Overheared at a coffee shop

Guy 1: “…when she gets excited she sounds like Bartok.”
Guy 2: “Still don’t now what that sounds like.”
1: “Bartok the bat, from Anastasia.”
Girl: “That’s so mean.” -Shakes head and goes inside.
2: “Stepping on homegirl, comparing her to a comic relief cartoon bat.”
Guy 3 : “In a movie that butchered Russian history.”
2: “Haha, yeah. Anastasia survives? Not. Bitch got got.”
3: “Nah. Anastasia survived.”
2: “Oh, definitely.”

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You can’t compare apples to oranges… or plums

plum

I just got a new job, and went to pick up my apron and other employee stuff today before I start my first day tomorrow. My new boss (who’s from NYC) asked me where I grew up.

Me: “Cleveland.”
Him: “Cleveland, Ohio. Hey, I think another guy who works here is from Ohio.”
Me: “Oh really?”
Him: “Yeah, or somewhere weird. Did you grow up there dreaming of leaving?”
Me: “Not really.”

I didn’t say that even since I was a kid, I’ve been a little bit obsessed with Cleveland. Once I had an awareness of it as a city people looked down on, an overly defiant spirit came upon me like the dewfall and, well, even the Denver sun hasn’t been able to evaporate it.

Him: “How do you like Denver?”
Me: “It’s different.”

This is the truth. This is the only real answer. It’s different.
When I’m in Denver, I miss: my family, my Cleveland friends, ornate architecture, the cultural neighborhoods, and pierogies.
When I’m in Cleveland, I miss: my Denver friends, living downtown, walking everywhere, the amazing street art, and green chili.

The point I’m trying to make is, as much as I might hold up and compare the two cities in which I’ve had an address, there is no comparison. Denver and Cleveland are two totally different places, in totally different areas of the country, with their own culture and their own history. You can’t compare the Rust Belt to the Wild West. You can’t compare mountains to Lake Erie. You can’t compare green chili to pierogies. (Omg, wait. Can you put green chili ON a pierogi?????)

Sure, I love to shit-talk Denver, but that’s because I find ranting fun. And it’s like teasing a friend. As in, hey, I notice the weird things you do because I pay attention to you. And some of these weird things annoy me. Same story with Denver. (And honestly, same with Cleveland, too. But just like I wouldn’t tease a friend in front of people who don’t know them, I’m not going to shit-talk Cleveland when people already think it’s trash.)

I’ve already gone over this topic many times, in print and in person, Denver vs Cleveland, the loves and the hates. That’s because talking/writing is a mode of thinking for me. Whether joking or serious, when I find myself talking and writing about a topic over and over, it’s because I’m digging into it. Putting it into language, explaining it before I’m even really sure what it is I’m trying to explain. It’s all a sprawling, messy first draft of… something.

talking-to-myself

Clearly, I haven’t yet figured it out. Anyway, just remember: you can’t compare apples and oranges. Or the Big Apple to a plum. Or the plum to an over-hyped piece of–

Darn it, there I go again.

 

These are just a few of my incredible thoughts

My grandma has been telling me she wants to read a new blog post on here.

I started writing a general update, how Patrick and I have been traveling the past few weeks (as usual….) being in El Paso at the moment. Also how we spent last week in Wyoming and I saw some shit. Like, things that are seared into my brain forever. I could probably write a Stephen King-esque story based on the shit I saw.

Perhaps I shall tell that tale another day. (Or you’ll see it in the form of a paperback with a spooky font on the cover, who knows!)

Instead, due to some things I’ve seen on the internet today, I feel compelled instead to tell you why and how much I am sick of Thought Catalog and its ilk.

For those of you who, like Patrick earlier, are asking me, “WTF is Thought Catalog?”, it’s basically this: an online “magazine” that churns out a zillion shareable articles. But unlike Buzzfeed etc, it’s not as much silly lists or gif-fueled Reddit ripoffs (although those are still all over it)   as it is Pin-able, Facebook-y essays written by and aimed at Millennial women. (Whew, I am using so many interwebz words I’m getting dizzy.)

As much as I can barely stand the style (and, honestly, content) of Thought Catalog and similar sites, do I still sometimes get suckered into clicking a link to it? Yes. We all waste time on the internet. (Personally I’d rather waste mine giggling at doggo memes, but that’s neither here nor there.) Okay, so there’s that disclaimer.

Also I’d like to add that, as snobby as this rant compilation of thoughts is going to sound, I don’t fault anyone who writes for these sites. Writers gotta do what we gotta do. You get ’em, girl who wrote “Open Letter to the Best Friend I Don’t See Anymore”. I know you are probably actually a genius because you’ve figured out the voice they want and now you’ve got them tied around your little finger. You write on. We’ve gotta support each other. …Like how these sites should support writers by, like, actually paying them. Ahem.

What I’m saying is, I’m tired of these sites and their style of fake thoughtfulness. They feature essays that contain tons of line breaks, sentence fragments, and the same line repeated over and over for emphasis. They cover topics like travel and relationships with trendy prose and a brave veneer that’s supposed to inspire us as much as we’re inspired by pictures of girls doing yoga on giant rocks.

I know that some will say that’s just how it is nowadays. No one wants to really read anymore. Essays and articles nowadays have to be less than 500 words and have a title that’s a whole sentence for some reason. They have to be tagged, hashtagged, categorized, optimized, liked, shared, rehashed, recycled, and then write me another one tomorrow because this is apparently what Millennials want to read and paste all over their Facebook feed.

But I think we deserve more, and in fact, I think we desire more. Maybe some people want to read  weirdly condescending advice written in second person. But I think a lot of us would like to read an essay written by a real person, an essay that is– not vaguely, but inextricably– tied to a real experience. Something that goes beyond being “relatable” and actually makes us relate to other people.

~~~

As an afterword, I’d like to add that good stuff does exist. I’ve seen it, I’ve read it, and it was contemporary. Of course, that comes with a different batch of things I greatly dislike– I’ve been to some really weird open mic nights, people. (I have seen. some. shit. As I said before.) But that’s a whole different rant.

I suppose the main thing is that these “problems” are what spur me to write. On the days when I feel like I don’t have anything to say, or that what I say isn’t worthwhile or good enough, I think of how I very, very rarely see anyone else writing about the things I mull over most. Even when I do, it’s still not quite the same way I see it. And although I doubt my writing will ever perfectly get that down, I work toward getting as close as possible.

-Pen

PS: Okay, I definitely have to tell you about my weird experience in Wyoming, though.

 

Fall… and it all starts again

I’ve often that I think fall should be the New Year, at least by my life’s calendar. For me, this time of year is when everything feels like it has come full circle and we’re on the brink of going around again.

See: Migrations. I used to joke that my family was cursed, because every fall for the past few years there has been something (power outages, sewer leaks…) that drove us out of our house for a couple weeks. But since Patrick and I moved at the end of last fall, the new joke is that I was the cursed one all along. In fact, I don’t think my family did have to migrate last year…
And now this year, Patrick and I have been planning our schedules (as far ahead as we can), it turns out that I won’t be in Denver for much more than a week in October, and who knows about after. Let the migrating begin. (Or… continue, as I haven’t been in Denver much in September, either– not that I’m complaining! Spent a few weeks in Cleveland, a week in Arizona, and a weekend camping in the mountains. Now I’m in Fort Morgan, which is still in Colorado even though it looks just like Nebraska. Crazy how this state is half and half like that.)

See also: Mindset. At the very turn of the season, like lifting the corner of the page… I could feel it, the other day. It was hot and sunny but the breeze had a bite to it. The sunshine looks different (but maybe I’m just crazy– sometimes I think it looks different in different states). Anyway, things are changing, and this makes my mind start gearing up for some kind of “Phase Two”. Like getting home from work and changing your clothes to go out for the night. I find myself making lists, making plans, wanting to focus myself on certain things with an almost studious air. I even do research, which is something I hate. Suddenly I want knowledge, discipline… Wait, this sounds like school. Crap. Okay, I want to hone my self-disciplining, self-teaching skills. All this? Sounds like New Year’s resolutions to me.

Fall, I guess, is a lot different from the New Year, though. Fall isn’t about marking off, “the end of that, the start of this”; it cups you in the time between that and this. At the same time, it stabs right now into your brain and heart. It’s too beautiful and too short, but you know it’s going to come again, around and around.

Inhabitant

Now that Patrick and I are back from our excursion through New Mexico, I have settled back into my Denver routine. I didn’t really realize I had one until I went about my normal activities and it seemed almost strange to have Patrick back at home again. Now I have a job and a daily set of things to do, plus the odd errand and/or fun evening. At last I could say I’m content. (…..Except for how excited I am to go back to Cleveland for Easter!!!)

Speaking of going back to Cleveland… we’re visiting for Easter but also later this spring for Patrick’s work. His work will pay for him to have a place to stay downtown, and when we were discussing this I said, “But how will I get around?”
Patrick (joking): “Use the amazing local transit system.”
Me: “No, seriously! I don’t wanna be holed up downtown without a car.”
Patrick: “Um…. What?”
Me:
Me:
Me: “….Ohhhhhhhhh. Oh… I live almost downtown here. I can just… walk to places… Just like I do here….”
Patrick: “Thank god, you figured it out. I actually started to wonder if you got hit in the head.”
But as I explained to him, when I picture downtown Cleveland I picture almost nothing! Having spent little actual time down there out and about (instead I was always in a car or only walking a few blocks), I can only picture certain streets or buildings and I have no concept at all of the general layout or the nearness of coffee shops to hotels.
The other crazy thing was, thinking about walking around downtown Cleveland made me a little nervous. I don’t know my way, there might be sketchy characters, etc… And yet again it dawned on me that I deal with those same things right where I live now.

Apparently, I have become a city girl. I did choose our neighborhood for its proximity to downtown/stuff, but for the most part I have to say I was unwittingly transformed.

This past Saturday was fairly nice out (unlike today, when both Patrick and I are home thanks to a snowstorm shutting down our places of work… Not that I’m complaining because DOUBLE SNOW DAYYYYY!!!) so I went to get myself a cup of coffee in the late morning. Walking back with the sun shining, hot cup in hand, and people out around me, I felt a sense that this was kind of, a little bit, maybe, my neighborhood.

The reason I went out to get coffee that day was more my craving for a little walk than it was for caffeine (okay, but caffeine did play a huge role). And more than geography or getting out, even my personality has become more “city-fied”– when I first moved here I found the constant brushing with strangers exhausting. But now I chat with strangers in line. I recognize people I’ve seen around the neighborhood and say hello. I’ve gotten better at making new friends. I give directions to people who ask me (and they must ask me because I look like I know?!!?). I’ve also learned the art of when and how to ignore the world, for example, wearing my headphones on the walk home from work.

All of this makes me want to inhabit Cleveland just as fully as I inhabit this neighborhood. To always make an effort, explore, and meet people. It sounds pretty cliche, like pictures of girls with blonde ponytails standing on a rock, the background for some quote about “adventure” underscored with an arrow. But actually trying to live beyond one’s comfort zone is a worthwhile challenge, and one which I am determined to undertake even in familiar places.

Spring’s a girl in the street at night

Lately I can’t stop mentally singing “Dirty Old Town” even though until I looked it up, I knew only one verse. But anyway, that’s where the title of this post is from… Fitting for the moment as I continue to further– I don’t want to say explore, more like interact with— Denver as the weather jilts toward springlike. Although Denver isn’t dirty in the same way. It would be “slightly littered old town” or something.

I’m also interested in the song because it makes me think of how I am always trying to describe things, but I always try to describe them in this super deep way and I want to get it exactly right. It ends up sounding like Ray Bradbury on a nostalgia tangent. (We all know I love him but some of his stuff can get to be a bit much for me– Dandelion Wine? Like, cool it, man.) But when it comes to “Dirty Old Town”, I realize that you can actually write something very simple and people will overlay their own experiences onto it, and it will come out all right. Of course this is a simple concept that I knew on a conscious level, but have yet to grasp in my writing.

When I was younger, it was easier. I didn’t try as hard to convey exactly because I didn’t really understand how different others’ experiences were from mine. I thought, you can just write about the woods, describe the smell and maybe the tree bark and leave it at that. And you can! But now that I’ve been more places and met more people I feel this weird need to be like, “THIS IS THE EXACT WAY IT IS OKAY”. Basically, I need to relax.

I can write something as simple as, “I smelled the spring on the smoky air” and it doesn’t have to  be complicated.

Writers are all only one person with one set of senses. Which is why it’s important to be as observant, open, and deep-digging as we can; and in writing, to leave enough space around our narrow experience for a reader to stand in and see not only what we see but what they’ve seen and what we can both imagine.

Well, that ended up kind of philosophical… All from some Irish folk song that Patrick and I started to sing in a jokey way when we walked to Chipotle one night, striding past lampposts and construction signs and a fancy restaurant where a guy smoking outside looked up in surprise.

Then it got stuck in my head and I was left alone with my thoughts… and a blog. Oh dear.

-Pen

 

A road too long to mention

Well, there are only a couple more days left of our time in El Paso, and then it’s the trek back to Denver. In preparation, I’ve been reading On the Road. I’m glad I waited until now to read it, actually, because his journey in the beginning of the book, from New York to Denver, is very similar to the way Patrick and I drove with our U-Haul when we moved. I can really picture it: I also traveled through Illinois, took a quick stop in North Platte, felt the excitement of getting close when we hit Cheyenne.

Then, when he’s actually in Denver, I could imagine him running around Colfax; I could relate to his friend’s basement apartment and poems about those Denver pigeons.

Of course, there’s still parts I don’t understand at all– like when he casually mentions walking five miles to a friend’s place. I’m just like… How??? Wouldn’t that take a long time?? Was this a normal thing, to walk five miles to meet up with someone? Did they just sit around waiting for however long it takes you? EXPLAIN PLEASE.

Right now I’m sitting in a Starbucks, across from a stranger who is also on a laptop. It’s crowded, needless to say. I just tried to move my foot and I accidentally nudged theirs and I died for a second.

Another thing about On the Road is the way he hops from city to city, job to job. He gives his shirt away to a fellow traveler (and later, gets it back). It reminds me of what I love about movie hit-men: if they lose their coat or their gun, they just find another one laying around and use that. Goals, man. If I could go with the flow even half as much as movie hit-men and Sal Paradise…

Oh, the stranger got up for a second. Time to stretch my legs… Oh lord. Well, at least I’m not the guy who got stuck with just an armchair in a corner.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to the road trip, and to getting home and having my own pillow back, and doing some projects. (One of which, I keep joking to Patrick, is going to be the opening credits of an indie film with the song “Rights of Man” playing in the background for absolutely no reason.)

I’ll miss this city, though. El Paso makes me feel so refreshed (*one hundred sun emojis*).

Also, I slept for twelve and a half hours last night… Which I guess might have something to do with it.

I’m getting rushed back on a whim

Spotify made one of those end-of-the-year things where it shows you what songs, artists, etc you listened to the most… Apparently my top song was “Bluish” by Animal Collective. Which is kind of funny because when I listen to it, it pulls my mind right back to around this time last year. “Bluish” is the sound of getting ready to go out in the cold; smoking a cigar at New Year’s; standing on a balcony downtown; spinning around and around in a kitchen chair.

Looking over my Top of 2015 list now, other moments from the past year pop up fresh in my mind.

Famous” was playing pool on a wintry Sunday afternoon with Patrick. I remember wearing his shoes because my feet were too cold on the basement floor and both of us throwing ping-pong balls at each other.
True Affection” was after getting engaged and wondering how to become a better person.
Useful Chamber” was all the hours spent alone in the warehouse at work unpacking boxes. (My work moved in the spring, I moved out of my parent’s house in the summer, a couple weeks ago I moved across the country… I am done)
As Lucerne/The Low” was Poncho’s confirmation week and springtime. Cleaning the house, driving barefoot with the windows down in a hurry.
Lonely Town” was painting the house at Lawnwood. Sometimes it was not-so-lonely, with Dad and Patrick and Luke helping me. (I also think of painting the house whenever I hear the band Cake, because the radio station had a Cake marathon one night when Dad and Patrick and I stayed really late working and then listening to Dad’s crazy stories. “All the Cake you can take until 1 a.m.”)
Baby Just Break” was trying to squeeze all the juice out of summer, enjoying car rides and the feeling of impending freedom.
Downtown” was showing off my one true talent: Memorizing All the Words And Delivering Them With Gusto.
Magnets” was this fall, dancing alone in the living room with the bass turned up and decorating for our epic Halloween party.

There could be so many more. It’s cool to look back at my music and see the different phases I went through, and the way my habits changed with circumstances and the seasons. Also, I like that you never know at the time what music is going to become the soundtrack of this blip of your life. It’s not something you can force, it’s just whatever music is playing in the speakers or in your head when the moments happen.

And I think that my song-phases are the reason I remember the moments, actually. Some people take a lot of pictures. Some people say that smells can conjure scenes with clarity. For me, the same rush back in time can happen with first breathy sigh of “Bluish“.

What a year. Here’s to the last few weeks of 2015.
-Pen

it’s the stone of a home you know

Yesterday was the perfect almost-fall day. Warm but not hot, sunny but not blazing, and just enough people out and about in the late afternoon and evening to make the neighborhood seem alive as Patrick and I took a walk through the parkway. At night it was perfect sitting-out weather, so we sat on the front stoop listening to crickets, frogs, and passing trains.

It feels good to finally be settled in after all the crazy previous weeks. Wedding, honeymoon, getting home and trying to get a working sink and a fridge and stuff like that (all of which Patrick fixed… Speaking of which, he also power-washed the back patio so it’s now usable.
Me: “You’re covered with dirt. You have little flecks all over your face.”
Patrick: “Hmm.”
Me: *goes inside*
A few minutes later…
Patrick: *walks into the kitchen* “Hey. So did you know. If you power-wash the dirt off your legs… It kinda hurts.”).

But now everything is becoming the new normal, finally. It’s even normal to refer to Patrick as my husband, which is funny because it was so hard for me to call him anything when we were engaged. I think it’s because the word fiance sounds dumb, but “husband” (and wife!) sound super cool and legit. This is just a theory, but I mean. It’s obviously true.

I have to say, one thing that is kind of weird about living in my own house is having all my stuff out in the main rooms. I haven’t had other people go through my things this much since I was a kid and had friends over to play with stuffed animals. My books are stacked in the dining room, and a few friends have come over and hunched down, cocked their head sideways to read the spines, and asked me: “Did you actually read all of these?”
I’ve also had my record collection (or lack thereof– I’m working on it) analyzed by one of my friends, which went like this: “…This one looks sad, this one looks– just terrible… Ew, the Beatles… More Beatles?!? Man, I hate the Beatles… Oh, some Rush… Who is this? Nah, too sad… WHAT is it with you and the Beatles?”
However, the Chieftains records I bought for five cents at the library were the unexpected crowd-pleasers, so there you go.

Also we are kind of starting to meet our neighbors. Or, my dad met one and Patrick met one. I think they are too scared to talk to me… or maybe it’s the fact that I always seem to be running out the side door. But not today. This weekend, I am content to chill here mostly, enjoying the sunlight and the sounds and the fact that I’m at home.

the other side of takeout is mildew on rice

I’ve debated whether I should abandon this blog, abandon blogging (um, kinda did… but you know, officially), start a new blog, start a new blog with one specific theme in mind, or…. I don’t even know. I still don’t know. But lately I’ve been super nostalgic for a time before tumblr and pinterest, when my internet experience was so much less image and so much more discussion, or at least reading. To me it seems like now everything is just an endless scroll of pretty things. Aesthetics, inspiration! My poor weary eyes. I don’t even know anymore whether I like something or if it just looks good, you know?

And does any of this translate to real life? And does anyone think up their own stuff anymore? How can you even tell? Does it even matter?

Which is not to say that I don’t enjoy things like Pinterest myself. I’ve found it useful, for sure, to gather ideas and then get them all sorted and categorized and specified. But all the white space and prettiness and perfectly calibrated everything makes me feel like I must need reading glasses– like I’m squinting, or like I’ve been looking in the mirror too long.

Essentially, what I think I’m trying to say is, I’m bored.

And weirdly nostalgic for a time when I was running around blithely on the internet, encountering little difficulty in making up blog domains or usernames, reading everything I set eyes on, and writing and creating as if I was the only person to have thought of it. Now half the time I think of making a blog post about something, like, say, a recent album I’ve been listening to and the deep thoughts I’ve been having about it, I can’t. I’ll think, the only people reading this are people I know in real life who do not share said interests, and besides that, everyone who does care already wrote about it and I discover everything too late. And/or, whatever I’m going to say is just plain too long.

Now I sound like an old person– these newfangled blogs! Everything moves too fast! Well, I don’t know what the solution is. Maybe it’s partly what I’ve already been doing: keeping up with the newfangled things I like, and passively acknowledging the rest. But maybe it’s also finding a few internet spots where I actually interact, for once/again.

So, who knows what that means for this blog, if anything. Um. The End?