Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Power Struggle

I think of myself as a pretty reasonable person as I don’t have very many dislikes and am usually up for anything. Besides stupid and inconsiderate people, the only thing I really hate is heat...or more precisely, being hot.

I grew up in the mountains, with six feet of snow; and when it didn’t snow, it rained; and when it didn’t rain, the sun would only occasionally peek out from behind the clouds as if it was shy to show its glowing face. I loved it because I got to wear furry boots, cozy sweaters, and sip on Earl Grey with milk and honey all day long. So why do I live in Indio where the temperatures in the summer can easily reach 120F, you ask? Good question. I’ll get back to you on that one as soon as I figure it out.

Every summer I suffer as the heat thickens the blood in my veins, which in turn set off migraines that can last up to several days at a time. But I don’t panic. Migraines are not something I can’t handle. I just drink plenty of water, turn the a/c way down, close the shutters, and try to sleep them off. What I can’t handle and immediately panic is when my toes begin to sweat. Yes, that part of the body actually sweats. I found that out just a little while ago when my neighborhood experienced a power outage.

As soon as I heard the CLICK, I lost all self control, which I’m known to maintain under any terrifying circumstances. I began dialing the power company at will. To no avail, of course, since the whole neighborhood probably had the same idea and tied up the phone lines, so all I got was the busy signal. And while the sweat was oozing down my back, into my panties [oh, yeah, graphic details here, this is rated R], straight through my ass-crack, only to rest in my nomad’s land, my loving husband decided to turn on his Pandora and start playing Ziggy Marley’s When the Lights Gone Out. At first I was too preoccupied with the small pools of sweat filling up between my toes and thighs, all the while thinking how long it would be before I’d have to change (or just take off) my underwear, so I didn’t realize what he was doing. But when he continued his power outage concert with Some Like It Hot by Robert Palmer and Glenn Frey’s The Heat Is On, I got really fed up and told him that if he wanted some “butter” after the power came back on, he’d better play some Ice, Ice Baby! He must not have been able to find the iconic Vanilla Ice because soon after my threat I heard: I’m dreaming of a white Christmas...and voilà, the power turned on!

A sigh of relief and my panic-threshold-restored-to-its-normal later, I figured that the next time I feel powerless because of a power outage I’ll just put on some Christmas songs and wait to get a “cool” gift.

Monday, August 27, 2012

If the Pant Fits...

After store-hopping for almost a week and looking through a thousand pairs of hideously bedazzled, awkwardly studded, and purposely shredded jeans (about which Billy said: “It looks like a cat scratched them!”), I have one question. What the hell is going on in the world of children’s fashion? When it comes to adults, I’m used to seeing clothes that only fit either the skin-and-bones models, whose breasts double as M&Ms and their asses moonlight as cast-iron flat plates known as comals (so get your tortillas ready) or morbidly obese people, whose clothes are really made of bed sheets with busy patterns in order to distract the attention from what is hidden underneath.
But what about the children? To be more precise, what about girls who grew out the “girls” size but are not quite the “juniors” size either? Why is it so difficult to find a nice and comfortable pair of jeans that would fit the developing body of a tween like my daughter? After rummaging through hangers and shelves of all the stores at the malls and boutiques in various plazas, we came home with only three pairs of jeans that had a somewhat acceptable fit and appearance.
Finally, upon my sister-in-law’s advice, Viktoria and I decided that our last resort would be a visit to Wal-Mart. We haven’t been to that store in over a year, and I was reminded why. Not one employee speaks English, out of twenty-four cash registers only two are open, a woman from the PhotoStudio, located across from the registers, chases you through the isles to get you to take your children’s photos after shopping, and after you’ve purchased three items (dishwashing tabs, sponges, and Palmolive—no pants, of course, that would be wishful thinking), the cashier/bagger somehow manages to put them into seven different plastic bags! You know you won’t be seeing me at Wal-Mart for at least another year.
To conclude today’s conundrum, here’s a challenge to all those smarty pants (pun intended) on the reality shows like Project Runway or What Not to Wear or whatever other reality crap there is: come up with something into which the girls going through their “ugly stage” will fit and feel comfortable and pretty for at least one fucking day! It’s difficult enough to watch them struggle with their “new body" image, and to watch them struggle into pants only adds to the frustration. Now just imagine the improvement in their mood and self esteem if the pant fits...

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Woman on the Moon

“That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” 
                                    ~ Neil Armstrong, 10:56 pm EDT on 7/20/1969  
Though this beautiful sentence had been uttered nine years before I was born, it has had a huge impact on my life. Even before I became familiar with Apollo 11’s mission to the Moon, I was infatuated by the Cosmos. I dreamed of becoming the first woman astronaut and religiously studied everything there was to know about the celestial bodies, cosmic laws and theories, types of telescopes, types of spacecrafts...I even spun in circles for long periods of time just to get myself ready for the astronaut training in which I wanted to prove that I wouldn’t get dizzy in case my spacecraft entered an unexpected vortex or a wormhole.  
I remember exactly what sparked my desire for such an out-of-this-world occupation. Night swimming. Every night before I went to sleep I stared at the sky. My bedroom window was on the sixth floor, so the light from the street lamps didn’t quite get the chance to pollute my view. The apartment building in which my family lived was one of the very first ones in the new development that grew like mushrooms after a heavy rain in an area that was mostly fields of potatoes and hills with small forests. This sort of seclusion from the rest of the city granted privacy, silence, and (on cloudless nights) spectacular possibilities to observe the night sky.
I would lie motionless on top of my blanket and gaze past the Moon, into the vast blackness above me just before I dozed off. My body would get into an odd, trance-like state as I felt myself lift off the bed and hover just above it even though my legs, arms, and torso felt like they were made of lead. Then, I would close my eyes and swim off into space. I was (and still am) an excellent swimmer. The frog-like kicks of my breaststrokes would propel me from my bed, out of the window, and high up above our twelve story apartment building. I would hover for a while above the potato fields, the tips of the trees, then, with more kicks synchronized with the movements of my arms, I would swim up through the dark sky, past the last layer of Earth’s atmosphere, out of the orbit, and far, far away where our known Universe expands into a never ending blackness filled with clusters of light that only I could reach. Eventually.
As I grew older, my desire to become the first woman astronaut (could the world handle a woman on the Moon?) grew stronger; however, the rude awakening that came in the form of the realization that I lived in a small communist country (Czechoslovakia at the time) where such dreams were actually threatening nightmares to a political regime which emphasized that women should only be teachers or doctors or nurses or cooks or [insert any other occupation whose fundamental role is to take care of or to cater to others] shattered my dream, and as soon as the Iron Curtain came down and I decided to flee to the country of the free, I was too old to realize my childhood dream.
And so it is my deepest desire that when I die, I’d like my ashes to be taken out of the Earth’s orbit and scattered amongst the cosmic matter where they can float off to the farthest reaches of space and twinkle in the light emitted from the billions of stars that illuminate our Universe. 

The Horror; the Peace.
Dark void with Flares.

Velocity? Time?
Your guess—as good as Mine.
The Unknown; the Fear.
Surrender within.


 God Speed, Mr. Neil Armstrong! (8. 5. 1930 – 8. 25. 2012)
What did you see on the far side of the Moon?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Poe on the Pill

Last night I had a minor crisis out of which crazy ideas developed in my mind and brought me to the realization that my dog is trying to sabotage my decision not to have any more kids. Let me give you my perspective on what has happened and what is happening.
My dog, Poe—yes, he was named after Edgar Allan Poe, duh!—is an adopted little runt who is a mixture of a Cocker Spaniel and something else (no one knows what). He was de-balled on the day we brought him home, so everything is good there. He’s not chasing female dogs although he still has a tendency to do an occasional humping. I guess it’s some sort of a reflex or an innate nature thing. Anyway, I think that because he can’t have any offspring (and perhaps he wants to) he is trying to jinx me!
I am perfectly content with my daughter and son (two of each to balance out the Universe) and do not want to have any more children. I’m taking all the necessary precautions, of course, but how do you fight fate?
My wonderful friend, Paula Stinson, who is a fantastic photographer and who can give you guidance through reading cards, came over not too long ago, and we had ourselves a little session. She’d asked me whether I’m planning to have any more children. “No way,” I said adamantly. To that she replied that the cards show another child as a strong possibility in my future, so if I don’t want any I’d better be careful.
Great! Now I have more battles to fight. Until now I only had to ward off my husband, children, and relatives who try to convince me on any occasion that one more baby is exactly what I need. Now I have to take on the whole fate thing AND my dog because last night he decided that it would be fun to see me freak out. He ate my birth-control pills (don’t ask me how he got them, I don’t know; what I do know, however, is that he is a sneaky little scheizter and always gets what he wants). He didn’t eat many, so I didn’t take him to the vet. What would I say anyway? That my dog doesn’t protect; he is using protection? Okay, so I monitored him last night and everything was good. He slept like a baby, he woke up without waking me up (which is odd; he usually nibbles on my fingers until I get up), though he did jump up on my bed, lay his head on my breast, and went back to sleep.
This morning, however, he keeps going in and out of the house, and just a little while ago he brought me a piece of stale bread he must have hidden somewhere in the back yard a very, very long time ago, for it looked all bent and curved like someone in the fetal position.

So, let’s recap the signs that are quite obvious from my standpoint.
* Poe is adopted (suggests parenting)
* He is a Cocker Spaniel + (go figure that one)
* Has no balls, thus no reproductive system, but is humping (showing me how things are to be done?)
* The cards show another child
* Poe eats my source of being careful
* After that sleeps like a baby
* Lies on my breast (breastfeeding?)
* Keeps running in and out of the house (in/out is a very suggestive motion, don’t you think?)
* Brings me a fetus-shaped bread
Please tell me that I’m being paranoid! I’ve tried to talk to my dog about these coincidences, but all he does is smile. Or do you think he’s laughing at me?  

Friday, August 17, 2012

Whoot If You've Met an "Owl"

As the school year quickly approaches, I'd like to share an invaluable piece of advice with all of you who are going to take English classes and dread writing compositions: The only time you can plagiarize and get away with it is if you have teacher like Owl. A perv that is.

        PROFESSOR OWL was a very peculiar man. He was the type of person whose age one could never guess. He always wore his signature tweed jacket with leather elbow patches. It gave the impression that he was well built when in fact he was very fragile. His egg-shaped head hosted seriously receding ash colored hair that had a mind of its own. It always seemed to want to escape that silly head, falling into every direction possible and impossible. Owl’s eyebrows were the most unforgettable brows I’d ever seen. They were at least two inches long, wiry, and just sticking out above his grey eyeballs, pointing in an upside-down V shape. They connected in the middle in order to prevent the tiny forehead from collapsing and injuring Owl’s anomalous pear nose. I dare not say much about the ears; they were so large (and ears never stop growing), they would probably hear me today. And Owl’s lips? Nonexistent. I believe they were just a small opening in the professor’s face out of which words escaped. Those words must be lingering in the classroom to this day since no one ever listened.

     Owl was definitely the kind of professor I wanted to feel sorry for. How can anyone not feel empathy toward a man of that exterior? But as they say: don’t judge the book by its cover.

     Not even a month into my freshman year I realized that Owl was a perv. Despite the fact that I wasn’t the only one to observe Owl’s deviation, none of us girls complained. It wasn’t something people did growing up in a Communist country of the Eastern Block. We were raised to be creative in dealing with situations at hand, as long as we kept our mouth shut. And since the Iron Curtain was lifted only a year ago, and we were just starting to assimilate to the dawn of our post-Communist era, we learned to endure Owl’s sleazy, drooling stares for the entire four years of Literature and Composition he taught. He had plenty of time for always loving us girls.

     Owl wasn’t picky. He loved all the fat ones, thin ones, girls with or without make up, girls with heels, sandals, boots…but mostly girls with mini-skirts. Sadly, guys were irrelevant in his class. No matter how hard a boy may have tried, no matter how brilliant his writing was, he would never get an A.

     I only got to enjoy Owl’s class after I had tucked all my mini-skirts and other girlie clothes into the very back of my wardrobe and wore only the biggest and baggiest ones I could find. This diversion helped me escape Owl’s indecent stares and enabled me to experience a liberation I could only find through writing which I loved ever since I learned how to spell. It took a while, but finally Owl recognized my writing as excellent, and I never really had to worry about not getting good grades. That wasn’t the case with all the girls, however. Soon enough, most of them realized that in order to secure a good grade, all they had to do was to show a little leg here and there. And they got quite comfortable doing it. They wore the shortest skirts even in the coldest months.

     One April Friday of our senior year, just weeks before the end of the term, Professor Owl was in one of his extraordinary loving moods.

     “Alright, my precious girlies, today I have something special for you.” He turned toward the blackboard and began writing so passionately white chalk dust soared everywhere. He finally stepped aside, and that small opening in his face gave what looked like a mischievous smile.



     Everyone around me immediately started protesting.

     “We already have mountains of study guides to go through!”

     “Finals are three weeks away!”

     “It’s the weekend!”

     Owl shook his egg-head and buried his pear into his favorite literary journal. It was obvious that there would be no further discussion of the subject, and everyone might as well just shut up.

      I’ve always been a procrastinator. I was clearly aware of this terrible habit yet somehow I never managed to make time for ….well, time. However, on this particular occasion I said to myself that working on my assignment right after school would be a perfect opportunity to break free of my awful habit. As my fate had it, I didn’t get to it until Sunday night because I just had to do other things like: Friday after school - ZOO with my friends, where I got stoned for the very first time while watching the elephant exhibit; Friday night – serious munchies and loss of focus; Saturday morning and afternoon – the X-Files marathon; and Saturday night – the Rock Club, into which Nikolaj (a foreign exchange student from Russia who came to live with my family during my freshman year and oddly enough never left) basically forced me.

     Nikolaj and I shared our last period, History, in which he sucked (he also sucked in our Literature and Composition class but didn’t worry because all his assignments were always neatly written by Annie, his girlfriend; all he had to do was copy them in his own handwriting). I sat behind him and watched his speckled neck, trying to figure out whether I could write a story about Russian crop circles forming underneath his blond curls. My view was distorted when he turned around and announced that my parents were going up to the cabin this weekend (something they, yet again, neglected to mention to me), and that he wants to take Anna and me out to the Rock Club on Saturday night. 

     “Three’s a crowd if you know what I mean,” I said out loud. There was no need to whisper. Everyone knew that our History professor was deaf, though I sometimes wondered whether his hearing impairment wasn’t just a convenient way to ignore us punks.

     “Don’t act stupid,” said Nikolaj. “Come on! You’re always such a party pooper.”

     “No, I’m not! Anyway, I won’t feel right. You’re gonna be humping all over Annie again, just making me sick.”

     “I promise I won’t hump Anna in front of you.” Nikolaj turned around.

     I thought about his invitation for a while but figured that I’d feel awkward hanging out with a horny couple. I poked Nikolaj’s back with my pen. He turned around again.

     “I think it’s better if only you two go, just have fun, I’m going to work on my assignment.”

     “Nonsense, you’re coming with!” Nikolaj shouted so loudly that even the professor looked away from the blackboard.

     “Is there a problem?” he asked, eyeing Nikolaj.

     “Yes, sir, there actually is.”    

      The bored classmates immediately lifted their heads to hear this one.     

     “This girl behind me keeps asking me out,” Nikolaj pointed his thumb at me without even turning around. “Now, I’ve told her many times that I’m not interested, yet she keeps insisting, and now she’s even threatening to cheat off my exam if I don’t go out with her.”

     What an idiot! I felt my cheeks flush when the professor looked at me. Then I realized that he was trying to control a smile. With a crooked lip he said, “Don’t cheat off his exam. The best he’d ever gotten was a D.”
     I’d never been to the Rock Club before. I’d passed it on the street numerous times, but never for a second would I have imagined the secret this building hid inside. From outside it was just an ordinary, neatly painted, single-story cube. It was surrounded by perfectly trimmed rose bushes and tall birch trees with wooden benches underneath them. Inside, however, was the complete opposite of neatness. The walls were painted black and grey with lots of half torn posters of various rock bands. The bar was on the wall facing the entrance door. There were no tables or chairs. People sat on large cement blocks arranged into a stadium seating, lining the three remaining walls. The dance floor wasn’t really a floor; it was a smoothed out surface filled with sand. The lights suspended from the ceiling were very dim, and the beams had to always fight their way through the cigarette smoke. The overall image was that of a grunge-looking room. People here didn’t worry about what they were wearing or how their make-up and hair looked. These people didn’t hide behind brand name shirts. They didn’t try to impress anyone. They were real, non-pretending, no bull shit people. I felt right at home.

     The three of us arrived well before ten, which apparently was not the time rockers come out to play. At least we didn’t have to fight for drinks at the bar. By eleven thirty Annie and I already had two rounds of margaritas; Nikolaj worked on “I lost count” vodka on the rocks, and people finally started showing up. I looked toward the entrance door to see if I recognized any familiar faces. When I turned around Nikolaj was already making his sickening moves on Annie. I pierced him with my eyes. He backed off.

     “I know, I said I’ll behave,” he shrugged.

     “I gotta pee,” I smirked and got up off the cement block, making my way to the restroom.

     “Wait, I’ll go with you,” shouted Annie, her thin, Bambi-like legs clumsily battling the large blocks as she ran down toward me.

     The restroom was dark as well. There were only two cabins. One black, one red – out of order.

     “I really need to go now,” I raised my eyebrows.

     “Oh, you go ahead, I don’t have to... I just wanted to come with you.”

     Annie sighed.

     “What’s the matter?” I asked through the black door of my pee-pee cabin.

     “It’s just that Nikolaj’s had a lot to drink… and he never lasts long enough when ... you know…”

     “My god, Annie, that’s too much info. I don’t really care to know your guys’ sex life!”                                         
     “I’m sorry, it’s just… I don’t have anyone to talk to about these kinds of things.”     

     I came out of the cabin and yelled over the flushing toilet, “First of all, you’re only fourteen. You shouldn’t even be doing those kinds of things. And Nikolaj’s stupid for doing them with you.”                
      Annie stared at me in the mirror while I washed my hands. She nervously raised her tiny shoulders and took a deep breath, “Who do you talk to about that stuff?”

     “My friends from class…” I replied, uninterested.

     Annie’s eyes widened. She obviously wanted me to continue. Suddenly, she looked so innocent and delicate, like a small child waiting for a good story. I should have taken her home and tucked her in. Instead, I obliged.

     “We get together during recess at the back of the room around the last desk. There, all the girls share their dirty stories and secrets. Last week, for example, we talked about ‘who’d slept with the oldest guy?’ It was Gabriella. Hers is sixty.”

     “Yuck,” coughed Annie.

     “I know! Gabriella works at a pub as a waitress after school. The old man and his wife own it. Gabi was saying how nice the wife is to her. She even told her that Gabi’s like the daughter she never had. And how does Gabi repay her? She sleeps with her man.”

     Annie’s eyes were now fixed at mine. She was breathing heavily. I had to deliver.

     “A couple of days ago, that old man brought Gabi to school. They were making out in his car right in front of the main entrance. People were looking and pointing at them out of the windows. Some were even whistling. Then the bell rang. Gabi jumped out of the car and sprinted up the stairs to get to the classroom. Our teacher was already sitting at her desk checking the attendance sheet. Without even lifting her eyes she said: ‘Your grandfather must love you very much!’”

     Annie gasped, then laughed, then clapped. “Wow, your friends must be fun to share stories like that.”

     “Your friends are probably fun too... you’re just a bit ahead of them.”

     By the time Annie and I returned from the restroom, Nikolaj was no longer sitting alone. There were two guys and a girl by his side. The girl looked familiar. I’d seen her downtown a few times. She was quite distinctive: black witch-kind-of-clothes, dark make-up, piercings as far as the eye could see - a complete Goth chick, kind of scary, really. We didn’t have very many of those in our town.

     “This is Laura, Matt, and Rob.” Nikolaj introduced his friends, then Annie and me.

      Laura lit her cigarette and pointed it at me. “I’ve seen you before.”

     “I’ve seen you too.” You’re hard to miss, I wanted to add but kept my mouth shut, although Laura kept pointing her cigarette at me. Was I supposed to keep talking? I sat there tensed, with nothing else to contribute, at least nothing concerning Laura because I was afraid that she might put a spell on me, and turn me into a fly or a frog or something like that. I knew nothing of her type of people and frankly, she scared me. Finally, after an uncomfortable eternity, Nikolaj pointed to the sand floor, “Let’s go dance!”

     “I don’t dance,” Laura put out her cigarette, “but I do drink. Come on.” She grabbed the quite normal-looking Matt by his elbow and dragged him toward the bar.

     Rob smiled at me, “They’re an interesting couple.”

     I exhaled. “Freaky, if you ask me.”

     By the end of the night, I found out that Rob was actually a year and a half younger than me. How disappointing. He was tall, with long, straw colored hair tucked behind his ears. It was really kind of sexy. He could have… should have lied about his age. I grabbed Nikolaj by the head and whispered in his ear, “Now we’re both cradle robbers...but you’ll be the one wearing striped pajamas.”

      I didn’t get out of bed until Sunday night. With mad hair and a splitting, margarita headache, I walked through the living room where mom and dad were watching something on the liar box. They shook their heads and snickered as I dizzily made my way to the kitchen. Nikolaj was sitting at the table, copying a story Annie had written for him. I took two aspirins, made an Earl Grey and a toast with jam. Watching Nikolaj, I began to slightly panic.

     “Nikolaj, what the hell am I supposed to write about?”

     He looked up from his paper and shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know, write about that clock,” he pointed above his head, and as he finished the sentence, the cuckoo came out announcing eight p.m. I sighed and slouched by him on the long wooden bench. As I sipped my tea, over the mug’s rim and the steam I noticed the Sunday paper folded behind the breadbox on the kitchen counter.

     “Hmm, I wonder…” I thought aloud, grabbed the paper, and spread it open all over the table.

     “Move!” Nikolaj pushed the inserts that ended up on his assignment.

     “Look at this!” I spotted a large title on the front page of the Sunday inserts which were usually filled with crossword puzzles, jokes, cartoons, and stories from beginning writers. I snatched the newspaper off the table. I wasn’t mistaken. Calling to me in large, black Verdana font on the front page of the inserts was a story begging me to be read: “Suitcase on the Train Station.”

     It was amazing. So good in fact, I wanted it to be my own. My aching brain suggested that I copy it and present it as my story to Professor Owl. But I was always such a lame goody two-shoes when it came to school rules. I was afraid that I would get busted for plagiarism. What if Professor Owl read this story in his Sunday paper?

     “Nikolaj, do you think Owl reads this newspaper?”

     “Doubt it, he always lugs around that obnoxious magazine. Nothing else is good enough for him.”

     Nikolaj was right. I went for it, I stole the story. I didn’t want to copy it word for word, and so I made a few adjustments. No one would ever know. My labor paid off. I ended up with a beautiful, melancholic story about a suitcase that was left on the train station all by itself. It was filled with dirty laundry, and its zippers were tearing open to get some fresh air because it was being suffocated by all the stinky socks. Finally, the sad suitcase spat the laundry out all over the rails. It cried and cried, until someone picked it up and took it to where all the sad suitcases meet, the suitcase heaven, the Lost and Found. I was so proud of myself. I felt like I actually improved the story.

     Two days after turning in our compositions, I received a big red A+, a compliment from Owl, and all was well…until next Monday.

     Owl rushed into the classroom just as the bell rang. His bushy brows were pointing straight at me, his pear was shiny, his hole completely disappeared. I don’t know where Owl’s words were coming from, but I definitely knew where they were headed. I got bombarded by his hysterical outburst.

     “I was very unpleasantly surprised, when another girlie from the classroom next door turned in her composition on the same object. She, too, wrote about a sad, little suitcase forgotten at the train station.”

     Someone turned off time.

     That girl must be an idiot…stealing my story! Aren’t there other Sunday papers? Why did she choose this one?    

     Owl released me from the time warp, “I found the newspaper insert from which you two copied your work, and you both have an F.”

     My first F ever!

     “But Professor,” I tried defending myself, “that suitcase in the newspaper had just some stupid books in it. Mine had dirty laundry… and stinky socks… and it went to heaven…”

     “My grade is final!” Smirked Owl, and just to rub it in he wrote a large, red F in his notebook right in front of my face. “And for the record, I will be speaking to the administration. Plagiarism is not taken lightly and many before you were expelled because of it.”

     First F ever… and a possible expulsion from school all in one day?  F…Fuck!

     I moped around the house all afternoon. I wanted to fix the miserable situation in which I was drowning. How could I convince Owl to change my grade? I couldn’t come up with anything. I was livid with my brain whose proposal to steal the story got me into trouble in the first place. And now it didn’t want to cooperate and think of something to get me out of this mess. I shut that good-for-nothing organ off and went to bed.

     I woke up early. I tried to act as if everything was at its usual, uninteresting state, but my breakfast tasted like cardboard, my mind kept replaying Owl’s outburst, and just then the stupid cuckoo came out to make its usual ruckus. Six a.m., with it… a sudden epiphany. I grabbed a pen and paper, moved my plate aside, and wrote a story about a clock whose hands put out an ad, looking for a pair of legs. Then, snickering, I walked into my bedroom and reached into the very back of my wardrobe. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Go Ahead, Judge the Book by Its Cover

Everyone knows that I am a big, fat bookworm. I’ve loved reading ever since I knew how to read. By the time I was twelve, I’d read a pretty good variety of titles from King, to Shakespeare, to Neruda (the Czech Neruda; the poet Pablo Neruda “borrowed” the former one’s name some years later), to the very speculative Däniken—thus my love for aliens, but about that some other time. During the years I devoted to reading and studying literature, I realized something odd: The uglier the cover, the better the book. And although I was always taught never to judge the book by its cover, I figured that I would do the exact opposite for today’s blog. I looked through my library and gathered some of my all time favorites (in random order) and decided to have some fun. I asked four children to tell me what they thought the following books were about just by looking at their covers.
Note: Please don’t let the children’s descriptions discourage you from actually picking up and reading these literary wonders.
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Julissa (age 3): Tiger. Words. Hmmm. Boat. Circle. Fish. Whale. Turtle. Hmmm. [shrugs her shoulders; I take it she’s done with this one]
Jacob (age 4): Man sleeping on the floor. Lion sleeping on top. It’s not a wolf. There’s a whale and turtles.
William (age 7): A guy. He worked at the Zoo, and he was going to get some fish or penguins, and then the tiger jumped out of the cage, and ripped it open, and went with him.
Viktoria (age 11): About a person who’s struggling with math, and he starts imagining crazy things like being on a boat with a tiger and going in the ocean.

Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel
Julissa (3): I think a line. Ballet. Let’s see. Red bricks. I think it’s about bricks.
Jacob (4): There’s a woman hiding in the school. The long thing looks like a sticky hand, and there’s a box.
William (7):  Kids are going on their first day to school on a bus. Hmmm. This one is hard.
Viktoria (11): This one looks like she’s travelling somewhere, but she got lost, and she’s shy and afraid to show her face wherever she is.

City of Glass by Paul Auster
Julissa (3): Penguin. A. and B. I think square and circle and I. I think that’s A.
Jacob (4): Numbers. I see another number. It looks like a sticky hand. And this [points to the A] looks like a long one.
William (7): Everything is made out of glass. Even the clouds and the sun.
Viktoria (11): About a modern person who likes to think modernly in his house, his stories, and in his mind.

Kytice by K. J. Erben
(This book is the reason why I became a writer. It’s a collection of ballads about myths, monsters, magic, humans, and the supernatural)
Julissa (3): Leaves. Sticks and flowers and leaves. Roses. Flowers. I think that’s it. I think it’s about flowers and leaves.
Jacob (4): Looks like flowers, like the palm tree and roses. That’s it.
William (7): It’s about...hmmm, I can’t tell. Flowers?
Viktoria (11): About a person who’s good at sketching and teaches people how to sketch.

Báječná léta pod psa by Michal Viewegh

(A Czech literary pearl-in-the-rough about a family trying to survive the Communist regime. Very funny, but also melancholic, tender, and touching)
Julissa (3): Soda. Plates. Book. Spinny wheel. Circle. Box. And wire. Spider. Wait! Wire and spider rhyme! About measuring pages.
Jacob (4): I see a man in the book. I can see a beer, the one grandpa drinks [points to the picture in the middle on top]. Glass and plate [points to the picture of the phone dial]. And like tschk-tschk-tschk [moves his hand as if he was ‘scratching’ a vinyl record]
William (7): About a thing that you don’t know about.
Viktoria (11): It looks like it’s about how the people lived in the olden days, like last century and stuff.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Julissa (3): I think it’s just houses and town and water. And that’s it. This one’s sinking. Letters. I have to go pee-pee. [we take a break]
Jacob (4): I can see far, far away. I can see Indians way, way in the house. You can’t see them, though.
William (7): Oh, this one looks easy. It’s about a kid, who was playing with his kite, and it was a very windy day, and it blew out of his hands, flew all the way where everything is windy.
Viktoria (11): About a town that’s going through war, an abandoned place, buildings.

The Hours by Michael Cunningham
Julissa (3): I think it’s flowers and girls. Necklaces, earrings. Let me see. Glassses. I think that’s it.
Jacob (4): Looks like they have flowers, roses, hmmm. Womans like two and then one.
William (7): Three people...aaah...are...aaah...are buying flowers?
Viktoria (11): That reminds me of a funeral. They look guilty in their faces.

The Portable Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allan Poe, edited by J. Gerald Kennedy
Julissa (3): About a penguin. It’s just a penguin. Let’s see. Circle. Circle. And that’s it. The picture is a monster.
Jacob (4): It looks like a man. He just turned electricuted.
William (7): He makes lots of things, and he’s a hard worker, and he makes stuff like books and movies.
Viktoria (11): It’s about an artistic, mad person.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Julissa (3): Pink. And that’s it. I just see pink.
Jacob (4): It looks like a piggy. It’s about Nigel. Remember, you had a big piggy?
William (7): There’s a guy who has a farm, and the animals try to get away, but they can’t because their gates. They can’t open them, and the farmer doesn’t get kangaroos. They would jump over.
Viktoria (11): It’s about an autistic person, like a sick person.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Julissa (3): There’s the same penguin again. Some of them [ points at the books] have penguins. There’s a thing [points to the bookmark I had forgotten in it] have to read this one. I think it’s a dead man.
Jacob (4): This is not good. [Why?] Because they’re naked!
William (7): A guy who’s an artist. There’s people who don’t know about art because they’re in the centuries, so he just paints everything, and they don’t know who’s painting it.
Viktoria (11): Hmmm. I think it’s about someone who is ashamed of what he looks like and what people think of him.

Heart-Break Hotel by Yours Truly
Julissa (3): Key and wood and flowers and sticks. Keys.
Jacob (4): About a key. Just like on sitting on the floor.
William (7): There was people in a hotel, and they wanted to get out because they were locked in. And they tried to find a key to open the door, but they couldn’t find it, so they looked for hidden passages.
Viktoria (11): A place where someone locks people up. Like a haunted hotel where people get locked up.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Life Is Not a Box of Chocolates

My daughter came up to me yesterday and asked whether I would take her to the fair for her next birthday.  She was born on Valentine’s Day, and it so happens that the fair comes to our town during the week of her birthday. I dread the fair. Not because it is not fun, but because I have to fight the crowds (of Mexicans) with my two children attached to my hip and a husband that constantly keeps getting lost, and if he isn’t getting lost, then he constantly keeps running into people he knows, so we spend most of our time talking—well, watching him talk—to friends and acquaintances, and our kids nag about not having enough time to ride the rides.

For this reason we skipped the fair this year and took our children to Disneyland instead, thinking that the happiest place on Earth would prove superior to any fair they’d ever been to. They were quite pleased and grateful. Until the next day.  When they returned to school and saw their classmates’ fair-bracelets attached to their wrists (Disneyland should start giving out bracelets, so that my kids could show off too) and heard them tell tales about this and that ride, my husband and I were immediately dubbed as the lame parents who can’t even take their kids to the fair.    
So, to score some points with my daughter, I told her that we would definitely go to the fair for her next birthday. She got excited and immediately started naming rides that were her favorites and that she couldn’t wait to get on. While she was reciting her mental list, my paying attention to her slowly dissipated, and I all that remained from my concentration were words escaping my mouth, like “yes” and “aha” and “hmmm”, and when my brain couldn’t conjure up any more words, it made my head nod in a repetitive motion. I was completely distracted by the idea that life is like a fair-ride (not a box of chocolates).

For example: If you constantly nag about your life’s ups and downs, then your life is clearly a rollercoaster. You shouldn’t nag. Rollercoasters are exciting, thrilling, fun! If you feel like you live a life in which people push and shove you around and hinder your abilities, then you live a bumper-cars-life. Get off and get on a new ride. Examine your life and tell me which ride it is. Mine is a merry-go-round. Here’s why:

(a wife’s tale)

he sets the alarm for 4:00 am and tells me he has to get up early, but to be sure he really gets up I secretly change the setting for 3:45 am because he likes to press the snooze button three times; he is too tired to make love, but he tries anyway; he doesn’t call it fooling around or having sex or making love or fucking; he says—let’s make butter; he strokes my shoulder, my forearm, places my hand on his thigh, then moves it higher and higher, hinting; I can’t sleep most of the night because he snores; when my shoving him or pinching his nose or trying to roll him over or covering his mouth with the palm of my hand doesn’t work, I tickle his underarm; he wakes up startled—what happened, what happened, he says, then he rolls over; we fall asleep; I wake up later because he is snoring; he silences the alarm clock three times; after the third time I turn it off and get up; I prepare his lunch, pour coffee into his thermos, and wake him up; he puts on his work clothes, boots, takes a sip of his coffee, and says—give me some sugar, Sugar; we kiss, and he is out the door; I make our bed, find candy-bar wrappers on his nightstand, a half-drunk, sticky glass of milk, which I’m certain is going to leave a ring, one of his socks under the bed, the other under the nightstand; he wears no pajamas, but the boxers he had on yesterday are in the corner of our bedroom today; I prepare breakfast, brown-bag lunches, wake up the kids, walk them to school, go to work; I pick up the kids, get groceries, do laundry, help with homework,  make dinner, mop the floors; he walks in, leaving sewer-plant-restoration-footprints; he goes to the bathroom and yells—there’s no toilet paper; I bring him a roll, which I’m certain he won’t fasten to its holder; I wipe up the water he left on the floor after he took a shower and sit down for dinner; we eat listening to his lip-smacking; pass the salt, Sugar—he says and pours it from an arm-length’s height; he notices my frown and says—I like to see it land on my food; it lands all over the table; after dinner he asks for dessert; I didn’t have time to make any; he sags his shoulders and turns on the TV; I wash-up the kids, read a story, tuck them in; I shower; when I open the shower curtain, he stands there holding up a heart-shaped rock, which I’m certain he almost killed himself getting wherever he got it; he places it into a bowl on top of the other heart-shaped rocks, which I’m certain he almost killed himself getting wherever he got them—so you never run out of love for me, he says; I’m in bed; I hear him going on a scavenger hunt, opening cabinets and drawers, which I’m certain he won’t close; he puts candy-bars and a glass of milk onto his nightstand; he sets the alarm for 4:00 am and tells me he has to get up early, but to be sure he really gets up I secretly change the setting for 3:45 am because he likes to press the snooze button three times; he is too tired to make love, but he tries anyway; he doesn’t call it fooling around or having sex or making love or fucking; he says—let’s make butter

If you liked this story, I know you will love the rest. You can find them here. Don’t be shy and buy, so that I can save up money I’m going to end up spending on the most ridiculous and unnecessary items for which my kids will whine at the next fair.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The 2012 Olympics (Wrap) Tape Up

Now that the fire of the Olympic torch is extinguished, and the Americans are done kicking the other countries’ asses in Gym class, let’s take a moment to examine the most important aspect of this iconic sporting event: THE TAPE. What the hell was going on with all that tape? Was there a sale at Michael’s? Almost every athlete was dresses (seriously—dressed, often they had more tape than uniform) in tape of all sorts of vibrant colors which was formed into all sorts of intricate patterns. At first I thought the tape was supposed to be some kind of a temporary tattoo which was to intimidate or distract the opponent. You know, like in nature when animals use their colors and patterns in order to advertise their superiority and to intimidate either the predator or the prey. But no. The tape of many vivid colors is actually a Kinesiology Tape which, simply stated, is supposed to help alleviate pain and discomfort in the athletes’ muscles.
Now to that I say: Bullshit!
You don’t see me walking into the classroom with a pomegranate margarita glued to my forehead because I expect it to alleviate the pain in my brain which I always get from trying to explain the difference between an apostrophe and a comma to high schoolers!
So I’ll say it again: Bullshit!
Take the tape off and go to work like the rest of us hard-working people with aches and ailments. Only then you deserve a medal.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Repetition Is a Mother......!

Last night, I had a dream that keeps popping up once in a while. I’m not going to bore you with it; I’ll just say that it repeatedly annoys me, and I can’t figure out what I’m supposed to learn from it. So this morning, I started thinking about repetition. There is a saying that goes like this: “Repetition is the mother of learning.” Quite honestly, repetition bugs me. Have you ever listened to someone who’s repeating what someone else says? Sooner rather than later it turns into:
“Stop it.”
“Stop it.”
“No, you stop it!”
“No, you stop it!”
“I hate you!”
“I hate you!”
“MOM! Billy’s mocking me!!!”
 Let’s take a brief scan of some other things that mock, I mean, repeat.
1. Days of the week—what have we learned here? Not much, only that we have to work for five days in order to earn two lousy days of rest which we spend by stressing over the errands and things we don’t have time to do.
2. Earth’s rotation and revolution around the Sun—what did the Earth learn? Nothing. By now, after the 4.6 billion years, it should have learned how to defy gravity, and with the power of the centrifugal force, it should have expelled us humans (the Earth ravagers) off its surface.
3. Lather, rinse, repeat—I’m not going to say much here, only: why the hell does every shampoo bottle say this? After decades and decades (perhaps even centuries) of shampooing, do the manufacturers think we’re going to drink the goo?
So, how to use repetition without mocking anyone or anything? In art. Or in music or poetry where repetition creates rhythm. If used with skill in the form of alliteration, repetition can give the narrative its tone. Look at E. A. Poe’s Ulalume, “Of my most immemorial year: / It was hard by the dim lake of Auber, / In the misty mid region of Weir” (lines 5-7). How spooky! Does that not evoke the sense of moaning, mourning, and mystery?
Anyway, if you are not Poe and are slightly bored this weekend or if you live in the desert like me and you can’t go outside because it’s 120F (the F stands for Fuck! not Fahrenheit), I propose you take a pencil, paper, and an eraser, and you go kick repetition’s ass for once! This is how it works. Write a coherent story or a scene of 250 words, but you can only use each word once. I’ve tried it. It’s a pain, I tell ya. But when you are finished, your ego will grow by at least two feet. I encourage you to post your story here, so that I can praise and admire you!
Here’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
My “bestie” decided that trading our beautiful, nostalgic, architecturally splendid, Charles University for a modern, diversely crowded, foreign structure—Los Angeles, California’s USC—was more important than strong family ties, good job proposals, or other things one would consider pretty awesome when thinking about planting figurative roots.
Her plane, scheduled to leave in thirty minutes, is sitting on Ruzyně’s old, slowly deteriorating, gray runway. Its wings, glazed by bright sunlight, glitter like snow-covered icebergs she’d soon see from ten thousand feet above Greenland, amidst blue, shimmering ocean waters—both magnificent, postcard-worthy sights—sadly, though, representing vast distances between land masses and the torn-apart friendship, which started out as Mrs. Novak’s raspy voice asking several first grade students: “Can someone lend Katie (me, almost two decades ago) their crayons?”
Little, chubby Lenička—pig tails curling through red sateen ribbons—passed them, grinned, then suddenly swore an honorable comradely oath, making us friends forever.
Nervous tingles, stomach butterflies, belongings, emotions, neatly packed suitcases, ticket, passport, ready, set, detach myself? How?
I whisper, “Lena, don’t…stay…”
            Deep sighs. Shoulders rising, descending. Long blank stares, emphasizing decisions made.
Luggage checks. Carry-on tags. Busy buzz.
Travelers’ voices blend into indescribable sounds.
Family reunions. Holidays. Vacations. Honeymoons. Business trips. Happiness—now boarding, flight 749 passengers please line up, echoes throughout.
“You will come visit, right?”
            “Doubt it…been there once. Nothing what TV shows portray …kinda dirty, really, different…alien…not like home…but don’t worry. Everything’s gonna be fine.”
            Hand shakes, hugs, good-byes, teary eyes.
            “Just promise…”

Thursday, August 9, 2012

You Don't Have to Make Up Sh!t

My sister-in-law, who will remain anonymous, NOT!--her name is Jessica, always tells me: "How do you come up with your stories? You must have a crazy mind inside that head of yours!"
"Are you kidding? My life is a story!" I usually don't say because some of my stories are about my husband, her brother, and I don't want him to feel awkward around her. As far as the crazy goes, I'm afraid she may be right. My uncle is Schizophrenic, and I have begun to hear voices every now and then, usually calling my name or whispering around me (ooh, spooky, is this passed down genetically through family members?). I never answer them, nor do I strike up a conversation, but I always turn in their direction...but, of course, no one is ever there. However, if I eventually do become Schizophrenic, I think I will have great fun with this mental illness (but what if it isn't an illness at all? What if my uncle really sees and talks to...ghosts?). I can't wait to creep people out. For now, I do it with some of my stories.

Alright, so let's back up a little bit. As I have said, my life is a story, that's why I don't really have to search too much for an idea. Often I plug in events from my life to a larger piece, or an idea plays out in my head like a film (although it soars through my mind within a second or so, in which I can clearly see the plot and the characters, and for me, the important thing is to know the ending, otherwise I can't write. Coming up with the antecedent scenario is so much easier.). So with this, I can discredit the favorite line of many creative writing professors', which is: "Just make up some good sh!t." You don't have to make up sh!t. It's all around you. Just open your eyes.

I also once read that "Fiction is a true story that never happened." In my opinion, everything is fiction, and if you are writing about your or others' experiences then the fiction did happen. If you sit in the corner, as I have suggested yesterday, and observe the world in front of you carefully and then try to  put your observations down on paper, you will never be able to recreate their veracity because it has already passed. Here comes that tricky little concept called time. Everything as we know it revolves around time. You can turn your clock back, but never the events. Therefore, anything you  try to write down will always be fiction, no matter how true you try to stay to actuality. Here, I'm trying to discredit the Non-fiction genre, which is my friend and fellow writer, James Wheeler's mission. He does it so much better than me, though.

Okay, so just to prove to you how easy it is to reach into your life and grab a story, here's an event that actually took place but is now a fictional piece. It's about my husband (don't tell Jessica) and me and my experience here.

                                                               Scooby Snacks
When my husband came out of the smoke shop and passed me the small silvery bag dotted with colorful flowers and Scooby’s goofy grin on it, I couldn’t help but burst out laughing.
“What the hell is this?” I asked.
“It’s flowers…”
“You know…like pot, but this is legal.”
I raised my eyebrow.
“Trust me, you’ll like it. And it won’t get you sick.”
“I take it you’ve tried it before…”
“Only once.”
I knew he was lying. I sighed.
He got in the car and we were off to the Coliseum. 
The Scooby Snacks kicked in during Comfortably Numb.
I sat on my husband’s right side, my left ear pressed against his shoulder to at least partially silence the screaming of the fans. Suddenly, the awareness of my surroundings multiplied by a thousand, but it was no longer annoying. I peeled my ear off my husband’s shoulder. I felt as if a part of me had ascended an inch above my body. My ethereal I was in perfect stillness while my seated I began moving slowly from side to side. My eyes, able to see a pin in the crowd of people if it was necessary, focused on the wall in front of me. There was a blood red ocean projected on it, and I realized why my body was moving. It mimicked the ocean waves as they swayed back and forth.
The ocean slowly dissipated into a white nothingness. The wall, a perfectly pallid projecting screen, began to move. No, the wall wasn’t moving. Its insides were moving. Impossible. My ethereal I descended into me as I needed an extra focus to interpret what my eyes were seeing. Shadows. Gliding across the wall. No, they were not shadows. They were faces. Yes! Scary grimaces, stretching and oozing, with their tongues lolling out of their mouths…
“Do you see that?” I heard myself say.
Everyone around me was screaming. They must have seen it, too.
I hid my face in the cups of my hands. I was sure the faces were flying out of the wall. They needed a body to which they wanted to attach themselves. They wouldn’t get mine.
“Hurry! Look up!” My husband poked my rib with his elbow and shouted in my ear.
I did. Above my head, there was a large black pig. His nose and ears were pierced, his body tattooed and graffittied all over. I instinctively ducked as his tusks lowered toward my head. In the last minute the pig turned around and floated off. I exhaled and lifted my face into the white spotlight. Maybe an angel would float down and save me. Isn’t there a white light when one is dying?
I burst out laughing. The spotlight tickled my hair. My brain felt like it was expanding. Again, a part of me detached, but instead of ascending, my ethereal I flew inward. I could see my brain. Its cortical layers pulsed up and down, and every time they touched he inner side of my skull, a delightful tickle soared through my body. My seated I laughed and wiggled in the plastic chair.
I repeatedly poked my husband, “My brain tickles. Ahahaha. Honey, my brain tickles!”
He finally turned around, “You’re weird when you’re high.”