poor little car needs a thermostat and four new motor mounts, so I thought it best not to push it until I can afford to get it fixed.

I thought borrowing this car would be no problem. So I mentioned it to my mom, who is the one who actually drives the car. She of course doesn't like the idea of my going all that distance alone, but she didn't seem to have a problem with it beyond that. But she suggested I mention it to Daddy, who is a mechanical genius and can fix practically anything - if he wants to. So I asked him. The blunt reply I got was, "We won't even drive it to Chattanooga." Okay. Well. So I asked him what was wrong with it. "It needs new tires" (reasonable) "and it's got a lot of miles on it." What? That never stopped them before.

Following that, the conversation somehow turned into an arguement (and I haven't argued with my folks in quite a long time). At the conclusion, his lovely reply was "You're 28 years old and I can't tell you what to do, but if it all goes to hell you're the one who'll have to deal with the consequences." As if I didn't know that. According to my parents, any venture that is more than 30 miles and involves me driving alone at some point is bound to "go to hell."

I understood my dad's concerns, but he seemed to not want me to go anywhere at all. I also understand that there is a lack of new and well-running cars at my disposal, and I won't deny that it's also a concern of mine. But when my Dad started making me feel guilty about going off for a weekend ("your mom needs a weekend off too" - well why don't you take her somewhere, Daddy?), I got a bit upset. Because this always happens any time I try to do something on my own: they make me doubt and they make me feel guilty.

So I wondered if my tendancies toward being a complete and utter wuss have honest roots. I know they don't do it on purpose, but they have always made me feel bad about trying things on my own - all the while trying to instill in me the value of being independant. I'm sure the feeling bad part is mostly in my own mind, but they certainly do know how to make it worse. Again, I know they don't realize it, but man have they messed with my head. There are so many normal kid things I still don't know how to do. I never learned how to ride a bike ("the neighborhood is too hilly"), I never learned how to skate properly ("I don't like you being at that skating rink"), I had a total of two birthday parties with friends when I was growing up ("the house is too much of a mess" or "I don't know those kids"), and I'm still a really crappy swimmer (granted, they tried there, but just because they were afraid I might drown someday if didn't know how to swim).

I hope I'm not sounding like a petulant teenager here, but this has begun to disturb me. I have always had this fear of moving on and leaving my old ways behind, and I think I've begun to understand part of where that comes from. I've been encouraged to be afraid. And I don't think it's my parents' fault either. My Grandmother is the Olympic Champion worry-wart, and I can't imagine how my Mom tolerated it as a kid. As for Daddy, well, I think his deal is the fact that I'm a girl. Heaven forbid I do anything remotely tough. I realize that these are all signs that they care, and I really do have wonderful parents who have always been very supportive and raised us well. I'm glad they were strict - to a degree. Yet some of their boundaries may have been too much and now I'm dealing with the consequences - stuck in college debt and only now starting to develop a plan to get out of this horrible five-year rut.

I'm not blaming this on them, though. It's more my fault for allowing myself to be afraid. At least now that I'm aware of it, I can do something about it.

Okay, I've whined quite long enough.
Now it's time to THRASH

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The "Thing"

We sat grown quiet at the name of love;
We saw the last embers of daylight die,
And in the trembling blue-green of the sky
A moon, worn as if it had been a shell
Washed by time's waters as they rose and fell
About the stars and broke in days and years.
I had a thought for no one's but your ears:
That you were beautiful, and that I strove
To love you in the old high way of love;
That it had all seemed happy, and yet we'd grown
As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.
from "Adam's Curse" by William Butler Yeats

I’ve been doing a bit of thinking on the subject of the “thing.” The “thing” that I’m speaking of is an ambiguity that is rather difficult to define. It’s a feeling toward someone else. In my case(s) they have all been toward the opposite sex and have smacked of amorous connection. It’s a sort of intuitive sense of knowing someone so profoundly, that it may not even be the outward version of this person. It’s more a sense about the inward version. And it’s a gravitational pull that draws your inward version to their inward version. Does this make any sense?

I’ve experienced this with four different men, and not once has it lead to anything very far beyond friendship (well, not yet). But I’ve learned a lot about myself and human nature through these odd communions. And I cherish my time with these men because I’ve always had an easy rapport and really, really interesting and deep conversations with them. All four of them have left pieces of themselves in the characters I’ve created for my novels.

The first “thing” man I met was a good friend in high school. We even dated for a very little while. We always shared some truly witty and fun banter, but we also confided in each other and took what the other said to heart. In essentials, we’re very much alike. We always understood each other and could have conversations without saying a word. And when he was suffering or angry or upset, I always felt it too – beyond sympathy. I’ve begun to feel that we have very similar souls (if you believe in that sort of thing).

The second of these enigmatically understandable men was also someone I dated for a very little while in high school. We were so different that we understood each other. It was more than an opposites attract kind of thing: it was more like we came full circle around each other and bumped into each other again on the other side. We were masters of the witty and entertaining banter. With him I could always exercise my latent blatant side. I could be downright blunt with him, and he with me. We were the moderates on opposite sides of a debate.

Number three was someone I met in college. The first time I saw him striding arrogantly across the dining hall, verses started flooding my brain. For one thing, he was beautiful. I mean a BEAUTIFUL man. Half Cherokee, long curly hair, painfully incisive gray eyes, tall, built like his native ancestors. Good God. It’s the first time I actually felt a rush of temperature just by looking at someone. For a while, I just watched and observed. He intrigued me. The first time we actually spoke was in a mutual friend’s dorm room. He made fun of my Southern accent as so many of my Atlanta-bred classmates did, but he teased in his own rather thick Northeast Georgia mountain accent. And he was a poet. A remarkable poet whose work really moved me. We didn’t actually talk too much in the traditional sense, but we communicated through writing and moments of drunken inhibition. He saw the woman I could become and I saw the man he could become. He was a rogue, but I was madly in love with him of course. He had issues. I had none. But I always sensed a goodness in him that was more powerful than his misbehavior. He hid this goodness so well that not many people liked him. In recent years, I’ve discovered (indirectly) that I was right about him all along, because he doesn’t hide his goodness anymore. I still write poems and have dreams about him. You could say he was my first real muse.

The final and most recent “thing” man is someone I’ve known my entire life and have always liked and respected. We met for the first time as adults maybe three or four years ago at a bar. We had a brief conversation, and didn’t really see much of each other. About a year and a half ago, I got a call from him completely out of the blue. He was teaching a college course and seeking some creative advice. From then on, he would call me every once in a while, usually at about three in the morning, and we’d end up talking for hours and hours. He invited me to continue the conversation at his house twice (six months apart), and both times we ended up in lip lock. We are more outwardly similar than any of the other “thing” men. As a friend said, we’re headed to the same place in separate cars. We love the same things, we have the same kind of thoughts, and I’ve begun to think that I may have a calming effect on his profoundly A.D.D. mind. I still don’t know what’s going on there, and frankly I’m getting a bit annoyed at myself for wondering.

Lately, I’ve been in contact with the first and the last of these “thing” men more than ever before. Probably the two men with whom this “thing” has been the deepest and the most latent. Odd how that happens. Now granted, this could all be in my head, but I don’t think so. I honestly don’t think so although I must allow that it could possibly be a projection of my respect and curiosity onto them. I just wonder if they consider me one of their “thing” women. And I wonder if either of these “things” might evolve. My money’s on one more than the other. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that I might prefer that particular “thing.” The question is which “thing” should I take the most stock in? Which is more real, more tangible?

And I’d also like to pose the question: Do y’all have “thing” men or women, or is this a creation of my sometimes overly active imagination?

A song that for some reason makes me think of all of my "thing" men. This is the Volebeats doing "Somewhere in My Heart"

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

My Real High School Reunion & NERA

As pretty as a song
A song could ever be
Like Christmas on a river
Without a boat or Christmas tree
This afternoon with you was something like a letter
The kind that someone writes but never sends
And when you look at me
You remind me that someday it's gonna end
And when you pass on
I bet you miss your friends

And people wonder why I love Ryan Adams so much when he writes lyrics like that.

Say what you will about that entity of ambiguity we like to call Myspace, but it sure as hell can be a marvelous way to get back in touch with old friends you wish you'd never lost touch with.

When I went to my ten year high school reunion, it didn't really feel like my reunion. It was great to see certain folks and I don't regret going, but my best friends from the old days were either younger or older than me. As I looked about that room last summer at the 25 classmates out of a hundred that actually showed up, I wondered if it would be in poor taste to crash next year's reunion (and the next year's for that matter). But thanks to the wondrous Myspace and Adam being the sweetheart he has always been, we got our real reunion (minus one or two) Saturday.

I was a bit nervous about the whole thing. It had been ten years since I'd seen most of them, and I was worried that it might be a bit awkward. Plus we were visiting a member of the old crew who has a three week old baby, and me being the socially aware Southern girl that I am worried that it would be a bit weird or tacky to have not seen this feller for ten years, then suddenly visit his little girl. I found out rather quickly that nothing was awkward, weird, or tacky.

We hung out at Jason's apartment, met his remarkably cool girlfriend and their adorable little girl, and it was just like the old days when we used to just sit around and talk about any and everything. We went to lunch, had some beers, remembered old dramas that now seem so silly. We went back to the apartment and talked about our lives now. A couple folks had to leave, but those of us who remained had supper (at a place where you can STILL SMOKE INSIDE - Yay!), went to Dave and Busters and played pool and geeked out on the video games. Simple stuff, really, but I couldn't tell you the last time I had such a good time.

As I get older, I realize more and more that most folks don't really change that much fundamentally. We're still basically the same people we were in high school, but evolved. The problems are more complex and the conversation more sophisticated, but we still like each other for the same reasons we liked each other then. And it really put some things into perspective for me. I spent years trying to improve and get away from who I was, but I liked who I was then, and it's helped me to understand that I like me now too. I just have to remember that and be the best me I can be. These folks always liked me for who I am, so why can't I?

And I hope they know that I've never forgotten them. I hope they know how proud I am of them. I'm amazed at the careers they've built, the children they've had and how good they are with them. Kind of gives me hope that I can do those things too. We're convening again in April when one of the key members of the group will be in town from Boston, and I absolutely cannot wait to see her and to see them again. Why does it take ten years to realize how good you had it in high school?

As usual, I couldn't find a video of the song I quoted, but here's one of Ryan Adams doing "Let it Ride" which also has nostalgic qualities to it.

Since I was so worn out by Saturday's Nostalgia-fest, I didn't do jack on Sunday, but Monday night was the NERA Annual Membership meeting.

For those of you who don't know what NERA is, it is the New Echota Rivers Alliance, a non-profit organization that I'm on the board for (I'm the mighty Secretary). We try to involve ourselves in all things concerning the Oostanaula Watershed and how it's managed and in the recreational possibilities that we can develop and so on. Now, this may not seem very exciting, but it was for me because I enjoy and am proud of the work we do, and there are certain people also involved that I am very fond of.

We had a keynote speaker, who happened to be the director of the Rome and Floyd County Recycling Center. It was really interesting and really informative and eye-opening. It's amazing the money we waste when we toss recyclables into the landfills. I won't go all preachy or anything, but it's something to think about.

Here are a Couple of Links to articles that may be of particular interest to any of y'all who live or used to live in the Calhoun area.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentine's Day

Flowers flying cross the room
Vases smashed against the floor
Said "I'd rather be alone
Take your chocolates and go home"

I'm really not that cynical about this day, but given my recent mood for Drive By Truckers tunes, I figured the above lyrics from "Feb. 14" were appropriate. :^)

I do like Valentine's Day, but I don't like to celebrate it just for the sake of celebrating it. In other words, I'm not the type who goes out looking for someone to buy me flowers in honor of two Roman Saints who nobody knows anything about (even the Catholic Church).

So, I'm sure many ladies will think I'm crazy for this, but I actually turned down an offer to have supper cooked for me tonight in favor of enjoying the one day I'll have to myself this week. It was a very nice gesture, but I barely know the person who offered. It just seems so forced and unnatural to celebrate Valentine's with someone you've only had one date with. Now, if I was in a relationship with this person, it would be completely different. I just don't want the guy to go to all the trouble and get nothing out of it, because he wouldn't get anything out of it. That may sound a little cruel, but I've come to one very important realization:
I have absolutely no obligation to give anything a date may think he is owed.

Some men feel that buying a woman dinner and taking her out and so forth gives them certain rights. Where is this written? Was it one of the Commandments that God told Moses to edit? Until someone can show me the section in the penal code that states that a woman must bow at her date's beneficience, I refuse to give in to this manifesto.

I also refuse to grin and nod when I am handed a large red stuffed frog bearing the words "BE MINE" on the bottom of his foot. Valentine's Day is just the sort of holiday that warrents yard sales. Especially when you give in to the "just because it's Valentine's" date. This is why Valentine's should be reserved for those who are already in a relationship. I don't know how most women are, but I think it's a little bit creepy to be offered gifts right away in a new relationship - even if it is Valentine's Day. Again, it gives you that sense of obligation and the man more power than he should have at that stage.

I have ranted, and I'm about done now, but I'm sick and tired of feeling guilty and being asked to further explain my dating/relationship actions. It's exhausting and I'm getting too damn old for it.

Now, I have an evening of a bath, a book, and a DVD ahead of me to plan. And I haven't looked forward to anything this much in a long time. :^)

One of my favorite love songs courtesy of the Dead Milkmen:

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Waffle House and the Creative Process

It’s really quite amazing how much just being around people can inspire a novelist. I don’t even really pay much attention to them unless I’m stuck on a word or a scene or a piece of dialogue. I don’t stay stuck nearly as long when I’m around folks. I don’t know if I pick up on the energy of the people around or if I subconsciously hear something that somebody said or notice some errant movement. Whatever the magic is, it works for me.

This is why the Waffle House is so important. Although I’m rather displeased with the fact that you can’t smoke at a Georgia Waffle House anymore, I still go there when I know I need to do some writing and my apartment gets too damn depressing to inspire any sort of creative thought. Ah, I’ll quit soon anyway.

You can’t expect to work straight through at the Waffle House either. There’s always someone there to offer some brief distraction which can be really helpful. Granted, there are sometimes those regular WaHoo patrons who distract to hindrance, but they usually mean well. I suppose I should expect it. The little girl sitting by herself, ordering only hot water, putting creamer in her tea, hiding under a black beret and behind a laptop screen is a bit of a Waffle House anomaly around here. It always surprises me how curious some folks are – and how bold. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to explain that I’m not a student and that I’m doing all this writing for the sheer pleasure and prospect of it. But then they’re always intrigued and want to know what the book is about.

My particular Waffle House out on Red Bud Road is filled with regulars, and they know me by now. They’ll ask how the book’s coming and ask questions about my laptop and the Wi-Fi my WaHoo still doesn’t have (man, I hope they wake up and smell the 21st Century soon). I don’t know if they realize how much I appreciate their interest deep down. It really gives me hope for humanity’s waning appreciation of the literary arts. At least they’re curious. I know may seem a little stand-offish to them, but I never mean to be. My mind’s just elsewhere, I reckon.

But I always tip at least two bucks despite the fact that I almost never order anything they charge for. :^)

If you want to read what I wrote at my friendly neighborhood Waffle House last night, here’s a link to it:

I kind of like it. Since Terrance and Steve have been rather elusive lately, I decided Owen needed some attention. He is, after all, a fledgling in need of some refinement and TLC. I’m kind of proud of the descriptions too, although I need more of the house – maybe.

Monday, February 5, 2007

"It's that kind of town and you're so far down you can't get up....

...I can't tell you what to sell and how to tow the line
and when to just give up."

Well, at least that's how I feel at the moment.

We all come to crossroads, and despite the fact that it's a very trite metaphor, it's a true one.

I found myself in that all too familiar situation of the recent breakup, and although breaking up with someone and one's career path seem to be unrelated, in the case of those of us who think too much, the lack of such a successful distraction as a lukewarm relationship can prove to be very eye-opening. You wake up single and think, "Now what have I forgotten to do since I started dating him?" My particular answer to that question was, "Oh yeah. You forgot to get out of your 5-year rut."

My rut has to do mostly with my lack of satisfying employment or a satisfying post-graduate degree. Sadly, this rut has also left me destitute and unable to do whatever I please with my time and job search and education.

So comes the crossroads. Do you stagnate here in a land of carpet mills and outlet malls or do you take a risk and try it out someplace else. Well, obviously the latter is the best choice. But it's much more easily said than done. Because many more questions arise. Where do you go? What do you do about work? What if Grandmother gets worse and the folks need your help? How in the name of all that is holy do you afford it? Hmm..Tricky.

I know I will figure it out and I know all will be well, and I'm not asking advice or pity. I just wonder what others would do in this situation. English degree, allergic to teaching, trying to finish a book that you can't focus on because you're too worried about money...Tricky indeed.

So I thus embark on the great coming of age moment that has been much delayed for me. Y'all bear with me.

Aaron, you've created a blogging monster. It was the Storm Trooper. Had to be.

Here's a nice little video of The Drive By Truckers. In lieu of "Easy on Yourself," their song that I quoted (couldn't find an embedable one), here's one of "Never Gonna Change." Enjoy the beautiful Southern grit.

What would you most like to see on my new website for unpublished writers?