Sunday, December 26, 2010

And for you, my sweetest lover, to you I will say-- merry christmas, i love you.

I am in Texas. I am back with my family, which is always a comforting yet strange thing. Strange, probably for two reasons: it is so temporary, I am not used to it. I am not used to being someone's kid, I usually feel very on my own (and occasionally resentful of that, though there's really no one that I resent). And yes, so temporary that it hardly seems useful to invest myself in anything. The days leading up to my departure were stressful and occasionally very emotional, but explaining that or anything really significant to anyone around here doesn't seem like a good idea. I revert to kid mode, being a bit impatient with conversation, not wanting to go to church (well, more like not wanting to get up at all), getting annoyed with my father's OCD about my (autistic) sister's habits. I don't want to get annoyed, but I just do. Still. It's nice having real food every day as opposed to snacks or canned soup or In&Out, which is basically what I've been eating for the past six months. It's nice having nowhere in particular to be. And presents. Presents are good, too.

A few days before I left for here I entertained for the first time-- threw a lovely fancy-dress cocktail party at my empty house. It filled in rather nicely, and I think everyone (all 37ish of them) had a great time, however I was sick and working throughout the day so by the time the party happened I was a mess and did not look at all as I had thought. Which is a bummer-- if you can't look fabulous at your own 1960's theme-party then when the hell can you? It was also illuminated to me what leeches people can be. However, most guests were very kind. Unfortunately, no one bothered to clean up a blasted thing, including the people who stayed the night (5 unmade beds, even!?), which left me holding the bag. Tiresome. There were also a few breakdowns which occurred after most of the guests had gone-- sadly, I suppose these are the only memories that witnesses retain from events like that. Although I had splendid fun, I don't think I see many more parties in my future. I don't have the stamina.

Anyway, after I spent all blasted night cleaning up I hopped on a plane here. I have not stopped eating since. Christmas itself was low-key and cozy, after we went to Christmas Eve service at our old church (which has become a scary megachurch in the past few years) we engaged in my most favorite part of all Christmases: watching It's A Wonderful Life. I will smack anyone who insists that film is cheesy-- it almost seems ahead of it's time in it's presentation of life as it is: very hard. Very disapointing. Full of flawed characters, but still-- and even because of that-- it's so wonderful. We all have our personal definitions of success, and we can become so crestfallen when we don't make it, but so often we must pull back and observe what really matters, the true definition of success-- love. Love that has been earned through pursuing good things in life, by aiding others, by being a geuinely good person. George Bailey is one of if not THE most perfect film character because he manages to be SO GOOD, the ultimate protagonist who gets life thrown at him, but still so human. George is flawed and resentful and self-loathing occasionally, but that makes him even more of a good man because he does what's right even when he hates to. The scene when he returns to his house, downcast, rips on his family and tears apart his pictures and paper bridges, all the things symbolizing his dreams going to shit, is such a moving scene and makes me cry to no end. All the better then for him to come back with joy, finally seeing in himself and his life what everyone else can see. We all count for something, even when we think we're garbage. That's such an amazing thing to show.

Anyway, Christmas morning saw my parents coming into my room and jumping on my bed until I got up (revenge, I see how this works), lucky charms (yes, a weird tradition of ours...), and presents. We don't make Dory open presents anymore, we just leave things out for her to find if she wants to (she hates opening things, she has tarnished many a holiday with her fits over just that). After we all devoured our goodies, we strolled over to the neighbors, a big homeschool family, to eat food. After all that, my oldest and dearest friend and her mother came over, and Emily and I ran around outside in the fields, laughing and climbing on things and discussing life, the universe, and haystacks. Today we saw extended family (and all of the new babies... so many babies... I would be lying if I didn't admit that this makes me feel slightly pressured to marry the next man that crosses my path, here's hoping he's Jon Hamm).

It's strange being here. Strange. My parents look so old. My second father is still in the hospital in Dallas. My sister does not change. I almost can't relax, even though I've been looking forward to being here for months. I'm too antsy, there's too much that must happen in life. Strange, this adulthood thing. I'm never as mature about it as I wish I was. Oh well. War is over.

Monday, December 20, 2010

in regards to that meeting: it was totally nothing. my boss likes to phrase things dramatically and i haven't learned how to read her. apparently there was no major problem at all...

in regards to the season: hello, i love you.

in regards to myself in general: why do i dislike you so much? i am so quick to drive myself mad. right now i'm sitting in this empty house just feeling dreadful. what a cycle it is-- feeling bad, then realizing there's not a valid reason to feel so, but the bad persists anyway, made worse by the feeling that you shouldn't feel bad.

i would so take medication if there were actually a pill that made one like oneself. really, reality creates far too much time to be spent with me. in the end, i guess i usually knew i would never commit suicide, but of all the suicidal motivations i certainly understand the desire to simply escape one's own mind. there's just too much of me in there. it's exhausting.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Today was supposed to be a super nice day of wrapping presents and watching christmas movies, but of course one of the people I work for, while giving me my check, informs me that I'm apparently doing alot of things wrong on the retail end of work, and we're going to have an official "meeting" tomorrow. I'm sure the meeting is about more than that, but of course this news has made me very anxious and kind of depressed. I thought I was doing fine. How badly does it suck to suck at something as stupid as retail? Especially retail that you're not even getting paid very much to do?

Now my day is ruined. All I can think of now is that. Wallow. Self-pity. Fail. I hate everything. I don't wanna go to work ever again. Gah.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

a good man is hard to find.

It's my birthday tonight! Today, the start of today. Happy birthday to me.

This evening I went back to LMU to attend the annual christmas LMU choir concert. My friend Aly is in the choir, and I always meant to go while I was at school, but the concert was always in the midst of finals and I never felt like it. Anyway, it was lovely. They sang in the chapel on campus. I have long loved this chapel, despite the fact that I am not Catholic and much of the decor is meaningful to others but manages to escape me. Anyway, it's a beautiful, cozy place, and it was glorious to hear the choir sing in it. They sang a good number of classic Christmas "Catholic" arrangements and some traditional ones I hadn't ever heard, like an African-American spiritual that made me cry, and a song based upon music from Empire of the Sun. Then of course there ws O Tannenbaum and all that good stuff. At one point they did a medley of carols, having the audience, us, sing the choruses with the choir harmonizing. That was terrificially spirited and beautiful, and throughout the whole thing my emotions were all over the place. Then again, that's my emotions on a usual basis.

I was very affected this evening by the traditional pieces. Partially because of what they made me feel about God, but also partially because of the tradition of the songs themselves, the idea that people have been rejoicing in this holiday spirit for so long. It's amazing to me that a collection of people that can sing and arrange beautifully and collaborate can be found in the world, let alone a single school like LMU, and the concept that this tradition has been carried through so many years in so many countries, this amazing celebration of beauty, I just couldn't stand it. I have an intolerable love for existence and history, the concept of the dead and the ancient things having as much value as those living and young (if not more, obviously). At times I become so aware of it that the only thing I can feel is pain and smallness, the overwhelming sense that it's all just too much. Similiar, though totally different, from what the weird kid says in American Beauty about the damn paper bag, about there being so much beauty in the world he feels as though his heart might explode. That's not why I feel that way, but that's HOW I feel.

Also, being in the Chapel and being able to sing along with such nice little carols made me consider their words, which are so glorious. The one that really got me was Come, All Ye Faithful, a song that we of course know most of the words to but which I know I haven't thought about since I was 4. The picture it paints is too good, and the plea "O come let us adore Him" weighs on me. The longing for Christ, or for fulfillment, has become glossed over for me in that song most Christmases, but tonight as the choir sang, the purity of it just struck me hard.

Anyway. Point was, my appreciation for the meaning as well as the tradition of these songs was driving me crazy, as well as my own thoughts about my birthday and what it means to get older. Like most people who freak out about everything, my birthday is usually troublesome for me and my existential ways. So throughout the concert I was a little ball of emotion, tearing up then furrowing brow in uffish thought, then tearing up again. By the time the concert was over, I felt lighter.

On the way back home, on the exact moment that I turned 23 in California time, I was driving the coast, listening to the Beatles and letting the cold air blow through my car. It felt good. I'm okay with my birthday this year-- I'm not where I want to be, however, I'm doing all right for myself. I'm not sad. Right now, anyway.

And so now I do my laundry, watch a bit of Rebecca before bed, and sleep. Tomorrow is the rest of my birthday, and I think I shall buy myself something nice.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Monday, December 6, 2010

Today I slept through my alarm clock and missed work at the school. ARGH, I hate myself for doing that. Of course, it is very flexible work, however I was sick a few weeks ago and soon school will be on a long break. I dearly need the money, though apparently this morning I needed sleep more.

I did make $50 today anyway, an essay of mine about The Godfather was sold. That was nice, anyway.

So, the other night I watched Eat Pray Love. I was mostly annoyed by the experience for a number of reasons, the main one being that it seemed to depend on the mannerisms of Julia Roberts-- all of which we know very well. The laugh, the flirty smile, the second-guessing hand-to-chin thing, the exasperated but charmed look, the way her face seems to avalanche when she cries. Ok, all that sounds mean. I like Julia Roberts, even love her sometimes, but this movie was too sewn up with the plot to make us all fall in love with her. Anyway, it was tiresome. Also, self-discovery stories are always tough, but I found the character very self-involved, and generally speaking I didn't like her, not to mention I was terribly, desperately jealous of her ability to just drop everything and fly away for a year and do magical things with no repercussions (and then write a best seller about it). She's an author that has plenty of money and freelances, thus she can do what she wants. Yet we're expected to connect with her self-centered approach to everything. Ugh. Annoyance. Not that I don't connect with attempts at balance and self-discovery (that's pretty much all this blog seems to be about), but a movie built around this woman seems indulgent. The places she visits and the meditations she does become like trendy accessories, Eastern religion becomes disposable. Meh.

All that said, watching it inspired me to think seriously about three things:

1) travel
2) elephants
3) a method of adding meaning to something that feels tedious or empty.

We will go backwards: At one point in the film Julia's making her way through this Guru's spiritual instructions, the long method of reaching the height of centeredness and meditation (I think, I don't know, it was late). Julia's findin' it real boring and can't get through it until one of her friends suggests that she dedicate it to something or someone she loves. Do it for someone else, with them in mind, and it's much easier. Doing it because you feel you should, or even doing it for YOU doesn't work nearly as well. It's not as profound. I feel like I've heard that concept before, but it was very striking to me. Dedication, especially spiritually. I will have to think on it.

Elephants: Julia is given this statue of an elephant. It may have been a specific religious symbol, that part was vague, but someone says to her that it stands for "The remover of obstacles." What! My brain! How fabulously simple. Elephant= remover of obstacles, what a wonderful symbol, something nice to think of and keep around. No wonder I've been into elephants lately-- if you are an elephant, you can do anything.

Travel: So I've been here for two seasons now, post-grad, and I'm pretty bored and boring. I really need to go somewhere, and reading/watching things like this stupid movie just frustrates me nonstop. I still plan on going abroad for grad studies, but otherwise... sigh. Work, write, sleep, repeat. I need a little more to get by.

When my friend Kate and I go to San Francisco we stop off in Salinas. Or we have the two times that we've made the journey, hopefully it will become a full tradition. Anyway, one of my favorite things in the world and especially in Salinas are Greyhound Stations. I love public transport-- can be gross, yes, but it's so glorious and romantic. Trains, metrorails, buses, subways. Buses. I think it's a writer thing, writers love crowded places full of people and conversations and ideas, they love to observe and pretend to be a part of things (because really, writers are never really a part of anything, only in their writing do we partake, i think). Also, one of my favorite songs has always been America by Simon and Garfunkel, in which these characters see America in all of its beauty and sadness through the windows of a Greyhound.

Anyway, so while we were in Salinas I demanded Kate take a picture of the station, it looked like it had been in lonely existence since the 50's. She ended up using it as an art project and sent it to me recently. It's so charming to look at. So nice... suddenly, before I knew it, I was looking at bus prices. I now have a plan.

I shall work tirelessly. TIRELESSLY. I shall get a third job. I shall keep writing essays for money. I shall continue to write other things and send out stories for publication. I shall save. On whatever weekends I can, I will cruise into LA to see all of the sights there that I have missed, because there are so many museums and cemeteries and shows that I have managed to miss. I will go to the Salton Sea and Redwood Forest. In the spring, I will go to Oregon for the Shakespeare Festival and Seattle to visit my old room-mate and browse around. Once that's done, I will buy a series of bus passes for fall of 2011. I will travel at a nice lazy pace across the US, stopping where ever I want, and settle in New York for a few weeks. I will stay at hostels. I will come back, also on a bus. It will be beautiful.

I am still considering a European trip in the summer, but I suppose that realistically that should wait until I am ready for grad school.

We can't all be Julia Roberts. But we can be elephants.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

what is it about this time of year?

I don't know what it is about this time of year, and I know it's true that people are born and people pass away all day every day. But there is something about the holidays... people die. My grandparents all died around Christmastime. It gives you such a sickly feeling.

My best friend's father was just in a terrible motorcycle accident. He suffered severe head trauma and broken/cracked ribs. Now he's in the hospital, and there are apparently these huge blood clots in the speech center of his brain, making it so that he can speak all right but he cannot process anything that's being said to him. Thus it's come down to this: to wait and see if the clots will shrink with treatment, or to operate and remove the clots. If they are removed, he will remain as is: confused, befuddled, basically senile, with that part of his brain missing. If they are allowed to stay there during treatment, they may grow instead of shrink, and he will die.

I know what his wife is thinking. There are worse things than death. That's true for all of us, but especially for this man. He's always been one of the smartest, most talkative men I've ever known, knowing a little bit about everything from guns to motorcycles to Machiavelli. He's gotten to be a bit of a codger lately, but over the past four or five years he's been pursuing education again, dreaming of achieving a doctorate and teaching. His conversation has become even heavier, discussing philosophy and literary analysis over all meals and get-togethers. Not being able to understand the world he lives in, and all that he's learned really would be like a fate worse than death to him.

It's weird to have this strong feeling come back, this feeling of really wanting everything to just BE ALL RIGHT no matter what that might take. More than anything I just want him to recover from these clots, and to be fine by Christmas, and for my friend to be fine and for her mom to be fine and for us all to have a happy Christmas in Texas together like we did last year. I have such a strong desire to simply WILL things into being that I'm exhausted and frustrated by the pure powerlessness of myself. I have no capabilities. Except to pray. But that feels so small.

More than that, this guy was like my second father and he was always very proud of me. I used to call him Uncle Ammo in his gun-toting days and now I've taken to calling him Uncle Acky. He was the one who told me that there was nothing more worthwhile than education, and if debt was inevitable in the face of quality education, then that was all right. When I got a card from him (and his wife) celebrating my graduation, it was one of the few cards without any money inside, but it was one of my favorite cards of all because I knew how sincerely he meant his congratulations. We used to gang up on Emily and tease her incessantly, back then my wit was quicker than now and Emily would always get faux-pissed and throw hissy fits while Uncle A and I laughed hysterically. He taught me how to shoot a gun, and told me about Christopher Marlowe, and that Shakespeare was never meant to be read, only heard. One time at the dinner table he told me that he thought I had the wit of John Lennon, one of the best compliments in the world. He has a gruff voice, but, inexplicably, he talks baby-talk to the family cat and lets her sit in a box on the kitchen counter while he eats.

Everything really needs to be OK, even if it isn't. I won't know what to say to someone who's father has died. I simply won't know what to say.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Movies That Actually Look Good

So around this time of year I'm usually going bonkers because there would be about 5000 amazing looking movies coming out. The holiday crowd-pleasers plus the real meaty Oscar-bait. No such luck this year, lucky for my wallet I suppose, bad for movies. This year saw a pretty pithy array of mediocre movies-- not a host of dreadful ones, but not alot of greats (from what I've seen and also read/gathered). All that there really was were alot of promising kid movies (Toy Story 3, Despicable Me, this month's Tangled), INCEPTION, crushing everything over the summer, and The Social Network, making all of the film reviewers seizure (rightfully so, I still think the movie's pretty damn brilliant). Personally, I also really like the smaller dramas Ghost Writer and Greenberg, but I am in the minority. The Town was pretty good, though I thought Affleck's first movie, Gone Baby Gone, was more emotionally connective. Anyway, all of those movies were far between and to me only The Social Network was completely satisfying (Inception, though totally amazing, fails to meet even the tip of its potential, sorry). So. It's December, and what have we? So far as I can tell, only the following hold much promise:

Black Swan

The end of that trailer gives me the creeps.

True Grit

Definitely the film I've been looking forward to the most. Freaking Coens. I should have known it'd be you, making the Western awesome again. I should have known!

How Do You Know?

This could be really good and satisfyingly As Good As It Gets-ish, or really lame, half-baked, meandery ending ala Spanglish. I don't like the clip of Reese Witherspoon talking about how she doesn't know if she has what it takes, trying to look like she's just a girl hanging out in her oversized sweater (looking perfectly stylized casual), and the SIGNIFICANT LOOKS are overused, but still, it seems really timely and relatable and solid. Or it could be. Anyway, I really like seeing Owen Wilson in a role of substance again. He hasn't done one since he tried to kill himself.

The King's Speech

A little predictably concieved, but nevertheless totally appealing. Looks like compelling stuff, and I love Bonham-Carter and Geoffrey Rush. And Colin Firth can be very good. When filmmakers take the grand scale of history and put it in terms of the individual, even if that individual is royalty, it becomes 10X more compelling.

Somewhere

Sofia Coppola is one of my favorite people. This looks beautiful-- nothing terribly new and different, but another nice, soft cloud of introspection with lots of silent character development (I'm not mocking-- she is actually a genius at developing characters with no dialogue at all). Somehow I feel she's not been at her best lately, but even if this sucks I know I'll enjoy looking at it. Her films give me such a meloncholy feeling.

And then... the maybe?'s

The Fighter

I think Mark Wahlberg in leading roles generally blows, but I'm really intrigued by Christian Bale doing what he does best here. Looks like he may be acting again (not that physical transformation implies that, but it looks like an interesting role for him, finally, after all this Batman Terminator business and sucking hard in Public Enemies). Anyway, I hope the concentration is primarily on the brother/brother relationship. I'm 50/50 on this one. Also, the part where Mark says "not you, not you, and not you!" cracks me up. What? No!

Tron

Mmmeh. It looks cool, but it could get old very fast. I do remember liking the old one, though, and I think it's awesome that technology now allows the Tron-cars to look fantastic (whereas in the old one... sad. so, so sad)

Company Men

I really want this to be good, and not a wad of propaganda to cheer up unemployed, underpaid America. The end of this does look dangerously cheesy, but there's a nice warmth and realism to it that I like. Also, I like Tommy Lee Jones. Also, I really like Kevin Costner in these kinds of roles. Also, the part where his wife says "you have ME" does make me almost tear up. Anyway, I'm not sure about it, but I did just read a glowing review of it from EW, so maybe it's not too schmaltzy. Time shall tell.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

i wish i had a river i could skate away on.