Saturday, February 28, 2009

Remember Me On This Computer

Remember Me On This Computer

I'm not contagious, the woman on the plane
said. I just had some face work done.
It's not healing like they said it would.

We talked during the flight, and I discovered
that she had carried a list of pallbearers
in her purse since she was twenty-one. I add
and delete all the time
, she said. The vagaries
of the heart! The kind of detail you'd love,
I thought, remembering your pallbearers, one my
ex-husband, another an ex-boyfriend. The typo
on your funeral program, What A Fried We Have In Jesus
and how that would have made you laugh. How my dad
laid his hand on your casket and said Good-bye, old buddy
and then the sound of your casket being lowered
into the ground. There is no other sound like it.

In Memoriam, Hank D. Ballenger, March 18, 1970- February 28, 2002

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"I'm haunted by all the space/ I will live without you." Richard Brautigan

Cocktail Hour
Drinking martini video will be posted tomorrow!

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Saturday!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

VH1 Black History Month

VH1 TV Shows Music Videos Celebrity Photos News & Gossip

Hey guys! A few of my pictures made it into this collage at around the 5:17-5:21 minute mark. Hope you're having a great Friday! I've finished the perfect martini video and will post it soon.

The Goat Man

My sister's first boyfriend was a real scary dude who talked a lot about being visited by the "goat man" who had the face of a skeleton and was out for blood. It didn't take a degree in psychology or even watching the "special episode" of Different Strokes (you know the one where Arnold and his friend are left in the care of a pedophile who bribes them with liquor and gets them to play naked together on the bunk bed set that he conveniently has in his garage -- red flag! red flag!) to realize he was being sexually abused by his stepfather and no good would come of it, in fact much evil. The mercifully short-lived boyfriend grew up to do things like catch rattlesnakes and hand them to drunks down on the Brazos River. One man died this way, too out of it to make his way to the death hut that is Palo Pinto General Hospital (not the best track record -- most of the people I knew made their way in, but like infamous Roach Motel ads, they did not come out).

When you're traumatized, part of you is dying (quite literally I believe) to tell the story. The other part believes you will die if you tell it. Hence the Goat Man. Our secrets won't stay buried and yet we can't help but try. My sister's dog Ginger often takes her bones and buries them so she can play a little game of hide and seek later, a delight to be savored, money found in an old coat pocket. But what about the rattlesnakes, the rats, the horrors? You can play a little game with those as well. It's just not nearly as fun.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"I say what I want to say and do what I want to do. There's no in between. People will either love you for it or hate you for it." Eminem

Cocktail Hour
Drinking memoir suggestion: Passing For Thin Frances Kuffel

Benedictions and Maledictions
Thanks to the commenters who felt I might have given up enough for Lent this year! I'm still working on a plan, but perhaps a gentle one. As to Lana's comment (and Chris), I live in a highly Catholic section of Detroit, and people still looked at me strange every Ash Wednesday when I taught and one kid asked if I fell asleep on a newspaper which made me laugh. (the idea of actually waking up early enough to read a newspaper hot off the presses, that is).

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday

Happy Ash Wednesday to all! I'll be back tomorrow with thoughts on what I'm giving up this year. xoxo, Michelle

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Burn After Reading

My deep and abiding love for the depressing comes from my parents. I didn't realize this since they were, on the surface, both cheerful and funny. But their book collection is straight out of Kafka -- not one book that isn't somehow disaster-themed or murder-based. What can I say? The apple doesn't fall far. Besides the mandatory copy of The Road Less Travelled (untouched by the looks of it and even Scott Peck all but abandoned his success as a new-age guru to explore the existence of demons), all I can find out about are people's near death experiences or the trial of Cullen Davis.

There's a picture of me and my sister as children where we hold candles in front of the fireplace. She's looking pissed off as the wax had dripped on her and hurt her. I'm mesmerized by the flame. Fire, that violent transformation, the story of the phoenix and all that. Lately, I see ads that say, I Am A Phoenix, touting the University of Arizona's on-line program. Here's to that idea for the modern age -- that we can reinvent ourselves and rise again in another form for another day.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"I've just been really lucky to not be too much of a stereotype." Marisa Tomei

Cocktail Hour
Drinking movie suggestion: Henry Poole Is Here

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Fat Tuesday!

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Little Blue Sweater

Mickey Rourke's beloved dog Loki died a few days before the Academy Awards. I saw Loki in a Men's Health magazine wearing a little blue sweater and he broke my heart. I don't know why; I'm not a person with a fondness for animals. I do love Mickey Rourke, especially last night when he talked with Barbara Walters about how Loki lasted as long as he could and when he knew Mickey was in a better place, he knew it was okay to die. At a certain point in his life, Mickey was sleeping in his closet (for reasons he didn't understand, although it has a certain metaphorical elegance) and his dogs brought him back to life. Such is the nature of love, whatever the source. Mickey had a little tuxedo made for Loki for the Academy Awards and he carried it with him in remembrance.

Mickey didn't win last night and that's okay. As he said in the interview, winning an Academy Award would mean a lot, but you couldn't eat it, fuck it, and it wasn't going to get you into heaven which are all excellent points. We (and I mean me) are always waiting for the big fix, the one thing that will set everything else into place, give my life meaning, form, and barring that, comfort. Spiritual types tend to talk about failure as a gift. If so, I'd like to return it and get something else like compassion or another really nice fondue set. But I suppose even though failure has the worst wrapping paper ever, it is a gift, reminding us that we're not at home in this world almost ever, that part of us will always want what is fleeting, and that are lives are defined both what we are and what will never be again.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us and we see nothing but sand; the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone." George Eliot

Drinking memoir suggestion: Redeemed Heather King

Benedictions and Maledictions
Was very sad that Mickey Rourke did not win best actor but was very glad that Sean Penn did -- my two picks! Relieved beyond belief that Angelina Jolie did not get best actress; I much preferred her in her goth crazy, I'm so in love with my brother stage than the new incarnation. And well, Kate Winslet is just brilliant so there you go. As for supporting, I liked Josh Brolin, Michael Shannon, and Heath Ledger so overall (besides my mild dislike of Slumdog), I was happy with the awards.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Never Blend In

Hi everyone! Thanks for all the comments about writing -- very thoughtful and interesting. I'm going to write a post trying to address these concerns at some point when my feeble mind starts working again.

I think I might be the only person who saw Milk in the theater with and without an appendix. It's good either way and I hope it wins best picture. Don't think it will because a lot of people aren't comfortable with Sean Penn kissing James Franco onscreen for an entire minute (coolest scene ever) and certainly not comfortable with the ways in which we as Americans have mistreated and discriminated against homosexuals (the historical footage is disconcerting to say the least). I know Slumdog Millionaire is the favorite, but I found the story to be way too corndog for my taste -- Dickens in India with a completely unbelievable love story. Beautiful pictures, but a little boring. If I can't buy into the characters, I can't fall in love with the story. Most of my writing is character-driven so it makes sense. I've always had trouble with plot. I never know what will happen next.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"If these beings guard you, they do so because they have been summoned by your prayers." Saint Ambrose

Cocktail Hour
Video on champagne flights in the works!

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Saturday!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Pain

As I'm still working on my essay, I'm posting a question today for your consideration -- what is the hardest part of the writing process for you? For me, I believe it's getting to the most personal material without flinching. Any ideas?

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Finally the pain of remaining in a bud becomes greater than blossoming." Anais Nin

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Thursday! And many good health wishes to my dear Angela and congratualations to the beautiful Jill (Bring Him Glory link) for her recent good news about graduate school!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Still Washing Out!

Hi everyone! Still working very hard on the new essay -- I have a draft, but I'm going to let it sit for a little while before posting it so I can see what needs to be changed. I'll be posting later this afternoon -- thanks for all the kind words about the section I posted Monday!

Monday, February 16, 2009


Hi everyone! I'm posting a small portion of my new essay, "The Washout." I don't know where it's going, but I'm sure I'll post it in its entirety at some point. Thanks for reading!

As I searched for the bride's $25 dollar tiara by the light of the full moon through four garbage bags, I wanted to weep. Not because I was a stranger to humiliation, not out of any misguided sense of lost youth. Both my parents and my friend had died in the last few years. Not because I wasn't the bride, not because I had enough champagne in my system to last through Truman Capote's Black and White Ball. No, I wanted to weep because I had an awful foreboding that I could not shake. The light from the moon illuminated everything in this wondrous way. True to my nature, I just wanted the world to be dark again.

Surrounded by tubes, the nurse soothed me. “No wonder you think you’re in Pizza Hut. It’s all this spaghetti around your neck.” My arms were covered with bruises and scratches where I had fought against the doctors and eventually restraints. The morphine kept me under a lot of the time until I got well enough to be moved to the surgical trauma unit. But before that, I was listed in critical condition and often hallucinated the kind doctor’s face as he leaned over me to prep me for surgery saying, "We’re very worried about you. You could die. You’re a very sick girl.” And for those days I prayed to either get well or die. My soul felt like that tiara -- fake, worthless, buried so deep in garbage that God might never find it.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"All children have to be deceived if they are to grow up without trauma." Kazuo Ishiguro

Cocktail Hour
Hope you enjoyed the Three Cherry Buddha! Suggestions for Friday?

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Monday!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Camp Crystal Lake

Happy Friday the 13th! I can't believe that I've lived long enough to see the original movie circle to a thousand sequels back to a remake of the original. Camp Crystal Lake is where all the excitement is! I spent much of my girlhood watching slasher movies when I wasn't setting things on fire or reading Philip Roth. I hope you're having a great day. I'll be back at you this afternoon with a new drink recipe, the Three Cherry Buddha.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


In lieu of a post since I'm working on something new that isn't ready to be seen by anyone, I'm going to list a few favorite things --

Friday the 13th (we have one this week and again in March)
Diary Of A Mad Housewife (don't ask)
Ben and Jerry's Creme Brulee flavored ice-cream (it is heaven, really, kind of like heroin or other opiates but without that strung-out feeling after)
taking communion
watching "Celebrity Rehab" and now "Sober House"
buying clothes
Detroit proper
Dorothy Allison (now there's a writer who doesn't mince words, no sir)
seeing Valentine decorations come down at the end of this week

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: You don't give up." Anne Lamott

Cocktail Hour
Drinking suggestion: Again, any suggestions for the end of the week video?

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Wednesday! Thanks again for all kind support about the surgery and recovery. I'm still catching up, but feeling much better and even working on an essay about the whole ordeal called "The Washout."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts

My dear friend Laura Benedict has written a terrific novel titled Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts. You should buy it. Really. Especially if you like to be a little afraid, a little on edge. Laura is fearless when it comes to positing morality in a world that has, in many ways, long since abandoned it. Her characters have done bad things and those bad things (read the book if you want to know what they are!) come back to haunt. I think about Robert Johnson and his death at the hand of a jealous boyfriend proffering poisonous liquor. But if lore is to be believed, Robert Johnson made his deal with the Devil seven years before. He also advised musicians to find the ugliest woman in town to stay with during their tenure there because that woman was likely to be a great cook and especially grateful for your company. Okay, he could play a hell of a guitar. But maybe not all of his ideas were fantastic. I've always been terrified of owls given that I once saw a trailer filled with representations of them in every possible nook and cranny. I never saw so many eyes on me at the same time. Laura's book is full of them, examining the soul and bringing retribution. Read this novel and then meditate, as my old preacher used to say, on the holes in your own soul, the way you sell it little by little or all at once.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer." Charlotte's Webb

Cocktail Hour
Drinking suggestion: Any requests for the Friday drink mix? I know what I'm doing this Friday, but I'll take any advice I can get!

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Tuesday!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Happy Endings

There's a dude named Norm that I sort of know through a friend of a friend. Norm doesn't have any teeth and the day before his father's funeral, he left his dentures at a diner where he was weeping for his dad, left them in a napkin. Of course, the dentures got thrown away with all the other trash around the plate and Norm dug through the dumpster later that night. He never did find his teeth so he had to go to the funeral with no teeth in his head, as they say in Texas. And he still owed money on his teeth; he'd bought them on time and still had many months of paying for the lost ones with no hope of getting new ones made.

This is some sad shit, make no mistake. But it's not the end of the story. I learn that Norm has chronic back trouble for which he gets a monthly supply of oxycontin. Instead of taking them as prescribed, he saves them up and he and his wife take all of them over the course of a weekend where they hole up in their trailer, the kind of party where you don't invite anyone. So he stumbles about the rest of the month, back aching, no teeth, and well, he visits a "massage" parlor (you know the kind) where happy endings are the order of the day and he gets robbed leaving the place. This is my material for today. I ask you, dear reader, where would you begin and why?

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"What I believe does not matter. There either is a God or there is not. It has nothing to do with my faith, which is that there is a God and God really does love everybody, including people that don't believe there is a God. " Steve Earle

Cocktail Hour
Drinking memoir suggestion: Moments of Clarity Christopher Kennedy Lawford

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Monday! Thanks for the kind comments about the video -- I'll be doing a Friday drink recipe every week for as long as I can think of drinks. Especially this Friday, Friday the 13th -- right before the wicked Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 06, 2009

It's Bloody Mary Time!

Here it is -- Bloody Mary time, with apologies to the Reverend Horton Heat. Hope you're having an excellent Friday!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Nights With No Moon

My French relatives from New Caledonia (the ones on my mother's side of the family) who drank to excess, fought with knives, and loved shopping at Tom Thumb when they visited the States, used to dive for black pearls off the island. You could only get them at night, and by all accounts, it was dangerous. I have no way of knowing how much of what they said was true -- they often showed up with a handful of the precious pearls and tombstones for relatives that were already buried which made groovy-cool decorations in my parents' already creepy-ass house.

On my search engine, I get a bizarre variety of search terms, some mundane (how do you spell extremely?) to disturbing (pre-teen rape scenes). But mostly I get spells -- spells to make someone love you, spells to bring lost love back, and interestingly enough, spells for longer hair. It seems, just like I always suspected, that a lot of people don't think their hair looks good. But I always get sad when I see the love spells, the desire, the hope. There wasn't a lot of love in my mother's family unless you count throwing bottles at each other as signs of affection. I still have one of the rare black pearls from their visits and the lore says it guides you through nights with no moon. White pearls signify fertility so I avoid them, pink ones look, well, too pink. But to wear something around your neck to guide you through your nights without any moonlight allows you to walk through the darkest moments with hope, maybe the most dangerous item in Pandora's box.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Rock'n'roll is so great that everyone in the world should think it's the greatest thing that's happening. If they don't, they're turds.” Lux Interior (Rest in Peace!)

Cocktail Hour
Video tomorrow - - I'm coming up with a whole new batch of potions to get us through all the hearts and flowers of Valentine's Day.

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Thursday! Still thinking about Mark's writing prompt -- a party scene, matching dresses, too much tequila . . . it's coming together!

Sweet Diva

Hi readers! I didn't post yesterday because of technical difficulties (and no Mark, I haven't killed the camcorder yet -- today might be the day) and post-partum depression from finishing my manuscript. Does anyone else feel this way when you finish a big project, ie, strange, out of sorts, tired and fussy, at loose ends? Please tell me I'm not alone in this!

The good news is that my dear friend Priscilla has a new blog (or an existing one that she has resumed) about all the important stuff in life: perfume, books, music, and being a girl. I met Priscilla in graduate school when we showed up for our very first meeting with our teaching mentor wearing identical dresses. All friendships should begin this way -- I highly recommend it. I have spent many a good time with Priscilla (and no, I will not disclose the crying in the backseat of a car story where our respective then-significant others dumped our drunk asses one night in total frustration) and I urge you to check out her blog. Since I don't have a scanned picture of the two of us, I'm using the above picture because that's what we kind of look like. I'll be back at you today with some new writing because God knows I need to start something new.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Last Supper

Hi readers! The above pouty face is in response to the fact that I made a Bloody Mary video last night and cannot for the life of me get it posted. I hate technology issues! But maybe I will manage it tomorrow and maybe I will smash the camcorder into a million tiny pieces. Here's an excerpt from Second Day Reported. Back at you with the trapped drink recipe as soon as possible.

Where I grew up, almost all the kitchens had a poster or painting of the Last Supper by the dinner table. One of the more unusual renderings was in black velvet which I would run my fingers along when no one was looking, all those apostles glowing in the dark. My parents didn't have one so I thought this a tremendously exotic touch to any dining room decor. When we were little girls, Angela Dawn and I used to walk around her parents' trailer park after playing a few rounds of croquet with the tiny plastic set her father had put up, talking about what our houses would look like when we got older. We both agreed that we'd have the Apostles in our kitchen. We both agreed that we would not live in a trailer. And that we could eat Jell-O and Jell-O only for dinner if we liked because in our first grade lingo, it had, like, no calories or fat. Years later, we'd trade tips on how to throw away our dinner food while our parents weren't looking -- alas, our eating disordered tendencies started early. Then we'd have a contest on who could read faster -- Angela was athletic as a colt, eerily smart and stunningly beautiful, but I always won the reading contests. It was nice to have one talent.

Years passed, and I moved away to college. She had a nervous breakdown and had to come home. She married early, and my then-beloved and I visited her and her husband in their trailer, the trailer she swore she would never have. I looked around at the hideous orange shag carpet that she was swearing she'd replace and saw what she had done to make things nice. I smiled -- there was The Last Supper! I'd forgotten about our promise. Her husband chewed his tobacco and spit it into a cup while watching professional wrestling on television. His name was Joseph, and although he seemed like a Joe or Joey, nobody called him anything but the most chaste spouse of Mary's name. I felt as if I'd slipped into a bizarre funhouse mirror of our childhood dream. For dinner, she served baked chicken and instant mashed potatoes, but only played with her food as she'd done for as long as I'd known her. Then she produced dessert -- grape Jell-O. It's all I eat, she told me. It keeps the weight down. It was the middle of summer, but she presented me the most perfect Halloween gift I had received up until then -- a hand-poured luminous jack-o-lantern candle that glowed from the inside. I knew you'd love it, she said. And I did. We lit it up and watched the shadows dance all over the small space, all over the faces of the men who were sharing one last meal with Jesus who would save them, the seeds of betrayal already in the picture.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"I live and love in God's peculiar light."- Michelangelo

Cocktail Hour
Video soon!

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Happy Black History Month!

I know. You're watching the Superbowl. You may be eating/drinking/talking about Kurt Warner too much. (Got to love the story -- my dad used to often say that a person could go from the shithouse to the penthouse and the reverse in a matter of seconds -- very very true and a hopeful thought in these times.) But I have excellent news; I have discovered the holy grail of recipes for a Bloody Mary. This is usually not a great drink because people either use mixes (suck city), or don't have all the ingredients. The ingredients don't taste very good in and of themselves -- you really have to mix and chill. I'll have a video up soon to give you my secrets. At least most of them involving celery salt. Until then, I hope you're having a happy Sunday!