Sunday, November 30, 2008

we wanted to be the sky

Friday night I got out of work early with every intention of buckling down on that awful paper I have been putting off all week, but found myself just sitting back and listening to music in my apartment for a while instead. Somewhere during Colors and the Kids by Cat Power I was hit by a heavy dose of nostalgia. It literally shook me, it was such a heavy feeling. I reverted to my time in San Francisco, and felt again how small that city once made me feel. It was an odd sensation.

San Francisco made me feel very small, but not necessarily in a bad way. I would walk up and down those staggering hills with my headphones, marveling at the vastness of existence; the mechanisms of city life; all the strange characters - businessmen and businesswomen and bohemians and bums, who bump into but never see each other - the organisms of buses and and taxicabs, all the lights set on timers, illuminating that soft fog at night that floats in from the ocean. Everything was alive, in some way or another. And my little, lost self looked up and felt dizzy. I was simultaneously thrilled and terrified. I saw a sea of strangers and wanted to get to know them, but averted my eyes at all costs. Part of me lamented the lack of sodality, but another part really reveled in the ability to walk around, observing, without ever being noticed. And so I felt really small and insignificant, but oddly comforted in that at the same time.

It's how I feel sometimes when I take a solitary drive at night, cruising down dark roads absorbed in some musical moment. I imagine that I could just keep going, without any set destination, without any responsibility or ties. I could turn off my phone and slalom through flickering neon truck-stops, counting the deer-crossing signs, and wondering how long the moon will follow. Each passing road sign would be a reminder of the enormity of the world, each pause between songs a reminder of my seclusion. I'd smile. I'd cry. I'd eventually turn around.

So this burst of nostalgia caused a sudden urge to go for a drive. It was a short one, but lovely. The air felt nice, the familiar surroundings became new, strange, because they didn't matter.

After a while I ended up at Books-a-million, because bookstores are second only to joy rides (and possibly a good record store). I perused for an hour or so, fingering through pages, alone amongst a crowd of people.

But as usual that solitary joy was replaced by pining for company, and I soon found myself in the presence of some dear friends (Austin, Ashley, Dean, and Brandy), sitting in a dark room, each taking turns entreating something beautiful from the ipod plugged into the sound system. And then the tide of the evening shifted again, and I was carried to a birthday party of a new acquaintance, chatting it up with strangers. The conversations were not anything notable, but I was feeling unusually content.

And it struck me: I've been meeting some really great people lately, people who seem to see things in me that I am unable to see in myself. I've always felt that there was a giant misunderstanding in how people percieved me, as if my internal strife was reality and the external affability merely a mask. I'd regard any kind words with silent suspicion, feeling like some grave error was made. (I am reminded of that wonderful line in Juno: "I don't really know what kind of [guy] I am")

So much of my life has been spent averting my eyes, attempting to convey social grace while internally squirming. I'm done with that. I'm tired of it. I'm learning to allow people their conceptions, and in-turn allowing that to inform my own conception of myself (when appropriate).

I'm sorry I've averted my eyes from you. I'll figure it all out on my next solitary drive, and turn around like I always do, and never ride alone again.


I feel like ending this with the lyrics to the aforementioned song, because they're so much better than anything I could write (though probably not as powerful without Chan Marshall's beautiful voice, so go out and buy the album).

It must be the colors and the kids that keep me alive,
'cause the music is boring me to death.
It must just be the colors and the kids that keep me alive,
'cause I want to go right away, to a January night.

I built a shack with an old friend,
he was someone I could learn from,
someone I could become.

Will you meet me down on a sandy beach?
We could roll up our jeans, so the tide won't get us below the knees.

Yellow hair, you are a funny bear.
Yellow hair, you are such a funny bear.

Slender fingers would hold me.
Slender limbs would hold me.
And you could say my name,
like you knew my name.

I could stay here, become someone different.
I could stay here, become someone better.

It's so hard to go in the city, because you want to say hello to everybody
It's so hard to go into the city, because you want to say hey, I love you to everybody.

When we were teenagers we wanted to be the sky
Now all we want to do is go to red places, and try to stay out of Hell.

It must be the colors and the kids that keep me alive.
Cause the music is boring me to death.
It must just be the colors and it must just be the kids,
that keep me alive on this January night.

Yellow hair, you are a funny bear.
Yellow hair, you are such a funny bear.

-Cat Power

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

hopefully it occurs to me...

Because of a sudden and inexplicable burst of holiday spirit that came over me last night, I found myself craving a Christmas movie. So, after realizing that my dvd collection is severely lacking in holiday movies, I popped in Elf. I was really happy for a little while (the combination of Will Farrell and Zooey Deschanel is a force to be reckoned with in my consciousness), but then it finally dawned on me how much this Christmas is going to suck. I've been ignoring the fact, or at least not giving it much thought, that I'll be stuck in FL, by myself, working on both Christmas Eve and Christmas itself. This is a potent combination of terrible circumstances: no family, no snow/chance of snow/or even cold enough temperatures where you could make a fire and pretend like its snowing, and work. Blah.

It might be different if this was a job that I really enjoyed, engaged in. Don't get me wrong, I like my job, it's decent, and I'm good at it, but it's not exactly what I'm shooting for as a career.

So after a little solo pity party (which may have just continued in those last two paragraphs... sorry) I picked up the book I've been reading lately - that is, if you can call it reading; it takes me about fifteen minutes or more per page because it's so dense, and I'm not exaggerating, but that's a good thing, because it's fantastic - No Man is an Island by Thomas Merton, and got a much needed dose of perspective. The chapter is called "Sentences on Hope" and here's what I read:

"Supernatural hope is the virtue that strips us of all things in order to give us possession of all things. We do not hope for what we have. Therefore, to live in hope is to live in poverty, having nothing. And yet, if we abandon ourselves to economy of Divine Providence, we have everything we hope for... Hope deprives us of everything that is not God, in order that all things may serve their true purpose as means to bring us to God."

This kind of blew my mind. What we hope for we do not possess, so the act of hope, in itself, without fruition, is actually despondency disguised as a positive emotion, and the loss of hope is actually that which truly edifies, because it causes us to abandon ourselves to the economy of Divine Providence. Amazing.

This is not to say I have no right to be sad about this upcoming Christmas. I will still be sad. But this just gave me a little tap, reminding me of precedence.

And although I'm working all day tomorrow (Thanksgiving) there is plenty to be thankful for. Like this book I'm reading, with gems like this: "It is lawful to love all things and to seek them once they become means to the love of God. There is nothing we cannot ask of Him if we desire it in order that He may be more loved by ourselves or by others." And music. And friends, who hear that I'm working on Thanksgiving and send me text messages like this one: "Aw, well if you want a meal or leftovers or quality family time, my house is open :)" (Thanks, katie). And fresh air. And sweater vests. And corny movie moments making you tear up. And family. And love. And joy. And peace. And patience. And kindness. And goodness. And faithfulness. And gentleness. And self-control. And love. And love. And love. And the fact that all these things are available to us even when a potent combination of terrible circumstances converge. And that feeling of placing the last period on something you wrote and knowing that its true.

Monday, November 24, 2008

go look at your eyes, they're full of moon

"Whenever the dog and I see each other we both stop where we are. We regard each other with a mixture of sadness and suspicion, and then we feign indifference. We walk past each other safely; we have an understanding. It’s very sad, but you’ll have to admit that it is an understanding. We had made many attempts at contact, and we had failed... And what has been the result: the dog and I have attained a compromise, more of a bargain, really. We neither love nor hurt because we do not try to reach each other. And, was trying to feed the dog an act of love? And, perhaps, was the dogs trying to bite me not an act of love? If we can so misunderstand, then why have we bothered to invent the word love in the first place?"
-Edward Albee, The Zoo Story

I had a nice little chat with Prof. DeBorde on friday afternoon. We talked a little bit about my performance of a scene from this play for Oral Interpretation class, which she had recommended to me heartily, saying "The Zoo Story! Steve, you should do it, you are sooo Edward Albee." Now, I had never read The Zoo Story before, but after finishing it I got all pensive, wondering why in the world she felt this was me. It's a bizzare play... very bizarre. I mean, it's genuis, I love it, but, it's twisted. Part of the reason I love Mrs. DeBorde is because she obviously really cares about her students. She takes the time to pay attention to you, and truly desires to know you as a person. And she's good at doing that. I think I can safely say she's my favorite teacher ever. Well anyway, we were chatting about this and that and she said that she thinks I should do some acting. WHAT? This class was really hard for me, because I'm not good with getting up in front of people... especially if I have to perform something. I was so nervous every time. But she said that she thought I had some natural ability to communicate, and that there was "rawness" in how I did things, which was effective. And some of my classmates seemed to think those silly performances were good too. It's amazing how different our own perceptions of ourselves can be from other peoples'. It's refreshing that it's that way, actually; encouraging, maybe. But I probably still won't be taking up acting any time soon... unless it's like what's on Mitch Hedberg's acting resume: "If I play pool, and I make a shot, I act like I'm not surprised."

At any rate. I've been thinking about The Zoo Story ever since I first read it a few weeks ago, particularly the above quote, and how complicated love can be. I think that's a good thing, love's complexities are beautiful... sometimes... right? I don't know. There's a paradox in my thinking here... because I also adore Neruda's picture of love:

I love you straightforwardly, without complexitites or pride
And so I love you because I know no other way than this:
where I does not exist, nor you
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand
so close that when you close your eyes I fall asleep

So I don't know. I think talking intelligently about love is an impossibly. It's too big a concept. Not that we don't try - I've had countless conversations with Ammi on the subject, and we're always trying to put our finger on something that just refuses to be pinned down. We end up speaking in for instances; real-life examples meant to be some kind of reasoning (which is actually quite odd considering our individual track records). These complexities seem to be popping up everywhere. From talking about it with friends to reading it in their blogs, I've noticed there's a great deal of disillusionment going around. Ammi's latest post talks about simplicity in this realm: that love either is, or isn't. Perhaps that's the case, but I'm thinking of Jerry and the dog, and their feigned indifference, and their miscommunication, and the fallibility of the word love, its smallness, and I'm thinking that maybe it's not always so clear, that people can't be so simplified. But perhaps I refuse to believe that it's that simple because of my own situation... yeah, that's a possibility. Lauri wrote about a suspicion, or rather, a disbelief in true love, to which I responded in polite disagreement, and quoted Joni Mitchell. Janice stopped believing in it, but has since rediscovered it.

I don't know, I don't know. It's complicated. It's simple. It hurts. It heals. I don't know.

I did say talking intelligently about love is an impossibility right?

Jerry and the dog never realize each others' love. They feigned indifference too long. Maybe the moral of the story is to be open, maybe that alleviates some of the complexity... maybe.

I wear my heart on my sleeve, I just roll it up a little.

[insert a clever title here]

I caved and reactivated my facebook last night. Here's the deal: I figured my time at Southeastern is coming to a close, and there are some people I'd like to keep in touch with... even if its only in the paltry, electronic mode of human interaction. So why not? I never did achieve that goal that I had set for myself when I deleted it in the first place; vigorously attempting to revive the lost art of letter writing (I wrote about two hand-written letters to friends and then gave it up... perhaps I'll try that out again...) Within five minutes of reactivating my account I received two wall posts, and was instantly reminded of how facebook is truly a world of its own, and I found myself very estranged from this universe. All my old information was saved, so it was as if facebook never really expected me to leave for real; knew I would come back, like some kind of sick parental relationship where they keep your room just as it was until you're thirty... but this room that was kept for me wasn't really mine anymore. I had to go through and delete so much... for various reasons... not the least of which being that most of the photographs on there came from a time when I wasnt single... awkward... so I ditched all that. Now I'm going through the somewhat-arduous process of digitally befriending all the people I have befriended since my former facebook days. On the plus side it gives me time to sit and listen to some new tunes.

This is a stupid and boring post. Sorry. Maybe I'll make up for it later.

ps - I started typing "anything by..." under my book interests, and apparantly there is some kind of auto-complete function on facebook now, and I'm gussing it works by most frequently used entries... and the first result was "Anything by Nicholas Sparks"
That cracked me up... I don't know why.

Friday, November 21, 2008

grow my own, my own seed shall be sown...

I received a text from Carter this morning, who moved to NYC last week. It read: "It's snowing here... I love this place!!!"

My heart aches.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I had to go to Walmart at midnight just for this. I'll be curled up in bed for the rest of the evening enjoying this little guy immensely.

Monday, November 17, 2008

something about love, then big liz

The seemingly simple act of loving others is not nearly as simple as it seems. This is something I am realizing lately (or, something I've known, but is resonating lately). It's so easy to get discouraged by the absence of love in the world, and I'm finding that it's also then so easy to capitulate to the norm - perhaps I'm incorrect in assuming that the norm is deficient in love... I'd like to believe I am, actually, but... I don't know - at any rate, I'm guilty of capitulating at times. And when it happens it tears at something in my consciousness; I no longer feel like me. Sometimes I recover quickly, but other times I do not...

At church this week there was an announcement concerning a Christmas gift-drive for local poverty-stricken areas, but instead of donating toys for children, we will be collecting gifts geared for adults, and then selling them cheaply (like.. for pennies) to local kids to give their parents as Christmas presents. And I love the idea. I think it's so awesome, because, they'll be able to bless others, and that's the best part about Christmas. These kids will get to experience the joy of loving on people.

I have been finding myself needing to rediscover that joy lately, in order to recover.

"The gift of love is the gift of the power and the capacity to love, and therefore, to give love with full effect is also to receive it. So, love can only be kept by being given away, and it can only be given perfectly when it is also received."

"It is clear, then, that to love others well we must first love the truth. And since love is a matter of practical and concrete human relations, the truth we must love when we love our brothers [and sisters] is not mere abstract speculation: it is the moral truth that is to be embodied and given life in our own destiny and theirs. This truth is more than the cold perception of an obligation, flowing from moral precepts. The truth we must love in loving our brothers [and sisters] is the concrete destiny and sanctity that are willed for them by the love of God."

-Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island

Elizabeth P. wanted to finish my blog. Here it is:

anywayz this is big liz.
anyway. tonight i worked at lake miriam. it was pretty cool. it was pretty fun.
i met this girl named dana. a little bit fat but kinda sweet.
pretty messy, pretty sticky time.
now i am going to apple bees. some of the people there are my friends.
talk to the hand cuz the face ain't listnen
me and my sis rock.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

it's not that we're scared, it's just that it's delicate


A thousand doors ago
when I was a lonely kid
in a big house with four
garages and it was summer
as long as I could remember,
I lay on the lawn at night,
clover wrinkling under me,
the wise stars bedding over me,
my mother's window a funnel
of yellow heat running out,
my father's window, half shut,
an eye where sleepers pass,
and the boards of the house
were smooth and white as wax
and probably a million leaves
sailed on their strange stalks
as the crickets ticked together
and I, in my brand new body,
which was not a woman's yet,
told the stars my questions
and thought God could really see
the heat and the painted light,
elbows, knees, dreams, goodnight.
-Anne Sexton

In our discussion of Anne Sexton's poetry today, I made a suggestion that was fairly quickly dismissed. I posed an argument that the poem (transcribed above) is laden with sexual undertones. Before this the discussion was mainly centering on some vague feeling of loss that the poem conveyed, that it is a reflection on a time lost, peaceful, serene. The discussion was less a discussion and more a popcorn machine popping sporadic comments, but purity was mentioned, innocence, childhood. Given that it seemed established that this was a lament on some loss of innocence, I really didn't think it was a giant leap to my reading: that the poem is a reflection on the moment before losing her virginity, and how that changed things. I mentioned something about the language; how she was laying on her back, the stars "bedding" over her, her new body "not a woman's yet," "heat," "elbows, knees" etc. which was received with some hearty, but probably mostly nervous laughter. Cotton just said "well, I've been around the block, but I don't see that."

Eh. So I probably seem like some kind of pervert to my fellow classmates who don't know me, but I swear it's in there. I'm not crazy.

I got the feeling that my line of discussion was so quickly dismissed because we had some visitors in the class. A prospective student and her parents, who got up and left before our discussion of the next selection. We also neglected to discuss "Housewife" I think for the very same reason (there's no getting around the undertones (overtones) in that one. Actually, maybe there is, because a few of my small group members really thought she was talking about a house). I think we would have discussed it had they not been there, which was disconcerting to me, because, if that was the case, then we're sacrificing honesty and truth to gain... what? Why should we pacify prospective student's parents when they come to visit, making our University look like a resort of some kind; what is that? It's academia, not Club Med. We're also lying to the student, I think. And do we really even want a student body that is unwilling to roll up their sleeves and address some stuff that isn't comfortable? (I hope this doesn't come off like I'm senselessly bashing Southeastern, because I really do like my school. And it's really annoying how much people complain about it.)

I understand the need to be delicate when it comes to questionable literature, but we also need to be real. This is a constant problem in the English department here; where to draw the line.

My sentiment is that the line is unimportant, that closing your eyes to something does not make it go away, that truth is more important than anyone's sensibilities, and that we should be "wise as serpents, and gentle as doves."

Monday, November 3, 2008

goodbye blue monday

"I will come to a time in my backwards trip when November eleventh, accidentally my birthday, was a sacred day called Armistice Day. When I was a boy, and when Dwayne Hoover was a boy, all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.

Armistice Day has become Veterans' Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans' Day is not.
So I will throw Veterans' Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don't want to throw away any sacred things

What else is sacred? Oh, Romeo and Juliet, for instance.
And all music is."
-Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions

Someone in class tonight said that Romeo and Juliet is the worst story ever told. It made me think of this passage. It also disgusted me.

What will follow this page break is a bit of narcissistic rambling that need not be read by anyone. Don't say I didn't warn you.


I'm feeling melancholic lately. I need to get out of my head. I need to stop thinking about it. I've been trying to stop thinking about it. I need some perspective. I need to let go. I need to hold on. I need to try. I need to give up. I've been trying to give up. I need to stop thinking that I'm being overly analytical. I need to stop being overly analytical. Being overly analytical is killing me. I need to be confident. I need to believe that this could be something. I need to stop believing that this could be something. I need to stop confusing what I need and what I want. I want to know. I need to know. I'll probably never know. This is supposed to go away, not supposed to last this long. That means something. That means that I'm an idiot. I have no reason to dream but I dream anyway. These dreams are killing me. If I may trust the flattering truth of sleep... Ah me! How sweet is love itself possess'd, when but love's shadows are so rich in joy.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

dream job/life

I am building a future workspace in my mind: a small room with hardwood floors, on whose off-white walls are frantically pinned items of inspiration - a few torn-out pages of Dostoevsky over here, some Salinger over there... would it be sacrilegious to tear pages out of the Bible and pin them on a wall? Hmm. Perhaps some of my favorite poems transcribed harshly, directly on the walls themselves with black sharpie. Dali's Girl with Curls, maybe some Van Gogh. Photographs of people I love.

There will be a small table and chair in the center of the room, littered with empty cups, napkins, or receipts, or other small pieces of paper inked with nonsense, a Macbook (or whatever they might call it in the years to come), and a small, very low-light lamp, maybe with a black shade.

Perhaps one wall will be reserved for a projection screen on which to view films. Over in the corner will be a wooden crate holding some of the films that mean the most to me, easily at hand to watch that one scene that causes something to rise in the spirit or sink in the heart.

One big window, thin, stretching nearly the entire height of the wall, broken into panels by wood covered in cracked paint. It would be several stories above the ground and look out over Central Park, and would open outward, hinges on each side and a latch in the center. There would always be a breeze, cool, occasionally freezing, but mostly refreshing. At night the window would creak and softly bang with the brief gusts of wind.

There would be no other furniture in the room except the table and chair in the center so that there would be plenty of room for pacing around, feeling the hardwood on bare feet. The chair wouldn't be a comfortable one, because the room is not designed for lounging, but for working, and the pacing around will be working, and the looking at the photographs on the wall of people I love will be working, and the staring out the window for hours at night will be working.

But my favorite part of the room is the photograph framed on the desk, and the fact that its subject is not far away, proving to be the greatest inspiration. Perhaps she's staring out the window of the room she has built for the very same purpose, just down the hall.

And when we're both done working maybe I'll cook some dinner. And we'll watch an old movie on our big, soft couch, our fingers glad to be done tapping away at keyboards; resting, intertwined, spelling out a word that can never be captured in four small letters.