I juuuuust remembered I had an About page. And my About page was two years old.
For what it’s worth, I’ve updated it! I am good at social media.
I juuuuust remembered I had an About page. And my About page was two years old.
For what it’s worth, I’ve updated it! I am good at social media.
This morning I was sitting outside with a cup of coffee, idly scrolling through my phone.
I was thinking about that young, entreprenuerial, techno-ideological, happy-fun-time thought brigade that used to populate my Twitter feed. I won’t bother you with details. I was thinking about these types of people and one of their favorite aspirational cliches:
“What drives you?”
What drives me?
“Rage, mostly,” I answered myself, and then I chuckled to myself about how clever I was for answering the question truthfully, but also not at all.
But it’s real. Anger drives me. Anger drives me to work in the morning and drives me home every night. Anger is my personal caddy.
Before 9am today I’d come up with three different things to be mad about. By the afternoon I’d found another thing, and on the way home I’d figured out two more things to be mad about. By late evening I was angry about so many things, that I was ready to jump off a bridge over the fact that a barista gave me a bag of fucking finely ground espresso style coffee when I specifically asked for as coarse a grind as possible, because I am so sick of these shit long blacks when all I want is a decent cup of joe which in all my effort I haven’t managed to procure in over a year.
It’s like the time I almost went apeshit over the fact that I got mayo instead of tomato sauce on account of the fact that I pronounce “tomato” with a hard “a” instead of a soft one, and the girl really wasn’t listening. I’m trying really hard already to acclimate to the fact that most of the time I can’t just ask for some goddamn ketchup.
Is it bratty? Sounds like it, but I’d argue the opposite. It’s extreme politeness which puts me in these jams. No one ever saw me crack the shits in these situations, not once. It doesn’t show on my face. I expect to be understood the first time, and to repeat myself, or to speak extra slowly, feels like I’m patronizing the person I’m talking to. I’d rather have something go wrong on my end than anyone else feel small on my account.
And similarly few things inspire me toward violence more than someone telling me to be assertive or speak up, as if I’m a bit slow in the head and need to be spoken for.
But, it has occurred to me lately that I don’t know how to express anger. If I can learn to express anger about the real things then I can express dissatisfaction about the small things in a more normal, transactional way. Conlicts over coffee and condiments won’t be primed to fire in complete disproportion to their actual importance. I want justice for myself. I want resolution. I want to be understood, not just cajoled. I don’t necessarily know how to bring those things about with my words.
The point of this post isn’t exactly to bring up gender, but I saw a fantastic feminist smack down on HuffPost today, in which one douchey bearded fellow kept insisting that men have all this pent up violence and aggression, which is not being supported enough in our society, and so manifests as school shootings and the like. This video is discussion-worthy in itself, especially the high-five worthy comment by Mary Ann Franks that you aren’t hardwired with any innate personality traits by way of your genitals.
But to stay on topic here, I would argue from my experience of being a fairly average woman that anger and aggression probably populate our psyches to a significant degree. But our culture doesn’t deal well with the healthy expression of anger in either men or women.
Of all the women I know, and I’m racking my brain, I can think of three who are good at being angry. I love, love, love them for it. This means they can express anger with the right words, at the right time, and without tears. Any time I come around to expressing adequate rage, I’ve already spent far too long leveling that rage at myself (it’s inside me, after all, with nowhere to go) that I’m weakened by it, and tears/incoherence come along for the ride.
I know many men, on the other hand, with no hesitations whatsoever in getting pissed off. Only a few men I know are deferential with their feelings of real anger. The male problem of expression is more likely to be one of excess. Where our culture is overly restrictive with livid women, it’s overly permissive with furious men. A man who is good at expressing anger can do so at the right time, with the right words, and without physical violence or threats of violence. I’ve seen too many fail this test, sadly. Men aren’t being suppressed when they’re told to ease up a bit on the shit-kicking. If they really want to hurt something, they got five hundred choices of sport, several branches of the military, thousands of video games, the psychological violence of capitalism and lots of fist-happy blokes in King’s Cross to choose from.
But either way, it’s important to be good at being angry. It’s amazing I’ve gone this far without learning those skills.
I think if I was a mom, (I use this scenario as a thought experiment to retrain myself), instead of telling my angry little girl to calm down and shut her mouth I’d probably ask her to explain to me exactly why she is angry, who/what made her so, and if there’s anything she can do to rectify the situation materially or emotionally, and then I’d pretty strongly insist that she repeat everything she told me to the offending party, and ask for an apology if necessary. And I wouldn’t tell her to express herself calmly, I’d ask her to express herself well. Because it’s hard to express yourself well when you’re freaking out. It achieves the same result with a different emphasis.
The bigger things are more difficult to work out. But at least tomorrow I can still go to the coffee shop and doubly, triply insist that they grind it the way I asked the first time. Goddammit.
It’s Sept 12th in Oz today. I didn’t have Sept 11th last year.
Instead, one year ago today I had an airplane flying me 14 hours through a total pitch black ocean night and dropping me bumpily into a crazy yellow morning. There were cliffs and warehouses and an ocean tinted weirdly by a sun I wasn’t used to. I took a cab, sat in the back seat, and tipped like an American.
My Work and Holiday Visa lasted 12 months and so was set to expire today. I still don’t know exactly how things will pan out, because I’m on a bridging visa, still waiting on a final answer from the Department of Immigration.
One year on, I’m happy with everything, happy with my job, happy with my friends, happy with my boyfriend and the place I live. But the best thing about today was that I went to work and not to the airport.
A few weeks ago I came home really late and started working on a poem called That Warm Light. I was so tired that I felt drunk, and as such I don’t really remember writing this. I had intended for it to be a rough draft that I would hone later, but when I look at it now, I think I can’t really touch it.
That Warm Light
there was a warm light
reflecting off wood – it must reflect off wood
there was a warm light coming from the wallsandceilings of a house
my parents looked at years ago
the house was sitting in a field
it squeezed out the warm light from a distance
it had staircases I loved staircases
it had carpet, a nice cream coloured carpet
when I ran up the stairs I could feel how it pressed down
even the staircases had this carpet
and that’s how I knew it was a good house
a good warm light house
my parents didn’t buy it but
the warm light was in many places
it was in renovated barns and shining down
over the sawdust and sands of rodeo towns
it was everywhere a good man loved a good woman
in those days it was all described in songs I took as given
in a shared dream
the warm light was those cowboys with hats and ten gallon smiles
happy women, children chewing on long grass
I chewed on long grass, my tongue on the hollow stem
and the featherhead balancing out in front
the women were happy because someone took care of them like
in the songs, like in the church
the men were happy because they had good women
and the warm light smelled like crickets and potpourri
oh, the warm light lovers loved potpourri
and smiling things made out of cornhusks
all these wallsandceilings made for lovers like this
and people who were cared for
there’s the blueberry lights in urban places
that create such an ache
soft and perfectly concentric in glass reflection
infinite in their promises to the psyche
blueberry lights cause havoc too and I bet they come with carpet
I don’t know where home is and never did
it’s not just birth and automatic
Lately I’ve had a funny surge in homesickness, but not for reasons you’d think. The feeling comes unprovoked, lingers, and then wanders off on its own.
Homesickness is a very specific sensation, isn’t it? It not sadness, or longing, or loneliness. but an assortment of all three with something extra on top. Homesickness has a physical symptom that feels like nothing else. It’s an ache and a coldness in the chest.
Random spots of homesickness have come to me my whole life, and it never mattered where I actually was. This feeling almost always came when I got out of the shower or out of swimming pool. When I’m wet, basically. I don’t know why. Anyway.
I can’t call the feeling anything but “homesick”. It’s as clear a feeling as “happiness” or “anger”. It labels itself.
But, there’s no home I’m sick for. That’s the weird part. I’ve felt homesick at my mother’s house and homesick at my sister’s house, homesick in places I’ve lived for years, homesick at college, homesick in my home town.
For the past several months, my home has been a little flat in Darlinghurst with Coco and Ezra. That’s where I go when I go home. I rack my brain to think of other places I consider home, and I come up empty. I have no home in the States. I’m perfectly accustomed to long distance relationships with friends and family. I love this existence I have. Good riddance to anything that came before it. If I could come face to face with my own history I’d probably just give it the finger.
I realized today that the feeling of homesickness is probably just growing pains. Gums hurt when adult teeth come through. Joints hurt. This is a psychological hurt, but it’s an auspicious hurt. I need to interpret this sort of pain in a favorable way.
I wasn’t underdeveloped. But I’ve been pushing pushing pushing, and it’s to the point where my thought patterns just have to catch up with my circumstance.
Home is a selfish thing, it is the person I’m comfortable being.
Homesickness is the comfort becoming untenable.
when you are so tired
and so far from home
night is not black
jaundiced and pink as the prick
when night is not black
the highway flag is green and white
set against comet tails
kilometer currency, cold as coins
band together like bubbles of mercury
or not at all
every sidewalk is a peninsula
every crack is the tick of life
I have a small memory which comes back to me once in a while.
When I was twelve, I was just starting seventh grade at a new school in a new town. That summer my mom took me to the local Lutheran church, and there I met a few kids in advance.
One of the girls, lets call her Amy, was a friendly cheerleader type. She was long and lanky with straight blonde hair and really innocent eyes. Every day she wore tiny shorts and converses, and between those two points her long legs clip-clopped along in a completely graceless preteen canter.
She was either naive enough or revolutionary enough to make an effort to be my friend. In retrospect she was pretty alright, but those were the days when popular people made me nervous as shit, and I was even more uncomfortable around humans than I am now.
But we still went to the same church, and in the summer, we went to the same church camp. It was always the same: She and the others looking practically pictorial, those rosey-cheeked Americana kids – and me looking like I’d eaten five million donuts and pulled my clothes out of a dumpster at 5am the night before, where I must have slept after stealing some glasses off a 70 year old bus driver. Twelve wasn’t a good look for me.
If memory serves,I believe we were all divided into four groups to rotate chores around the camp.
We had kitchen duty. Amy and I paired off.
I was desperate, like I usually am, to do anything other than stand around awkwardly, so I started loading trashbags into the rolling dumpster that went outside. When it was full, Amy got on one side to pull and I got on the other to push.
About halfway to the door, Amy started loitering. After a few seconds, she stopped dead and started looking around.
“Come on, let’s go,” I said, giving the cart just a little insistent push.
And right then Amy clamped her hands down and said something to me that I’ll never forget.
“Grace, we do not take out trash.”
Here was this girl who for all intents and purposes spent most of her days reading Seventeen, talking about Jesus and, doing splits in the air, and right before my eyes she turned into some kind of queen.
I mean, her voice changed completely. It was older and harder. She said it like a mantra. She said it like she was trying to teach me something. She said it like she was my mother.
And while my mouth was still split open with response-less wonder, she daisy-walked off to a couple of boys and asked them to do it for her. And they did.
And from then on I wondered if I’m the kind of person who takes out the trash. I still wonder.
I talked to my mom about it as soon as I got home. I had, at that point, still a very shaky opinion that I was right for wanting to do the dirty job myself.
But my mom looked at me with her green-blue eyes which could turn so steely sometimes, and I looked at her and the deep scar along her eyebrow, and it must have been some alien-goddess speaking through them, because she had Amy’s voice when she said,
“Don’t do it. You can do better.”
If it was anyone other than my mom saying this, it would have struck me as princess malarkey. Now there’s obviously an ideological and a literal substance to the statement “we don’t take out trash”. Amy meant it in both ways, as it applied right then. My mom knew I was talking about the ideological substance, and that’s what she was addressing. But it’s easy to cross literal with figurative. I’m pretty sure that even now in all our estrangedness my mom wouldn’t want me to roll industrial garbage out to the back as part of my regular working life, and I’m 90% sure Amy takes the literal trash out of her house on a regular basis, just like me.
My mom has a really embedded awareness of class, and her voice takes on a particular kind of coldness when she alludes to it. I think she immediately and even unconsciously decided that this middle class girl had something to teach me. Yet my mother, metaphorically and literally, took out the trash every day of her life. She has always done what needed to be done, no matter how dirty, no matter how ominous.
I’m still a person who takes out the trash. It’s my nature. After 15 years though, I’m still deliberating. I still don’t know if Amy was right.
What it gets down to, is a contest between pragmatism and esteem.
I hate ego more than almost any other personality trait. I think that people who find themselves really amazing usually have an inaccurate estimate of how small 1/7 billionth is, and an irrational placement of themselves along the spectrum of human excellence. As such, I don’t find them very smart, or willing to contemplate the actual scale of the universe they live in. Plus, anecdotally, I notice that bigger egos = shitter work.
At the same time I see one or two of those little human butterflies just sloshing color everywhere and lighting up the earth because they demand to be seen as a real human, they demand to be seen by the world with as much tenderness and complexity as they see themselves. They may be famous or they may work in a coffee shop, but they do not compromise and they ask that they be cared for, and they leave when they want to and they do not take out trash. They are souls declaring independence from the insistent rigor of mechanical life.
On the one hand, I admire these tiny rebellions. We need these characters like we need great art or NASA expeditions, because it bears repeating over and over and over again that we are here to do more than shit and die.
Where I object is at the point at which you crawl on top of other people to declare your self-hood. For every Amy not taking out trash, there are two boys who do. Who has the power here? And who has it ultimately? Maybe those questions have different answers.
For every diva and every princess and every megalomaniac, there’s one thousand wage slaves anchoring down the whole system, making it nice and steady for them. Jack Kerouac was supported my his mother and girlfriend. Jackson Pollack put the kibosh on Lee Krasner’s career so he could be all tortured and incon-fucking-siderate. But we need Pollack and we need Kerouac.
I still take out trash. I’m proud to take out trash. But I don’t want to spend my life looking up at someone else’s dream.
There must be a third option somewhere.
Rouhani, speaking to parliament after taking the oath of office, said he hoped confidence-building with foreign powers would help alleviate the nuclear dispute.
Then maybe don’t immediately liken Tehran to Pyongyang, dummy.
I hold the USA mostly responsible for Ayatollah Khomenei, and for Kim Il-Sung’s legacy, because I can’t imagine how anyone would give these guys power if they weren’t trying to defend themselves against our particular brand of assholerly. I also would rather nobody have nuclear weapons, but that’s a separate issue.
At the same time, Pyongyang is the terrible, dead, fascist centre of a prison country, and nobody likes them. And if you’re a brand new president of Iran, posing yourself as a moderate and positioning yourself to negotiate for your nuclear rights, maybe don’t associate yourself with a nation with seriously the dumbest foreign policy in the developed world. Just a thought.
This is the first chapter of a first rough draft for Time for the Navigator. Time for the Navigator is the third book of a trilogy that starts with the Kernel in David Morrow. I wrote the first draft about a year ago and have pretty much left it in the dark since then.
I want Kernel in David Morrow to be published mostly so that Time for the Navigator can see the light of day.
I really like the idea of a story that starts with a few fairy-eyed teenagers embarking on a great adventure and ends with a few 40-year-olds wondering if they took a wrong turn somewhere.
I also really like North, especially as he is here.