Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hello to you, Susans!!

Dear Susans,

I hope that this post finds both of you well and happy. I am sorry that we have all been failing to write here lately, and am also sorry that we have been more generally out of touch. I think about both of you all the time and I wonder how your new adventures are going. So-- how are they going? I have not had many new adventures lately. Still working at the same bakery, still living here in Vermont. Not much to report: lots of hiking, trying to get ready for the inevitably brutal winter. I actually have the swine flu right now which has not been any fun at all, but I think I'm feeling better today. Gab-- how's Columbia? Are you living with Sam/how is that going? I keep hearing Ross Douthat on the radio!! Imagine that! Meryl-- what are you up to? Taking classes at Hunter or what? I miss both of you very much and I'm hoping to see you Susans at Christmas!

Love to you both. Lots of it.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Cephalic Visions

I can’t believe it’s been a month since I’ve even checked this, but that corresponds to when things have gotten busy. I was just inspired to write something finally and saw these photos and posts, so first:

1. I like these photos a lot as well. We’re sleeping (somewhat evil) twins! I should bring my camera out more.

2. And I was just thinking of our photography door antics last week! Another student and I were using the darkroom in the biology department at Hunter. Smelling that combination of chemicals, similar to that middle school note I bet, seemed to provide a portal to that time— an overwhelming reincarnation of the past. I’m planning on finding an excuse to do that experiment again just because you get to use the darkroom.

3. I quit working for the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute almost a month ago, because I’m getting paid to do research at Hunter for the summer! I’ve been doing all sorts of shit with RNA, including isolating it from the central nervous system of mice. Which leads me to what originally inspired me to write (that ol’ lifeballian urge):

4. I can’t stop thinking about this brain I saw last night. I’ve seen brains some in my life, but only from TV and dissections on invertebrates that have been soaking formaldehyde for months. This one was from a mouse who had just starred me in the eyes 5 minutes prior. Though it felt mostly somber, I was also in such awe of his brain. It was so damn beautiful and clean. And later, walking down 68th Street, I felt like I knew a secret about all the passersby: that I saw the cause of all of this madness, and it’s just a pink, gleaming hunk of flesh! For some reason this image has comforted me, and I hope it might have the same effect for your brains.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

From bygone days

Dear Susans,

In spite of appearances, I actually did attempt to post the pictures from our Vermont excursion on the blog but as it turns out I idiotically shot the pictures in camera RAW which as you probably know means they are huge, unwieldy files that can't be emailed easily or anything like that . I don't yet understand enough about my digital camera to know if anything can be done about this -- do either of you know? Can they be turned into JPEGs? I'd be happy to do that, and to post them on a Snapfish album. There are some good ones I'd like both of you to have. Worse comes to worse, I guess I can make a disk of them and send them or even just print them.

On another note (literally), I was having a nostalgia moment and poring through my old papers trying to decide what to leave and what to take when I move to New York this August. And for some reason in one of my old notebooks I found this note from Liza to me from middle school. I don't know why I'd chosen to put it in my little book since I'm sure there were many, many of its kind, but reading it gave me this overwhelming sense of what middle school was like in all its particular details. Anyway, I'm going to reproduce it here in case it has the same effect for either of you:

Missive Passed in Passing:

This is really random but you know that guy who used to be a WWF wrestler and was recently elected senator of Minnesota? Well, he talks just like Nile. Yesterday after school I stayed in the Lower School Library with Taylor. She was writing in their special little notebook and I was reading over her shoulder. It's mostly "wedding announcements" in there. In one of the notes I read, Robyn wrote to M & T (Michele and Taylor) "Jared, Sandy, and I have on similar pants today." So, the secrets of the little green notebook divulged. There really is no secret, it's just pointless babble! Did you notice that Mr. Bill laughs a lot at his own "jokes"? Next week I'm going to leave a really random object in the spinny door!


P.S. Don't forget the Desk today!

Factoring sucks!

P.P.S. Yesterday in history class the potato famine came up!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

also this

it's andrew eating an orange. taking this picture feels like the most worthwhile thing i've done in awhile. i don't know why, it just pleases me.

come save me from Vermont.

I am in a rut. This rut involves making terrible nutritional decisions (too many sticky buns) and never going running and never cleaning my house. It also involves having given up trying to meet new people and instead spending all of my free time eating lychee gummy candy and watching TV on the internet even though I've decided that lychee flavored things taste like cleaning products and TV on the internet is boring. And I keep meaning to post actual thoughts here, but I've ceased to have actual thoughts because my brain has been taken over by thoughts about the people on Grey's Anatomy, which is such an embarrassing thing to admit to, but there it is.

For awhile now, my job has been making me crazy. I think this funk, this sortof shutdown, is a means of dealing with this. I like the actual work I'm doing, but I don't like the work environment. I only work with two people, and they're married to each other, and they shouldn't be. They're totally mismatched. They met a few years ago on the internet and only spent two weeks actually physically in each other's presence before getting engaged. Laura is always saying things about Ben like "He said he was all about fun, but he's not all about fun. I was misled!" They complain about each other all the time. The only time they get along is when they're ganging up on me, which feels often. Arg! Now I'm getting frustrated just writing this.

I want out of Vermont. It's cold here, and I'm the type of person who is always cold even if it is actually warm out and I miss you guys and my parents and civilization... I'm so lonely here! I can't seem to make friends. But Andrew likes his job and wants to stay here for another year. I love Andrew and don't think I could be happy leaving him and I want to be able to do this for him, to stay put and be patient. He seems very happy here, and he's making lots of friends through work. I don't know what to do and I know that this whole post has the feel of a crazy rant so I'm just going to end it.

I'm so so happy I'm going to be seeing both of you soon.

Love and see you on Saturday,

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Faulks this. Fox this. And Fowlks this again.

God, sometimes writing is like laying pipe. Samuel Beckett referred to his poems as “turds.” That’s exactly how I feel right now. Write now.

I have to compose this 500 or so word statement of purpose for my application to the Masters program at Columbia and I’ve never had to write anything worse. It’s supposed to lay out my past work and preparation, my academic plans of study, and my future career objectives. I’ll be damned if I know! I just want to read books again and get a degree for it, do I need to know anything beyond that?

I’ve completely psyched myself out. I haphazardly applied to a couple of PhD programs, completely sure I wouldn’t get in and uncertain that if I did I would even want to go. I needn’t have worried, but after I applied I realized what a craptastic job I had done on all the applications. I had never even Googled “statement of purpose” once and I’d certainly never read a book or anything about how to do it; I had no idea what I was doing. I’d never done such a half-assed job on anything in my life.

So now I am actually taking this last chance application seriously. It’s due in a week. I’ve done way too much Googling at this point and I have to sell myself as the greatest thing since Marcel Proust. And I’m probably putting all my eggs in this basket just to be disappointed. I don’t really know why I want to get in. I just want to have made a decision of some kind about even the short-term future.

Beckett puts it best: I’m “more than ever frightened by the prospect of effort, initiative & even the little self-assertion of getting about from one place to another.”

This is a very cantankerous entry, so I’m going to end it. Somehow just the thought that I am communicating with you two renews me a bit.


Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I'm leaving on a jet plane...

Well not yet. But I did get my ticket today- only $36 from Burlington to NY! ($50 with fees). Here are the deets:

Date Depart Arrive

28 Apr Burlington, VT 11:30am New York, JFK 12:44pm

So I was going to e-mail this news to you Susans, but I thought writing even a feeble post would break the ice. It felt like the longer I waited the less likely it would be that I would actually write, because every time I tell myself I will write, and then don't, it proves to myself that I will never actually write.

Like always and everybody "I've been busy"- mostly with my class, but moreso just in my mind, as it's really more of a guilt that's constantly hanging over my head, nagging me to study, than an actual surplus of activities that I have to do. Sometimes I do study, and sometimes it just stays hanging while I procrastinate, so that I can't fully relax in whatever I'm doing anyway.

I think the solution is to trick myself into forgetting that studying is hard. But easier said than done. And my job seems to get in the way so often, sucking my energy into this black Spanish Institute hole. I can have my books open all day, but barely get anything done with all the little meaningless distractions (exogenous and endogenous). It felt particularly Kafka-esk today as I took a message for someone who said her name was Mrs. Faulks, who turned out to be married to Mr. Fox, who was inviting our president to dinner with Mr. and Mrs. Fowlks. All the foxes got mixed up and I ended up having to call Mrs. Faulks back with a disguised voice, apologizing for the "temporary receptionist" that picked up the phone earlier.

Well now I'm a little tired and should stop editing this and go to sleep. I do want to say that despite the way this post has belched out of me, I am in general happy. I bought a dumbbell today, and had lifeball on and off during my whole class tonight. Also, I'm reading a book, A Journey Round My Skull, by Frigyes Karinthy, that reminds me what the purpose of writing at all is (even if I can only brush that purpose). I hope you Susans are both well and can't wait to see you.


Friday, February 27, 2009

RE: the weather.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Tale of Two Guys

***CAUTION: This is long and rambling, and leads to a not very impressive conclusion.***

One of the things I love and hate about New York is your proximity to other people. They are everywhere, which creates a certain impression of solidarity – New Yorkers seem to do everything together – and at the same time a sense of being constantly overcrowded. One result is that you are forever hearing other people’s conversations. Again, this produces mixed emotions. Occasionally it also produces minor revelations.

The other day Sam and I were out to dinner at Dumont, known for its hulking hamburgers. It was Sam’s birthday and we were bracing ourselves for a long night on the town. Maybe for this reason, we were both being rather quiet (a rarity), and this enabled us to hear the unfolding conversation of the couple next to us.

They were two guys about our age who were obviously romantically involved. One guy (we called him Glasses Guy) was taking an absolute eon to choose what he wanted to eat. He was a chirpy, decidedly gay fellow, and was wearing those big, nerdy hipster glasses. His partner (dubbed Plaid Shirt Guy) was a quieter specimen, handsome in a dark, rustic way.

Glasses Guy was struggling to decide whether he wanted a burger, a soup and salad, or a steak. He engaged the waitress in a long discussion over his quandary, weighing the various options and asking for advice. In an odd way, I found his exuberance quite delightful. He was making this selection with a kind of loving care, an almost obsessive attention to detail that few people muster for anything, much less something as miniscule as a meal. Undoubtedly, there was an element of the bizarre in it – the repeated sending away of the waitress, the long monologue debating the possibilities with himself, the strange fact that his array of options included both salad and steak. But I liked him. I kind of wanted to give him a hug and tell him that whatever he picked would be delicious.

Plaid Shirt Guy was a different story. He was sulking. The whole affair was making him furious. The fact that Glasses Guy couldn’t make up his mind was evidently both humiliating and irritating beyond belief, to the point that I could practically feel him seething next to me (he was sitting in the booth to my left, facing his boyfriend. I was sitting to his right, facing mine.)

Finally, the two guys got into it. Plaid Shirt Guy voiced his irritation and Glasses Guy kept apologizing in a whiny way saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I just like to look everything over.” And Plaid Shirt Guy was becoming increasingly angry, without giving any indication whether there was another source of his distress beyond his partner’s extreme inefficiency.

“You are so annoying,” he said to Glasses Guy. Glasses Guy was at this point apologizing – “I’m sorry, baby” – and yet still defending himself: “Doesn’t it bother you to be so aware of every little thing? Why is this such a big deal?” The more Glasses Guy pleaded, the angrier Plaid Shirt Guy became. This went on for a long time, to the point that Sam and I reluctantly had to leave to go to our party. We departed the restaurant shaking our heads and agreeing how ridiculous the whole spectacle was. “Can you believe that guy?” I said. He said he could not.

The bewildering thing was that in the cab we realized we were talking about different guys. I was incredulous over the fact that Plaid Shirt Guy was making a huge stink over something so trivial. So his boyfriend was taking a long time to order, so what? Unless something else had occurred beforehand – unlikely, since no other incident was ever mentioned – Plaid Shirt Guy was blowing this way out of proportion. If he was pissed at Glasses Guy for another reason and couldn’t be civil to him, well, why go out to dinner with him and parade their argument in public?

Sam, on the other hand, was a staunch defender of Plaid Shirt Guy. “Glasses Guy was just so irritating,” he said. “He was taking forever and the other guy was sitting there waiting for him to order.” For the life of us, we couldn’t agree who was in the wrong here.

And then we realized something a bit strange. In our relationship, I am much more likely to be Plaid Shirt Guy while Sam shares certain unmistakable qualities with Glasses Guy. If anyone is going to get moody over something insignificant, it’s me. If anyone is going to make a ridiculous scene that embarrasses the other, it is he. But what surprised is that when presented with extreme examples of “ourselves,” let’s say, each of us was much more bothered by a display of the characteristics we possess than those that annoy us in the other.

I could never be with a moody guy who gets irritable without apparent cause. I dislike that tendency in myself – it manifests itself mostly in my interactions with Sam and my mother, where I somewhat unfairly allow myself the freedom to brood. Most moody people are hard for me to be around when they are exhibiting their moodiness. In this way, Sam is the perfect match for me because he is almost relentlessly upbeat and cheerful.

Hermann Hesse said: “If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is a part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.”

I hated Plaid Shirt Guy. I wanted to squeeze his little neck and make him realize how childishly he was behaving. Maybe Sam had something of the same reaction when he came face to face with Glasses Guy. They were living, breathing cautionary tales.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Egg In A Hole

This is my new favorite breakfast item.

This week at work I have been subjected to a lot of food-related snobbery. I work for people who only describe foods they like as "nice." This drives me crazy! I want people to just experience food, and react to it in an excited, sense-based way, not a thought-based totally snobbish "This scone is nice" sort of way. Also, I am getting a lot of crap from my boss for eating hostess powdered donuts. I mean, what the fuck? Yes, the five dollar donuts we make at the shop are good (and absurdly overpriced: this is not a big donut) but so are hostess powdered donuts, and it's not like they're all I eat.

I miss you Susans.


Sunday, January 25, 2009


Dear Susans,

I never ended up making a New Year’s Resolution. Right now though, I resolve to stop doing things that will make me nauseous.

You see, I’ve been feeling off since eating brunch this morning. Jessica and I completed our Sunday ritual of going to the local diner to stuff ourselves with breakfast food and rehash what happened to us over the weekend. She always gets an omelet with peppers, onions, tomatoes, and cheddar, I always get an omelet with feta cheese and an English muffin on the side, and I always feel like crap for hours afterwards. This morning in particular I didn’t hesitate to undergo this masochistic ceremony, because just last night I had seen Notorious with some friends and my crush, Daniel. This was prime diner gossip material, despite the fact that I had made absolutely no new progress in this endeavor (and really, because of it).

Anyway, after my breakfast binge I nearly fell asleep in the middle of the afternoon while reading in bed, when I realized that I Cannot do this. I had just made a list of all the productive things I could do today and knew I would regret it if I let myself take a nap. So I finished my tea and took the subway to the garment district to buy fabric for a Zabuton (meditation sitting pad) I’ve been meaning to sew.

It was after I got home, around when I was hopelessly trying to cut in a straight line, that I first noticed the nausea. It felt exactly as if I had been spinning around in a swivel chair, or like that time we all rolled down the hill after swinging too long in Guilford (the infamous itchy sleepover). But I had done no spinning, swinging or rolling, and realized the queasiness had to be the result of the subway ride home, which did seem a little more jerky than usual, in combination of course with all I had put my stomach through earlier.

I tried to ignore it and worked on my sewing project while watching The Ice Storm. I had diner, then made some cookies, as the dough had already been opened for a couple days, it and would probably have gone bad soon (or so I rationalized). While talking to my mom on the phone, I thought nothing of eating all but one of the cookies that had just come out of the oven. Needless to say, this made everything worse and I laid down on my bed to do the only thing I felt capable of doing for the rest of the night: dicking around online. Now comes what did me and my poor stomach in: I found this optical illusion and proceeded to stare at it for at least five minutes, trying to determine why or how it was moving.

I never did find out, but I proceeded to get even more nauseous and felt even more useless than I had all day. But I was still fascinated with this illusion, and determined to post something on this blog before the end of this weekend. So I was originally just going to post this image with an apology and promise to write soon. But then I saw that there have been more entries (I thought for some reason that I would get an e-mail when a new post was made, so I haven’t read anything since that first one until tonight). Just reading your posts made me feel more human than I had all day and I realized that I could, and would, plow through my nausea and finally write an entry.

One last note about my New Year’s Resolution. I suppose I did have an informal one- simply to do what I know will make me feel better and avoid doing what I know will make me feel worse. And if I strip away all the nausea building activities from today, I can see that I have worked towards this resolution today (largely thanks to the inspiration you Susans have lent me in posting this last month). And just before writing this I tried out my Zabuton (with my Zafu). It feels like the nausea's already retreated from my body, the seat's so stable.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Stinkin' Workweek!

Today after work I stopped by TD Banknorth to fill out a change of address form, since next week I am moving to the fifth place I will have lived since I moved to Montpelier. The bank manager was named Robert Burns and he looked almost exactly like the actor who plays The Floydster on 30 Rock, only older and fatter. I really badly wanted to ask Robert Burns if, when he tells people what he does, they ever mistake him for a baker, since people are always thinking I’m a banker. Anyway, as I was sitting there listening to him call banking headquarters or whatever to try to figure out how to change my address, I realized that I stank, and of the bakery I’d just come from. And I started wondering if there’s something general that could be said about what it means to have a job that one stinks from when coming home. Foodservice is obviously a field full of people who stink. When I worked at the pizza shop I stank, stank, stank of pizza, and so did my car, and so still do certain of my possessions (this one bag…). When Andrew gets home after a long night of baking and climbs into bed with me, he smells like toasted flour. The new bakery smell is not an obvious one… I think it sort of smells like bacon fat, although that doesn’t make any sense, since we cook bacon maybe once a week (for scones), but I smell like this every day. Photographers of old I’m sure used to come home reeking of darkroom chemicals, and I assume farmers, even modern ones, smell like livestock or hay or dirt. But I don’t think Robert Burns stinks of the bank when he gets home. I wonder if that means anything. I’ll think about it in the shower.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Only connect...

For some reason, I have always taken my first sentence of the new year to be significant. More often that not it has been something like “Happy New Year” or a peculiar combination of words I decided I wanted to say for the occasion. This year I decided to let it be a reminder to myself: “Embrace the messiness.”

To my horror, I have discovered that I have become something of an excessive planner, an ardent organizer. I have even taken this organizing mania to a borderline OCD level – mentally poring over the rooms in my house before I go to bed every night (and sometimes more frequently than that) to make sure I haven’t accidentally left any of my possessions lying around. The irony is that when it comes to bigger and more important decisions – grad school applications, job prospects, life issues of various sorts – I am a hopeless procrastinator, delayer, deferrer. I think at a barely conscious level I think if I have the superficial stuff organized – my room, my schedule for the day – it somehow takes the place of the crucial stuff. At least it occupies my mind and hands to the extent that I don’t have time to concern myself with anything else.

True to form, I always have a laundry list of resolutions for the new year (sometimes they are numbered in order of priority). But this year I decided to embrace a new strategy. I am going to allow a certain amount of messiness, or laxness, to persist in my daily life, and concentrate on other things that matter more, not just in a cosmic sense but really in a personal sense as well. Things like deciding on your future (and deciding what that even means) are tidy if you just leave them alone, like unopened Pandora’s Boxes. They are looming and sinister, but they can’t touch you. If you open them, bad and good things come flying out and everything gets messy. But sometimes you need things to get much messier before they can finally be straightened out. And sometimes there is much joy in that process of finding order if only one can begin it.

That’s very much like writing for me. When I write anything I am proud of, I always start out with a huge hodgepodge of ideas swirling around. Nothing seems connected, everything is chaotic and disjointed. Then gradually, slowly, I cobble together bits and pieces and a unity emerges. It’s revealed that actually everything is connected if only I can see those connections. Those are true moments, heart-pounding and yet peaceful moments, perhaps in some sense like what Liza experiences out rowing or running, what people might feel when they meditate. Ordinary surfaces peel away, there is a deeper throbbing lightness beneath and you dissolve into it. When I don’t experience that messiness writing, and then am able to sort through it, what I write lacks any glimmer of truth or beauty.

It reminds me of my cousin’s strategy of shuffling a deck of cards; he drops them all on the floor and picks them up one by one. It’s not particularly efficient, it is certainly messy, and it is the truest way to achieve the result. Harmony born out of chaos.


Thursday, January 15, 2009


You both stink.