Monday, November 28, 2005

It's been an eventful and purposeful few days. I accepted the Arizona VISTA job; my old boss from Chicago came through like a champ with the reference; the man who's going to be my new boss, Steve Martin (not the famous actor and writer but a very funny guy nonetheless)told me that not only would I get a moving allowance, they would pay me 48 cents per mile driven AND I could ship my things at Americorps' expense (Thanks, federal programs! What else can I get for free? Oh, health insurance? For little me? Why goodness gracious!).

Also, the woman from the Philadelphia program, for whom my respect grows and grows, called and was genuinely nice about my change of heart. For some reason I was worried. And then I got an email from a friend of a friend who lives in Tempe and that was very encouraging.

Mom and I looked at a big map of Arizona today and fantasized about how great it's going to be. Maybe I'll finally get to see the Grand Canyon. It's not that far. She was reminiscing about the trip she took with Dad through that part of the country and told me about the time they got stranded in a snowstorm in Colorado Springs when their Mercedes convertible broke down.

On Friday I was dragging myself around and finally decided to go out. I ended up in a storefront in York where they teach swing dance lessons for an hour then dance until midnight. So I learned some basic steps but there were many more women than men so I learned the leading parts, which made it tricky during the dancing later when I had to stop using arm muscles or trying to control things. It's more fun to be the woman, though, because of all the spins and turns. Lucky me, the most fun partner I had, a perky middle-aged guy who scats to the music while he dances, introduced me to his friend. I'm going to call the friend Barney, short for Barnacle, because he is one.

Barney and I got along so well with the witty repartee and insightful conversation that we were unable to dance together effectively. So we sat and conversed, then went to dinner and conversed, and at the end of dinner there was kissing and pants were on fire, but with nowhere really to go and his friend waiting, the one night stand I was hoping for was impossible. So we parted and I went to meet Lauren at a smoky bar where a famous dj was playing rave music from 1995 and I had a great night.

The next day I got very little sleep, worked in the cafe a little, and held a very small meeting about New Year's, then called Barney, then drove an hour to meet Barney, then went with Barney and friend to another swing dance. This one was in a high school gym, which didn't bug me much except for the school smell and the crappy audio. By this time Barney had decided that we were enough of an item that he was allowed to keep his hand in my back pocket sometimes, as well as stick his hand out behind him while walking ahead of me like he wanted me to hold it, kind of the gesture you make to a small child who is lagging. Okay, I thought, I'll go along with this, because my pants are on fire. And we had a good time, learning to dance, throwing little deflated kickballs into the basketball hoops, spinning and spinning, making out sloppily in the hallway until we got caught by Barney's buddy, who is a decent Christian man. I don't know exactly when the tide turned for me. It could have been when Barney invited me to his church and acted like he had just assumed we would be spending EVERY FREE DAY together. Or maybe it was when he agonized over whether or not it was moral to have sex at this point, since Aristotle wrote that the basest, most low-down dirty short-lived unfulfilling relationships are based on pleasure, and the true friend cares about his friend, and only has sex when absolutely necessary, and he read me the relevant passage with the sincerest look on his face, and I just wanted to look away from that little head-tilt and the penetrating stare that said: Are you the one? Are you good enough to wife?

So I may be a sex pig but at least I'm not going to go changing into a perfect angel for somebody else.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

I nearly forgot about this situation that happened in the video store the other day. I was standing there looking at a dvd when a large man bumped into me on purpose. It was like somebody had just pushed a warm cushy blanket into my back. Getting touched from behind triggers negative childhood memories about an over-friendly greasy old substitute teacher, so I gave the guy, who was trailing a small boy, a dirty look and kept reading the back of my dvd. I guess his preliminary investigation was satisfactory, so he gave himself a mental go sign and tried a frontal approach. "Hey, don't I know you from somewhere? Did you go to [some high school]? Do you go to The Hop?" Later, I find out from my mom that The Hop is a club specializing in singles dances, particularly for the over-55 crowd, and that my grandma used to go there with her caretaker Vicki.

I suddenly lost interest in telling this story. It was just sad and ridiculous and annoying. The joker kept looking me up and down like maybe if he got lucky a breast would pop out. He insisted on giving me his number even though I told him I wasn't going to call him, not now, not ever, and that I was leaving and wasn't even interested in making new friends, much less starting a romantic entanglement with a divorced 36-year-old. I'd feel sorry for the guy if he wasn't so obviously a jerk. What a fucked up sad little life it is.

Lately in conversations the topic of gender difference has been coming up, a lot. I can think of three very intense and pertinent instances and then there's this subtext running underneath everything, like books I'm reading and articles and NPR stories too. So I'm thinking again about the difference between boys and girls. These days I feel like I might enjoy being a man for a while because it seems like they get a little more slack, emotionally, than women do, and I'm tired of ripping myself apart every day. Men's emotional lives look empty but peaceful from here, like a nice landscape with pretty pastures and cows grazing even though there's probably an earthquake about to happen that going to spew dirt and rocks up out of the ground and the cows will all die mooing brokenly and falling forever and ever into giant cracks, right into the center of the world.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Wow what a time of rage and wrath it is for me. Impressive outpourings of violent lashings-out are wanting to happen, with nobody around to lash out at. I am so glad not to be inclined towards self-injury. Anybody who fucks with me today is going to get their eyes scratched out of their heads and shoved down their stupid throats, though. Not that anybody is going to bother me, since I'm wrapped in this invisible red armor.

I got good news, great news. Yesterday I was out of sorts, just pissed off and bored, slapping paint on the walls of Steve's unattractive condo in Maryland, and every time I said anything to him he'd go off on a riff, for pete's sake, about whatever I'd said, in the most annoying way. Like I'd talk about the dry heat in the Southwest and he'd talk about how you just HAVE to carry water wherever you go, it's dry but you'll dry OUT, and I'd say I like not sweating and he'd say, OHHH HO you sure ARE sweating, it's just EVAPORATING because of the DRYNESS, and he knows because he grew up in Florida the difference between humid heat and dry heat and he can take both but the thing is, THE THING IS, when it's dry you have to carry water and you feel THIRSTY, so it's more difficult. Well, that's the gist. Anyway after I finished painting and started to drive away I got a call from the Americorps program in Tempe and they want me to work there and they didn't even take a week to think about it, they were obviously so excited about the interview and they knew I was the one right away. It took all my self control to not hoot into the phone in excitement and jubilation. So now I have a choice that I'm actually happy about getting to make. Obviously I am inclined to move where it's warm all the time and the people aren't so uptight. I already told the Philly program I'd work there, though, so I may feel a little bad extricating myself from that commitment. You know what, though, other people ditch their commitments all the time, even important commitments to people they love, without appearing to feel a touch of guilt. Other people fucking betray their closest confidantes without giving a thought to the ruination they bring on their own shriveled little ungrateful selfish souls by completely ignoring the strong and valid emotions of others that are totally based in reality and not in some fantasy world of unreasonable expectations. Other people lie to themselves and the people around them because they don't want to look unattractive or deal with feeling bad. That's life in the universe, right? So it's OK if I tell these nice Christian community center people I sort of know and definitely like, Thanks, but no thanks, I'm moving to sunny Arizona. The traffic is much better out there and I need to work on my year-round tan and I'm tired of having cold hands all the time.

I only got a couple of hours of sleep last night. I was anxious over the logistics of accepting one job and rejecting another, worried that neither would work out and I'd be back where I started with the resumes and cover letters and phone calls and dead-end stupid house painting jobs and living in a tiny, thin-walled room near the blaring TV in my parents' house. Loserville. Heartbreak Hotel. Prozactown. Out of Control Sobbing and Screaming Villas. So I had all these dreams about how Estela was going to somehow fuck up my acceptance process in Tempe or how I'd accidentally signed a binding contract and couldn't escape. For some reason a cute, muscular mulatto-loooking guy named Colorado kept showing up too, wanting to kiss. You just take the good with the bad, I guess, my gosh.
Oh things are moving along. I think I've committed myself to throwing a New Year's fundraiser party here. At least to the preliminary stages. How fun is it to make flyers and organize meetings?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Today I have this unconquerable pain deep in both sides of my buttocks and all down both legs. I think it's from doing capoeira drills day before yesterday and then yoga yesterday and then working ten hours in the cafe without getting to sit down more than once. I made so many sandwiches! Anyway I keep sort of reflexively massaging the problem area.

I had a really great phone interview with an Americorps program in Tempe, AZ. There was a lot of good-natured laughter over the inherent chaos and disorganization of non-profit organizations. I'm trying not to attach too much to the idea of living there, but it's hard when my heart literally skips a beat at the thought of escaping the east coast in the middle of winter. The Philadelphia program has already selected me, so at least I definitely have a job come January that will get me out of York County. Kass at the cafe persists in his hopeful delusion that I will suddenly change my mind and decide to work for him forever at six dollars an hour mixing smoothies and tossing salad. And there is plenty of house painting to do, so i don't lack for work. And I have Spanish homework to do, which I enjoy, and Trish to talk with every now and then, and a few acquaintances to have drinks with, and some kind of art event to organize, and a performance to throw together. So I am going to try to be content with this unchosen, patched-together life for now.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

so cold

Every time things seem hunky dory for a while a sudden shift occurs which makes me realize I don't know anything. Today it's really really cold and that did it. I painted some window frames outside for a couple of hours until my hands got chapped and red, even though I was wearing gloves.

I got a rush of inspiration and joy the other day because I thought of a performance I wanted to do. All day i thought about it and wrote about it. Thinking about the performance made me think of where to perform it, which led me to wanting to organize a massive arty party event for maybe new year's. So I'm on the lookout for potential spaces, even though there's a part of me that's really negative about living here and I'm not sure the people here deserve my hard work. That's just because i don't have any friends, though. Anyway it's nice to have an idea.

So I'm going to throw my whole self into translating some Spanish stories and maybe the mood will clear.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The most annoying day

...of my recent life was yesterday. Holy shit am i glad for today.

It's beautiful out, so clear and warm I'm going to go take a walk in a minute.

I've been thinking a lot about California lately and San Diego in particular, since i might get a job out there with Americorps. How everybody seems to ride big cruisers with fancy fenders instead of normal street bikes, and how the houses by the beach look so cozy. Also the park where the planes fly close overhead on their way to land at the airport and how soon after one goes by the wind rushes in a vortex around the tops of the trees and makes an unearthly noise.

Friday, November 11, 2005

a mouse

This morning when I wanted to toast some bread, a little mouse jumped out of the toaster. Can you believe it?

All day I've been thinking about how to get out of here. I'm going to hear from a program in San Diego soon and if they hire me I might accept. It's getting cold here.

I woke up on the tail end of a dream about partying with the mayor. He was ordering drinks from the bar and the bartender said, "Do you want well vodka or something special?" and the mayor was acting arrogant, like "How dare you venture to suggest that I drink well vodka? Do you know who I am?" In my dream I was uncomfortable with his rude behavior, so I said loudly, "Let's have some really good vodka because we want to throw up something that doesn't taste so bad when we're speeding through town at eighty miles per hour on the Vespa! Ha ha ha ha!" Everybody laughed and the tension dissolved. The whole dream seemed very plausible, except when I woke up I was thinking there's no way a Vespa's going eighty miles per hour.

Local Politics

Dearest Darlings,

Tonight I went out drinking with the newly re-elected mayor of York. I've never gotten drunk with a mayor before. He's pretty friendly, likes his beer. At one point the bar was kind of crowded and somebody pushed past me so I ended up kind of encountering more of the mayor than I intended, and i said, "Hellooooo mayor," in a loud obnoxious voice and smirked at him as if I were a middle-aged lounge singer on the verge of pinching his bottom.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Last night was Spanish class and I was totally unprepared. It was the last class of the session, so we all met at El Rodeo, a Mexican restaurant that used to be a Wendy's from the look of it and that sits in the shadow of a giant billboard by the highway. I ordered una cerveza without looking at what anybody else was having, so of course I was the only one drinking. No big deal. But also Lauren and I had forgotten to do our homework, which was calling each other and having a phone conversation in spanish and then sharing it with the profesora. So we improvised a conversation in which I displayed my skill in saying "I don't know" and "I forget the past preterite tense" in Spanish. I guess the whole episode was no big deal, actually. But it made me think I need to concentrate on my academic responsibilities.

Yesterday was really great, now that I think of it. After my doctor's appointment I went to the art store and bought a new set of oil pastels and a 6B pencil with my hard-earned money. I spent a couple of hours in the coffeeshop chatting and drawing pictures and drinking tea, which was a nice break from working like a maniac. I'm a little lonely for friends so whenever I meet anybody interesting we usually have a fascinating conversation.

Today was a little rockier. I started off with great intentions and a fantastic attitude. I'm trying to be better friends with my mom since I'm stuck here and she's very kind to me. So my plan was to spend all day helping her with the house, stripping paint and painting woodwork and whatever else she wanted to do. I was doing fine until early afternoon when she wanted to take a break and go run errands. Here is what I learned:

No matter how positive my mood, as soon as I get into a car alone with my mother, the rest of the day is trashed, irretrievable, hopeless. I don't know if it's some deep-seated un-dealt-with childhood trauma, or just that we interact extremely poorly in enclosed spaces. Maybe I'm just sick of driving in cars and because I'm with my mother I feel I can't distract myself from being sick of driving with my usual repertoire of car entertainments. Whatever it is, I felt myself diving into an opaque cloud of crabbiness that hasn't cleared until THIS VERY MOMENT.

Goodnight, sweetness.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

A continuation of our thrilling narrative

So. I go to meet this joker in Fisher's, a nice bar and restaurant downtown. I'm still wearing my same clothes from earlier, only dirtier. The classier patrons give me the hairy eyeball. He shows up in a velvety top and nice shoes and insists on paying for my one drink and then decides to tag along to the "art opening." I put that in scare quotes because it was only an opening in the loosest sense of the word, since we were the only people there. Imagine the awkwardness of an under-attended junior high school dance, subtract the music, and place the whole scene in somebody's unattractive apartment, and you get the zeitgeist of the evening. And, to make things more stupid and awkward, Rich impulsively purchases the cheapest piece of art off the wall and presents it to me as a gift. Verrry impressive. It's still in the backseat of my car waiting to appreciate in value.

Overwhelmed by despair and ennui, I dropped my new friend off at his hotel and went to see if I could drag Steve out of his building, but he was enraptured by the Ultimate Fighting Championship on TV and was unable to move. UFC, as far as I can tell, is like boxing but with all the dirty moves boxers aren't allowed to use, like kicking and grabbing and squeezing the life out of the other guy. Pretty violent. So I was feeling low enough to give up my original plan for the evening, which was to eventually drive to Harrisburg and go dancing. I was in the car on the way home when this big bubble of sadness finally popped and I let out a loud, prolonged scream and suddenly decided i was going to take myself out on a goddam date and nothing was going to stop me.

I ended up at Stallions, a gay club on Third Street in Harrisburg with a funny scene. It's pretty comfortable but the main action seems to be along the edges of the dance floor where people stand and watch the dancers and the ceilings are kind of low so it's slightly claustrophobic. There was an amazing-looking trannie with scraps of fabric in beautiful autumnal colors hanging off her, sort of a caribbean or african type costume, very proud and haughty. A flamboyantly drunk man holding a pitcher of beer grabbed my arm and yelled, "Oh, you are just a CUTIE PATOOTIE!" and kept repeating that throughout the evening, to a point of total ridiculousness where I sort of started to feel like, yes, I AM a cutie patootie, that is what I am. The music wasn't amazing but oh well, I danced with Mr. Drunk's friend Lois for a while. She would just shift from foot to foot and occasionally wave her arms and meanwhile I was giving it my all, doing spins and slides and dramatic moves where I'd look erotically over my shoulder and then drop into a yoga lunge and then jump up and clap my hands. Things went on like this for two hours and I was sweating buckets, probably flinging my hot perspiration on everybody around me every time I turned my head, and eventually my new friends moved not-so-diplomatically to another part of the dance floor. Mission accomplished!


What an unbelievably strange day I had. I've been working like a maniac, trying to make money and wear myself out, so Saturday was the first day in a while when I told myself I would just get up, run, stretch, and then take it easy. Of course my idea of taking it easy is getting in the car, driving 30 miles to York, getting a big latte with soymilk, and then walking around for miles downtown. On the drive I had the music turned way up and was singing loudly and dancing with as much abandon as I could manage inside the car, shoulders jumping up and down, arms flailing rhythmically, occasionally popping out of the sunroof or window, voguing and making faces. A car with what looked like a dad and several kids followed behind me the whole way, getting more and more amused by my antics. Dad even ran two red lights to stay behind me. Quite a performance.

So i went into the farmer's market to check out the health food stand and starting talking to an builder who designs low-impact environmentally friendly houses, like earth ships. His new thing is planting trees and manipulating them to grow into dwellings. I liked his long hair and weathered, bearded face. Then when I was standing at the gyros stand waiting to get a spinach pie a chubby black guy visiting from D.C. started talking to me. He started off asking if we could get together for a drink and I turned him down flat but he kept talking to me friendly-like so I finally ended up agreeing to meet him later. I don't know what I was thinking since I didn't find him the least bit attractive but I guess I've been grateful before to have unexpected company in strange cities so maybe that's why.

Then a strange coincidence occurred. I went into a gallery to check out art and flyers and picked up one for an art opening party that night. No big deal. But later I went into a different gallery looking for this famous European artist and ended up talking to the woman whose opening it was. Immediately I got excited, thinking, Oh my gosh, I'm invited to a real party at last! My days and nights of lonesome wandering will be relieved!

I did end up deciding to do some work after all and painted Steve's bathroom floor orange. When it was time to meet Rich, the chubby guy, for drinks, I was nice and sweaty and slightly dusty, so it was pretty obvious I wasn't trying to impress anybody or regard the evening as a date.

I'm going to have to finish this later because I have to go get my pussy examined.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

a writer has to write about something

Just signed up to write a novel this month.

when work is not work

I just had a nice time with my coworker Noemi, who is from El Salvador. We're helping each other with our languages. My Spanish is only slightly less bad than her English, so it's tricky. We spent some time naming things in the kitchen, then I showed her my little book with drawings from Mexico and explained brokenly about traveling there, and then she wanted me to draw a picture of her so I did. It's very hard to talk to somebody normally when you don't know the right words for ideas like "soon," or "before," or "let's replace that with a clean plate." But for a few minutes there while i was drawing a rather subdued picture i felt peaceful and not too worried about the comprehension thing.

Otherwise the day has been getting pretty long and boring. There was an exciting little rush of people wanting to eat at lunchtime, and then nothing for three and a half hours now.

My new sleeping position is either flat on my back with my feet underneath a pillow that I keep under the covers or awkwardly curled up on my right side, since i have a strange little rash or breakout or something on the left side of my face. it's not like a deformity or anything but it's making me feel a bit old, like I'm over the late adolescent/early-20s grace period when everyone's as beautiful as they're going to get unless they develop a sudden new sense of confidence in middle age and now I'm moving into a late-20s kind of faint seaminess. My shoes are about three years old I think and my hair is unkempt and too long for my spartan tastes and now the old skin starts developing bumps and problem areas.

Good dog!

So I've got a job at a cafe now. For six dollars an hour I use my amazing brain to clean various surfaces and talk to people who are hungry or at least want the taste of something in their mouths. I also get free food and soy lattes and today I am listening to Prince. My whole world is dominated by smells, like the food smell I walk out of there with (this is a nice clean cafe with fresh organic ingredients, and i still smell like a goddamned hamburger) and the kitty cat smell at my parents' house that sometimes blossoms into something both disgusting and complex.

For kicks, I also help my new friend Steve paint the computer store he's opening up downtown. This is usually pretty entertaining. Steve's a good talker and has lots of opinions. Besides paying fairly generously for the privilege of watching me exercise my magical techniques with paint and linoleum, he is very nice about buying dinner. Oh, here comes a customer! No, I was mistaken. He is going next door.

My third little job is helping my parents remodel their ancient farmhouse. I don't even feel like writing about this, it's pretty self-evident.

I am boring myself with this blog experiment, perhaps because my life is a little boring at the moment. Rest assured, however, that when Donna sets out to do a thing, she does it to the very best of her own personal ability and therefore this blog, like the floor she just mopped so carefully, so lovingly, is everything it should be.