Wednesday, October 31, 2007

You Are Not Where You Went to College

So I've noticed something, and perhaps you've noticed it too.

Some people hang onto the email addresses they were given by their undergraduate institutions. Five, ten, fifteen years out of college and you're still getting notes from Which is fine - who am I to dictate anyone's cyberaddress? - except in one very particular circumstance:

It is absolutely unacceptable to use your alma mater email address if you went to an Ivy League school.

I only bring this up because it's on my mind. I've recently been getting very long, self-promoting, and patronizing emails from a distant acquaintance. These emails are really insufferable, they read like the most padded of resumes, but what really puts me over the top is that this guy uses his old Ivy League email address.

Perhaps you think I'm being overly critical? I'm not. Here's why.

The only thing an Ivy League diploma says about you is that you're lucky. You're lucky to come from a privileged family, you're lucky to have gone to a good high school. You're lucky you had all those SAT tutors, you're lucky you weren't born with any learning disabilities. Expensive extra curriculars, college admissions advisers, a schedule freed by the lack of a job. Lucky lucky lucky. The fact that you got accepted at all? Lucky. And by lucky? I mean rich.

(Of course this isn't entirely true. There's the scholarship kids and the requisite brown folk plucked from the middle classes, but these are the exceptions, not the rule.)

Which is not to say you shouldn't be proud of your education. You had a good one. And when you're applying to jobs, fellowships, or grants, of course you should toot your own ivory horn. I'm not making an argument here for leaving resources unutilized. What I'm saying is that if your self worth is so wrapped up in the fancy monogrammed envelope Dartmouth sent you ten years ago that you mustmustmust continue on a daily basis to communicate with the world using a big ol' Ivy League stamp on every one of your electronic missives, you are pathetic. Get over yourself. Do something else worth bragging about, because the fact that mommy and daddy earned (or inherited) enough to bankroll you into a good school and put you up there for four years does not mean that you have achieved something in this life. It means you're lucky. So be thankful. And get a goddamned Gmail account like the rest of us.

P.S. For those readers who don't actually know me, this rant must sound like I have a pretty big chip on my shoulder. Well, I do, but not because of any dashed collegiate hopes. For four years, I was But then I graduated and when offered the chance to keep my email indefinitely, I declined. Because I could think of nothing more embarrassing than bragging about how lucky I am in every email I send for the rest of my life. I moved the fuck on, and You should, too.

Monday, October 29, 2007

If You're Under 30, You May Not Want to Read This...If You're Over 30, You Likely Don't Have To

I've got a new theory. Working title: The Cross to Bear Hypothesis. All of you out there who are older and wiser can let me know if I'm getting warm.

Basically, the theory hinges on the fact that life sucks. I know that sounds juvenile, but I mean it in more of a Buddhist "the only certainty is suffering" kind of way than in an adolescent "whatever" kind of way. Nor do I mean that because life sucks, there's no pleasure or happiness. There's pleasure and happiness in spades, it's just interspersed with (or even overlapped by) periods of colossal, unmanageable, truly heart-shattering pain.

I don't mean damn-it-I've-got-to-go-to-the-dentist pain or I'm-fighting-with-my-significant-other pain or even where-the-hell-will-I-find-rent-money-this-month pain. I mean the sort of pain that is so bad you're 100% sure there's no way you can make it. The kind of pain where you keep your cell close at hand, because you many need 911 any minute now. The kind of pain that makes you sure no one else in the entire world is hurting as much as you are, because if they were, you'd be able to hear their screams.

So my theory is that, despite our seeming uniqueness and depth of emotion and confidence that no one else could possibly have it this bad, we all are suffering. All of us. Bill Gates. Paris Hilton. George God-Help-Us Bush. Our human capacity for suffering far outweighs any stockpile of money or guns or critical accolades. Them, me, you, we are all walking around with the most unbearable load on our backs, sure that we're going to break any minute now. And if you don't believe me, if you don't have some burden that makes it hard to breathe, don't worry. You will. You'll get a horrible disease or your house will burn down or your brother will fall over and die. Divorce. Bankruptcy. Suffocating loneliness. It's just a matter of time.

I know, I know. I'm a depressed bitch. But I bring this up only to help. Because the thing I'm coming to realize, the thing that's really amazing, is not that we all have our crosses to bear. It's that we're able to bear them. The world is so much more horrible than we ever could have guessed at age 5, 15, 25, but what makes us as humans so miraculous, so capable, so strong, is that we can handle the horror. We can deal with the very thing we're terrified of. That which doesn't kill us, we can live with. I'm not sure how, except that it has to do with evolution, religion, and anti-depressants.

And hope. Our capacity for suffering may be outweighed only by our capacity to imagine what it's like not to suffer.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Dead Brothers Aren't Funny

Now that Kyle is dead, I have to tell people about it. I try not to do it too often - it's a pretty big burden to drop on a casual acquaintance - but occasionally I find myself with a choice to make: I can either tell someone I don't know too well that my brother died this past summer, or I can lie.

Last week, I met with my craft teacher to discuss the lack of progress my fiction's been making these days. She asked about my "novel" - eighty directionless pages set in Cayucos, a beach town my family used to visit in the summers - and I told her that I couldn't really work on it anymore, at least not now, and that I was flailing around, looking for other subject matter.

"Short stories?"

"Well, yes, but I really still want to write a novel, see. I'm craving a longer project--"

"But you already have a novel. Why aren't you working on it?"

I looked away. Should I tell her the truth - that this novel of mine is set in a real place with a real beach and my brother and I in sweatshirts and shorts would take real dollar bills to a real candy store with huge glass jars and buy plastic bags of candy to eat while we watched old men fish off the pier? That the fact that my novel lacked a plot and a purpose was the least of its problems, because the real reason I couldn't write about Cayucos was my brother, who was dead?

I started to bullshit. "Well, it was a pretty ambitious project, a bit more than I could chew, really..." But I trailed off. I was here for help, she might as well have all the facts.

Then, before I could start over, before I could affect the tone and stance of the bereaved and softly explain that there had been an accident, I did the most inappropriate thing.

I laughed.

I laughed kind of wearily, like I was about to launch into a three-part story about how my laptop caught a nasty virus and now the tech people were having trouble retrieving my Word files.

And while laughing, I learned something: laughter is the wrong preface to a death announcement. It throws people off, sets them up for a humorous anecdote, not news of a kid dying. Laughing, you sound like you don't take the death seriously, like you're more concerned about making someone uncomfortable than the death of your loved one. It makes you sound crazy.

So I laughed, pulled myself together, and told my teacher that my brother had died. I could see her trying to figure out what I was saying, the expressions clashing on her face as she guessed how to respond.

We got everything clear, eventually. She asked what happened, how old he was, and expressed her condolences. And then she said what I was afraid she'd say: that I could never expect to find, or fix, a novel if I wasn't writing fiction every day.

I thanked her and left. I would take her advice. I would write fiction everyday. But first I would go home and write a blog about inappropriate laughter, because I'm not crazy. Or cold-hearted. I laughed because there is something inherently funny about that moment before you tell someone that your 22-year-old brother died in a train accident. Here you are, holding this really horrible information and someone asks you for it, and you know that they don't really want it, that it's awful and sad and will just make their day worse for knowing, but they're asking you and you don't want to be rude or a liar so you're going to give it to them. But before you do you laugh, because man, they have no idea what they're getting themselves into.

I don't regret telling my teacher about my brother, even if I did seem crazy. Maybe she'll look on me a little more kindly when my attention drifts in class. But, in the future, I have to remember not to laugh first. You can't laugh and then dump news like that on someone. That's why we have things like social cues and body language - information of that magnitude needs to be prefaced. Otherwise, it's too much of a shock to the system.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Long Overdue

I don't know much about computers, especially for someone my age. Luckily, Blogger makes it easy, and I've had little trouble posting text, pics, even video.

But then I got greedy.

I wanted to put sharing and bookmarking links on my posts to increase traffic, and after too many hours looking up html code and trying to convert it to something that the Blogger template could read, I gave, picked up my phone, and called Katie B.

Katie B lives across the street from me. She's my friend since the beginning, the closest thing I now have to a sibling, and, conveniently enough, has a hottie European boyfriend who is also a computer programming wonder. So I brought my crippled code across the street, dumped it in Dominique's lap, and then played Wii with Katie while he wrangled my joke html into something actually coherent.

The result? That little share/bookmark scroll down thingy at the bottom of every post. Cool, huh? It's been up for a few weeks but, like a true narcissist, I'm only now remembering to publicly acknowledge my html hero.

So thank you, Dominique!

Gone Wild

I have to start closing the windows.

I arrived at work today to find not one, but two birds flapping around the office. This is now the third bird emergency I've had to deal with (I didn't blog on the second one, as it was a brief encounter - a sparrow came and perched on the window ledge, I eyed him a warning, he disregarded it, swooped in, did a victory lap, and swooped back out again).

What is up with these things? I know, I know, my own fault for leaving the windows open, and we're on the 20th floor, which im guessing is right in their flight path, but still. These are wild animals. Why do they keep trying to come inside? What could possibly be attractive about a white-walled room filled with office equipment?

This time, I got them out pretty quickly by cornering them against a closed window and sliding it open. And let me tell you, they burst out of there like I was a serial killer with my back turned.

So, lesson (repeatedly) learned. I'll close the windows before I leave today.

Or, maybe I should fill the office with plants, hang bird feeders from the flourescent lights, and get a couple of bird baths going. I could build some nesting boxes. Set up some heat lamps. I could turn this square of air above the city into a wildlife refuge and, when my boss comes back from Germany in a couple of weeks, he'll come in to find me under my desk, hair and eyes wild, a strange discoloration to my skin and the unmistakable odor of rotting fruit, bird shit, and unwashed Miranda filling the humid jungle of our office...

GTD from 616***8776:

Hatvd a nice day

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

My Own Private Hanoi

I've been blogging for almost three months now and - this is going to sound silly - one of the joys of posting daily is watching the total number of posts tick ever upwards. Uploading my tenth post was pretty exciting, as was my fiftieth, but I was really looking forward to reaching 100. 100 of anything is a lot, but 100 things written by me - all in one place, in one font, on (arguably) one theme - thrills me. So when I got to post #90, I started counting down. Nine posts left. Five posts left. post left...

And then disaster struck.

As any of you who've battled depression know, it's inescapable. It sneaks up on you with Viet Cong stealth and, by the time you realize that floppy clump of foliage is actually the camouflaged headgear of Charlie himself, it's too late, your hands are up, and you're being marched through malarial swamps to a northern prison camp, where you will stare at your jungle walls and stew in your misery, kept alive by maggot-strewn rice balls and the dim hope that your shrink will plan a prisoner extraction and somehow sneak you back to the World.

My most recent visit to the POW camp of my mind was a brief one but - like the Tet Offensive - it fell on a day that should've been full of joy and celebration: Sunday, October 21st, 2007. The day of the 100th post.

I know! Tragedy!

Instead of posting some fun little fireworks clip art and thanking those that have helped me along the way, I used my 100th post to say, "I got nothing."

And I really didn't have anything. I could think of absolutely nothing to write about. That's what depression is - having planned for weeks a 100th post celebration, only to find on the big day your face swollen, your mind blank, and your blog announcing your creative impotence to everyone you know.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Life is Not Measured by the Number of Breaths We Take, But by the Moments that Take Our Breath Away

I'm not a sentimental girl.

Still, I've been crying a lot these days. It's obviously about Kyle on some level, but the triggers tend to be much less sensational. Checking my bank balance, editing a story, or putting my clothes away can get me started. A cheesy father-son embrace on a State Farm commercial. My goddamn cat swiping everything from the top of my dresser to the floor. Any and all of Jay Allison's StoryCorps pieces aired on NPR. In this state I'm in, tragedies are everywhere and I've developed a frightening susceptbility to Hallmark summations of Love, Family, or Sympathy. A Disney movie would have me in waterworks.

Which is why I've started watching The Shield. I've been hearing great things about it for years, but only just started the first season a few weeks ago. It's really good. Like an updated NYPD Blue with a more nuanced set of characters and the Los Angeles backdrop of my childhood. It's violent, though. Rape, torture, murder. Dirty cops, heartless hookers, and in one scene a dude they called "the porcupine" because of all the needles dangling out of his collapsed veins.

Still, I have no problem watching. Even in my delicate state, not a tear, not a flinch. It's the other stuff on TV that gets me going. Show me a lady getting her arm sawed off, I'm cool, but one shot of an oversized Minnie Mouse kneeling down to give some blonde kid an all-inclusive Disney World hug and I need a tissue. Child rape? No problem. A midewestern man on a tractor talking about how proud he was when his son joined the army? Sobs. Killer coke seizures? Turn it up. Mom and daughter making Rice Krispie treats in sepia tones? I need a minute.

It's quite a shift for me. I've always been suspicious, if not downright sneering, of sentimentality. I couldn't roll my eyes hard enough at inspirational forwards or cross-stitched wisdom. But then my brother died and suddenly I instinctively understand why grandmothers everywhere collect those little china munchkin figurines. The Lifetime Channel makes sense. I'm in the market for a poster explaining in cursive script what Wisdom Is...

Luckily, I still have 4.5 seasons of The Shield to watch, and there's always

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Bad Day

I got nothing.

Maybe back tomorrow.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Three Month Old Robert Olen Butler Email Still Fantastic

This is old news, but it occurred to me that those of you who aren't regular frequenters of New York gossip sites or MFA-affiliated may have missed this delightful example of writerly instability.

Before I was alerted to this email, Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler had only entered my radar on two other occasions. The first was when my roommate alerted me to the fact that Deep Green Sea is the worst book ever written. The second was when J and I saw him read in Atlanta at last year's AWP conference.

It was pretty weird. He read these crazy short shorts that speculated about what two famous characters might say to one another after having sex.

Example: What would Hitler say to Snow White while enjoying the afterglow in a 1945 bunker? What would Bugs Bunny say to Charles de Gaulle as they buckled up in a 1960s government building in Algeria? What would Nancy Reagan say to Flash Gordon in a Hollywood hotel room in 1982?

Each story was a specific number of words - 260 or something. Read one after the other like that, they sounded like the diary of a touched man.

So I already had a less than glowing view of Butler, and then Gawker posted this email, originally sent to graduate students at Florida State University in response to Butler's impending divorce with his wife, the novelist Elizabeth Dewberry.

Rumors will soon be swirling around the department, so I want to tell the full and nuanced story to the five of you among the graduate students and ask that you clarify the issues for any of your fellow grad students who ask. This sort of thing can get wildly distorted pretty quickly. You can feel free to use any part or all of this email to do so. I really appreciate your help.

Put down your cup of coffee or you might spill it.

Elizabeth is leaving me for Ted Turner.

She and I will remain the best of friends. She also knows about, endorses, and even encourages that I tell this much detail of the story:
She has spoken openly in her work and in her public life of the fact that she was molested by her grandfather from an early age, a molestation that was known and tacitly condoned by her radically Evangelical Christian parents. She then went into a decade-long abusive marriage. I met her when she was in a terminally desperate state from this lifetime of abuse, and we married and we truly loved each other.

I was able to help her a great deal. She says I saved her life. But de facto therapy as the initial foundation of a marriage eventually sucks the life out of a relationship. And it is very common for a woman to be drawn to men who remind them of their childhood abusers. Ted is such a man, though fortunately, he is far from being abusive. From all that I can tell, he is kind to her, loyal, considerate, and devoted to his family, and perhaps, therefore, he can redeem some things for her.

Further, Elizabeth has never been able to step out of the shadow of the Pulitzer. As you know-and she knows-I have been an avid admirer and supporter of her work. Everyone has heard me proclaim my sincere high regard for her as an artist. I often did this publicly. But she has published two brilliant novels since she's been with me and neither has gotten anywhere near the recognition that they richly deserve. That made it harder and harder for her to live with the ongoing praise and opportunity that flows to a Pulitzer winner. Not because of jealousy. She has always been very happy for me. But the multitude of small reflections of regard that came my way inevitably threw a spotlight on the absence of those expressions of regard for her. She felt as if she was failing as a writer.

Then, in March, she nearly died from an intestinal blockage in Argentina while on a trip with Ted. The trauma of that led her further to profoundly question her own identity. It became clear to her that the only way she can truly find herself is by making this change in her life.

She will not be Ted's only girlfriend. Ted is permanently and avowedly non-monogamous. But though he has several girlfriends, it is a very small number, and he does not take them up lightly and he gives them his absolute support when he does. And Elizabeth's leaving me is as much about the three weeks a month she is alone as it is about the week a month she is with Ted. She will find her own space and her own light in which to create the great works of art she is destined to create.

I will keep my house. I will keep my dogs and cats. I will keep virtually everything. She is being characteristically generous about that. But I will lose Elizabeth. And that is very sad. But the loss has been happening through many years of our shared struggle to make her whole. In that, I've done all I can do, as has she. I wish her the best. I ask you not to think ill of her in any way.

Elizabeth and I will now conduct ourselves as if this is public knowledge. So as I suggested at the outset, you need not keep this to yourself, if the occasion arises to speak of it to someone. This is best anyway, since I am not up to the task of telling this story over and over.

I have a high regard and affection for the students in our program. I hope this will help them sort out this rather intense story in an appropriate way.

Bob Butler

And I think I'll just leave it at that.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Google Search

I use this thing called statcounter to track my blog. With it, I can see what Google searches have led to my page.

There's the expected:

"Miranda McLeod"
"my brother is dead blog"
"Miranda Kyle dead"

The unexpected:

"High waisted jeans"
"How to cook a goat"
"Is a dog an autistic cat"
"Dead troll"

And then there's the searches that break my heart:

"My baby brother is dead"
"Dreaming of dead brother"
"My brother died while I was in college"
"Lonely Christmas"
"I found my brother dead when I was 14"
"Poems for my brothers funeral"

It's easy for me to forget that there are a lot of dead brothers in this world. A lot of leftover sisters. A lot of people tonight will lie in their beds and fantasize about the future and past, anything to keep the present out of the space before they sleep.

I take melancholy comfort in that. You should, too. Tonight we'll both kick the sheets and hope that tomorrow we'll be stronger. Better. Able somehow to deal with the weight that today almost killed us.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I Heart New York 3

There's an antique store in my neighborhood that I walk by all the time. Dressers and fake flowers spill out onto the sidewalk. Lots of painted wood and wicker. Mirrors and watering cans and big price tags on everything.

I hate that store.

I've never been inside, and it's not that I have anything against antiques, but this one particular store pisses me off. Everything is overpriced. And I don't mean boutiquey overpriced, I mean $100-for-a-baby-stool overpriced. And it's normal-ass stuff. Not hand-carved. Not intricately painted. The kind of stuff you'd find in your grandparents' barn. It's just unconscionable.

Earlier today, J and I happened to be walking by this particular pastel outpost of capitalistic evil and, as we do, pointed out the most overpriced thing we could spot - $75 step ladder! $150 hand mirror! -as we passed.

In front of us, two Puerto Rican lesbians were walking hand in hand. The sidewalk was really narrow and they were doing that ghetto slow/wide wandering thing that can be infuriating if you get caught behind and have someplace to be. No matter how close you get, or how loud you talk in their ear, they don't let you pass. They just stroll, strung out along the pavement like in a poster for The Wild Bunch.

J and I weren't really in a hurry, but as soon as a break in the parked cars allowed, we slipped past them. Now they were behind us, and as the gap between us widened we heard, "Seventy-five dollars! I mean, nobody'd be so stupid, spend seventy-five dollars on that shit. That's shit people leave out on the street. Put some paint on a chair, gonna charge something like that."

They were shit-talking the antique store, too.

Which is why I love New York. Because it reminds me that wide-walking Puerto Rican lesbians and I have more in common than just our skin color.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I Wish I Could Apologize to My Younger Brother For the Way I Treated Him Growing Up

I just discovered I'm last to the party - it's already been made into four books - but if you also managed to miss it you should go take a look. It's by this guy, Frank Warren, who collects and publishes postcard secrets from people all over the world. It's a really lovely site.

In an introduction to his most recent book, Warren describes a talk he gave on a book tour:

I began my presentation by handing out blank postcards to everyone in the auditorium. I invited each person to anonymously write down a secret on a card and then pass it on. For the next hour, the postcards circulated and were read silently multiple times. At the end of my talk, I asked if anyone would like to stand and read the secret they were holding at that moment. A man in the front row stood up and haltingly read:

I wish I could apologize to my younger brother for the way I treated him growing up.
He sat down and exchanged a long look with the young man next to him. After more volunteers read aloud some of the other secrets that had been passed around, I collected all the cards. The man in the front row handed me the postcard he had read from, and the two men walked out together.

His postcard was blank.
I read that and began to cry.

I'm jealous that some dude and his brother went to a Frank Warren reading and mended their relationship over a blank postcard.

I never apologized to Kyle. I don't know what I was waiting for. I guess I thought I had more time.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

It Just Never Ends With These Guys

My roommate Justin joined the good fight a few weeks ago and bought packing tape to seal up all the cracks in our old window frames. It seemed to work - we haven't had a mosquito sighting since. That is, until last night. How it got in, I don't know, but right as we were drifting off J roused me with a solemn warning. "Babe, I just saw a mosquito."

I was already half asleep. I just pulled the covers up and my last thought was a hope that J didn't know what he was talking about.

I woke up itching and furious at 3 AM. It's October. What the hell was a mosquito doing in my fifth floor apartment in October, waking me up like I had nowhere to be in the morning?

I'd kicked off the sheet in my sleep and my back was bear to the wilds of my room. I was lying there, trying to muster the will to get the bug spray or at least to pull the blankets back up, when I felt the lightest brush across my skin. It could've been anything. It could've been my imagination. But in that zen-like state of half sleep I reached behind me and with one sure, slow swipe I crushed that little fucker. I knew even with my eyes closed that I'd got him. There was that particular combination of grit and liquid to roll into a satisfying ball and flick away. Only I didn't get that far. I just left the thing smashed against me and fell back asleep.

Second Demon Bird Discovered By Alert Aunt

I have a wonderful family. Especially in this difficult time, they've provided a steady stream of love and support, the most recent manifestation of which is my aunt Sally's response to the demon bird mystery. She scoured the internet and came up with this possible suspect (listen to the bird in the background):

A very good guess, since this bird obviously came straight from the gates of hell, but it's not the NYC demon bird, I'm afraid. The NYC demon call is more of two toned thing, with the stress on the second syllable. errrAWWW errrAWWW! But thanks for your diligent observation, aunt Sal!

GTD from
(anurous) hello gorgeous mir
once you get it there's no turning back

Monday, October 15, 2007

This One's So Good It Deserves Its Own Post

GTD from 702***1612:
The police found a body with no brains, bad hair, fucked up teeth, and an ugly retarded face. I'm worried. Call me if ur ok.

Maybe You've Seen This, But It Shocked the Hell Out of Me

Do me a favor and watch this video. You don't have to sit though all of it - you likely won't want to - but hang on until the first chorus and try to see who's singing. Whatever you do, though, don't scroll down until you've watched.

Okay, now....



Do you see? Do you see that that is Jada Pinkett Smith? Will Smith's wife of ten years? Screaming in front of a metal band on David Letterman???

Is that weird to anyone else? Or am I just perpetuating that hateful and harmful stereotype that you can't be both black and a twenty-sided-dice rolling, comic-book reading, lilly-white-adolescent-music-loving nerd?

GTD from 605***5047:
mom was wondering when you're picking up the boys?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Grief Hiccups

I grieve in hiccups. I'm fine most days. I don't think about Kyle. Or, I think about him, but when I do I let him go right through me. I have things to do. I'm at work or on the street or trying to focus on a movie and following Ky whenever he appears is not conducive to getting through the day. So I let him go and I'm fine.

But then, every couple of weeks, I hiccup. Suddenly I'm sobbing and there Kyle is, sitting on top of my chest, his arms full of everything I worry about, his pockets stuffed with my CV, my bank account, my goddamn bathroom scale. I can't breathe and I can't move and I think, Oh good. I'm a normal human being. My brother died, and I'm crying, and this is what grieving is.

Because not crying for two weeks worries me. I worry about what that says about the calibration of my heart - a dead brother and two weeks of dry eyes. I worry that I'm getting over it too fast. That I'm cold and hard and somehow lacking something I should have been born with. But then I hiccup and start to cry and feel in the tightening of my chest a deep relief. That I'm socially appropriate. That I really did love my brother. That if I get nothing else right, I'll mourn thoroughly and honestly and know that I'm the sort of person who can.

GTD from 718***8048:
hey do me a favor dont charge kathy from city for the weekends thanks

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Who's Crafty?

I've been on birth control for years. As anyone on it (or with someone on it) knows, it comes in these rounded plastic clamshells of varying shapes and sizes. Each month, when I open up a new pack and throw the old one away, I feel a guilty, global-warming pang in my stomach. It seems like such a waste. I've tossed out approximately 120 birth control containers in my life, and each time, as they lay there in the trash, so sturdy and undamaged, I'm sure that there must be something else they can be used for. They have a latch and a hinge, for chrissakes.

So, dear reader, what do you do with your empty birth control containers? What could you do if you had the time and inclination to store up six months worth? My shrink says I need to take it easy, relax, take time for myself, and doing something crafty with birth control containers sounds like just what the doctor ordered.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Demon Hints, Dream Pics, and Ghost Texts

Well folks, I've gotten some good alternative theories as to the identity of New York City's newest monster. Mom and Aunt Sal suggested a mockingbird, and I suppose if it had spent some time hanging around the sulfur pits of hell learning the local lingo, it could indeed be a mockingbird. My roommate Justin also suggested a Peregrine Falcon, which apparently can sound like the tortured screams of a thousand babies when defending its nest. I'm not sure about a loose domesticated South American parrot...if those birds made this noise, they never would've been domesticated in the first place.

On a less hellish note, I had my first Kyle dream last night. He actually wasn't in the dream, but his likeness was. I was in our old Eagle Rock house, which was like a ship, and somehow a stopper got loose and the basement began to flood (the actual house didn't have a basement and wasn't a ship, just for the sake of clarity). We (J, Katie B, my mom, and me, as well as a number of frantic but unrecognizable folk) rushed around the house trying to save our valuables.

My old room in my old house was my father's office before he moved out and I moved in, and as a result it held a huge, heavy wooden desk with a lot of drawers. Over the years, I filled those drawers up with all sorts of useless junk, and in the dream I was yanking the drawers open to make sure I hadn't missed anything. The top drawer, which in real life held stamps and paper clips and childhood bracelets made of dirty string, was filled with pictures of Kyle. Little pictures, like the kind you get out of those instant photo booths, and some wallet-sized snapshots. There were tons of them. All of Kyle in different expressions of childhood. I was so relieved to have found them. In the dream, my brother was already dead, and I knew that there would be nothing more precious in the whole house than a handful of pictures saved from the water.

Finally, I was delighted to hear that Cousin Robin missed the GTDs! I never got any response on them one way or the other, so I kind of let them go. But I still get them - I still sleep with my phone off - so here Robin, in your honor, the best GTD in my inbox right now:

Nice to meet you mir. WAnt to be a p0rnstar? Now you can!!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Demon Bird Infiltrates NYC

New York City has a new monster. I think.

I've been hearing this weird, chilling, hair-raising noise in the city recently. It sounds kind of like errrAWWW! errrAWWW! but that doesn't do it justice. Call me if you want and I'll do it for you, or just hang around the East Village.

That's where I first noticed it. I thought it was just some asshole being loud - asshole runoff is the village's natural soundscape - but then I heard it again and again, day after day, always in the afternoon, always the same pitch, never dissolving into drunk choking-laughter. So it's either an unbelievably consistent asshole, or a terrifying, leather-taloned, flesh-ripping, fire-eyed birdmonster.

And then, not ten minutes ago, as I sat in my office in Chelsea, I heard the noise again! And for the first time, outside of the village! New York City's newest predator is expanding its territory.

So, dear reader, I need your help. New Yorkers, New Englanders, nature enthusiasts - has anyone else heard this noise? What animal sounds like Satan's MC and can survive on pizza crusts and neon green gutter water? I know we've got hawks in central park, but they don't scream like ancient demons, do they? And this bird is decidedly the downtown sort. What creature would wing past the great green square of the park for a Chelsea construction site?

Though, if I'm being honest, what I really want to know is why I've never heard this noise before. I've been here eight years, and it seems an unfunny coincidence that it's only now, after my brother died, that suddenly I'm being followed by an angry avian scream. I know, I know, it's crazily narcissitic to assume that New York's first supernatural predator since Ghostbusters would someone be linked to my California brother's premature passing. But I can't help it.

So, who knows what's going on? Any hints, theories, or protection spells would be greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I'm Just a Red Nigger

I'm trying to get back into fiction, so last week I bought Junot Diaz' new book on It starts with an excerpt from The Schooner 'Flight', a poem by Nobel laureate and proud mulatto Derek Walcott. Here are the last four lines of the stanza:

I'm just a red nigger who love the sea,
I had a sound colonial education,
I have Dutch, nigger, and English in me,
and either I'm nobody, or I'm a nation.
I mean come on. I got chills when I read that. And I don't like poetry.

It's Fall

Last night we slept with the window open - instead of the AC on - for the first time since summer. This morning, I woke up late because the light was weak, even at seven. There's a fog over the city dissolving the tops of buildings and I'm reminded just how high those buildings are and just how low the sky can get. It's supposed to rain today. Fall is here, and I am so excited.

Growing up in Los Angeles, you have no choice but to worhsip the sun. I was never a beach bum, but my skin was gloriously dark and I spent the majority of my life in flip flops. I was a sun junky by default.

Then I came east. I lived in a college suite with three girls who immediately pledged a sorority. I thought I was like them - into keggers and brunches and wearing bikinis in central park. I thought I needed blonde highlights. I worried about getting a tanning salon membership before winter started. I was so lucky, they said, to have such a solid base. I could keep my color with just a weekly appointment.

But now, eight years later, I finally know both New York and myself well enough to recognize that I am a fall person. I love the fall. And not just the gorgeous, crisp, windy days. I love the rain. I love the chill. I love the promise of winter. Los Angeles and my sorority suitemates had me fooled. I thought I was a sunny person, but I'm not. Invite me to a party, you'll see. I won't like half the people there. If I even come. I don't own a sundress. My skin has faded to a sad, sickly yellow and I don't mind. It fits my mood these days.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


I was listening to NPR today and had a thought:

I am so much looking forward to a lifetime of NPR.

Those soothing voices, that melodious syntax, all that correct grammar and specific pronunciation. And then there's the constant reassurance of its breadth and scope, as if not one newsworthy story in the whole wide world is missed by NPR's all-seeing, all-analyzing eye. It's calming, it's inoffensive, it's what Steven Colbert brilliantly called "light gray."

My parents listened to NPR. In the car, in the kitchen, in the living room. I've been steeped in it my whole life. For me, the sun rises to Morning Edition. All Things Considered is time to come in for dinner. Weekend Edition is scones and big pancakes and, before it became such an ego-soaked Garrison songfest, A Prairie Home Companion was long Sunday evenings with homework still to do.

In high school, I discovered This American Life. In college, I became a member. Every morning my alarm goes off and Steve Inskeep coaxes me into consciousness. I shower with the radio turned up load enough to hear Ira Glass. I walk around New York to Jay Allison.

NPR, I love you. I've always loved you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you.

Will you marry me?

This Woman is Grown...

Monday, October 8, 2007

Dear Kyle

The internet is a powerful, mysterious place capable of summoning people I thought were inaccessible, so here goes:

Dear Kyle,

What the fuck? You died, leaving mom and dad and yes, even me, in all kinds of ridiculous pain. And why? Because you thought it was a good idea to leap onto a moving train. Who does that? No one does that, because it's a totally retarded move. And what makes it particularly retarded in your case is that you were smart. Quick. Clever. Wise. Whatever you want to call it, you had it, which makes it all the less understandable how such a goddamn boneheaded move could've killed you.

Have you been reading mom's blog? She has this one post I'd like to direct you to. She's worrying about the possibility that you might still be existing somewhere somehow and that, if you are, you're likely kicking yourself and punching walls and raging about your stupidity. She feels bad that you might be feeling bad.

Well, you should be. You're an idiot.

But I miss you. I don't know if I ever told you this, but I was really looking forward to getting old with you. Not in a creepy, unmarried, middle-aged roommate kind of way, but in an across the country, across the world, hand-written letter, yearly meetings with drinks and a joint and funny, sad stories kind of way. I was looking forward to being an aunt. I was looking forward to having someone, after mom and dad are gone, who knew how it was in Los Angeles in the 80s in our little Tudor house with Spike and Quaker and our beautiful bougainvillea. We could pick lemons from my bedroom window. We had the loudest alarm that went off a dozen times at least, but only because we lost our keys or the Santa Anas were blowing hot and hard across the city.

The house is gone, you know. And of course there's mom and dad. Quaker's dead, Spike's dead, and Kyle, you're dead. It's gonna be just me.

Which I guess isn't that big a deal. Only children do it all the time. But I spent twenty-five years rolling my eyes at you, only to have to spend the next fifty regretting it. I'm not an only child, I'm an only sibling. And I'm really pissed.

So up yours,
with love,


P.S. I get the bedroom at Christmas now. Ha.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

She's a Natural

Did you listen to This American Life this week? (It's airing today. Go to to stream). The theme was parenting, and one of the essays was sent in by an Midwestern women with a dead marriage and three teenage girls. It absolutely blew me away. This woman's writing was so honest, so unafraid, that it was read on air by a TAL producer to protect the family's identity. And what was so impressive was less the actual themes - ambiguous parenting skills, sneaky teenage sex, beer-soaked financial frustrations - than the writing itself.

Though I don't know for sure, I'm almost certain the author is not a professional writer. We're told nothing about her, but I just don't believe that a writer, aspiring or otherwise, would ever let something of theirs be read on TAL anonymously. We're too vain for that.

And this woman is amazing. Her writing is instinctively clean and crisp and completely unsentimental. I watch myself and other MFA students struggle tooth and nail - and almost always fail - to achieve the tone she uses so naturally. Maybe she's one of those geniuses, closets filled with brilliant childhood diaries. Maybe it's her Midwestern humility and lack of flourish. But really, you should listen to it. And feel a little ping inside because for some people, it really is that easy.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

I'm Dirty 2

My apartment's not as bad as it was before, I swear. We've been keeping it cleaner and sweeping now and then, but still, we had our second mouse emergency last night.

Turk, the little bastard, came trotting into the bedroom with a live mouse in his mouth.

"Oh my God!" J said.

"Oh my God!" I said.

We stood up and Turk dodged us, confused. He'd been expected celebration. He darted left and right, lowering his head every now and then like he was going to put the mouse down. "Nonono!" We shouted at him. We waved our arms. We didn't know what to do, but we knew we didn't want him to let that mouse go.

Eventually, we got Turk, Bean, and the mouse sealed off in the kitchen. We stood on the other side of the door, our hearts racing, trying to come up with a plan. The thing was alive. If we got it away from the cats, we would be dealing with a live mouse. Or, even worse, an injured mouse in need of our attention somehow.

"We'd have to kill it," I said. "If it's bleeding or broken or half-dead we can't just throw it away and let it die for six hours in the trash can. We have to whack it or something."

Neither J or I wanted to whack it.

We carefully let ourselves into the kitchen. Turk had the mouse trapped behind the garbage can. Bean was guarding the closet, the most likely escape route. The mouse dashed from one side of the can to the other, trying desperately to outmaneuver Turk.

"Well, I guess we've got to try and...get it."

Does this sound dumb? Are you laughing at us? I feel like this is something we should've known - how to deal with a mouse in the house. This is one of those ancient human problems, right? I mean, isn't this why we domesticated cats? To catch mice? But then again, mice are disease-ridden, right? Do we really want our cats eating them? And is it morally wrong to let our cats torture a mouse for hours? And what if it gets away and dies of its injuries and rots under our couch? And why, at the age of 26 and 33, did we not know how to handle this?

Our best guess was to take an empty, kitten-sized litter box left over from Turk's baby days, edge the cats away from the mouse, and try to capture it. It wasn't easy. The mouse was fleeing us now and kept darting under Turk, hiding in his chest while he sniffed frantically around, tail puffed and eyes wild, knowing the prey was close but not realizing how close.

Finally, I slammed the box down on the mouse, pinching Turk's paw and the mouse's tail in the process, but small price to pay. The rodent was contained. Now, the matter of what to do with it.

"I mean, I guess we could...what? Put it in a bag? Slam it with something or something?" The cats weaved through our legs with yellow eyes. They had been torturing the mouse, and now we were torturing them. Whatever we were going to do, we needed to do it now.

We decided to let the mouse go. I slid a piece of cardboard under the box and carried the trapped mouse upstairs to the roof. When I lifted the box, the mouse was still there, huddled in a ball on the cardboard, looking adorable and terrified. I waved my arm and the mouse squeaked, turned, and fled. It ran pretty fast, like any injuries it had might be minimal.

I know we made the wrong decision. Mice are pests. Humans kill them, and not out of any sadism or superiority. It's not healthy to live with mice. That's just how things are. And to release a mouse because you're too squeamish to kill it goes against the ancient collective knowledge of our species. But seeing that little tail disappear into the shadows made me feel better. Sure, the mouse might return. But there are nineteen other apartments in my building to chose from, most without cats. Next time, someone else'll get the opportunity to kill the damn thing.


Well folks, I was witness to an honest-to-god internet miracle. Are you ready for this? I don't know if you are. Sit down.

Leonard Cohen read my God in South Africa post and emailed me. I know! Can you believe it? How does that even happen?

I'll tell you how. The internet. The internet is the sort of place where you can write a blog about being judgmentally teary in yoga class and preferring Cohen's version of Hallelujah, and in return get an email from the singer himself.

And that's not even the best part. I emailed him back (of course) and he was so kind as to send a self portrait he'd done, with permission to post it.

So, America, here's a Leonard Cohen original. I think it's great:

P.S. If any of you go back to watch the 1984 performance (and I highly recommend it), keep your eye on the right side of the pillar directly behind Cohen. At 3:44, the singer back there pokes his head out, and then at 3:38 he misses his cue and comes out late. It's great.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Baseball Talk

It's baseball post season, and around my house, that means baseball talk. Serves me right I guess, living with two guys, but man, is it a whole lot of nothing.

You watching the game? Heck of a game. Yup. Pitcher A's on fire. Heck of a pitcher. Yeah, I wasn't too sure about him at first, either, but man has he come through.

Ohohoh! Overpaid Batter B just struck out! I know, I know, it's awesome. I'll tell you one thing though, you can't win a game with the bat on your shoulder. With all those zeros on his check you think he'd know that.

They gotta get a double play here. Gotta turn two. Oh, Jesus! Did you see that? Where the hell was he going? You can't do that, not now. October's got no time for errors.

They took Pitcher A out! That's insane! He must've been on a pitch count. Sure, he would've loved to stay in. Who wouldn't? The Hall of Fame doesn't just send out invitations.

Oh, I couldn't agree with you more. Absolutely. Fuck the Yankees.

And I'll tell you another thing, this is one heck of a game.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

God in South Africa

There's a 12:30 weekday class at this yoga studio near my work. Mary Dana was supposed to teach today, and she's one of my favorites, but I showed up to discover that someone was subbing for her. A white woman named Deborah who explained that her accent was South African.

White South Africans creep me out. I know that's incredibly xenophobic, but it's like meeting a really old German - you can't help thinking, and where were you back when? Now, I know all South Africans aren't racist, and Deborah is really young, so it's hardly like she was an exiled member of the apartheid government or anything, but still. I took one look at her and wondered what black mother had left her own children each day to travel past machine-gunned checkpoints to the white part of town, where sweet baby Deborah waited for her milk, curls and blue eyes shining.

We all got settled, Deborah introduced the theme of the month, and here, my second prejudice of the day reared it's self-righteous head. God.

Each month the studio chooses a theme, and usually it's something inoffensive like Mudras, or Mother, or Forgiveness. October, apparently, was God's month.

There's a certain tic an atheist displays when hearing the word "God." It's a subtle eye roll paired with the quietest release of air in the back of the throat, a short, breathy -uh sound, sort of like the dismissive noise a teenage girl makes right before she says, "whatever." It's not meant to be rude, or even noticed by the speaker. It's more of an emotive gesture, a release of frustration, the sort that develops after a lifetime of uninvited God references in and from neighbors, relatives, strangers, books, door-to-door proselytizers, weddings and, as I recently discovered, funerals.

God really is everywhere.

So, needless to say, I was all set for this to be the worst yoga class ever. A honey-voiced apartheid baby was going to God-talk me to death while running us through an endless series of painful, sweaty, mind-expanding poses. Great.

But then Deborah did something really unexpected. "Let's keep our eyes open," she said as the class began. "We'll start today by looking around the room, seeing all the people in this room, and recognizing that any one of them might be in a great amount of pain right now."

I almost raised my hand. It was amazing. It was like Deborah was this superyogi who could smell the sadness of death. And I was all the way in the back.

The whole class was like that - gentle and surprising and without the usual crazy drive to out-chaturanga the yogi next to me. And then at the end, you do this thing called shavasana, which means corpse pose, and you lie very still on your back and just relax. It's nice.

You know that Leonard Cohen song Hallelujah? Well, Jeff Buckley did a version sometime in the 90s, and Deborah had it on her iPod and played it during shavasana and it was like the height of cheesiness and I bet you can guess what happened next...

There's this thing I like to call the shavasana sob, and every once in a while someone just starts crying in corpse pose. It's really weird. All that twisting and straining and ancient physiological tuning and by the end, some people burst into tears. It's kind of awkward, and everyone else in the room is like damn, what the hell happened? and no one knows if you should just ignore it or go get a tissue, or what.

And today, I was the sobber. Yup, that was me. The shavasana sob had never happened to me before, but ever since Kyle died, I've been waiting for it. I just didn't think Jeff Buckley would be involved.

I wasn't really loud or anything, just sort of quivering and sniffly, and then, like an angel from a formerly-segregated heaven, Deborah was there. She smoothed my forehead. She rubbed my ears. She wiped the tears from my face, laid her hands on my neck, and let them just sit there. It felt really good. I stopped crying.

Deborah, you are a fantastic teacher. That was the most amazing yoga class I've ever been to.

So here, in your honor, because it's fun and the better version anyway, is Leonard Cohen singing on what looks like a 1980s Scandinavian television show:

UPDATE: I now have it on the highest authority that this clip was not filmed in Scandinavia, but in Germany in 1984. Thank you, dear reader. You made my week.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


I like to pretend that I'm crafty. I have a lot of yarn I sometimes knit and then unknit. I collect magazines and cheap paintbrushes. J found a bunch of old slides from the 50s that I am convinced I'll do something brilliant with someday.

Today I'm feeling very blah, so I'll distract with you some weird collages I've done while I sit and stew about how I have nothing to say:

High school friend Julie (and recent memory donor - thanks!) gave me the Mary statuette back when I drove a Mary-themed 1987 Toyota Camry. It glows in the dark (Mary, not the car).

I call this one Opera Sex:

Pan-Asian meaninglessness. Yes, that's Korean and Chinese script, Buddhist statues, and elephants from God knows where:

I don't have an explanation for this:

This is my least favorite. Look at those ugly colors. But there's a cartoon My Little Pony in the middle:

My current project:

I should be writing.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Bitching Saves Lives

Did you see this? Women who don't express their feelings while arguing with their husbands are four times more likely to die than women who speak their minds. In other words, it is physiologically essential for women to complain, nag, whine, kvetch, and/or bitch.

Isn't science amazing?

I Heart New York 2

I bought the cutest purse the other day. It was $25, one of those cheap street deals that'll fall apart in a month. Well, I thought I had a month. Turned out, the zipper on the outside pocket broke the day after I bought it. Normally this wouldn't have fazed me (I get all my purses and earrings off the street, so I constantly have cheap Chinese hardware falling off me), but I really liked this purse and I'd just gotten it, so I wanted it fixed.

One of my responsibilities at my not-very-demanding job is to check the PO box once a week. It's three cross town blocks away, not a short walk, but not ridiculous. I usually just get into an iPod reverie and I'm there before I know it. This morning, though, a sign caught my eye - URIEL'S SHOE REPAIR SHOP. The place was open, so I went inside.

New York City shoe repair places tend to be impossibly small. Smaller than the smallest store you've ever been in, so small that two people can't stand next to each other without becoming embarrassingly intimate. Uriel's was no exception. I pushed open the door to find the place already filled to capacity with two Russian men in yarmulkes.

I asked if they could fix purse zippers and the man behind the counter said sure. While I waited. I just had to empty my purse.

They watched everything come out of it. Book, notebook, wallet, cinnamon gum, pens, Tide-to-Go, lipgloss, worry beads, Leatherman, the last piece of Nicorette I keep for emergencies. "What?" the second Russian said. "No candy?" And then, like magic, I reached into the very bottom of the bag and pulled out an M&M Kudos bar I'd completely forgotten about. "See," the guy said, triumphant, "I know women!"

I balanced on a narrow bench and opened my book. The second man inched aside to give my knees some room, and they resumed their conversation in Russian. My stuff sat in an embarrassing pile on the counter.

Suddenly, the door flew open, almost hitting me. A fourth person squeezed her way into the shop. She was stooped over, holding one of her pant legs by the cuff. "Uriel!" she called, even though he was not three feet away. "Help me!"

We all looked up, but the woman was staring at me, not Uriel. She was black, middle aged, and had on multicolored polkadot glasses. "Oh my god, those earrings are gorgeous." She let her pants leg fall. "Where in God's name did you get them because I am always looking for the perfect earrings."

I was disappointed to realize I didn't know. I liked this woman (I liked being flattered) and I wanted to help, but I stop at every one of those street stands I see looking for earrings and purses, and I couldn't begin to even guess if I'd found them in the Bronx or Morningside Heights or the Village.

But she had already moved on.

"I need a needle, Uriel. I need one in the worst way. Here I am on the way to work and I rip my goddamn seam out with my heel and it's only by the luck of the Lord that I did it across the street from you."

Uriel was bent over my purse, sewing my zipper back in. He didn't smile. "Needle's busy," he said.

"Oh for crissakes, Uriel."

Without looking up, Uriel pulled a magnetic needle holder out from under the counter and set a spool of dark blue thread next to it. The woman leaned against the Russian guy - who didn't seem to notice - crossed her foot over one knee, and began to sew.

That's all I needed. I was in love with the place. I wanted to be just like this woman, able to find a joke in Uriel's unsmiling face, to lean against the Russian without a word. I began running through all my purses in my mind, trying to remember which needed repairs. I wanted to be part of Uriel's in-crowd.

And then, as if just to drive the point home, a big gray cat weaved it's way out from the back and jumped into my lap.

"Do you know Masha?" the Russian asked.

"Know her?"

"Masha is famous. Everybody knows Masha."

The black woman eyed the cat. "I know Masha. Masha, you stay the hell away. I'm in navy."

Masha mewed.

"Are you married?" The Russian asked me.


"Do you have cats?"


"Masha can always tell." He pointed at me, not accusingly, but with emphasis. "A women with cats needs babies."

Uriel looked up. "You can go ahead and tell him yourself," he said to me, gesturing at the Russian.

"I'm too young for babies."

The black woman snorted.

"All right, done." She used Uriel's long, heavy scissors to clip the thread and carefully placed her needle back in its holder. "A lifesaver."

I leaned back to let her open the door. Masha followed the woman out, twitching her tail with lazy confidence.

Uriel passed my purse back to me and I filled all its little pockets with the appropriate things. The charge was ten dollars. My $25 purse had become a $35 purse in just two days, but as Uriel and the Russian resumed their talk, barely nodding their heads as I said goodbye, I couldn't have minded less.

Monday, October 1, 2007

I'm Only Black Half the Time

Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson came out with a NYT op-ed today that gets at the heart of my ambiguous relationship with the black community. Go ahead and read it. It's short, I'll wait.

So you see the problem? Black people are incarcerated in absolutely unacceptable numbers. Drug laws, mandatory sentencing, and a lack of rehabilitation have led to a culture of imprisonment, and when I think about this, the side of me I feel most strongly is black. And pissed. Those convicts are my cousins and uncles and it makes me think, against my better judgment, that this is a country of moral and charitable destitution and little else.

But, as Patterson points out, there is a second part of the equation. Black men are actively fucking things up. They are pissing where they sleep. Like kicked dogs, they turn the humiliation of a stifled life onto their women and children and compound a problem already festering with poverty, racism, and the pervasiveness of habit.

A strong caveat here. My dad is a black man has never been abusive, physically or verbally, towards anyone. And he was a present dad. Even after my parents' divorce I saw him three days a week until I went to college. Black men like this - loyal, hardworking fathers - I'm not talking about these men. I'm talking about those other motherfuckers.

I didn't grow up in a black neighborhood and I tend to steer clear of anyone who uses the word "bitch" too liberally - so, like most of America, what I know of the motherfuckers comes from hiphop. And hiphop tells me that the motherfuckers hate women. They don't come right out and say it. They sing ballads they claim to be love songs. But what they really love is sex, and it is a rare rhyme that acknowledges any part of a woman not meant for reproduction. And living in New York ghettos I've seen how how this music pervades not just every car, stereo, and iPod, but the very eyes of the men as they watch women walk down the street. And this makes me feel very, very un-black.

The problem, of course, is in allowing the motherfuckers to define blackness. But how could we not? The ghetto is where the interesting stories are, where death and war and basic human struggle are played out so starkly. How could we expect the media to cover black high school graduations while people are being shot around the corner? Why would black professors be held up as symbols of black culture when rappers wear so many more sparkles? How could black women be praised for their minds when we already spend so much air time praising their asses? Until black culture is publicly acknowledged, from within and without, to incorporate more than only the most impoverished black stories, how can I, in my privileged, educated world, feel more than an intellectual connection to my supposed people?