Friday, July 31, 2009

dating William Blake

I found the best ever comment board on a William Blake poetry site. I'm afraid they'll take it down, so I must, must, must, if it's the only contribution I ever make to this world, reproduce it here.

Rebecca Smith (7/29/2009 7:47:00 PM)
Hello William Blake. My name is Rebecca Smith i started writing poetry last summer and my first poem was called Summer, i've written over abt 22 poems in the last past months and i have a friend who's working on the book and i plan on getting them published. When did you start writing? ? My favorite poem by you is A Dream. it's lovely! ! ! ! how was writing poetry for you? ? was it hard, or easy? ? for me it's both! ! ! ! your an Awesome writer! ! ! keep up the good work. I hope you reply to my comment i would love to talk to you. Love Rebecca! ! !

Rebecca Smith inspires my utmost awe and admiration. She thinks she's hot enough to pick up on William Blake! If he has in-grave wireless access, he could totally be getting laid right now. And note how casual she is -- no punctuation or spelling check needed. She's a poet! And she's hot! He'll definitely want her bad.

Miss favor (below) is slightly more realistic in that she only thinks she can attract a currently-living person of the opposite sex, but she's still not put off by age, distance, or ethnicity. I thought "health" was suspiciously important to her, until I realized that, unlike Rebecca, she's not turned on by the post-memorial-service crowd. Whatever, favorfrank35 is her man -- hmm, I wonder which came first, Miss favor or favorfrank? Complete coincidence, I'm sure. I love how she chooses her prospective mate entirely on the basis of his appreciation for Romantic poetry (well, that and the results of his last physical), despite the fact that it appears she can barely read or write English.

Babyjoram Benson (5/18/2009 6:13:00 AM)
Hello (
My name is Miss favor am 24yr old. I saw your profile today at
and it really acttract me alot i believe that you are the man i have been looking for to share my love; How is your health? i hope all is well with you. I believe that we can move from here; but remember that distance; age and colour dose not matter what matters is the true love and understanding; in my next e-mail i shall include my pictuer; i been waithing for your reply mail me with this mail address for further introduction.
Bye hopeing to hear from you soonest (

Here's a more subdued post:

p.a. noushad (6/14/2008 1:37:00 AM)
romantic touch in the poems gives me bliss, good poems.

Although, is it just me or is posting a compliment addressed directly to Blake himself a bit unnecessary?

The next two comments work in concert:

Poppi Westbury (2/24/2008 6:58:00 AM)
His poems speak to the romantic soul in me. I think his work is beautiful, mystical and enthralling.

The Riddler (2/13/2008 9:24:00 AM)
boring made me fall asleep

Next, Barbara Bizarro, back in school! Check out her last line for a sort of heart-wrenching awkward adorable sentiment that sounds like it came straight out of an early Star Trek episode.

Barbara Bizarro (1/30/2008 1:09:00 AM)
I am currently studying this man's poetry back in school, and personally I believe that his work is breathtaking altogether. The simplicity of his writing underlines the little society at the time knew about the consequences of their actions. Not only has this man helped us create our own picture, but he has also pushed his messages across to his readers. His use of simple and understandable vocabulary enables people of different ages to understand what he is implying. Although I don't exactly enjoy my English classes, I have truly been able to love the art of poetry through my own life's events and through his work.
Thank you, Blake, you have inspired me put my own sentiments into words. For that I'll never be able to thank you enough.
May your work rest upon the world's surface for as long as Earth is still inhabited with the memories of its people.

I also defy you not to love "Underlines the little society knew at the time about the consequences of their own actions." Like that guy who invented the tiger! Socially irresponsible creep.

Last, I present Hannah Oak, literary critic for the new millennium:

Hannah Oak (3/11/2006 5:27:00 AM)
Wiliam Blake has an interesting outlook when it comes to writing poems.Its the way he uses theoratical terms in his poetry that fasinates me the most and he also gives a sometimes happy sometimes sad outlook on certain areas on life in which you would quickley over see and not give much thought about.

Yes, Blake makes me often reflect on how much we quickley over see. Like poetry comment boards.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Today Sequoia and I walked to a cafe and hung out with a neighborhood kid who deflected a whole "reading" interrogation I was conducting (I can't help myself, I'm constantly making the literature equivalent of illegal search and seizure stops with kids) by suddenly mentioning that he can draw "anything." Challenge on.

I happened to have four, count 'em four, different colored pens in my purse. Totally felt like a college student-slash-overprepared mom-type at that moment. (Does anyone else remember that Sesame Street episode where Maria's mom visits and, in a conversation with Oscar the Grouch, pulls out a bar of soap from her purse? Maria reacted with, "Ma, do you always keep a bar of soap in your purse?" which doesn't sound funny when you read it in a blog, but at the time I nearly died laughing because Mrs. Figueroa reminded me so much of my own mom. ) So anyway this kid set to work drawing dogs and flowers and extremely cool cars with "spinners," and I suppose you know what "spinners" means although I didn't know the name of them before.

Then he ceremoniously announced that he was going to draw my house. He was (heroically, in my mind) unperturbed by the fact that he's never seen my house. The drawing he presented had rainclouds, a star, and a dollar sign drawn onto the roof. I asked if those were for good luck. I could totally tell by his hesitation that I had read way more into them than he intended, but he was game to humor me. "Yeah," he nodded, and then said, "and now I'll draw a circle around your house. This will keep the monsters away."

How fucking lucky am I? A lifetime monster repellent, absolutely free of charge, and which, as I interpret it, can be applied to any house even loosely defined as "mine." I immediately experienced a peace of mind previously unknown to me.

And I can confidently report that no monster has yet crossed the fearsome barrier.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

photo finish

I have to repeat a joke my brother made up. He was telling me about how his grandkids catch snails and then hold snail races. I was trying to picture this (How do you keep them going in the same direction? For that matter, how do you keep them going?) and began asking him questions related to "How do they know who wins?"

He shook his head and said, "There's no photo finish for these guys. You've gotta use an oil painting."

My brother is always making up arcane little logic jokes like these, and they always make me laugh for years afterwards. Although I repeated this joke to one person and she totally didn't even smile.

On a related note, my great niece can catch butterflies in her hand, hold them by one wing while they flutter, show them to me, and then let them fly away. She's spooky calm around animals and had my dog (twice her size) adoring her in no time. "How do you know him so well?" she asked me, and I kinda wanted to ask her the same question. But the fact that she, at age four, asked such a thing is indicative of her deep curiosity about animals. How many people care what a dog is thinking? But she already wants to learn how to decode that body language.

I love it when kids have something that is so uniquely theirs. When you see kids do stuff like that, stuff they aren't taught, stuff they're just passionate about, how can you not believe in self-determination?

There's something inside us we can't help. For her it's invertebrate sporting events.

lost weekend

I visited my family two weeks ago as a sort of end of semester, balmy desert evening, margaritas, and feet in the kiddie pool break. And although I drink so rarely and so little that you may as well say I don't at all, I was really hankering for those margaritas.

Everyone in my family drinks a lot, and I think I just wanted to be left in rather than out. Also, my mom used to have this romantic tradition of sundowners in her garden -- started when she lived in Ojai (buddhist mountain paradise) with her last husband, a man addicted to martinis complete with crunchy alcohol-soaked olives. They had a wonderful vegetable garden they worked on for six months a year, so the backyard was lush and smelled of cucumbers. I loved everything about the sundowners except the bitter taste of alcohol. I brought my own iced tea.

But damn it, this time I was going to partake of my sister-in-law's perfect crumbly salt-rimmed frosty margaritas. Which she made every evening I was there. One night she added homemade guacamole and tortilla chips warm from the pan. And that's how I discovered the joys of alcoholism.

Alcohol! Before an hour had gone by, my brother was singing the Margaritaville song to me and before two hours had gone by we had taught it to my mother. I slept like a baby even in 85 degree heat and despite whatever anxiety always accompanies any visit home. It's almost like it's some kind of magic drug that suffuses happiness and beauty into all that you experience. Where's the down side, people?

I am now seriously considering becoming an alcoholic. Thursday night I drank what is probably my fifth beer of my entire life. Or at least drank 6 ounces of an 8 ounce glass. (I also found out that you can brush and floss until 3 am, but that beer scent is still going to take its sweet time to go away.) I'm not giving up! I've been advised to switch to cider if I want to go the long haul, and that is definitely my plan.

Because going for a beer sounds wonderful. People in bars are fantastic. They sing and talk about how my dog is a Diego Velázquez dog and then the boy you're with tries to kiss you...okay, maybe it was just that one bar visit, but still. That's the kind of magical thing that can happen when you're out for a beer.

I realize that becoming an alcoholic is a huge financial drain -- and to be honest, I've never understood how people afford drugs -- but I totally think it's worth the commitment. It's like when I first got my glasses -- the world is different, the colors are brighter, there is nothing more to want than this.

Last night I half stumbled half floated through the Mission on my way home from my friend's birthday party. I usually dread parties (weirdly because I always have fun) and this one was no exception. But there were mojitos and a view of the city and today I found myself counting the days until the next friend of mine has a birthday. Which is in 3 weeks and I already know what I want to order.

I've spent pretty much my whole life fearing alcoholism; now it's time to embrace it. Just the few drinks I've had so far have given me a glimpse of the world in which work problems are left at the office, indiscriminate sex might be had, and family conversations don't leave your head hurting for days. So this is what life is like for other people! They never have to actually get over anything; the alcohol takes care of that for them.

No wonder so many people are way less anal retentive than me.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

vowel sounds

I was doing research for a paper I wrote about an Emily Dickinson poem, and I found out that each vowel sound has a relative pitch associated with it. Is this like the craziest thing you've ever heard or what? I'm racking my brain, but even news of the platypus was not as startling. Okay, wait -- piranhas. Piranhas, which I first learned about in my school library in the second grade, were just as startling. Vowel pitch is the emotional equivalent of flesh-eating fish with teeth.

Having gotten that out of the way, I can already say that I've researched the web and contacted two, count 'em, two, music experts -- one of whom apparently took an entire course on vowel pitch while doing his masters. And neither of them can tell me which vowel sounds are lower/higher than which.

In fact, my friend Andy not-so-helpfully pointed out that "Higher pitches are put on the upper lines of the staff, lower pitches on the lower." Which says more about what he thinks of my musical education than it does anything else. I wanted to email back, "Btw, nouns are a person, place or thing." Instead I called him to formally lodge a complaint. He's taking the matter to his brother (who teaches music at NYU) and his dad (who is just an all around geek who sings and speaks French, although how the latter is connected was not made clear to me.) So I have a team of crack experts now working on this question; stay tuned.

This is exactly the kind of thing that I find both thrilling and unsettling: there's so much to learn about the world, and you can never know enough.

sex drive

After spending a week complaining to my friends about this guy I just met...and then another week complaining about how strangely attracted I am to him in the midst of a giant sea of unattraction...I am now completely in the throes of a biological urge that is bigger than the both of us.

And this is what I hate about sex drives. They're biologically designed to be stronger than any kind of logic humankind can devise, and right now one is kicking my ass. I just know I'm about to become the victim of another doomed romance; I could sew together a Christo/Jeanne-Claude art piece with all the red flags.

But I still can't think properly about anything else.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

women of low caliber

I just read a letter some guy wrote in to a sex advice columnist saying that he'd been dating women "of low caliber." What a fantastic phrase! I'm not sure how to get classified as such (and I'm probably dangerously close to meeting the qualifications) but I am absolutely dying to have an ex-boyfriend say that about me. In theory, that is.

Which reminds me -- Wendy had a friend, Tim, who lived in New York. At one point he was pressured into attending some neighborhood meeting, which he dealt with by getting stoned beforehand. Backstory, on the block where he lived there was a Catholic charity halfway house for women that he jokingly referred to as The Home for Wayward Women. At the meeting, he got caught up in the community spirit, so he went up to the podium and spoke in support of the nuns who wanted to start more neighborhood projects. "The Home for Wayward Women does great work..." A nun interrupted him, "Thank you, dear. It's The Brandon Residence." He nearly died of embarrassment before stumbling home to call Wendy in California because it was too late to call anyone in New York.

Postscript: A few years ago I made a Home for Wayward Women joke to Wendy, who, it turned out, had no memory of the event. I love it when stuff like this happens; friends of mine are always reminding me of some crazy story I've told them and then completely forgotten about. It's like finding a $20 in your coat pocket.

Oh, wait, another story! I had a boyfriend whose mom was visiting California from the Midwest. They had lunch at an outdoor cafe and a homeless guy spare changed them. When I saw them at dinner he made me try to guess her response. Before I could even think through the question, she said (with dreamy eyes), "He was a wayfaring stranger." Apparently she'd been swept away by her own imagined romance of the homeless guy's life. A couple of years later he'd forgotten all about the incident and swore that "wayfaring stranger" was a phrase I'd come up with by myself. As if I were anywhere near that clever, but hey, that's why I liked him.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

summer roommate

I swore to myself that I wouldn't write about how much I seriously hate my summer roommate, but it's either that or her body washes up near Point Richmond. (Which is an oddly popular body dumping site, btw. I feel like it should have its own twitter channel.)

So. I'm about to start listing all the ways S.R. annoys me when I realized that I've sort of forgotten how to blog. Right now I'm avoiding a paper on Emily Dickinson, which is really just a paper on a single poem by Emily Dickinson, which actually boils down to one word and two punctuation mark revisions in a poem by Emily Dickinson. And that I can write about, which makes me infinitely sad. Because whether or not God is the "further" of ourselves or the "maker" of ourselves, and what that says about Emily's subversive atheism, is so, so, less important than how much olive oil my roommate steals from me.

But wait! I have to talk about this guy's paper! He lives in Berkeley and so we carpool. He's very groovy in class and so I had this idea that he was this "my life is organized" brainiac. Only with a sensitive side. But no, he's a total fuckup and he spent last weekend basically begging me to write his damn paper for him. He didn't phrase it that way. He phrased it, "Let me buy you a glass of wine and we can meet and discuss my paper," and several variations on that theme. Until I started deleting his voicemails without listening. He wrote seven drafts of a five-page paper, then made me listen to him read it on our commute to class. All this and yet...he refused to follow three different important instructions. This is what makes me crazy about people. How hard is it to use a standard margin size and not quote outside sources? Ugh, whatever, back to my roommate.

She steals olive oil. And she leaves stuff lying around, in exactly the same place, untouched, for weeks. She has this ugly hipster friend who is smelly and spends the night a lot. At one point I loaned her some Neosporin, then told her I'd leave it out on the bathroom cabinet for her in case she needed it again the next day. A week later I saw it in the cabinet on her shelf. And the next day I heard her offer it to her friend. In other words, she appropriates. (Why so much Neosporin? They formed a girl band named Pissy, they rehearse in our backyard, and they get blisters from their guitar strings. Heavy sigh.) Try to forget about the awesome band name for a second and focus on my pain.

And if she does something that normal people would apologize for, like burn the bottom of my nonstick pan, she simply disappears for several days hoping the whole incident will be forgotten. In fact, she never communicates about anything. Paying the rent five days late? No problem! There's really no need to mention something as silly as that.

Okay, but here's the real issue: her passive-agressive non-communication style forces me to look into the abyss of my own communication shortcomings. In my lifetime, even in recent memory, even this summer, I've been her so many times.

Which brings me to Christina. Christina is my real roommate. The roommate of serenity and joy and long conversations about zombies over morning coffee in the kitchen. Christina is someone I can pee in front of, someone who explains how she talked her boyfriend into a tricky new sex move, someone who eats spaghetti-o's and knows what it's like to grow up in a small town, and who discusses Edward Said and who gets me, really really gets me. Christina is the most amazing woman I've ever met. Because she knows how to do what none of us mere mortals have really mastered: communicate.

When she first moved in, she asked me every stupid question a roommate could concoct, including, "Do you think it would be okay if I used some of your pet stain removal to clean up my dog's vomit from your rug?" She asked permission for everything. "Can I put my coffee maker on the counter?" "Can I give your dog some peanut butter?" She wore me down with her insane politeness, until Christina could do absolutely anything, including use five gallons of my olive oil, and I wouldn't object.

Lisa thinks I love Christina because of Christina's intrinsic awesomeness. And there's a lot to be said for that theory -- Wendy developed an instant girl crush on her, she's that charming. But I think there's more to it than that. Because Christina could do all of the same things S.R. has done (including let her best friend accidentally lock me out of my house) and I wouldn't care. I mean, I love Christina, foibles and all. And part of that is just how much fun she is and how kind and how nice she is to me. But most of it is how fucking up front she is. She sort of wears you down with communication until you can't resist. You know how it's supposed to be easier to get forgiveness than permission? Christina taught me how obviously wrong that is. Much, much easier to get permission.

And when she comes back, I'm going to -- well, not do anything weird with olive oil, because that would pretty much ruin our friendship -- but I'm going to do something nice like buy her and her friends a package of Neosporin.

Friday, July 3, 2009

it's possible to have sex in my bedroom

Conditions in my bedroom have improved to the degree that limited sex is now theoretically possible. And not just the masturbate then cry yourself to sleep kind (that kind was always available). I'm talking about actual sex involving at least two human partners.

And probably at most two, since we're still light years away from advanced highly-technological sex. There will be no homemade chocolate chip pancakes in the morning, although I did purchase an extra toothbrush as proof of concept.

One day, it may even be possible to have sex in my bedroom with me. Science is working steadily toward that goal (which has been called "Not impossible. Just improbable.") and is hoping to make great strides within the coming year.

I'm not ready to invite alpha testers yet, but today I put all the furniture back where it was supposed to be, organized the contents of my closet, and cleaned the floor, including under the bed.

Now all I need are some vanilla scented candles.