Monday, January 23, 2012

Boardwalk Empire

I like to sit and watch the ocean. As the sun sets behind me, behind the plains, cities, and mountains of this country, it makes the sky it's leaving behind the most magnificent, almost soothing color. Like periwinkle, gray, and gold all mixed together in a meld of brilliance. On this boardwalk bench I sit, carnival sights sounds smells swirling around me from behind and to the left. Corn dogs and funnel cakes, ferris wheels and tilt-a-whirls, bells clanging and people jollying... it's a grand escape from the harsh reality of the real world. An over-sized tiger floats past me with balloons, the neon lights bright against the darkening midnight sky. I look back at the ocean, so steady, so firm, so dependable. Waves lap at the sand like a tongue reaching for a Tootsie Pop. All day, all night, lapping, licking, crashing into the beach; the sand stays, takes the beating, knows what's coming and refuses to leave. It becomes better, stronger, reliable with every tick. It knows it's place, it knows it's purpose and it accepts it. The ocean doesn't budge and neither do I. I am cemented to this bench, eyes fixed on the fading light in the sky and the darkening vastness of the Atlantic. Somewhere over the horizon I wonder if my fate is waiting for me. I wonder what my fate is, what it means for me and where it will take me one day. The steadiness of the breaking waves steadies me and my wandering mind. So often I feel lost, so often I feel alone- even when surrounded by people I feel alone sometimes. I'm missing what they all have and hope has slipped away at ever getting it for myself. So I feel lost and alone, unrelatable and unremarkable. My thoughts drift away like I'm lost in the ocean... what if I'd stayed at that small college I went to right out of high school, what if my kidneys hadn't failed the first time, or rejected the second time, what if I'd taken a chance on Joey, the boy I loved for such a long time? What if I'd really loved him like I wanted to? How would my life be different now? I'm brought back to the present by the blinking lights of a liner in the distance and I know it's no use. You can't change biology and that's what most of this boils down to, one way or another. It's funny how different the Atlantic is from the Pacific. It's a different experience to sit on a Pacific beach and watch the sunset. With a Pacific beach, you seem to always know what's coming. You know when the sun is gone because you see it dip below the water. You can watch a storm roll in from the West, turmoiling the water and changing the sky. You know it's coming, you can prepare, and then you can weather the storm and watch for the clear skies that always, eventually come after it. With an Atlantic sunset, you watch the light fade from the sky until it's gone, The storms take you by surprise as you stare into the east, waiting for the sun to come back, and you only know it's over when the clouds subside towards England, bringing the rain and gray to London. Until that time comes you can only hold your umbrella and wonder if the storm will ever end. Now as I sit, staring, wondering, waiting, the night rips the last bit of brilliance from the sunset behind me. With the light gone I feel hope has drained, though deep inside I know it's been gone for ages. As I've watched the ones I love come and go, marry and have children, move on and up, I seem to always stay the same. I don't know how to change it- as I've tried desperately my entire adult life- and I don't understand why it doesn't happen for me. The disappeared sun seems to have left a void, one I don't notice all the time but lately seems to be rearing its sad little head all too often and likens itself to the oddest metaphors when I write.Maybe the key is to not write. Maybe it's to move on and ultimately accept what life has handed me. The ocean, dark and black and vast now without the illumination of the sun, continues to wear at the sand. I think to my self, "I am lost, I am vain, I will never be the same without you" as I close my eyes and listen to the carnival behind me and to the left. And I know, I will never be the same without you, whoever you are.

To see what I mean click here

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Paris est la plus Belle sous la Pluie

Mon ceour pleure pour Paris. La lumière, la ville, la romance, la culture... je voudrais aller Paris tellement affreusement mais je besoin de une greffe de rein premier. Avec un soupier.

I've never been to Paris. I've stared across the English Channel at where I imagine it is, but grey rough water was really all I could see. I've never stepped foot onto French soil, never revered the hallowed beaches at Normandy, or grazed wildflowers with my hand on a walk through the countryside. I've never ridden the Metro or seen la Tour Eiffel light up at night. Seulement dans le ciné, seulement dans mon rève.

J'aime le film "Midnight in Paris". It makes me think that if I went to Paris, if I spent some time in the city, wandering at night and sight seeing during the day, I might actually be able to write my book and it might actually be really beautiful. Je veux me trouver à Paris. Je pense que la vie est un continuellement se retrouver. Et je veux me trouver à Paris.

Un jour, je vais obtenir un rein et aller à Paris. Un jour, je vais tenir sous la Tour Eiffel at admirer la magnificence c'est. Un jour, je vais marcher à travers les jardins de Versailles. La histoire, la grandeur, la Champs-Elysées. Paris.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Books I Read

I must be getting my drive to write back, because in the several year history of this blog, there has very rarely been a time when I publish a post so soon after publishing another one. Perhaps the writer's fatigue I've suffered from my last semester of college is finally wearing off. Maybe it's the zeal of the new year and the desire to actually make good on my resolution that is pushing me to write a bit more. Maybe I'm bored at work. Or maybe it's that my darling cousin Natalie recently asked me, in a comment on this very blog, what I read and where I get my inspiration from and this is in response to that.

In a fiction writing workshop I took during my undergrad, from one of my all time favorite professors, Nicole Sheets, we read what felt like a lot, and wrote response to what we read. Nicole said the purpose of this exercise was simple: the better reader you are, the better writer you are. As you may or may not know, I have a debilitating condition in my retinas and though it's been stable for quite a few years, I have some irreversible damage to my right retina, which causes me to read quite slowly and also have some trouble reading sometimes if I'm tired or the light is bad. This condition causes me to not read nearly as much as I should or would like to.

So when I do pick up a book, I'm pretty picky. It doesn't help that I'm also hard to please when it comes to genre, writing style, and characters. For example, have I ever read a Harry Potter book? No. Will I ever read a Harry Potter book? No. Not because I'm 29 and they're for adolescents or I don't think J.K. Rowling isn't a brilliant writer and story teller. It's because fantasy will almost never find a home in my life (see list below for exceptions; Tolkien is always an exception). I've tried to read it, and I usually can't do it. I can't make myself believe that this could be real. I actually find this to be very limiting and a little irritating, but I know I won't write fantasy because that's not what I'm good at.

What I'm good at, and subsequently what I usually like to read, is non-fiction. I think this genre is slightly overlooked by a lot of people, mainly because it can be, or seem, quite mundane to some people. And let's face it, a book chronicling the resurgence of political power by the Libertarian party isn't going to interest a large percentage of the American public. But everyone has a story, and lots of the time it's a pretty interesting story, and if it's told right, it can be cool to read about. What I like about non-fiction is that it's real, it happened to someone and someone gained something from the experience. (That's not to say all non-fiction is true. James Frey anyone? But that's a different discussion for a different day. It's also not to say that fiction never comes from real life experiences, but that too, is a different discussion for a different day).

Anyway, this has turned into quite the diatribe when all I was meaning to do was list some of my favorite books. So without further ado, here it is, the list!
  • The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea - Chelsea Handler
  • Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen (this is for real! "I get lost in the language, words like 'thither', 'mischance'... 'fel-icity'.")
  • Cool, Calm, and  Contentious - Merrill Markoe (currently reading, and it's awesome)
  • Peter and Wendy - J.M. Barrie (also known as Peter Pan)
  • Dewey: The Small Town Library Cat who Touched the World - Vicki Myron
  • "The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes" - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Blind Side - Michael Lewis
  • "The Great American Essay" Series
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day - David Sedaris
Some books I really want to read include:
  • The Boys of My Youth - Jo Ann Beard (out of print! :[ )
  • Steve Jobs - Walter Isaacson (which I got for Christmas and is 600 pages and 42 chapters long)
  • One Day It'll All Make Sense - Common (yes, the rapper)
And so there you have it. If you're so inclined, please leave a comment and tell me some of your favorite books or authors, or anything you think I should read, or how narrow-minded I am for not liking fantasy. Go nuts! I would also like to state that I absolutely abhor the Twilight series for several reasons which I will now list: bad, bad, bad, bad writing, the absolute worst female lead ever, ridiculous premise, and an awful message to all the pre-teen girls who are devouring those books that life does not go on if your vampire boyfriend leaves you. The End

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Remembering Tom & Andy

Every year around this time, a little black cloud settles over my world. It's not voluntary, it's almost mandatory, and there is little I can do about it. It generally goes away after January 6th and things can get back to normal.

This January 6th is the 13 year anniversary of the day my brothers died. 13 years feels like a long time, and I suppose that's because it is a long time. Much of the time, Tom & Andy don't come up in our everyday conversation. As time's worn on, our memories have progressed to a place that doesn't constantly focus on what's not here. But when I close my eyes, I can still see them perfectly- sitting in their room, listening to depression rock and laughing, Tom making cookies in the kitchen (he was the best with peanut butter and pumpkin chocolate chip), Andy painting on his fancy, beautiful easel with oil paints... such a steady hand, blending colors seamlessly in the backdrop on his work... my favorite is the sunflower- bright yellow petals against a fading, brilliant blue sky. Rich, green leaves seem to wave at you as the flower watches from it's canvas.

Tom & Andy were wonderful brothers. There were some rough years in there with Andy being addicted to heroin. That devil dictated his every move and he hurt many people because of it. There was a lot of anger and sadness in our family because of it, and when he came back and asked for forgiveness, it hurts me to admit that it took me much longer than it should have to let him back in. Regardless of those years and his transgressions, Andy was the coolest. It wasn't even anything he did, it was his demeanor and the way he treated people. He was charismatic and charming, and maybe it was my adolescent naivety but he always made me feel like I was the coolest too.

Tom was brilliant. Really, he was brilliant. He could do anything as long as it made sense to him, and things like science and engineering made sense to Tom. He could stay up for hours and days on end, work the night shift at Amoco while finishing his chemical engineering degree at the U. and stil be the wittiest person on earth. I loved going to visit Tom when he was working at the gas station because he'd let me get a soda from the fountain for only the cost of the cup, lid, and straw. That was roughly a dime, at least that's all he'd charge me. He was always trying to protect me from the harsh realities of the world... pretending the coffee smell in his car was something he was hauling to the station and not his preferred morning beverage... I guess he always wanted me to think the best of him, and I did; whether he was showing me his 20 page test that was 1 problem long, trying so hard to tutor me-the untutorable- in geometry, or even going night boarding at Brighton.

Now they're gone, as they have been since 1999. But last year a miracle happened. On January 6th, 2011, my nephew was born, a little boy named Thomas Andrew. I knew he'd be born on the 6th, he had to be. And Thomas is going to be as brilliant and charming as his namesakes. He already is. A kid that can capture the attention of a room just by entering it, and he can't even walk yet. He's brought sunshine and joy to a day my family has dreaded for 13 years, and though the deep meaning of the day still looms and beckons depression, Thomas crawls in, flaps his arms and kicks his legs, slips you that smile and chases the depression back into the recesses from whence it came. Thomas has literally saved the day.

Thomas was here visiting with his parents for Christmas this year. My other youngest nephew, Zach: son of Ben, was over on Christmas Eve, playing with Thomas as they opened their Christmas Eve presents. As I watched them play I couldn't help but see my brothers in those two beautiful boys.