Thursday, April 30, 2009

Groundhog Day

I know someone who has twin sons; he says every day is like Groundhog Day -- get up, feed the babies, change the babies, go to work, come home, feed the babies, change the babies . . . I don't have this kind of life. But I do have my own personal Groundhog Day tropes, as if I'm stuck in some kind of godforsaken Kafka story where I hear things at the worst possible times, things I have heard before, things that hurt my feelings and bother me. Stuck in Mobile with the Memphis blues kind of feeling. Lonely, hurt, and put upon. The things are never going to fucking change blues. Things I would think were funny if I was in a better mood zone.

But this kind of torment can also lead to a strange liberation. Some situations don't change. Which is kind of great if you change your perspective. Make no mistake; I'm not Pollyanna, even if she is the source of my favorite joke (What's on Pollyanna's tombstone? I'm glad I'm dead!). But my new mantra of liberation seems to be It's not my problem. So much isn't under my control even when I want to make everyone happy which is kind of the source of most of the aforementioned blues. I can try; sometimes I make situations better, sometimes worse. I can listen and I can respond. I always joke about the line the bar owner says in Carver's "Vitamins": "Everybody be happy, that's my motto." And by and large, it is. But I won't go an early grave because of it. Groundhog Day or no, winter is over.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"I have learned over the years that when one's mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear." Rosa Parks

Cocktail Hour
Drinking suggestion: Video tomorrow -- I'm thinking of doing a wedding cake martini. Any other suggestions?

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Thursday! Still working on all the e-mails and playing catch up from recent sickness, ennui, and despair. Ha! Seriously, I should be caught up on everything by Sunday. Thanks for all the great comments and support during my final push to get Screen Test finished. I'm ready to get back to life pre-surgery, post-book.

Monday, April 27, 2009

SpongeBob Squarepants!

Is anyone else disturbed by the strange Burger King ad that features dancing girls with phone books tucked in their shorts gyrating to the strains of that most eloquent ode to the backside, Sir Mixalot's "I Like Big Butts?" Except it's changed to square butts and Burger King is (and yes, I think this is the right word) pimping children's meals. Somehow the innocent SpongeBob SquarePants has also landed into this quagmire of strangeness. And the Burger King guy just looks like a pedophile. I don't know why I think this; the only pedophile I knew was the funeral director that lived next door and he looked like a normal guy except for a real fondness for Brilocream. Sufficed to say, one dab did not do him.

I find NPR (I am the killjoy in the car who says, If you don't turn that shit off, I will stab myself in the eyes) and political correctness a total bore, but come on! I liked Sir Mixalot back when his ode to women's butts seemed a lovely counterpart to the whole hideously thin movement that had taken over. I'm starting to believe that the rumors that they have bars in ad agencies where people can guzzle vodka straight and come up with ideas. I don't eat at Burger King -- for some reason, nothing there appeals to me. Somehow, though, I think I could have come up with a better ad.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"I still believe in Hope - mostly because there's no such place as Fingers Crossed, Arkansas." Molly Ivins

Cocktail Hour
Drinking memoir suggestion: Unravelled Maria Housden

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Monday! Thanks for all well wishes -- I'm glad not to have the evil swine flu. Stay well, my dears! I'll be catching up on all e-mail and everything else in the next two days. My big project only needs the final touches and like my lovely girl Jodi says, It's summer! Time to have some fun, catch up on blogs and friends, and prepare for whatever the next year of my life holds. This one certainly didn't pull any punches!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

And Then There's Maude

Hi readers! Just spent the morning at the ever-exciting emergency room. No worries -- simple flu/sinus infection combo. On a sad note, Bea Arthur died today. I LOVED Maude, loved it and it was an extremely formative television show for me -- brave, funny, and audacious. And one of the few shows that showed an independent woman over forty who was political, funny, and smart and unlike many actresses that age, could still move her face. I miss that kind of programming these days. Rest in peace, Bea!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Snap Shots

Hi everyone! Here's a new revision one of the first sections of Screen Test. Thanks for reading!

After my parents died, I displayed their pictures angled next to each other. Despite their relatively long marriage, I don’t own a single picture of the two of them together. In their clear glass frames, the kind without a border, they are young and the eventual ravages of their lives are nowhere to be seen. My mother stands in front of a small crowd in Australia, a large brown python around her neck, draping over her arms like a shawl. She holds a matronly purse in one hand, the endless blue sky in the other. Around her neck she wears a cheap gold-colored pendant M for Margie. In these years, she’d adorn herself with this necklace or one from which a glass orb that contained a mustard seed inside it hung. Her brown hair, shoulder-length and feathered, her face very French, a strong nose, gray eyes. A short woman with a lot of curves, she loved to say that she was small but mighty. She looks at the snake with a kind of love, and I think that she was never afraid of what she should have been.

My dad poses next to a Christmas tree, his hair still black and full, the way it would remain until he died. He wears an army flight jacket that my then-husband and I bought him for Christmas. He’s a handsome man, everyone said so. Not a care in the world, except bills he couldn’t pay, a sick wife who never seems to recover. Still, he gives the thumbs up and smiles. After we open presents, he’ll go into the garage and work on his plane, an unfinished Mustang II that has been there since I leared to walk and will still be unfinished when he dies. But he doesn’t know that. In the picture, it’s always Christmas.

My younger sister Beth and I were posed together in front of the fireplace every Christmas in fussy matching red velvet dresses that my dad’s mother sent each year. In my favorite, we are both holding lit taper candles. Beth looks at hers with fear and hate -- the wax has dripped on her. I stare at the flame, mesmerized by the flame. I’m a lot taller than Beth and always will be. I look like Daddy and Mother whereas Beth looks like my mother’s mother, Yvette, at least before Yvette took so many blows from Charlie that she didn’t resemble anyone.

I also have a picture of Beth as an adult displayed next to my parents, a green python around her neck, a belly dancer beside her. She looks frozen and terrified in front of the camera, trying to be game. She smiles, eyes wide, her hair pulled back into a scrunchie. Despite the snake, she doesn’t look like our mother, the person she loved the very most in the world. But they are both being brave. I could never touch a snake so great is my fear. But I often feel the weight around my neck.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"The still must tease with the promise of a story the viewer of it itches to be told." Cindy Sherman

Cocktail Hour
Drinking documentary suggestion: Nobody's Here But Me

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Break Time!

Hi everyone! I'm putting the final touches on the book today and have a crappy evil cold so I'm taking a break from the blog today. I'll be back tomorrow -- hope you're having a great week!

Michelle's Spell for the Day
"Nihilism should be left to the professionals." Iggy Pop

Cocktail Hour
Drinking cold remedy: Emergency C

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Tuesday!

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Girl And A Gun

Ten years ago, I spent the afternoon interviewing a Chinese restaurant owner in Troy. His wife served us plates and plates of wonderful food, a definite perk of the job I had given that I was poor, poor, poor and lived on the eastside of Detroit in a beautiful loft. I loved that place and for years after I left, I had dreams where I was lost on the streets, struck with a horrible deep sadness that I would never be able to find that house again. But ten years ago, I was there. I remember it because I came home to find my then-boyfriend watching the Columbine school shooting on television. Hitler's birthday always inspires the nutjobs and this was no exception. I thought about my days in high school, the depressing nature of April, and how I'd been taught to shoot a gun as part of my high school curriculum in a class called Outdoor Education. Really. I am not making this shit up. And how that class was probably not going to happen anymore.

The restaurant owner had told me about his wife's multiple miscarriages, a detail I would have to leave out of the fluff piece for the local weekly circular that paid me fifty to a hundred dollars a story. He sent me home with lots of food which I ate while I watched the Columbine footage. I thought about how strange life is and was and how when I was in high school, I could never imagine doing what I was doing now. I thought about the man and his wife who wanted a baby and couldn't have one. I thought about the killers, their motives. Contrary to popular belief, they weren't bullied kids. In fact, they admitted in their journals that they did the bullying. The bigger psychopath, Eric Harris, wore a t-shirt that said Natural Selection on the back during the day of the shooting. How many sad stories and legends would spin from this day and a sick feeling that maybe this sort of thing would start happening a lot more often now that the killers would obtain a sort of strange cult-like status even if all the other ones who picked up a gun wouldn't draw the same kind of attention. The law of diminishing returns, something I was starting to understand in those difficult and yet lovely days.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Art attracts us only by what it reveals of our most secret self." Jean-Luc Godard

Cocktail Hour
Drinking movie suggestion: Grey Gardens

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Monday!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Untitled Film Stills

Watched Ovation last night, a channel I'd never seen before with shows on photographers which were great. I saw one on Cindy Sherman and Sally Mann, both photographers I greatly admire, particularly Immediate Family (Sally Mann) and Untitled Film Stills (a haunting collection of B-movie cliches by Cindy Sherman). I'm working on a longer post about it, but I think I need to watch it again. Any photographers you guys particularly admire?

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Anxiety is part of creativity, the need to get something out, the need to be rid of something or to get in touch with something within." David Duchovny

Cocktail Hour
Drinking memoir suggestion: Complications Atul Gawande

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Friday!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Detroit Moan

The tax day blues! Hope you're having a good one. Back at you tomorrow with more drinks, writing, and pictures.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


I never thought I would be nostalgic for the eighties. As a decade, I found it to be a wash. I had straight hair for a lot of it, not subscribing to the old Texas jewel -- the higher the hair, the closer to God. And I never wore the right clothes or liked the music all that much. Dynasty versus Dallas, greed it good, Bret Easton Ellis novels, well, like I said, a wash. But I find myself these days thinking about how quaint it is in certain ways. I'd no sooner answer my phone these days without knowing who it is and yet I did this routinely throughout my youth. I'd pick up a live snake before giving up caller id.

Just saw Adventureland, a movie set in the dying light of the decade. It's not a comedy, but a depressing valentine to teen angst and minimum wage labor. I liked it; Lou Reed's music plays a large part. And the setting, Pittsburgh, is very much like Detroit. I thought a lot about how things were back in those times, thought a lot about how hard it was to get in touch with the guy you liked given there was no e-mailing or texting options. You had to speak. On the phone. I used to write out little scripts before making such calls. Really. Eventually the person would go off the plan. I'd be left without any defenses. And that was cool. I think Lou Reed would understand.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"If the photographer is interested in the people in front of his lens, and if he is compassionate, it's already a lot. The instrument is not the camera but the photographer." Eve Arnold

Cocktail Hour
Drinking memoir suggestion:Going Gray Anne Kreamer

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Tuesday! Thanks for all the great video response -- I'm definitely hip on Charles' suggestion to make a bartending video. I'll keep you guys posted!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Holy Saturday

Seven years ago tonight, I became a Catholic. I loved the long ritual and reading the part about the creation of sea monsters (here's where my dramatic actressy side came out) among other things (hey, I love the surreal aspect) and getting baptized. I also went into the baptismal in my stilettos, obviously my sin nature -- ha! -- asserting itself. We're about to go into ordinary time, the longest part of the year. It's my favorite in a way -- nothing special happening, just day after day. Lent is finished and now I begin another year. I wish I had some giant fortune cookie to let me know what to expect, but maybe not. The last seven years have been fairly dramatic with lots of twists and turns. But I still have my communion gifts -- strangely, none have been lost. These talismans remind me to stay calm, that each day presents a shot at redemption from the worst and best I have to offer.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"The resurrection gives my life meaning and direction and the opportunity to start over no matter what my circumstances." Robert Flatt

Cocktail Hour
Drinking memoir suggestion: The Addict Michael Stein

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Saturday! Video tomorrow for Easter!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

Here's the famous St. Francis prayer for Good Friday. I grew up with this on a faux stone tablet in my parents' bathroom. It seemed very much like the Serenity prayer -- something I saw a lot and didn't think about much. But as time passes, I find it more and more relevant and harder to pray, the mark for me of something I need to do. Hope you're having a great day, and I'll be back soon with a margarita video!

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Blood On The Door

I went to one Passover dinner, the year I converted to Catholicism. I don't remember much about it except that it was held at the home of the deeply kind woman who served as Deacon John's assistant for RCIA classes and her husband kept looking down at his feet and thinking they were puppies. In fact, he'd bark for them and then call them names of the dogs of his youth. The food, such as it was, was uniformly terrible, bitter herbs not being a metaphor in this case. And I don't like wine, not good or bad, but this was my first go around with Manischewitz. And my last.

What I did like was sitting at an old-fashioned dinner table with all my new found friends and reading quotes from the Bible. It contrasted with my other life, the one where I drank snazzy mixed drinks and quoted from The Sopranos. I thought about how strange things could get and deliverance, which is what we were celebrating. Being spared. The blood on the door. There's a room where I take yoga sometimes and there's a big red ribbon on a door leading to nowhere. I always station myself by that door for some reason. Nobody has ever said anything about the ribbon, the only bright thing in the room and sometimes I look at it when I'm in a painful pose, hoping to be spared from whatever might come next.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Tell me who admires and loves you, and I will tell you who you are." Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Cocktail Hour
Drinking music suggestion: A Day In Paris Miles Davis

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Wednesday!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Meet Your Eyes

One of the hardest things in the world is to not judge other people -- at times the task seems Sisyphean. We see through the scrim of our own jealousies and disappointments, through a kind of plaintive longing that doesn't shut up. And in this area, I have sinned and been sinned against, the only progress made from my end is to try like hell to have compassion when I don't feel like it. I, unfortunately, can't control what people think of me. But usually I have great luck -- a fortune teller once told me that I had a lavender light coming out of my third eye and if I found myself surrounded by loving strangers or the mentally-challenged, that's why. My friends have pointed this tendency out and there's one restaurant host who is as we might say in the south, a bit touched, and he stares at my forehead where people believe the third eye is for a long time before seating me, a refreshing respite, I suppose, from the proverbial complaint about men never meeting your eyes.

But I can cast back to meeting a woman a few years ago who seemed to hate me upon sight. Before I really opened my mouth and could confirm any preconceptions she might have. I never understood why and my term for her was that fucking horrible anorexic uptight bitch who hates me for no known reason. This was, umm, pre-compassion. But I recently learned her story, one that explains her feelings about other woman and me in particular better than she probably could. And I felt sorrow for her, for the abuse she experienced and the sadness of it. I suppose that's kind of the way of things; more, as the AA people say, will be revealed. I'm not a big believer in time healing wounds, but I do believe that we are given to see what we need to see to accept people even when we don't want to, especially then.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time." Thomas Merton

Cocktail Hour
Drinking memoir suggestion: The Sisters Antipodes Jane Allison

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Monday!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Raise The Flag

Thanks for the great answers to the identity question. And the photography terms. Final draft is in the works!

Here's an older poem for today. Should have some new material tomorrow.

Raise The Flag

While exiting Panchos, a woman in a wheelchair
is accused of stealing soapillas in a small brown
paper bag she holds between her atrophied legs.
The counter woman wants to search her. You can
look away from this scene, the stringy hair,
the catheter bag, keep eating until you’re sick,
the point of this place being that you can get
whatever you want while you’re here, but you
can’t take any of it with you. Maybe you want
to help, pull out your wallet and give the woman
what you have which is nothing. You’ll have to put
this meal on your card which doesn’t have much
room on it or you wouldn’t be here, loading up
on cheap greasy food, all you can eat, and you can
only stand so much and maybe that’s the problem.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"There is nothing noble in being superior to someone else. The true nobility is in being superior to your previous self." -- Hindu proverb.

Cocktail Hour
Drinking music suggestion: Picnic Robert Earl Keen

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Sunday!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Q and A!

Hi guys! Okay, I cursed myself. I said I'd be back tomorrow. I knew the next few days would be free and easy. But life intervened a bit and now I'm working on catching up! I so want to thank all the well wishes on my third blog anniversary -- my blog is now out of the terrible twos! And as I work on my revision of my book, I have some questions to pose to all who wish to answer concerning identity. Do you consider your identity set or fluid and have you ever tried to change it to good or bad effect? Is there an event or events that you feel have defined you? How long did it take you to become yourself? Please go anywhere you want to with these questions -- I'm casting about on this topic and any and all insight will be helpful!