Mary wants

After AWP, which was faboola-fantastic in terms of seeing beloved friends but totz ass in terms of being so tired that I bordered on psychosis, I took an hour and a half long airport shuttle ride out to Dulles airport, way out in the way-far in Virginia. Back in the back-when, when I lived with DC native Dyna, she made sure to let me know that the section of Virginia where she grew up was not Flavor Country. But here I was in the blue van, winding around the streets of her hometown, and the driver was blasting the local Christian rock station, and before I pulled my headphones out of my purse to blot that shit out, I noted that by and large, the male vocalists, who were, let’s be real here, singing love songs to another man (Jesus), all sounded like Eddie Vedder dipped in testosterone foam. The gruff, growly voice was a little too manly for my taste (I like manliness dialed down. I also like men who wear scarves) as if to say “I’m singing a love song to Jesus but, like, no homo, riiiiiight?”

Counterpoint: Sufjan.

When Sufjan sings “You came to take us/all things go, all things go,” I know “you” is God, and that Sufjan is firmly singing in the first person, humbling himself before some force larger than himself. But these bros on the radio were not doing that. They were telling the listener to get right with Jesus. Masculinity performed by being bossy and telling you what you have to do to make your shitty life better.

Later, as I was ordering my breakfast burrito special at the airport Chipotle (don’t judge, it was amazeballs), “Chicago” came on the stereo and I may or may not have lost it adjacent to the Coke machine.

Running, in my advanced age (41 in two weeks, holyfuckballs), on minimal sleep adrenaline insanity, WITH OTHER WRITERS, HOW WAS THERE NOT AN EMERGENCY??? I was bound for some assorted, generic sobbing here and there. Julia Child’s kitchen at the Smithsonian History Museum was a source of unfettered reflection. All I could think about was how Paul raised the countertops three inches because Julia was six-foot-three and he was much shorter than her and did things like build out her kitchen to tall-girl specs. And how no one does things like that for me. Wanted: someone to build me a tall-girl kitchen.

Everything is hard and there is so much snow, but in DC I saw many beloveds and had two Ethiopian food meals, and some seriously bangin’ tacos and lots of hugs and what I think was a date, maybe, with a far-away kindred who just happened to be there, but maybe it wasn’t a date, maybe it was just a friend lunch that ended with a lower back caress.

Kenzie took my new author photos and they are gorgeous.

And the zombie wander across the AWP book fair floor. What are we looking for? Who are we looking for? Sleep-deprived, I staggered into the Grub Street space, which they furnished with inflatable sofas, and told them I applied for a thing in their city and maybe I’d come by for a game of Bananagrams and can we be friends, but that thing is so competitive, so maybe not? And I filched fifty or so free pens from various organizations that didn’t want to carry their swag home. I bought Siel’s book and Liz P’s book (LIZ! I miss you, Liz!) and saw a Gutterite for a hot minute and my ass got a photo taken with Lidia Y. A good mix of Portland beloveds and Michigan pals to raise my spirits, plus a convergence of the 413 Bitch Mafia’s DC office for good measure (they are my investment, after all).

(Above we have the lovely and talented QUEEN OF THE MAIN STREET WRITERS MOVEMENT Laura Stanfill and a veggie combo at Lalibela, and on the right is some dude from Kansas who just happened to buy a dumb book about a dumb bartender that was in some pretend band.)

But we’re not just looking for books or publication credits or validation or friends or love, are we? Is that all we seek at the AWP?

I failed to offer a proper goodbye to various people I care about, so here: goodbye! I love you! Thank you for being in my life!

It felt good to be in a real city. Gosh, I miss cities. All the cities, right in the mouth, suck on cities like a cherry cough drop.

Next year in Portland, a tall-girl kitchen.

I’ll promise myself.

 

****

 

What I really wanted to hear on the Christian rock station was a song about how Mary was a stone cold fox, and how what these men really want is a woman who possesses the same qualities as Mary, for she is who God chose because she had character and integrity and hips that made her the ideal holy vessel. Evangelicals don’t much go in for Mary, but indie rock legends sure do.

 

 

 

 

l’autre côté

The last we saw of GEORGE DAVIAU, he was peeling the skin off of a breathing poker table, 110 memories in on a languid, disappointing game in which a melted Richard Nixon sat across from Daviau, leaving oily stains on the cards. Daviau had been at this game for the better part of six human years, getting up only once to refill the peanut bowl.

The phone rang, and by phone, I meant a midcentury rotary phone with an actual bell, what Daviau knew as a phone most of his life.

“Uh, hey, your long overdue lady is here, Daviau, come meet her in the bubble room.”

Daviau’s stomach sank. He had been waiting for twenty-four years for his first girl to roll into the Other Side. For years, he assumed that she had stayed deeply Catholic throughout her life and, as such, would be sent to the foofy part of The Other Side. Beyond a set of amber taffy gates, down a long hallway outfitted with fabric flowers and school-child lanyards made of dime-store yarn, was “HEAVEN.” “HEAVEN” was created by strong demand of those who had been religiously, Americanly Christian their whole lives, and expected an expanse of cotton balls and statuary pissing an endless stream of champagne. Daviau had disdain for this cordoned-off Other Side district, and as such, never left his ersatz Vegas area, where he played disappointing card games with terrible dead male authors and government figures.

Daviau scooped his stomach off the floor and put it back where he thought it went. The hard, robotic corpus that he had been saddled with upon his O.S. entry date in 1992 was rusted and inferior to the newer ones, which were softer, better contoured, and springier. Surely Antoinette would be comporting herself in a newer corporal model.

“You’re not going anywhere, Fuckface,” Norman Mailer slurred. Mailer had also not gotten up from the card game in a number of years, insisting that he and he alone had “magic value” and should be allowed to look at the cards of his opponents.

“I am walking away from this game, you ass.” In life, Daviau comported himself as a gentleman, but on the Other Side, with these sloppy men, he reverted to the man he was on board the S.S. Brackett in the Pacific during the war.

The poker table, feeling great affection for Daviau, rose up on its legs and followed him out the door.

 

THEY HAD WRAPPED ANTOINETTE IN FOIL, LIKE A BAKED POTATO.

Upon her arrival to The Other Side, she complained of being cold, but in the style of a woman of her generation. It was of no trouble to anyone else that she should be cold. But one of the Other Side Victorian Brush Workers heard her and immediately wrapped her in foil, to preserve heat.

It took George a few hours to find Antoinette, wrapped in foil, waiting in the chamber beside the bubble room (where they made the champagne for “Heaven”) outside where the Huns congregated. Huns had a very specific social code, and it was entirely inappropriate for a 20th Century New England girl like Antoinette to be in the vicinity of Huns.

“You should not be here,” Daviau said, referring to the Huns.

“I was the last one there. On Earth. I was the last one, George.”

Daviau pondered what it was to be the last one there, how he had intended to be the last one there and couldn’t do it, couldn’t get the heart and lungs to cooperate, took his exit long before he intended to. Conversely, Antoinette hung on, went super-centenary, her body finding no reason for decades to age, to fail, to die.

“You were the last one. You instead of me.”

They stared at each other for a good long while.

“I have a husband, George,” Antoinette said, and went to look for him, who died even before George did.

“Just wanted to see you one more time, Old Girl.”

Antoinette peeled off the last of the foil. “Who you calling old?”

 

 

Written with love for Marie Antoinette Boyd, girl of Waterville, ME, who knew my father well.

1911-2016

never give up joy, vermont edition

TO THE WOMAN WHO FARTED

IN THE MIDDLE OF

BUDDHIST CHANTING

There is a song inside of you

that your mouth cannot convey.

I celebrate all your songs.

TO THE QUIET BLANKET OF WHITE

THAT SOUNDPROOFS THIS SMALL MOUNTAIN TOWN

There is a song inside me

that only my feet, with their

squeaky and insistent steps

can tap out

upon the wet, sleek snow

TO THE MAN IN THE SEMINAR
WEARING THE JACKET WITH A
VERMONT SECESSION PATCH

I don’t think you saw me wink at you,

but I definitely winked

PUMPKIN DONUT FROM AUGUST FIRST BAKERY,

BURLINGTON, VT

Soft as an edible kiss

Pillowy pumpkin

You made me happy, I wish I could tell you in a way you’d understand

TO THE PERSON WHO WROTE THE MEAN COMMENT

ON MY ESSAY ABOUT MELANIA

Assuming you really are an adult and not

a second-grade bully,

I remind you you can always unfriend/unfollow

pretend I don’t exist.

Whatever brings you the peace

you clearly don’t have.

Reminder: we’re all just walking each other home.

TO THE ETHAN ALLEN MOTEL, 
WHICH IS VERY MUSTY-SMELLING

I like you because you are old and cheap.

You should get better locks on the doors, though.

And maybe open the windows

when summer comes.

PENG 33!

Life is worth living

crying with joy to PENG 33!

(the Iron and Wine version)

in your car

as snow makes the interior

dark and black

the melaniad

I see those GIFs from the inauguration a lot. Little silent films of a man emotionally abusing his wife. They hurt to watch. I know what that feels like. And when it happened to me, it wasn’t on the international stage. It was in small rooms, in Portland, my mind being turned into mush incrementally, by someone I really, truly loved.

More than a few times, when I was sick and crazy with PTSD, I heard from people in my life, “why did you even like him in the first place? You’re so much classier/smarter/more educated/better than him.”

Abuser. Broke-ass, didn’t-go-to-college-ass, always-manages-to-date-way-up-ass Abuser.

I mean, sure, it’s victim-blamey to ask me why I didn’t cleave to this other person’s classist inclinations, because in this instance, they would have protected me from his abuse if only I had thought from moment one that I was better than him because I went to fancy college, come from a wealthy family, have a book deal, etc. I didn’t, and I still don’t, but it’s absolutely true that people who care about me thought that announcing their feelings about my superiority in a variety of superficial categories might have saved me from PTSD.

It’s noble to fall in love with a poor man when he’s good to you, but when he’s rotten, look out. And when you fall in love with a rich man, if he’s not good to you, well, the money washes away that expectation, doesn’t it?

I may have a comfy life, but that comfy life didn’t save me from being vulnerable, from wanting to be loved by someone who understood me, or at least faked it for as long as it was convenient for him to do so.

There are things money can’t buy, after all, and those were the things he was selling.

I don’t have the right looks to be a rich man’s trophy wife, and I’m too smart anyway, and post-abuse, I know too much about red flags such that I hope I give off a big, stanky whiff of Narc-B-Gone whenever abusive narcissists get near me.

So I don’t know what leads women who have the looks and other qualities that make dry, brittle, heartless rich men choose them to be arm candy. I don’t know if they conscientiously sign up for being another employee on payroll or if they are being charmed and romanced, if they think that they’re going into these marriages for love.

I’ve said this many times: I get away with talking shit about my abuser because I’m the one with the social capital, not him. If he were, say, a billionaire, or someone loved and respected in the community, who was someone who had things to offer a large number of people, I’d not be able to speak so freely. I’d still be in Austin, not writing a goddamn word about any of it. Many women are cowed into silence because their abusers have more social capital, more money, all the things.

Not me.

I’m the one with the friends, money, and connections, but I was not the one with the power within the relationship. Because I know this, I am compassionate towards Miss Melania, because the power differential tips wildly in the other direction for her.

 

On the off-chance that Melania got scamboozled into thinking he loved her and was going to honor her and be kind, and then found herself mired in the old bait-and-switch; the off-chance that she didn’t look at all the other women who came before her and see that she wasn’t much different from them and that her fate would be much of the same, if she was wildly in love with that disgusting excuse for a man, hey, I get it. That she is likely hemmed in with pre-nups and nondisclosure agreements and goons who will break her knee caps, or a husband who threatens to take away her child and send her packing to Slovenia, or some other ugliness–I had none of those things, and still, I was terribly harmed.

A poor man broke me. What a rich man can do? I just multiply by twelve and try to make sure it won’t happen to me again.

And that is why I have compassion for Melania. For being an abuse victim. She might suck as a person otherwise, but abuse is abuse, even if it happens in a gilded penthouse with a man we all find to be atrocious.

He’s abusing all of us, so of course he is abusing her.

The end.

salty feet

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They gave me an entire white wall to write on. It’s about twelve feet long and seven feet tall. I helped myself to a paint-spattered ladder. This seemed very exciting, like yet another creative opportunity that goes with all that comes with my life in Vermont. Writing on a wall legally, with none of the thrill of whipping out a sharpie in a dank ladies room to add to the gnarled danger poem that you look at when you pee.

So I wrote the names of Picasso’s women on the wall.

I had big plans for Diving into the Wreck, but I went with this instead.

Because I came here in large part to BE LIKE FRANCOISE, i.e. the successful, strong one who overcame, who lived to be very old and have a rich and wonderful life.

But I don’t really want to crap on the others. Especially Dora. Poor Dora. And you should never be Jacqueline. By all accounts, she sacrificed her entire self for Picasso and acted as his pit bull where other women were concerned. (Keep in mind that he was well into his seventies by Jacqueline’s time, and dude was still offgassing testosterone.)

 

The thing about the ones who killed themselves is that they didn’t do it in the aftermath of Picasso’s discard. No, they all waited until after he was dead to kill themselves. Thirteen years. Six years. They lingered for a while. Which tells me I’m not entirely out of the woods, unless I look to Françoise as my beacon of hope. At ninety-five, she is still alive, still vibrant and active, and she tells reporters she doesn’t want to talk about Picasso anymore. (Picasso apparently required everyone in his circle to denounce her as crazy after she published her memoir. A few terribly brave people who just happened to have financial stakes in Picasso’s work apologized to her and took her side after he died. It’s really great that people can act in integrity after the more powerful person in question is no longer around to be challenged in any way.)

I can paint here if I want. I have a painter’s studio here, which is somewhat wasted on me, save for my drippy black paint pen and that big wall, which is something of a severe vision board for my new novel. I am considering buying a sewing machine and getting back to skirt-making after a seventeen-year hiatus from sewing and skirt-making. Everyone here, even the writers, is crafty and into making stuff, and sewing is as close as it gets for me. I could also use some kicky skirts.

Meanwhile, back home in Portland, I am hot shit.

I’m nominated for the Ken Kesey Award for Fiction, which is an Oregon Book Award. So here, in Vermont (where we are experiencing January Thaw–balmy temperatures of 45-47 mean the snow is melting and there are dirty puddles everywhere), I am feeling honored and celebrated.

(The coffee shop is playing a jazzy cover of “Between the Bars???”)

Thrill of the day: driving to Montpelier in the company car!

My brown L.L. Bean duckie shoes are dotted with white road salt. Cars, tires, anything that touches the ground gets speckled with white. This is the order of the day here in Vermont. Standing on worn wooden floors. Wooden floors with brown piles of dirty snow, gravel, and road salt. The floors here are so dirty. My mom would freak out.

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Vermont Feet

 

 

new england fucknut

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Oh, hey!

Didn’t see you there reading my blog.

Don’t mind me! Just walking past my old Smith College dormitory on purpose and popping off a selfie on a recent trip to Northampton, which, to my west coast/Texan perception of things, is a puckered butthole of social awkwardness.

#1: In a lighthearted manner, I said to the person at the Smith bookstore, “Hey, you should stock my book in the alumnae section.” And this person stared at me for a few seconds and then rang up my t-shirt, all the while not responding. Finally, this person told me to contact the store manager, but didn’t tell me that person’s name. Perhaps she thought I was lying about having a book, or that my book was a self-published human/manatee erotica story written in third person present with a glittery cover.

#2: Young woman working at hippie bakery looks at me as if I have asked her for a handful of feces rather than the vegan pretzel I wanted.

#3: Upon entering the Smith campus center for the sole purpose of using the restroom, I breezed in the door behind a middle-aged African-American man and his white lady companion. An older white woman, probably an employee of the college, looked at the three of us quizzically and asked if she could help us. Why would we need help inside the Smith Campus Center? Awkward silence ensued, the woman said, “Okay, I guess not!” and walked away.

#4: There was a misunderstanding at Cornucopia over an advertised discount on Dr. Bronner’s. I thought the discount applied to all sizes of liquid soap, it did not, and so the cashier took a moment to school me on reading signs more closely. I got the distinct feeling that my inquiries into this discount viscerally terrified the cashier.

What the hell did I do? I asked myself as I wandered the streets of my now-formerly beloved college town, wondering if everyone in New England was this much of an uptight fucknut. I would sometimes lament that Portland people were far less friendly than Austin folks, but this was some bullshitWhy did I come back here? WEST COAST BEST COAST! I gave up taquerias for this?

At least I got to have, for the first time in nearly four years, a Haymarket hot chocolate.

img_2779

ELIXIR OF THE GODDESS, that ho-cho.

Vermont is, in a lot of ways, a very wonderful state. Aside from the mountains and the green (it’s not green right now–the trees are barren, gray sticks) My auto insurance monthly payment is half of what it was in Oregon. The interstate rest areas are the best in the country. Why, you ask? They aren’t sketchy places to pee over a filthy stainless steel commode in Vermont like the rest of the US of A?

No! Not only are the toilets clean and, dare I say, warm and ceramic, but the rest stops are staffed. Staffed, meaning that a couple of well-dressed Vermonters sit at a desk and are available to answer questions, such as where you can find a good motel or where the closest gas station might be.

Also: each Vermont rest stop offers motorists free coffee. And it’s not shitsy Folgers, either. Green Mountain Coffee sponsors the free coffee program and provides quality coffee.

img_2788

Here are the industrial-strength coffee urns at the stop just south of Montpelier, as I-91 bends westward into I-89. Vermont Country Blend AND Green Mountain Colombian Decaf are available to keep you wide awake as you drive. COFFEE SAVES LIVES! And donations are appreciated. I put a dollar in the donation box.

I have been installed in my new job and new apartment, which is an old, creaky New England apartment with loads of character. After nearly two years in the SkyBox (which was nice and had many mod cons), living in a rattly old creaker with dormers, painted floors, and a steep staircase is a nice change. It’s also drafty, and as the outside temperature is potato-below-freezing, I’m a bit chilly. But I do love this apartment. It’s above the town’s art supply store, so I can wander downstairs in my jammie-jams and buy gouache if I want.

Prior to my Portland departure, I was installed into the online Timbers Army east coast fan organization, so I can remain connected to the soccer community of Portland while also enjoying my new living situation in which I’m across the street from a maple sugaring supply store and next door to a Chinese takeout place. Shall I attempt to eat something from all sections of the Chinese restaurant menu? They do have ma po tofu, and I like ma po tofu.

 

My writing studio is actually a visual arts studio, and it reeks of paint. I plan to write some of my novel on the walls.

 

 

always stay gracious best revenge is your paper

I bet The Abuser never thought I’d find out that, moments before he bopped down to the park to have a flirty phone chat with me in July of 2013, that he had walked out on his distressed, suicidal partner who was literally begging him for help. And that he had that phone chat at all, much less upbeat, sexy, as if someone didn’t just beg him, tears and all, to not leave her alone because she felt unsafe? How is it that such a request, bearing witness to another human being in pain, left him completely unshaken, able to engage me in an hours-long conversation where, not only did this not come up, but his voice didn’t even crack?

Was he actually cool with coming home and finding her dead body on the floor of the apartment? That would have been a totally acceptable outcome for him? Maybe a desirable one? Would he have spun it in some way: that bitch left a stain on the carpet and I had to pay the landlord to have the carpet replaced…poor me! She did that to HURT ME.

Was that too much suicidal for him? See, he was never clear about how suicidal his women needed to be. Come to think of it, neither was Picasso, but it was the same sick, sad deal. Normal people don’t want their partners to be suicidal at all. When they are, they step in and, you know, actually help. And the help is the love. The drowning and trying and going the hard way with another person. I call it the hard way but it isn’t hard at all. It’s what we owe each other as human beings.

(I know: the minute you start explaining to a sociopath what normal people do, you’ve already lost.)

Was I not suicidal enough or too suicidal for him? It doesn’t matter.

I came to Portland to find out, in a way. PTSD is PTSD whether in the Texas sun or the Portland gray. That old line, Slipping into madness is good for the sake of comparison. The option to slay, as it were…well, I had to come back here to slay.

I did see things his way once. Through the lens of my abuser’s abyss. I was at Crush for the Munch and a young, recently-divorced guy sat beside me at the bar chatting me up, confiding in me what his kink is, wanting to connect with someone, anyone.

He asked me if I wanted to go on a date sometime.

And I saw what Abuser sees: this man was handing me the keys to his Magic Castle. He was vulnerable and trusting and traumatized and wanted to be loved. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t interested in him–I could have faked it, like Abuser does. I could have went on one date with him, told him I loved him, sexed him hard that the oxytocin spike would have clouded his higher judgment, moved quickly, and spun him up so high, and then dropped him down so low.

I saw the look, the sad, desperate look of a recently divorced person. I was once that. I opened my belly and made the biggest mistake of my life, one I continue to pay for.

I could have performed a hit job on him, if I was that sort of person. But I’m not, so I told him I wasn’t interested.

But I saw what Abuser sees. The entry point. I saw that part of him that Abuser saw in me and sought to destroy. I saw how easy it was. How I had made myself vulnerable. How easy it is to trust the wrong person.

And then M. The one after me. That poor dear M.

You told me IF SHE KILLED HERSELF, IT WOULD BE MY FAULT. You told me she was JUST THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF SUICIDAL FOR YOU, THAT SHE NEEDED TO BE. 

Only a year earlier, you walked out on a suicidal person who asked you for help?

I wonder if he knows girls talk to each other? That’s our best defense against predatory nutjobs: information.

I’m getting the change in the world I want to see: a world where when a woman says a man is abusive, a terror, a bad seed, a batterer, a rapist, she is believed.

Guys like Abuser skate by too easily on the idea that it’s easy to pit women and femmes against each other. It’s why a lot of us don’t talk.

I talk. I’ll continue to talk. I know that a lot of people still won’t listen, but I’ll keep talking about this stuff.

I want a world where its hard for abusers to abuse because we have their number. I’m not alone in that. A crack team of very talented writers are working on this problem. We’re talking. A lot.

 

And that’s what I celebrate every day in this dark city, this city I’ve won, this city I’m leaving for only a year. We’re not dead! And we are beloved!

I’ll be back, Portland. January 2018: you and me, babe, how about it?

I am loved by many in Portland. And I love many in Portland. Portland has been shockingly good to me, actually. Look!

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I have this adorable rock band on speed dial, ready to play at all of my events!

 

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This Portland literary leader brought the house down at my party. ❤

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The talent! The beauty!

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The talent and beauty here, too!

 

Now if you’ll excuse me, there are sick fucks in New England I have to go expose.

Ahem.

(Throws cape over her shoulder, flies into the sky.)