she's writing a novel

a lot of her writing tends to be tongue-in-cheek. this is because she grew up in an evangelical tradition which was more concerned about where else she might be putting her tongue.

Friday, July 28, 2006

We don't need no education.

Yesterday the Russian lover was taking his usual afternoon stroll through Rittenhouse Park. The hazards of this stroll include the inevitability of confronting panhandlers and petitioners. The petitioners are worse than the panhandlers.

For the most part, panhandlers are easily deterred. A firm "no" or simply a failure to acknowledge the request usually ends the encounter.

Petitioners, however, have a driving need that is apparently stronger than the bum's need for Jack Daniel. Because while the bum will shrug and move on to the next guy, petitioners never hear the word "No." When you say, "No, I'm not interested," a petitioner hears "Please, tell me more so that I may understand the issue and sign the list on your clipboard. Would you like my credit card number also?"

During the day, there are only a few kinds of characters that populate the park: Mothers with babies. Office drones with lunches. Bums with booze. And lastly, and most proliferate of all, the hipsters with accessories, who are really just bums with credit lines.

The hipsters think of the park as their senate, where key issues are discussed, world problems are solved, and it is concluded that if only the people with power and money listened to them, all would be well. So naturally, anyone with a far-left agenda who needs a little support for their cause in the form of a few thousand signatures or a small donation will be sure to make the rounds midday at the park. The hipsters want to make the world a better place, one signature at a time, and they will sign anything. Anything.

Yesterday, two mangy-looking teenagers approached the Russian lover with a petition. He'd seen them making the circuit around the park, going from bench to bench collecting signatures. He made bets with himself as to what Evil they were ridding the world of today.

"Would you like to sign a petition which calls for a ban on hydrogen oxide?" the scrubby girl asked.

"Excuse me?" said the Russian lover.

"Hydrogen oxide," the boy continued. "It's a substance found in almost the entire food supply. It permeates our food sources, and it is found in some form in nearly all of our grocery products today."

The Russian lover blinked slowly. "Do you know chemistry?"


"Then, do you know the common name for hydrogen oxide?"

The girl became sheepish and confessed that she did.

The pair owned up to their little experiment, and showed the Russian lover their accumulated list of names. Pages and pages of names. It numbered well into the hundreds. And some of the people who had signed for themselves signed for their friends as well.

And apparently, of all the people who had listened to their impassioned spiel that day, the Russian lover was the only one who understood that the petition was calling for a ban on water.

Monday, July 24, 2006

envy and apathy

Today I am obsessed with watching the imminent success of my *least* favorite blogger, on the eve of her chick-lit book release. I want the book to fail, but it won’t. It might even crack the top ten, with August upon us and everyone looking for a good beach read. And my resentment of her is an interesting kind, the kind I remember feeling for a particular girl in high school. The girl who effortlessly achieved excellent grades in math AND English, while excelling in neither. The girl who had every lead in every play, but only because she was unmemorable enough as an actress that she could blur into every nondescript high-school drama role. The girl who did everything just well enough, but nothing exceptionally well. The girl who got the attention of every average, enthusiastic, talentless person looking for a momentary icon to latch on to. The truly smart, truly interesting people always found this girl impossibly dull, a burden to observe. She excelled, but only within the margin of low expectations and bad taste. She was omnipresent but unremarkable.

It is much the same with this particular blogger and her current acclaim. I hope it is a brief flame of fame. But who knows? People love her, and people love to hate her, and that is a win-win public relations combination. It ensures that her mediocrity will be elevated and worshipped by her fans, and demonized by her enemies; it ensures that everyone will talk about her, including me.

You want to know something even more pathetic? I will read her book so that I can confirm how bad I believe it will be, while secretly envying its very existence. But I will read it in the bookstore, because I won’t want to have patronized her by buying the damn thing. I embrace that neurosis.

And why don’t I write more? I write well. I write better than this girl, with her clumsy, uneven, and overly-ambitious metaphors. She tries much too hard, and her labor to be witty, to be brilliant, to be insightful…it’s apparent and it’s ugly. There are other writers (including bloggers) who are all these things without ever giving a hint that they worked at it, practiced it, or so much as revised it. They have an easy style that suggests they just came by this writing of theirs, that it’s something that comes out of their very essence—it’s not so obviously a construct, something that had to be assembled and polished.

Easeful writing makes for glorious reading. Writing that suggests the labor of trying to create easeful writing is a nightmare, and it is the latter that this particular blogger creates, especially when she thinks she is at her best. When she is really at her best she is angry and apathetic about her words. But when she is in her “I’m a professional writer” mode, all she comes up with is long passages of detailed garbage that are desperate to be nuanced.

Monday, July 17, 2006

It's too hot for heat

It's 96 degrees outside. Adding to the general misery of this hell-spawned day, one of the cats has gone into heat.

If you've never heard the sound of a cat in heat...when Chewbacca's wife nags him, that's what it sounds like. It's the most god-awful grating sound you can imagine, and it goes on and on. All day and all night for about a week.

Why is the cat not fixed?

Because the cat is an $800 British shorthair purebread showcat that was flown in special for the ex-girlfriend of the Russian lover, back when Russian lover was still living with said ex-girlfriend. Ex-girlfriend had the fantastic idea that she would breed said cat and sell the kittens for a profit. Ta-da.

Well, Ex-girlfriend has failed on the follow-through. Ex-girlfriend and Russian lover parted ways, with the official custody of expensive kitten unresolved. Expensive Kitten is the love child of divorced parents, and she doesn't hide her resentment. No one wants to fix Expensive Kitten, but apparently no one has the time or energy to breed her, either.

So, Expensive Kitten, a woman now, is left to flail around on the floor of the apartment and bemoan her sexless existence in decibals offensive to all tenants of the building. She flings herself down and gargles adamently, calling to a mate that will never come.

And it is Ex-girlfriend's fault. Ex-girlfriend, who HAD to have kittens. And then, HAD to have Expensive Kitten. Except, after obtaining X number of kittens with Russian lover, Ex-girlfriend moved on. She did not move on with the kittens, however. She moved on to marry some kind of Cat Whisperer, who lives off the dividends of his late father's stock and rescues stray cats and therefore provides her with an infinitate, rotating supply of kittens.

Well, I'm a little salty about Ex-girlfriend's abandonment of Expensive Kitten to the care of the Russian lover.

And I'm also a little panicked, because Ex-girlfriend is now pregnant by her Cat Whisperer Husband.

Based on Ex-girlfriend's history of enthusaistically wanting something to love and look after, and then leaving it behind for the Russian lover to love and look after, I am wondering if I should start making room in the apartment for a nursery.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Words for Whoopee

The Russian lover is on to me.

He’s caught on to what I thought were my very subtle procrastination devices.

Cleaning! There is always the floor to vacuum and dishes to wash and things to pick up and shelves of books to put in alphabetical order by author and title. And it does need to be done…But then the Russian lover counters: Yes, but you said it yourself. Those things are always there to be done. And when you do them instead of writing, you are not being a fantastic helpful roommate. You are being a procrastinating writer.

Reading! I am reading and reading is an important part of any writer’s diet. I’m reading the news, so I am current and aware. I’m reading popular blogs, so that I can see what other people are reading and writing. This way I know exactly who is talented and becoming successful, so I can feel even worse that I am not a success. (Or, I know who is not talented and is becoming successful, so I can gloat at the thought of their forthcoming fall from acclaim). The Russian lover counters: Stop reading blogs and start writing yours. It is hard to argue with that kind of succinct summation.

Preparing! I’m looking up writing exercises on the internet , to give me ideas or a place to start when nothing particular is coming to mind. This is not procrastination. This is legitimate research, and a real effort directed toward the act of writing. It’s prewriting.

It’s bullshit, says the Russian lover, who finds this to be my most egregious excuse yet.

So here I am, perusing a creative writing site which purports to help me “Pump my Muse.” I’m vaguely uncomfortable with their offer; it sounds a bit like the sort of proposition made to you by a transvestite crack whore on 13th and Locust. I laugh and point this out to the Russian lover, who has finally had enough of my lethargic attitude in general and my attempts at procrastination in particular. He decides to counter with a threat.

And not just any threat. The threat. The one threat that makes me pay attention; the one threat that prompts me to amend my behavior almost immediately:

No sex unless you write.

So, here it is –a blog and a bid to get laid.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Much ado about nothing

Arguments are rarely disagreements.

That is, they are usually not about a difference in opinion. He wants Thai, She wants Chinese. He wants Cabernet; She wants Chardonnay. He’s thinking stripes; She’s thinking floral. He sees them London; She sees them France. Compromise is easier than people think. Most people aren’t as passionate about take-out and wine, wallpaper and travel destinations, as they think they are. But we fight about these so-called differences with sound and fury (just ask the neighbors).

It’s not because I care that much about the white wine or the city we book for our summer vacation. It’s a fear that- in not caring, in not defending my arbitrary opinion- I somehow lose ground. Me blurs and becomes nothing but a burr on You. Maybe we think that if we fight it out long enough, we can come up with an US that is about both of our desires.

But that’s not really what we want, the US. And so sometimes we'd rather fight indefinately than blur, or blend. Sometimes the argument is just about reminding ourselves that I am Me, and You are You.

Sometimes an argument is something we pick to test our lover’s boundaries, to see just how much irritation we can cause without losing their affection. Sometimes it’s just a way to work out a mood, a prelude to makeup sex; a desire to push each other away so we can remember how nice it feels to get close.

But mostly, arguments are a refusal to hear. Arguments happen when I stop being willing to be surprised by what you could tell me, when I stop believing that what you have to say is anything different from what I expect you to say.

That’s why when you tell him you are upset because he turned away from you mid-sentence to talk to a pretty acquaintance, you have an argument. He does not want to hear that you are upset, because you should not be upset. And so he will respond with words that are an attempt to get you to confess that you are not really upset. And when you tell him, finally, that never mind, it doesn’t bother you at all….then he won’t believe you. But he will believe finally that you are upset about something. And then he will try to get to the bottom of it. For you to be upset about something as simple as him talking to some pretty girl…well, that’s just too obvious and so it can’t possibly be the case. Because women are complicated and layered and above all passive aggressive, and he knows this, having dated many women. So he will try to solve the mystery, he will delve deep trying to determine what it is you are trying to tell him you are upset about when you tell him you are upset about him talking to a pretty girl. Are you afraid he will leave you? He assures you he will not leave you. Are you upset because you think she is prettier than you? She is not prettier than you. Or, if she is prettier than you, she is not as smart or clever or desirable as you, so it doesn’t really matter that she is prettier than you. If you are stubborn or brave or foolish, you will stick to your story. You will tell him that you simply did not like that he turned away from you while you were speaking to him, and that it was made worse by the fact that it was another woman who stole his attention from you.

He should be apologetic and flattered that you covet his attention. But he will continue to insist that there is something more to it, something you aren’t disclosing. Finally, he will decide that it is because you are a bitch that you are upset. You are a woman like other women, a petty bitch who won’t tell him what’s wrong but makes him run around in circles trying to guess. A bitch who gets off on making him jump through hoops of guessing, making a stammering monkey out of him. Well? He’s tried. But if that’s the way she wants to be, he can’t fix it, he can’t make it right.

And she didn’t need anything fixed, didn’t need anything made right. She just wanted him to know that she wanted him to listen to her, then and now and always. But he can’t hear her, and so now there is only her sniffling and his silence.

That is the way that arguments happen.