Wednesday, September 19, 2012

On Reflection

I find myself staring at the sky a lot lately.

I'm so grateful that I know what it feels like, falling through clouds at a scary-as-hell velocity.

I look up, and all I can think of is: how soon before I can get back? After the helluva adrenaline rush, I felt alive and tranquil. The earth was safely tucked away in its miniature proportions of fields & roads. For a few minutes, I didn't have to deal with any of that. Sadness. Car rides. The whole logistics of my new life. 

Was this what birds feel constantly? The peace of in-between? I wanted to stay there forever.
When I landed, I couldn't stop smiling. I felt serenely happy, but joltish too, the way I feel after a really long tattoo session. All those endorphins swimming around, bumping into my insides ... 

And then my jump instructor kissed my hand, and I felt goofishly happy about that too. It's nice to be acknowledged in that red-blooded way. 

I wrote a poem about the whole experience and workshopped it for class last night. My fellow poetesses used words like "sensual" and "awakening." They encouraged me to go deeper, pull the physicality and eroticism through the images, like a bright red yarn pulled through a pale-hued sweater.

More goofy smiling. And then this morning, a co-worker pulled out her iphone and said: Look. Half off skydiving. Do you want me to send you the link?

I was just ending my hellish shift of midnight to eight (stretching on to nine), but the glassy surface of her iphone made me break into an impromptu dance.

Oh my God, how much I love the sky.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What Happens Now

So next week, J is moving out. He signed a year's lease for a studio apartment. Coincidentally, my birthday is also next week.

There's a lot to think about. Every since late February, my brain has been working overtime, trying to process what has happened to me, and by extension, to us. To the me+him part that used to be such a central part of my life. 

Last year, I never went out with J. It was simply unthinkable. The only things I did alone was go to the gym and the grocery store. Every time we hung out with friends, or saw a movie, or went to a concert, we went together.

Now I'm learning who I am without the him. I admit, sometimes it is a bit of a steep learning curve. Other times, it feels revelatory. Even freeing. There are some people I know socially who has not yet met J. They have no concept of the me+him part, just the me. 

Girl awakens from life coma, and finds out that she does have feet to stand on. A mouth to speak up with. An opinion that matters. Her body occupies a space that belongs rightfully to her. There is no shame in owning that space.

It's just saddens me that there has to be collateral damage.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Part Two

White flag: in drawer. 

I'm coming to the realization that the things that I would love to do if they didn't scare me a lot (but *probably* won't physically injure me or others), are exactly the sort of activities I should be doing. 

So -- I will be skydiving in two weeks. And less impressive, yet equally frightening (at least for me), I challenged myself in a social situation that, a year or even four months ago, I would have never pushed myself to do. When I mentioned it to my co-worker today, she was impressed. :) Sorry that is vague. But let's just say, it ended up being a bit awkward (as expected), but I left feeling so goddamned proud of myself. 

Tonight I went to a book club meeting. Yesterday I vigorously played board games at a coffee shop for four and a half hours. Every day I'm going out and meeting people. It's starting to get, let's dare say ... fun. 

For a self-proclaimed shy person, this is gigantic. 

And I've signed up for a poetry workshop in the fall. I think it'll be good to keep connected with fellow writers, even if I did swear for years I'd never take a formal poetry class ... ahh, the way things change.

To review: 
- If I want to do something, I'm going to try not to let fear get in my way.  Case in points: tattoos, skydiving, awkward social events. 
- Book clubs are lovely, but don't sign up for too many, because then you'll end up reading books while walking down the street, cooking, and walking the dog. I have four books to read in the next month. When writing regularly, going to work, and trying to be social, this is a bit of a feat.
- Listening to really loud rap music is like putting on a bunch of clothes and feeling invulnerable. Not actually a review item, just something I'd like to point out. I'm discovering rap music, cause all my indie rock/folk/Tori Amos/PJ Harvey/Bright Eyes stuff makes me weepy.

That about wraps it up.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


Do I wave the white flag? It's in my hand. Next month will be autumn. Fall is a really nice time to burrow away, watch a lot of TV, try not to think or create or learn or grow. I can do this very easily. Fade away from the people/places/scenes/mindset I'm trying to be a part of. Step backwards into invisible girl land. Stay there indefinitely.

I'm just so tired. So very tired.

I keep getting out of bed. Making an effort. Interacting with people in genuine ways, even if it leaves me vulnerable. Staying connected to the world. Writing. But it's exhausting, and this morning I'm wondering: how much good is it actually doing? Crazy is not the same as good. Neither is complicated, stressful, or confusing. There used to a healthy sprinkling of bedazzlement, but I'm not feeling it anymore. 

I was talking to a friend at work about my tattoo, the Enda Walsh quote (newly souped up with Disneyesque Van Gogh stars):
the woods no more and only this mountain to climb
And her comment was, "Yeah, but ever notice how sometimes you think you're out of the woods, and then you end up right back there again?"

Or perhaps it's more like this: you're out of the woods, but the open space is just so immense and overwhelming, you head straight back for the shelter of the trees. Knowing fully that you're only hurting yourself in the long run.

You're lost there, but it's a good kind of lost. And so you decide to stay.  

I could do a lot of things in the great open bewildering space of the world. Watch the worst/best movie at the theatre, eat cheesecake, see a punk band, write until I bleed words. And that's just today. 

Or I could just sleep, white flag waving from my bed post. 
My choice. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

What I've Learned

Life is complicated. The more folks I meet, the more complicated my life becomes. (Un)fortunately(?), I find that I actually like people. It's the strangest thing, especially for a recovering shy girl. It's also a bit dizzying, because a writer by nature needs to have a certain amount of solitude. I need a few hours every night at the kitchen table with just my ipod and a notepad, or my laptop. Staring off in space. Writing a sentence. And then off I go. 

How did the writers of yore balance themselves? The Henry Millers and Virginia Woolfs and F. Scott Fitzgeralds. Okay, I realize that at least two of those examples had tragic lives that ended early, and F. Scott, at least, had a significant problem balancing the social with the writing life. Not to mention Zelda. Poor Zelda! But you get my gist. 

Even when I am at home, there is no solitude. It is like being adrift in a vast and terrible sea. On a hostile pirate ship. Without a sword, or even a parrot. It's not actually funny, but I find myself unable to talk about "the home situation" without making some kind of joke, or smiling in a wry way. 

It's actually pretty tragic. 

To tell you the truth, there's not one aspect of my life that isn't completely f%cked up right now. The 8:30 to 5 job is the least torturous. In 2011, I would have told you the reverse. In 2011, everything was cats and Doctor Who and endless hypnotic evenings spent knitting cardigans/hats/socks. With some Etsy splurges mixed in. I certainly wasn't exorcising/traumatizing myself by writing. 

Writing saves and drowns at the same time. It's like peeling layers of myself open, examining myself, and thinking simultaneously: oh Jesus/how pretty.

So that's the current state of my world.
How pretty.
Oh Jesus. 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

But That Christian Bale Is Kinda Sexy, Yeah?

One Batman-theme potluck ('Bane of my existence' pasta salad, anyone?) and the second viewing of The Dark Knight Rises later, and I feel a bit overindulgent. I do want to revisit The Dark Knight at some point, and start reading the Detective Comic series. Anyone out there with pointers about where to start? Pre or post the New 52? Also, I wonder if there are any non-skeezy archs with Catwoman out there. I read all the complaints about the New 52 reboot. Hmm, I suppose I should take these questions to the nice men and women behind the counter at the Phantom of the Attic ...

It was nice to geek out tonight, though. Good to know there are folks out there who care passionately about comic books and sci-fi and anime, and even that scary board game business, of which I was briefly exposed to, and might want to learn more about. He he. 

It's also nice to hang out with people whose paths don't usually cross mine. No writers in the bunch, or MFA-ers, or anyone with advanced degrees in the creative arts. I love my writerly, teacherly friends, but sometimes it feels good to break away for a bit. I wonder what other little subsets of Pittsburgh culture I can discover? I have no interest in sports-fanaticism, and am frightened of the hipsters ... is there some fringe crafty community out there? People who are a bit out of the demographic for yarn store culture, but who still knit/crochet cowls like speed fiends? Hmm, I wonder. 

There is a scene in TDKR that brings tears to my eyes. Both times I watched the movie. I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen it yet, but let's just say: it seems especially apt right now. Searing cinematography, simple, beautiful. I felt it on a very personal level. It resonated in my bones. 

Anyway. There's cookie baking, hair cuts, thrift store rummaging, running, writing, agent-searching, and more generalized socializing on the horizon for tomorrow. If I can scrounge the time, I may even break out the mason jars and can a few bottles of cherry-strawberry preserves. Anything's possible at this point. Right? 

Friday, July 27, 2012


I overheard a conversation I wasn't supposed to hear today, having to do with myself. Overheard gossip is normally cringe-worthy, but this one was nice. Really nice. 

Basically, it was about how I had made a total 180 in my attitude, appearance, and personality, and started embracing life. The women having this conversation agreed that it was great that I had done this. Am continuing to do this. How it's fear that holds most people back. 

It was the best compliment I've received in a long time. 

And they're absolutely right. Fear is what holds people back. Fear is what held me back for as many years that I was cognitive.

Fear still has an insidious way of creeping in, now and then. It's that little voice, telling me I'm not good enough/smart enough/pretty enough, so I shouldn't even try. The same voice encouraging me to stay at home and watch TV. Why bother going out, meeting new people, strengthening the relationships I already have, experiencing new things? I can shop on Etsy instead. Or just lie in bed and read. And every time I hear it, I have to make a conscious effort to blast it back out. 

So it frightens me, being physically too sick to go out tonight. Yesterday, I pushed myself despite my low-grade fever and scratchy throat. I went out, attended a meeting, had a late dinner in good company. And I'm glad I did. But today, all I could manage was a brief trip to the store for girly supplies (face mask, shampoo, mascara). I almost thought I was going to pass out in the middle of the shiny-floored store. 

So -- apartment bound. I've decided to give it a nice spin. It's a home spa night. I'm dyeing my hair a cheerful color, painting my nails a pink that might not survive the week (we'll see how nauseating it becomes by Monday), watching ridiculous movies, and reading short stories in my pajamas. I may even pop some popcorn. Because I have a crapload of interesting things to do tomorrow. And staying at home does not mean that I'm waving the white flag, giving up, or burrowing myself in.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

In Which the Body Says: Cool It

Woke up with a sore throat today. Achy. I drank a lot of hot tea and water, and then did what my body wants as opposed to my mind (which yearns for greasy french fries, preferably waffle fries smothered in daiya cheese and jalapeno peppers and vegan ranch dressing, and god, do I ever miss REAL bacon), which was to go to Whole Foods after work, buy a shitload of beets, carrots, and apples, juice them, and then make a rather macrobiotic dinner of mashed yams, brown rice and roasted brussel sprouts. With chia seed chocolate pudding for dessert, and a few crumbles of buckwheat groats with white chocolate peanut butter/raspberry agave nectar.  Maybe this food diatribe belongs in the other blog. But I feel like writing about it here.

Walked through the graveyard instead of ran, and will forgo my new grueling sit-up regime for tonight. No writing of my 1) new short story, 2) last few chapters of my new novel or 3) my new cycle of poetry. No looking for agents. I'm going to lie down and read, and hope for the best in the morning.

It's been so long since I've been sick, sick enough that my body runs out of juice before my mind does. It feels infuriating somehow. Like progress is being stopped, all my forward motions temporarily halted. 

So yeah. I do this every night while running. I make lists of what I'm grateful for, whizzing past gravestones and gazing up at the sky. It's important to include gratitude in one's life, I feel. Just as long as it doesn't slip into complacency.

I'm in a sharing mood today, so here it is. Off the top of my head.

1) Reading three good short stories in a row (in the Ray Bradbury-inspired collection I recently bought. This is supposed to be spontaneous, so I can't get up to find the title).
2) Cats hiding in Whole Food grocery bags, with just their ears poking out.
3) Raspberry flavored agave nectar. 
4) There is no part of my body currently flaking, oozing, or requires shielding from the sun. Healed tattoos are lovely.
5) Passing the weirdly demonic elderly woman (think: Rosemary's Baby) in the graveyard, who is always carrying a giant tape recorder/cassette player, wanders in at dusk, and says something to me that sounds remarkably like curses  (it's hard to tell, my ipod is always on really loud). But with a lovely smile on her face. There's a short story, right there.
6) Catwoman played by an actress channeling Audrey Hepburn. Audrey Hepburn Catwomans are sexy! Smart catwomans are sexy!
7) That I get to see DKR again this weekend. :) 
8) It no longer freaks me out to meet new people. 
9)  I joined a book club. I've never joined a book club before. Much less one discussing sci-fi at seafood restaurants. Sci-fi and seafood go remarkably well together.
10) Every day. Really. I'm grateful for every day I get to breathe and wake up and be who I'm supposed to be.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

No Need for My Own Words Today

You live like this, sheltered, in a delicate world, and you believe you are living. Then you read a book (Lady Chatterley, for instance), or you take a trip, or you talk with Richard, and you discover that you are not living, that you are hibernating. The symptoms of hibernating are easily delectable: first, restlessness. The second symptom (when hibernating becomes dangerous and might degenerate into death): absence of pleasure. That is all. It appears like an innocuous illness. Monotony, boredom, death. Millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. They work in offices. They drive a car. They picnic with their families. They raise children. And then some shock treatment take place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death.
Anais Nin's Diary, Volume One (1931-1934)

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Hello, you.

The you you denied yourself when you were seventeen and listening to "Crucify" on your Walkman, and thinking complicated thoughts that remained on infinite lockdown.

The you wanting to leap with five young deer over crumbling gravestones into the twinkling night.

The you yearning to decorate your body in the lights of the universe and the bright gleaming hope of the solar systems, all of them, real & imagined.

The you who wants to live dangerously/hard/fully, and then have the tenacity & cold steel will to sit down and write it all down, and write it well.

The you pounding your fist, demanding to live beyond the ether of thoughts & dreams.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Salt in My Mouth

Tumultuous. When I was a kid, I'd wade waist-deep into the ocean and face the approaching waves. It seemed necessary that I do this, that I let myself ride alongside the cresting sea foam, to give in to the rhythmic pull of nature. But sometimes a wave would rush in, too large for my skinny little-kid body, and I would tumble feet over head into the current, salt rushing into my nose and mouth.

I never learned how to swim. For those few seconds I lost myself in the wave, lost sense of gravity and the sun and the comforting tug of earth, I thought I might drown. Each and every time. It was terrifying. 

Don't ask me why I kept doing this to myself.

I'm tumbling through a gigantic wave as I type these words. My heartbeat caught in my throat.

I want to know where the goddamned ground is. That soft layer of sand, solid under my feet. Right now, life is uncertain, stormy, and scary as hell.

I feel a confession coming on.

There are things that haunt me. I know I intended trying to live without regret. I'm working on it. But I still have some. Old ones, fading thin-white like scars. New ones, crimson and wince-painful.

Everything I didn't say. The courage that slipped out from under me like an unreliable Peter Pan shadow. Walking away when I shouldn't have. Or staying when I should have walked away.

Just. Know that I feel more strongly than I let on. Sometimes feelings rush and burn through me like a brilliant summer day. I'm afraid of getting hurt. I'm afraid of letting other people in. 

I used to like the idea of pretty little vignettes, with a beginning and an end. I wanted to keep my life contained in that way, compartmentalized, without messiness or drama.  To keep people at arm's length. To say definitely to myself: and that's the end of that.

Just. Know that I meant to do things differently. There are so many yous I'm speaking to right now. So many invitations I should have accepted, or extended; eyes I should have looked into; notes/emails I should have written; phone calls I should have made; people I admired who I let walk out of my life without a word. A casual "hey, want to get dinner sometime?" is so hard for me, even in the most innocuous of situations. I don't remember the last time I asked anyone to lunch, or coffee, or just to hang out in a smoky bar.

Just. Know this. Even if you don't read this blog, or know I have a blog, or that blogs even exist in the world, because you no longer exist in this world. Know this somehow, anyway. That I wish we had that lunch/dinner/coffee/drink. That I could have known you better. 

And if once I tumble out of this wave, I will reach out and tell you this. And I will try not to be afraid. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

In the Thick of It

I hate this groggy weather. I wanted to walk down Murray Avenue, for a bagel or a movie or at least a few distracting minutes of people-watching.

Instead I stayed inside. Where it never got cooler than 79 degrees, even with the air conditioner on full blast. My dog is weary with panting. My cats lie on the kitchen floor as if comatose.

There's so many things I want to write right now.   Let's start with what I can write.

Saturn was colored in, along with a bonus surprise of the milky way perched on my shoulder blade. I love my finished robot tattoo. It's colorful and vibrant, and I can't help but smile when I see it (which is every time I look down, hee hee). That said, some part of me mourns the fact that it's finished. I enjoyed my sessions, despite the moments of extraordinary pain. It feels like something good has ended. 

Here's wishing for a lot more color in my life. Not necessarily in the form of tattoos, but that might be okay too, once my life settles down and my skin has had time to heal/forgive me. Wounded and healed three times since the end of the May -- I don't blame it for being pissed.

I haven't written anything except three pithy paragraphs of my novel yesterday morning. This is unforgivable. I have a draft of a poem over a week old that still doesn't have a satisfying ending. Also unforgivable. Instead I have to deal with "life." For over four months, I've been living in the ethereal space of art/exploration/beauty/thought.

Eerily, my novel has become an exploration of my day-to-day existence. Right now, my characters are preparing for an epic battle. This is not a coincidence. Sometimes the momentum drags, just so I can keep working through issues via my characters. I do feel sorry I'm using them this way. My characters should be independent entities that spring up and surprise me with their autonomy, not pawns in my personal psychodrama. I'm going to have to do some serious editing, once I'm done with this first draft. 

Random things I learned today:
Nine hours of Netflix instant and computer searches turns an ordinarily sharp brain into oatmeal-mush. 

Spring mix salads taste superb with low-fat ginger dressing, and nothing else. Sometimes, just sometimes, it tastes better than anything else in the world. 

I wonder what will happen next. My eyes are wide open. In wonder. In disbelief.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


I keep bombs in the fridge.

My stereotypical weaknesses infuriate me. Food is such a girly weapon of choice. 

One piece of apple pie = 411 calories. I don't know this intrinsically, at least. I googled it.

It wasn't even a good piece of pie. It was Giant Eagle variety, complete with a horrible sugared crust. I ate it anyway.

At least I didn't buy the whole pie.

There's that.

Why punish myself? Is it because of the looming storm of change/the unknown/loneliness/freedom? I had a relatively good night, at first. I went to the movies, and then to the grocery store. A small child made me smile outside the theatre. "Mommy," he said, "Why is the sidewalk sparkling? Is it magic?"
I liked his mother's response considerably less: "Don't be stupid," she said.

I wanted to tell him, "It's not stupid. You're right, it's wonderful that the sidewalk sparkles."

Instead, I walked silently to the car. And I found myself shaking. The wave of sadness is overwhelming sometimes. It's exactly things like a sparkling sidewalk that matter right now. Those small things. A pretty girl riding a red bicycle in Shadyside. A kind friend's text message. A poignant line of poetry, which I run through my mind like a strand of jewelry. Solace can come from anywhere.

And that, I suppose, is how I wound up with the pie. I'm a fragile little eggshell. Even a stranger's comment (and not even directed at me!) has the power to make me shatter, just a little.

I need to be stronger. My bones filled with titanium, my skin sealed with diamond. Impervious.

When I look in his eyes, I feel ??

Too much? Too little?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ten True Things About Today

1) My co-workers are passing around a smutty book (aka erotic fiction). It was recently handed off to me, and I have learned that a) I don't harbor secret fantasies about young CEOs (or CEOs of any age, really) with expensive tastes and b) there are way too many young women tripping over themselves into traffic or in the path of runaway cars. That said, I'm still reading the book.

2) Graveyards are really the best places for running and thinking. Also listening to music really loudly on your ipod. Today was the Black Keys with a short interlude for Rasputina's "Doomsday Averted."

3) I pissed off a waiter at a Korean restaurant today for redeeming a gift certificate. Normally I might have felt slightly upset/offended by this. Today, not so much. There are bigger things to worry about. Anyway, if a restaurant doesn't want you to redeem gift certificates, maybe they ought to stop offering them for sale. Just a thought.

4) Waterproof mascara is really the way to go. Also, waterproof eyeliner. And what the hell is in mascara anyway, to burn your eyes so much when you're crying? Horrible, evil chemicals.

5) I got a haircut. It was painful, as usual. Not physically painful. Just socially awkward. I had to endure some "robot" comments. My bag, tattoo, and earring appear to attract a lot of attention. Also, I want to know why the guy next to me was allowed to swivel his chair around to stare at me the entire time he was getting his buzz cut or whatever. His stylist just shifted around to accommodate him without a word. Isn't it proper protocol to stare straight at the mirror, not at other customers?

6) I don't know how to move forward with my novel. I have no idea what happens next. I keep writing, and hoping something will come to me, but so far -- nothing.

7) I ate way too many peanut products today. Peanut butter, beyond my normal oatmeal quota. Some salted peanuts too. This is nervous eating, which just makes me even more nervous, so it's got to stop. 

8) I don't have any inkling how my life will be six months from now. Yesterday, I heard a coworker say that Christmas was exactly six months away. It's so weird to think about. My life is morphing so rapidly, day by day, almost hour by hour. It's overwhelming to imagine the future, even six months into the future. I can't even think about August, or the middle of July.

9) I really need to clean this apartment. It is getting critical. 

10) I don't have a number ten.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Thursday, June 14, 2012

On Being Asian

So here's the thing. I'm Asian. To be specific, I'm Chinese/Japanese/German/Hawaiian/Dutch/Scotch. I grew up in Hawaii, where 90% of all the people around me were either Asian, Hawaiian, or Samoan. So it was a shock to a system when I moved to a small town in Kentucky and faced racial stereotypes for the first time. 

I had spitballs thrown in my hair. The school librarian asked me how the voting system worked "in my country." I saw a refrigerator saleswoman from Sears all but drape herself over my stepfather, gushing that he must have worked in Hawaii as a missionary, bringing the word of God to those "savage people."

Was it a coincidence that I discovered feminism around this time? I was isolated, bored, and bewildered. My brother and I went from seeing our father twice a week to twice a year. My stepfather was abusive, both verbally (to everyone) and physically (to my mother). I used to spend nights locked in my walk-in closet, praying that the screams I heard didn't mean my mother was dying. Once I witnessed him trying to strangle her to death. It still bothers me that I didn't call the police. Afterwards, her speech was jumbled for a week, and my stepbrothers laughed at her.

Later, we went to the police together, my mother and I. We filed police reports, a restraining order. I helped her get a divorce, to escape. My brother and I rallied around her. We survived.

But before that, I read riot grrl zines, listened to Bikini Kill and Hole. I realized that the world was a cruel, vicious place. I didn't think any man could be trusted. I learned to sleep with a knife under my pillow.

And then I found out about the Asian fetish. This is where guys (typically white men) date Asian women exclusively. They date Asian women because of their Asian-ness. Because of their long black hair, almond eyes, sleek bodies. They assume Asian women are submissive to their men. Except in bed, of course, because that's where Asian women are ANIMALS! 

For years, I fought against this stereotype. All Asian stereotypes, really. No, I'm not good at Math. No, I don't speak any other language except English. My parents aren't immigrants. I can't go back to wherever I came from, because where I'm from is America, goddamnit. And no, I'm not sexy. I'm not remotely sexy. So leave me alone.

I was so concerned about becoming an Asian stereotype that I loped off parts of myself. I didn't wear anything that might be construed as sexy. I didn't smile at strange men. Ever. I tried to disappear into the stratosphere. I almost succeeded.

Now I tell myself: Okay, so you're a woman. And an Asian. And yeah, on the right day you're even kind of sexy. But that isn't all you are. And it doesn't mean you're playing into any Asian fetish stereotypes. So just relax. 

And finally, finally -- I'm allowing myself to be me. 

A few interesting articles I found about the Asian fetish:

1) What is Exotic Beauty? Part II: The Case of the Asian Fetish by Goal Auzeen Saedi.
2) Yellow Fellow: Dating as An Asian Woman by Lauren sMash

In the End

There is nothing more I want than to return to this.

There is nothing that terrifies me more than to return to this.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Where I Am Today

In the fading of the constellations, I am growing strong
                                              "Pink Light," Laura Veirs

Saturday, June 9, 2012

In Which I Go To My First Meetup

And don't meet a single person! Sigh. You can read more about this on my veghead blog here. Don't worry about the super-cheerful tone of my writing -- I'm always chirpier in that space.

These days, my life has been tumultuous. It's like I'm a tornado, sweeping through the plains of day-night-day-night. Every time the sun rises, it brings a new challenge. And I have to say to myself: do I rise to face it, or fall back into old ways of not dealing? I felt some amount of solace when I read this Anais Nin quote
And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. 
I've always admired Nin. She did what felt right to her, even when it looked bat shit crazy to other people (or sometimes illegal, in the case of the affair with her own father). She regretted some of her decisions later, but she always made a point to live fully, to be present in every situation. 

I have trouble with that. Living fully. Half of my brain is musing about the future, the other half lost in the past. Maybe ten percent processes what's going on in real time. Which is actually a lot better than what it used to be. Still, there's progress to be made. 

So yes to blossoming! To doing what makes me uncomfortable if I believe that it's important, if I can feel the truth of it jangling about in my bones.

Courage. Maybe I should write a note to myself on my arm: For God's sake, don't forget to be brave. In permanent marker. 

Of course, I already have a note of courage on my arm. In the most permanent of markers ever. The mountain in the quote, that's the rest of my life. I got through the metaphorical woods. Now there's a freaking mountain to climb. And I'm not going to let myself sit at the bottom and cry instead. 

I went to Barnes and Noble after the Meetup disaster to console myself. I picked up a copy of the latest VegNews as well as a tattoo magazine. Amelia Nightmare is my new heroine. Why do I heart her? Because she's whismical and sexy, her tattoos have a specific color scheme (and are all beautiful), and she's Asian. I'm planning a whopping big blog post on this in the future: the whole Asian thing. But for now, let's just say: yay for sexy Asian girls! 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sometimes I Love You Just a Little, Pittsburgh

For your blue skies and pretty graveyards
For lovely vegetarian coffee shops
For outdoor concerts and just popped kettle corn
For Jamaican tacos and tattooed waitresses and bars filled with starry artificial trees

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

About Those Tattoos...

I've been getting a lot of varied reactions to my newest tattoo.

-- It's so big. Why didn't you get it in a smaller size?
-- What exactly is the symbolism behind the robot?
-- You don't seem like the type of person who likes robots.
-- Now you have to wear long-sleeved shirts all the time to remain employable. 
-- Well, at least it's very well drawn.  

And my personal favorite,

-- The Bible says you shouldn't mark your body.

Of course, there have been many positive reactions as well (like it's a work of art! It is!). The most important part is that I love it. I love both of my tattoos.

Here's a picture of the first one, done just a few months ago. I'd always wanted a tattoo, but needles terrify me (I can't sleep the night before a blood test). So I did my research, asked around for personal recommendations, went down to the tattoo shop and met the artist, all before deciding to make an appointment. I don't know how people stumble into random tattoo parlors on vacation and pick designs from a wall chart. The thought is alien to me. What if you end up getting a craptastic tattoo, or find out you're not comfortable with the person tattooing you (i.e. touching your skin and poking you repeatedly with sharp instruments)?

Anyway, my first tattoo is deeply personal. It's a quote from the amazing Enda Walsh's one-act play, "The Small Things." The play's about being silenced, regimented, and broken, and the heartbreaking journey to a place of just being and existing. Walsh has been deeply influential in my creative life, and I carried his book of plays with me everywhere pre-tattoo. 

Getting that first tattoo was cathartic. I can't describe it any other way. As soon as I left, I knew I wanted another. 

The tattoo artist's specialty is mechanical-inspired work, particularly robots. (A quick side note here: I'm debating about whether to give you the name of his shop and a handy-dandy link, all that good stuff. It's just that this blog is so personal. That said, he's an amazing artist and everyone in Pittsburgh and a 300-mile radius should go to him for their tattoos. So maybe in the future I'll come back and edit this post with all the info. I may even provide detailed hand-drawn maps from wherever you live to his shop, if you ask nicely). I happen to harbor a secret love for robots. Well, perhaps not so secret: I do have robot earrings, robot socks, a robot messenger bag, etc. etc. So I knew immediately: my next tattoo had to be a robot.

That said, I don't have a deep, symbolic reason for having a whoopingly gorgeous robot on my left arm. I described it to J this way: "My right shoulder represents the serious part of me. The left, the geeky/fun part." 

I love my tattoos. I know I mentioned that before, but I want to reiterate it. For me, going to the tattoo shop is better than going to any beauty parlor (and less nerve-wracking too!). I actually felt giddy, finding out that shirts in my closet matched the magenta of my robot's swirling outer space vapors. I love that my robot tattoo is so large it peeks out from short-sleeved shirts. It's hard to hide, and I can't describe how delighted I am by that fact. 

My arms were always the least favorite part about my body. Even when I lived in Hawaii, I hardly wore sleeveless tops. My tattoos eradicated that. Now I can't wait for my tattoo to heal, just so I can wear tank tops and sundresses all summer long. It makes me proud of my arms and shoulders. I've never felt that way before.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Yes yes yes yes yes yes!!!!

My ten minute play, "Extraordinary," is going to be performed by the Willets Shakespeare Company this summer! The play involves a girl dressed as a bumblebee, and an older, more repressed woman. I'm so excited!!!


Sometimes I really am my worst enemy. 

Case in point: I have this tendency to go places, come home, and then review everything I've said, especially to people I don't know well. And when I write "review," it's more like "interrogate myself for every remotely stupid/misconstrued/scatterbrained thing that came out of my mouth." Even though I *rationally* know that it isn't that big of a deal. People say stupid things all the time, right? 

But I can be very, very hard on myself.

It goes something like this:
Oh my God, why did I mention that to him? What was I thinking? I can't believe I said that. Now he's going to think I'm the biggest freak ever. I should just stay the hell home.

Believe me, this kind of head-trip has the power to absolutely paralyze me socially. At one point in my life, it got so I couldn't go anywhere without feeling awkward and/or wanting to punch myself in the face. I've been pretty good at keeping this under wraps lately, but once in a while it gets out of hand. And so I repeat to myself: it's over. It's done. It probably doesn't matter. So just let it go. 

Sometimes I have to pound this mantra into my head until it sticks. This morning was one of those times. I ran, dodging Memorial Day grave-tenders and their gigantic SUVs, and let the words run through me with M.I.A's Kala album as a beat backdrop. 
Just let it go.  

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Robot Days of Summer

Well ... my tattoo isn't finished yet, but it looks excellent already.
Not pictured is the robot's other hand, which snakes up towards my inner arm/armpit area. That stung a lot, but it's all good now.  

My challenge is finding a way to cover it when running (I have to keep it out of the sun for two weeks). I don't want to bundle up in 85 degree weather. Today I tied a scarf around my arm, tucking the loose ends into my shirt sleeve, but it kept slipping. A number of safety pins in strategic places might be the solution. Hmm. Where do you even buy safety pins anymore? 

I feel that there might have been something profound I considered writing about, but frankly, I'm too tired to remember what that was. Maybe tomorrow. Tonight I'm going to watch some Netflix Instant, consider writing an extremely traumatic scene in my short story, and then read a few pages of 1Q84 before going to bed.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Not Yet Wednesday

This time I'm prepared.

In other bore-you-to-tears news, I've been getting obsessive about songs lately. This can last just a day, or sometimes for weeks. The past few weeks' worth of obsessions have been:

1) Tegan and Sara's "Someday"
2) The New Pornographer's "Challenger"
3) Mia Doi Todd's "The Way"
4) Carolina Chocolate Drops' "Country Girl"
5) Hole's "Violet"
6) R.L. Burnside's "Shake 'Em On Down."

I have listened to "Challenger" approximately 47 times today, and do not consider this to be a problem.

What songs are you obsessed with? Some audience participation would be nice; I get the stats, I know people are out there, reading this blog. :)

Tomorrow: I get poked in the arm about a thousand million times. For fun.

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Lull in the Action

Running in the graveyard, especially in the tangled center, where I can see skyscrapers in the horizon yet am surrounded by grass and gravestones, is so cathartic. The sky vast above me, I always feel a surge of gratitude. Wordless thank-yous beat in tandem with my sneakers' pounding against the pavement. 

I have a friend who recently taught me the zen practice of calming oneself through measured breathing. I have been so impatient lately. I know my life is about to change in wonderful, perhaps terrifying ways, but not just yet. And it is so hard to wait, and rely on other people (agents, for one) to recognize that yes, something magical is happening here. 

So: more running. More measured breathing, and perhaps a little less obsessive email checking. I have not yet over-scheduled the week with movies/drinks/shows/art exhibits/staged readings yet, so there may be some room for lying around and finally finishing Haruki Murakami's 1Q84. Or maybe not. It is only Monday, after all.

Friday, May 18, 2012

About This Fear Thing

At the end of June 2002, my brother, mother, and I went to dinner at Red Lobster and then to see The Bourne Identity. We were driving back from the movie theater when a Jeep traveling in the opposite side of the road barreled into our van. We were going 50 mph, the Jeep was going 70. 

A lot of things happened that night. The driver of the Jeep died, and his passenger sustained serious injuries. While traveling down the detour route after our road was closed, another driver barreled into a tree and died. The impact of the Jeep propelled our van in an explosion of unbelievable speed and sound. We ended up hitting another car. I remember my mother screaming, and then being whipped around like a rag doll. 

Luckily, we were all wearing seat belts and survived. My mother's legs were broken in places too numerous to count, but my brother and I escaped without much injury (I had a concussion and needed staples in my back of my head, my brother just had minor cuts).

Later, we learned that the driver of the Jeep was in my brother's soccer team when they were both ten years old. No one knew exactly why he drove through the median and into our lane. We heard from our mother's hairdresser that he died because the steering wheel lodged into his chest, and there was massive hemorrhaging.

It's difficult for me to recount these events, to the point that I actually feel physically sick. Things ended up well for my family. My mother walks (and exercises, and is constantly active), which the doctors weren't sure would happen. We're all still alive.

That said, the accident has affected me psychologically for years. If I had a choice between going out and staying home, I'd inevitably think back to that night. Which alternative seemed safer? I spent a lot of nights at home. 

And maybe it wasn't just the accident that contributed to my post-traumatic stress disorder (which I believe I have, even though I've never been diagnosed). My father, grandfather, grandmother, great-aunt and great-grandmother all died within five years of the accident.

Whatever the reason, I've been treading through this world like a ghost for years. I thought I finally beat this. I'm going out now. I'm not afraid, or trying my damnest not to be.

Tonight, driving home from Happy Hour and a quick run to Giant Eagle, on the very street we live on, some man driving a dented car almost barreled into us. He was going at least 55 mph, and swerved into and then out of our lane just before the point of impact. I swear to God he was smiling, like this was how he liked spending his Friday nights: scaring the shit out of other people.

I wish I could have said I just shrugged it off. Instead, I went into the apartment and immediately got into bed. The idea that an idiot could take my life in one instant is one I have grappled with for years. I thought I was healing. I thought the damage was over. I guess I thought wrong.

The thing is -- what will I do with this reminder of mortality? Will I go back to nights in front of the television set? Or will I keep going out and fearlessly searching out everything this city has to offer?

To complicate matters even more, I have a three and a half hour drive to upstate New York to look forward to tomorrow morning. I usually deal very poorly to being on the highway for so long. Okay, that's an understatement. We're looking for truth here, aren't we? I'm a freaking hyperventilating mess the entire time. Sometimes I even have to breathe in a paper bag.

It angers me, knowing I've let fear get the better of me for so long. That one stupid jerk playing chicken can then reduce me to a quivering mass of nerves, making me rethink my whole new approach to life. How do I get the power back? How do I cope with the knowledge that I can die at any moment, and still be fearless?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


I'm no longer interested in being a martyr. Not for you, or for myself. Not for anyone.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


It finally dawned on me! A big part of why I'm out of sorts is that I'm writing a dreary, death-filled novel. I'm on the eleventh chapter, and it's just been misery and murder, peppered with the occasional sex scene. I had been juggling the novel by writing a less depressing (though certainly dark) short story, but I finished that a little over a week ago. Ever since then it's been non-stop work on the novel. 

So I started writing another short story. It's futuristic and dystopian. I'm stuffing it full of all the elements I love in fantastical fiction but was always afraid to include in my own work. It's even got some of this: 
Except much more steampunked-out!

I didn't hit the RSVP button for that particular Meet-up. I actually don't feel that bad about it. It meant I got to come home early, make vegan quesadillas with J, obsess briefly over the Beatles, and then spend two lovely hours writing long-hand at the kitchen table. 

Oh, and "The Chronicle of My Mother" was a gentle, beautiful Japanese film. It even squeezed a few tears out of me, though I would have been loath to admit it. And then I got into my car, which smelled inexplicably like the old violet candy my grandfather used to keep in his room. Mysterious.

J and I also went to see "Hit So Hard," the biopic about Patty Schemel, drummer of Hole.
I listened to Hole's "Live Through This" every day for a year when I was a teenager. It influenced so much of my young sensibilities about music, feminism, men, and life. I remembered thinking Patty Schemel was so kick-ass because she was a woman who played the drums, and most of the women in bands then either sang or played bass guitar. 

It's kind of painful to listen to "Live Through This" now. But I'm grateful I had it in my life when I needed it.

Next up: another round at the Silk Screen movie festival. Dive bars in Lawrenceville. Oh yeah, and a trip up North.

Monday, May 14, 2012

All in the Name in Adventure?

I need more female friends in Pittsburgh. I hang out with a lot of guys, so more women would be a welcome change. A friend recommended I check out meet-ups, so I joined a Meet-up exclusively for women. Except I have yet to go out and meet any of them. There's a thingy tomorrow night at Station Square, a Happy Hour meet-and-greet. Technically, I could make it by walking across the bridge. All I have to do is press the RSVP button on the website, and then go there after work tomorrow. It all sounds so easy.

Except I worry it's going to be icky. Oh, I know, I know. One uncomfortable drink isn't going to kill me. And I'm supposed to be braver. I can go up to strange women and introduce myself. I know I can. 

My first reservation is where this Happy Hour is going to be. I yelped the saloon, and kept reading the description upscale casual. I'm so not upscale casual. Upscale casual may very well give me hives. I'm more dive bar casual. 

And then there's the recurring fear about having to talk extensively about what I do. Meaning the corporate job. I especially hate when I tell people, and they act like it's a good place to be employed at, or impressive in some way. It's really not. But a lot of the other folks who RSVP'ed also work at corporate places. Just thinking about the potential conversations we might have gives me a headache. I'll outline them in bullet points below.

  • The job
  • The marriage (or lack there of)
  • The kids (or lack there of)
  • Sports?
God, I hope there will be no sports-related talk. I mean, I recognize that sports is very important to the average Pittsburgher. But I only recently realized that all the sports teams wear the same colors. My interest in/knowledge of sports is that bad. 

I know I mentioned in an earlier post that I need to do things that scare me. But this might be the wrong kind of scary.

I have twelve more hours to press that RSVP button. Or not.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

12 Pt, Times New Roman

I'm on page 81 of the new novel. Which is okay. I wrote three pages today, and I really like at least one of them. So that's something.

That was between laundry (shudder) and an excruciating hair cut. I despise going to the salon. The hairdressers always try to engage me in the small talk, but after commenting on the weather ("yeah, it's really rainy out today") and answering the little bullet-point quiz typical American women like to give each other ("Married? Kids?"), I sink into an uneasy silence. Which doesn't go away until I'm out of the chair.

Oh, the husband and I did go to Casa Rasta for lunch. It's the best new taco place in Pittsburgh, hands down! But that belongs more to veggie obsessed land, so I'll post pictures, reviews and extensive fan-pandering there. 

After dinner, I'm going to see "The Chronicle of My Mother." at the Silk Screen Film Festival this year. Last year I didn't get to go, so I'm planning on seeing at least two movies this year. The trailer for it is here. I love that there's an Asian/Asian-American film festival in Pittsburgh.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Coming Down

Everything changed for me the last week in February. I had a week-long staycation where I wrote for twelve hours a day, finishing the first draft of my young adult novel. And then I wrote four more drafts of the novel, an one-act play, two ten-minute plays, a short story for the basis of a graphic novel, and am now working on another novel. Which looks exhausting when I write it all down. But it isn't. It's exhilarating. It's like finally taking your first breaths after spending your entire life underwater.

The only thing is, I've been feeling weird the past couple of days. The adrenaline rush is dissolving, and even though I'm still sloughing away at the new novel, it doesn't feel the same. I know it's because I don't have entire days to immerse myself in this new fictional world, to the point where my body disappears and coming back into this world, the real world, is physically painful.

And I'm finding myself getting bored. I spent the past two and a half months exhilarated, thrilled by blue skies and graffiti and kind strangers. Now I feel the pinpricks of frustration again, thinking the same old we need to get out of this city, as if an easy solution exists somewhere else. New York City, Honolulu, they're not magic pills. I got bored there too. I felt similar strains of unease. 

Is there any quick fix? I'll get another adrenaline boast in a couple of weeks, from my next tattoo, but if I don't have anything to sustain it, it'll fade within a day. Conquering fears is a good one, but I've done needles (with the first tattoo), dressing the way I wanna (as opposed to fading into the wallpaper), and standing up for myself at my corporate job (guilty of being ridiculously shy). Also working on the fear of death thing, but that is a constant work in progress. What else scares me? What else do I really want to do, but didn't think I could because it was too risky/silly/would draw too much attention to myself? Most importantly, what will nourish this sunburst of creativity?
If I don't create, I shrivel up into slug-girl mode. It isn't pretty. I was there for years. I don't ever want to go back. 

So for God's sake, if you have any suggestions, leave it in the comment field. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

That's Quite a Punch You Have There

I thought I was impervious to rejection letters. I've been submitting to poetry book contests and literary magazines for the past five years, and have probably racked up a hundred rejections. I know it doesn't matter, because a poem that has been rejected dozens of times will eventually be picked up by someone, unless it's total and utter crap. And I usually have a good sense of whether something is good or not.

But agent rejections are an entirely different beast. My novel is so precious to me that one cursory form letter is enough to make me ... well, let's just say there was a piece of cake in the fridge that I had no intention of eating. That was before I checked my email. Now I have a sugar rush like you wouldn't believe. Also -- not even hungry. So yuck.

I have to stop this sh*t now. In the past I used food to sublimate emotions  -- sad? Angry? Bored? Ecstatic?  I couldn't deal, so I reached for the chips/cookies/cake/second helping of whatever. Since becoming an almost vegan, I cleaned up my diet and have made a point of only eating when I'm *actually* hungry. I never want to backslide. 

So, okay, faceless agent. You didn't like my kickass novel. I'm sorry about that. It's your loss. This is the first -- and last time I'm going to let you get to me. Because this novel will be published.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Stats of the Dead

So lately I've been running in the graveyard right behind my apartment building. It's a lovely, vast cemetery filled with hills and mausoleums. Most of the time I don't run into another living soul, other than the occasional squirrel and one persistent hawk.

It's a peaceful run, but lately I've become disturbed by the gravestones. Not in any supernatural, oh-my-God-are-zombies-going-to-rise-after-all-this-is-Pittsburgh kind of way. What disturbs me are the words etched into the gravestones themselves. Here is a typical example:

Luisa Anderson, beloved wife of
 Donald Anderson
(followed by the appropriate birth and death dates). 

It's either that or:

Luisa Anderson, beloved mother.

And I'm not talking about just the old, crumbling gravestones. Some of these are very recent. Like within the past year recent.

So if I am getting this right, the most important function of women is still that they are mothers and wives. Despite the fact that 95% (and don't quote me on that, I'm just making an educated guess) of us are out there, working and living supposedly fulfilling lives. It's still the mothering and wifely duties that matter the most. Is that right?

To be fair, I have seen some 'beloved father' gravestones. But never, ever, have I ever seen:

Donald Anderson, beloved husband of
Luisa Anderson

And to be absolutely clear, I am married. But I hope to God my gravestone doesn't have the words 'beloved wife' etched anywhere on it. Because being a wife doesn't define who I am. It certainly shapes me and my life. But it isn't the only thing about me that matters. I understand that now. I didn't always. I used to think it was the only important thing about me; I stuffed all my self-worth into the idea of marriage. Because it meant that I wasn't alone anymore. That I was cared for, and loved, and therefore important in some small way. And my little diamond ring let everyone else know it. 

Now I know that my worth is not in that piece of paper, or the preacher proclaiming me someone's wife. It starts inside me. It can only be nurtured by me. And when it grows? The possibilities are endless.

So I'm going to stop reading gravestones. I'll keep my eyes focused on the soft green grass and crumbling paved roads. I'll look up at the startling blue sky. And I'll keep running.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

For You, City of Bridges and Endless Sports Fans


Violins spontaneously combust in my dreams, blowing up storefronts and hillsides. I’m on my third violin now. Awake, I listen to music until I am saturated, lacquer on thick blue nail polish. I gleam. Meanwhile, the horizon beckons. I know there is magic beyond the scrawny skyscrapers and ribbons of highway. But for now I am here, giving myself whiplash from staring at dogs and Polish grandmas and men. My shadow darkening on city sidewalks. I stay hungry, forget how to cook, how to knit delicate shawls shoved into drawers. Words pour out of me like jewels, sometimes like the plague. Basslines keep me company while I sleep. I am exhausted but alive. Across the bridge, I see a darkening fog of reality TV and domesticity so thick I will fall out of my body, no longer remember how to ache and want and feel. Most of America is ghosting as we speak. I want to keep what I’ve found. My body a map to the treasure, my mind a flashlight illuminating the way.

At the Beginning

My life is rather compartmentalized. I already have a domestic goddess blog at It's sunny and fun, and mostly about great vegan food. But it feels right to start another, about everything that doesn't quite fit there. Writing. Living in a city that I haven't quite made friends with yet. Conflicted thoughts, and interesting new experiences.

I had a conversation with a friend recently, who said that I am striving to live more authentically. This blog is my recorded attempt to do just that.