my sketchy night

 

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I’m a little embarrassed because I know these are not good drawings, but I had fun trying and I’m totally doing it again.

I went to Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art school in Baltimore last night. It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I moved here and haven’t done for the usual bullshit reasons. Since the Junkyard Dolls had a fundraising event there last night and since that’s my league big sister’s team, it seemed like a good opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and try something fun.

I don’t technically know how to draw, but that’s OK because a lot of the people there were very good at it. I like being an amateur surrounded by experts. I like to let them teach me, and they like to teach. I was intimidated by this one girl whose art work was really fabulous, but when we had a break I mentioned that I really liked her drawings. She immediately opened up and wanted to share — “This chick lost 10 pounds when I added the background color!” She held up her drawing of Suzy Pow’s muscles, and it was basically perfection. People shared their supplies and encouraging words, and though I don’t see myself joining a competitive art league any time soon, I’ll probably go back for another round.

Here are some things I drew last night. In case it’s not clear, I’m not requesting a critique from the internet at large. When I look at what other people drew last night, I feel a million miles away from them, but I was happy enough with these to share them.  Also, no one is allowed to be mad at me if they don’t like the picture I drew of them. I get amnesty as a shitty artist whose only merit is that she draws with love.

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Speculation

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I sometimes wonder what would’ve happened if I’d made all the right decisions in life, but all I can’t quite picture it.

I used to be a regular at this diner back home. The kitchen staff knew me by name, and the head cook still says hi when I go in. The waiters knew my order, and the waitresses pretended to believe me when I told them I was 21 but “couldn’t find” my ID. My friends and I would meet at the diner, drink a pot of coffee, walk to the book store to loiter, and maybe wind up at a punk show if anyone knew where one was. Sometimes we would play music down by the water — Danny would play guitar while Gary and I improvised lyircs. Gary sang in his lovely tenor “Why, why, why, would you do this to me?”  and I jumped in with, “You do it to yourself,” because I was unwilling to take part in a love song about victimhood. In the summer, there was a fountain in the park that ran till 10 p.m., so we would go play in it, always forgetting that we would then have to spend the rest of our night in wet clothes. Life was pretty amazing for a couple years there, but I wonder what would’ve happened if I stayed.

Everyone in my family went to LSU but me. My entire life, it was assumed I would go to LSU, but certain ones of my classmates who were preppier than me but by my calculations not smarter had plans to attend ivy league schools and launch brilliant careers. This would not do. I applied to two colleges, was accepted to both and offered a scholarship to one. I accepted it and got as far as freshman orientation before realizing I didn’t want to go there. For reasons that aren’t relevant to this story, I chose to attend UT-Arlington — a little-known little sister of UT Austin. I felt very certain when I made that decision that I was doing the “wrong” thing but for some reason felt compelled to do it.

I often look at that moment in my life as the turning point for the person I have become. I cannot imagine the person I would be if I had gone to that private school, lived in those dorms, studied with those professors, and partied with those private school kids. Truth was, I’d already spent the past 4 years partying with private school kids, and it wasn’t that fun anymore. I never really fit in. I wasn’t very studious, either. I wasn’t used to trying so when things got to be a little work, I pretended not to care about them. I had my handful of friends in whom I found safety, but I wasn’t growing in my hometown anymore. I needed to move on, even if it was in a direction that looked sketchy at best.

Looking sidelong into this alternate dimension, I see a version of me who is exactly like the girl I was back home, just older. She has read some books and written some things. She has had some interesting lovers but no one she ever respected very much. Except maybe some professor — an affair whose eventual demise would provide her the realization that adults actually don’t know shit. Alternate dimension me looks a lot less happy than I am right now, even though she did everything right. I think she’s still waiting for someone to tell her she’s good enough.

Meanwhile, in this dimension, I’ve been through some shit. I’ve got injuries. I know a couple things about being hurt and hurting others, but I’ve also learned a lot about kindness, and I think that came from making my mistakes.

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Monday Night Nonfiction: Who Showed Up

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Last week, I had a yoga class with only one student. This happens a lot. It’s just part of being a yoga teacher in a small studio, especially when you’re subbing. If only one person shows up, I still hold a class. If no one shows up, I try to stay and do my own practice. This time, I wasn’t feeling so great. I was recovering from the flu, I was groggy from NyQuil, and I’ll admit I would’ve been happy to go back to bed.

The person who showed up was woman in her early 50s who we’ll call Liz. Liz has been a pretty consistent yoga student for some time now, and we’ve practiced together a lot over the summer.

Liz let me know that she’d suffered a dizzy spell in another teacher’s class last week. The episode was a total surprise to her, and she was pretty alarmed by it. The other teacher suggested that it could be caused by dehydration and/or a drop in blood pressure, so Liz was making sure to stay hydrated and had gotten her blood pressure checked. She even had plans to see the eye doctor next to rule out any vision-related causes. I know she has a strong yoga practice and can hang with a pretty intense vinyasa, but this new information made me glad I’d planned a gentle class.

We had a really great practice together. It was slow, meditative, and focused. Rather than moving quickly through a lot of poses, we slowed down and connected with the breath more deeply in each pose. By the end of class, Liz definitely had a greater sense of calm around her. Still, in our closing meditation, her eyebrows were furrowed and her face was tense. Her chest seemed tight, as though her breath wasn’t moving freely. When I closed my eyes to meditate with her, I felt the strangest sense of holding, like a jaw clinched so tight it starts to create dizziness. I know that sounds nutty, but that’s really the sense I got.

When class ended, I said, “Liz, I should’ve asked you this earlier when you told me about your dizzy spell, but … how has life in general been for you lately? Has it been kindof chaotic? Or are things going along normally?”

She immediately began to cry. She told me about a death that took place in her family several months ago and how she simply hadn’t felt the same since. She felt powerless to help her loved ones in addition to some intense grief that she couldn’t really talk to anyone about. It seemed like she mostly needed someone to talk to, but those intense emotions were also creating some major anxiety for her. I told her about a meditation technique I use when dealing with intense emotions in hopes that it would help her.

When Liz left, she seemed a little bit comforted. Maybe being listened to was all she needed. Maybe she’ll try that meditation technique, and it’ll help deal with the emotions. I’m glad she’s checking out possible medical causes for sure! Maybe it’s a little vain of me to think I might have helped someone. All I did was listen and give some potentially useless advice. But I dunno. I felt like I had an opportunity to help someone, which was cool. She left smiling. She gave me a hug. It was a good day.

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the family smirk

It’s not the cost of the ticket that makes it so hard to see you. The things that come between us make a long list.

Oceans of land between us. Oceans of minutes. Oceans of blinks. Oceans of dreams. Oceans of life.

We sit around the fire a while, conjuring new ghosts.

Buddha sits blindly on the bookshelf. I am stretched out on your rug, making myself at home. You are smoking and smouldering. You are apologizing insincerely. This is your home. I shrug. Take adavantage. Pour a glass of absinthe.

The livingroom is bathed in syrup light. The house smells sweet and dirty and coffee.

“This is nice.”
“What?”
“Just sitting here. Being quiet.”

Outside, oak trees are uprooting the sidewalks humorlessly, methodically. It has taken them centuries, and they will never stop. No one dares to stop them. You and I, we know the inevitable decay. It embraces us. We are part of it.

The karaoke bar smells like a plumbing problem and sounds like an education problem. I am the education problem. You are working out the chords. Note the crazy horn player who doesn’t make any music, just bleeps and bloops wildly, the highest level jazz you ever heard. Songs like a drunk animal on the sidewalk.

In a bar red and empty as a heart, we watch biker films and speculate, I speculate, on what it would be like if this bartender were my sister. Her name is Jenny, and you have to ask her out on a date. The parents would hate her, but it could be so much fun. I explain to your friend how we are a cult. He says he knows, and I’m a little insulted.

The things that come between us sometimes dissipate. A bunch of feral cats moved in on your back patio, and you play guitar for them. The sun sets over an endless lake. We are twins separated by this lake of years and space.

The way we recoil like misfired guns. The way we mirror the family smirk.

Abandon all metaphors of windows. Your windows are floor-to-ceiling. Might as well be doors. I am staring at the ceiling and clucking like a dumb old hen.

Forgetfulness rolls in. The bedroom air is cold and dry, but by morning, I’m sweating and parched. I wake to the sweet smell of rain in New Orleans. A crack of light slides in between the floor boards. The cats are calling. You are cursing, lying in bed, one thin wall away, stretching and grunting alone in the nearness.

A siren whistles over the city. It never gets closer or further away, just echos off everything between here and there.

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Anger is the American Condition

This is me reading one of my favorite recent essays this morning while having my coffee. If you watch all the way through, you get to hear me sing for like 3 seconds.

I have this thing for making videos right when I wake up lately. I made this one while sitting on the floor in our front hallway because it was nice and sunny. Sorry the quality is so low, but I pretty much can’t stand using a regular video camera and then having to load the video on my laptop and edit and all that jazz.

Anyway, this relates back to that idea of embracing rage that I wrote about recently, so you can see how embracing what you feel and examining where it comes from leads to something more interesting than just stuffing it.

Also, if you enjoy this and want to get more, sign up for the newsletter. I promise not to spam you or send out messages more than once per week, but I’m going to start sending out occasional updates on what I’m up to, including book updates, videos, announcements, and special content that won’t be available anywhere else. Ta-da!

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