Thursday, April 29, 2004

Sometimes, life at Northwestern can be hard. But at least I've never had to do this.


Wednesday, April 28, 2004

On the train

A woman. Tired. Wearing a cream silk blouse; she's approaching 60; she's maybe 37 pages into a new book. A paperclip marks her page. She recites the words as she reads them and casts dirty looks at those on the El who disturb her. She's easily distracted and watches people as they come and go at each stop. She's unhappy that she's getting older and narrows her wrinkling eyes at the younger girls who get on at Merchandise Mart. Indistinguishable words of contempt slip between her lips.

The young girls are socialites. Dressed to impress. Young businessmen happen upon our car at the next stop and form a reconnaitre with the young women. The blond responds vehemently, "Heeey!! What's up guuysss?" She throws the unnecessary emphasis in her greeting. The two young businessmen, early 30-somethings, grasp the bars around her and block other passengers' access to the rest of the aisle. Words bounce around the car between them..."Are you still working at such and such?"--self-important mumbles--"Ha ha ha!!!"... Each young man with his hair gelled back, ties loosened, man-purse/briefcase slung across chests. One chews gum with serious intent and laughs loudest. The other is making progress with the blonde.

The older woman self-consciously touches her hair with her fingertips and glances out the window (not at the old church tower that survived the Great Fire--or so I've been told), but at her own withering reflection.

The young blonde socialite slams her head against the glass as the El lurches in midcourse. All laugh heartily. "Are you already drunk?" the chewer asks. The socialite's friend, seemingly unacquainted, is wearing a shirt from Walmart. I know--because I bought it for ten dollars. In true social-ladder-climbing style, the two girls get off at Armitage.

Standing up, the older woman shuts her book, The DaVinci Code--the uncovered book's spine reveals. She excuses herself and leans over her fellow passenger. At full length, her body reveals an attempt to retain, her stomach reveals a pin and a tuck, her face reveals a shot of Botox, and her scarf-tied waist shrinks as she sucks in her breath through gritted teeth, passing me one last disparaging look before leaving at Fullerton.

The younger corporate gentlemen have positioned themselves again in assertive male form. "How about that shit?" the chewer oozes through a jaunty smirk (that screamed former second-string linebacker). "Ha ha ha..." Long crow's feet crease on the other's face. They reposition again, approaching the door and quietly mulling over their important days.

I almost miss my transfer at Belmont.

They exit with me.


Friday, April 23, 2004

"The Buried Life" by Matthew Arnold

Light flows our war of mocking words, and yet,
Behold, with tears mine eyes are wet!
I feel a nameless sadness o'er me roll.
Yes, yes, we know that we can jest,
We know, we know that we can smile!
But there's a something in this breast,
To which thy light words bring no rest,
And thy gay smiles no anodyne.
Give me thy hand, and hush awhile,
And turn those limpid eyes on mine,
And let me read there, love! thy inmost soul.

Alas! is even love too weak
To unlock the heart, and let it speak?
Are even lovers powerless to reveal
To one another what indeed they feel?
I knew the mass of men concealed
Their thoughts, for fear that if revealed
They would by other men be met
With blank indifference, or with blame reproved;
I knew they lived and moved
Tricked in disguises, alien to the rest
Of men, and alien to themselves - and yet
The same heart beats in every human breast!
But we, my love! - doth a like spell benumb
Our hearts, our voices? - must we too be dumb?

Ah! well for us, if even we,
Even for a moment, can get free
Our heart, and have our lips unchained;
For that which seals them hath been deep-ordained!

Fate, which foresaw
How frivolous a baby man would be--
By what distractions he would be possessed,
How he would pour himself in every strife,
And well-nigh change his own identity--
That it might keep from his capricious play
His genuine self, and force him to obey
Even in his own despite his being's law,
Bade through the deep recesses of our breast
The unregarded river of our life
Pursue with indiscernible flow its way;
And that we should not see
The buried stream, and seem to be
Eddying at large in blind uncertainty,
Though driving on with it eternally.

But often, in the world's most crowded streets,
But often, in the din of strife,
There rises an unspeakable desire
After the knowledge of our buried life;
A thirst to spend our fire and restless force
In tracking out our true, original course;
A longing to inquire
Into the mystery of this heart which beats
So wild, so deep in us - to know
Whence our lives come and where they go.
And many a man in his own breast then delves,
But deep enough, alas! none ever mines.
And we have been on many thousand lines,
And we have shown, on each, spirit and power;
But hardly have we, for one little hour,
Been on our own line, have we been ourselves--
Hardly had skill to utter one of all
The nameless feelings that course through our breast,
But they course on for ever unexpressed.
And long we try in vain to speak and act
Our hidden self, and what we say and do
Is eloquent, is well - but 'tis not true!
And then we will no more be racked
With inward striving, and demand
Of all the thousand nothings of the hour
Their stupefying power;
Ah yes, and they benumb us at our call!
Yet still, from time to time, vague and forlorn,
From the soul's subterranean depth upborne
As from an infinitely distant land,
Come airs, and floating echoes, and convey
A melancholy into all our day.

Only - but this is rare -
When a beloved hand is laid in ours,
When, jaded with the rush and glare
Of the interminable hours,
Our eyes can in another's eyes read clear,
When our world-deafened ear
Is by the tones of a loved voice caressed--
A bolt is shot back somewhere in our breast,
And a lost pulse of feeling stirs again.
The eye sinks inward, and the heart lies plain,
And what we mean, we say, and what we would, we know.
A man becomes aware of his life's flow,
And hears its winding murmur; and he sees
The meadows where it glides, the sun, the breeze.

And there arrives a lull in the hot race
Wherein he doth for ever chase
That flying and elusive shadow, rest.
An air of coolness plays upon his face,
And an unwonted calm pervades his breast.
And then he thinks he knows
The hills where his life rose,
And the sea where it goes.


Tuesday, April 20, 2004

My Favorite

After a long discussion with Lindsay, Mona, and Matt last week about "favorites," I have mulled over my lack of favorites.

When I was little, I had a favorite direction. I remember choosing it. My mom and I were exiting I-275 at the Forest Fair Mall, we could turn either direction once we reached the light at the top of the exit. My mom chose right. It seemed to me (I was just getting ready to enter kindergarten at the time), that everyone ALWAYS chose right. Four year old girl logic told me that people just chose "right" because it was "right"--you know, correct. How unjust and cruel. Left deserved so much more, and thus, I took left under my wing and adopted it as my favorite direction. This favorite persisted for a number of years until it became impractical, for turning left repeatedly only leads one in circles.

Otherwise, I have never really liked choosing favorites. I think the American underdog nature in me has driven me refuse to choose a "favorite" or a "best." Instead, I wander in the grey and choose neither white nor black.

So in this manner I've spent the last week, contemplating favorites and trying to choose. Suddenly today, by chance, I remembered in conversation that I do, in fact, have ONE favorite. Only one, and even this favorite could be replaced, but it has remained as my favorite for a number of years.

Therefore, without anymore delay, my one favorite is my favorite holiday--

The Fourth of July

For me, no holiday compares. I know that, hey, if you're not American, it's a shame, this isn't your holiday. Perhaps this makes me a narrow-minded American asshole, but whatever, screw the rest of the world (I'm only kidding, friends!). I guess the freedom of the day, not even the holiday, makes it such a great experience. There are no obligations--no gifts to give, no necessary food to cook, no spending if you don't want, there's nothing you have to do at all. I spend each Fourth of July with my family and friends, making cakes with vanilla frosting, strawberries, and blueberries. I sit out on favorite spot, my peach porch, let my cats play outside on their blue and red leashes, and put little American flags in breaks between bricks on our patio. The cats usually grab at the flags with their teeth and pull them out, a new toy. Even my cats love this holiday. The rest of the day, I spend either with my family or a friend's, eating good old contrived American food like hamburgers and hot dogs, filling myself up and then the best part of the day...The Close-to-Accosting American Spirit Drive. My parents and/or friends and I all pile in a car, drive slowly around neighborhoods, wave American flags out the windows, and yell: "Happy Fourth of July!!" or sing songs like "Fifty Nifty United States" until it gets dark. We light sparklers, write our names with them, and then run down into my lawn that stretches to the street, looking down over the town and watching the fireworks. The night usually ends, sprawled on my porch with the scent of our flower baskets pervading the heat and fireflies sparkling the night. Late night talks and stories drift into the night until a completely satisfied slumber blankets all.


Monday, April 19, 2004

Would I explain this wild dream
This surreptitious sly escape
And open jungle jaws agape
Indulging flashing eyes that gleam

A long-haired figure in twisting vine
Caught by ankle and by wrist
Heatedly waiting a lovers’ tryst
Cheeks flushed the warmth of wine

He caught her figure in the fray
Somehow he sought her out
Brushing--lips that will stay
Between--words of doubt

Dropping a smile at her feet
He kissed them as he passed
A laugh fell flat in jungle grass
And she faltered in the heat

Hazy in humid fog it seems
Strange lovers--their touch reshapes
Tangled greens--her skin, it scrapes
And tears catch in jungle streams


Wednesday, April 14, 2004

The Wind Will Carry Us

I fell in love with a movie that I didn't expect to. Abbas Kiarostami's The Wind Will Carry Us was definitely a pleasant surprise on an otherwise fairly ordinary Tuesday night. I felt inspired last night to leave everything and catch a flight to Tehran, to go anonymously into the night, and slip into the golden warmth of Iran, spotted with the color of its people.

in my small night, what mounting
wind has a rendezvous with the trees'
in my small night, there is terror
of desolation

listen! do you hear
the wind of darkness howling?
I watch breathless
-ly and wondrously this alien happiness
I am addicted to my own hopelessness
listen! listen well!
can you hear the darkness
howling? -- the dark hell
-wind scything
its way towards us?

in the night now, there is something
the moon is red restless and uneasy
and on this roof -- which fears
any moment
-- it may cave in --
clouds like crowds of mourners
await to break in rain
a moment
and then after that, nothing.
behind this window, night shivers
and the earth stands still
behind this window an unknown
something fears for me and you
O you who are green from head to toe!
put your hands
-- like a burning
memory into my loving hands --
lover's hands!
entrust your lips -- your lips
like a warm sense of being! --
entrust! -- your lips to the caresses of my
-- loving lips -- lover's lips!
the wind will carry us

--Foroogh Farrokhzaad (1935-1967)
the wind will carry us


Wednesday, April 7, 2004

This is what my life looks like right now:


Thursday, April 1, 2004

April Fool's

I didn't want realism anyway; I wanted things to be highly coloured, simple in outline, without ambiguity, which is what most children want when it comes to the stories of their parents. They want a postcard." --Margaret Atwood

My parents were engaged today, 21 years ago. My dad hasn't changed his style. Of course he'd propose on April Fool's Day. Oh, Dad. My mom sent an email completely reliving the moment and their celebration dinner that night at The Casbah, down on Clark. Sometimes I forget my parents preceded me. I love being reminded by them that they did. I love knowing that even in this area, my parents were here. It gives me even more reassurance that I'm not out of my element, being six hours away from home. Even Bennison's, where they bought their wedding cake, and Seville Flowers on Sherman, where they got their flowers for both their wedding and my baptism, are just a hop down the street. I love knowing this. I want to go to my old neighborhood and walk around. I clearly remember the stones that lined the street. I bumped into one when learning how to ride my bike--light lavender, a plastic basket adorned with a yellow and purple flower, and training wheels. I also remember them from Halloween, when I wore a dirnel, not that I knew what it was then. I held onto my sister's hand and jumped up on them as she swung me up by my arm. That night, I shoved my arm into a paper grocery bag, got it cut close to the armpit from trying to reach into the bottom. I managed to pull out M&M's. They came in boxes then. Dark brown boxes that had the logo printed diagonally across the length of it. My dad said he'd eat all my candy. I didn't realize he was joking, and ate as quickly as I could from my own bag. Everything fades from there into the burnt, scratched and tarnished wood table where I sat at the head, kneeling so I could reach it.