They say that oak pollen is high right now, and so allergies abound in Austin. And maybe allergies affect emotions, because not only have I been ready for bed at 9 pm lately, I've been impossible to rouse in the mornings. I arrive to work 2 minutes after starting time, consistently, with no makeup, wrinkled professional attire, and yesterdayï¿½s hair.
ï¿½Late night?ï¿½ my coworkers ask every day, and I shrug. No. itï¿½s the oak.
Last night, I took myself over to Gregory Plaza on the UT campus, where Don Miller was set to speak at 7 for a ï¿½Deconstructing Christianityï¿½ week. Instead, I sat amongst kids in Christian tshirts, rocking out to bands Iï¿½ve never heard of, playing bland pop on the makeshift stage in front of the Gregory gym steps.
I soon found out that Don would speak last, after 8:30, and since I was feeling claustrophobic from all the people and hopping around (again, the oak), I walked in very uncomfortable shoes to Jamba Juice, where I enjoyed a smoothie and a pretzel. I read an article on Klaus Nomi for awhile, and then hobbled back to the festivities.
And so I sat on the lawn, honorary UT student, and took off my painful shoes. I caught the tail-end of an incredibly energetic slam poet, who looked and sounded like Shaggy (from Scooby Doo, not the reggae meesta lovah lovah guy). He had an affinity for jumping up and down a lot, and I very much enjoyed his spot-on impressions of tv evangelists.
Then Don came on, and spoke bits from his books, with great subtle humor and a calming gentleness. I liked him immediately, and was astonished at just how captive he could keep a rowdy audience. The heart of his message was that our innate self-centeredness/self-consumption keeps the world in conflict, and we spend our lives on how to end that conflict, instead of looking at why: why are we so self-consumed? Why is it so much easier to be complacent than to do the right thing? He asked all sorts of big existential questions, but his gentleness and sincerity disarmed that overwhelming feeling of stifle that typically accompanies such discourse.
I left earlyï¿½the oak was calling me toward bed, and I felt the early twinges of a migraineï¿½but I left encouraged. Encouraged that these kinds of conversations are happening at all, and that people are reading Donï¿½s work. I think that he is a witty, more socially-adjusted John the Baptist, really, and his wide acceptance in the conservative, slow-budging Church is a telling sign that the next generation is about to take the reins of responsibility and change.
my world is cold and without hope read the bumper sticker on the old vw fox in front of me this evening.
i was driving home from petsmart, with 20 lbs of dog food, and filters for tino's house, as well as his first feeder fish, about which i felt like a terrible fish murderer.
who would put such a bumper sticker on their car? i suppose we wear our beliefs on our bumpers anymore: everyone here has an aluminum fish, or an aluminum fish with legs. anti-bush sentiments are a dime a dozen; they're probably more popular than honor student gloating.
i felt immensely sad about such a heart-on-sleeve sentiment, no matter how ironic it was meant to be. i simply felt a moment of the weight of the human condition.
it is saturday night as i write this: easter eve. the drama and violence of good friday has passed, and we wait.
i wait anxiously.
i know that sunday always comes, just like spring. but today is blustery and dark. the rain just won't stop.
anne lamott writes much about hope in plan b. she writes of advent hope and easter hope, which are exactly the same thing: waiting for Jesus. for his birth. for his resurrection. we christians wait around so much, as outside, it rains. it's dark. our memories of all being well dissipate before we can recall them.
but still we hope.
"hope is not logical," anne lamott says. "it always comes as a surprise, when you think all hope is lost. hope is the cousin to grief, and both take time: you can't short-circuit grief, or emptiness, and you can't patch it up with your bicycle tire tube kit. you have to take the next right action."
so what is the right action?
for mister vw fox, maybe it was putting the bumper sticker on his car: this is my world. this is all i think i have to work with here. i don't know. we were in traffic together, that's all.
for me, i think the right action is to prepare for easter morning as best i can, to be present in tomorrow for all it throws at me. i have a tendency toward sadness on easter day. i'm often surrounded by the ghosts of easters past. but whether my emotions join in or not, i will do my best to celebrate the wonder and joy of Life's triumph over death. i will raise my voice with my brothers and sisters, and proclaim it to be so. for this is our hope.
well. if you are searching for information about car seat holsters or the hebrew word for dog, bananie.com is apparently the place to go.
i have absolutely no information for you, but i'm happy to meet you.
wednesday afternoon. lunchtime.
Today is more may than march. I've got a lake breeze carrying the scent of mountain laurel, and pepperoni pizza from the boatyard. Iced tea with three sugars.
Iï¿½m on day 3 in my official ï¿½help desk coordinatorï¿½ position (I've been
hr bitch errand/researcher/ad-placer/filing/copy-making/proofreading girl up until Monday) and I am happy to say that I have begun to hit my stride. I've moved desks, forfeiting my windows for the front of the office, in the very heart of all things HR. no windows, put plenty of foot traffic.
Life is more hectic up here than I anticipated. I usually have on a hands-free headset that allows me to walk about the office while simultaneously taking calls from all walks of life. I am somewhat the human resources bouncer; I decide who gets to talk to this manager or that. Who gets meetings. Et cetera. Yet I, who can barely wade my way through the world of html, also serve as a makeshift tech support girl, as I take calls from the masses regarding our fledgling e-recruit application process:
ï¿½maï¿½am, ok maï¿½am, click on the word ï¿½jobsï¿½. Itï¿½s at the bottom of the screenï¿½no, not there, the bottom. no, donï¿½t click on ï¿½contact usï¿½. Click on ï¿½jobsï¿½. Ohhhhï¿½youï¿½re using the AOL browser? Well that would explain your problems. Do you have another browser? Ok, I understand that you donï¿½t know what a browser is. Do you have an icon on your desktop with a big blue E on it?ï¿½ (b/c even explorer is better than AOL.)
ï¿½and then I inevitably backpedal, because the person on the phone is unfamiliar with such techie words as ï¿½iconï¿½ or ï¿½desktopï¿½ or ï¿½big blue Eï¿½.
I am not exaggerating. The preceding paragraphs are practically verbatim.
I am mostly enjoying myself, though. There are still aspects of what I do that I donï¿½t understandï¿½Iï¿½ve never been good with the language of benefits and retirement plansï¿½but my higher ups are allowing me to trudge along at my own pace, and figure things out myself. I can honestly say that I do not feel as though I am under anyoneï¿½s thumb. And that is a beautiful thing.
Random question of the day: who out there has read blue like jazz? Iï¿½m interested in talking about it.
here in texas, spring has thus far left nothing to the imagination. on saturday, the sun shined brightly, and so the dogs and i sat by the pool for the first time this year. i read anne lamott and wore sunglasses to aid in the constant squinting at the sight of my legs. the pups stretched out on either side of me, panting happily.
and then came the clouds. and the wind. so we went inside, and watched out the window nature showing off. in ten minutes, the temperature dropped twenty degrees, the sky turned black, and rain began to pelt the windows. and then came act two: the sun returned with hail, some of which i fed to charley, who is quite fond of ice cubes.
i have to admit it: nature's schizophrenia scared the shit out of me.
finally, however, she took her meds, and the hail stopped. and everything became bluesky and still. austin exhaled and went on about the day.
and today? this morning was raincoats; the afternoon was umbrellas in cocktails.
i am home sick today from work, having taken on a bit of the ick from the children i spent so much time with in nashville. and so, with gatorade and pretzels by my side (along with charley), i've been digging through my many unpacked boxes brought back with me.
radiohead's amnesiac plays as i find my past in old pictures and candles.
i just came across an age-browned manila folder containing random pages of my father's writing, circa 1989. amongst them are sci-fi story ideas, devotional stories, a resume that begins: "Hi! My name is Bob McCarthy...", and a letter to his brother word processor, on which he wrote faithfully from 1988 until his death in 1997. here is that letter:
Rehearsal Exercise 9/9/89
I'm just banging around to get reacquainted after a few days layoff. Be assured that the mistakes are alive and well, and bigger and better ones are on the horizon! Various birds are in various bushes and nests, God is seated in His Throne, and all is well in the world.
The creative juices are at a low ebb, which undoubtedly is a very good thing because to cope with split infinitives, also adding a few dangling participles, is a thought too tenuous to ponder. Factor in multi-strikes, it makes indeed a prolonged session perilous.
Please get your some 64 Kilobytes of memory in shape, and we will see what we can do to remove some of the cobwebs (mine, not yours, to be sure). I'm sure you are equal to the task.
no one ought wonder where i get my wordiness. i am my father's daughter, trying to further the legacy of grammatical-correctness.
i wish i could post a proper photo of my dad, but he died before digital cameras were all the rage, and i have no scanner. so here is a photo of a photo of him, taken by me, in the bathroom. it's been nearly eight years since we last posed for a picture together.
hey look! it's my face...and it's blue! wow.
Alright bandude, here come your answers:
1) If the world were truly your oyster, where would you choose to live and why.
if the world were truly an oyster, and i the shiny pearl within it, i would make my pearly self a wish: to somehow get rid of arkansas, thus bringing tennessee to border texas for an easier commute between austin and nashville. i would then move most of the midwest elsewhere to make room for the east coast to border me as well. then i would clean out the guest room and invite ireland and england to move in. then, geographically, i'd be happy with everyone i love around me.
2) Who was the very fist person you kissed and what was it like?
it was a boy named maurice, and it was gross. children are not meant to stick their tongues down each other's throats.
3) What’s the strangest thing you saw whilst working in Starbucks?
I would have to say it was the woman who used to come and sit outside all day with her dog. this woman wasn't so much a fan of hygiene, but she loved coffee with soy. and she sat with a bible in front of her, and a notebook in which she wrote furiously for hours. i asked her what she was writing one day, and she said with pride: "a new translation of the bible. God has told me that i've got to rewrite it." a bit freaked out, i tried to change the subject by asking her dog's name. "missy" she said. "it's short for 'messiah'. i named her after jesus." oh, i replied.
4) What’s your favourite cheesy pop track at the moment and why do you like it?
boulevard of broken dreams, definitely. because it stays in my head like matchbox 20's "unwell", and i've learned to befriend such annoyances, instead of trying to avoid them. it never works to avoid them. they come back like hiccups. so i sing green day every 5 minutes instead.
5) Which one writer/author has influenced you the most as a writer?
i think i'll have to go with annie dillard. she has taught me to play with my sentences along the way as i write something whole. her imagery and rhythm and vision have always awakened wonder in me, along with a sense of i-can-do-it-too-ness.
our neighbor and dog caretaker, mel, called while we were driving through fate, texas last night: "charley ate the couch," she said. we were only four hours away from austin, and the dogs had been angels the whole time we were away. charley, apparently, could hold out no longer, and worked out her frustration in the stripping of the cushions. we came home to a warzone, and two very waggy, smiley dogs.
i feel like a horrible parent.
but the couch is salvageable, with the cunning use of cushion-flipping.
this morning, i am drinking my third cup of coffee, and trying not to fall asleep.
my hair looks terrible, and i am pimply and chubby. but happy to be home. after spending three days in nashville with so many of my friends (and missing so many too!) i felt the contentedness of knowing that i still have community; proximity isn't going to change that. and so, returning to austin was relief: i can settle in here and call it "home", and not be afraid.
hopefully, i can impart such revelation to my dog.
hey nashville: if you get this email before around 8 tonight, come on over to the flying saucer! there will be merriment all around.
on a day like today, which is to say, perfect, i have taken to walking myself down the hill and across the street to the water. i find a bench or table, and set up shop with a book, fizzy water (surrogate beer), and cigs. and as i turn pages, i look out onto the lake, and watch the frollicking ducks, quacking away for food.
today, i'm reading plan b, and i can't quite explain how wonderful it is to have new anne lamott words to digest. it's like a family reunion with a beloved, yet neurotic cousin. it is hope in fear written down in the wittiest prose, begging to be dog-eared.
and so my state was peaceful by the water today, and i even got to pretend i was in marin county instead of travis county, texas, alongside west coast water.
in my zen moment, my eye caught two ducks, splashing around playfully. i smiled at God's whimsical creatures, putting on a show just for me. and then i looked a little closer, and realized i was watching duck sex. sordid duck sex that involved the constant flailing and dunking of the female. this went on for a good five minutes, until she finally had enough, and paddled away. the male high fived his buddies.
like a car accident, i watched the whole thing, with a dropped jaw. and then i returned to my book, and found anne lamott escaping to the hills behind her home for prayer and all-around holy experience. and of course, she immediately stepped in dogshit, and spent several minutes cleaning it out of the tread of her shoes with a stick.
last night, after work, i attended my new church's weekly lenten service, which is primarily contemplative prayer. on sundays, we've been studying saints: 2 per week under varying themes like compassion, justice, peace. wednesday nights are reflections on the saints.
last night was peace. sharon, one of the two facillitators, told a story of her dying mother. for the past few weeks, sharon has stayed with her mother in hospice, sitting awake nights to listen to her breathing. " ruach is the hebrew word for the holy spirit, she reminded us. it means breath. it means life. we all breathed at the definition.
on her mother's last day, sharon put her in the "geri-chair", and rolled her into the hospice chapel. in the stillness of the room, sharon asked, "mom, is there anything you need to release? anything you need to say to God?"
her mother breathed, and said, "thank you. thank you." and she smiled. not long after, she died.
"meister eckhart said that we have to run into peace," kate, the other facillitator, told us later. and i suddenly remembered one of my favorite bible verses, long buried inside of me: psalm 34:11: seek peace and pursue it.
peace is not something that falls upon us like an unexpected warm summer rain. "peace is the work of God," kate said.
and peace must start here, she continued. if we are to proclaim "peace on earth..." we must be the runners toward it. and then she smiled, offering a quote from anita roddick: if you don't believe one person can make a difference, you have never been in bed with a mosquito.
with all these words and images, the constriction in my chest loosened itself a bit, and exhaled.
it is lunchtime and the day is beautiful. austin is blueskies and calm. all except the wind.
the world by the water is a windtunnel today, and i was pushed by gusts all the way to the water's edge just now. so i sat down on the deck, and watched. the waves are capping, lightly, and tied up boats groan against their posts. the ducks continue to float along, unaffected by choppiness; they still saunter by with their waggy tails, quacking aflac.
and the sun beats warm on backs today.
there i sat: amidst this midweek beauty, hunched over a cigarette and virginia woolf's jacob's room, somehow unmoved. i couldn't focus. i read the same line over and over, not connecting at all. gibberish, all of it. i might as well have been reading hieroglyphics.
it's my chest. i don't understand it. what has been wide open and peaceful is suddenly constricted, and i am tense and tired. maybe it has something to do with rushing out the door this morning, having overslept. perhaps a nap will fix me.
for now, i've exhausted my words.
back to work.
God bless the onion, and its infinite wisdom:
i am rolling into nashville this weekend, Godwilling, to finish moving my things. i'll be around from late saturday or early sunday to tuesday morning. whirlwind tour, i know. but maybe we could wave at each other in passing, or organize an early st patty's day celebration for sunday or monday night?
well. several days later, the rejection letter hangs conspicuously on the bathroom wall, just in front of the commode.
plan b began to swirl around in my head just after i got my breath back (and it only took about 1/2 hour and one sangria: a teeny fast-break).
i am going to apply here, and hopefully come fall, i'll be reviving my days as a catholic school girl. this program feels more like me anyway. i think i just wanted to see if a competitive writing program would deem me worthy of their education. pride is appropriately in check. now it is back to business. and maybe a masters program that will stretch more parts of me than just my writing self.
so, that is plan b. (as i said to my yayas the other day: plan b = plan better.)
[note to self: go purchase anne lamott's plan b, asap.]
i went shopping this weekend. helen and i were the thrift queens, and i purchased a writing desk via craigslist (an antique art desk), an old wooden swivel chair from goodwill, and a charlie-brown-tree of a bookshelf at thrift town. the cumulative pricetag? $60 + tax.
so i'm settling myself into my happy writing room, hanging shelves and big over the rhine posters (thank you kevie). i'm making it mine. but the pets seem to think otherwise. they have all taken up residence on the sitting chair, the desk. the tile floors are also apparently great for napping.
photos to come.
alright, it is time for me to meet helen for our tuesday lunch, at the boatyard. yumyum.
after work, i walked myself over to mozart's for an au lait by the lake. with the setting sun at my back, i finished giovanni's room. wakes from the ripples of passing boats sloshed below my feet. the temperature slowly dropped after the sun dipped down, and i closed my book. done. wow. i sighed, wiped my hands on my skirt (yes, skirt) and walked to my car.
only, i had a semi-flat tire, and the possibility of a blowout left me with the feeling of utter uh-oh. so i took myself to the nearest 7-11, and immediately realized i had no change for the pump. i walked into the store looking for a man.
i found one. a cowboy stood in front of the counter with a cup of coffee and bag of pork rinds. i got in line beside him and politely said, "sir, i have a legal and wholesome proposition for you: i will pay for your coffee on my card if you wouldn't mind giving me two quarters to put air in my tire."
"well, young lady," he replied, "why don't i just give you fifty cents and we'll call it square?"
he didn't let me respond, quickly placing two quarters on the counter, and pushing them toward me. i thanked him.
with four sturdy tires, i drove home. i was walking over to the mailbox when it occurred to me: what if there is a letter from texas state today? my blood tingled through my body and i yanked open the mailbox. underneath the valu-pak, pre-approved discover cards, and have-you-seen-me mail, sat a thin envelope with my name on it, the return address being one texas state.
i did like they do in the movies. i dropped everything in my hands but the letter and tore it open. my eyes wouldn't focus, initially, and the three paragraphs were gibberish for a moment. finally, i exhaled and read:
dear ms. mccarthy:
thank you for your application blahblahblahblahblah....the dean of the graduate college concurs with the graduate advisor's decision. we are sorry to inform you blahblahblahblahblah.
graduate admissions coordinator
so that's what it feels like to have the wind taken out of your sails. i stood there a moment, disbelieving, dumbfounded, and then walked in the house and wrangled the dogs together for their evening poo.
and now? the first thing i do is blog about it! [cain't no undiscerning graduate school keep me from writin' stuffs.]
i can tell you what comes next, too: i will change into something more comfortable, go pick helen up from work, and enjoy an evening on the town. after that, plan b will take effect. whatever it may be.
it's five o'clock, quittin' time, and the sun is shining through my tall, tall window behind me. my desk is full of pictures now, and my eyes keep resting on the one of my miracle steve sitting next to my dad's guitar on a bench, like they're having a conversation.
it's been another day of being the new girl: rearranging the library, putting together manuals upon manuals (this company is perpetually training people for something, somewhere) along with some more practice at learning my "official" job description.
a coworker caught me on my way out to lunch, and asked if i'd join him. sure, i said. he even called me by name.
so we lunched at the boatyard for an hour. we exchanged stories. we explored our hometowns, education, marital status, and how he found Jesus. "i hope you get to stay here," he told me. since i was hired on as a temp, i may only be here a short time, but there is a [rather] good chance i could be hired on permanently. "i hope so too," i told my new friend. all i know is that at this moment, i am in the right place.
what you learn right off in a new job is all about social interaction. for example, how do you answer the question, "why did you move to austin?" or "how do you like doing admin work?" etc. you learn what is acceptable versus what will make you sound like the office weirdo, and you nod and smile a lot.
outside, it's a different story. gathered around the gilded ashtray (we have no watercooler, and even if we did, you certainly couldn't smoke next to it) everyone talks about what is really on their minds. i'm the new girl of course, so it is my job to listen and be impressed or outraged, whatever the appropriate response should be.
here, however, at this organization whose lifeblood is water, the guys and gals talk about the weather like they mean it. they talk doppler-speak, and floodtalk. they're abreast of what all the dams are doing in the area. they're really smart. and they've all worked here forever; one guy i met (who smokes menthols, ick) has been an employee for over 27 years. and he's still smiling about it.
ok, i'm off to be educated and nicotined.
i just came back from hula hut and a lunch of flautas with helen. nothing like mexonesian cuisine! here's a view of just how lovely it is, and yes, it is that beautiful today:
ok, here is a brief update:
it is tuesday morning and i am in a [gasp] skirt. i've just finished my yogurt, and am awaiting my next round of training. in the meantime, i'm sitting at my temporary desk, which is seated in the mother of all cubicles: high walls, luscious space, a bookcase, and: two enormous windows overlooking the hills.
oh, and my computer is brand new. fantastic.
thus far, i like it here. the people have been very nice to me, and a couple of the higher-ups have even said that they'd like to employ my writing "skillset" in the near future.
i am soooo the new girl, though. the only appointment in my daytimer today is lunch at hula hut with helen at noon.
for now, mission one is to locate some coffee, and stop the good people in employee services from making the flavored kind...