28 Jan 2019

Extremely Prolific Writer Update!

Written by sally @ 7:40 am — Section: sally

Update: I did finish and submit the story! The way it works is that all 4,500 people who entered the contest are assigned to various heats that dictate the genre, subject, and character in the story. Then if you win that heat you move on to the next round. I was assigned comedy, incompetence, astronomer. (I learned a lot about interstellar medium in this process, mainly the fact that there is something called “interstellar medium.”) It wasn’t very good, but it got done, and now I can proudly say I have written two stories ever.

25 Jan 2019

I’ll Wrap Around You.

Written by sally @ 5:06 pm — Section: sally

I’ve mentioned my freakout dreams before, which are technically called hypnagogic hallucinations, though I think “freakout dreams” is more descriptive and less showoffy. I haven’t had many recently, though apparently it’s either a pen floating merrily through my room OR it’s camo-clad men and their dogs climbing through a painting.

They started in the summer of 1996 when I lived in Starkville, and like I said in that older blog post, started with spiders. Because look, if you thought there was a spider on your pillow, that’s believable, right? It was just that the spiders multiplied, and then became tarantulas, and then mice, etc. Anyway, I haven’t seen a spider in a freakout dream in 20+ years!

Last night I was listening to the Velvet Crush song “Time Wraps Around You,” which, incidentally, is very much tied in my brain to the summer of 1996 and the person I was dating then. I turned it off, I went to bed, and THEN GUESS WHAT HAPPENED?

There were spiders! A cone shape of light was shining on the bed kind of like a cabaret and silver spiders were turning and glistening in their Liza Minelli moment! I screamed, I turned on the light, the spiders disappeared, and I think it’s best I stay away from the Velvet Crush.

22 Jan 2019

Cool Your Operations.

Written by sally @ 2:42 pm — Section: sally

I stupidly signed up for a short story writing contest, even though I have only written one (1) short story in my LIFE, and it was in 1994. They assign you a genre, a situation, and a character, and you have a week to write it. It is due on Saturday. I have written 341 words and all of them are terrible. However, if I at least finish, I will have written two (2) short stories in my life, and that is a good thing.

I saw The Favourite, and I loved it. Then I saw on Facebook that an older lady I know also saw it, who said, “I don’t know what to say about The Favourite. It was a different kind of movie for me.” #lesbians

The Prime version of Vanity Fair was awesome, and I loved it. It took me a couple of weeks to watch the whole thing because my stress level just can’t take anything these days. Mild stress brought on by an adaptation of a 19th c. novel is just as real as whatever it is you people with real problems get stressed about, ok?

A coworker was talking about her crummy husband and said, “As my mama would’ve said, he done tore his britches with me.” I like that, and while I will not be saying it, probably, I will certainly be thinking it when people cross the line. Do you bite your thumb at me, sir? You’ve torn your britches with me, sir! She also said her mother was fond of saying, “He’s not worth the salt that goes into the bread,” but that’s a little wordy. I didn’t say anything because her mother died recently.

I routinely interact with someone who can’t pronounce words correctly, and you know I find this amusing. A few weeks ago she said, “We’ll have to give them coodles for that,” and it took me a moment, but I eventually got there. I gotta give her coodles for screwing up kudos so charmingly.

My beloved Mary Oliver died last week! She is everyone’s beloved Mary Oliver, or should be. She’s a model for how to appreciate and be astonished by the world. In a weird way her body of work reminds me of the Catherine Wheel song “Here Comes the Fat Controller” (bear with me here) and its instructions for how to be better:

Don’t you think that it’s about now
that you cooled your operations
and be generous somehow?
Don’t you think the sarcasm’s a little hard to stomach?
Your cynicism’s boring!

A search reveals that the last time I referenced this song here, I was full of joy for the world. Oh, baby Sally of 2013. I wish I could bottle that feeling for us both, or at least invent a time machine that sends you back in time via blog post. I’m not regretful, but I am wistful. (Updated to add: apparently they’re synonymous? Ok. So I guess I mean I don’t regret anything that’s happened, but maybe I wish I’d enjoyed it more while it lasted?)

13 Dec 2018

Wacko, not Weirdo.

Written by sally @ 3:58 pm — Section: sally

I set a Goodreads goal of reading 50 books this year, and a few days ago I panicked when I realized I had only read 47. I enjoy setting an arbitrary goal that no one cares or knows about and then taking it very seriously, I guess. (Old schoolers: remember that time I posted every day for a YEAR?) I read Lucy Knisley’s Something New (#48! I liked it, but not as much as Relish) and then took to my shelves at home looking for a thin volume I could knock out.

I’ve always been a big reader, though for most of my childhood/preteendom I read a lot of teen garbage. All the Sweet Valley Highs. ALL OF THEM. I’d get a stack for Christmas and have finished a couple by the time we got to my grandparents’ house. I read and loved The Westing Game and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, but I really loved that teen garbage.

One of my favorites was called The Rise and Fall of a Teen-Age Wacko. (I could’ve sworn on my life it was Weirdo, not Wacko, but it’s Wacko). It must’ve been one of the books I kept at my dad’s house and really read over and over because at some point the spine broke and half the pages fell out. I bought a copy (with all the pages in it) from Thrift Books a couple of years ago and didn’t read it then, but it was perfect for my purposes this week.

What I remembered: a girl stays in Manhattan by herself with a babysitting job, which she announces to her parents like this: “I’ve a job”; she has a little sister who at one point says “I put my money in a safe place: I keep my coins in my mouth”; Woody Allen is involved; there is a part where her dad has a moped which I read as in “I moped around the house” but was actually “small lame motorcycle thing.” And that’s about it! So yesterday I read it. (#49!)

First, the cover is divine.

There was much I’d forgotten, obviously, but so much that was familiar. The narrator goes to Bloomingdale’s and buys an outfit that includes a “chocolate tee” and I remember being fascinated that a teenage girl would spend money on a brown shirt. Like, it’s a brown tshirt? Ok. But in context this time it seemed to make sense, perhaps because I am old enough now to enjoy a brown shirt. She takes her babysitting charge on truly fun-sounding New York adventures that I want to go on as well — the Morgan Library and auctions where you can buy a vintage dress for $40 and it fits you perfectly and you feel like Gene Tierney!

But the Woody Allen part was a much bigger deal that I remembered. I knew that she somehow fell down and was thus in a Woody Allen movie; I’d forgotten that after she falls down and accidentally gets into a Woody Allen movie, she reads that he scrapped the project and then decides to become obsessed with Woody Allen and like, stalk him around town in order to get into another Woody Allen movie. She goes to Elaine’s on a night he’s supposed to be there, she reads that he’s filming another movie and just walks down to a creepy dark park alone and some dudes on rollerskates with painted clown faces scoot out of the darkness towards her, and then a police car drives up and she runs towards it and the cop gets out and HE has a creepy painted clown face too, and it turns out someone is filming a horror movie and now she has messed up the shot. Then she goes home and her dad has come back into town and is worried about her and she has told a lot of lies and everyone is mad at her but then at the end everything is fine.

Anyway, let me end this by saying that unless you spent a lot of time rereading this book in your formative years, there is pretty much zero reason for you to seek out and read this book. Unless teen Woody Allen fan fiction featuring chocolate tees appeals to you, and you are trying very hard to meet an arbitrary reading goal, of course.

3 Dec 2018

Peach Pie, Petrie.

Written by sally @ 8:26 am — Section: sally

1. I flew too close to the sun. I flirted where I should not have flirted.

After two months of avoiding gluten, Thanksgiving came. I was mostly strong! And then my aunt said she made a peach pie. And I could not resist. And I ate of the pie, and awaited disaster. And then…no disaster came. There was nary a rumble from the gluten zone. The next day, I waited. Still nothing. So I did the sensible thing, which was to assume that perhaps eating gluten very occasionally would not disrupt my system, and to go back to not eating gluten at all.

THAT IS NOT WHAT I DID.

I ate a pizza. Yes. A whole pizza. (Half for lunch, half for dinner, but still.) Nothing happened! It was a Thanksgluten Day miracle!

Over the next few days, I ate a remarkable amount of gluten. A lot of it was also garbage, like a Filet-o-Fish. And a Big Mac. A pulled pork sandwich. REGULAR BROWNIES. Flour tortillas! Lasagna!

AND THEN.

Without going into too many details (#diarrheapartyUSA), let’s just say I am back on the gluten-free train.

2. On Saturday, Spike had a friend over. The kid was playing basketball with the world’s crustiest soccer ball we found in the yard while Spike came inside to change his shoes. Then I got a text from my neighbor: “Is there supposed to be a child peeing in your driveway???” Y’all, this kid just decided to pee in the driveway. Like, we got bathrooms, and a private yard, even, but peeing right here where another house is but a few yards away and has no window treatments — now that’s some fun. (I’m all for outside pee times. Spike even has a designated Pee Tree he is allowed to pee on because it is out of sight! Now I’m thinking of Rob Petrie for some reason.)

I went outside a little while later.

Me: Hey friends, I hear there may have been some peeing out here. Let’s use the actual toilet next time, ok?
Pee Friend: YEAH, SPIKE.
Spike: Mom, we didn’t pee!
Me: I didn’t say YOU peed, did I?
Pee friend: YEAH, SPIKE. DON’T PEE OUT HERE.
Spike: Mom, seriously!
Me (looking at Pee Friend): TOILET.

17 Oct 2018

Two Weeks of Gluten-Free Eating: Observations and Whining.

Written by sally @ 10:10 am — Section: sally

So, it turns out that gluten is in everything delicious. And not just delicious, but convenient. No wonder I had a stomachache every day for 45 years! I was a glutenophile! I’m surprised there was any gluten left for the rest of you jokers. I was eating it all.

While there is plenty of stuff out there that is also delicious, and I am eating that stuff, it is not convenient. No sandwich or burger or pizza or burrito wrapped in a delicious flour tortilla. WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO EAT FOR LUNCH? I am eating a lot of stupid salads. I previously only really ate salads in order to eat croutons. This small pleasure in life is now gone.

I thought I could just break down and eat some gluten occasionally and just roll with a stomachache, but what I didn’t know is that once it’s gone from your system, if you accidentally eat some, it’s so much worse. MUCH WORSE. I’ve accidentally eaten it a couple of times and the results were not ideal. So while I think abstractly about a cheeseburger from Rooster’s, I know that that cheeseburger wants to kill me.

There are lots of gluten-free versions of gluteny foods, and some are fine. The bread is not fine. NOT FINE. Granted, I have tried one brand, so maybe there is another brand out there that does not taste and feel like a dirty sponge, but I’m wary. It looked like bread, but so does this. Edited to add: this is my new favorite website! What the heck are people using this fake food for?!

Anyway, last night I tried a gluten-free hamburger bun. I sliced it in half to butter and toast it. I should’ve known something was amiss when the inside was kind of shimmery and translucent, like rice. I made it through half the hamburger before I gave up. I have never only eaten half a hamburger when presented with a whole hamburger in my life.

I’m sure I’ll get used to this, right? Humans are resilient and adaptable! Who knows, maybe I will start a trend when I break down and use two halves of a baked potato as a hamburger bun.

14 Oct 2018

Devotions, Redux.

Written by sally @ 1:42 pm — Section: sally

I’ve made a Mary Oliver Frankenstein poem from the pages of Devotions. Oliver’s delight in the world is inspiring. I don’t want to mythologize her, but none of her poems are about how she was a real jerk that one time; they’re all about a whippoorwill and the dappled light and the crispness of an apple, and mostly unspoken gratitude for all of it. (Surely she’s been a jerk at least once, right?) Her poems make me want to be a better human on the planet. Oh, Mary Oliver Poems, you’re as close as I’m ever going to get to reading scripture.

“How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.”

Another morning and I wake with thirst for the goodness I do not have.

You want to cry aloud for your mistakes. But to tell the truth the world
doesn’t need any more of that sound.

I tell you this
to break your heart,
by which I mean only
that it break open and never close again
to the rest of the world.

There are many ways to perish, or to flourish.
How old pain, for example, can stall us at the threshold of function.
Memory: a golden bowl, or a basement without light.

Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?

We do one thing or another; we stay the same, or we
change.
Congratulations, if
you have changed.

What I want to say is
that the past is the past,
and the present is what your life is,
and you are capable
of choosing what that will be,
darling citizen.

Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

The poems, in approximate order of appearance, though I did some shuffling and now they’re all out of order):“Thirst”

“The Poet with His Face in His Hands”

“Lead”

“Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches”

“Evidence”

“To Begin With, the Sweet Grass”

“Mornings at Blackwater”

“When Death Comes”

11 Oct 2018

Too Close to Home, Too Near the Bone.

Written by sally @ 9:59 am — Section: sally

Last night I went for drinks with a couple of friends, and when I got home, it was dark. Unfortunately it getting dark at night is a thing that happens regularly. I got out of my car, and I thought I heard a voice say “hello.” Hello? I said. Hello? No answer. I sped-walked (speed-walked? speededed-walkeded?) to the spot where the motion light would come on. Thankfully there was no one there, but I was so scared that I went inside and cried for an hour.

I let people know about my weirdnesses so I’m not caught off guard: I have to eat lunch early or else I turn into a monster. I don’t like public hugging. I hate surprise parties. I’m afraid of getting murdered. Basically my nightmare would be a surprise party with no food in which everyone hugs me and then takes turns murdering me.

I haven’t always been particularly afraid of murderers, and I envy my pre-fear self for moving about in the world without that particular baggage. As it is, now I carry it around with me, sometimes shifting the weight so it doesn’t feel like that much of a burden. In a certain light, I can convince myself that it keeps me safe.

A few years ago, I briefly dated a man who ended up scaring me. One night he got angry and spoke to me with such rage that I was convinced that he was going to kill me. Obviously, I ended it (and also, for the first time ever, deleted every email, put every gift in the trash can, threw away the pages of my journal that talked about him), but I remained afraid.

Maybe my brain’s danger receptors are out of whack and he was not, in fact, thinking of killing me; even so, when I think about that night, my brain experiences it all over again, and I sweat and panic. My brain makes a quick association between a man’s angry words and his violent actions. And so, in my relationships since, I explicitly say: please don’t do this. I can’t handle it. I am not built for this. I don’t think it’s too much to ask to request not to be screamed at or called names. (I shouldn’t have to ask, but I do. Just in case.)

Relevant: last week I received an email that scared the shit out of me. I read it, I panicked, I sweated, I cried. I read it again, same reaction. Every time I tell someone about it, I panic and sweat and cry. It made me afraid, and last night when I thought there was an email sending murderer in the bushes, my brain panicked and sent all the sweat and tears my body could produce to the surface. (At least I didn’t also pee. #blessed)

I don’t know how else to get through it besides continuing to talk about it and to panic and sweat and cry in the process. Maybe if I panic and sweat and cry enough, I can get to the other side of it, but I am so sad and so angry that this is where I am.

4 Oct 2018

Whew!

Written by sally @ 1:23 pm — Section: sally

Whew, what a summer! I wish I meant that in a vacationy way, like whew, all of those trips to the French Riviera really wore my ass out! I mean it in more of a whew, what a pile of loss, strange events, sweetness, happiness, disappointments, all sprinkled with a shit ton of books. I suppose that mix would not be the worst way to spend one’s life.

Things I’ve Read:
The Idiot by Elif Batuman (duh, see below)
The Magician’s Assistant by Ann Patchett (eh)
Enormous Changes at the Last Minute by Grace Paley (pow! I got Paleyed)
Still Me by Jojo Moyes (I’m not saying anything bad about this because one time I said one of her books was boring on Twitter and she replied)
The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson (do you like cholera? what about poop? what about the history of sanitation? if your answers to any of those are yes, you’ll love this book)
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (beautiful)
So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell (devastating)
A Double Life by Flynn Berry (read in one day; this is/is not an endorsement)
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh (I gave up after the description of when she quits her job/Whoopi Goldberg’s lady parts)
Heather, the Totality by Matthew Weiner (why?)
At Home in the World by Joyce Maynard (perfect)
Lethal White by Robert Galbraith (pretty good!)
Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves (zzz)
Transcription by Kate Atkinson (good, but it’s no Life After Life)
French Exit by Patrick deWitt (I liked roughly 20% of this)

And I’m currently reading Penelope Fitzgerald’s Hidden Voices and Stuart Turton’s The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. NO I AM NOT TRYING TO ESCAPE REALITY OK MAYBE A LITTLE

Also, after a weeklong experiment in which I have avoided gluten, I am very sorry to report that my lifelong stomach issues are just…gone. Huh. Still trying to figure out how to reconcile my relationships with cheeseburgers and pizza, but I really do feel so much better that I think I’ll be fine. Plus, I can see being in a mood where a cheeseburger would absolutely be worth a little Terrible Bathroom Experience (TBE). #butts

Bye!

25 Jun 2018

Wasn’t That My General Policy?

Written by sally @ 9:53 am — Section: sally

I’m in the middle of reading Elif Batuman’s The Idiot, which is at once hilarious and weird and confusing. Much of what is making me love it is a specificity about 90s college life, namely the kinds of posters it was important to have on one’s dorm walls (Ansel Adams, Klimt, Albert Einstein sticking out his tongue), the new concept of email, etc. Every few pages I get a pain in my chest because the narrator, Selin, has a crush on an older guy and they mainly communicate via email. THAT SOUNDS SO FAMILIAR. The first time they go to a bar, she gets drunk after one beer (THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED). When they go to a cafe she can’t read the menu (SERIOUSLY THIS HAPPENED TO ME). He attempts to flirt with her and she doesn’t understand and is unable to respond (HI). Here is a part that made me gasp:

“Is it so strange?” Ivan brushed against my ear with the back of his hand. I felt my body stiffen, I was filled with dread. And yet, I knew I wanted him to touch me — didn’t I? Wasn’t that my general policy? (280)

Obviously, this book is much bigger and important to the world at large than the eerie similarities to my own life, but it’s speaking to me in a very specific language.

Update on the emotional breakdown in my last post: still having it. I’m doing a lot of reading and lamenting.

10 Jun 2018

Decisions.

Written by sally @ 6:05 am — Section: sally

A few days ago I was painting random children’s faces at work, as one does. I did not have a large repertoire, though I did practice some. I could do a caterpillar, butterfly eyebrows, a cupcake, a heart, a basketball. Most kids were fine with whatever. Some asked for clowns or a specific sports logo and they were out of luck. Other kids said, “I want Spider-Man,” and I’d say, “How about a caterpillar in Spider-Man colors???!?!” and for some reason they’d agree.

Then a kid came along who asked for a machine gun. A what?!

–I want a machine gun.

–Sorry, no machine guns.

–Oh, is that too hard?

–No, it’s a gun.

–What about a .22?

–No.

–A rifle?

–NO. NO GUNS.

–Why not?

–I don’t draw guns on children.

He was 8. His mom was right there. (He ended up getting a blue balloon on his cheek. He wanted his whole face painted blue but I said no.)

8 Jun 2018

O Cardiologist, My Cardiologist.

Written by sally @ 10:42 am — Section: sally

• I have been trying very, very hard not to complain about wearing a stupid EKG monitor for a month, and I have made it to Day 17 so here it is: it sucks. The sensor pad things are eating my skin. I have to wear pants so it can go into a pocket. I could wear a dress, but then I’d have to wear a FANNY PACK THING around my waist, and there would be an awkward lump. (I tried this one day. Awkward lump.) This afternoon we are having an outside work event, and it is four million degrees, and doing the setup I nearly died of sweat drowning. To add to my complaint, the EKG wires are ALSO all sweaty now. I am healthy and attractive.

• I’d like to introduce a new feature of this almost-defunct website called Notes from the Notes App on My Phone. This entry is from 2016:

Two biddies at cardiologist discussing everyone they know. Her nephew had open heart surgery and do you know why? Because he ate a hamburger every day!

A doctor at this clinic has a wife who can’t cook. Her grandson was their personal cook for awhile but they complained the pot roast with potatoes and carrots was too fatty.

They are going to count their blessings because their friend can’t bend over to put on her socks anymore.

7 Jun 2018

As If He Went On and On.

Written by sally @ 3:07 pm — Section: sally

Yesterday on a trip to the Delta I saw the following:

1. a casket truck pulling out of a donut shop
2. truly exceptional kudzu monsters
3. a sign with arrows pointing to the left that said

Midnight
Louise

which made me think this would be a great saloon madam name, should I find myself time traveling.

I just finished Michael Ondaatje’s Warlight, which I loved, and which I found unexpectedly heartbreaking, to the point that I, keeper of the black heart, actually cried a little. It has sentences like these:

“But she loved the name Marsh. It sounded as if he went on and on and was difficult to cross, to fully understand, that she would get her feet wet, that burrs and mud would attach themselves to her.”

and

“And then as she sweeps a cedar branch out of her way he recognizes the faint line of bones at her neck that brings his affection back to what he thought was no longer there.”

Can every book be this beautiful, please?

Speaking of: a coworker had All the Light We Cannot See on her desk, and I said, “That’s such a great book.” She said she’d just finished it. I asked if she cried at the end. She said no. When I just sat there looking at her, she said, “World War II: I mean, it wasn’t great for anyone.”

31 May 2018

Some Things I Have Interpreted as Signs Lately and My Appropriate Reactions.

Written by sally @ 10:21 am — Section: sally

You believe in cards
And you believe in signs
But I’ll be leavin’ soon
I’m here tonight

–“Curtain Calls,” the Old 97s

Dead car battery: quickly catalog everything bad I’ve ever done in my life, which naturally led to this point of utter punishment

One person says something mean: immediately believe this is how every person feels about me 100% all the time forever

In one day, encounter not only an ex-husband but an ex-boyfriend on a dating app: DELETE APP AND DIE ALONE

Finale Thoughts.

Written by sally @ 6:47 am — Section: sally

So The Americans ended last night, and I uncharacteristically stayed up to watch it, and then I couldn’t go to sleep because I kept thinking about the following things:
1. Stan’s identity has been crushed.
2. But Stan gets to be a dad to Henry!
3. God, Henry. Not only the betrayal that Paige felt when she was told her parents were big old liars and spies, but also the abandonment. Good luck at school, Henry! You have no home.
4. Back to Stan: the actor who plays him is perfect, as is his tic, which, if manufactured, should win an Emmy.
5. Best Manufactured Neurological Disorder.
6. Is a tic a neurological disorder?
7. I could google it.
8. From everything I read on Twitter, it looks like everyone was rooting for Philip and Elizabeth to make it out. And I realized, in that scene in the parking garage (THE SCENE), that I did not want Elizabeth to make it out. Philip, yes. I have forgiven him for his murderous, stuffing bodies in a suitcase ways, since he went to EST and had a crisis and was still a dad and experienced SUCH JOY going country dancing. But Elizabeth. Nope. I was willing to sacrifice her to save Stan’s conscience.
9. Could they not have given us a glimpse of Martha anywhere in the season?
10. I’m satisfied with Renee’s smug smirk and perfect Russian curls being enough to wonder about. Stan will wonder…FOREVER.
11. Think about Stan waking up the next day.
12. Stan: The Man Who Loved Too Much
13. Elizabeth: Who Needs Her?
14. Philip: Maybe They Have Country Dancing in Russia
15. Paige: Does She Get Immunity or What?
16. Oleg: FREE OLEG
17. Claudia: Who Kez
18. Henry: A Story of Ping Pong Regret
19. Renee: Smug Smirks 4 Life
20. Kimmy: Who?
21: Martha: Keep Searching That Bleak Grocery Store for Your New Life, Friend
22: It was a good show.

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