She tuned her acoustic guitar, adjusted her microphone, and took a sip of water from a plastic cup before awkwardly introducing her next song.
"Ummm, hi, everyone. Thanks for listening. This song is, ummm, a cover of Radiohead's 'Creep.' I hope you like it."
The three people listening to her cover did like it. They liked it a lot, and ended up feeling bad that they liked it so much because hardly anyone else was around to hear it. How difficult it must have been for her to be playing music for only three people, while everyone else in the bar danced to the DJ's loud music upstairs.
She stared out into her crowd of three and suddenly, she didn't feel so bad about her limited audience. Sitting on a stool at the bar was a handsome man with dark hair and a smile that nearly made her fingers stumble across the frets. They were introduced to one another earlier last week, and he seemed friendly and interested in her music. He even bought one of her CDs. They talked at the bar for quite awhile and she left later that night wondering where he lived and what kinds of stories he could tell her and the name of his favorite coffee shop.
Here he was again tonight, watching her sing and play guitar and act cute, just in case he was into singer-songwriter chicks. She hoped that he was.
"I thought you'd never take a break," he said.
"Well, would it break your heart if I finally did?" she asked.
"It would only break my heart if you didn't sit next to me."
She ordered vodka. He paid for it. They continued to talk and talk and talk.
"So you like Battlestar Galactica, too?" he asked.
"Anyone who doesn't like Battlestar Galactica isn't even worth talking to," she said.
"I really like your setlist tonight," he said, changing the subject. "You're playing some cover songs I haven't heard in years."
She took a sip of her paid-for-by-him vodka and smiled. It was one of those flirty smiles, and it was enough to make him smile back. She liked that.
"I better go get back to the music," she said.
"Hey. Can I make a request?"
"Sure. Go for it."
"Can you play Matchbox 20? Maybe that 'Disease' song?"
There's a lyric in that song--"Disease," that is--that goes something like this: "I can't live without you / Tell me, what am I supposed to do about it?"
That's not how she felt about him, but it was how she could feel about him. So she picked out an adorable outfit because she figured he would be there tonight. Please be there, she thought. Don't make me dress up like this for nothing.
He was. But he wasn't there alone. Now there were four people watching her play music in the basement of the crowded bar.
She secretly cringed as the pretty girl hugged and kissed him and held his hand. She tried not to act upset when the pretty girl rested her head upon his shoulder and he kissed the pretty girl's hair. Ohmygoshnowsheiskissinghisear.
She tuned her acoustic guitar, adjusted her microphone, and took a sip of water from a plastic cup in an effort to help untangle the knot at the back of her throat.
She strummed and sang and tried not to look at the couple by the bar. She was no longer singing to him; she was singing to the girl who did not like Battlestar Galactica. She was singing to them, and it made her not want to sing at all.
Your hairline is your headline. Your eyes are your byline. Your nose is your lead.
Your lips are your sentences. Your chin is your conclusion. I’ve got your story
memorized, line by precious line. Read mine?
Snippets of text message conversations that deserve not to get deleted from my phone:
Me: Silly goose!
Him: Don't bring my goose into this.
Me: Your goose is loose.
Him: My goose looseness is a private matter.
Me: Whose a loose goose? Yoose!
Me: Just bought a Philly pretzel.
Him: Oh yeah?
(A few minutes later . . . )
Him: So how was your pretzel?
Me: I haven't eaten it yetzel!
took a train to see you and never
came home in the tearducts of my mind we are
arm-wrestling with New Hampshire while you take me
sushi-shopping and sight-seeing but she can't stop
thinking about the top of the chapel praying praying
praying praying praying praying Amen.
hey, I'm not done writing you this poem yet suddenly
we are sitting inside a club listening to an acoustic girl's set and you lean
into my right ear and whiskey whisper that you love how her guitar is so out of
tune but her voice is in shape your dusty twenty buys me a hat that feels like a decorated rubber band around my head and I'll wear it like I wear my shoelaces tied:
two loops, one knot.
As I walked along the railroad tracks with an old friend on a Wednesday evening in late June two summers ago, I kept telling him that I was sorry that we lost touch. I repeated my apology with sincerity, hoping that he would realize that I missed the way he used to finger-pick his guitar at such a fast pace that it almost made me hungry. Then there were the nights when we would run a mile together and afterward catch our breath by lying on the football field, waiting for the stars to come out of their hiding places in the sky. Sometimes he would ask me questions, and not the simple how-many-fingers-am-I-holding-up kind; he would want me to name my biggest fears and count how many times I had thought about people with phobias.
Ever since I saw a lady on an episode of Maury detailing her phobia, I have thought about her more than I could ever keep count. With shaking hands, the lady explained that before she could place her right foot on her car’s gas pedal, she had to plan her trip using a map because she had a phobia of making left turns. Her options were to go straight, right, or in reverse. I pitied that woman on the TV screen and the countless routes she had to plan, including the very route she needed to take in order to even participate in the show.
Before I met my ex-boyfriend, he slept with the lights on and claimed it was because he read himself to sleep. I found Mark Twain books by his bedside. I began to wonder what parts of speech made him sleepy: adjectives? verbs? nouns? and what sentence in “A Tramp Abroad” was read with fluttering eyes. Suddenly, his room was dark and I heard him sigh before wishing me goodnight. He has slept with the lights off ever since.
One night, I dreamt that I was waiting for someone at the airport. Waiting and waiting. I was holding a cardboard sign that didn’t list the person’s name, but rather my favorite color: turquoise. I suppose I was looking for a passenger on the plane who liked oceans and books and pillows of that color. Perhaps I was looking for my cousin, who always wants me to add salt to the water she’s preparing boil; she seeks fast steam, and she wants her romantic woes drained, diced and disappeared. I tell her that all she needs to do is follow her heart; if she doesn’t get butterflies when she sees her boyfriend, then there are caterpillars crawling around her stomach that may need just a little more time. But as for me? I have moths in my stomach--luna moths--and they remind me that love never deserves to be hidden in forests or ceramic sculptures or in between playing cards.
When I was little, I wanted to be a magician. My favorite trick was to ask one of my family members to pick a card, memorize it, and put it back in my card stack. I would open the stack (picture an open-faced turkey sandwich) and slyly place a finger in the stack to bookmark where the card was placed. Then I would go about pretending to shuffle the cards, keeping an eye on the card that was memorized just a moment earlier. I’m not sure if I impressed anyone when I successfully revealed their chosen card, but I never learned to levitate and eventually decided to leave the magic up to David Blaine anyway.
Perhaps my most devastating abandoned dream was that of becoming a dancer. When I was younger, I was enrolled in a dance class; I wanted to be a ballerina. I don’t remember that class or that dream, but I realize it now, and I want it back. I want to be back in a dance studio, learning how to tap dance and make music with my feet. While most people want to make music with their mouths, their acoustic guitars and their hollow drums, my instrument of choice has always been my heels and my toes.
But mostly I just use my feet to walk from place to place, just like I did today when I went to the bank. I swear that one of the bank tellers looked like Mrs. Doubtfire, and for a second I had secretly imagined her peeling off her face and taking off her clothes to reveal Robin Williams underneath. It’s Robin Williams who, at least to me, is the most attractive man in Hollywood. I find a certain charm and comfort in Robin William’s voice, looks, and personality. Perhaps this has something to do with watching his movies while growing up: Mrs. Doubtfire, Jumanji, and Flubber were among my favorites. I also associate Robin Williams with my godfather, Gary, who died of a brain tumor when I was in the fourth grade. I think they looked alike, and from what I remember about my Uncle Gary, he enjoyed smiling and laughing as much as Robin Williams does. And that’s exactly what should happen when someone has nice teeth.
My grandfather keeps his teeth on his living room table. He puts them in only when his children and grandchildren visit him or when he goes to the local bar for a drink. Occasionally, when I glance at his dentures and all their whiteness that complements those glossy pink gums, I think about the teeth that used to be in my grandfather’s mouth and the words that passed through them. I wonder if he ever whispered anything in my ear when I was little: perhaps an encouraging and loving and brilliant phrase that I have unknowingly carried with me all my life.
When I was little, my favorite meal was rice cereal. The Gerber kind, made specifically for babies. It was soft, warm, and sugary. I can remember trying to reach the box in the cupboard, going as far as attempting to climb on the counter to get closer to it. I made some stupid decisions when I was little, and that might’ve been one of them. The other one that immediately comes to mind is choking on a butterscotch hard candy two times
in a row. I was playing Barbies with my cousin April that night. I found a butterscotch candy and tried to eat it but accidentally swallowed it instead. My mom performed the Heimlich and all was well, at least until I tried to give the butterscotch candy a second chance. My mom wrapped her arms around my stomach yet again, and once the candy was expelled past my teeth and onto the floor, she took the bag away and hid it in the cupboard. Those damn cupboards.
There is a clubhouse in my backyard, and I look at it from time to time when I want to remind myself how much I miss my childhood. The ladder leading up to the triangle-shaped room seemed scary to climb, but I have since counted and the ladder is only four steps high. My sister and I decorated that room with little white curtains and drawings. The door had a single lock on it and I feared that using it would mean that we would be trapped in there forever, sitting on the hardwood floor and looking through the single window into the woods. Back in those woods, the birds sang polkas and pop songs. And back in those days, my nickname used to be Sunny, like the Shawn Colvin song.
My life is a conglomeration of songs strung together . . . name a song in my music collection and I can recall when it became a part of my life and who or what I associate with it. If I could write one memoir to leave behind, it would list all the songs in my music
collection and detail what each song means to me. It would be my hope that people would acquaint themselves with those songs and they would mean something to them, too. It may not become a bestseller, but it would be the best gift I could leave behind--that little elbow nudge that could remind people that we need to embrace art and use it to define our lives and the moments within in it that are worthy of being framed and hung on a wall made of plaster and paint.
I don’t need to live in a house with fancy furniture, but going furniture shopping sometimes convinces me otherwise. My eyes are attracted to brown and turquoise. When mixed together, they have a pleasant appeal to me. They always have. I’m not the kind of girl who has planned her wedding day since she was a teenager, nor have I grown up to be a woman who is sketching the design of her house as we speak. For example, I really don’t know how many stairs are going to separate the downstairs living room from the upstairs bedroom. I would reckon that there would be more than five, and that’s good enough for me (especially because five is one of my favorite numbers).
Years ago, my cousins went on a summer vacation to Cancun, Mexico, and in the middle of the night, they awoke to my cousin Johna screaming; she claimed that there were bugs in her hair. Listening to my cousins recall her terror made me frightened for her. But Johna has since given birth to twin baby girls, and I’d like to think that those twins will not awake in the middle of the night with any fears. I want them to sleep soundly and have happy dreams, and maybe once in awhile, matching dreams if indeed that is possible. I’d like to think that it is.
I once met a girl who admitted that she dreamed only in black and white. It made me wonder if I did the same, but I soon decided that I didn’t. But I do dream in waves because—scenes roll in and out, spreading people around my mind like wet sand. I am content with the pace and the peace of it all.
I fall in love with the beach every single summer. The entire ocean is my message in a bottle, politely carrying away all my parts of speech and “sincerelys.” Besides, who couldn’t love a place where every wave gets its turn?
It makes me laugh when I hear clowns say that they are “professionals.” It sounds hypocritical. But perhaps that is what we all are: hypocrites. People who complain and then do whatever it is anyway. People who curse love, yet fall in love and begin to make promises using that irresistible little word named “forever.”
I’m still not sure how I feel about the word “forever.” I think it is a nice form of optimism, as if it's okay to pretend that there is no end to the way things are and continue to be. But even this essay--in all its lost glory--has got to end somewhere, and I have chosen to end it here.
I'm not a huge fan of road construction, along with many other people who are also trying to get to work on time.
As soon as I turned out of my driveway this morning, I saw a man up ahead who was wearing a lime green vest and a hard hat. He was holding a "Stop" sign that was pointed in my direction. One quick wave of his wrist and he could turn that sign around to say "Slow" instead. Alas, that wasn't going to happen anytime soon.
Damn. Late for work again.
I had my foot on my brake pedal and my eyes on that sign. Meanwhile, he had his eyes on my front license plate. He began walking toward my car, so I rolled down my window and said hello.
"I see you like my MJ," he said.
"I adore Michael Jackson," I replied.
My front license plate has Michael Jackson's picture on it. Purchased it just last month when I got my new car, and it's one of many Michael Jackson decorations that adorn my shiny white travelin' machine.
"So do you like all the Jackon 5 stuff? The early stuff?"
"I like it all. I own his entire discography. I absolutely love every era of MJ."
"Well just the other night, I was watching the show that he did before he died . . . I just wish I could've been there, in that moment," he said. "With just him and his crew."
"You mean 'This Is It'?" I asked.
"Yeah, that's it!" he said. "I had my volume cranked all the way up. I was really jammin'!"
"I miss him," I said.
"I'm sad the music stopped."
"There will never be another Michael Jackson," I said. "No one will ever compare."
A voice came over his radio. He walked away, looked up and down the road, and allowed the car behind me to come forward and make a left. I was still waiting for this 50ish-year-old black man--no, wait: I'd rather describe him as my fellow MJ fan--to let me make a right turn. Finally, he gave me the signal and I slowly lifted my foot from the brake pedal.
"It was great talking to you," I said. "I hope you have a great day."
"Great talking to you, too."
I smiled and rolled up my window, but didn't look back at him through my rearview mirror. Maybe that's because I was secretly hoping that I will see him again tomorrow.
Close your eyes and trace your lover's hands on a piece of construction paper that you can buy for free from your generous eyelids. Draw each crease, each vein. Highlight all the wrinkles that form his knuckles. Don't smudge the ink. Keep drawing. Pay attention to the curves and sharpness of his fingernails and the skin that forms the topmost part of his fingertips. You forgot to sketch a light crease on his left hand. Now color in those knuckle wrinkles. Make his hands become a universe all their own. Keep your eyes closed. Finish sketching his cuticles.
Fold the piece of construction paper. Frame it. Let it remain folded and framed for years and years and years. Put it up for sale, but never sell it. Say the price tag was a mistake because the value of your art is as valuable as the constellations in his eyes. You'll draw those next time.
Vitaly is an excellent photographer who has traveled the world and plans to do more traveling. To learn more about him and his work, visit www.virvit.ru. Even though the entire blog is in his native language (Russian), you can hit the "Translate" button and read it in English. I support him just as much as he supports me! :)
Today I went to the Renaissance Festival and if indeed you care or happen to be intrigued, keep reading. Besides, some of my pictures are totally worth seeing. Pinky promise with a cherry on top.
This was the entrance to the festival, which is located about 12 miles outside Greensburg, Pennsylvania, in a town called West Newton. I hadn't been to the RenFest since I was in high school, but I'll never forget how our little field trip got rained out and our teachers asked us if we would like to go to a buffet instead. All of my classmates thought it was a dream come true. Whatevs.
Approximately 7 years later, I finally decided to round up my mom and sister for my trek back to thy good ol' Shakespearean times. I'm glad I did because they appreciated the costumes, the language . . .
. . . and the jousting, of course. I, however, was not able to watch the jousting for longer than 20 minutes because the poor white horse (I named him Whitey) did not want to be there. I even got a little upset because Whitey had an itch on his leg and the "prince" wouldn't let him itch it. What a mean prince. I'm glad he lost the match.
This beggarbum was one of the highlights of my day. He kept slamming his bone on the ground and insulting people. "Is that you, little lady? Didn't recognize ya with your clothes on," he said with a wink to one passerby. Hilarious. Even more hilarious? The air freshner around his neck! Air freshner necklace, anyone? I just may have to patent that.
Here is a photo of me in a 300ish-year-old tree. (Hey, what a nice little rhyme.)
There are three trees in the "Enchanted Forest" that are said to have been planted in the 1700s. Craziness. It's difficult to comprehend that that tree has outlived so many people, and it is pretty much guaranteed to outive me because anyone who cuts this guy down belongs in jail. Seriously.
The royal procession took place right before we left. All I can say is that I really respect all of these people for making the effort to portray what it was like to live in Shakespeare's era. It takes dedication, passion, and skill--no doubt about it.
If you're a writer, make an effort to go to this fair because aside from it being full of food and entertainment, it gives you an idea of the setting in which the great Shakespeare lived and wrote. Talk about inspiration.
Now if you'll excuse me, I shall go read "Twelfth Night, or What You Will." Fare thee well.
Link it up: www.pittsburghrenfest.com
Credit for this post goes to a very good friend named Ian K. McLeod. A Canadian friend with a big heart and delicious candy at his fingertips, to be precise.
I received three emails from Ian this evening and I love reading his emails because he always seems to shine a flashlight in my eyes (this is supposed to be a cool-ass metaphor about him enlightening me on anything and everything).
One day, I'm going to buy my passport and visit him and his ugly dogs. <----Actually, no dog is ugly, but the only reason those words have been written is simply because one of Ian's dogs won an Ugliest Dog contest and ended up on a few billboards just last month. Not even kidding.
So I'm thinking about all the great stories that Ian and I have shared over the years and one email in particular randomly pops into my head. I hope he doesn't mind me sharing this; I just feel as though it's too knee-slapping hilarious not to be shared!
He turns to me yesterday and asks if I would like a "million dollar idea."
I tell him, sure, I was doing nothing...lay it on me...
He says, "...Make a western...but DON'T have GUNS...make the hero like Mandrake the Magician...he gets it all done with gestures and hypnotic commands."
I just stare back blankly.
He goes on.
"The villain should be Tom Cruise, because he believes in a Godless religion."
I nod. Ask who the HERO should be.
"Vice President Joe Biden. Think about it. Google Mandrake. If he walks into a bar Lee Van Cleef or Clint Eastwood would plug him right away...he's MYSTERIOUS and SCARY. But Joe Biden can put 'the whammy on Sammy' before he even knows what goes on.'
I would later tell all this to my dad. He would laugh and say that HE would pay to see this...might even be better then JACK AND JILL...I reply back that it wouldn't be hard to do that...
Meanwhile our Idea Man turns and says, "Know what's RETARDED???"
"I give up..."
"Some people disagree with President Obama and because of this spread stories that he wasn't born in America...thats's so f@cken stupid it's RETARDED...why DISRESPECT a man just because you don't AGREE with him??"
I just look at him. He is making total sense. Then he breaks this by giving me a paper with a kabillion numbers on it. He says it's Bidens' phone number. The more important you are, the longer the number. Says Obama's number is four pages long.
Finds out he really likes Obama and has 3 legal pads full of movie titles and plots for him to do when he retires. Obama Defeats the Martians/Obama Moves Next Door/Obama The Pro Golfer/Obama vs. Hitler/Secret Agent Obama...it just goes on...
Thanks, Ian. This makes me laugh again and again. I hope that one day my phone number will be four pages long, too.
Fiction, poetry, and all that good stuff . . .