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.