Adulthood CONFIDENTIAL! Get Your Damn Foot Off the Brake.


Untitled West Texas Sky

THE OTHER DAY, I found myself riding in my friend’s car through the deep and lowdown gold-grey basin that leads to Big Bend National Park.    For most of the six-hour trip through Texas to this stretch of highway, I had been so relaxed that I gabbled at D. about this and that, while she, vigilant driver, nodded politely at my nonsense.  But, when we saw our first glimpse of the blue-gray belly of the basin highway, all was silence. And we gazed through our silence in awe at the mountains, clouds, hawks and sky that curtained our route.  The mountains gave us a deep reverence in return for our awe; then they wrapped elegant rain clouds that had been gathering above them for hours about their mountainous shoulders, and sighed.

I looked up and up and up.  There are so many ways of being a mountain or a slice of sky or a hawk skating figure-eights on air currents.  There are so many ways of being that I can’t stop looking at them all.

And I would have kept pressing my nose out the side window at those glorious mountains with that orangeorangeorange glow emanating from their glamorous mountain hearts for the rest of the drive, but instead I caught a flash of red light out of the crooked tail of my eye.

Then another red light drew me away from the clouds and the mountains and the rain that had started coming down in easy sheets. By the third red light, my eye fixed itself firmly on the source.

THERE WAS A CAR in front of us.  An ordinary car of no particular make.  A four-door two-tons of steel and wheels vehicle whose driver kept stomping their brakes.  Over and over.  In the rain.

The canyon lit up with his redredred alarm.

That meant  D. had to drop a hard foot on her car’s brakes every twenty feet so that she wouldn’t tailgate that nervous driver—which made D.’s car’s brakes grip in protest because that rain?  That was the first rain in West Texas for an entire parched and terrible year— which meant those roads were oil-slicked from twelve months’ worth of interstate traffic.  As she braked and watched and braked again, you could see those dangerous oily rainbows on the road, the ones that will spin your car into the nearest ditch, dam, or wall.

To keep from hyperventilating in this canyon of clouds and rain, I hunched down small, and tried to fold my fear in on itself like a gas station road map.   I wanted to get it out of the way and get on with the business of being.  But it just wouldn’t fold up evenly.  And by the way— I don’t have a good handle on the business of being right now, either, which makes every other thing twice as complicated, three different kinds of weird, and one king-hell pain in my heel.
Untitled West Texas Palm Tree

IT’S BEEN A STRANGE SEASON of my life.   On another rain-wet road, a series of jaggedy events of different sizes kept swerving my way starting in November.  I keep ducking and dodging and swerving and sweating.  I keep biting down on my own sadness, which tastes, by the way, like a stale Necco Wafer[i], chalky with nostalgia, and near flavorless from strangely-worded regrets.

If I let it, these obstacles (some of which are me) will incite the same reaction in me as that nervous driver in the basin:  I’m capable of stomping the hell out of my internal brakes on oil-slick roads.   Letting my lights blister redredred in an ordinary gray downpour.  Frightening the hawks whose shadows climb the canyon walls.  Making other drivers on the road shy of me and mine. In brief, I’ve got the Fear[ii],  and once the Fear has got aholt of me, my impulse is to keep on flinch-slamming those damn brakes at every bit of paper that flutters in front of my windshield.

REAL FEAR IS a necessary response to actual events—fire in the backseat of your car, mountain lions with rabies near your campsite, an loud thunk! in your engine.  It’s certainly awful, occasionally helpful in retrospect, and follows a pretty reliable pattern.   Real fear is a response to unexpected or expected stimuli/lus, that involves an atavistic flood of neurons in your lateral amygdala, leading to a variety of autonomic responses.  (For instance, have you ever been so startled by someone behind you in your hallway that you spun around and punched them in the nose? *Cough*  Me neither.)

The Fear is not fear at all.  It is a lengthy drawl of a response to a non-event.  It offers nothing and it gives nothing and it takes a whole lot of energy to stop it from sprawling out on a couch inside of your brain where it will never take a shower again.   The Fear has no nuance to it, no story, no heart. It likes reruns and it will eat all the good snacks in the house.   There is nothing more banal than the Fear and nothing more stultifying of one’s own deepest desires and dreams.

BACK IN THE CANYON, we lost sight of our troubled driver, and I stayed hunched and miserable in my seat.  The rain should have been a wonder, but like all those ill-born children of weird lesser Greek gods, I turned in on myself where I could gaze into the mirror pool of an imagined affliction, and then, as sure as shooting, I could not feel my way back out of my own wandering darkness.

I don’t know what comes next.   I didn’t know what came next on this road we were driving to Big Bend.  Here, look at my palms.  I’m hiding nothing from you.  I don’t know what the next step is or the next story will be.  I have a book full of notes, lines emphatically underlined, dog-eared diagrams, battle-scarred footnotes, my sweat’s in it and my respect for your genuineness— yet when I peek inside its pages, I see writing in sand where the wind’s whipped it up.

If I am true to myself, and to you, I know the following is true:   In some of these instances on this road, I am the object swerving in my own way.  In other instances on this journey, I am the road that can’t slough off the motor oil fast enough to offer any car a sure grip.  In a few more miles of this topographical survey, I am the mountain wrapping her shoulders in rain clouds with her face turned to meet the late afternoon sky.

D. DROVE ON.   She rounded a curve, and there was the brake-stomper.  He had pulled off of the road at a viewing area; he stood in the rain with his binoculars in one lanky hand.  He was a big man, shoulders like ham roasts, the white hair on his head thatched extra thick, and a mouth so small and dinked-up it looked like a homemade gate-latch.

I wanted to stop.

I wanted to ask him:  What happened back there?  What scared you so?  Was it the rain?  Was it something you saw?  Are your brakes slippy?  What if, in all my imaginings and projections, my mirror pools and my big-headed nonsense, I had missed the vital essence of your brake-stomping?  What if you drove like my grandmother did?  Like my friend J. does still?

What if you got a little excited about something your friend  said, or someone else in the car said,  and you started to debate your side of things, punching that break pedal for each point in your long list, slapping that gas pedal between breaths?  What if you punched and punched at those pedals, talking a mile a minute, until you ran out of road or unspooled the whole story?   What if you kept on braking and gassing  until everyone in the car was a little bit carsick and sore, until everybody in a five-mile radius would agree with any cockamamie thing you said— just to get your hotfoot off of that brake pedal?
Untitled Big Bend Landscape

[i] Necco Wafer— the kind of treat you only buy at the gas station when you’re on a road trip out of misplaced nostalgia; one of those things that never did taste like anything you remember, anyway; and inexplicably breaks in two chalky halves when you’ve half teased it out of its cellophane sleeve with your index and middle fingers.

[ii] The Fear is a specific reference to Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.  If you’ve never read it, get online right now and take a look at it on your favorite bookseller’s website. (WAIT! Before you go, if you really have an adverse reaction to profanity and profane, but hilarious, ideas— this book may not be your book. And I am totally, totally copacetic about that choice. There will always be other books that we can talk shop about, yes?)    Here’s the quote in question from Chapter 6:  “I hate to say this,” said my attorney as we sat down at the Merry-Go-Round Bar on the second balcony, “but this place is getting to me. I think I’m getting the Fear.”  (From The Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Hunter S. Thompson Wikiquote page.)

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHS: ALL THREE PHOTOGRAPHS featured in this story are shots I took during my trip to Big Bend. That’s right. These are by me, Courtenay Bluebird. Seriously. I know all three look vintage, but I processed my shots through the iPhone version of the Vintage FX app. The palm tree and the clouds photographs were shot around Marathon, TX, right before you start heading into the mountainous terrain. The other photograph was taken, I think, right after the rain cleared up. And it did. Really, really quick. <3


* Delusion, By Degrees

* Breaking the Drought

* Meditations Before a Thunderstorm

HEY! SHAMELESS PLUG FOR A BLOG I LOVE! May I also suggest you check out my friend Metan’s blog, Buried Words and Bushwa? She writes beautifully about these wild and amazing century old newspaper stories she digs out of the stacks. If we pester her enough, Metan writes wonderfully about her native Australia, including posting these spot-on pictures she takes. Metan and her blog are a serious bright spot in my life. Seriously! You’re gonna like her loads, I think!

Adulthood CONFIDENTIAL! Enough.

Jeanne d'Arc

Dedicated to six girls, now women.  You were beautiful when you were young, and you are beautiful now.  Loan me one ounce of your grace so that I may walk this world with a small measure of the allure that is your birthright.

    When you are completely off balance, so much so that you are certain you will topple over—you bring the paddle down hard on the water’s surface, the way ducks bat their wings. You will feel your kayak right itself. Only by moving in the direction you least trust can you be saved. —Roger Rosenblatt from his memoir, “Kayak Morning.”*

    This morning I stood in clean underclothes inside my small, square walk-in closet, which is decorated to feel like a modern little jewel box.  This closet configuration was a birthday gift from my mother two years ago.  It has excellent bones, but suffers from two afflictions.  One, it is unfinished.  A few things like hooks and extra boxes need to be added for functionality.

    And two, it needs to be edited down because I changed clothing sizes this year.  Again.  Nothing fits.  It’s either too big or too small or just right and really ugly.

    Now, when I say I “changed sizes” what do you assume I mean?

    More plainly, do you assume I lost weight or gained it?

    Even more plainly, why do you think you assumed one or the other?  What does that say about where your head is right now with your own body?   And for that matter, why is it one or the other?

    Ah.  Hopefully, you see where I’m going with this line of questioning.  I do not seek to shame either of us.   I want to look at what we assume about weight, about body, about women, about men,  about me, even, and chew on that for a second before reading on.

    Thought about the three questions I asked you?   Okay, remember your answers when we get towards the end of this story.

    As you know, I studied dance from the age of seven to the age of twenty-five, at which point I stopped dancing entirely when I left my home state and went to graduate school far away.  Because I had been a dancer, my weight stayed within (or slightly below) the lower-to-bottom range form my height.  I am just under 5”2, in case you want to look up the American Body Mass Index for my height.  Also, I come from a genetic pool that tends to have a crazy high metabolism.

    I remained within this weight range until my late twenties when I gained seven pounds because of some health issues.   Remember, I’m short—  visually double that number and you’ll soon realize I was crammed into my clothes.  All of them.  But, the weight went away after a year, and that part of my life became business as usual.

    Please understand that I was under the impression that I was totally in charge of my weight.  That my actions and my choices were at least half of the primary deciding factor in how balanced my weight could be.  The other half of the credit, I gave over to that crazy high inherited metabolism (or whatever it is) that accounted for my body’s ability to stay relatively unchanged in size.

    And please, don’t disabuse the idiocy of this version of me from ten years ago because, trust me, she’s coming to her own reckoning party right after the end of this sentence.

    Six years ago, I took a prescription medication** to help with some of my allergy issues.

    Although I read the side-effect sheet (and double-checked it at the FDA database), I didn’t really understand what the phrase “appetite stimulant” meant.   I thought, you know, it meant that I might crave more chocolate, but  since I have willpower it will be fine.  (Like many people, I believed in that great catch-all mean-nothing panacea, willpower.)

    (Oh, we both know what happened next, right?)

    One night after a week of taking this medication, I ate my way through the refrigerator door.

    That first night, I consumed:

    —an entire dinner of two vegetables and lean protein

    —a plate of seconds. (Read: a second full dinner.)

    —an entire pint of ice cream in one sitting. (A first for me.)

    —and (still puzzling to this day) six large peeled oranges.


It seemed a little odd, but, hey!  I was hungry!

That’s where this story really started.  I did not connect the medication with this odd behavior, and worse, I kept unthinkingly going back for seconds, thirds, twelfths night after night.  For the first time in my life, I was ravenous.

What I really wanted was the bad stuff in gigantic quantities— sugar, salt, dairy fat, and starches.  Some of those items my doctor does not allow me to eat at all— because my body cannot process them chemically.  Other items, he allows in small amounts— because I happen to be severely hypoglycemic. 

And most of those items were things I craved, but I was always the person who could leave half an organic chocolate bar on the pantry shelf, wrapped up, for a month.

(That left chocolate on the shelf?  I understand I can take no credit for that behavior.  My body just didn’t crave things before I took that medication.  Not like that.  Not the way it did after a year of a prescription allergy medication.)

At any rate, one day I went to put on my “slimmest” jeans and I could not pull them up past my knees.

At any rate, that same day I tried on my “regular” jeans and I couldn’t get those past my thighs.

At any rate, I grabbed the once-in-a-blue moon jeans for those moments when I retained enough water for a Bedouin tribe crossing the Sahara, and those did fit, but only just.

Please allow us to leave now before that version of me from six years ago blanches white and tries to sit down— but cannot sit down—on the bed, because her jeans, the ones that just barely fit?   Are too tight for sitting.

Ah, look!  She’s crying.  Leave her alone.  There’s no consoling a woman who cannot face herself as she is, and still be herself as she is.

A year later, I was taken off the allergy medication because I admitted to cravings of sugar that were uncontrollable— a situation dangerous as hell for a non-reactive hypoglycemic. I was twenty pounds over my BMI for the first time in my life.

My back hurt. I refused to buy any clothing to fit this new body of mine.  How emotionally healthy does that sound?

For the next three years, I shoved myself into ill-fitting jeans and shirts and dresses until crucial seams popped.   My behavior wasn’t limited to not buying new sized clothing—  I bought no clothing at all.

I was miserable and I could not adjust to this new weight.  It was not a terrible weight.  It was not even an extraordinary weight— but I did not know how to walk in it, talk in it, or dress this curvier body.   To my shame, I didn’t try to figure it out.  I ignored all of it.  When I noticed myself, I was miserable.

And I kept on eating anything that wasn’t nailed down.  I couldn’t stop myself.  And I thought I couldn’t stop myself. (Both are true.)

I did not have the frame of reference for what was happening to my dinner plate. 

I mistook a set of habits that were natural to my body (an inherited biological/environmental tendency towards an indifference to eating beyond what I needed)  to a set of habits I chose intentionally (aka, choosing not to have seconds, or chocolate, or not eating six oranges and a pint of ice cream in one sitting).  

In ignorance, I took full credit (in conversations with myself, for years) congratulating myself for my ability to maintain my body size. Because of my genuine lack of knowledge about many things, I did not know… how to lose the weight.  I did not know.

Really: I did not know.

And I would have kept on wearing those popped-seam clothes, save that my mother finally cleared her throat while saying, “You’ve got to find some clothing.  These clothes are [Note the careful wording.] worn out.”

So, I went and bought the minimal amount of clothes that I would need in order to be presentable. Note how stingy I was toward myself.

Notice also that even now we’re not talking about the really dangerous part of this story:  Every morning after eating sweets at night, my blood sugar spun crazily around its internal dial like those glued-on google eyes on humorous greeting cards.

Just take note of that, will you?

If you have experienced or witnessed body-shaming, may I also share this crucial detail that I skipped over due to the size of the conversation we could have about this subject alone?

Here we go:  I thought I was not sizeist.  I had gone to a lot of trouble in my professional life as a features writer and stylist to disabuse people of the notion that fashion, especially of the trendy, haute variety, was exclusively for slim women.  (In my real-life version of the last sentence, this is punctuated with a common f-based response.)

Here me speak: I want you to picture me standing in front of my former fashion editor’s desk, a woman whom I love dearly to this day,  whom I’ve never seen in a confrontation, watching me as I shout and shout and shout at a talented photographer with much greater status than mine— because s/he insisted on using professional models for a teen style shoot.

Here’s the truth:  I wasn’t going to play into the lie, the one we all perpetuated by accepting as status quo that haute and advance-trend fashion belonged exclusively to a certain shape of woman.   If I was going to be a gatekeeper of this world, albeit in freelance way, by Zeus, I was going to do it the right way.

That day I refused to do what this talent wanted me to do— hire models.***  All of my verbal hits at this photographer were above the belt.  We stood two inches from one another’s faces.  Close enough for the other person to read my large pores like inverted braille.    I shouted myself sideways.  We came to a compromise— no models, mid-average build teenagers.   (It was a teen trend story.)

(A year later when I was in graduate school, I heard this photographer refused to work with non-models on fashion shoots anymore.   I grinned terribly to myself.  It wouldn’t last.  A year after that terrible thought, this photographer was gone, off doing her/his own thing.)

These are the facts:  I had seen my best friends growing up shamed by their mothers in public for not being the “right size.”  I had watched these girls faces fall in like poorly mixed cakes as their mothers’ faces must have done forty years before when their mothers said the same terrible things to them.  These girls were not at the health risk weight we worry about now— they were tall and rawboned and fantastically beautiful.   These girls would grow into themselves if only their mothers’, mothers’, mothers’ damage didn’t take too much of a hit on their psyche.

These are the memories: I told them I thought they were beautiful (because I knew they were beautiful).  I told them not to listen to these poisoned words their mothers had learned from their own mothers (knowing that was nigh well impossible).  I was so angry at their mothers when I was younger, and when I was old enough to see how this happened, how this poison was passed from one generation to another, I felt pity for those mothers and anger towards the 20th Century and its arbitrary market-driven standards.

That’s the chip I carried on my shoulder into my first professional job.  And these are the weapons I had at my disposal— a long memory for slights,  a didactic memory for design history, and a razor sharp pen.

If I was a souped up car at the age of twenty-two,  I would be so tricked out with dangerous gear that I would not be considered street legal.

I was fueled by the oldest anger ever made:  self-righteousness.

Now let’s write about fashion.

Vroom-vroom.  Screeeeeeech!

(Seconds later.) Crash!

Who was there to save me from my own abuse then when I found myself carrying about the same ratio of weight-to-build as these girls of my childhood?;  Who would sharpen the pen into a sword? ; Who would raise that pen?;  Who would lower it with a BOOM! and shatter the damaged mirror I picked up like a mutating virus from every magazine I ever read, every commercial my eye watched without my permission, every radio commercial that seeped into my ear for lap-band surgery and illegal diet pills made of street-grade speed; every self-abasing conversation between two women (and men, now) I overheard in an elevator about shame and weight?;  Who was going to remember for me the promise, the hard blood pact I made with myself that I would love and cherish my body from one decade to the next of my unpredictable life?

Almost to the day, six years later, I looked at a candid photograph of myself where I did not recognize the woman I saw in it, and I said enough.

Enough to the shame.  Enough to the food.


It was as if the adult me walked in the room and saw one child me punching another child me and stepped between them and stopped the flailing fist and the tears by hugging them close. What it took was adult me waking from a daze and walking quickly in the direction of myself shouting at myself.  Sure as s**t, I found cruelty in progress.  Enough.

Enough.  I stopped eating foods that spiraled my blood sugar.  Enough.  I stopped eschewing my doctor’s orders.  Enough.  I stopped, my goodness, I stopped that crazed cycle of eating and not knowing, knowing and not seeing, seeing and yet consuming, but something else had already slowed to a stop inside me that I had no control over:  my own genetic tendencies and chemistry.  Enough, said that chemical toggle-switch in my brain the original medicine had flipped to a state of unfixable hunger that had been slowly inching back to my inherited food indifference.  Enough, I said to that food indifference.  We play by better rules now.  We eat on a schedule.   We plan in advance.  Enough, I said to my brain. You can’t set one set of rules for yourself, and believe another, opposite set of rules about the human body, and believe both with all your gritty little heart and not break down eventually.

This morning, I stood in front of a closet filled with clothes four sizes too big and crammed with garments three sizes too small.  I smiled as I closed the door.  I grabbed a pair of on sale leggings out of a basket I got for layering during a family trip to Colorado at Christmas.  I snapped up one of the six t-shirts that don’t swim on my body or squash it.  Wadding those clothes under my arm, I padded in my bare feet into the bathroom, closed the door, looked in the mirror and I said what I have said to myself every morning since that warm day in November: You are enough.

THIS PSA: I saw this PSA for Title XIV last year on Facebook, and I knew I needed to share it with you today because it popped into my head as I was finishing the last round of edits. This isn’t about gender. This PSA is about all of us.


*Quote found through Quotnik’s Verified Quotes.

**Regarding the medication reaction, I have a really strange metabolic reaction to many medications— that reaction to that allergy medication was so anomalous and so weird, my super-focused pharmacist called to double-check by phone with the pharmaceutical company that produced made the medication.

More than that, it might be helpful to mention the following— and I had to think about this for a bit because this isn’t something I discuss anywhere, nor do I want to discuss it beyond what I have to say here— but I do have a number of major (genetic-related) health issues that are under control, for the most part but every day, I require multiple medication maintenance, a specific daily vitamin regimen with no deviations, and major diet restrictions, exercise, and, ideally, strict sleeping habits.

Because I don’t discuss this stuff, except obliquely, I’ll say this about that— I discovered two things when going through one of the worst periods of my life due to poor health:

    1) It turns out no one wants to take medications, least of all people who have serious health issues. I mean, honestly, what person you know with Type 1 Diabetes says, “You know what’s great? Sticking myself with needles five times a day. Gosh, it’s a gas!”

    2) For those of us who have health stuff that can be an impediment, wow… I’m not sure how to say this… but the day that I was able to leave the house, drive my own car, and run three boring errands in a row after a number of years of not being able to do any of these things? When I got back home, I wanted to do some sort of made up whooping crane dance. BEST. DAY. EVER.

So, if you’re reading this, and if you have a health issue, or more than one, or you’re not feeling well and your doctor hasn’t figured it out yet— listen to me: It gets better. Take your medication. Follow doctor’s orders. Take care of yourself. I want us to be friends for a long, long, long time. Okay?

And if you do not take medications, I want you to look me square in the eye because I have this to say to all my friends: Eventually, everyone is required to take a long-term prescription medication for something. That’s the blessing of living longer, and of surviving childhood thanks to the the miracle of antibiotics. Your ability to go without medications now has has little to nothing to do with you, or with your willpower, or with any other imaginary bargain you’ve struck. It just isn’t your time yet. Now, have a really great snack and imagine me hugging you tightly. Are we good? I hope so! I like you so much!

***I have no problems with models or their sizes.  I’ve worked with plenty of traditional slender, tall print models, and it’s a pleasure to work with professionals because it’s easier.  They know how to position their bodies.  They know there may be walking and a lot of waiting around and a stylist (me) yanking on their hair.   That said, their body types are not my aesthetic preference and I simply do not have that fashion = model mindset.

I think we all get this now because everything in print fashion is lead by street fashion, which was the inevitable next step:  the street and its constant display of personal ingenuity is where fashion designers go to dream.

I pushed to start doing in 1998 for a different department, but was loudly pooh-poohed because the people in charge could not imagine what I was talking about.  Well,  you shortsighted people from 1998, check this list of high-paid tastemakers online:  Cobrasnake,  FaceHunter,  The Selby,  Garance Doré  and The Sartorialist. Go on— look ’em up!

PAINTING CREDIT: “Joan of Arc on Coronation of Charles VII in the Cathedral of Reims” — Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, 1854 via WikiPaintings.

A WORD BETWEEN US, PRIVATELY: As you can see, this story is personal and it is still a little raw. Please, before you comment, take a moment to remember that like you, I am a person.


Adulthood CONFIDENTIAL! Color, I Exhaled

Subtractive Color

Last week, my mother called. “I’ve got clothes for you. And something else for you to see. Come over, come over.”

In a late afternoon haze, I drove to her house where I found my mother in her living room, wreathed in stacks of clothes, all divided by color, all discerned by hue.

“I found my book,” she said. She held up a book of swatches. “And there’s more.”

I took a breath.

Color, I exhaled.



In the 1980s, women worked outside the home in record numbers.

And all those professional women worked in smoked glass buildings with smoked glass men who didn’t want them there.

The men in the biggest offices brewed a cultish language about “simpler times” and “women at home.”

The big men boomed these phrases into a meaningless haze on television and the radio.

The big men dressed their ideas in Kodachrome hostess aprons and a black line-art filigree of illustrated odors from a waffle-crust apple pie.

And the women witnessed the men deify the bored ingenuity of their own overeducated mothers who tell a different story over hands of bridge in the afternoons.

But, these new women three decades later had no hours left for hands of bridge.

These new women were too busy trying to draft legislation in indelible ink with their right hand and attempting to bake apple pies for the school sale with their left.



One day, my mother and ten thousand other mothers brought home a suit— a skirt suit— in crushed rose knit. One day, my mother and ten thousand other mothers slipped on her large pink blazer with its outsized shoulders and marveled in the mirror at this strange new look.

One day, my mother and ten thousand other mothers were told to wear men’s clothes in feminine colors as camouflage. This is the reaction to simpler times— a woman and ten thousand others like her trying hide herself inside a loud suit, a suit the exact hue of a trampled flower.

My mother and ten thousand women like her were told to call it “Power Dressing.”

And I, and ten thousand girls like me, wondered whether armor would better suit these times.

Silver armor. Grey armor. Plated, hard, and sleek. Oiled to hide the squeak of a fingers curled into a low fist.

And this is how we, the daughters of those working women, dreamed ourselves into the now.



What season are you?

Are you summer? You are a late sunset streaked with blue.

Are you spring? You are frank new shoots of green grass.

Are you autumn? You are a late season swimming pool.

Are you winter? You are the dream of sun on a silvery night.

Are you none of these? All of these?

Show me your skin. There’s a difference, you know.



I dream in color. I think in color. I remember in color.

It won’t occur to me for decades that this might be a neurological quirk.

If you say “pool blue,” I see the pool from my childhood mossed over with verdigris.

I see airline bags of jaunty Naugahyde.

I see a David Hockney painting of a still house in a still Los Angeles from a still year.

If you say “Mexico City,” Mexico is a blue-green parrot with gold-brown eyes who shouts “¡Don’t run!” when we run.

Because we are eight and wearing huaraches of caramel brown leather that slap and echo pleasurably on milky green marble floors.



One night, I find myself describing being able to “see” a room in a new color in any light, and my husband says that he cannot do that. I thought everybody could do this, I say, astonished. No, he said. Not everybody.

Another night, I come home wearing a perfume sample by Thierry Mugler. My husband breathes me in and says, “my great-grandmother.”

What does “great-grandmother” mean to my husband? A silver coif with minked charcoal tips. A slim figure stepping from a plane in Havana, in Hong Kong, in pure golden light of California. A pink Chanel lipstick smile.

I smell little to nothing. I am the scent-equivalent of tone-deaf.

He walks away lost in his own jumble of pink Christmas trees and embossed metallic paper-wrapped gifts scented impartially with hints of ambergris, top notes of cinnabar.



I sit down next to the floor with my mother. She gestures to the clothes and begins to explain her return to the spring colors that bring new light to her eyes. She hands me her computer, where I sit reading for a half hour about the new color theories.

“I think I’m a muted autumn,” I tell her.

And this statement becomes the story of an afternoon. Of an olive shirt we examine next to my skin on the sunlit porch that reads my skin as tan and apricot. Of the smoky lavender dress that makes her blue eyes turn violet.



The sky curls late orange and pink and gold before we go back into her living room.

She smiles at me in the darkened space. I return her smile, with interest.

And, with no ceremony at all, she turns on the lamp next to the upholstered bouclé couch.

“Now you see,” she says.

I nod because I do.
Additive Color




*Taming the Fire: A List

* Glow, Glow, Glow

* Le Téléphone Portable


Adulthood CONFIDENTIAL! Why I Didn’t, and Why I Did, and Why I’ll Do It Again (A Costume Design Story)



Sometimes, when I am dreaming, I find myself standing in the costume shop of the university theater department. A dressmaker’s dummy stands in front of me, and I hold a pair of shears in my right hand.  What I am doing is what I learned to do that summer I interned for the costume department:  I am draping a garment from muslin and pins and hope, using a beautiful drawing rendered by the resident costume designer.

The dream reminds me of something essential that I try to carry in my front pocket every day:  To learn, you must jump and you must fall.  Again and again, you fall, learning something new each time about how to jump.  And when you’ve fallen and learned enough times, something beautiful in you will lift up with practiced wings and fly mad, wild circles around your heart.

What I forgot the first year that I studied design (and sewing and drawing) was how to fail, and how to learn from failure. It happens so easily.  By the time I turned twenty, I was a minor championship dancer and a published student writer. (My work was included in a professional anthology, even.)  I had awards and trophies and prize-ish gewgaws tucked away in a closet.   

I had worked at these things for years and years, and, in time, had learned how to be good at them— up to a point.   It had been ages since I tried something new.  And if you’re not trying new things to some degree all of your life, you will forget what “new” feels like, and “new” feels like failure and misunderstanding and frustration and success and flying and the best dessert you have ever eaten in your life.

There’s another catch that most people miss.  I may have missed it had I not had a college-level refresher course in failure.

And that’s how to succeed.

When you work at something you love for a long time, it is easy to become complacent. You know a few fancy-ish tricks. People like a certain way that you do what you do. If you go on long enough repeating a tried and true formula for making art, what you love about making art will grow thin, and the art itself will wilt, and eventually, stagnate.

Even when you do learn a discipline in a deep professional way, you have to keep trying new things within your chosen discipline— and fail at them.  Fail until you succeed.  And when you do finally succeed, you will create new variations on that idea, allowing you strike upon something you don’t know how to do, and you fail at that.  On and on.

You see, this is the way new art gets developed, and the route new ideas must travel deepen and grow. In all art forms, you learn every trifling rule and lump of esoterica about the disciplines you love, and once you know them like you know your own fingertips, you break those rules and throw out that esoterica while you make something new.   That’s art.  That’s writing.  That’s dance.  That’s photography.  Well, that’s life, to be quite frank.


What happened to me that first year I studied sewing is that I didn’t fall into my failure and learn from it as fully as I could.  I winced through it.  Cringed through it.  And whined a bit, I’m afraid to say.  The mistakes felt personal.  They weren’t personal.  They were ordinary mistakes.  I had no idea that failing was ordinary anymore. So when the costume designer stood in front of me on the first day, and said, “Are you better at algebra or geometry?”— I nearly fainted.

“Neither.”  (Was this a mistake?  I can’t do math!  Oh my gosh, this was a mistake!)

“Well, if you had to choose?”


“In patternmaking terms, that means you’re a draper.  Those who excel at algebra are flat patternmakers.”

The designer then steered me toward a dressmaker’s dummy, handed me some long pins, a length of muslin, and a pair of sewing scissors.   After an intense five-minute lesson, she passed me a rendering (drawing) of a costume she wanted me to make.  She showed me the fabrics we’d be using and waved me in the direction of the cubby where more muslin was stored.  “Drape a pattern,” she said.

“Now?”  I balked, swinging the scissors too close to my knot of dyed black hair.

“Get to it.”

“Drape?  Now?”  I couldn’t believe it.

She stared through me.

“Okay, okay, okay.”   

Using steps from her five-minute lesson, I found the grain of the muslin and pinned the fabric to the dummy.    I stepped back and peered at the costume rendering laid out on the table.  The drawing the costume designer made was so beautiful I was afraid to touch it with my clammy hands.   A flapper dress.  A fabric for the top, a fabric for the bottom.  Top, sleeveless, slight scoop to front and back of neckline.   Gathered hip-length skirt.   Hidden zipper on the side.

Okay, okay, okay.  The scissors trembled in my hand.  Stop it, I said to myself, silently.  Just stop.  It’s muslin.

And I made one cut, and pinned it.  Then another, and pinned it.

Five hours passed.  I had draped the top, front and back (messily), marking with fabric pencil where the zipper would go.  I had started draping the skirt, which had those evenly placed gathers.  I put my supplies away, and went straight to work at the coffee shop downtown.

I came back the next day.

The designer lifted her eyes from the designs she was examining on the cutting table.   She was always working, in one way or another. Even when she was standing still, she was working.  “Finish the skirt, then make the flat pattern with brown Kraft paper.”

“Make a pattern?”

“Yes, a pattern.  You studied patterns all last year.  Mark the center grain line on each piece, add two inches for the seams, and indicate the place where the zipper goes.”

“A pattern?”  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  This professor knew better than anyone how badly I’d done the year before in my design studies.

Again, she stared through me.

“Okay, okay, okay.” I waved my hands around, marking my face with a fabric pencil by accident.

In another five hours, I finished draping the skirt, marked all of the pieces on the dummy, took out the pins, grabbed the brown Kraft paper and an ordinary pencil and made a sewing pattern.

Then I went home, changed for work, and went to my job at the coffeehouse.

The third day, the designer looked up from the complicated suit she was making and said, “You’re going to start on the dress today.”

“Make a dress?”

She rolled her eyes to the ceiling. “Yes.”

I wasn’t going to argue anymore.  I started towards the fabric wall.

“BUT—!” She raised a finger.  “But, we’re going to have my assistant cut out the pieces from your pattern with the real fabric because the fabric is expensive and your cutting skills….”

Our eyes collectively flicked to the sharp scissors in my hand.

She finished her thought, “…need work.  We’ll get to your fabric issue another day.”

On and on it went the length of the summer.   Every day, the designer made me deal with some new challenge that had previously frightened me. Every day, I became a little less afraid.  At the end of the summer, we prepared to put on our last repertory production.

“Where are the shoes for the Emperor, Courtenay?”

“I patterned them, but I didn’t cut them out yet.”

“I’m going downstairs for the dress rehearsal.  Get A— to cut the pattern.  You sew the cut tops onto these Chinese slippers in the next ten minutes, or the Emperor will go on stage shoeless for the performance tomorrow night.”

A— pounced on the pattern.  I grabbed up the Chinese slippers.  After A— cut each piece of the pattern in brocade fabric, she threw the pieces over to me and I pinned them onto the inexpensive cotton slippers, whipping the fabric down with thread and a curved needle. A new intern thundered down to the theater with the finished shoes.

The Emperor did not go barefoot for his performance.

I blinked, and the next semester started.  I went to see the costume designer.  Though my drawing skills and my sewing skills had improved drastically due to her no-nonsense, can-do-it attitude, I had begun to feel conflicted about what I was doing.  I missed writing.  There was so much more I wanted to learn, to do, to make— with words.  

Both writing and design required all of you, I felt.  I asked her what to do.  By then, I was unafraid to ask her any question.  The designer had modeled a full compliment of qualities I admired, personally and professionally, and her attentions had helped me grow up a little bit more without fully realizing it.    Until that day we stood in her studio.

“Don’t think,” she said.  “I have a question for you, and I want you to give the first answer that comes to mind.”

“Okay.”  I braced myself.

“If you were aware that you were going to die in two years, what legacy would you want to leave behind?”

I blurted, “I want to write a novel!”

The designer had a cat’s smile.  A secret within a secret.  In my mind’s eye, more than a decade later, that designer’s smile glows in the dark.

“Then, you must learn to write a novel,” said the designer.  “This is what I think you should do next to get there….”

Today, I sit at my desk writing, as I do every day.

I am a professional writer and photographer.  Many mentors helped bring me to this place, but in my most confused year, one woman gave me a simple map to help me find my way back to place where I had set my greatest passion down in the road.  (Did I mention that the award-winning costume designer was also an award-winning writer?)  

With the designer’s guidance that fall and spring, I wrote a one-act play.   My junior year, I started to write for pay for magazines and newspapers, then bigger magazines, larger newspapers. And I did write a novel in undergraduate school, three drafts over two years.   Next, I went to graduate school, and wrote a second novel, five drafts in two years.

And here I am writing to you, now.*

Do you see the underlining of this story?  Do you understand why now I will walk into that basic quilting class next week with finer graces?  I have remembered a thing in telling you this story today, a gift someone gave me once, when I did not know what direction I would or could turn and my whole life skittered out in front of me unsure and hopeful, a gift in the shape of a question—

“Quick.  You have two years to live.  What do you most want to do?”


*And here I am, working on the book that I will pitch to agents in the next year and a half— A History of Modern Photography. (That’s the subject, not the working title. The working title is a secret for now, okay?)


The first two parts of this story are:

The Adventure You Didn’t Know You Were Already Having and—

Adulthood CONFIDENTIAL! Why I Didn’t and Why I Did [A Fashion Story].


Adulthood CONFIDENTIAL! Why I Didn’t and Why I Did (A Fashion Story)



    Why don’t you…

    tie black tulle bows on your wrists?

    have a yellow satin bed entirely quilted in butterflies?

    turn your child into an Infanta for a fancy-dress party?

    —Diana Vreeland


For twenty-six years, Diana Vreeland wrote a fashion column for Harper’s Bazaar called “Why Don’t You…?” in which she posited whimsical rhetorical questions sprinkled with that manic sui generis that was Vreeland’s special superpower.   In high school, I read some of these glories in “Allure,” a biography of Diana Vreeland with lots of extras.  Then as now, I was struck over the head by the pure play of Vreeland’s aesthetic.

In fact, I wanted a slice of this magic for myself.  I already knew I was going to write.  Because I wrote.  Every day.  But, in childhood, I was going to be a writer and—.  A writer and a fashion designer.  A writer and a dance teacher.  A writer and an explorer. 

Somehow writing wasn’t ever enough, not even when I went to college with the intention to study communications and fashion design, and once I finished that, I intended to tackle an MFA in writing.  Where?  I didn’t know.  Somewhere far away.  (Why don’t you… try to do everything at once?)  My adolescent plan was to write about fashion for a living, and write novels on the side.

Because, you know, I wasn’t going to need something as banal as sleep, or anything.



Within two semesters of undergraduate school, I downgraded communications to a minor, and began my design studies.  The entire fashion program took place in three large rooms on the second floor of a building on the north side of the small campus.   On the first floor were the interior design department and a kitchen for the nutrition majors. It was a busy building.

A mélange of odors would assault you when you walked into that small building:  soup on the stove for the nutrition students and spray adhesive for the interior design majors and fabric sizing for the would-be fashion designers.  Something wasn’t quite right with the air ducts because the painted walls, upstairs and down, sweated like an overheated person year round.   

And the voices. Oh, the voices.  The professors left the doors of their lab rooms open often, so you heard bits and pieces of instructions given out all wonky and cross-eyed sounding.

First you take the fabric and boil the chicken broth and examine your light sources when you consider the built in furniture potatoes are a good source of potassium and don’t forget to press your seams, students.


The college me stomped around in heels daily.  (Why don’t you… wear the highest platforms you own, and try to carry a load of books, art supplies, and sewing materials over a slippery bridge to your classes?)   The college me work-studied for the fashion department, answering phones and writing press materials in another small room on the second floor.  Once seated behind the communal desk, the college me kicked off her heels and looked out the window with a blank sketchbook in front of her. The college me was always sleepy because she (me, I) didn’t get enough sleep.

Why? Five afternoons out of the week, I’d fly out of the building with all of my supplies and my street clothes, wearing an ugly white uniform (with a hat!) for my full-time job in a French-ish cafeteria.  While I slung five types of baguettes into slinky brown sleeves, I had two thoughts that chased each other nose to tail.  Why don’t you… finish your degree so you never have to touch public food again?  Why don’t you find a way to take a nap in one of the restroom stalls?   I did the former, and tried the latter, but public restroom stalls aren’t nearly as inviting a napping spot as one would think.

That year turned more demented due to my lack of sewing and drawing skills.  I sewed things shut that were supposed to be open. I punched holes into tissue-thin knits by using the wrong machine needle. I made a pair of pants so wide and so ugly they might have doubled as sheets for a twin bed in a Hieronymus Bosch painting. When I drew, bodies floated in space, arms bent in directions they weren’t meant to go, eyes drifted around the hairline. It seemed, for awhile, the more I tried to sew or draw, the worse I became at both.

It was quite an accomplishment, trying that hard and failing so spectacularly.


One of the design professors couldn’t stand my flighty hands, my uncombed hair, my hodge-podge wardrobe of fraying tutus and flyaway t-shirts and fitted little boys navy jackets with brass buttons.   The sight of me hurt this professor deeply in some heartfelt place I couldn’t fathom at twenty.    Now, I can see the reason for her wincing looks.    More honestly, I can see her, not as my professor, but as a person: Her pretty dresses with the weighted hems.  Her coif.  Her nails.  Her exacting words like a neat hand stitch.

She looked at me, and thought:  has it come to this?

Unfortunately, it had.  I was her future, writ crooked— the first of an untrained hair-dyed horde to come noisily rushing through the downstairs doors.  A few years later, and in a different capacity altogether, I would walk up the stairs of a new, larger design building to find a battalion of students with strange hair and strange clothes and a horrifying lack of ability.  I felt for her, then.  I really did.

Back to my college years. What happened is:  that teacher nearly failed me.  My skills with machine and hand sewing were sub-par.  I had flourished in Fashion 101 because I knew a fair amount of fashion and costume history.  I muddled through Textiles 101 because all of my clothes came from secondhand shops.  (Why don’t you… learn the limits of rayon’s patience for machine washing?)  I tiptoed across Textile Design 1 with good ideas and iffy execution, and in the Theater Department, I made myself hyperventilate trying to learn how to draw for Costume Design, a class one could infinitely repeat for increased skill.



The fashion department chair, a tiny muscular firebrand in a real Chanel suit, didn’t seem worried.  You’ll get it, she said.  It’s taking you a bit longer, but you’ll get it.  I’d have the same exacting teacher who nearly failed me the next year for advanced classes.  Those wincing looks plus my bad skills made for great theater, but rotten sewing.  Something must be done, I told the department chair.  I’m going to see the costume designer and see what she has to say.   With her thick brown hair and her hand-finished suits, the department chair looked implausibly at ease with the world.   Her smile was so benevolent.  (She always smiled except for when she didn’t, and in those rare moments, the door would be logger-jammed with people making a run for it.)   You’ll be fine, she said again, elongating the “ine” with her smile.  Report back here when you find out something.

I came back within the hour, out of breath, full of lightning.  The costume designer will take me on as an apprentice for the summer.   And I’ve got a new job at a coffeehouse with different hours.  This should work out well.

And it did.  But not in the way I would expect.

(Why don’t you… break this story into two parts?)

Next Monday:  You have fifteen minutes to make a pair of shoes, or the Emperor goes on stage barefoot.



WHY DON’T YOU… read more fashion and style stories?

*The Adventure You Didn’t Know You Were Already Having

*The Owl and the Pussycat Study Semiotics

*A Short and Only Slightly Bitter Guide to Shame-Inducing Periodicals
ON SUNDAY: Get ready! Our next surprise photographer is coming your way! (What was last week’s OUR SUNDAY BEST? Weegee, of course!)

Adulthood CONFIDENTIAL! A Word of One’s Own at the Gates of the Secret City

God kväll, farbror! Hälsade pojken

Last night, Nora Ephron passed away at the age of 71. This essay is dedicated to her work and her memory.
For months now, I’ve been watching excellent new writers climb up these steep hills of the electronic stratosphere. I’d like to say that I was sitting in a comfortable position on the top of the cliffs as a well-established writer (but relatively new blogger) tsk-tsking sympathetically with my binoculars and sipping on my coffee, but no, no—that’s not the way writing works.

You’re never in repose, you see. Because you’re writing, or thinking about writing, or you have written, and now need sleep.

Remember also, I may be an professional writer, but I am a new blogger, so there’s nothing established about me. Not in this world.

Or the next one— the one where I will need to wash my clothes or run errands, and what have you.

The hours involved with professional writing are what they always were, which is to say long, and full of tight-stitched tasks that surround the work of writing. A work that is physical in its own way.

These other tasks aren’t writing at all, but detail work— like pitching stories to editors and following up on correspondence with same and chasing down checks for invoices you submitted months ago and finding new and inventive ways to keep your ear to the ground for fresh ideas and ideal sources for future work.

So, there’s all that business, too. Blogs aren’t terribly different, just so you know.

That thing climbing up next to you over your shoulder in my big extended hiking as writing metaphor? That’s fear.

This kind of fear is not your friend. Fear like this will kick you down the mountain and laugh all the way behind you.

Fear and I? We are old adversaries. I know it’s tricks.

While fear is a few steps behind us all, I’ve been climbing those hills too as I’ve written daily for Bluebird Blvd., the blog I created with my own two callused hands almost eight months ago.

And I’ve been scaling the sheer faces of cliffs alongside my friends in this world of blogs. I know what the territory is like. Some days, the silence is treacherous. On other days, the self-doubt, obnoxious. And then there’s the ego, which is malodorous at best.

Here’s what I’m watching happen now while I write and create and sweat and climb. I am watching new writers reach the next plateau where there’s a nice little city and a place where you can shower and get back on the road of writing, but some writers are turning back at the city gates to go home. They are quitting blogging. They are slowing down. They are expressing fear or self-doubt or worse.

Next thing you know, they’ve stopped. You’ve stopped.

Awake Groa Awake Mother - John Bauer

Before you start climbing down that first hill, I want you to halt, sit down and listen.

I know you have jobs/responsibilities/children/health issues/money problems and I know that you aren’t sure what to do next/are feeling as though you’re shirking your “real” responsibilities/are hitting that point where self-doubt has got you by the neck and is asking you, with stinky cheese breath— “How DARE you?”

And you’re tired.

And you don’t know where this leads.

And it was more work than you thought it would be.

And you don’t know if your stuff is any good.

I am sure you see the direction this tale is taking?

There are a thousand-thousand-thousand reasons why people do not make art, do not write.

For every reason you can consider, there is another writer who came up against that obstacle, paused to examine herself and the obstacle, and punched through it.

What you think are genuine problems were not problems three months ago, right? You were writing then, weren’t you? Why is today different? Why are you second-guessing everything?

You’re afraid.

Oh, yes. Fear is amazing. Respect fear. Then go off and kick it in the kneecap.

You heard me!

I’ve watched so many of you create these beautiful, tactile, soul-filled places that I go and visit regularly. I love to ooh and ahh over your creations. Your blogs are fine architecture made of words.

Yet, recently, you’ve come just far enough in your creative process to feel your doubt grow a long shadow.

Consider that shadow. Give it proper respect. Then you stomp on that shadow.

There’s nothing, and I mean NOTHING you can’t do as a writer.

What you do not know, you can learn, and what scares you may be real, but it isn’t real enough to stop you from the one thing that makes your heart beat faster like a clean new metronome in the morning— which is writing. A word that is a verb. A verb that describes creating worlds from words.

And you wonder why fear finds your vocation so exciting? Such good fodder to feed from? When you write, you are making life from nothing but breath and ink.

Do you see how powerful you are?

Take a breath. Get a glass of water. Sit down. If you see fear coming? You tell ’em I said, “Hello.” And you punch ’em in the face for me.

Fear is powerful, yes.

And so is creation.

I’m right inside of the gates of this new city waiting for you. I need a shower. I’m starving for hot food. And I want to sit for a bit before we start climbing again. The locals are imaginary, so they speak every language and their cooking is sublime.

Come on inside. Leave your fear at the gates. The wind will take it away for you.

Postscript: (And for my friends who are dancers, artists and photographers— nothing I’m discussing here is different, really, than your reality— save the fact that you have to go shopping for supplies more frequently than writers do. Please feel free to supplant writing with your vocation. It all applies. Much respect, my friends.)

Second Postscript: My friend Professor J. wrote about fear today and she referenced both Joy Harjo (one of my favorite poets; I workshopped under her, years ago), and, um, me— but what Professor J. had to say is so, so beautiful. It’s entitled, simply, “Fear.”

Third Postscript: I forgot to mention that the second event that prompted the writing of this piece was my friend Meeka’s discussion of writing, responsibility and fear in her short essay Is Creativity a Leisure Time Pursuit? I had hit a different wall lately in which I was wondering about the next step in my blogging adventure, and Meeks reminded me of something I consider terribly important, which is the necessity of art. A belated thank you, Meeks!


Adulthood CONFIDENTIAL! Consider Moondog.



In New York, there was a man who went by the name of Moondog.

He wore Viking-esque clothing (including a helmet with horns!) and hung around the coffeehouses and the streets of Manhattan. He was a musician.

For 30 years, this strange and wonderful man sang and played instruments on sidewalks, and read his poetry on street corners.

Moondog was blind. The local scene of struggling poets and musicians thought he was one of their own— an indigent, struggling, and aspiring artist.

He did enjoy playing music on the street. He did identify with the lively local artists.

However, Moondog wasn’t indigent, struggling, or aspiring.

This oddly dressed man was actually a respected composer who worked with some of the biggest symphonies in the world.

He maintained an apartment in a nice part of Manhattan.

Of all the instruments Moondog played, he didn’t seem to want to learn how to play the big blatty trumpet of self-publicity with his lovely artist friends in New York.

Moondog was busy learning to be Moondog.
This talented composer/musician’s original name was Louis Thomas Hardin.

Hardin chose the nom de plume “Moondog” in 1947, which fits, frankly, given the names of some of his compositions (“Coffee Beans,” “No, The Wheel Was Never Invented,” and more).

Moondog’s taste for horned headgear fits well with his street artist mystique.

He was a primarily self-taught musician, who had several years of respectable study at various institutions for the blind across the U.S.

(The unexpected detonation of an explosive cap while doing some work for his father caused his blindness at the age of sixteen.)

He had been brought to New York by the New York Philharmonic in 1943 to continue his musical studies, and stayed on as a professional musician.

In 1974, after performing with many symphonies stateside, Moondog was offered an opportunity to come to Germany.

This respected musician decided to settle down in Germany, where he composed and played music for the rest of his life, both in a formal concert setting, as well as the streets of Oer-Erkenschwick and Münster.

Happily, Moondog lived with the family of his host and transcriber, Ilona Sommer, for the rest of his life.

She was with him in a professional capacity until his death in 1999.

It was Sommer who helped to organize his artistic holdings, so that Moondog could get on with the business of being Moondog.

Honestly, though, Moondog was a genius. And he was the best kind of genius.

Moondog created the most beautiful music he could, everywhere he could.

He made no distinction in playing music on street corners for the people of New York, Oer-Erkenschwick and Münster, or performing in the recording studios for CBS, Prestige and Mars, or performing on stage with Phillip Glass, who considered Moondog one of his primary inspirations.

It seems as though Moondog was so busy being the best Moondog he could be— a lover of music and instruments and composition and people and life— that he forgot to become one of those flashy composers so popular in the 1950s and 1960s for their indémodable lifestyles and their flashy scandals.

Moondog did none of those things, yet he made some of the most compelling music you’ve ever heard.

There’s a lesson in the life of Moondog, and it isn’t a hidden one.

Can you guess where I am going with this story?

When you start to fret about how you’re going to do all the amazing things you want to do, consider Moondog.

He loved music, so he made music. He adored New York, so he lived in New York.

He was talented and focused, which allowed him to work with some of the most famous symphonies and recording companies in the world, but he loved to play music on the street, so he did that too.

Moondog adored Germany also, and when the opportunity presented itself, he went to Germany. Germany proved to be as beautiful as he thought it would be, so he stayed.

He liked to dress like a Viking. So, he wore leather hats and capes and really beautifully made outfits.

Yes, it’s that simple.
When you start to get ahead of yourself, consider Moondog.

Learn your craft. Make beautiful things. Do what you love with all your heart.

Wear the clothes you love, where appropriate, and be considerate of others’ feelings.

Don’t overcomplicate the simple beauty of making art.

Just make art.

Just make art.

Just make art.


Consider Moondog. And everything will be all right.

*I compiled almost all of the information for this account from The Big Book of Weirdos , ed. Gahan Wilson and Wikipedia. His recordings are all still available. Here’s a current Moondog discography from Wikipedia (scroll down).

Adulthood CONFIDENTIAL! Find A Fearless Love For The Parts You Hate.

Don't Mess with Her!

I was on the phone with a friend of mine earlier this year, and I admitted to a fault.

A really bad fault.

And I laughed at it.

My friend caught her breath.

She said, “You can’t say that about yourself.”

“Oh, yes, I can, ” I said. “And what’s more— ”

I kept on going on about this fault of mine, and laughing, until my friend laughed, too.

At first, she was hesitant. Then, she roared.
You see, I’ve got some bad-awful faults.

Traits. Parts of my personality. You get the picture.

And, like everyone I know, I’m used to tucking these awful traits behind a cupboard in my heart where no one can see them.

They’re still there, just out of sight for the moment.

It’s like the quick clean up you do right before your friends stop by.

You stash away the normal debris of everyday life into an away space.

The newspapers. The handful of change. The laundry you didn’t get around to folding. You cram it into a cupboard, and hope it stays put.

That’s normal, right?
That quick spit-shine clean never works out for me.

Something happens. Always.

Right after you come inside and just before I offer you a glass of water, a door will creak.

And, like a joke in a slapstick movie, those parts of me that I don’t want you to see, are going to come tumbling off the shelves of my private self, out of the cupboard and onto the floor between us. The horror!

CLANG! My forgetfulness tips out of the cupboard and clatters on the wooden floors.

CLUNK! My fury towards reckless drivers lands at your feet.

ClACKETY-CLARP! My nonsensical crabbiness rolls off the shelves and bounces!

KER-RACK! And my massive (and private) use of profanity is spilled like old glitter from a glass baby food jar.

How embarrassing for me!

How uncomfortable for you!

Yet, here we stand with the debris of my real personality between us, a big glitter-coated elephant in the room.
"Birds of a Feather . . . . "
It gets worse.

I used hide these traits from myself, too.

Even when I was alone in the chambers of my heart, I chose not to look at what caused me shame.

I stuffed parts of myself into that cupboard.

Tried to forget that those undesirable elements were there.

Tried to forget that the bad parts existed. But, oh, they do!
Then, life happened because life happens.

The latch on that inner cupboard of my heart would rattle.

And those terrible knickknacks of my soul would tumble out with a lot of noise and dust, and I was shocked. Shocked!

How dare I be irrationally angry?

How dare I use profanity?

How dare I showcase a delightful display of snitty self-righteousness?

How dare I be human?
Ah. Now you see what I am learning to see.

I’m never gonna like everything that I do.

No one does.

That’s normal.

That’s life.
Zest Ad
I made a choice almost a year ago to hug the spiky parts of my personality.

The not-pretty parts. The stuff no one normally sees.

And I am choosing, now, to open up the cupboard tucked into the ventricles of my heart of hearts.

I am choosing, now, to let the light and the sun hit the shelves.

These traits are me, too.
Here— take a look at what I keep tucked away:

You can see my doubt.

You can see my fear.

You can see my yearning.

You can see my matched set of phobias.

You can see my tentativeness.
It’s all there, my friends.

I own these traits. I own up to them. They don’t own me.

Making the shift to owning up to my funky personality traits from being owned by my funky personality traits changes the way I view myself and my heart.

There’s a lot more room and light in my pretty little heart these days.

A lot more patience. A lot more laughter.

Fewer locked doors. More love.

Thanks to SaltyCotton on Flickr for the wonderful vintage cosmetic advertisements.


Adulthood CONFIDENTIAL! You Will Win the Trophy; You Will Lose the Trophy. Keep Dancing.

Portrait of an unidentified female dancer backstage, Ballets Russes Australian tour, ca. 1938.

All of my teenage years—  all of them— can be summed up in a singular scene.

I am standing backstage in a dance costume, trying to keep my muscles warm. 

On stage are the two people in my competition I will need to beat in order to win the first place trophy.  

These dancers are my friends and companions anywhere, but here. 

Here, we are competitors.

My biggest competition today is a girl whose slender, tan frame floats midair in front of me. 

Her face carries no emotion— she is a cipher of articulated postures and pretty legs. 

I know what she is capable of doing.  She is capable of beating the tar out of me.   I watch her for a second, and turn away to keep stretching. 

Watching her right now is not going to put me midair on stage.

In twenty seconds, she and the other competitor, a boy with problematic posture, will finish.  They will stand still while the judges write down their marks. 

Backstage, you will not hear a single cough or the rustle of fabric.   The bell rings for the competitors to bow.
Now freeze the frame.   

Here are my choices—  I can either a) congratulate them both quietly,  b) ignore them as I prepare to go on that same stage in front of those same judges,  or c) goggle and smile and give a really goofy thumbs up gesture to my competitors before I go on myself.

Keep in mind that the competitor, the girl coming off of the stage regularly kicks me down a notch. 

We take similar terrible flights to the same competitions, sleep on similar lumpy hotel room beds. 

I practice more than she does.  I perform more than she does, and she may still win today.

Quick!  What’s your answer?

Should I be cordial?

Should I try to psych her out for the next rounds?

Should I act like a goon?
Ding!  She walks backstage followed by the boy who always places third. 

Her face is impassive.  In the thick silence, I wave at both of them and give them a generous thumbs up.  And I mean it.  Why not?

I am fifteen.  This is my life. 

I walk out onto the stage that day to face three judges, alone. 

I am the last competitor in my division. 

I turn out my feet, wait for the bell. 

I spread my smile across my face like a tablecloth across a table. 

I cannot change what will come before me, what will come after me.

There is this moment, only, to consider right now.
Tamara Grigorieva in "Pavane", original Ballet Russe, 1940.
There’s an argument to be made here that I am being disingenuous. 

Or that I do not know what it is to really want something.

Or that I didn’t have a true competitive spirit.

But, I do.  I do. 

I cannot hinge my hope, though, on who will go before me, who will go after me, and how we will be ranked. 

What will happen here, will happen.  

I practiced nightly for hours in the kitchen until my feet bled through the pores before this competition.  I will go home to do the same. 

Blood sacrifices had been made, will be made again.  All I can do now is wait for the bell to ring.  It will all play out the way it plays out.
The bell rings. 

My front leg lifts at the start of the music.  I am here.  I am here.  I may win; I may lose, but I am here.

I made a choice all of those years ago to not be torn up nor inflated by the small wins and losses on those stages of my youth.   

I made a choice that— no matter what— I was going to smile and congratulate the winner. 

And if I was the high ranked dancer that day?  I was going to compliment the other dancers.

Why, you ask, did I bother?  It was a competition, wasn’t it?  Besides good sportswoman/sportsmanship, what did I owe these people?
I was kind because I could be kind.  That is all.

Even at fifteen, it felt like life would be full of happenstance and arbitrary moments.   

At that age, I had been competing as a dancer for half of my life. 

And I was fifteen when teachers started to regularly submit my poetry and prose to writing competitions.  I won, and I lost, and I won again.

Here’s what winning and losing in dancing or writing competitions would change— not a thing.

Every day after school, I would have to step onto a city bus and go home. 

I would have to put down my heavy backpack, make myself a snack, and change into my dance clothes. 

I had to sit down and practice for my piano lessons. 

Then, I had to go into the kitchen, turn on the fan, and begin stretching for dance practice. 

After that, I did homework and spent the last faint hours of the evening, writing. 

That was my day.  My life.
Would winning or losing a single competition change the face of my day? 

Nope.  I’d still have to come home after school, put my backpack down, and begin again.  And again.  And again. 

Was it a pleasure to win?  Absolutely.  For a minute. 

Was it terrible to lose?  The same.  For a minute.

And that is all.
A little more than two decades have passed since that day backstage. 

I sit here in my office, writing. 

Though I do not dance anymore, the broad strokes of my life have not changed. 

I still keep strict hours. 

I still make goofy faces, ridiculous thumbs-up gestures.

I still spread my smile like a tablecloth across my face.

I will still win and I will still lose in equal measure.   But, I am here.  I am here.

It comes down to the same thing, really.

If I win, or if I lose, I still have to go home and sit down at my desk. 

I still put on my headphones and listen to some music as I go over my notes. 

I still look at the blank page. 

I still breathe deeply, close my eyes.  And then, I begin to write.


"Aurora's wedding" with Tamara Toumanova, Michael Panaieff, Anton Vlassoff and Oleg Tupine, 1940.


Adulthood CONFIDENTIAL! You Better Make Friends with Your Face, ‘Cause You’re Gonna Be Here Awhile

Chiozza e Turchi by Adolfo Hohenstein 1899

A day is coming, soon, when you are going to wake up, go to the sink to brush your teeth, and when you look in the mirror— Nosferatu will be staring back at you.



Just wave and say hello to Nosferatu because s/he’s gonna visit from time-to-time.

In fact, blow ol’ Nosferatu a kiss.

I don’t care if you are 17, 25, 36, 48, 63, or that nebulous area often called “a man/woman of a certain age.”

I don’t care if your age is one digit away from a locker combination number.

One day you are going to wake up and your face, your beautiful face, is going to look, you know, a little more peaked than usual.

All the way peaked to Nosferatu territory.

You are going to have Nosferatu days no matter what you do.

You can give up sugar.  You can take up yoga.  You can slather your face with the most expensive bottled crud you can find.

But I swear to Zeus— you are going to wake up one day and your face is going to be different.

And that’s awesome.

And this is why—

If you and I are very, very lucky, we are going to get very, very old.

I have my reasons.

You see, I have a grandmother who is a nonagenarian.

She has had, and is still having, a pretty enormous life.  You only get to have an enormous life if you age.

My grandmother is my standard when it comes to aging, and since she is a nonagenarian, my standards are, ah, kind of high.

Though, that’s not how my grandmother felt at the time. She wasn’t feeling so lucky when she had her first Nosferatu moment.

She said that she woke up one morning and looked in the mirror and realized that she had aged.

It shocked her.

Did I mention she was in her mid-fifties when this realization stared back at her in the mirror?

When she told me this story, I remember thinking, Wait one flibber-gibber second.  You didn’t get a memo or something?  You didn’t see one grey hair, or marionette lines around your mouth— nothing?  Just… one day you woke up and there you were?

Alfons Mucha - 1899 - Hamlet

A little framing to help you understand why this shocked me—

I was, I think, 27, when she told me this story for the first time, and I had moved back to South Texas from Los Angeles a year prior. 

One of my closest friends lived in New York.  For three birthdays in a row, she was 27 years old.

Such a premium was placed on her youth in her particular career, my friend started lying about her age the year she turned 27.  You heard me!  Twenty-seven!

Another acquaintance started to get “preventative” Botox to avoid developing creases between her brows.  You know the ones— they’re parenthetical.  This woman?  She was 25.  (Shocked? I know!)

Can you see why I did not understand my grandmother waking up one day, looking in the mirror over her vanity, and having a Nosferatu moment at 50?

I knew too many people in their twenties whose watchwords were “EVER VIGILANT!”

Now, I am more inclined to believe my grandmother’s experience is the healthiest possible way to approach one’s aging process.

The reason she was caught off-guard is that she had better things to do than stand around and stare at her own face.

My grandmother was the most active person I knew for many, many years.  She gardened.  She volunteered four to five days out of the week.  She read.  She met up with her friends.  She sewed.  My grandmother was constantly learning new ideas, new concepts.  She was a natty dresser and a wit.

With a life that large, do you think she ever had the time to sit down and freak out because of a few itty-bitty lines?  Nope.

She was busy living her life.  And in the process of living her life, her big, huge life, she aged.  And she was, and is, beautiful to me.

Some days even that kind of knowledge cannot armor you against feeling bad about yourself.

Why?  Because you and I are human.

On my worst Nosferatu days, I will look in the mirror and say — move with the tides.

Tides are powerful things.

The seven seas shift all the time due to the pull between gravity and the moon.

When you find yourself standing in a moving body of water with a mild tidal pull, you sway into the movement, not away from it.

Pushing against those inevitable mild tides will knock you right the heck over.  Move with the tides on your Nosferatu days.

Carlos Schwabe - Cartaz da Primeira Exposição Rosa Cruz, 1892

Our faces have moments like that too.

The pull of work or stress or illness or everything all at once all the time will stir anybody’s face into a peaky wreck.

I used to stir on a bunch of make-up on those Nosferatu days, but all I managed to do is draw attention to my own discomfort with my appearance.

(And that is an awful feeling, made more awful by decorating it with extra-colorful awful.)

Eventually I learned to turn away from the mirror. I throw on my favorite clothes.  I put my hair up and out of the way.  And I get on with it.

I may have my Nosferatu days here and there. I expect there will be more of them.

The fact remains: my grandmother is a nonagenarian. And when I imagine aging, I imagine aging all the way into my 90s.

And if I plan to grow to such a grand age, I had better get used to the pull of tides, to the changes I will not know to expect, and to the beauty of those unexpected gestures.

Should one of those unexpected gestures be the more-than-occasional Nosferatu moment?

I’ll take it. I plan on being here for quite awhile.

Postscript: Due to the nature of our conversation today, I thought you would enjoy this quick visual study on facial symmetry.

The Marilyn Monroe symmetry photos should clarify why exact facial symmetry does not and should not occur in nature.

I love my Nosferatu moments more and more, y’all!


Adulthood CONFIDENTIAL! Remember Who You Are, Then Toss That Definition Over Your Shoulder

yummy food

Mmmmm! Lady fingers!


One December a number of years back, I was curled up like a sick kitten in my doctor’s office and he told me something that was going to change my life forever.  He looked me straight in the eye and said, “You can’t do this anymore.”  I was hypoglycemic and I had food allergies and some food intolerances and all that hoo-ha that can make you drag around the house all ghost-like.

He handed me a list and sent me off.  The list was quite simple.  I could eat these things and not those things.  Huh.  I tried.  I really did.  But, I went through withdrawals and hypoglycemic attacks for the first few days and I broke down and supplemented with verboten items.

Two weeks later, I was back in his office for a follow-up and had a huge shaky hypoglycemic attack in front of him — and that may have been that moment when he said, “You can’t do this anymore.”  (I’m not sure.  I was guzzling a big glass of orange juice his nurse brought me at the time, so that my vision would stop doubling and trebling.)

You can’t do this anymore.

For the first time in my young adult life, some doctor had laid down the line.  My body couldn’t take the loop-de-loops and the funkadoo foods.  The symptoms of the hypoglycemia and the food allergies were dangerous enough that I needed to knock off my trash and get it together.

When I swing for the fences, I really swing hard, y’all.  I went at this new food plan with the wild fuzzy burning eyes of a brand new zealot.  Within a week’s time, I grew determined to spread the great word of good healthy food to every person I knew, dammit— whether they wanted to hear what I had to say or not.

The Husband came close to living in the garage with the dogs. 

My mother took to getting other important phone calls when she got tired of listening to me monologue about the importance of blah, blah, and blaaaaaarrrrgh. 

My dearest friends cradled the phone politely for a while, but front doorbells rang mysteriously five minutes into our tête-à-têtes.

Y’all, I was awful.  And I had no idea I was being awful. 

I was so focused on how good I felt from changing some essential details in the way I ate that I falsely believed that what made me feel good would make EVERYBODY feel good.  (You know you’re really fixated on an idea when your too-polite friends are ringing their own doorbells to get off of the phone with you.)

Eventually, I got over it. 

Eventually, I calmed down and realized I was being a total jackrabbit to the people I loved. 

Eventually, I came to understand that worked for me, wasn’t going to work for you, and it was not my beeswax to proselytize the wonders of floobity-floop and floppity-flop for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I learned one of the most embarrassing concepts of adult life— embarrassing, but also pretty hilarious, now—

Remember who you are  (I am me.  I’ve got this hypoglycemic thing.  I can’t eat certain foods.) —And then toss that definition over your shoulder.  (Who cares?  I’ve got this food thing down now.  You can take me pretty much anywhere and I will figure out what I can eat, nice and quick-like.)

I am not my hypoglycemia.

I am not my weird food problems.

I am not my super-strict food regimen.

I am me.

(And you are you, darlin’!)

tastes great


Hey mom, look what I can do! I am not my socioeconomic orientation!


If you think I’m talking exclusively about the little afflictions and worries of life, let’s step it out one more angle and talk about those definitions.

Generally speaking, I don’t like romantic comedies.  I find them painful and unfunny.  But!  That doesn’t mean I won’t try a romantic comedy now and again.  I even own romantic comedies. 

I am not my dislike of romantic comedies.

I hear people say all the time in passing— I don’t like this.  I never do that.  I will not do this.  I will not do that.  (We all do it, right?)

Every time you say that you don’t or that you aren’t or that you can’t— especially over something banal like watching a romantic comedy or eating at a restaurant you’ve never tried or waving off a whole type of music/fashion/art— you’ve made your world a teenency bit more cramped.

The bigger issues sneak up on you—

What about dismissing an entire country because you don’t know anything about it? (I’ve seen folks do that one everywhere about everyone, you all.)

What about throwing over an age group because you don’t understand what they’re all about?  (Um.  I’ve got my hand up.  How about you?)

What about discounting a social movement because a person you don’t like happened to say something boneheaded on television?  (Woooo!  We’re all guilty of this one, right?)

I am not my social orientation.

I am not my class structure.

I am not my political beliefs.

I am not my age demographic.

I am me.

(And you are you, my lovely friend!)

Looks good


Auntie June, you realize the food in this picture is merely a metaphor for giving new ideas a chance, right?


What is left if I toss over my shoulder these notions about myself?  Who am I?  Who are you?

Well— here’s the fun part:

I don’t know.

Ever since I stopped arbitrarily defining or dismissing people, places, and things, every day of my life my eyes pop open to a brand new adventure full of stuff I haven’t done yet.  People I haven’t met.  Places I’m gonna go.

My feet hit the floor and the dogs bark and all my clean clothes are in the dryer.  It’s no matter.  It’s a whole day I haven’t seen before and all kinds of cool things are going to happen. I’ll slap on my shoes and go get my clean, dry jeans from the garage.

Yeah, I still have to be strict about when I have breakfast, and yeah, it is kind of a pain every now and again to sort out what I can and cannot do, but I will be double-dipped if I’m going to let this— or anything else about me— slow me down from noshing on the delights of the bigger world.

Hand me an eating utensil.  I am not afraid of the first bite.

Yeah, you heard me darlin’.

I am not my fear of the unknown.

And neither are you.
*All of these pictures are courtesy of the hilarious collection by Shirley Two Feathers on Flikr called “Creepy Vintage Advertising.”

POSTSCRIPT: One of the most fun projects I tried last year was creating a list of rules of adulthood. I got the idea from reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, who wrote the least self-helpish, most self-helpful book I think I’ve read so far. (Gretchen Rubin is such a pip! She rocks out with her socks on!)

Usually this situation doesn’t happen to me, but I realized that the name of this series is way too similar to writer Gretchen Rubin’s concept. The similarities stop with the name, but still— it’s not okay. Because I believe in proper attribution, I decided to change the name, category, and tags of this semi-monthly series. My apologies for any confusion this may have caused, but it is the right thing to do. Thank you! Welcome to [Adulthood Confidential!]


Adulthood CONFIDENTIAL! Failing Beautifully Is the First Step Out the Front Door


Carnavalsoptocht / Carnival procession

Hear ye! Hear ye! Get ready to watch Miz Flibbertigibbet Bluebird perform flaming feats of spectacular failure!


Today I read the most thoughtful, calm-headed presentation of compassion for people who use cell phones in their cars.

It was so thoughtful, so well-written, I even said to the writer of this gorgeous essay something to the effect of— “You know, I think I can finally, finally look at those folks with eyes of compassion.  I’m getting ready to leave the house and enter traffic any minute.”

I didn’t get but three blocks from my house before I saw a person in a car held together by dents that was bobbing and weaving like a DUI in progress after twelve o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon.

I checked the head position of the driver in the car.  His/her head was silhouetted to the right of the driver’s seat, looking down at an angle at the passenger seat.

Weaving?  Check.  Head position to the right with a three-quarter profile?  Check.  Going ten miles slower than the speed limit?  Check.

It was someone texting.

I signaled, passed on the left going the speed limit, waved my arm at the offending driver (no birds— half, whole or otherwise flung from my fingertips) and crossed carefully in front of them.

Meanwhile— and they couldn’t hear this— I was going KRAKATAU! with the curse words.  I was flinging around F-gizmos and S-doodads and worse in a volcanic explosion of real profanity (versus the fauxfanity I try to use most of the time now).

Elephant and girl

Some days you are the hungry elephant. Other days? You're the little girl with the stale peanuts. Every day you can be a flibbertigibbet


May we backtrack for a second, here?  I want to go over the time frame of this whole debacle.  (All times are approximate.)

At 11:45, I read a beautiful essay about compassion and cell phone drivers.  I wrote a message on this new-to-me writer/radio commentator/blogger’s essay-post, and I left the house.

Okay, that puts us at about noon?  Add two minutes for me to reach the main road near where I live.  Shake in a few seconds for me to make the turn onto said major street.

Et voila!  See it?  Swerving car, dead ahead, mateys!

Commence with huh? at aforementioned swerving driver—

Then— oh! on realizing I’ve got a texting fool in lunchtime traffic—

Allegro now! — in clipped succession— turn signal indicator, pass on the left, hand-waving (no bird-finger), expletive!, expletive!, expletive!

My goodwill toward the texting/cell phone crowd lasted all of 17 minutes from the moment I posted the comment to my KRAKATAU! eruption of funtastic language.

Now, my darling readers, you realize that if I am writing about this today, I am doing my darndest to lay plain my own wish to be a kinder person to the texting and driving crowd.  (This general issue is, at this writing, my worst lapse of self-righteous indignation to date.)

Here’s my big dilemma:

As more texting finds it way behind the wheel of a car, my desire to be a kind and compassionate gal is at odds with my desire to not die in a fiery crash involving metal and relative speed and the ready availability of cell phone services— all because someone is texting their coworker a list of what s/he ate for lunch.

Lts see?  Grn beens? Chkn Frd Stek?  Frd Okra?


And that’s all she wrote!

Standing horse

Whoa, there!   Whoa, Princess Flibbertigibbet Scratchen en Itchen!


All right, so you can see my blind spot, yes?

Being a kind person is a gift that I give myself first.  That gift radiates outward.

The potential converse gift I can give myself is irrational anger— irrational anger is a stinky flaming bag of poo.  And that stench can radiate outward for blocks.

My phobia about dying in a car accident is a long-standing one.  It’s not going anywhere.  I am not one to avoid driving because I am afraid of accidents— for some people this fear can lead to the inability to operate a motor vehicle, and I feel deep sense of compassion for people with debilitating phobias.  So, I am graced to be in a position where no phobia rules my life.

I fear no man, y’all.  But I fear the behooverloofah out of a moving vehicle.  And when people drive poorly or aggressively or don’t know the rules of city driving, I lose my damn mind because my fear and their ineptitude are at odds with one another.

Still, I am tired of this Gordian knot made of seatbelts and flop sweat.  I have a real phobia.  People do drive badly.  And I crave to express compassion.

Carnavalskostuums / Mardi Gras costumes

You know what, Phil? There's nothing like a chicken costume to make you feel like the flibbertigibbet of the year.


What do I do?

Well, y’all— if you haven’t noticed, I am beginning to find the fix.  I will cut through this Gordian knot yet.  I may have to use Saf-T-Cut-type safety scissors and it may take me a while, but I am doing it.

What, you ask, am I doing?

If you squint a little at the screen, you can see me bowing at the waist toward my failure.  My head is dipped.  My heart is in my hands.

In my singular deep bow, I am acknowledging that I am human.

I am giving myself the awareness that I am going to fail ever day of my life, and if I’m lucky? —

I will fail big today.

And I will fail with no grace.

And I will laugh.

And I will apologize to myself to anyone whom I’ve hurt in the process of my failure.

And I will forgive myself.

And I will learn something new about my graceless mistakes—

So, that I can get up, dust off my ratty jeans, and try again.

Tomorrow, I have to head back into that frantic tick-tock noon traffic.  I intend to comb my hair into a neat little knot at the back of my neck.  To remind me of other fabled knots.

Because tomorrow?  I plan to fail, fail big, until I succeed.

Until then? I’m going to sleep and dream of kindness and cell phones, failure and the humanity that binds us all, gently, gently, ever gently.

Queen of the Beth El Bazaar and Carnival, Minneapolis

And then the Queen of the Carnival donned her tiara, a tiara that sparkled with the brilliance of a thousand flibbertigibbets.


I think you all are going to want a little context.

First, may I send you off to the beautiful essay I read yesterday by writer Gordon C. Stewart called Silence and Cell Phones?

Second, you may want to understand what I mean by fauxfanity— a definition of my devising is located here, and my essay about profanity and fauxfanity is called The Language of the Interior.

And finally, I really do know my self-righteous indignation. Boy howdy! I get down and dingy on this subject in The Ball Gown of Righteous Indignation.