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

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A Post-Plane Poem

Soon when I go to work, it’ll be dark:
the wet streets shining orange back up.
Reminds me of the plane ride, the cities flat-out
little smatters like places comets dropped
a spread-out net of sparks and then suddenly stopped
in the black lake; the plane tipped
and I saw stars.

I don’t know why, but I think of that now
when we drive down my street.
I picture this city as comet shards,
and my neighborhood, coal cooling under a wing.

R is for Rocket

This is how I spent last night and also part of my Independence Day (who calls it that? I seriously thought the name of the holiday was “Fourth of July”; I mean… Well. I digress.): eating sticky red grapes and reading The Martian Chronicles.  And this is what my family experienced as I read:

Me: “Dude. This should be made into a movie.”
Dad: “It was a movie.”
Me: “No! It probably sucked! They probably ruined the Martians!!! I mean, if the movie doesn’t get the vibe, it has no vibe.”
Dad: “Oh…kay….”
Me: “Shh! I’m reading.”
Family:
Me:
Family:
Me: *GASP*
Family: *eye roll*
Dodge: “What? Pen?”
Mom: “She can’t hear you, she’s reading.”
Family:
Me:
Family:
Me: “Wha–? I don’t get the ending.”
Mom: “She doesn’t get the ending.”
Me: “Oh! I get it!”
Mom: “She gets the ending.”

And it was a really good ending. In fact, I liked the book a LOT. Except for a few chapters that I thought were kind of unnecessary even if they were a cool idea, like the automated house, and even the House of Usher bit– they sort of introduced the idea of “robots”– which were really androids, obviously– but then the idea never really gets carried through much. Except for the bit with Hathaway and his robot–android!–family. I’m just saying, there could have been a lot more done with that. Although maybe it wasn’t supposed to be its own theme, maybe it was actually just another piece of what I felt was the overall, underlying theme of the book: Do Not Wish You Could See Your Dead Loved Ones. Seriously. No. Because basically, on Mars, your dead loved ones appear all the time, but it’s never really them and it never ends well. I don’t know if Ray Bradbury just thought this was a cool idea or if he was trying to say something meaningful or whatever, but either way, that’s what I got from the androids and the hypnotic, hallucinogenic Martians.

I mean, there were the obvious themes, too: Who Is Really The Alien In This Situation, Go West Young Men/Humans Spread Everywhere, The Destruction Of Native Cultures, Space Makes People Crazy. But another theme I really liked in the book was the significance of memory, dreams, and perception/perspective. These are things that show up a lot in my own stories, so it was nice to know that I’m not the only one intrigued by these things, and that they don’t have to be cliche.

What was weird, though, was reading a sci-fi, spacey book from the forties. Sometimes it made me laugh– a hot dog stand? Really? And  why is everyone in this book from “farm” states like Ohio (har har), Idaho, Minnesota? Not to mention: atomic wars. Also, how come no country besides America sent people to colonize Mars? Really, the Russians are atomic-warring us on Earth in this story, but they don’t have rocket ships? I guess it would have added too much complexity for there to be other Earth nations mixed in when we already had conflict between the Americans and the Martians– but then I think, when the English colonized America, there were French, Dutch, Spanish, and German people coming in, too, and somehow that is still comprehensible. So… I don’t know. Maybe Ray just figured that since the Americans in the story were all killing each other anyway, adding other Earth people would have been redundant.

“He did not turn. He felt a cold wind blowing. He was afraid to turn. He felt something on the seat behind him, something as frail as your breath on a cold morning, something as blue as hickory-wood smoke at twilight, something like old white lace, something like a snowfall, something like the icy rime of winter on the brittle sedge.

There was a sound as of a thin plate of glass broken– laughter. Then silence. He turned.” 

I loved the descriptions best of all, as you can tell. The words had poetry. And pacing. And, as Bug and I would say, VIBES. Which is probably why I kept wishing I could somehow make this book into a really, really good miniseries or movie. The Martian costumes would be an absolute dream to create, silk and silver. Most of all, strangely, the scene I most want to make is Ylla cleaning the house on Mars. I imagine how the magnetic dust would look as she tossed it out of the window, toward the valley where York was supposed to land. I also would love to make the guns the Martians have: “From it hordes of golden bees could be flung out with a high shriek. Golden, horrid bees that stung, poisoned, and fell lifeless, like seeds on the sand.” I mean, that’s just… cool.

In conclusion, The Martian Chronicles is the most creative, original, intriguing, and surprising book that I’ve read in ages. It definitely gets put on the list of books that have changed (or at least moderately altered) my life.

Aaaaaand it was first published in 1945.

Sigh.

Also, I have realized that I’m knee-deep in sci-fi of late. This, plus watching old Star Trek episodes with Eliza and Bug, plus Poncho and I just finished watching the full fifth season of Doctor Who. ( Every single time there was a hint of aliens, Poncho said: “I bet it’s a weeping angel. Maybe it’s actually a giant angel. Wouldn’t it be awesome/funny if it was a weeping angel?”) I’ve always liked sci-fi-ish stuff (see: Lost, superheroes, The Golden Apples of the Sun), but now I am well and truly falling down the rabbit hole of no return. I’d like to make one of my new story ideas into a sci-fi, but I’m kind of afraid to take the leap. Fantasy is easy for me because you can pretty much make it up and/or manipulate the world so the weird stuff makes sense, but with science fiction I feel like I’d have to understand, say, radiation. Or, you know, technology in general.

At least I know the difference between a robot and an android. Geez.

Yours til the final frontier,
Pen

red and gold and green and blue

It used to annoy me how people would talk about how beautiful fall is. Yes, yes, we all know, pretty leaves. Snore.

Fast forward a couple of years and here I am gazing out the window in awe. Cloudy, rainy, foggy, cold, and/or dim fall days are awesome, perfect for stories. But these cloudless clear ones bring back waves of memories, not inspiration. The blazing red trees against the bluest sky this city ever sees stops me in my tracks (or trains of thought) and re-routs them down memory lane.

Poncho: “Hey look. I turned it into a cube.” As he holds out some chewed gum to me. It is, indeed, shaped like a cube.

Brothers.

But even with it bein’ fair and sunny weather, I do feel strangely inspired for one of my current, sort-of-started projects. (Is it weird that I find it just as difficult to tell when a novel is started as when it’s finished? My process is kind of… um. Not very process-y.) It’s the most “realistic” story I’ve ever thought up so far, straying perhaps completely out of the realm of fantasy and more into the realm of whatever Jane Eyre is, minus the Gothic stuff, with other stuff to replace it. (I know, that was the best elevator pitch ever.)

This story idea kind of scares me because sometimes, you start a story and it’s all la-la-la, happy day– HEY WRITER, GUESS WHAT? And then it throws things at you. 

Let me tell you a little story. (There is a point to all this babbling, I promise.) Ahem. Once upon a time, I was forced to play sports thanks to the lovely institution called School, which I used to be trapped inside. Sports, I thought, were fun, but not for me. Because in sports, the player is faced with a choice as the ball (or Frisbee) sails through the air.

Choice A: Catch it.

Choice B: This. 

Yes. That is me, re-enacting every encounter with flying objects I’ve ever had.

And so, you see, I was not very good at sports. If it was coming right to me, I would leap out of the way. So there was definitely no way in heck I was going to leap into the path of the flying object in order for it to hit me to catch it.

Little did I know that there would be things thrown at me in writing, too. But unlike actual sports, there is no gravity in storyland. Once you get over the cringe reflex, you can still pluck it out of the air and decide what to do with it.

So I’m trying to decide what to do with the fact that this story says it wants to be, in fact, Ohioan. That’s right. It wants to take place right. here.  

What does that even mean? How can I even tell if it’s actually Ohioan? I mean, what do I know about Ohio, it’s not like I live–
Oh right. That’s right. I’m Ohioan.

So why do I feel like if I write it that way, it’ll be doomed?
a) Unlike Fantasy World, real people live in Ohio. People older and wiser and more knowledgeable than me. And maybe it won’t seem right to them!

Ah, but the key here: Perspective. Of course it can’t and won’t be “correct”. It might not even be close to what other people see/know/think about this place. But I guess I can let dear old POV take the blame/credit (whatever the case may be).

So, I think the project is a go. Despite my inherent fears.

Also, I know nothing about horses.
Guess what? 
There’s a big old horse right smack in the heart of the story.

The good news is that my other story, A City With Bears, is slowly breaking out of the idea-stage cocoon. And since other things I know nothing about– trains and streetcars– play a pretty big part in it, I am taking a writing field trip this weekend to a Train and Streetcar Museum! Hurrah! I’ll get to ride a real streetcar! 

Check that off the Life Dreams list. (It’s the one right below Live Next to Train Tracks. Thanks, 112th Street Garden, for that inspiration. You’re pulling carrots and then wwwwwwoooOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooooo the train goes by so close you can see the color of the driver’s eyes. Dizzying and exhilarating and, the first time, a little scary.) 

Grand!

I think I shall go enjoy this unbearably lovely day outside.

Yours till the iron horses,
Pen

dinner past, dinners future…

Dad arrived home this evening with a smile on his face. Admist some faint blood spatters.
Me: “You got something?”
Dad: “What do you think? Look at my pants.” Which also had blood spatters on them.

Every time I try to explain this situation to someone, I always say, “He kills deer for this lady [we always call her “the deer lady”] who lives in the park” and then people stare and gawp until I realize that they think I mean that she’s homeless so she lives in the park. No. She has a house. And a barn, and a horse, and a large poodle named Velcro. She lives on the fringe of the parks, and of course that means she is overrun by deer. So she apparently called the park people every day until they allowed her to have “designated killers” to shoot deer on her land whenever the vermin step hoof on it. (Are deer’s feet even called hooves? I thought they were cloven hooves or something… Right?)

So, she calls Dad now, instead of the park, and he gets his gun and tries to shoot something and bring home the bacon– er, venison.

Dad: “Yeah, while I was there another one of her killers showed up with a trail cam.”
Mom: “Why didn’t he bring a gun?”
Dad: “That’s what the deer lady said. Apparently I’m the only one who came prepared.”
Mom: “So you’re her favorite killer now.”
Dad: “Yup.” 

Well. Now there is a carcass in the shed.

Dad: “Good thing I didn’t get pulled over on the way home. They probably would have wondered about the blood spatters on my face…”
Me: (thinking, And the tarp wrapped around what appears to be a corpse in the back of the truck… And then trying to explain by saying he is some lady’s ‘killer’… Yeah, that would’ve gone very well.)

Anyway. That is the excitement for today. Food chain, circle of life, blah blah blah, tacos. Also, Poncho and I were home by just our two selves today, and so I made him a fancy dinner (by fancy I mean, rolls and candy broccoli and scrambled eggs.)

Poncho: “The broccoli is really good.”
Me: “Thanks.”
Poncho: “And the rolls. Much better than Mom’s.”
Me: “Yeah, because Mom is always distracted and burns them so it’s like eating a lump of coal.”
Poncho: “Or one of your pizza rolls…”
Me: scowl.
Poncho: “Sorry! But you burn them. Every. Time.”
Me: “Hmph.”

Seashells.

When I was little, it seemed to me that my aunt and uncle were often on holiday, usually somewhere warm. Usually they would bring back little presents for the kids upon their return. Once, they gave me a bunch of seashells in an empty plastic Dairy Queen ice cream container. I called it my shell collection, though it wasn’t really a collection since I never collected more, considering I have never been to the ocean. However, this shell collection provided hours and hours of entertainment for me. I saw each shell as a character in a little world I created with them. The snail-like shells became a family (a rather large one at that).

This one became the Snail Family’s dog. To me, it looked like one of those shaggy mop-like dogs.

These two shells, the almost-biggest in my collection, became the Mayor and Vice Mayor. (The Mayor was corrupt. Even at a young age, I saw the truth about politicians… ;) )

These shells I thought looked like some kind of woven saddle blankets or something, so they became a tribe of what I called “Indian Blankets”. The big yellow one was their chief. I think his name was Chief Big Sun or something like that.

The oyster shells were a communtity in themselves. The biggest one was their king. His daughter was named Pearl, and she was the smallest, shiniest, pearly-est one I had. The mothers would keep their children underneath them. I had them all arranged in families, but it’s hard to tell them apart now.

This family was called the Spineys. They had a single mom.

This family was well-to-do. They were called the Spiral-Noses.

Then, surely inspired by the Island of Misfit Toys, I had a little group of “misfit” shells, ones that were too unique to fit into any of the other groups. 

You may wonder what prompted this blast from the past. Well, it was a combination of two things. One, I just went through my room and boxed up a lot of my old stuff: trophies, first communion stuff, etc. I wanted to update my shelves and kind of re-decorate without really making a drastic change. So I put some stuff away, rearranged a bit, and it looks much better now.
Secondly, the DHFs got back from their trip to Florida. And… they brought me shells!! :D

In a cool jar, too!!

So I was looking at them today, lining them up, examining their detail and simple beauty. And my brain just slipped right back into that old habit, that old way of looking at everything as a character, a creature, a group. I saw hamsters, seals, misfits, oysters, grey-clouds… It was fun, remembering the old stories and adventures I had with shells.

My new mason-jar shell collection now sits proudly on my dresser. Whenever I miss or think of the DHFs (which is often), I glance over there and see the glass jar, the varnished shells reflecting sunlight back to me. (Yes, the sun has returned to Ohio! I love the sun!) And whenever I want to, I can take the shells out, spread them across my bedroom floor, and remember that the simplest things can be the most wonderful and fun, and that I’m not too old to have seashell adventures.

Love,
Pen

it’s a wonderful life

That’s what I said this morning, along with a nostalgic sigh, when I finished reading a book I have been waiting two years for. This book was… My Yearbook!!! From my last year at schoolschool (as in, the last year at school before I was homeschooled)!!! Why did it take so long for me to get it, you ask? Well, it’s a long story that is pretty dumb anyway so I’m not going to tell it. Too bad.

It was kind of sad to look at, though. There are a lot of people and feelings that I greatly miss. There was also a lot that got my blood boiling in anger when I went there, and a lot of things that I am SO THANKFUL I no longer have to put up with. Cough, cough. Not mentioning specifics but…. They know who they are. Grrrrrr. (“I AM THE MCGILL!!! LOOK UPON ME AND TREMBLE!!!”)

Ah. But there were some pictures that I was like, “sigh…” There were a bunch that both Amanda and I were in. I miss Amanda so so sososososososososooooooo badly!!!! Plus I feel like a terrible friend because we already had plans so I couldn’t go to dinner with her for her birthday. D: Oh, Amanda! I’m sorry! So of course, right after reading the yearbook I zipped over to Facebook  and sent Amanda a message. I have a plan. We may not be able to see each other every day, but we could certainly get together more often than we do now! We only live 15 minutes away from each other, for goodness’ sake! So I have devised a plan. I will see if it can work when she replies to the message. Also, I wanted to do something together over Christmas vacation. Allie will be in town until New Years, so the Lemon Sistas can reunite!!

Amanda and I were completely inseperable since becoming friends at school. We were this close for 6 years!!! We are still best friends, but we hardly talk so much anymore. Mom laughs at me when I say, “I talked to Amanda on the phone”  because it’s actually like shetalkssuperfastsothatshesaysalotinlikefiveminutes and then I get a few words in butifshe’sexcitedthere’snowwaytogetawordinedgewise and so when you hear only my end of the conversation, it seems like there IS no my side of the conversation, except for when I laugh becuase she’s so Amanda. I miss that.

I miss Father Hoban, too. And Allie! And Bednar, and butterum muffins, and ice/snow, and bats in the early morning, and encrichment class in the other building (ohmygosh the way that room smelled!…). I mean, I have a lot of good memories. But I also look back and think, I am glad that I left when I did. While the good memories I have were untarnished still. I was ready to move on. There were pictures of the 50’s&60’s show we did, and I thought of how we had to sing “Hello Goodbye”. The song says, “Every time I say goodbye you say hello.” I think it’s very true. Every time I said goodbye to something, God showed me that there was also a great “Hello”. I left my old-old-school after first grade, and I was so upset about leaving. But if I hadn’t, I would never have even met Allie or Amanda, or anyone else. I wouldn’t have done a lot of the cool things I did, or been happy in quite the same way. And in the same way, when I said goodbye to schoolschool, I said hello to the entire world, it seems. I said hello to time to write, to writers’ group, to being so mcuh closer to my family. I said hello to Botany and Literature, field trips, and a lot of freedom!

It really is a wonderful life! And there are so many times when I just think, I am so thankful. Incredibly, incredibly thankful.

Peace,
Pen

PS:I guess the whole “Hello/Goodbye” thing is probably not what the Beatles were thinking of when they wrote the song, but whatever.  
PPS:I know I said I would continue on with yesterday’s topic, but I wasn’t expecting the yearbook to come. Some other time, I will further discuss the previous topic. Yeah. I procrastinate, what can I say?