Shiver Me Timbers

king-philip

The Wreck of King Philip

When we arrive at the beach,
sun-soaked and salty,
the sight of her sand-mired stern
is anti-climactic.

Sleep deprivation has that affect:
there is either too much climax
or none at all.

Bereft of anchor, she ran aground here in 1878,
abandoned by all her men,
left to splinter and keen
on the January shore.

I circle her half-submerged shell
clicking pictures and searching
for some kind of feeling,
for the smallest quiver
of shivery timbers,

but get only sand
in the eye.

-Lo, all sandy-eyed.

the Ego and the Suck

Mood: Ready to go
Drinking: Agua

Yesterday I was compiling a submission for a poetry journal when the Suck hit me straight between the eyes.

And now you’re saying, “What the hell is she going on about?”, so let me explain:
Every honest artist will tell you that, coexisting in their brain, side by side, are the Ego and the Suck.

The Ego (self-confidence, talent, pride, whatever) is that magical cold drive that sends you out into the world to staple your posters to light poles on urban corners and slam your poetry behind a microphone on a poorly lit stage. The Ego produces cinepoems and chapbooks, gallery shows and book tours. The Ego believes you are good enough, smart enough, and goddammit, people like you!

But her twin sister is the Suck (self-doubt, fear, etcetera) and even though she’s the ugly one, she’s just as charismatic. The Suck tells you that you’re not a bad writer, you’re worse: you’re mediocre. The Suck sends you cowering into couch potatoland, groveling in the audience at poetry readings, picking your fingernails to bits because you know, you just know, that nameless, faceless people out there somewhere will pick up your book and think that it’s trash. Or worse, vanilla.

The Suck tells you that all your teachers and mentors and friends and neighbors are lying. That none of them have the balls to tell you the truth: Your writing will never be good enough.

The Suck and I have done the dance before, many times. Ego usually arrives in time to pry us apart and impart a little reason. Then she gets to cut in for awhile. And round and round we go.

So yesterday, I opened the door, invited the Suck in to stay awhile. We had some tea. Talked about how sad it is that I will never be published or infamous or toasted about town. (The Suck cares very deeply about all manner of meaningless accolades, contests, and attendant shiny prizes.)

I thought if I just humored her for awhile, the Suck would get bored and run off to torment some other artist, down the street. But she’s added some new tricks to her repertoire, and so I made up the guest room and she’s going to stay for awhile this time.

She reminded me that I’m a white girl. From a good family. No childhood trauma. No secret incest. No parental abuse. No drug habits. No relationship drama. Hell, my parents aren’t even divorced.

I grew up on a farm, rode my horse at the 4-H fair, colored eggs with my Mom at Easter, decorated the tree with my Dad each December. My sister and I had bicycles and puppies and acres of land to explore, barefoot and screaming. I had braids and books and As on my report cards. I earned diplomas from high schools and institutions of higher learning. I won scholarships (banal and prestigious). I had my share of dating dilemmas, but none of my boyfriends were mean. Even the ones who cheated did it decently, if there is such a thing.

I married a man who is not only my friend but seven years later, he still thinks I’m cool. And pretty. And fun to hang out with. I’m surrounded with friends who adore me. And family who lets me be who I am. I live in a yellow house with red flowers out front. I walk my dog on a blue beach near the twinkling, frothy toes of the Pacific. I have my hands in so many creative pots right now, I can’t even find my fingers.

I am lucky.

And so these other poets, the ones from the barrio, the ones from the wrong side, the ones with the shit and the stink and the stories, they get lots of attention. They get book deals and accolades. And they deserve it. They have talent. They have style. They have so many terrifying tales to tell.

And me? Don’t look at me. It’s my friends. My friends who are gay or brown or both. My friends who have the needles and the glittering addictions. It’s my friends whose fathers kicked them down the stairs. My friends who were molested by strange men in the bathrooms of suburban shopping malls. My friends whose mothers fed them acid at age 3. Me? I’m vanilla. I’m well-adjusted. I’m doing just fine. So I write about them. It’s either that, or the 4-H Fair.

So am I jealous? Yes, of course. The Suck is here! So I am loved and blessed and busy and happy and lucky. And I’m jealous of the shit and the stink and the scars and all the stories they tell. The beautiful, painful stories.

But don’t worry. I’ve called the Suck a taxi. She should be leaving any time now…

-Lo, who believes that tall girls want to be short and short girls want to be tall.

The Season of Objects

Mood: Stuffy
Drinking: Liquids

I haven’t celebrated Christmas at “home” for five years. That’s mostly because Boy and I have been busy making a home of our own here in San Francisco. So every Christmas we do the present thing and then throw the Loo in the Jeep and drive up (or down, depending on our mood) the coast to see what we can see.

Christmas at the beach. It’s better than snow.

But this year, we’re breaking with our little tradition and heading back into snow country…all the way back to Illinois. We’re going to spend the season with my parents, assorted grandparents and friends, and my most favorite sister.

See, said sister (who is also a Californian now) has been husband-less for over a year, since right after her wedding when her brand-new-husband was shipped off to Iraq. He won’t be home until next year, so we’re all going to attempt to make up for his absence by doing the big family Christmas gathering thing.

Truth be told, I’m excited to see a little snow. Not so excited about the accompanying cold (which I got my fill of in New York a couple of weeks ago), but everything else will make up for it.

Not one to break with tradition, I’ve managed to come down with my usual stuffy nose, sore throat, and hacking cough just in time to return to the homestead. (This happens *every* time I go back to Illinois.) So I’m celebrating the season with pocket packs of Kleenex and steaming mugs of TheraFlu. ‘Tis the season, after all.

And speaking of seasons of glitter and giving, I have a little something for my Internet world. A shiny new present that will be waiting for you all on Christmas Day, not under a tree, but here on this site.

M and I just finished editing our 6th cinepoem, “Object”, late last night. So it will be up in time for Christmas, on the cinepoems page.

So after you’re done with your stockings and cheer on Sunday, come visit me here. I promise you won’t have to wear any red sweaters or take any photos with a leering “Uncle” Bob under the mistletoe.

Just sit back with your ‘nog and watch a little “Object” in action.

-Lo,who thinks sugarplums dancing in anyone’s head is just kind of weird.

The Perfect Drug

Mood: Shoulder to the grindstone
Drinking: Working on that recommended daily intake of water

It’s been a grey February. Not so much with the weather, although California has been drenched, dried off and then drenched again. It is the rainy season, after all, complete with landslides.

But the grey that’s been hanging around has been more of the mental variety. I have two very dear friends who have been going through some incredibly dark times, sometimes barely able to keep themselves from going under altogether. Sometimes I’ve woken up terrified that one or the other of them might have finally given in, let go, disappeared from the face of the earth altogether. Thus: greyness.

But both of them are stronger than they look. Stronger than they know. And they are fierce fighters. So now that they both have their feet set on the road to wellness, I’ve been laughing a lot more. Laughing with relief, with hope, with the lovely realization that sometimes you can actually write a whole long list of reasons that you’re glad you are alive. And *that* is saying something. Because sometimes when the Bell Jar descends, you’re hard pressed to come up with even one thing to write down, one thing that makes dragging your carcass out of bed worthwhile.

So, to celebrate, I spent the weekend in SoCal with Boy & Dog and my sister and her newly-adopted beast of a dog. In spite of the thunderous deluge that spanned most of the weekend, we managed to find a few pockets of sunlight during which we raced down to the beach for some surf and sand. I spent most of the weekend laughing. Really hard. To the point that my stomach now hurts because my laugh muscles were so out-of-use.

In the two years since we’ve adopted the LeeLoo, I’ve discovered that dogs can bring out the best in people. I’m an admitted misanthrope, and usually stalk around town without really looking at people. I have an aversion to talking to strangers that borders on phobia. But when I’m with LeeLoo and meet up with another dog owner, I’ll stop and chat. We’ll let the dogs do the butt-sniffing thing and have a completely pleasant conversation, then go on our separate ways feeling better about the world in general. It’s really weird how that works.

It may be that LeeLoo makes me laugh more because she’s such a clown. Boxers are known to be dorks of the dog world. Their monkey faces and childish antics make them great entertainers. And this weekend, wandering around my sister’s neighborhood with my little brown LeeLoo and her fat white Yoda, we spent a lot of time doubled over with laughter.

First, you have to understand that I am a DORK when it comes to my dog. I have been known to dress her in ridiculous outfits (and I know my friend J is HORRIFIED, absolutely horrified, if he’s reading this). Dogs in clothes are just unacceptable, I know. But. So. Funny. I’ve created a profile for LeeLoo on dogster.com, because I’m that much of a dork. And so it has been with a great sense of satisfaction that I have watched my sister (who used to ridicule me constantly) become a dog dork, too. The day she created a dogster profile for Yoda was a great day in sister history. (See LeeLoo on dogster here.
And Yoda here.)

My sister has wanted a dog for a long time. We grew up with Beagles and Basset Hounds and Cocker Spaniels all over the place, so all those in-between years of college and roommate housing sans dog were just kind of missing something. Once she and her boy got a place of their own last year, they began their dog search and eventually found Yoda’s sad story on Petfinder.com.

(Note: If you’re bored now, you might as well just skip on over the rest of it, because it’s just dog, dog, dog and more dog.)

Yoda, who is part Boxer and part American Bulldog (a big boy), fell on hard times over two years ago when his owner died suddenly of a heart attack. The Yodes was so upset, he lost all his hair. His deceased owner’s family didn’t want to pay the vet bills to get Yoda better, so they dumped him at the pound. He was scheduled to be put down when some people from a Chihuahua Rescue found him. I don’t know why they decided to take a 90-pound naked pink dog when they were really looking for tiny teacup-sized pooches, but they did and in doing so, they saved his life.

Unfortunately, nobody who comes to a Chihuahua Rescue looking for a waif-like Bit-Bit or Tinkerbell is interested in a big white brute who looks nothing like his greenish Jedi namesake but is instead polka-dotted with crusty bald patches and suffering from a severe case of doggie depression and really sour farts. So Yoda languished in the rescue kennel for two long years. And then my sister came along. And after much patience and paperwork on her part, Yoda had a new home.

And he’s loving it. He eats up the attention and is starting to drop a few pounds now that he has a girlfriend (that would be LeeLoo) and gets regular exercise. He’s made friends with the grannies and grandpas in the senior center next door and is proving to be excellent company for my sister.

So you put this big sweet nerd together with my little drama queen and you have a Vegas-level show on your hands. And all you can do is laugh.

Everything they did was funny. Sometimes it was the way LeeLoo got jealous whenever we paid too much attention to Yoda and so she would start doing all her tricks in a row on the other side of the room, as if to say, “Hey! Look at me! Over here! Look what I can do! Stop playing with that fat bitch and come over here and rub my belly!”

Other times it was the way Yoda snored like a fat old man. Or the way he tried to “romp” at the beach but ended up looking like an epileptic rabbit. It was the way LeeLoo shot Yoda incredibly dirty looks whenever he would stick his nose in her ear, which he did every five minutes or so, with loud and long snorting sounds. It was the way Yoda consistently poops in a perfect circle, looking over his shoulder to make sure he’s doing the job right.

It was ridiculous. It was stupid. It was perfect. The best kind of medicine for a weary and grey psyche. Double-dog therapy. I should do it more often.

-Lo, who knows she’s a total dog freak and refuses to be embarrassed about it.