Archive for February, 2007

Home on the Farm

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

thefarmMood: Rainy day delinquent
Drinking: Mint & honey tea

As long as there’s no great March snowstorm to keep me earthbound, I’ll be picking up my bags at O’Hare in a couple of days and pointing my rental car west, toward my parents’ farm.

My grandfather passed away several weeks ago, and the relatives-in-charge opted to postpone the memorial service until “spring”. I don’t know exactly why they consider Illinois’ version of March to be spring, since anyone who’s spent a winter or two there knows better. But the date has been set. So I, along with several other long-lost relatives from various states betwixt here and there will be traveling through the snow this week to pay our respects.

I’m always happy to return to the small town where I grew up. (As long as it’s for a visit and not for good.) I like to drive the roads that I used to know so well, the roads that used to make me feel like such a big fish, and see what’s changed since I last passed that way. Palmyra Road always has a few surprises. For one thing, it’s not even called Palmyra Road anymore. I think they changed the name to Prairieville Road a couple of visits back.

When I was a tiny thing, it used to be called Rural Route 1. Then, for the duration of my childhood and teen years, it was Palymra Road. Home of “Son Shine Acres”, which is where I lived from age 2 to 21, give or take a few months here and there when I was at college or pretending to live in more exotic locales like Indiana.

My parents owned a big grey farmhouse and 1.5 acres of land which housed a huge garden, a dog kennel, a chicken coop, a horse barn, and my dad’s oversized garage. For most of my childhood, we also rented the 10 or so acres of land across the driveway, which included a silo, barn, and several large outbuildings, as well as a pond, a giant cottonwood tree, and a couple of acres of rolling green hills.

I learned to ride a horse there (and broke my arm getting bucked off a donkey there). I spent countless hours carrying 5-gallon buckets of water from the well up by our house all the way down to the big red barn, which didn’t have any running water for a long time. In the winter, when the pails of water would slosh down my legs and freeze inside my boots, that path from house to barn seemed 5 miles long.

The picture above is the view from our kitchen window out over the yard, down the lane, ending at the big red barn. My dad took this photo on a winter day when I was only 4 or 5. For most of my formative years, this view comprised the largest part of my world.

My parents don’t live at 497 Palmyra Road anymore. They sold the place and moved on when my sister was in college. My bedroom with the dusky blue horseshoe wallpaper belongs to someone else now.

But every time I’m back in town, I drive the old blacktop, turning right off Route 2 by the Shell gas station, up Lord’s Hill (which seems so small now compared with San Francisco inclines), past Vitale’s Holstein farm, and then slowing down for a look as I drive past the scene of my first bike ride, first snowman, first puppy, first costume party, first horse, first skinned knee, first kiss, first driving lesson, first mulberry, first falling star, first everything that makes a childhood a good one.

It doesn’t look like much anymore. Some of the trees in our huge front yard are missing now. The Son Shine Acres sign is gone. There are no more beagles in the backyard. And who knows what ever happened to my favorite bike, the one with the banana seat and the handlebar streamers.

But it’s still a magical place to me.

So I’ll be seeing you soon, old homestead. And you, too, Sterling Girl(s)! Leave a light on for me. I’m coming home.

-Lo, who still knows where Erwin the bird is buried out in the apple orchard.

Elasticine = Pretty Young Thing

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

gargoyleMood: OCD-ish
Drinking: Water

I’m always excited to bring you a new cinepoem. And I probably always say that this one is my favorite. But it’s true every time. They’re all shiny and special in their own little ways.

OK, but this time? This time I’m extra-super-cali-fragi-listically excited. Her name is Elasticine, and you’ll see right away that she’s different than all the others.

Back in 2005 when Boy and I were wandering all over Italy, we spent a sunny morning in Venice creating a cinepoem of still photos. The finished product was called Epic, and we loved her.


Elasticine uses the same idea, creating a cinepoem out of photographs instead of moving pictures, but adds a few new twists. Boy shot all the photos last November during one rainy day in Paris. We rode the Metro all over town for this cinepoem, and it really did take all day. And we got rained on. A lot. And it was cold. But I remember saying to Boy whilst shivering on a train platform, “When we’re done with this, it will be so pretty that nobody will know how miserable we were while we were shooting it!”

Besides, if you’re doing a shoot in Paris, there has to be an umbrella involved at some point, or you’re not doing it right.

The other extra-special thing about Elasticine is the guest-voice of one Mister Robert Kostrzeski. That sexy French voice you’ll hear throughout the poem belongs to him, and we had a lot of fun recording it in Michael’s bedroom closet a few weeks ago.

Oh, and another thing — this cinepoem features the tattoo I got in Paris from the lovely Laura Satana. We actually shot all the photos the day after I got the tattoo, so that really is me peeling the plastic wrap from my still shiny and sticky new ink and washing it off for the first time. Fun!

You’ll probably also notice that Elasticine is a very non-linear kind of girl who’s really enamored with a certain French phrase. She talks a lot about seasonal mud pies and haunted shopping carts. And if you ask me what the hell it all means I’ll just say, “Well, what does it mean to you?”

So go to The Cinepoems page to try to figure her out, and pretend like you’re in Paris for a day. She’s all yours now.

For you PC lovers, we’ve got a Windows version in the works. But if you can’t wait another second, you can view Elasticine in the videos section of MySpace or at YouTube.

-Lo, who tried to take that gargoyle home, but found he has a nasty temper

The Good Wife

Tuesday, February 20th, 2007

forkyouMood: Grumpy
Drinking: Nope

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the whole wife thing. What it means to call yourself a wife. What it means to be one. Not so much because I’m fresh off an anniversary celebration, because I don’t really think of myself as Boy’s “wife.”

Let me shove my foot in my mouth a bit further in an effort to explain…I don’t think Boy and I have a typical all-American marriage. I mean, we’re not out there on the swingers limb or anything truly avant-garde, but I don’t wait at home crocheting doilies and watching the Bold and the Beautiful while he brings home the bacon.

Like most couples today, married or not, we both have a share in the bacon-bringing. And the cooking (him) and cleaning (me). And the budgeting (him) and scheduling (me). And all the other stuff of sharing a life. We make it work together. We are equals. Neither of us is better than or more important than or more powerful than the other.

And maybe it’s because I’m surrounded on all sides by San Francisco (yay!), but I don’t think of myself as “wife” so much as “partner.” I fear I’m making nothing but nonsense, so I’ll leave the word obsession and move on to my pet peeve of the post…

There’s a blog I’ve been reading lately which I really should probably run far away from, because it makes me all cranky and violent, but it’s like crack — conservative christian crazy crack — and I just keep going back for a fresh fix.

The woman who writes this blog is only a few years younger than me, but she lives on a faraway planet in a galaxy that’s light years from this one. Like myself, she grew up going to a conservative christian (baptist) school, but that’s all we have in common. I had fairly liberal, open-minded parents. Her parents were baptists to the core. (Her dad was a pastor. I knew him. He was a big bully.) I graduated and left that school far behind, opting instead for a state university and passport to the real world. She did the good baptist girl thing and went from baptist school to baptist college to baptist camp to baptist husband. She’s so scared of the real world, she can only peek at it through fingers and then run off and repent and bemoan the state of her “deceitful heart” all over the internet.

(Side pet peeve: Isn’t that what diaries are for? Spilling your most intimate secrets to a book with paper pages? A book nobody else gets to read? You know, the ones with the lock and key?)

She’s been writing lately about how she met her husband, and in addition to it being one of the most boring love stories of modern times, it has elements that are so weird, they are freaking my sister and I out. More than once, one of us will read the latest post and then call the other to say, “Can you believe it’s 2007 and people actually think this way?”

An example: This woman writes about her graduation from college and says, “Since I wasn’t dating anyone my senior year, I had NO IDEA what I was going to do after I graduated.” (screaming caps are hers)

I had to read that a few times over to make sure that was really what she said. I had forgotten that people in that world, the fundamentalist baptist world, actually think like that. The girls go to college for the express purpose of finding a husband. Their mothers and grandmothers and all the ladies back at the church pray every day that little Curlieque will find her mate, a good-God-fearing-christian-boy, preferably a preacher or missionary, somewhere in Bible-Believing Baptist Collegeland (the coveted MRS degree). And then she can finally fulfill her purpose for being on this earth by being a good wife, a “helpmeet” for the all-important male.

Not that there’s anything wrong with meeting your man in college and getting married, but most people go to college for a career, or at the very least, an education. How is it possible that a woman in this country can still measure her success by her marriagiability and then lose her shit before graduation because, even though she has a degree, she isn’t married, or *gasp* isn’t even dating! What — you can’t go out and get a job? You have to wait to have a husband to tell you what to do? But I digress…

The rest of her story goes on to describe her meeting her future husband while working at a christian camp and how they used to hang out at WalMart with a chaperone and how he wouldn’t talk to her until she finished her camp-prescribed Bible-memorization project and how he asked her parents’ permission to date her and told her that if her parents said no, he would never speak to her again.

It all just seems so quaint and so completely insane.

Especially when you consider that she had to be at least 21 when all of this stuff was happening. I mean, this is a girl who counts swear words in movies (The Guardian has 15), making special note of those that “take the Lord’s name in vain.” This is a woman, a nearly-30-year-old woman, who gets excited when her husband gives her 20 bucks to buy stamps for her craft projects, even though she has a full-time job (and paycheck) of her own.

I know I don’t know the whole story (although her blog seems to take care in recording every single last detail), and I know I just got back from a weekend of telling everybody who would listen to stop judging and just love each other. So — pot, kettle, and all that.

But really, it’s 2007! If your idea of a hot date is a stroll through the soulless aisles of WalMart, past the polyester sweatshop merchandise, wearing your best denim knee-length skirt, keeping at least six inches between you and your husband-to-be while a watchful chaperone dogs your every step, well, I’m sorry, but you’re a little off your nut!

I certainly don’t think everyone has to live their lives the way I would live. I have lots of friends who are all over the map with their relationships, their marriages, their lifestyles, and I’m all for lots of variety and people figuring out what works for them and what makes them happy. But come on — it’s got to be unhealthy to live a life of such repression and fear, to second guess every thought that’s not quite pure, to do things only when your husband gives you leave because “he is the spiritual head of the household”, and to beat yourself up for your imperfections by saying things like, “I’m trying to be a good wife, but it’s hard when I’m so selfish and lazy!”

The only explanation I can give for my addiction to reading this woman’s blog is that it’s like watching a Discovery channel special about an exotic tribe in a remote jungle who run about totally naked save for the gigantic clay plates stuck into their lower lips. It’s completely fascinating and utterly mystifying. I mean, I know the super-fundamentalist baptist church I went to when I was a kid still exists, and I even know who some of its current members are. But since I have removed myself so far from that world, and since I have proven myself to be such a black sheep to them that none of them would ever befriend me (unless they were trying to save me), this girl’s blog is a window inside these people’s world.

No wonder our country is in the state it’s in when there are people out there who still think the 1940s were the best of times.

So yes, this post is completely judgmental and very likely hypocritical and features a photo of forks for no good reason, but that’s what’s on my mind today, so that’s what you get. Enjoy!

-Lo, whose favorite Tori lyric used to be, “I wanna smash the faces of those beautiful boys, those Christian boys…”

Lucky Number Seven

Sunday, February 18th, 2007

anniversaryMood: Relaxation Overdrive
Drinking: The most delicious tea

Seven years ago, there was a blizzard in Chicago. I remember it very clearly, because that was the day I put on a white dress and walked down an aisle. Gave my solemn vow and sealed it with a kiss.

Sometimes it seems impossible that seven years could have slipped past me so quickly. Then other days it feels like I’ve lived a few lifetimes since that day.

It was a great day. A lot of fun. The blizzard, not so much fun — some people stayed home instead of braving the storm. And some of those who did head out into the snow paid for it. One carload of people from my hometown ran over a curb that was hidden by a snowdrift and ripped a hole in their undercarriage.

And my friend G actually made it to the church (on time), but his car had a little accident on his way into the parking lot and got kind of screwed up. Our limo driver was one of those people who decided to stay inside, so after the reception, we got a ride to the hotel from our best man. And we were all so hungry, we stopped at the McDonald’s oasis over the freeway for some honeymoon french fries. Romantic!

When I was a kid, my dad always used to complain about how fast time passes. I never understood, because I often thought the days crept by too slowly. But now, now I know what he meant. Seven years. And the days keep flying by.

Let’s hope that most of them are as good as today has been.

-Lo, who wouldn’t mind, sometimes, if time slowed the hands of the clock just a little bit.

Does someone need a hug?

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

shinyandnewMood:
Un-Valentiney
Drinking: Water

Yes, we’re back. We’ve been back for 3 days, but I’ve been so exhausted that I’ve been hibernating like a very crabby bear.

Here’s something I learned this weekend: If you’re not a hugger by nature (and I am so not!), being hugged by hundreds of people will wear your ass right out.

Not to seem ungrateful…because I’m gonna store those hugs up like solar power. I don’t think I’ll need another hug for oh, a good five years or so.

Hugging issues aside, the weekend went well. For those who haven’t been paying attention, I spoke this past weekend at a conference and a church (yes, I said church) about being a “Sunday Morning Misfit”. Basically, I was asked to speak about why I don’t go to church. Which is a fun thing to talk about, really.

So I packed my bags and dragged Boy along and we spent our weekend in northern Alabama. We were given a rousing Southern welcome (complete with lots of tasty food), and the whole experience was both exhilarating and overwhelming. I’ve never received a welcome quite like that, and I’m still a bit mystified as to how it all happened. (Especially since my celebrity status back home is decidedly less starry.)

Some people at work today who found out about it asked, “Why Alabama?” And I said, “Cuz I’m big in Alabama!” Some people are superstars only in Japan. Some people have cult fan followings in Germany. Me? I’m big in Alabama.

Nothin’ wrong with that.

I have to give big props to Boy, not only for being brave enough to go with me, but also for running the show, literally. He sat in the soundbooth and ran all the shiny bits — the videos and multimedia stuff I brought along with me (because when a girl like me gets an hour on stage, she’s gotta bring the bells and whistles). He also ran various video and still cameras to make sure all the appropriate moments were recorded for posterity.

But most of all, I knew where to look across a crowded room when I needed a moment of sanity. When I needed someone to see me who knew where I came from, who wasn’t fooled by all the hooplah and spotlights. When I needed a co-conspirator so I could raise my eyebrows and say, “This is crazy, is it not?”

I met so many people that I began calling them all the wrong names (sorry, Thomas!) and so for all of you out there reading this who met me over the weekend, please hear this: It really was lovely to meet you. And I really did appreciate your kindness and your words and yes, all those hugs.

And now, it’s back to reality. Back to the grindstone. Back to work and dog-walking and sister-visiting and cinepoem-editing (there’s a new one called Elasticine that will be here soon, very very soon) and book-finishing. Back to my life. God, how I love it!

-Lo, who thinks there’s no place like San Francisco. And San Francisco is HOME.

Airborne

Saturday, February 10th, 2007

airborneMood:
Awesomely Exhausted
Drinking:Diet Coke

“I done heard tell ya’ll was in Alabama!”

That’s my best southern accent for you. Greetings from Alabama, by the way. The people here have been super sweet and are taking me out for southern BBQ tomorrow. My stomach’s already excited.

But that’s a story for another day. Right now, I’m crazy with the tiredness, so I’m just going to give you the good news and go to sleep. Ready?

I’m co-Poet of the Week over at Poetry Super Highway this week. Sweet! All three of my featured poems have something to do with airplanes, hence the photo that I took somewhere in the sky over Texas on Friday.

So go check them out. The first poem (Kiss & Fly) is brand new. I actually posted it here a week or so ago. The other two (Crash Protocol and Samba) are going to be printed in my new book (which is coming out in April!)

-Lo, who is fixin’ to put on her pajamas now.

Sunday Morning Misfit

Wednesday, February 7th, 2007

sundaymorningmisfitMood: Sticky
Drinking: Again with the tea

I’m taking to the sky in a few days. Which you already know if you read all that nonsense about my inability to pack a suitcase. Boy and I are heading south this time. To Alabama.

I’ve never spent much time in the south, although I was born in Virginia. But my parents moved me west and north before my third birthday, so I never had a chance to develop anything other than a mild Midwest twang. (Although after 6 years on the west coast, I now say “Dude!” far more often than is really necessary.)

I went to the Carolinas, once. I had a lapse in judgement while I was in college and dated a tall blonde boy with thin lips who went to a university in the southern-most Carolina. I flew down to visit him on my spring break. It was a bad idea all around, but that’s not Carolina’s fault.

Then there was the summer I lived in Indianapolis — I spent three months writing for The Indianapolis News/Star as part of the Pulliam Journalism Fellowship. And three months was more than enough time for me to decide there’s really nothing in Indiana that I want to go back for. Okay, except for my cousin Pam, who lives in Indiana. But that’s it!

So that’s the extent of my acquaintance with the southern states. (And I know Indiana doesn’t really count.)

But all that’s about to change. Boy and I are traveling to Decatur, Alabama, where I’ll spend the weekend doing something I haven’t done in six years. Going to church.

I know there’s no need to fly across nine states to get some pew time in, but this is a special sort of occasion. About six months ago, I received a request from the pastor of a Methodist church in Decatur. He had seen a video of a talk/essay/performance/whatever that I did back in 1998, and wanted me to come and speak at his church. I turned him down flat.

See, this video, “This Is Who I Am”, has been floating around the church world for quite a few years now and so I get speaking requests from church people from time to time. I always turn them down, for several reasons. The biggest of which is that “This Is Who I Am” is not who I am anymore. And most of the people who want me to come and speak at their church/conference/whatever don’t get that. They don’t read through my web site, they don’t pay attention to any of the poetry or cinepoems, and so they just have this idea of who I might be and what I might say from a 7-minute essay I wrote 9 years ago. And even back then, I wasn’t what you would call a Jesus-freak. But many of these speaking requests come from people who don’t do their homework. They see one little thing and just assume that of course I’ll be all rah-rah with pom-poms on the Christian float. They would be wrong.

But this guy from Alabama was different. He watched the cinepoems. He read all my web posts. He even bought a poetry book. And he still wanted me to come to Decatur.

Over the course of a few months and many emails, I became impressed with the sincerity of his request. But more than that, I felt like he had a pretty good idea of what I was all about, and he still kept inviting me to speak. He wasn’t deterred by the fact that I haven’t been to church in years or that I fully enjoy flinging the fuck-word around now and then or that I think Bush might be the devil or that I want gay people to be able to get married or even that I get really itchy around evangelicals.

In fact, he invited me to come and speak to his church about why I don’t go to church. I was completely flabbergasted. (And I don’t get to use that word very often!)

So I reconsidered. And then I said yes.

And then I spent the next four months wondering what in the world I was going to say. How was I going to justify all this attention? How was I going to make it worth these people’s while to fly me all the way from California? How was I going to offer them any wisdom, anything even the slightest bit meaningful or profound?

It all came together, finally, as it always does, and now I am sitting on 14 pages of words and 6 video excerpts. (The videos include a just-for-this-occasion cinepoem called “Sunday Morning Misfit” [that’s what the stained glass picture up above is from], and 5 interviews with a few of my favorite friends — people who are Sunday Morning Misfits just like me.) There’s no measly 7-minute essay happening this time around — I’ve got a good hour’s worth of things to say, and you know what? I am really excited about it. Not nervous or overwhelmed or unsure. Completely the opposite. I have stories to share that need to be heard, and I’m ready to go, mouth full of words.

I’ve received lots of really kind and welcoming emails from the people in Decatur over the past few months, and I am very much looking forward to meeting all of them. It’s safe to say that nothing quite like this has ever happened to me before, and I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

No matter what, it certainly will not be boring!

-Lo, who really doesn’t mind being a misfit most of the time.

Black Beauty

Saturday, February 3rd, 2007

girl-in-blackMood: Ready, Set
Drinking: The tea with the ice

Packing for a trip, even a long weekend, takes me awhile. There’s so much to take into consideration: weather (do I need an umbrella or a big huge coat?), activities (kick-ass boots or hiking boots?), amenities that will be provided (my mom’s house is well-stocked with my favorite shampoos, soaps, and toothpaste), etcetera.

And when I’m going someplace I’ve never been before (Alabama) and doing something I’ve never done before (featured speaker at a conference and church service), there’s a lot of outfit selection, laying-out, trying-on, and discarding going on. (There may be some shopping involved, as well. I’m always happy to have an excuse to expand the overcrowded wardrobe.)

When I’m wearing something that makes me feel like me, something comfortable yet stylish, feminine yet odd, pretty but weird, something that makes me stalk around like a long-legged bird… Although that analogy is kind of creaping out on me, because now that I think of long-legged birds, I’m realizing that they’re not all that graceful. They’re actually kind of awkward looking, with the head-bobbing and the beak-pointing. But whatever. Long-legged and graceful. That’s what I’m going for.

So in the midst of all this packing and shopping and modeling in front of Boy and mirror and dog, I’ve been realizing something that’s really pretty damn obvious to everybody else.

I like black a lot.

It’s not something I do on purpose. Not anymore. Yes, there was a day when I used to comb the racks for the blackest inky blackness I could find. I even owned a tube or two of black lipstick at one point in time. But I’m not the queen of the underworld anymore. Not even a duchess. Maybe an acolyte, for old times’ sake now and then.

And I’m no Johnny Cash, either (and I’ll hear a thousand “Amens” to that one). I’m no romantic (wo)Man in Black. I’m not wearing black for the poor and the beaten down or the sick and lonely old. I don’t have any reasons as noble as that for my monochromatic style.

Actually, most times when I go on a shopping spree, I’m thinking in bright, starry-eyed colors. “Red this time, for sure.” “Maybe I could make violet work without looking to Grimace-y.” “Something green. Make my eyes pop.” But the color gods are not fans of mine. Most times, when I find what I’m looking for, guess what color it is? Yup. Black. I’ve even asked, “Do you have this in a nice cherry red?” Nope. “Just black, miss.”

So you see, it’s really not my fault that black appears to be my favorite color. It was just meant to be. And I’m not upset about it, either. Black is quite convenient. I’ve worn white on a few occasions and only last about 15 minutes before I’m looking all BritneySpears-frump with some anonymous stain marring my outfit. Black doesn’t betray you like that.

Plus, it just goes with everything. When you have a wardrobe that’s mostly one color, you don’t have a hard time matching.

And here’s a rabbit trail for no apparent reason…Wearing black does not make you “goth”. Yeah, I gladly wore the label not that many years ago, but truth be told, I probably only ever ascended to gothling stage. I was never a full blown goth like Siouxsie. (I never could get my hair to such light-socket stature.) But just because you like to dress in the color of night doesn’t mean that you secretly (or not so secretly) long to be a vampire or that you spend inordinate amounts of time languishing in midnight graveyards, clutching bouquets of dead roses and sighing while singing The Cure…

Anyway, my mother will be happy to know that I am branching out. I’ve recently discovered that navy blue has taken quite a liking to me. So much so that she’s earned a place of honor in my suitcase. Next weekend, I’m taking on Alabama while wearing the color blue.

Watch out world. It’s gettin’ crazy up in here.

-Lo, who had a very brief flirtation with the color orange back at age 15.