Tuesday, December 30, 2008

In Praise of a Gendered POV and MILK

I saw Milk at BAM Rose Cinema on Sunday with my agent. Sean Pean's performance, everyone's performance is incandescent. I didn't recognize Josh Brolin. I refused to see him as the villain--- even when it was becoming obvious that he was the unhinged politico who murdered Harvey Milk. I had always heard that he was murdered on the steps of City Hall, but I suppose that was urban legend. I love the David who fights the Goliath. Who doesn't? Harvey Millk was a man who got it done, who challenged the status quo, fought the good fight against a monolithic stereotype. And won! You got to love it. I teach this. David and Goliath. I use the Laramie Project by Moises Kaufman and Fires in the Mirror by Anna Deveare Smith.

I love the way that Moises Kaufman, and his company, gradually reveal the homophobia of Laramie. The townspeople keep insisting that they live in a normal American city, that Laramie is wonderful, that it is "live and let live." I love the way my students begin to see for themselves that this is not the case; that beneath the rough beauty of the sky and the prairie there existed a rampant intolerance of gays and lesbians, and anybody else for that matter who was different.

And in Brooklyn, in Crown Heights, when the death of Gavin Cato rocked this city with race riots in the early 1990's, Anna Deveare Smith provided a public place for the story from the Afro-Caribbean, African American point of view and from the the Hasidic. Ingenious, obvious, but the type of story-telling that is--- for the most part--- sadly missing in our communal narrative. Because what happens in this text is a symphony of women's voices, men's voices, young, old, black, white, Jewish until it become one voice with many truths.

This year I had my students read the foreword by Cornel West who attempted to parse the issues that existed between the communities in Crown Heights. He points out (among other things) that Blacks are less likely to use a public space than Jewish people, and that a gendered point of view is rarely taken into consideration. Meaning that the voice of the men of both communities is considered synonymous with the female voice. This is always wrong. This is always a mistake, this is telling half the story as if it were the whole story.

At the movie, I found myself hoping my students would see this. Further proof that all narratives have to be taken into account, we need all of them to form an accurate, cohesive history. Every time somebody decides to tell a story from an alternative point of view, we get one step closer. So I love Harvey Milk and his legacy. And I love this movie.

Here is my only rant: when will there be potty parity? When? Why do institutions always delegate the same amount of rest rooms for men as women? We take longer to pee. Get over it and fix it. After the movie, I had to wait in line for fifteen minutes. Men were sailing in and out. What's fair about this? Does it take a genius to figure out that its a problem and do something? I've spent my whole life waiting on interminable lines for a basic bodily function. Men do not.

Fix it. And the go to the movies.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Annie Oakley Got Her Gun

I've had sex in a hotel, who hasn't? The absolute best--- New Orleans, ten years ago. A Brit I picked up at a trade show for television producers. He was tall, dark and the accent to die for. This encounter is memorialized in The Erotica Project, co author Erin Cressida Wilson, in "Bourbon Street Blues". Yes, read it. It was ALL THAT. My latest hotel sex story isn't fact, its fiction. It will be published in Do Not Disturb: Hotel Sex Stories by Cleis Press (http://www.cleispress.com/), edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel.

I wrote about a frontier woman in a frontier town. It could be any wind swept horizon, anytime one hundred years ago. I like the myth of the self sufficient woman of the wild wild west. Annie Oakley, she got her gun and now you don't f**k with her. I like the calico skirts and the bonnets, the boots, the wild untameable hair. Her husband died some time ago and now she lives alone on the ranch. She goes into town a couple of times a month for supplies and to have high tea with her BFF at The St. John Hotel. The year is 1890.

Of course she meets a man. A stranger with a long scar on his handsome face. He's dangerous, in fact he's a killer. It's a revision of the Blue Beard story. Girl meets monster and falls in love. The monster kills her, add her to his museum of murdered women. In my version she has combustive sex with him in a tawdry hotel room. He ignites all cylinders. Damn, if she doesn't find herelf on fire. A forty year old widow with a sunburned face screwing her brains out. She can't get enough of him.

When the ghost of his last lover appears to her one night, however, and reveals his secret, she escapes out the window, and lives to tell her tale. She's old now. She still longs for him. She remembers what he did to her body. But she's older and wiser. She knows better. Better to be alive than enshrined in a mausoleum of beautiful dead women. So its a ghost story, a love story, and a twist on an old favorite story.

It's called The St. John's Hotel, 1890. It's available for pre-order on Amazon.com, http://amazon.com/gp/product/1573443441/ref=cm_pdp_arms_dp_2 or check out the blog at http://donotdisturb.wordpress.com/

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Camille Paglia in "Fresh blood for the vampire" http://www.salon.com/paglia/2008/09 wrote in praise of Sarah Palin's muscular feminism. She didn't convince me that Palin is the new prototype for women everywhere to emulate, but there is something to be said for women in general getting tougher. I do agree that there are far too many French Literature majors amongst women in college. There have been far too many women who have written papers on the Wife of Bath in The Canterbury Tales. Too many young women swooning over Wordsworth or Tennyson or even Sylvia Plath. Paglia's point is well taken. I'm one of those women. Ask me about English Literature in the 1800 or 1900's.

I WANDERED LONELY AS A CLOUD (http://bartleby.com/145)

Ask me about Yeats, Auden, Pound, Frost, Eliot. Ask ME about Chaucer orBoccaccio. And with my Master's, ask me about Kristeva's theory of feminine time versus masculine time. Ask me about the female narrative. Yeah. I'm literary all right. And that's part of the problem--- according to Paglia and I agree--- exactly how practical is it? And doesn't it relegate women to a ghetto of their own creation? I took an economics class as an undergrad and I got an A, but it was all theory; GNP, guns and butter. Whatever.

Here's the problem. I've only recently discovered that

the first freedom is economic

I don't know who wrote this. Perhaps someone can tell me. But it's been RINGING in my head since I read it. This is like St. Paul on the road to Damascus type revelation. The first freedom isn't beauty, and it's not intelligence, passion, or creativity. And its certainly not love. Not for women. No. It's money. Duh. I make fun of a friend of mine who's got his economic future all sewn up. He refuses to buy signature denim and delights in fifteen dollars blue jeans on 14th Street. His Dad was a money wizard. I make fun of my friend, but I am envious of his knowledge. Boys are Taught this. Women are not. God love my mother. Sincerely. But she wanted me to learn how to type. So I could be a secretary, support myself before I got married. That was IT. She wanted to be grandmother to my children. It was the cultural zeitgeist. My mother wasn't stupid.

When I got to college I just knew that I loved literature and history. Mostly literature. I wept when I read Franny and Zooey. I've read Eliot at gallery openings and had my audience in the palm of my hand. In sadness, or sorrow I always conjure Auden's image of the falling boy, "in Brueghel's Icarus." See. I told you I was literary. But I don't know shit from shinola about the stock market. Or hedge funds. And I am not young. I got my head in the clouds. I believe that I am valuable contributing member of society but my credit rating says otherwise these days. And here is where Paglia got it right:

I should've learned about money and business. I thought it was enough to balance my check book now leave me alone, I got to get high and listen to David Bowie. That's what I knew about money. I just wanted enough to get by so I could turn back to books, to writing. Warnings about that attitude fell on deaf ears. It seems as if there is always a generation of women, young women, who do the same thing over and over. Who fail to realize that

the first freedom is economic.

If you don't have an inheritance, and if you don't want to snag a good husband--- a doctor or a lawyer--- if you want to be single, you better learn about money. I HATE being called to task on fiscal mismanagement. It's humiliating. Classes in finance should be required for ALL women in college. Concert violinists, French Restoration theorists, poet/actresses should not be able to graduate unless they can read stock charts. That's when we will see


Friday, December 26, 2008

A Rabbit Out of My Hat

The holidays are almost over . Thank God. This year is almost over . Thank God. Things can only get better. They can't get any worse. Since my rent went up in July every month has been a magic act. Every month I managed to pull a rabbit out of my hat and survive. I wish I could write about something else but I can't. It's the only thing that I'm concerned about. Finances. Money.

I want to go to the movies. But I can't. I want to go out to dinner but I can't. I can take living alone because I've done it so long now it's almost a religion. I can take getting older because its ridiculous and a waste of time to rail against a natural process. As long as I go to the gym and never become a size 16 again, I'll be alright. I had three cats for fourteen years and they all died within eleven months. I got over it. I got a dog. Right now she's doing her favorite thing in the world; chewing on a sock.

Even with all my careful calculating, I still spent close to two hundred dollars. I didn't even have to leave the neighborhood, everything I bought, I bought on Montague Street. First I went out on an exploratory mission. I didn't bring money. I priced everything. Then I went back out with money. But its not just the gift giving, its the gift wrapping. Transportation. Food. I told family and friends, don't buy me anything, I can't reciprocate. It killed me to say that. I didn't enjoy getting presents because the joy is in giving. It really is. I do believe this. I cooked dinner for a friend with a new baby, that was good. But expensive!

I wrestled with the idea of staying home and sitting out the holiday. But staying home would've been so lonely. Did I really want to do that to myself? But could I really afford to buy anyone anything? In the end I compromised. I traveled to family in Westchester. I bought small things and wrapped them in bright silver paper, with tiny silver gift cards. One must travel bearing gifts. One cannot travel empty handed. Nor did I return home empty handed. But my heart felt empty when I got home. I thought about my credit card balances. I wished I could blow them up.

I hate worrying about money. Its demoralizing. My strategy for survival has been; do what I can to get through each day. Pay whatever I can to whomever I can. After that--- I put it out of my mind. How else can you survive? Recently I went out one night and had a brownie and two glasses of white wine. That helped, too. Since last summer, I have sent out at least 100 formal job applications and twice that many from online sources like Craig's List. Part time work, full time work. I applied to academia, to management, and then in December, retail. But nothing.

I've thought you've got to get a roommate, a boyfriend. A boyfriend would solve everything. Wouldn't it? Oh yes. Let him be tall and handsome and rich! I don't want a boyfriend. I don't know why. It's not going to part of my economic survival plan. I'm in this alone. This is not what I want to write about. It's not pithy or smart. It's not gossipy or fun. I toyed with the idea of writing about how God has become stranger than fiction in the 21st century. I toyed with the idea of writing about what it felt like to spend a night in a thirteen year old girl's bedroom, surrounded by lipstick, pictures and perfume. But in the end, my fingers itched to type these words:


Monday, December 22, 2008

King Lear and the Dancing Girl

Friday night, ice storm raging through the city, I went out to see a production of O'Neil's Touch of the Poet. It was a showcase production on 14th Street with Daniel J. Travanti in the titular role. It is said that many have attempted Con Melody and none have succeeded. It may be true, according to Times critic, http://theater2.nytimes.com/2008/12/10/theater/reviews/10poet.html that he is kin to King Lear, in the breadth and pathos of his character. I could see this. It is a considerable range; he is madman, he is fool, and he is human. The task made all the more difficult because O'Neil's language, like Shakespeare's, is intensely poetic. Dense. Rich. A mouthful. And it seems like actors choose either to serve the language or serve the character. It is rare to see both in operation at once.

And on this icy Friday evening, the lead actor chose the character. The language was lost. But Con was still alive because of the kinetic energy the actor exuded. But the woman who played the society matron held the language in her mouth like silk, played to the audience, in a pool of light, downstage. I understood every syllable. And it was golden. Afterwards, I trudged through the slush with a friend down 1st Avenue, found an Italian restaurant, had pizza and two glasses of wine. I actually found a cab. It was a great night even in the dead of winter.

I've finished The Dancing Girl. I admit that I have channeled Nabokov's Humboldt and Angela Carter. I think it is an interesting combination. I am trying to find a space between mythology and pornography. I have it in my head that I can find the female narrative in this space. It's tied into the intersection of sex and identity. Here is the question: what is the woman's story if it is told without the lens of a male dominated culture? Some (women) have argued that this would require an entirely different language. I think we can just grab it (language) and wrestle it to the ground. I think we can rewrite myths. I think we can play in the same playground. Myth and fairy tale, archetypes and tropes are a lot more malleable than we think. I think the Dancing Girl can take on Jason and the Golden Fleece any day. For sure, she can kick Con Melody's ass.

I have written a whole series of stories based on this theory. I don't like to label it "erotica" unless we can expand the definition of it. I used to think that I could make up words. When I was in my 20's, I wrote poetry, and sometimes people would say, "That's a made up word." And I thought, so what? Why can't I make up words? I was always on the fast track to feminism even before I knew the word existed. Why can't there be an intersection between mythology and pornography? Why can't we remake this in our own image--- since we have been created in this image by the voices of a male culture? And I love men, even Con Melody and certainly King Lear. I am not advocating that we throw the baby out with the bathwater. No. Not at all. All things can peacefully co-exist.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Mythological pornography

So it was a vampire who waited outside in the cold and the snow for me. But I wouldn't go to him, I wouldn't answer his siren song. I knew better than that. I knew his kiss would awaken the dark forces inside of me, the forces of lust and desire. It really wasn't even a struggle, I just said, no thanks, not tonight, and so he left. He spread his vampire wings and he flew away. That was the end of the dream. But not the end of the story. Because back inside of my warm apartment, now lit up with Christmas lights, I had other work to do. I had to finish the story I started about the professor who sought his Eurydice in a strip joint and found her, or at least this is what he thinks. He descends further and further beneath the bowels of the earth, chasing after the ideal woman. He's still there. He's still convinced he can find her. I won't disabuse him of this notion, but I can talk about his struggle.

He's looking for a pin-up, a luscious femme, an avatar that only exists in his head. He's looking for the myth of the perfect woman--- but does she exist? I contemplated this question as I cooked up dinner for the little white goddess. In my kitchen with the music playing, I realized that he is a bastardized version of Orpheus. And this is where men and women get hurt. Because we see the myth of each other, but not the reality. We don't see the individual but the archetype. And its hard work maintaining this illusion, but for awhile we really do try to make it work. She cooks and cleans and combs her long lustrous hair. He buys her perfume and roses, she rolls his socks out of the dryer. He is a good provider and his shoulders are strong and his hands are capable. They laugh at the sterile relationships of their parents and swear they will never end up like that, but they do. It happens when they least suspect it.

It happens one night when both of them are snug and cozy on the couch together watching a movie. She smiles sweetly at him, but inside she is railing over the fact that love making has become a ritual, a choreographed dance of their bodies, that has now become stale and boring. She has asked for more kissing, more touching, more foreplay. She has asked for conversation, emotional intimacy. She no longer wants to play the "girl" in the psycho-drama of their marriage, and he no longer wants to be the knight in shining armor, because now he feels trapped. Now he sees other woman on the street and he thinks; with her I can be transformed, I can remake my manhood in her arms. She won't see the imperfect creature I really am, he is terrified he is not the man he thought he was, he is terrified his wife now knows this. And it can't continue.

The male point of view is what I have captured in my short story, The Dancing Girl. Because the professor is convinced he has found the perfect woman, but what he has really found is just another version of the archetype. It may be laughable to imagine that this woman could be found in a strip club, but why not? Men seek this in magazines, in movies, online and expect to find a version of this in real life. So do women for that matter. But I am not talking about her story right now, I am talking about his story. His Eurydice is pure performance, all woman, her tits and her ass and her legs. Her glistening sex. Go right to the source, forget the wedding gown, and the flowers and the gifts, the box of designer chocolates on the designated holidays. Forget all that. What he really seeks doesn't exist. And what she seeks also doesn't exist.

But we still try to make it work. I want to live in a world where I am not identified with this archetype. Yes, I can be soft and pliant, compassionate and tender. But just as equally I can be a raving bitch, hard and intractable. This is true of all women--- if the illusion was shattered. Initially this might be terrifying, but in the end, more empowering, more true. So this is why I don't answer the siren song of the vampire, even if he is there tonight, outside my window. Even if he sings to me until the sun comes up, and is there when I go out with my doggie for my Red Bull and cheese danish. I will ignore him. I know what I want, and if I can't get it, I will do without.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

More Vampires

I finished Twilight and now I am reading New Moon. In form at least, this series is a traditional bodice ripper. The same male narrative; the brute male force who enters a woman's life and completely takes over every thought in her brain, every muscle in her body, he invades her clit and her heart. Bella Swann is the typical protagonist. She'll give up everything including her life. She swoons when he kisses her, but his lips are cold. She shivers when he touches her but his flesh is frozen, it's dead. I thought what's gonna happen in the bedroom for god's sakes when they are naked, what is his cock going to feel like? Can she have an orgasm with dead cold flesh--- no matter how beautiful that flesh is? I don't get the attraction.

Yes, I know Edward is beautiful. I know that he looks like a model, like a god, but that doesn't mean I want to get in bed with a marble statue. His breath is intoxicating, I get it, but what will that tongue feel like on her labia. I can't help it. I keep going there. She tells him over and over, that she's not good enough for him, and I think, but at least you're alive, you're 17, you're young, what are you talking about? She insists she's ordinary and after awhile frankly I agree. Edward on the other hand is not normal, he is extraordinary, he is supernatural! He can run like 80 miles an hour (I'm guessing), he can growl like an animal, he knows what other people are thinking. But I've read 700 hundred pages and they have yet to do anything but press their lips together. I haven't seen a real kiss. What is the attraction? Just his absolute male beauty, the perfection of his form? He's not even alive. I don't think he can fuck her. It's as simple as that.

It's hard to believe that women in the 21st century, myself included, still buy this narrative, and furthermore find it compelling. Yow. I have all four books sitting in front of me on my desk and I will read every single of one of them. Because it is a good story. This is not as paradoxical as it seems. I can still appreciate a well plotted narrative. There is something very eerie and beautiful about a group of vampires playing softball in the middle of a forest. The author is in complete control of the myth she has refashioned. It's a male myth, but that doesn't mean it doesn't work. Male myths are in the air, just reach out and grab one. Once upon a time a young man set out on a quest. Jason and the Golden Fleece.

We love the dark and crazy man. The vampire, the hoodlum, the golem. He can awaken desire, the hot fire that burns in every woman. He takes us to brink and beyond. He is what we need to be complete. He is the man that is destined to be ours for all eternity. We would do anything for him. Intellectually, I don't buy it, but I do emotionally. There is part of me that wishes this was true. The White Knight, our soul mate, our animus, our demon lover. I wish Bella was the vampire! I love the other vampire women, I like their feral presence, their strength, their grace. But ultimately Bella's a cardboard cut out. Heidi in the Pacific Northwest. I'm not the audience, I know. I'm not the demographic. When I was a teenager I worshipped Dark Shadows. I lusted after the Quentin. Angelique was my first role model. Come to think of it, it's probably the same story.

All that aside, when I finished Twilight last night, I re-arranged the little white goddess who sleeps next to me, and turned out the light. I drifted off to sleep. But then I thought I heard something. Dismissed it, rolled over. I heard it again. A voice from outside my bedroom window, saying, I can see you.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cheap Wine and Vampires

I couldn't get out of bed yesterday. I didn't get out of bed. I was hung over. Drinking cheap wine on a Sunday. JNET and I started at Bar Tabac on Smith Street. But it wasn't its same sexy self. In the summer, the Brazilian boys played on Sunday evening, and the place was rocking. When we walked in it was as bright as a Starbucks, never a good sign. We stayed for two glasses of wine and left in search of darker and more dangerous lands. But the best we could do was a sports bar, at least the place was packed. And it had free popcorn, but enough of that. We decided to hop in a cab and head out to Sapphires on Eldridge. Quiet there, too, but at least I could take to the dance floor without feeling stupid. This is a place that shouldn't still be open, yet it is. It's tiny, it's not fancy, it's not trendy, it's nothing but a dance floor and a bar and I love it. I've been going there for fifteen years. How and why is this place still open? It boggles my mind. I'm so grateful. I don't think I had anything to drink but I can't remember. I couldn't have had more than three (four?) glasses of wine. At one point, I took off my shirt, and danced in my underwear. Now that's a New York bar.

Then we meandered over to Karma, but of course, the bitch wouldn't let me in without ID. I like that place and I hate it, too. WTF? A doorman? At Karma? A hole in the wall bar with nothing to recommend it except you can smoke ( and by that I mean you can smoke). I'd had it at that point anyway even though it was only ten o'clock. I walked back to Sapphires b/c I didn't have my scarf and they didn't have it either. I put JNET in a cab, walked a bit on Houston and then home. Woke up at three a.m. sick as a dog. I drank tons of water, took three aspirin and entertained my self with Twilight by Stephanie Meyers until the sun came up. Thank god I had that book, captivating enough to take my mind off my body, there's no way I could've navigated the Jose Saramago novel I'd been reading.

Twilight has a great narrative engine, the premise is laughable, a bronze haired boy, a good vampire, who doesn't burn up in the sun but becomes invisible? But the characters are likable, and she does a good job of evoking the soggy moss green majesty of the Pacific northwest, the green light of the sun in such a place, and I always love a good vampire story. I was kind of a vampire myself. Stuck between night and day, dizzy, sick to my stomach, with only the little white goddess for comfort and company. I thought dear god will I still be awake and still be miserable when the sun comes up on Monday? No, but close. I fell asleep around 5:45, then again at 11:30, then again at 2:00, woke up at 4:00 p.m. to prepare three final exams, wash my hair, and back to bed for good at 8:00.

I woke this morning to the sound of rain, and thought, you've got to be kidding me, right? Last Thursday it was the same deal. The alarm goes off, it's still dark. I expect that. In September at 6:00 a.m. the sun was up. In December it is not. But dark and raining? At least I had the forethought and the wisdom to have a cold Red Bull in the fridge. Otherwise I might not have made it. Kidding.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Bring It On Bitch

"Sweet Jane," is playing. My body feels good, one hour at the gym--- and its not just the working out. It's the fifteen minutes of yoga stretches, and fifteen minutes in the sauna, yow, a stinging HOT shower. I walk out of there sucking down a Red Bull and feeling like a goddess. I'm like, bring it on, bitch. I'll do anything to get a semblence of "quiet mind." Honestly, the thinking, ruminating, plotting, planning, the analysis of other people, the way I parse my dreams, relive history, the imagined conversations with people I don't know, the way I am always writing something in my head--- there's no room! The traffic jams inside my head! The voices. And I am not crazy. But if I go to the gym, if I work my body, meditate, which I do--- I would never watch TV, I think that's crazy--- if I do these things, I can get control. Focus. I can walk out of there with a song in my head, nothing else. Or like this morning, walking back on Atlantic, big fuzzy hat on my head, I was laughing over "Help I'm being held hostage in a luxury hotel."

I was laughing because my ex husband and I ran a theatre on the top floor of a luxury hotel. We lived there, conducted all our business there. We did everything; chose the show, cast it, rehearsed it, designed it, built it, marketed it, performed and stage managed it, ran props and lights, the box office, everything. Everything. At first we lived there, at first we took some lousy amount of money, like $300 for the both of us, but we were in our 20's and this was 20 years ago. Anyway, when we lived there, the box office number was our home number. We had just produced, "I Do, I Do," a resounding success. Now "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown" was up and we had zero reservations. Nothing. Nada. We sat in our luxury hI'otel suite, overlooking the ocean, staring at the phone, "Ring motherfucker! Ring!" We weren't being paid enough to move out, all our meals were covered, so that's what we used to say, to everyone, "Help we're being held hostage in a luxury hotel." And in a way, it was true. One night PJ (my ex) was the lead in a Marvin Hamlisch musical, can't remember the name, but he forgot the lyrics to the song he was singing, I mean the man was completely burnt out, he was toast. I was onstage as a chorus girl. The song is called, "Fill in the Words." But he couldn't. Fill in the words. He kept singing that over and over and I knew in his head he was screaming, WHAT ARE THE WORDS? Eventually we were both toast. Walked out without so much as a fare thee well, escaped to Key West, came back home and we were like, "You get a job." "No, YOU get a job."

For awhile it was a great gig. I am particulalry proud of the costumes I designed for "The Roar of the Greasepaint." Ultimately, this was production was referred to as "Lillian's Folly." I checked out the cast recording from the library (old school alert!). Fell in love with the Anthony Newley singing, "Who can I turn to when nobody loves me..." When I received the libretto in the mail, I was horrifed, I chose the musical based on the music. I did not know the story. Long story short, it was racist. The show was booked. The early PR had gone out. There are three or four children in the show, and I was hand painting Ked's in bright primary colors. We were committed to it. But I couldn't, I wouldn't do the show as it was written. We either re-distributed the lines of the "Black Man" to the children, or cut them completely. I can't remember. But it became a version I could live with.

Today I read with shock and awe about the investor who gambled and lost a 50B fortune, who has ruined lives, etc. And this of course along with the corporate bail outs, the mortgage backed securities. Recently a credit card of mine with a decent APR became a credit card with a 25% APR. I was told that I could take or leave it. I could cancel the card of course, but they would not guaratee how this would affect my credit rating. I am between a rock and a hard place. Was I bad person. I don't think so. I was one day late with a payment. The APR rocketed up to 18%. I called them up. What can we do about this? They said, keep paying your card on time and we will lower it again. So I did. I did exactly that for almost a year! My reward? 25%. And what I would like to know is this--- are the two related? Are the corporate bailouts partially to blame? Is it the deregulation of the banking industry? Isn't 25% ursorious? Is this an episode of the Sopranos and I owe money to the mob? Because that is what it fees like.

When I said this to the representative on the phone, she put me in touch with a credit counselor. I don't want to see a credit counselor. I am your typical academic/writer type. I am in debt. I am not a blue chip client. I don't have a Black Am Ex and have particuarly aspire to one. But I was on top of my debt. I was manging it. So I don't want a counselor, I want a lawyer and I want to get a group of people together and throw some motherfucking tea into the Boston harbor. Hijacking a credit card with an impossible interest rate should be a crime. To have no legal resource to this is a crime. Is all this related? Am I, on some level, paying for this man's crime? Is this part of the crash that began with Enron? I'm angry but I am not panicked. I do expect the economic climate to change. I do expect that that the 44th future president of this country will do something for me. I do. I believe this. The day Barack Obama was elected was one of the happiest day of my life. I expect great things from him.

I expect him to begin to pass legislation that will ease the economic burden of people like myself, middle class, average debt--- I need more tax breaks, please. I am teaching your children. I am paid a high hourly, but this refers only to contact hours--- when I am in the classroom--- it does not apply to the time I spent outside of class. I need a tax break. I do valuable work. I am single. I do not have children. It shouldn't matter. I contribute in other ways. I am a hard working productive strong and intelligent woman. I love my students and I make a difference in their lives. This should count for something. It needs to count for more. It should not be legal to charge me 25% on less than $3,000 of debt. Come on.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Pagan in Christmas Land

I negotiated three boroughs yesterday in the freezing pouring rain, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, then finally Brooklyn. When I heard the weather report the night before, I thought; oh shit that is my fourteen hour day, and then I thought, well you're a New Yorker. and it's true I got the all gear; the boots, umbrella, bookbag, handbag, water bottle, umbrella, plastic bag to wrap the umbrella when its dripping wet, gloves, scarf and gigantic fur hat (which is both aesthetically pleasing to me and practical). Still though manipulating and maneuvering all that gear takes it toll. When I arrived home at eight o'clock, my feet were soaking, my jeans were soaking, my hands were freezing but aha there was a package waiting for me when I entered my foyer. I saw that it was from my sister in California so I opened it up immediately because I knew there would be chocolate and I had already decided that I would eat all of it. However! It was a live miniature Christmas tree with a miniature string of white lights and a small box of tiny wooden ornaments. I set it up, strung the lights, hung the ornaments. I haven't had a Christmas tree in my home for ten or eleven years. I've gradually moved away from the traditional celebration of this holiday.

I boycotted Christmas for a long time--- one day about ten years ago I was frantically addressing Christmas cards, buying gifts, wrapping, mailing, almost in tears, when I said, no. I can't do this anymore. I was in such a state of anxiety; where we going to have dinner, what were we going to have for dinner, who was coming, who wasn't coming, how can I get my house cleaned in time, where are the Christmas ornaments, how come I haven't heard from so and so, what if I don't get the cards out in time. I walked away from it. The next year I was newly single. I bought tickets for a concert at Carnegie Hall on Christmas Eve. I was alone. When I came home, I ordered in Chinese, and watched The Misfits. Love, love, love the diaphanous Marilyn Monroe, the craggy wounded soul that is Clark Gable, the story of the mustangs. The next day I went to brunch in the East Village. I look back on that Christmas as one of the nicest I've ever had. I like attaching the winter solstice to the celebration since that is the origin of the myth. Many years I only celebrated the Solstice. I would take a ritual bath (sea salts, candles) roast a chicken, clean my house, light more candles, and go out at the moment of twilight. One year, my brother flew in, his daughter arrived, and we went out for dim sum with my younger brother's girlfriend, Asian, and her friend who was assistant to Madame Chang Kai Shek. After dim sum in Chinatown, we went ice skating at Chelsea Piers, had hot chocolate in the Village. I love how the city feels like a ghost town. I feel like it only belongs to me.

But I do like my Christmas tree. It inspired me to buy more lights which I wrapped around my bookcase. I need to keep myth and ritual in my life, I think we all do. I like that I have found a way to reconcile the more mercenary aspects of Christmas with the older story. I never went back to mailing out Christmas cards. I buy presents the day before. If that isn't practical I send flowers 72 hours before. I still remember all the lyrics to the Polish Christmas carols that I learned as a child. I remember my grandfather wearing a Santa hat, and my grandmother in her apron cooking ham, turkey, kielbasa, cabbage, potatoes, stuffing, gravy and apple pies. I remember the dining room table at their home, with the gallon jug of J. Bavet (brandy) as the centerpiece.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Man Having Orgasm at Gym

Brilliant blue sky and very cold, the little white goddess is gnawing at her leg, and I just got off the phone with my madrina who is very sad b/c her best friend is dying. this life, this life what are we to make of this life. it's no accident that Baba Ram Dass, says be here now, and Eckhart Tolle says be here now, and Louise Hays says be here now. But do you know how difficult that is? We are hard wired as a culture to not be here now, we are hard wired to obsess about the future; as in how can it be better than the present. I was at the gym and I was trying to quiet my mind and give myself up the serotonin that was hitting my brain, but it wasn't working. I was aggravated by the plagiarism I discovered in several essays I was grading last night, pissed off at someone who is acting like a little bitch, so it was that kind of morning, Monday. but the potential for happiness was there, if only I could let go of that, the petty aggravations, and enjoy the sweat pouring down my brow, and my legs feeling tight and strong, facing into the morning sun on the treadmill.

I saw a man at the gym who was acting and sounding as if he was torturing his body, doing leg presses with ALL the weights, what is that, like 200 pounds? I've noticed that some men when they are working out, sound like they are making love, having an orgasm; the grunts, oooooh, the groans, aahhhhhhh. I'm not bothered by that, it doesn't throw off my concentration, but this guy sounded like the nazis were in town and were dancing on his testicles in their jackboots. and when he stood up he could barely walk, dude looked like he was in serious pain, plus again, very vocal about it---- Nnnnnn, aahhhhhhh, sweating and looking like he was about to pass out. like he was James Brown at the gym; bring on the velvet cape, he's going down! and maybe it was a performance, he had to be cognizant of all the noise he was making.

shit like that throws me off. i couldn't find my groove, I couldn't be here now, I was off into the future, how i would schedule my day, what i would get done, who I would finally call and get some shit off my chest, how much of that stack of grading I was really going to do, would I do another edit of an article I'm writing--- my colleague wrote the screenplay for Debbie Does Dallas, so I interviewed her last summer--- what would I do, what would I get done, all the while my body was thanking me for the weights and cardio and the streteching and the steam and the hot shower. I chase after that mind body connection, its very powerful. I do feel good now, I might even be happy. it's important that I try. suddenly being happy has become my life's goal. I want to be happy every day that I am alive and breathing in this beautiful world. I don't want to be chased by the dragon of anxiety, I don't want to be sucked down into the culture of fear, and snarky bitchiness over the ravenous cult of celebrity.

Joseph Campbell said we live in a time that is bereft of myth, and I agree with him. We outgrew Greek and Roman myths obviously a long time ago, and we've, for the most part, have outgrown the myth of Christianity. so what are we left with? We are left with nothing. Except nature abhores a vacuum, our collective unconscious needs something, right? Something to live by, someway to shape the template of our lives. I think the LCD (lowest common denominator) solution is the cult of celebrity, where we've created tangetical, temporary gods. But on the other hand there are people like Ekhart Tolle, and I believe he is the real deal. A real teacher, in the spirit of Joseph Campbell. And I was seriously amazed and pleased to find many, many people reading Tolle's book on the subway. at the same time I was! that was the collective unconscious, too. So there is hope! the important thing to do is keep smiling, have great sex, if there is a little white goddess in your life, take her for a walk, stay out in the sun as much as possible, the light is like liquid gold.

insert prayers for my madrina here:

Sunday, December 7, 2008

F--K the Rules

I loved Rachel Getting Married, the empathy with the addict was new to me and powerful. in fact it really shook me up. I have a long history with the subject. Hence, my bias. I got it, though, the writer's perspective and the actor's performance--- here is a girl (woman) you could love. here is what the inside of her head looks like when she's not high; ashamed, defiant, fragile. here is what she struggles with and that was a revelation to me. I'm very picky about the kind of movies I'll go see. Generally I don't like blockbusters, the narrative is predictable, the conflict and its resolution, predictable. what would happen if the girl didn't get the boy? how could that story be rewritten?

look, I love Sex and the City, I really do, but there is a nagging issue for me; they all get the guy, except Samantha, bless her slutty heart. she leaves her boy toy boyfriend. But Carrie gets BIG. It couldn't be any other way. but why? even i wanted that ending, i want happily ever after even though to a great degree I don't believe in it. in any event, I love stories with strong female characters whose search for happiness or whose journey (whatever it may be) doesn't end with her "getting the guy." and they are hard to find. it's so deeply deeply embedded in our culture we assume it axiomatic. but it's not! it's been created so therefore it can be revised. and btw I hate that book, He's Just Not Into You. man, talk about perpetuating stereotypes. why is it only women have to be reminded of this, and when women are reminded about this, it becomes a cultural phenomenon. and I also hate The Rules. another high water mark for thinking women everywhere. a total throwback to the 50's when men where men and woman had to use her "wiles" to ensnare him. you know why that book was so popular b/c men and women were so confused after the first and second wave of feminism, that no one knew what to do, so it was easier to revert back---- to a kinder, gentler, simpler time when behavior was codified, and people were strangled by it.

here's another question, why aren't all women feminists? I'm seriously confused. and now I'm going to offer Hillary Clinton some advice. But first congratulations, Secretary of State. Excellent. Now, hire an image consultant. I know, I know--- but listen, we live in a time that is dominated by image, by verisimilitude. I get this from Susan Sontag so I know what I'm talking about. Just because something looks good to you in the mirror doesn't mean it's going to reproduce as an image of "you." You need an expert to determine that. Your image is hurting you, you are between a rock and a hard place, I know, all that gaff about "cleavage." But don't let that get you, don't be afraid to be a woman, that is what you are. My sense is that you're trying to hide that, opting for masculine with a feminine edge. A kick ass image consultant can revamp that. call me, we'll do lunch.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Unexamined Life Would Be a Luxury

Saw a man at the gym today, Mr. H. met him last June at the block party. nice little neigbhbor party; booths for wine, beer, books, yard sales, music playing. I was hanging with my agent where she was attempting to sell the very nice detritus of her life. she took me over to meet him, said, oh he's perfect for you. he was manning a booth for his own book store, independent, vanishing species. and he was perfect for me. yow. we hooked up (not in the sexual sense in the old school sense) for a couple of hours that day. talking. that kind of thang. and I'm feeling something, like all over my body including my brain and believe me nothing is sexier. well. we exchanged numbers. I went back to my friends, a few minutes later, he tapped me on my shoulder and gave me two chocolate kisses. I was like yow. oh baby. to make a long story short he didn't call. now I've seen him around, we are neighbors. but we cautiously avoid eye contact. I saw him once coming out of his store with his ex-wife and i knew immediately that he wasn't finished being a husband. so whatever. that's how these things go. but now he's at my gym, my religion.

I don't think about what I'm going to wear, and I don't worry about my hair, I don't think about my body except to think I like my body. I am not self conscious. and I don't want to get self conscious. I don't want to have to worry about my chipped manicure. you feel me? in the locker room I looked at the camisole I was wearing and thought you can see my nipples. and to be honest I kind of knew that, but didn't really care. it's not insanely obvious, but i really LOOKED today, and sure enough, the circumferance and the texture of my nipples are about 40% visible. when I left the gym I was all like now I have to wear something different and then I imagined a conversation I would have with him, don't look at my tits and I won't look at yours.

So the man who date raped me thirty years ago. I file that as something

I do not want to parse.

I do not have dredge that up. i don't. some people lead their lives like; something terrible has happened?! I can't think about it, i will never think about it. it is too dark and it is too deep, and I cannot go there. on the other hand, I've been like bring it on. I'll go dark and i'll go deep as long as it means i can be as genuinely happy as possible. so I'm all on the side of the unexamined life is not worth living, believe me. I've examined my life. and right now I insist on being happy. I'm not going to let it bring me down, I'm going to relegate that man's name back to the dust bin of my collective memory. it is recently deleted, destroyed, deconstructed. I don't have to drag in Jung or Freud or even Alice Miller. I can just say, I had a great workout. I may go uptown to visit the newly re-furbished St. John the Divine. now that is a cathedral. LOVE the arches, Ithink they're Romanesque, but I'm probably wrong. seriously though talk about Blake's "fearful symmetry." yow. and the stained glass isn't too shabby either.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Failure to Communicate

fuck just lost an entire post. too f'ing tired to retype.

Date Rape, Batman, and Man on Wire

I found the name of a man who date raped me more than thirty years ago. I read it in The Daily News. I hadn't thought about this man in a VERY long time. Now its true that I did write a slightly fictionalized account of this rape for salon.com, called By the Banks of Lake Michigan http://lillianannslugocki.salon.com/ which also won a prize. but when i was writing about it i wasn't thinking about him at all, i was thinking about the girl. She was the girl in abstraction. but his name in the paper, unexpectedly, shook me up. that's a whole different kind of reality I wasn't prepared to face, so it really brought me down.

I worked hard to get back up again, I really did. even had dinner with a friend, two drinks in Tribeca. on my way to the restaurant after teaching my class, i was walking up Hudson Street in the rain, and my brain was just filled up with his name and thinking how in God's name can I shake this when I stepped off a curb and popped off the heel of my boot, they are ruined. I couldn't account for that happening--- his name--- in print--- a bolt out of the blue. of course it was tempting to think about the other three times i was date raped, but that didn't seem very productive. i mean why go down that road. after reading his name I thought great now I have to get through a 15 hour day and how am I going to do that.

I'm ok today and have great cause to celebrate. M. is going to be OK, he got a clean bill of health. so yesterday was a minefield of rain, and broken heels and broken heart, but today I can just be tired and grateful and I am grateful. I allowed myself to be an insect, live the insect life; no gym, no make-up, no bills, no phone calls, no email, no brushing of the hair or even taking off my pajamas. after I got the good news, I smoked a little and started watching Batman:

During the opening montage, a prologue, Alfred says something like are you really ready to be more than a man (meaning a god or a demi-god)? and I thought, yes, its the story of Faust. anytime a mere mortal, a man, attempts to transcend the boundaries of his/her earthly existence it is always in a pact with the devil and there is always a price to pay. anytime we mere foolish mortals attempt to extract fire from the hands of Prometheus aren't we punished, look what happened to Icarus. the movie however never entirely commits to the country of myth, I never buy that the city is in danger and I'm not sad when the "girl" dies.

Gotham looked too much like New York and I've seen real terrorism in action and frankly Al Queda still holds the bar on being evil. Heath Ledger is great but he's in it alone, no one's in the same room with him, so to speak, he inhabits his own place in the movie. I buy his character 100% but he's not the joker as the trickster which I think was the original trope. He's the more the golem or the goblin and that is very different.

But I saw was Man on Wire. that moved me to tears, that crazy frenchmen illegally stretching a wire across the twin towers in the early 70's was breath taking, every image broke my heart but also brought me joy. it is a complete love letter to the two buildings and the even the city. this is how I read it and I cried unabashadly. I think everyone in the theater was crying. I would love to have that image: the sun is just coming up and he takes he balancing pole, and steps out for the first time, into the clouds and onto the wire so high above the city. nothing could be more simple or more profound. perfect balance. the city in perfect balance and the contrast between what my eyes witnessed in 2001, and the delicate image of a man on a wire was a blesssing.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Revisioning my Brain

Another golden day which started at the gym. 20 minutes on the machine where its like you're cross country skiing, then 50 reps on another machine, have no idea what it's called, but its works the upper arms and back, another that works my shoulders, another where I press 90 pounds with my legs, and confidentially my legs are strong. then finally the last piece of equipment that I call the pussy machine but the real name is the hip abductor. I call it that because I got to spread my legs wide open to sit down at it and when I am lifting the weights I can feel all the way down to--- uh--- my pussy! which I love. then I do yoga, like ten minutes, mostly the full body stretch but my eyes are closed.

I meditate on my root chakra, and a very provocative bend in the road in my hometown. it's down by the lake, a subtle curve around the harbor right before the water appears and the lights illuminating it. there's a chinese restaurant that's been there for a half a century, and there used to a bike shop next door, but that is gone. the whole scene is very Edward Hopper-ish; iconic american town, slightly surreal, late winter light--- maybe you're dreaming. that kind of thing. my mind keeps going back to that visual when I am meditating. I don't know why, I find it comforting. I'm really trying to remember the name of the chinese restaurant because its the scene of three dramatic events of my very young life.

chronologically I don't know which one come first, so I'll just start with the one I can easiest narrate. I am 17 years old, and extremely beautiful. I say this now matter of factly, but it a certainty you can take to the bank. For real. I hang out at a nightclub, a circus--- a rarity in this small midwestern town. the ringleader (owner) is part of a well known family--- it is a recognizable show business name. and by god he creates an unbelievable nightclub in the middle of nowhere and gets rock and roll bands, some of which are famous, or used to be famous. I was sleeping (fucking) the lead singers, the managers and even the bartenders. har, har.

Anyway, a non-famous band, a local band called the WaHoo Noodle (a mix of John Prine and CSNY) plays there one night. I meet the lead guitarist and he's a local Polish boy who sells carpeting as his day job. and instead of a one night stand we start dating which was very weird but nice. he took me to the chinese restaurant and I get to play the sophisticated woman out on a date for the first time in my life. now I did have a boyfriend at the time, same age as me, my high school love, but he had an open relationship. we went to parties, and screwed around in my basement, but this was different. anyway. I ordered lobster chop suey. he was adorable and never wanted to have sex with me. but I remember that date so clearly.

another time I had dinner there with a friend who was dying of leukemia but also a junkie. after dinner he did a shot glass of methadone and so did I. he was talking crazy shit and acting crazy but I knew it was one of his last nights on earth so I put up with it. later we went to a nightclub (who was driving?) with a cement floor, we danced for awhile but i hooked up and he disappeared. the next time i saw him he was in a casket romanced by acres of floral bouquets.

finally I had dinner there one night with my best friend and we both dropped acid. it wasn't a memorable trip ultimately--- I had had better, but the chicken chop suey I ordered was definitely enhanced by the lsd.

so I like this place, this iconic location. maybe because it represents a shift, away from my family and more towards the person I was going to be. that was important to me, I had to keep visualizing a life beyond that town, so that I would survive, and I did survive. so my mind returns to that spot these days when I meditate. i don't ask for the visual when I meditate I let them drift up to me. another thing I really love. ok, folks, time for the couch. nite all.

i am seriously working on rewiring my brain.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Way My Day Played Out

a golden day today, yesterday was mud. I didn't wake up to mud on Sunday but it became so as the day progressed. why? so little daylight, cold and raining. I didn't go to the gym, who knows. it was one of those days when I am chasing the dragon of anxiety, or its chasing me. a formless day, my brain as foggy as the weather outside. thousands of competing voices in my head, some not so nice, some downright mean and bitchy. the initial crash happened early in the afternoon when I couldn't get online. I spent two worthless hours on the phone with tech support trouble shooting when all along it was a problem in the entire borough of Brooklyn.

at least when I found that out, I said, OK, you're done trying to work. Assuage yourself. do what you need to calm down. everyone was still out of town. nobody to talk to. I watched Stone Philips interview Jeffrey Dahmer's father and mother. the mother scared me, so worried that everyone was blaming her, insisting that his childhood was normal, her pregnancy was normal, everything was fine, la, la, la. at least it seemed that the father had engaged in some soul searching.

and this morning, the flat flatness of depression still had a hold on me. but wait, I shouldn't call it depression. there is a reason I am sad. I am grieving. and that's hard to say. hard to admit. it can be such an ugly process; ugly in the sense of ugly crying. its not easy to cry as hard as I've cried lately, and its never easy to pull myself back together again. but what choice do I have? I am drowning in debt. I have to get it together. work. keep working. keep the house clean, food in the refrigerator, walk my dog. in any event, it was there, sitting on me from the moment I woke up.

But i forced myself out into the day and the sun, the glorious magnificent sun was out and shining. I felt 100% better, I felt thank God I get another day, and what a miracle that is--- another chance. then I went to the gym, came home, worked for an hour, back out in the sun, worked for another hour and then back in the sun. I told myself that the more time I spend outside, the better I would feel, and so it was.

I crashed a bit this evening on the phone with a credit card, raising my apr to an ungodly rate. i said, is this how you are fighting the debt crisis, by raising the apr on credit cards, so more and more people default, what kind of madness is that, and I am good customer. I always pay on time, I may not be paying it down, but I am reliable. I asked, why am I being punished and do you know what they did, transferred me to a credit counseling center. fuck them. i am proud of the fact that i am in debt, but i am managing it, it is still good debt, I haven't defaulted on anything. and its a struggle. the whole thing is such a struggle. but I am managing to do it. anyway I made an appointment to see a credit counselor, and got back to work looking for work. even something seasonal, I don't care, a store, a cashier, a smile, how may I help you, whatever.

but its got me thinking about what the ripple effect of the crashing economy is going to have on me personally. I think I just got a taste of it. Is this going to happen with my other debt as well? Is there no legal recourse. I even told the woman on the phone, I'm going to report you to the president. the democratic president I helped elect into office, that's when she probably thought I needed counseling, ha. thank God I am back in the classroom tomorrow, that little bubble of academia when I get to leave all this behind, and do what I do--- teach and write. it seems such a luxury these days. to just work at what i love.

I am grieving and all the books out there are stupid. this is what you do. on days when you wake up in mud and the only thing you can do is cry, do that. on days when you wake up and think you might have the strength to get back to your life, do that. exercise because its a natural source of serotonin, eat well, get enough sleep, do yoga, meditate, and if all else fails have a drink and piece of chocolate cake. or smoke a little weed. go for walks. soak up the sun if there is sun. and know that there is tomorrow, and that little fact, that axiomatic overlooked fact is such a miracle. that's the way my day played out.