for sophia

like the last piece i posted, i wrote this for a class last semester. i'm still not sure how i feel about it. but sophia wanted to read it, so here it is.

“Shit. The first bus isn’t until 9:50. We’re gonna be late.” I said to Sophia, finally finding the right column on the bus schedule.

“It’s cool,” she said, forever the optimist. “They’re Unitarian; they’re not gonna care.”

When our bus finally pulled up to its stop, we jumped off and sped toward the Meetinghouse -- a grey-ish, A-frame building situated on its own corner on Amherst’s main street. I pushed open the large front doors and stepped into a hallway.

A grey-haired, plump older woman was sitting at a desk.

“Hello!” she practically screamed, beaming. “Is this your first time at one of our services?”

Sophia and I nodded.

“Great!” she said. To my amazement, her smile grew larger.

She gestured towards the desk in front of her. It had a pile of green programs, a few sheets of name tags and a wicker basket with two purple magic markers. “Write your name on a sticker,” she said, “and feel free to stay for our social hour after the service. We’re very welcoming!” Her voice became shrill with excitement; I could almost hear the exclamation point at the end of her sentence.

Sophia and I each filled out a name tag and picked up a program. I thanked the desk woman, pushed open one of the swinging wooden doors leading into the sanctuary, and looked down at the green piece of paper in my hand.

“The Unitarian Universalist Society of Amherst:” it read, “A Welcoming Congregation; A Green Sanctuary.”

A peace sign adorned the center. Beneath it, large, bolded, italicized font read, “Torture: Does the End Justify the Means?”

We stepped into the sanctuary. Thirty people sat in chairs in the center, all facing a small stage with two pulpits, a piano, and a long center table adorned with candles. The room was a sea of grey -- only a few brown or blonde heads were noticeable. The door slammed behind us and the woman at the pulpit -- whose name I found out later was Kate Meyer -- stopped reading. The entire congregation slowly turned around to see who had entered.

Their glances stopped us in our tracks. They looked at us for a beat longer, and then service resumed.

“Hatred and bitterness can never cure the disease of fear, only love can do that,” Kate read. I checked the program. She was reading “A Network of Mutuality” by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She continued, pausing after each sentence to let the message of non-violence sink in.

“We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means.” She waited and looked around, allowing enough time for the phrase to have been repeated twice over.

“We shall hew out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope,” she finished. The congregation stayed silent. She slowly and silently walked off the stage, head bowed, and sat down in the front row.

After another, younger, woman -- whose name was listed in the program as Karen Sotherby -- led a Passover Haggadah reading, the entire congregation rose together to sing the first hymn of the service -- #453, “Let Freedom Span Both East and West.” They sang,

Let freedom span both east and west, and love both south and north,
In universal fellowship throughout the whole wide earth.
In beauty, wonder, everywhere, let us communion find;
Compassion be the golden cord close-binding humankind.
Beyond all barriers of race, of color, caste, or creed,
Let us make friendship, human worth, our common faith and deed.
Then east and west will meet and share, and south shall build with north,
One human commonwealth of good throughout the whole wide earth.

I was surprised at how confidently in-key the congregation sang. I tried my hardest to sing loudly enough for it to count but softly enough for no one to hear how out-of-tune I was. The song ended and Karen walked from behind the pulpit to stand beside the long, candle-covered table.

“We will now share our joys and concerns with one another,” she said simply. Immediately, four members of the congregation rose. A man and a woman shuffled slowly over to the left side of the meetinghouse while the other two -- also a man and a woman -- went to the right. The first man went directly to the microphone without prompting.

“I have a joy and a concern,” he began. “First, my joy. My brother Jim was nominated for a White House health care staff position.” The congregation remained silent, waiting. “And now, my concern. My brother Jim was nominated for a White Hou...” The laughter drowned him out before he could finish his joke.

“But really,” he said. “He’s going to have to go through a rigorous screening process. They’re going to tear him apart....” He trailed off on his own account, this time. He stood there silently for a few seconds, smiled, and then began the slow shuffle back to his seat.

As soon as he stepped away, the woman followed his lead. “Just the other morning,” she began, “I got my book in the mail. It’s the first time I’d written a book by myself and it took me almost five years.” The previously stoic, silent congregation erupted into applause. The woman blushed and thanked them.

A few more inspirational passages were read; a few more songs were sung; and then, towards the end of the service, we reached the closing circle and song. Sophia and I checked our programs, looked up not ten seconds later, and realized that nearly the entire congregation had created a circle of linked hands surrounding us.

We quickly jumped up and, grabbing the hands of two members, joined the circle. The entire congregation, on the piano player’s cue, broke into song. Neither Sophia or I knew the lyrics, but everybody else in the room did. They all stared at us while singing; it was impossible to look anywhere without making eye contact with someone.

The song ended and we sat down again. Closing words were spoken, and then the service ended. The congregation began moving -- some out the doors, some just out of the center, but most grabbed chairs and began stacking them as if they were each a cog in a part of a well-oiled machine. Chairs moved out of the way, food was set out on long tables, and people began approaching us and talking to us.

We met the book woman and she gave us a flyer. When we told her that it was our first time at a Unitarian Universalist service, she got so excited she became flustered. “Let me introduce you to Kyle and Chris. They’re part of the youth UU group!”

She called over two men in their mid-twenties. Both walked up to us, smiling -- their name tags, as well as their faces, revealed that they were brothers. She introduced us and went on her way, handing out flyers to the people she passed.

We told Kyle and Chris the same thing we had told the woman -- we were new to the UU and were checking it out. They both became extremely animated.

“Awesome!” said Kyle. “We don’t usually get many young people, as I’m sure you can tell...”

Sophia and I laughed and nodded.

“But you should definitely check out our youth group,” he said. “It’s for for ages 18-35.”

His brother Chris shot him a concerned look. “But we don’t kick you out if you turn 36,” he said.

I told them that I was definitely interested in attending.

“Awesome!” Kyle said. “We meet Thursday nights at 8:00 in the U-Mass Campus Center.”

I laughed out loud. “Kyle,” I said, “We go to Hampshire. The U-Mass Campus Center is the size of our entire campus.”

He smiled, revealing a set of crooked teeth. “No problem; I’ll draw you a map.”

I arrived at the Campus Center that next Thursday with only a little trouble. After asking a few U-Mass students to be sure that I found the right building, I walked in through a set of thick, red, metal doors and began to follow Kyle’s map. I walked straight through the center, following the turns Kyle’s map directed me to take. When I reached the barber’s shop -- which was supposed to be almost directly next to the couches -- I was confidant that I had made it, and with two minutes to spare. I rounded the last corner and, as I was expecting, was faced with a group of couches. Unexpectedly, however, they were empty.

Great, I thought. Am I in the wrong place? What are the odds that there are two barber shops in the Campus Center?

I decided to retrace my steps. I walked back to the entrance and followed Kyle’s map through the building. I found myself back in the same place, but now there was a young-ish man in kakis and a polo shirt sitting on one of the couches. He didn’t look familiar.

Still worried -- but, in actuality, aware that I had been led twice to the correct place -- I retraced my steps again. Like I suspected, I returned to the same couches but, this time, a young-ish woman had joined the young-ish man.

I approached them. “Hey,” I said. “Is this the Unitarian youth meeting?”

The woman’s face broke into a huge smile. “Yes!” she exclaimed, bouncing with excitement. “I thought you looked lost when I walked by you earlier,” she continued, “but I was already late to the meeting! I’m glad you found us.”

“Me, too,” I responded.

“I’m Sam,” she said. “And this is Mark.”

She extended her hand. I reached mine forward to meet hers. “I’m Sam, too,” I said.

Mark laughed. “Sam and Hampshire Sam.”

I sat down. “Kyle told me we were expecting some new people,” Sam said.

“Yeah,” I responded. “Sophia couldn’t make it tonight. But we met Kyle on Sunday -- it was the first Unitarian service either of us had been to.”

“Awesome!” Sam said. “Did the old people talk to you? They freakin’ love young adults!”

I nodded. Sam continued, “The members really provide us with a lot of time and energy because they are so desperate for youths.”

“I noticed that,” I said.

Sam turned to Mark, apparently finished with the conversation. She looked down the hallway, frowned, and then whined, “Where are all my UUs?!” in a tone that made the term sound like a nickname.

She composed herself and announced that we would be starting the meeting by talking about how our weeks had gone. Mark launched into a lament about his classes.

“Every. Single. Class I had to register for was at the same. Time,” he said, giving the beginning and ending words individual emphasis, making it sound as though he spoke in multiple sentences. “I couldn’t sign up for anything!”

He continued talking about his week; he complained about how much he studied and how many papers he wrote, he pronounced his enjoyment of the weather, and he tacked on at the end a semi-confused, semi-disdainful announcement that he celebrated Easter with his family.

“Me too!” Sam said, her shoulders raising. “My family doesn’t even celebrate Easter, but my mom made me go home for it this year!”

Sam talked about her week next. Her complaints and excitements were exactly the same as Mark’s -- too much studying, too many papers, nice weather, forced Easter.

Then it was my turn. I stuck to the formula that Mark and Sam had established. “I’ve been doing a lot of work,” I said. “I’m surviving, though. I spent all day outside yesterday because the weather was so nice. And my mom sent me a basket of Easter candy, so I’m happy about that.”

This deviation from the Easter negativity seemed to catch Mark and Sam off guard. They exchanged quick looks and nervous giggles. I couldn’t help but feel that they expected me to begrudgingly celebrate Easter like them, not willingly accept holiday paraphernalia.

Sam quickly moved onto the next order of business. “So, we need to work on our group’s constitution,” she said. She turned to me. “In order for U-Mass to recognize us, we need to have one up and running. We’re modeling ours after the Black Student Union’s.”

She looked down at her laptop. Just then, Chris rounded the corner. “Finally!” Sam yelled. Chris smiled sheepishly and sunk into a chair.

“Sorry,” he said. “I was at the Jewish Student Union meeting.”

“Not a problem,” Sam said. “We’re just starting on the constitution. Mark, can you take notes?” She placed her laptop into Mark’s lap as she was beginning her question.

“Um, okay,” said Mark. He looked down, brow furrowed. “So we need to figure out how we’re going to elect a president,” he continued.

“How about we just, like, draw out of a hat?” suggested Sam.

Both Mark and Chris looked up at her. They smiled. “That would be so UU!” exclaimed Chris. They shared a laugh.

The three deliberated for a minute or two; unsure whether to commit to the hat method or not. “I’m on student government at Hampshire,” I said, “and we usually do it through nominations.”

Sam, Chris, and Mark looked at me in unison. “Like, anyone can be nominated for a position,” I explained, “and then they have the opportunity to accept or decline. Then there would be a closed ballot vote and whoever gets the most votes wins.”

“That makes sense!” Sam said. “Let’s do that.”

“I don’t get it...” Chris said, frowning.

“Okay, so say I need to nominate someone for Hat Man,” began Sam. “I would be like, ‘I nominate Chris for Hat Man.’ And then you would say ‘I accept the nomination.’ Then anyone else could be nominated and all of the members of the group would think to themselves ‘Do I want Chris for Hat Man?’ Then they would write the name of the person they want to vote for on a piece of paper and the votes would be tallied. If you had the most, you would be Hat Man.”

Chris nodded and Mark, silently taking notes, mumbled “Okay.... So Chris is the Hat Man.”

The last order of business was to discuss impeachment. As soon as Mark uttered the word, Chris’s face turned sour.

“I don’t think we should have anything in our constitution about impeachment,” he said. “It suggests so much negativity.”

Sam looked at him confused. “It’s not necessarily just because you don’t like the president,” she said, “but if they’re, like, misusing funds or not representing the UUs positively.”

“And it’s not even about me!” she continued. “This is for future presidents, too. It’s not that big of a deal. C’mon, I’m not Monika Luinsky, givin’ head in the Oval Office.”

Two weeks later, I briskly and knowledgeably walked to the couch cluster tucked away in the U-Mass Campus Center -- this time, Sophia was with me. We were greeted by the familiar, smiling faces of Sam, Mark, Kyle and Chris.

“Hey guys!” Sam said as we both took a seat on one of the couches. “Let’s do introductions again. I’m Sam.”

“I’m Mark,” said Mark.

“I’m Kyle,” said Kyle.

“I’m Chris,” said Chris.

“I’m Lauren,” said a curly-haired, bespectacled girl neither of us recognized.

Sophia and I introduced ourselves -- me for the second time, and Sophia for the first.

“Sophia and Hampshire Sam,” Mark said, using the distinguisher he had established at the last meeting. He laughed and said to Sophia, “That’s how we tell them apart,” gesturing toward both Sam and I. “Sam and Hampshire Sam!”

“Okay,” Sam said, getting down to business. “We’re working with mnemonic devices today!” Her forced enthusiasm was overwhelming and almost sarcastic. “No, but really,” she continued, “we’re gonna try to memorize the seven principles with a mnemonic device.”

On cue, both she and Chris whipped out their wallets and began digging through them. After a few seconds, Sam pulled out a small piece of card stock with text on one side. It was folded in half so it could stand on its own, allowing the words to be read more easily. The text read,

We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote:
1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
2. Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
6. The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all;
7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

“Impossible to memorize,” Mark said.

“Not with a mnemonic device,” said Sam, laughter in her voice. “If we can think of one word to summarize each of the principles we can use them as hints.”

We delved into weighing the various hint-giving options. The first principle was easy; we unanimously agreed on “equality.”

For the second (Justice, equity and compassion in human relations), someone suggested “justice.”

“I don’t know,” Sophia mused aloud. “That seems too specific. Maybe... ‘love?’”

There were a few scattered nods but no one spoke.

“I mean...” she reluctantly explained, “compassion is the important part, not necessarily just justice.”

“Cool,” Sam responded. “Does everyone agree?” The same nods answered her.

Principle three was decided on as simply, “growth.”

“Understanding” was suggested for the next (A free and responsible search for truth and meaning).

“I feel like “search” works better,” said Mark. “Because you want it to remind you of the principle, not just vaguely explain it.” More nods. “Search” passed.

Principle five became “vote;” six became “peace;” and the last -- principle seven -- became “web.”

“So we have equality, love, growth, search, vote, peace, and web,” Sam read back. “Now time for the mnemonic device.”

Kyle and Sophia, who had been sitting in the corner whispering for the past few minutes, chimed in. “Every lover gets some very pretty wildflowers,” they said, alternating words.

Kyle leaned his head back against the wall and closed his eyes. “I can see it in a video,” he said slowly. He placed both hands to his chest. “The equal sign is in my heart and it’s expanding, expanding, and love is spreading and growing,” he pushed his hands away from himself, palms outward, repeatedly. “It’s searching for something... something -- three things: peace, peace, the vote! and an interdependent web.” He jabbed his hand forward for each of the three things that his love was searching for.

He opened his eyes and smiled. “I make movies in my mind to help me remember things,” he explained.

“Kyle. You’re so... special,” Sam said. “I love you.”


this was a piece i wrote for a literary journalism course i took last semester. i spent a lot of time hanging out with steve, a northampton street performer. this is my first attempt at the genre, and i loved everything about it.

“Good actors transcend the medium,” Steve said, his brown eyes sparkling under grey wisps of hair. He leaned over, his 5’7”, near-300 pound frame showing the wear of his years, and placed his guitar case on the sidewalk.

“Take Grace Kelly. She was an awful actress. But Meryl Streep on the other hand.... Did you see her in that movie with Jack Nicholson?”

I hadn’t, but I nodded.

“Yeah, Ironweed!,” he continued, becoming more animated. Speaking quicker now, pools of saliva began to form in the corners of his mouth. “That film was amazing. Jack Nicholson transcends the medium, too.”

He paused, his mouth forming a smile. “And have you seen Good Will Hunting?!” he asked, his smile growing larger. I nodded again.

“Ya’know that one scene? They smoke weed in public!” He nearly screamed the last three words and, looking left, then right, then left again, he flipped forward the matches in his matchbook to reveal a half-smoked joint. He waited a beat and then smirked as though he was a toddler and his joint was a toy he had brought to show-and-tell.

We were standing on the main drag of Northampton in front of Faces, a trash can on our left and a bench on our right. Steve leaned over and pulled his acoustic guitar from its case.

“So, where are you two from?” He asked my friend and I as he began to strum the strings of his guitar.

I opened my mouth to respond. “Wait!” Steve cut me off. “She sounds like she’s from Quincy and you sound like you’re from 12th St. Manhattan.” He chucked, his eyes sparkling.

“I’m from upstate New York,” I said.

“And I’m from Hampstead,” said my friend. “But I used to work right by Quincy, in Andover.”

“I know Andover,” Steve said. “Lawrence, Methuen, Lowell. I’m from Lunenburg. Near Fitchburg. People always assumed we went and hung out in Lowell. Why would you go to Lowell when you could go to Boston? Boston isn’t scary, it’s a tiny city.”

My friend and I nodded along. She recognized the geography, I didn’t. I smiled and said, “Alright, Steve. We’re gonna go get lunch. Will you be here for a while?”

He smiled, wielding his guitar. “Of course!”

We ran into Steve again an hour later, across the street and down a full block, in front of CVS.

“You can’t walk through this town without running into me, huh?!” he yelled from afar and broke into a fit of deep, rumbling laughter. He had his guitar in his hands and his case, filled with a few one-dollar bills and coins, was open at his feet. His fingers, peeking out from homemade fingerless gloves, were plucking away at the strings.

I asked Steve what brought him to the Valley.

“Well,” he said, shifting his eyes upwards in thought. “I went to U-Mass. Majored in history and beer. Surprisingly, I got out of there in just four years.”

After graduating, he stayed in the Valley, going to graduate school at U-Mass and taking odd jobs, and just never left.

“I was married for a while, too,” he said. “It was a U-Mass kind of marriage. Met in college, got married. No kids, though. Which is good, I guess, since we got divorced. But sometimes I wonder if I should’ve stayed married. Congregational guilt, ya know? She was my first lover, and you gotta stay with the same woman for life.”

His tone changed, his forehead wrinkled and his mouth turned down into a slight frown. “I started dating a Hampshire girl when I was thirty-five and she was twenty-five” he said. “Her name was Susan. I moved in with her right away and lived with her for almost two semesters. People thought I went to Hampshire...” He paused, smiling sadly. “I laid on that couch for a whole week once.” And then, for the first time since I’d met him, Steve began to sing.

“If you’re a Hampshire girl and a U-Mass boy falls in love with you, don’t break his heart,” he sang in his speaking voice -- gravelly but smooth, as if he was rapping over folk guitar. His face contorted and he quickly lowered it into his hands, “Susan... I’m still in love with you!”

He rolled his hat down over his eyes and rubbed them through the red woolen fabric. The seconds passed slowly. He looked up at me with newly-reddened eyes and said, a smirk breaking out across his face and his fist reaching forward for a pound. “Good fake crying, huh?”

Not ten minutes later, a man in a faux leather jacket walked his dog past us. Steve struck up a conversation with him as though the two were old friends. “Hey! She’s from New York!” he yelled, flinging his entire right arm in my direction, indicating to the leather man that he and I shared some sort of connection. The man kept walking, smiling politely and muttering hello back.

Steve turned to me and stage whispered, “He’s not really from New York. Hasn’t been there in over twenty years. He probably was born in the Bronx and moved to Schutesbury when he was five. I know people who’ll tell me ‘I’m from New York City’ and I’m like ‘I’ve known you for twenty years and I’ve never been to the city.” He held out his fist for another pound. “Come on,” he chuckled. “Am I funny?!”

As the leather jacket man walked away, a short, red headed man stumbled past him heading in our direction. Steve brightened at the sight of him. “Hey! Tom!” he called from some distance. Tom arrived smelling of whiskey and slurring his words. Steve’s face fell. “Man...” he sighed. “Did you fall off the wagon? You had four months clean!”

Tom hesitated drunkenly. “Y-yeah.” he finally stammered. “My parole officer told me to get outta’ Dodge.” Tom staggered off and Steve turned to me, shaking his head.

“That’s why I’ve never been into the hard stuff,” he said frowning and crinkling his forehead.

“Strictly beer for me. Except for in college. Hampshire always had the best pot and the best acid,” he reminisced. “U-Mass had the best parties, though. But you’d get at the end of the line and the beer would be gone by the time you got to the front.” He continued, beginning to play the guitar and shifting his voice into a slightly more melodic tone. “I dropped acid behind Atkins once. Spent hours staring at an apple orchard. Psychedelic Trees.” He closed his eyes and sang in low, droning, faux remembrance: “Was it ’75, ’85, ’95, 2005?”

He snapped open his eyes, looking directly at me with legitimate concern. “Aren’t you freezing?!” he asked. “If you were my granddaughter, I wouldn’t want you out here in the cold. When are you taking the bus back?” I told him that my friend and I were leaving in forty minutes. “Good,” he continued. “But listen. I’ve got $30. It should be enough to buy some Chinese food and beer. We can split the chinese food three ways. You two can get tonic waters and when no one’s looking I can pour the beer into your cups. I’ve got good reefer, too... Sorry, but I’m gonna bogart that.”

We politely refused. He smiled and bent down to place his guitar in its case. He pulled out a crinkled, brown Hay Market paper bag and coffee cup. Extending both out to me, he asked, “Want some?”

I refused again. He smiled in anticipation of the joke he knew he was about to make. “Good,” he said. “There’s herpes and date rape drugs in there.” He winked and said, with his fist waiting for a pound, “I’m funny, right?!”

I raised my fist to meet his. He smiled contentedly. “Herpes was a huge problem when I was at U-Mass,” he said, feigning seriousness. “You’d be with a girl and you’d go to put a condom on and she’d tell you ‘No, no I’m clean,’ and then next thing you know, you’d have herpes! Is that still a problem? You two have herpes?”

About a week later a friend and I walked out of the Northampton CVS and saw Steve, guitar in hand, moneyless case open at his feet.

He recognized me immediately. “What are you doin’? Getting Chinese food?” he asked.

We told him that we were getting film developed.

“Let me get you stoned,” he said, his eyes twinkling mischievously. “I didn’t have enough weed for you last time.”

We declined.

“No problem,” he said. “Lemme tell ya. I had a great night last night. It doesn’t take much to make me happy. All I need is a couch, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe, Animal House, a j, a beer, a nice glass of wine, and some good conversation.”

We invited him to Bruegger's Bagels for lunch on us. He smiled and said, “Absolutely. It’s starting to rain.”

We walked over two store fronts and Steve held the door open for us. As we made our way to the counter to order, we passed a woman leaving the store. “Hey!” Steve said. “How have you been?”

The woman smiled politely and said, “Fine.” She made eye contact with me and then quickly wove her way through the throng of people and out of the store.

“I don’t remember what she does,” Steve said, turning back to us. “She’s either a psychiatrist or an artist. What else do people do in Northampton? Lawyer? No!” He started laughing his low, rumbling laugh. He put his hand out for a pound.

“Am I funny or what?”

We sat down at a table in the back of Bruegger's Bagels, Steve sitting across from my friend and I. He took off the layers of winter clothing that he had piled on that morning, letting his wispy grey hair fall freely. It stuck to his head in clumps.

He launched into his rehearsed “Susan” speech, rubbing his eyes and crying. After the allotted period of time, he looked up and started laughing.

“Tricked ya!” he said to my friend. “I wasn’t really crying.”

“You did that to me last time we hung out,” I said.

“Yeah, I know,” he said, his eyes still red. “I do that to everyone. But it comes from a real place. Everyone is heartbroken, but sometimes you just have to get rid of that negative energy. There’s always a point when you realize you’re not supposed to be together.”

“Plus, I’m a good actor,” he said, snapping out of serious and back into playful. “I reinvented myself every year I was in college. One year I was one thing, next year I was a jock, year after I was a hippie.”

We finished eating and I asked him if he would be in Northampton later that week. “Yeah,” he said. “I’m here every day. I gotta get out, ya know? Every day I come into town, get some coffee, see some people, and play my guitar.”



this is what i've been doing lately:

i'm leaving for toronto saturday morning to spend the weekend gallivanting, seeing the sights, and, on sunday, i am going to a lady gaga concert! i am so in love with gaga; she's her own person, she does what she wants, wears what she wants, and doesn't care how it's perceived in the media.

also, i'm a sucker for girl power. she once said, "some women choose to follow men, and some women choose to follow their dreams. if you're wondering which way to go, remember that your career will never wake up and tell you that it doesn't love you anymore." you go, gaga!

so for the concert, i decided to embrace gaga's message of individuality and go all-out with my costume! my friend had found this website a while back and sent me the link. so i spent the better part of one of my days last week constructing my very own gaga disco bra! i'm so excited to premiere it at the concert.

in the meantime, here are some more of my favorite lady gaga quotes.

"i want the deepest, darkest, sickest parts of you that you are afraid to share with anyone because i love you that much."

"i'm just trying to change the world, one sequin at a time"

"when you make music or write or create, it's really your job to have mind-blowing, irresponsible, condomless sex with whatever idea it is you're writing about at the time."

"i want people to walk around delusional about how great they can be - and then to fight so hard for it every day that the lie becomes the truth."


number 2

prompt: a picture is worth more than a blank page. take out those dusty photo albums. pick out photo #14. count however way you like, but make sure you stop at photo #14. look at the photo for 2-3 minutes. then for 10 minutes, write all the feelings that photograph made you feel. don't censor yourself. just write.

briefly: this particular photo was taken, i think, in late 1992 or early 1993. i'm bad at telling children's ages by sight; oddly, especially my own. if i'm not mistaken, this was taken on easter sunday. now onto my "feelings."

first, humor. is humor even a feeling? i don't know, but my first reaction was to laugh. for three reasons: 1. my mom's huge, almost triangular hair is just too, too much. 2. the shoulder-padded dress is so 80s it's wonderful. and 3. i recently bought a hat that looks almost exactly like the one i'm wearing in this photo, only for my grown-up head. completely unwittingly, of course.

next, happiness. my mom is my favorite person and one of my best friends. this picture is a perfect example of one of the stages of our relationship. i see us moving out of the strict mother-daughter realm (her raising me and protecting me) and more into a matured, friend realm (i'm raised! i am me!). photos of her and i together never fail to make me smile.

followed by a twinge of sadness. i can't place its origins, but it's there. maybe it's the longing for "simpler" times; my loss of childhood or whatever. maybe it's because i'm pushing on my ear (when i was younger, i had awful ear infections. i don't remember them, but i'm told that i would scream non-stop for hours because i was in such terrible pain. reminds me of a million little pieces by james frey [warning: spoilers to follow]. his shrink in rehab linked his addictive, escapist personality to childhood ear infections that left him in excruciating, incapacitiating pain. i'm not making claims here, just connections). or, more likely, it's because it reminds me that i've aged, that my mother has aged. and that we will continue to do so until she dies or i die. until both of us die. as much as i am excited about my future, i am terrified of time.

but mostly it makes me smile.

*okay, i wrote for 12 minutes. i cheated, but whatever. i apologized.


number 1

prompt: close your eyes briefly. think of one object that's in the room and focus on it. without opening your eyes, recall as much detail as you can about it. after about 3 minutes or so, open your eyes and write about that object without looking at it.

there is a bookshelf in my bedroom. well, actually, there are four, but the one i'm thinking of is my least favorite bookshelf. made of thin, manufactured wood, its three shelves are stuffed predominantly with books that i haven't read.

my mother bought me a set of textbooks when i was eleven. the salesman said that they would help me in every subject in school for the rest of my life. at the time, i was so excited to have all of that information right at my fingertips but, now, i can count the number of times i used them on one hand. which makes sense, i guess, because we didn't get internet in my house until i was fifteen. now the leather-colored, paper-bound books take up the first shelf and half of the second, except for where there are two very noticeable book-sized holes.

the other shelf and a half is filled with books i didn't return to my high school, books i received at honor society award ceremonies, books that i bought at book sales and at garage sales because "they are so cheap and i will read them eventually!" and books that i bought because i thought i was artsy and into extensive, unabridged journaling. these books, like the textbooks, have never been read. some of them i began reading with the best of intentions but abandoned part-way through. the scarlet letter, little women, emma, the unabridged journals of sylvia plath. some just sit there, their covers never having been cracked (save for those book sale and garage sale books; their covers having been cracked but never by me). one flew over the cuckoo's nest, anna karenina, jane eyre. all classics. all things i should have read but haven't.

the transition between the two sections is jarring. textbooks, all uniform in color, label, and height, switch suddenly to books mismatching in everything. some are warped to the point of illegibility, some are brand new, but all are unread.

at the very top of the bookshelf sit four picture frames. each one holds shots from a trip i took to europe when i was fourteen. typical tourist kind of stuff. a photo of the eiffel tower is next to the leaning tower of pisa; an austrian goat is frozen in time above a picture of a swiss mill and across from a snapshot of the mediterranean sea. my dad bought my a rebel canon for $100 on ebay before i left for the trip and i had no idea how to use it. i had it set on "automatic" the entire time and couldn't figure out how to take non-blurry photos without flash. i remember being so proud of the pictures when i finally got them developed; i had such a hard time choosing which ones to frame. i'm not proud of them anymore. i'm proud of what they represent, and i'm proud of how i felt about them when i first saw them, but i can't help but wonder how much better they would be if i took them now.

there's still time.

igniting my creativity

*for necessary background information, read my last post.

after my minor life freakout and words of advice from the people who know me better than even i do, i've decided to challenge myself to write creatively again. but! i haven't done that in far too long and i'm afraid that it's not like riding a bike. i think i've forgotten how.

so, expert googler that i am, i found an amazing (/ slightly corny?) website that provides 346 creative writing prompts. which brings me to the challenge. i double-dog-dared myself to complete all 346 within the next year. i countered: the time limit is negotiable, but i will finish them all.

number 1 is soon to follow. i challenge you to join me!

*added disclaimer: these are likely to be rambling and shitty while i try to figure out what the hell my voice actually is. bear with me.


i am drowning

in books. *but that's an over-simplification. as are much of the things that i say. also, that last sentence was another over-simplification.

it all started with my summer internship. i got it too easily, i think, and it was too much an afterthought. a fleeting thought --oh, it would be nice to intern at a newspaper while i'm home,-- one e-mail and one three-minute phone call later, i had a paid freelance writing internship at a local paper.

normal reaction: --awesome!-- after all, i am studying journalism, do write for my college paper, and, for as long as i can remember, have automatically answered 'journalism' to any question about my future, my hopes, my dreams.

my reaction: --cool, whatever.-- college has not turned me into an indifferent, apathetic person. i am as passionate about writing as ever. so, why now? why am i suddenly dreading making phone calls to the people i'm writing about? why is going into the news room a chore?

so far i have come up with three viable reasons.

1. my journalism dream was some sort of twisted projection from having watched too much gilmore girls, read too much about watergate, talked too much about how journalism was 'the fourth branch of government,' and thought way, way, way too much about how i could change the world with my reporting. there was no way the reality could (or would) live up to my fantasy.

2. i am being melodramatic and not giving the internship enough of a chance. it's a smaller newspaper, and the freelancing doesn't allow for any sort of regimented schedule; i am simply not getting the full journalistic experience.

3. i am just no longer (or never actually was) interested in journalism.

reason #3 -- the scariest of all -- when coupled with reason #1, brings us to why i am drowning. now that i'm semi-embracing the fact that i am not interested in journalism, i have to begin again and figure out what i am interested in. this means re-reading everything: short stories, novels, comic books, magazine reporting, blog posts, the list goes on and on.

they say that when you're drowning, you should, above all else, remain calm. flailing about won't do anything but scare you more. does this apply to when you're drowning in your own future?


maggie taylor

will you walk a little faster?

oh, happy day!

life goes on.

i'm grown up now.

explain yourself!


icky thump

Yah-hee, icky thump
Who'd-a thunk?
Sittin' drunk
On a wagon to Mexico

Her hair, what a chump
And my head
Got a bump
When I hit it on the radio

Red-head señorita
Lookin' dead
Came to said,
"I need a bed" en español

So I gave a drink of water
I'm gonna sing around the collar
Well, I don't need a microphone

Icky thump, with the lump
In my throat
Grab my coat
And now it's reckon
I was ready to go

Yeah, I swam beside the hair
She had one white eye
One blank stare
Lookin' up, lyin' there

On a stand in her hair
Was a candy cane
Black rum, sugar cane
Dry eye, somethin' strange!

La la, la la la la la la la la la laaa laaa laaa

White Americans:
What, nothin' better to do?
Why don't you kick yourself out?
You're an immigrant too.

Who's usin' who?
What should we do?
Well you can't be a pimp
And a prostitute too

Icky thump, handcuffed to a bunk
Robbed blind
Looked around
And there was nobody else

Left alone
I hit myself with a stone
Went home
And learned how to clean up after myself

- "icky thump," the white stripes


i'll eat you up, i love you so

since i read it as a child, i've loved where the wild things are by maurice sendak. so when i heard that my favorite author, dave eggers, was adapting it into a novel AND co-writing the screenplay for a spike jonze film, i was ecstatic. i fell in love with and related to all three works completely differently because they each are so wonderfully their own.

each story is about max -- a young, imaginative, confused boy who travels to a far away land and becomes king of the wild things. being a kind-of-aspiring writer, i empathize with the amazing imagination that all three maxs have. beyond that, though, i empathize with being a wild thing.

the energy of a wild thing is what amazes me most. they seem to almost hum with emotion. i'm sure everyone has felt like that; i know i have -- when your entire body seems to be humming, every nerve ending completely aflame with energy that doesn't even seem to have a reason. max's wild thing comes from anger. sometimes mine comes from anger too. sometimes it comes from anxiousness, excitement, frustration, love, hate, from simply being overwhelmed.

"please don't go. i'll eat you up, i love you so." kw says this to max. i think this line, uttered tearfully as a goodbye, captures a level of desperation hiding in the wildness of the wild things. sometimes loving something (or someone) is overwhelming and all-consuming. it's both touching and a bit scary and it can eat you up if you're not careful.

so go out and howl at the moon. there's a wild thing in all of us.


stream-of-conscious; no sleep; song covers

disclaimer: i fucked up my sleep schedule. my writing lately is mostly stream-of-consciousness and edging on unintelligible. apologies.

i realized the other day that a lot of the songs i've been into lately are covers. a vampire weekend cover by esau mwamwaya and radioclit; outkast by obadiah parker; mgmt by jónsi; and just tonight i stumbled onto three seperate versions of the same song by three amazing artists (included later). in all of these instances, i discovered/was suggested/listened to the songs because of my love for their original versions.

in other instances, however, i've been really into a song only to realize that it was a cover. "heartbeats" by josé gonzalez is a great example. i was watching the video on youtube, scrolling through the comments, and came across an ongoing debate on wheter gonzalez's version was better than the original. color me surprised when i discovered that the original version was not acoustic like gonzalez's but actually a sweedish pop song.

and then, tonight, i was listening to the bright eyes album "noise floor" and "devil town" came on. i decided to look for the music video on youtube (where, apparantly, i learn the most information). as it turns out, "devil town" is originally by daniel johnston (most famous for his album "hi, how are you," you may have seen the album cover on kurt cobain's shirt). beck also covered it. i listened to all three versions (which i've included below) and i loved them all individually, for their own reasons.

daniel johnston:

bright eyes:


WHICH BRINGS ME TO: i've been thinking a lot about originality in writing and music and i'm trying to figure out if anyone really has a "voice" and i don't really know if they do. i think that if someone has some sort of distinctive writing style or musical style it's just because they OWN it most, ya know? not that it's theirs, but just that they do it best? or that they're most recognizably associated with it? i dunno. my friend max (check out his music!) was talking about how "originality" should really be thought about as "creativity" because, in reality, everyone is borrowing from someone else. i completely agree.

p.s. i'm re-reading on the road by jack kerouac right now and this version has a really interesting introduction. apparantly, kerouac spent years trying to stop writing like thom wolfe and, when he finally did, adopted the feverish narrative that neal cassidy used in the letters he wrote to kerouac. even jack kerouac isn't wholly "original."


i am grounded, i am humbled, i am one with everything

When I go for a drive I like to pull off to the side
Of the road, turn out the lights, get out and look up at the sky
And I do this to remind me that I'm really, really tiny
In the grand scheme of things and sometimes this terrifies me

But it's only really scary cause it makes me feel serene
In a way I never thought I'd be because I've never been
So grounded, and so humbled, and so one with everything
I am grounded, I am humbled, I am one with everything

Rock and roll is fun but if you ever hear someone
Say you are huge, look at the moon, look at the stars, look at the sun
Look at the ocean and the desert and the mountains and the sky
Say I am just a speck of dust inside a giant's eye

I am just a speck of dust inside a giant's eye

When I saw Geneviève I really liked it when she said
What she said about the giant and the lemmings on the cliff
She said 'I like giants
Especially girl giants
Cause all girls feel too big sometimes
Regardless of their size'

When I go for a drive I like to pull off to the side
Of the road and run and jump into the ocean in my clothes
I'm smaller than a poppyseed inside a great big bowl
And the ocean is a giant that can swallow me whole

So I swim for all salvation and I swim to save my soul
But my soul is just a whisper trapped inside a tornado
So I flip to my back and I float and I sing
I am grounded, I am humbled, I am one with everything
I am grounded, I am humbled, I am one with everything

So I talked to Geneviève and almost cried when she said
That the giant on the cliff wished that she was dead
And the lemmings on the cliff wished that they were dead
So the giant told the lemmings why they ought to live instead

When she thought up all those reasons that they ought to live instead
It made her reconsider all the sad thoughts in her head
So thank you Geneviève, cause you take what is in your head
you make things that are so beautiful and share them with your friends

We all become important when we realize our goal
Should be to figure out our role within the context of the whole
And yeah, rock and roll is fun, but if you ever hear someone
Say you are huge, look at the moon, look at the stars, look at the sun
Look at the ocean and the desert and the mountains and the sky

Say I am just a speck of dust inside a giant's eye

I am just a speck of dust inside a giant's eye
I am just a speck of dust inside a giant's eye
And I don't wanna make her cry
Cause I like giants

- "i like giants" kimya dawson


the americans

i've been obsessed with robert frank's photogrophy lately. with a guggenheim grant under his belt, frank took off across the country; a trip that became documented in his book the americans, published in '59. i know of few artists who capture wanderlust so well -- jack kerouac is the only other that comes to mind. fittingly, kerouac wrote the introduction. he writes, in part:

"madroad driving men ahead -- the mad road, lonely, leading around the bend into the openings of space towards the horizon wasatch snows promised us in the vision of the west, spine heights at the world's end, coast of blue pacific starry night -- nobone half-banana moons sloping in the tangled night sky, the torments of great formations in mist, the huddled invisible insect in the car racing onward, illuminate -- the raw cut, the drag, the butte, the star, the draw, the sunflower in the grass -- orangebutted west lands of arcadia, forlorn sands of the isolate earth, dewy exposures to infinity in black space, home of the rattlesnake and the gopher -- the level of the world, low and flat: the charging restless mute unvoiced road keening in a seizure of tarpaulin power into the route, fabulous plots of landowners in green unexpecteds, ditches by the side of the road, as i look."

here are some examples of frank's photography. he captures something amazing.


finals. no sleep. this is what i found:


the people united will never be defeated

hampshire college is, above all, a community of learners, educators, and individuals passionate about the school's philosophy. this community is why i decided to attend hampshire college, it is what kept me from transferring elsewhere on multiple occasions, and it is what continues to keep me here.

this community was fragmented recently with the deliberate ignorance of student, faculty, and staff voices by a few select members of the administration. a project costing upwards of $300,000 -- money which we, as a 40-year-old institution, don't have at our disposal -- was planned behind closed doors. our roles as members of the hampshire community were being purposely delegitimized by those involved with this project, and that is not acceptable.

this feeling of discontent echoed across campus. the student body, along with members of the staff and faculty, mobilized in less than a week to make our voices heard. more than eight hundred petitions calling for transparency and dialogue were signed in protest. members of the campus community gathered on the library lawn on two separate occasions -- first, on tuesday, to make some noise and demand answers, then, yesterday, to present the staggering number of petitions to the president of hampshire, ralph hexter.

the mobilization that the students, professors, and hampshire staff have demonstrated over the last few days has renewed my love for this school. the fact that we won't take the administration's blatant disregard for our voices is a reminder of everything that hampshire is supposed to stand for -- an open, transparent, and engaged community working together. if we work together, we can make hampshire a place that everyone is proud of. i have never been prouder to be a hampshire student.

that -- the avoidance of a community-wide dialogue, the purposeful silencing of students, staff, and faculty -- is what hypocrisy looks like.
this -- our banding together to make our voices heard -- is what democracy looks like.


i love rascal and jimmy fallon

jimmy fallon is a genius. firstly, if you haven't seen head swap go watch it now. secondly, here are a few of my jimmy fallon obsessions for the last few days. (courtesy of rascal.)

i can't get over how amazing he is at voice impersonations.

again, why is he so amazing?!

jimmy. <3


a story by rascal, pt. II

OH my god yes! And remember when we were standing on that dam and the giant pink bird flew over and we were making bird noises to attract it and it flew away but all of those salamanders came crawling out of the dam and there were like hundreds and they were all making the bird sounds back at us???? And we screamed and ran back to the car and you took out your flashlight and made all those shadow puppets to calm us down but you couldn't remember how to make the old man smoking the cigar and you got really frustrated and broke the flashlight and we were left sitting all alone in the cold, dark, dead car, listening to the bird calls of the salamanders getting closer and closer...


it's doing it's job pretty well right about now. summer, come quickly!


photo update

i'm a blog slacker. i still don't have time to write a real post, but here's a photo update of my life!


sacred vision

i've been really into iron & wine lately. here's one of my long-time favorites. it's so chill; listen to it and do homework.


sprechen sie deutsch hier, baby!

rachel has given me an order: learn all the lyrics to "loser" by beck by the end of the semester. and then max suggested that i sing it at his concert next weekend. so i guess i'll be spending this week listening to "loser" on repeat in hopes that i don't embarrass myself miserably in front of an entire audience. you all should too. ya know, just for fun.

new slang

i'm so into the shins lately. join me.

and if you'd 'a took to me like
a gull takes to the wind.
well, i'd 'a jumped from my tree
and i'd a danced like the king of the eyesores
and the rest of our lives would 'a fared well.


a story by rascal

Oh right! Yeah so I'm yaggin' this guy, right? And he grabs my flounder and starts to rake on it and I'm just about ready to drawl at this point when this woman walks up to us and says "Where did you get these amazing fish?" and Johnny's all "get outta here kitty, these fishes ain't for pawin'" and we all kind of pink it, right? So meanwhile Pete over here is hecka slammed and is pulling at me to go and I got these flounders that I seriously need to bounce but the blow hole is clogged and I can't even see the water from here. Now this chick falls back and is tellin' me I got three seconds to answer her question before she jumps the gullet so I say "what question?" and she looks me dead in the eyes and with the tone of a lioness in heat she says, "Time's. Up."


“i hope to hell that when i do die somebody has the sense to just dump me in the river or something. anything except sticking me in a goddam cemetary. people coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on sunday, and all that crap. who wants flowers when you're dead? nobody.” - j.d. salinger

may he rest in flowerless peace.