For What it's Worth... here is the story of my Facebook Cover Photo.

Two years ago, on a dark day in January, I posted this photo -- snatched from the internet, naturally; I confess I recall not exactly where -- and posted it to Facebook as my cover photo. A cover photo of course is that oddly gigantic banner that hangs over (or behind, depending on your device) your personally created and cultivated social media profile. Initially I think I used this space artistically, trying to plop in a fun and vibrant and multi-hued image, something that would read like wallpaper (like, real wallpaper, like, from a shop). Sometimes I chose photos of women taken at odd angles--photos meant to show that the woman was interesting and busy and thoughtful (like, full of thoughts) and not just eye-candy or a vain/desperate housewife, coyly awaiting your compliments. Occasionally I posted snippets of text. Poems. Lines from plays. Celebrities laughing. (I am obsessed with shots of celebs laughing.)

This entire post could be devoted to an academic, critical theory-style conversation on the notion and nature of cover photos -- but I don't feel like subjecting you to cruel and unusual punishment, so I'll switch topics now.

At the two-year mark of Donald Trump's tour as President, I came to the frightening conclusion that the man, his crew, and all the enablers were not quite playing with the same copy of "Idiots' Guide to the Constitution" as moi. I was never a Trump supporter, on any level, but I'll admit, I did not think he was the devil (a friend of mine said in 2016, with full sincerity, they thought he was the antichrist). I thought he was a pretty big talker, perhaps a crude loser, and seemingly willing to stoop to any level to get what he wanted -- but, well, I'd known men like that, and a few women. They couldn't get too far on their own. (Could they?) I tried to think of my loathing for him from the perspective of those who loathed Obama (i.e., I didn't like it when people posted nasty and trashy screeds about Obama, so I'll try not to do that about Trump). Again, initially, I truly did not think he was a total madman; a traitor; an installed useful idiot; a monster; nor did I think he'd be someone who wouldn't be unwilling to let those who knew better--essentially do his job. I thought he'd be happy to hand the actual duties as assigned over to someone more qualified. Meanwhile, he'd be the face. He'd get the attention. He'd do jack shit for work, but that, frankly, was a relief. To him. And to us. 

Then bad things started to happen. Like, really bad. And I'm not just talking about his verbally abusive tweets or ugly comments to female reporters. About two years in, around the time of the child separation policy, I started to really worry. It was clear. He wasn't just a pathetic, immoral, poorly read dickhead. He was a criminal. Like, a war criminal. And, I thought, what the hell are we going to do about this? In fact, lost quite a few nights of sleep from worrying about this. 

I also felt the fear that many had when the question came to mind: What if those who support him, what if those people don't see this? What if they see it but don't SEE it, what if they make excuses for it? What if people can't accept that they bet on someone who was a con artist, and that they got conned? What if they are clinically unable to see him for who he is.

This worried me. 

my kids :)

Then one night I found myself watching The Sound of Music. It was a Friday and everyone was asleep. But me. I think I was watching it because a former professor named Susan Power once told me she loved it and watched it every year. So, that night it occurred to me that I should be doing that (i.e., watching it every year). So I bought it on Ama-death-zon and pressed play. I won't regale you with the plot, though it's based on a true story and real people, and the details are worth knowing. But I'll just start at the point in question and I'll leave you there. 

This scene happens about three-fifths of the way through the... film. (To be honest, I'm not sure if I'm remembering it right because every time I've tried to watch this piece of crap since, I get to the "Favorite Things"/jumping on the bed number and then just say, I can't! I can't do it. I cannot go any further just now (ever).

The Scene: Captain Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer) arrives home at his place of residence. Or perhaps it's a place he'll just be staying at temporarily (?) Unclear. Anyway, upon coming to the front door he notices a Nazi flag hanging over the dooryard. (I don't know what a dooryard is, I'm just saying these things.) And here's the important thing. Do you know what Von Trapp does? He jumps up, grabs the flag, yanks it off its moorings, and rips it the fuck up. Then he carries on with his day.


So. Why? Why did this scene grab me, intensely, and not let go? Why did I later go searching for stills from this scene? Why did I find several, stitch them together (digitally... come on now) and then adjust the lighting? 

I did this because it occurred to me that Captain Von Trapp yanked that nasty ass wig down before the horrific hell that was to follow had even happened, or meaningfully been implemented. He did it before the major horrors of the Holocaust. Before WWII had been declared. Before people were pleading for international intervention. Before it was fricking cool.

I kid with that last line, but I hope you know what I mean. I mean Von Trapp had the #BLM sign in his yard before it was *safe* and before getting psychic permish from everyone on the block and before such signs were dotting real nize zip code lawns like some kind of conspicuous consumption (social justice edition). He did it because he hated injustice. He hated arrogance. He hated nazism and nazi ideology. He hated power-hungry, false-pride-filled, oppression-loving, colonizer-aspiring, mother-effing D-bags. 

He wasn't feeling that. And he didn't make sure social media, or the latest hashtag, or even the majority of people living in Austria agreed with him. He likely knew, in fact, that many did not support his (Von Trapp's) disdain for Hitler, nazism, fascism, disgusting, corrupt, fear-mongering, double-speaking, or human rights-violating symbology. 

But he knew something was wrong with it. And he wasn't going to be complicit. 

He didn't wait until Hitler had two weeks left in his contract. He didn't wait until the majority of the people were willing to publically denounce Hitler. He didn't wait until he had to hide under his desk and toss a make-shift gasmask around his noggin and army crawl to the Keurig. 

He did when the writing was on the wall but before the crisis was in full swing. Ripping the flag down in 1945 would've been good, too. But it would've been something else. It would have been... less.

Anyone who claims they are 'shocked' by what happened at the U.S. Capitol is likely just speaking quickly or rhetorically. They can't *really* be shocked. If they are, then all I can think is one or more of the following applies: 1. they are truly unable to read, listen, or think (I'm not being cruel; I'm speaking honestly) or 2. they are desperately oblivious (due to magical thinking (in a bad way), or brain-washing) or 3. they've heard too many Sean Hannity monologues to think straight (I guess that's brain-washing) or 4. (or is this 3 now?) finally, or else they are lying/walking it back/feigning something. And if they are doing that? If they are being disingenuous, well... that kind of thing insults them -- and us. 

Who could have seen this coming? Everyone. This is the most shocking, most tragic, least surprising thing I’ve ever seen.’ — Stephen Colbert

I'm not here for any politician or cabinet member or Regular Joe who wants to say: "This is unbelievable." Nah. It's perfectly believable. There should be no shock about the dangers Trump (and co.) posed. None. And if you really and truly are only SEEING it now... well, I'm sorry. But that is inexplicable. And I am going to need more of an explanation for how you didn't hear or see four years (on top of a lifetime career) of human rights abuses, civil rights abuses, runaway racism, greed, profiteering, sexism and sexual abuse, ableism and mockery of those who were different than him--especially those who fall under protected category statuses. You didn't read HIS OWN tweets? You didn't notice his demonstrably false claims? His abusive nicknames? His repeated and unforgivable words about immigrants? You didn't hear him berate our free press? You didn't see him walk out of interviews if they didn't go his way, demand parades in his honor, and ignore a pandemic because he thought it took away camera time from... him? You didn't see the videos of him treating women like they were nothing more than receptacles for his... whatever. You didn't follow the news to witness how many of his team were not only charged, but found guilty, and sent away to do time? You just kinda missed all that or... 

Yeah. I don't get that. And for his team -- a resignation now is not only not #BRAVE, but it's also not cute or honorable or redeeming. 

Frankly, it is not enough.

I'd love to make this a real-deal-type post with: citations, embedded and endnoted; specific historical references, place names and dates of battles/events/etc; and examples of others who, like Von Trapp, said "na-ah" to warlords and d-bags before it was the name of the game... But I cannot do all that now. It's midnight. I need to get to sleep. Trust. If you have the time and the knowledge and the insight -- I'd love to read your thinkpiece (or post or meme) on people who had nothing to gain (and often everything to lose) from saying/doing the right thing. Those are the real ones.


Thursday, January 18, 2021

12:18 AM

Waver no more, my friend. Elizabeth Warren is the one

Greatest hits from ten minutes of Twatter on 2/27/2020:

Teacher, Harvard professor, bankruptcy law expert, authored several books, policy wonk, gets things done, passionate, compassionate, energetic, works across the aisle, articulate, tough. And not 80yrs old. Warren is more than ready. Please vote for this most qualified candidate

Question: Warren or Biden?

Answer: It depends on what you want for America beyond getting 45* out. If you want relief from the exhaustion & frustration of the last 3-4 years, pick Biden. If you want that PLUS an economy that works for all of us, not just the rich, pick Warren.
- Carol Vernon

Warren hands down! She’s smart. Can & has worked in a bipartisan way and has the energy of a 40 yr old. Her plans are substantive and she’s figured a way to PAY for them all. I phone bank for her. So very positive in CA for
@ewarren- Cohen---
Warren! She has plans for everything and is thorough, curious, deliberate, and the smartest one in the field. I desperately want that kind of person in the Oval Office.
Leah Bear---
Liz. She is younger, brighter, and has actual pragmatic plans for amazing structural change.
- Kim

Watching Friends Get Old and Large on Social Media

Well shit.
The truth is, I'm referring to myself. Like, I thought I would be one of those people who doesn't age, or who ages into some kind of soap opera star, but suddenly I look at myself -- or I look at the way other people look at me and I realize, yes, I am in that new category: unfuckable. And so it goes. I mean, I'm happily married, whateverthehell that means, and I'm in acceptable shape as I bang out the occasional kickboxing vid or yoga stretch-a-thon. I'm not big on make-up or jewelry and my clothes are pretty much shapeless rags, which probably doesn't help. But as I really never drink and haven't smoked in over a decade, I pass for all right. Frankly, I look better than I did when I was 23 due to the fact that I was living on merlot, champagne, petit pan and the occasional spliff. I was sort of rough looking; a bit wild-eyed, puffy, bad dye job, jean jacket with a tattered scarf, dangling cigarette-chic. Which is a look that clearly did it for some people. But what was the inspiration for this post? Oh, yes, it was a memory I had. Today I remembered this guy who used to come into Surdyk's. I was working in the cheese shop there. He worked across the parking lot, at a camera shop called West Photo. He was tall and had a shaved head. He was frequently surly and he rode a yellow motorcycle (right?) He was also a fan of my art. At times I thought he was a fan of me. He'd stop in the cheese shop for lunch or coffee, and he'd wait for me to wait on him. He asked me to draw him things on his receipt, or the white paper of his coffee cup. He took my photo a few times and he'd bring me the print. Then he'd mention a girlfriend or a date or an ex, and so... Naturally I had complicated feelings for him. But he never asked me out. It wasn't until I was actually leaving town, like, for good, that he took me up on an invitation to go out. It was the night of my goodbye party. I was moving to Pennsylvania to go to graduate school and try out what I thought it meant to be a real adult. Fifteen years ago, almost, and though it was another life entirely it feels like it could be last summer. The party was at a bar called the Union -- or used to be called that, so that's what we called it. People came. Girls who'd been my parachute. A divorced couple who I'd waited on, first together and then separately. A slew of coworkers. An ex-boyfriend who was gentle and kind. I remember one of the cashiers from the liquor store, Mike Witt, came. He was like six and a half feet tall and 300 pounds. He loved GWAR and this beer called Little Kings. He wasn't a huge talker. During our breaks at Surdyk's I'd read him poems from whatever book I was carting around. One of them was an anthology with a poem by Billy Collins. I read it to him and he told me it was pretty much shit, but he also cracked a smile. Before I left the Union that night, I ran up and threw my arms around him and he picked me up and squeezed me. A few years later I got a call from one of the wine consultants who was, and is, a dear friend. He told me that Mike had choked on a piece of steak at a family bbq, had gone to his room to lie down, and didn't wake up. I got this call while I was driving home -- home was Philadelphia now -- from Minneapolis. I took 80 across the state, instead of 76 and when I looked out the car windows there were oceans of trees; it was really beautiful. I can guarantee that the guy from West Photo took the news hard. He was sensitive. Or I think he was. Maybe I am projecting that onto him. We didn't really get to know each other in any way that would allow me to say: he was "this" or he was "this." The night of the goodbye party we stayed up until the sun came up. We drove around in his Malibu. He talked about my jewelry. I took off my shoes. They were my grandmother's heels from when she was a girl. We walked across a wooden bridge. When I got home that morning I climbed into bed and couldn't stop smiling. It wasn't that anything crazy had happened or he'd said anything dramatic, it was just special. We were young, and would always be young. The sun was coming up, and would always come up. I was wearing a black leotard, a tight yellow miniskirt, deep pink lipstick and like six necklaces -- and I always would adorn myself thus... There was a thought in my head when I started this, but this, too, has gone, and I cannot recall if I miss it. But I think I do.


You know the parlor trick.
wrap your arms around your own body
and from the back it looks like
someone is embracing you
her hands grasping your shirt
her fingernails teasing your neck
from the front it is another story
you never looked so alone
your crossed elbows and screwy grin
you could be waiting for a tailor
to fit you with a straight jacket
one that would hold you really tight.
Billy Collins 

Draft of a Post Titled “Watching Friends Get Sober on Social Media” Which I Never Actually Addressed

The Author circa 2003 at Kathleen's apartment on 26th and Dupont

  “Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.” – John Berryman 

This morning I saw a guy walking through Loring Park. It was 7:45 in the morning and he looked to me like he was walking home after a night of carousing. I wondered where the night had taken him, and dropped him. Maybe he was leaving the house where he’d partied and crashed, or a woman’s apartment, or a man’s, an ex’s, maybe a park bench next to the playground where my daughter often plays.

I haven’t blogged in a while. I was thinking of never blogging again. I was thinking of deleting this log, as it contains a great deal of personal information, of trial and error, of confession. It contains some admissions and revelations and lyrical musings, so, frankly, a lot of crap. When I began writing “Careergirls” [sic] I was in my mid-twenties. I was in graduate school. In Philadelphia. Working a desk job during the day and pounding out my novel at night. I was writing a purely fictional story of a young woman who travels from the Midwest to the east coast, to study literature and write, coincidentally, a coming-of-age novel; a girl who spends a lot of time in bars, alone; a girl who meets a bad man—a man of letters; a man getting his Ph.D. in critical theory; a man who’d gone to Princeton; a man who presented himself as a fellow lover of the absurd and the arcane. Our girl is lonely and this man is warm. It takes just four months for him to show himself for who he is, but by then it is too late. Years of tribulation ensue. The novel was alternately titled Book of Jane or Jane’s Book. And, the truth is, the novel sucked. In the final chapter, after Jane extricates herself from the unholy union with Foucault-Man (he breaks up with her), she either goes to therapy or meets a barista or takes a vacation with her family. All told, the novel was a hot mess. With a deafening thud of an ending.

The man in the park this morning was dressed like your average man, like a puppet from a J. Crew catalogue scene: young and upwardly mobile people cavorting on a catamaran. He wore a slightly faded blue polo shirt and plaid-print canvas shorts. Boating shoes. No socks. His hair was short and sandy and slightly molded from the couch cushion, or lover’s or stranger’s pillow. How old was he? I want to say he was my age, 36, but I want to say that everyone is my age. In reality, he was probably 28, 29, 30. So, too old. Too old to be staying out all night, sleeping somewhere not his bed. I knew this feeling. How many times did I say, in my mid-20’s, “I’m too old for this.” At three in the morning, when we stumbled through Uptown avenues to Kathleen and Dennis’s apartment, to put on a Debbie Gibson record, open a bottle of wine for the road, and dance with gay friends until we crashed in a pile on an open chair.

Why am I telling this? Why am I writing it down? I frequently think about our drive to log, to process, to share, to teach, to learn (to prove?), to list. I feel good after I’ve written ‘it’ down. It’s a good feeling, a satisfying feeling. To say what’s on your mind. It’s almost physical. As though you’ve picked up an object and moved it somewhere else, somewhere you don’t need to see or visit. Whatever it was is out of sight, out of mind. You’ve dealt with it now and you’ve put it away.

When we got close to the edge of the park, the man pulled out his phone. He was typing something. A message to work? “Car trouble…going to be a little late.” A message to the ex who’d woken up and found him gone? “Great seeing you last night. Hope your meeting goes well.” A message to a friend? “Do you have my keys?”

In my 30’s I stopped saying “I’m too old for this.” When I’d go out for a drink with a girlfriend and it turned into five. When I traveled to France and fell into the shower of the pension, pissing off our hosts. When I commandeered the audio at a friend’s wedding and played Ween on repeat. I didn’t say “I’m too old for this.” I didn’t reprimand or tease myself. This was too close to shame. And shame was a vile feeling, almost as vile as the hangover. (Kingsley Amis calls this the metaphysical hangover.) We don’t like shame. It isn’t instructive. It’s only good for wallowing in. Sometimes, after sufficient time passed, I took out pen and paper and I wrote it all down (well, not all of it, but enough). Then I pressed “post” and sallied away, away from the computer and the memories and the reflections and all of it. But – oops – it was not away. It is never away. It is always still there. As John Berryman says in one of the Dream Songs, “Nobody is ever missing.” Turns out what we think we’re doing or hope we’re doing -- when we position a memory or thought or fear in writing – is not what we are doing at all. We are not burying it or even simply deactivating it. I thought we were. I thought I was. But it doesn’t seem to work that way. The thing, whatever it was, comes back. And often with a twinge, or a shudder, or even a gasp. The thing we were trying to put away has returned. And it feels icky, bad--shameful. The truth about shame is that as much as it one-hundred percent sucks, it is necessary, I think. Discomfort and pain are necessary. As a wonderful doctor once told me, as we reviewed the ultrasound of my left breast where I’d been having stabbing pains, “pain is a part of life.” And, I think, it can be instructive. If we are willing to stop. And listen to it. Often we are in such a hurry to outrun it we don’t have the opportunity to listen to it. And learn from it.

Franz Wright said, of John Berryman, “I believe [he] realized when he did get into recovering that his best work, The Dream Songs, had become like a textbook of what it’s like to be an alcoholic. He didn’t know it while he was composing. You’re two people when you’re an alcoholic, two distinct personalities, and since Berryman was always drunk, he was that personality and wrote that book. That same book, when Berryman looked at it with sober eyes, appalled him. It wasn’t the work he thought he had written, and I think that contributed to his suicide. He was sober for eleven months when he committed suicide, and at the autopsy, there were no drugs and he had no alcohol in his system. He was pretty broken down, but I think he fell into a suicidal despair. My theory ,which I’ve heard other people say who knew him, is that he realized that the greatest work he would ever do in his life was a description merely of what it’s like to be insane. He might have dealt with that and thought, ‘Okay, this can be used in that manner. This is what it’s like for a brilliant genius to express what it’s like to be insane.’ But I think it must have depressed him so much that he wasn’t able to get beyond eleven months of recovery. If he’d waited three years, I think he would have gotten through, because I see people all the time who take three years to come out of withdrawal and depression […] If Berryman had been able to go through that, he would have been okay.”

This morning, a man crossed the street, and disappeared back into the world. I don’t know where he went. Or where he came from. I don’t know what will happen to him, if he’ll be OK, if his friends and family will be OK, if any of us will be OK. I know I walked into the Hyatt, on time for the conference I was attending, and I poured a cup of coffee. Then I sat at a round table in the conference room, said good morning to the other attendees, and put pen to paper, remembering and wondering…

  What a relief it will be, won’t it—stumbling out once more 
to see the morning street with its familiar 
million strangers streaming past, you standing 
there watching them part with blind eyes 
around you on either side, God bless them, 
every one, everyone who’s not going to hurt 
 you today, all the strangers, how you love 
them all at once, how close you feel to them. 
 Because the soul is a stranger in this world.

- Franz Wright, from Entries of the Cell

The author and one of her sisters in South Dakota, 1989


In two dreams, one sleeping
one awake
the river runs
between two cities--and when I pass
in certain light I ask--
if you could--
would you go back?

Cyan and The Bechdel Test or Whatever The (2004)

“The Socratic word for either deduction or induction is ‘sunogages’ or something.” 
David Samuel Shalen

They are easy to disregard; the promises you make in the morning. I won’t see him anymore. I won’t smoke, too much. I won’t miss class. And I’ll catch up. I’ll do better about responding to texts, to emails.

It’s easy to say these things, to list them, to write them in a journal. It’s easy because it isn’t true. Not just the promises, the man, the relationship, the story of it, the everything.

What is true, you wonder. Perhaps your parents. Your siblings. Perhaps the first real relationship: the tired boy you never loved and lost. The words of poets. Yes. These things are real, aren’t they? But no, they aren’t, not even. They fade and slip away, or like your uncle, flash. One day here, one day gone. No getting used to the idea, no trying out the feeling, no preparing, no control. If someone can come and go within the same instant, then perhaps, no, perhaps we aren’t real.

The sky. Now that’s a real thing. The celestial dome that covers over everything. That will last long after we are gone. Of course the science people, professionals and laymen, would cry out--no. Galaxies will spin apart, faster than the speed of light, and the sky, even the night sky--with all its referents--will become something invisible, something that once was. Whether there is an earth or a being to remember them or not.

Why do I wonder about these things. Anything. I don’t want to. I want to be in the grip of life. Livet i vold. A college student having an affair with a teaching assistant. It should be simple. Easy. It should be slightly thrilling. Doesn’t it feel good? To have the admiration, the validation, of an older man – a man with graying hair and eyes that look straight through you. That’s what I am supposed to be chasing—the gaze of those eyes. Or is he supposed to be chasing me? I can’t remember and I’ve reconstructed the theory too many times to recall which drives which. One of us, I believe, is trying to be immortal.

Last night I watched a special on Johnny Carson. He was handsome. I’d never noticed because he was already rather old by the time I was watching, and I was a kid--a teenager--staying up late finishing book reports on the French Revolution, skipping chapters of Dickens, listening to your classmates closely before the test. An English TA will smile and a casual remark you made, thoughtlessly, witlessly, will take on significance. You’ll repeat it to yourself on the bus. You’ll hear it in bed. In the shower. And always with his smile.

Is this love? The meaning of your life. Romance? Is this Freud? Why can Johnny Carson have affairs, young loves, a real career, esteem – but you are now defined simply by this small thing, this two or three month flirtation. Slightly more than just that, of course. He called, and you came. This repeated and played out and ended. One day there was a man in your bed, one day there wasn’t. Why it ended, you aren’t sure. The change of season? His wife? Your pride? His job, perhaps? Maybe he grew tired of you, your jokes, or afraid. That you wanted more. Did you? Who knows. You can’t remember. Was this the story you wanted to tell?

Now take a deep breath, and sigh. Take a hand across your face, move your hair in place.
Turn back to the windows, the glass to see through, the wandering star, the color blue.

- AMD, November 25 2014

So Long, See You Later

In Head House Books on South Second, with less than three days left in Philadelphia, I make an impulse purchase: a Gone with the Wind biography/critical commentary thing. It’s the cover that drives the purchase, the green fuse that drives the flower. Regardless of the logic of that sentence, it’s what came to mind. Language has musical qualities and sometimes one can’t help but rattle off the phrase that comes to mind, whether the literary reference makes sense, whether the reference preceded or succeeded the non-literary sentiment, whether or not etc etc etc.

The book is engrossing, in particular the talk about Scarlett's pluck. There's plenty of mumbojumbo and intertextual wanking, but it's not terribly offensive. There were certain statements that drew my breath -- that amazing feeling that starts to fade with age. The line that spoke to me in particular came from the introduction, the part where the writer wastes your time and you thank them for it. Between the onanistic jabber there was this crystal clear thought: that Scarlett O’Hara’s character is, despite the glamour and 17-inch waist, a tomboy. Further, she is a tomboy who has no qualms about sexualizing men. Brilliant!

It’s true, you know. Many of us gals don’t really see much shame in throwing ourselves at the objects of our desire. And how lovely to find many a man enjoys it! Not all, mind you. No, not all. Alas, alas. But some. And so, this line called to mind the summer of 2005, my last summer in the great city of trees and lakes called Minneapolis. It was then and there that I found myself involved with several different suitors. None of them was truly willing to sweep me off my feet, but all were willing to play along. I didn't feel like I was leading anyone on. See, I was moving to Philadelphia at the end of July and they knew it so, why not? I want to tell you about these men, because each of them was and is a story in itself, but out of respect I won’t. I’ll just say this: one was a photographer who rode a motorcycle; one was a very smart, sexy, sound-engineer person with a Cannes film festival award under his belt; one was a local musician, human rights lawyer, with coke bottle glasses and a cat named Kingfisher. There. That's all. When I left Minneapolis for Philadelphia I would speak with them on the phone, sometimes accept a letter in the mail, and it was all very sweet and made life feel full, and then due to things like time and distance, we lost touch.

And so this afternoon I was thinking of them. Of us. Of me, and them, at that time. I started to think of why it was I lost contact with them. It wasn't just chance. I met someone here. A man. I met a man. And unfortunately, the story of us is a buzzkill. Which is why I try not to think about it too much. The truth is, many days I spend thinking thoughts I’d rather not. Thoughts about the future, climate disaster, and the vile shit humans do to one another. And I think about how things could be different. I mean, how things could have been different. Sometimes these are grand thoughts. But I'll admit it. A lot of time, it's just me, my choices, my life. That day in the bookstore, I start going back in time. Back to the end of July in 2005, when I was still a very young woman. I'm remembering a conversation in the Xerox room in Anderson Hall. A bar on 15th. An empty apartment. A key twisting the lock. A drive up and down Delaware Avenue. Sitting at the IKEA cafĂ© and staring at the huge docked ship, pretending I was in Scandinavia. I try and catch these thoughts before whole minutes have passed, but they’re slippery beasts, determined, and let’s face it, they know the way, the road is worn well with travel. And I go there.

She has this fear that she has no names that she has
many names that she doesn't know her names.... She has
this fear that if she takes off her clothes shoves her brain
aside peels off her skin... strips the flesh from the bone ...
that when she does reach herself... she won't find anyone ...
She has this fear that she won't find the way back

I got outside and shook it off and I thought to myself -- walking home from the bookshop, walking with my baby in her stroller, who was muttering to herself and pointing to the sky -- I thought: life is precious. And then: life is hell. And then I thought: there’s got to be some poetry out of that. Well, then, I suppose there is.

My plan was simple. My plan was this: I was going to get my MA in Literature and Creative Writing, become a very famous writer, and teach courses at colleges and universities out of the goodness of my heart. There would be a fee, of course, a charge, there is a charge / for the eyeing of my scars. I would get my love life together and marry a rock star. I would stay preternaturally sexy, fresh-faced and, somehow, thin. This would cause the man from Minnesota (not any of the guys referenced above) to realize: Whoops! I missed out on a real winner! I better self-mortify and beg her back into my arms. I better fly from Dellwood to Philadelphia and show up at her fiction workshop and show everyone in her class that she's not just a loser, but actually a goddess.

First the MFA, then the fame, then the money, then the men.

There is a charge

For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge   
For the hearing of my heart——
It really goes.

And there is a charge, a very large charge   
For a word or a touch   
Or a bit of blood

Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.   
So, so, Herr Doktor.   
So, Herr Enemy.

Now. Here’s what actually happened. 
I met and coupled with a nineteenth-year Ph.D. candidate in literary theory. A person with a penchant for very, very young women. Let’s say it: girls. A person who had major anger issues (in the parlance of our time) and got off on delivering idle threats from the couch. I wrote him into every one of my short stories for workshop. These stories were parodic and tragically autobiographical and had titles like: Jane meets the Asshole of Creation and Self Destruction Pleasure Cruise. Despite actively questioning him and his role in my life, I also felt devoted to him. He was wickedly funny and had that telltale charisma that should signal RUN and he was cute in an offbeat, adjunct professorish way. Plus I was twenty-five, in a new city, and extremely nervous about my intellectual chops. He basically said: here, I'll teach you. And I thought, well I know I have a lot to learn -- OK. I soon was listening to him rhapsodize about things that felt important. I fell under sway of his slavish devotion to the Gods of pragmatism and bare life and spent a fair chunk of change on rare books, that I believe he gifted to his tweeny Intro to Poetry students.  Meanwhile, the Minnesota Madman, the Environmental Lawyer, and writer of elegiac songs for the cello -- the one who was supposed to ride in on his white BMW and save me from all of this crap -- never called.

I would watch him talk to girls at parties and feel a jealousy and self-loathing that felt nearly lethal. We'd get home, I'd throw a fit, and he'd berate me mercilessly. He'd go to bed and I'd chain smoke out the window, behaving like some kind of red room stomper. Who? Oh, her? She's no one. Back to what you were saying about being a governess... ibid. In my most frantic, hopeless moments I considered lighting our place ablaze, or rending my clothing while tearing apart with my ragged nails -- but I didn't know if I was ready for the institution, yet. Things were bad. But regardless of the multiple unflattering details of our union, there was a bigger, more general problem. My life. I knew I was not living a life I was proud of. Tell me what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? the famous poet asked. And I tried to hide. I tried to avert my mind from the question. 

One night after a party with fellow hard-drinking grad students I stayed up late and sat in the kitchen. In the morning I saw I had finished the wine. Fuck it, I thought. Then I checked my phone. I gazed with horror at the outgoing calls. I’d called the man from Minnesota. Yes, it happens, but at this point years had passed, not like six days. I railed at the gods of misfortune and torture: WHYYYYY!!!! I looked to see the length of said phone call and noticed with clearing eyes the number I'd punched in. I’d misdialed the last digit of his phone number. In that moment I felt something I rarely experience. I felt something like, pride.

Maybe, I thought, maybe this is a turning point.

And it sort of was. At least professionally. After graduation, I got a job in higher ed administration. I’d read in a money magazine that this career was one of the top ten careers for twenty-somethings and I was pretty sure the wheel of fortuna was finally spinning me straight. When they sent me up to Boston on a business trip I asked my significant other if he wanted to join. Naturally, he declined. He needed to stay in town and attend some poetry readings, naturally. On my last night in the Back Bay I met up with an ex-boyfriend, a very cute guy, but more importantly a very nice guy. We’d broken up a couple months before I left Minneapolis. I confessed t o him the horror of my current existence over nachos and Sierra Nevadas. Perhaps because I’d hurt him several years before, or perhaps because he was now seeing someone normal, or because he simply had no interest in being my shoulder to cry on he shrugged, wished me well, and pointed me to the trolley stop. It was too fair. I wasn’t upset with him. I was upset with me. For being a fucking moron. On my way to the hotel I walked past the library and read something inscribed in a stone pillar, hoping for inspiration, or simply direction. Instead a tall guy with a shaved head asked if I had a cigarette and we ended up doing shots at a crappy college bar. He talked about patent law, or something, and I talked about my novel. He was, of course, a lawyer, and a drunk. So, basically, my type.

The next day on the train back to Philly I felt something good. Something I hadn’t felt in nearly three years: I felt hope. And it felt fucking amazing. Two days after returning, I was speaking to the philandering Agamben-quoting sociopath on the phone. I was at work. He was at a coffee shop. "Who did you go to lunch with?" I asked. "You know what," he said, "this isn’t working for me." I spun around in my desk chair and said: "You're right. I’ll move out this weekend."

He said he would be back and we'd drink wine together
He said that everything would be better than before
He said we were on the edge of a new relation
He said he would never again cringe before his father
He said that he was going to invent full-time
He said he loved me that going into me
He said was going into the world and the sky
He said all the buckles were very firm
He said the wax was the best wax

I won’t go into the next few months in toto. Be assured the ex quickly realized he lost his financial means, his on-call ego-stroker, his office support staff (oh the printing, Xeroxing, faxing I did on his behalf) and he also lost something like love, but that’s really his story. And I don’t know if he’ll ever tell it. Even to himself.

This was the year 2008. The year I started therapy (finally!), moved into my own apartment, with my own dog, my own bills, my own vision of me—not filtered through the eyes of an emotionally and sometime physically abusive monster. I went to Greece with a girlfriend. I travelled by myself and stayed up all night in a hotel room in Athens watching a TV show called Las Vegas. As the years went by I finished an unpublished novella. I read Bleak House. I met my husband, moved into our first house, had a baby—Oh! And I paid off my credit card debt!

Is there any other true criterion for success than a balance of zero?

The part that always gets lost in my stories is the good time. Yes, good time. Singular. It was a time I had all these really funny, cool girlfriends and we used to meet at one another’s houses and apartments and sometimes even out on the town. We shared a big part of our lives and I won’t forget that. Not ever.

One other day comes to mind, I was crossing the Walt Whitman Bridge reading the last pages of THE ROAD. It made me cry. Drivin' and Cryin'. I tried to tell my friend Chris about the passage about how strange and mysterious the world is. "The world isn't strange and mysterious," he said. "It's a Stephen King book written in really big type." Maybe. Maybe not.

Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.

And now my husband is yelling: "WHAT ABOUT PACKING, HONEY?!" and my baby is wrapping herself in twine and it is the present moment. May 12, 2014. A nice day. On Wednesday, Mittwoch, we are taking our leave of this great and historic city. We are headed back to the lands of hinter. The land of ten-thousand lakes, as they say. The husband, the baby, and I. We are shipping out! We’re leavin’ Las Vegas / Leavin’ for good. We’re headed west. We have a tank full of gas and a case of seltzer and just like Lot’s wife and Orpheus – we ain’t looking back!

… wait.

Goodbye, Philadelphia. Thank you for everything. Be well.

And I am dumb to tell a weather’s wind
How time has ticked a heaven round the stars.


pascal says something relevant here


All of these images are borrowed from the New York Times Red Carpet Project. What? I don't know, but that's what they're calling it. I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE, NYT!

Don’t talk to me of love. I’ve had an earful
And I get tearful when I’ve downed a drink or two.

I am one of your talking wounded.

I am a hostage. I am maroonded.

But I am in Paris with you.

Audrey Tatou in Alberta Ferretti. Everything. Perfection. 

Cameron Diaz in Emanuel Ungaro. Unreal in its execution.

Cam Diaz in Versace. Only these pectorals can do this dress justice.

Sunrise and Marc Ruffalo (Fracking Activists!!!) I don't know who did it, but I love her frock. Just, love.

Bjork in Marjan Pejoski. Forever. The tights, the gown, the hair, the shoes. Art.

Cameron Diaz in Prada. She wears the dress. Perfect accessories, hair, make-up.

Cate Blanchett in Givenchy. I'll never forget this. How is this constructed? Brilliant.

Ashley Judd in Armani. Adore Miss Judd. Very few people could do what she's doing here.

Camilla Alves in Kaufman Franco. Iconic in its perfection. Could've been boring. Think about it.

Barbara Streisand in ... not sure, but I love this. She went short. Risky. Genial.

Charlese Theron in Gucci. Another iconic look. So very stunning.

Chloe Sevigny in Yves Saint Laurent. The best she's looked. I like her with a little eye makeup and blush.

Claire Danes in Narciso Rodriguez. Also, my favorite look for her.

Coco Lee in Chanel. What?? I die for this!

Ellie Kemper in Armani. The hair with the dress = yesssss.

Emma Thompson in Armani. Goddess.

Emily Blunt in Calvin Klein. I was blown away.

Erykah Badu in Charlene Shephard. Very few people could do this look. Gorge.

Gabrielle Anwar in ?? Not sure who did the dress, but she's working it with true beauty.

Gisele in Christian Dior. Many a lady tried to replicate this look. She did it first.

Celine Dionne just effing going for it, in Dior. Not for everyone. But def for me. 

Gwyneth Paltrow in Calvin Klein. Doesn't seem like Calvin, but is, and is amazing.

Fishsticks in Zac Posen. The first time I saw this I couldn't stop staring. 

Helena Bonham Carter KILLING IT and looking like the coolest woman in the room.

Halle Berry Versace. How magnificent is this entire look?

Hillary Swank in Guy Laroche. Again, stunning from Second One. Insane plunge.

Hillary Swank in Versace. I like her in Versace. It shape-shifts her. So belle.

Jean Dujardin. Handsome.

Jennifer Tilly in Isaac Mizrahi. This dress made an impression on me, along with the gloves.

Jennifer Lawrence in Calvin Klein. Best she's looked. Hands down.

JLo in Badgley Mischka. Call me crazy, love this look for her.

Kate Winslet looking adorable in Vivienne Westwood. So at ease, happy, love.

JGL looking dapper and fun and nice.

Kirsten Dunst in Chanel. One of her best. Love the blond-blond.

Jodi Foster in Armani. Iconic. I saw this and thought: I'm looking at greatness.

Tyra Banks in Halston. So lovely. This is how you work a scarf.

Marisa Tomei in Versace. Not your expected look. A little too rococo but yet not. 

Michelle Williams in Vera Wang. Who will forget this look? No one. The red lips and necklace MAKE it.

Rachel Mwanza in ?? I mean, stunning.

Mila Kunis in Elie Saab. At first I thought: ooh nooo!! But then I thought: oh, wait, yes.

Minnie Driver in Halston. Minus the fur (sad face) this is the very best she's looked.

Nick Nolte. Bad Ass.

Patricia Clarkson in Bill Blass. Barbie-wear designer did his best here. She's everything.

Nicole Kidman in Balenciaga. One of the first dresses that called me to attention.

Zoe Saldana in Alexis Mabille. One of my favorite designers. She totally rocks this.

Zoe Saldana in Givenchy. Ahmehgawh. I want to lose thirty pounds and wear this right now.

Sally Field in Valentino. This is my plan: look like her and wear this in thirty years.

Winona Ryder in Chanel. Ha! Brilliant.

Uma Thurman in Christian Lacroix. Who! Who could design and/or wear this?? No one! And yet...!!!

Penelope Cruz in L'Wren Scott. Just so gorgeous and amazing.

Nicole Kidman in Balenciaga. The bookends of this list (Audrey and Nicole) are the top looks of all time. End Play.

Yes, I am angry at the way I’ve been bamboozled
And resentful at the mess that I’ve been through.
I admit I am on the rebound
And I don’t care where are we bound. 
I am in Paris with you.

Post Script: The following looks were still memorable, but less successful...

Don’t talk to me of love. Let’s talk of Paris,

The little bit of Paris in our view.

There’s that crack across the ceiling

And the hotel walls are peeling

And I am in Paris with you.

Katherine Heigl. Well, too much rouge. Sometimes people think if you cinch your waist within an inch of its life then you've won. Wrong. You've LOST. 

Kate Hudson. Inexplicable, all around.

Melissa Leo. In theory, great. But, no. Too big, ill-fitting, wrong idea.

J-Lo. Arm hole vents are always a no.

Kate Winslet. I've had dreams about this dress, in a not good way. Unfortunate. The draping thing with different fabrics, alongside the basic structure of this dress = someone asleep at the wheel.

Reese Witherspoon. Ambien, Lunesta, Advil PM (my jam) dress.

Anne Hathaway. WHAT?!

Sandra Bullock, this is not acceptable. But I understand why you tried it. In fact I've tried something similar, but only in the privacy of the Brass Plum dressing room, at the Mall of America,when I was in high school and had no friends. So not much has changed.

Camerone. The dress is dreadful, but the real problem is the tan and brown dust mop. No offense!

Jennifer Connelly is drop dead gorgeous, a bit thin, but gorgeous. The problem here is not the dress, it is the scarf. We are not doing La Boheme. I wish we were.

Kirsten Dunst in Chanel. But holy what in the?

Sandra Bullock. There's something fun and pretty happening here, but also, come on. You know she's like, I'm getting stoned/drunk as soon as possible. The orange blond is also something we've all tried, and all failed at. In the words of Beckett: fail better.

Charlese Theron. The more I look at this, the more I find this offensive. The hair, especially.

Juliette Binoche. Unfortunate as she is an iconic woman with beauty from another universe.

Tyra Banks. Okay, well, ...

Don’t talk to me of love. Let’s talk of Paris,

The little bit of Paris in our view.

There’s that crack across the ceiling

And the hotel walls are peeling

And I am in Paris with you.



Don’t talk to me of love. Let’s talk of Paris.
I am in Paris with the slightest thing you do.
I am in Paris with your eyes, your mouth,
I am in Paris with all points south.
Am I embarrassing you?
I am in Paris with you.

James Fenton, from In Paris With You