Starting Over

startingover
Mood: Foggy
Drinking: Diet Dr. Pepper

Yes, I have been away. Far, far away. But I’m back now. That’s the theory, anyway.

June came bearing a brutal traveling schedule, and I went from home in California to Chicago, Illinois to Las Vegas, Nevada to Sayulita, Mexico in one trip right after the other, bouncing around North America like some sort of ricocheting bouncy ball.

I’ve finally rolled to a stop, however, and today’s my first real day back in the normal swing of things. It feels like I’m starting over. It’s all slow and painful with a lot of groggy reality checks: “So this is my life, right?”

It’s like riding a bicycle. Or something.

The rest of the summer promises to amble along at a much more bearable pace than last month, although there are some big events coming up:

** The SF Zine Fest is in two weeks. Kathy and I will be there with our table full of book wares.
(And speaking of Kathy, do check out her brilliant new blog, Imp Perfect.)
** Michelle and I are shooting a new cinépoem in August titled Homeland Security. We haven’t shot as many cinépoems this year as I’d like, and I’m very anxious to get this new one in the can. It should be really beautiful, and it will feature not one but two lovely new stars.
** A website overhaul is slowly but surely unfolding, complete with new photos, new features, and a new blog format. When will this all go public? Let’s be optimistic and say January, 2009.
** My training begins in earnest, pretty much starting right now, for the Nike Womens’ Half Marathon in October. Gotta get me some new runnin’ shoes.

Beyond that, I have to shake off the travel cobwebs and get down to business of getting back to reality.

Ugh.

-Lo, who could get used to going swimming every day.

B is for Bookstore

quimbysMood: Busy
Drinking: Water

A quick update on bookstores that carry The Secrets of Falling because now there are a few more on the list:

SAN FRANCISCO…
City Lights (the one & only) on Columbus in North Beach
Bird & Beckett Books and Records on Diamond St. in Glen Park
Phoenix Books on 24th Street in Noe Valley
Modern Times Bookstore on Valencia in the Mission
Dog Eared Books on Valencia in the Mission
Green Apple Books on Clement in the Richmond

SANTA CRUZ…
Logos Book and Records on Pacific Ave.

CHICAGO…
Quimby’s in Wicker Park
Myopic Books in Wicker Park

DIXON (IL)…
Books on First on West First Street

DECATUR (AL)…
Red Jasper Spa/Salon on 2nd Avenue SE

BELFAST (Northern Ireland)…
No Alibis on Botanic Ave.
•Bookfinders on University Road

If you stop by one of these stores and can’t find Secrets on the shelves, that means they sold out, so please request a copy so they’ll order a few more.

As always, you can get Secrets online if you don’t see a bookstore listed near you.

And don’t forget, tonight is the opening night for the Old Enough to Buy Art Show, where 3 pieces from The Secrets of Falling are on display and up for sale. Be sure to stop by the Melting Point Gallery in San Francisco to see some great mixed media pieces by local artists. The show runs through next Wednesday, September 26.

Stay tuned for a shiny new cinepoem, coming later this week…

-Lo, who has been talking like a pirate all day long. Arrrrrrrr!

Back Where I Belong

ggbridgeMood: Tired
Drinking: Tea

Driving along Illinois freeways lined with crumbling grey piles of unwanted snow, I remembered all over again why I don’t live there anymore.

When my plane touched town on California concrete Wednesday night, I felt profound relief. It’s not that Illinois (or Ill-annoys, as my friend Jesse calls it) is a bad place. It’s not. Some of my best memories were made there, and I had a great time on this trip re-visiting my old haunts in Chicago with my friend C. (I was happy to see that Alien and Predator still live at The Alley, and that Medusa’s Circle still has the best collection of lightning bolt necklaces.)

Illinois used to be home. But I don’t belong there anymore.

Being back for my grandfather’s memorial service brought up more memories than usual. Maybe it was seeing all those estranged relatives — cousins I haven’t seen for nearly a decade, who now have children I’ve never met before, and great-aunts with blue hair and unwelcome advice.

Maybe it was because my mom, dad, and I spent countless hours digging through boxes and boxes of old photographs — some of my immediate family and lots of my grandpa. Photos I’ve never seen before, like the blurry black and white of my grandpa holding my dad when he was just a baby.

Maybe it was hanging out with my friend A from high school and her two children, the eldest of whom is nearly a woman herself now.

Maybe it was just driving down all those familiar roads, past places that used to define the boundaries of my world, and seeing now how small they are, and how colorless.

Maybe it was everything combined.

All I know is that there is a girl I used to be, and she exists now only in pictures and memories and whispers in the back of my mind. And although it’s always hard to leave my family and friends behind, to know that it might be a very long time before I see them again, the girl I am now belongs in San Francisco.

You can’t deny your heart its home.

-Lo, who was also reminded there is nothing to miss about the snow, the cold, and the flat grey sky.

Auld Lang Syne

Mood: Curious
Drinking: Only Liquids

When you move six states away from your hometown, your alma mater, and your post-college haunts, you never really have to worry that you’ll unexpectedly run into that uppity bitch who went to your high school. Or that you’ll turn down the cracker aisle in Whole Foods while wearing nubby sweat pants and lopsided pigtails and suddenly find yourself face-to-face with that certain old boyfriend. In fact, when you move so far from home, you never have to worry about running into anybody at all.

When I left Chicago six years ago, I thought that would be a really good thing. Boy and I had a huge circle of friends, acquaintances, hangers-on, and one or two arch enemies, and except for a chosen few, I wasn’t really worried about missing anybody. I was excited to start all over, to make a few less mistakes.

I’ve made some incredibly spectacular friends here on the left coast, and although my circle of people is much smaller than it was back in Illinois, it’s a wider, deeper, cozier circle. And of course I have all my extra-special long-distance lovelies from back in the days in Dixon, in Sterling, in Crystal Lake and Geneva and beyond who still ring the phone and rattle the keyboard with juicy tidbits and the latest what-have-you. Sometimes one of us even packs up bags and makes the cross-country trek to see the other and get all caught up on the kind of stuff that works best eyeball to eyeball. Some of us are still working on making the trip (Hallooo, Yearlick sisters!).

But lately it’s all those other people I’ve been wondering about. The ones who’ve dropped off the map. The ones who are un-stalkable on myspace and non-existent on google. Where are they now?

Once upon a time, some of us were thick as thieves, rollerblading around the Loop at 2 a.m. and hunting for boys and bargains at Clark & Belmont and getting into all kinds of mischief at a neverending series of suburban chain restaurants. But then we grew up, grew apart, got married, moved away, lost our cellphones, changed our email, quit our jobs, and just gradually went AWOL.

And what I want to know now is what ever happened to Bryan with a y who disappeared somewhere in rural Ohio, or his sidekick Jon and his volleyball superstars? Where is Beth, who was working on her own brand of stardom last time I saw her? What ever happened to Kevin and his courthouse beat or Corina and her long black hair? What about Michelle who used to meet me at Big Bowl for noodles, and Gayle who always dyed her hair Feria Red? What about Christina the flight attendant who got married off into Montana or Jeff who moved down south somewhere? What ever happened to Monica and Richelle, Oscar and Mike, Kelly and Steve, Janet and Christy, Brandi and Julie. What ever happened to the rest of you? Are you happy, are you healthy, are you better off now than the last time I saw you?

Where are you now?

-Lo, who probably would have gone to her 10-year reunion, if they had one.

The Wicker Chronicles

Mood: Too early to tell
Drinking: Caffeinated beverage

After spending some time reading and re-reading some work by my friend G, I am more convinced than ever that more people should know who he is. Everyone, in fact, should know. There should be shiny hardback volumes with his name imprinted on their spines.

G and I met in the minefield of mid-twenties suburban mega-religion and established a bond over our mutual affection for poetry, snarkiness and the lost wonders of DeKalb.

Upon meeting G, it doesn’t take long to discover that he is a genius. And once he began to share his writing with me, I elevated him to capital GENIUS status. He really is amazing. And although I’m here now and he’s there, he fills my inbox with intrigue every single week, without fail.

This is one of his poems, “Storm”…

“in the sanctuary
hundreds of people open
their good books
and it’s the sound of leaves
rustling in the tops of trees
and all I can think of
is wind and storm,
violence
not love.

the whisper of prayers from
a thousand lips is
a mushroomcloud of moths fluttering
the silver dust from their wings
falling like ash.

the clap of a hundred raised hands
is the distant clatter
of mortars exploding,
all the killing done in
the name of Whatever
flavor of the week
we’re worshipping.

and all the words they use
are bruised and faded,
bleached of worth;
He is hiding in the subtext,
behind tongues,
before birth.

who can hope to understand
the complex mess we’ve made
of earth?

not the books and not the lips
and not the hands

for He is hiding
and is deaf to our demands,

beyond tongues,
beyond death,
such amazing love
to let us live,
breath by labored breath?”

Get more here.

-Lo, who’s getting more G herself very soon. Right, my friend? Dinner. Monday. Downtown.

Morning After

Mood: Placid
Drinking: Of course

I finally got behind a mic last night.

It’s been much too long. When I lived in Chicago, you couldn’t keep me off the stage. I grabbed a microphone every chance I could get. I slammed at The Green Mill (and won a coupla lottery tickets) and did the open mic there, too. I read at churches and tea houses and parties and concerts. I was addicted to the sound of a real, live audience.

And then I moved 2,000 miles west and shut up.

There were a lot of reasons for the silence. I packed a couple of serious life changes into a few month’s time. I left all my friends and history behind me for the promised land of fog and inspiration. But when I got here, I was bereft of all that anticipated inspiration.

It didn’t seem so at first. I’ll never forget the moment our U-Haul (bearing all our worldy possessions, including our only vehicle since we sold our cars–Boy’s old yellow motorcycle) rounded the corner and rolled out of the Waldo tunnel and we saw the red towers of the Golden Gate bridge shining up ahead. Boy and I looked at each other and grinned. “We’re home!” I said.

The first few weeks were full of the fun of finding a flat, exploring the city, starting a new job (downtown at a fancy agency that was spitting distance from the Transamerica Building). We were giddy. But not for long.

Just days after we signed the lease on a gorgeous 2 bedroom flat with an ocean view and a garbage disposal, the bottom fell out. Seems we had arrived on the west coast just in time for the dot com crash. And since my fancy agency was chock full of dot com clients, well, they crashed. And as the newest employee, my head was the first on the chopping block.

I was wearing pigtails, a miniskirt, big stompy boots and a David Bowie t-shirt (with glitter) on the day I got laid off.

All I could think as I sat there trying to comprehend the pitying looks and conciliatory tones was, “I should have worn something more serious today. I look like a 15-year old.” Followed by, “David Bowie is bad luck!”

I didn’t know, as I collected the requisite box full of office belongings and stood on the corner, whimpering and waiting for Boy on his yellow motorcycle, I didn’t know that this was just the first of four layoffs I would experience in a single year. The world was definitely crashing.

For the next couple of weeks I woke up with panic attacks and lay on the couch in flannel pajama pants, eating Tostitos and watching the sideburns grow on 90210. When I got laid off, Boy didn’t even have a job yet–we had moved west on my shiny new salary. Somehow he managed to land one quickly, but his monthly salary just paid our exorbitant San Francisco rent, with $2 left over.

We bought groceries with unemployment checks. I had never felt like such a failure.

I refused to answer phone calls from my friends back in Chicago. I didn’t want them to know. I didn’t want them to talk to me about giving up and moving back “home.” San Francisco was my home, and no matter how much it hurt, I was determined to stay.

For a girl who got through college on an honors scholarship, a teacher’s pet and chronic overachiever, being laid off was unthinkable. I spent hours at the Kinko’s on Sloat, copying my resume over and over. I sent out hundreds. But all over the city, all over the Bay Area, there were thousands of people like me, and we were all desperately applying for the same job.

I finally took a temp job as a secretary for a scary non-profit organization. And got laid off. I landed a job at an online radio station that I was completely overqualified for. They offered me much less than my old salary. I took it without blinking. I showed up for my first day of work and the doors were locked. Another dot com, bankrupt.

Every rejection, every defeat, just pushed me further into panicky blackness. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t write. And I certainly couldn’t get up onstage.

It’s been almost five years now since we first arrived and I’ve had the same job for two years. I started writing for myself again and making plans and working on projects and shooting cinepoems. But I still didn’t get back onstage. I visited the Berkeley Poetry Slam last fall, the one at the Starry Plough on Shattuck. I knew I could write circles around most of the poets who performed, but I didn’t sign up. I even told the host that I used to slam at the Green Mill. He got all excited and told me to come back. It took me six months.

When I finally returned, I got there early. I was the first person to sign my name on the list of readers. But they do a lottery at the Berkeley Slam. They pull your name from a hat, and they didn’t pull mine. So I sat there all night with a fistful of poems and a head full of adrenaline, and I didn’t get onstage.

But since that one wasn’t for lack of trying on my part, I just got more determined. And when I heard that local heroine Daphne Gottlieb (who kindly met me for drinks a coupla weeks ago, thanks, Daphne!) was reading at an open mic in the Castro, well, that was it.

I got to SMACKdab early last night. I signed my name at lucky #7. The fabulous Kirk Read was all smiles with his pink feather boa and made me feel right at home, even though I was the only straight person in the room. Way I figure it, there’s no better place for your poetic coming-out than at a gay men’s community center. And I was right.

The audience was warm, respectful and appreciative and my fellow performers were by turns adorable, hilarious and brilliant. (Some unintentionally so.) So, after 5 long years, I consider the cherry re-popped and I’m eagerly anticipating my next microphone.

Although this isn’t the poem I read last night (I’m saving that one ‘cuz she’s extra-special), this is a poem that I wrote shortly after the whole shock treatment of being laid off finally started to wear off. I actually wrote it at the request of Wil Foster (of Sheltershed), who sent me some music tracks from his “International Plastic” album that he wanted me to write poetry for. The track I wrote this poem for was called “Dreams”. (You can listen to the finished version in The Library.)

Here it is in print:

I am living in a dream
with skin on.
Vision formed of things to touch,
things to see.
And it is much more complicated now.

Once it was a someday thing.
(wish i may, wish i might)
But now it’s real and I am here.
(look and touch, taste and see)

What do you do
when the dream comes alive?
When the white statue breathes
and the marble flesh grows warm.
(does it come alive just in time to die)

Step down from the pedestal now.
Draw a deep newborn breath
and leave perfection far behind.
To be flawless is a dreamland thing.
(now we live and fall apart)

The porcelain shows pores.
The mouth opens sores.
And this is what happens
when dreams come true.

-Lo, who knows that sometimes the fantasy is better than the reality, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the fantasy is better for you.