a drive to a house (where I will do the best I can):
Dan in Tanzania (safe):
and something that was not there (created).
a drive to a house (where I will do the best I can):
Dan in Tanzania (safe):
and something that was not there (created).
I wanted to take this eighth day of Danzania to clear up a few things in regards to my Five Golden Rings post. So many people have commented, both publicly and privately, in response to my cousin’s nine-step plan for my life. Or was it 8 steps? I’m inclined to consolidate “get some real skills” and “grow up” into one step. Then again, I’m lazy.
I haven’t seen or spoken to my cousin in five years — ironically enough, the last time was at his wedding on Mackinaw Island, where I was asked to bear witness to his law-abiding love by reading the Kevin Young poem “Epithalamion.” An excerpt:
& I will be born
from your arm –
a thing eagled, open,
above the unsettled,
I never beat up my cousin as a kid, or forced him to sing Fred Schneider’s part in “Love Shack” at karaoke. I always thought he was pretty cool. We could sit in silence with the understanding that we come from caring (albeit slightly crazy) stock, and whether he knew it or not, I envied his ability to draw. He was an incredible caricaturist.
My best memory of us — and no, it isn’t the time we reconnected on a blog — is after my granddaddy Jack died. I was in third grade. My father picked me up early from Kristy’s ice skating birthday party and told me in the car that we had to drive to the Outer Banks to be with my mother. I had never lost someone before or been to a funeral. My cousin was there, in my granddaddy’s house. He played a Milton Bradley board game with me called Ghosts.
The game pieces glowed in the dark, and as an eight year old, sitting across from my own blood, afraid of the afterlife, lights out, moving death around on a square board, I was able to innocently cope with loss and mourn a man I would never get the chance to know. For me it became a Wordsworthian Spot of Time:
There are in our existence spots of time,
That with distinct pre-eminence retain
A renovating virtue, whence–depressed
By false opinion and contentious thought,
Or aught of heavier or more deadly weight,
In trivial occupations, and the round
Of ordinary intercourse–our minds
Are nourished and invisibly repaired;
A virtue, by which pleasure is enhanced,
That penetrates, enables us to mount,
When high, more high, and lifts us up when fallen.
I was deeply wounded by my cousin’s remarks — I almost changed my blog name to Crybecca for the afternoon — but soon realized I am not the same vulnerable, acquiescent girl who used to apologize to commuters who jostled me in Times Square. It’s incredible when you can validate your own choices.
Readers, I am moving to the midwest, land of serial killers and high fructose corn syrup, of three-inch thick ice, of high winds. Of Carl Sandburg. Of cows! I couldn’t be happier.
Which brings me to this: there’s a popular adage that a man needn’t buy the cow when he can get the milk for free. Such an old-fashioned dairy tale sells both parties short: men are portrayed as sex-starved itinerant farmers, women as output. Above all else I value my agency. True, I can’t say that Dan and I will be together forever, but perhaps I won’t be the one doing the disappointing. We live in 2008, when a woman has the option of leaving a man knee-deep in corn. I happen to think quite a few of the gentlemen in Jane Austen novels behave like idiots. I am not afraid to be alone and I am not afraid to start over. It’s my milk.
I love Dan and he loves me. We have “real meaning” and are committed to building, mending, repairing, and might I add teaching and creating, as a team. (Of course he’s a bit like Snuffleupagus right now, on Safari and invisible to most everyone, so you’ll just have to take my egocentric word for it.) And if it’s true that without a marriage certificate Dan can leave me at the drop of a high Warcraft Score, because I have stopped being entertaining, then by all means, allow me to be the first to encourage him to do so. I would leave him if he stopped being kind. Or supportive. Or off-color. Or entertaining. Because that’s the man I fell in love with, and while some things may change — say, for example, Dan gets his toes chewed off by a lion in Tanzania — personality and character are non-negotiable. Becca will always be entertaining, even through Iowa dysphoria, even through the fight she and Dan will have when Dan eats the last of the bacon and the house still smells of it. Otherwise, that’s not Becca. (Snunshine feels the same
fucking way and is encouraging us to write Moving-In-Together Vows. Also, he says Dan would be more entertaining with no toes.)
It’s unfortunate that my cousin, though perhaps truly concerned for my journey to the center of the cold grey gloom, couldn’t bother to ask rather than assume. Will I lose contacts once I move to the midwest? (Nope. My Poet is keeping me on part-time.) Am I scared? (Yes and No. I did wake up this morning and freak out a little because I couldn’t find Iowa on the map, but Dan is my partner, and we’re ready to try.) But you don’t know a soul out there, Becca! (Not true — two of my best friends from Georgia are waiting with pizza and beer the moment I pull-in.) Are you self-centered? (Sometimes. I am an only child. One might think it’s self-centered to have a blog named after yourself, but I’d love to talk with you more about the genre of personal memoir and creative non-fiction. Have you read David Sedaris? Maybe start with this interview to better understand where I’m coming from, what I struggle with as a humor writer.) Do you knock your parents? (Only when they email me JPEGs of albino squirrels. And only because I’m jealous. I love and respect my parents enough to disagree with them.) Are you self-effacing? (I’m sorry…I just don’t feel good enough about myself to answer that question…) Would you and Dan ever like to drive to Michigan to visit us? (Sure. That would have been nice.)
Finally, I do not delete comments, unless they are about penis enlargement or Canadian swing dancing, both of which I received today. Luckily, I also received these:
The summer of 2004, I backpacked through Eastern Europe, alone, for three weeks. I learned a lot about myself — especially that living and writing, for me, are intertwined.
I wrote this in my journal, after leaving the “Hungarian Sea,” or Lake Balaton, where I saw a swan:
In Balatonfured, when I had the experience of the swan, I simultaneously dove into the white solitude while hovering outside the picture. This is what I mean by the difference between the thing itself and the story of the thing. She was exquisite: floating on calm Balaton, alone, in the dark, against a backdrop of heat lightning. I have gendered her. Yeats had his wild swans at Coole and I have mine. She too was traveling alone, and with the sky aflame, I swear I was summoning her — that for a brief moment we spoke a common telepathic language, even as I withdrew to write and hence change her…
The Wild Swans at Coole
The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty Swans.
The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.
I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.
Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.
But now they drift on the still water,
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake’s edge or pool
Delight men’s eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away.
Goose counter. Me in a taxi in the rain. Eager accepter of the extra change. I wonder which days of New York City me I’ll miss?
Today is day three of Danzania and I’ll be bar tending for most of it.
So please take a moment to enjoy this .
Jeffery and I worked very hard on the first issue and couldn’t be prouder!
This is my new backyard:
and this is the view of my new backyard from my new porch:
There’s a swing, and a bird feeder, and something metallic that looks like WALL-E but is probably just a grill.
I’m moving to Iowa. There, I said it. Phew. I wasn’t sure how to break it to my readers. I considered breaking it slowly, after a couple of posts on corn and crinoid (the proposed, but not yet approved, state fossil) but in the end I’m too bursting-at-the-seams to keep quiet. I bet I learn how to sow seams in Iowa.
I realized, once Dan asked me to move, that I was ready to leave New York. Six years is a long time. Six years is how long the 480-pound woman lasted on her couch before she died. This is an unfair analogy. New York City has been more than a well worn sofa to me, and I’ve been anything but still. Maybe The City is the morbidly obese one, and I’m the couch, and I’m asking it to get off me? All I know is I’m ready to buy snap peas at the co-op and have three bedrooms for the price of one and shovel my driveway and decorate with dried flower topiaries in galvanized buckets and walk to my friends’ houses and have my own writing study and have my own tacky wind-propelled lawn squirrel and wake up next to Dan.
I’ve been reading literature on moving. In Boomer’s Big Day, Boomer, the family dog, “not understanding what a move entails, sets off on a journey of change.” I like that phrase, journey of change, and I like that it’s accompanied by a willingness to embark a bit blindly. Dan is on a journey of change right now too, on safari in Tanzania with his family and incommunicado for twelve days — I’m counting down his return on a little makeshift twelve square calendar, like it’s the twelve days of Christmas (which is great considering he’s Jewish). To celebrate new roots, and in honor of the journeys of change we all take (both unbeknownst and beknownst), I’ve decided to blog every single day. Every. Single. Day. So today is partridge in a pear tree. Oh yeah — I miss trees.
It’s a funny feeling to be bubble-wrapping glassware and quitting your job while your boyfriend is far far away, unreachably away, watching wildebeest migration. But this morning, I woke up remembering a video, a gift, that Dan made me a week before we met and fell fast in person:
and I smile and keep boxing books.
Today on the F train, on my way to school to print submissions for free, I was daydreaming about my future. Really giving myself the ‘ol 1-2-3 positivity pep-talk. And at my moment of complete confidence, when I suspected I might even be levitating off the seat a little, when I had convinced myself that I would win a writing residency, or a fellowship, or at least $10 and a year’s subscription to something, a Polish couple sat down across from me with notecards. They were learning English. The one word they held up, in all caps, facing me, while they chatted, for the remainder of the ride?
My friend and fellow writer, Nicole, organized a reading this weekend at The Ear Inn. You can see pictures (and pitchers!) here.
I read a new piece I wrote about Roy Sullivan, the Shenandoah National Park ranger who holds the Guinness Book World Record for surviving the most number of lightning strikes: seven. When Roy finally died, it was from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He allegedly couldn’t withstand a broken heart.
The poem is untitled and in seven parts.
Fire Lookout Tower
Kestrels dropped to spy ignition
spread like a rival wingspan. I was
stationed alone in the rock. How long
did I keep watch? Taut
as empty fingers fire’s exit.
Lightning rose, flared in my toes
and pooled familiar pressure like a match
struck against sole, such after-
At eight I feigned snakebite with a fork.
I tined my arm one tooth too many — similarly the sky
that day was fanged but wrong. Hootinany
Blue Ridge, as plated linen swans hills
puckered, yellow paralleled, in rear-view
air bellied out — the road went dark, then blue,
then lit by nothing but the light
of my skin’s tinfoil.
Third Strike’s The Harm
A bottle of 80 proof Tullamore Dew is all
that should of got me heat-
whipped in the neck. I was crossing
the yard mindless of a backing
wind — in my head a woman
singing James Taylor to changed lyrics: “Oh, he’s seen
fire, he’s seen fire.” Later, salving flesh,
she felt for my singed socket, said
“Honey, that ain’t no cold shoulder.”
I was most connected to my higher power
when I had no choice. At strike four
relinquish and allow. Carry
a pitcher. Embrace the methodical wisdom of
if fire I am there, if pitcher I am there
too but umbilical to God unembered,
hair safely soaked, body drenched, I tell you dive
into the swim hole
of the holy until The Lord can reach you
only in the slick wet church
that you’ve secured.
When the fifth strike fell
to round out my counting hand
so I could tell how many times
by holding up my palm,
it wasn’t a gesture of stop,
at the hollow between each finger
a newly visible kindling, a bird’s nest
of dry bunting like the inside of a quilt
spilt out and dipped in gasoline, I could
smell the tinder, I could hear the many
oxidations being born inside my mouth, a second made
known by spread fingers, I was near-blind
with anticipation, with forgiveness,
my blood all touch and pyre –- it was then that I brought
my palm to my tongue to taste
the splay of burn.
Cloud as Conscience
First I saw its shadow on the campground lawn
and pretended faces, the way a child on his back might see
a lion or a clown. The cloud
was me. It attacked. It kept to its course
unrelentingly, gathering itself at its
cumulus tips, threadbare lurching –- dropped
rain like three-day old confetti in a sooty
street, clumped and stuck to my frame. I ran
towards a cabin, ran to outrun the shameful
brume which only hovered faster, unseen but
tethered, obsessive, until it seemed
to miscall my name — Ray, a light — and I
collapsed, ankle twisted, struck by a strange
Bead, ribbon, staccato. These were the warnings
rocket triggered. I knew
I was blessed and I knew the language,
the magic a ranger uses to welcome
in his guest. I let the fire in. I went
fishing, cast the line out to where the black gum
meets horizon, the mountains gauzy and fog-
backed. The seventh took the bait:
it traveled down my pole, charred my chest
in an imprint like an oak leaf at the height
of fall. I was staggered and red. Unrequited,
I took a gun to my head at seventy-one.
I watch Grey’s Anatomy. It’s just, you know, my excuse for one more Facebook Application. It’s my guilty pleasure. It’s my Moonpie of television.
It’s important to have something in your life characterized by gaping holes of incredulity that you still, despite those gaping holes, really enjoy. I keep a growing list of Grey’s Anatomy improbabilities because one day, I’d like to sponsor a Grey’s Anatomy Games (GAG), in which competitors test the feasibility of “character motivated” action: like Izzie eating an entire tub of butter. Or the time she stood outside the hospital for 12 hours–not even a bathroom break!–because she couldn’t face the memory of Denny and his severed LVAD wire and the pathetic aftermath when she curled up in her Prom gown (because it was Prom night at Seattle Grace) cradling his dead body.
“Where does it hurt, Alex? In my feet.”
In the Grey’s Anatomy Games, the writers will actually try standing for 12 hours. I did that the summer I worked food service at Disney World, sweltering through layers of purple and maroon while pulling pizza tickets from a printer. I leaned against the wall any chance I got. Granted, Izzie wasn’t wearing polyester in 100 degree heat, but surely she must have been tuckered out from the trauma of killing her boyfriend. At least give the girl a bench.
I find Meredith Grey to be a rather unlikeable character. She’s selfish (monopolizes conversation), wears her bangs like she went to the gym but forgot to shower (Mer-hair), and speaks in tautologies (“I’m dating. I’m going out with men. I’m seeing people.”) Mer-talk is a no-brainer. It’s the language of cutesy presumption and casual acquaintance and alliterative weather-filler, all wrapped up in a tidy bow of metaphor. It’s a language occasionally interspersed with smarty-pants medical terminology like “humpty dumpy procedure.” Mer-talk is about getting the most mileage out of the least number of words:
Now that my own hair is long enough for a greasy pony-tail, I like pretending to be Meredith Grey. When I’m drunk. My Anatomy’s friends know enough to play along.
Me: “I’m drinking. A beer. Beer drinking.”
Friend: “Work was hard today. I–”
Me: “What do you think about my love life? I’m drowning. In beer drinking. I’m drink-downing. I’m drink-dating. I have a dog.”
On Grey’s Anatomy, it’s all hospital, all the time. Oh, except for that one episode when the entire male staff of Seattle Grace (including the Chief of Surgery) took leave to do a little camping and fly-fishing in upstate Washington.
On Grey’s Anatomy, a lot happens. Quickly. In the span of a particular Season Two Weekend at Gurneys, Dr. Burke got shot, Denny died, Dr. Webber’s niece was rushed to the emergency room for cancer, a Plague spread, and — the straw that broke the intern’s back — Derek and Meredith euthanized their joint custody dog. I used to not want to live in Seattle because of all that rain, but it turns out it’s also a highly dangerous city: a city prone to bombs and Code Blacks; to transportation disasters (train and ferry); to mass shootings; to plagues. A sad city where you sing your babe to sleep with The Blues and toss expensive jewelry overboard:
A Grey’s episode is undiluted metaphor. Oh, to be a fly on the Shonda Rhimes storyboard! I imagine the writing process to be the love-child of Today’s Special and Boggle: somebody throws out a word, and thus begins the mad rush to free-associate, to re-arrange letters to fashion plot. Let’s say the special word is “Cake.”
“Ok, girls, think CAKE and..go! Stomach ache. Have your cake and eat it, too. Wedding cake. A skin condition from caked on make-up. Caked artery. Avian Cake Disease. Izzie baking countless cakes—paincakes! Derek Hot Cake! McCake!”
Last night, I went to hear the poet Carl Phillips read at the 11th Street Bar. He’s long been a favorite of mine—poems of such lyric richness, such imploring benediction, such pensive supplication, such…Grey’s Anatomy narrative voiceover?
Oh god, I’ve been pop culture poisoned. But seriously. Pretend Meredith had written a book called “Tumors Go Missing,” and she’s at the podium taking nervous sips of white wine and pausing between line breaks.
Now picture Carl Phillips in a bathtub monologuing his poem “Cloud Country” over angsty Emo guitar. His publisher is, after all, Graywolf Press.
Oh, but Carl. You’re still the better.