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I LIKE TO MOVE IT MOVE IT

March 29, 2014

Well then.

As two dryers churn their loads beneath me and the soapy air seeps through my heater and into my sinuses and the usual Saturday night nonsense gets underway in neighbouring suites and Dr. McThumperson upstairs celebrates the recent completion of his doctoral studies in the manner to which he is accustomed, I could not be more thrilled to report that this is my last night in this place and tomorrow morning some professional men are coming with a truck and will be loading all my emboxificated possessions into it and driving them to a different and much quieter and homier place with six times more windows, at which point they will take the things out of the truck in burly fashion and put them inside the place and as they drive away I will stand in one of the six streams of sunlight that are now mine and heave a relieved sigh that will echo across the land.

Q: Shouldn’t you be packing instead of writing a blog post?

A: You don’t have even the start of a clue how organized I am, and don’t interrupt me again.

Long long ago, someone whose purpose in my life apparently was to get the ball rolling on the complete annihilation of my identity that was about to go down tried to talk me out of my shameless fatalism using a combination of logical arguments and embarrassment attempts–like, “You have a Master’s in philosophy and yet you actually believe in fate?” kind of thing. “It’s just a literary device” and whatever. Yawn. I don’t even know what to say to someone who can’t easily see that fatalism is my destiny. I was a believer by the third week of my first undergraduate mythology course. I only did that damned philosophy degree because I was 23 and I didn’t want to commit to a PhD, plus I had friends for the first time since early childhood and I couldn’t leave them because there was so much more I wanted to learn about pleasant human social interactions, plus I’d spent the past six years wanting to work with the professor I wrote my thesis with. Other than cats, fatalism is the only thing in my life that has ever made any damn sense and please have that carved on my headstone when I die, including the cat part.

I spent January 10th through March 19th–minus the time I spent being in Mexico and then having the ear infection [eye roll] I brought home–trolling Craigslist like it was my third job. (If anyone has any questions about what’s currently available for rent in any area of Vancouver and how long it’s been on the market and what it costs and how that price compares to the price of every other rental suite in the city, by all means get in touch.) Along the way, I applied for two places, one of which I was promised and then lost in a dumbassed series of miscommunications, another of which I was rejected for and don’t know why but fortunately something even sadder happened that day so I didn’t have a lot of energy to invest in thinking about why that building manager picked someone else. It was much more expensive than my current place but I’d resigned myself to paying at least $100 more, and probably more, if I wanted something quiet and decent that would make the expense and stress of moving worthwhile.

So last Wednesday I saw a posting for an absolutely lovely, abnormally reasonably priced suite in a heritage house, and I told myself that if it was still posted when I got home from work the next day then fuck it, I was going to scrape together some hope and try for a viewing. Sure enough, there it still was, now with even more even lovelier photos added. I called the owner/landlord immediately and by coincidence he happened to be at the place and encouraged me to come down right away because a bunch of people had scheduled viewings for the evening and it would be snapped up by one of them for sure. Well I get there and it’s friggin’ fantastic and the landlord is so freakin’ kind and the current tenant is awesome and both of them love cats (can’t go wrong with cat people), and in response to my timid request for an application form (knowing how many people apply for places, in particular comparatively inexpensive and attractive ones, I was trying to keep from making it obvious to him or to myself how much I wanted this one) he said, “No no. You want it, it’s yours. I’ve been doing this a long time and I can tell you’re a good person.”

Thus and so. A new lease. (*cough*FATE*cough*)

My landlord then gave me a ride home (!) from the house since he had a meeting nearby, and we had a great conversation on the way, and I couldn’t help but compare him very favourably to certain douchebags I’ve rented from in the past, with their early morning “How did you sleep?” phone calls and willingness to take me out for lunch but not to fix drafty windows in the dead of winter or address major plumbing problems.

Since then I’ve been communicating with the current tenant, who has done everything possible to help me out with things and happens to have moved out today, which means I can move in tomorrow and didn’t have to try to weasel out of work on Monday morning. I thought having to organize and pull off a move in a week and a half would launch my life into chaos, but no. Everything’s worked out perfectly and I’m ready to go and here I am writing a damn blog post 13 hours before the muscular gentlemen arrive. Painless. The only legitimately terrible part has been cleaning the stove, which was not dissimilar to that bathtub scene in Season 1 of Breaking Bad. PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: If  it says “CORROSIVE” on the bottle, it probably is corrosive.

I didn’t realize until I got home from that viewing last Thursday how fucking badly I needed to get out of here, how fucking much I needed something good to happen, and, overarching all that, how fucking necessary it was that I quit accepting whatever bullshit was being handed to me and instead go forth and harvest some well-earned respect from the universe.

It’s not just the sweet new suite; everything is going unusually well. A few weeks ago I was approved for some useful stuff at the bank and, with the help of an account manager who was patient enough to sit there and explain basic financial shit to me for an entire hour (Her, pointing at a not unsubstantial dollar amount on a computer screen: “Look how much you would have saved on your taxes if you’d done this before the end of last year.” Me: “CINNAMON COCKS!!”), have put my very small amount of money to work. Every day I look at my balance and it’s like Tiny Christmas. I ordered some personal finance books (Millionaire Teacher, eh? [tents fingers like Monty Burns]) and am looking forward (?!) to reading them and devising some schemes. I have a teaching practicum student for this month and she’s given me some kickass compliments that appear to be genuine. My students are totally picking up what I’m putting down lately, and the head teacher has informed me without provocation that I’m doing a quote unquote great job.

What’s behind all the reasonably priced sunshine and rainbow-cocked unicorns? The same thing that’s responsible for almost all the dramatic/life-changing/important stuff that happens to human beings: heartbreak. I don’t know you at all, probably, so here’s the short, impersonal version: I’m way-above-averagely prone to undefinable hybrid friendlationships that start off really soft and comforting, plus come with an undertow of secrecy and exclusivity that’s dangerously easy for a person with my temperament and history to choose to get sucked into. I tell myself that this time it’s going to be nothing like last time because I’m older and smarter and more self-aware than I was back then, and also this is a totally different person, blah blah blah, naive this and irrelevant that–but as quickly and inevitably as always, I end up right back in Shit Lake. Months (years, even) of treating each other unfairly while pretending everything is fine pass before I realize the full crappy extent of the situation and how badly it’s fucking with me, and by then it’s a sad ridiculous exhausting challenge to get out of it.

Until recently, that’s where I was, putting a crap ton of my energy into staying afloat, miserable yet either unable to figure out or unwilling to admit why life stunk. As if there could be any bigger effort-waste and energy-suck than trying not to lose someone you’ve already lost and/or never had. I guess finally I got to a point where I just had to let shit go. Add another platonic breakup to my resume, cry an undisclosed number of times, and, in between acute regret attacks and periods of sudden onset guiltitis, go find a better place to be.

So then. If you could grab a box as you leave, that would be great.

 

My Pipe (It’s Shriekin’ [for You, Girl])

February 9, 2014

Okay, so, friends and lovers, I think we can all agree that the most accurate description of me containing a hyphenated word, a split infinitive, and a portmanteau would be “good-natured optimist who never fails to immediately perceive the positive side of a shituation.” That’s why I’m so goddamned pleased to report that the pipes running along the ceiling of this building’s laundry room, which awesomely is located directly below my apartment, have been screaming–YES, I SAID SCREAMING!!!–for the past 24 hours. Screaming! Practically nonstop! Great!

Yeah girl.
Can you hear that?
Kinda like how it sounds when someone’s takin’ a shower in the apartment next door but more shrill and constant yo?
All up in your ears kinda like a mosquito but much much muthafuckin’ louder?
And you put in earplugs but it don’t change shit ’cause the sound just travels right on through?
Well baby,
you know me pretty good by now,
so I probably don’t have to tell you that that’s my pipe,
and it’s shriekin’.
Yeeeahhh, it’s shriekin’ for you girl,
Like
[falsetto begins] Eeeeeeeeeee,
I want you so bad baby
Come over to my place for dinner
I’ll prepare a well-balanced meal and we can talk about how our lives have been going since we last hung out,
then I’ma tap that,
eeeeeeeeeee!

Roll up to yo’ place and I’m ready for some lovin’
‘Cause I just graduated from Vancouver School of Plumbin’.
I done learned how to screw, drill, hammer and caulk.
I ain’t seen you in a while so I don’t really wanna talk.
Expensive dress? Three-course dinner? Girl, you better toss it.
We both know I ain’t no lady, but tonight I’m Farrah Faucet.
Lights are low, iPod dock be thumpin’ out some drum and bass,
Suddenly you’re hearin’ somethin’ screamin’ all around the place,
But don’t sweat it ’cause your after-hours plumber’s on the case.
Could it be a loose washer or a busted pressure hose?
A sticky valve or water pipe that cracked because it froze?
A rusty radiator with its on/off knob missin’?
Girl quit makin’ speculations and just take a closer listen:
EeeeeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeEEeeEeeEeEEeEEEEeeeeeeeeeEEEeeeeEEEEEEE
eeeeeeEEEeeeeEEEEEEeeeeEEEeeeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEeeEEeeEEEeeEEEEEEeeeeEEEEEEEEEEE
eeeeEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

This, combined with a song and dance performance (“I’M TWERKING!!!!”) from the Double Threat who’s just moved into the apartment across from mine in the building next door, plus the usual collection of random bangs and thumps from the Captain of Industry upstairs who’s always working hard on his PhD thesis in physics (working title: A Thorough Investigation into the Quantity and Quality of Sounds Produced by Dropping Objects of Various Weights and Textures All Through the Day and Night), made for an unforgettable variety show that I had the great privilege of enjoying free of charge in my apartment yesterday evening. I would sell tickets to these sensational events, if only I knew when they were going to happen. Alas, the best I can do is to describe their magnificence in words after the fact. And if a picture is worth a thousand words, then by the Mathematical Principle of Reciprocalitousness a word is worth 1/1000 of a picture, which makes writing a pretty pointlessly inefficient activity! Wait…

This morning I finally left a note for the future Dr. Thumperson, politely asking him to conduct his academic investigations at more appropriate times, so we’ll see how that develops, but so far it’s exactly the same shit. I’d been putting off confronting him because he’s nothing like the genuinely insane physically abusive pimp/drug dealer/drug taker/drug dealer’s friend who periodically showed up to stay the night/loud girl/loud girl’s yappy chihuahua that I actually felt really sad for even as it barked for eight straight hours a day while locked in the bathroom combo that lived up there previously. He’s just a comparatively normal dude living a comparatively normal life that happens to disturb me at times because of the excellent acoustics in our building, and I don’t want to be all up in his business. But his business has woken me up at least once almost every night for the last six weeks, and this morning’s bowling-ball-like object crashing into the floor directly above my bed at 5:53 a.m. pretty much sealed the deal. I can only hope that he got some compelling measurements and auditory data from that event, because it would suck if its only effect was to wake his downstairs neighbour and send her into a teeth-grittingly-polite-note-writing rage state.

Egging the twerker’s window is next on my to-do list. Thanks to my screenless windows, conditions are perfect. Stay tuned.

Now let’s sing the chorus together! What does the pipe say?

EeeeeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeEEeeEeeEeEEeEEEEeeeeeeeeeEEEeeeeEEEEEEE
eeeeeeEEEeeeeEEEEEEeeeeEEEeeeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEeeEEeeEEEeeEEEEEEeeeeEEEEEEEEEEE
eeeeEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

I Would Seriously Have Sex with Thomas Cromwell Right Now

February 1, 2014

Well it’s already Freburary and that means we’re just two weeks and change away from me turning 34. Gross! The only reason I’m acknowledging this birthday’s existence and permitting it to happen is that I’ll be spending it in Mexico, getting my smug wintertime tan on by the ocean, shaded by the extremely necessary hat I’m going to buy next week (it says COCK and there’s a picture of a rooster!!), reading a novel and drinking 34 margaritas. I had wanted to make them with a bottle of the tequila that Gus Fring uses to kill all those cartel guys, but Google insisted at every turn that it was a fictional brand, so I’ll have to go with my second choice: whatever the duty-free shop is selling.

Unfortunately, before the people of earth unite in joyful, crapulent celebration of my Mexican birthday (Spanish: ¡cumpleaños Mexicanos Meaghanos!), we all must endure the calendar’s most loathsome offering: the Valentimes.

Valentine’s Day is a mandatory opportunity for adult couples to exchange $7 cards, feed each other chocolate covered strawberries, and have romantic pre-ordained intercourse in a bepetaled hotel bed (or at home, whatever). Despite the adult nature of the occasion, there was, and I assume still is, an equally confusing and contrived version for kids as well. I don’t know how it’s done these days, but back in my day, the parents (=mother) of every child aged three to twelve for some reason had to acquire a book or box of valentines. These were assorted small cards each of which featured either an age-inappropriate, outdated-to-a-point-of-meaninglessness expression of affection (“You’re one hot tomato!”) or an age-inappropriate unforgivable pun related to the picture on the card (“You’re MEOWY special! Be mine!” [with a picture of a cat winking suggestively]; “You DRIVE me crazy, valentine!” [with a picture of a car running over a psychiatric patient]).

On the evening of February 13, you would choose one card for each person in your class, and then, using the class list that had been supplied by the teacher, you and/or your parents (=mother) would address each card, making sure not to forget anyone, and the next morning you would take them to school and hand them out. Naturally, that scene got incrementally awkwarder as you got older and by grade six it was an excruciating social nightmare with unspoken rules and hierarchies and secret hidden meanings and complex body language semiotics and exclusions and cliquery and attempted connections and crushed hopes etc.

To this day I don’t understand what the point was of any of that. And now, since I’m not part of an adult couple (despite being one hot tomato!), I am not invited to participate in the $7 chocolate-covered intercourse of my peers. Actually, just hours ago, I had my heart broken by news about the only man I’ve ever loved: Thomas Cromwell as depicted in the historical novels of Hilary Mantel.

I first met the T-Dog in Wolf Hall, where, after a few tense pages of getting his ass kicked, he began his career as a professional outsmarter-of-douchebags, cool-thing-sayer, and wealth-amasser. The word “awesome” gets thrown around a lot these days and can be used to describe anything from a photo of fast food to a successful debit transaction, but Thomas Cromwell is fucking awesome, in the original full-strength sense of the term. Dude walks casually into every situation and knows exactly what to say and do to get the outcome he requires and/or desires. He’s a true captain of industry. He does, gives, and is the business. It tends to take me a while to build a relationship with someone, but I hit it off with Tom right away. By the end of the novel, I’d started planning our wedding (simple Anglican ceremony, big reception with open bar, summer 2015). Bring Up the Bodies just sealed the deal on my love. In my mind I was all like, I would totally date this person. If he bought me a drink I would actually hang out with him past the moment of finishing the drink. By George, I would seriously have sex with Thomas Cromwell right now–provided it was Mantel’s Cromwell character and the relations were conducted in the present day, not back in the 16th century where everyone was crawling with lice and whatnot. This was by far the most romantic thought I’d ever had about anyone.

I was pso psuper psyched all through December and January because I’d read that the final novel of the trilogy was coming out this March. I had a little reminder on my whiteboard to pre-order it, lest a single unnecessary Cromwellless day befall me. Although I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to hang out with him on Valentine’s Day, I looked forward to our spring reunion. What’s a few weeks, right? But then, earlier today, while attempting to find out the exact publication date of the book, I discovered that it has been pushed back into 20fucking15. Cinnamon cocks, that’s like next year or something!

I humbly beg the people of England, in particularly the interviewers and reporters and other types of literary harassers, to please leave Hilary Mantel alone so she can finish writing this book and send it to me. Thomas Cromwell is my soul mate and I’m not getting any younger.

The 6 Biggest Mistakes You Make While Cooking a Turkey

December 9, 2013

It’s that time of year again! The fruitcakes are ringing, the reindeer are singing, and tinsel is glistening on the snowman. Pour yourself a mug of hot buttered cranberry sauce and start feeling self-conscious about being single, because Christmas is coming!

It’s necessary for you to make December 25 perfect for all your family and friends, and cooking a perfect turkey (plus all the trimmings!) is one significant aspect of creating a holiday experience that meets your loved ones’ complex emotional and nutritional expectations. Unfortunately, too many would-be master chefs ruin the occasion for everyone by committing one or more of these “Noel no-no’s”!

1. Forgetting to remove the innards of the turkey. Most turkeys come with a “stocking” full of extras: the liver, gizzard, neck, and other parts that previously belonged to the fully constituted living bird. You may choose to cook up these items separately for the more adventurous guests, or you may opt simply to chop them into pieces and give them to the cat. Either way, be sure to take them out of the bird before stuffing it! Nothing ruins your mother-in-law’s appetite like an unsolicited gizzard on her plate. Nobody at the table will be able to hear your  carefully chosen ambient medley of instrumental Christmas songs over the sound of your embarrassed apologies!

2. Stuffing the turkey with chocolate chunks and marshmallow sauce. We get it–Christmas is a busy time of year, and sometimes you’re “not all there”! But remember: you’re cooking a turkey, not making s’mores! Always take the time to ensure that you are filling the dead bird’s chest cavity only with savoury items: for example, seasoned bread crumbs, onions, and perhaps pine nuts for that extra hint of west-coast pretension.

3. Basting the bird with sulfuric acid (or any corrosive substance). This mistake is similar to #2, but more lethal. Butter is considered an ideal basting agent for many meats, including turkey. You can earn extra “Christmas cred” by adding a blend of tasty spices, or perhaps sea salt, to the melted butter. Trust us: acid basting–sulfuric or otherwise–is taking creativity to a level that your guests will not survive long enough to appreciate.

4. Investing all of your savings into a pyramid scheme or e-mail scam while the bird bakes. Everybody wants to strike it rich without really doing anything, and a little extra money sure would come in handy come January. Still, do your utmost to avoid spending the 20-minute stretches between basting sessions (psst–don’t forget rule #3!) transferring huge amounts of your money to a company or individual with a suspicious back story and/or lengthy history of legal entanglements. That time would be much better spent interacting with your loved ones, perhaps while tossing back a tall glass of your favourite hard liquor.

5. Hardcore making out with a family member as the gravy simmers. We’ve all been there: stressed out, piss drunk, and surrounded by relatives. Christmas is a time to show love to the people who matter most, but no matter how fond you are of that special cousin or sibling, it should never cross the line into erotic territory. Concentrate your attention on transforming the buttery bird juices and scrapings into a gravy that the turkey itself, while still alive, would have been honoured to wear as perfume. If you’re on the receiving end of a family member’s amorous advances, distract him or her with a heartfelt recitation of your favourite poem. Nothing kills the mood like poetry!

6. Carving your guests instead of the bird. You’ve done it: the butter-basted, bread-stuffed, juicy-breasted pièce de resistance is out of the oven and looking perfect, crackly skin and all! Don’t “kill” the moment by turning the knife on your human dinner guests. Keep the Christmas cheer rolling by carving only the turkey, not the people at the table waiting to enjoy it.

It’s that simple! Keep these six easy tips in mind and we guarantee a holiday that will be delicious and memorable in all the right ways! Do YOU have a favourite bird-baking suggestion? We’d love to hear it!

512px-Cooked_Heritage_Turkey

A laid-back turkey relaxes on a plate after a hard day in the oven while Aunt Gertrude’s elbow looks on.

 

100 Books to Die Before You Read

December 8, 2013

Friends and lovers and probably others, good morning or whatever it is for you. Haven’t seen you in a few months. You look the same.

What have I been doing? Not much that deserves mention. Jobshit, friendshit. Some highlights: in October I peed the pants of my mind while watching Anne Carson read poems for 12 minutes. In November I attended what might have been the best pig-themed wedding in world history. A few weeks ago I was shortlisted for a respectable journal’s poetry contest, which I still can’t believe, because come on now, come on, seriously, yeah right. But it happened, irregardless of my mental protests. Submitting to journals is like fishing, in that basically nothing happens. You bait your line (in this case, with poems roughly equivalent to a Five of Diamonds, a Spark-L-Trap, and a Berkley PowerBait Ripple Shad), then you get drunk and wait and wait until you’ve forgotten you were waiting and a tug on your line surprises the shit out of you if it happens at all, which it almost always doesn’t.

One thing I didn’t do this summer, supersadly, was take off my shirt and read poems. There was some creative disagreement. Words of mine were used in ways I wasn’t comfortable with. I just wanted to take off my shirt and read poems. Some day.

And here we are. Four unblogged months, heaven forfend. I feel more and more like not participating in stuff related to “online presence.” It’s out of control, co-opting and plasticizing friendship and creativity. The matterful things of reality are harder and harder to keep a grip on.

Arguably my name should be all over this site, especially in the address, and the photo at the top of the front page shouldn’t be sunset at Waskesiu, SK but a headshot of the author smiling in her natural habitat so visitors would know whose place they’re in, and arguably this blog should be linked to my (nonexistent) Facebook author page and Twitter feed, thus completing the infinite loop of self-promotion whose creation is now supposedly the obligation of any writer who wishes to be taken seriously by the people with the power. But if the snake’s got its own tail in in its mouth, then what nourishes it, and how can it get anywhere? The more I experience of the new online world of marketing and game-playing and unceasing unsubtle suck-uppery and “liking” things that five years ago we would have either simply liked or, more likely, not known about unless we were actually friends with the person to whom the things had happened, the less inclined I feel to share anything real with total/almost-total strangers online, and the more often I find myself fantasizing about buying an island and Salingerizing myself. I don’t mean writing as well as he did, because come on now, seriously, yeah right. I mean living as game-unplayingly as he did. And meanwhile, I feel more and more like writing infrequent blog posts that are well over 500 words long and consistently fail to include numerical lists, embedded links, advice, photos, or logical continuity.

How do things get so fucked up, and is it possible to learn how to know with a decent degree of accuracy which ones can/’t be fucked back down? Can we ever know what’s really going on or what’s really motivating anyone to do anything, when each of us has always seen the world through his/her own differently distorted filter and plus most of us now go about our real lives behind carefully constructed digital versions of ourselves? How is it possible to interact and have conversations and trust and understand each other? Or even recognize each other from one day to the next? Every life is such a chaos, and now, on top of that, it’s pretending it isn’t. Alphabetizing your novels is pretty much the only control you can have over anything. Also, it’s helpful when you want to loan one to somebody.

I’ve just discovered that in the preview to this post, there’s a notification that advertisements may be shown at the end of it unless I pay $30 a year to have them removed. Maybe there were always ads here and I just didn’t know it. What do they advertise? Pens? Rum? Counselling? Cinnamon cocks? If it’s cinnamon cocks then I totally don’t mind.

Spacious and affordable islands are available for purchase; I’ve done some research. There’s a spacious one on the BC coast with a fixer-upper house on it for $100,000. Throw in the cost of the renovations, a reliable motorboat, the assorted island ownership fees and taxes, and (as a friend has pointed out) a composting toilet, and it would be around $200,000 all in. Which is about 80% cheaper than the average house in Vancouver. A writer could fish as much as she wanted and give shirtless readings all summer…

Not Everyone Is Into Pig Bondage

July 31, 2013

I will begin by apologizing to anyone who came here expecting to

  • see pig bondage,
  • hear about pig bondage, and/or
  • find out where to participate in pig bondage.

I don’t plan on discussing any of the above things in this post. But may God guide you on your quest.

Not that anyone needs a reason to write anything, but I’m writing this because I have become involved in a fundraising project one aspect of which is a campaign in which poets will give readings in less clothing than they would usually wear. As soon as I heard about this, I wanted to do it. The only reason that I was consciously aware of as I read the call for participants was: “It would be hilarious to give a poetry reading in my underwear.” I’ve seen “naked” readings advertised around the city in the past and always thought it would be fun/ny, but by the time I found out about it the readers had already been chosen, or the event was dedicated to a genre that I don’t write, or whatever. Now an opportunity to do it had come along, and as there were certain professional affiliations between me and the organizer, I thought it would be worth getting in touch. We chatted, and I soon made a commitment to get on board.

Within a couple of days, my thoughts began to travel past my default setting of unrelenting sexual puns and caustic humour. When I started to think about which of my poems would best suit such a reading, I noticed that only about half were funny ones. As I was out running my usual errands, I noticed places and landmarks that would make a good location for a video reading. I went underwear shopping for, let’s be honest, the first time in years: I rarely do stuff like that because, as I put it to myself, “Why bother? Nobody sees it.”

This all felt like positive change, small steps in a healthier and more balanced direction than I have previously been willing to travel. Plus, I could actually consciously feel my the borders of my voice shifting and expanding when I wrote, and kickass things like that don’t happen every day.

Five minutes before I returned from my shopping trip, a critical post about the campaign appeared on another person’s Facebook wall. It characterized the fundraiser as a gimmicky way to make money through T&A (for the record, this is actually a very G-rated campaign, not that there’s anything wrong with T and/or A) and suggested that the readers were being objectified. Why, it asked, is nudity necessary? Doesn’t your writing stand on its own?

My initial reaction to this was: Cinnamon cocks! How dare you question my integrity and my work, total stranger who doesn’t even know who she’s criticizing?

Not wanting to come across like one of those kids on the Maury show (Help! My Teenage Daughter Is Out of Control!) who swagger onto the stage screaming obscenities as they indiscriminately wave their eff fingers in the air (“You don’t know me! What? What? Whatever! [Beeeeeeeeeeeep!] Whatever, bitch! You don’t know me! You don’t know me! Whatever! Go [beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!] yourself!”), I decided a considered response was in order. Which meant fleshing out (heh) my rage, outrage, and gut-level certainty of this person’s wrongness into something more intelligent than “Cinnamon cocks! How dare you?”

And here, for my own benefit as much as yours, men of Athens, is the long version of that.

I’m not a political person, or at least, not the conventional kind. I don’t wish to be. I have no agenda. I have opinions and beliefs and ethics, some of them very strong, but for the most part I’m more content just to live them than talk or write or argue about them. I have no desire to speak for anyone but myself.

I am a feminist, and for me the meaning of that word is simple: it should be the right and the responsibility of all people to make their own fucking decisions and not let anyone else tell them who the fuck they are or what the fuck they should do with their own lives.

It so happens that women’s relationships with their bodies, and with the bodies of other women, tend not to be positive. Our default setting is to be self-conscious, sometimes ashamed, about who we are physically. Many of us hold ourselves to impossible standards created for the most part by men who are for the most part the kind of douchebags we would roll our eyes at within a few minutes if we met them at a party. At times, we impose our insecurities on each other, or we let them keep us from enjoying things or doing them at all. As far as I’m concerned, this is a shitty deal, and fuck it. I don’t think anyone should feel like a piece of crap because she looks the age that she is, or doesn’t work out every day because she loathes exercise in all of its forms and also is too busy writing amazing poems.

Choosing to remove some or all of one’s clothing is not equivalent to objectifying oneself. Seeing someone in their (if you will excuse the insidiously ungrammatical yet admirably gender-neutral third-person plural pronoun) underwear is not objectifying them. Enjoying a performance that they are giving in their underwear is not objectifying them. Donating money to a good cause so that they will give another performance is not objectifying them. Objectification is the total dick move of trying to disempower and dehumanize someone by focusing only on their body–undressed, dressed, whatever–and deciding to believe that that’s all there is or all that matters. It is a refusal to acknowledge a human being in his/her entirety, an appropriation of another person’s body against that person’s will for one’s own political or sexual or moral purposes, and that’s why it fucking hurts and sucks to be on its receiving end. The comments of the abovementioned person objectified me. The harmless photo shoot I participated in the next day did not.

An aside: I happen to be one of the least objecty people around. For the most part I view myself as a mind that unfortunately has to drag a bunch of annoying other shit around in order to survive. Whatever the opposite of “objectify” is (“disembody,” maybe?), that’s what I do to myself, and it is perhaps as damaging, although in different ways. It affects my relationships negatively, alienates me from others, and at times makes me feel inhuman. So far from being an exhibitionist or coy seductress or whatever it is that I am apparently being imagined as, I have, all my life, gone out of my way to avoid acknowledging my own physical existence. “Why is that?” is a question that this enthusiastic and seemingly out-of-character decision to read poems in my skivvies has forced me to ask myself more directly than I have before. Part of it is that my greatest passions in life–writing, reading, language/s,–are intellectual. But part of it isn’t anything to do with that; it’s some obnoxious kind of shame or fear or mistaken perception or a mix of all of those. In words, I am a very blunt person who has nothing to hide and can’t stand any kind of bullshit. Most of what I write is non-fiction in some form, generally about my own life, and I’m happy to post it online, read it to strangers, and submit it to journals. This MO isn’t for everyone, but it feels natural to me, and I’d like to incorporate (heh) it into the neglected side of my life.

Yes, my writing stands on its own. It’s doing that right now, if you’re still reading. But I also like performing my work, and people seem to like seeing it performed. Performance puts the words into a new context, and in so doing changes their identity. It creates sudden intense relationships: between writer and reader, between performer and audience, between page and voice, and on and on. Every time I read a poem for a different audience, it’s a different experience. If we really wanted and expected words to “stand on their own,” then there would be no literary readings, no music, no movies, no opera, no rap, no comic books… The list is long. Is it “necessary” for me to be in my underwear to give a reading? Of course not. That’s just one of the many reasons why it’s never happened. But I am curious to find out what happens to the words in that context, and I know I can be trusted to create something compelling, human, and appropriately tasteful (or tasteless, depending on the words in question).

Yesterday as my sister was working her mad makeup skillz upon my face, we were complaining about people who criticize things they haven’t taken the time to experience or learn about, or insist on taking things more seriously than they’re clearly intended to be taken. She does burlesque, so whatever flak I get for reading poems in my leopard print gotch has already come her way times ten, and sometimes people e-mail the troupe to criticize the extreme nature of some of the routines. As she more or less put it: “Not everyone is into pig bondage, and that’s fair enough. But we aren’t doing it because we actually think pig bondage is a good thing to do in real life and everybody should go try it. We do it because it’s hilarious.”

Not unlike pig bondage dance routines, the scantily clad poetry under discussion will be creative expression and a bit of fun. It will consist of performances by men and women of all ages who have willingly chosen to do it for their own well-considered reasons. Anyone who’s not into it is more than welcome to ignore it completely and do something else with their time. Anyone who is into it is in for some pretty memorable readings.

Gynecology for Songwriters

May 4, 2013

I like songs, but sometimes it grinds my goat that the men who often sing them seem not to grasp the basics of female anatomy. We can thank Royce da 5’9″ for getting this party started. I discovered him accidentally on iTunes, which is what I now do instead of going to a music store or talking to people. One fine day, chillin’ in my “Recommended for You” list, there was “Writer’s Block.” It had the word “dick” in the chorus twice. SOLD! I discovered a few other smokin’ joints on the same album, including “Where [sic] My Money,” now my standard walking-to-work-on-payday track. (‘Cause I’m stackin’ cake like a baker on crack.)

“ER”–the song in question–is a feast of violent, clinically questionable medical imagery (very) loosely arranged around the concept of Royce resuscitating rap music. Among the lyrics, just before the chorus hits for the first time, is:

We ridin’.

We gon’ W-I-N.

I will check a bitch ass like a OB-GYN.

And every time I listen, my mental reaction to this tricolon is like,

Yeah that’s nice, I like car rides too.

Good luck! Your ambition is commendable.

ROYCE SERIOUSLY WHAT IN THE NAME OF SWEET FROSTED CINNAMON COCKS?

I get that rappers don’t necessarily work closely with editors or fact-checkers, they’re not journalists for crying out loud, but how is it possible that nobody called him on this before the album dropped? A concerned friend could have done it over a leisurely brunch one morning. “Man, you know I love your lyrics, they are tight, but that is not what an OB-GYN is. Have you ever seen a woman before? Asses and vaginas are not the same thing. An ass doctor is called a proctologist. Can I get more hash browns?” Royce would have been all, “Sure, there’s lots. Shit, I think you might be right. What should I do?” “Easy–just change ‘ass’ to ‘pussy.’ Or if you want to preserve the syllable count, how about ‘cunt’; you never hear that word in hip-hop. You’d be a real pioneer! Hey do you want me to soak this frying pan? There’s some potatoes caked on the bottom and it’s gonna be mad difficult to wash.”

Crisis hypothetically averted! Unfortunately, nobody thought to actually initiate this conversation with Royce. Are all his friends intimidated by his height or something? Because 5’9″ is not even that tall.

Next: Kanye West. Yeezy is the John Updike of rap: he’s a douche, but he sometimes writes well. “Monster” is one of his best tracks, with cameos from all kinds of people, including Nicki Minaj doing the most lyrically and vocally competent performance of her career thus far. “Monster” is going along great and then we come to this part, delivered with trademark pomposity by Mr. West himself:

….You will never get on top of this,

so, mommy, best advice is just to get on top of this.

Have you ever had sex with a pharaoh?

Auugghhhh,

put the pussy in the sarcophagus.

I love this verse. It’s my favourite rap lyric about Egyptology, and I still laugh at it two years later (especially because I know what’s coming next and that it ends in “esophagus”: you can probably work out the rest). As he wrote the above, Kanye may or may not have been aware that etymologically sarcophagus means “flesh-eater,” which just, wow. For a rap-loving classicist, it’s a lot to take in (as it were).

But now just try to visualize the metaphor at hand. You have a cock and a pussy, the usual straightforward combination, and the cock has been established as the sarcophagus–but wait, then how can the pussy go in it? Wouldn’t the pussy go around it? But now the metaphor doesn’t work. Fuck. Really, the sarcophagus enters the pussy, but that makes no sense, unless we visualize the pussy as an underground tomb, but now the whole verse needs rewriting and the pharaoh thing is kind of lost… Auugghhhh, indeed.

And finally: the Rolling Stones’ “She’s a Rainbow.” Unarguably the most terrible thing ever written, this “song” combines asinine lyrics with somebody who should know better playing a grating melody, for lack of a more accurate and less complimentary term, one of those little-kid tinny-sounding fucking tiny pianos. I have written in colourful [eye roll] detail about the awfulness of this song, so right now let’s just take a look at this line:

“She comes in colours everywhere.”

No she doesn’t, Mick.

No. She. Doesn’t.

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